Saturday, March 27, 2021

Whitman Mayo


"I've always played older parts.  When I was 19, I played 60.  When I was a kid I got pleasure out of studying old people.  I took joy in their idiosyncrasies.  Older folk are like children.  They can do and say what they want and get away with it."

Whitman Blount Mayo, Jr., while not exactly a household name, was born in New York City on November 15, 1930.  He spent his early years growing up in Harlem before his family moved to Los Angeles in the late 1940s.  There he completed high school before enlisting in the Army.

In 1951, Mayo was stationed in Korea, where he served a two-year tour of duty in the Korean War.  Upon his discharge in 1953, he returned to Los Angeles, where he continued his education.

Mayo attended UCLA, where he majored in theatre.  He paid his way through college through a variety of odd jobs, serving as a waiter, a vintner and a probation officer.  He also served as a youth counselor, mentoring delinquent boys.  When he wasn't studying or working, he began acting in small, local productions.

In the early 1970s, producer Norman Lear was casting his latest sit-com Sanford and Son (right), an American adaptation of the British series Steptoe and Son.  Lear recruited Mayo from the New Lafayette Theatre in Harlem and offered him a recurring role on the series.

Mayo played Grady Wilson, best friend and constant irritant to Fred Sanford.  Although he'd play the role throughout the series' six-year run, Mayo only appeared in roughly one-fourth of all episodes.

Despite this, Lear found the character popular enough to offer him a spin-off in 1976.  The aptly titled Grady was not as successful however, and it was canceled after just ten episodes.  You can watch that series intro here.  Upon its cancellation, Mayo returned to the original series.

Sanford and Son left the airwaves in 1977, after stars Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson left for other projects.  Hoping to salvage something from the successful franchise, NBC created a new series called Sanford Arms, which saw Good Times star Teddy Wilson (Sweet Daddy) opening up a hotel at the former junkyard of Fred G. Sanford.  No, I am not making this up.  Mayo, along with Lawanda Page (Aunt Esther) and Don Bexley (Bubba) were invited back to continue their supporting roles, but it wouldn't be for long.  The new series was canceled after just eight episodes, only four of which aired on television.

Incredibly, audiences had still not seen the last of Grady.  The character was revived once again in 1981 when NBC debuted Sanford, a new series that saw Redd Foxx back in the title role.  It would only last for two short seasons however and would undergo several cast changes.  You can watch that series intro here.

At the same time he was playing Grady, Mayo was also appearing on a locally produced children's show in Los Angeles called That's Cat, with cat being another word for "cool."  Mayo played the role of Grandpa, a kindly gentleman who offered sage advice to the show's other main characters.  It ran for three seasons before being canceled.

Mayo continued acting throughout the 1980s, including a small role in the film DC Cab (left), starring Mr. T.  Mayo played a street philosopher named "Mr. Rhythm," offering up sage advice (again) to the film's main players.  Here's a sample of his work.

By the 1990s, Mayo and his wife moved to Atlanta, where he taught drama at Clark Atlanta University.  Although he had retired from the spotlight, he would never be forgotten by his fans, chief among them being Conan O'Brien.  The Late Night host was interested in having Mayo appear on the program, but producers were unable to locate him. 

In response, O'Brien spent several weeks on the air asking viewers to send in any information on Mayo sightings, even going so far as to set up a 1-800 number where viewers could call in their tips.  Again, I'm not kidding.  They even got Robert Stack, who at the time was hosting Unsolved Mysteries, to produce a "Where's Grady?" parody segment for the show.  I'm still not kidding.  You can watch that segment here.  Mayo eventually appeared on the program, ending the mystery once and for all.

On May 22, 2001, Whitman Mayo died of a heart attack.  He was 70 years old.  He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in College Park, Georgia.

Location: Garden of the Saints

Rest in peace.

  • Ironically, Mayo died at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

  • Grady's name was an homage to series star Demond Wilson, who's birth name was Grady. 

  • Mayo's son Rahn is a former politician, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives from 2009 until 2017.  You can follow his current activities on Twitter.

  • Mayo's "Sanford and Son" co-stars Lawanda Page and Redd Foxx have both been profiled here at Six Feet Under Hollywood.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Judge Wapner

Joseph Albert Wapner was born in Los Angeles on November 15, 1919.  His parents immigrated to America from Romania, where his father, like Wapner would himself one day, served as an attorney.

In 1941, Wapner graduated from the University of Southern California.  He had his sights set on law school, but decided to join the Army and serve his country during World War 2.  As a lieutenant stationed in the Philippines, Wapner was awarded both the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star before being honorably discharged.  Upon his return, he attended USC Law School.

Upon graduation, Wapner went into private practice as an attorney for the next ten years.  Then in 1959, he was appointed by California Governor Pat Brown to the Los Angeles Municipal Court.  He'd hold that position for two years before being elevated to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he served as a judge until 1979.  During this time period, he also served as president of the California Judges Association from 1975 to 1976.

Rusty Burrell, Joseph Wapner and Doug Llewelyn.

In 1981, Wapner would achieve
international recognition when he was cast on the syndicated series The People's Court.  It was the first courtroom-based reality series and would set the tone for dozens that would follow.  Wapner presided as judge in a small claims court setting, where parties represented themselves without the aid of legal counsel.

In 1993, after having presided over 2,340 half-hour episodes (figure about twice as many cases), Wapner was released from
the series (i.e. fired).  His departure was
due to a ratings decline at the end of the show's 12-year run.  The series was canceled in 1993, and although it would return just four years later, Wapner would
not return with it.

"What you are seeing is real. 
The participants are not actors."

  In 1998, Wapner returned to television
  with a new type of legal drama, Judge
  Wapner's Animal Court
.   The
  series, which lasted for two
  seasons on Animal Planet, saw
  Wapner presiding over cases
  involving animals in one form or

  Joining him from The
  People's Court 
was his long-time
  bailiff and friend Rusty Burrell. 
  Here's a promo for the series. 


When the series was canceled, Wapner remained active in Jewish causes and served on the board of a Jewish school.  He took bit parts in Hollywood, and appeared as an alternate-universe version of himself on the TV series Sliders

Joseph Wapner died of respiratory failure on February 26, 2017.  He was 97 years old.

He was buried at Mt. Sinai Cemetery Memorial Park Cemetery.  Note the tire tracks.

Location: Gardens of Ramah, Map #8, Lot #4066, Space #2
Inscription #1: Beloved Husband, Father, Grandfather and Great-Grandfather
Inscription #2: Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court 
Judge of The People's Court 
President of Brandeis Bardin Institute

The Court rests, Your Honor.

  • You're humming the theme song right now, aren't you?

  • Wapner had his own brand of soft drinks produced by soda company Rocket Fizz.  I absolutely love this label.

  • In 1987, Wapner released A View From the Bench, a first-person narrative of his most unforgettable cases.  You can pick up a copy from Amazon.

  • As a student at Hollywood High School, Wapner dated future screen legend Lana Turner.

  • Wanna see the most ridiculous case that Wapner ever presided over?  Check out the case of the $3 pizza here.

  • On November 12, 2009, Wapner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, right outside Hooters.  Here's amateur video of the event.

Friday, March 19, 2021


Humans aren't the only ones to get the spotlight on this blog.  Every so often, I find the final resting place of a famous animal star, Mr. Ed being the most memorable.  Strangely enough, these screen legends often have mysteries surrounding their final arrangements, and the subject of this week's blog is certainly no exception.

Terry was born In Chicago, Illinois on November 17, 1933.  Or so the Internet claims.  How the hell anyone would know that date all these years later seems somewhat suspicious to me, but for purposes of this blog, we'll just go with it. 

She was a Cairn Terrier owned by trainer Carl Spitz, a German immigrant who came to America following World War I. During the war, Spitz trained military and police dogs using a system of hand signals he created.  He expanded upon this technique in 1926 when he opened the Hollywood Dog Training School, which is still in operation today.  Terry was its most famous graduate.

In 1934, Terry made her first appearance in the film Ready for Love, starring Ida Lupino.  She'd follow it up that same year, appearing as "Rags" in the film Bright Eyes, starring Shirley Temple (below right).

Terry stayed relatively busy for the next few years, earning a wide variety of screen roles.  The most famous of these, and probably the reason you're reading this, was as Toto in The Wizard of Oz (1939).  Terry earned an astronomical $125 per week ($2,300 today), more than many of her human counterparts in the film.  Not bad work if you can get it.  

As successful as the film was, it was almost the end of Terry's career, and reportedly her life as well.  During production, one of the film's extras stepped on Terry's foot.  It was a clean break, and Terry spent two weeks recuperating at the home of Dorothy herself, Judy Garland.  Garland became so attached to Terry that she offered to buy her from Spitz, but he was not interested in selling.  

By the time the film was completed, Terry had fully recuperated and was able to attend the world premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theater.  The film became such a runaway success that Spitz officially changed her name to Toto in 1942.

After Oz, Toto stayed busy in Hollywood, racking up sixteen additional credits to her name.  One of her last films was Tortilla Flat in 1942, which served as a reunion of sorts, allowing Toto to once again work with Oz director Victor Fleming and the Wizard himself, Frank Morgan.

On September 1, 1945, Toto passed away.  She was 11 years old.  Spitz buried her at his ranch in Studio City.  Thirteen years later, both the ranch and the grave were destroyed during construction of the Ventura Freeway.  Toto's remains were lost forever.

In 2011, a memorial for Toto was dedicated at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  

Rest in peace, little dog.

  • Toto's life was chronicled by author Willard Carroll in the 2013 biography I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto.  Really.  You can buy a copy from Amazon.

  • The dedication ceremony for Toto's memorial was greeted with great pomp and circumstance, and included celebrity guests, including the great grand-children of Oz author Frank L. Baum.  The Hollywoodland blog filed this exclusive report.

  • Toto also has her own page on the Internet Movie Database.  Check it out here.

  • Toto performed her own stunts.  I can't believe I just wrote that.

  • Following in her mother's legacy, Toto's daughter Rommy appeared in the films Reap the Wild Wind (1942) and Air Force (1943).

Monday, March 15, 2021

It's a Cookbook!

Lloyd Wolfe Bochner was born in Toronto on July 29, 1924.  He was born to a middle-class Jewish family and knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a performer.

By the time he was 11, Bochner was already acting on radio programs in Ontario.  He easily segued to both the theatre and films, for which he'd earn two Liberty Awards, the Canadian equivalent of the Oscars.

In 1951, he crossed the border and settled in New York City.  He began appearing on American television, on such series as The Kraft Theatre and Studio One in Hollywood.  For the next decade, he remained a reliable, go-to character actor with scores of guest credits to his name.  

One of the more iconic roles during this period was in an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled "To Serve Man."  Bochner appeared as Michael Chambers, a government official tasked with deciphering an alien artifact.  Only too late does he discover that the seemingly peaceful manual "To Serve Man" is actually a cookbook.  You can watch that revelation here.  Thirty years later, when Bochner played the villain in The Naked Gun 2: The Smell of Fear, producers had him re-create that iconic scene for full comedic effect.  You can watch that version here.

In 1963, Bochner was cast as a regular on another anthology series entitled The Richard Boone Show.  It would only last for one season on NBC.  Here are the opening credits - see if you can spot him.  From there, he continued making guest appearances, on such series as Perry Mason and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.

Throughout the 1970s, Bochner made the rounds on the decade's biggest primuetime hits, including GunsmokeColumbo, and The Six Milliob Dollar Man.  He had a recurring role on the ABC series Battlestar Galactica as a Nazi-esque commander who runs afoul of series lead Lorne Greene.  

Then in the 1980s, Bochner began appearing on primetime soaps.  Most notably, he appeared as Cecil Colby on Dynasty, where he died mere moments after marrying series star Joan Collins.  You can watch that infamous death scene here

A few years later, Bochner was cast in the lead role of C.C. Capwell on the daytime soap opera Santa Barbara, but was forced to leave the series before it began after suffering a heart attack.  He was initially replaced by Peter Mark Richman (Reverend Snow on Three's Company), though a total of four different actors would play the Capwell patriarch.

Following his departure from the series, Bochner continued to appear on television and began doing voice-over work as well, most notably as the mayor of Gotham City on Batman: The Animated Series.  Here's a sample of his work.  He continued voicing the character for the next decade in other series and in video games as well.

By the late 1990s, Bochner was diagnosed with cancer.  He semi-retired from show business and began focusing on his health.  His final role was in the 2003 film The Commission, which examined the events of the Kennedy assassination.

On October 29, 2005, Bochner lost his battle with cancer.  He was 81 years old. 

Bochner was cremated and his ashes were interred at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village in Los Angeles. Due to its reflective surface, it is very difficult to get a good picture of his marker.

Location: Garden of Serenity
Inscription: Goodnight Sweet Prince
May Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest

Rest in peace, Mr. Chambers.


  • The inscription on Bochner's marker is a quote from Hamlet.  Readers of this blog may recall that Robert Reed, star of The Brady Bunch, has the same quote on his headstone.

  • In 1998, Bochner co-founded the Committee to End Violence, who's goal was to study the impact of violent imagery on American culture.

  • Bochner was an enthusiast of amateur radio, earning his license as a ham operator.  He broadcast with the call sign N6CKF.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Paul Winfield

"I was given a lot of prestige as a distinguished black actor but very little power.  They give prestige out by the buckets, but they give power by the teaspoon, just enough to stroke your ego."
  -- Paul Winfield

Paul Edward Winfield
was born......somewhere.  Normally, I start these posts with the specifics on when and where, but there seems to be some controversy on both those points with Winfield.  Some state he was born in Texas, others in Los Angeles.  His birth year is also a mystery, but since his headstone says 1939, I'll go with that.  

Winfield was the son of Lois Beatrice Edwards, a union organizer in the garment industry.  Little is known of his father.  In fact, Paul took the name Winfield from his stepfather Clarence, who was an L.A, area construction worker.

After high school, Winfield attended college. Six of them to be exact.  He eventually graduated from the University of California at Santa Barbara in 1971, intent on becoming a dramatic actor.

But long before he graduated, Winfield had already begun appearing on television and in films.  His first role was in a 1965 episode of Perry Mason.  This led to a recurring role on the Diahann Carroll sitcom Julia (right), a series that was unique for its time in its casting of a female African-American lead.  Then in 1969, he made his big screen debut in the Sidney Poitier film The Lost Man.

In 1973, Winfield starred in the film Sounder, the story of an African-American family in the Deep South during the Great Depression.  It was both a critical and box office success, earning Winfield an Academy Award nomination.  You can watch the film in its entirety on YouTube.  

In 1978, Winfield returned to television playing the title role in King, a three-part mini-series based on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Although the series was heavily promoted, it was a ratings disappointment.  Despite this, Winfield earned an Emmy nomination for his portrayal.  You can watch the film in its entirety on YouTube.

In 1982, Winfield made his first appearance in the world of science fiction with a small but memorable role in the classic film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  Do yourself a favor and DO NOT watch this clip.

Two years later, he followed that up with a role in the first Terminator film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  This too was a small role, as most of Winfield's scenes were cut from the film.  

Winfield returned to television in 1987 with a starring role on the sit-com The Charmings, a series that saw Prince Charming and his wife adapting to life in the suburbs.  Winfield played the wise-cracking Mirror, who got most of the script's funniest lines.  You can catch a compilation clip here.  He'd segue from there to the Marla Gibbs' sitcom 227 for its final two seasons.

I'm sure somebody wants me to point out that he returned to Star Trek in a TNG episode called "Darmok."  But I've always found that episode to be ridiculous and over-rated.  Here's one reason why.

In the 1990s, Winfield turned to the world of voice-overs, performing on a number of animated series, including Batman Beyond, Gargoyles and the PBS series The Magic School Bus.  He also appeared on The Simpsons as a Don King wannabe named Lucius Sweet.  Here's a clip of that performance.  Winfield also served as narrator of the A&E true crime series City Confidential.

In 2002, Winfield's partner of more than thirty years, Charles Gillian, died of bone cancer.  Winfield was himself a diabetic, and by this point, his own health was in decline.  He died of a heart attack on March 7, 2004.  He was 64 years old.

He was buried at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Location: Court of Liberty, Plot #1475.
Inscription: "I, if the birds do not come, will sing to you.
Will you who are spring and flight and all music,
will you sing to me, if the birds do not come?"

Rest in peace, Captain.

  • Winfield continues to be a mystery to me even in death, as I cannot identify the quote on his marker.  If anyone is familiar with it, please note it in the Comments section below.

  • As a young actor in a local production of the classic Of Mice and Men, Winfield once appeared onstage in whiteface, as he felt that an African-American would not be accepted in the role.

  • Winfield's cousin was actor William Marshall, known to Star Trek fans as Dr. Richard Daystrom in "The Ultimate Computer."

  • Winfield was a dog breeder who bred pugs at his California home.  While attending a dog show in Colorado in the late 1990s, he fell into a diabetic coma and required three weeks of hospitalization.

  • Winfield was a gifted musician, adept at both the violin and the cello.  He was offered scholarship to Yale based on these talents, but turned it down to pursue acting instead.

Monday, March 8, 2021

J.P. Morgan


John Pierpont Morgan was born in Hartford, Connecticut on April 17, 1837.  He was born into wealth and spent much of his childhood studying abroad.  He completed his formal education in the late 1850s with a degree in art history.

He entered the family business in 1857 when he joined the London branch of Peabody, Morgan & Company, a banking firm co-founded by his father.  He returned to the States one year later when he joined the New York City firm of Duncan, Sherman & Company, the American representatives of family partner George Peabody.

Then in 1860, Morgan returned to the family business, which would be rebranded as J.S. Morgan & Co. following Peabody's retirement.  Morgan worked under his father until 1871, when he started his own firm with financier Anthony Drexel of Philadelphia.  This collaboration would last more than two decades until Drexel's death in 1895, at which time Morgan formally founded J.P. Morgan & Company.

With his own firm now an official part of the economic landscape, Morgan became a force to be reckoned with.  Over the next twenty years, a total of 42 major corporations were either started by Morgan or were underwritten by his firm, including General Electric, AT&T and a number of America's railroads.  He also provided the funding to Thomas Edison that made the electric lightbulb a reality.

He was not without his failures however, chief among them being the R.M.S. Titanic.  Morgan was owner of the White Star Line, which had created the doomed ocean liner.  He was scheduled to travel aboard her on the maiden voyage, but canceled at the last minute, a decision he no doubt never second guessed.  Of the tragedy that followed, he later stated "monetary losses amount to nothing in life.  It is the loss of life that counts.  It is that frightful death."

In the spring of 1913, Morgan was in Italy when tragedy struck.  He died in his sleep on March 31st, just three weeks shy of his 76th birthday. 

When his body was returned to the U.S., flags on Wall Street were flown at half-mast, and in a custom normally reserved for heads of state, the Stock Market closed for two hours in his honor.

He was buried in an immaculate grave at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Hartford.

Rest in peace.

  • Of 114 blog posts here at Six Feet Under Hollywood, Morgan is the first person profiled who was born in the 19th Century, with the possible exception of the Texas Space Alien.

  • As a teenager, Morgan developed rheumatic fever, a condition that would plague him throughout his life.  

  • Morgan avoided serving during the Civil War by paying a substitute $300 to take his place.

  • Morgan had the skin disease rosacea, and as such, hated being photographed.  Many photos we have of him today were in fact retouched.

  • Morgan was a noted art collector, with prized paintings, sculptures and books, many of which he loaned or donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which he helped establish.

  • A number of Morgan biographies have been written over the years, probably too many to count.  But here are just a few that are available from Amazon.

      * Morgan: American Financier, by Jean Strouse (2014)
      * J.P. Morgan: Banker to a Growing Nation, by Jeremy Byman (2001)
      * The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise
         of Modern Finance
    , by Ron Chernow (1991)

  • The mascot of the board game Monopoly, Rich Uncle Pennybags, was modeled on Morgan.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Paul Gleason: A Man of Principals


"I went into acting because I had nothing more sensible to do.  However, once I began acting classes with Lee Strasberg at the Actor's Studio in New York, I found it stimulating and rewarding."
  -- Paul Gleason

Paul Xavier Gleason was born in Jersey City, New Jersey on May 4, 1939.  His father boasted a variety of occupations, including boxer, restaurateur and roofing manufacturer.  His mother was a nurse.  When Paul was very young, the family relocated to Miami Beach.  As a teenager, he'd often work at his father's construction sites, but more on this later.

Although you remember him as an actor, Paul had his sights set on professional baseball.  To that end, he left home at 16 and hitchhiked across the east coast.  After a few years, he was signed to the Cleveland Indians, but never played professionally, instead playing in the minors during the 1959 and 1960 seasons.

During his second season, Gleason traveled with his team to the west coast, where he had a chance encounter with Ozzie Nelson, star of the hit sit-com Ozzie and Harriett.  Nelson was known was for hiring athletes for guest appearances on the series and Gleason was no exception.  It would have a lifelong impact on Gleason.  With his career in a slump, he decided to turn in his glove and take up acting professionally.  He moved to New York City and joined The Actors Studio, where he studied for four years.

After completing his studies, Gleason put in guest appearances on many popular series of the 1960s, including Petticoat JunctionThe Invaders and The Green Hornet.  His first major role was on the daytime soap opera All My Children, on which he portrayed Dr. David Thornton from 1976 to 1978. 

The big screen was calling, and Gleason's first big theatrical role was in the 1983 comedy Trading Places.  Here's a clip from the film (coarse language advisory).

Two years later, Gleason appeared in what is widely regarded as his signature role, that of Principal Richard Vernon in the John Hughes' classic The Breakfast Club.  Here's an on-set interview.  The role proved so iconic for Gleason that he was invited to reprise it in the 2001 spoof Not Another Teen Movie.  Click on each title to see both versions.  Viewer discretion is advised.

Gleason had a knack for playing blowhards, and as such was perfectly cast as Police Chief Dwayne T. Robinson in Die Hard (1988).  

Gleason returned to television in the 1990s, appearing on such series as Boy Meets WorldNash Bridges and Diagnosis: Murder.  He also appeared in a number of direct-to-video movies in the Van Wilder comedy series.

In May 2006, Gleason was diagnosed with a form of lung cancer known as pleural mesothelioma, the same thing you see lawyers talking about during daytime television.  It is a condition common to construction workers exposed to asbestos, as Gleason frequently was during his teenage years.  Fifty years after his exposure to it, Paul Gleason died on May 27, 2006.  He was 67 years old.

He was buried at Pierce Brothers Westwood Village in Los Angeles.

Rest in peace, Paul.

  • While attending Florida State University, Gleason played on the football team alongside fellow students Burt Reynolds and Robert Urich.

  • Was Gleason a good baseball player?  Check out his stats here.

  • Gleason was good friends with weirdo author Jack Kerouac, who inspired his friend to become an actor.

  • Like most actors, Gleason had a demo reel, highlighting key roles from his career.  You can watch it on YouTube.

  • Gleason appeared in the 1985 made-for-TV movie Ewoks: The Battle for Endor

    Gleason as Star Wars villain Jeremitt Towani.
  • Gleason was an avid golfer who participated in many charity tournaments, where he was known to be cordial and friendly with his fans.