Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Old Man - Darren McGavin


Darren McGavin was born William Lyle Richardson in Spokane, Washington, on May 7, 1922.  When he was eleven, his parents got divorced, and his father sent him to live with friends on Puget Sound.

McGavin wasn't cut out for farm life however, and he soon ran away.  Police and welfare workers found him living with a Native American family along the Nisqually River.  He was returned to his father who placed him in boarding school, but McGavin would flee that as well.  He ultimately moved in with his mother in southern California.

After high school, he enrolled in the University of the Pacific in Stockton, intent on becoming an architect.  To help pay for college, he took a job as carpenter building scenery for a local theatre group.  This would be his introduction to the world of acting.

He dropped out of college and went to work as a painter at Columbia Pictures, where he'd soon land his first role in the 1945 biographical film A Song to Remember. Buoyed by this early success, he left Hollywood for New York and studied at the famed Actors Studio.  Within a few years, he'd be appearing on the Broadway stage, most notably as Happy Lohman in Death of a Salesman as well as live TV, on such shows as the Kraft Television Theatre.

He returned to Hollywood in the early 1950s, landing his first starring role in the 1955 feature film Summertime, opposite Katharine Hepburn.  He was also finding steady work on television as well, appearing on such series as Alfred Hitchcock Presents before landing the starring role on Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer in 1957.  When it folded two years later, McGavin was cast opposite Burt Reynolds on the western series Riverboat (see Trivia below).

In 1972, McGavin was cast in the made-for-TV movie The Night Stalker, playing a reporter who discovered a modern-day vampire living in Las Vegas.  The film was such a ratings success for ABC that it spawned a sequel, The Night Strangler in 1973, before ultimately going to series.  Kolchak: The Night Stalker (left), premiered on rival network NBC in 1974 and ran for just one season.

McGavin never stopped working though, frequently making guest appearances on such popular shows as The Six Million Dollar ManThe Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  Ironically, his greatest claim to fame was yet to come.

In 1983, McGavin was cast in what would become his signature role, that of Mr. Parker, aka "The Old Man," in the holiday classic A Christmas Story.  He was paid $2 million for the role.  Keep in mind that this was 1983.  That was some serious cheddar. 

He'd continue acting throughout the 1980s and 90s, but that was his final starring role.  His last credited work was for two episodes of the popular FOX series The X-Files in 1998.

By 2006, McGavin's health was in decline as the actor was suffering from cardiovascular disease.  He was admitted to a Los Angeles area hospital, where he ultimately died on February 25th.  He was 83 years old.

Darren McGavin was laid to rest at famed Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Location: Section #7 (Griffith Lawn), Lot #203, Grave #14
Inscription #1: Father, Husband, and Actor
Inscription #2: Enjoyed a Wondrous Journey

Fra-gee-lay, Old Man.


  • Although a holiday classic today, A Christmas Story was considered a flop at the box office, taking in a mere $20 million over its six-week run. 

  • Like many of his generation, McGavin attempted to join the military as America entered World War 2.  He was rejected from service however, due to bad knees.  Really.

  • Burt Reynolds left the series Riverboat as he and McGavin were unable to work together on set.  He later told TV Guide that "Darren McGavin is going to be a very disappointed man on the first Easter after his death."

  • McGavin appeared in the Robert Redford baseball classic The Natural in 1984 yet received no billing for his role.  Before the film's production, producers could not agree with McGavin's agent over his placement in the credits.  Rather than hold up production, the actor decided to go uncredited.

  • In 1970, McGavin was to take over the role of Tony Nelson on the popular sit-com I Dream of Jeannie following Larry Hagman's departure from the series.  Before production on season 6 could begin however, NBC canceled the series.

  • McGavin's death was overshadowed by that of TV icon Don Knotts, who died one day earlier.

  • This blogger is the only person he knows who actually saw A Christmas Story in the theatre.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Mary Tyler Moore


"I'm not an actress who can create a character.  I play me."

Mary Tyler Moore was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 29, 1936.  She was the oldest of three children born to an Irish-Catholic family.  When she was eight years old, the family relocated to Los Angeles, where she completed her education at Immaculate Heart High School.

The move was a perfect fit for Moore, who had long had stars in her eyes.  She made her first television appearance in 1955, starring as "Happy Hotpoint," an elf, in a series of Hotpoint Appliance ads that aired during the popular sit-com The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Yup, that's really her.  She left the role after 39 commercials, as she was unable to conceal her pregnancy in the elf costume.

Her first regular television role was in the David Janssen series Richard Diamond, Private Detective.  She played a glamorous and mysterious telephone receptionist, really, never showing her face on screen.  She'd make guest appearances in other popular series of the day, including The Tab Hunter Show and 77 Sunset Strip.

In 1961, Moore shot to stardom on the popular sit-com The Dick Van Dyke Show (right) as the title character's wife, Laura Petrie.  The show was loosely based on creator Carl Reiner's own experiences as a writer on the Sid Caesar variety series Your Show of Shows.  The series ran for five seasons and 158 episodes, earning Moore two Emmy Awards for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.

In 1970, Moore and her husband Grant Tinker, himself a television executive, approached CBS with a proposal for a new series.  Focusing on the star herself, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (below) would break the traditional TV mold by featuring Moore as single woman Mary Richards, trying to make a career for herself as a television journalist.  The series ran for seven seasons and often incorporated social and political themes of the day, including the Women's Movement.  Moore would win an additional four Emmy Awards for this series.  It also generated three spin-off series for CBS, including Rhoda (1974-78), Phyllis (1975-77), and Lou Grant (1977-82).

Shortly after the series ended, Moore returned to New York and the Broadway stage. She starred opposite James Naughton in 96 performances of Whose Life Is It Anyway, then later starred in 164 performances of the May-December romance story, Sweet Sue.  She'd also return to the silver screen as well, with memorable appearances in such films as Ordinary People (1980) and Six Weeks (1982).

Moore continued acting throughout the 1990s, eventually retiring in the early 21st century. She settled in Connecticut and enjoyed the quiet life.  In early 2017, she began experiencing symptoms of cardiopulmonary arrest and was admitted to Greenwich Hospital.  While there, she developed pneumonia and was placed on a ventilator.  She ultimately passed away on January 25th.  Moore was 80 years old.

Moore was laid to rest at Oak Lawn Cemetery in Fairfield, Connecticut.  Pro tip: If you go to pay your respects, wear boots!

Location: Plot D-27

Rest in peace.

  • Moore authored two books about her life and career.  You can order a copy of both After All (1995) and Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes (2009) from Amazon.

  • Moore was a descendant of Lewis Tilgham Moore, a Lieutenant Colonel who fought with the Confederacy during the Civil War.

  • In 1969, Moore received a Golden Turkey Award for her performance in the Elvis Presley film Change of Habit.  She was recognized in the category "The Ecclesiastical Award for the Worst Performance by an Actor or Actress as a Clergyman or Nun."  Moore claimed to be thrilled for the recognition.  If you do nothing else today, be sure to watch the film's trailer on YouTube.  

  • That same year, Moore and Tinker founded MTM Enterprises, a successful television production company that would go on to produce such memorable series as The Bob Newhart Show, WKRP in Cicinnati, Hill Street Blues, and many more iconic series.  The orange cat seen meowing at the end of every MTM production was named "Mimsie."

  • Moore returned to New York in the early 1980s, taking with her a collection of memorabilia from her years in Hollywood.  Included in this collection was the beret she had so famously tossed into the air during her show's opening credits.  She kept these items in a storage locker in her apartment building, which vandals soon broke into. Their whereabouts today remain a mystery.

  • The soundstage for The Mary Tyler Moore Show was later used for That 70's Show.  In 2006, Moore made a series of memorable guest appearances on the latter series.

  • In 2002, a statue commemorating Moore's iconic beret toss was created and placed at the Minneapolis intersection made famous in the show's opening credits.  It can be found outside Nicolet Mall.

  • Moore's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 7201 Hollywood Boulevard.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Jackie Cooper: Actor, Director and Veteran


Jackie Cooper was born John Cooper, Jr. in Los Angeles, on September 15, 1922.  It's an ironic name considering that John, Sr. walked out on the family when the boy was just two years old.  Cooper's mother, a stage pianist, was left to raise Jackie on her own, later remarrying a studio production manager.

By the time he was three, Cooper was already making a name for himself in Hollywood, attending auditions with his maternal grandmother.  After a few bit parts, he was introduced to director Hal Roach, who hired Cooper for his Our Gang series of shorts, playing that little rascal, Jackie. His character was most memorable for having a crush on schoolteacher Ms. Crabtree, played by silent-screen vixen June Marlowe.

In 1931, Roach sold Cooper's contract to MGM Studios, who cast the eight-year-old in director King Vidor's classic The Champ, for which Cooper would receive an Academy Award nomination.  Other films during this period include The Bowery (1933) and Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island (1934).

When America entered World War 2, Cooper put his career on hold and enlisted in the United States Navy. Although he'd return to Hollywood following the war, he'd remain in the Naval Reserves for the next forty years, eventually retiring with the rank of Captain.

In the 1950s, Cooper starred on two television sit-coms, including The People's Choice with Patricia Breslin and Hennessy with Abby Dalton. He also made guest appearances on shows popular at the time, including the legal drama Justice and The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom (actual title).

By the 1960s, Cooper had moved behind the camera and was serving as Vice President of Program Development at Columbia Pictures Screen Gems TV division.  During this time, he oversaw production of the classic series Bewitched, while occasionally acting as well, making a memorable appearance in the 1964 Twilight Zone episode Caesar and Me.

Cooper left Columbia in 1969, continuing to both act and direct with other Hollywood studios.  During this time, he directed several early episodes of the sit-com M*A*S*H, for which he won the 1974 Emmy Award for Best Directing in Comedy.  Other series he directed during this time include The White Shadow, for which he'd also win the Emmy Award.

Unbelievably, Cooper's greatest claim to fame was still yet to come.  In 1977, he was cast in the $40 million Richard Donner blockbuster Superman, playing newspaper editor Perry White.  The film was an international success, introducing Cooper to a new generation of fans.  He'd reprise the role in all three sequels, including Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, one of his final film roles.

Cooper retired in the 1990s and stayed active for the more than 20 years.  By 2011 however, his health was in decline and he'd succumb to natural causes on May 3rd of that year.  Although survived by two sons, he had outlived his wife and two daughters.

Jackie Cooper was laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemtery outside Washington, DC.

Location: Section #64, Site #1903

Rest in peace.

  • Cooper released his autobiography, Please Don't Shoot My Dog, in 1981. Of his time directing M*A*S*H, he wrote that the only two actors who weren't a pain to work with were Larry Linville and Wayne Rogers.

  • During his Naval service, Cooper was awarded the Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.

  • When Cooper received his Academy Award nomination at age nine, he was the youngest person to ever do so, a title he still holds to this day.

  • While serving in the Naval Reserves in 1977, Cooper gave the oath of enlistment to fellow former child actor Jay North, star of Dennis the Menace.

  • Between 1980 and 1982, Cooper directed seven made-for-TV movies.  One of these was the 1982 film Moonlight, for which Cooper used the industry pseudonym Alan Smithee.  

  • Cooper continued directing even after he had retired, most notably on the syndicated television series Superboy.

  • Cooper's star on the Hollywood Walf of Fame can be found at 1507 Vine Street.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Billy Mays!


"The best things in life are free - and $19.95."
  --Billy Mays

William Darrell Mays, Jr., more famously known as Billy Mays, was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, on July 20, 1958.  He grew up in Pittsburgh, where he attended high school before accepting a football scholarship to West Virginia University.

Two years into his studies, Mays dropped out of college and moved to Atlantic City.  He went to work on the boardwalk where he began honing his craft.  He sold the Washmatik Portable Washing Device and other "As Seen on TV" products to passersby.

"I was taught to pitch by a lot of older pitchmen," Mays recalled. "That's the kind of style I have."

For the next twelve years, Mays traveled the country selling his wares at auto shows, state fairs and the like.  Then in 1993, while working a home show in his native Pittsburgh, Mays met Max Appel, founder of Orange Glo International, the manufacturer of several household cleaning products, including Oxi-Clean, Orange Glo, and Kaboom.  Appel hired Mays to sell his company's products on the Home Shopping Network.  That's how Mays became a household name.

Mays was an instant hit with viewers, if not so much with critics.  Known for his loud, abrasive style of pitching, one Washington Post writer described Mays as "a full-volume pitchman, amped up like a candidate for a tranquilizer-gun takedown."  Democracy dies in darkness.

In 1997, Orange Glo fathered a new company simply called OxiClean.  Mays became the face of this new company, shooting his first infomercial for the signature product itself in 2000.  Additional infomercials for Orange Glo and Kaboom would follow.

Having achieved financial success, Mays relocated to Odessa, Florida, and opened Mays Promotions, Inc.  He continued filming spots for "As Seen on TV" products, while also appearing in online ads for ESPN, including this awesome entry called Billy Mays on the Run

In 2009, he signed a contract with Taco Bell to produce "infomercial-style" commercials for the fast-food chain, but sadly, these commercials would never be produced.

On June 28th of that year, Mays was found unconscious and unresponsive in his Florida home.  His wife called paramedics, but by that point, he had already passed.  Dead at the age of 50. 

His death remained a mystery for several days.  Some believed he'd walked in on a home invasion and was murdered, but there were no signs of that.  Another theory was that he had died of head trauma received one day earlier when his plane made an emergency landing in Florida.  This too was ruled out.

Ultimately, the autopsy ruled that Mays had died of a heart attack.  Traces of cocaine and other drugs were found in his system, with this being listed as a contributing factor.  His heart went kaboom.

Billy Mays was laid to rest in Mount Calvary Cemtery in his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.  

Rest in peace.

  • Mays was outlived by his father, who went on to write his son's biography.  You can pick up a copy of My Son, Billy: A Father Remembers the Greatest Pitchman Ever, from Amazon.

  • I watch a lot of news, but man, I forgot about the time that Mays interviewed President Obama.  Check it out on YouTube.

  • In honor of his TV persona, the pallbearers at Mays' funeral all wore blue button-down shirts and tan pants.  I did not make that up.

  • But wait, there's more!  At the time of his death, Mays was co-producing a reality series called Pitchmen for the Discovery Channel.  Each episode found Mays and fellow TV pitchman Anthony Sullivan traveling the world and meeting inventors, looking for products to be the next big thing.  You can watch the first episode in its entirety on YouTube.

  • Mays claimed that he wouldn't advertise a product unless he used it himself.  Ironically, he never advertised cocaine.

  • Some of his best quotes include "life's a pitch, then you buy," "long live your laundry," "I love beautiful wood," and the one he's best remembered for, "Hi, Billy Mays here for..."

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Walker Edmiston - The World of Sid & Marty Krofft

"I do many voices that I can't do and people ask me what I mean.  What I tell them is that I'll be hired to come in and do a voice and prior to going in I can't do it...somehow, I have this ear where I can hear a voice and reproduce it."

Walker Edmiston.  Not exactly a household name.  But if you're of a certain generation, you've undoubtedly heard his voice at some point during your formative years.

He was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on February 6, 1926.  He was interested in acting from a very early age, appearing in many high school productions. Upon graduation, he moved to California, where he studied acting at the famed Pasadena Playhouse.

In the 1950s, he began appearing on local Los Angeles television programs, beginning with Time for Beany, a puppet show produced for the children's hour (Beany was a seasick sea serpent).  Edmiston proved such a natural at voice-over work that station KTLA gave him his own series, the aptly titled Walker Edmiston Show.  It ran for 13 years and helped introduce him to a much larger audience.  During this same time, he often worked on the original Star Trek TV series, providing voice-over work on such episodes as "Return of the Archons," "A Taste of Armageddon," and "The Gamesters of Triskelion" (two quatloos on the newcomer!).

After his series came to a close, Edmiston was introduced to famed Puppeteers Sid and Marty Krofft, who were planning a new children's series for NBC.  H.R. Pufnstuf premiered in September 1969, forever changing Saturday morning TV.  A live-action series, many of the characters were either puppets or costumed human actors, for which Edmiston provided a number of voices.  Although fellow voice-over artist and friend Lennie Weinrib provided the voice of Pufnstuf himself, Edmiston voiced his associate Dr. Blinky (above) and Seymore, the, whatever it was.

This started a decades-long collaboration between Edmiston and the Kroffts.  He provided the main character's voice (as well as his entire family) on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters as well as Sparky the firefly on The BugaloosThe Krofft role he is probably best remembered for however, is that of Enik the Altrusian (left), both friend and antagonist to the Marshall Family on Land of the Lost.  Edmiston not only voiced the role, but he appeared on screen in the costume as well.

He continued acting throughout the 1970s and 80s, appearing on such shows as Adam-12, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Knots Landing.  He continued his voice work as well, speaking for many of the autobots and decepticons on the pop culture juggernaut The Transformers.

By the early 2000s, Edmiston was diagnosed with cancer and his health began to decline.  He passed away on February 15, 2007.  He was 81 years old.

Walker Edmiston was cremated.  His ashes were interred at famed Hollywood Forever Cemetery, in a very high alcove.  To give you some perspective, I'm 6'4".

Rest in peace, Enik.

  • Edmiston recorded the theme song for his show on vinyl.  To say that its kooky would be an understatement.  Give it a listen on YouTube.

  • Edmiston did a lot of the voice work in the 1977 film Smokey and the Bandit and can often be heard on the police CB.  Here's one such scene on YouTube (Edmiston comes in at the 1:20 mark).  He also provided the voice of the air traffic controller in the 1980 classic film Airplane!
  • Edmiston auditioned for the voice of Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, a role that ultimately went to Frank Oz.

  • Edmiston recorded an interview as one of the bonus features on the Land of the Lost DVD set.  You can watch it in its entirety on YouTube.

  • Krofft fan Keir Neubauer acquired the original Enik costume in the early 2000s, by which point it had greatly deteriorated.  He commissioned Tom Spina Designs in New York to restore the costume to its original glory.  This blogger got to see the results of their work at the Chiller Theatre pop culture convention in 2017.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Roxie Roker


I've been wanting to do this particular post for a while, as the story of my visit to her grave is one that I love to tell.  Whenever someone asks me some version of "what's your favorite grave," this one invariably comes up.

Roxie Albertha Roker was born in Miami, Florida, on August 28, 1929.  She was the daughter of Al Roker (see Trivia below), a porter originally from The Bahamas, and Bessie Roker, a maid from Georgia.  Shortly after her birth, the family relocated to Brooklyn, New York.

From an early age, Roker was interested in the performing arts.  After completing high school, she attended Howard University in Washington, DC, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Afterwards, she returned home to New York, where she joined the Negro Ensemble Company, and began a successful career on the Broadway stage.

It was also during this time that she married television producer Sy Kravitz.  In 1964, the couple welcomed their first and only child, future pop star Lenny Kravitz (right). 

In 1974, she made her first acting appearance on television in the made-for-TV movie Change at 125th Street.  Just one year later, she was cast in the role for which she is most famously remembered, that of Helen Willis on The Jeffersons (below). Roker stayed with the series for its entire eleven-year run, making television history in the process.  She and co-star Franklin Cover portrayed the first interracial couple in a primetime television series.

When the series concluded in 1985, Roker was in the process of divorcing Sy after more than twenty years of marriage.  She continued acting on TV during this time, making the obligatory appearances on The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote.  She also made a guest appearance on the NBC sit-com 227, starring her Jeffersons co-star Marla Gibbs.  On the big screen, she appeared in the 1987 cult comedy classic Amazon Women on the Moon.

By the early 1990s, Roker's health was in decline.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer, which ultimately took her life on December 2, 1995.  She was just 66 years old. 

Roker was returned to Miami and laid to rest with her mother, Bessie. 

Location: Southern Memorial Park
East Court #2, Lot #19, Gr #2B

In 2012, this blogger went to Miami on a grave expedition.  The city is the final resting place for many Hollywood notables, including Jackie Gleason, Leslie Nielsen, and Roker.  I made my way to Southern Memorial Park, but locating Roker's grave proved to be a challenge.  I don't often ask staff for assistance, as they can be reluctant to provide information on famous graves.  However, this day I lucked out.

When I went to the main office, I met a woman in her mid-20s and asked her for directions to the grave.  When she asked me the name of the deceased, I sheepishly replied "Roxie Roker," and to my great relief, the name didn't register.  Not only did she give me directions to the grave, but she also offered to drive me to it in one of the cemetery's golf carts.  This was too good to be true.

We got to the grave, which as you can see, bares her married name of Roxie Roker Kravitz.  It was at this point that the young woman made the connection, asking me if Roker was related to Lenny Kravitz.  "Why yes," I replied.  "This is his mother."  I further explained that this was Helen Willis from The Jeffersons.

My host could not have been more surprised.  Not only was she a huge Lenny Kravitz fan, but she was also watching The Jeffersons on cable.  I pulled out my phone, played the theme song on YouTube, and we recreated the dance from the intro.  I don't normally dance at one's grave, but this was not to be passed up.  

As I left, I gave my host some parting advice - keep an eye on this grave.  One day, Lenny might show up.

Rest in peace.

  • Roxie's second cousin is long-time NBC weatherman and Sharknado star Al Roker.  He was named after Roxie's father.

  • In the early 1960s, Roker hosted a Brooklyn public affairs TV series called Inside Bedford-Stuyvesant.  Check out this episode on YouTube.

  • In 1974, Roker won an Obie Award and a Tony nomination for her performance in the Broadway show The River Niger.

  • According to Roker, during her audition for The Jeffersons, producer Norman Lear felt that she didn't look believable as an African-American woman married to a Caucasian man. In response, Roker showed Lear a photo of her husband Sy Kravitz (Caucasian) and was immediately hired.

  • The character of Helen Willis originated in the classic All in the Family episode "Lionel's Engagement," played by actress Kim Hamilton.  Check out this clip on YouTube. (Note: the original 1970s language is intact.)

  • After his mother's passing, Lenny recorded the tribute sone "Thinking of You," the video for which included a photo of Roker.  Check it out on YouTube.

  • Roker's co-star Isabel Sanford was also profiled here at Six Feet Under Hollywood.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Norman Fell


"I enjoyed acting and marveled that one could get paid for doing it."
  --Norman Fell

Norman Noah Feld (Norman Fell) was born in Pennsylvania on March 24, 1924. He was the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants who opened a restaurant in Philadelphia.  There he attended Central High School, with plans to study drama in college.  But as America entered World War 2, Fell opted to serve his country instead.

He enlisted in the now-defunct U.S. Army Air Forces and was assigned to the Fifth Air Force in the Pacific Fleet.  There he served as a tail gunner on a B-25 bomber. When the war was over, he returned to Philadelphia and studied drama at Temple University.

After graduation, Fell moved to Hollywood and began acting on television.  He guest starred on several notable series of the 50s and 60s, including Perry Mason, The Untouchables and The Fugitive.  During this time, he appeared in a made-for-tv movie that was ironically titled Three's a Crowd, though it had no relation to any of the future series.

His first film role of note was in the original 1960 version of Ocean's 11.  He'd later appear in the 1963 classic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Ironically, he'd also play a landlord in the 1967 Dustin Hoffman film The Graduate.

In 1970, Fell landed a series of his own, opposite up-and-coming actor Burt Reynolds.  Dan August (right) was a detective series produced by Quinn Martin that aired for one season on ABC.  Check out the intro on YouTube.

All of this is leading up to the role that Fell is most famously associated with, that of Stanley Roper on the ABC sit-com Three's Company, a show that sadly, could never be produced today.  He played the character for three seasons, earning a Golden Globe Award along the way. As Mr. Roper, Fell was notorious for breaking the fourth wall and laughing directly at the camera.  Here's a great compilation.

In 1980, he was convinced by the show's producers to leave the series for one of his own, a spin-off entitled The Ropers (left).  Though it lasted for two seasons, it was never a ratings hit and it lacked the charm of the original.  Upon its cancellation, Fell famously attempted to return to Three's Company, but found himself on the wrong side of his ABC contract.

He never hurt for work however, keeping busy for the next two decades.  In 1989, he made this memorable guest appearance on the ABC sit-com Hooperman, appearing alongside his former Three's Company co-star John Ritter.

On the morning of Thanksgiving 1998, Fell found himself too weak to get out of bed.  He was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, which was already in its final stages.  He died just two weeks later, on December 14, 1998.  He was 74 years old.

Norman Fell was cremated and his ashes were inurned at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Location: Garden of Heritage, Columbarium of Tradition, Niche #1601, Space A
Inscription #1: Cherished and Adored Father, Grandfather and Brother
Inscription #2: A Greatly Talented and Romantic Man

Rest in peace.


  • Fell was credited with two Japanese kills during World War 2.

  • For more than 40 years, Fell managed to fool Hollywood into believing that he and Jack Klugman were bitter enemies.  In fact, the two were co-conspirators in the hoax, having grown up together as friends in Philadelphia.

  • Fell did a lot of commercial work throughout his career, including this hilarious spot for Pepto-Bismol. He also appeared in a public service announcement for the IRS, alongside future Golden Girl Rue McClanahan.

  • Fell's final on-screen appearance was in a 1998 episode of the Ellen DeGeneres sit-com Ellen.  Fittingly, he reprised his role of Stanley Roper one last time.  Check it out on YouTube.

  • Fell's replacement on Three's Company, Don Knotts, also appeared in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

This One's to Go


Burgers, chicken and crunchy gorditas.  Who doesn't love a good fast food meal?  In this blog post, meet three pioneers who all thought outside the bun, creating a whole new neighborhood of dining options for travelers and families alike.  Make this one to go, as you travel to three states and visit their final resting places.     
Samuel Truett Cathy was born in Eatonton, Georgia, on March 14, 1921. In 1946, he opened his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill, named so for its small size.  There, he and his brother created a chicken sandwich that would become the signature item at what is today called Chick Fil A, at approximately 2,600 locations worldwide.  Cathy died of diabetes on September 8, 2014.

Location: Greenwood Cemetery (Atlanta, GA), Section #21
Inscription: A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches (Proverbs 22:1)

Rex David Thomas (Dave Thomas) was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on July 2, 1932.  He had an appreciation for the restaurant industry from an early age, dropping out of high school to pursue this interest.  After serving as a mess sergeant during the Koren War, Thomas returned to the U.S. and worked for Colonel Harland Sanders, helping to revitalize four failing Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants in the Midwest.  Then in 1969, he opened his first Wendy's restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, naming the franchise after his daughter.  Today, there are more than 6,900 locations worldwide.  Thomas died of cancer on January 8, 2002.

Location: Union Cemetery (Columbus, OH), Mausoleum Chapel B, Lot #1B, Space #1

Colonel Harland David Sanders was born in Henryville, Indiana, on September 9, 1890. During the Great Depression, he began selling chicken at his first roadside restaurant in North Corbin, Kentucky.  It was here that he developed his secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices.  He began franchising the chain in 1952, and today, there are more than 24,000 locations worldwide.  Sanders died of pneumonia on December 16, 1980.

Location: Cave Hill Cemetery (Louisville, KY), Section #33, Lot #57, Grave #1
Inscription: Born near Henryville, Indiana, Founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken Empire

Rest in peace.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Supreme Court Row

Arlington National Cemetery was established in 1864. Located on the Potomac River just outside Washington, DC, it is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members, politicians and other national figures. 

Included in this tally are 14 members of the U.S. Supreme Court. Many are scattered throughout the park, although a handful can be found in what this blogger calls "Supreme Court Row."

You'll find it just inside the main gate and up a winding road situated on a small hill.  On a recent visit to the park, I found graves for four of the so-called "men in black."

Warren Earl Burger was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on September 17, 1907.

In 1969, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Richard M. Nixon, where he served as Chief Justice until his retirement in 1986.  He was succeeded in this position by Judge William Rehnquist.

Burger died of congestive heart failure on June 25, 1995.

Joan Ruth Bader Ginsburg was born in Brooklyn, New York, on March 15, 1933.

In 1993, she was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, where she served as Associate Justice until her death on September 18, 2020.  She was succeeded in this position by Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Ginsburg was laid to rest with her husband Martin, who preceded her in death in 2010.  Like his wife, he was also a lawyer, having taught at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

Thurgood Marshall (birth name Thoroughgood) was born in Baltimore, Maryland on July 2, 1908.

In 1967, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Lyndon B. Johnson, where he served as Associate Justice until his retirement in 1991. He was succeeded in this position by Judge Clarence Thomas.

Marshall died of heart failure on January 24, 1993.

John Paul Stevens was born in Chicago, Illinois, on April 20, 1920.

In 1975, he was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford, where he served until his retirement in 2010.  He was succeeded in this position by Elena Kagan.

Stevens died from complications of a stroke on July 16, 2019.

Rest in peace.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Hilton Sisters


Recently on a road trip through the Carolinas, I was perusing, a great resource for finding unique and odd roadside attractions.  I came across this entry in Charlotte, for the grave of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.  I had never heard of them, but from what I read, they had made a name for themselves in film and on the stage.

While Six Feet Under Hollywood normally profiles celebrities and notable figures, I do occasionally like to showcase some of the lesser-known residents of our nation's cemeteries, such as the outer space alien buried in Aurora, Texas.  The Hilton Sisters are no less interesting.

They were born in Sussex, England, on February 5, 1908.  As you can imagine, it was a difficult birth.  The sisters were born fused at the hips, and while they shared blood circulation, their organs were all their own.

The twins were unique, in that they were the first to be born in the United Kingdom to survive more than a few weeks.  Doctors considered separating them, but feared it would lead to the death of one or both of them. 

Their mother, Kate Skinner, was an unmarried barmaid. The pub's owner, Mary Hilton, saw great financial opportunity in the girls, and for lack of a better word, she bought them from Skinner.  You read that correctly.  The girls were trained in singing and dancing, then put on display at the Queen Arm's pub in Brighton.

By the time they were three, Hilton was already touring the sisters throughout Great Britain.  In 1911, the tour continued through Germany and Australia, before they finally crossed the pond into America.  Once there, they joined the vaudeville circuit, and Hilton crafted an imaginative backstory to entertain the curious.  I wish I knew what that was.

In 1926, the sisters teamed up with up-and-coming comedian Bob Hope, forming a new act called "Dancemedians."  Any profits the two earned from this collaboration however, went directly to Hilton.  But when she died unexpectedly in Birmingham, Alabama, the twins were bequeathed to her daughter Edith Meyers and her husband Meyer Meyers.  Honest.  I'm not making any of this up.

The Hiltons and the Meyers, circa 1927.

The family relocated to San Antonio, Texas, where the Meyers trained them in musical instruments.  Although the girls were quick studies, it was probably the frequent beatings at the hands of the Meyers that inspired their training. 

Tired of the beatings and the financial servitude, the girls were legally emancipated at age 22.  Really. They sued the Meyers and were awarded $100,000 in damages, or $1.4 million in current dollar totals.

In 1932, the sisters appeared in the Tod Browning cinematic masterpiece Freaks.  Set against the backdrop of a traveling circus, the sisters appeared alongside other famed sideshow performers, including dwarf siblings Harry and Daisy Earles and Simon Metz, a victim of microcephaly with an abnormally small head.  Although the film was a financial disappointment upon release and was banned in several countries, it would achieve acclaim later in the 1960s upon re-release.  Check out this clip on the Hiltons on YouTube.

After the film, they returned to the United Kingdom, where they'd spend the next year on tour.  In 1933, the sisters returned to America, where they tried leading normal lives.  Violet began dating musician Maurice Lambert.  Although the couple wanted desperately to marry, their license to do so was rejected in 21 states.

In 1936 however, Violet successfully married gay actor James Moore, but biographers attribute this to a publicity stunt.  After Freaks, the girls' popularity was in decline, while Moore was trying to make a name for himself.  The marriage lasted for ten years on paper, but the couple never lived as husband and wife.  In 1941, Daisy took a husband of her own, dancer Buddy Sawyer, who was also gay.  The marriage lasted ten days.

In 1952, the sisters starred in the exploitation film Chained for Life (left), which was loosely based on their own personal story.  It too was a financial failure, but that won't stop you from watching it on YouTube.  

The sisters would continue touring for the next ten years, but by 1961, public interest was in decline.  They unknowingly made their final public appearance at a drive-in in Charlotte, North Carolina, where their manager abandoned them. With no money or transportation, the sisters took jobs at a local grocery store, Park 'N Shop, where they'd continue working for the rest of their lives.

 On January 4, 1969, the sisters failed to report to work.  The store manager notified police, who went to their home and conducted a welfare check.  Both sisters were found dead, victims of the Hong Kong Flu.  An autopsy would later reveal that Daisy died first, while Violet lasted another two to four days.

The Hilton Sisters were laid to rest at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Charlotte.  They were buried in a single coffin (imagine the logistics of that) in a donated plot. 

Location: Section M, Lot #313
Inscription: Beloved Siamese Twins.

Rest in peace, girls. 


  • The Hiltons were chronicled in a number of books.  Check out these titles on Amazon:
     * Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins, by Sarah Miller (2021)
     * The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton: A True Story of Conjoined Twins, by Dean Jensen (2006)

  • During their vaudeville years, the sisters learned self-hypnosis from Harry Houdini, as a means of being alone.

  • In 1997, the musical Side Show opened on Broadway, telling the story of Daisy and Violet Hilton.  Although it received four Tony Award nominations, the production closed after just 91 performances.

  • Just one week before this blog was published, a commemorative plaque honoring the sisters was erected at their birthplace.  Note that it gives their birth name of Skinner.