About Me

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Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I am a Montreal-based actor, writer and comedian. When U.S. President John F. Kennedy was shot, I was three days old. I cried all day. My favourite books of all time are Moby Dick by Herman Melville, The Last Temptation by Nikos Kazantzakis and The Ewoks Fun Time Activity Book by Chirpa and Pamploo. I am a member of The Vestibules, On The Spot Improv and The Best Buy Battery Club. Except for the Battery Club, I've been at all this stuff for over 20 years. Enjoy my blog.

Friday, December 31, 2010

An Offbeat Tribute to Those We Lost in 2010

Happy New Year's Eve everybody!

Here is my somewhat morbid, non-comprehensive offbeat musings on some of the talented people we lost in 2010...

Dennis Hopper (1936-2010)

When Dennis "Easy Rider, Apocalypse Now, Blue Velvet" Hopper died, a clip of him reciting "If" by Rudyard Kipling from the Johnny Cash Show turned up everywhere on the net.

This is the clip that comes right before that. It's the only time I've ever seen him sing. Hopper and Cash seem to connect almost a little too well. Seems like they've both been down that same substance abuse road

I remember renting this fascinating little curiosity on VHS in the 90's. The early HBO film, Witch Hunt, features a rare sympathetic lead role for Hopper. It is also most likely the only time Hopper ever even attempted to pull off the hard boiled gumshoe PI role.

Check out not just the premise of this one but also the name of the private eye.

Peter Graves (1926-2010)

Depending on your generational reference point, Peter Graves is either most famous as Mission: Impossible! team leader Jim Phelps, as the creepy yet humourous Captain Clarence Oveur in Airplane! or as that guy that seems to host of all those biography things on TV there.

Though, I'm pretty sure that almost no one knows him only as the star to the 1950's sci-fi film, The Red Planet Mars.

Long story short: radio transmissions are established with intelligent Utopian life on Mars. The message from Mars: worship God more. Think of the Jodie Foster movie Contact with a ton of 1950's cold war propaganda thrown in.

Irvin Kershner (1923-2010)

The Empire Strikes Back is undoubtedly the film that Kershner will always be best remembered for. You could maybe throw in Kershner bringing Sean Connery back to the role of James Bond after an twelve year absence in Never Say Never Again or Kershner filming Frank Miller's ambitious screenplay for Robocop 2 or the trippy 70's Faye Dunaway horror thriller, The Eyes of Laura Mars. Really, though, the name Kershner is synonymous with what is arguably the best Star Wars movie of the series.

However, 16 years before introducing the world to AT-AT Walkers and Boba Fett, Kershner found his way to Montreal to direct a low budget Canadian movie entitled The Luck of Ginger Coffey . Robert Shaw plays an Irish journalist emigrating with his family to Montreal in 1964. Based on the novel of the same by Brian Moore, the film chronicles the struggles of adapting to a new life in a new country.

This movie is a must for any Montrealer. The film captures the many of the city's landmarks and neighbourhoods in all their 1964 black and white splendor. It is fascinating just on its historical terms alone. A bus ad in one scene plugs the still three years away Expo '67. There is also a cameo by what looks like a 17 year-old Don McGowan (there's a generationally specific Anlgo Montreal reference for ya).

Robert Shaw is, as always, great in the title role. The Luck of Ginger Coffey is a really good little film to boot.

It's easier to find the posters for this film on the web than it is to find the film itself.

The Luck of Ginger Coffey is also an extremely rare archeological find: an independent English Canadian film from the early 60's (there's no connection to the NFB or the CBC in this production and Canadian film tax credits were still years away).

I managed to catch this wonderfully obscure gem on on History Television a few years back but, alas did not manage to record it. There is a DVD edition available on Amazon UK but you'll need a multi-region player to watch it. If you are so inclined, it's worth the trouble.

Gary Coleman (1968-2010)

Forget "Whatch you talkin' about Willis?", Coleman's best role ever was as the boy genius Interstellar President Hieronymus Fox on the classic 70's sci-fi series Buck Rogers in The 25th Century.

Tony Curtis (1925-2010)

For those my age, the strongest association with Tony Curtis is not Some Like It Hot or The Defiant Ones or Spartacus or The Persuaders or even The Bad News Bears Go To Japan.  No, for us Boomer-Gen X Tweeners, Tony Curtis is Stony Curtis. In fact, as a child Curtis' guest appearance on The Flintstones created a great deal of confusion. I was under the impression that Stony Curtis was actually the man's real name. Stony and Tony sounded very similar and, after all, Stony did look and sound like the guy in movies like Boeing, Boeing.  As far as I was concerned, everyone kept getting Stony Curtis' name wrong when they called him Tony Curtis.

4 years of film and theatre school school managed to straighten that misconception out.

Here's Stony in at the pinnacle of his career...

Jackie Burroughs (1939-2010)

One of Canada's greatest actors, known for her roles in Road to Avonlea, A Winter Tan, The Grey Fox and the one of the greatest TV series ever (Canadian or otherwise), Slings and Arrows.  But for me and my pals in my sketch comedy troupe, The Vestibules, she will always be remembered as the women who stormed up to us out of nowhere at the 1990 Canadian Radio Awards reception in Toronto and declared "You guys are so fucking funny!".

We figured out who she was later...

J.D. Salinger (1919-2010)
Colbert never did land this guest
At the time of the brilliant reclusive writer's death, I posted a link to a brilliantly funny tribute to the man written by those really funny guys at www.theonion.com. Here is another great Salinger piece of theirs I recently turned up.

Cory Haim (1971-2010)

Another person on the list that I've actually met...well, kinda.  There was about 10 minutes in the mid-90's when SCTV legend Joe Flaherty was supposedly interested in directing a potential TV pilot for The Vestibules. The whole thing was set up by a local producer who had gotten lucky and managed to get a movie called Snowboard Academy into production. As a means of acquainting Flaherty with our work, Paul, Bernard and I drove up to Mont Blanc to do a show for the cast and crew of the film (which included Flaherty, Jim Varney, Brigette Neilson and Cory Haim). 

If having someone talking loudly and obnoxiously through your entire show constitutes meeting them then, yes, we met Corey Haim. 

On a serious note, at least his demise was not drug related which, based on his behavior that night years ago,  I was, at first, convinced was the case.

James MacArthur (1937-2010)

Book 'em Danno...sorry, James, couldn't resist...

The adopted son of Academy Award winning actress, Helen Hayes, James MacArthur was the last surviving principal cast member of the legendary 1960's/70's TV cop show Hawaii Five-0 (his part is played by Scott Caan in the current re-boot).

Before 5-0, MacArthur appeared in number of other film roles including a few Disney flicks. He was also something of teen heartthrob for super brief period of time.  That time included a bit of a not-unShatner-like music career. This is song charted at #94 in the US in 1963.

It's called The Ten Commandments of Love.

It's my understanding that several small towns in the US have this version of The Ten Commandments posted in their courthouses, particularly in the more male-dominated regions...

Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

Frank Frazetta is universally recognized as one of the greatest fantasy painters that ever lived. He was largely famous for paintings like this one:

Frazetta was one of the few artists who had the ability to, with one painting, make both men and women insecure about their body image simultaneously.

A rare gift.

Frazetta is well known for his paintings of Conan The Cimmerian, John Carter Warlord of Mars, Kull, Tarzan and, of course, Woody Allen. Yes. Woody Allen.

Frazetta was also a movie poster artist and early in his career, this was one of his assignments:

Oddly, Woody never contacted Frank for the Annie Hall or Manhattan posters...

John Forsythe (1918-2010)

Hmmm...not a hat in sight...

And, finally, big shout out the to the late great John Forsythe, star of Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, The John Forsythe Show and the original guy who "had on a hat".

Happy New Year
All The Best for 2011!

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