Saturday, January 12, 2013

That old Grim Reaper strikes again

This post is long overdue, but I decided to holiday during the Holidays, so I apologize. Nevertheless, some people who were very important to Weird Movie Village got visited by the guy with the scythe recently, and I wanted to give them a last shout-out.

Susan Tyrrell. I did an entire post about her passing this past June, but it's still a trip how she herself was the first to alert me of her death. I was following her on Facebook, and she was occasionally updating with suitably filthy comments when suddenly a post appeared with a quote and her dates of birth and death.

I thought it had to be another of her trademark nasty jokes, but indeed she had passed into the Great Beyond. What a life. Screwed over by John Huston (yuck), roommate of the voluptuous Candy Darling and ending up with a super-rare disease that required the amputation of both her legs, she remained a delightful, foul-mouthed, beautiful bitch till the very end. I met her when she performed her wonderful show, "My Rotten Life," at a club on La Cienega Boulevard. What a face.

Phyllis Diller. I knew it was coming pretty close to the end when I saw her at an event at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (in a panel discussion called "From Stand-Up to Sitcom") and she left in a wheelchair (the same way I saw Forrest J. Ackerman being wheeled out of Comic-Con 2008 shortly before he died), but I'm still sorry that the hilarious and generous-hearted comedienne has left us.

I have three — count them — three of her albums on actual vinyl, including the rare "Born to Sing," on which she actually does just that. These days, people don't remember that she was an accomplished pianist who appeared with orchestras all over the world, and her pipes weren't bad, either, especially when she sang standards interlaced with her oh-so-corny jokes. For example, her version of "Hello, Young Lovers" (from "The King and I") begins... "When I think of Fang, I think about the night..." Hilarious.

I was fortunate enough to see her in concert twice in the '80s and '90s and laughed so hard I thought I was going to injure internal organs. She didn't care about political correctness. She told a joke about then-Surgeon General C. Everett Koop warning a man not to smoke because it made his fingers all yellow, to which he replied "Of course they're yellow! I'm a Chinaman!"

I got a brief face-to-face with her at a Hollywood Collector's Show in 2003, but she was so deaf and the room was reverberating with such ambient noise that all she could do was smile and sign a picture for me. Still, she did her trademark "Ha-HAA!

William Finley.  Finley shuffled off this mortal coil last April, leaving us his memorable appearances in "Sisters," "Eaten Alive" and — most importantly — as Winslow Leach in "Phantom of the Paradise." I'm sure the town of Winnipeg went into mourning for a month, as "Phantom" is a religion to them, Did you know that they even held annual Phantompaloozas in honor of the film, bringing Paul Williams, Jessica Harper and Finley to perform songs from the film. I was in charge of the film program in college and I booked "Phantom of the Paradise" as a co-feature with "Wizards" to bring in the stoners. It worked.

Part of Brian De Palma's troupe, Finley appeared in the director's earliest work and was great at playing creeps like Margot Kidder's controlling doctor/husband in "Sisters." Winslow Leach was probably his most sympathetic character.  His last appearance onscreen was a bit in De Palma's disappointing "Black Dahlia."

Davy Jones. Typical children of the suburban '60s, my sisters were both crazy about "Oliver"'s Jack Wild (also deceased) and Jones. I think one of them liked Peter Tork, too, but Davy was the Monkee that made the little girls scream with his little boy looks and dreamy English accent.

I have the single, "That Whas Then, This is Now," that resulted from their reunion tour in 1986. It's pretty indifferent, but then again I've never been their target audience. My favorite Monkees appearance had to be in the hilarious 1995 "Brady Bunch Movie," when the saccharine Brady kids in their hideous outfits win the school talent show because the Monkees are the judges!

Deborah Raffin. Only 59, Raffin may have only occasionally visited the Village, but they were choice trips. She starred in "The Dove" with Joseph Bottoms, which is something of a cult. But she was also in Larry Cohen's "God Told Me To" with Sandy Dennis (and Andy Kaufman as a cop); the hilarious train wreck, "The Sentinel," as Cristina Raines' pal; and "Scanners 2: The Takeover," a sequel that's more fun than Cronenberg's original. She and husband Michael Viner founded Dove Books on Tape in 1985, and when the company made the wonderful biopic "Wilde," she served as Executive Producer.

Her girl-next-door beauty made her a popular actress in the '70s, even in such lurid fare as the TV-movies "Ski Left to Death," "How to Pick Up Girls!" and "Nightmare in Badham County." They just don't make 'em like that anymore.

Dorothy McGuire. No, not the actress (although she's also long gone) — the sister. She and her siblings, Christine and Phyllis, made some of the most still-listenable music from the white bread '50s, and songs like "I'll Be Seeing You," the way they delivered it, can still pluck those heartstrings. Oh, jeez. I was going to make a rude comment about their facelilfts when they performed for a PBS special, "Magic Moments," in 2004, but when I was looking on the Wikipedia page to check dates, it was already there! Oh, well. I suppose they wanted to look their best.

And what did the Reaper have against the cast of "Welcome Back, Kotter" this year?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Plus, what does the Grim Reaper have against the cast of DIFF'RENT STROKES? Pray for the good health of Charlotte Rae!


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