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Archive for the tag “actors”

Everyone Loves Stan

thAnyone  who has ever watched television has to groove on Richard Wayne “Dick” Van Dyke.  The guy is 87 years old, looks like a million bucks (ok…maybe $100 grand), is married to a 39 year old,th-10 was a news anchor at the ” CBS Morning News” in 1955 and Walter Cronkite was his reporter, is an honorary member of the Barbershop Harmony Society, appeared on an album with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, lived with Michelle Triola (who famously battled Lee Marvin in the “palimony ” case Marvin v. Marvin) for more than 30 years (not sure that’s a good thing), has had a career that spans 7 decades, th-2and claims in 2010 that  he was rescued at sea by a pod of porpoises (apparently they loved Dick’s version of ” Chim Chim Cher-ee ).

Like many great comedians, Dick’s idol was Stan Laurel of the great comedy duo Laurel and Hardy.  After Oliver Hardy’s death in 1957th-6 (something that friends say Stan never recovered from), Stan moved into the second floor of the Oceana oceana_5Apartments in Santa Monica (now the swank boutique Oceana Hotel on Ocean Blvd.)  There Stan would entertain a long list of admirers such as Peter Sellers, Jerry Lewis, Danny Kaye,  Marcel Marceau, and of course Dick Van Dyke.  Stan was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 1961 and was offered a cameo role in it’s a Mad , Mad , Mad , Mad World (1963), but couldn’t bear to be on any stage without his partner Oliver (Babe) Hardy.

In 1965 Stan suffered a major heart attack and while minutes from death he told his nurse he would not mindth-4 skiing right at this moment. Somewhat taken back, the nurse replied that she wasn’t aware that he was a skier.  “I’m not, but I’d rather be doing that than this!” A minute later he died sitting in his armchair.

At his funeral, comedian Buster Keaton said ” Chaplin wasn’t the funniest, I wasn’t the funniest, this man here was the funniest .”  Dick Van Dyke gave the eulogy and was rewarded with Stan’s bowler hat by Stan’s wife. Dick th-7said that Stan told him “if anyone at my funeral has a long face, I’ll never speak to him again.”  Stan Laurel was 74 years old.

Comedy lightens our load and allows us not to take ourselves too seriously. So go throw a pie in someone’s face, give someone a hotfoot, and slip on a Mr. Bean movie.  Make sure it’s not my face, not my foot, and not at my house.  I wouldn’t find it funny.  Groove.

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Lemme tellya Pilgrim

Did not serve

Don Adams (Get Smart) served with Marines on Guadalcanal. Wounded in battle, he later became a drill instructor . Eddie Albert (Green Acres) won the Bronze Star for actions during the Battle of Tarawa in the Pacific. James Arness (Gunsmoke) received The Bronze Star and the Purple Heart for his actions at the Battle of Anzio. Walter Brennan (Real McCoys) served in WW 1 and was exposed to poison gas which ruined his vocal cords leaving him with the high pitch voice texture that made him a natural to play old men while still in his 30’s. Jimmy Stewart flew over 20 bombing missions in B-24’s over Europe, rose to the rank of Colonel, and was awarded many medals including the Distinguished Flying Cross. John Wayne, real name Marion Morrison, DID NOT SERVE. There were many top line actors who distinguished themselves in America’s wars (Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Tyrone Power, and many more), but John Wayne was not one of them.

John Wayne, the quintessential war hero and patriot, never actually  served in uniform. There are some who claim that there were good reasons that kept John from service (a crumbling marriage, four kids to feed, old injuries, a skyrocketing career, can best serve at home making movies of WW2 heroes), but there were other stars under similar circumstances who found themselves in service. In 1944 Wayne received a 2-A classification, deferred in support of national interest. A month later the Selective Service decided to revoke many previous deferments and reclassified him 1-a, but Wayne’s studio appealed and got his 2-a repealed.

Author William Manchester (Arms of Krupp, American Caesar), while recovering in Hawaii from wounds suffered in the Pacific  during WW2 wrote  “One night they had a surprise for us. Before the film, the curtains parted and out stepped John Wayne, wearing a cowboy outfit and a 10 gallon hat, bandanna, checkered shirt, two pistols, chaps. boots and spurs. He grinned his aw-shucks grin, passed a hand over his face and said, Hi-ya guys! He was greeted in stony silence. Then someone booed. Suddenly everyone was booing. This man of fake machismo we had come to hate, and we weren’t going to listen to him.”

In the wake of his movies the line between John Wayne the man and the heroes he portrayed becomes blurred. Perhaps there are good reasons for his absence during WW2 and there are many who feel there are. Yet, by many accounts, Wayne’s failure to serve in the military was a very painful experience in his life. His widow (the last of three wives) said that his patriotism in later decades sprang from guilt. She wrote ” He would become a ” superpatriot” for the rest of his life trying to atone for his staying home.”

I think John Wayne was a patriot, but not a hero.

No Ordinary Street

Useless, Insignificant, Poetic

Sam the Butcher from the Brady Bunch, Colonel Klink from  Hogan’s Heros, and the Chief from Get Smart – they all lived within a couple of blocks from the  home at 231 North Bundy Drive where my family lived for close to 40 years. Our house was modest, but filled with comfort, fun, and love – all the handy work of our Mom and Dad. One can tell by the status of the TV stars that lived around us that our neighborhood was attractive, yet unassuming, built-in the 40’s.

I was disturbed when reading of Bundy Drive that it was called “notorious” and “infamous” because of the knifework on Nicole and Ron by that depraved reprobate O.J.   Bundy Drive deserves much better than to be associated with that coward.

Bundy Drive was named after real estate developer  Tom Bundy who was also a three-time winner of  the Men’s Doubles at the U.S.Tennis Championships. Tommy married May Sutton, who at age 18, won the Women’s single title at the U.S. Championship and also became the first American and first non-British woman to win a Wimbledon singles title. Their daughter “Dodo” Bundy Cheney became the first American woman to win Women’s single title at the Australian Championships.

But the real claim to fame of Bundy Drive are not the tennis champs or a knife wielding liar, but The Bundy Boys, a glorious group of actors, writers, painters and ner do wells, who made the Rat Pack look like the Vienna Boys Choir.  As a young lad I would play with my friend Stan who lived a couple of blocks north of where I was raised. His home was shaded by a large redwood tree which would bring splintered sunlight, cooling shadows, and possibly a hint of the location’s devilish past. On the large wooden door was a brass lion door knocker with what appeared to be a family crest with two unicorns surrounded by the words “Useless, Insignificant, Poetic .”  This was the home of The Bundy Boys some 30 years before Stan and I rolled around in that precious dirt.

The group included actors W.C. Fields, John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, Anthony Quinn, Vincent Price, John Carradine, painter and forger John Decker, screenwriter Ben Hecht whose credits include Some Like it Hot, Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, and Mutiny on the Bounty, and many other notoriously  flamboyant life livers.

Gene Fowler, journalist and life long member said this: ” That brown beamed studio was a place of meeting for still lively survivors of Bohemian times, an artist’s Alamo where political bores never intruded and where breast beating hypocrites could find no listeners…these men live intensely as do children, poets, and jaguars.”

Their boozy self destructiveness was spectacular, their drunken brawls foolhardy, they spent their fortunes quicker than they made them, and all were committed to their friendship and their right to destroy their careers,  and themselves by any means necessary.

The house is gone now. Torn down along with the redwood. In its place is a sad property line to property line mansion that has the soul and depth of an ashtray. I am sure there are ghosts there, unhappy ones at that. As W.C. Fields said ” Life is a funny thing. You are lucky if you can get out of it alive.”    

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