Thursday December 28, 2000
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Leo Gordon, a tough-guy actor
famous for playing the villain in scores of Westerns and television shows over
nearly 50 years, has died at the age of 78.
Gordon died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home after a brief illness, said his
daughter, Tara Gordon.
In a career that included about 70 films and dozens of TV shows, Gordon created
a gallery of mobsters, killers and creeps. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound,
broad-shouldered actor with steely blue eyes was one of the most recognized
character actors of his time.
He played a killer in the 1954 film ''Riot in Cell Block 11,'' which was filmed
in California's Folsom Prison. But Gordon was best known for wearing the black
hat in Westerns, from ''Hondo'' in 1953 to 1994's ''Maverick.'' During the 1950s
and 1960s, he seemed to make an appearance on virtually every Western TV show,
from ''Bonanza'' to ''Rin Tin Tin.''
''Thank God for typecasting,'' he said in 1997 as he received the Golden Boot
award for his Western screen work.
Gordon also was a screenwriter with more than a dozen films to his credit,
ranging from 1966's ''Tobruk'' to Roger Corman's B-movie ''Attack of the Giant
Leeches.'' He also wrote ''The Cry Baby Killer,'' which was Jack Nicholson's
For TV, he wrote about 50 scripts for shows such as ''Bonanza'' and
''Cheyenne,'' including 21 episodes of ''Adam-12.''
Gordon was a real-life bad guy before he got into acting.
Born in Brooklyn on Dec. 2, 1922, he was raised by a single father who struggled
to make ends meet. Gordon never left New York until he joined the Army in 1941.
But ''he couldn't take rules'' and was honorably discharged after about two
years, his daughter said.
He drifted to Southern California and turned to robbery, his daughter said.
After four years in San Quentin prison, Gordon returned to New York and was
working a construction job when he decided to use his military benefits to take
He met his future wife, Lynn Cartwright, when she was studying acting at the
American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and they were married in 1950.
Gordon went on to stage work and a Hollywood agent who saw the Los Angeles
production of ''Darkness at Noon'' launched his career by offering him a role in
the 1953 Western ''City of Bad Men.''
Thursday December 28, 2000
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Nick Massi, an original
member of the Four Seasons who handled bass vocals and vocal arrangements
throughout the band's glory days, has died of cancer. He was 73.
Massi, born in Newark as Nicholas Macioci, died Sunday. The longtime West Orange
resident performed with several bands before joining Frankie Valli in a group
called the Four Lovers.
By 1961, the group had evolved into the Four Seasons.
Massi remained with the group until 1965, when he grew tired of touring, Valli
said. Massi performed on hits such as ''Sherry,'' ''Big Girls Don't Cry,''
''Walk Like a Man'' and ''Rag Doll,'' which friends said was his favorite.
During his tenure, the group made the Billboard Top 40 chart 17 times and toured
throughout the United States and overseas, melding doo-wop vocals with a
contemporary beat. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in
Valli's falsetto was the band's trademark, but he said Massi was his musical
''He could do four-part modern harmonies that would amaze musicians who had
studied for years. And he did it all in his head without writing it down,''
Valli told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Thursday's editions.
Tuesday December 26, 2000
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Jose Gonzalez Gonzalez, a
character actor, singer and
comedian best known for his roles in TV Westerns including "Bonanza"
"The Cisco Kid," has died. He was 78.
Mr. Gonzalez, who appeared in about 40 films, died Dec. 15 at Daniel
Freeman Marina Hospital from a brain hemorrhage. It was brought on by
myeloblastic anemia, a blood disease he suffered for many years, said Ted
Herrera, his son-in-law.
Mr. Gonzalez was born on Dec. 7, 1922, in San Antonio and moved to Los
Angeles as a child.
In addition to his television and movie work, Mr. Gonzalez was a perennial
performer at the Los Angeles County Fair and the annual Olvera Street
festival celebrating the founding of Los Angeles.
His later movie roles included a part in the 1991 sequel to the comedy
He is survived by his wife, Ventura, three daughters, seven grandchildren
and a great-grandchild.
Tuesday December 26, 2000
Actor Jason Robards died today of cancer, age 78.
Robards won Academy
Awards for his performances in "All the President's Men" (1976) and
Sunday December 24, 2000
Thomas G. Yohe
Thomas G. Yohe, the creative force behind
television's "Conjunction Junction" and other animated educational
messages, has died of cancer. He was 63.
Yohe died Thursday at his home in Norwalk, Conn., said his wife, Diane Sanden
Yohe was creative director of ABC's "Schoolhouse Rock" series of
animated shorts that ran in the 1970s and '80s. Besides "Conjunction
Junction," the educational anthems included "I'm Just a Bill" and
"Interplanet Janet." "'Schoolhouse Rock' gave him the most pride
in the world," his wife said, recalling lecture halls filled with college
students singing songs from the cartoons. "He was very proud of that and
honored he could do it." Yohe's work was watched and imitated by millions
of Saturday morning cartoon viewers from 1973 to 1985. The show earned four Emmy
Awards for Outstanding Children's Informational Series.
The series initially taught multiplication tables through catchy lyrics such as
"Three is a Magic Number" and "My Hero, Zero."
"Schoolhouse Rock" soon expanded into civics lessons, teaching how a
bill becomes a law in "I'm Just a Bill," and basic English in
"Conjunction Junction." "I'd work on my kitchen table at night,
doing the storyboards myself because I was having so much fun," Yohe
recalled in a 1996 book about the cartoon.
The idea for "Schoolhouse Rock" was born in 1971 while Yohe was a
co-creative director at the advertising firm of McCaffrey & McCall,
according to George Newall, a friend and co-creative director on the series.
Yohe pitched the idea to Michael Eisner, who before his rise to lead Walt Disney
Entertainment was head of ABC's children's programing department, Newall said.
Eisner made the series of three-minute vignettes part of the network's Saturday
Yohe was born April 26, 1937, in Flushing. He was a son of the late Robert and
Berdene Walker Yohe.
Yohe graduated from Syracuse University and began his career in advertising in
1961 as an art director at Young & Rubicam. After producing animated
cartoons, he became creative director at Grey Advertising in Manhattan.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, two daughters, two
stepsons, a brother and four grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Dec. 28 at Saint Bartholomew's
Church, Park Avenue and 51st Street.
Sunday December 24, 2000
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Billy Barty, a 3-foot-10
actor whose career spanned seven decades and all types of roles, died Saturday
of heart failure. He was 76.
Barty had been hospitalized in Glendale for heart problems and a lung infection,
said his publicist, Bill York.
Barty appeared in his first Hollywood feature in 1927 at the age of 3 and
performed for radio, television and on Broadway. He played a number of
outrageous characters, including a wizard in the movie ''Willow'' (1988), a
tongue-in-cheek role as a German spy in ''Under the Rainbow'' (1981) with Chevy
Chase, a suspected stalker in ''Foul Play'' (1978), and an agent in ''Day of the
In the late 20s and early 30s, he played Mickey Rooney's kid brother in the
''Mickey McGuire'' series of comedy shorts. He later had several TV appearances,
including his own children's show called ''Billy Barty's Big Show'' in Los
Angeles in the 1960s, and he appeared on several shows over the past three
decades, most recently an episode of ''Frasier.''
In 1957, Barty founded Little People of America, an advocacy group for others
with dwarfism. He later started a non-profit foundation that bears his name to
help improve the quality of life for little people, the term he said he
On his foundation's Web site, Barty says: ''The name of my condition is
Cartilage Hair Syndrome Hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy.''
''The general public thinks all little people are in circuses or sideshows,''
Barty said in an interview last year with The Associated Press. ''We have
doctors, nurses, just about every field covered.''
''The world lost a giant and a hero in the passing of Billy Barty,'' said Los
Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who chose Barty to be his son's
godfather. Barty brought ''recognition, dignity and respect to those who were
born little,'' he said.
Barty was injured in May when he fell off a motorized scooter onto concrete
stairs, bruising his face and fracturing an eye socket. He had been using the
scooter since undergoing hip surgery earlier in the year.
Despite the injury, he said he was feeling good. ''I just look horrible,'' he
told the AP at the time.
Barty was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pa., in 1924. In October,
he was awarded the Long Beach Film Festival's Humanitarian of the Year Award. He
also was active in George W. Bush's presidential campaign and he served on a
disabilities commission for Jack Kemp when Kemp was secretary of the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development, Antonovich said.
Barty is survived by his wife, Shirley; son, Braden; daughter, Lori; and
Saturday December 23, 2000
Pianist Victor Borge, the "clown prince of
Denmark", died today, age 91.
Borge was known for his comedic piano routines and his technique of
reading stories with "phonetic punctuation." He died peacefully,
sleep, at home.
Tuesday October 31, 2000
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Steve Allen, the droll comic who pioneered late night
television with the original ``Tonight Show,'' composed more than 4,000 songs
and wrote 40 books, has died at 78.
He died Monday night at the Encino home of his son, Bill Allen, the son said
Allen also starred as the King of Swing in the 1956 movie ``The Benny Goodman
Story.'' He appeared in Broadway shows, on soap operas, wrote newspaper
columns, commented on wrestling broadcasts, made 40 record albums, wrote
plays and a television series that featured guest appearances by Sigmund
Freud, Clarence Darrow and Aristotle.
His skill as an ad libber became apparent in his early career as a disc
jockey in Phoenix. He once interrupted the playing of records to announce:
``Sports fans, I have the final score for you on the big game between Harvard
and William & Mary. It is: Harvard 14, William 12, Mary 6.''
Allen's most enduring achievement came with the introduction of ``The Tonight
Show'' in 1953. The show began as ``Tonight'' on the New York NBC station
WNBT, then moved to the network on Sept. 27, 1954.
Amid the formality of early TV, ``Tonight'' was a breath of fresh air. The
show began with Allen noodling at the piano, playing some of his compositions
and commenting wittily on events of the day. He moved to a desk, chatted with
guests, taking part in sketches, doing zany man-in-the street interviews.
``It was tremendous fun to sit there night after night reading questions from
the audience and trying to think up funny answers to them; reading angry
letters to the editor; introducing the greats of comedy, jazz, Broadway and
Hollywood; welcoming new comedians like Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters,
Mort Sahl and Don Adams,'' he once said.
Allen's popularity led NBC in 1956 to schedule ``The Steve Allen Show'' on
Sunday evenings opposite ``The Ed Sullivan Show'' on CBS.
A variation of ``Tonight,'' the primetime show was notable for its ``Man in
the Street Interview'' featuring new comics Louis Nye (``Hi-ho, Steverino''),
Don Knotts, Tom Poston, Pat Harrington and Bill Dana. The show lasted through
1961, although the last year was on ABC.
Allen cut back his ``Tonight' duties to three nights a week when the
primetime show started. He left even that in 1956. He was replaced for a
season by Ernie Kovacs, then NBC tried a new format in 1957, ``Tonight!
America after Dark.'' It failed, and ``Tonight'' resumed with Jack Paar,
followed by Johnny Carson in 1962.
Over the years, Allen maintained a busy career, making appearances in movies
and TV series, often with his wife Jayne., Her sister, the late Audrey
Meadows, portrayed the long-suffering Alice to Jackie Gleason's Ralph Kramden
on ``The Honeymooners.''
He wrote great quantities of songs, and several were recorded by pop
vocalists. His most popular song was ``This May Be the Start of Something
A self-styled advocate of ``radical middle-of-the-roadism,'' Allen often
spoke out on political matters such as capital punishment, nuclear policy and
freedom of expression. He once considered running for Congress as a Democrat,
but decided against it.
Toward the end of his life, he spoke out against the increase of sexual
content on television. In a speech last year, he said tabloid television talk
shows such as the ``Jenny Jones'' show have ``taken television to the garbage
``There are moral failures in the marketplace,'' he said.
Allen was proudest of his ``Meeting of Minds'' series which appeared on PBS
from 1976 to 1979. He moderated a panel of actors impersonating historic
figures such as Galileo, Emily Dickinson, Cleopatra (played by Jayne
Meadows), Charles Darwin and Attila the Hun, who explained their diverse
When an interviewer asked Allen in 1985 how he managed to do so many creative
things, he replied:
``I never asked myself that question. It would be like asking how my hair
grows. The mystery of creativity is just that: it is a mystery, and
particularly mysterious to me about myself.''
Steve Allen came by his humor naturally; both his parents, Billy Allen and
Belle Montrose, were vaudeville comedians. Their son was born in New York
City on Dec. 26, 1921, during a brief respite from their travels. Steve was
18 months old when his father died, and his mother continued touring the
circuits as a single.
The boy grew up in other people's homes, mostly with his mother's family in
Chicago, the Donahues. He remembered the place as ``a rooming house with the
smell of cabbage cooking.''
Allen won a partial scholarship to study journalism at Drake University, but
severe asthma caused him to transfer to Arizona State Teachers College in
1942. After a few months he dropped out to work as a disc jockey and
entertainer at radio station KOY in Phoenix.
Drafted in 1943, he was soon released because of asthma. He returned to KOY,
and married his college sweetheart, Dorothy Goodman. They had three sons,
Steve Jr., David and Brian, and divorced in 1952.
Allen moved to Los Angeles and began offering his comedy and music on local
A midnight show on KNX brought Allen a small but enthusiastic audience and
attracted national attention in 1950 when it was carried on the CBS network
as a summer replacement for ``Our Miss Brooks.'' The networks were converting
to television, and he was invited to New York for ``The Steve Allen Show,''
which appeared five evenings a week on CBS.
In 1952, Allen was invited to a dinner party at which he was seated next to
the beautiful actress Jayne Meadows. Uncharacteristically, he was speechless.
At the end of the evening, she turned to him and said, ``Mr. Allen, you're
either the rudest man I ever met or the shyest.'' His reddened face indicated
the latter. They began dating and married in 1954.
Their only child, Bill, said that on Monday, his father was visiting his
home. ``He said he was a little tired after dinner. He went to relax,
peacefully, and never reawakened,'' the younger Allen said.
He added that his father had a ``long, full and extraordinary life.''
Monday, October 30, 2000
Muriel Evans, the blond Hollywood motion picture
actress who dazzled
Hopalong Cassidy and other Western heroes in sagebrush sagas of the 1930s and
1940s, has died at the age of 90.
Evans died Thursday of colon cancer at the Motion
Picture and Television
Fund Home in Woodland Hills, said her friend, Kathleen Cook.
The versatile beauty appeared in more than 40 motion
pictures over the
two decades, including an uncredited role in Frank Capra's Academy
Award-winning 1936 "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" starring Gary Cooper. But
probably was best remembered for her westerns, which earned her a "Golden
Boot Award" presented to top stars of the genre.
In addition to "Call of the Prairie" and
other films opposite William
"Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd, Evans made such movies as "Law for
"Boss Rider of Gun Creek" with Buck Jones and several films
Among her other films, along with Laurel and Hardy
comedies, were "The
Prizefighter and the Lady," "Manhattan Melodrama," "The
Greeks Had a Name for
Them" and "Broadway to Hollywood."
A Times entertainment writer evaluated Evans in 1936 as
"minus the sham
and hypocrisy, the false glitter, glamour and tinsel of make-believe . . .
[with] sterling qualities, a versatile flair for comedy and dramatic acting,
a lovable nature, loyalty for her friends." He predicted that she would
"achieve the pinnacle of filmdom."
Born in Minneapolis, Minn., Evans began acting as a
child. At 12, she
was working in a stock theater company. By 16 she was in silent films as
leading lady for the comedian Lupino Lane.
Her career interrupted by her parents' insistence that
she complete her
education, Evans resumed acting in 1932, churning out five films that year
including "Pack Up Your Troubles."
The actress, known for avoiding debt, lived in a modest
Valley home, drove a modest car, and bought inexpensive suits and dresses
even as her career blossomed.
After a brief marriage to Michael Cudahy, wealthy scion
of a meatpacking
family, she married stockbroker Marshall Worchester in 1936. Her film career
ended a few years later.
The retired actress lived for many years in Tarzana and
to assist entertainment industry retirees living at the Motion Picture and
Television Fund Country Home and Hospital. As her own health declined, she
lived there herself.
Muriel Evans Worchester left no surviving relatives.
Cook said there
will be no public services, but memorial donations can be sent to the Motion
Picture and Television Fund, 23388 Mulholland Drive, Woodland Hills, CA
October 20, 2000
Richard H. Hepburn
Old Saybrook, Conn. (AP) - Richard H. Hepburn, the brother of actress
Katharine Hepburn, died Wednesday. He was 89.
Born in 1911 in Hartford, Hepburn was the third of six children. He died at
the home he shared with his famous sister.
Hepburn was known for his love of the outdoors and his free-spirit. He also
``I don't know if play writing was his most brilliant gift,'' said his niece,
Katharine Houghton. ``I think that although he spent time with his play
writing, it was not the center of his energy. I think the center of his life
Ellsworth Grant, a former West Hartford mayor who was married to the
Hepburns' late sister, Marion, described the works as largely ahead of their
October 18, 2000
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Julie London, the sultry voiced actress and singer
who had a hit record with the 1950s single ''Cry Me a River'' and was once
married to ``Dragnet'' producer-star Jack Webb, died on Wednesday at age 74.
London, who had been in declining health since suffering a stroke five years
ago, died at a hospital in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino, according to her
business manager, Meyer Sack.
She had been out of the public eye since playing nurse Dixie McCall on Webb's
1970s television drama ``Emergency!'' Oddly enough, she was hired on the show
by Webb, her then-former spouse, to co-star with her second husband, jazz
musician and composer Bobby Troup, who played a doctor on the series.
Born Julie Peck to a song-and-dance team who performed in vaudeville, she
started singing on her parents' radio show and started working in movies in
the 1940s after changing her name to London.
She appeared in nearly two dozen pictures during the 1940s and '50s, starring
in such films as ``Task Force'' (1949), ``The Fat Man'' (1951) and ``A
Question of Adultery'' (1959).
She married Webb in 1947 just as her singing career was getting off the
ground. She is perhaps best remembered for her 1955 single ``Cry Me a
River,'' which sold 3 million copies and remained in demand into the 1960s.
She sang the song in the 1956 Jayne Mansfield film ``The Girl Can't Help
It.'' She recorded her last album, ``Easy Does It,'' in 1967.
Describing her own smoky vocal style, London once said, ''It's only a
thimbleful the of a voice, and I have to use it close to a microphone. But it
is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.''
London went on to gain renewed fame on the small screen, co-starring on
``Emergency!'' during its five year run on NBC before retiring from show
She and Webb were divorced in 1953, and London married Troup, composer of the
hit ``Route 66,'' several years later. He died in 1999.
October 19, 2000
NEW YORK (AP) - Gwen Verdon, the biggest dancing star of Broadway's Golden
Age who appeared in such musicals as ``Damn Yankees,'' ``Sweet Charity'' and
``Chicago,'' has died at the age of 75.
>From the seductive Lola in ``Damn Yankees'' in 1955 to the cynical, sexy
Roxie Hart in ``Chicago'' 20 years later, she dominated dance on Broadway.
The petite, red-haired performer, captivated audiences and critics with her
saucy yet vulnerable smile and unlimited energy.
``The amount of physical activity in which this frail-seeming creature
indulges is perfectly flabbergasting; spinning, prancing, curvetting, she is
seldom out of sight and never out of breath,'' critic Kenneth Tynan once
Verdon died in her sleep Wednesday at the home of her daughter in Woodstock,
Most of Verdon's successes were with her husband, director-choreographer Bob
Fosse, whom she married in 1960. Besides ``Damn Yankees'' and ``Chicago,''
they worked together on such musicals as ``New Girl in Town'' (1957), an
adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's ``Anna Christie,'' and ``Redhead'' (1959), a
Victorian thriller about Jack the Ripper in which Verdon played one of his
The dancer also starred in Fosse's ``Sweet Charity'' (1966) as the
love-struck streetwalker with a heart of gold. Her last Broadway appearance
was in ``Chicago'' in 1975 with Chita Rivera and Jerry Orbach.
Verdon made her Broadway debut in 1950 in a short-lived revue called ``Alive
and Kicking.'' Theatergoers first noticed her in 1953 in ``Can-Can,'' the
Cole Porter musical in which she literally stopped the show. Its star was the
French chanteuse Lilo but it was Verdon who got all the reviews for a
provocative ``Garden of Eden'' ballet created by choreographer Michael Kidd.
Two years later, she was elevated to stardom as the devil's amorous assistant
in ``Damn Yankees,'' a musical about a baseball fan who sells his soul so he
can play for his favorite team, the Washington Senators.
Verdon was born Jan. 13, 1925 in Culver City, Calif. Her father worked as a
stage electrician for MGM. Forced to wear corrective boots as a child because
of badly bent legs, she took dance lessons to strengthen them.
As a teen-ager, Verdon found work as a dancer in Los Angeles night clubs,
eventually getting a job as an assistant to dance director Jack Cole. She
assisted Cole at various movie studios where they coached such stars as Lana
Turner, Betty Grable, Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell.
Verdon made few movies, but did repeat her Broadway success in the 1958 film
version of ``Damn Yankees.'' Among her other movies were ``The Cotton Club''
(1984), ``Cocoon'' (1985) and ``Marvin's Room'' (1996).
But it was Fosse with whom she had the most productive years. They inspired
each other, remaining friends even after they separated in 1975. They never
Verdon often helped Fosse with revivals of his shows. She helped oversee the
current Broadway production of ``Fosse,'' which won the 1999 Tony Award for
best musical. Fosse collapsed and died of a heart attack in 1987 just before
the opening of a revival of ``Sweet Charity'' in Washington. Verdon was with
The actress' survivors include a daughter, a son, and several grandchildren
October 17, 2000
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Rick Jason, who starred as the tough infantry
officer Lt. Gil Hanley on the 1960s television series ``Combat!'' committed
suicide at his home just outside of Los Angeles, authorities said Tuesday.
He was 74 years old and had been depressed over personal matters, they added.
Jason was the second Hollywood actor to take his own life this month. Veteran
character actor and stuntman Richard Farnsworth, a two-time Oscar nominee,
shot himself to death at his home in New Mexico on Oct. 6. He had been
diagnosed with terminal bone cancer.
Jason died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, said Craig Stevens,
the senior deputy medical examiner for Ventura County. The actor was found by
his wife at about 5 a.m. Monday in their home in Moorpark, about 30 miles
northwest of Los Angeles.
``It has been ruled a suicide,'' said Stevens, adding that Jason had been
despondent over personal matters, though he left no note. Stevens said the
actor was not known to have been physically ill.
Jason's death comes about a week after he and fellow cast members of
``Combat!'' attended a three-day gathering for fans in Las Vegas, according
to the show's official Web site.
Starred As Compassionate Lieutenant
The hourlong drama, which aired on ABC from 1962 to 1967, focused on a
fictional U.S. Army platoon fighting its way across Europe following the
D-Day invasion. Jason starred as the hard-boiled but compassionate lieutenant
commanding the battle-weary GIs.
The show, the longest-running World War Two series in television history,
also starred Vic Morrow, who was killed in a helicopter crash in 1982 on the
set of his film ``Twilight Zone: The Movie.'' Another cast member, Dick
Peabody, who played the ``gentle giant'' Littljohn on the series, died of
prostate cancer last December at age 74.
Born in New York City, the only son of a stock broker and well-to-do mother,
Jason served in the Army Air Corp during World War II and later studied
acting under the GI. Bill.
Prior to becoming a household name on ``Combat!'' Jason appeared in a 1956
television movie ``The Fountain of Youth,'' directed and co-written by Orson
Welles, and starred in the short-lived 1960 series ``The Case of the
Dangerous Robin,'' playing a suave insurance investigator.
His stint on the syndicated drama made Jason one of the first actors to use
martial arts on television.
During the 1970s and '80s, he appeared in such prime-time series as ``Matt
Houston,'' ``Police Woman,'' ``Murder She Wrote,'' ''Wonder Woman,'' Fantasy
Island'' and ``Dallas.'' He also was a regular on the CBS soap opera ``The
Young and the Restless.''
Jason is survived by his wife, Cindy.
October 7, 2000
LINCOLN, N.M. (AP) - Actor Richard Farnsworth, a former stuntman and
two-time Academy Award nominee, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound
Friday night. He was 80.
Farnsworth, who had been involved in filmmaking for more than 60 years,
was nominated this year for an Oscar for best actor for his performance in
"The Straight Story".
Lincoln County Sheriff Tom Sullivan released a statement Friday night
saying Farnsworth died at his home in Lincoln, about 250 miles southeast
of Albuquerque. Police did not release any further details, but
Farnsworth's fiancee, Jewely Van Valin, was at home when he died.
"I was just in the other room and I heard the shot," she said in a
telephone interview from Farnsworth's home. "He was incredible pain today.
He was going down hill."
Van Valin said Farnsworth was diagnosed several years ago with terminal
cancer, which had left him partially paralyzed. He struggled with the pain
while he was working on "The Straight Story," she said.
"He was very ill in that movie, but phenomenally he made it through. He
didn't want the world to know he was sick," Van Valin said.
"He couldn't fight it, and cancer got him."
Farnsworth had said the heart of his performance in "The Straight
came from his respect for Alvin Straight, the real-life person on whom his
portrayal of a 73-year-old man who rode a tractor across the country was
"I admired him very much and tried to be as much like his character as I
could, talked to two of his boys, who are now truck drivers, and we filmed
along his actual route. Every time we stopped somewhere, people would come
by and say, 'Heck, I remember when old Alvin came through,' and tell us
about it," he told The Associated Press last March.
At 79, Farnsworth was the oldest leading actor to receive an Oscar bid.
"Titanic" star Gloria Stuart was the oldest performer ever nominated
she was nominated for supporting actress at 87.
"It feels a lot better because I'm getting up there in age and might not
have a chance again," he said in an interview after he was nominated in
The Oscar went to Kevin Spacey, who won for his portrayal of a suburban
father in "American Beauty."
It was the second nomination for Farnsworth, who was nominated for the
1978 film "Comes a Horseman." Henry Fonda had been the oldest leading
actor when he was nominated at 76 for his role in "On Golden Pond."
Farnsworth was a poor student who dropped out of school during the
Depression at age 15 and went to work as a stable boy at a polo barn.
Two years later, in 1937, two men from the Paramount studio came by
looking for ponies and mentioned they needed someone who could ride horses
on film. Farnsworth took the job, which paid $7 a day, about what he had
been making per week.
The Los Angeles native was a stuntman for more than 30 years who moved
into acting at age 57, appearing in "The Grey Fox", "The
Horn," "Resurrection," "Rhinestone Cowboy" and
"Anne of Green Gables."
His 50-year-old son, Diamond Farnsworth, followed in his footsteps and has
become a top stuntman, doubling for Sylvester Stallone in the first two
Since his appearance in "Comes a Horseman," Farnsworth has acted in
three dozen films and TV movies.
In 1990, Farnsworth moved out of his home of 40 years in the Hollywood
Hills and came to the outskirts of Lincoln, a town of 565 in the foothills
of two mountain ranges that is known for Billy the Kid's famous escape.
September 28, 2000
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Actor Richard Mulligan,
who won Emmys for his portrayals of dads in the sitcoms ``Soap'' and ``Empty
Nest,'' has died at age 67.Mulligan died at his home Tuesday after a long
battle with cancer, publicist Julian Myers said in a statement. A native of
New York, Mulligan began his nearly 40-year career in show business as an
aspiring writer. He fell into acting when was drafted into playing a role at
a rehearsal while trying to sell a play. From 1977 to 1981, Mulligan played
lovable working-class screwball Burt Campbell - stepfather to Billy
Crystal's character - on the quirky television series ``Soap.'' He won an
Emmy for the role in 1980.On ``Empty Nest,'' a spin-off of ``The Golden
Girls'' that ran from 1988 to 1995, Mulligan played Dr. Harry Weston, a
widower with three grown daughters. The part won him another Emmy, in
1989.``He's certainly different from my role on 'Soap,''' Mulligan said in a
1988 Associated Press interview. "This guy's a good doctor who cares deeply
about his patients. He's a good fellow trying to take care of his daughters.
His wife died 18 months ago and he still can't take the ring off." Mulligan
is survived by his son,
James, and brothers Robert, and James.