Category Archives: Television

The Nelsons

 

The popularity of musician Ricky Nelson grew out of a popular American sitcom that aired on ABC from October 3, 1952 through March 26, 1966.The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet starred the real-life Nelson family. After a long run on radio, the show was brought to television where it continued its success, running on both radio and TV for a couple of years. The series stars Ozzie Nelson and his wife, singer Harriet Nelson (née Hilliard), and their young sons, David and Eric “Ricky” Nelson. Don DeFore had a recurring role as the Nelsons’ friendly neighbor, “Thorny.”

The series attracted large audiences, and although it was never a top-ten hit, it became synonymous with the 1950s ideal American family life. It is the longest-running live-action sitcom in US television history.

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet made the Nelsons’ younger son, Rick or Ricky, into a music teen idol. Ozzie realized the impact his musically gifted son could bring to the series, and went on to write storylines featuring Rick singing. Rick first sang in the April 10, 1957, episode, “Ricky the Drummer,” performing a version of Fats Domino’s hit, “I’m Walkin’,” and later signed a recording contract with Domino’s label, Imperial Records. Subsequent shows that aired after Rick became one of the nation’s most successful musicians were some of the show’s highest-rated episodes.

 

Ricky Nelson

Ricky Nelson or Rick Nelson, was an American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, and actor, starring alongside his family in the long-running television series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966) as well as co-starring alongside John Wayne and Dean Martin in Howard Hawks’s Western feature film, Rio Bravo (1959). He placed 53 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1957 and 1973, including Poor Little Fool, which holds the distinction of being the first #1 song on Billboard magazine’s then newly created Hot 100 chart. He recorded nineteen additional top-ten hits, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987. In 1996, he was ranked #49 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time.

Nelson began his entertainment career in 1949, playing himself in the radio sitcom series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, and in 1952 appeared in his first feature film, Here Come the Nelsons. In 1957, he recorded his first single, debuted as a singer on the television version of the sitcom, and recorded a number one album, Ricky. In 1958, Nelson recorded his first number one single, Poor Little Fool, and in 1959 received a Golden Globe “Most Promising Male Newcomer” nomination after starring in Rio Bravo. A few films followed, and when the television series was cancelled in 1966, Nelson made occasional appearances as a guest star on various television programs.

Nelson and Sharon Kristin Harmon were married on April 20, 1963, and divorced in December 1982. They had four children: Tracy Kristine, twin sons Gunnar Eric and Matthew Gray, and Sam Hilliard. On February 14, 1981, a son (Eric Crewe) was born to Nelson and Georgeann Crewe. A blood test in 1985 confirmed that Nelson was the child’s father. Nelson was engaged to Helen Blair at the time of his death in an airplane crash on December 31, 1985.

Ricky Nelson was born on May 8, 1940, at 1:25 p.m. at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, New Jersey. He was the second son of big band leader Ozzie Nelson, who was of half Swedish descent, and his wife, big band vocalist Harriet Hilliard Nelson (née Peggy Louise Snyder). Harriett remained in Englewood, New Jersey, with her newborn and her older son David while Ozzie toured the nation with the Nelson orchestra. The Nelsons bought a two-story colonial house in Tenafly, New Jersey, and, six months after the purchase, moved with son David to Hollywood, California, where Ozzie and Harriet were slated to appear in the 1941-42 season of Red Skelton’s The Raleigh Cigarette Hour; Ricky remained in Tenafly in the care of his paternal grandmother. In November 1941, the Nelsons bought what would become their permanent home: a green and white, two-story, Cape Cod colonial home at 1822 Camino Palmero in Los Angeles. Ricky joined his parents and brother in Los Angeles in 1942.

Ricky was a small and insecure child who suffered from severe asthma. At night, his sleep was eased with a vaporizer emitting tincture of evergreen. He was described by Red Skelton’s producer John Guedel as “an odd little kid,” likeable, shy, introspective, mysterious, and inscrutable. When Skelton was drafted in 1944, Guedel crafted the radio sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet for Ricky’s parents. The show debuted on Sunday, October 8, 1944, to favorable reviews. Ozzie eventually became head writer for the show, and based episodes on the fraternal exploits and enmity of his sons. Professional child actors first played the Nelson boys in the radio series until twelve-year-old Dave and eight-year-old Ricky joined the show on February 20, 1949, in the episode “Invitation to Dinner.”

In 1952, the Nelsons tested the waters for a television series with the theatrically released film Here Come the Nelsons. The film was a hit, and Ozzie was convinced the family could make the transition from radio’s airwaves to television’s small screen. On October 3, 1952, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet made its television debut and was broadcast in first run until September 3, 1966, to become one of the longest-running sitcoms in television history.

Ricky Nelson attended Gardner Street Public School, Bancroft Junior High, and, between 1954 and 1958, Hollywood High School, from which he graduated with a B average. He played football at Hollywood High and represented the school in interscholastic tennis matches. Twenty-five years later, Nelson told the Los Angeles Weekly he hated school because it “smelled of pencils,” and he was forced to rise early in the morning to attend.

At Hollywood High, Nelson was blackballed by the Elksters, a fraternity of a dozen conservative sports-loving teens who thought him too wild. Many of the Elksters were family friends and spent weekends at the Nelson home playing basketball or relaxing around the pool. In retaliation, he joined the Rooks, a greaser car club of side-burned high school teens clad in leather jackets and motorcycle boots. He tattooed his hands, wrist, and shoulder with India ink and a sewing needle, slicked his hair with oil, and accompanied the Rooks on nocturnal forays along Hollywood Boulevard, randomly harassing and beating up gay people. Nelson was jailed twice in connection with incidents perpetrated by the Rooks, and escaped punishment after sucker-punching a police officer only through the intervention of his father. Nelson’s parents were alarmed. Their son’s juvenile delinquency did little to enhance the All-American image of Ozzie and Harriet, and they quickly put an end to Ricky’s involvement with the Rooks by banishing one of the most influential of the club’s members from Ricky’s life and their home. One of Ricky’s seldom-publicized traits was his “fierce loyalty” to boyhood friends whom he regarded as trusted confidants. When young friend Bill Aken was in a crippling auto accident in New York City and confined to a hospital bed for months, Ricky would often phone Billy’s mother, asking about his progress and writing short notes and letters to Billy to cheer him up. They became lifelong friends, and Aken recorded the only family-authorized tribute record (“Gentle Friend”) for the fan club after Rick’s death.

Ozzie Nelson was a Rutgers alumnus and keen on college education, but eighteen-year-old Ricky was already in the 93 percent income-tax bracket and saw no reason to attend. At age thirteen, Ricky was making over $100,000 per annum, and at sixteen he had a personal fortune of $500,000. His parents, who channeled his earnings into trust funds, astutely managed Nelson’s wealth. Although his parents permitted him a $50 allowance at the age of eighteen, Rick was often strapped for cash and one evening collected and redeemed empty pop bottles to gain entrance to a movie theater for himself and a date. Accustomed to affluence, Nelson had a cavalier attitude about money and never managed his finances very well.

Nelson played clarinet and drums in his tweens and early teens, learned rudimentary guitar chords, and vocally imitated his favorite Sun Records rockabilly artists in the bathroom at home or in the showers at the Los Angeles Tennis Club. He was strongly influenced by the music of Carl Perkins, and once said he tried to emulate the sound and the tone of the guitar break in Perkins’s March 1956 Top Ten hit, Blue Suede Shoes.

At age sixteen, he wanted to impress a friend who was an Elvis Presley fan and, although he had no record contract at the time, told her that he, too, was going to make a record. With his father’s help, he secured a one-record deal with Verve Records, an important jazz label looking for a young and popular personality who could sing or be taught to sing. On March 26, 1957, he recorded the Fats Domino standard I’m Walkin’ and A Teenager’s Romance (released in late April 1957 as his first single), and You’re My One and Only Love.

Before the single was released, he made his television rock-and-roll debut on April 10, 1957, lip-synching I’m Walkin’ in the Ozzie and Harriet episode “Ricky, the Drummer.” About the same time, he made an unpaid public appearance as a singer at a Hamilton High School lunch-hour assembly in Los Angeles with the Four Preps (graduates of Hollywood High School) and was greeted by hordes of screaming teens who had seen the television episode.

I’m Walkin’ reached #4 on Billboards Best Sellers in Stores chart, and its flip side, A Teenager’s Romance, hit #2. When the television series went on summer break in 1957, Nelson made his first road trip and played four state and county fairs in Ohio and Wisconsin with the Four Preps, who opened and closed for him.

In early summer 1957, Ozzie Nelson pulled his son from Verve after disputes about royalties and signed him to a lucrative five-year deal with Imperial Records that gave him approval over song selection, sleeve artwork, and other production details. Ricky’s first Imperial single, Be-Bop Baby, generated 750,000 advance orders, sold over one million copies, and reached number three on the charts. Nelson’s first album, Ricky, was released in October 1957 and hit number one before the end of the year. Following these successes, Nelson was given a more prominent role on the Ozzie and Harriet show and ended every two or three episodes with a musical number.

Nelson grew increasingly dissatisfied performing with older jazz session musicians, who were openly contemptuous of rock and roll. After his Ohio and Minnesota tours in the summer of 1957, he decided to form his own band with members closer to his age. Eighteen-year-old electric guitarist James Burton was the first signed and lived in the Nelson home for two years. Bassist James Kirkland, drummer Richie Frost, and pianist Gene Garf completed the band. Their first recording together was Believe What You Say. Rick selected material from demo acetates submitted by songwriters. Ozzie Nelson forbade suggestive lyrics or titles, and his late-night arrival at recording sessions forced band members to hurriedly hide their beers and cigarettes. The Jordanaires, Elvis Presley’s backup vocalists, worked for Nelson but at Presley’s behest were not permitted credit on Nelson’s albums.

In 1958, Nelson recorded seventeen-year-old Sharon Sheeley’s Poor Little Fool for his second album, Ricky Nelson, released in June. Radio airplay brought the tune notice, and Imperial suggested releasing a single, but Nelson opposed the idea, believing a single would diminish EP sales. When a single was released nonetheless, he exercised his contractual right to approve any artwork and vetoed a picture sleeve. On August 4, 1958, Poor Little Fool became the number one single on Billboard’s newly instituted Hot 100 singles chart and sold over two million copies. Nelson so loathed the song that he refused to perform it on Ozzie and Harriet. Sheeley claimed he ruined her song by slowing the tempo. More generally, Nelson stated:

“Anyone who knocks rock ’n’ roll either doesn’t understand it, or is prejudiced against it, or is just plain square. – NME – November 1958

During 1958 and 1959, Nelson placed twelve hits on the charts in comparison with Presley’s eleven (it should be remembered that the latter was then serving in West Germany with the U.S. Army). During the sitcom’s run, Ozzie Nelson, either to keep his son’s fans tuned in or as an affirmation of his reputed behind-the-scenes persona as a controlling personality, kept his son from appearing on other television shows that could have enhanced his public profile, American Bandstand and The Ed Sullivan Show in particular. In the summer of 1958, Nelson conducted his first full-scale tour, averaging $5,000 nightly. By 1960, the Ricky Nelson International Fan Club had 9,000 chapters around the world.

Ricky once said, “Perhaps the most embarrassing moment in my career was when six girls tried to fling themselves under my car, and shouted to me to run over them. That sort of thing can be very frightening!”

Nelson was the first teen idol to utilize television to promote hit records. Ozzie Nelson even had the idea to edit footage together to create some of the first music videos. This creative editing can be seen in videos Ozzie produced for Travelin’ Man. Nelson finally did appear on the Sullivan show in 1967, but his career by that time was in limbo. He also appeared on other television shows (usually in acting roles). In 1973, he had an acting role in an episode of The Streets of San Francisco in which he played the part of a hippie flute-playing leader of a harem of young prostitutes. In 1979, he guest-hosted on Saturday Night Live, spoofing his television sitcom image by appearing in a Twilight Zone send-up in which, always trying to go “home,” he finds himself among the characters from other 1950s/early 1960s-era sitcoms, Leave It to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and I Love Lucy.

Nelson knew and loved music and was a skilled performer even before he became a teen idol, largely because of his parents’ musical background. Nelson worked with many musicians of repute, including James Burton, Joe Osborn, and Allen “Puddler” Harris, all natives of Louisiana, and Joe Maphis, The Jordanaires, Scotty Moore, and Johnny and Dorsey Burnette.

From 1957 to 1962, Nelson had 30 Top-40 hits, more than any other artist except Presley (who had 53) and Pat Boone (38). Many of Nelson’s early records were double hits with both the A and B sides hitting the Billboard charts.

While Nelson preferred rockabilly and up-tempo rock songs like Believe What You Say (Hot 100 #4), I Got a Feeling (#10), My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It (#12), Hello Mary Lou (#9), It’s Late (#9), Stood Up (#2), Waitin’ in School (#18), Be-Bop Baby (#3), and Just a Little Too Much (#9), his smooth, calm voice made him a natural to sing ballads. He had major success with Travelin’ Man (#1), A Teenager’s Romance (#2), Poor Little Fool (#1), Young World (#5), Lonesome Town (#7), Never Be Anyone Else But You (#6), Sweeter Than You (#9), It’s Up to You (#6), and Teenage Idol (#5), which clearly could have been about Nelson himself.

In addition to his recording career, Nelson appeared in movies, including the Howard Hawks Western classic, Rio Bravo with John Wayne, Dean Martin, and Walter Brennan (1959), plus The Wackiest Ship In the Army (1960) with Jack Lemmon, and Love and Kisses (1965) with Jack Kelly.

On May 8, 1961 (his 21st birthday), he officially modified his recording name from “Ricky Nelson” to “Rick Nelson.” His childhood nickname proved hard to shake, especially among the generation who had watched him grow up on “Ozzie and Harriet.” Even in the 1980s, when Nelson realized his dream of meeting Carl Perkins, Perkins noted that he and “Ricky” were the last of the “rockabilly breed.”

In 1963, Nelson signed a 20-year contract with Decca Records. After some early successes with the label, most notably 1964’s For You (#6), Nelson’s chart career came to a dramatic halt in the wake of The British Invasion.

In the mid 1960s, Nelson began to move toward country music, becoming a pioneer in the country-rock genre. He was one of the early influences of the so-called “California Sound” (which would include singers like Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt and bands like the Eagles). Yet Nelson himself did not reach the Top 40 again until 1970, when he recorded Bob Dylan’s She Belongs to Me with the Stone Canyon Band, featuring steel guitarist Tom Brumley and Randy Meisner before the Eagles formed.

In 1972, Nelson reached the Top 40 one last time with Garden Party, a song he wrote in disgust after a Madison Square Garden audience booed him, because, in his mind, he was playing new songs instead of just his old hits. When he performed the Stones’ Honky Tonk Woman, he was booed off the stage. He watched the rest of the performance on a TV monitor backstage and quietly left the venue without taking a final bow for the finale. He wanted to record an album featuring original material, but the single was released before the album because Nelson had not completed the entire Garden Party album yet. Garden Party reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and was certified as a gold single. The second single release from the album was Palace Guard, which reached number 65 in the charts.

Nelson was with MCA at the time, and his comeback was short-lived. Nelson’s band soon resigned, and MCA wanted Nelson to have a producer on his next album. His band moved to Aspen and changed their name to “Canyon.” Nelson soon put together a new Stone Canyon Band and began to tour for the Garden Party album. Nelson still played nightclubs and bars, but he soon advanced to higher-paying venues because of the success of Garden Party. In 1974 MCA was at odds as to what to do with the former teen idol. Albums like Windfall failed to have an impact. Nelson became an attraction at theme parks like Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland. He also started appearing in minor roles on television shows.

Nelson tried to score another hit but did not have any luck with songs like Rock and Roll Lady. With seven years to go on his contract, MCA dropped him from the label.

Nelson studied karate, earning a brown belt before going on to learn Jeet Kune Do under Dan Inosanto. Inosanto described Nelson as a “good martial artist for those times.”

In 1957, when Nelson was 17, he met and fell in love with Marianne Gaba, who played the role of Ricky’s girlfriend in three episodes of Ozzie and Harriet. Nelson and Gaba were too young to entertain a serious relationship, although according to Gaba “we used to neck for hours.” The next year, Nelson fell in love with 15-year-old Lorrie Collins, a country singer appearing on a weekly telecast called Town Hall Party. The two wrote Nelson’s first composition, the song My Gal, and she introduced him to Johnny Cash and Tex Ritter. Collins appeared in an Ozzie and Harriet episode as Ricky’s girlfriend and sang Just Because with him in the musical finale. They went steady and discussed marriage, but their parents discouraged the idea.

At the age of 45, Nelson said the only girl he ever really loved was involved with him for two years in the late 1950s. After she became pregnant and had a nearly fatal abortion, she married another man.

At Christmas 1961, Nelson began dating Sharon Kristin “Kris” Harmon (born June 25, 1945), the daughter of football legend Tom Harmon and actress Elyse Knox (née Elsie Kornbrath) and the older sister of Kelly and Mark. The Nelsons and the Harmons had long been friends, and a union between their children held great appeal. Rick and Kris had much in common: quiet dispositions, Hollywood upbringings, and high-powered, domineering fathers.

They married on April 20, 1963. Kris was pregnant, and Rick later described the union as a “shotgun wedding.” Nelson, a non-practicing Protestant, received instruction in Catholicism at the insistence of the bride’s parents and signed a pledge to have any children of the union baptized in the Catholic faith. Kris Nelson joined the television show as a regular cast member in 1963. They had four children: actress Tracy Kristine Nelson, twin sons Gunnar Eric Nelson and Matthew Gray Nelson who formed the band Nelson, and Sam Hilliard Nelson.

By 1975, following the birth of their last child, the marriage had deteriorated and a very public, controversial divorce involving both families was covered in the press for several years. In October 1977, Kris filed for divorce and asked for alimony, custody of their four children, and a portion of community property. The couple temporarily resolved their differences, but Kris retained her attorney to pursue a permanent break. Kris was contentious and jealous. Both spent enormous sums of money: Kris on parties, Rick on renting a private Lear jet. Nelson had a tremendous sexual appetite and a casual attitude toward sex, once estimating he had had sex with thousands of women. Kris wanted Rick to give up music, spend more time at home, and focus on acting, but the family enjoyed a recklessly expensive lifestyle, and Kris’s extravagant spending left Rick no choice but to tour relentlessly. The impasse over Rick’s career created unpleasantness at home. Kris became an alcoholic and left the children in the care of household help. After years of legal proceedings, they were divorced in December 1982. The divorce was financially devastating for Nelson, with attorneys and accountants taking over $1 million. Years of legal wrangling followed.

On May 16, 1980, Nelson met Georgeann Crewe at the Playboy Resort in Great Gorge, New Jersey. Crewe later claimed she felt “an attachment, an immediate attraction” to Nelson. Crewe unsuccessfully attempted to contact Nelson several times to let him know that she was pregnant, and on February 14, 1981, she gave birth to Nelson’s son, Eric Jude Crewe. In 1985, a blood test confirmed Nelson was the father, but Nelson was not interested in Crewe or their son. He declined to meet with them to the point that he avoided playing concerts in Atlantic City. Although Nelson agreed to provide $400 a month in child support, he did not provide for the child in his will.

In 1980, Nelson met Helen Blair, a part-time model and exotic animal trainer, in Las Vegas. Within months of their meeting, she became his road companion, and in 1982 she moved in with him. She was the only woman he dated after his divorce.

Blair tried to make herself useful in Nelson’s life by organizing his day and acting as a liaison for his fan club, but Nelson’s mother, brother, business manager, and manager disapproved of her presence in his life. He contemplated marrying her but eventually declined. Blair died with Nelson in the airplane fire. Her name was never mentioned at Nelson’s funeral. Blair’s parents wanted their daughter buried next to Nelson at Forest Lawn Cemetery, but Harriet Nelson dismissed the idea. The Blairs refused to bury Helen’s remains, and filed a $2 million wrongful death suit against Nelson’s estate. They received a small settlement. Nelson did not provide for Blair in his will.

Nelson used marijuana early in his musical career, and became a regular user. He buried his stash in his yard. He supported marijuana’s legalization. He tried mescaline and was a regular cocaine user, carrying the drug in an empty ginseng capsule.

During the Nelson divorce proceedings, he was accused by his wife’s attorney of using cocaine, quaaludes, and other drugs, and of having “a severe drug problem” encouraged by his managers, his entourage, and his groupies. The attorney noted that Nelson’s “personal manager” secured drugs for Nelson, that wild parties took place in his home whether he was present or not, and that his children, aware of his drug use, were in great physical danger from drugged persons entering and exiting the house at all hours. Following Nelson’s divorce, while he was involved with Helen Blair, his drug use grew so dire that friends urged him to seek treatment for substance abuse.

Traces of cocaine, marijuana, and the painkiller Darvon were found in Nelson’s blood in tests conducted after his death.

Nelson dreaded flying but refused to travel by bus. In May 1985, he decided he needed a private plane and leased a luxurious, fourteen-seat, 1944 Douglas DC-3 for private use that once belonged to the DuPont family and later to Jerry Lee Lewis. The plane’s history was plagued with mechanical issues. In one incident, the band was forced to push the plane off the runway after an engine blew, and in another incident, a malfunctioning magneto prevented Nelson from participating in the first Farm Aid concert in Champaign, Illinois.

On 26 December 1985, Nelson and the band left for a three-stop tour of the Southern United States. Following shows in Orlando, Florida and Guntersville, Alabama, Nelson and band members boarded the DC-3 in Guntersville and took off for a New Year’s Eve extravaganza in Dallas, Texas. The plane crash-landed northeast of Dallas in De Kalb, Texas less than 2 miles from a landing strip at approximately 5:14 p.m. CST on 31 December 1985, impacting trees as it came to earth. Seven of the nine occupants were killed: Nelson and his companion, Helen Blair; bass guitarist Patrick Woodward; drummer Rick Intveld; keyboardist Andy Chapin; guitarist Bobby Neal; and road manager/soundman Donald Clark Russell. Pilots Ken Ferguson and Brad Rank escaped via cockpit windows, though Ferguson was severely burned.

Nelson’s remains were misdirected in transit from Texas to California, delaying the funeral for several days. On 6 January 1986, 250 mourners entered the Church of the Hills for funeral services while 700 fans gathered outside. Attendees included “Colonel” Tom Parker, Connie Stevens, Angie Dickinson, and dozens of actors, writers, and musicians. Nelson was privately buried days later in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. Kris Nelson threatened to sue the Nelson clan for her former husband’s life insurance money and tried to wrest control of his estate from David Nelson, its administrator. Her bid was rejected by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge. Nelson bequeathed his entire estate to his children and did not provide for Eric Crewe or Kris Nelson. Only days after the funeral, rumors and newspaper reports suggested cocaine freebasing was one of several possible causes for the plane crash. Those allegations were refuted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The reports vary as to whether or not the plane was on fire before it crashed. According to witnesses, the plane appeared to be on fire before it force-landed. Jim Burnett, then-Chairman of the NTSB, however, said that even though the plane was filled with smoke, the plane landed and came to a stop before it was swallowed by flames. The NTSB conducted a year-long investigation and finally stated that, while the definitive cause was still unknown, the crash was probably due to a gas-fueled heater that reportedly had caused in-flight problems.

When questioned by the NTSB, Pilots Brad Rank and Ken Ferguson had different accounts of key events. According to co-pilot Ferguson, the cabin heater was acting up after the plane took off. Ferguson continued that Rank kept going back to the back of the plane to see if he could get the heater to function correctly and that Rank told Ferguson several times to turn the heater back on. “One of the times, I refused to turn it on,” said Ferguson. He continued, “I was getting more nervous. I didn’t think we should be messing with that heater en-route.” After the plane crashed, Ferguson and Rank climbed out the windows, suffering from extensive burns. They shouted to the passenger cabin, but there was no response. Ferguson and Rank backed away from the plane, fearing explosion. Ferguson stated that Rank told him, “Don’t tell anyone about the heater, don’t tell anyone about the heater.”

Pilot Rank, however, told a different story: Rank said that he was checking on the passengers when he noticed smoke in the middle of the cabin, where Rick Nelson and Helen Blair were sitting. Even though he never mentioned a problematic heater, Rank stated that he went to the rear of the plane to check the heater, saw no smoke, and found the heater was cool to the touch. After activating an automatic fire extinguisher and opening the cabin’s fresh air inlets, Rank said that he returned to the cockpit where Ferguson was already asking traffic controllers for directions to the nearest airfield.

Rank was criticized by the NTSB for not following the in-flight fire checklist; opening the fresh air vents instead of leaving them closed, not instructing the passengers to use supplemental oxygen, and not attempting to fight the fire with the hand-held fire extinguisher that was in the cockpit. The board said that while these steps might not have prevented the crash, “they would have enhanced the potential for survival of the passengers.” The words of the NTSB seem to echo that of firefighter, Lewis Glover, who was one of the first on the scene. Glover stated, “All the bodies are there at the front of the plane. Apparently, they were trying to escape the fire.”

An examination indicated that a fire had originated in the right side of the aft cabin area at or near the floor line. Some reports said the passengers were killed when the aircraft struck obstacles during the forced landing. The ignition and fuel sources of the fire could not be determined. According to another report, the pilot indicated that the crew tried to turn on the gasoline cabin heater repeatedly shortly before the fire occurred, but that it failed to respond. After the fire, the access panel to the heater compartment was found unlatched. Records that showed that DC-3s in general, and this aircraft in particular, had a history of problems with the cabin heaters support the theory.

  • Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, and to the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1515 Vine Street.
  • Along with the recording’s other participants, Nelson earned the 1987 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for “Interviews from the Class of ’55 Recording Sessions.”
  • In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to him.
  • In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Nelson number 91 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • At the 20th anniversary of Nelson’s death, PBS televised Ricky Nelson Sings, a documentary featuring interviews with his children, James Burton, and Kris Kristofferson. On December 27, 2005, EMI Music released an album titled Ricky Nelson’s Greatest Hits that peaked at number 56 on the Billboard 200 album chart.
  • Bob Dylan wrote about Nelson’s influence on his music in his 2004 memoir, “Chronicles, Vol. 1.”
  • Nelson’s estate (The Rick Nelson Company, LLC) owns ancillary rights to the Ozzie and Harriet television series, and, in 2007, Shout! Factory released official editions of the show on DVD. Also in 2007, Nelson was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
  • The John Frusciante song Ricky was inspired by Ricky Nelson.
  • For the 25th anniversary of Nelson’s death, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer James Burton, Nelson’s original guitarist for nearly ten years, spoke about his friendship and experiences with the singer in an extensive series of interviews for Examiner.com. The first installment is entitled “Remembering Rick Nelson: An Interview With His Friend, Guitarist James Burton.”
  • Jamband Phish opened their New Year’s Eve show on 12/31/12 at Madison Square Garden with a cover of Garden Party.

 

David Nelson

David Oswald Nelson (October 24, 1936 – January 11, 2011) was an American actor, director, and producer. He was the elder son of bandleader/TV actor Ozzie Nelson and singer Harriet Hilliard and the older brother of singer Eric “Ricky” Nelson.

During the run of the The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet in the 1950s and 1960s, Nelson directed several episodes. After the series’ end, he continued acting, directing and producing. His most memorable “break-out” performance was in the 1959 thriller The Big Circus, wherein Nelson played a disturbed, apparently homicidal “troubled youth,” while his last film appearance was in the campier Cry-Baby (1990). For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Nelson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1501 Vine Street, on May 9, 1996.

He attended Hollywood High School, graduating in 1954, and was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity while attending the University of Southern California.

David Nelson had two sons—Daniel Blair and James Eric—from his first marriage with June Blair, that ended in divorce, and two sons and a daughter—John, Eric, and Teri—from his second marriage, to Yvonne Huston.

He died on January 11, 2011, in Century City, California, from complications of colon cancer. He is survived by his wife Yvonne and five children.

David Nelson was cremated. He chose not to be interred in the Nelson family plot in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California, instead choosing a niche in Westwood Memorial Park’s outdoor Garden of Serenity columbarium.

 

Ozzie Nelson

Ozzie Nelson, the second son of George Waldemar and Ethel Irene (Orr) Nelson, Ozzie Nelson was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. His paternal grandparents were Swedish and his mother was of English descent. Nelson was raised in Ridgefield Park. He graduated from Ridgefield Park High School, where he played on the football team. In the early 1990s, Ridgefield Park named a street after him, where the current high school is located. Nelson became an Eagle Scout at 13 and was a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Rutgers University, where he also played football despite his slight build. He was a member of the Cap and Skull fraternity, and entered Rutgers School of Law–Newark. As a student he made pocket money playing saxophone in a band and coaching football. During the Depression, he turned to music as a full-time career.

Nelson started his entertainment career as a bandleader. He formed and led the Ozzie Nelson Band, and had some initial limited success. He made his own “big break” in 1930. The New York Daily Mirror ran a poll of its readers to determine their favorite band. He knew that news vendors got credit from the newspaper for unsold copies by returning the front page and discarding the rest of the issue. Gathering hundreds of discarded newspapers, the band filled out ballots in their favor. They edged out Paul Whiteman and were pronounced the winners.

From 1930 through the 1940s, Nelson’s band recorded prolifically—first on Brunswick (1930–1933), then Vocalion (1933–1934), then back to Brunswick (1934–1936), Bluebird (1937–1941), Victor (1941) and finally back to Bluebird (1941-through the 1940s). Nelson’s records were consistently popular and in 1934 Nelson enjoyed success with his hit song, Over Somebody Else’s Shoulder that he introduced. Nelson was their primary vocalist and (from August 1932) featured in duets with his other star vocalist, Harriet Hilliard. Nelson’s calm, easy vocal style was popular on records and radio and quite similar to son Rick’s voice and Harriet’s perky vocals added to the band’s popularity.

In 1935, Ozzie Nelson and His Orchestra had a number one hit with And Then Some, which was number one for one week on the U.S. pop singles chart. Ozzie Nelson composed several songs, including Wave the Stick Blues, Subway, Jersey Jive, Swingin’ on the Golden Gate, and Central Avenue Shuffle.

In October 1935 he married the band’s vocalist Harriet Hilliard. The couple had two children. David (1936–2011) became an actor and director. Eric (“Ricky”) (1940–1985) became an actor and singer.

Ozzie Nelson appeared with his band in feature films and short subjects of the 1940s, and often played speaking parts, displaying a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor (as in the 1942 musical Strictly in the Groove). He shrewdly promoted the band by agreeing to appear in soundies, three-minute musical movies shown in “film jukeboxes” of the 1940s. In 1952, when he and his family were established as radio and TV favorites, they starred in a feature film, Here Come the Nelsons (which actually doubled as a “pilot” for the TV series).

In the 1940s, Nelson began to look for a way to spend more time with his family, especially his growing sons. Besides band appearances, he and Harriet had been regulars on Red Skelton’s radio show. He developed and produced his own radio series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The show went on the air in 1944, with their sons played by actors until 1949, and in 1952 it moved over to television (the radio version continued for another two years). The show starred the entire family, and America watched Ozzie and Harriet raise their boys. Nelson was producer and co-writer of the entire series. He was very hands-on and involved with every aspect of the radio and then TV program.

His last television show was in the fall of 1973 and entitled Ozzie’s Girls, and lasted for a year. Syndicated only, the premise was Ozzie and Harriet renting their son’s room to two college girls (one white, one black) and concerned Ozzie’s difficulties in living with two young women, as opposed to David and Ricky.

In 1973, Ozzie Nelson published his autobiography, Ozzie, (Prentice Hall, 1973. He suffered from recurring malignant tumors in his later years, and died of liver cancer. He died at his home in the San Fernando Valley at 4:30 a.m. with his wife and sons at his bedside. Services were held at the Church of the Hills at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills, California on Friday, June 6, 1975. He is interred with his wife and son, pop singer Ricky in the Forest Lawn – Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. David Nelson was cremated, and chose not to be interred in the Nelson family plot, instead choosing a niche in Westwood Memorial Park’s outdoor Garden of Serenity columbarium.

For his contribution to the television industry, Ozzie Nelson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6555 Hollywood Boulevard. He has an additional star with his wife at 6260 Hollywood Boulevard for their contribution to radio.

 

Harriet Nelson

Harriet Nelson (July 18, 1909 – October 2, 1994) was born Peggy Louise Snyder in Des Moines, Iowa, the daughter of Hazel Dell (née McNutt) and Roy Hilliard Snyder. By 1932, she was performing in vaudeville when she met the saxophone-playing bandleader Ozzie Nelson. Nelson hired her to sing with the band, under the name Harriet Hilliard. They married three years later.

Hilliard had a respectable film career as a solo performer, apart from the band. RKO Radio Pictures signed her to a one-year contract in 1936, and she appeared in three feature films, the most famous being the Fred AstaireGinger Rogers musical Follow the Fleet. She was very much in demand during the World War II years for leading roles in escapist musicals, comedies, and mysteries.

In Ozzie Nelson’s book, he wrote that Harriet was quite popular during the short time at RKO and they wanted her to continue her solo film career, but decided that it was more important for her to continue with the band and subsequent radio show.

Although the couple occasionally appeared together in movies, either as a duo (in Honeymoon Lodge) or as separate characters (in Hi, Good Lookin’), they are best known for their broadcasting efforts. In 1944, the Nelsons began a domestic-comedy series for radio, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. It was highly popular and made a successful transition to television. It was one of the stalwarts of the ABC-TV schedule through 1966. The Nelsons’ two sons, Ricky and David, were featured continuously on the show. She was included in Yahoo!‘s Top 10 TV Moms from Six Decades of Television for the time period 1952-1966.

In 1973, Ozzie and Harriet also appeared in the short-lived sitcom, Ozzie’s Girls.

In 1978, Harriet Nelson moved full-time to the Laguna Beach, California beach home the family had built in 1954. She died of congestive heart failure on October 2, 1994. She is interred with her husband and younger son Ricky (who died in a plane crash) in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles.

For her contribution to the television industry, Harriet Nelson has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6801 Hollywood Boulevard.

Don Rickles

Donald JayDonRickles (May 8, 1926 – April 6, 2017) was an American stand-up comedian, actor and author. Although he became well known as an insult comic, his pudgy, balding appearance and pugnacious style led to few leading roles in film or television, including his prominent film roles included Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) and Kelly’s Heroes (1970). Beginning in 1976, he enjoyed a two-year run starring in the sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey.

He received widespread exposure as a popular guest on numerous talk shows, including The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Late Show with David Letterman, and later voiced Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films. He won a Primetime Emmy Award for the 2007 documentary Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.

 

Early life

Donald Jay Rickles was born to Jewish parents in Queens, New York, on May 8, 1926. His father, Max Rickles, emigrated in 1903 with his Lithuanian parents from Kaunas (then in the Russian Empire), and his mother, Etta (née Feldman), was born in New York City to Austrian immigrant parents. Rickles grew up in Jackson Heights, New York.

After graduating from Newtown High School, Rickles enlisted in the US Navy, and served during World War II on the motor torpedo boat tender USS Cyrene (AGP-13) as a seaman first class. He was honorably discharged in 1946. Two years later, intending to be a dramatic actor, he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and then played bit parts on television. Frustrated by a lack of acting work, Rickles began performing comedy in clubs in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. He became known as an insult comedian when he responded to his hecklers. The audience enjoyed these insults more than his prepared material, so he incorporated them into his act.

When he began his career in the early 1950s, he started calling ill-mannered members of the audience “hockey pucks.” His style was similar to that of an older insult comic, Jack E. Leonard, though Rickles denied Leonard influenced his style. During an interview on Larry King Live, Rickles credited Milton Berle‘s comedy style for inspiring him to enter show business.

 

Career

 1950s–1960s

While working in the “Murray Franklin’s” nightclub in Miami Beach, Florida, early in his career, Rickles spotted Frank Sinatra and remarked to him, “I just saw your movie The Pride and the Passion and I want to tell you, the cannon’s acting was great.” He added, “Make yourself at home, Frank. Hit somebody!” Sinatra, whose pet name for Rickles was “bullet-head,” enjoyed him so much that he encouraged other celebrities to see Rickles’ act and be insulted by him. Sinatra’s support helped Rickles become a popular headline performer in Las Vegas. During a Dean Martin Celebrity Roast special, Rickles was among those who took part in roasting Sinatra, although Rickles himself was also roasted during another show in the series.

Rickles earned the nicknames, “The Merchant of Venom” and “Mr. Warmth” for his poking fun at people of all ethnicities and walks of life. When he was introduced to an audience or on a television talk show, Spanish matador music, “La Virgen de la Macarena,” would usually be played, subtly foreshadowing someone was about to be metaphorically gored. Rickles said, “I always pictured myself facing the audience as the matador.”

In 1958, Rickles made his film debut in a serious part in Run Silent, Run Deep with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster. Throughout the 1960s, he often appeared on television in sitcoms and dramatic series. Rickles guest-starred in Get Smart as Sid, an old war buddy of Max who comes to stay with him. In an episode of the 1960s drama series Run for Your Life, Rickles played a distressed comedian whose act culminates when he strangles a patron while imploring the patron to “Laugh!” Rickles took a dramatic turn in the low-budget Roger Corman film X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes as a carnival barker out to exploit the title character (played by Ray Milland).

Rickles appeared in the popular Beach Party film series. He recalled in his 2007 memoir that at a White House dinner, Barbara Bush teased him about his decision to appear in those films. Rickles’ agent, Jack Gilardi, was married to Annette Funicello when Rickles was cast in the Beach Party films. He subsequently began appearing more frequently on television talk shows, first appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1965.

He became a frequent guest and guest host, appearing more than 100 times on The Tonight Show during Carson’s era. An early Carson-Rickles Tonight highlight occurred in 1968 when, while two Japanese women treated Carson to a bath and foot massage, Rickles walked onto the set. Rickles also made frequent appearances on The Dean Martin Show and became a fixture on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials.

In 1968, Rickles released a live comedy album, Hello, Dummy!, which reached #54 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The same year he starred in his own variety show on ABC, The Don Rickles Show, with comedy writer Pat McCormick as his sidekick. The show lasted one season. During the 1960s, Rickles made guest appearances on The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Munsters, The Addams Family, The Mothers-in-Law, Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show and I Dream of Jeannie.

1970s–1980s

In 1970, Rickles had a notable role as Crapgame in Kelly’s Heroes, sharing the marquee poster with co-stars Clint Eastwood, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland, and Carroll O’Connor. In 1972, he starred in The Don Rickles Show, which lasted for 13 episodes. He also starred in a series of television specials. In his memoir, Rickles acknowledged a scripted sitcom was not well-suited to his ad-lib style of performing.

Starting in 1973, Rickles became a popular comedian appearing on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast specials. In 1976–1978, he starred in C.P.O. Sharkey, which lasted two seasons. The series is primarily remembered for the cigarette box incident when Johnny Carson did an impromptu surprise visit during an episode’s taping because he was “incensed” Rickles broke his cigarette box while he chatted with Bob Newhart (who was sitting in for Carson as the guest host of The Tonight Show) on the previous night’s show. The incident was often replayed in Tonight Show retrospectives and was considered a highlight of the 1970s era of the series.

 

Rickles occasionally appeared as a panelist on Hollywood Squares, and was depicted in comic book form by Jack Kirby during his work on the Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen series.

 

1980s–1990s

 In the early 1980s, Rickles began performing with Steve Lawrence in concerts in Las Vegas. In 1983, the duo co-hosted Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders, an imitation of TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes. In 1985, when Frank Sinatra was asked to perform at Ronald Reagan‘s Second Inaugural Ball, he insisted that Rickles be allowed to perform, and do it unrehearsed. Rickles considered this performance the highlight of his career.

In 1990, he appeared in the second season of Tales from the Crypt in the episode “The Ventriloquist’s Dummy.” In 1992, he was cast in Innocent Blood, directed by John Landis. In his memoir, Rickles wrote that he recalled that Landis was a Production Assistant to Brian G. Hutton during the filming of Kelly’s Heroes. During the filming of Innocent Blood, Rickles would kid Landis by ordering him to get coffee or to run other errands befitting his one-time “gofer” status.

In 1993, Rickles starred in another short-lived sitcom, Daddy Dearest, with Richard Lewis. In 1995, he played Billy Sherbert in Casino, and voiced Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story (1995) and reprised his role in Toy Story 2 (1999). Rickles starred as George Wilson in 1998’s Dennis the Menace Strikes Again. In 1998, he portrayed a film theater manager in Dirty Workand voiced Cornwall, one of the heads of a two-headed dragon, in Quest for Camelot.

 

2000s–2010s

Rickles made a cameo appearance as himself in a recurring dream sequence in “Sub Conscious”, an episode of the CBS dramatic series, The Unit which aired in February 2007.

A memoir titled Rickles’ Book was released on May 8, 2007, by Simon & Schuster. Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, a documentary about Rickles directed by John Landis, made its debut on HBO on December 2, 2007. Rickles won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program, besting a number of notable comics, including David Letterman, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. Rickles remarked, “Stephen Colbert’s a funny man, but he’s too young. He has got plenty of time to win awards, but this may be my last year and I think that I made it count. On second thought it was probably just a mercy award for an old man.” Rickles reprised his role of Mr. Potato Head for the Toy Story Midway Mania! attraction at Disney California Adventure Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Toy Story 3.

Rickles appeared on Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List in 2009, and met Griffin’s mother, Maggie, to fulfill one item on Maggie’s “bucket list.” In 2010, he appeared in a commercial during Super Bowl XLIV as a talking rose, and appeared on the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards on CBS TV on June 27, 2010. In 2011, Rickles reunited with his Casino co-star Joe Pesci in a Snickers advertisement highlighting the actors known for their “short fuses.” Rickles also played the late husband of Elka (Betty White) on the TV Land original comedy Hot in Cleveland— a “surprise” because his character was thought to be dead.

On May 28, 2014, Rickles was honored by Spike TV‘s “One Night Only: An All-Star Comedy Tribute to Don Rickles”. Recorded live at New York City’s Apollo Theater, Jerry Seinfeld was the master of ceremonies for the two-hour special, with live monologues by Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Jon Stewart, David Letterman, Tracy Morgan, Brian Williams, Regis Philbin, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. Recorded segments included bits from Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby, Jimmy Kimmel and Eddie Murphy.

“The camaraderie and the comedy made the show a cross between a traditional roast and a dignified lifetime achievement award, spanning emotions ranging from admiration and gratitude to, well, degradation. And as the evening reached its climax, when Rickles got his say after all that had said about him and his nearly 60-year-long career, fittingly, he had the last laugh.”   — TV Week

Rickles was still a frequent guest on late night talk shows, including Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon during the later months of his life. On May 11, 2015, Rickles appeared as a guest on one of the final episodes of The Late Show with David Letterman. He also made a cameo in the show Grandfathered.

In a 2014 interview, Rickles dismissed thoughts of retiring, saying: “I’m in good health. I’m working better than I ever have. The audiences are great. Why should I retire? I’m like a fighter. The bell rings and you come out and fight. My energy comes alive. And I still enjoy it.”

Until his death in 2017, despite being impeded by multiple surgeries following a bout with necrotizing fasciitis in 2013, Rickles continued touring across the United States.

 

Personal life

On March 14, 1965, Rickles married Barbara Sklar of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He admitted having a very difficult time romantically in his 20s and 30s (he married at the age of 38), finally meeting Sklar through his agent and falling for her when she failed to get his sense of humor. They had two children, Mindy and Larry Rickles. According to Rickles’ memoir, his grandchildren, Ethan and Harrison Mann, are much more impressed by his role as Mr. Potato Head than by any of his other achievements.

Although a lifelong Democrat, Rickles performed at the inaugurations of Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush with his friend Frank Sinatra. He considered comedian Bob Newhart to be his best friend, and their wives were also close friends. Rickles and Newhart appeared together on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 24, 2005, the Monday following Johnny Carson’s death, reminiscing about their many guest appearances on Carson’s show. The two also appeared together on the television sitcom Newhart, and for previous episodes of The Tonight Show, where Newhart or Rickles were guest-hosts. They and their wives often vacationed together.

 

Death

Rickles died of kidney failure on April 6, 2017, at his home in Beverly Hills, California; he was 90 years old. He was interred at Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery.

 

Tributes

Upon hearing of his death, a number of television hosts and other actors paid tribute to his comedy talents. Among them was a tribute by Jimmy Kimmel, who recalled Rickles as a “towering presence in Las Vegas,” where Kimmel grew up. Seth Meyers, said “there’s nothing better than getting burned by Don Rickles,” while David Letterman noted that Rickles “was always a highlight for me. Just endless mischief and nonsense, and a guy who would make the audience go completely crazy.”

Director Martin Scorsese, who directed him in Casino in 1995, stated:

Don Rickles was a giant, a legend … and I can hear his voice now, skewering me for being so lofty. I had the honor of working with him on my picture Casino. He was a professional. He kept me doubled over with laughter every day on the set — yet he was a complete pro.

For Rickles’ 88th birthday in 2014, a number of stars helped celebrate with a televised special, One Night Only: An All Star Tribute to Don Rickles. Among them was Jerry Seinfeld, who described Rickles as part of “the Mount Rushmore of stand-up comedy.”

 

 

 

 

Mary Tyler Moore

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-48

Mary Tyler Moore (December 29, 1936 – January 25, 2017) was an American actress, known for her roles in the television sitcoms The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977), in which she starred as Mary Richards, a thirty-something single woman who worked as a local news producer in Minneapolis, and The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966), in which she played Laura Petrie, a former dancer turned Westchester homemaker, wife and mother. Her notable film work includes 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie and 1980’s Ordinary People, in which she played a role that was very different from the television characters she had portrayed, and for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Moore was active in charity work and various political causes, particularly the issues of animal rights and diabetes mellitus type 1. She was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes early in the run of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. She also suffered from alcoholism, which she wrote about in her first of two memoirs. In May 2011, Moore underwent elective brain surgery to remove a benign meningioma. She died from cardiopulmonary arrest because of pneumonia at the age of 80 on January 25, 2017.

Early life

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-59-56

Moore was born in the Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn, New York, to Marjorie (née Hackett) (1916–92) and George Tyler Moore (1913–2006), a clerk. The oldest of three children (her siblings are John and Elizabeth), Moore and her family lived in Flushing, Queens. Her paternal great-grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Tilghman Moore, owned the house which is now Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters Museum. When she was eight years old, Moore moved with her family to Los Angeles. She was raised Catholic, and attended St. Rose de Lima Parochial School in Brooklyn, Saint Ambrose School in Los Angeles, and Immaculate Heart High School in Hollywood.

Career

Television

Moore decided at age 17 that she wanted to be a dancer. Her television career began with her first job, as “Happy Hotpoint”, a tiny elf dancing on Hotpoint appliances TV commercials during the 1950s series Ozzie and Harriet. After appearing in 39 Hotpoint commercials in five days, she received approximately $6,000. After she became pregnant while still working as “Happy,” Hotpoint ended her stint when it became too difficult to conceal her pregnancy beneath the elf costume. Moore modeled anonymously on the covers of a number of record albums and auditioned for the role of the older daughter of Danny Thomas for his long-running TV show but was turned down. Much later, Thomas explained that “no daughter of mine could have that [little] nose.”

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-58-03

Moore’s first regular television role was as a mysterious and glamorous telephone receptionist on Richard Diamond, Private Detective. On the show, Moore’s voice was heard, but only her shapely legs appeared on camera, adding to the character’s mystique. About this time, she guest-starred on John Cassavetes‘s NBC detective series Johnny Staccato. She also guest-starred in Bachelor Father in the episode titled “Bentley and the Big Board.” In 1960, she guest-starred in two episodes, “The O’Mara Ladies” and “All The O’Mara Horses,” of the William BendixDoug McClure NBC western series, Overland Trail. Several months later, she appeared in the first episode, entitled “One Blonde Too Many,” of NBC’s The Tab Hunter Show, a sitcom starring the former teen idol as a bachelor cartoonist. In 1961, Moore appeared in several big parts in movies and on television, including Bourbon Street Beat, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside Six, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Steve Canyon, Hawaiian Eye, Thrillerand Lock-Up.

 

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966)

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-00

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-59-33In 1961, Carl Reiner cast Moore in The Dick Van Dyke Show, an acclaimed weekly series based on Reiner’s own life and career as a writer for Sid Caesar‘s television variety show, telling the cast from the outset that it would run no more than five years. The show was produced by Danny Thomas‘s company, and Thomas himself recommended her. He remembered Mary as “the girl with three names” whom he had turned down earlier. Moore’s energetic comic performances as Van Dyke’s character’s wife, begun at age 24 (11 years Van Dyke’s junior), made both the actress and her signature tight Capri pants extremely popular, and she became internationally famous. When she won an Emmy award for her portrayal of Laura Petrie, she said, “I know this will never happen again.”

screenshot-2017-02-18-14-58-43

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977)

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-36

In 1970, after having appeared earlier in a pivotal one-hour musical special called “Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman,” Moore and husband Grant Tinker successfully pitched a sitcom centered on Moore to CBS. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a half-hour newsroom sitcom featuring Ed Asner as her gruff boss Lou Grant, a character that would later be spun off into an hour-long dramatic series. Moore’s show proved so popular that two other regular characters, Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern and Cloris Leachman as Phyllis Lindstrom, were also spun off into their own series. The premise of the single working woman’s life, alternating during the program between work and home, became a television staple.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-00-40

After six years of ratings in the top 20, the show slipped to number 39 during season seven. Producers argued for its cancellation because of falling ratings, afraid that the show’s legacy might be damaged if it were renewed for another season. To the surprise of the entire cast including Mary Tyler Moore herself, it was announced that they would soon be filming their final episode. After the announcement, the series had a strong finish and the final show was the seventh most watched show during the week it aired. The 1977 season would go on to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, to add to the awards it had won in 1975 and 1976. All in all, during its seven seasons, the program held the record for winning the most Emmys – 29. That record remained unbroken until 2002 when the NBC sitcom Frasier won its 30th Emmy. The Mary Tyler Moore Show became a touch-point of the Women’s Movement because it was one of the first to show, in a serious way, an independent working woman.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-02-14

Later projects

During season six of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Moore appeared in a musical/variety special for CBS titled Mary’s Incredible Dream, which featured Ben Vereen. In 1978, she starred in a second CBS special, How to Survive the ’70s and Maybe Even Bump Into Happiness. This time, she received significant support from a strong lineup of guest stars: Bill Bixby, John Ritter, Harvey Korman and Dick Van Dyke. In the 1978–79 season, Moore attempted to try the musical-variety genre by starring in two unsuccessful CBS variety series in a row: Mary, which featured David Letterman, Michael Keaton, Swoosie Kurtz and Dick Shawn in the supporting cast. CBS canceled the series. In March 1979, the network brought Moore back in a new, retooled show, The Mary Tyler Moore Hour, which was described as a “sit-var” (part situation comedy/part variety series) with Moore portraying a TV star putting on a variety show. Michael Keaton was the only cast member of Mary who remained with Moore as a supporting regular in this revised format. Dick Van Dyke appeared as her guest for one episode. The program was canceled within three months.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-00-08

In the 1985–86 season, she returned to CBS in a series titled Mary, which suffered from poor reviews, sagging ratings, and internal strife within the production crew. According to Moore, she asked CBS to pull the show as she was unhappy with the direction of the program and the producers. She also starred in the short-lived Annie McGuire in 1988. In 1995, after another lengthy break from TV series work, Moore was cast as tough, unsympathetic newspaper owner Louise “the Dragon” Felcott on the CBS drama New York News, her third series in which her character worked in the news industry. As with her previous series Mary (1985), Moore quickly became unhappy with the nature of her character and asked to be written out of New York News; the series, however, was canceled before the writers could remove her.

In the mid-1990s, Moore had a cameo and a guest-starring role as herself on two episodes of Ellen. She also guest-starred on Ellen DeGeneres‘s next TV show, The Ellen Show, in 2001. In 2004, Moore reunited with her Dick Van Dyke Show cast-mates for a reunion “episode” called The Dick Van Dyke Show Revisited.

In August 2005, Moore guest-starred as Christine St. George, a high-strung host of a fictional TV show, on three episodes of Fox sitcom That ’70s Show. Moore’s scenes were shot on the same soundstage where The Mary Tyler Moore Show was filmed in the 1970s. Moore made a guest appearance on the season 2 premiere of Hot in Cleveland, which starred her former co-star Betty White. This marked the first time that White and Moore had worked together since The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended in 1977. In the fall of 2013, Moore reprised her role on Hot in Cleveland in a season four episode which not only reunited Moore and White, but also former MTM cast members Cloris Leachman, Valerie Harper and Georgia Engel as well. This reunion coincided with Harper’s public announcement that she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer and was given only a few months to live.

Theater

Moore appeared in several Broadway plays. She starred in Whose Life Is It Anyway with James Naughton, which opened on Broadway at the Royale Theatre on February 24, 1980, and ran for 96 performances, and in Sweet Sue, which opened at the Music Box Theatre on January 8, 1987, later transferred to the Royale Theatre, and ran for 164 performances. She was the star of a new musical version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s in December 1966, but the show, titled Holly Golightly, was a flop that closed in previews before opening on Broadway. In reviews of performances in Philadelphia and Boston, critics “murdered” the play in which Moore claimed to be singing with bronchial pneumonia.

Moore appeared in previews of the Neil Simon play Rose’s Dilemma at the off-Broadway Manhattan Theatre Club in December 2003 but quit the production after receiving a critical letter from Simon instructing her to “learn your lines or get out of my play.” Moore had been using an earpiece on stage to feed her lines to the repeatedly rewritten play.

During the 1980s, Moore and her production company produced five plays: Noises Off, The Octette Bridge Club, Joe Egg, Benefactors, and Safe Sex.

 

Films

 Moore made her film debut in 1961’s X-15. She subsequently appeared in a string of 1960s films (after signing an exclusive contract with Universal Pictures), including 1967’s Thoroughly Modern Millie with Julie Andrews, and the 1968 films What’s So Bad About Feeling Good? with George Peppard, and Don’t Just Stand There! with Robert Wagner.

In 1969, she starred opposite Elvis Presley as a nun in Change of Habit. Moore’s future television cast-mate Ed Asner also appeared in that film (as a cop). After that film’s disappointing reviews and reception at the box office, Moore returned to television, and did not appear in another feature film for eleven years. She received her only nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the 1980 coming-of-age drama Ordinary People, in which she portrayed a grieving mother unable to cope with the drowning death of one of her sons and unable to cope with the other son for his attempted suicide. Other feature film credits include Six Weeks (1982), Just Between Friends (1986) and Flirting with Disaster (1996).

She appeared in a number of television movies, including Like Mother, Like Son, Run a Crooked Mile, Heartsounds, The Gin Game (based on the Broadway play; reuniting her with Dick Van Dyke), Mary and Rhoda, Finnegan Begin Again, and Stolen Babies for which she won an Emmy Award in 1993.

 

Author

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-01-03

Moore wrote two memoirs. In the first, After All, released in 1995, she acknowledged that she was a recovering alcoholic. The next, Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes, was released on April 1, 2009, and focuses on living with Type 1 diabetes.

MTM Enterprises

 Moore and her husband Grant Tinker founded MTM Enterprises, Inc. in 1969; Moore later commented that he had named the entity after her in much the same fashion that someone might name a boat after a spouse. This company produced The Mary Tyler Moore Show and several other television shows and films. It also included a record label, MTM Records MTM Enterprises produced a variety of American sitcoms and drama television series such as Rhoda, Lou Grant and Phyllis (all spin-offs from The Mary Tyler Moore Show), The Bob Newhart Show, The Texas Wheelers, WKRP in Cincinnati, The White Shadow, Friends and Lovers, St Elsewhere and Hill Street Blues, and was later sold to Television South, an ITV Franchise holder during the 1980s. The MTM logo is very similar to the Metro Goldwyn Mayer logo, but features Moore’s cat Mimsie instead of the lion.

Personal life

Family

 In 1955, at age 18, Moore married Richard Carleton Meeker, whom she described as “the boy next door.” and within six weeks she was pregnant with her only child, Richard Jr. (born July 3, 1956). Meeker and Moore divorced in 1961. Moore married Grant Tinker, a CBS executive (later chairman of NBC), in 1962, and in 1970 they formed the television production company MTM Enterprises, which created and produced the company’s first television series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

On October 14, 1980, at the age of 24, Moore’s son Richard died of an accidental gunshot to the head while handling a sawed off shotgun. The model was later taken off the market because of its “hair trigger.” Moore and Tinker divorced in 1981.

Moore married Dr. Robert Levine on November 23, 1983, at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. They met when her mother was treated by him in New York City on a weekend house call, after Moore and her mother returned from a visit to the Vatican where they had had a personal audience with Pope John Paul II.

screenshot-2017-02-18-15-00-28

Health

Moore was diagnosed with Type I diabetes when she was 33. In 2011, she had surgery to remove a meningioma, a benign brain tumor. In 2014 friends reported that she had heart and kidney problems and was nearly blind. In October 2015, Moore’s former co-star Dick Van Dyke said on an episode of Larry King Now, “[Diabetes] has taken a toll on her; she’s not well at all.” She died on January 25, 2017, after she had been placed on a respirator the previous week.

Charity work

In addition to her acting work, Moore was the International Chairman of JDRF (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). In this role, she used her celebrity to help raise funds and awareness of diabetes mellitus type 1.

In 2007, in honor of Moore’s dedication to the Foundation, JDRF created the “Forever Moore” research initiative which will support JDRF’s Academic Research and Development and JDRF’s Clinical Development Program. The program works on translating basic research advances into new treatments and technologies for those living with type 1 diabetes.

A long-time animal rights activist, Moore worked with Farm Sanctuary to raise awareness about the process involved in factory farming and to promote compassionate treatment of farm animals. Moore appeared as herself in 1996 on an episode of the Ellen DeGeneres sitcom Ellen. The storyline of the episode includes Moore honoring Ellen for trying to save a 65-year-old lobster from being eaten at a seafood restaurant. She was also a co-founder of Broadway Barks, an annual animal adopt-a-thon held in New York City. Moore and friend Bernadette Peters worked to make it a no-kill city and to encourage adopting animals from shelters.

In honor of her father, George Tyler Moore, a lifelong American Civil War enthusiast, in 1995 Moore donated funds to acquire an historic structure in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, for Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) to be used as a center for Civil War studies. The center, named the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, is housed in the historic Conrad Shindler House (c. 1795), which is named in honor of her great-great-great-grandfather, who owned the structure from 1815 to 1852. Moore also contributed to the renovation of the house used as headquarters during 1861–62 by Confederate Major General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Use of the house had been offered to Jackson by its owner, Lieutenant Colonel Lewis Tilghman Moore, commander of the 4th Virginia Infantry and a great-grandfather of Mary Tyler Moore.

Politics

 During the 1960s and 1970s, Moore had a reputation as a liberal or moderate liberal and endorsed President Jimmy Carter for re-election in a 1980 campaign television ad. In 2011, friend and former co-star Ed Asner claimed during an interview on the O’Reilly Factor that Moore “has become much more conservative of late.” Bill O’Reilly, host of the O’Reilly Factor, has previously stated that Moore had been a viewer of his show and her political views had leaned conservative in recent years. In a Parade magazine article from March 22, 2009, Moore identified herself as a “libertarian centrist” who watches Fox News. She stated, “…when one looks at what’s happened to television, there are so few shows that interest me. I do watch a lot of Fox News. I like Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly…If McCain had asked me to campaign for him, I would have.” In an interview for the 2013 PBS series Pioneers of Television, Moore says that she was “recruited” to join the feminist movement of the 1970s by Gloria Steinem but did not agree with Steinem’s views. Moore said she believed that women have an important role in raising children and that she did not believe in Steinem’s view that “women owe it to themselves to have a career.”

Awards

In 1980, Moore was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in the drama film Ordinary People, but lost to Sissy Spacek for her role in Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Moore received a total of six Emmy Awards. Five of those awards (1964, 1966, 1973, 1974, 1976) tie her with Candice Bergen and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most wins for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

On Broadway, Moore received a special Tony Award for her performance in Whose Life Is It Anyway? in 1980, and was nominated for a Drama Desk Award as well. In addition, as a producer, she received nominations for Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards for MTM’s productions of Noises Off in 1984 and Benefactors in 1986, and won a Tony Award for Best Reproduction of a Play or Musical in 1985 for Joe Egg.

In 1986, she was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. Then, in 1987, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in Comedy from the American Comedy Awards.

Moore’s contributions to the television industry were recognized in 1992 with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The star is located at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.

On May 8, 2002, Moore was present when cable network TV Land and the City of Minneapolis dedicated a statue in downtown Minneapolis of the television character she made famous on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The statue, by sculptor Gwendolyn Gillen, was located in front of the Dayton’s department store – now Macy’s – near the corner of 7th Street South and Nicollet Mall. It depicts the iconic moment in the show’s opening credits where Moore tosses her Tam o’ Shanter in the air, in a freeze-frame at the end of the montage. While Dayton’s is clearly seen in the opening sequence, the store in the background of the hat toss is actually Donaldson’s, which was, like Dayton’s, a locally based department store with a long history and which was cater-cornered from Dayton’s. In late 2015 the statue was placed in storage during renovations to the mall, and in December it was relocated to the city’s visitor center, where it will remain until the renovation is complete in 2017, after which it is planned to be returned to its original location.

Moore was awarded the 2011 Screen Actors Guild’s lifetime achievement award. In New York City in 2012, Moore and Bernadette Peters were honored by the Ride of Fame and a double-decker bus was dedicated to them.

Carol Burnett

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-17-26

Carol Creighton Burnett (born April 26, 1933) is an American actress, comedian, singer, and writer, whose career spans six decades of television. She is best known for her long-running TV variety show, The Carol Burnett Show, originally aired on CBS. She has achieved success on stage, television, and film in varying genres including dramatic and comedy roles. She also has appeared on various talk shows and as a panelist on game shows.

Born in San Antonio, Texas, Burnett moved with her grandmother to Hollywood, where she attended Hollywood High School and eventually studied theater and musical comedy at UCLA. Later she performed in nightclubs in New York City and had a breakout success on Broadway in 1959 in Once Upon a Mattress, for which she received a Tony Award nomination. She soon made her television debut, regularly appearing on The Garry Moore Show for the next three years, and won her first Emmy Award in 1962. In 1963, she was the star of the Dallas State Fair Musicals presentation of “Calamity Jane.” Burnett moved to Los Angeles and began an 11-year run as star of The Carol Burnett Show on CBS television from 1967 to 1978. With its vaudeville roots, The Carol Burnett Show was a variety show that combined comedy sketches with song and dance. The comedy sketches included film parodies and character pieces. Burnett created many memorable characters during the show’s run, and both she and the show won numerous Emmy and Golden Globe Awards.

During and after her variety show, Burnett appeared in many television and film projects. Her film roles include Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972), The Front Page (1974), The Four Seasons (1981), Annie (1982), Noises Off (1992), and Horton Hears a Who! (2008). On television, she has appeared in other sketch shows; in dramatic roles in 6 Rms Riv Vu (1974) and Friendly Fire (1979); in various well-regarded guest roles, such as in Mad About You, for which she won an Emmy Award; and in specials with Julie Andrews, Dolly Parton, Beverly Sills, and others. She returned to the Broadway stage in 1995 in Moon Over Buffalo, for which she was again nominated for a Tony.

 

Early life

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-18-23Burnett was born on April 26, 1933, the daughter of Ina Louise (née Creighton), a publicity writer for movie studios, and Joseph Thomas Burnett, a movie theater manager. Both of her parents were alcoholics, and at a young age, she was left with her grandmother, Mabel Eudora White. Burnett’s parents divorced in the late 1930s, and she and her grandmother moved to an apartment near Burnett’s mother’s in an impoverished area of Hollywood. There they stayed in a boarding house with Burnett’s younger half-sister, Chrissie. When Burnett was in second grade, she briefly invented an imaginary twin sister named Karen, with Shirley Temple-like dimples. Motivated to further the pretence, Burnett fondly recalls that she “fooled the other boarders in the rooming house where we lived by frantically switching clothes and dashing in and out of the house by the fire escape and the front door. Then I became exhausted and Karen mysteriously vanished.”

For a while, she worked as an usherette at what is now the Hollywood Pacific Theatre (the forecourt of which is now the location of her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. After graduating from Hollywood High School in 1951, Burnett received an anonymous envelope containing $50 for one year’s tuition at UCLA, where she initially planned on studying journalism. During her first year of college, Burnett switched her focus to theater arts and English, with the goal of becoming a playwright. She found she had to take an acting course to enter the playwright program — “I wasn’t really ready to do the acting thing, but I had no choice,” she recalled. She followed a sudden impulse in her first performance.

“Don’t ask me why, but when we were in front of the audience, I suddenly decided I was going to stretch out all my words and my first line came out ‘I’m baaaaaaaack!'” The audience response moved her deeply:

“They laughed and it felt great. All of a sudden, after so much coldness and emptiness in my life, I knew the sensation of all that warmth wrapping around me. I had always been a quiet, shy, sad sort of girl and then everything changed for me. You spend the rest of your life hoping you’ll hear a laugh that great again.”

During this time, Burnett performed in several university productions, garnering recognition for her comedic and musical abilities. Her mother disapproved of her acting ambitions:

“She wanted me to be a writer. She said you can always write, no matter what you look like. When I was growing up she told me to be a little lady, and a couple of times I got a whack for crossing my eyes or making funny faces. Of course, she never, I never, dreamed I would ever perform.”

The young Burnett, always insecure about her looks, responded many years afterward to her mother’s advice, “You can always write, no matter what you look like,” in Burnett’s memoir One More Time (1986), noting, “God, that hurt!”

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-15-39

During her senior year at UCLA, a professor invited Burnett and some other students to perform at a party in place of their class final that had been canceled (which required a performance in front of an audience). Afterward, a man and his wife approached Burnett while Carol was stuffing cookies in her purse to take home to her grandmother. Instead of reprimanding her, the man complimented Burnett’s performance and asked about her future plans. When he learned she wished to travel to New York in order to try her luck in musical comedy but couldn’t afford the trip, right then and there he offered Carol and her boyfriend Don Saroyan each a $1,000 interest-free loan. His conditions were simply that the loans were to be repaid within five years, his name was never to be revealed, and if she achieved success, she would help other aspiring talents to pursue their artistic dreams. Burnett took him up on his offer; she and Saroyan left college and moved to New York to pursue acting careers. That same year, Burnett’s father died of causes related to his alcoholism.

 

Career

Early career

After spending her first year in New York working as a hat-check girl and failing to land acting jobs, Burnett along with other girls living at the Rehearsal Club, a boarding house for women seriously pursuing an acting career, put on The Rehearsal Club Revue on March 3, 1955. They mailed invitations to agents, who showed up along with stars like Celeste Holm and Marlene Dietrich, and this opened doors for several of the girls. Burnett was cast in a minor role on The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show in 1955. She played the girlfriend of a ventriloquist’s dummy on the popular children’s program. This role led to her starring role opposite Buddy Hackett in the short-lived sitcom Stanley from 1956 to 1957. In the 1950s, a young Carol Burnett was working as an usherette when the theater was showing Alfred Hitchcock‘s Strangers on a Train (1951). Having already seen the film and loving it, she advised two patrons arriving during the last ten minutes of a showing to wait until the beginning of the next showing to avoid spoiling the ending for them. The manager observed Burnett, let the couple in, then callously fired her, stripping the epaulettes from her uniform. Years later in the 1970s after achieving TV stardom, when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce offered her a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they asked her where she wanted it. She replied “Right in front of where the old Warner Brothers Theater was, at Hollywood and Wilcox”, which is where it was placed, at 6439 Hollywood Blvd.

After Stanley, Burnett found herself unemployed for a short time. She eventually bounced back a few months later as a highly popular performer on the New York circuit of cabarets and night clubs, most notably for a hit parody number called “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles” (Dulles was Secretary of State at the time). In 1957, Burnett performed this number on both The Tonight Show, hosted by Jack Paar, and The Ed Sullivan Show. Dulles was asked about Carol Burnett on Meet the Press and joked, “I never discuss matters of the heart in public.”

Burnett also worked as a regular on one of television’s earliest game shows, Pantomime Quiz, during this time. In 1957, just as Burnett was achieving her first small successes, her mother died.

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-26-42

Burnett’s first true taste of success came with her appearance on Broadway in the 1959 musical Once Upon a Mattress, for which she was nominated for a Tony. The same year, she became a regular player on The Garry Moore Show, a job that lasted until 1962. She won an Emmy that year for her “Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series” on the show. Burnett portrayed a number of characters, most memorably the put-upon cleaning woman who would later become her signature alter-ego. With her success on the Moore Show, Burnett finally rose to headliner status and appeared in the special Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall (1962), co-starring with her friend Julie Andrews. The show was produced by Bob Banner, directed by Joe Hamilton, and written by Mike Nichols and Ken Welch. Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Program Achievement in the Field of Music, and Burnett won an Emmy for her performance. Burnett also guest-starred on a number of shows during this time, including The Twilight Zone episode “Cavender is Coming.”

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-24-31

In 1964, Burnett starred in the Broadway musical Fade Out – Fade In but was forced to withdraw after sustaining a neck injury in a taxi accident. She returned to the show later but withdrew again to participate in a variety show, The Entertainers, opposite Caterina Valente and Bob Newhart. The producers of Fade Out – Fade In sued the actress for breach of contract after her absences from the popular show caused its failure, but the suit was later dropped. The Entertainers ran for only one season.

Around the same time, Burnett became good friends with Jim Nabors, who was enjoying great success with his series Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. As a result of their close friendship, Burnett played a recurring role on Nabors’ show as a tough corporal, later gunnery sergeant. Nabors would later be her first guest every season on her variety show.

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-23-55

In 1966, Lucille Ball became a friend and mentor to Burnett. After having guested on Burnett’s highly successful CBS-TV special Carol + 2 and having the younger performer reciprocate by appearing on The Lucy Show, Ball reportedly offered Burnett her own sitcom called “Here’s Agnes,” to be produced by Desilu Productions. Burnett declined the offer, not wanting to commit herself to a weekly series.

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-19-39The two remained close friends until Ball’s death in 1989. Ball sent flowers every year on Burnett’s birthday. When Burnett awoke on the day of her 56th birthday in 1989, she discovered via the morning news that Lucille Ball had died. Later that afternoon, flowers arrived at Burnett’s house with a note reading, “Happy Birthday, Kid. Love, Lucy.”

 

 

 

The Carol Burnett Show

In 1967, CBS offered to put Burnett in a weekly comedy series called Here’s Agnes. However, Burnett had a stipulation in her ten-year contract with CBS that said she had five years from the date The Garry Moore Show ended to “push the button” on hosting thirty one-hour episodes of a music/comedy variety show. As a result, the hour-long Carol Burnett Show was born and debuted in September 1967, garnering 23 Emmy Awards and winning or being nominated for multiple Emmy and Golden Globes every season it was on the air. Its ensemble cast included Tim Conway (who was a guest player until the ninth season), Harvey Korman, Lyle Waggoner, and the teenaged Vicki Lawrence, whom Burnett herself discovered and mentored. The network initially did not want her to do a variety show because they believed only men could be successful at variety, but Burnett’s contract required that they give her one season of whatever kind of show she wanted to make. She chose to carry on the tradition of past variety show successes.

A true variety show, The Carol Burnett Show struck a chord with viewers. Among other things, it parodied films (“Went With the Wind” for Gone With the Wind), television (“As the Stomach Turns” for the soap opera As the World Turns) and commercials. Musical numbers were also a frequent feature. Burnett and her team struck gold with the original sketch “The Family”, which eventually was spun off into its own television show called Mama’s Family, starring Vicki Lawrence.

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-16-09

Burnett opened most shows with an impromptu question-and-answer session with the audience, lasting a few minutes, during which she often demonstrated her ability to humorously ad lib. On numerous occasions, she obliged when asked to perform her trademark Tarzan yell.

Burnett ended each show by tugging on her left ear, which was a message to her grandmother who raised her. This was done to let her know that she was doing well and that she loved her. During the show’s run, Burnett’s grandmother died. On an Intimate Portrait episode on Burnett, she tearfully recalled her grandmother’s last moments: “She said to my husband Joe from her hospital bed ‘Joe, you see that spider up there?’ There was no spider, but Joe said he did anyhow. She said ‘Every few minutes a big spider jumps on that little spider and they go at it like rabbits!!’ And then she died. There’s laughter in everything!”

The Carol Burnett Show ceased production in 1978, Four post-script episodes were produced and aired on ABC during the summer of 1979 under the title, Carol Burnett & Company basically using the same format and, with the exception of Harvey Korman and Lyle Waggoner, the same supporting cast. Beginning in 1977, the comedy sketches of Burnett’s series were edited into half-hour episodes entitled Carol Burnett and Friends, which, for many years, proved to be extremely popular in syndication. In January 2015, Carol Burnett and Friends began airing on MeTV.

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-24-12

 

Other roles

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-19-20Burnett starred in a few films while her variety show was running, including Pete ‘n’ Tillie (1972). She was nominated for an Emmy in 1974 for her role in the drama 6 Rms Riv Vu. After her show ended, Burnett assumed a number of roles that departed from comedy. She appeared in several dramatic roles, most notably in the television movie Friendly Fire. She appeared as Beatrice O’Reilly in the film Life of The Party: The Story of Beatrice, a story about a woman fighting her alcoholism. Her other film work includes The Four Seasons (1981), Annie (1982), and Noises Off (1992). She also returned in 2005 to star in a different role as Queen Aggravain in the movie version of Once Upon a Mattress. She guest-starred in season two of Desperate Housewives as Bree’s stepmother, Elanor Mason.

Burnett was the first celebrity to appear on the children’s series Sesame Street, on that series’ first episode on November 10, 1969. She also made occasional returns to the stage in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1974, she appeared at The Muny Theater in St. Louis, Missouri, in I Do! I Do! with Rock Hudson, and eleven years later, she took the supporting role of Carlotta Campion in the 1985 concert performance of Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies. Burnett made frequent appearances as a panelist on the game show Password, an association she maintained until the early 1980s (in fact, Mark Goodson awarded her his Silver Password All-Stars Award for best celebrity player; she’s also credited with coming up with the title Password Plus, when it was originally planned to be titled Password ’79).

In the 1980s and 1990s, Burnett made several attempts at starting a new variety program. She also appeared briefly on The Carol Burnett Show’sThe Family” sketches spinoff, Mama’s Family, as her stormy character, Eunice Higgins. She played the matriarch in the cult comedy miniseries Fresno, which parodied the primetime soap opera Falcon Crest. She returned to TV in the mid-1990s as a supporting character on the sitcom Mad About You, playing Theresa Stemple, the mother of main character Jamie Buchman (Helen Hunt), for which she won another Emmy Award. In 1995, after an absence of 30 years, she was back on Broadway in Moon Over Buffalo, for which she was nominated for a Tony. Four years later, she appeared in the Broadway revue Putting It Together.

Burnett has long been a fan of the soap opera All My Children. She realized a dream when Agnes Nixon created the role of Verla Grubbs for her in 1976. Burnett played the long-lost daughter of Langley Wallingford (Louis Edmonds), causing trouble for her stepmother Phoebe Tyler-Wallingford (Ruth Warrick). She made occasional appearances on the soap opera in each decade thereafter. She hosted a 25th-anniversary special about the show in 1995 and made a brief cameo appearance as Verla Grubbs on the January 5, 2005, episode which celebrated the show’s 35th anniversary. Burnett reprised her role as Grubbs in September 2011 as part of the series’ finale.

In 2008, Burnett had her second role as an animated character in the film Horton Hears a Who!. Her first was in The Trumpet of the Swan in 2001. In 2009, she made a guest appearance on the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, for which she was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series. In November 2010, she guest-starred on an episode of Glee as the mother of cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. In 2012 she had another voice role in The Secret World of Arrietty. She has made a recurring role, traditionally on Thanksgiving-themed episodes, of Hawaii Five-0 as Steve McGarrett’s Aunt Debbie since 2013, until Aunt Deb died from cancer in the January 15, 2016 episode.

 

Personal life

screenshot-2016-12-11-18-27-36

Burnett married her college sweetheart Don Saroyan on December 15, 1955; they divorced in 1962. On May 4, 1963, Burnett married TV producer Joe Hamilton, a divorced father of eight, who had produced her 1962 Carnegie Hall concert and would produce The Carol Burnett Show, among other projects. The couple had three daughters:

 

  • Carrie Hamilton, born December 5, 1963 – died January 20, 2002 (at age 38) of lung and brain cancer. She was an actress and singer.
  • Jody Hamilton, born January 18, 1967
  • Erin Hamilton, born August 14, 1968. She is a singer.

Their marriage ended in divorce in 1984, and Hamilton died of cancer in 1991. On November 24, 2001, Burnett married Brian Miller, principal drummer in and contractor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, who is 23 years her junior.

Burnett is good friends with Julie Andrews, Betty White, Jim Nabors, was close with the late Beverly Sills and Lucille Ball, and is the acting mentor to her protégée Vicki Lawrence. They share a close friendship, as noted by Lawrence in a testimonial speech during her appearance at Burnett’s 2013 Mark Twain Award in Washington, D.C. (recorded and broadcast on PBS Television).

In 1981, actress Carol Burnett won a judgment against the Enquirer after it claimed she had been seen drunk in public at a restaurant with Henry Kissinger in attendance. The fact that both of her parents suffered from alcoholism made this a particularly sensitive issue to Burnett.

 

Memoirs and related works

Burnett and her oldest daughter, Carrie Hamilton, co-wrote Hollywood Arms (2002), a play based on Burnett’s bestselling memoir, One More Time (1986). Sara Niemietz and Donna Lynne Champlin shared the role of Helen (the character based on Burnett); Michele Pawk played Louise, Helen’s mother, and Linda Lavin played Helen’s grandmother. For her performance, Pawk received the 2003 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play.

In 2010, Burnett wrote the memoir This Time Together.

In 2016, Burnett wrote the behind-the-scenes memoir In Such Good Company.

 

 

Barbara Hale

Screenshot 2016-02-20 15.34.03

Barbara Hale (born April 18, 1922) is an American actress best known for her role as legal secretary Della Street on more than 270 episodes of the long-running Perry Mason television series. She reprised the role in 30 Perry Mason movies for television.

Barbara Hale was born in DeKalb, Illinois, to Luther Ezra Hale, a landscape gardener, and his wife, Wilma Colvin. She is of Scots-Irish ancestry. Hale graduated in 1940 from Rockford High School in Rockford, Illinois, then attended the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, planning to become an artist. Her performing career began in Chicago when she started modelling to pay for her education. Hale’s family included a sister, Juanita, for whom Hale’s younger daughter was named.

 

Acting career

Screenshot 2016-02-20 15.33.22

Hale moved to Hollywood in 1943, and made her first screen appearances playing small parts (often uncredited). Her first role was in Gildersleeve’s Bad Day. She was under contract to RKO Radio Pictures through the late 1940s. She appeared in Higher and Higher (1943) with Frank Sinatra and sang with the crooner; played leading lady to Robert Mitchum in West of the Pecos(1945); enjoyed top billing in both Lady Luck (1946), her first “full stardom”) and “her fifth A picture” opposite Robert Young andThe Window (1949) with Arthur Kennedy; and co-starred in Jolson Sings Again (1949), with Larry Parks playing Al Jolson and Hale as Jolson’s wife, Ellen Clark.

Screenshot 2016-02-20 15.33.47

She played the top-billed title role in Lorna Doone (1951), co-starred with James Stewart in The Jackpot (1951), with James Cagney in a 1953 drama, A Lion Is in the Streets, and opposite Rock Hudson in 1953’s Seminole, then appeared in 1955’s The Far Horizons with Fred MacMurray and Charlton Heston, working with some of Hollywood’s best-known leading men of the day.

Screenshot 2016-02-20 15.33.07

Hale’s flourishing movie career more or less ended when Hale accepted her best known role as legal secretary Della Street in the television series Perry Mason starring Raymond Burr as the titular character. The show ran from 1957 to 1966, and she reprised the role in 30 Perry Mason television films (1985–95). For more on the Della Street character, see below.

She co-starred with Joel McCrea in a 1957 western, The Oklahoman, but there were few leading roles thereafter. Hale did have a featured role in the 1970 ensemble film Airport, playing the wife of a jetliner pilot (Dean Martin).

Screenshot 2016-02-20 15.36.39

Hale’s career became inextricably linked with that of Perry Mason co-star Burr, including her 1971 guest-starring role on his next series, Ironside, in an episode titled “Murder Impromptu,” followed by their 1980s and early ’90s TV movies together.

Her last on-screen appearance to date came in a TV biographical documentary about Burr that aired in 2000.

Hale’s activity in radio was more limited than in film or television. She appeared in five episodes of Family Theater (1950-1954) and in one episode each of Lux Radio Theatre (1950), Voice of the Army (1947), and Proudly We Hail (syndicated).


Screen shot 2016-02-20 at 4.13.40 PM

Barbara Hale also is remembered as a spokesperson for Amana, makers of Radarange microwave ovens, memorably intoning, “If it doesn’t say Amana, it’s not a Radarange.”

 

Private life

Screen shot 2016-02-20 at 4.23.08 PM

 

 

 

 

In 1945 during the filming of West of the Pecos, Hale met actor Bill Williams (for more on Williams, see below). They married June 22, 1946, and became the parents of two daughters, Jodi and Juanita, and a son, actor William Katt. Katt played detective Paul Drake, Jr., with her in several made-for-television Perry Mason movies. She also guest-starred as the mother of Ralph Hinkley (played by Katt) in a 1982 episode of The Greatest American Hero (Episode 29, “Who’s Woo in America”), and appeared as his mother in the movieBig Wednesday (1978).

Bill Williams (See below) died of cancer in 1992, after 46 years of marriage. Hale herself is a cancer survivor, and a grandmother. She is a follower of the Bahá’í Faith.

 

Accolades

Hale was recognized as a Star of Television (with a marker at 1628 Vine Street) on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. She won the Emmy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series in 1959 and was nominated for the Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role by an Actor or Actress in a Series in 1961.

She was presented one of the Golden Boot Awards in 2001 for her contributions to western cinema.

 

Della Street

Screenshot 2016-02-20 15.34.19

Della Street is the fictional secretary of Perry Mason in the long-running series of novels, short stories, films, and radio and television programs featuring the fictional defense attorney created by Erle Stanley Gardner.

In the first Perry Mason novel, The Case of the Velvet Claws, written in the early days of the Great Depression, it is revealed that Della Street came from a wealthy, or at least well-to-do, family that was wiped out by the stock market crash of 1929. Della was forced to get a job as a secretary. By the time of the TV series in the 1950s and 1960s, this would have not fit well with the age of the characters as then portrayed. According to The Case of The Caretaker’s Cat, she is approximately 15 years younger than Perry Mason.

A character named Della Street first appeared in Gardner’s unpublished novel Reasonable Doubt, where she was a secretary, but not the secretary of the lawyer, Ed Stark. Gardner described her this way: “Della Street … Secretary, twenty-seven, quiet, fast as hell on her feet, had been places. Worked in a carnival or side show, knows all the lines, hard-boiled exterior, quietly efficient, puzzled over the lawyer, chestnut hair, trim figure, some lines on her face, a hint of weariness at the corners of her eyes.”

When Gardner submitted Reasonable Doubt to William Morrow, an editor suggested that “Della Street is a better character than the secretary.” Gardner took this suggestion when he rewrote Reasonable Doubt as The Case of the Velvet Claws and made Della Street Perry Mason’s secretary. In the published novel, the carnival or side show was jettisoned, and Street came from a more respectable background. This is a good example of the difference between the pulp writing and slick writing of the 1930s.

In 1950 Gardner published the short story “The Case of the Suspect Sweethearts” under the pseudonym Della Street.

There are several instances of sexual tension between Mason and Street in the Gardner novels; multiple glances, kisses and so on. There were also several proposals of marriage, all of which Della turned down because she wanted to be a part of Mason’s life and she knew that meant being a part of his work.

In “The case of the Weary Watchdog,” Della is pulled over and introduces herself to the officer as “Mrs. BRANDON Street, Della Street.”

Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason in a series of novels, was a prolific author, who employed three secretaries simultaneously, all sisters, to keep up with his output. One of them he eventually married, after his first wife—from whom he was separated for 30 years—died. This was Jean Gardner, born Agnes Helene Walter. People who knew her believed she was the inspiration for Della Street, though neither she nor Erle Stanley Gardner himself admitted it. Mrs. Gardner said she thought he put several women together to create the character.

In the film adaptations made in the 1930s, Della Street was portrayed by five different actresses: Helen Trenholme, Claire Dodd, Genevieve Tobin, June Travis and Ann Dvorak.

Screenshot 2016-02-20 15.36.39

On television, Della Street was of course played by  Hale in the series and 30 made-for-TV movies. Sharon Acker played Della Street in the short-lived revival series The New Perry Mason, starring Monte Markham as Mason.

Gertrude Warner was the first actress to portray Street regularly, albeit on the radio series, followed by Joan Alexander and Palmolive’s “Madge”, Jan Miner. The character portrayed in the radio series was reworked into Sara Lane on the daytime show Edge of Night, which was to be the daytime Perry Mason, until Gardner pulled his support for the project.

 

Bill Williams

Screen shot 2016-02-20 at 4.25.53 PM

Bill Williams, born Herman August Wilhelm Katt, (May 15, 1915 – September 21, 1992) was an American television and film actor. He is best known for his starring role in the early television series, The Adventures of Kit Carson, which aired in syndication from 1951-55.

 

Career

Williams was born in Brooklyn, New York to German immigrant parents. He attended Pratt Institute, calling himself William H. Katt, and became a professional swimmer, performing in underwater shows. He landed a walk-on role as a theatre usher inKing Kong (1933). He enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, but was discharged before the end of the conflict and became an actor. He made his credited debut in The Blue Room in 1944, using the professional name Bill Williams. His first starring role opposite Susan Hayward in Deadline at Dawn (1946) made him a star.

Screen shot 2016-02-20 at 4.27.20 PM

Williams had appeared in ten films before he landed the lead role in The Adventures of Kit Carson, which ran for 104 episodes. After the series ended, Williams’ star power quickly fizzled out. It was briefly revived in 1957 when he co-starred with Betty White in television’s Date with the Angels. Williams played Federal agent Martin Flaherty in The Scarface Mob (1959), the pilot for ABC‘s The Untouchables. In the series, however, the role went to Jerry Paris. In 1958, Williams turned down the lead in Sea Hunt because he believed that an underwater show would not work well on television. Lloyd Bridges accepted the part and turned it into a hit. Williams then starred as a former Navy frogman in Assignment: Underwater, which ran for just one season. He played a variety of roles on Perry Mason, in which his wife Barbara Hale co-starred with Raymond Burr as his secretaryDella Street. In the 1962 episode, “The Case of the Crippled Cougar,” he played defendant Mike Preston. In 1963 he played murder victim Floyd Grant in “The Case of the Bluffing Blast.” In 1965 he played murderer Charles Shaw in “The Case of the Murderous Mermaid,” and murderer Burt Payne in “The Case of the 12th Wildcat”. Williams appeared in a final season episode of Ironside along with his son, bringing him together again with Raymond Burr. He also made guest appearances on television and worked in low-budget science fiction films until his retirement.

 

Personal life

Screen shot 2016-02-20 at 4.23.08 PM

Williams married  Hale June 22, 1946. They had met during the filming of West of the Pecos and would have two daughters, Jodi and Juanita, and a son, actor William Katt.

Williams died of a brain tumor at age 77 in 1992.

For his contribution to the television industry, Bill Williams has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is at 6161 Hollywood Blvd.

NYPD Blue

 Screenshot 2015-12-20 11.40.17

 

NYPD Blue is an American television police procedural set in New York City, exploring the struggles of the fictional 15th Precinct ofManhattan. Each episode typically intertwined several plots involving an ensemble cast.

The show was created by Steven Bochco and David Milch and was inspired by Milch’s relationship with Bill Clark, a former member of the New York City Police Department who eventually became one of the show’s producers. The series was originally broadcast on the ABC network, debuted on September 21, 1993‚ and aired its final episode on March 1, 2005. It remains ABC’s longest-running primetime one-hour drama series.

NYPD Blue was met with critical acclaim, praised for its grittiness and realistic portrayal of the cast’s personal and professional lives, though the show garnered controversy for its depiction of nudity and alcoholism. In 1997, “True Confessions” (Season 1, Episode 4), written by Art Monterastelli and directed by Charles Haid, was ranked #36 on TV Guide‘s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time. In 2009, TV Guide ranked “Hearts and Souls” (Season 6, Episode 5), Jimmy Smits‘ final episode written by Steven Bochco, David Milch, Bill Clark, and Nicholas Wootton and directed by Paris Barclay, #30 on TV Guide‘s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.

Here are profiles of some of NYPD Blue‘s stars.

DAVID CARUSO

Screenshot 2015-12-20 11.43.44

David Stephen Caruso (born January 7, 1956) is an American actor and producer. His most prominent roles are his portrayals of Lieutenant Horatio Caine on the TV series CSI: Miami and as Detective John Kelly on the ABC crime drama NYPD Blue. He also appeared in movies such as First Blood, Kiss of Death, Jade and Proof of Life

Early life

Caruso was born in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens, New York, New York, the son of Joan, a librarian, and Charles Caruso, a magazine and newspaper editor. He is of Irish and Italian (Sicilian) descent. His father left when he was two years of age, forcing him to “end up fathering myself”, as he put it. Raised as a Roman Catholic, Caruso attended Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic School in Forest Hills.  He later attended Archbishop Molloy High School in nearby Briarwood, graduating in 1974.

Caruso worked as a cinema usher, where he would see up to eighty movies a week. He said that he and his coworkers would act out scenes from some of these movies while they were at the back of the theater. It was in this job he found his role models in Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney and Edward G Robinson. 

The ethics of certain actors certainly had a power over me. These guys taught me how to be what I call a stand up kind of guy.

Career

1980s

His first film appearance was in the 1980 film Getting Wasted as Danny. Caruso then spent most of the next decade in film supporting roles, appearing in such films as First Blood, An Officer and a Gentleman, Blue City, Thief of Hearts and China Girl. Caruso credits his role as Daniels, “the cadet who nearly drowned,” in An Officer and a Gentleman as what got him noticed. Caruso also appeared in Twins. On television, he had a recurring role as Tommy Mann, the leader of the street gang The Shamrocks on Hill Street Blues in the early 1980s. He made a two-episode appearance on the television series Crime Story which ran from 1986 to 1988 on NBC. In 1984, Caruso portrayed U.S. Olympian James Brendan Connolly in the NBC miniseries The First Olympics: Athens, 1896.

1990s

Caruso had supporting roles as police officers in the crime films King of New York (1990) and Mad Dog and Glory (1993). While filming 1991’s Hudson Hawk, Caruso employed method acting, refusing to talk to anyone on set because his character, Kit-Kat, was mute, having had his tongue bitten off.

Caruso’s first major role was in 1993 as Detective John Kelly on NYPD Blue, for which Caruso won a Golden Globe Award. TV Guide named Caruso as one of the six new stars to watch in the 1993–94 season. He made news by leaving the highly rated show the following year (only four episodes into the second season) after failing to obtain the raise he wanted. He was unable to establish himself as a leading man in films despite starring in the crime thriller Kiss of Death, which was critically well-received but did not perform well financially. He also appeared in Jade (1995), which flopped critically and at the box office. In a 2010 issue of TV Guide, Caruso’s decision to leave NYPD Blue was ranked #6 on a list of TV’s 10 biggest “blunders”. In the first episode of South Park, (“Cartman Gets an Anal Probe“) Kyle tells his brother Ike to “do your impersonation of David Caruso’s career” to get Ike to jump out of a spaceship.

In 1997, Caruso returned to television as a New York City-based federal prosecutor in the short-lived CBS law drama series, Michael Hayes, which aired for one season.

2000s

Caruso returned to film with a supporting role as Russell Crowe‘s mercenary associate in the film Proof of Life in 2000. In 2001, he had a lead role in the cult psychological horror film Session 9.

From 2002 to 2012, he starred as Lieutenant Horatio Caine in the popular CSI spin-off series CSI: Miami. He was the first actor in the franchise to appear as the same character on three of the four CSI programs. On CSI: Miami, Caruso is known for frequently using one-liners at the beginning of each episode. Many of these include him putting on his trademark sunglasses mid-sentence, then walking off-screen just as the main theme starts (finishing move). On an episode of the Late Show with David Letterman that aired on March 8, 2007, comedian Jim Carrey professed to being a fan of the show and went on to satirically impersonate Caruso. Carrey asked for an “intense close-up” from the camera, spoke in a deep voice and put sunglasses on. Caruso later said in an interview with CBS that he was impressed with the impersonation.

Personal life

Caruso is founder of DavidCarusoTelevision.tv and LexiconDigital.tv, as well as co-owner of Steam on Sunset, a clothing store in South Miami.

Caruso has a daughter, Greta with his second wife, Rachel Ticotin. He and former girlfriend Liza Marquez have two children together: a son and a daughter.

In April 2009, Marquez filed papers against Caruso for fraud, breach of their settlement agreement and emotional distress.

In March 2009, an Austrian woman was placed in custody in Tyrol, Austria, on charges of stalking Caruso; she had twice failed to appear in court to answer the charges before fleeing to Mexico; following her deportation from Mexico, Austrian officials took her into custody to await trial on the stalking charges.

Awards and nominations

In 1994 Caruso won a Golden Globe Award for starring in NYPD Blue as Detective John Kelly, for which he was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. In 2001, he was nominated for the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for Favorite Supporting Actor – Suspense for starring in the film Proof of Life as Dino.

DENNIS FRANZ

Screenshot 2015-12-20 11.44.42

Dennis Franz Schlachta, born October 28, 1944, is an American actor best known for his role as hard-boiled NYPD Detective Andy Sipowicz in NYPD Blue

Early life

Franz was born in Maywood, Illinois, the son of German immigrants Eleanor, a postal worker, and Franz Schlachta, who was a baker and postal worker. Franz is a graduate of Proviso East High School (in Maywood), Wilbur Wright College and Southern Illinois University Carbondale. After graduating from college, Franz was drafted into the United States Army. He served eleven months with the 82nd Airborne Division in Vietnam.

Career

Franz began his acting career at Chicago’s Organic Theater Company. Although he has in the past performed Shakespeare, his appearance led to his being typecast early in his career as a police officer. (By Franz’s own count, the character of Andy Sipowicz was his 27th role as a police officer). He has also guest starred in shows such as The A-Team. Other major roles were on the television series Hill Street Blues in which he played two characters over the run of that show. Franz first played the role of Detective Sal Benedetto, a corrupt cop in the 1983 season, who later kills himself. Due to his popularity with fans, he returned in 1985 as Lt. Norm Buntz, remaining until the show’s end in 1987. He also starred in the short-lived Beverly Hills Buntz as the same character.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Franz worked regularly with directors Brian De Palma and Robert Altman. He appeared in three of Altman’s films from this period, and five of De Palma’s, most prominently as a low budget movie director in Body Double (1984).

Franz went on to win four Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue. The character of Sipowicz was ranked #23 on Bravo‘s 100 Greatest TV Characters list.

In 1994 Franz made a cameo appearance as himself in The Simpsons episode “Homer Badman” — when Homer is accused of sexually harassing a babysitter, the case becomes tabloid fodder, generating an exploitative television movie, Homer S.: Portrait of an Ass-Grabber, in which Franz portrays Homer.

In May 11, 2001, Franz was featured in the celebrity edition of the hit television game show, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, winning $US250,000 for his charity.

He starred as Earl, the abusive husband, in the Dixie Chicks‘ music video “Goodbye Earl,” as airport police captain Carmine Lorenzo in the 1990 film Die Hard 2 and as Nathaniel Messinger in the 1998 film, City of Angels.

Franz has stayed out of the acting spotlight since 2005 to focus on his private life. He has told Access Hollywood he would be interested in returning to acting if given the right opportunity.

Personal life

Franz is married to Joanie Zeck, whom he met in 1982 and married in 1995. He is stepfather to Zeck’s two daughters, Tricia and Krista, from a previous marriage.

 

 

JAMES McDANIEL

Screenshot 2015-12-20 11.48.32

James McDaniel (born March 25, 1958) is an American stage, film and television actor. He is best known for playing Lt. Arthur Fancy on NYPD Blue. He created the role of Paul in the hit Lincoln center play 6 Degrees of Separation. He also played a police officer in the ill-fated 1990 series Cop Rock, and a close advisor to activist Malcolm X in the 1992 film Malcolm X. He also played Sgt. Jesse Longford in the ABC television series Detroit 1-8-7.

He was born in Washington, D.C.

 

 SHARON LAWRENCE

Screenshot 2015-12-20 11.46.34

Sharon Elizabeth Lawrence (born June 29, 1961) is an American actress, singer, and dancer. She is best known for the role of Sylvia Costas Sipowicz in NYPD Blue. The role garnered her three Primetime Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Serie

Early life

Lawrence was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, the daughter of Earlyn, an education administrator and Head Start supervisor, and Tom Lawrence, a television news reporter for WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina. She grew up in Charlotte, moved to Raleigh in her junior year of high school, graduated from Needham B. Broughton High School and then University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Career

Lawrence began her acting career on Broadway stage in the 1987 revival of Cabaret. In 1990, she performed in Fiddler on the Roof. She appeared in a number of television movies and series in 1990s, like Cheers, and Star Trek: Voyager. In 1993 she was cast as Assistant District Attorney Sylvia Costas in NYPD Blue. Her consistently praised performance earned the actress three Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series nominations from 1993 to 1996, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series in 1996. In 1996 she left the show for her own comedy series, Fired Up on NBC.  The series was canceled after two seasons. She later returned to NYPD Blue as a regular, and left the show in 1999, after her character was killed.

Lawrence starred with Betty White and Alfred Molina on the short-lived sitcom Ladies Man from 1999 to 2001. She played Velma Kelly in the Broadway musical Chicago in 2000.  She also had a series regular role on the CBS supernatural drama Wolf Lake from 2001 to 2002. In film, she co-starred in Gossip (2000), Little Black Book (2004), and The Alibi (2006).

Lawrence guest starred on many television dramas and sitcoms in the 2000s. She played Maisy Gibbons, a housewife/prostitute in season one o fDesperate Housewives. She also appeared in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Boston Legal, Monk, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Mentalist, and Body of Proof. She had a regular role on the short-lived CW teenage drama series Hidden Palms (2008), as Tess Wiatt, and was seen in the Canadian cable television drama The Line in 2009.

In 2009, Lawrence was nominated for the Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her portrayal as Izzie Stevens‘ mother on Grey’s Anatomy. In April 2010, Lawrence joined Josh Schwartz’s CBS pilot Hitched. In October 2010, she began a recurring role on One Tree Hill as Sylvia Baker, the mother of Julian Baker (Austin Nichols) who comes to Tree Hill from Los Angeles to plan the upcoming wedding of Julian and Brooke Davis (Sophia Bush). She also played the lead character mother in a Lifetime comedy-drama Drop Dead Diva from 2009 to 2013. Also, she played the birthmother of Dr. Maura Isles (Sasha Alexander) in the TNT television series Rizzoli & Isles, although in real life the actresses are only 12 years apart. In recent years, Lawrence also starred in several independent films. In 2013 she was cast in the Chris Carter thriller drama series The After. The show was set to premiere on Amazon Studios in 2014 but was cancelled by Amazon before its premiere on January 5, 2015. In March, 2015, Lawrence was cast in the ABC comedy-drama pilot Mix.

Personal life

In 2002, Lawrence married Dr. Tom Apostle. Their wedding was held at the Greek Orthodox church Saint Sophia, the same Los Angeles church in which her character, Sylvia Costas, in NYPD Blue married Detective Andy Sipowicz. Lawrence has played on the World Poker Tour and performed in benefits for Alzheimer’s Association in Los Angeles called Night at Sardi’s and the What A Pair show for the John Wayne Breast Cancer Center.

Lawrence is the Chairman of the Women In Film Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Women In Film, which since 1973 has advanced professional opportunities for women in the global entertainment marketplace. She supports Global Green and World Wildlife Fund to protect the environment and endangered species. She is an avid scuba diver.

JIMMY SMITS

Screenshot 2015-12-20 11.52.53

James “Jimmy” Smits (born July 9, 1955) is an American actor. Smits played attorney Victor Sifuentes on the 1980s legal drama L.A. LawNYPD Detective Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue, and Matt Santos on The West Wing. He also appeared as Bail Organa in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, and Miguel Prado in Dexter. In 2012, he joined the main cast of Sons of Anarchy as high-level pimp Nero Padilla.

Early life

Smits was born in Brooklyn, New York. His father, Cornelis Leendert Smits, was from Paramaribo, Suriname, and was of Dutch descent. His mother, Emilina (Pola), was Puerto Rican, born in Peñuelas. Smits identifies himself as Puerto Rican, and was raised in a strictly devout Roman Catholic family. “Jimmy” is the name on his birth certificate, rather than “Jim” or “James”. He has two sisters, Yvonne and Diana. He grew up in a working-class neighborhood and spent time in Puerto Rico during his childhood. Smits earned a bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College in 1980 and an MFA from Cornell University in 1982. Though born in New York, Smits has deep Puerto Rican roots and frequently visits the island. In 2001, he was arrested for his participation in protests against U.S. Navy bombing practices on the Puerto Rican offshore island of Vieques.

Career

An early role played by Smits was that of Eddie Rivera in the series premiere of Miami Vice. In the episode, he was Sonny Crockett‘s original partner, only to be shortly killed off in a sting gone wrong. He played Victor Sifuentes in the first five seasons of the long-running legal drama L.A. Law.

Smits played a repairman on Pee-wee’s Playhouse. He also starred in the multigenerational story of a Chicano family in My Family in 1995.

One of Smits’ most acclaimed roles was that of Detective Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue, which he starred in from 1994 to 1998. He was nominated several times for Emmys for his performance on that television series and won the ALMA award twice.

Smits appeared as Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002) and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), in which the character becomes Princess Leia‘s adoptive father. He reappears as Bail Organa in the game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.

In 1999, he received the HOLA Award for Excellence from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA).

Smits was to have hosted the 2001 Latin Grammy Awards broadcast on September 11, 2001, but it was called off because of the terrorist attacks that day. He instead hosted a non-televised press conference to announce the winners.

Smits played the role of Congressman Matt Santos of Houston, Texas, in the final two seasons of the American television drama The West Wing, joining fellow L.A. Law alumnus John Spencer. Smits’s character eventually ran for and won the US Presidency in the series.

For the third season of Dexter, Smits played the role of Miguel Prado, an assistant district attorney who befriends Dexter. Smits was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series for the role. Additionally, he portrayed the character Alex Vega in the CBS TV series Cane, which aired from September 25, 2007, to December 18, 2007, and was subsequently cancelled by the network due to the 2007 Screen Writer’s Guild strike.

Smits joined the Sons of Anarchy cast in season 5 as Nero Padilla, a high-level pimp who refers to himself as a “companionator.” He builds a relationship with Gemma Teller Morrow (Katey Sagal) and creates an alliance and mentorship with the central character Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam).

Smits will star in The Get Down, a musical drama television series that is slated to debut in 2016 on Netflix.

Stage performances

In the mid-1980s, Smits acted in numerous performances at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York. His roles at the Hangar included Max in the 1982 production of Cabaret and Paul in Loose Ends the same year. Smits has participated in the Public Theater‘s New York Shakespeare Festival, playing the role of Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night in 2002, and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing in 2004. From November 2009 to February 2010, he appeared opposite Christine Lahti, Annie Potts and Ken Stott in the critically lauded Broadway play God of Carnage, replacing Jeff Daniels. In December 2012 through March 2013, he appeared in Chicago in The Motherfucker with the Hat at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Personal life

Smits was married to Barbara Smits from 1981 until their divorce in 1987. They have two children, Taina (born in 1973) and Joaquin (born in 1983). Since 1986, Smits has been in a relationship with actress Wanda De Jesus; they live in Los Angeles. Smits helped found the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts to advance the presence of Latinos in the media, telecommunications and entertainment industries. Smits is also an advocate for diagnostic colorectal screening and has appeared in a public service commercial. Most recently, Smits filmed a PSA for Detroit Non-Profit Cass Community Social Services. Smits will act as the Honorary Chair of their 6th Annual “Catch the Fireworks With Cass” event that takes place during the notable fireworks display in Brooklyn.

Smits was arrested in 1987 for assaulting an officer after police answered a call for help at his home. He and his girlfriend were arrested for battery on three police officers who responded to the call. The charges were later dropped because of conflicting witness statements. Smits later pled guilty to the misdemeanor of disturbing the peace, receiving a sentence of 18 months of unsupervised probation and a $150 fine. Wanda De Jesus pled guilty to misidentifying herself to a police officer and disturbing the peace. She received a fine of $250, 18 months of unsupervised probation and 75 hours of community service.

Charity work

Smits’s main accomplishment in the non-profit sector has been his work with the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts. Smits has also donated to several other organizations, including the Red Cross, New York Cares, and Stand up to Cancer. In addition, he regularly donates to HIV and AIDS treatment and to further human rights around the world. His main work with Latinos is summarized by these quotes:

I’ve been very lucky to work on a wide variety of projects, including two long-run and top-10 dramatic television shows. That is why it is so important to offer a helping hand to the next generation of young Latinos coming up behind me.

I am a firm believer in education and have worked very hard to tell young Latinos that they must go to college and that, if possible, they should pursue an advanced degree. I am convinced that education is the great equalizer.

 

Martin Milner

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.53.54

Martin Sam Milner (December 28, 1931 – September 6, 2015) was an American film, stage, radio and television actor. Milner is best known for his performances in two popular television series: Route 66, which aired on CBS from 1960 to 1964, and Adam-12, which aired on NBC from 1968 to 1975.

 

Early years

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.54.13

Milner was born on December 28, 1931, to film distributor Sam Gordon Milner and Paramount Theater circuit dancer Mildred (née Martin) in Detroit, Michigan. The family left Detroit when he was a young child and moved frequently before settling in Seattle, Washington, by the time he was nine. There he became involved in acting, first in school, and then in a children’s theater group at the Cornish Playhouse.

When Milner was a teenager, he moved with his family to Los Angeles where his parents hired an acting coach and later an agent for him. Milner had his first screen test and began his film career with his debut in the 1947 film Life with Father in the role of John Day, the second oldest son of Clarence Day played by William Powell. Less than two weeks after filming for that film ended in August 1946, Milner contracted poliomyelitis. He recovered within a year and had bit parts in two more films before graduating from North Hollywood High School in 1949. He immediately landed a minor role in the film Sands of Iwo Jima starring John Wayne. He also had a role in Richard Fleischer‘s Compulsion, featuring Orson Welles.

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.55.31

He had several more roles, both minor and major, in war films in the 1950s, including another John Wayne picture called Operation Pacific in 1951 and Mister Roberts with Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon in 1955. On the set of Halls of Montezuma in 1950 he met and befriended actor Jack Webb. Soon thereafter, he began intermittent work on Webb’s radio series, Dragnet.

 

Career

Milner attended the University of Southern California where he studied theater. He dropped out after a year in the fall of 1950 to concentrate on acting. He made his first television appearance in 1950 as a guest star in episode 28 titled “Pay Dirt” on The Lone Ranger. That same year, he began a recurring role as “Drexel Potter” on the television sitcom The Stu Erwin Show.

In 1952, Milner began a two-year stint in the United States Army. He was assigned to Special Services at Fort Ord on California’s Monterey Bay Peninsula, where he directed training films. He also emceed and performed in skits in a touring unit show to entertain the soldiers. Milner was encouraged by fellow soldier David Janssen to pursue an acting career when his time in the Army ended. He also served at Ft Ord at the same time as future actors Clint Eastwood and Richard Long. While in the Army, Milner continued working for Jack Webb, playing “Officer Bill Lockwood” (briefly the partner of “Sgt. Friday”) and other characters on the Dragnet radio series on weekends. He also appeared on six episodes of Webb’s Dragnet television series between 1952 and 1955.

Screenshot 2015-11-19 15.04.15

After his military service ended, Milner had a recurring role on The Life of Riley from 1953 to 1958. He also made guest appearances on numerous television shows including episodes of The Bigelow Theatre, The Great Gildersleeve, TV Reader’s Digest, Science Fiction Theatre, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, NBC Matinee Theater, The West Point Story, The Twilight Zone (episode: Mirror Image) and Rawhide. Milner also acted in films, the most notable of which are The Long Gray Line (1955), Mister Roberts (1955), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), as jazz guitarist Steve Dallas in Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Marjorie Morningstar (1958), Compulsion (1959) and 13 Ghosts (1960).

Screenshot 2015-11-19 15.05.13

 

Route 66

In 1960, Milner won the role of Tod Stiles in the CBS television series, Route 66, from 1960 to 1964. Created by Stirling Silliphant, Route 66 is essentially about two regular, but distinctly different young men in a car touring the United States.

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.58.07

After the sudden death of his father left him unexpectedly penniless, Tod traveled across the United States in a Chevrolet Corvette, taking a variety of odd jobs along the way and getting involved in other people’s problems. Tod’s traveling partner on his escapades was his friend Buz Murdock, a former employee of his father’s played by George Maharis. During the series’ third season, Milner got a new co-star as Glenn Corbett was brought in to replace Maharis. Tod’s new traveling partner was Lincoln “Linc” Case, an Army veteran who had a dark past, and Corbett remained in the role for the remaining season and a half.

Route 66 was a different sort of television program, as the travels of Tod and his traveling partners were shot on location. Thus, Milner spent nearly four years traveling the country for the series, sometimes taking his wife and children along.

 

Adam-12

 Milner and Webb had a long-established working relationship by the time it came to cast Adam-12. Milner appeared in numerous episodes of both the radio and television versions of the seminal Jack Webb series Dragnet. Milner had also worked with Webb in the 1950 film Halls of Montezuma and the 1955 film Pete Kelly’s Blues. This led to the role for which Milner is best known.

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.54.38

In 1968, Milner returned to television as seven-year LAPD veteran uniform patrol Officer Peter Joseph “Pete” Malloy in the Jack Webb-produced police drama, Adam-12. Kent McCord played his partner, rookie Officer James A. “Jim” Reed. The popular NBC series ran from 1968 to 1975. Like Webb’s Dragnet, it was based on real Los Angeles Police Department procedures and cases. It was hailed for its realistic, positive portrayal of ordinary police officers.

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.55.00

Milner was Webb’s hands-down choice for “cop behind the wheel” Pete Malloy, in part because his relative youth and prior acting credits and because of his on-camera driving experience from his days on Route 66.

 

Emergency!

 Milner guest starred in three episodes of Emergency! between 1972 and 1976, during and after Adam-12s run on NBC, the best known and first of which was the pilot episode The Wedsworth-Townsend Act.

 

Later career

After Adam-12 Martin Milner starred as Karl Robinson in a television series version of The Swiss Family Robinson (1975–1976), produced by Irwin Allen. Most of his following work was as a television guest star, most notably in action-adventure series MacGyver (as James MacGyver, MacGyver’s father), Airwolf, Life Goes On , Murder, She Wrote and RoboCop: The Series. In 1983, Milner hosted a morning radio wake-up show on AM 600 KOGO, San Diego.

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.57.46

Milner also has the distinction of having portrayed the victim in the premiere episode of Columbo titled “Murder by the Book.” In 1990, Milner re-teamed with Kent McCord, his co-star from Adam-12, in the cable TV-movie Nashville Beat (1990), originally shown on the now-defunct The Nashville Network. The story, partly written by Kent McCord, had McCord as an LAPD detective who teams up with his old partner, Milner, in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1992, he guest starred on five episodes of ABC’s Life Goes On. After retiring from acting, Milner co-hosted a radio show about fishing called “Let’s Talk Hook-Up” on San Diego-area sports station XETRA AM 690 (now XEWW).

 

Personal life

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.58.31

In May 1956, Milner met singer and actress Judith Bess Jones at a Hollywood dinner party. They were married on February 23, 1957, in Waukegan, Illinois. They had four children together: Amy, Molly, Stuart and Andrew.

In February 2003, Milner’s eldest daughter Amy, who appeared in an episode of Adam 12, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She died in December 2004.

 

Death

Screenshot 2015-11-19 14.53.28

On September 6, 2015, Milner died of heart failure at his home in Carlsbad, California, at the age of 83. His memorial service was held by Law Enforcement and community members in Oceanside, California six days later.