Saturday, December 30, 2023


Another year has passed. Another year of losing wonderful entertainers that made our world a brighter place. Here is a look at some of the wonderful people we have lost in 2023. It is not a complete list, but it is a highlight of some of the amazing people that are no longer with us...

Norman Lear

Television icon NORMAN LEAR, died at the age of 101 on December 5th. He was a screenwriter and producer who produced, wrote, created or developed over 100 shows.Lear was known for creating and producing numerous popular 1970s sitcoms, including All in the Family (1971–1979), Maude (1972–1978), Sanford and Son (1972–1977), One Day at a Time (1975–1984), The Jeffersons (1975–1985), and Good Times (1974–1979). During his later years, he had continued to actively produce television, including the 2017 remake of One Day at a Time and the Netflix revival of Good Times in 2022. Lear received many awards, including six Primetime Emmys, two Peabody Awards, the National Medal of Arts in 1999, the Kennedy Center Honors in 2017, and the Golden Globe Carol Burnett Award in 2021. Lear is spotlighted in the 2016 documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You. On July 29, 2019, it was announced that Lear had teamed with Lin-Manuel Miranda to make an American Masters documentary about Rita Moreno's life, tentatively titled Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It. In 2020, it was announced that Lear and Act III Productions would executive produce a revival of Who's The Boss? Norman Lear worked until the end.

Singer LISA MARIE PRESLEY, died of a cardiac arrest on January 12th at the age of 54. She was the only child of singer and actor Elvis Presley and actress Priscilla Presley, as well as the sole heir to her father's estate. Presley developed a career in the music business and issued three albums: To Whom It May Concern in 2003, Now What in 2005, and Storm & Grace in 2012. Her first album reached Gold certification with the Recording Industry Association of America. Presley also released non-album singles, including duets with her father using tracks he had released before he died.

Singer, DON WILLIAMS,  died at the age of 100 on January 6th. He was the last surviving member of The Williams Singing Group, which also included famous brother Andy Williams. The brothers scored a huge hit in 1944 singing with Bing Crosby on the Decca recording of "Swinging On A Star" The brothers subsequently split their band, but reunited annually – from 1962 until 1990 – for The Andy Williams Christmas Special.

Actress GINA LOLLOBRIGIDA, died on January 16th at the age of 95. She not only was a popular international actress, first catching the eye of Howard Hughes, but she was a photojournalist, and a politician. She was one of the highest-profile European actresses of the 1950s and early 1960s, a period in which she was an international sex symbol. At the time of her death, she was among the last high-profile international actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema.

Actor and bandleader LES BROWN JR. passed away on January 9th at the age of 82. He acted on various TV shows in the 1960s and 1970s, but he is more widely known as the son of bandleader Les Brown. When Les Brown died in 2001, Les Jr took over the band and ran it for the next 20 years until covid curtailed most big band activities.

Tony Bennett

Singer TONY BENNETT died at the age of 96 on July 21st. He had many accolades, including 20 Grammy Awards, a Lifetime Achievement Award, and two Primetime Emmy Awards. Bennett was named an NEA Jazz Master and a Kennedy Center Honoree and founded the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens, New York. He sold more than 50 million records worldwide. His first hit was "Because Of You" in 1952 for Columbia, and his other mega hits included "Rags To Riches" in 1953 and "I Left My Heart In San Francisco" in 1962. He struggled with drugs and a faltering career in the 1970s, but he made a comeback in the 1990s. In 2016, Tony was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and he made his last record, a duet album with Lady Gaga called "Love For Sale" in 2021. He retired from performing on August 5, 2021. In announcing Bennett's retirement in August 2021, son Danny Bennett stated that the Alzheimer's was mainly affecting his father's short-term memory and that he would often forget he had just performed after a concert; his long-term memory remained intact and he could still fully remember all the lyrics to his repertoire when performing.

Actress MELINDA DILLON, died at the age of 83 on January 9th. She received a 1963 Tony Award nomination for her Broadway debut in the original production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her roles as Jillian Guiler in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Teresa Perrone in Absence of Malice (1981). She is well known for her role as Mother Parker in the holiday classic A Christmas Story (1983). Her other film roles include: Harry and the Hendersons (1987), The Prince of Tides (1991), and Magnolia (1999). She retired from acting in 2007.

Actress STELLA STEVENS, died of Alzheimer's Disease on February 17th at the age of 84. She was a popular actress of the 1960s and 1970s who began her acting career in 1959 and starred in such popular films as Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), The Nutty Professor (1963), The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963), The Silencers (1966), Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968), The Ballad of Cable Hogue (1970), and The Poseidon Adventure (1972). Her last movie was made in 2010.

Singer TINA TURNER, died on May 24th at the age of 83. Tina was] Known as the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll", she rose to prominence as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before launching a successful career as a solo performer. Despite suffering from health problems for years like stroke and heart ailments, she continued to record through this year.

Composer BURT BACHARACH, died at the age of 94 on February 8th. He was an American composer, songwriter, record producer, and pianist who composed hundreds of pop songs from the late 1950s through the 1980s, many in collaboration with lyricist Hal David. A six-time Grammy Award winner and three-time Academy Award winner, Bacharach's songs have been recorded by more than 1,000 different artists. Songs that he co-wrote which have topped the Billboard Hot 100 include "This Guy's in Love with You" (1968), "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" (1969), "(They Long to Be) Close to You" (1970), "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)" (1981), and "That's What Friends Are For" (1986).

Harry Belafonte

Activsit and entertainer HARRY BELAFONTE, died on April 25th at the age of 96. Belafonte was best known for his recordings of "The Banana Boat Song", with its signature "Day-O" lyric, "Jump in the Line (Shake, Senora)", "Jamaica Farewell", and "Mary's Boy Child". He recorded and performed in many genres, including blues, folk, gospel, show tunes, and American standards. He also starred in several films, including Carmen Jones (1954), Island in the Sun (1957), and Odds Against Tomorrow (1959). Belafonte considered the actor, singer, and activist Paul Robeson a mentor, and he was a close confidant of Martin Luther King Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Throughout his career, Belafonte was an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the Anti-Apartheid Movement and USA for Africa. From 1987 until his death, he was a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. He made his last recordings in 2017, and his last movie in 2018.

Actress RAQUEL WELCH, died of heart failure and Alzheimer's Disease on February 15th at the age of 82. Welch first won attention for her role in Fantastic Voyage (1966), after which she won a contract with 20th Century Fox. They lent her contract to the British studio Hammer Film Productions, for whom she made One Million Years B.C. (1966). Although Welch had only three lines of dialogue in the film, images of her in the doe-skin bikini became bestselling posters that turned her into an international sex symbol. She later starred in Bedazzled (1967), Bandolero! (1968), 100 Rifles (1969), Myra Breckinridge (1970), Hannie Caulder (1971), Kansas City Bomber (1972), The Last of Sheila (1973), The Wild Party (1975), and Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976)Her final film was How to Be a Latin Lover (2017).

Singer and actor ED AMES, died at the age of 95 on May 21st. He is known for playing Mingo in the television series Daniel Boone, and for his pop number #1 hits of the mid-to-late 1960s including "My Cup Runneth Over", "Time,Time", and "When the Snow Is on the Roses". He was also part of the popular 1950s singing group with his siblings, the Ames Brothers.

Actor ALAN ARKIN, died on June 29th at the age of 89. Arkin began his career with the sketch comedy group The Second City before acting on the Broadway stage, starring as David Kolowitz in the Joseph Stein play Enter Laughing in 1963, for which he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play. For his performance as a foul-mouthed grandfather in Little Miss Sunshine (2006), he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.Arkin gave his final two film-acting roles in 2020 and 2022. His starred alongside Mark Wahlberg and Winston Duke in the 2020 Netflix film Spenser Confidential. His final performance was voicing the character Wild Knuckles in the animated film Minions: The Rise of Gru, which was released to critical and commercial success.

Actress JOSEPHINE CHAPLIN, died at the age of 74 on July 13th. Born the daughter of screen legend Charlie Chaplin, her first screen appearance came in 1952 when she appeared in her father's movie Limelight. In 1972, Chaplin began forging her own path with a prominent role in the Italian film adaptation of The Canterbury Tales. That same year, she starred in the politically charged Escape to the Sun, about a group of people attempting to flee oppression in the Soviet Union.

Paul Reubens

Actor PAUL REUBENS died of cancer at the age of 70 on July 30th. Best known for playing Pee Wee Herman in the 1980s and 1990s on film and television. Rubens made numerous appearances in film in movies such as Tim Burton's Batman Returns (Reubens portrayed the Penguin's father) and 1996's Matilda. One of his greatest roles was as a flamboyant hairdresser turned drug dealer in Ted Demme's 2001 drama Blow. His last performance was voice work on the animated series Bob's Burgers earlier this year.

TV host BOB BARKER, died on August 26th at the age of 99. Barker was an American television game show host. He hosted CBS's The Price Is Right, the longest-running game show in North American television history, from 1972 to 2007. He also hosted Truth or Consequences from 1956 to 1975.

Actor MATTHEW PERRY, died at the age of 54 on October 28th of an apparent drowing. He starred as Chandler Bing on the NBC television sitcom Friends from 1994 to 2004. He also received Primetime Emmy Award nominations for his performances in The West Wing (2003) and The Ron Clark Story (2006). He gained a leading role in the NBC series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip which aired from 2006 to 2007. Perry also became known for his leading film roles in Fools Rush In (1997), Almost Heroes (1998), Three to Tango (1999), The Whole Nine Yards (2000), Serving Sara (2002), The Whole Ten Yards (2005), and 17 Again (2009).

Actor RICHARD MOLL, died on October 26th at the age of 80.He was best known for playing Aristotle Nostradamus "Bull" Shannon, a bailiff on the NBC sitcom Night Court from 1984 to 1992 and voicing Harvey Dent/Two-Face in the DC Animated Universe series Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures. For a time he was also married to Milton Berle's daughter. Richard had some productions he was working on at the time of his death.

Actress CINDY WILLIAMS, died at the age of 75 on January 25th.She was known for her role as Shirley Feeney on the television sitcoms Happy Days (1975–1979), and Laverne & Shirley (1976–1982). She also appeared in American Graffiti (1973) and The Conversation (1974).She continued to make television appearances and movies through 2020.

Glenda Jackson

Actress GLENDA JACKSON, died on June 15, 2023 at the age of 87. Jackson won the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, for the romance films Women in Love (1970) and A Touch of Class (1973), but she did not appear in person to collect either due to work commitments.In February 2021, it was reported that Jackson would star with Michael Caine in The Great Escaper, a film telling the true story of Bernard Jordan's escape from his care home to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in France. Caine would play Jordan, with Jackson as his wife Rene. Caine and Jackson previously starred together in The Romantic Englishwoman (1975). Jackson had completed filming on The Great Escaper in September 2022; it was to be her last film. It was released on October 6, 2023.

Stylist and radio personality RALPH CIRELLA, died of cancer on December 5th at the age of 58. Ralph was Howard Stern's stylist, and he became an on air personality associated with the Stern show for years. He had been associated with Stern since the mid 1980s and developed quite a following on social media. 

Actress SUZANNE SOMERS, died on October 15th - a day before her 77th birthday. She played the television roles of Chrissy Snow on Three's Company (1977–1981) and Carol Foster Lambert on Step by Step (1991–1998). Somers wrote more than 25 books, including two autobiographies, four diet books, and a book of poetry. She was also well known for advertising the ThighMaster, an exercise device. Her last acting role was in 2017.

Comedian TOM SMOTHERS, died at the age 86 on December 26th. He best known as half of the musical comedy duo the Smothers Brothers, alongside his younger brother Dick. Smothers and John Lennon played acoustic guitar during the live recording of Lennon's 1969 song "Give Peace a Chance".  Tom largely retired in 2010, but he still continued to make appearances with his brother.

We lost a lot of wonderful stars in 2023, and I lost a dear friend with the passing of NICK NARDELLA of Chicago on November 19th at the age of 80. I had known him since 1999. His love of music was amazing, and he was a wonderful man. Like Nick Nardella, all of these stars that shared their talents with the world are gone, but they will never be forgotten...

Sunday, December 24, 2023


Friday, December 22, 2023


Last night I watched the movie bio Maestro, which was the biography of conductor Leonard Berstein. I was amazed that actor Bradley Cooper, not only starred in the film but produced it, directed it, and co-wrote it. It was an amazing accomplishment in cinema. The film centers on the relationship between American composer Leonard Bernstein, played by Cooper, and his wife Felicia Montealegre, played by Carey Mulligan. The supporting cast includes Matt Bomer, Maya Hawke, and Sarah Silverman. The film was produced by Martin Scorsese, Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Fred Berner and Amy Durning.

The movie flashes back and forth between from 1940s and 1950s; when he was an upcoming composer and conductor, and when he met his wife, to the 1970s and then even later to the 1980s. The romance between Berstein and his wife really touched me. However, the movie did not shy away from how his fame hurt their marriage as well as his bi-sexual affairs. Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan deserve to win an Oscar for their portrayal of these complicated characters.

The project had been in development at Paramount Pictures, with Martin Scorsese initially planning to direct the film. He stepped down as director to work on The Irishman, allowing Bradley Cooper to join the film in May 2018 as director and to star as Bernstein. Scorsese continued as producer alongside Steven Spielberg. Spielberg was also initially considering directing the film and had approached Cooper to star, but offered the director position to Cooper after a screening of A Star Is Born. In January 2020, the project was moved to Netflix, with filming expected to begin in 2021.

Although Netflix does not publicly report box office grosses, IndieWire estimated the film made about $200,000 from eight theaters in its opening weekend (and a total of $300,000 over the five-day Thanksgiving frame), which would make it the most successful debut for the company since at least 2019. The movie has mostly received great reviews. other than a little controversy in regards to Bradley Cooper using a large prosthetic nose to portray Bernstein, who was Jewish, was criticized by some as an example of "Jewface", Bernstein's children defended Cooper's use of prosthetic makeup to portray him, stating that they worked with Cooper throughout the filmmaking process and that their "dad would have been fine with it."

It is hardly noticeable, and I am amazed at how Cooper was able to become Leonard Bernstein. It is one of the closest physical portrayal of a real person on film since Robert Downey Jr played Charlie Chaplin in 1992's Chaplin bio film. The movie does a good job of having you like as well as hate Leonard Bernstein. He was severely flawed as all geniuses are, but he truly loved his wife. I have to admit by the end of the movie, to my wife's annoyance, I had a look in my eye looking at her and realizing how lucky I am. Even though I think this is a great movie, the movie is shot a little artsy for my tastes and is sometimes hard to follow, but the acting is superb. I never followed the career of Leonard Bernstein much, but I learned a lot about him just from this film. Bravo Bradley Cooper!

MY RATING: 9 out of 10

Saturday, December 9, 2023


I really love looking at some of these behind the scene photos from classic movies. Most of us have just viewed the end product, but here is some of the film making it took to make the beloved classic White Christmas. As you know this classic musical starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen...

Wednesday, December 6, 2023


Writer-producer-developer Norman Lear, who revolutionized American comedy with such daring, immensely popular early-‘70s sitcoms as “All in the Family” and “Sanford and Son,” died on Tuesday. He was 101.

Lear’s publicist confirmed to Variety that he died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. A private service for immediate family will be held in the coming days.

“Thank you for the moving outpouring of love and support in honor of our wonderful husband, father, and grandfather,” Lear’s family said in a statement. “Norman lived a life of creativity, tenacity, and empathy. He deeply loved our country and spent a lifetime helping to preserve its founding ideals of justice and equality for all. Knowing and loving him has been the greatest of gifts. We ask for your understanding as we mourn privately in celebration of this remarkable human being.”

Lear had already established himself as a top comedy writer and captured a 1968 Oscar nomination for his screenplay for “Divorce American Style” when he concocted the idea for a new sitcom, based on a popular British show, about a conservative, outspokenly bigoted working-class man and his fractious Queens family. “All in the Family” became an immediate hit, seemingly with viewers of all political persuasions.

Lear’s shows were the first to address the serious political, cultural and social flashpoints of the day – racism, abortion, homosexuality, the Vietnam war — by working pointed new wrinkles into the standard domestic comedy formula. No subject was taboo: Two 1977 episodes of “All in the Family” revolved around the attempted rape of lead character Archie Bunker’s wife Edith.

Their fresh outrageousness turned them into huge ratings successes: For a time, “Family” and “Sanford,” based around a Los Angeles Black family, ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. “All in the Family” itself accounted for no less than six spin-offs. “Family” was also honored with four Emmys in 1971-73 and a 1977 Peabody Award for Lear, “for giving us comedy with a social conscience.” (He received a second Peabody in 2016 for his career achievements.)

Some of Lear’s other creations played with TV conventions. “One Day at a Time” (1975-84) featured a single mother of two young girls as its protagonist, a new concept for a sitcom. Similarly, “Diff’rent Strokes” (1978-86) followed the growing pains of two Black kids adopted by a wealthy white businessman.

Other series developed by Lear were meta before the term ever existed. “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” (1976-77) spoofed the contorted drama of daytime soaps; while the show couldn’t land a network slot, it became a beloved off-the-wall entry in syndication. “Hartman” had its own oddball spinoff, “Fernwood 2 Night,” a parody talk show set in a small Ohio town; the show was later retooled as “America 2-Night,” with its setting relocated to Los Angeles.

Lear always maintained that the basic formula for his comedies always boiled down to the essential: Keep ‘em laughing.

He said in a 2005 Onion A.V. Club interview, “Originally, with all the shows, we went looking for belly laughs. It crossed our minds early on that the more an audience cared – we were working before, on average, 240 live people – if you could get them caring, the more they cared, the harder they laughed.”

Lear’s big-screen credits included the scripts for “Come Blow Your Horn” (1963); “The Night They Raided Minsky’s” (1968); “The Thief Who Came to Dinner” (1971); “Stand by Me” (1986) and “The Princess Bride” (1987), both of which were directed by former “All in the Family” co-star Rob Reiner; and “Fried Green Tomatoes” (1991).

Lear was born in New Haven, Conn., on July 27, 1922. Both his parents were Jews of Russian origin; he claimed in interviews that his father and mother were the inspirations for the characters of Archie and Edith Bunker. He dropped out of Boston’s Emerson College to enlist in the U.S. Air Force in 1942, and served as a radio operator and gunner on B-17 bombers in the European theater, flying 52 missions.

After the war, Lear pursued a career as a press agent, and moved to Los Angeles to set up shop. But he moved into comedy writing after partnering with Ed Simmons, his cousin’s husband. The pair’s first major break came writing for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, then the country’s hottest comedy act, during a run of 1952-53 appearances on “The Colgate Comedy Hour.” Teaming with Bud Yorkin, he became an in-demand scribe for the variety shows of Martha Raye, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Celeste Holm and George Gobel.

In the ‘60s, Lear rang up credits writing and (with Yorkin, his partner in Tandem Productions) producing specials starring Bobby Darin, Danny Kaye, Andy Williams and Henry Fonda (star of a Western series, “The Deputy,” which was created by Lear).

Though Lear had scattered credits on theatrical films in the late ‘60s, he vaulted to the top rank of TV producers with Tandem’s development of “All in the Family,” which was inspired by a similarly acerbic, long-running British series, “Till Death Do Us Part.” Originally picked up by ABC, which grew skittish about its content and dropped it, the show was acquired by CBS, where it became the first U.S. sitcom to be filmed in front of a live audience.

The vibrant new series became an instant smash, riding the terrific chemistry of its four stars: Carroll O’Connor as the conservative, bigoted, foul-mouthed Archie, Jean Stapleton as his dizzy, warm-hearted wife Edith; Sally Struthers as their hard-headed daughter Gloria; and Rob Reiner as Gloria’s hippie hubby Michael “Meathead” Stivic. The show reeled in 22 Emmys over the course of its run; O’Connor collected four Emmys for his work on the show, Stapleton three, Reiner two and Struthers one. (An ABC special about the series and its spinoff “The Jeffersons,” executive produced by Lear, won a 2019 Emmy.)

The show became a cottage industry, spinning off one series after another: “Maude,” with Bea Arthur as Edith’s feisty, acid-tongued cousin (purportedly based on Lear’s second wife Frances); “The Jeffersons,” starring Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford as the Bunkers’ African American former next-door neighbors; “Gloria,” with Struthers reprising her role (following the character’s divorce); “Checking In,” with Marla Gibbs as Florence Johnston, the Jeffersons’ onetime maid; and, in the ‘90s, “704 Hauser,” a poorly-received show that was set in the Bunkers’ old house. “Archie Bunker’s Place,” a sort of spinoff of itself set in the titular character’s Queens bar, ran from 1979-83.

Though “All in the Family” and its successors changed TV forever with their sharp political edge and theretofore unseen frankness, Lear later took a cool look back on what the show ultimately achieved.

He averred, “I didn’t see it changing television at all. We had a Judeo-Christian ethic hanging around a couple thousand years that didn’t help erase racism at all. So the notion of the little half-hour comedy changing things is something I think is silly.”

Lear’s last two creations, the sitcoms “Sunday Dinner” and “704 Hauser,” both saw brief runs in the early ‘90s. While he had nothing to do with its production, he had an executive producer credit on the reboot of “One Day at a Time,” set in L.A.’s Echo Park and focusing on a Latino family, which ran from 2017-2020.

Lear’s latter-day productions included the features “Way Past Cool” (2000) and “El Superstar: The Unlikely Rise of Juan Frances” (2008). His documentary productions included “Pete Seeger: The Power of Song” (2007). He is survived by his third wife Lyn Davis, six children and four grandchildren...

Saturday, December 2, 2023


In this new feature we will show case stories and memories of classic Hollywood stars...

I am Ileana Rothschild, and Vera Ellen was my aunt by marriage. I was born in 1967 and my mother and I went for my first visit to my aunt Vera’s home on Outpost Cove in Hollywood, CA.My mother became one of her very close friends, and Aunt Vera gave her many of her baby Victoria’s personal items for me.
I know for a fact that Vera never stopped taking dance classes and maintained her slim figure always. 

Vera was an avid swimmer and she took me for my very first swim with her in her beautiful heated pool when I was only one month old.

My mother and Vera stayed good friends and often had dinner together. At times when having dinner at Vera’s home they were accompanied by Vera’s aged mother. At this time Aunt Vera had been recovering from a mild stroke and would use a regimented swimming program as part of her total recovery: but had no eating disorder. My aunt Vera Ellen was a fine loving and kind person with a beautifully toned body, which she always maintained...