Gone in threes: 2011

They say celebrities and prominent people go in threes. Here again is proof.

Gone in 2011 …

Anything for a laugh: Alan Sues (“Laugh-In”), Charlie Callas (rubber-faced comic), Kenneth Mars (“The Producers”).

Badasses: Christopher Hitchens (writer), Eleanor Mondale (the vice president’s wild-child daughter), Gil Scott-Heron (poet and singer).

Big men: James Arness (“Gunsmoke”), Clarence Clemons (E Street Band), Bubba Smith (the NFL, then “Police Academy”).

Bluesmen: David “Honeyboy” Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin.

Career changers: Greg Goossen (major-league catcher turned Gene Hackman’s film double), Sylvia Robinson (R&B singer turned hip-hop producer), Andrea True (porn actress turned disco singer).

Character actors: Wyatt Knight (“Porky’s”), Sid Melton (“Green Acres”), Leonard Stone (“Willy Wonka”). They seemingly did go as a trio, passing within eight days of each other in October and November.

Comics legends: Bil Keane (The Family Circus), Jerry Robinson (the Joker), Joe Simon (Captain America).

Counterculture: Suze Rotolo (Bob Dylan’s muse in the early ’60s), Owsley Stanley (LSD chemist and ’60s scenester), Poly Styrene (punk musician).

Directors: Ken Russell (“Tommy”), Sidney Lumet (“Network”), Peter Yates (“Bullitt”).

Dramatic interludes: Fred Steiner (“Perry Mason” and “Star Trek”), John Barry (12 James Bond films), Pete Rugolo (“The Fugitive”).

Eccentrics: Barry Bremen (legendary ’70s and ’80s sports imposter), Terry Gale (Las Vegas entertainer who insisted on no cover charge at his last appearance — his funeral in his hometown of Milwaukee), Norma “Duffy” Lyon (Iowa butter sculptor).

Hasta la bye bye! Osama bin Laden, Muammar Gadhafi, Kim Jong Il.

Inventive: Jeno Paulucci (Jeno’s pizza rolls), Milton Levine (Uncle Milton’s Ant Farm), Arch West (Doritos, with which he was buried).

Larger than life: Steve Jobs, Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Elizabeth Taylor.

Monkee business: Bert Schneider (he co-produced the TV show), Don Kirshner (he produced the early music), Rob Grill (lead singer of the Grass Roots, who toured with the Monkees).

Speaking of Monkee business, we saw Davy, Micky and Peter in Milwaukee in July. It was a good show that turned out to be the last one on their 45th anniversary tour. It was to have ended in Milwaukee anyway — even the official tour T-shirts said so — but the tour managers reportedly added more dates without checking first with the fellas. Those extra dates? Canceled. Listen to the band! Not your steppin’ stone.

Nasty character actors: Bruce Gordon (“The Untouchables”), Bill McKinney (“Deliverance” and “The Outlaw Josey Wales”), Charles Napier (“The Blues Brothers” and “Rambo: First Blood Part II”).

“North Dallas Forty” on and off screen: Peter Gent (he wrote the book), G.D. Spradlin (he played the coach), Al Davis (just win, baby).

Not a good year for character actors: William Campbell (“Star Trek”), Edson Stroll (“McHale’s Navy”), Barbara Stuart (“Bachelor Party” and “Gomer Pyle USMC”).

Notorious women, if only for these roles: Anne Francis (“Honey West”), Jane Russell (“The Outlaw”), Maria Schneider (“Last Tango In Paris”).

Remarkable women: Judy Lewis (an actress, writer and therapist whose parents’ identities — the unmarried Clark Gable and Loretta Young — were long a Hollywood secret), Barbara Orbison (a teenaged German fan who became Roy Orbison’s wife, then his manager, then the tireless guardian of his legacy), Betty Skelton (a record-setting race pilot and race driver).

Seen, heard and read in Milwaukee: John McCullough (TV news anchor), Larry “The Legend” Johnson (DJ and talk-show host), Tim Cuprisin (reporter, media columnist and my friend).

Sitcom savants: Sam Denoff (“The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “That Girl”), Madelyn Pugh Davis (“I Love Lucy”), Sherwood Schwartz (“Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch”).

Still champions: Lorenzo Charles (North Carolina State and that dunk), Joe Frazier (heavyweight boxer), Jack LaLanne (fitness guru).

They had soul: Nick Ashford, Howard Tate, Amy Winehouse.

They shaped the songs: Jerry Leiber, Wardell Quezergue, Jerry Ragovoy.

They were country: Marshall Grant (Johnny Cash’s bass player, then his road manager), Ralph Mooney (steel guitarist helped create the Bakersfield sound in the late ’50s), Ferlin Husky (Bakersfield singer who helped create the Nashville sound at the same time).

Finally, we come to Gerry Rafferty, who defies being categorized in death as he did in life.

Yeah, but now it’s a dream, it’s a memory
But I’ll never forget what you gave to me

“The Royal Mile (Sweet Darlin’),” Gerry Rafferty, from “Snakes and Ladders,” 1980. It’s out of print.


Filed under December 2011, Sounds

4 responses to “Gone in threes: 2011

  1. GREAT post! I’m sad now that I didn’t know that Owsley died.

  2. Dane

    I agree with Larry, great post. This is probably the most thoughtful year-end goodbye I’ve ever read.

    I envy you your attendance at the Monkees show but I may have already told you that.

  3. Not sure if, “Thank You,” is the correct response, but I appreciate this comprehensive list of people passed this year. Very smart to do it in threes.

    Good-bye Charlie Callas, I’ll miss you!

  4. I am late getting to this post, but holy smokes, it’s a great one. Makes one wonder who’s left. I had forgotten Anne Francis passed this year. I got a little thing for her. The 1960s TV version of her, anyhow.

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