Archive for the ‘In Memoriam’ Category

2019 In Memoriam

December 26, 2019

2019 In Memoriam

We regularly report the passing of people who have contributed to geek pop culture. In this year’s

2019 Geeky Good-Byes

we have recognized the work of well over 150 people at time of writing.

Those listings are necessarily short, basically just a listing of what brings them into the family of geek-friendly creators.

In this post, I want to do more of a narrative, to tell the stories of some. This isn’t to judge them as more important than the others: a hallmark of geeky fandom is that we recognize everyone. In this, it may simply be people for whom I can best tell the tale.

For the others, and for more detail on these, see that 2019 Geeky Good-Byes page.

These are presented in their reported chronological order.

William Morgan Sheppard had a rich and diverse career, with nearly 200 screen credits. He appeared both onscreen and as a voice. Not many actors appeared in the Star Trek universe, Star Wars, the Transformers, DC (in Young Justice), Marvel (as Dum Dum Dugan in the 1994 Iron Man series), Doctor Who, Max Headroom (Blank Reg), Babylon 5, Disney (Gargoyles), Biker Mice from Mars (Lawrence Limburger), and menacing Elvira. He was the epitome of a character actor, reliably enhancing every scene he was in.

Carol Channing was certainly better known for muggle roles, especially in Hello, Dolly! (Tony Award) and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. However, her unique voice, both raspy and welcoming, led to geeky voicework. She voiced Grandmama Addams on the 1992 The Addams Family Cartoon and Fanny in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars.

While James Frawley had been an actor in The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and My Favorite Martian, it was as a director that he had his biggest impact. When I watched The Monkees, which did have geeky episodes, I’d perk up when I saw his name. I could count on the episode being a bit more out there. For example, he directed Monstrous Monkee Mash, where in a certain Transylvanian count, the Frankenstein monster, and a wolfman all make appearances. Other GF shows he directed include Ghost Whisperer, Smallville, and Earth 2. On the muggle side, he directed Scarecrow and Mrs. King episodes, Cagney & Lacey, Columbo, and many more. Peter Tork of The Monkees also died this year.

Directors clearly liked working with Dick Miller and audience liked him seeing him! Roger Corman directed him more than 15 times (including the role that probably comes first to my mind, Walter Paisley in A Bucket of Blood), as did Joe Dante. He never played the “big man” in the movies, but was never small in his parts. A documentary about him, That Guy Dick Miller, was released in 2014.

While Julie Adams did appear in other geek-friendly roles, it’s her iconic performance as scientist Julie Adams in Creature from the Black Lagoon for which she will be forever remembered.

Albert Finney‘s five Oscar nominations in four decades were all for muggle roles, but he played Scrooge (one of the fantasies that is considered classic literature), appeared in Wolfen & Looker, played Kilgore Trout, and Daddy Warbucks (there is minor magic in the version in which he appeared).

The average person probably can’t name Carmen Argenziano, but might recognize the character actor from decades of appearances. Gaters definitely can put a name to the face, even if that name might be Selmak rather than Carmen.

Jan-Michael Vincent had success early on as “Link” Simmons on The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. He starred in The World’s Greatest Athlete & parried with George Peppard in Damnation Alley (based on a Roger Zelazny book). He was best known to geeks as Stringfellow Hawke in over 50 episodes of the supertech series, Airwolf.

Beverley Owen was the original Marilyn Munster, the “normal” appearing niece of Lily Munster.

Hollywood musicals can certainly feel like fantasies, and director Stanley Donen made some of the best…On the Town, Singin’ in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and more. One of them, Damn Yankees, clearly fits our criteria, featuring the inimitable Ray Walston as the devil (Mr. Applegate). Speaking of the Devil, Donen directed my favorite portrayal, 1967’s original Bedazzled. He also did The Little Prince, and stepped in to direct Saturn 3.

One of the most intense guest stars on Star Trek: The Original Series was Morgan Woodward…and not just once, but twice: Dr. Sam van Gelder in the Dagger of the Mind, and Captain Tracey in The Omega Glory. He appeared in 3 episodes of the Logan’s Run TV series, and made many guest appearances (including The X-Files and The Incredible Hulk).

Soap’s Katherine Helmond might be best-known for comedy TV, but had an unforgettable role in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil. She also appeared on both The Six Million Dollar Man & The Bionic Woman, worked with Elvira, got into the DC universe as Aunt Minerva on Batman: TAS…and voiced Lizzie in the Cars movies for Disney.

Lisa Sheridan was a 21st Century geek-friendly TV star. From Chloe Tanner on FreakyLinks to Larkin on Invasion and Dr. Sanchez on Journeyman, she was a familiar sight.

No question, Luke Perry will be best remembered for playing Dylan McKay on Beverly Hills, 90210. He will also be associated with Riverdale, having played Archie’s dad, Fred. Additionally, he starred in the post-Apocalyptic Jeremiah series, and did a fair amount of voicework: Napoleon Brie on Biker Mice from Mars; Sub-Zero on Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm; and Marvel’s Rick Jones on The Incredible Hulk.

Larry Cohen had a truly unique artistic vision. He was a writer, director, and producer on cult favorites, suffused with humor and twisted body images. The killer baby trilogy that began with It’s Alive might be the most memorable, but for me, I think of God Told Me To, Q, and the consumerist satire The Stuff. He directed the Stephen King inspired A Return to Salem’s Lot.

Thunderbirds are go! Shane Rimmer voiced Scott Tracy on the Andersons’ Supermarionation show, and worked with on other shows as well. He appeared, often in small roles, in many geek-friendly productions: Live and Let Die, Rollerball, The People That Time Forgot, the Christopher Reeve Superman movies, Batman Begins, and Louis on The Amazing World of Gumball.

I shook hands with Peter Mayhew at an event. His smile was charming, although he must have done the same thing thousands of times before with other Star Wars fans. He clearly risked a lot to come back as the best co-pilot ever, and did it partly for us.

I think of Billy Drago first for Nitti the Enforcer in the Kevin Costner version of The Untouchables, but he was one of those actors who was always recognizable, even in more than 100 roles. He appeared in seven episodes of the original Charmed series as Barbas, and was John Bly on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr..

Sure, Arte Johnson was great on Laugh-In, but he also played Renfield in the George Hamilton Dracula spoof, Love at First Bite. He guested on Bewitched and Lost in Space. While his physicality was often part of his roles, by the 1970s he was doing regular voicework (Tyrone on Baggy Pants & the Nitwits, Weerd on The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, Devil Smurf, Top Cat on Yo Yogi, and he got into the DC Universe as Virman Vundabar on Justice League Unlimited).

Cameron Boyce was a current and rising star, in part because of plaing Cruella de Vil’s son, Carlos, in The Descendants. He voiced Jake in Jake and the Never Land Pirates, and voiced Shocker on Spider-Man.

In nearly 60 years on screen, Freddie Francis was a looming presence in Hammer movies (Professor Richter in Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Professor Keeley in The Satanic Rites of Dracula…) and in the 1980s, was in Krull, Firestarter, and played Thufir Hawat in Dune.

30 years after playing Nathan Bryce in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Rip Torn played Agent Zed in Men in Black (he’d repeat the role). It seemed particularly appropriate when he voiced Zeus in Disney’s Hercules: he often played the authority figure who could be exasperated with his underlings.

As a child, Denise Nickerson had done more than 70 episodes of Dark Shadows, but she’ll be remembered forever as Violet Beuregarde in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

David Hedison always had a special earnestness on screen, whether it was in the original version of The Fly, as Ed Malone in The Lost World, or in over 100 episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Captain Lee Crane. He played James Bond’s CIA contact, Felix Leiter in a couple of movies, including one of the geekiest, Live and Let Die.

If you think about moving scenes from geeky movies, Rutger Hauer‘s rain speech from Blade Runner has to be up there. He followed that up with Ladyhawke, and then simmered for more than thirty years. Smallville, Salem’s Lot, Batman Begins, Dracula 3D: he became part of so many of our universes.

Yes, Peter Fonda was best known for Easy Rider, but he played Chuck Browning in the Westworld sequel, Futureworld, Mephistopheles in Ghost Rider, and others.

Many people have contributed to Doctor Who’s success and longevity, but Terrance Dicks would make anyone’s short list. As screenwriter, Script Editor, and author of books, he was involved with fleshing out the Time Lords, what the TARDIS can do, the term regeneration (and more than 1 doctor appearing at the same time), and Sarah Jane Smith.

Aron Eisenberg appeared in several Star Trek works, but his most memorable role is probably Nog on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Ah, Sid Haig!  He often played menacing parts, and his work stretched from Batman ’66 and the original Star Trek to repeated appearances as “Captain Spaulding” and beyond.

Rip Taylor will always be thought of as the confetti throwing comedian, yet he had extensive geek-friendly performances. He was Sheldon the Sea Genie on Sigmund and the Sea Monsters (and actually played genies multiple times), the voice of Uncle Fester on the 1992 animated The Addams Family, The Royal Recordkeeper/The Royal Judge on Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove series, and others in more than 40 years of work.

You could count on Robert Forster to bring the gravitas. I probably first think of him as Arthur Petrelli on Heroes, but for many, his Sheriff Truman on Twin Peaks is likely to be their first association.

Virginia Leith had more than 25 screen credits, but she’s best known as lead character Jan Crampton (“Jan in the Pan”) in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die.

Probably more famous outside of the USA, Maria Perego created Topo Gigio, who mischievously caused trouble for Ed Sullivan in his appearances on that show.

A staple in UK telly (Father MacAnally on Ballykissangel for one), Niall Toibin had some geek-friendly roles, including Reverend Coot in Rawhead Rex.

He was British Eddy on James Cameron’s Dark Angel, appeared in The Dead Zone, Battlestar Galactica, Stargate SG-1, and was John Mann did six episodes of Haunted as Simon.

Michael J. Pollard often played characters with a mischievous half-smile, which served him well as Superboy’s impish enemy, Mr. Mxyzptlk. That’s not to suggest that he wasn’t an actor capable of range: he got an Supporting Oscar nomination for Bonnie and Clyde. He appeared on Lost in Space, and on Star Trek: The Original Series as Jahn in Miri. In the 90’s, he voiced Psycho on Troma’s Toxic Crusaders.

Nobody drew bizarre comics like Gahan Wilson. He often needed just one panel to show off his macabre humor…Playboy was one of the magazines that featured his work.

Joan Staley played Okie Annie in an Adam West Batman two-parter.

Japanese live-action sci-fi is really unique, and Nobuo Yajima brought his special effects flair to several series, including johnny Sokko, Spectreman, and Kamen Rider Black.

It was a difficult year for Star Trek fans, especially in December. D.C. Fontana was absolutely crucial to the development of the Star Trek universe as we know it. She wrote 11 episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series, including introducing Spock’s family. She wrote for other Star Trek series, but wasn’t limited to just the Trekverse. She wrote for The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers, and He-Man, among others.

Robert Walker Jr. won praise for the title role in the muggle Ensign Pulver, but was unforgettable as Charlie X on Star Trek: The Original Series.

It’s especially hard to write about Rene Auberjonois‘ passing. He just always seemed like someone you would want to know, and that’s how castmates have responded. He could go easily from muggle to geek-friendly: for us, he did 173 episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Odo.

Big Bird never lost his naivete on Sesame Street, that charming innocence. Muppeteer Carrol Spinney brought him into our lives for decades. Spinney wasn’t all sweetness and light, though: he also played a lot of kids’ favorite grouch, Oscar.

We celebrate each and every one of them and thank them for their contributions to our entertainment. That also goes for those not listed here, but at 2019 Geeky Good-Byes and the ones we will unfortunately inevitably miss. Thank you also to all those who knew them and enabled them to share their creativity with us.

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