Monday, June 25
Jimmie “JJ” Walker aka Kid Dyno-mite was a major comedy star in the 1970s. His show GOOD TIMES was a ground-breaking feat on television, showing the ghetto as a warm place full of honorable people who never got a break. He became so popular that clothing and dolls were graced with his image. After six seasons, it all came crashing down.
FUN FACT: For his stand-up comedy act, he hired an unknown David Letterman as a writer for $150 a week. That may have been too much even back then.
Still a working stand-up, he can be seen on college campuses and comedy stages throughout the country and on NICK AT NIGHT until the end of eternity.
As one of TV’s favorite parents, June Lockhart was a staple of early television. She was Timmy’s mom on LASSIE and Mrs. Robinson on LOST IN SPACE. Not to be confused with Mrs. Robinson from THE GRADUATE.
IMDb lists her with 165 acting credits, including REN AND STIMPY, CHUD II – BUD THE CHUD, and TROLL She can next be seen in ZOMBIE HAMLET, which shows that not only is she still working but will take any acting job.
Wednesday, June 27
Bob Keeshan is best known as Captain Kangaroo, a seminal character of early children’s television. Running for 21 seasons, the half hour show featured Mr. Green Jeans and assorted puppets. It also featured a dancing bear which was a trippy experience for a small child.
Celebrities such as Alan Arkin and Dolly Parton visited the Captain. Being a sailor, the Captain wanted less Arkin and more Parton. Sadly, the Captain never became an Admiral.
FUN FACT: Obama spokesman David Axlerod was a writer for the CAPTAIN KANGAROO show. Going from children’s television to DC is definitely a step down.
If you know who Captain Kangaroo is or actually saw the show, you are VERY old.
Thursday, June 21
John Cusack is an actor who has made a career out of playing unconventional heroes. Starting as a teen, the young man went from THE SURE THING and BETTER OFF DEAD to more adult roles in THE GRIFTERS, GROSSE POINT BLANK, HIGH INFIDELITY and BEING JOHN MALKOVICH.
FUN FACT: At one time he was a roommate of Jeremy Piven and survived to talk about it.
For his role in HOT TUB TIME MACHINE, HIGH TIMES magazine named him Stoner of the Year. Seth Rogan demanded a re-count. Cusack is more commonly mis-identified as Ferris Bueller and being married to Sarah Jessica Parker.
“Wax on, wax off” is one of the most often quoted lines from any 1980’s film and it was uttered by the great Pat Morita. Also known for playing Arnold on HAPPY DAYS, he was our favorite propritor of everyone’s favorite hamburger joint.
Pat was a successful stand-up comedian, playing nightclubs and bars, and did guest spots on such shows as BAYWATCH, though he looked pretty bad in that one-piece bathing suit, jiggling in slow motion.
He passed away in November of 2005 at the age of 73.
As a part of the original cast and first person hired on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, Gilda Radner became a shooting star of late night TV. Some of her characters included Roseanne Rosannadanna, Emily Litella, Candy Slice and Barbara Wa-Wa. She started the catch phrase “It’s always something.” Her Lisa Loopner make being a nerd funny and cool. John Belushi said that she was the only woman who made him laugh. After five seasons, she left for Hollywood.
She was married to the great Gene Wilder, whom she play against in HAUNTED HONEYMOON. For many grown men, Gilda was their first television crush. She passed away on May 20, 1989 after a few bouts with cancer.
Icon is used way too much in this world, but Mel Brooks is an icon. He is one of those rare show business EGOTs: the winner of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.
As a writer/producer, Brooks is the mad genius behind TV’s GET SMART and such great comedy features as YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, BLAZING SADDLES, and THE PRODUCERS. Unfortunately he also made Dracula:Dead and Loving it and Life Stinks.
Married to Anne Bancroft, they worked together only once is the re-make of To Be or Not to Be.
One of his first gigs was writing on Syd Caesar‘s YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS. Some of the other writers on that program were Carl Reiner, Woody Allen, and Neil Simon. That shows that even a writer can make it. Arguably, his more famous line is “I cut my finger, that’s tragedy. A man walks into an open sewer and dies, that’s comedy.”
Friday, June 29
Best known as Gopher on THE LOVE BOAT, Fred Grandy was a staple of episodic television. For nine seasons, he floated around the ocean, looking for ports of call with such lovely ladies as Charro, Marion Ross and Rue McClanahan. For this he received hazard pay.
After a stint in the lower rungs of society as an actor, Fred took a step down the ladder and became a member of Congress. He served four consecutive terms which meant he had to share the Congressional hot tub with Ted Kennedy for eight years. In 1994 he unsuccessfully ran for Iowa governor.
There is only a few things worse than being a public servant and Fred stepped down one more rung on the ladder and became a morning radio talk show host. His only steps lower on that ladder are stand-up comic and rodeo clown.
Sunday, July 1
Dan Aykroyd is one of the original Not Ready for Prime-Time Players that revolutionized television comedy with SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE, and for four years Ackroyd entertained millions with his characters as Rod Serling, Tom Snyder and The Conehead Father.
With fellow SNL cast member John Belushi and members from Howard Shore‘s SNL band, Ackroyd formed The Blues Brothers Band, a soul, rhythm and blues act that combined Chicago and Memphis sounds. The Blues Brothers appeared on SNL as a popular musical act and even release an albumin 1978. In 1980 the act spawned THE BLUES BROTHERS, a comedy film that gave us many classic moments, including two of the best chase scenes in movie history, and which has been called “the only movie-musical a straight man can love.”
Ackroyd has gone on to appear in many films and television shows, both comedic and dramatic, even writing both GHOSTBUSTERS and GHOSTBUSTERS II himself.
In his most impressive feat, he married super hot model Donna Dixon.
Ackroyd is the owner of House of Blues, a tribute to the music he loves and his departed partner. Jamie Lee Curtis called him the best screen kisser she ever had a scene with–a higher honor could never be had.
Alan Ruck is best known for his role as Cameron Frye in John Hughes‘s classic film FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF. He was almost 30 when he played a high school kid which is sadly the age when some actually graduate from high school.
He can also be seen in SPEED, TWISTER, and YOUNG GUNS II, but you have to squint. He was also on TV’s SPIN CITY with Charlie Sheen, and it was that experience he learned about ‘Tiger Blood” and “Goddesses.”
Most recently he can be seen playing Leo Bloom in THE PRODUCERS on stages throughout the country.
Best known as Corporal Klinger on M*A*S*H, Jamie Farr actually served in Korea. His dog tags he used on the set were the ones issued from the Army. So was his girdle.
Way before Eddie Izzard, he made wearing a dress something to admire. His role of Klinger was to be a one-time gig but it turned out to be so popular that it was extended. It wasn’t until season three that he was given a regular spot. He rode that character to the end of the program and on to the awful AFTER M*A*S*H which lasted half a season.
He has an LPGA tournament named in his honor–the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. Even today, he is a classic dish.