Thursday, March 31, 2011

Kristy McNichol : Why she gave up her career

Kristy McNichol is a name we seldom hear anymore.  She certainly has turned away from the spotlight.  In fact, she hasn’t been seen on the screen since 1995.  Kristy retired from acting after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the early 1990s.  In the 1970s, however, she was one of the biggest stars on American television.  From 1976 until 1980, Kristy starred in the popular prime time drama Family.  She played Leticia “Buddy” Lawrence, the youngest member of the Lawrence family of Pasadena, California.  The late James Broderick played lawyer Doug Lawrence, the father of the family.  Broderick, who died of cancer in 1982, was the real-life dad of actor Matthew Broderick (Matthew and his wife, Sarah Jessica Parker, named their son James after him).  Sada Thompson portrayed the matriarch of the family, Doug’s stalwart wife, Kate.  Sada is now 83 years old. 
There were three Lawrence siblings.  Gary Frank played Willie, the middle child, and two actresses portrayed the divorced older sister, Nancy Lawrence Maitland.  Elayne Heilveil initiated the role of Nancy in 1976.  She was soon replaced by Meredith Baxter-Birney who would later shoot to fame on Family Ties in the 1980s.  Quinn Cummings joined the cast in 1978 as Annie Cooper, the Lawrences’ adopted daughter.
During the four-year run of the series, the characters faced several kinds of challenges and difficulties.  The show dealt with such issues as cancer, alcoholism and many teen-related problems.  For her performance in the role of Buddy Lawrence, Kristy McNichol received four Emmy Award nominations and earned two Emmys (1977 and 1979) for Best Supporting Actress in a Dramatic Series.
Kristy was born Christina Ann McNichol on September 11, 1962 in Los Angeles, California, the daughter of Jim McNichol, a carpenter, and Carollyne, an actress and business manager.  Her parents divorced when she was a young child.  At an early age, Kristy and her older brother Jimmy appeared in television commercials.  In 1973 she appeared in a segment of Love American Style entitled “Love and the Unsteady Steady.”
By the age of 12, Kristy was a regular on the short-lived CBS TV series Apples Way.  This drama focused on the lives of architect George Apple and his clan.  George, his wife Barbara and their four children decide to leave the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and move to George’s hometown of Appleton, Iowa where the city-bred children must adapt to life in a small rural community.  The show only ran for 13 episodes, but from 1974 to 1975, Kristy played the role of Patricia Apple, one of the four siblings. 
After the demise of Apple’s Way, Kristy was cast as the introspective teenager, Buddy Lawrence, in Family.  The show debuted in 1976 and was warmly received by fans and critics.  Kristy became a fixture on the cover of teen magazines and a genuine star.  In 1978, at the pinnacle of her stardom in Family, Kristy recorded an album with her brother Jimmy.  The album was titled Kristy & Jimmy McNichol and featured the Chiffons' 1963 hit single "He So Fine."  To promote the album, Kristy appeared on The Merv Griffin Show and The Carpenters Christmas Special. 

To listen to Kristy and Jimmy McNichol singing "He's So Fine," click on the link below.

During the 1970s, Kristy also made appearances on Starsky and Hutch, The Love Boat and The Bionic Woman.  In 1978, she won acclaim for her role as Patty Bergen in the television movie The Summer of My German Solder.  Kristy played a young Jewish girl living in Arkansas during World War II who befriends a German prisoner of war.
When Family ended, McNichol set her sights on a movie career.  She had already appeared in the 1978 dark comedy The End with Burt Reynolds.  In 1980, Little Darlings, a coming-of-age story, was realeased in which she starred with Academy Award winner Tatum O’Neal and an up-and-coming young actor named Matt Dillon.  

Kristy's  big screen career really began to blossom with the role of Polly in Only When I Laugh (1981) alongside Marsha Mason, for which she won a Golden Globe nomination.  In 1981, at the height of her movie stardom, 19 year-old Kristy received over a $1 million dollars for her appearance in the film The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia with Mark Hamill and Dennis Quaid.  This was an unprecedented amount for an actress of her age at that time.
In the late 1980s, with her film career in severe decline, Kristy McNichol found a new occupation – hairdressing.  She attended beauty school and worked at a friend’s Beverly Hills salon.  In 1988, however, she returned to television in the family comedy Empty Nest.  Kristy portrayed police detective Barbara Weston in the series.  Although Empty Nest was a success, Kristy left the show in 1992 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  The stress of acting was not conducive to her emotional well-being and she realized she had to give it up.  She did, however, appear in the final two episodes of the series in 1995. That was her last screen appearance, although she voiced characters in the animated series Extreme Ghostbusters (1997) and Invasion America (1998).
In 2001, Kristy McNichol issued a public statement explaining her decision to relinquish her acting career.  She said, “A lot  of people have wondered what I’ve been up to.  I retired from my career after 24 years.  My feeling was that it was time to play my biggest part – MYSELF.  I must say that it has been the best thing that ever happened to me.  So many fans are disappointed that I’m not currently acting, however some may not realize that the process I’m in at this time is necessary and vital for my personal happiness and well-being."

Now 48 years old, Kristy McNichol has never married and lives a very private life in Los Angeles.  She has taught acting at a private school and devotes time to charitable endeavours.

Jimmy McNichol, now 49, gave up acting sometime in the 1990s.  In 1996, he recorded as a singer under the name Jimmy James. Jimmy married his wife Renee in 1997 and is the father of two children, a son named Nash and a daughter named Ellis.

Editor's Update (January 25, 2013):

* Sada Thompson died on May 4, 2011 of lung disease at the age of 83.

* Kristy McNichol "came out" as a lesbian on January 6, 2011.  She stated that she had been living with her partner, Martie Allen, for 20 years.

- Joanne

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Bewitched Quiz

TV Banter Quiz #5
All right, Bewitched fans.  It’s time to test your knowledge of the show with TV Banter’s 18-question quiz. 

What was the name of the advertising agency that employed Darrin Stephens?
A.  MacDonald and Tate
B.  Tate and Johnson
C.  McMann and Tate
D.  Wilson and Tate
E.  Tate and Evans

2.  What was the name of Samantha’s warlock physician?
A.  Dr. Vienna
B.  Dr. Incantation
C.  Dr. Ballantyne
D.  Dr. Bombay
E.  Dr. Brewster

Aunt Clara

3.  What was Aunt Clara’s hobby?
A.  Collecting broomsticks
B.  Collecting doorknobs
C.  Writing books of magic spells
D.  Making witch hats
E.   Making a special brew for witches

4.  Larry and Louise Tate had a son.  What was his name?
A.  Jonathan
B.  Robert
C. Daniel
D.  Arnold
E.  Geoffrey

5.  What was the name of Darrin’s conniving ex-fiancee?
A.  Margaret Ashbury
B.  Jane Milton
C.  Donna Wilson
D.  Sheila Summers
E.  Maggie Walton

6.  Which actor portrayed Samantha’s father?
A.  Peter Grey
B.  Maurice Evans
C.  William Windom
D.  David White
E.  Carl Betz

7.  In the 1964 Christmas episode, “A Vision of Sugar Plums," Samantha and Darrin . . .
A.  help Santa Claus deliver presents
B.  receive an unusual gift from Endora
C.  invite Abner and Gladys Kravitz over for Christmas dinner
D.  discover a magic Christmas tree
E.  invite an orphan into their home

8.  How many episodes of Bewitched were made?  (This is your bonus question.  Give yourself an extra point if you answer it correctly)
A.  356
B.  212
C.  254
D.  312
E.  244

9.  Darren and Samantha’s daughter Tabitha was born on an episode titled “And Then There Were Three”.  What date was that episode aired?
A.   January 13, 1966
B.  January 14, 1965
C.  February 14, 1966
D.  February 13, 1967
E.  March 13, 1965

10.  Samantha’s Uncle Arthur, played by Paul Lynde, was the prankster of the family.  Was he related to Endora?
A.  He was not related to Endora.
B.  He was actually Endora’s cousin.
C.  He was Endora’s brother.
D.  He was the brother of Samantha’s father, Maurice.
E.  He was Endora’s brother-in-law.

11.  Who was Esmerelda?
A.  An old school friend of Samantha
B.  Samantha and Darrin’s housekeeper
C.  An employee at the advertising firm where Darrin worked
D.  Tabitha’s babysitter
E.  Endora’s best friend

12.  In 1961, Agnes Moorhead (Endora) played the role of a farm woman who faces mysterious invaders on which television series?
A.  Alfred Hitchcock Presents
B.  The Outer Limits
C.  Amazing Stories
D.  Bold Venture
E.  The Twilight Zone

13.  Samantha had a mischievous look-alike cousin named Serena, also played by Elizabeth Montgomery.  Montgomery’s performance as Serena was credited to a fictional character.  What was the name of that fictional character?
A.  Pandora Spocks
B.  Samantha Twin
C.  Samantha Double
D.  Liz Two
E.  Anne Other

14.  Which member of the Bewitched cast had a son who died in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, just before Christmas of 1988?
A.  Agnes Moorhead (Endora)
B.  Dick York (Darrin)
C.  Marion Lorne (Aunt Clara)
D.  George Tobias (Abner Kravitz)
E.  David White (Larry Tate)

Dick York with Montgomery

15.  Why was Dick York replaced as Darrin on the show?
A.  He had a heart condition.
B.  He quit because he was tired of playing the part.
C.  .  He had a severe back condition.
D.  He wanted to spend more time with his real-life family.
E.  He was not getting along with his co-star Elizabeth Montgomery.

16.  What happened to Darrin’s mother, Phyllis Stephens, whenever she witnessed a witch’s spell or strange happenings at her son’s home.
A.  She fainted
B.  She developed a headache.
C.  She coughed uncontrollably.
D.  She covered her eyes.
E.  She laughed nervously.

17.  Which famous baseball player appeared as himself on an episode of Bewitched?
A.  Mickey Mantle
B.  Whitey Ford
C.  Don Drysdale
D.  Willie Mays
E.  Hank Aaron

18.  Endora is known for her trademark heavy eyeshadow.  What colour was her eyeshadow?
A.  purple
B.  green
C.  blue
D.  brown
E.  pink

1.  C
The agency that employed Darrin Stephens was McMann and 

2.  D

The name of Samantha's warlock physician was Dr. Bombay.  Bernard Fox played the role of Dr. Bombay   Samantha always summoned him with the words, "Calling Dr. Bombay, calling Dr. Bombay.  Emergency!  Come right away!"  Bombay showed up in various costumes, offering dubious cures and making trite jokes.

3.  B.
Aunt Clara collected doorknobs.  Marion Lorne, the actress who portrayed Aunt Clara, had a collection of antique doorknobs in real life.

4.  A
The son of Larry and Louise Tate was named Jonathan, after David White’s (Larry) real-life.

5.  D.  Sheila Summers
The name of Darrin’s former girlfriend was Sheila Summers.  The role of Sheila Summers was played by Nancy Kovack.

6.  B.
Maurice Evans played Samantha’s father. 

7.  E. 
Samantha and Darrin invite an orphan into their home.  The orphan’s name is Michael and he doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.  Samantha takes him to the North Pole to visit the real Santa Claus.  By the way, the role of Michael was played by Billy Mumy who went on to portray Will Robinson in Lost in Space.

8.  C.  254
There were 254 episodes in the series and Elizabeth Montgomery is the only one who appeared in all 254 episodes.

9.  A.
Tabitha was born on an episode that aired on January 13, 1966.  Elizabeth Montgomery was expecting her second child at the time and the pregnancy was written into the script.

10.  C.
Uncle Arthur was Endora’s younger brother.

11.  B. 
Esmerelda, played by Alice Ghostly, was the timid housekeeper of the Stephens family.  When Marion Lorne (Aunt Clara) died in 1968, rather than cast another actress in the role of Clara, it was decided to add another character to the series.  Ghostly joined the cast as Esmerelda in 1969.

12.  E.
Agnes Moorhead appeared in “Invaders”, a 1961 episode of The Twilight Zone.

13.  A. 
It was Elizabeth Montgomery’s idea to use the pseudonym “Pandora Spocks” for her role as Serena.  “Pandora Spocks” is a play on “Pandora’s Box”.

14.  E.
David White’s 33-year-old son Jonathan White was killed in the terrorist attack on Pan Am Flight 103.

15.  C
Dick York was forced to leave the series due to a severe back condition caused by an accident he had had in 1959.  It was a degenerative spinal condition and he was in constant pain.  He left the show in 1969 and was replaced by Dick Sargent.

16.  B.
She developed a headache.

17.  D
Willie Mays appeared as himself in a 1966 episode of Bewitched called “Twitch or Treat”.

18.  C.
Endora’s trademark eyeshadow was blue.


To watch a video tribute to Endora, just click on the link below.   

Some notes on Bewitched

* Bewitched aired on ABC from 1964 until 1972.

* For those wondering about Samantha's maiden name, it was never mentioned in the series.  In Al Hines' novel Bewitched, her maiden name was referred to as "Dobson."

* Endora and Maurice were not divorced.  They were separated and did not get along particulary well.

- Joanne

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lee Majors: What is the Six Million Dollar Man up to these days?

Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive.  Gentlemen, we can rebuild him.  We have the technology.  We have the capability to make the world’s first bionic man.  Steve Austin will be that man, better than he was before.  Better, stronger, faster.
- From the introduction to The Six Million Dollar Man
To view the opening sequence of The Six Million Dollar Man, click on the link below.
Lee Majors became famous for his portrayal of Colonel Steve Austin, the bionic man on the hit series The Six Million Dollar Man.  The Six Million Dollar Man ran from 1974 until 1979 and sparked a succession of superheroes on television in the mid 1970s.  Lee's character was an astronaut who had been severely injured when his experimental moon-landing craft crashed in a desert.  In an attempt to save his life, government doctors performed a new kind of operation in which certain human parts were replaced by atomic-powered electromechanical devices. 
Steve Austin survived as a cyborg, part human and part machine.  He could run at an incredible speed.  He possessed superhuman vision and he had outstanding strength in his right arm.  With these abilities, Austin went on dangerous crime-fighting missions for the Office of Scientific Information
After The Six Million Dollar Man, Majors starred in another hit ABC series, The Fall Guy.   He played Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter.  The Fall Guy ran from November of 1981 until May of 1986.
In the early 1990s, Lee moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida and resided there for about ten years.  In 2001, he hosted Forbidden Secrets on Pax TV, a one-hour series that focused on little-known secrets such as where to purchase cheap diamonds or how to change your identity.
 Majors made a guest appearance on William Shatner’s CBS comedy $#*! My Dad Says.  The episode aired on February 3, 2011 and it marked the first time he and Shatner had worked together in 36 years (Shatner guest starred on The Six Million Dollar Man back in 1974).
Some interesting facts about Lee Majors

* Lee Majors’ real name is Harvey Lee Yeary.  He was born on April 23, 1939 in Wyandotte, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit.  His father, Carl Yeary, died in a work-related accident before he was born.  His mother, Alice Yeary, was killed in an automobile crash before his second birthday.  The child was then adopted by his paternal aunt and uncle, Harvey and Mildred Yeary, and brought to their home in Middlesboro, Kentucky.
* His first television series was The Big Valley in 1965.  He played the role of Heath Barkley, the illegitimate son of Victoria Barkley’s (played by Barbara Stanwyck) deceased husband, Tom.  Lee beat out scores of young actors, including Burt Reynolds, for the part of Heath.
* Majors has been married four times.  His first marriage was to Kathy Robinson in 1961.  They had one child, Lee Marjors, Jr. (born in 1962) and divorced in 1964.  Lee then wed actress Farrah Fawcett on July 28, 1973.  During Farrah’s Charlie’s Angels days, they were one of Hollywood’s most-watched couples, each starring in a hit television series.  They eventually split up and were divorced on February 16, 1982.
Lere married for a third time in 1988 to Playboy Playmate of 1985, Karen Valez.  Lee had three children with Valez; a daughter, Nikki Loren Majors (born 1988) and twin sons, Dane Luke Majors and Trey Kulle Majors (born 1992).  The marriage ended with a bitter divorce in 1994.  On November 1, 2002, Lee wed actress/model Faith Noelle Cross in Positano, Italy.  They settled in Las Vegas, Nevada.  At 71 years old, Lee Majors is 35 years older than 36-year-old Faith. 
* Lee reconnected with his ex-wife Farrah Fawcett shortly before her death from anal cancer in 2009.  They hadn’t spoken to each other for many years.  When she died on June 25, 2009, his issued a statement which read, “She fought a tremendous battle against a terrible disease.  She was an angel on earth and now an angel forever.
* Lee’s first screen appearance was in the 1964 movie Strait-Jacket with Joan Crawford and Diane Baker. 
* In 2003, Lee had single heart bypass surgery.
* All the running and jumping on The Six Million Dollar ravaged his knees.  In a 2001 story by Kevin D. Thompson for Cox Newspapers, Lee is quoted as saying, “When I would jump into a scene, I always had to land stiff-legged and couldn’t go down on my hands because I was bionic.  I had to absorb it all in my knees, and all that sudden impact really killed them.”
- Joanne

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bridget Loves Bernie Revisited: Meredith Baxter and David Birney

By the early 1970s, the dominance of such rural-based television shows as Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, The Beverly Hillbillies andThe Andy Griffith Show had ended.  Advertisers wanted to sell automobiles and they wanted to attract a wider market.  With the success of All in the Family and Sanford and Son, the focus was on a more urban and ethnically diverse audience.  Although a new situation comedy called Bridget Loves Bernie seemed exactly right for the times, it turned out to be a hot potato.

Bridget Loves Bernie was first telecast on the CBS network on September 16, 1972.  The series was created by Bernard Slade, the creator of ABC’s The Partridge Family (1970-74).  It was loosely based on the premise of Abie’s Irish Rose, a 1920s Broadway play and 1940s radio show. 
Set in New York City, Bridget Loves Bernie starred David Birney as Bernie Steinberg, an aspiring young playwright.  Bernie happens to be Jewish and he drives a taxi to make ends meet while pursuing his writing career.  One rainy day he meets Bridget Fitzgerald (Meredith Baxter), an elementary school teacher, at a bus stop.  It’s love at first sight, but when they discover their respective last names are Steinberg and Fitzgerald, they agree that they “have a problem.”  The two marry and romantic complications ensue.
Bridget’s parents are upscale Irish Catholics and her brother, Father Michael Fitzgerald, is a priest. Bernie’s parents, on the other hand, own and operate a Manhattan delicatessen.  The newlyweds share an apartment above the Steinberg’s delicatessen and try to adjust each other’s cultural, religious and social background.  Most of show’s humour and its plotlines revolved around the differences between their two families and Bridget and Bernie’s attempts to reconcile those differences.  For example, in one episode, the couple must decide whether to celebrate Christmas or Chanukah.
It is interesting to note that Bridget’s wealthy father, Walt Fitzgerald, was portrayed by David Doyle.  Doyle went on to play the role of Charlie’s assistant, John Bosley, on Charlie’s Angels.  He passed away on February 26, 1997 at the age of 67.
Bridget Loves Bernie had an ideal timeslot.  It aired on Saturday nights between All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its ratings were quite high.  Nevertheless, nervous CBS executives decided to cancel the series in response to the mail they received objecting to the inter-religious marriage depicted on the program.  Some religious groups, particularly Jewish, were upset that the show condoned and publicized mixed marriages. 
Bridget Loves Bernie went off the air after just one season.  Remarkably, the series was cancelled at the end of a season in which it finished number five in the Nielsen ratings.  It ran for 24 episodes and its final episode aired on March 3, 1973.

A scene from Bridget Loves Bernie

After the cancellation of Bridget Loves Bernie, its two stars married in real life.  Meredith Baxter and David Birney wed in 1974 and had three children – Kate (born 1974) and twins, Mollie and Peter (born 1984).  Meredith took the stage name “Meredith Baxter Birney”.  When their marriage ended in divorce in 1989, she reverted to “Meredith Baxter”.
After Bridget Loves Birney. Meredith’s career flourished.   She won two Emmy nominations for her portrayal of Nancy Lawrence Maitland, the older sister on the ABC drama Family (1976-1980).  Then she landed her signature role.  From 1982 until 1989, Meredith starred in the smash hit series Family Ties as Elyse Keaton, the amiable mother of Michael J. Fox’s precocious young conservative, Alex P. Keaton.

David took on numerous television roles (Hawaii Five-0, Medical Center, Fantasy Island, Police Story) and starred in several television movies, but never really had a huge hit of his own.  In 1976, he played the Al Pacino part in the short-lived TV version of Serpico.  From 1982-83, he appeared as Dr. Ben Samuels in the hospital drama, St. Elsewhere.
Meredith Baxter’s autobiography titled Untied: A Memoir of Family, Fame, and Floundering was released on March 1, 2011.   In her book, she alleges that David Birney repeatedly abused her, both psychologically and physically, during their 15 years of marriage.  She claims that she dealt with the alleged abuse by drinking and that she has been sober since 1990.  Baxter admits to driving under the influence.  She says she was so terrified of facing David at home that she would sip wine as she drove back from the set of Family Ties in the 1980s. 
 In a statement to People magazine, Birney, 71, vehemently denied his ex-wife’s allegations.   He described her claims as “an appalling abuse of the truth” and insisted she concocted her tales of woe to win custody of their three children.  The 63-year-old Baxter, however, is standing by her account.
To watch a video of the pilot episode of Bridget Loves Bernie, click on the link below.
- Joanne