Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Happy Birthday, Dr. Kildare. Richard Chamberlain is 77 today

Richard Chamberlain played the title role in the popular television series Dr. Kildare.  As Dr. James Kildare, he was a leading heartthrob of the early 1960s.  With his handsome features and charming demeanour, Richard had the women swooning over him.  The series aired from 1961 until 1966 and made the previously unknown Chamberlain a star.
Kildare was certainly different from some of today’s television doctors.  One of the most popular current medical dramas is House.  House details the experiences of a team of diagnosticians at a fictional New Jersey hospital.  The group is headed by grumpy, unshaven, misanthropic Dr. Gregory House.  As portrayed by British actor Hugh Laurie, House is a medical genius, although he is not the most pleasant of human beings.  His methods are unconventional and he certainly does not play by the book.  For many, that is an integral part of his appeal.
Medical shows have sure changed since the days of Marcus Welby, Ben Casey and James Kildare.  In contrast to House, they had a scrubbed and squeaky clean image.  When M.G.M. chose Dick Chamberlain for the role of Dr. Kildare, fellow actor Jack Nicholson quipped, “It was inevitable.  Who else could possibly look as antiseptic as Dick?”
Dr. Kildare was based on a hugely successful series of movies in the 1940s.  James Kildare was a young intern in a big city hospital.  He dealt with the traumas and tribulations of his patients while trying to earn the respect of Dr. Leonard Gillespie, the senior doctor in his specialty, internal medicine.  Gillespie was portrayed by Toronto-born Raymond Massey, brother of former Governor General of Canada, Vincent Massey.
 In the third season of the series, Dr. Kildare was promoted to resident.  His intern colleagues were no longer seen and the stories began to focus more on individual patients and their families.  For the 1965/66 season, the show was seen twice a week as a half hour program instead of once a week for an hour. 
George Richard Chamberlain was born in Beverly Hills, California on March 31, 1934.  He was the second son of Charles Chamberlain, a salesman, and Elsa, a homemaker.  Richard, who turns 77 years old today had an unhappy childhood and did not enjoy school until he attended Pomona College in Claremont, California.  At Pomona, Richard studied art and developed an interest in acting.  Soon after his graduation, Paramount Studios expressed an interest in the young man.  Richard, however, had to give up the chance to sign with Paramount because he was obliged to serve in Korea for a period of more than a year. 
When Dick returned from military service, he was ready to launch his acting career.  He made guest appearances on such series as Gunsmoke and Mr. Lucky before his big breakthrough with Dr. Kildare in 1961.  The show was a sensation and Chamberlain became a teen favourite.  He appeared on posters and launched a brief singing career.
After 191 episodes, Doctor Kildare came to end in 1966.   Richard tried to become a serious film actor but he couldn’t shake his Prince Charming image and the perception that he was only a television star.   As a result, he left Hollywood behind and concentrated on being a stage performer.  He appeared in such productions as The Philadelphia Story, Private Lives and West Side Story.  In 1968, he moved to England to perform in classical theatre.  When he returned to the U.S., he made a successful debut on Broadway as Reverend Shannon in Night of the Iguana.  He also enjoyed a degree of popularity in such films as The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Towering Inferno (1974). 
It was on television, however, that Richard enjoyed the greatest resurgence of his career.  He won much acclaim and earned the title “king of the mini-series.” for his performances in The Count of Monte Cristo (1975), Shogun (1980) and The Thorn Birds (1983).  All three won him Emmy nominations and the latter two earned him Golden Globe awards. 
In December of 1989, Richard was “outed” by the French women’s magazine Nous Deux.  It was not until 2003 at age 69 that he identified himself as a homosexual in his autobiography Shattered Love.  Appearing on NBC’s Datelane, he made the following statement: “I am not a romantic leading man anymore so I don’t need to nurture that public image anymore.  I can talk about it now because I’m not afraid anymore . . . When I grew up, being gay, being sissy or anything like that, was verboten.  I disliked myself intensely and feared this part of myself intensely, and had to hide it and became ‘Perfect Richard, All-American Boy’ as a place to hide.”

In more recent years, Chamberlain has devoted himself to musical theatre.  He has also appeared in the gay-themed comedy I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry (2007) and television episodes of Will and Grace (2005 episode, “Steams Like Old Times”) and Desperate Housewives (2007 episode, “Distant Past”).  To watch a video of his performance in Desperate Housewives, click on the link below.
Richard resided in Hawaii for quite some time with his partner, actor-writer-producer Martin Rabbett, but returned to Hollywood in 2010.  Since his return, he has taken on the role of Jonathan Byrold in the TV drama Brothers and Sisters and he has guest starred in the U.S. series Chuck as an international spy named Adelbert De Smet.
- Joanne

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Coolness of The Mod Squad

When The Mod Squad premiered in September of 1968, it was the height of the psychedelic ‘60s and young people were warned by their peers not to trust anyone over 30.  The series was in tune with the times as it featured three young undercover cops.  They were hip.  They were cool.  They wore great shades.  What a trio!
The police drama starred Michael Cole as Pete Cochran, Peggy Lipton as Julie Barnes and Clarence Williams III as Lincoln Hayes.  Tige Andrews played their boss, Captain Adam Greer.  Greer recruited the three cool cats for a special “youth squad” to infiltrate the counterculture and bring to the surface adult criminals who took advantage of vulnerable youth in Southern California.  They agreed to become crime fighters in order to avoid going to prison themselves. 
The show's promotional line described the trio as "One White, One Black, One Blonde."  Although Pete, Linc and Julie had all had brushes with the law and were under probation, each came from different social and economic backgrounds.  Pete was the son of wealthy Beverly Hills denizens.  He had been thrown out of their home for stealing a car.   Lincoln Hayes was the product of a poor black ghetto home.  He had been arrested during the Watts riots.  The female of the group, Julie Barnes was the daughter of a homeless prostitute. 
The Mod Squad was based on the real-life experiences of its creator, Bud Ruskin.  Ruskin was a former police officer who later became a private detective.  During his service with the Los Angeles Sheriffs department in the 1950s, he became part of an undercover narcotics squad comprised of young people.  Although Ruskin composed the pilot script for The Mod Squad in 1960, it took eight years before the ABC network put it on the air.  The delay proved fortunate because the series was more successful in 1968 than it probably would have been during the pre-hippie Kennedy era.

Produced by Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas, The Mod Squad resonated with the Woodstock generation.  Using expressions such as “dig it” and “solid,” the crime fighting trio displayed enough anti-establishment defiance and trendiness to attract an angry young audience.  Parents approved of the show too, because the three hip undercover cops were actually the good guys.  After five years and 123 episodes, The Mod Squad ended its run in 1973. 

Tige Andrews reprised his role as Adam Greer the 1979 television movie The Return of Mod Squad.  His final screen appearance was in a 1991 episode of Murder She Wrote titled "Family Doctor."

The cast of the series reunited for a 1979 television movie called Return of Mod Squad.  The premise of the movie was that the three hip cops joined forces after a seven year absence in order to identify someone who was threatening Captain Adam Greer. 


Michael Cole

Michael Cole, born July 3, 1945 in Madison, Wisconsin, is now 65 years old.  Since 1961, he has appeared in numerous films and television shows.  After guest shots on such series as Gunsmoke and Run for Your Life, he landed the role of Pete Cochran on The Mod Squad.  It was a role that Cole did not want to take on initially.  He told Aaron Spelling that “a show about kids ratting on their own buddies was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard.”  He said he wouldn’t do it, but he did.
After The Mod Squad ended its run in 1973, Michael just drifted.  He appeared in some television movies and in episodes of The Love Boat and Fantasy Island.  He also did some stage work with touring theatre productions.  By the mid-1980s, his personal life was in tatters and he was drinking excessively.  He had two failed marriages and three children. 
In 1987, Cole secluded himself in a cabin in the Santa Monica Mountains.  He said he was “hiding and at the same time looking for myself.”  It took him some time for Michael to pull himself together.  He was still living in the mountain cabin in 1989 when he met Shelley Funes, a divorced sales-ad representative for Rolling Stone magazine, at a Malibu restaurant.  They married in 1996.
In 1994, at Shelley’s urging, Cole entered the Betty Ford Clinic to deal with his drinking problem.  Michael Cole remains active in various television and film projects.  In a 2006 episode of ER called “Reason to Believe,” Michael played the role of Charles Hadley.  In 2007, he appeared in the movie thriller Mr. Brooks as the lawyer for “Atwood,” a character portrayed by Demi Moore.
Here are some other interesting facts about Michael Cole:
* In 1991, Michael played the role of Harlan Barrett on the ABC soap General Hospital. 
* He once dated Deana Martin, the daughter of Dean Martin.
* He owned a metallic silver Porsche.
To watch a Michael Cole acting reel, click on the link below.

Clarence Williams III
Clarence Williams III played Lincoln B. Hayes, the dour guy with the huge Afro and dark sunglasses.  Born in New York City on August 21, 1939, Williams is now 71 years old.  Clarence began his career on the stage.  He was nominated for Broadway’s Tony Award in 1965 as Best Supporting or Featured Actor (Dramatic) for his performance in Slow Dance on the Killing Ground.  His role on The Mod Squad was his first major acting role on television. 
After the demise of The Mod Squad, Clarence returned to the stage.  In 1979 he appeared on Broadway in Night and Day opposite Maggie Smith.  In the 1980’s, Williams began to take on streetwise character roles in motion pictures.  He played some menacing characters too.  One of his best known screen roles is his portrayal of Prince’s abusive father in Purple Rain (1984).
Clarence Williams III was married to actress Gloria Foster from 1967 until 1984.  After their divorce, they remained friends.  When the 67-year-old Foster died of diabetes on September 29, 2001, it was Clarence Williams III who made the announcement of her death.
Here are some interesting tidbits about Clarence Williams III:
* Clarence III was raised by his musical grandparents.  He is the grandson of legendary jazz composer/pianist Clarence Williams.  His grandmother was blues singer Eva Taylor.
Clarence and Gloria Foster appeared together in the 1964 movie The Cool World.
EDITOR'S UPDATE: Clarence Williams III died of colon cancer on June 4, 2021.  He was 81 years old.

Peggy Lipton
Peggy Lipton was born Margaret Ann Lipton in New York City on August 30, 1946.  She is now 64 years old.  Peggy was married to music producer Quincy Jones from 1974 until 1990.  The couple had two daughters, Kidada Ann Jones (born March 22, 1974) and Rashida Leah Jones (born February 25, 1976).
She began her career as a model for the Ford Modeling Agency.  Her family moved to Los Angeles in 1964 and by 1965 she had won the role of Joanna in the short lived TV series, The John Forsythe Show.  Her character was a student at a private girls’ academy in San Francisco. 
Peggy was still relatively unknown when she was cast in the role of Julie Barnes in The Mod Squad in 1968.  Her performance as the sensitive undercover detective rocketed her to stardom.  She earned four Golden Globe nominations and won the 1971 Golden Globe for Best TV Actress in a Drama. 
Peggy also achieved some success as a singer with the singles “Stoney End” (1968) (later a hit for Barbra Streisand, “Lu” (1970) and the Donovan composition, “Wear Your Love Like Heaven” (1970).  All three songs made the Billboard Charts.
Lipton was a member of the cast of the David Lynch television series Twin Peaks from 1990 until 1991.  She played the role of Norma Jennings, the owner and operator of the Double R Diner.   Peggy also portrayed Norma in the 1992 motion picture prequel to the series, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.  It is interesting to note that her Mod Squad co-star, Clarence Williams III, had the recurring part of Roger Hardy on the Twin Peaks TV series.
In 2004, Peggy Lipton was diagnosed with colon cancer.  She received treatment and is apparently in remission.  Her last television acting role was in 2007 as Adam Rhodes’ mom, Fay, in Rules of Engagement.
Here are some quick facts about Peggy Lipton:
* Peggy’s 35-year old daughter, Rashida Jones, is also an actress.  Rashida appeared on Boston Public and joined the cast of The Office in September of 2006, playing the role of Karen Filippelli.  In recent years, she has been appearing as a guest star on the series.  Rashida is the former girlfriend of actor Toby McGuire. 

Rashida Jones

* Peggy’s other daughter, Kidada Jones, 37, is an actress and fashion designer.
*Although born to Jewish parents, Peggy practices Hinduism. 
EDITOR'S UPDATE: Peggy Lipton died of colon cancer on May 11, 2019.  She was 72 years old at the time of her passing.

Tige Andrews
Tige Andrews passed away on January 27, 2007 at the age of 86.  He died of cardiac arrest at his residence in the San Fernando Valley.  Andrews had a long and successful television career in which he frequently portrayed detectives.  A respected character actor who appeared on over 60 shows, he is remembered most for his stint on The Mod Squad.
Tige Andrews reprised his role as Adam Greer in 1979 in The Return of Mod Squad.  His final television acting appearance was in a 1991 episode of Murder She Wrote titled “Family Doctor.”

Tige Andrews

R.I.P. Sada Thompson
On March 31, 2011, I wrote about Kristy McNichol and why she left her acting career.  In my posting, I mentioned Kristy’s castmates on the popular 1970s television series Family, including Sada Thompson who portrayed matriarch Kate Lawrence on the show.  Sadly, Sada passed away on May 4 in Danbury, Connecticut at the age of 83.  Her daughter, Liza Stewart, said she died of lung disease.
Get well, Mary Tyler Moore
Television icon Mary Tyler Moore, 74, is scheduled to have brain surgery to remove a benign tumour called a meningioma.  It is not life-threatening and she is expected to make a full recovery.  Best wishes, Mary, and get well soon. 

- Joanne

Friday, May 6, 2011

Dick Clark: From American Bandstand to Perry Mason and Beyond

"The World’s Oldest Teenager” is 81 years old.  Richard Wagstaff “Dick” Clark was born on November 30, 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York.  He started his career in 1945 when he worked in the mailroom of radio station WRUN in Utica, New York.  He eventually became a weatherman and then a newsman.

In 1952, Dick moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and took a job as a disc jockey at radio station WFIL.  WFIL was affiliated with a television station which broadcast a music and dance show titled Bob Horn’s Bandstand.  Dick became a regular substitute host on the program and when Horn left in July of 1956, Dick replaced him as full-time host.  
Bandstand was picked up by ABC and was first televised nationally on August 5, 1957.  The name of the show was changed to American Bandstand and its all-white policy came to an immediate end.  Dick Clark soon began introducing talented black artists to young television audiences.  
American Bandstand became a huge hit.  By 1959, it was broadcast on 101 affiliates and reached an estimated audience of 20 million.  The formula was simple.  Dick hosted one or two guest performers whose songs were currently on the pop charts.  They lip-synched their hits and discussed their careers.  During the rest of show, Clark played popular hits while the studio audience danced.  There was also a segment of the show called "Rate-a-Record" in which couples were asked to judge a song.
The daytime version of American Bandstand continued on ABC until August of 1963.  It then became a once-a-week Saturday afternoon show until its cancellation by ABC in 1987. Dick continued to produce the show for syndicated television and then for the USA Network until 1989.  He hosted Bandstand until 1988.  David Hirsch took over the hosting duties during the show's final year in 1989.  It is interesting to note that Dick Clark's first interview on that first American Bandstand Show in 1957 was with Elvis Presley.

Dick Clark hosting American Bandstand
I have always thought of Dick Clark as a television host and a producer of specials and games shows such as the $25,000 or $100,000 Pyramid.  I hadn’t realized that he had done any acting until I watched a DVD of the old Perry Mason show recently.  Dick made a rare dramatic appearance in the very last episode of the series, “The Case of the Final Fadeout.”  The episode originally aired on May 22, 1966 and its plot involves the murder of a nasty actor.  Perry Mason successfully defends the accused killer, but then the accused killer turns up dead.  An eccentric, aging actress is blamed for the second murder.  Are there two murderers and is the same person responsible for both murders? 
In “The Case of the Final Fadeout,” Dick Clark played the role of Leif Early, one of the suspects.  Surprisingly, Dick’s character turned out to be the killer.  Clark abandoned his nice guy image to play an unsavoury murderer – and he did so convincingly.  To watch a video clip of his appearance on Perry Mason, click on the link below.
Some other interesting bits of trivia about the final episode of Perry Mason:
* Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, appeared as Judge #2.
* Jackie Coogan, child actor and portrayer of Uncle Fester on The Addams Family, played Pete Desmond, one of the suspects.
I was quite impressed with Dick Clark’s performance on Perry Mason and I decided to research his other television acting roles.  I learned that had 19 acting parts, although one was a voice role and one was a brief uncredited role as a newscaster.  Many of his appearances were in the mid-1960s.
One of Dick’s earliest acting performances was in a 1963 episode of Stoney Burke, an old series about a rodeo rider.  He also appeared in a  1965 episode of Ben Casey called “Then I, and You, and All of Us Fell Down," a 1966 episode of Lassie titled “The Untamed Land” and a 1966 episode of Honey West called “There’s a Long, Long Fuse A’Burning” in which he played a publicity agent named Payton.
Once again, Dick played against type when he took on the role of a nerdy, psycho killer in the 1968 film Killers Three.  In 1972 Dick was a guest star on an episode of Adam 12 and in 1977 he portrayed Irv Berman in the TV movie Telethon.  His most recent television acting performance was as himself in a 2003 episode of Baby Bob titled “You Don’t Know Jack.”
Clark has been married three times.  He wed his childhood sweetheart, Barbara Mallery, in 1952 and they had a son named Richard (born January 9. 1957).  The couple divorced in 1961.  Dick married for a second time in 1962 to Loretta Martin.  They became the parents of twins, a son Duane and a daughter Cindy (born January 8, 1965), and were divorced in 1971.  Since July 7, 1977, Dick has been married to Kari Wigton, a former dancer from Minnesota.  The ceremony began at 7:00 p.m. and the wedding vows were performed by the father of actor John Davidson.

Dick and wife Kari

In 1972, Dick Clark began producing and hosting Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve.  He suffered a debilitating stroke on December 8, 2004 and has been left with a speech impediment.  For the first time in 32 years, he was unable to join in the New Year's festivities.  Regis Philbin filled in for him that year and he returned to the broadcast in 2005, despite his slurred speech.
In 2010, Dick and his wife Kari appeared at the 37th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards.  It was a very emotional occasion for a Dick and his eyes welled up as he was honoured for his more than 30 years of hosting American Bandstand.
 Dick Clark’s well known catchphrase, which he delivers with a military salute, is “For now, Dick Cark . . . so long.`` 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Dick Clark died of a heart attack on April 18, 2012 at the age of 82.

 - Joanne