Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Goodbye, Columbo! Peter Falk's Death

Peter was the same kind of digger as an actor as his character Columbo was in finding the truth in that great TV series.  He was a blast to work with and I learned more about acting from him at that early stage of my career than I had from anyone else.
- Stephen Spielberg, who directed Falk in the first episode of Columbo in the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie series in 1971

Peter Falk will always be remembered for his portrayal of one of the most memorable detectives in the history of American television.  He died last Thursday, June 23 at his home in Beverly Hills, California at the age of 83.  The actor had been suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.  Unfortunately, the final years of Peter's life were tarnished by a nasty legal battle betwen his wife, Shera, and his daughter, Catherine, over control of his legal affairs.  In 2009, a judge decided that Shera would retain control.

A veteran actor with a 50 year career in theatre, film and television, Peter Falk rose to fame in his role as Lieutenant Columbo, the rumpled detective in the wrinkled old raincoat.  He was born Peter Michael Falk in New York City on September 16, 1927.  His father, Michael Peter Falk, was the proprietor of a clothing and dry goods store.
At the age of three, Peter’s right eye was surgically removed due to cancer.  He wore a glass eye for most of his life.  Near the end of World War II, when he was 17, Peter tried to enlist in the armed forces.  He was rejected due to his eyesight and served as a cook in the Merchant Marines instead.

In 1953, Falk graduated with a Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School of Syracuse University where he was trained as a civil servant.  He then began working as a management analyst with the Connecticut State Bureau in Hartford.  It was during his time in Harford that Peter became involved with a local theatre group called the Mark Twain Masquers.   By I956, Peter had left Hartford to pursue an acting career in New York.

In the Big Apple, Falk found steady work in various Broadway and off-Broadway theatres.  Most notably, he performed  in The Circle in the Square's highly regarded production of The Iceman Cometh with Jason Robards.  After achieving success on the stage, Peter left New York and moved to Hollywood to begin a film career.

Falk's breakout film was 1960's Murder Inc., the true story of a gang that had terrorized New York in the 1930s.  He was cast in the supporting role of a ruthless hitman named Abe Reles and was nominated for an Oscar.  That same year, he was also received his first Emmy nomination for his performance as a drug addict in The Law and Mr. Jones. 

In 1961, Peter appeared in Frank Capra's A Pocketful of Miracles, with Bette Davis and Glenn Ford.  For his work in that film, he picked up his second Oscar nomination.  Then, to top it off, he won an Emmy for his role in The Dick Powell Playhouse television presentation of "The Price of Tomatoes."

In 1965, after turning down several television series offers, Peter took on a starring role in a one-hour comedy whodunit called The Trials of O'Brien.  He played New York attorney Daniel J. O'Brien in the short-lived series.  Plagued by low ratings and complaints from the American Bar Association, the show was cancelled after just 22 episodes.
Peter Falk first played Columbo in a 1968 television movie titled Prescription: Murder.  A second TV movie, Ransom for a Dead Man, followed in 1971.  On September 15, 1971, Columbo began airing as part of the NBC Mystery Movie that consisted of three rotating 90-minute shows. The other two shows were McMillan and Wife and McCloud.  That September 15 debut episode was directed by a 25-year-old Stephen Spielberg in one of his earliest directorial works.  It was called "Murder by the Book" and its gueat stars were Jack Cassidy and Rosemary Forsyth.

The NBC mystery movie series ended in 1977.  Columbo, however, returned to the screen in February of 1989, this time in a 2-hour televison movie format on the ABC network.  Peter Falk continued to appear in these TV movies for many years.  His final performance as Columbo aired on January 30, 2003 and was titled "Columbo Likes the Night Life." 

Columbo's shabby attire, including his trademark trench coat, was taken from Falk's own wardrobe.  Although he drove a dilapidated old car and appeared to be an inoffensive bumbler, Columbo was actually one of the shrewdest homicide detectives on the Los Angeles police force.  His modus operandi was to trick murder suspects into the false sense that he was not clever enough to identify them.  With his dishevelled appearance and squinty gaze, the seemingly absent-minded, cigar-chomping Columbo was constantly underestimated by the criminals.  Somehow, he caught them off guard and he always managed to dredge up one last detail in order to trap them.

Peter Falk married twice.  On April 17, 1960, he wed Alyce Mayo, a dress designer and pianist, whom he had met when they were fellow students at Syracuse University.  The couple adopted two daughters, Catherine and Jackie.  Ironically, Catherine became a private detective.

In 1976, Peter and Alyce divorced.  On December 7, 1977, Falk married for a second time to actress Shera Danese who made several guest appearances on the Columbo series.  Peter and Shera remained together until his death. 


* Did you know that Peter Falk was not the producers' first choice to play Columbo?  Their first choice was Bing Crosby.  According to The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network TV Shows 1946-Present, Crosby was the first actor approached for the role.  Bing was 67 years old at the time and a multimillionaire.  His passion was golf and her turned down the role of Columbo because it would interfere with his game.  As it turned out, Crosby died on a golf course in Madrid, Spain in 1977 at the age of 74.   Lee J. Cobb was also offered the part, but he too declined. 

* Columbo's mantra was "Just one more thing."  He would say that before bringing up one last detail that would always trip up the murderer.  Peter Falk used that catchphrase as the title of his 2006 autobiography Just One More Thing, published by Caroll and Graff. 

* What was Lt. Columbo's first name?  Although Columbo's first name was never spoken, it was clearly seen on his credentials and his badge.  His full name was Frank Columbo. 

* Columbo never received a promotion from the Los Angeles Police Department.  He remained a lieutenant for over 35 years. 

* Peter Falk won four Emmy awards for his portrayal of Columbo.

To listen to Columbo's theme music and watch a video tribute to Peter Falk, click on the link below.


- Joanne

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Little Mosque on the Prairie: Its Portrayal of Muslims

One of my favourite Canadian television shows is Little Mosque on the Prairie.  I enjoy its gentle humour and its light-heartedness.  Its comedy is so subtle that it does not even have a laugh track.  To me, that's refreshing.

The series was created by producer Zarqa Nawaz.  She is a Muslim of Pakistani origin who was born in Liverpool, England and raised in Toronto.  She now lives in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Nawaz describes herself as a "Muslim feminist."

Little Mosque on the Prairie first aired on CBC in 2007.  It centres on the lives of a Muslim community in the small fictional town of Mercy, Saskatchewan.  The community has rented space for its mosque in the parish hall of an Anglican church. 

In the post-9/11 world, the portrayal of Muslims is a very sensitive undertaking.  It is impossible to please everybody and criticism from Muslim and non-Muslim is inevitable.  Some are bound to be offended.

Little Mosque has not escaped criticism, nor should any television program.  Healthy debate is necessary and welcome, especially in the case of a show like Little Mosque, which arouses sensibilies.  The series has been attacked for being shallow and for not really dealing with serious issues. 

Canadian writer and produce Ken Finkleman, who is best known for the CBC series The Newsman, expressed a dim view of Little Mosque.  He said that there is “deep confusion and racism about the place of Islam in the Western world and it’s the thing that’s broiling up under everything in the world, and the show presents this world where everything is happy."

Conservative critics detest Little Mosque on the Prairie.  They say that the series is too politically correct.  They claim that it does not address some real issues in the Muslim community such as "honour killings" and the treatment of women.

Nawaz has responded to these criticisms by stating that the primary purpose of the show is to be funny, not to be a political platform.  It aims to highlight the strengths, weaknesses and foibles that are found among Muslims and in all races, religions and cultures.

On February 11, 2011, CBC announced that Little Mosque on the Prairie has been renewed for a sixth and final season.  I will miss it when it finishes, but six years is a good run for a television sitcom.  Little Mosque's fans are certainly looking forward to Season Six.

Little Mosque on the Prairie is groundbreaking in the sense that it was the first Muslim sitcom in North America.  In a comedic fashion, the series has opened up some much-needed dialogue concerning the portrayal of Muslims on television and their relationship with non-Muslims.  It deals with the very real misunderstandings and misconceptions between the two groups. 


One of the stars of the Little Mosque on the Prairie is Zaib Shaikh.  He portrays Amaar Rashid, the beleaguered imam of the small town mosque.  Amaar changed his life drastically when he left his comfortable career as a lawyer in Toronto to lead a small community of Muslim faithful in a sleepy prairie town.  His liberal views come into conflict with the more conservative members of his congregation.

Amaar is not your stereotypical imam.  He is clean-shaven and he sometimes wears jeans.  In last season’s final episode, he married Rayyan, the town’s feisty doctor, played by Sitara Hewitt.  Rayyan is a headstrong, devout, hijab-wearing feminist.

As reverent Muslims, Amaar and Rayyan were not permitted to touch each other before their wedding.   The season ended with the newlyweds going off on their honeymoon and trying to decide whether to remain in Mercy or to accept Amaar’s job off offer in Montreal.
Zaib Shaikh was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1974.  He is a Muslim of Pakistani descent.  Zaib studied theatre and drama as part of the joint University of Toronto/Sheridan College  He also holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia.

Zaib has worked and performed across Canada as a writer, director, actor and producer.  Prior to taking on the role of Amaar on Little Mosque,  he played the part of Vancouver city councillor Shakil Khan in Da Vinci's City Hall.


I wonder if Little Mosque is too Canadian for Americans to embrace or if our neighbours to the south are ready to accept such a series.  My hope is that if any of my American readers have seen the show, they will contact me and let me know their point of view.

In December of 2010, U.S. news anchor Katie Couric remarked that maybe America needs a Muslim version of The Cosby Show.  I'm not sure Little Mosque on the Prairie fits that description.  The Cosby Show has been accused of being a sanitized depiction of the black experience in America.  Little Mosque has been criticized for not being a realistic portrait of Muslims.  Perhaps that is where the similarity ends. 

Not surprisingly, Katie Couric received a great of flak from right- wingers for her remarks.  The point, however, that Couric tried to make, is that American television is in need of a show that puts a human face on Muslims.  For five years, Little Mosque on the Prairie, has done just that on Canadian television.

To watch a video of Zaib Shaikh's reaction to Couric's comment (during his appearance on George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight), click on the link below.


- Joanne

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Ultimate Leave it to Beaver Quiz

Above photo, Left to Right: Tony Dow (Wally Cleaver), Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver), Jerry Mathers (Beaver Cleaver) and Hugh Beaumont (Ward Cleaver).


Okay, Leave it to Beaver fans, let's see how well you do on this 20-question quiz.  Ready, set, go!

1.  Theodore "Beaver" Cleaver was named after someone.  For whom was he named?
A.  Theodore Roosevelt

B.  Ward's father

C.  Aunt Martha's brother

D,  Ward's best friend in high school

E.  June's grandfather

2.  Whatever happened to Ken Osmond who played Eddie Haskell?

A.  He became Alice Cooper
B.  He became a police officer.
C.  He died in the Vietnam War.
D.  He became a lawyer.
E.  He is a California congressman.

3.  Who was Beaver’s confidant when he sought advice or had a problem to solve?
A.  Frank the policeman
B.  Andy the school football coach
C.  Tom the postman
D.  Jim the store clerk
E.  Gus the fireman

4.  Who was the principal of Grant Avenue Grammar School?
A.  Mrs. Redmond
B.  Mrs. Johnson
C.  Mrs.  Rayburn
D.  Mrs.  Evans
E.  Mrs. Rosemond

5.  By the third season of the show, the Cleaver family had moved to a new house.  What was the address of the house?
A.  144 Maple Avenue
B.  1220 Elm Street
C.  511 Grant Avenue
D.  211 Pine Street
E.  411 Oak Street

6.  Who was Beaver’s teacher before Miss Landers?
A.  Miss Canfield
B.  Miss Rogers
C.  Miss Hanson
D.  Miss Dale
E.  Miss Fields

7.  What food was Beaver’s friend Larry Mondello constantly eating?

Rusty Stevens as Larry

A.  Apples
B.  Potato chips
C.  Ice cream cones
D.  Bananas
E.  Chocolate chip cookies

8.  Was Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford an only child?
A.  Yes
B.  No, he had a younger brother named Alan.
C.  No, he had a older brother named Clyde.
D.  No, he had an older sister named Ethel
E.  No, he had a younger sister named Violet.

9.  In the episode “Miss Lander’s Fiance,” Beaver is upset to learn that Miss Landers is engaged.  In that episode, which game does Miss Landers play with her fiance?  (This is your bonus question.  If you answer it correctly, give yourself an extra point.)
A.  Bowling
B.  Tennis
C.  Horseshoes
D.  Croquet
E.  Badminton

10.  Ward Cleaver originally drove a Ford Fairlane.  What kind of car did Ward Cleaver drive in the early 1960s?
A.  Chevrolet Impala Hardtop.
B.  Pontiac Bonneville Vista Hardtop
C.  Plymouth Fury Hardtop
D.  Dodge Polara Hardtop
E.  Ward drove a Buick Electra Hardtop

11.  How did Theodore Cleaver acquire the nickname “Beaver?”
A.  He once spent a great deal of time drawing a picture of some beavers building a dam.
B.  When Beaver was a baby, Wally had difficulty pronouncing “Theodore” and it came out sounding like “Beaver.”
C.  Ward liked to read young Theodore stories about busy beavers.
D.  Wally was thinking of words that rhymed with Cleaver and he came up with “Beaver.”
E.  June Cleaver was born in Oregon, the Beaver State, and she wanted to honour her home state.

12.  What was June Cleaver’s maiden name?
A.  Cromwell
B.  Bennett
C.  Blake
D.  Davis
E.  Bronson

13.  Did a black person ever appear on Leave it to Beaver?
A.  No, never.
B.  Yes, once as a bus driver.
C.  Yes, in a barber shop scene when Beaver was getting his hair cut.
D.  Yes, in one episode as a maid.
E.  Yes, in one episode a player on Wally’s baseball team was African-American.

14.  Where was Ward Cleaver raised?
A.  Ward grew up on a farm outside of Mayfield.
B.  He is the son of a dentist from Cleveland.
C.  His father was a blue-collar worker in New Jersey.
D.  His parents were circus performers in New York.
E.  His father was a newspaper editor in Philadelphia.

15.  In a 1960 episode entitled “Beaver Won’t Eat,” what food did Beaver refuse to eat?
A.  Spinach
B.  Broccoli
C.  Brussels sprouts
D.  Fried liver and onions
E.  Prunes

16.  What was Miss Landers' first name?

A.  Emily

B.  Alice

C.  Jane

D.  Elizabeth

E.  Catherine

17.  When Eddie Haskell gets Beaver in trouble for seeing a forbidden movie, how does Beaver attempt to get back at Eddie?

A.  He hides Eddie's homework.

B.  He embarrasses Eddie front of a girl he likes.

C.  He causes Eddie to be late for class.

D.  He puts a toad in Eddie's pocket.

E.  He makes a voodoo doll of Eddie.

18.  Which well-known actor appeared in a 1961 episode of Leave it to Beaver called "Wally Goes Steady?"

A.  Burt Reynolds

B. Robert Redford

C.  Ryan O'Neal

D.  Martin Sheen

E.  William Hurt

19.  In a 1962 episode titled "Eddie Quits School,"  what job did Eddie Haskell take when he dropped out of high school?

A.  He was a busboy at a restaurant.

B.  He worked at a gas station.

C.  He sold encyclopedias.

D.  He worked in a pet store.

E.  He worked at a movie theatre.

20.  For how many seasons did Leave it to Beaver run?

A.  10 seasons

B.  6 seasons

C.  8 seasons

D.  7 seasons

E.  5 seasons

1.  C
Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver was named after Aunt Martha’s brother.

2.  B
Ken Osmond joined the Los Angeles Police Department in 1970 and served 18 years with the force.  There is an urban myth that he is Alice Cooper.  This is absolutely untrue.  Born June 7, 1943 in Glendale, California, Ken is now 68 years old.

3.  E
Whenever Beaver needed someone to talk to, he would visit Gus at the fire station.

Beaver and Larry at the fire station with Gus
4.  C.
Mrs. Cornelia Rayburn was the principal of Grant Avenue Grammar School.  The role of Mrs. Rayburn was played by Doris Packer who passed away on March 31, 1979 at the age of 74.

Packer as Mrs. Rayburn

5.  D
The  Cleaver family moved to 211 Pine Street.

6.   A
Beaver’s teacher before Miss Landers was Miss Canfield.  The role of Miss Canfield was played by Diane Brewster.  Diane, who also played the doomed Helen Kimble in The Fugitive, died of heart failure on November 12, 1991.  She was 60 years old.

7.  A
Larry Mondello was constantly munching apples.  He also consumed a lot of candy bars.  Larry was portrayed by child actor Robert "Rusty" Stevens.  Rusty, who was born December 25, 1948, left the show in 1960.  He reprised his role as Larry Mondello, however, in the 1983 television movie, Still the Beaver and for three episodes of The New Leave it to Beaver.  It is interesting to note that Madge Blake, who portrayed Larry's anxiety-ridden mother, Margaret Mondello, also played Aunt Harriet Cooper in the 1966-1968 Batman series.  Madge died of a heart attack on June 19, 1969.  She was 70 years old.

8.  E
Clarence “Lumpy” Rutherford had a younger sister named Violet.  Violet was portrayed by English-born Veronica Cartwright.  Veronica's younger sister, Angela Cartwright, portrayed Danny Thomas' stepdaughter, Linda, in Make Room For Daddy and Penny Robinson in Lost in Space.  

9.  B
In that episode, Miss Landers (portrayed by the late Sue Randall) plays tennis with her fiancĂ©.  Sue Randall, a heavy smoker, died of lung cancer on October 26, 1984 at the age of 49.

10.  C
Ward Cleaver drove a Plymouth Fury in the early 1960s.

11.  B
The reason for Beaver’s nickname was not revealed until the final episode of the series.  When Theodore was a baby and Wally was a little boy, Wally had difficult pronouncing his brother’s name.  “Theodore” came out sounding like “Beaver.”  The nickname stuck.

12.  E
June Cleaver’s maiden name was Bronson.  She was born June Evelyn Bronson.

13.  D
Yes, once.  Kim Hamilton is the only African-American actress to appear on Leave it to Beaver.  She played a maid in the 1963 episode “The Parking Attendants."  Only one minority character played a significant role in an episode of the series.  During the second season of the show, in an  episode that aired on October 23, 1958, Beaver befiends a Spanish-speaking boy named Chuey Varela.  Eddie Haskell plays a mean trick on Beaver when he attempts to converse with his new friend.  The episode is titled "Beaver and Chuey."

14.  A
Ward Cleaver grew up on a farm near Shaker Heights, a community near Mayfield (where the Cleaver family resides).

15.  C.
In the episode “Beaver Won’t Eat,” aired on October 15, 1960, Beaver refuses to eat Brussels sprouts.

16.  B

Miss Landers' first name was Alice.

17.  E

In a first season episode of the series titled "Voodoo Magic,"  Beaver makes a voodoo doll of Eddie Haskell.  He is annoyed with Eddie because Eddie caused him to be punished for seeing a movie called Voodoo Curse

18. D

Ryan O'Neal appeared on Leave it to Beaver before he starred on Peyton Place.

19.  B

Eddie quit school to work at Mr. Thompson's service station.

20.  B

Leave it to Beaver ran for 6 seasons, from 1957 until 1963.  There were 235 episodes of the series including the original pilot episode.


Hugh Beaumont (Ward Cleaver) passed way in Munich, Germany on May 14, 1982 at the age of 73.  He died of a heart attack while visiting his son, a psychology professor, in Munich.

Barbara Billingsley (June Cleaver) died on October 16, 2010 at her home in Santa Monica, California at the age of 94.  She suffered from polymyalgia, a disease of the muscles.

Editor's update (April 17, 2013) - Frank Bank, who played dimwitted troublemaker Clarence "Lumpy" Rutherford died in Los Angeles on April 13, 2013.  The cause of his death has not been disclosed.  He was 71 years old and had become a stockbroker after his acting career ended.  Jerry Mathers (Beaver Cleaver) and Barbara Billingsley were his clients.   Mathers wrote on Facebook : "I was so sad to hear today of the passing of my dear friend and business associate Frank Bank, who played Lumpy on Leave it to Beaver.  He was a character and always kept us laughing.  My deepest condolences to Frank's family."

Frank Bank was also the author of a memoir titled Call Me Lumpy, which was published in 2002.

Frank Bank as Lumpy

- Joanne

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The children of Rick Nelson and Kristin Harmon

On television, the Nelsons were billed as "America's favourite family."  In The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, they were the idealized TV family of the 1950s and '60s.  In real life, everything was not so rosy for the offspring of Ozzie and Harriet.  In fact, grandson Matthew Nelson was quoted in an August 5, 1991 People magazine article ("Nelson, the Next Generation") as saying, "We come from the grand-daddy of dysfunctional families."

Ricky Nelson, the youngest of Ozzie and Harriet's two sons, married Kristen Harmon on April 20,1963 in what Life magazine called "The Wedding of the Year."  The nuptials took place at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Los Angeles, California. Rick and Kris had four children: Tracy Kristine Nelson (born October 25, 1963), identical twin sons, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson (born September 20, 1967) and Sam Hilliard Nelson (born August 29, 1974).

Wedding of Rick and Kris in 1963 

The breakup of Kris and Rick Nelson's marriage was bitter and acrimonious.  According to Gunnar, right before his parents separated, "my mom started drinking really heavily."  He said, "She went to AA, but there were drunken battles that none of us will ever forget."

Tracy Nelson

Tracy Nelson, the eldest of the four children, is 47 years old.  She began her acting career at a young age.  In 1968, when she was less than 5 years old, Tracy played one of Henry Fonda's daughters in the film Yours, Mine and Ours.  In 1982, Tracy won the role of Valley Girl Jennifer DeNuccio in the short-lived TV high school sitcom, Square Pegs.  Square Pegs only ran for 20 episodes, from 1982 to 1983.

Tracy in Square Pegs

On July 25, 1987, Tracy married actor William R. Moses, one of the stars of the prime time television series, Falcon Crest.  The wedding took place on Catalina Island.  A month after the marriage Tracy was diagnosed with Hodgkins disease, a form of cancer.  She underwent surgery to remove parts of her liver and lymph nodes.  After months of chemotherapy, her weight dropped drastically, but the cancer went ino remission.  Tracy returned to television in 1989 as Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski in The Father Dowling Mysteries.

The Father Dowling Mysteries (titled Father Dowling Investigates in the U.K.) began airing regularly in 1989 and ended in 1991.  The series centred on the adventures of a Chicago priest named Father Frank Dowling, played by Tom Bosley of Happy Days fame.  Aided by his sidekick, Sister Steve, the savvy priest and the streetwise nun continually stumbled on crimes such as abduction and murder.  The clerical duo worked tirelessly to solve the cases.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Tracy made guest appearances on such television series as Family Ties (2 episodes, 1984-85), St. Elsewhere (1984), Matlock (1994), Melrose Place (4 episodes, 1994-1995), Touched by an Angel (1996) and Seinfeld (1998).  In 1995, she performed on Broadway as Rizzo in Grease.

Tracy and Billy Moses divorced in 1997.  They are the parents of a daughter named Remington Elizabeth Moses, born August 11, 1992.  Tracy also has a son, Elijah Nelson Clark, born August 22, 2001.  Elijah's father is director Chris Clark. (Editor's Note: On the IMDb website, Clark is described as Tracy's ex-boyfriend).

Gunnar and Matthew

Matthew and Gunnar are 43 years old now.  Always musically inclined, they recorded a demo at the age of 11.  Music became their refuge from the stress and unpleasantness of their parents' bitter divorce.  In the fall of 1985, when they were 18 years old, due to issues with their mother, the brothers decided to move in with their dad. They were devastated when he died in a plane crash on New Year's Eve of that same year.

The blond-haired twins evenually formed a pop/rock band called Nelson.  Their debut album was titled After the Rain, an allusion to their rueful family history.  The album was a huge success and produced a Number 1 hit in 1990, "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection."

The matriarch of the family, Harriet Hilliard Nelson, who died in 1994 at the age of 85, lived to witness the accomplishments of her twin grandsons.  She had great affection for Matthew and Gunnar.  In 1991, she described them as her "pride and joy."  She said, "I went out to the studio where they shot their video and felt at home again."

On July 14, 1995, Matthew Gray Nelson married model/actress Yvette Shilo Stevens.  On March 10, 2009, he filed for divorce in Los Angeles, citing irreconcilable differences.  Gunnar Nelson currently resides in Nashville, Tennessee.  In recent years, the brothers have performed together on cruise ships.  In February of this year, twenty years after After the Rain, they released a new album titled Lightning Strikes Twice. 

Sam Nelson, the youngest of Kris and Rick's children, is now 36.  He is an actor and a musician. As a child, Sam was caught in the middle of the ugly custody battle between his parents.  It was filled with accusations of profligate spending, poor parenting and drug abuse.  At the age of six, Sam was placed in the care of his maternal grandparents, former football star Tom Harmon and his wife Elyse, a movie actress of the 1940s.

Sam Nelson

After Rick Nelson's death, young Sam was once again embroiled in a tug-of-war custody battle, this time between his mother and her brother, actor Mark Harmon.  In 1987, Mark and his wife, Pam Dawber (of Mork and Mindy fame), attempted to win custody of their nephew on the basis that Kristen was an unfit mother.

Kristen Harmon Nelson had been plagued by psychological problems, drug and alcohol addictions.  Prior to her  well-publicized court battle with her brother and his wife, Kris underwent treatment for substance abuse at New Beginnings, a respected facility at L.A.'s Century City.  She was eventually granted custody of Sam, although Mark and Pam were given visitation rights.  Kris, Sam and Mark all agreed to participate in family therapy sessions.

Sadly, the nasty custody battle tore the Harmon family apart.  Kris told People magazine that her parents "expected her to be a perfect person - and I guess I tried to be that." She said they were not pleased about her breakup with Rick.  "As Roman Catholics, they've never forgiven me for getting the divorce.  And they've never forgiven me for not being perfect."  According to Kris, her family "never found fault with Ricky - they always blamed me for everything."

Sam Nelson survived his traumatic childhood.  He became lead singer of a band called h is orange.  Apparently, the group's name is derived from Sam's memory of seeing words and letters in colour.  It represents a way of  looking at things from a new and different perspective.

To watch a video of an interview with Sam Nelson, click on the link below.


To watch a video of Sam, Matthew and Gunnar Nelson singing their father's hit son, "Garden Party." click on the link below.


Rick Nelson also fathered a son named Eric Jude Crewe , born February 14, 1981.  Eric's mother is Georgeann Crewe, whom Nelson met in 1980 at the Playboy Resort in Great Gorge, New Jersey.  A 1985 blood test later confirmed that Rick was the child's father and he agreed to provide $400 per month in child support.

Editor's Update: (January 26, 2014):  Matthew Nelson married model and actress Kari Ahlstrom in the fall of 2013.  They are the parents of a son, Ozzie Matthew Nelson, born August 29, 2014.

Kari Ahlstrom

Editor's Update: (December 28, 2014):  Gunnar Nelson married Lila Kersavage on October 7, 2014.  Here is their wedding photograph.

- Joanne