Monday, December 5, 2016

RIP Van Williams

‘Green Hornet’ Star Van Williams Dies at 82

By Wil Thorne, Maane Khatchatourain
December 5, 2016

Van Williams, star of the 1966 TV show “The Green Hornet,” died last Monday in Scottsdale, Ariz., of renal failure. He was 82.

“He had a wonderful, caring, and kind heart,” his wife of 57 years, Vicki Williams, told Variety. “He was a wonderful husband; he was a fabulous father, and a devoted grandfather.”

Williams was a diving instructor in Hawaii when he was discovered in 1957 by producer Mike Todd, who was married to Elizabeth Taylor at the time. Williams was persuaded to come to Hollywood and try his hand at acting, and earned his big break on the ABC private detective show “Bourbon Street Beat.” He played Ken Madison, a character he later recycled for another detective show, “Surfside 6.”

In 1966, Williams signed a deal with 20th Century Fox to star in “The Green Hornet” as both the titular masked crusader and his newspaper editor alter ego, Britt Reid. He was ably supported by his martial arts master sidekick Kato, played by Bruce Lee, and by his weaponized car, Black Beauty. Williams played the role straight, signaling a departure from the lampoon comedy of Fox’s earlier “Batman” series.

Williams later appeared in iconic shows such as “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as well as in the young adult-targeted “Westwind,” which centered around the adventures of the Andrews family who sailed around the world on a yacht.

After his acting career dropped off in the late 1970s, Williams became a reserve deputy sheriff and a volunteer fire fighter at the Malibu station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Actress Pat Priest (“The Munsters”), Williams’ longtime friend and neighbor, said Williams was his mentor.

“We had many fun dinners around our dining room table,” Priest told Variety. “We laughed a lot and he was my mentor in helping me with memorabilia shows. He was very special. We saw him last year and we have wonderful memories.”

Producer Kevin Burns, who worked with Williams on a relaunch campaign for “Batman” and “Green Hornet” in 1989, told Variety that Williams had singed his lungs while working as a volunteer fire fighter, and suffered from bronchial problems and back injuries.

“Through it all he remained strong and rarely spoke of what he went through. He was a great guy and a class act all the way,” Burns said in his Facebook post.

Williams is survived by his wife; three children, Nina, Tia, and Britt; and five grandchildren.

WILLIAMS, Van (Van Zandt Jarvis Williams)
Born: 2/27/1934, Fort Worth, Texas, U.S.A.
Died: 11/28/2016, ScotTsdale, Arizona, U.S.A.

Van Williams’ westerns – actor:
Colt .45 (TV) – 1959 (Tom Rucker)
Lawman (TV) – 1959 (Zachary Morgan)
Cheyenne (TV) – 1962 (Ray Masters)
Temple Houston (TV) – 1964 (Joey Baker)
The Big Valley (TV) – 1968 (Sheriff Dave Barrett)
Gunsmoke (TV) – 1974 (Quincy)
How The West Was Won (TV) – 1976-1978 (Captain MacAllister)
Centennial (TV) – 1979 (George)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

RIP Billy Chapin

Billy Chapin, Child Actor in ‘Night of the Hunter,’ Dies at 72

By Seth Kelley
December 3, 2016

Billy Chapin, a child actor known for his roles in “The Kid from Left Field” and “The Night of the Hunter” has died. He was 72.

Chapin’s sister and fellow former child actor, Lauren, announced the news on Facebook Saturday. She wrote that Billy had died Friday night “after a long illness.”

“Billy was a wonderful brother to both Michael and me,” Lauren wrote. “And he made us proud of all the great films he was in… He will be greatly missed.”

Billy, Lauren and their brother, Michael, were all successful child actors during the 1940s and ’50s. Billy, born “William McClellan Chapin” is the middle of the three siblings who were all born in Los Angeles.

Apart from several stage appearances as a newborn, Billy got his start in 1951 in the Broadway production of “Three Wishes for Jamie.” His first big on-screen role was as the “Diaper Manager” Christie Cooper in the 1953 baseball film “The Kid from Left Field.” The family film also starred Dan Dailey, Anne Bancroft and Lloyd Bridges.

Billy’s most recognizable role came in 1955 in the film noir film “Night of the Hunter” directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. Although it was considered a critical and commercial failure at the time, in 1992, the United States Library of Congress selected the picture for preservation in the National Film Registry, forever preserving its legacy.

After “Night of the Hunter,” his film career declined, then his television roles wrapped as well until his career in Hollywood ended in 1959.

CHAPIN, Billy (William McClellan Chapin)
Born: 12/281943, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Died: 12/2/2016 U.S.A.

Billy Chapin’s westerns – actor:
Night of the Hunter – 1955 (John Harper)
My Friend Flick (TV) – 1955 (Billy Rawlins)
Cheyenne (TV) – 1955 (Tommy Scott)
Tension at Table Rock – 1956 (Jody Burrows)
Fury (TV) – 1956, 1959 (Louis Baxter Jr., Vic Rockwell)
Zane Grey Theater (TV) – 1957 (Billy Morrison)
The Californians (TV) – 1958 (Joey)
Frontier Justice (TV) – 1959 (Billy Morrison)

Friday, December 2, 2016

RIP Don Calfa

Rest In Peace Don Calfa (1939 – 2016)

By Ken W. Hanley
December 2, 2016

Just a few days short of his 77th birthday, FANGORIA is sad to report that cult film and horror icon Don Calfa has passed away, as per various reports from his former co-stars. A fine performer and convention stalwart, Calfa’s standing in the genre film community was never questioned, and while he was long overdue for a career renaissance akin to his more prolific counterparts, Calfa’s work certainly speaks for itself, and will remain to do so for years to come.

Having started his career as a frequent collaborator of Robert Downey Sr., with a prominent supporting role in Downey’s benchmark cult film GREASER’S PALACE, Calfa quickly became a steady working character actor. Calfa found himself working with filmmakers such as Peter Bogdanovich, William Castle (in the killer mime film SHANKS), Martin Scorsese, Blake Edwards, Mark Rydell, and Steven Spielberg, whilst landing a memorable turn in the 1978 comedy hit FOUL PLAY. But Calfa wouldn’t cement his place in horror history until taking on the role of mortician Ernie Kaltenbrunner in Dan O’Bannon’s RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, where his pitch-perfect comedic timing and chemistry among the ensemble cast helped him steal scenes from greats such as Clu Gulager and James Karen.

While Calfa would find more success throughout the ’80s and ’90s, with memorable roles in projects such as WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S, BUGSY, and STAY TUNED, the actor would keep his toes in the world of horror throughout the years, with small but memorable roles in Brian Yuzna’s NECRONOMICON and PROGENY, the Peter Hyams-helmed episode of AMAZING STORIES, Troma’s CHOPPER CHICKS IN ZOMBIETOWN, and even a blink-if-you-miss-it role in TWIN PEAKS. However, Calfa’s film work would slow down in recent years, with the actor instead spending time at horror conventions whilst enjoying his semi-retirement. His final genre film effort would be an uncredited turn in 2004’s CORPSES ARE FOREVER, helmed by genre filmmaker Jose Prendes.

Don Calfa passed away earlier this week at the age of 76, and he will be missed. Rest in Peace.

CALFA, Don (Donald George Calfa)
Born: 12/3/1939, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
Died: 12/1/2016, Palm Springs, California, U.S.A.

Don Calfa’s western – actor:
Greaser’s Palace – 1972 (Morris)

Sunday, November 27, 2016

RIP Joe Esposito

Los Angeles Times
November 27, 2016

January 22, 1938 - November 23, 2016 Joe (Joseph Carmine) Esposito passed away peacefully in Calabasas, California, at 78. Joe was born of Italian immigrants in Chicago, Illinois. He was a happy, jovial man who made friends with everyone he met. Often his children were told "Your father is the nicest man I've ever known!" An Italian through and through, he loved to cook and entertain, nurturing family and friends, thriving in the laughter and enjoyment around the table. His playful nature endeared him to many, and he was gifted in reaching out and staying in touch. And, of course, music was a great love¿ Best known as Elvis Presley's road manager and best friend, Joe and Elvis met in the army in 1958, while stationed in Germany. They worked together until Elvis' death in 1977. He also worked with Michael Jackson, The Bee Gees, Karen Carpenter and John Denver. He has written multiple books about his life with Elvis, and was a great source of stories and antidotes for Elvis fans until the day he passed, constantly appearing at Elvis conventions and celebrations. Joe was preceded in death by his wife, Martha (Gallub), and survived by his three children, Debbie and Cindy - from his first marriage to Joan (Kardashian), and Anthony - from his second marriage to Martha, and his three grandchildren, Cody, Rebecca and Dylan. Private memorial only. Please contact family at his email address. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to John Douglas French Alzheimer's Foundation (

ESPOSITO, Joe (Joseph Carmine Esposito)
Born: 1/22/1938, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
Died: 11/23/2016, Calabasas, California, U.S.A.

Joe Esposito’s western – actor:
Stay Away, Joe – 1968 (man who take’s Joe car)

RIP Fritz Weaver

Fritz Weaver, Tony-Winning Character Actor, Dies at 90

The New York Times
By Robert Berkvist
November 27, 2016

Fritz Weaver, a Tony Award-winning character actor who played a German Jewish doctor slain by the Nazis in the 1978 mini-series “Holocaust” and an Air Force colonel who becomes increasingly unstable as the nation faces a nuclear crisis in the 1964 movie “Fail Safe” died on Saturday at his home in Manhattan. He was 90.

His death was confirmed by his son-in-law, Bruce Ostler.

Mr. Weaver won a Tony in 1970 for his role in Robert Marasco’s drama “Child’s Play” about the malevolent environment at an exclusive Roman Catholic school for boys.

Mr. Weaver and Ken Howard played teachers of wildly different temperaments who inevitably became adversaries. Mr. Weaver was the fierce disciplinarian. Mr. Howard, as his easygoing rival, also won a Tony.

But winning the Tony did not catapult Mr. Weaver into stardom. “What I remember is a vast silence from the phone,” he said, “because people said, ‘We won’t offer it, now, because we can’t offer him enough money.’”

From the 1950s on, Mr. Weaver was a familiar presence on television shows like “Studio One,” “Playhouse 90,” “Mission: Impossible” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

He appeared in two episodes of “The Twilight Zone” — “The Obsolete Man” and “Third From the Sun,” in which he played a scientist who plots to take his family aboard a rocket to escape earth before a nuclear war.

He was nominated for an Emmy for his performance in the NBC mini-series “Holocaust,” playing Dr. Josef Weiss, the patriarch of a Jewish family who is denied his livelihood, is sent to the Warsaw ghetto and then to Auschwitz to die.

Mr. Weaver made his Broadway debut in 1955 in “The Chalk Garden,” Enid Bagnold’s play about the woes of an aristocratic British family. Mr. Weaver won laughs and a Tony nomination with his portrait of the fussy household butler.

A review in The Boston Globe said: “Mr. Weaver boasts sound basic equipment; a natural ease on the stage, aristocratic good looks and a resonant baritone, which he attributes to a family line that boasts a number of opera singers.”

Mr. Weaver went on to appear in a revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Great God Brown” (1959) and the Phoenix Theatre’s 1960 staging of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” in which he starred as the world-weary British monarch.

His other Shakespearean roles included Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth. For the latter role, The New York Times said in 1973, Mr. Weaver was almost unrecognizable, having transformed from “thin, fine-drawn, long-fingered” into a “robust, burly Macbeth.’’

Mr. Weaver’s theater credits also included the 1979 revival of Arthur Miller’s “The Price”; Lanford Wilson’s “A Tale Told” (1981), part three of a trilogy about a feuding Missouri family, in which he played the clan patriarch with what Frank Rich in The Times called “an often startling mixture of pathetic senility and foxy viciousness”; and Mr. Wilson’s “Angels Fall” (1982).

In later years Mr. Weaver turned increasingly to voice-over work, serving as narrator of, among other specials, “The Rape of Nanking” (1999) and “Unsung Heroes of Pearl Harbor” (2001), as well as many shows on the History Channel.

One of his last roles was in the 2015 Adam Sandler film “The Cobbler.” He also appeared in the 2016 film “The Congressman,” starring Treat Williams.

Fritz William Weaver was born on Jan. 19, 1926, in Pittsburgh, the son of John Carson Weaver and the former Elsa Stringaro.

After graduating from the University of Chicago, where he majored in physics, he came to New York and enrolled in acting classes at the Herbert Berghof Studio. In 1954 he made his Off Broadway debut in “The Way of the World” at the Cherry Lane Theater.

Mr. Weaver’s first marriage, to Sylvia Short, ended in divorce. He married the actress Rochelle Oliver in 1997. She survives him, as do his daughter, Lydia Weaver; his son, Anthony; and a grandson.

He was often cast as an aristocratic villain. In “The Day of the Dolphin” (1973), directed by Mike Nichols, Mr. Weaver played the head of a shadowy company supporting researchers (George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere) who are studying dolphin intelligence. His sinister goal was to use trained dolphins to attach explosives to the presidential yacht.

Mr. Weaver’s screen credits also included “Marathon Man” (1976), “Demon Seed” (1977), “Creepshow” (1982) and “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1999).

In a 1988 interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Mr. Weaver spoke about the challenges actors face.

“When you play the great roles, you get spoiled and think you’ll have a whole career playing nothing but great roles, and of course you can’t,’’ he said. “You play a lot of junk most of the time. Television is junk, most of it.”

But he reveled in performing Shakespearean roles.

“The old boy — he’s the one who makes the maximum challenge to the actor,’’ he said. “That high charge on all the lines that he writes — you’ve got to measure up. You can’t just saunter into that stuff; you’ve got to bring your whole life into it.”

WEAVER, Fritz (Fritz William Weaver)
Born: 1/19/1926, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Died: 11/26/2016, Manhattan, New York, U.S.A.

Fritz Weaver’s westerns – actor:
Rawhide (TV) – 1964 (Jonathan Damon)
Gunsmoke (TV) – 1967 (Marshal Burl Masters)
The Big Valley (TV) – 1967, 1969 (Burke Jordan, Hebron Grant)
The Outcasts (TV) – 1968 (Sam Craft)
Kung Fu (TV) – 1974 (Hillquist)
Dream West (TV) – 1986 (Senator Thomas Hart Benton)