Monday, February 06, 2006

clap your hands if you believe

In the days before the Internet, I would usually learn about a celebrity death from the AP or UPI wire machine at the radio station. I had a co-worker who had a similar interest in the deathstyles of the rich and famous. When a celebrity died, I would call my colleague and leave him a voicemail. To use a recent passing as an example, my phone message would have been: "The actor best known for his roles as Bronx police officer Leo Schnauzer on "Car 54, Where Are You?" and as the cigar-chomping Grandpa Munster has died. Al Lewis was 82."

It's now easier than ever to get the obits of the stars. I was an early subscriber (#124) to In fact, if you scroll down their old news page to November 11, 2000, you'll see a link to the first radio interview Tony Orciuoli ever did about the site. The interviewer? Me, during my fifth show on the old Comedy World Radio Network.

Two recent deaths gave me reason to reflect. I met the legendary Fayard Nicholas the year I was grand marshal of Burbank on Parade. He was in the parade but certainly would have been a better grand marshal than me. You need to see footage of the Nicholas Brothers tap dancing to believe it. You may see it and still not believe it. They were that amazing. Fayard died January 24th.

The second death was that of the aforementioned Al Lewis. In the late '80s or early '90s, Blockbuster Video had a grand opening somewhere in Virginia or Maryland. The deejays I worked for were hired to do an autograph-signing appearance in the store. I went along to help. "Granpa" was hired to be there too. He sat a table with a stack of 8 x 10 glossy photos. Before the doors opened, Al began signing photos with just his name. As fans lined up they would ask him to personalize the autograph. Al would shout to those lined up, "No salutations!"

I wonder how Fayard and Al will fare on the "In Memoriam" applause-o-meter during the Oscars.
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Blogger Frank Strovel III said...

Al Lewis loved acting like an old crank. People use to go to his restaurtant just to be yelled at or insulted by him during their meal.

Speaking of celebrity deaths...I'm pretty sure I did Eddie Rabbitt's last radio interview. It was just weeks before he died and I was last on his list of interviews he had scheduled to promote an album of children's songs he had released during his remission from cancer.

Blogger Frank Murphy said...

My friend Bean will probably love to hear all about it. Any chance you have an aircheck?


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