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Obits: November 2005


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'Tonight Show' Bandleader Skitch Henderson


'Tonight Show's' Skitch Henderson

NEW HAVEN, Connecticut - Skitch Henderson, the Grammy-winning conductor who lent his musical expertise to Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby before founding the New York Pops and becoming the first "Tonight Show" bandleader, died Tuesday, November 1. He was 87. Henderson died at his home in New Milford of natural causes, said Barbara Burnside, spokeswoman for New Milford Hospital.

Born in England, Lyle Russell Cedric Henderson moved to the United States in the 1930s, eking out a living as a pianist, playing vaudeville and movie music in Minnesota and Montana roadhouses. He got his big break in 1937, when he filled in for a sick pianist touring with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. When the tour wrapped up in Chicago, he used the original pianist's ticket and went to Hollywood.

There he joined the music department at MGM and played piano for Bob Hope's "The Pepsodent Show." His friendship with Hope put him in touch with other stars of the day, including Crosby, who became a mentor to Henderson.


Skitch and Ruth Henderson

He studied with the noted composer Arnold Schoenberg, and Henderson's talented ear brought him renown from some of the era's most successful musicians. "I could sketch out a score in different keys, a new way each time," Henderson said earlier this year. That quicksilver ability earned him the nickname "the sketch kid," which Crosby urged him to adapt to "Skitch." It stuck.

During World War II, Henderson flew for both the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Corps. At his estate in New Milford, which he shared with his wife, Ruth, Henderson kept a collection of aviation memorabilia. Even at 87, he had said he hoped to fly the Atlantic once more.

After the war, Henderson toured as Sinatra's musical director and lived what he called a "gypsy lifestyle," touring the country with various bands. It was Sinatra's phone call that lured Henderson to New York. "Frank said, 'I'm moving the "Lucky Strike Show" to New York. Get rid of those gypsies and get back here where you belong,'" Henderson recalled in 1985.


Judy Garland and Skitch Henderson

He served as musical director for the "Lucky Strike" radio show and "The Philco Hour" with Crosby. And when NBC moved to television, the studio brought Henderson along as musical director. In 1954, NBC pegged him as the bandleader for Steve Allen's "Tonight Show," which brought Henderson into the nation's living rooms every night. Even as the hosts changed from Allen to Jack Paar to Johnny Carson, Henderson was a constant.

He founded the New York Pops in 1983, using popular tunes to make orchestral music exciting. "People come to hear music that's accessible to them -- old songs that are powerful and don't go away," he said. Even in his late 80s, Henderson maintained a tireless work schedule as music director for the Pops, where he regularly served as conductor. He also was a frequent guest conductor at a number of orchestras around the world.

"I watch the public like a hawk. If I see boredom, I worry," Henderson said. "You can tell by the applause: There's perfunctory applause, there's light applause, and then there's real applause. When it's right, applause sounds like vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce."

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'Dead Zone', 'Star Trek' Producer Michael Piller


'Dead Zone', 'Star Trek' Producer Michael Piller

Michael Piller, co-creator of USA Network's "The Dead Zone" TV show and a veteran "Star Trek" writer/producer, died in the early morning hours of Tuesday, November 1 after a long fight with cancer, the official "Star Trek" Web site reported. Piller suffered from an aggressive form of head and neck cancer. He was 57.

Piller is perhaps best known among SciFi fans for his contributions to the "Star Trek" franchise, for which he wrote and/or produced episodes of the 'Next Generation,' 'Deep Space Nine' and 'Voyager.' Piller co-created that latter series with Rick Berman and Jeri Taylor. He also wrote the screenplay for the ninth "Star Trek" movie, "Insurrection."


Michael Piller joins two of his TV series stars. On the left, Patrick Stewart (Captain Jean Luc

Picard) and Michael Piller discuss a scene from 'Star Trek.' On the right, Michael Piller and

Anthony Michael Hall address fans at a 2002 SciFi convention.

Earlier in his career, Piller served as a staff writer on such shows as "Cagney & Lacey," "Miami Vice" and "Simon & Simon." He first joined the "Star Trek" fold in 1989, during the third season of 'The Next Generation,' when he arrived at Paramount to head up the show's writing staff.

Subsequently, Piller scripted such acclaimed episodes as the "Best of Both Worlds" two-parter, "Ensign Ro" and "Unification, Part II." An avid baseball fan, Piller worked his appreciation of the game into the 'Deep Space Nine' character of Sisko (Avery Brooks), who kept a ball on his desk throughout the run of the series.


'Zone' Co-Creators Shawn and Michael Piller

After deciding to scale back his involvement in 'Trek,' Piller became a consultant on 'Voyager' and channeled his energy into such projects as the short-lived UPN series, "Legend," which starred 'Trek's' John de Lancie (Q) and eventual "Stargate SG-1" lead Richard Dean Anderson. Piller actually co-wrote "Death Wish," a controversial 'Voyager' episode, with his son, Shawn.

Father and son later joined forces to form the production company, Piller2 Inc. Together, they co-created "The Dead Zone," which is based on Stephen King's novel and stars Anthony Michael Hall. 'Zone' will begin its fifth season in 2006 on USA Network. In addition, Piller was creator and co-executive producer of the ABC Family TV series, "Wildfire," which co-stars 'Deep Space Nine' alumna Nana Visitor. It will begin its second season early next year.

Piller is survived by his wife, Sandra, and their children, Shawn and Brent.

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Actor Lloyd Bochner dies in California at 81

Associated Press

SANTA MONICA, Calif. - Actor Lloyd Bochner, best known for his roles as Cecil Colby on TV's "Dynasty" and in the classic "To Serve Man" episode of "The Twilight Zone," has died. He was 81.

Bochner died of cancer at his Santa Monica home on Oct. 29, family members said Tuesday.

Bochner's career in television and film spanned more than five decades. He was a character actor who "almost always played a suave, handsome, wealthy villain," said his son, Paul Bochner.

Lloyd Bochner began his career on the radio in his native Ontario, Canada when he was 11. He went on to perform on stage and screen, earning two Liberty Awards, Canada's top acting honor.

He started working in New York in 1951and moved to Los Angeles in 1960 to co-star in the television series, "Hong Kong."

In 1963, Bochner starred as a government cryptographer in "The Twilight Zone" episode "To Serve Man," which TV Guide ranks No. 11 in its "100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time."

He also appeared in such films as "The Detective" and "Tony Rome," both with Frank Sinatra, and "The Night Walker" with Barbara Stanwyck. Other films included "The Man in the Glass Booth," "Point Blank" and

"Naked Gun 33 1/3."

His television work included appearances in "Columbo," "Mission: Impossible," "McCloud," "Wild, Wild West," "Battlestar Galactica," "Bewitched" and "Designing Women."

In 1998 he co-founded the Committee to End Violence to address the impact of violence in TV and movies on popular culture. Bochner was also active in the Association of Canadian Radio and Television Artists.

In addition to his son Paul, of Valley Cottage, N.Y., Bochner is survived by his wife, Ruth Bochner of Santa Monica, son Hart Bochner of Los Angeles and a daughter, Johanna Courtleigh of Portland, Ore.

A memorial service was scheduled for Nov. 10 at the Leo Baeck Temple in West Los Angeles.

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Twilight Zone's Bochner


Lloyd Bochner, a veteran character actor best known to SF fans for his starring role in the classic Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," died Oct. 29 at his home in Santa Monica, Calif., after battling cancer, the Associated Press reported. He was 81.

The Canadian actor was also known to SF fans as Commandant Leiter in episodes of the 1979 TV series Battlestar Galactica. Bochner and his son Hart Bochner also voiced characters in the animated Batman TV series and feature film.

Bochner's career in television and film spanned more than five decades and included character roles in such TV shows as Mission: Impossible and Wild Wild West.

In 1963, Bochner starred as a government cryptographer in The Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man," which TV Guide ranked number 11 in its "100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time."

Bochner is survived by his son Paul of Valley Cottage, N.Y.; his wife, Ruth Bochner, of Santa Monica; son Hart Bochner of Los Angeles; and a daughter, Johanna Courtleigh, of Portland, Ore.

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'Seinfeld' Actress Sheree North


Sheree North

LOS ANGELES, California - Sheree North, who aged gracefully from a platinum blond bombshell in the 1950s to older character roles in television productions including "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Seinfeld," died Friday, November 4 of complications from surgery. She was 72.

North passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said her daughter, Dawn Bessire of Santa Monica. North initially was groomed as a glamor girl who could substitute for the often unreliable Marilyn Monroe, and did in fact replace Monroe in the 1955 film "How to Be Very, Very Popular."

Her breakout role, which she got after an agent saw her dancing at a Santa Monica nightclub, came in the Broadway musical "Hazel Flagg." She won a Theatre World award for that performance and repeated it in "Living It Up," the 1954 Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis musical comedy film version of the stage show.


Sheree North

She achieved leading lady status after getting rave reviews in the first episode of "The Bing Crosby Show" that same year. She appeared in such popular stage musicals as "Can-Can" and "Bye Bye Birdie," and in 2000 played the Southern belle, Amanda in a production of Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie" at the Laguna Playhouse.

Her decades-long film career included performances in "The Outfit" with Robert Duvall in 1973, "The Shootist" starring John Wayne in 1976 and "Defenseless" in 1991 with Barbara Hershey and Sam Shepard. She earned Emmy Award nominations for appearances on "Marcus Welby, M.D." and "Archie Bunker's Place."

North became part of television history in 1974 on the 100th episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," when Ed Asner's character Lou Grant fell for her as a saloon singer with a past. More recently, she had a recurring role in "Seinfeld" as Kramer's mother, Babs.

She is survived by her husband, Philip Norman, two daughters and a grandchild.

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Actress Jean Carson Dead at 82

Played Daphne on the The Andy Griffith Show


Veteran film and TV actress Jean Carson died Nov. 2 in Palm Springs, Calif. of complications resulting from a stroke. She was 82.

Her best known role was that of Daphne on "The Andy Griffith Show," one of the two "Fun Girls," whose signature line was "Hello Doll!"

Born in Charleston, W. Va., she started her career on the New York stage where she debuted on Broadway in George S. Kaufman's "Bravo." Also on Broadway, she appeared in Arthur Laurent's "The Bird Cage," "Anniversary Waltz" and "Two Blind Mice."

She appeared on early TV shows such as "The Red Buttons Show" "The G.E. Theater" as well as later shows such as "Wagon Train," "The Untouchables," and the "Twilight Zone" episode "A Most Unusual Camera" which was written by Rod Serling with Carson in mind.

Carson's first feature film was "The Phoenix City Story," and she went on to appear in features "I Married a Monster from Outer Space," Blake Edwards' "Gunn" "The Party" with Peter Sellers and "Fun with Dick and Jane."

After her retirement, she continued to be involved with theater groups in the Palm Springs area, working on productions including "Elephant Man," "Steel Magnolias" and "Surprise."

She is survived by two sons.

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'Halloween' Producer Moustapha Akkad Killed

by Sandy Cohen


'Halloween' Producer Moustapha Akkad

LOS ANGELES, California - Moustapha Akkad, the Syrian-born filmmaker, whose three decades of work in Hollywood ranged from the cult "Halloween" slasher films to movies with Muslim themes, died Friday, November 11 from wounds sustained in the hotel bombings in Jordan. The Los Angeles resident died in a Jordanian hospital where he was being treated. He was 75.

Akkad had been greeting his daughter, Rima Akkad Monla, in the lobby of the Radisson hotel when the bombs exploded. Akkad had been staying in one of three luxury hotels hit by suicide bombers, killing at least 56 people. Monla, 34, was killed immediately in the blast. His daughter was buried in Tripoli, Lebanon.

Akkad's daughter, Rima, grew up in Los Angeles and was an avid polo player who graduated from the University of Southern California in 1995 with a degree in international relations. She pursued a master's degree in Middle East studies at American University in Beirut, where she met her husband Ziad Monla, 35. The couple, married for six years, had two sons, ages 2 and 4.


Moustapha Akkad

Akkad produced all eight "Halloween" movies. He also directed and produced two religious-themed films, "The Message" and "Lion of the Desert," both starring Anthony Quinn. He got his start as a production assistant for renowned director, Sam Peckinpah, on the 1962 Western, "Ride the High Country."

Akkad worked closely with Hollywood executive Bob Weinstein on a number of movies. "Everyone at The Weinstein Co. is deeply saddened by the loss of our friend and colleague, Moustapha Akkad," Weinstein said. "Our thoughts are with his family during this very difficult time."

Akkad was born in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in July 1930. He was the eldest of eight siblings. Akkad came to California in 1950 to study filmmaking after finishing his secondary studies in Syria, according to his sister, Leila Akkad. Education was important to Akkad. He earned his degree in theater arts from the University of California, Los Angeles before moving on to a successful career in film.


Moustapha Akkad directs Anthony Quinn in 1976's 'The Message.'

Akkad's most serious efforts could be seen in his two dramas about the history of Islam. "The Message," a 1976 film about the Prophet Muhammad, was widely acclaimed in the Middle East. But a group of American Muslims declared "The Message" to be sacrilege and took hostages at three locations when the film opened in Washington, demanding that it not be shown in the United States.

Akkad was baffled by the reaction to the film, which he said cost $17 million to make and was nominated for an Academy Award for best original score. "I made the film to bring the story of Islam, the story of 700 million people, to the West," Akkad told The Associated Press in 1977. "Lion of the Desert," a 1981 film, told the story of a Muslim rebel who fought against Italy's World War II conquest of Libya.

Akkad and director John Carpenter launched the hugely popular "Halloween" franchise in 1978. The movies featuring killer Michael Myers inspired a cult following and seven sequels. The first installment launched the careers of Carpenter and actress Jamie Lee Curtis. Carpenter recalled Akkad as a "very, very nice man" who gave him creative control of the first "Halloween" movie.


Moustapha Akkad produced the 'Halloween' film series.

"'Halloween' put me on the map, and I'm very sad to hear of his death," Carpenter said. Akkad was a constant presence in the franchise. The Weinstein Co. described him in a prepared statement as "the man who's taken charge of Michael Myers and has stood behind him on each film." Akkad said he turned to horror films because he found it hard to raise money for religious-themed movies, according to a 1998 New York Times report.

Patricia Akkad could not be reached about her ex-husband's death, but Akkad's sister called for an end to terrorist attacks on civilians. "I feel sad and the world feels sorrow with us. This kind of incident rarely happens, but it has happened with Moustapha Akkad," Leila Akkad said in a telephone interview. "These attacks are chaotic and do not differentiate an enemy from a friend."

Moustapha Akkad is survived by ex-wife, Patricia; three sons, Tarek, Malek and Zeido; sister, Leila and two grandchildren. Funeral services were scheduled for Sunday in his hometown of Aleppo.

Associated Press Writers Shafika Mattar in Amman, Jordan, Hussein Dakroub in Beirut, Lebanon, and Christina Almeida and Ian Gregor in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

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'WWE' Superstar Eduardo Gory Guerrero


'WWE' Superstar Eduardo 'Eddie' Gory Guerrero

MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota - Eduardo Gory Guerrero, a World Wrestling Entertainment superstar was found dead in his hotel room Sunday, November 13 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he was scheduled to appear that evening in a "WWE Supershow." The 5-feet-8, 220-pound wrestler was found on the floor. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. He was 38.

When he didn't respond to a wake-up call, hotel security at Minneapolis Marriott City Center and Guerrero's nephew and fellow WWE wrestler, Chavo Guerrero, forced their way into the room shortly after 7 a.m., police said. There were no apparent signs of foul play or suicide, police said. An autopsy is planned at the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's office tomorrow to determine cause of death.

Guerrero was in the Twin Cities with 60 to 80 other wrestlers to film "Friday Night Smackdown" at the Target Center before leaving for a tour of Europe. "I know Eddie would want the show to go on," Chavo Guerrero said. WWE will pay homage to Guerrero on both 'Raw' and 'SmackDown!.'


'WWE' Star Eduardo 'Eddie' Gory Guerrero in action

Guerrero was a featured star on the UPN series "WWE Smackdown!" Chavo Guerrero and Vince McMahon said Guerrero was open about his past drug and alcohol abuse but they said he'd been sober for four years. "This is a huge loss," said McMahon. "Eddie was a wonderful, fun-loving human being. Eddie was a consummate performer."

Eddy Guerrero was considered one of the all-time best technical stars in wrestling history. In February 2004, Guerrero became the second wrestler of Hispanic heritage to be WWE champion when he defeated Brock Lesnar, a former University of Minnesota wrestling standout. Sadly, Guerrero lost the title four months later.

In May 2004, UPN aired the special "Cheating Death, Stealing Life: The Eddie Guerrero Story." The one-hour program chronicled his childhood and his struggle with drug addiction that almost cost him his job, family and life before his recovery and eventual capture of the WWE championship. His family said he had become a born again Christian in 2005 and remained on his sober path.


The Wrestling Guerrero Family (L-R) brother Mando; father, Gory;

brothers, Chavo, Hector and Eddie.

Guerrero was preceded in death by his father, Gory Guerrero, considered one of the greatest wrestlers in Mexican history. Eddie Guerrero was raised in El Paso, Texas and attended the University of New Mexico as well as New Mexico Highlands University on an athletic scholarship, where he wrestled collegiately, before returning to El Paso to train as a professional wrestler.

Guerrero leaves behind a legendary wrestling family. His three brothers, Chavo, Hector and Mando Guerrero, all followed in their father's footsteps and became professional wrestlers. Also in the wrestling dynasty is Eddie's nephew, Chavo Guerrero, Jr. as well as uncle Enrique Llanes and cousin Javier Llanes who are popular wrestlers in Mexico.

Guerrero is survived by his wife, Vickie and three daughters, Shaul, 14; Sherilyn, 9 and 2-year-old Kaylie Marie. Guerrero's funeral will take place on Wednesday, November 16 in Phoenix, Arizona. Reverend Billy Graham will be performing the service.

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Ex-NFL Lineman Dies In Tree Mishap

by Dan Nephin


NFL Lineman Steve Courson

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania - Steve Courson, the former offensive lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers who developed a heart problem after becoming one of the first NFL players to acknowledge using steroids, was killed Thursday, November 10 when a tree he was cutting fell on him.

Courson, 50, was using a chain saw to cut down a dead 44-foot tall tree with a circumference of 5 feet when it fell on him, according to state police. The accident happened around 1 p.m. at his home in Henry Clay Township, Fayette County. Roger Victor, an investigator for the Fayette County coroner, said Courson was apparently trying get his dog out of the tree's way.

"The wind was blowing, the tree snapped and it fell on him and his dog," Victor said. The dog was injured and taken to a vet. Pastor Lois Van Orden, who was with Courson's mother, Elizabeth, at her Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, home, said the family had no immediate comment.

Courson made the Steelers in 1978 as a free agent guard from South Carolina. He started more than half of the Steelers' games before he was traded to Tampa Bay in 1984, where he played another two seasons before being waived. He ended his career after the 1985 season, having played on the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams in 1978 and 1979.


Steve Courson played for the Pittsburgh Steelers from 1978-1984.

In a statement, the Steelers said: "We are saddened to learn of the sudden and untimely death of Steve Courson. Our deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends during this extremely difficult time. Steve was an integral member of our last two Super Bowl championship teams, and returned to the Pittsburgh area after he retired from football. Steve battled back from health problems in recent years and seemed to have made a full recovery."

Courson was an early outspoken opponent of steroid use in the NFL, though he had used them himself and blamed them for a heart condition he said placed him on a transplant list for four years. He credited diet and exercise with reversing the condition. He went public with his steroid use in 1985 and was cut by Tampa Bay the next season. He also criticized the NFL's steroid testing program, which began a year after he retired.

"It's as much drug abuse to take steroids as heroin or cocaine," Courson said in 1990. "When most people imagine drug abusers, their thoughts are of street people living in the gutter. Realistically, these people can't afford drugs, but professional athletes and middle and upper class teenagers can."


Steve Courson testified before Congress.

Courson testified about steroid use before Congress last spring. Earlier this year, Saints coach Jim Haslett claimed the Steelers' use of the drugs during Super Bowl championship seasons in the 1970s brought steroids into vogue around the NFL

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Acclaimed Ballet Dancer Fernando Bujones

by Lewis Segal, Times Staff Writer


Fernando Bujones, shown here in 1975, was a principal dancer

with the American Ballet Theatre from 1974 to 1985.

Fernando Bujones, one of the greatest classical dancers of his generation and the first American to win a gold medal at the International Ballet Olympics, has died. Bujones announced seven weeks ago that he had lung cancer, but he died Thursday, November 10, in Miami of complications from another form of cancer, melanoma. He was 50.

Bujones had been treated since September at the University of Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. His success and artistic achievements span over almost three decades and his charismatic presence and incredible technical prowess captivated audiences all over the world.

Although he reached the pinnacle of fame inside the ballet world, greater renown was denied him by mischance. In the summer of 1974, for instance, the great Russian ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected at nearly the same time as Bujones won his ballet olympics medal, overshadowing the young American's triumph.

"Baryshnikov has the publicity, I have the talent," Bujones said at the time. And he was half-right: Both had the talent, but in Cold War America, a defection from the Soviet Union created instant stardom like nothing else. Bujones had ideal physical proportions for ballet

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Broadcasting Pioneer Ralph Edwards


Ralph Edwards was the creator and host of

'This Is Your Life.'

WEST HOLLYWOOD, California - Broadcasting pioneer Ralph Edwards, who spotlighted stars and ordinary people as host of the popular 1950s show "This Is Your Life," died Wednesday, November 15 of heart failure. Edwards, whose career as producer and host included "Truth or Consequences" and "People's Court," died in his sleep in his West Hollywood home. He was 92.

Edwards first hit it big in radio in 1940 with "Truth or Consequences," a novelty show in which contestants who failed to answer trick questions the "truth" had to suffer "the consequences" by performing some elaborate stunt. Then came television. The Federal Communications Commission approved commercial broadcasts beginning on July 1, 1941.

After a few years of experimental broadcasts, NBC's New York station was the first to make the changeover, according to Edwards' publicist Justin Seremet. In an early interview, Edwards recalled, "Amazingly enough, I did 'Truth or Consequences' on television in July 1941. It was the first commercial show for NBC." He explained, "A 10-second commercial was $9."


Bob Barker (left) and Ralph Edwards

celebrating 'Truth or Consequences'

The United States' entry into World War II five months later disrupted TV's progress. "Truth or Consequences," which prospered on radio in the interim, returned to television in 1950. Earlier that same year, the citizens of little Hot Springs, New Mexico, voted 1,294-295 to change the town's name to Truth or Consequences.

Edwards had promised to broadcast the radio show from the town that agreed to the change. "In those days, nothing seemed impossible," he once said. "Truth or Consequences" later launched the career of Bob Barker, tabbed by Edwards as master of ceremonies in 1956. Barker, who went on to host "The Price Is Right," hailed Edwards as "one of the finest men I have ever met and a gentleman about whom I have never heard a word of criticism."

"This Is Your Life" also was born on radio and then migrated to television, running on NBC-TV from 1952 to 1961. It featured guests, many of them celebrities, who were lured in on a ruse, then surprised by Edwards announcing, "This is your life!" Relatives and old friends then would be brought on to reminisce about the guest.


'This Is Your Life' Host Ralph Edwards presents funnyman Milton

Berle with a flashback of his life with reminisces by relatives and

friends in June, 1956.

Among the people he caught unaware were Marilyn Monroe, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Bob Hope, Andy Griffith, Buster Keaton, Barbara Eden, Bette Davis, Shirley Jones, Jayne Mansfield, Carol Channing and Milton Berle.

But not all guests were entertainers. A 1953 episode profiled Hanna Bloch Kohner, a survivor of the Holocaust. "At least half of our guests were ordinary people," Edwards said. "In the beginning we didn't use celebrities at all. But when we did, I think it humanized the stars and gave them more appeal."

Edwards said he and his staff used all kinds of subterfuge to surprise guests. Some would run away and be pulled back, all in fun, but broadcaster Lowell Thomas made headlines when he refused to play along on a 1959 show. "He saw instantly what was going on, and nobody puts anything over on Lowell Thomas," Edwards recalled years later.


Ralph Edwards

"He tore the show apart. I said, 'You're going to enjoy this,' and he said, 'I doubt that very much,'" Edwards reminisced. "His third-grade teacher said he knew every rock and rill in the Rockies. And he said, 'Yeah, and I knew every saloon, too,'" Edwards recalled. "The rating kept going up during the show as people called their friends to tune in."

According to the reference book, "The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows," one person was off limits for the surprise treatment: Edwards himself. He told staff members he would fire every one of them if they put him on.

Both 'Truth' and "This Is Your Life" have periodically returned to television in syndicated form. Just last week, it was announced that a new version of "This is Your Life," with Regis Philbin ("Live with Regis and Kelly") as host, is planned by ABC. Philbin previously was host of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" for the network.


Ralph Edwards

Over the years, Edwards kept himself busy as a producer. Edwards had a hand in other shows, producing or creating "Name That Tune," "Cross Wits," "Superior Court," "It Could Be You," "Place the Face," "About Faces," "Funny Boners," "End of the Rainbow," "Who in the World," "The Woody Woodbury Show" and "Wide Country." In the '80s, Ralph Edwards Productions' show, "The People's Court" made a star of retired Judge Joseph A. Wapner.

"We've seen many changes and enjoyed them all," Edwards said in a 1999 interview. "I still find 'live' the most exciting, particularly for my type of shows." Edwards broke into radio in 1929 in Oakland as a 16-year-old high school student. He worked at KROW and KFRC in San Francisco while attending college at the University of California at Berkeley.

"The changes in both radio and television are mind-boggling," Edwards said. He recalled that until 1948 his radio version of "Truth or Consequences" was done twice each Saturday, once for the east coast and again three hours later for the West Coast. "We would use the same script, but all new contestants," he said.


Ralph and Barbara Edwards

Edwards said he went back to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, dozens of times over the years. Besides changing the name, townspeople made Edwards an honorary member of the Sheriff's Posse. The name continues a half-century later. Periodic efforts to reverse the change failed.

"I am truly proud of my namesake city and have enjoyed a wonderful association throughout the years," he said. He also appeared in several motion pictures: "Seven Days Leave," "Radio Stars on Parade," "Bamboo Blonde," "Beat the Band," "I'll Cry Tomorrow," "Manhattan Merry-Go-Round" and "Radio Stars of 1937."

Edwards' wife, Barbara, died in 1993 after 53 years of marriage. Their children are a son, Gary, who worked with Edwards; and two daughters, Christine and Laurie. A memorial service was set for December 1.

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Veteran Character Actor Harold J. Stone

by Valerie J. Nelson, Times Staff Writer


Harold Stone

Harold J. Stone, a character actor with sculpted features who worked steadily from the 1950s through the 1970s, often portraying the villain on television shows, has died. Stone died Friday, November 18 of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, said his son Michael. He was 92.

In 1964, Stone received an Emmy nomination for playing an Army medic who becomes a male nurse at great personal cost in an episode of "The Nurses," an hour long drama that aired on CBS. One of his favorite roles was playing Sam Steinberg, the father of David Birney's character on "Bridget Loves Bernie," the ethnic comedy about a mixed marriage that aired for a season on CBS beginning in 1972.

Stone also enjoyed playing the editor on "My World and Welcome to It," the NBC series loosely based on the works of James Thurber that ran from 1969 to 1970, his son said. Each episode of the show incorporated stories and cartoons by Thurber. The show used a combination of live action and animation to represent the world of John Monroe.

Monroe, like Thurber was a writer and cartoonist, who worked for The Manhattanite, a magazine very much like The New Yorker, for which Thurber wrote and illustrated for many years. All the animation was based on Thurber's drawings, including the show's opening credits.

John Monroe had to contend with his hot-tempered, often obtuse boss, Manhattanite editor Hamilton Greeley played by Harold J. Stone, who usually found John's cartoons incomprehensible. (Greeley was loosely based on New Yorker editor Harold Ross.)


Veteran character actor Harold J. Stone (foreground) in a scene

from the classic television western, 'The Virginian' with David

Hartman and Doug McClure in the background.

Never a big name but always a reliable staple on television westerns and crime shows during the 1960s and 1970s, Harold J. Stone usually was seen in a strong, unsympathetic vein--an unyielding father or husband, corrupt businessman, menacing crime figure, etc. Television became a steady medium for Stone.

Stone soon became a fixture in hundreds of police dramas including 1958's "77 Sunset Strip," and "Naked City." Among his many television appearances include 1959's "The Untouchables," 1966's "Mission: Impossible," 1967's "Mannix," 1973's "Kojak" and 1974's "The Rockford Files."


Harold Stone, Jeannine Riley and Charlie Callas in 'The Big Mouth'

A sober-looking gent with a block jaw, Romanesque-styled nose and steely gray-black hair, he was also prone to playing ethnic characters of varying origins. He kept so busy as an actor

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'Karate Kid's' Pat Morita

by Tim Molloy


Pat Morita

LOS ANGELES, California - Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. Morita died Thursday, November 24 at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes. He was 73. Morita's wife, Evelyn said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on "Happy Days," had "dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy."

In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio's "Daniel-san," he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as "wax on, wax off" to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills.

Morita said in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press he was billed as Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita in the film because producer Jerry Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. He said he used the billing because it was "the only name my parents gave me." He lost the 1984 best supporting actor award to Haing S. Ngor, who appeared in "The Killing Fields."


Ralph Macchio as Daniel and Pat Morita as

Kesuke Miyagi in 1984's 'The Karate Kid'

For years, Morita played small and sometimes demeaning roles in such films as "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and TV series such as "The Odd Couple" and "Green Acres." His first breakthrough came with "Happy Days," and he followed with his own brief series, "Mr. T and Tina."

"The Karate Kid," led to three sequels, the last of which, 1994's "The Next Karate Kid," paired him with a young Hilary Swank. Morita was prolific outside of the "Karate Kid" series as well, appearing in "Honeymoon in Vegas," "Spy Hard," "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and "The Center of the World." He also provided the voice for a character in the Disney movie "Mulan" in 1998.

Born in northern California on June 28, 1932, the son of migrant fruit pickers, Morita spent most of his early years in the hospital with spinal tuberculosis. He later recovered only to be sent to a Japanese-American internment camp in Arizona during World War II. "One day I was an invalid," he recalled in a 1989 AP interview. "The next day I was public enemy No. 1 being escorted to an internment camp by an FBI agent wearing a piece."


Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita

After the war, Morita's family tried to repair their finances by operating a Sacramento restaurant. It was there that Morita first tried his comedy on patrons. Because prospects for a Japanese-American standup comic seemed poor, Morita found steady work in computers at Aerojet General.

But at age 30, Morita entered show business full time. "Only in America could you get away with the kind of comedy I did," he commented. "If I tried it in Japan before the war, it would have been considered blasphemy, and I would have ended in leg irons."

Morita is survived by his wife of 12 years, Evelyn, and three daughters from a previous marriage. Morita was to be buried at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery.

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Goodbye, 'Mr. Miyagi' Pat Morita


Pat Morita as Mr. Miyagi in 'The Karate Kid'

Pat Morita owed his fame to kids, he once said. "You know why? I'm the same height." A generation raised on Mr. Miyagi might beg to differ. Morita, who played the iconic martial-arts guru in four Karate Kid movies, and earned an Academy Award nomination for his uncommonly profound car-waxing tips, died Thursday, November 24 in a Las Vegas hospital. He was 73.

The cause of death was unclear. A daughter told the Associated Press that Morita succumbed to heart failure; his manager told the wire service that the star passed away while awaiting a kidney transplant.

Ralph Macchio, who played Mr. Miyagi's most prolific pupil, Daniel LaRusso, called Morita's death a "sad day" for him and his family. "Pat Morita was a truly generous actor, a gifted comic, and an even greater friend," Macchio said in a statement. "It was both my honor and privilege to have worked with him and create a bit of cinema magic together."


Pat Morita (far right) in the cast of 'Happy Days'

Morita tutored Macchio in three "Karate Kid" films: The original 1984 adventure where teen outcast "Daniel-san" learns to stand up to bullies by performing menial tasks, including a little "wax on, wax off" car work for Mr. Miyagi; 1986's "The Karate Kid, Part II"; and 1989's "The Karate Kid, Part III," released when the "kid" was 27. Morita scored his Oscar nod as Best Supporting Actor for the first film.

Morita did one final "Karate Kid" movie in 1994, "The Next Karate Kid," with future Oscar-winner Hilary Swank as his new charge. If Morita was Mr. Miyagi to children of the 1980s, then he was the Arnold of "Arnold's" to children of the 1970s. The actor played the unintelligible owner of the "Happy Days" gang's hangout in two stints, 1975-76 and 1982-83. To children of the 1990s, Morita was the voice of the emperor in Disney's "Mulan."

"My fame is largely due to young people, they're the first ones to discover me," Morita observed to the Ottawa Sun in 1999, before making the crack about his height, or lack thereof. (He stood about 5 foot, 3 inches.)


Pat Morita

Morita's show business career began in the 1960s in the decidedly un-kid-friendly world of comedy clubs. At the time, Morita, the California-born son of Japanese immigrants, billed himself as the "Hip Nip." Morita told Stars & Stripes in 1967, "'Hip Nip' just sounds groovy. A drummer laid it on me."

A refugee from a computer office job, Morita was 30 when he started doing standup. Within five years, he'd appeared on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" and leading variety shows of the day such as "Laugh-In" and "Hollywood Palace."

In the 1970s, Morita was a prime-time fixture. He guested on several episodes of "Sanford and Son," costarred on "Happy Days," and became Mr. T before the mohawk-sporting Mr. T became a household initial. The latter was owed to Morita's starring role in the short-lived 1976 sitcom, "Mr. T and Tina."


Pat Morita (far left) in 'Mr. T and Tina'

"The Karate Kid" Oscar nomination didn't make Morita an A-list movie star, but it did bring him meatier TV work. He earned an Emmy nomination for the 1985 TV-movie, "Amos," about elder abuse, and headlined the 1987-88 police drama series, "Ohara."

To look at Morita's lengthy credit list on IMDb.com is to surmise that Morita didn't like to go too long between gigs, even if latter-day gigs included 2004's "The Karate Dog," a non-Mr. Miyagi tale about a dog that, well, does karate, and "Miss Cast Away," a 2005 spoof comedy featuring a cameo by Michael Jackson.

Morita was born Noriyuki Morita on June 28, 1932. (Some sources say 1930.) His early years were spent apart--up until the age of 11, he lived in a hospital due to spinal tuberculosis; then when his health was restored, in the midst of World War II, he was dispatched to an internment camp for U.S. citizens and residents of Japanese descent.

As Morita said in Stars & Stripes: "I had to find things to laugh at." In the end, Morita persevered--and taught others to do the same, in reel life and in real life. "My life is all the richer for having known him," Macchio said. "I will miss his genuine friendship. Forever my Sensei. . ."

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Leading Man Keith Andes


Keith Andes

Keith Andes, a handsome actor who was Marilyn Monroe's leading man in the 1952 film "Clash by Night," has died at the age of 85. Andes, who had suffered from bladder cancer and other ailments, was found dead November 11 in his Santa Clarita home, said longtime friend Marshall LaPlante. The Los Angeles County coroner's office ruled the death a suicide by asphyxiation.

Though Andes rarely discussed his career, his apartment walls displayed memorabilia including an album cover from "Wildcat," the 1960 Broadway musical in which he starred with Lucille Ball. A framed note from her refers to the close quarters they shared on stage: "I ate onions, ha-ha, love, Lucy."

Andes' grandson, Ryan Andes, said people "always, always, always" asked about Andes' friendship with Monroe. There was always a murmur about them having a relationship, but he said that wasn't the case." When Andes was asked once if he could get Monroe to attend a UCLA graduation reception, Monroe agreed to go only if Andes would be her date, his grandson said.


Keith Andes and Marilyn Monroe in 'Clash by Night'

Andes got his start in Hollywood when studio head Darryl F. Zanuck saw him perform as the understudy in the Broadway production of "Winged Victory" and offered him a small part in the 1944 film version. The actor, known for a comforting baritone, appeared in about 20 other movies, including 1952's "Blackbeard the Pirate," 1953's "Split Second," and 1954's "A Life at Stake."

Andes film career took off in 1956 with three movies: "Back from Eternity," "Away All Boats" and "Pillars of the Sky." His star continued to climb with 1957's "The Girl Most Likely" and "Interlude." Other films included: 1958's "Damn Citizen" and 1979's "...And Justice for All" starring Al Pacino.

Andes was often cast as a leading man because of his size and physique. He was cast along with Lex Barker and James Arness to play brothers in 1947's "The Farmer's Daughter." He portrayed Gen. George C. Marshall in 1970's "Tora! Tora! Tora!" Andes was also featured in several TV movies including: 1979's "The Ultimate Impostor" and 1980's "Blinded by the Light."


'The Farmer's Daughter' (1947) starring Joseph Cotten (background) with

Lex Barker, James Arness and Keith Andes as a trio of Swedish brothers.

On television, he was an amateur sleuth on "Glynis," a 1963 CBS sitcom in which Glynis Johns played his wife. Andes appeared in the syndicated police drama "This Man Dawson" during 1959 and 1960. He had guest appearances on more than 40 shows, many of them westerns such as "Gunsmoke" and "Branded."

His name might not have been a household one but his numerous guest appearances on the smaller TV screen made his face familiar to most who watched early television. He could be seen in episodes of: "Perry Mason," "I Spy," "Star Trek," "Petticoat Junction," "The Streets of San Francisco" and "Cannon."


Keith Andes in a scene from 'Star Trek' with William Shatner and

Leonard Nimoy from the episode, 'The Apple.'

Born John Charles Andes on July 12, 1920, in Ocean City, New Jersey, he was appearing on the radio by age 12. He attended Oxford University, graduated with a bachelor's degree in education from Temple University in 1943 and studied voice at the Philadelphia Conservatory of Music.

He sang and acted in USO shows, including in South Korea. Andes earned the Theatre World Award for the outstanding breakout performance of 1947 in "The Chocolate Soldier" and later starred in "Kiss Me Kate." He was married to Jean Alice Cotton from 1948-61. After divorcing her, he then married Shelah Hackett which also sadly ended in divorce.

In addition to his grandson, Ryan, the twice-divorced actor is survived by two sons: Mark, an original member of the rock groups Canned Heat and Spirit and Matt, both of Dripping Springs, Texas. Andes is also survived by two other grandchildren, Luke of Sherman Oaks, California and Ryan's sister, Rachel, both of Pennsylvania.

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Leading Actress Constance Cummings


Constance Cummings

American-born actress Constance Cummings, a Hollywood star of the early 1930s who then became one of the leading figures on the British stage, has died. According to obituaries published in London, Cummings died Wednesday, November 23. The cause of death was not announced. She was 95.

Born in Seattle, Cummings was only in her early 20s when she became a leading actress in Hollywood, where her intelligence, charming manner and tumbling golden curls made her a favorite. In just two years, she made more than a dozen films, working for such top directors as Howard Hawks in the 1931 prison drama "The Criminal Code."

Director Frank Capra cast Cummings in his 1932 Depression drama, "American Madness." She also was in the 1932 Harold Lloyd comedy, "Movie Crazy," and "Broadway Through a Keyhole," a 1933 nightclub drama that was cowritten by columnist Walter Winchell and featured singers Russ Columbo and Blossom Seeley.


Frank Capra's 'American Madness' starred (L-R) Sterling Holloway

(in his first talkie), Constance Cummings and Pat O'Brien.

While in Hollywood, she met her future husband, the British playwright Benn Wolfe Levy. They married in 1933, and it was under his guidance that she developed into a fine stage actress, initially in comic roles in her husband's plays and adaptations, then increasingly in more serious portrayals, including "Long Day's Journey Into Night" opposite Laurence Olivier.

In 1938, she played Katherine, the woman who wins the schoolmaster's heart in "Goodbye Mr. Chips," and the critic James Agate wrote that she had "some of the fragrance and pathos, sensitiveness and radiance of the great actresses of our youth."

Cummings later won plaudits for her portrayals of Miss Richland in Oliver Goldsmith's "Good-Natured Man" and the lead in George Bernard Shaw's "Saint Joan." She also impressed with her portrayal of Juliet in Shakespeare's timeless tragedy.


Constance Cummings and Harold Lloyd in 'Movie Crazy'

By the 1960s, she was tackling darker roles, including the cruel lesbian Inez in Jean-Paul Sartre's "Huis Clos (No Exit)" She admitted: "I found bits of that woman in myself." She portrayed a combative alcoholic in Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and Gertrud in Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

For three years she worked under Olivier at the National Theatre in London, winning plaudits for her Mary Tyrone in Michael Blakemore's acclaimed production of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Day's Journey Into Night" in 1971.

Notable later roles included Ranevksy in Blakemore's revival of Chekhov's "The Cherry Orchard" and Agave in Wole Soyinka's version of "The Bacchae." Her other film roles included David Lean's "Blithe Spirit" with Rex Harrison in 1945. Cummings was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, or CBE, in 1974.

Cummings was preceded in death by her husband, Benn, who died in 1973. She is survived by a son, Jonathan and a daughter, Jemina.

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'Berenstain Bears' Animator Stan Berenstain


Stan Berenstain and his animated creation, 'The Berenstain Bears.'

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania - Stan Berenstain, who with his wife created the popular children's books about the Berenstain Bears, has died. Berenstain, a resident of Bucks County, passed away in Pennsylvania on Saturday, November 26 according to Audra Boltion, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins Children's Books in New York. He was 82.

In more than 200 books, the Berenstain Bears, written and illustrated by Stan and Jan Berenstain, helped children for 40 years cope with trips to the dentist, eating junk food and cleaning their messy rooms. The first Berenstain Bears book, "The Great Honey Hunt," was published in 1962.

The couple developed the series with children's author Theodor Geisel -- better known as Dr. Seuss, then head of children's publishing at Random House -- with the goal of teaching children to read while entertaining them.


Jan and Stan Berenstain

Despite changes in society in the last four decades, little has changed in "Bears Country." "Kids still tell fibs and they mess up their rooms and they still throw tantrums in the supermarket," Stan Berenstain told The Associated Press in 2002. "Nobody gets shot. No violence. There are problems, but they're the kind of typical family problems everyone goes through."

Stan and Jan Berenstain began drawing together when they met at Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art in 1941. The two married soon after he got out of World War II-era Army service and began submitting cartoons to magazines. They became contributors to The Saturday Evening Post, McCalls and Collier's.

They got into the book business when an editor at a New York publishing house who enjoyed their magazine cartoons asked if they would like to do a book, according to their Web site. Their sons, Leo and Michael, joined them, and many of the recent books are credited collectively to "The Berenstains." The characters are the subject of their own public television program, DVDs and a Christmas musical.

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'Bosom Buddies' Actress Wendie Jo Sperber


Wendie Jo Sperber

Actress Wendie Jo Sperber, who starred opposite Tom Hanks on TV's "Bosom Buddies" and who in his words became "a walking inspiration" after she contracted cancer, has died. Sperber died at home Tuesday, November 29 after an eight-year battle with breast cancer, publicist Jo-Ann Geffen said. She was 43.

Sperber was born September 15, 1962 in Hollywood. She attended the Summer Drama Workshop at California State University, Northridge, during the 1970s and began her screen career at age 15 when she was cast in the small role of Kuchinsky in Matthew Robbins' teen comedy, 1978's "Corvette Summer," starring Mark Hamill.

Her talent for comedy was showcased in Robert Zemeckis' period comedy, 1978's "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," as the irrepressible Beatles fan, Rosie Petrofsky, stealing a big chunk of the movie with her performance. She played the title role in the 1979 made-for-television feature, "Dinky Hocker." Sperber got to show off her physical comedy prowess in Steven Spielberg's 1979's "1941."


Wendie Jo Sperber, Nancy Allen and Theresa Saldana

in 'I Wanna Hold Your Hand'

Zemeckis, who also worked on "1941," brought Sperber back to the big screen in 1980 with a role in his offbeat comedy, "Used Cars." Sperber often commented that she preferred comedy if given the choice. In an interview with TV Guide in 1990, Sperber said, "I'm an actress who likes to say something funny

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