For some reason, it appears to be more difficult to keep up with celebrities these days. Specifically, I am not even certain the following couples are still together, and in some cases, even alive. I’ve been collecting these photos for awhile now, to a point that I have enough to make an interesting article out of it. With no further ado, here is Part 1 of various couples from Hollywood, News, Television and Sports. We begin with Entertainment featuring Jeff Bridges and Susan Geston, followed by Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden; Amy Adams and Darren Le Gallo.
There is no doubt that propaganda has played a pivotal role in cigarette smoking.
My request is that as you read through how the father of modern day propaganda and advertising was able to “social engineer” society. Use this basis so you will understand how the pandemic (masks, censorship, no schooling, stay home, etc.) news media, wokeism, Big Pharma, and illegal immigration is coming into play as the New World Order and World Economic Forum attempt their takeover.
Edward Bernays’ public relations efforts for the tobacco companies in the early 20th century helped popularize smoking in the United States, particularly among women.
Bernays, a nephew of Sigmund Freud, pioneered the PR industry’s use of psychology and other social sciences to design its public persuasion campaigns.
“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it? The recent practice of propaganda has proved that it is possible, at least up to a certain point and within certain limits.” (Propaganda, 2005 ed., p. 71.)
He called this scientific technique of opinion-molding the “engineering of consent.”
Joe Camel made Me Do It!
In the 1920s, working for the American Tobacco Company, he sent a group of young models to march in the New York City parade. He then told the press that a group of women’s rights marchers would light “Torches of Freedom”.
On his signal, the models lit Lucky Strike cigarettes in front of the eager photographers.
On April 1, 1929, it was not an April Fool joke when The New York Times printed: “Group of Girls Puff at Cigarettes as a Gesture of ‘Freedom’“. This helped to break the taboo against women smoking in public.
🔹Over 90 years later we know that smokers die 11 years earlier than non-smokers.
🔹Evidence shows that smoking accounts for 32 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths.
🔹The risk of developing lung cancer is about 23 times higher in male smokers compared to non-smokers.
🔹Smoking is associated with increased risk of at least 15 types of cancer.
How much has propaganda played in persuading millions to smoke?
The Use of Symbols
By connecting cigarettes, to feminism and the rebellion against a patriarchal society, Edward Barneys gave cigarettes a completely new meaning. The irony that a nicotine addiction and the consume of tobacco was connected to independence wasn’t realized or criticized by many. Why?
Because humans are emotional, not rational beings. Barneys’ realized that early and used this knowledge throughout his career. Another meaning for the symbol of cigarettes in this context was that cigarettes were associated with slimness, and therefore with attractiveness. They were even associated with health!
“Reach for a Lucky instead of a sweet!”
Appealing to unconscious desires
The unconscious desires in this context were to fit into the public image of beauty (being slim) and the desire to be free and independent.
What are the social engineering messages television commericials, movies and news reports telling you today?
Bernays included in his era, the desire for women to smokec in the phrase “Torches of freedom”.
Some women might never thought about the feminist movement or about smoking cigarettes but Bernays offered them the opportunity to do both.
By arranging leaders, in this case fashionable, thin women, that promote cigarettes as “torches of freedom”, Bernays activated the herd instinct in his audience. The result was that women started to smoke because certain individuals, unconsciously considered as beautiful and independent leaders did.
Women smoking in public was not a taboo anymore but a normal behavior. A behavior which presented independence and vogue.
Getting into the public’s mental space
When Barneys arranged photographers and reporters he sparked conflict and debate within the American society about the topic of smoking women in public.
By framing the event as a “gesture of freedom”, the New York Times contributed to this debate, supporting the intentions of Barneys. Discussions and further feminist movements developed, that stuck in people’s head.
Just by a simple action, women that walk down fifth avenue while smoking cigarettes, and the following news coverage, as well as discussion of the emancipation of women, turned almost fifty percent of the American population into loyal tobacco consumers.
Can you identify these historic, political and entertainment figures by their arrested mugshots and photographs?
Answers at the bottom.
POLITICS & HISTORY
Politics, News and History: John Hinkley, Shepherd Smith, Bill Gates, John Edwards, Bernard Madoff, Lee Harvey Oswald, Rod Blagojevich, Rosa Parks, Billy Carter, Roger Clinton, James Earl Ray, Jack Ruby, Charles Manson
Entertainment: Harvey Weinstein, Jane Fonda, O.J. Simpson, Nick Nolte, Heather Locklear, Jussie Smollett, Paul Reubens
There is a reason that The Andy Griffith Show, of the 1960s, remains in the list of Top Ten Classic TV Shows of All Time.
Sheriff Andy Taylor (Griffith), his son Opie (Ron Howard), Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts) and a host of others from Mayberry, North Carolina provided great life lessons with both humor and sometimes drama.
One notable episode focused in on the importance of parenting when outside influences come in to disrupt. It’s a wonderful lesson even today.
The episode, “Opies Hobo Friend,” aired on November 13, 1961:
🔹Deputy Barney remains determined to round up what he is convinced is a Chicago gang on the lam.
🔹A life lesson appears in learning how to tell good from bad.
🔹Andy makes certain that Opie learns that lesson.
🔹Earl Hagen’s evocative theme played on harmonica that captures the slowed-paced and seemingly innocence of small-town America just when the post-war 50s were giving way to the New Frontier of the 60s.
🔹Buddy Ebsen (the original Tin Man in “The Wizard of Oz” 1939 movie, before he became ill from the silver body paint), played the guest star role as hobo David Browne. He is dressed just a shade better here than he is when “The Beverly Hillbillies” television program starts its run the following year.
Deputy Barney tells his boss, “Oh, Andy, everything’s breakin’ loose. First, Mrs. Tillman has an apple pie stolen from her window. Now, Jess Crawford just reported a chicken thief. It’s a regular reign of terror!”
David Browne, a hobo, appears in Mayberry and befriends Opie. It becomes obvious that Andy must put away the welcome mat when the likable drifter starts putting Artful Dodger-ish notions into Opie’s head.
David Browne: You know, I’ve grown awful fond of that young fellow. What’s wrong?
Andy Taylor: Well, there seems to be something wrong with his thinkin’. He’s gotten a little twisted on things lately, like bein’ able to tell the difference between right and wrong.
David Browne: Oh.
Andy Taylor: Not that that’s an easy thing. A lot of grownups still strugglin’ with that same problem, but ‘specially difficult for a youngster, ’cause things rub off on ’em so easy.
David Browne: Well, Sheriff, maybe I do look at things differently than other people. Is that wrong? I live by my wits. I’m not above bending the law now and then to keep clothes on my back or food in my stomach. I live the kind of life that other people would just love to live if they only had the courage. Who’s to say that the boy would be happier your way or mine? Why not let him decide?
Andy Taylor: Nah, I’m afraid it don’t work that way. You can’t let a young ‘un decide for himself. He’ll grab at the first flashy thing with shiny ribbons on it, then when he finds out there’s a hook in it, it’s too late. The wrong ideas come packaged with so much glitter it’s hard to convince him that other things might be better in the long run, and all a parent can do is say, “Wait. Trust me,” and try to keep temptation away.
Somehow, along the way, we have lost this basic truth. As parents, we must protect our children from harmful indoctrination and propaganda. Too many people are more concerned about being their child’s friend, than in being a parent.
When William Szathmary died on June 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tennessee, millions of fans who knew him, did not know him by his birth name.
Eleven years prior to his death, meeting American comedian Bill Dana was a complete surprise, because I had completely forgotten about the entertainer.
Like many baby boomers growing up in the 1960s, Dana would make America laugh with his signature, “Hello, my name is Jose Jiminez” astronaut routine. It was so popular, another celebrity, a country and western singing star, would adapt his own stage introductions with “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash!”
In 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Buzz Aldrin, Wally Schirra, Gene Krantz, and other space related notables at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.
Among some of the “celebrities” I talked with were movie and television stars James Drury (The Virginian, Disney’s Toby Tyler), Lana Wood (The Searchers, Peyton Place, Diamonds Are Forever) Clint Howard (Gentle Ben, Apollo 13), and Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet). It was certainly an unexpected eye opener to spend some time with Bill Dana.
“Okay, José, you’re on your way!”
With those words, radioed to Alan Shepard as he lifted off to become the first American astronaut to fly into space on May 5, 1961, Bill Dana’s role in NASA history was sealed.
Because of his popularity portraying “José Jiménez,” Dana was bestowed the title of being the eighth of the Mercury 7 astronauts.
When he died on that June 15th in 2017, Dana was 92.
“He’ll be missed not only by the astronaut family, but many more around the world,” said Tammy Sudler, president and CEO of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. “Bill Dana was lovingly known as our honorary Mercury 8 astronaut.”
First created in 1959 for “The Steve Allen Show” and later appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” José Jiménez held several positions, including an elevator operator, a bobsled racer, a Navy submariner and a lion tamer, but it was as the shiny-spacesuited, reluctant astronaut that the Bolivian character became famous (Dana was of Hungarian-Jewish ancestry in reality).
“What do you consider the most important thing in rocket travel?” asked Ed Sullivan, playing the straight man during one of Dana’s better-known skits.
“To me the most important thing in the rocket travel is the blast-off,” said Dana.
“The blast-off…” repeated Sullivan.
“I always take a blast before I take off. Otherwise, I would not go near that thing,” Dana quipped as Jiménez.
Dana’s José Jiménez routine was later released on record albums, rising to the Top 20 on the Billboard charts, which drew the attention of the real-life Mercury astronauts.
“The astronauts, especially Shepard, absolutely loved the record, and listened to it in the office after intense training sessions,” author Neal Thompson described in “Light This Candle” (Crown, 2004), his biography of the first astronaut. “Shepard even tape recorded the album and during lulls between training exercises or during test launches at the Cape would play the tapes at full volume near the Mission Control loudspeakers.”
The astronaut and comedian first met at a Cocoa Beach night club, where Shepard — from out in the audience and without the prior knowledge of Dana — took on the role of the straight man, setting up Jiménez’s replies. Soon, fellow astronauts Wally Schirra and Deke Slayton joined in.
“The club was roaring as the three astronauts took turns,” wrote Thompson. After the show, Dana hurried to a phone to call his producer in New York.
“‘They know us. They know every word. And they love us,” exclaimed Dana, as described by Thompson.
Shepard and the other astronauts’ fondness for Dana and his character led to José Jiménez becoming the unofficial mascot of the Mercury program.
In addition to inspiring the 1961 launch call between Slayton (in the blockhouse) and Shepard (on top of a Redstone rocket), Dana performed at President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball with Shepard in attendance.
The comedian also inspired a “gotcha” – a practical joke – that Shepard arranged in secret for John Glenn to discover once aboard his Friendship 7 Mercury spacecraft. Opening up a pouch while in orbit, Glenn was surprised by a small stuffed mouse floating free, a reference to the “leetle mice” Jiménez would cite as fellow test subjects in his routine.
Sammy Davis, Jr. Meets Archie Bunker
One of the most celebrated televised episodes of the classic and controversial All in the Family aired in 1972. It’s the tale about the time entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. stopped by to visit the Bunkers.
It begins with a briefcase he left in Archie’s cab and ends with the kiss of infamy. Very few people are aware that the writer of this episode was Bill Dana.
🔹Born William Szathmary in Quincy, Massachusetts on Oct. 5, 1924, Dana served as a gunner and mortarman in the U.S. Army during World War II.
🔹He began his career in comedy as a page and a writer for other comedians’ stand-up routines.
🔹Dana was also a screenwriter for television and movies, writing the Emmy-Award-winning “All in the Family” episode, “Sammy Davis Visits Archie Bunker” (1972), penning jokes for the “Donny and Marie” show (1977-1978), and co-writing the script for the “Get Smart” film “The Nude Bomb” (1980).
Dana also showed up as José Jiménez in a number of TV cameos, including as part of a 1966 episode of “Batman,” appearing alongside the late Adam West and Burt Ward.
Carl Switzer, 12, ended his run as a notable Little Rascal when the “Our Gang” short films series ended in 1940.
🔹He continued to appear in movies with various supporting roles, including I Love You Again, Going My Way, Courage of Lassie, and It’s a Wonderful Life and starred in the John Wayne film Island in the Sky where he coined the phrase “Whatever’s customary,” about the only line he spoke throughout the film, but one he repeated several times in it.
🔹Switzer’s last starring roles were in a brief series of imitation-Bowery Boys movies; he reprised his “Alfalfa” characterization, complete with comically sour vocals, in “Gas House Kids” comedies of 1946-1947.
🔹He returned to supporting roles, including a short stint as B-western sidekick “Alfalfa Johnson.”
🔹Switzer preferred not to recall his Our Gang work; in his 1946 resume he referred to the gang films generically as “M-G-M short product.”
🔹Switzer had a fleeting cameo in the 1954 musical film White Christmas where his picture was used to depict an Army buddy (named “Freckle-Faced Haynes”) of lead characters (Wallace and Davis) played by Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and also the brother of the female leads (the Haynes Sisters) played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. He also did some acting for television.
🔹His final film role was in 1958’s The Defiant Ones and on the television series The Roy Rogers Show, where he was called upon to reprise his off-key “Alfalfa-like” singing. Switzer’s difficult reputation and his typecasting as “Alfalfa” made it difficult for him to find quality work.
🔹In the early 1950s, Switzer moved to Kansas. He lived and worked on a farm at Pretty Prairie, west of Wichita. There he met and married Diane Collingwood, the heiress of grain elevator empire Collingwood Grain.
The marriage only lasted four months, but did result in the birth of a son whose name was a well-kept secret. In 2002, it was revealed that his son’s name is Lance, per his cousin’s statement on ancestry.com.
🔹In addition to acting, Switzer bred hunting dogs and guided hunting expeditions. Among his more notable clients were Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (Switzer’s godparents), and James Stewart.
🔹In January 1958, he survived being shot in the arm while getting into his car. (His assailant was never identified.)
🔹Months later, Switzer was arrested in Sequoia National Forest for cutting down 15 pine trees he sold as Christmas trees. He was sentenced to a year’s probation and ordered to pay a $225 fine.
🔹Prior to a hunting guide job, Switzer had borrowed a hunting dog from Moses “Bud” Stiltz. When the dog was lost, Switzer offered a $50 reward for the dog’s return.
🔹A man found the dog a few days later and brought it to the bar where Switzer was working. Switzer paid the man $35 and bought him $15 worth of drinks from the bar.
🔹Several days later on January 21, 1959, Switzer and his friend Jack Piott decided that Stiltz owed Switzer the $50 paid to the man who found the dog.
🔹The pair allegedly arrived drunk at Stiltz’s home in Mission Hills to collect the money Stiltz “owed” him.
🔹Switzer knocked on Stiltz’s front door, demanding, “Let me in, or I’ll kick in the door.” Once Switzer was inside the home, he and Stiltz got into an argument. Switzer informed Stiltz that he wanted the money owed him, saying “I want that 50 bucks you owe me now, and I mean now.”
🔹When Stiltz refused to hand over the money, the two engaged in a physical fight. Piott allegedly struck Stiltz in the head with a glass-domed clock, which caused him to bleed from his left eye.
🔹Stiltz retreated to his bedroom and returned holding a .38-caliber revolver, but Switzer immediately grabbed the gun away from him, resulting in a shot being fired that hit the ceiling.
🔹Switzer then forced Stiltz into a closet, despite Stiltz having gotten his hands back on the gun. Switzer then allegedly pulled a switchblade knife and screamed, “I’m going to kill you” and was attempting to stab him with it, but just as Switzer was about to charge him, Stiltz raised the gun and shot Switzer in the groin. Switzer died of massive internal bleeding and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
🔹Jack Piott’s version of events was different, telling investigators that he and Switzer went to collect a debt from Stiltz, when an argument broke out. Piott said a brief struggle ensued and Stiltz brandished a gun and shot Switzer, who was unarmed at the time, in the groin.
🔹According to police reports, only by begging was Piott able to save his own life.
🔹The killing was held to be a justifiable homicide. Switzer had allegedly pulled a knife; therefore, the shooting was judged to be self-defense.
🔹During the inquest regarding Switzer’s death, it was revealed that what was originally reported as a “hunting knife” was in fact merely a penknife. It had been found by crime scene investigators under his body, but with no blade exposed.
WITNESS COMES FORWARD
🔹On January 25, 2001, a third witness came forward and gave his version of the events of January 21, 1959. The witness, 56-year-old Tom Corrigan, son of Western movie star Ray “Crash” Corrigan and stepson of Moses Stiltz, was present the night Switzer was killed.
🔹”It was more like murder,” Corrigan told reporters. He said he heard the knock on the front door and heard Switzer say “Western Union for Bud Stiltz.” Corrigan’s mother, Rita Corrigan, opened the door to find a drunk and demanding Switzer complaining about a perceived, months-old debt.
🔹Switzer entered the house followed by Jack Piott and stated that he was going to beat Stiltz. Stiltz greeted Switzer with a .38-caliber revolver in his hand. Tom Corrigan claimed to witness Switzer grab the revolver and the two began struggling to gain control over it. Piott broke a glass-domed clock over Stiltz’s head whose eye swelled shut.
🔹During the struggle the gun fired into the ceiling and Tom Corrigan was struck in the leg by a piece of shrapnel. After the initial shot, his two younger sisters ran to a neighbor’s house to call for help.
🔹”Well, we shot Tommy, enough of this,” he remembers Switzer saying before Switzer and Piott started to retreat. Corrigan had just stepped out the front door when he heard a second shot go off behind him. He did not see his stepfather shoot Switzer, but when he turned around he saw Switzer sliding down the wall with a surprised look on his face — shot in the groin.
🔹Corrigan said he spotted a closed penknife at Switzer’s side which he presumed fell out of his pocket or his hand.
🔹He then witnessed his stepfather back Piott into the kitchen counter and threaten to kill him, but as the man begged for his life, they heard emergency sirens which is why Corrigan believed Stiltz didn’t shoot him again.
🔹Corrigan recalled that his stepfather, Bud Stiltz, lied in his account of the event to the authorities.
🔹Following the shooting, Corrigan claims a now-deceased Los Angeles Police Department detective, Pat Pow, interviewed him and asked him if he would testify before a judge. Corrigan claims to have agreed, although for unknown reasons he was never called before the coroner’s jury. “He didn’t have to kill him,” Corrigan said.
Carl Switzer is interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California. His death went virtually unnoticed in the media, as Switzer died on the same day as the famous movie director, Cecil B. DeMille. Switzer received only minor footnotes in most newspapers, while DeMille’s obituary dominated the columns.
Or How to Tick Off My Teacher Without Really Trying…
…Or Finding My Porpoise in Life
“This time find a book with porpoise, Jackie,” Ms. Nancy Lewis instructed me in 1965.
The previous time I checked out a book from the Harlandale School District Book Mobile, it was a brand new novel by Walt Morey entitled Gentle Ben.
Ben was a big brown bear in Alaska who befriended a boy named Mark. I imagined the boy looked similar to my fifth grade classmate, Mark Kuykendall, because he was somewhat adventurous.
Well, I supposed Ms. Lewis was upset about my book choices because she obviously didn’t think my Gentle Ben skit—performed in front of her fifth grade class in lieu of a book report— was as brilliant as the class did.
“GET MY PADDLE”
The week before, I had seen Ms. Lewis use her “discipline paddle” on Kenneth Andrews. Ken was upset because the recess bell rang– meaning we were to get back to class. It went off just as he had stepped up to bat during an exciting softball game.
I was playing second base when pitcher David Cardenas took the ball and walked back towards the second wing of Gillette Elementary School in south San Antonio that day.
The words that red-headed Kenneth screamed in anger, for not having the ball pitched to him, was dialect unfitting to a 5th grader, Ms. Lewis determined.
“Jackie, go get my paddle,” she directed me.
Why me? Kenneth is my friend. I don’t want to see his butt blistered by her spanking paddle.
I ran to our classroom and obediently brought out the paddle.
“What porpoise does that serve to cuss like that?” she asked Kenneth before the WHACK! WHACK! WHACK!
His buttocks were seared. All I knew was I wanted to make certain I had a good porpoise for anything I did around Ms. Lewis.
The next time the Book Mobile came to our school I made sure my book had porpoises in it.
I wasn’t certain what she had against bears, but as long as I never was on the receiving end of the teacher’s paddle, I would learn as much about porpoises as required.
A couple of years later, Gentle Ben became a TV series and the boy in that show didn’t look anything like the adventurous Mark Kuykendall at all.
The actor was Clint Howard, younger brother of Ron Howard, “Opie Taylor” of Mayberry and Andy Griffith fame at the time.
It was an okay show, but as long as Ms. Lewis wasn’t my teacher anymore it was all right by me.
Fast forward forty years later. It’s 2006, and I finally know the difference between Ms. Lewis’ pronunciation “porpoise” and the word “purpose.” That year I had the pleasure of meeting Buzz Aldrin, Wally Schirra, Gene Krantz, and other space related notables at the St. Anthony Hotel in downtown San Antonio.
Among some of the “celebrities” I talked with were movie and television stars James Drury (The Virginian, Disney’s Toby Tyler), Lana Wood (The Searchers, Peyton Place, Diamonds Are Forever), comedian Bill Dana (Jose Jiminez), Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet) and more.
It was certainly an unexpected eye opener to spend some time with the one and only Clint Howard. Although known to Baby Boomers for his role in Gentle Ben, he was at the Space conference for his part in the Ron Howard movie, Apollo 13.
The real life Apollo Mission control commander, Gene Krantz was nearby and in passing, called out to Howard: “Afternoon Sy!”
Clint Howard grinned and explained his role in Apollo 13 was the part of Sy Liebergot, a key member of the Mission Control crew under Krantz.
Howard loved the role acting with Ed Harris who played Krantz:
Sy Liebergot: Flight… I recommend we shut down reactant valves to the fuel cells.
Gene Kranz: What the hell good is that gonna do?
Sy Liebergot: If that’s where the leak is, we can isolate it. We can save what’s left in the tanks and we can run on the good cell.
Gene Kranz: You close ’em, you can’t open ’em again! You can’t land on the moon with one healthy fuel cell!
Sy Liebergot: Gene, the Odyssey is “dying”. From my chair here, this is the last option.
Howard was kind enough to place his signature on a photo alongside his brother Ron Howard’s autograph and was willing to be interviewed for a few quick questions. Ready go:
My dad, Rance Howard is definitely my biggest influence. He has taught both Ron and I attributes of being a good man of the earth type solid human beings. We’ve learned to apply this to our work, the entertainment business.
The work can be hard enough in the morning but it is especially grueling by the end of a very long day on the set. Through Dad, we learned to remain focused because all time counts.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this often, but I would never forgive myself if I didn’t ask, how was it working with Gentle Ben?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I’ve never really heard of that question before (He winked and grinned).
Gentle Ben was really Bruno the Bear and he actually was a gentle bear. I remember he smelled bad and enjoyed drinking Coca-Cola and eating candy, especially lemon drops and sometimes Tootsie Roll.
I was already accustomed to acting and wasn’t starstruck at that age, but co-starring with a bear was cool. My dad was always on set with me down on a ranch in the Everglades, so I was away from my mom for a bit. When we would come back for Christmas break, our house was decorated to the max for the holidays. Good memories.
I would describe you as a character actor, with a diverse set of many different roles. How do you describe your acting persona?
That’s right on. You know, my great brother Ron, five years my senior, basically played all similar roles. There is Opie (Mayberry), Ritchie (Happy Days), Chad (The Smith Family) and the character, Steve from American Graffiti, basically.
We both started very young. By the time Gentle Ben was around, I had years of experience. I’m in my fifth decade of acting and now find myself in the position in my career as a character actor with a lot of experience.
When I walk on set and I think people look towards me, somewhat for some of a bit of guidance and mentoring. Now, I don’t stick my nose somewhere where it doesn’t belong. I’m there to act, my job. Thats my thing. I’m not going to step on anybody’s toes and automatically mentor. It is not my responsibility. But I realize now that some people do look up to me, and respect my experience. So I keep that in mind when I work on any project. I will be a leader and positive influencer for the director, crew, the actors if and as needed.
Like I said, I grew up with wonderful parents. My Dad mentored and I remain grateful.
Note: At the time of this interview Rance Howard was alive. He passed away on November 25, 2017. Clint’s mother, Jean Frances Speegle Howard, died on September 2, 2000.
When Hollywood legend Natalie Wood starred in the 1983 movie Brainstorm, there was no way of knowing it would be her last.
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The science-fiction movie, co-starring Christopher Walken, explored the intriguing and dangerous possibilities that came with intruding into someone else’s mind.
Natalie died before the film was finished. Despite resistance from studio executives, the director, Douglas Trumbull, creatively found a way to complete Brainstorm.
Trumball used Natalie’s younger sister, Lana Wood, for some “long shots and shaded profiles” to successfully complete the movie. Brainstorm was a hit and went on to receive a total of six award nominations.
Natalie started out successfully as a child actor and by the 1960s she was featured in Hollywood classics such as West Side Story, Gypsy, and Sex and the Single Girl.
She put her acting career on hiatus in the 1970s and had a child with Robert Wagner, whom she had previously married and divorced.
🔹While on a yachting excursion with Wagner and Brainstorm co-star Walken off Santa Catalina Island on November 29, 1981, Wood’s body was mysteriously found floating about a mile away from the yacht.
🔹An autopsy revealed that she had bruises and abrasions on her body, as well as a cocktail of pain medications and alcohol in her system.
🔹Her death was ruled to be an accidental drowning and hypothermia.
🔹To this day, no one is certain how Natalie got in the water in the first place, although then-Los Angeles County coroner Thomas Noguchi suggested that she may have slipped and fell given the alcohol in her system.
🔹Wagner claimed that there was no foul play on his part, although he admitted later that the two had a big argument right before Wood disappeared.
In 2006, I had the pleasure of meeting Buzz Aldrin, Wally Schirra, Gene Krantz, and other space related notables at the St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio, Texas.
Among some of the “celebrities” I talked with were movie and television stars James Drury (The Virginian), Clint Howard (Gentle Ben, Apollo 13), and Warren Stevens (Forbidden Planet). However, I was especially excited to spend some time with Lana Wood.
Lana followed her sister into the movie business and as a child starred in The Searchers with John Wayne. She had a recurring role in the TV hit Peyton Place in the 1960s. My favorite role of hers was as Plenty O’Toole in the 1971 James Bond spy movie, Diamonds Are Forever with Sean Connery.
I gave her my business card and we chatted for a good while. She was very open and candid during the interview, especially when asked about the death of her sister.
“First, Natalie was absolutely terrified of the water and swimming, so I never bought into the idea she went out at 10 o’clock at night in a dingy,” she said. Additionally, Wood’s sister asserted that Wood was terrified of water and under no circumstances would have gone in on her own accord.
“The things they (Wagner and Walken) were saying that Natalie did that night were just not credible,” Lana was certain. “Searchers found her in her nightgown about a mile away. That totally goes against her personality, her character.”
“I knew her all of our life and she was always concerned about how she looked and where she was going,” Lana continued. “Our mother, was an aggressive stage mom, especially with Natalie. It was drilled in her head to be dressed right, day or night, here or there.”
“Do you think her death was an accident?” I asked point blank.
“No, if it was an accident, it was intentional because of their fight on the yacht,” she responded. “I believe her death was intentional and the man who killed my sister was not Christopher Walken. It has been over 20 years now and it continues to haunt me.”
🔹In 1983, the coroner officially ruled Natalie Wood’s death as an accident.
🔹Her death certificate reads, a “probable drowning in the ocean.”
🔹In 2011, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department reopened the investigation into the mysterious death.
Since the night of her death, more information has come to light:
🔹The yacht captain and Christopher Walken both heard Wood and Wagner fighting that night, per Vanity Fair.
🔹Questions about why no one called for emergency assistance when Wagner discovered his wife missing have never been answered. It wasn’t until a few hours later when the incident was reported.
🔹Over time, new witnesses, including people who were in their own boats at that time, came forward indicating they heard arguing and a woman shouting for help on that night.
🔹Natalie’s death certificate was amended in 2012 to change the cause of her death from “Drowning” to “Drowning and other undetermined factors”.
Finally, during the last week of May 2022, the LA County Sheriff’s Dept. announced they cleared Robert Wagner, 92, in its investigation into the death of Natalie Wood.
“All leads have been exhausted and the case remains open,” they said. “If additional leads surface which have not already been investigated, the case will be reassigned for investigation.”
🔹When Natalie Wood’s death investigation was reopened, her cause of death was changed to “undetermined.”
🔹Her body was found dressed in a plaid, flannel nightgown, argyle socks, and a red down jacket.
🔹Wood’s blood alcohol content was 0.14%, which was higher than the legal driving limit.
🔹Pain and motion sickness medications were found in her bloodstream.
🔹Bruises were found on several parts of her body, such as the ankles, knees, and wrists.
🔹In the 1981 report, the bruises were attributed to hitting her body on the side of the yacht, as she struggled to get back up after falling over.
🔹However, the new coroner’s report, after the reinvestigation, states that the bruises occurred before Wood even fell into the water.
“The location of the bruises, the multiplicity of the bruises, lack of head trauma, or facial bruising support bruising having occurred prior to entry in the water.”
🔹The yacht’s captain, Dennis Davern, revealed in an interview that he lied during his police interrogation. When asked whether he thought Wagner was responsible, he answered, “Yes, I would say so. Yes.”
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Knowing I’m an advid autograph collector, my mother, Geraldine Dennis was always on the lookout and obtained several signatures for me.
In April 1969, she took me to a Tom Jones concert with my cousins Carolyn Sanders Gerland and James Johnson at the Hemisfair Arena in San Antonio, Texas. Gladys Knight and the Pips and comedian Norm Crosby also appeared.
They performed on a stage, in the center of the arena, with an amazing orchestra on one side. I was only 13 and the entire show was incredible. Tom Jones sang such hits as “It’s Not Unusual,” “Delilah,” and “Help Yourself.”
I was mesmerized by the strength in his voice and boldness of his showmanship. (It would be three years later, in April 1972, when I would see Elvis Presley for the first time at that same arena…and up until that concert, never did I believe Tom Jones could be beat. LOL.)
For years Mom would laugh and say, “When I die I want to come back reincarnated as a gospel backup singer so I can stand behind Tom Jones and watch him work on stage.”
She meant it.
On her 50th birthday we took her to the Magic Time Machine restaurant. It first opened in 1973, the year I graduated from high school, and continues to be a fun favorite in San Antonio.
The Time Machine is like no other restaurant I’ve ever seen, with no two seating areas alike. In San Antonio, you can sit at the Sweethearts Table, in The Attic, a Thatched Hut or even an old Refrigerator. Mom loved the salad bar, a shiny red 1952 MG-TD Roadster modified to serve as a soup and salad vegetables.
“The thing that sets The Magic Time Machine apart is our zany cast of characters who transport our guests into another point in time,” their website bills themselves. “Our servers dress in costumes representing popular pop culture icons from the past, present, and future. The entertainment comes from the humorous interaction with your server in a family friendly environment. Pirate or Princess? Hero or Villain? We have characters for every occasion and group. At The Magic Time Machine, ‘Laughing Aloud is Allowed’!”
It was a fun night that January 17, 1988. Elvis was in the house and Mom told her friends Wayne and Betty Lewis, “I wished Tom Jones would make an appearance too” and explained her reincarnation wish.
We had great laughs but it was especially joyful to see her open my present to her—an 8×10″ glossy personally autographed picture of Tom Jones. The smile and happy tears on her face endure in my thoughts even today.
I took mom to see Tom Jones two more times (she had even seen him in Las Vegas) both in San Antonio’s Majestic Theater and the Laurie Auditorium. Each time she repeated her reincarnation wish–“gospel singer behind Tom Jones.”
When Mom died in September 2006, the funeral at First Baptist Church in Boerne, Texas was full. My sister Bobbi Shipman and I both addressed our dear family and friends, some we hadn’t seen in decades. Of course, there was great emotion and sadness.
To end it all, a gospel group from a Black San Antonio church led by Janet Givens (she has sang to royalty and backed up Michael Bolton) practically blew the stained glass windows out of the church with their songs. They concluded with “Oh Happy Day!”
Mom’s funeral was appropriately uplifting…just like her.
I imagine that as Sir Tom Jones celebrates his 82nd birthday here on Earth June 7th, Mom will be wishing him good will and happiness from Heaven–and looking at his behind.
Hunter Biden’s daddy, the “Big Guy,” has a history of cheating. Through plagiarism in college, back door deals in New Jersey, voter and ballot fraud, money laundering kick backs with foreign entities, Joe Biden has always been a low class political swindler.
Here’s a satirical look at Biden and his pals as seen through the eyes of millions via social media memes.
The first long term contract ever given to a Black actor in Hollywood was written for Fred Morrison.
Frederic Ernest “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, born in New Orleans started out in films called the Baby Marie Osbourne series. He earned his “Sunshine Sammy” nickname for his big smile and easygoing personality.
Producer Hal Roach had originally planned on giving him his own series, but “The Sunshine Sammy Series” failed after a few attempts. Hal and his wife brainstormed the idea of expanding it, not on just one character, but to a band of “Rascals.”
Mrs. Roach, very impressed with Morrison, suggested that her husband should get the 7-year-old under their studio contract. With the addition of more children, the “Our Gang” series was born. Sunshine Sammy Morrison ended up working in the aerospace industry and died of cancer when he was 76.
When Roach first started making the shorts way back in 1921, the “Our Gang” the short films were shown in theaters prior to the main picture. When they eventually made the jump to television, the series became “The Little Rascals.”
After the 23 years of “The Little Rascals” run came to an end, 220 films had been made. Reruns ensured generations of fans would continue to enjoy the series.
PETEY THE CIRCLE EYED DOG
Who remembers Petey, the adorable dog with the black circle under his eye?
He was portrayed by a pit bull named Pal who had the naturally-occurring marking—accented with makeup to complete the ring.
Pal was introduced into the series as just a 6-month-old pup. He became a massive star and the beloved family pet of trainer Harry Lucenay. Tragically, in 1930, Pal passed away after being poisoned.
“The Little Rascals” was still going strong, and the gang needed their Petey. Pal’s own son, Peter, stepped in as the new “Perry.” Makeup artists drew the distinctive circle around Peter’s opposite eye, in tribute to his much-loved father.
Carl Switzer spent five years portraying the very popular role of “Alfalfa” in 75 films. When he became to old for the part, his intention in 1940 was to continue his career in show business. Often uncredited, Switzer appeared in small parts in nearly sixty films, including My Favorite Blonde (1942), The Human Comedy (1943), Going My Way (1944), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), State of the Union (1948), Pat and Mike (1952). Switzer even played a slave in Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956).
In early 1959, Switzer was breeding and training hunting dogs. He was hired to train the hunting dog of a man named Moses Stiltz. While training the dog, it took off. Desperate, Switzer offered a reward.
The dog was returned, Switzer ended up paying up, then decided to go to Stiltz to try to get his reward money back. The two men got into a fight, and Switzer was shot in the groin. He died when he arrived at the hospital.
JACKIE COOPER, A TOUGH RASCAL
Jackie Cooper passed away in 2011 and the world mourned the loss of the Superman film’s Perry White. Older fans knew Cooper had been one of “The Little Rascals.”
Director Norman Taurog, told the young actor that he would shoot his dog if he didn’t cry on command during the filming for a 1931 film.
In “Our Gang,” Cooper was called “the little tough guy,” and unlike many of the kids who came and went through the “Rascals” roster, Cooper stayed in show business. (Which wasn’t entirely surprising, as his father was a studio production manager, and his uncle was the director that threatened to shoot his dog. He’s pictured signing his contract with MGM.)
OTHER NOTABLE RASCALS
🔹Norman “Chubby” Chaney died of a heart condition when he was 21.
🔹Billy “Froggy” Laughlin was riding a scooter when he was hit by a car and killed.
🔹Alfalfa’s brother, Harold “Slim” Switzer, took his own life at the age of 42.
Johnny Cash started a massive ring of fire on June 27th of 1965. It was in California’s Los Padres National Forest.
According to Cash’s FBI file acquired via the Freedom of Information Act, the music icon said his camper shot sparks out of its faulty exhaust system after getting stuck along the side of the road. Cash tried to gun the engine and accidentally lit the forest ablaze.
Cash’s nephew, Damon Fielder, was on the fishing trip with Cash when the fire started. According to his story, Uncle John was just drunk and allowed their campfire to get out of control. The blaze burned 508 acres of forest, spread across three mountains, and 49 of the area’s 53 California condors disappeared.
After feigning illness to avoid a court date, the “Ring of Fire” singer eventually paid a fine of $82,001 in damages.
🔹Throughout his career, Cash would often perform in prisons and recorded two live albums during those performances — Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison in 1968 and Johnny Cash at San Quentin in 1969.
🔹Cash was actually arrested seven times total for charges including reckless driving, drug use and public drunkenness, though he never spent more than a few nights in jail.
🔹One of his arrests was for picking flowers in Starkville, Mississippi, when he drunkenly took flowers from someone’s yard at 2 a.m. At the Starkville jail, he kicked the door so hard he broke his toe and later recorded a song about the experience.
🔹In 1981, Cash was attacked by his pet ostrich, Waldo. The big bird left him with five broken ribs and internal bleeding. The attack happened on the grounds of the exotic animal park Cash had established behind the House of Cash offices in Tennessee.
🔹In his book Cash: The Autobiograph, the musician wrote that Waldo was “not happy” to see him one day and that he swiped at the animal with a stick to show him who was boss.
“I missed,” Cash wrote. “He wasn’t there. He was in the air, and a split second later he was on his way down again, with that big toe of his, larger than my size-thirteen shoe, extended toward my stomach. He made contact — I’m sure there was never any question he wouldn’t — and frankly, I got off lightly. All he did was break my two lower ribs and rip my stomach open down to my belt, If the belt hadn’t been good and strong, with a solid belt buckle, he’d have spilled my guts exactly the way he meant to. As it was, he knocked me over onto my back and I broke three more ribs on a rock — but I had sense enough to keep swinging the stick, so he didn’t get to finish me. I scored a good hit on one of his legs, and he ran off.”
In the history of music, Johnny Cash definitely is one of the best-known names in the industry.