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News From the Grid
The Latest as of January 28, 2011
Charlie Callas 1924-2011
Charlie Callas, a zany comedian known for his facial expressions, gift of imitating people and sound effects, and politically incorrect use of accents, died January 28, from what a Las Vegas area coroner called "natural causes." He was 86, according to most reference sources. Callas died following the death of his wife, Evelyn, in July, which his family said broke his heart.
Born in Brooklyn, Callas came to prominence as a surprisingly gifted drummer for big bands in the 1940s. Callas toured with Frank Sinatra and could often be seen on a number of variety shows, like The Kraft Music Hall and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Callas was reportedly banned from the latter show for life after shoving the notoriously unforgiving Carson. Callas was also a regular on The Andy Williams Show and popped up quite often on The Dean Martin Show and Martin's Celebrity Roast specials, where Callas did his bit in which the arrow shot through him when he got too verbose. In the 1970s Callas was also a regular on the Robert Wagner/Eddie Albert CBS private eye series, Switch, playing Martin Argos, a con man turned restaurant owner.
One night in the 1960s, on The Merv Griffin Show, Callas did a comedy bit that reportedly cracked up fellow guest Jerry Lewis so severely, Lewis immediately cast him in his next movie, "The Big Mouth." Other movies included the voice of the animated title character in Disney's "Pete the Dragon," and a number of Mel Brooks movies including :"Silent
Movie," "High Anxiety" and "History of the World: Part 1." Other TV appearances included The Hollywood Palace, The Munsters, The Monkees, The Love Boat, Cagney & Lacey, LA Law, and even Larry the Cable Guy's 2007 and 2008 Christmas cable specials.
Callas appeared quite often on the Marshall Hollywood Squares, from 1975 to 1980, enough to be what this site calls a "frequent guest." He appeared to have been quite a master of getting laughs out of even the most repeated bits, like the arrow (which actually seemed to work even better while sitting in a square). Among his many appearances was the show's very last week on NBC, and he did the arrow bit one more time on that very last show. Callas also appeared on the Davidson version.
The Game Shows of Charlie Callas
Beat the Clock (Gene Wood version)
Hollywood Squares (Marshall & Davidson)
Magnificent Marble Machine
Win, Lose or Draw
Suzannah York 1939-2011
Suzannah York, a 1960s "mod girl" and Oscar nominee who later played Superman's mother, died of cancer January 15 at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London. She had turned 72 just six days earlier, while she was already in the hospital.
Born in Chelsea, London, York trained at London's Royal Academy for Theatrical Art. Her role opposite Sean Connery in a British TV production of "The Crucible" brought her to films, first 1960's "Tunes of Glory" and later, her breakthrough role in the 1963 classic, "Tom Jones," an Oscar winner for Best Picture. While her looks grew great reviews, so did her acting, and she got an Oscar nomination for her role in 1969's "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" She also took on groundbreaking, controversial roles, including that of a lesbian in "The Killing of Sister George." While the quality of her film roles dwindled in the 1970s--she famously played Superman's mother on the planet Krypton, opposite Marlon Brando, in 1978's "Superman"--she continued with stage work, often one woman shows, and even wrote children's books.
York is another star who disproves the often-said belief that only B- and C-list stars appeared on The Hollywood Squares. She was in the grid during the last week of 1966, at the height of her popularity.
Those Who Left Us: 2010
Sadly, 2010 ended up being another year in which we lost an unusual number of former Squares. So I decided to keep the 2010 obits on a new page, just as I did back in 2006 when the same thing happened.mm
Marcia Lewis 1938-2010
Marcia Lewis, actress who reached her heights in two Broadway revivals in the 1990s, died December 21, 2010 of cancer in Nashville. She was 72.
Born in Melrose, Massachussetts, and raised in Cincinnati, Lewis actually started out as a registered nurse. She eventually made her Broadway debut in "Hello Dolly!" alongside Ethel Merman. Legend has it Merman told Lewis, "You and I will never have to worry about reaching the balcony!" in reference to the loud, brassy voices of both. Lewis also appeared in "The Time of Your Life" in the 1960s. On television, she guested on numerous shows such as The Bob Newhart Show, The Bionic Woman, Happy Days and Kate & Allie, and was actually a regular on two short-lived series, NBC's Who's Watching the Kids (1978-79) and ABC's Goodtime Girls (1980). But her first love was Broadway and she netted Tony nominations for her roles in the revivals of "Grease" and "Chicago."
Marcia Lewis (who actually added Bryan to her stage name in later years) appeared once in the NBC daytime version of The Hollywood Squares, apparently to plug Who's Watching the Kids? She mentioned The Hollywood Squares on her own resume.
Steve Landesberg 1936?-2010
Peter Marshall: Why should you brush your zipper with an eraser?
Steve Landesberg: Because it feels so good!
Steve Landesberg, standup comedian who often specialized in accents but who was best remembered as the soft-spoken, intellectual Lt. Dietrich on Barney Miller, died December 20th after a long bout with cancer. Varying sources list his age as being 74 to 65, but the LA Times bases its 1936 estimate on public records.
Born in New York City, Landesberg was a standup comedian who worked a number of clubs before making his TV debut in what he himself termed a "disastrous" appearance with an improv troupe on The Ed Sullivan Show. "We bombed, we just died," he recalled years later on one of his many more successful appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. His appearances there, and on The Dean Martin Show, led to his first regular role in a series, the short-lived CBS sitcom Paul Sand in Friends in Lovers (1974-75), then guest appearances on shows like The Rockford Files before he landed his role of a lifetime: Lt. Arthur Dietrich on the ABC sitcom Barney Miller. He started off as a semi-regular before becoming a full time regular in 1978.
Barney Miller was unusual in that it was videotaped on a soundstage and took place almost entirely in the detective room of the NYPD's fictional 12th precinct. Many real life cops said this actually made the show more realistic. The officers dealt with various residents who came in and out of the squad room either as complainants or suspects, and Dietrich was the know-it-all who seemed to know a little about everything. In one surprisingly dramatic episode, however, Dietrich has to use his firearm in the line of duty and threatens to quit, taking it as a personal failure. As Capt. Miller berates him for his attitude, we find out Dietrich had a long string of other jobs before he became a cop.
After Barney Miller ended voluntarily in 1982, Landesberg made a number of appearances in movies and on TV. His intellectual image got him cast as doctors often--in three episodes of The Golden Girls, on the Starz cable series Head Case (2007-09), and in the 2009 movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall." Landesberg also did a lot of TV commercial and voiceover work (most recently on American Dad), and guested on series such as Law & Order, Everybody Hates Chris, That 70s Show, and The Ghost Whisperer and appeared as an accountant in the movie "Wild Hogs."
Landesberg appeared on the Marshall Hollywood Squares a number of times in the 1978-79 time frame. When the Barney Miller cast took over most of the grid one week on NBC, Landesberg shared a square with fellow cast member Ron Carey.
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