The Passing of Heath Ledger
This is the latest in what seems to be an awfully deadly week for Hollywood celebrities (Brad Renfro, Allan Melvin, Susanne Pleshette, songwriter John Stewart, Bobby Fischer (as noted in last week's PCR), Maila "Vampira" Nurmi (same), and now, Heath Ledger.
I first learned that 28-year-old Heath Ledger had died by reading Mike Smith's Readers Comment about it last night (Tues, the 22nd). Shocking, indeed, that someone so young as Ledger is already lost to us because of (what is known so far at this writing) an accidental overdose of sleeping pills.
Expected for a massage therapy session, he was found naked and unconcious, facedown on the floor at the foot of his bed in his SoHo apartment, by a housekeeper who was trying to wake him so he could keep the appointment. Sadly, he was already gone.
Previously best known as one of the two gay cowboys in Brokeback Mountain (an Oscar-nominated role), Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in the new Dark Knight Batman film is something I was, and am, very much looking forward to. Director Chris Nolan praised his performance as being darker and more depraved than Jack Nicholson's iconic performance in Tim Burton's Batman (1989).
Heath Ledger's autopsy is scheduled today as I write this (Wed, the 23rd), and I will update this section as soon as practical when more information becomes available.
Character actor Allan Melvin, arguably best known from The Brady Bunch as Alice's boyfriend, Sam the butcher, died last Thursday at the age of 84 from cancer.
While most may identify him with The Brady Bunch character, he made a much bigger impression on me as both Sergeant Hacker from Gomer Pyle USMC, and as Archie Bunker's best friend, Barney Hefner, on Norman Lear's All in the Family. He voiced several cartoon characters (easy to believe), including Magilla Gorilla, a cartoon I watched regularly back in the day.
Baby Boomers slightly older than I am might also remember Melvin from one of his first TV roles, that of Sgt. Bilko's right-hand man Cpl. Henshaw on the Phil Silvers Show.
Funny how military, best friend, and second banana roles could come so easily and be so natural for him. But that's what the best charactor actors do -- leave just as indelible an impression as the show's "star" does. And give the common guy someone to identify with. Allan Melvin was among the very best. He will be missed.
I don't want the Front Page to get too bogged down in obituaries, so I am not commenting on Brad Renfro or songwriter John Stewart ("Daydream Believer"), because I'm expecting Mike Smith will do his usual outstanding job in this week's Rant.
Regarding the Legacy of Martin Luther King
Observing another Martin Luther King Day last Monday caused me to reflect on what has progressed since the turbulent days of the '60s' protests and race riots. There is no doubt that vast improvements have been made in race relations since the '60s civil rights movement, more equal opportunity across the board, and African-Americans can expect much more out of life now than their ancestors ever did. Of course, things are still not perfect, nor will they be, at least in my lifetime, but they're getting there.
Back in the '60s, sometime after Martin Luther King was assasinated, and before Women's Lib took off as a full-fledged political force, we of the hippie generation used to wonder out loud during various, you know, sit-ins and such, who would be the first to break the "glass ceiling" of Presidential candidates: a black man or a white woman? (We didn't consider a black woman a realistic expectation in our lifetime.) It has been fascinating to me that we lived to see this contest play out in the very same election year.
I see a Democrat taking over the White House in 2009....and it will be a black man or a white woman. Either way, it will be historic, and some very old bets will be settled. At this time, I don't see a Republican victor, unless voters turn out en masse to make sure the Democrat does not win. But I digress...
While the movement initiated by Dr. Martin Luther King continues to develop, and its positive contributions to society continue to be observed and documented, I have to say, I wonder what Dr. King would think about the fact, if he could come back for just a moment, that there is a black man who has a real shot at becoming President of the United States in 2009.
Well, he'd be very happy about it, of course, even though it took over 40 years. I think he'd probably say something about arriving in The Promised Land.
If he had a few days to hang out and truly assess our current situation, he might be saddened about how other aspects of his vision developed and add that having a black Presidential candidate helps offset the damage...er....work, excuse me....of civil rights "leaders" like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, who, in the name of racial equality, actually foment far more racism than they discourage. And, with great irony, use King's legacy as a basis. I'd wager King's reaction would not just be that they're scheisters who corrupted the movement -- but that someone will succeed them when they're gone.
About This Week's "Canova" Episode
In another daring experiment, "Canova" artist John Miller is putting out this week's episode in black & white -- on purpose. He says it was his original intention to do them as black & white line drawings anyway, but became intrigued by the color experiments. This week's episode is up now. Whether this is a permanent change or not remains to be seen, but it has been---from the beginning---a work in progress.
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