Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The Flaming Nose Happy Birthday List for November 20th!

A nice array today of Happy Birthday celebrants!

The urbane British journalist, author and TV host Alistair Cooke was born on Nov. 20, 1908, and passed away in 2004.  Probably best loved here for his longtime hosting duties on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre, he was a welcome visitor to our homes as he brought us such delights as Upstairs, Downstairs and I,Claudius.  Watching these brilliant programs wouldn't have been half as enlightening without his introductions.

Actress, comedienne, singer Kaye Ballard turns 88 today!  This multi-talented show business veteran has done it all and is still doing it, with a new CD and an autobiography out.  Kaye's got a terrific website which you should visit by clicking here.  Happy Birthday, Kaye Ballard!

The tremendously talented actress Estelle Parsons turns 86 today, also.  Estelle started her career in TV on the Today show as a news personality back in 1952, and transitioned into acting with roles in quality TV dramas of the early sixties.  Her work in movies earned her an Academy Award for 1967's Bonnie and Clyde.  Parsons mixed the big screen work with her prodigious stage career and even more roles on TV, including amazing work in The UFO Incident as Betty Hill, her long stint on Roseanne and a recent appearance on The Good Wife.  Happy Birthday, Estelle Parsons!

Hogan's Heroes co-star and longtime Family Feud game show host Richard Dawson was born on this date in 1932 and passed away in June of 2012.

One half of the Smothers Brothers was born on this date, as Dick Smothers celebrates his 74th birthday today.  This enormously talented musician, actor, and comedian was one of the pioneers pushing the boundaries of television content past the comfortable norm on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour variety show in 1967.  Fewer remember that he and his brother Tommy had an earlier sitcom of a more conventional nature.  Familiar and welcome faces all over TV, Dick Smothers and his brother Tom's affability allowed them to lead with laughs and take television to a better and more honest place.  Happy Birthday, Dick!

Finally, the lovely Veronica Hamel celebrates her 70th birthday today.  Best known for her co-starring role on Hill Street Blues during the 1980s, before that breakout success she was a frequent guest star on a wide variety of series.  Veronica subsequently became a mainstay female lead in a wide assortment of TV movies and other TV appearances, including a recurring role on Lost.   Happy Birthday, Veronica Hamel!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Flaming Nose Happy Birthday List for November 19th

An abundance of riches today!  In order of birth year, as follows:

Alan Young, born on this date in 1919.  He's most famous, TV-wise, for his delightful starring -- though not titular -- role in the charmingly absurd early 1960s sitcom Mister Ed, opposite Connie Hines and the voice of Chill Wills as the talking horse.  The versatile Young had already starred in his own radio show and later a  TV comedy/variety show at the beginning of the previous decade, and of course we also remember him so well as the kindly friend of H. G. Wells in the classic 1960 movie version of The Time Machine.  In addition to acting roles, Young became a much sought-after animation voice actor and he's still working today!  Be sure to visit his wonderful official website and pick up a copy of his autobiography Mister Ed and Me and More!.   Happy 94th Birthday, Alan!

Talkmeister Larry King was born on this day in 1933.  The New York-born King became a well-liked radio personality on Florida radio in the late 1950s, eventually moving into his trademark call-in format which went national in the late 1970s.  CNN cable founder Ted Turner plucked King and put him on TV in the same format, a winning recipe that became legendary as virtually anybody who was ANYBODY wanted to get on his show.  He retired from CNN in 2010, but has returned to the interviewer role on his web project Ora TV where he hosts Larry King Now.  Larry King is a legend!  Happy 80th Birthday, Larry!

It's almost hard to believe that fellow talk show host Dick Cavett celebrates his 77th birthday today!  Smartly funny, provocative, willing to go to to more intellectual places with his interviews than most of the other men doing the same job, Dick Cavett hosted his eponymous TV talk show The Dick Cavett Show from 1968 - 1974 and thereafter in various incarnations over the years.  (Many available on DVD and also on YouTube). His beginnings as an actor and stand-up comic served him well as he matched wits with a wide array of personalities and seemed to make genuine connections with many of them. Cavett now writes for The New York Times.  Happy Birthday, Dick!

It's also crazy but true that the man who put Larry King on CNN also celebrates his birthday on this day.  Media mogul, philanthropist, champion yachtsman Ted Turner turns 75 today! From a somewhat challenging childhood to advertising mogul and then on to creating the world's first 24 news network, Turner has always led from his passion and achieved incredible things over his amazing career.  He was the only head of a television network -- networks, that is -- who was more interesting than anything he could possibly put on the air.  CNN aired Ted Turner: The Maverick Man earlier this week; worth watching!  Those of us who worked at any of the Turner networks usually have several Ted Turner stories in our memories; I'll share mine one of these days here.  Happy Birthday, Ted!

We can't leave the ladies out for November 19th, so we wish a very Happy 54th Birthday to Allison Janney, star of The West Wing and currently this season Mom and Masters of Sex.  The multi-talented Jodie Foster celebrates her 51th Birthday today also.  Though perhaps best known these days for her motion picture career both in front of and now in back of the camera, Jodie started out in TV guest roles as a child and became a familiar face in shows such as The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Gunsmoke, My Three Sons and many others, including a starring role as Addie in the TV version of Paper Moon.  Once she hit motion pictures screen in Taxi Driver she left TV behind, but it was a wonderful training ground for this mature and intelligent actress.  Happy Birthday to these talented ladies!

We'd also like to say Happy 59th Birthday to actress Kathleen Quinlan who's done a lot of TV over the years, including The Waltons, Ironside, Little Ladies of the Night, and more recently Family Law, Prison Break and Chicago Fire.  A Happy 60th Birthday also to actor Robert Beltran, much loved for his co-starring role in Star Trek: Voyager and many other TV appearances including in the terrific SyFy channel movie Manticore!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Flaming Nose Happy Birthday List for November 18th!

This day is all about the ladies, three very different yet talented females -- one of whom has sadly passed on -- but all with their own individual niche in pop culture.

First, the sultry-voiced actress Brenda Vaccaro celebrates her 74th birthday today.  Academy Award and Tony-nominated and Emmy-winning, Vaccaro's extensive theater training was put to use in TV beginning in the early 1960s with guest roles in Naked City, The Fugitive, Marcus Welby, The Defenders, and many others.  She gained wide critical acclaim for her role on the big screen in Midnight Cowboy, but still made many TV appearances on series and TV movies (Sunshine) and specials (winning an Emmy for The Shape of Things to Come in 1973).  Vacarro had a well-publicized romance with Michael Douglas in the early 1970s and made two appearances on his series The Streets of San Francisco.  She starred as the title character in the short-lived feminist western Sara in 1976 and was Emmy-nominated for it, too.  Both movies and TV filled her calendar, with roles in Zorro: The Gay Blade, Airport '77, Supergirl, The Love Boat, Guyana Tragedy, Capricorn One, The Pride of Jesse Hallam and many others.  She co-starred in the also short-lived series Paper Dolls, started doing voice work in animation (Smurfs, Spawn, Johnny Bravo), and continues to appear in quality projects in including HBO's 2010 TV Movie You Don't Know Jack for which she received another Emmy nomination as Outstanding Supporting Actress.  Vaccaro also became known for a breathy tampon commercial she made, which we've included below (along with the parody of it from SCTV by Andrea Martin).  Happy Birthday to this talented favorite!

The lovely actress Linda Evans celebrates her 71st today!  A true lady of TV, the fresh-faced Evans had
her first TV role on Bachelor Father, then found further work on comedies like The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and My Favorite Martian and also on dramas The Untouchables, The Eleventh Hour, The Lieutenant, and Wagon Train.  She achieved true TV stardom with her co-starring role on The Big Valley (1965 - 1969) playing ranch owner Barbara Stanwyck's winsome but strong-willed daughter Audra.  Following the end of that series, she returned to guest roles in shows like McCloud, Mannix and many others and became a multi-episode guest on The Love Boat.  Evans finally hit 1980s pop culture pay dirt in a huge way with her starring role on the long-running (8 seasons) glamorous nighttime soap Dynasty.  Her onscreen rivalry and knock-down drag-out tussles with Joan Collins became legend.  She's semi-retired now, but we'll always remember her as Krystle Carrington and Audra Barkley!

Lastly we say a Happy Birthday to the late comedienne Imogene Coca, born on this day in 1908; she passed away in June of 2001.  This prolific comic was multi-talented -- a gifted dancer, singer, acrobat -- making her the perfect performer for the still thriving vaudeville.  She was a featured member in the cast of many revues, at first contributing musical prowess but soon her funny bones began to show and she concentrated in that area.  She tummled with Danny Kaye (and did some very early comedy shorts with him) but achieved her finest collaborations with Sid Caesar, winning an Emmy for Your Show of Shows and staying with Caesar as partner for an initial four years and then reuniting with him on and off several times throughout her career to rekindle their comedy magic. Imogene Coca also starred in two one-seasons sitcoms during the 1960s, the first one 1963's Grindl as an eccentric traveling mad and then as a cavewoman in 1966's It's About Time (with that memorable theme song!).  Younger folks will remember her in the National Lampoon comedy Vacation, but Television remembers her as one of the funniest ladies ever to grace the small screen.  Imogene Coca, you are missed.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Flaming Nose Happy Birthday List for November 17th!

Today is more about behind-the-scenes for us, with two TV production-side stalwarts sharing a November 17th birthday.  But first, a nod to a couple of TV-oriented actors we love.

Danny DeVito turns 69 today!  Best known, at least television-wise, for his five-year run (1978 - 83) on the hit sitcom Taxi as grouchy dispatcher Louie De Palma, De Vito is a multi-talented show business hyphenate, too.  In addition to his myriad acting roles on TV and in movies, he's served as exec producer on TV series including Reno 911 and Karen Sisco, done director duty on TV projects like Amazing Stories, Mary and Taxi (not to mention major motion pictures Hoffa, The War of the Roses, Throw Momma from the Train).  De Vito is now gleefully part of the gang on FXX's all-out comedy It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

And actor Robert Brown turns 87 today!  Need we say anything more than Brown played the strapping lumberman Jason Bolt who traveled to Massachusetts to bring back ladies for his workers in the popular
ABC romantic adventure series Here Come the Brides which aired for two seasons beginning in 1968.  Dashing, vital, deeply handsome in his leather prairie pants...well, Jason Bolt was a frontier dreamboat!  Brown also starred in the title role as Primus for a season in 1971, as well as many other guest star roles both before and after his success in HCtB.  He's also permanently in the cult TV Hall of Fame for his role as Lazarus in the first season episode "The Alternative Factor" from Star Trek: The Original Series.

We also wish a Happy Birthday 86th birthday to casting executive Lynn Stalmaster who began working in the TV industry back in the early 1950s (and acted at first, too) and eventually branched out into casting features.  The names of the projects he worked on is practically endless: Have Gun - Will Travel, Whirlybirds, The Untouchables, Gunsmoke, My Living Doll, Hogan's Heroes, My Favorite Martian, Hey, Landlord, The Rat Patrol, Hart to Hart and more.  He then worked both in features and TV movies, including Farewell to Manzanar, New York, New York, Convoy, Superman, The Right Stuff and so many others.  Stalmaster was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the 1996 TV miniseries Crime of the Century about the Lindbergh kidnapping case.  For a deeper look into his amazing career, you will want to watch his interview at the Archive of American Television, available by clicking here.

Today we also honor veteran TV producer Harry Ackerman, born on November 17, 1912.  Ackerman was the man behind an impressive number of the all-time favorite situation comedies from the late 1950s through the 1970s and beyond.  Ackerman's name is associated with shows like Leave it to Beaver, The Flying Nun, Love on a Rooftop, Bachelor Father, Dennis the Menace, Hazel, Gidget, The Farmer's Daughter, Occasional Wife, The Second Hundred Years, The Ugliest Girl in Town, Bewitched, and The Paul Lynde Show.  That is like a laundry list of some of my favorite shows, even the short-lived ones!  Married for many years to the wonderful actress Elinor Donahue, Harry Ackerman's unerring eye and ear for comedy magic made TV laugh for hundred and hundreds and half-hours.  (Even his flops were interesting!).  He passed away in 1991 and is much missed.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"The Challenger Disaster" -- Tonight on Science Channel & Discovery

Science Channel premieres its first original scripted movie with tonight's The Challenger Disaster starring actor William Hurt as the charismatic Nobel Prize-winning physicist Dr. Richard Feynman.  Based on the late scientist's 1988 book What Do You Care What Other People Think?, The Challenger Disaster retells the story of the government's Rogers Commission which was charged with investigating the blow-up of the Space Shuttle Challenger on January 28, 1986, and Feynman's crucial role in holding NASA and its contractors responsible for the deaths of its seven crew members.

We're all familiar with William Hurt's major career -- from his early star-making roles such as in Altered States, Body Heat, Eyewitness, The Big Chill, Children of a Lesser God to more recent work as Into the Wild, Mr. Brooks, and The Incredible Hulk.  Hurt is less of a TV name, appearing in a limited number of TV projects including HBO's To Big to Fail, a recurring role in Damages, and as Ahab in a two-part Moby Dick for the Encore pay network.  In addition to Hurt as Feynman, The Challenger Disaster features veteran actors Bruce Greenwood (Star Trek, Flight, Super 8) as fellow Commission member Air Force General Donald Kutnya, Brian Dennehy (The Big C, Cocoon) as politician and Commission head William Rogers, Joanne Whalley (The Borgias, Gossip Girl) as Feynman's wife Gweneth, and Eve Best (Nurse Jackie) as astronaut Sally Ride.

There's no doubt that for many of us of a certain age the Challenger accident was a shock on par with the Kennedy assassination two decades before.  Unexpected, tragic, and -- as we later found out thanks to Dr. Feynman and the Commission -- probably preventable and caused by human failings and petty bureaucracy. The loss of the seven heroic astronauts including Teacher in Space Christa McAuliffe was a sobering reminder of the dangers of space exploration, and of course it was not the last loss of a Space Shuttle.

The Challenger Disaster is a must-watch for all Americans who believe in a strong space program and in the mission of NASA.  The dedicated individuals who make NASA's successes possible deserve the best from us, just as they owe their best to their fellow explorers.

Check out Science Channel's website for The Challenger Disaster by clicking here.  The movie is being simulcast on Science Channel and Discovery tonight at 9pm, with encores at 12m, and also showings tomorrow at 9p and 12m.  Check out The New York Times positive review here, too.

Here's some footage of the real Dr. Richard Feynman talking about his experience on the Rogers Commission.  Fascinating, and you can watch the entire documentary Richard Feynman - No Ordinary Genius here.  Feynman died of cancer in February of 1988 at the age of 69.  What a loss for humanity.

The Flaming Nose Happy Birthday List for November 16th!

Happy Birthday!  We're starting a new feature on The Flaming Nose, birthday shout-outs to TV personalities, actors and behind-the-scenes notables who deserve some love from us!  We're not doing a laundry list, just a few interesting names that we think you remember, too!

Celebrating his 84th birthday today is TV stalwart Clu Gulager, his rugged good Oklahoma boy lucks especially perfect for the TV westerns which were so popular during the heyday of Clu's prolific career.  You'll probably remember him best from his co-starring role on The Virginian from 1963 - 1968, but he also appeared in episodes of everything from The Untouchables to Walker, Texas Ranger.  Gulager has been one of the stalwarts of TV guest star roles -- an almost lost species -- for his entire acting life, always giving a solid performance and making a great impression.  The Tall Man, The Defenders, Dr. Kildare (in the famous Yvette Mimieux epileptic surfer girl episode "Tyger, Tyger"), Wagon Train, The Name of the Game, The F.B.I., Medical Center, Bonanza, Mod Squad, Mannix, Kung Fu, Ironside, Get Christie Love!, Cannon, Police Story...was there any notable series he didn't guest on?  We also can't forget his many movie roles and his very well-regarded work as an acting teacher.  Check out his extensive credits on IMDb and this great article on TV Party about him. You will be awed.  Happy Birthday, Clu!

Also celebrating a birthday is the lovely actress Joanna Pettet, a talented beauty who turns 71 today. She may be best remembered for many roles in popular series of the 1960s, '70s and '80s as well as her appearance as a Bond Girl in Casino Royale.  A guest star on everything from Route 66 to Dr. Kildare, Mannix, Rod Serling's Night Gallery, Charlie's Angels, Knots Landing (recurring role) and so many more, Ms. Pettet was always a treat to watch with her good lucks and expressive slightly husky voice.  Especially memorable was her turn in an episode of Night Gallery as a strangely alluring model; the segment was titled "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes"; you can watch it by clicking here.  Highly recommended!  She is retired from acting now but we fondly salute this uniquely appealing actress.  It's always a treat to run into one of her shows or movies.

You don't even have to do that many things on TV to be a standout, and this applies to accomplished actor Steve Railsback who turns 68 today.  The first time he came on the screen as killer Charles Manson in the legendary acclaimed miniseries Helter Skelter in 1976 was a defining moment in TV movies/miniseries. At a time when the genre turned out out top-notch productions and memorable performances on a regular basis, Helter Skelter and Railsback instantly blew them all away.  The Manson Family has never left the public consciousness, and this TV movie -- a mere handful of years after the actual events and based on the best-selling book by Vincent Bugliosi -- was a must-see event and remains so, primarily for Railsback's riveting portrayal of Manson.  Actually Steven Railsback has a career that is equally divided between TV and movies, including his well-regarded 1980 starring role in The Stuntman and his creepy but compassionate turn as weird lady killer Ed Gein in 2000.  Still very active in the business today, Railsback also gives back to his profession as an acting coach and teacher.

Our gone-but-not-forgotten Happy Birthday goes out to veteran actor Burgess Meredith, a movie and TV favorite who appeared in hundreds of roles during his over sixty-year career.  The enormity and breadth of his talent is readily apparent from a look at his credits on IMDb -- stunning and impressive to the end.  His most memorable TV roles?  Certainly his witty and unforgettable guest shots as The Penguin on the immensely popular Batman; he appeared over twenty times as the crafty villain.  We'd also submit for your approval his poignant and utterly iconic turn as post-apocalyptic librarian Henry Bemis in The Twilight Zone.  Meredith passed away in 1997 at the age of  89.  You are well-remembered, Burgess Meredith, and Happy Birthday.

Stay tuned to The Flaming Nose TV Blog for more birthday celebrations!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"American Horror Story: Coven" -- Scary, For Real!

I'm a bit of a latecomer to FX's thrillingly macabre American Horror Story, now in its third season.  I was an off-and-on viewer of the previous seasons (catching up now, of course) but I'm completely fascinated by the current storyline and the tremendous collection of acting talent they've put together.  How could you miss with returning favorites Jessica Lange (her wonderful portrayal extra-compelling because there is an overlay of the not-at-all fictional issue of a beautiful woman aging and how she deals with it) and Sarah Paulson, along with new to AHS Kathy Bates, Angela Bassett, Mare Winningham in a brief but effective role, Patti Lupone, and the younger members of the cast.  This collection of talent is a delight to behold.  Let's hear it for the girls on this show; the men are in short supply and at least in this season not quite of sound mind and especially body.

I'm especially enjoying Kathy Bates as the resurrected legendary 19th Century real-life New Orleans baddieMadame LaLaurie, a creepy society dame if there ever was one.  The scenes in AHS:C showing LaLaurie's dank and disgusting basement of horrors didn't descend even a smidgen of the way to the lady's true level of pure evil.  She was sort of the Dr. Mengele of the Vieux Carre, devising hideous experiments and tortures which she gleefully inflicted on her massively unfortunate slaves.  As you might expect, her house -- still standing in its French Quarter historic splendor -- is rumored to be haunted and a few years ago was owned by Nicolas Cage.

Angela Bassett's mysterious and powerful voodoo queen Marie Laveau is also very much a historical reality, not a figure of horror like Madame LaLaurie but rather more a folk heroine.  Her actual grave is still respectfully and often hopefully visited by countless fans every day in New Orleans' St. Louis Cemetery. The endless fascination with voodoo rituals and practitioners keeps Laveau's influence strong and if there's any mano-a-mano coming between her and LaLaurie my money is on Angela Bassett, though a showdown with Lange is more likely.

Be sure to check out the links we've embedded in this post to learn more about the meeting of history, lore and absolutely gruesome television fiction in this season's American Horror Story: The Coven.

American Horror Story: The Coven airs Wednesday nights at 10pm on FX.