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Television and Broadway Actor, Robert Guillaume Succumbs to Cancer

I got the saddest news today  that actor Robert Guillaume died. Now before there was “Glee” , and “Will and Grace,” and Shonda Rhimes, television had no gay characters on it. Television series had gay characters and Norman Lear broke through the ceiling with his series. In 1977, ABC had introduced  SOAP on September 13, 1977. What made this show so different is that along with its alien abductions and exorcisms, it introduced Billy Crystal as Jodie Dallas. For the first time on American television, there was a gay character in the cast. Not only that, the rich Tate family had an African American butler that talked back to his employers. Benson Du Bois was a hit. It was hilarious to see Robert mouth off to the high and mighty Tates. He didn’t care what he said. The show was a hit with the critics and the audience. “SOAP” made Guillaume a star and garnered an Emmy for his portrayal of the Tate’s butler. Benson was also such a hit that ABC gave Guillaume his own spin off “Benson.”  Once again, Guillaume was the voice of reason in a house of idiots. This time it was Jessica’s cousin , the Governor. He was basically running the state from the kitchen.

Guillaume was African American entertainment. He had appeared on some of the most controversial shows of the time. He appeared on “Julia” , which was the first modern show to have a black female lead on network television. Dianne Carroll led the way for Kerry Washington and Viola Davis as female leads on hit network shows. He also appeared on “Sanford and Son”, Lear’s “All in the Family.” and “Good Times” . He was born in St Louis on November 30,1927 as Robert Peter Williams. He also served in the US Army and attended  St Louis University and Washington University.  Following the Army, he changed his name to the French Guillaume and pursued an acting career. The career began in Cleveland with the Karamu Players. He made his Broadway debut in 1961 and was nominated for a Tony for playing Nathan Detroit in “Guys and Dolls.” He was also the first black actor to play the Phantom in “The Phantom of the Opera.” Guillaume replaced Michael Crawford in the role. 

Guillaume was also well known for his singing voice and made several records. Surprisingly,Guillaume won an Emmy for his speaking voice in a read along for “The Lion King.” He was also known for using his voice in many animated projects as well. This includes Disney’s “The Lion King” as Rafiki. 

Following “Benson”, Guillaume had several television series including “Pacific Station.” “The Robert Guillaume Show” and Aaron Sorkin’s  “Sports Night.” “Sports Night” also starred Josh Charles of “The Good Wife” , Felicity Huffman, William H Macy of “Shameless” and Joshua Malina of “The West Wing “ and “Scandal.” While on “Sports Night” , Guillaume had suffered a stroke and then had the stroke written into the script as he recovered.

Along with his two Emmy awards and Grammy award, Guillaume was honored with a star on the St Louis Walk of Fame. He was also honored with his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was first married to Marlene Williams who gave him two sons.  One of those sons, Jacques died of complications of AIDS at 33. He then married Donna Brown who gave him a daughter. Guillaume died of complications from prostrate cancer. He was one month from his 90th birthday. Billy Crystal, Felicity Huffman, and Joshua Malina have all said how they were affected by this man on Twitter. We are all sad tonight and am sure that Guillaume is singing in the celestial choir . Chitownstarconnections gives sympathy to his family.

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Martin Landau – Hollywood Treasure Gone at 89

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 Today Hollywood lost a real treasure . Martin Landau died of complications after a short hospital stay. Landau was a Hollywood icon whose career was celebrated with both television and movie roles. Most notably, he will be remembered for his Oscar winning role as Bela Lugosi in the cult film, “Ed Wood.” Landau will also be remembered for his role on the 60’s classic that inspired the movie , “Mission Inpossible.” His career also included the claim of being the boyfriend of Marilyn Monroe. His career includes a lot of roles that he put his heart and soul into as an actor.

Martin Landau was born on June 20, 1928 , the son of Selma and Morris. With Jewish roots, he was proud of his father who rescued their relatives from the Nazis.  Landau began his life as a cartoonist where he worked for five years alongside Gus Edson . Together they produced the comic strip , “The Gumps” for the New York Daily News. When Landau became 22, he quit to concentrate on his acting career. Auditioning for the famous Actors Studio , one of his classmates was Steve McQueen.He also studied with such acting gods as Lee Strasberg. They were so impressed with Landau that they asked him to teach with Mark Rydell and Sydney Pollack. His best friend was the late James Dean.  Landau made his first big hit on television on “Mission Impossible” as master of disguise artist, Rollin Hand. He appeared on the show with his then wife, Barbara Bain. The role gained him praise as well as an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination.

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 Here is Landau as Rollin Hand with his former wife, Barbara Bain and Peter Graves in a “Mission Impossible ” cast photo.

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Here are Bain and Landau in the 70’s sci -fi classic, “Space 1999”

 

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Landau studied 25 films of the late horror star when he played Bela Lugosi in “Ed Wood.” It paid off with Landau getting his third Oscar nom and his first win.

FILE PHOTO - Actor Martin Landau displays the Oscar he won for Best Supporting Actor at the 67th Annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles

In 1994, Landau won an Oscar for his role in “Ed Wood.”

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He also appeared in the Hitchcock classic , “North by Northwest.”

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Landau had played many tv guest roles including this one on “Without a Trace.”  Landau played Jack’s father with Alzheimer’s and was nominated for an Emmy for the role. Here he is with Anthony LaPaglia.

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Here is Landau as wrestling coach , Sal Bandini , as he trains Jimmy  (Oliver Platt of “Chicago Med” ) in “Ready to Rumble.”

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Here is Landau when he was a Hollywood big shot on “Entourage” trying to relive his glory days. He is walking with Kevin Connolly and Chicago’s own, Jeremy Piven as Ari Gold.

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One of his last roles was in the Lifetime movie , “Outlaw Prophet. ” Landau played a Mormon patriarch with 50 some wives . Here he is having a talk with his son, “Scandal’s ” own POTUS , Tony Goldwyn.

He is survived by his two daughters , Susan and Juliet from his former wife, Bain. Chitownstarconnections gives our sympathy as we remember this actor’s actor.

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1928- 2017

 

Pop Icon Enters Immortality- Adam West Succumbs to Leukemia

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Tonight in the sky,  it’s the Batsignal. No, its not the signal for the Caped Crusader. It shines in sadness. Last night , the actor who played sixties icon Batman, Adam West died of complications from leukemia. Forever pigeonholed by his portrayal of Bob Kane’s legendary superhero, Batman, West made a career by appearing at Comic Cons and endearing himself to millions of fans. Today, social media was filled with tributes of fans and former cast mates like Burt Ward and “Family Guy” creator, Seth Mcfarlane. In later years , West would voice the befuddled Mayor West on “Family Guy.” This would endear him to a whole new generation.

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Adam was born William West Anderson in Walla Walla Washington in 1928. His father was a wheat farmer and his mother was an opera singer. Adam started to work in radio when he was in high school. He ran the station when he was a grad student at Stanford. Later on, West was a contract player for Warner Brothers where he would appear on such shows as “Maverick”, “77 Sunset Strip” and “Cheyenne.” In early 1966 , West would read the script that would change his life forever. West would return from Europe to read 20 pages of the script and then sign with producer , William Dozier. He also approved Burt Ward as Robin/ Dick Grayson with no acting experience but a brown belt in karate.  The show exploded on ABC on two consecutive nights with the one night ending with the Dynamic Duo in a dire situation to be resolved on the following night. “Batman” was the height of camp with its fight scenes punctuated with words like POW and SPLAT! . It became the coolest show on tv and being cast as a super villain was one of the most envied parts on television. Color television was coming into being and “Batman” was perfect for the new media. It also proved to be escapist television in the midst of a country that showed war on the nightly news. But just as the show exploded, with in two years it fizzled. The show had done its damage to West’s career , forever typecasting him as the Caped Crusader. He did episodic tv like “Alice” and recently appeared as himself on the mega hit , “The Big Bang Theory.” For the most part, his latter career consisted of himself or voicing Batman for various animated series.

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Here is Adam as he appeared on the CBS hit, “The Big Bang Theory” on the 200th episode “The Celebration Experimentation” He is pictured with series stars Kunal Nayar, Kaley Kuoco, Simon Helberg, Johnny Galecki, Mayim Bialik, Melissa Rauch, and Jim Parsons. Also pictured is “Star Trek Next Generation” icon Will Wheaton.

West was survived by his second wife, Marcella. and his children and grandchildren. We at chitownstarconnections give our sympathy to the West family.

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Goodbye Old Chum!  Adam West 1928-2017… here he is in the iconic role that he made famous Bruce Wayne / Batman and his partner, Dick Grayson/ Robin played by Burt Ward.

 

The Woman Who Helped Create Daytime Passes On to Eternity-Agnes Nixon

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Today the entertainment world lost a true pioneer and a treasure. A lost art is the soap opera or daytime drama. In 1980, there were no less than 16 soaps on television . Several of these soaps have this woman to thank . Agnes Nixon was the self proclaimed Queen of Soaps. She was a student of the late Irna Philips who was responsible for creating the longest running story on television. “The Guiding Light.” Agnes had written for “GL” “Another World” “As the World Turns” and “Search for Tomorrow.” Following her time with Ms Phillips, she created the classic ABC soaps “All My Children” “One Life to Live” , “Loving ” A and E’s “Biography” and “The City”. On each of her shows, she made bold choices with storylines and characters. She also made cameo appearances on her shows as well.

Agnes Eckahrdt Nixon was born on December 10,1922 in Chicago . Illinois to Harry Joseph Dalton and Agnes Patricia (Eckahrdt) Wanting to show her talent, she attended Northwestern University where she began to to work on her craft. While she was attending the educational institution , she also pledged the Alpha Chi Omega sorority. Her career in soaps began as a student of Irna Philips. Philips only had one other student at the time and that was William Bell, creator of “The Young and Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.” Notably, these two shows are one of the only four soaps left on the air.

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Nixon was a writer on “Guiding Light.”. Following a friend’s diagnosis, Nixon wanted to educate women about how important it was to get a pap smear. As a result, Bertha Bauer was given a cancer scare and this is believed to be the first medical related story on daytime . It was bold because in 1962, you couldn’t really say words like Pap Smear and Uterus. Here are the members of the Bauer family including Papa and Bert’s two sons, Edward and Michael.

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When Nixon wrote for “Another World” she created the pivotal character Rachel Davis . The original Rachel was played by Robin Strasser, who would later go on to play the nemesis of heroine Victoria Lord on “OLTL” . Most people know Rachel Davis Cory as the incomparable Victoria Wyndham.  Nixon would use the character for the formation of Erica Kane

Nixon was forced to leave Philips and the strict rules of Procter and Gamble to create her own shows. In 1968, she premiered “One Life to Live.” The show took place in the fictional town in Pennsylvnia of Llanview . It was revolutionary because it told of crossing social structures and cultures. It made its mark because it was the first soap with African American characters.

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Today Lawrence Fishburne is the grandfather of the hit ABC show, “Blackish.” In 1973, he was involved in the revolutionary storyline of being the first African American family on television on “One Life to Live.”

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The main character of OLTL was Victoria Lord . She was the heroine of the show and her nemesis was Dorian Lord, her stepmother. Vicki’s life was turned upside down when Dorian slept with her son, Joey. Yes, that is Nathan Fillion, known to millions of Browncoats as their “Captain” on “Firefly.” More recently, Fillion was the playboy writer detective who was tamed on “Castle.”

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In 1970, Agnes took out her old script and then “All My Children” premiered. One of the most iconic characters in daytime was Erica Kane . Erica was played by the super talented Susan Lucci or “La Lucci. She played the role for the entire run of the show . She also was famous for being nominated for an Emmy for Best Actress in a Daytime Drama the most times with out winning . Lucci was nominated 19 times and finally won  on May 21, 1999.Here she is with creator , Agnes Nixon.

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Once again , Nixon pushed the envelope when she introduced the character of Bianca. She was Erica’s long lost daughter who came out as a lesbian. This was the first gay character in daytime and Agnes won many awards for the storyline including GLaaD.

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Nixon’s next show was “Loving” where she paired off with another soap paramour of the time , Douglas Marland, who coincidentally won the Emmy for “Guiding Light” where Nixon started. Here is future Oscar nominee and Emmy winner for “Breaking Bad” Bryan Cranston as Douglas Donovan

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Michael Weatherly took his character Cooper over from” Loving “to” The City .” The show didn’t last long. Today, Weatherly just got his own series on CBS callled “Bull” Previously , he was on the hit series , “NCIS.”

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Agnes won many awards and honors in her lifetime. Among her proudest moments was when she was nominated for The Television Hall of Fame and The Soap Opera Hall of Fame. In 2010, she was given a lifetime achievement award by the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Emmy was presented by none other than the actress who created her most memorable character, Susan Lucci. Here she is with her family. Her husband , Robert Nixon is deceased. She is survived by three children, ten grandchildren, and three great grandchildren.

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To Agnes’ family Chitownstarconnections sends their thoughts and prayers. Both Jen and I were fans of your work. Jen watched” One Life to Live” and” All My Children.” I was hooked on “The Guiding Light.” to the point of scheduling my classes around it in college. You truly were the master of a lost American art-the soap opera. Soon I will be starting Remember…and feature a different soap each month.

This Used To Be My Playground- A Tribute to Garry Marshall and his Life

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Today another star in the heavens of Hollywood passed away. Garry Marshall was a big part of everyone who wanted to laugh, cry, or just plain be entertained. He was part of some of the biggest hits on television and the movies. He has acted with  , directed, and launched some of the biggest names in Hollywood. He comes from a show business family and leaves that legacy as well. Today we look back on an incredible life.

Gary Kent Marshall was born in the Bronx right into a real show business family. His mother , Marjorie Ward was a tap dance teacher who ran her own studio and his father ,Anthony Wallace was a director and producer of industrial films. Garry’s  sisters  also ended up in the business as well.

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Here is Garry in 1951 with his Mom, and sisters Ronny and Penny

"The Dick Van Dyke Show" Special Screening at The Egyption Theatre in Los Angeles on October 1, 2011

Here is Garry with his sister , Ronny , a producer

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Here he is with sister , Penny . Penny also became famous for her role on seventies classic “Laverne and Shirley” and also directing such films as “Big” and “A League of Their Own.”

Garry graduated from Northwestern University and began his career as a joke writer for comedians Joey Bishop and Phil Foster. His next big break was when he moved to Hollywood and teamed up with Jerry Belson . Together the two of them created television magic as they wrote for hits “The Lucy Show” , “The Danny Thomas Show” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show” . They are also responsible for adapting Neil Simon’s play “The Odd Couple” for television. The show has gone through many versions but Marshall appeared as Matthew Perry’s father on the most recent version.

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Thomas Lennon is Felix and Matthew Perry is Oscar on the CBS hit.

Garry is most known as the producer and creator for these television classics

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Happy Days  pictured here is Henry Winkler, Donny Most, Ron Howard, Anson Williams and Scott Baio

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Laverne and Shirley featuring Garry’s sister, Penny , Cindy Williams, Michael Mckean, David L Lander, Betty Garrett, Phil Foster, Eddie Mekka, and Carole Ita White

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Here are the two stars of “Mork and Mindy” Pam Dawber and the late Robin Williams

Garry also was known for his directing and acting as well. His sister , returned the favor by casting him in her movie “A League of Their Own”

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He also directed two modern classics

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Pretty Woman

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Princess Diaries

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Beaches with Mayim Bialik of “The Big Bang Theory”

Garry’s son ,Scott also follows in his family’s footsteps as the director of the movie “Keeping Up With the Steins” He cast his father as the hippie grandfather

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Here he is with the late Doris Roberts as his ex wife

 The last movie he directed was “Mother’s Day” and his last television acting job was as Walter Madison on “The Odd Couple” (He was Matthew Perry’s father)  He is survived by his wife, Barbara . He is also survived by his three children and two sisters. Marshall has a star on the walk of fame and was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. He truly is a star that tonight makes the heavens shine a little brighter. Making our hearts a little heavier. Chitownstarconnections gives our sympathy to the Marshall and Reiner families

garry marshall  tribute

1934-2016

Everybody Loved Doris

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Yesterday the entertainment world lost one of its brightest and funniest stars. At the age of 90, Doris Roberts passed away. Doris was in the business since the fifties but she is  most remembered for the endearing , but meddlesome Marie Barone on “Everybody Loves Raymond.” She is truly the character actress ‘s actress for her versatility as well. She has had roles in shows that were television’s most historic shows. Born on November 4, 1925 , Doris May Green started life in St Louis. The first part of her life was far from laughable . Roberts father left her and her mother ,Ann Meltzer. This development caused them to move to the Bronx where Ann brought up Doris with the help of her parents.Doris took her stepfather’s name , Chester H Roberts. Her stepfather and mother opened a steno agency that catered to actors and playwrights. Doris ‘s family is from Russia and she was of  Jewish persuasion.

 Help us celebrate the life of this great actress by remembering her greatest roles

doris on all in the family

Here is Doris when she was on “All in the Family”

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Doris was the mother of Sal Viscuso’s “Father Tim ” on SOAP  . She was disgusted when her son left the priesthood to marry Corinne Tate.

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Doris was the adorable mother of Angie on the sitcom “Angie” Here she is meeting Robert Hays’s father on the seventies sitcom. Robert Hays was in the movie “Airplane” and on the sitcom “That 70’s show” as Hyde’s absent father

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Doris also played Linda Lavin’s mother on the show  “Alice”

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 Doris won an Emmy for playing Cora the homeless woman on St Elsewhere. James Coco played her homeless buddy .

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Doris was the lovable secretary Mildred Krebs on eighties detective show “Remmington Steele” . It will be known for the suave , sophisticated Pierce Brosnan who would go on to be the next James Bond.

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Doris will always be remembered in the holiday  classic “National Lampoon Christmas Vacation”

doris as rose fieldler in keeping up with the steins

Doris celebrated her Jewish heritage in the movie “Keeping Up With the Steins” it starred Jami Gertz, Garry Marshall, and Jeremy Piven as a Jewish family who are celebrating their son and grandson’s Bar Mitzvah.

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But the role that Doris will always be loved for is Ray Barone’s mother on “Everybody Loves Raymond” Marie. Here she is joined by her television family , Ray Romano, Brad Garrett, Patricia Heaton, the late Peter Boyle, Madelyn Sweeten, Sullivan and Sawyer Sweeten. She won Emmy awards 2001,2002, 2003, and 2005 for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

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Doris had a wonderful guest role for an arc on “Grey’s Anatomy” . She was an elderly woman named Gladys who made Karev’s life a living hell. Alex found out that she was rich and he wanted to bring a group of orphans from Africa to do surgeries on them. In the end, she gave the money to Alex. If it wasn’t for Gladys, then the Shepherd family would have never gotten to adopt Zola.

star on the walk of fame

Doris was also honored with one of the highest honors a celebrity can have and that is to be given a star on the Walk of Fame . Here she is with her television family . At this point, Peter Boyle , who played Frank had passed away. Doris has been married twice but only has one child, Michael . She is also survived by her three grandchildren.

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One of Doris ‘s last performances was on “Major Crimes” here is Doris with the cast.. Doris was also an author . She wrote a combination of her memoirs and a cookbook entitled “Are You Hungry Dear?”

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 She is indeed a treasure and will be missed…1925-2016