Saturday, February 16, 2013

All Things Must Pass

Here between Valentine's Day and President's Day, I find myself in a rather morbid frame of mind and feel the need to inventory the stars from the television shows of my formative years who have passed.  I'm not sure what prompted this macabre mood: perhaps simple nostalgia, maybe the passing of so many classic television stars last year, or possibly the St. Valentine's Day massacre paper my son wrote.  Whatever the reason, here's my tribute to my small screen idols.

I Love Lucy (1951-1957).  With the passing of Doris Singleton (Carolyn Appleby) only Shirley Mitchell (Marion Strong) and Richard Keith (Little Ricky) are still with us.  William Frawley (Fred Mertz) was the first to check out, collapsing of a heart attack at the age of 79 on March 3, 1966, while walking along Hollywood Boulevard after seeing a movie. Fitting end, given that Frawley acted in over 100 movies.  Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) succumbed to breast and bone cancer in 1979 at the age of 70. Desi Arnaz (Ricky Ricardo) was 69 in 1986 when he died of lung cancer.  And three years later when she was 77 everybody's favorite red head died of an acute aorta aneurysm.

Bonanza (1959-1973).  None of the Cartwrights are living.  Dan Blocker (lovable Hoss) was only 43 in 1972 when he died of a pulmonary embolism following gall bladder surgery. Following his heart surgery in 1987 Lorne Greene (Ben) died at the age of 72.  Michael Landon (Little Joe) died of pancreatic cancer in 1991 when he was 54.  Also of pancreatic cancer, Pernell Roberts (Adam) died at the age of 81 just two years ago.

The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968).  Only Ron Howard (Opie), Betty Lynn (Thelma Lou), Elinor Donahue (Ellie), and Jim Nabors (Gomer), who just last month married his life partner of 38 years, are still living.  Howard McNear (Floyd the barber) was only 63 in 1969 when he died of complications following a stroke.  Francis Bavier (Aunt Bea) died from a heart attack in 1989 when she was 86 years old.  In 1994 when he was 77 Hal Smith (Otis) also died of a heart attack.  Aneta Corsau (Helen) died of cancer in 1995 at the age of 62.  Don Knotts, at the age of 81 in 2006, died of pulmonary and respiratory complications. George Lindsey died at the age of 83 last year following a brief illness. Driving home how old some of us have become, Andy Griffith, a mere 86, died last year of a heart attack.  Fun bit of trivia: Andy Griffith and Marilyn Monroe were both born June 1, 1926.

The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966).  Most of the main characters of this show are still with us: Dick Van Dyke (Rob), Mary Tyler Moore (Laura), Carl Reiner (Alan), Rose Marie (Sally), Larry Mathews (Richie), and Ann Morgan Guilbert (Millie). We have lost Morey Amsterdam (Buddy), Richard Deacon (Mel), and Jerry Paris (Jerry).  Buddy died in 1996, age 87, of a heart attack; Mel in 1984, age 63, of hypertensive heart disease; and Jerry in 1986, age 60, of a brain tumor.

That Girl (1966-1971). Marlo Thomas (Ann Marie) is still alive; she writes a blog for The Huffington Post and looks much younger than her 75 years.  Dabney Coleman and Bonnie Scott (Leon and Judy) are still with us, as is Bernie Koppell (Jerry), who also played Sigfried on Get Smart, but gone are Lew Parker (Lou, Ann's father) from lung cancer in 1972 at the age of 64, Ted Bessell (Donald Hollinger) from a heart attack at the tender age of 61 in 1996 (just four days before the birth of my son), and Rosemary DeCamp (Helen, Ann's mother) at 90 in 2001--not a bad innings.

R.I.P. and thanks for the memories!

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