Tuesday, November 29, 2011

11/29 James Whitmore Jr.

James Allen Whitmore III (born October 24, 1948, in Manhattan, New York), better known by the name James Whitmore, Jr., is an American actor best known for his role as Captain Jim Gutterman on the television program Baa Baa Black Sheep (later known as Black Sheep Squadron), and (since the 1980s) a television director. He is the son of actor James Whitmore.

Whitmore has had recurring guest-starring roles on the TV series The Rockford Files and Hunter. He also appeared in two episodes of Magnum, P.I. and an episode of Battlestar Galactica before directing many episodes of series by Donald Bellisario, the creator of Magnum and a writer on Galactica.

Whitmore has a unique distinction of occasionally acting in the episodes he directs, such as two episodes of Quantum Leap ("8 1/2 Months," "Trilogy, Pt. 1" and "Mirror Image"). In that series as well as several others, he played different characters in each appearance, rather than recurring roles.

In addition to directing episodes of shows for Bellisario (Quantum Leap, Tequila and Bonetti, JAG, NCIS, and NCIS: Los Angeles), Whitmore directed episodes of more than one series for Joss Whedon. Whitmore directed the final episodes of two different series (Dawson's Creek and the aforementioned Quantum Leap). After Leap, Whitmore would again direct Scott Bakula in episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. He would also direct David Boreanaz in both Angel and Bones. The Pretender reunited Whitmore with much of the same writing staff as Leap.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

11/22 Charles Floyd Johnson, NCIS, JAG, The Rockford FIles

Charles Floyd Johnson was born in Camden, New Jersey to Bertha Ellen Seagers, a teacher, and Orange Maull Johnson, who went off to fight in World War II shortly before Johnson was born and returned to tell his son stories of the Tuskegee Airmen, although he himself was in the American cavalry in North Africa. Johnson's family initially encouraged him to be a lawyer, and in order to give him the best possible educational preparation, Johnson attended Stony Brook, the second African American student to attend the prestigious school, in 1956. Johnson was an ambitious student, and was accepted at both Howard and Brown Universities.

In 1958, Johnson began attending Howard University alongside some well-known classmates that included Stokely Carmichael. Johnson worked in New York during the summers as a teacher for young children. During the Civil Rights Movement, Johnson was active in marches. He majored in political science, minored in history and education, and worked at the Library of Congress. He was also involved in John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign, and was even invited to Kennedy's inauguration. Despite his political aspirations, Johnson had a burgeoning interest in communications, and joined the Howard Players upon arriving at Howard. He graduated with honors from the school in 1962.

That year, Johnson was initially drawn to the New York theater world, but was accepted and enrolled in Howard University Law School with a full scholarship. While at law school, he was published in the Howard Law Journal, and he flourished under professors Herbert Reed and Patricia Harris. Shortly after taking the bar exam, Johnson was drafted during the Vietnam War. After marrying his girlfriend at the time, Johnson was sent to work as a clerk in New Jersey, then shifted to work as a defense counsel largely for AWOL soldiers, for which he received an Army Commendation Medal.

After leaving the military, Johnson moved to Washington, D.C., and worked as a copyright lawyer for three years. His work schedule allowed him to work in theatrical companies and study communications in his free time. He also did some work in television for a show entitled Harambee and also worked for Howard University's radio station. At the end of his tenure with the copyright office, Johnson worked with a justice from Sweden, who invited him to work as a law intern in Stockholm. After working in Stockholm, he almost took a job working in France, but changed his mind to follow his dreams and moved to Los Angeles in early 1971.

Thanks to the G.I. Bill, Johnson applied to the Professional Theater Workshop in Santa Monica, California, which he attended for nine months and took acting classes. Thanks to his law degree, Johnson found an entry-level position at Universal Studios working in the mail room. Two days after his mailroom experience began, a new job opened up, and Johnson began his climb to the top of the ladder, becoming a production coordinator in late 1971.

In 1981, Johnson moved to Hawaii, and married his second wife, who stayed in Los Angeles. His career in Hollywood has been accomplished and diverse, including roles in such television programs as JAG and Navy: NCIS. He has worked as a writer and producer in a wide variety of television programs, including as a prominent figure behind the notable television programs, The Rockford Files and Magnum, P.I.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

11/15 Connie Stevens, Larry Manetti, Hawaiian Eye

Born in Brooklyn of Italian and native-American parentage with the unlikely name of Concetta Anna Ingolia, Connie Stevens was raised by grandparents when her parents (both jazz musicians) filed for divorced. She attended Catholic boarding schools in her formative years and a distinct interest in music led to her forming a vocal quartet called "The Foremost" which was comprised of Connie and three men. Those men later became part of The Lettermen. In Hollywood from 1953, Connie formed yet another vocal group "The Three Debs" while trying to break into films as an extra. Although she managed to co-star in a few mediocre teen dramas such as Young and Dangerous (1957), Eighteen and Anxious (1957), The Party Crashers (1958), and Dragstrip Riot (1958), it was comedian Jerry Lewis who set things in motion by casting the unknown starlet in his comedy Rock-a-Bye Baby (1958). Warner Bros. signed her up for their hot detective series "Hawaiian Eye" (1959) and she was off.

As pert and pretty "Cricket Blake", a slightly flaky and tomboyish singer/photographer, Connie became an instant teen idol -- trendy and undeniably appealing. A couple of record hits came her way including "Sixteen Reasons" and the novelty song "Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb". Connie's acting talent was light and limited, however, and some attempts at adult film drama, including the title role in Susan Slade (1961), Parrish (1961), Palm Springs Weekend (1963) and Two on a Guillotine (1965) came and went. In the 1970s, she refocused on her voice and started lining up singing commercials (Ace Hardware) while subsisting in nightclubs and hotels. Connie eventually built herself up as a Las Vegas headlining act. She also starred on Broadway with "The Star-Spangled Girl" and won a Theatre World Award for her performance in 1967. Comedian Bob Hope's made her one of his regular entertainers on his USO tours. Sporadic films came her way every now and then. A TV-movie The Sex Symbol (1974) (TV) had her playing a tragic Marilyn Monroe type goddess. There was also innocuous fun with Grease 2 (1982) and Back to the Beach (1987) with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Episodics on "Murder, She Wrote" (1984), "The Love Boat" (1977) and "Baywatch" (1989) also kept her afloat -- but barely. Once wed to actor James Stacy, she later married and divorced singer Eddie Fisher. From her union with Fisher came two daughters, Joely Fisher and Tricia Leigh Fisher, both of whom became actors. Single with two daughters, and completely out of sync with Hollywood,

Connie started experiencing severe financial woes. In the 1990s, the never-say-die personality began a new lucrative career in the infomercial game with skin-care and make-up products. She was unbelievably successful in turning her finances around. Now a self-made tycoon with her own successful beauty line to boot, Connie is living proof that anything can happen in that wild and wacky world called show biz.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

11/8 Larry Manetti Talks with Rich Little!

Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Little was the middle of three sons. His father was a doctor. In his early teens, he formed a partnership with Geoff Scott, another budding impressionist, concentrating on reproducing the voices of Canadian politicians such as then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton (Geoff went on to become a politician). They were performing professionally in night clubs by age 17.

Rich acted in Ottawa's Little Theatre and became a successful disc jockey, frequently incorporating impersonations into his show. In 1963, he was asked to audition by Mel Tormé, who was producing a new variety show for Judy Garland. The audition won him the job and in 1964, Little made his American television debut on CBS's The Judy Garland Show, where he astounded Garland with his imitations of various male celebrities. His impression of James Mason in A Star Is Born thrilled Garland, and his popularity began to grow.

In 1966 and 1967, Little appeared in ABC-TV's Judy Carne sitcom Love on a Rooftop as the Willises' eccentric neighbor, Stan Parker. Little was a frequent guest on variety and talk shows. He cracked up Johnny Carson by capturing the Tonight Show host's voice and many on-stage mannerisms perfectly (he later played Carson in the HBO TV-movie The Late Shift). One of his best known impressions is of U.S. President Richard Nixon. (In 1991 he reprised the role of Nixon as ideal sperm donors in Gina's fantasies on the soap opera Santa Barbara.) During the 1970s, Little made many television appearances portraying Nixon. He was a regular guest on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts in the 1970s and was also a semi-regular on the Emmy-winning ABC-TV variety series The Julie Andrews Hour in 1972-1973. This particular series proved to be a wonderful showcase for Little's talents as an impressionist. In fact, because of his uncanny yet brilliant imitation of Jack Benny, the comedian sent Little an 18-carat gold money clip containing this message: "With Bob Hope doing my walk and you doing my voice, I can be a star and do nothing." He was named "Comedy Star of the Year" by the American Guild of Variety Artists in 1974.

His best-known continuing TV series was The Kopycats, hour-long segments of The ABC Comedy Hour, first broadcast in 1972. Taped in England, these comedy-variety shows consisted entirely of celebrity impersonations, with the actors in full costume and makeup for every sketch. The cast included Rich Little, Frank Gorshin, Marilyn Michaels, George Kirby, British comedian Joe Baker, Fred Travalena, Charlie Callas, and Peter Goodwright.

The Rich Little Show (1976) and The New You Asked for It (1981) were attempts to present Little in his own person, away from his gallery of characterizations.

Little has starred in various HBO specials including the 1978 one-man show, Rich Little's Christmas Carol. He has also appeared in several movies and released nine albums. When David Niven proved too ill for his voice to be used in his appearances in Trail of the Pink Panther (1982) and Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), Little provided the overdub. (Ironically, Little provided the voice for the Pink Panther cartoon character in an experimental 1965 episode.) He rendered similar assistance for the 1991 TV special Christmas at the Movies by providing an uncredited dub for the aging actor/dancer Gene Kelly. As a native Canadian, he also lent his voice to the narration of two specials which were the forerunners for the animated series The Raccoons: The Christmas Raccoons and The Raccoons on Ice.

Little was the host for the 2007 White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Although President George W. Bush was reported to have enjoyed Little's performance, it was panned by some reviewers for "his ancient jokes and impressions of dead people (Johnny Carson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan)."

Little voices as a guest star in Futurama such as Futurama: Bender's Game, playing his own celebrity head: "Rich Little here, as Howard Cosell." Many times he plays a sports commentator.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

11/1 Larry Manetti Talks with Jack Scalia!

Actor hunk Jack Scalia, a Brooklyn native, was an All-American athlete in high school, playing three sports through college, while participating in four triathlons and six marathons. He decided to attempt Hollywood stardom as an actor after an injury ended a pro-baseball career. In 1975, he took advantage of his muscular build and macho good looks by modeling with Armani, later joining the Ford Modeling Agency and signing on as the "Jordache Jeans Man." In January 1980, Scalia made the transition into acting which led to his first film role in the mini-movie "The Star Maker" starring the late Rock Hudson. Scalia got his first taste of series stardom as an unshaven, rough-and-tough detective who joins forces with his slick and debonair father (Hudson again) in the TV series "The Devlin Connection." Though the series had a short life, Scalia received scads of attention. His more popular telefilm credits included "I'll Take Manhattan" (1987), "Ring of Scorpio" (1991), "Lady Boss" (1992), and "Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story" (1993) playing infamous tabloid newsmaker Joey Buttafuoco, with Alyssa Milano as his teenage object of desire. Though Scalia never scaled to the heights of a Tom Selleck or Pierce Brosnan with that one smash series, he would headline a near record eleven TV shows that kept him constantly in the running. In 2001 he joined the cast of "All My Children" for a time and won a daytime Emmy nomination in the process. He's also been an active hero and villain in low-budget thrillers such as Endless Descent (1986), T-Force (1995), Act of War (1998), and Ground Zero. More recently he returned from living in Rome, Italy while filming a remake of his American TV series "Tequila and Bonetti." He made his stage debut as the lead in the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play "Red River Rats" in Los Angeles. The tall, dark and hirsutely handsome Scalia has remained a durable "ladies' man" and "man's man" for over two decades.