Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Carol Burnett started in show business as an occasional stage actress, sometimes nightclub singer, and more often a hatcheck girl. After a few years barely making ends meet, 22-year-old Burnett first appeared on television in 1955, playing the dummy's romantic interest in 13 episodes of The Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney Show, a kids' program that aired on Saturday mornings (Winchell was a ventriloquist, Mahoney was his dummy). At 23, she was cast as Buddy Hackett's girlfriend on Stanley, a NBC prime time sitcom set among workers at a hotel's newsstand, and written by Neil Simon and Woody Allen, among others. At 23½, she found herself unemployed when the program was cancelled, and for a time she worked as an usher at a Hollywood movie theater.
Burnett bounced back with a parody pop song, "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles," confessing her love for the utterly unsexy, 68-year-old Secretary of State who is now best remembered as the namesake for Dulles Airport outside Washington DC. The song became a minor pop hit after Burnett sang it on Jack Paar's Tonight Show in 1957.
After that, she was a frequent panelist on the game show Pantomime Quiz. In 1959, she joined the ensemble cast of The Garry Moore Show, a popular comedy-variety hour, while concurrently starring on Broadway in the musical-comedy Once Upon a Mattress, based on the children's story The Princess and the Pea. In a memorable Twilight Zone, she played a klutzy but contented single woman offered a life of glamour by her guardian angel. She had a recurring role as a tough female Marine in Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., becoming good friends with its star Jim Nabors, who was later her traditional first guest every season on her variety show. Burnett appeared in several episodes of her friend Lucille Ball's The Lucy Show, and she was a regular on the mid-1960s variety show The Entertainers with Art Buchwald and Bob Newhart. After that show ended, Ball offered to produce a sitcom for her, but Burnett declined, fearing she might feel stifled playing the same character week after week.
Instead, Burnett and her husband, producer Joe Hamilton, crafted a variety hour around her talents. The Carol Burnett Show premiered in 1967, ran for eleven years and won 22 Emmys. Recurring sketches included the tight-skirted secretary Mrs. Wiggins, the Southern-fried bitch Eunice of Mama's Family (later spun off to its own sitcom), and the bad actress star of the soap opera parody As the Stomach Turns. There were also spoofs of classic movies, most memorably Burnett as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind, wearing a dress made from the drapes -- complete with curtain rod (the dress was maniacally designed by Bob Mackie). For no particular reason, she would occasionally belt out a Tarzan yell, and at some point in every show Burnett would take questions from the audience, usually coming up with an answer that was either heartwarming or hilarious.
Burnett had perfect chemistry with her supporting cast, Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner, and through the show's first seven seasons there were no cast changes. When Waggoner left he was replaced with Tim Conway for the eighth and subsequent seasons. The show was always funny but never mean or risqué, and in an era with only three channels, audiences of all ages tuned in to see what wacky skits Burnett would perform each week. On video, The Carol Burnett Show has been repackaged as Carol Burnett & Friends, and unlike some alleged comedy classics, no-one who rents the videos could possibly be disappointed.
She worked occasionally in feature films, including Noises Off with Michael Caine, Robert Altman's A Wedding, and The Four Seasons with Alan Alda. Her best TV films include the Vietnam survivors' drama Friendly Fire,Eunice (the pilot for Mama's Family), and three separate TV adaptations of her Broadway hit Once Upon a Mattress in 1964, 1972, and 2005.
In 1986 she starred in Fresno, a six-hour mini-series spoofing Dallas and Dynasty, with Burnett as Fresno's hard-drinking raisin matriarch Charlotte Kensington. With Charles Grodin, Teri Garr, Dabney Coleman, and Gregory Harrison, it was funny to the finish, but has never been released on video in America.
In 1990 she starred in Carol & Company with Jeremy Piven and Peter Krause, an anthology series with a half-hour comedy skit each week, but it was quickly cancelled. In 1991 she revived her Carol Burnett Show in name and format but with a new supporting cast. . Later in the 1990s, she played Helen Hunt's mother on Mad About You.
Her second husband, Joe Hamilton, had been a jazz musician, but after marrying Burnett he produced most of her starring projects. Their daughter, Carrie Hamilton became an actress, starring in the TV movie Hostage with Burnett and in touring productions of Rent, before dying of lung cancer in 2002. Another daughter, Erin Hamilton, has had several hits on the dance charts, including covers of "Dream Weaver" and Cheap Trick's "The Flame."
By virtually all accounts, the good-natured wise-cracking Burnett seen on her variety show was the real Carol Burnett. Her beloved grandmother, Mae Eudora Jones White, died in 1967 at the age of 82, but Burnett never stopped tugging her ear at the end of every episode. In the show's third season, Burnett received a résumé from a 10-year-old fan who wanted a career in comedy -- Jim Carrey, who received a long, personal letter of encouragement from Burnett. When she received her star on Hollywood Boulevard, Burnett had it placed in front of the theater where she had been an usher. And in 1989, when Burnett's friend Lucille Ball died suddenly on Burnett's birthday, Burnett received a bouquet from Ball several hours after hearing the sad news -- Ball had ordered the flowers in advance for Burnett's birthday.
Hamilton, her husband, wrote the theme song for The Carol Burnett Show, which she sang at the end of every episode. "I'm so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh or sing a song, seems we just get started and before you know it, comes the time we have to say, 'So long.'" And then Burnett would wave and shout, "Good night, everybody."
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Forster was born Robert Wallace Foster, Jr. in Rochester, New York, the son of Grace Dorothy (née Montanarella) and Robert Wallace Foster, Sr., who worked as an elephant trainer for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and later as an executive for a baking supply company. His mother was Italian American and his father was of English and Irish ancestry. The two divorced in 1949. As a tribute to his father, Forster hung one of his father's Barnum & Bailey Circus posters in the office of his character "Max Cherry" in the Quentin Tarantino film Jackie Brown.
Forster completed his Bachelor of Arts degree in history at the University of Rochester, where he starred in student dramatic performances such as Bye Bye Birdie and, after initially intending to go on to study law, instead decided to forego his future legal career in favor of pursuing drama. He graduated with a B.A. in history in 1964.
After acclaimed supporting performances in two major Hollywood films, one as Private Williams in John Huston's Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967), another as part-Indian Army scout Nick Tana in Robert Mulligan's The Stalking Moon (1968), Forster starred in the critically acclaimed 1969 film Medium Cool. After starring roles in the TV shows Banyon (1972) and Nakia (1974), he played mostly supporting roles in action and horror films including Disney's The Black Hole (1979). Forster had lead roles in cult B-movies in the 1980s like Alligator (1980), Vigilante (1983), The Delta Force (1986), and The Banker (1989). He was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1997 for Jackie Brown, which he credits with reviving his career. He has since had consistent work in the film industry, appearing in Like Mike; Mulholland Drive; Me, Myself, & Irene; Lucky Number Slevin and Firewall, to name a few. He recently appeared in the made for television movie The Hunt for the BTK Killer, as the detective intent on capturing serial killer Dennis Rader. Forster also played the father of Van on the short-lived Fox series Fastlane.
Forster recorded a public service announcement for Deejay Ra's 'Hip-Hop Literacy' campaign, encouraging reading of books by Elmore Leonard (he starred in the movie adaption of Leonard's book Rum Punch, Jackie Brown, for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor). Forster is also a motivational speaker.
He appeared in the hit NBC show Heroes as Arthur Petrelli, the father of Nathan and Peter Petrelli.
Twice divorced, Forster is a father of four children. His eldest child, Kate Forster (born 1969), has worked as an actress, also appearing in Mulholland Drive.
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The Philadelphia Daily News described him as a "Complex Performer". At first glance one might think this description should read "Complete Performer", but upon closer examination, the former proves to be the perfect description.
Nelson is not a television or recording artist who "fills in" at nightclubs between TV and recording jobs. He is among the few entertainers who CHOSE a career as a night club performer and though he "fills in" with TV and movie appearances, he is truly in his element before a live audience. We forget how powerful and exciting a night club act can be until we watch one of the few who specializes in that field and who has mastered his craft. Nelson reminds us of this.
Born in Brazil, Nelson is the son of an Italian immigrant who made his way to South America where he worked as a policeman for several years before entering into the practice of law. Nelson is quick to admit that his father was a major role model in his life. It was because of his influence that he amassed one of the largest collection of police paraphernalia in existence. His collection includes hundreds of badges, thousands of patches, pistols, hats and uniforms, including a complete bobby uniform from England.
Nelson speaks a number of languages, but when he came to the United States, he had no working knowledge of English. Still, five months after arriving, he was drafted into the Army, where, as he puts it, he got a crash course in basic English and an advanced course in profanity. With these meager tools he began his singing carrier just outside of Detroit when a tavern owner who mistook him for a troublemaker tried to avoid problems by asking him to sing. He sang there, at the old Mill Tavern, for ten months and left knowing what his life’s work was to be.
His interest in Gun Twirling began at a time when he was involved in numerous charity appearances and had constant police escorts, while in Biloxi, Mississippi, he was made an honorary deputy sheriff and was presented with a badge and an air gun. From this beginning came the comic gun slinger who antics, with the real Ruger pistols which he now uses, became the signature of his act. Though definitely an American act, Nelson has appeared on every continent on the globe. He is recognized as a truly world class performer, reminiscent of America’s great cabaret acts and grand show rooms. He has a variety of television and movie credits to his name, including numerous TV appearances in Brazil, England, Australia, and of course, the USA.
Nelson dedication to his audiences seems to be duplicated in his charity work, several years ago he learned that three long time friends had relatives who were mentally retarded. Having been unaware of this fact despite years of friendship with these people, he felt compelled to help raise money for the mentally retarded. His way of doing it was to gather other celebrities, politicians, and community leaders to shines shoes for donations.