Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

OBITUARIES
in the WORLD OF COMEDY, 2001

RAY WALSTON (86) January1, 2001

New Year's Day...and "My Favorite Martian" is gone. I mentioned to Ray Walston years ago that I wished he had a little less animosity about that show. Seems he had a miserable time filming it (he was once bitten by a sitcom chimp) and was annoyed at being stereotyped for a while. He was also irritated by constant autograph requests from goofy sci-fi fans sending in photos for him to sign.

He used to send a hilariously irascible form letter to particularly oafish irritants: "I refuse to autograph any or all "odd-ball, freakish, side-show martian" photographs. And whoever gave or sold you my home address is guilty of invasion of privacy. Get your money back!" Well, he did autograph pix when he felt like it, and I'm proud to have one, in color, showing him in all his erudite glory. My favorite role of his was The Devil in "Damn Yankees," even if he deprecatingly insisted he couldn't sing a note.

Though known for his comic cranky roles, including Judge Bone on "Picket Fences" (he won an Emmy for it) and history teacher Mr. Hand in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," Ray began his career in light character roles including "Kiss them For Me," "South Pacific," "The Apartment" and "Kiss Me Stupid." His training began when the New Orleans-born actor appeared in stock productions at the Cleveland Playhouse and then in 1945 came to New York.

Evidently so many fans began to single out Ray for "Picket Fences" or "Ridgemont High" that, late in life, he could make peace with "My Favorite Martian." In 1999 he even made a cameo appearance in the film version that starred Christopher Lloyd.

SANDY BARON (64) January 20, 2001

Sandy Baron was a promising young comedian who never quite found his niche or a lot of fame until late in life. As an older character comic he got a lot of laughs in guest-spots on "Seinfeld."

Born in Brooklyn, Baron (nee Berenofski) worked in stand-up and managed to land a co-starring sitcom role on the short-lived "Hey Landlord" series in the early 60's. He was just a boyish Reiser-Crystal type back then, and even put out a comedy album of humor of high school recollections. Sandy did have a satiric streak, and his album "The Race Race" was an attempt at putting himself closer to comedy's edge, and the territory of Dick Gregory and Lenny Bruce. He also appeared on "That Was the Week That Was," the 1964 attempt at "relevant" humor that featured Tom Lehrer, Alan Alda and David Frost.

Through the 60's Sandy found journeyman work as an opening act, usually greasing the wheel for slick singers like Vic Damone, Della Reese and Neil Diamond. He supplied the lyrics for a minor Lou Rawls hit in 1971, "Natural Man" and toured with Lou.

In 1972 Sandy was frequently in productions of "Lenny," touring the country. As he told the L.A. Times that year, ``I'm not trying to play the soul of just Lenny or me. In a weird way, I want to be a channel for my fellow comedians, for their pain and their torture, for what goes on in their heads, trying to be funny before a thousand people a night.''

His next comedy album was "God Save the Queens," which championed gay rights. (He was quick to deny being gay, himself.) Baron seemed to struggle toward inheriting the Lenny Bruce legacy, but his humor and his persona just didn't have the bite. He took occasional film roles ("The Out of Towners" in 1970, "Broadway Danny Rose" in 1984) but remained one of the working comics/opening acts on the road.

Baron had roles in "Sid and Nancy" (1986) and "The Grifters" (1990) and finally got some recognition when he played the obnoxious Florida retiree Jack Klompus on Jerry Seinfeld's show. He was suffering from emphysema in a Los Angeles nursing home at the time of his death. He was survived by his sister.

VIRGINIA O'BRIEN (81) January 23, 2001

Virginia O'Brien got laughs by singing swing tunes with a stone-serious expression. With the deadest pan since Buster Keaton, but a far prettier one, O'Brien got some chuckles with her stunningly stunned performances. The novelty wore a bit thin, but she did manage to appear in quite a few musical comedies in the mid-40's including "DuBarry Was a Lady (1943) and "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946).

ROSEMARY DECAMP (90) February 20, 2001

Sitcom fans remember DeCamp as one of the durable TV moms, starring in "The Life of Riley" (1949-50) and later appearing on "The Bob Cummings Show" (1955-1961) and "That Girl" (1966-1970). She seemed to play motherly roles in her earlier film career. She played James Cagney's mom in "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (even though she was eleven years younger than Cagney) and she played Ronald Reagan's mother in "This is The Army" (even though they were the same age). Happily, in real life she was a model mom, and had four daughters. She was married to a municipal judge, John Shidler. He died in 1997.

EDWARD WINTER (63) March 8, 2001

As one of the funniest antagonists on the tv show M*A*S*H, Edward Winter's "Colonel Flagg" was prone to smashing phones into his head and re-breaking his own arm to prove his dedication to the cause. What cause? Nobody could quite figure it out, since the elusive counter-to-having-intelligence agent didn't like to own up to being in the CIA, FBI or any other part of the alphabet.
Edward Winter played the role with humorously sour irritability, a variation on the Burt Reynolds approach to comic dourness. Sadly, the iron man "Colonel Flagg" in real life succumbed to the tragic and debilitating affects of Parkinson's Disease, languishing at the Motion Picture & Television Hospital in Woodland Hills.

Winter was born in Ventura, California and first worked on stage with the San Francisco Repertory Theater. In New York his stage work included roles in "Promises, Promises" and "Cabaret." He received a Tony nomination for the latter. Fans can catch him in a variety of films including "From the Hip," "The Buddy System" and "Porky's 2."

PHIL BERGER (58) March 12, 2001

Phil Berger wrote one of the best books on the stand-up comedy lifestyle, "The Last Laugh" in 1975. Along with the Albert Goldman book "Ladies and Gentlemen: Lenny Bruce," it tried to mimic the cadence of stand-up even in the writing style, which annoyed some but amused most others. Berger laid bare some of the angst comedians suffer, which was informative for readers though embarrassing for a few of the comics in the book ,especially ones who hadn't really made it and vented their frustrations. One comedian told me he had no idea that his words, verbatim, would be used to create such a sad (if accurate) picture of his career in ruins.

Berger left comedy behind, moving on to a career in sportswriting. He was fascinated with boxing and became The New York Times boxing reporter (1986-1992). He collected his works for "Punch Lines" in 1993 and wrote a book on Mike Tyson in 1996. He was also fond of basketball and recently authored biographies of Bobby Knight and Pete Maravich. He lived in Jackson Heights with Veronica Vera (evidently the same Veronica Vera who ran a "finishing school" for transvestites in Manhattan and a book on that subject), and died after a struggle with colon cancer.

ANN SOTHERN (92) March 15, 2001

Ann was best known to two generations as "Maisie" and "Susie." First she made a series of 1940's film comedies ("Congo Maisie," "Ringside Maisie," "Swing Shift Maisie,") and in the late 50's she starred as droll and sexy Susie McNamara in "Private Secretary." She went on to "The Ann Sothern Show," which ended in 1961.

She also was a capable performer in musical comedy, most notably in "Lady in the Dark," in which she sang the classic song about Jenny, the woman who couldn't make up her mind.

Less obvious than the stereotypical bubble-headed sitcom blonde (Marie Wilson), but less mobile than the stereotypical madcap of the age (Lucille Ball), Sothern had managed to endure for two decades as an attractive, comical comedienne-actress. There wasn't much of a niche market for an aging version in the 60's, as was evident by the lack of success for Jean Arthur, Eve Arden and Ann Sheridan who all endured sitcom flops in the decade.

Ann's sitcom flop was legendary: "My Mother the Car." It wasn't that the show was any more infantile than "Gilligan's Island," with its cartoonish hero and villain (Jerry Van Dyke and Avery Schreiber). It was the concept that appalled critics: Sothern being reincarnated as a jalopy. Still, young kids watching the show loved it, and were captivated by her voice alone. After this one-season fiasco, Sothern guested on sitcoms, playing the recurring role of "The Countess" on episodes of "The Lucy Show." Ball was always a great supporter of Ann Sothern, and declared her "the best comedian in this business, bar none."

Born in North Dakota, Sothern retired to Idaho but was persuaded, at age 78, to take part in the film "The Whales of August." She received an Oscar nomination; a fitting tribute to a long, underrated career.

TOBY WING (85) March 23, 2001

Sometimes playing a winsome dumb blonde for comedy relief, often simply on hand to dance around in her lingerie, Toby Wing was a favorite in light-hearted comedies and musicals in the 30's. She appeared in 38 films including "Kid from Spain" (1932) with Eddie Cantor, and the satiric "Murder at the Vanities" opposite Jack Oakie (1934), a film that included a production number ode to marijuana. The same year she appeared in "42nd Street," the production-code skirting "Search for Beauty" and "School for Girls." She made some comic short films with Pinky Lee and in 1937 was in "True Confession" along with Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray. Her fame lasted into the next decade; she was one of the most popular "pin-up" girls of the era, rivaled only by Betty Grable.
Born Martha Virginia Wing on July 14, 1915, the vivacious star married Dick Merrill in 1938, and the union remained until his death in 1982. Toby Wing Merrill lived in Virginia, very content with her life away from Hollywood. I cherish her charm, her humor, and how she loved to show off pictures of her grand-children. On name alone she deserved the honor of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. JACKIE KAHANE (70) March 26, 2002

Another of the many schtick Jackies in show biz, placed alphabetically near Jackie Kannon and Jackie Mason, Kahane was known (if not notorious) as an Elvis Presley opening act.
Like Kannon, Jackie was born in Canada. The native of Montreal was originaly a druggist, moonlighting as a comic in the Catskills. He eventually toured with the Will Mastin Trio, and in 1961 Time magazine called him and Bill Cosby the year's outstanding new comics. Jackie was an opening act for a variety of singers including Sopie Tucker, Tony Bennett and Dionne Warwick.
After being used as Wayne Newton's warm-up act, Kahane was picked by Colonel Tom Parker to join up with Elvis Presley. Kahane said that it was because Newton had wanted a "clean" comic who wouldn't even utter a "hell" or a "damn." The Colonel liked that trait, and so did Elvis, who courtesouly called him "Mr. Kahane."
It wasn't easy being Elvis's opening act. As Elvis deteriorated, Kahane had to expand from 18 minutes to a 40 minute set, and that meant battling impatient fans. From 1970 to 1977 (when Presley died) Kahane kept up the comedy. He was booed loudly in 1972 when he tried to keep a Madison Square Garden audience amused, quipping quickly, "So this is New York. The odds are 18,000 to one! Thank you and good night..." Afterward a consoling Elvis told him, "Mr. Kahane, Jesus Christ couldn't have gone out there tonight ahead of me. "
Jackie continued to make a living with Elvis...by appearing at memorabilia shows and Presley tribute concerts. The "Ed Sullivan Show" veteran was always welcome at the Friar's Club, where he was one of the Last of the Jackies.

BROTHER THEODORE (94) April 5, 2001

Known to many through his dozens of gruff and delusional appearances on talk shows hosted by David Letterman and Merv Griffin, Brother Theodore was a "performance artist" before the term existed. A wealthy intellectual in Germany until Hitler came to power, Theodore barely escaped Dachau and certain death, and ended up in Switzerland where he became a "chess hustler" to make a living. He emigrated to America where he worked as a janitor. He lost his life savings in an attempt to mount a one-man show, but kept at it, and in 1945 and 1946 won some glowing notices from Los Angeles theater critics for his baffling set of a half-dozen stories enacted on a bare stage. He moved East and emerged as an eccentric Greenwich Village performer in the 50's, issuing two albums and making sporadic film appearances.

He sold out Town Hall (previous attraction Charles Laughton hadn't) and became infamous for his "midnight" concerts. By the time the David Letterman show re-discovered him, the shows at the 13th Street Theater were being held at the less ungodly hour of 9:30pm. They were usually sold out and interest in him hit a new peak when he co-starred in "The Burbs." Manic and vital even into his 80's, Theodore maintained his alternately defeatest, pessimistic and gloriously eccentric show. It was only after suffering a broken hip and further maladies that he reluctantly, and he vowed temporarily, abandoned performing just a few years before his death.

He was a friend, and although he was definitely gloomy and obsessed with the darker side of life, he was far from his psychotic and fiendish stage persona. Nobody was more complimentary about others than Theodore, and he was profoundly caring and deeply loyal to those around him. I created a website for him back in 1997 and if you want to know more about him, it's at: www.geocities.com/brotheodore.

SIR HARRY SECOMBE (79) April 11, 2001

While Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan were the two more famous members of "The Goon Show" trio, the actual star of the legendarily crazed and brilliant British radio series was Harry Secombe. He played the lead role of true blue British idiot Neddy Seagoon, the gloriously naive hero of every misadventure.
His soaring tenor voice was trained for operetta and religious works, and through the past 40 years, he was probably best known for his many albums of serious tunes. Of course there was a comical element to hearing him wax so histrionically and some comedy fans collected these along with "Goon Show" discs. It was quite a unique man who could sing both "Eeh Ah Oh Oooh" and "Jerusalem" and be successful with both.
Prince Charles said of him: "He was one of the great life-enhancers of our age and gave pleasure and constant happy laughter to so many of us throughout his life, most particularly when he was part of never-to-be-forgotten Goon Show. "He will be profoundly missed by all those people who appreciate wit and unmalicious humor." Harry was survived by his daughter and his wife Myra. They were married 55 years. Harry wrote several books, both novels and autobiography, and was well known in England for his religious program "Highway." Knighted in 1981, he reached the heights in esteem, in high comedy, and in respect for his kindness, morality and values in life. He was a good man, and a good Goon.

WHITMAN MAYO (70) May 22, 2001

One of the scruffy, funny co-stars on "Sanford and Son," Whitman Mayo played Grady Wilson, the guy with the "Good goobily goop!" catch-phrase.
As Redd Foxx became more cantankerous than usual, there was talk of Whitman Mayo taking over the show. Redd managed to control himself. In 1975, Mayo did get the chance to spin off into his own series "Grady," but after all the years of "Sanford and Son" the public was temporarily tired of Foxx, Wilson and the rest of the cast.
While the pasty-faced, shoe-box headed, taffy-haired Conan O'Brien evidently like to make jokes about the whereabouts of Mr. Mayo, erudite people in Atlanta knew exactly where he was. He was an adjunct professor at Clark Atlanta University where he taught film and theater classes. He also hosted "Liars & Legends" for the Turner South network. Mayo had been hospitalized for two months due to a hernia, and evidently suffered a heart attack while being transported to a new hospital facility. Mayo's last film roles were in "Boyz in the Hood" and the 1999 film "Waterproof" starring Burt Reynolds. He was married for 28 years and had three surviving children.

IMOGENE COCA (92) June 2, 2001

The queen of sketch comedy in the pre-Carol Burnett era, fractious Imogene Coca could play everything from a pseudo-sophisticated chanteuse to the frowsiest housewife. She was beloved for her work opposite Sid Caesar on "Your Show of Shows," and the surviving kinescopes remain her prime legacy. The best of them were collected in the movie "Ten From Your Show of Shows."
In the early 60's Coca had a chance to star in her own sitcom as "Grindl." The short, spunky actress was her charming, klutzy, comical self but the series never got a chance to find its way. Another quick cancellation was dealt to "It's About Time," in which Imogene played a cave woman who, along with her other grimacing grunting comic cave dwellers, finds her world invaded by time travelling astronauts (Frank Aletter and Jack Mullaney).
Coca enjoyed plenty of adulation in the nostalgic 80's and 90's as comedy fans discovered and/or rediscovered the great work she did during TV's golden age. She'd come down from Westport, Connecticut to make appearances and share the spotlight with Caesar and the others. "Longtime friend" Mark Basile was the one who alerted the news services of her passing, saying: ``She was just getting old. She was in good spirits, a loving, giving person. She went peacefully.''

LEONARD TEPPER (63) June 7, 2001

Among the many grotesques and lamely annoying people to fascinate David Letterman to the point of helpless giggling, Leonard Tepper may have been the most grotesque and annoying. Huge, bald, with his head bent forward at a strange angle from his sloped shoulders, Tepper looked like one of the prime mental cases wandering the city. And that's how Letterman used him; with hidden camera pointed at him, he'd harangue hapless pedestrians, jeer people at outdoor restaurants and come over to people sitting on park benches with demented questions that soon gave way to loud and frightening shouts. In one classic bit, which Letterman played when he announced Tepper's death, a female Letterman employee tells bystanders that she's lost her contact lens on the sidewalk. When two or three good-hearted New Yorkers actually take the time to get on hands and knees to help, Leonard turns up to scream, "There's NO contact lens, you jackass! There's a hidden camera!"

CARROLL O'CONNOR (76) June 21, 2001

A brilliant character actor, Carroll O'Connor modestly said he took a bit of Jimmy Cagney and a dash of Jackie Gleason and somehow mixed them into "Archie Bunker," the controversial hero of the most important sitcom of the 70's, "All in the Family."
The Bunker role was completely different from what the mild-mannered O'Connor had generally played throughout his somewhat uneventful career. He was in everything from Cleopatra (1963) to What Did You Do in the War, Daddy? (1966) to Kelly's Heroes (1970) without gaining much acclaim. But when he played the grumpy, racist Archie Bunker, he would soon become one of the highest paid and most famous stars on television. Gradually the show's racist element became less important and fans could legitimately "love" Archie Bunker for being a put-upon common working stiff like previous icon, Ralph Kramden. While many famous episodes exploded with Archie getting a lesson in humility, many more were hilarious just for O'Connor's wide array of faces, catch-phrases and Bunkerisms (malaprops).
Despite many threats of leaving the show, it was ironically O'Connor who lasted through the years and even ended up with his spin-off "Archie Bunker's Place." It seemed that after all those shows, he'd be forever typed as Bunker, but amazingly O'Connor put on a Southern accent and became Sheriff Bill Gillespie on the long-running TV drama "In the Heat of the Night."
O'Connor's private life was fairly serene until the late 80's when he underwent bypass surgery in 1989. His diabetes led to the amputation of a toe. His adopted son, Hugh, committed suicide after a struggle with drugs, leading O'Connor to bitterly become a spokesman against drugs and to publicly rail against his son's pusher. The end came quickly for O'Connor. He suffered a heart attack and died before much could be done at the nearby hospital.

LORENZO MUSIC (64) August 4, 2001

With all the amusing antics on the "Rhoda" show, fans still got some of their best laughs from someone who was heard but not seen: Carlton The Doorman. The voice coming over the intercom belonged to "Lorenzo Music" the musical name for a man born Gerald David Music.

Up till then, Music was known for, well, music. Music and writing. He wrote for "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and co-wrote the theme song for "The Bob Newhart Show." He and his partner David Davis were responsibile for spinning Valerie Harper into her own "Rhoda" series, and that's when he cast himself as Carlton.

After this, Music turned up for more comical voicework: Ralph The All-Purpose Animal in the 1983 movie cartoon "Twice Upon a Time" and as Bill Venkman for the cartoon series "The Real Ghosbusters" (based on the Bill Murray film). According to his wife, Henrietta, even though he was suffering from lung cancer, he was "cracking jokes a couple of days before he died; we were all sitting around in his room."

DAVE BARRY (82) August 16 2001

Known towards the end of his career just as "the other Dave Barry," stand-up journeyman Dave Barry had a long career that began when he appeared on the "Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour." After entertaining the troops during World War II, he headed to Las Vegas where he eventually became Wayne Newton's opening act for eight years. Ironically another long-time opening act for Newton, Jackie Kahane, also died in 2001.
Barry issued a few comedy albums and had the small role of Beinstock, the band manager in "Some Like it Hot." He continued performing on the circuits that favored older comedians, mostly Vegas, Palm Springs clubs and cruise ships. Born on August 26. 1918, he couldn't quite make it to his 83rd birthday.

KATHLEEN FREEMAN (78) August 23, 2001

Often playing a grumpy domestic, there was always something lovable about Kathleen Freeman. She seemed to capture, with great believability and sympathy, the spirit of a working woman. She played Katie the Cook on the old "Topper" TV series, and as limited as her role was, she raised a smile as she was by turns confused, suspicious and sometimes delighted by the strange events in her ghost-haunted household.

A perennial guest on sitcoms, she was in several "Dick Van Dyke Show" episodes always playing a grousing, bleary matron trying to get her job done; her doleful and disapproving expressions a wonderful counterpoint to Van Dyke's flustered slapstick. She would later become one of Jerry Lewis's favorites, appearing opposite him in eight movies.

While most character comediennes with her background spent their last years pleasantly married, or simply retired, sending an occaisonal autographed photo out to that small circle of fans who relish "classic TV" comic support, it was great to see that Kathleen actually had her greatest triumph at career's end.

The woman with the hilarious frown and the beautifully full and sincere smile became the "mistress of ceremonies" for the Broadway hit "The Full Monty." It was her Broadway debut. She was nominated for a Tony Award, after having performed on stage in a number from the show. The cameras caught the reactions of all the nominees when the wining name was announced. Kathleen was, characteristically, smiling despite the disappointment.

How perfect it would've been for Kathleen Freeman to earn that prize...especially given how unlikely it would be for her to get another great Broadway role at her age. The winner was young enough to be her grand-daughter. Nobody knew just how unlikely aother Broadway role was...that Kathleen had been performing for many months knowing she had lung cancer.

Kathleen Freeman continued to perform in "The Full Monty." She missed her Sunday performance on August 19th. Two days later, Tuesday, the 21st, she was admitted to Lenox Hill Hospital. And two days later, she was dead.

GLENN SUPER (45?) September 22, 2001

Among the many comedy club denizens working in the late 80's when I was doing RAVE magazine, Glenn Super tried to make a name for himself as "Mr. Bullhorn," telling gags through, yep, a bullhorn. He kicked around and bullhorned around the comedy circuit for years, but like his contemporaries Bill Hicks and Dennis Wolfberg, cancer cut his career down well before its prime.
Aside from the bullhorn routine, which got him onto the Regis & Kathie Lee show, "Make Me Laugh" and others, Glenn was interested in kiddie comedy, and created "Glenn Super's Kids Comedy Clubhouse," which played Westbury Music Fair as well as local schools. The native of Great Neck graduated from Carnegie Mellon University and divided his time between theater, stand-up, and novelty songs.
He was George Carlin's exclusive opening act for over four years. Dr. Demento fans know him through the novelty number "Good Sex (The Dr. Ruth Song)" which he did with the Jay Levy Blues Band. He issued a cassette, "Mr. Bullhorn Sings." The Connecticut-based comic had a wife, two kids, and while battling prostate cancer still managed to play the local circuit for as long as he could.

DAGMAR (79) October 9, 2001

She was Virginia Ruth Egnor, and was born in Logan, West Virginia. But when the busty blonde came to New York during World War II, she found herself working as a model and being turned into a human comedy prop for Olsen and Johnson's "Laughing Room Only" show.

She didn't have to do much except show off her bombastic figure and sit still for leering jokes. Or better yet, move around a little while the comic told his leering jokes. Now named "Jennie Lewis," she became a foil for Bert Lahr in "Burlesque," and in 1950 turned up on "Broadway Open House," the late night TV show hosted by Jerry Lester.

On this early "Tonight Show" series, Jennie made a quickie appearance; her character named Dagmar, her role on the show dubious: "That's my new band singer, Dagmar." "Does she sing?" "I don't know. I'm afraid to ask!"

Eventually Dagmar turned up regularly to be ogled as she read poetry and offered educational information ("Mushroom...a place where you make love...Isolate: that's when you admit that you are tardy!"> Dagmar probably pioneered the voluptuous maybe-not-so-dumb comic personality that would later be used by Jayne Mansfield, Carol Wayne and Loni Anderson (among many others).

Dagmar received $25,000 when she co-starred with Milton Berle for two weeks at the Roxy, and amply filled the cover of Life Magazine. A duet with Frank Sinatra in 1951, "Mama Will Bark," was in the Top 30 and the following year she had her own "Dagmar's Canteen" show.

When the novelty began to sag, Dagmar landed a job as a regular on the "Masquerade Party" quiz series in the mid-50's. She was busy with summer stock and nightclub work in the 60's, then retired to Connecticut. She was interviewed periodically for "Whatever Became Of..." pieces, having made such a memorable impression during TV comedy's golden age. When she became ill, she moved in with her brother Bob Egnor and his wife.

HERBLOCK (91) October 7, 2001

His political cartoons were signed "Herblock," and since the 1920's, Herbert Block's work was popular with newspaper readers all over the world. His career began with a a cartoon in the Chicago Daily News in April, 1929, and ended with one in the Washington Post in August, 2001. He had joined the Post in the 40's.

Among the dark, charcoal caricatures of political figures that won him fame was his lampooning of Senator Joe McCarthy. Block was even credited with coining the phrase "McCarthyism." Herblock was also notorious for his Nixon cartoons, all emphasizing the man's ominous "five o'clock shadow." Like Mort Sahl, Herbert Block was a pioneer in political satire and while others would follow, he never retired and never lost his audience. Over 300 newspapers published Herblock.

Said Donald Graham, chairman of The Washington Post: "Herblock was the greatest cartoonist of all time. His intelligence and his sense of history, combined with his artistic skill, helped define many of the key political figures and many of the key events of the last 55 years in Washington." The lifelong bachelor won three Pulitzer Prizes for his editorial cartoons, and earned a fourth during the Watergate era. He received the Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 1994.

NORMAN GRANZ (83) November 24, 2001

Norman Granz was behind the Verve "World of Wit." Although he is best known for producing visionary jazz concerts and record albums, bringing Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker and many others to fame, he gave a break to an impeccable array of young comedians: Mort Sahl, Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters and Jackie Mason among them.

A Jew born in Los Angeles, Granz made a mark by paying and promoting black and white musicians equally. Said his biographer, Ted Hershorn, "He held the U.S. accountable for the notion of freedom. and he did this years before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball." And Clark Terry, famous for both his jazz playing and his comic "mumbles" singing, declared "With Norman everything was first class. The travel, the hotels, everything. He had deep pockets. The others had short pockets." And Norman didn't line his pockets with ill-gotten gain. In 1947 Downbeat Magazine reported that he turned down over $100,000 in bookings that involved segregated nightclubs.

Granz's first record label was Clef in 1946. Verve arrived in 1956 and in the late 50's became home to best-selling comedians like Berman, Sahl, and Phyllis Diller. But when Granz sold Verve to MGM in 1960, the label's hold on comedy talent began to decline and Warner Bros. (Cosby, Newhart, Allan Sherman) flourished. Granz moved to Switzerland and in 1983 returned to jazz via his Pablo Label, signing many of his former Verve stars.

An irascible character, Granz once explained his philosophy as a concert promoter and record producer; "If you don't get substantially what you want, be ready to walk. And don't look back." In 1994 the Grammy Awards offered him a lifetime achievement honor. He turned it down with an eight word message: "I think you guys are a little late."

FOSTER BROOKS (89) December 20, 2001

Maybe Foster Brooks didn't want to deal with stereotypical New Year's Eve drunks...or all the red-nosed folks celebrating Christmas the wrong way.

His death on December 20th marked perhaps the last of the "drunk" comedians, performers who based their acts almost entirely on the habits of the tipsy.

Born in Louisville, one of eight sons of a county sheriff, Foster skipped junior high school and in his early 20's found some success as a local disc jockey and radio newscasters. In the 1950's he hosted TV news programs in Buffalo and Rochester, New York, and then decided in 1960 to try California...where he had bit parts in sitcoms such as "The Munsters" and "Bewitched." Like all struggling actors, he took a lot of odd jobs, the oddest being a guard at Dodger Stadium

It was his friend Dennis James who got Foster to try comedy, asking him to tell some jokes at a golf tournament. Foster remembered his father's "drunk" jokes and figured this was a safe way to face the crowd. If he bombed, it was because he was "bombed." He was successful enough to make more similar appearances at other golfing events. Perry Como saw him and booked him as his opening act.