DCS: arte johnson

very interesting

Arte Johnson was in a lot. Sure, you remember him peeking through the ferns at the end of Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, offering a corny pun in an affected German accent. Or as the doddering old Tyrone, attempting to make a move on the uptight Gladys Ormphby, as played by Ruth Buzzi, only to get whacked by her purse. Or maybe as the out-of-place soft-spoken holy man of indeterminate ethnicity at the psychedelic cocktail party.

But prior to his six-year stint on Laugh-In, Arte amassed a resume that included guest roles on numerous sitcoms throughout the 60s and 70s. Including McHale’s Navy, The Partridge Family, The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, The Donna Reed Show and even The jack Benny Show. Of course, he was featured in lesser-known programs like  It’s Always Jan, Sally, Hennesey and Bringing Up Buddy. He also lent his voice to a number of animated cartoons like Scooby Doo, The Smurfs, Ducktales, Animaniacs, Top Cat and an animated version of his “Tyrone” character from Laugh-In.

In 1997, Arte was diagnosed with and successfully treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He passed away in July 2019 after a three-year battle with prostate cancer. Arte was 90 years old.

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DCS: denise nickerson

I have a blueberry for a daughter

Denise Nickerson was best remembered for her iconic role as “Violet Beauregard,” the gum-snapping daughter of a pushy used car salesman in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Fresh from her multi-character casting on the Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows, Denise’s popularity was given a huge boost as a result of her appearance the candy-swirled fantasy. She landed a role on the PBS children’s series The Electric Company, as well as bigger pars in feature films like the Michael Ritchie satire Smile and the cult action film Zero to Sixty. She also appeared in a final season episode of The Brady Bunch as one of two dates Peter arranged for the same night. Denise was one of a group of actresses that auditioned unsuccessfully for the role of demon-possessed “Regan MacNeil” in The Exorcist, along with Brooke Shields, Melanie Griffith, Anissa Jones, Kim Basinger, Jaime Lee Curtis and April Winchell. At twenty-one, Denise decided to leave show business and pursue a career in nursing. She still managed to make appearances at fan conventions and at a Willy Wonka reunion on The Today Show in 2015.

In 2018, Denise suffered a debilitating stroke. After a hospital stay, she moved in with her son and daughter-in-law who would take care of her. In July 2019, Denise ingested a large amount of her prescribed medication while her son and daughter-in-law were out. She was found unresponsive when they returned home and Denise was taken to the hospital. She fell into a coma and, with a DNR order in place, was taken off of life support. She passed away on July 10 at the age of 62.

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IF: electricity

shocking

Benjamin Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it was the man who invented the meter who made the money.”
— Earl Wilson

Earl Wilson struggled for years as a writer. In 1942, he received an offer to take over a the column of a colleague who was going off to war. He was employed by the New York Post and the column, It Happened Last Night. blossomed into one of the most read and most respected syndicated columns in the nation. Through his column, Earl became a confidant to celebrities and other public figures. His penchant for fact-checking and his integrity as a reporter afforded him exclusive stories, offered readily by those in show business. He would often venture out for late nights with his wife Rosemary (referred to as B.W. “Beautiful Wife” in his columns) and begin to write the next day’s report at 3 o’clock in the morning. He was a friend to politicians, actors, actresses, musicians and others in the public eye. He always signed his columns with the friendly tag line “”That’s Earl, brother.”

Besides his 6-day-a week column, Earl wrote two books. One, an unauthorized biography of Frank Sinatra and the other, Show Business Laid Bare, was the first to expose the extramarital affairs of President John Kennedy. Earl also appeared in several movies, including A Face in the Crowd with Andy Griffith and Beach Blanket Bingo with Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. As was popular in his day, Earl was a guest panelist on TV game shows, as well. The Beatles dedicated their first set on The Ed Sullivan Show to Earl.

After his retirement, Earl was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and passed away in 1987 at the age of 79.

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DCS: mac rebennack aka dr. john

such a night

“Come Get It, Get It, Come, Come / Walk on guilded splinters
Come Get It, Get It, Come, Come / Walk on guilded splinters”

Dr. John explained that the song “Walk On Guilded Splinters” was based on a traditional voodoo church song. He said, “It’s supposed to be ‘Splendors’, but I turned it into ‘Splinters’… I just thought splinters sounded better and I always pictured splinters when I sung it.”

The Doctor passed away on June 6, 2019 at the age of 77.

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DCS: frank kameny

pride

In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450, establishing who could receive a federal security clearance. The order named security risks as Communists, subversives, drunks and drug users, and “sexual perverts.” As far as this order was concerned “sexual perverts,” meant homosexuals.

Frank Kameny was employed as an astronomer for the US Army’s cartography division. In 1957, he was dismissed from his position because of his homosexuality. Frank was outraged. He appealed his firing and, although his plea was unsuccessful, his efforts were notable as the first civil rights claim based on sexual orientation pursued in a U.S. court.

Frank and a number of his friends launched some of the first public protests by gays and lesbians, forming picket lines at the White House in 1965. Associated groups staged similar protests at the United Nations in New York City, The Pentagon and Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. Frank and the Mattachine Society, one of the earliest LGBT activist groups, began a campaign in 1963 to overturn laws that singled out the gay community. (Frank personally drafted a bill that was finally passed in 1993.) He also worked closely with the American Psychiatric Association to change homosexuality from being classified as a “mental disorder.” He also challenged the military’s ban on gays as early as the 1970s. After years of hard work, Frank was invited to the ceremony where President Barack Obama signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.”

Frank passed away at the age of 86 on October 11, 2011 – the 23rd National Coming Out Day.

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IF: war

what is it good for

In 1969, Motown’s mighty Temptations released their Psychedelic Shack album with the title track as the lead — and only — single. The second track on side two of the record was a Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong composition that offered fierce opposition to the continuing conflict in Vietnam. The song, “War,” featured three-way vocals by Dennis Edwards, the newest member of the group replacing David Ruffin who left to pursue a solo career, along with founding members Paul Williams and Melvin Franklin, whose bass vocals provided a militaristic “hup, two, three, four” in the background. Whitfield, who also served as the album’s producer, campaigned to have “War” released as a single, but Motown balked, fearing it would upset some of their more conservative fans.

Whitfield, believing in its message and hit potential, was determined to get “War” released to the public as a single. He recruited singer Edwin Starr, best known for his recent hit “25 Miles,” to sing lead on the new recording.  The Undisputed Truth, a trio who sang background vocals for the Temptations, The Four Tops and The Supremes at Motown, were tagged by Whitfield to provide backing vocals for Edwin Starr.  They would later go on to have a Top 10 hit of their own with the ominous “Smiling Faces Sometimes.” Starr’s recording, augmented by heavy electric guitars and a prominent clavinet, was more passionate and aggressive than The Temptations’ original version. Starr’s rendition, released in June 1970, hit Number 1 on Billboard’s charts, knocking Bread‘s “Make It With You” out of the top spot. It remained in that position for three weeks.

Although Edwin Starr never achieved the success of “War” again in his career, he was active and prolific. The Nashville native moved to England. He teamed up with electronic band Utah Saints to re-record some of his early career hits, including a reworked version of “War.” It was his final recording. Edwin suffered a heart attack in 2003 and passed away at the age of 61.

After September 11, 2001, media giant Clear Channel added “War” to its list of songs that were banned from its airwaves.

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DCS: gilbert baker

pride

From 1970 until 1972, Gilbert Baker served as a medic in the US Army while stationed in San Francisco at the beginning of the gay rights movement. He always exhibited artistic tendancies and was taught to sew by a fellow activist. After his discharge from the service, he began to create banners for demonstrations in the gay community.

Gilbert fashioned the first rainbow flag in 1978. He refused to copyright the design. Instead, he happily shared it as a royalty-free symbol of the LGBT community. He also designed flags and displays for the Paramount Flag Company in San Francisco, including pieces for Senator Dianne Feinstein, The Premier of China and the Democratic National Convention.

In 2003, to commemorate the Rainbow Flag’s 25th anniversary, Gilbert created a Rainbow Flag that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean in Key West. After the commemoration, he sent sections of this flag to more than 100 cities around the world. Gilbert often used the drag name “Busty Ross,” alluding to Betsy Ross and his flag-making skills.

Gilbert died in 2017 at the age of 65. California State Senator Scott Wiener remarked that Gilbert “helped define the modern LGBT movement.”

 

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DCS: audre lorde

pride

Audre Lorde was a writer and civil rights activist. As a poet, she is best known for her extremely expressive style. Her poems express anger and outrage at the civil and social injustices she observed throughout her life. The overall themes of her poetry and prose focused largely on issues related to civil rights, feminism, lesbianism, and the exploration of black female identity.

In 1992, Audre died of liver cancer at the age of 58. In an African naming ceremony just before her death, Audre took the name “Gamba Adisa,” which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known.”

 

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