Eric Campbell was performing in local theater in Scotland when he was recruited by entertainment impresario Fred Karno. Karno was a slapstick comedian in his own right and is credited with popularizing the “pie-in-the-face” gag. Karno had assembled a roster of entertainers, including Charles Chaplin and Chaplin’s understudy Arthur Jefferson, later known by the stage name “Stan Laurel.”
Eric came to New York in 1914, immediately continuing his career on the stage. Two years later, he signed with Chaplin who was contracted to produce a dozen films for the Mutual Film Corporation. Eric went with Chaplin to Hollywood. In the spring of 1916, The Floorwalker was released to rave reviews. Eric played the overbearing foil to Chaplin’s endearing “Tramp” character. Eric would reprise this bullying persona in a ten more films with Chaplin. He was even lent out to Mark Pickford to appear in Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley, but fate would interfere.
Eric’s wife Fanny died suddenly while walking home from a Santa Monica restaurant. On her way to purchase a dress to wear to the funeral, Eric’s teenage daughter was stuck by a car and seriously injured.
At a late September party, Eric met Pearl Gilman, a second-rate comic actress with a reputation for gold-digging. She had married and divorced two wealthy men and now had her sights set on Eric Campbell. They were married just days after they met, however, less than two months after the wedding, Pearl filed for divorce, claiming abuse and Eric’s alleged d heavy drinking. He moved out of their shared home and took up residence near his friend Charles Chaplin. At a party to celebrate the completion of the film The Adventurer, Eric had too much to drink. He crashed his car in the early morning hours and was killed instantly. Eric was 37 years old.
The Three Laws of Robotics:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Fred Willard played the clueless fool the way a virtuoso plays the violin.
He passed away in May 2020 at the age of 86.
Norma Zimmer wanted to become a violinist, but her father, a violin teacher, told her that her hands were too small to properly handle the instrument. Disappointed, she perused a career as a vocalist instead.
While singing in her local Idaho church choir, Norma was approached by a visiting guest singer to travel to California to audition for bigger parts in bigger choirs. When she turned 18, Norma headed to Los Angeles, landing a spot on the Norman Luboff Choir, a nationally-known ensemble that performed spiritual songs. With professional singing experience under her belt, she was hired to be part of “The Talking People,” a singing quintet that appeared regularly on the popular Canada Dry Sparkle Time radio show. The host, band leader and composer Meredith Willson, offered Norma a solo spot in early 1947. She shined in her new position, however, Canada Dry dropped their sponsorship and the program was abruptly canceled.
Soon, Norma got work as a movie studio singer, providing the singing voice for “The White Rose” in the 1951 animated film Alice in Wonderland and supplemental (uncredited) vocals on the soundtrack to the film 3:10 to Yuma. In addition, she was part of the backing group on Bing Crosby’s iconic recording of “White Christmas.” She also performed background vocals on a Lawrence Welk holiday album. Welk liked the young singer and persuaded her to appear on his television show. Alice Lon, Welk’s “Champagne Lady,” had just announced she was departing the show. He asked Norma to take her place, or at least fill in while he sought a replacement. Norma agreed and made her debut on New Years Eve 1960. She made more appearances on the show and traveled with Welk’s band, while Welk looked for a permanent “Champagne Lady.” Several singers were brought on to fill the role, but Welk found himself returning to Norma and Norma was called back on a week-to-week basis.
This went on for 22 years.
Norma retired from show business in 1982. She passed away in 2011 at the age of 87.
A native of Hollywood, Julie Bennett found work as a character actress in radio and on television including bit parts on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show, Adventures of Superman, and Dragnet. She found her true calling, however, as a voice actress, a career she worked at for over fifty years.
Julie was an in-demand voice artist with United Productions, Warner Brothers, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Format Films (the producers of the popular The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show) and Hanna-Barbera Productions. Along with other roles, Julie became the long-time voice of “Cindy Bear,” girlfriend of Hanna-Barbera staple “Yogi Bear.” She provided the female bear’s voice in the feature-length Hey There, It’s Yogi Bear! as well as a half dozen animated spin-offs. She also took over the as the voice of “Aunt May” on Spider-Man after the untimely death of Linda Gary.
Julie supplemented her income as a realtor in Los Angeles, using a pseudonym to keep her two careers separate.
In 2020, she passed away at the age of 88 from complications related to COVID-19.
In 1947, Sister Rosetta Tharpe heard 14 year-old Richard Penniman playing piano and singing her songs at the Macon Georgia City Auditorium. She asked the young man if he’d like to open the show for her.
And that’s how Little Richard’s career began… with a little help from an unsung hero.
He never won a competitive Grammy Award, but there is no denying Little Richard’s impact and influence on rock and roll. He was an acknowledged inspiration for James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Freddie Mercury, Prince, Jimi Hendrix (who played in an early Little Richard band), Patti Smith, Lou Reed, AC/DC, Deep Purple, Motorhead, Outkast, Bruno Mars, The Beatles and so many others.
Little Richard once told an interviewer, “If I had been white, there wouldn’t have been an Elvis Presley.”
He passed away on May 9, 2020 at the age of 87.
When I was a kid, it was common knowledge among my peers that killing a praying mantis was against the law. The neighborhood kids would go on to say there was a fine if you were caught. At various times, that fine would range from ten dollars to thousands of dollars… and jail time! Of course, I have come to learn that this one of those urban legends with no basis in any law on the books in any municipality or jurisdiction anywhere in the country. Praying mantises are not on the endangered species list. There are over 2000 different species of mantises in the world. If they were an endangered species, the fine for killing one would be a lot more than fifty bucks.
In reality, praying mantises are pretty beneficial insects for farmers and gardeners. They are often used in lieu of pesticides to maintain control over insects that could harm crops and flowers.
Illegal to kill them? No, but don’t do it anyway. What’s the point?
And go ahead and drive barefoot. That’s not illegal either.
Twelve-year old Millie Small won the Vere Johns (the Jamaican Ted Mack) talent contest in her native Jamaica. She recorded a few songs that became hits on Jamaican radio. These songs made their way to Chris Blackwell, noted hitmaker and founder of Island Records, one of England’s biggest independent labels. Blackwell brought Millie to London where she began an extensive regimen of dance and diction training. Blackwell hand-picked the song “My Boy Lollipop,” a cover of a tune by The Cadillacs, to become Millie’s next single. Released in 1964, it shot to the top a many international charts, becoming the first ska influenced hit. It also became the first international hit for Island Record. Millie was tagged “The Blue Beat Girl,” for introducing a hybrid sound of rhythm & blues and reggae.
Millie appeared on a 1964 Beatles TV special. This led to bookings on numerous other music programs. She began a brief affair with Peter Asher of Peter & Gordon, a relationship she later denied. A surge of popularity of reggae insured more opportunities for Millie, but, sadly she found herself broke and destitute in the late 1980s. She disappeared from the public eye, even failing to appear at an awards ceremony in Jamaica where she was honored with a lifetime achievement presentation.
In 2012, Millie granted a rare interview with Goldmine Magazine, where she revealed that Rod Stewart played harmonica on “My Boy Lollipop” and that she received no royalties for the recording.
Millie passed away on May 5, 2020 at her home in England. She was 72.
Casey Jones, a respected engineer with the Memphis-based Illinois Central Railroad, was a risk taker. His trains were often on-schedule, though his methods to keep that schedule were questionable. A number of citations for various rules infractions were issued to Casey and he totaled suspensions for well over one hundred days, but none of those occurred on his final run.
On April 30, 1900, he was due to drive the southbound passenger service from Memphis to Canton. Working an overtime shift from the previous night, Casey was likely sleep deprived. He departed for his shift over an hour late, but was sure he could make up the time
Approaching Vaughan, Mississippi at high speed, he was unaware that three trains were occupying the station,, including one that had broken down and was stalled directly on his line. He ignored a flagman signalling to him, although Casey may not have seen him, due to the dense morning fog.
Through the fog, Casey spotted the red rear lights of the caboose in front of him. Quickly, he blew his whistle to clear the tracks. Then, he reversed the throttle and slammed the air brakes into emergency stop. Casey’s train plowed into the train stopped on the tracks. Because he stayed aboard to manually reduce the speed of the train, Casey saved the lives of every passenger on the train. Despite the severity of the wreckage, there was just one fatality — Casey Jones.
Melville See Jr. graduated from Princeton University and headed to University of Arizona to take graduate courses in anthropology. In June 1962, he married photographer and fellow student Linda Eastman, an art major whose mother was killed in a plane crash just a few months earlier. By the end of the year, the couple became parents of Heather Louise See. Unfortunately, the young couple soon discovered their dissimilar lifestyles and they divorced in 1965.
In 1967, while on a photography assignment in London, newly-single Linda met Paul McCartney at a club. She met him again at a party at Brian Epstein’s house for the release of the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Linda and her daughter began spending a lot of time with Paul. They eventually left their New York home and moved to London. Paul and Heather, who was six, bonded immediately. Paul told Linda that he had always dreamed of having children.
Friends noticed that Linda had a calming effect on Paul, putting him at ease during the hectic business of “being a Beatle.” They married in March of 1969. Paul had grown depressed after the Beatles break-up. He credits Linda with bringing him out of it. Paul wrote “Maybe I’m Amazed” for his wife. Paul and Linda had three children together and Paul legally adopted Heather. Melville had been out of his daughter’s life for years.
However, Paul wrote another song that referenced Linda’s past. The character “Jo Jo” mentioned in the Beatles song “Get Back” is Melville See Jr., whose actual first name was Joseph.
In March 2000, an on-again-off-again girlfriend discovered the body of Melville See Jr. in his home in the desert of Tuscon, Arizona. He had a single gunshot wound in his head and a gun lay nearby. He was 62 years old. He left no note.