DCS: martin mull

Martin Mull was one of those guys. Not a superstar, but certain not an “unknown.” He was a comedian, a singer, a songwriter, an actor and voice actor and a painter.

In 1970, as a budding musician, Martin let his sense of humor shine in the novelty song “A Girl Named Johnny Cash,” a modest hit for singer Jane Morgan in her foray into country music. From there, he embarked on his own career as a singer, releasing a string of humorous songs and touring the country as an opening act for Randy Newman, Sandy Denny, Billy Joel and even Bruce Springsteen.

Ready to conquer the acting world, he landed the role of “Garth Gimble” on the syndicated soap opera spoof Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. His popularity led to a spin-off pseudo talk show, Fernwood 2 Night (and later America 2 Night) as his character’s twin brother Barth. He was paired with comedian Fred Willard and the two were hilarious. He made the jump to movies with supporting roles in Mr. Mom and Clue and a rare starring role in the cult favorite Serial. Along the way, Martin produced a critically praised mockumentary The History of White People in America featuring his offbeat brand of humor. He was cast in a number of roles in episodic television including the family-friendly Sabrina the Teenage Witch and the more adult Arrested Development. He was featured in a few failed sitcoms, but he persevered, taking voice roles in the cartoons Danny Phantom and Bob’s Burgers.

Martin’s hidden passion was painting. He held a Masters Degree for the Rhode Island School of Design. His large-format works of photorealism were displayed in galleries and museums across the country, including — in true Martin Mull fashion — in the men’s’ room at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. One of his paintings — the 2008 piece After Dinner Drinks — was featured on the cover of the album Love Has Come for You by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell.

Out of the spotlight for several years, Martin passed away in June 2024 after a lengthy, yet undisclosed, illness. He was 80.

He was a funny guy.

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DCS: lori martin

Dawn Menzer

Lori Martin entered the world as Dawn Menzer, four minutes before her twin sister Doree on April 18, 1947. She was the daughter of a commercial artist and set designer for Warner Brothers Studios, so show business was already in her blood.

Six-year old Lori — still using her real name — was signed up by her mother with a talent agent who specialized in children’s roles. Her first audition had disaster written all over it, when en route, the family car broke down. Determined Lori got out and walked alone the six blocks to the casting office. She told the receptionist who she was and the business that brought her there. She aced the audition — a Chrysler car commercial — by herself. For future auditions, Lori’s mother waited in the car.

Now, using the name “Lori Martin,” a name she initially disliked, but grew to appreciate, she landed roles in films and episodic television. Lori was featured in the Roger Corman gangster film Machine Gun Kelly, the James Garner-Natalie Wood romantic comedy Cash McCall, the epic The FBI Story with James Stewart. She also appeared in guest roles in Leave It to Beaver, Wagon Train and Medic, television’s first doctor show.

At 12, Lori auditioned with over 900 other hopeful young actresses for the lead in the proposed TV series based on the popular film National Velvet. When the pool was narrowed down to three, Lori was interviewed an additional ten times before finally winning the role because of her striking resemblance to film star Elizabeth Taylor.

At 14, she was cast in her most notable performance, as Gregory Peck’s young daughter in the original Cape Fear. The film’s director wanted Hayley Mills for the role. When he couldn’t get her, he treated Lori deliberately harsh during filming. Lori admitted that she had regular nightmares about Robert Mitchum’s menacing performance.

Lori made an attempt at a singing career, releasing the single “The Home of the Boy I Love” in 1963. The tune, a typical 60s vocal in the style of Annette Funicello, Lesley Gore or Shelley Fabres, did not live up to Lori’s aspirations. She concentrated on her acting, taking guest roles in Family Affair, The Donna Reed Show and Please Don’t Eat the Daisies. In 1970, she was paired with Jerry Mathers as newlyweds in an episode of My Three Sons. Years earlier, they played an adolescent couple on Leave It to Beaver. She retired from acting shortly after.

Lori married and moved to Oakhurst, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. She took care of her child and helped her husband run his medical supply company. Lori appeared to be happy leaving her show biz life in her past, but Lori fought a life-long battle with bipolar schizophrenia, exacerbated by the death of her husband. She began to use illegal drugs and, in 2010, Lori took her own life by self-inflicted gunshot. She was 62 years old.

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DCS: patrick haggerty

June is Pride Month.

Patrick Haggerty grew up on a dairy farm in rural Washington. His parents were accepting of their son’s homosexuality and encouraged him to “be himself” and not to “sneak around.”

In high school, Patrick, a natural performer, was the leader of the pep squad and was popular among his classmates. In college, he joined the Peace Corp, but was dismissed when it was discovered he was gay. He joined and became very active in the Gay Liberation Front, a local chapter of a nationwide advocacy organization formed in the wake of the Stonewall riots.

In 1973, he formed a band — Lavender Country — in an effort to popularize a subgenre of country/Western music known as “Lavender Cowboy Music.” The band’s self-produced album received mixed reviews, being called “fun, but amateurish in its production.

After a 49-year hiatus, Patrick and his band released their second album “Blackberry Rose” in 2019. They performed across the country. They gained popularity partly from the surging career of nuevo-gay icon Orville Peck and his own re-introduction of “lavender cowboy music” to the mainstream. “Blackberry Rose” even received a re-release in 2022. Riding the wave of his newfound, but latent, success, Patrick died suddenly from a stroke on Hallowe’en 2022. He was 78.

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DCS: moms mabley

June is Pride Month.

Loretta Aiken was one of 16 children born to James Aiken and Mary Smith. James was moderately successful  in Bevard, North Carolina, starting and operating various business ventures. However, Loretta’s childhood was anything but happy. She gave birth twice before she was 13, both times as a victim of rape and both children were given up for adoption. Young Loretta was encouraged by her grandmother to run a way from home, At 14, she did so, joining a travelling vaudeville act with popular “Chitlin Circuit”  stage stars Butterbeans and Susie. Lorretta changed her name to “Jackie Mabley,” choosing the moniker of an early boyfriend. She later commented that he treated her poorly, so the least she could do was steal his name. Just after she left home, her father, a volunteer fireman, was killed when a fire engine exploded. Soon after, her mother was stuck and killed by a car while walking home from church on Christmas.

In 1921, Jackie — the former Loretta — came out as a lesbian. She was one of the first female comedians to embrace her homosexuality and often included lesbian humor in her act. She became the first female comedian to play Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. Appearing in dingy clothes and a bucket hat, Jackie used the stage persona of “Moms Mabley” to the delight of audiences. She spoke about women’s’ issues, as well as racism, sexuality and her aversion to “old geezers.” Her edgy routines garnered wide acclaim and soon she found herself on bigger stages in more prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall. She appeared on the popular Ed Sullivan Show and was a favorite guest of Tom and Dick Smothers on their variety show. She was the supporting act for live performances by Pearl Bailey and Ike & Tina Turner in the 1970s.

In 1974, while filming her first and only movie, Jackie suffered a heart attack. She was given a pacemaker and continued performing, despite her declining health. She passed away in 1975 at the age of 78… but not before opening doors for young comedians who followed in her footsteps.

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DCS: david mixner

June is Pride Month.

David Mixner spent his entire life fighting for what was right.

In the 1960s, as a college student, he opposed the war in Vietnam. He organized a campus-wide protest against a speech delivered by General William Westmoreland.

He took his protest to the 1968 Democratic Convention where he was allegedly beaten by police outside the convention center. However, the following year, he was invited to join the Delegate Selection Committee, possibly with the help of his new friend Senator Ted Kennedy.

In 1978, David focused on defeating California’s notorious “Propostion 6,” which would ban homosexuals from becoming teachers. Through protests and demonstrations and the help of San Francisco City Councilman Harvey Milk, Proposition 6 was handily defeated by over a million votes.

David worked closely with Bill Clinton on his campaign for president, especially favoring the candidate’s position on gays in the military. But their friendship was strained after the newly-elected Clinton backpedaled on his promises and introduced the less-than-favorable “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. David and Clinton never spoke again.

In the 21st century, David turned to performance pieces, He wrote a politically-charged trilogy that was produced and performed in New York City. With positive reviews, the shows were often staged as a source for fundraising for LGBTQ causes.

David contracted long-term COVID and passed away in November 2024 at the age of 77.

 

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