DCS: gene maclellan

Gene MacLellan grew up in Toronto, raised in a traditional Presbyterian household. As a child, he contracted polio. Despite his illness, he was a determined singer and songwriter, using his music to overcome his physical ailments. As a teenager, he formed a band called The Consuls. They evolved into Little Caesar and the Consuls, a fairly successful Canadian group, but by that time, Gene had left the band, forming The Suedes with future Band guitarist Robbie Robertson.

In 1963, Gene was in a serious car accident that took the life of his father and left the singer badly injured with facial scars and irreparable damage to his left eye. He wore an eye patch or dark glasses for the rest of his life.

While living on Prince Edward Island, Gene was inspired by a flock of snow buntings to write Snowbird. He performed the song on several Canadian music showcase programs, including the popular Singalong Jubilee. He became a regular on the show, along with another up-and-coming Canadian singer named Anne Murray. Murray included her own version of Snowbird on her 1969 debut album and it became a Top Ten international hit.

In 1971, Gene hit big again when the Canadian group Ocean recorded his gospel-tinged composition “Put Your Hand in the Hand.” Gene’s songs were performed and recorded by many top acts, including Elvis Presley, Joan Baez, and even Bing Crosby. Gene, himself, toured Canada and released albums with a decidedly religious leaning. He became very involved with the inspirational music community, playing intimate venues and gaining a small, but devoted, following.

Although he had success in the music business, Gene suffered from depression for his entire life. His condition worsened as he grew older. He sought medical help often and was in and out of hospitals on a regular basis. Just after being discharged from the hospital in January 1995, Gene committed suicide at his PEI home. He was 56.

In 2017, Gene’s daughter Catherine produced a tribute show based on her father’s music, as well as his struggle with mental illness.

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DCS: sergio vega

After performing with his brothers in a traditional Latin music group, Sergio Vega branched out as a solo act in 1994. An accomplished singer and accompanist on the bajo sexto, Sergio turned his musical focus to the Narcocorrido musical sub-genre, a style of narrative ballad that glorifies the world of drug smuggling, trafficking and other related illegal activities.

On June 26, 2010, Sergio gave an interview to a Mexican entertainment website, dispelling rumors that he was murdered by a drug cartel. He laughed off the accusations and went on to talk about his upcoming concert that evening. He did, however, mention that security surrounding him and his entourage had been increased. He left the interview in his red Cadillac, headed to the scheduled concert.

While driving just a few hours later, gunmen in a passing truck opened fire on Sergio’s car, hitting him and his passenger in the head and chest at close range. Investigation determined he had been shot more than 30 times. Sergio was 40 years old.

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DCS: john anthony bailey

John Anthony Bailey performed in various college productions and improvisational theater as a student at Oakland’s Merritt College. He appeared in the Sun Ra science fiction film Space is the Place in 1972. John landed a regular role in the Sid and Marty Krofft children’s fantasy series Wonderbug in 1976. He also played the character “Sticks” the drummer, a member of Richie Cunningham’s rock band,  in two episodes of the popular sitcom Happy Days. He had guest spots in M*A*S*H*, Good Times and in the comedy film Kentucky Fried Movie followed.

In the early 1980s, using the name “Jack Baker,” John began a career in the adult film industry.  He had roles in the pornographic films  Let Me Tell Ya ’bout White Chicks and New Wave Hookers, as well as The Devil in Miss Jones 3: A New Beginning and The Devil in Miss Jones 4: The Final Outrage. Once called on to participate in hardcore sex scenes, John later stepped into “non-sex” roles in the Devil in Miss Jones series. He was relegated to comedic scenes that exploited racial stereotypes for a cheap laugh. He went on to appear in over 140 adult films.

John passed away in 1994 from bladder cancer. He was 47.

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DCS: dorothy short

madness, madness, they call it madness

Dorothy Short aspired to be an actress. She made her debut in 1935 starring alongside Noah Beery Jr. in the 12-part Universal Studios serial The Call of the Savage. Her next role was the one for which she is best remembered. In 1936, Dorothy was part of a cast of unknown actors and actresses tapped for a church-sponsored tale of morality entitled Teach Your Children. It attempted to show the dangers of drugs to impressionable youth. After filming was completed it was purchased by a commercial film distributor, re-cut, and released as Reefer Madness. The film was originally presented as an exploitation vehicle, but resurfaced in the 1970s as an unintentionally funny cult favorite. Dorthy married her Reefer Madness co-star Dave O’Brien.

She went on to appear in Assassin of Youth, another cautionary tale of drug addiction. After that, Dorothy focused on low-budget Westerns — both features and multipart serials. She signed with producer Pete Smith and made a number of comedy short subjects before divorcing O’Brien and retiring from show business in 1954. Dorothy passed away at the age of 47 in 1963.

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DCS: judith love cohen

Judith Cohen was as smart as a whip. By the time she was in fifth grade, her classmates were paying her to do their math homework. Inspired by her natural ability with numbers, Judith set her sights on becoming a math teacher. She entered Brooklyn College on a math scholarship, but soon switched her major to engineering. While she was a student, she danced with the  Metropolitan Opera Ballet company.

After completing two years at Brooklyn College, Judith married and moved to California, continuing her studies at USC at night, while working  as a junior engineer for North American Aviation. She earned a bachelor’s degree and eventually a master’s degree in 1962.

As an engineer at Space Technology Laboratories (later TRW), Judith worked on the guidance computer for the Minuteman missile and the Abort-Guidance System in the Apollo Lunar Module. The Abort-Guidance System played an important role in the safe return of  the troubled Apollo 13 after an oxygen tank explosion left the Service Module crippled. Fearing for their lives, astronauts were able to use the Lunar Module as a makeshift “lifeboat,” The Abort-Guidance System guiding the craft home to safety.

In 1969, Judith was working on a particularly puzzling problem with a schematic. She pored over her work, even taking a computer printout of the issue home with her. Judith was pregnant and expected to give birth at any moment. Undaunted, she worked diligently on the problem, finally calling her boss to report good news. She had solved the problem at hand and was now going into the delivery room. She gave birth on August 28, 1969 — to future actor/musician Jack Black.

With a career and family as a source of pride, Judith passed away in 2016, at the age of 82.

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inktober52: river (part 1)

River Phoenix died of an accidental drug overdose on Halloween evening 1993… as his career was on a meteoric rise. His untimely death paused a number of projects in development in Hollywood.

  • River was about to start filming his next picture in early November 1993. He had been cast to play “Daniel Molloy” in Interview with the Vampire. The role was recast with Christian Slater.
  • River would have followed that role by playing Susan Sarandon’s son in Safe Passage. That role was eventually played by Sean Astin.
  • He was signed to play the lead in John Boorman’s Broken Dreams. River’s death put the film on hold. It was resurrected in 2012, with Caleb Landry Jones taking over River’s role, but the film has yet to be made.
  • River was in talks to play “Cleve Jones” in the award-winning biopic Milk. The role was taken over by Emile Hirsch.
  • River was suggested to portray Andy Warhol in a proposed film about the late artist, but it never came to be.
  • River loved the book The Basketball Diaries and hoped to one day play author Jim Carroll in a big-screen adaptation. The film was made two years after River’s death with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jim Carroll.
  • River was interested in starring in Total Eclipse, in a role that subsequently went to Leonardo DiCaprio
  • River was James Cameron’s first choice to play “Jack Dawson” in his epic film Titanic. Again, the role went to Leonardo DiCaprio.
  • After his role as a young “Indiana Jones” in the prelude of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, plans were in the works to continue the film franchise with a series of prequel adventures with River in the lead role. His death put all development on hold until 2008 when Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was released.

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