DCS: ruth brown

Rebellious Ruth Weston ran away from home at 17, opting to sing in nightclubs rather than church. She married trumpeter Jimmie Brown along the way.

Blanche Calloway, sister of noted band leader Cab Calloway, arranged for Ruth to sing at a Washington DC nightclub. Popular radio DJ Willis Conover saw her act and recommended her to Atlantic Record execs Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson. The pair were very interested, but Ruth’s audition was sidelined due to a car accident. However, she signed a contract from her hospital bed.

Beginning in 1949, and switching from ballads to rhythm & blues, Ruth recorded and released a slew of hit records for the Atlantic label. She scored 21 Top 10 records – leading the press the refer to Atlantic Records as “The House that Ruth Built.” However, as the 1960s approached, Ruth decided to leave the spotlight for a calmer family life.

At the insistence of comedian Redd Foxx, Ruth entered the acting world in 1975. She had a recurring role on the much-maligned sitcom Hello Larry, as well as a memorable role as “Motormouth Maybelle Stubbs” in John Waters’ original film Hairspray. Most notably, Ruth earned a Tony Award for her featured role in the 1989 Broadway musical Black & Blue. Her relentless fight for musicians’ rights and royalties led to the founding of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1988. Ruth was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Ruth passed away in 2006 from complications of a heart attack and stroke. She was 78 years old. She was still touring at the time of her death.

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DCS: heather angel

Heather Angel is one of those actors that I discovered late in their career. I knew Heather from her recurring role in the 1960s sitcom Family Affair. She played the very proper “Miss Faversham,” a nanny who cares for the children of one of Bill Davis’ (Brian Keith) neighbors in the high-rise Manhattan apartment building. It was hinted that her character was a love interest for the equally-proper “Mr. French,” as portrayed by Sebastian Cabot. She only had a few more roles after Family Affair wrapped, including her final screen appearance in a single episode of the star-studded mini-series Backstairs at the White House. But Heather Angel’s career started nearly four decades before she nodded approvingly at the antics of Buffy and Jody.

Heather debuted at the acclaimed Old Vic Theater at the age of 17. After critical accolades in British cinema, she headed for Hollywood. Heather was cast in a series of strong female roles, including The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The Three Musketeers, The Informer and The Last of the Mohicans. Already an accomplished actress, she made her first appearance on Broadway in 1937 in Love of Women. Soon, Heather joined the cast of the “Bulldog Drummond” film franchise, making five appearances as “Phyllis Clavering,” the title investigator’s fiancée. Heather co-starred in two Hitchcock films — Suspicion and Lifeboat — as well as memorable pictures like Pride and Prejudice and Cry ‘Havoc’. In the 50s, she lent her voice to characters in Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Later, she was a recurring character on the early TV soap opera Peyton Place.

Heather’s second husband, actor-director Robert B. Sinclair, was murdered in a failed burglary in the couple’s home in 1970. Sinclair confronted the would-be thief, only to be killed in front of his wife. Heather never remarried. She passed away in December 1986 at the age of 77.

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DCS: phil linz

Phil Linz passed away this week at the age of 81. He was mostly used as a utility fielder during the seven seasons he spent in the Major Leagues playing for three different teams. Phil had a pretty unremarkable career, racking up only 11 home runs and an unimpressive lifetime batting average of .235. But it was during his time with the New York Yankees that Phil’s name became a part of dubious baseball history.

On August 20, 1964, Phil was traveling on the team’s bus with his Yankees team mates. They were leaving Comiskey Park where they were soundly swept in a four-game series against American League pennant rival The Chicago White Sox. The team was feeling awful, fearing their poor performance would greatly damage their chances in the race to the post-season. Phil, who had no field time at all in the four-game stretch, began playing a harmonica that he had recently purchased. Phil was just a beginner and the only tune he could play was a barely-recognizable version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” As he puffed out the melody, Yankee manager Yogi Berra fumed at the front of the bus. Out of frustration, he yelled for the music to stop. Phil didn’t hear the order and asked team mate Mickey Mantle to repeat what Berra said. Mantle, a notorious clubhouse prankster, smiled and said, “He wants you to play louder.” So, Phil played louder.

Berra was incensed. He stomped to the rear of the bus and knocked the harmonica out of Phil’s hand. (Some accounts claim Phil threw the instrument at Berra.) Phil and Berra shouted at each other until they were finally both calmed by their fellow Yankees. The next day, Phil went in to Berra’s office to apologize. The two were far more civil to each other than the day before, but Berra informed Phil that he would still be fined $250 for the incident. Phil consented. However, a few days later, after the incident made the sports section of every major newspaper across the country, Hohner Harmonicas offered Phil $10,000 to endorse its brand. He gladly accepted.

As the 1964 season came to a close, the Yankees ended up in the World Series after all – playing against the St. Louis Cardinals. Due to injuries, regular shortstop Tony Kubek was unable to play. Phil started at short for every game of the World Series. He even hit two home runs, including one off of Cardinals domineering pitcher Bob Gibson. Despite their best efforts, the Yankees lost the series in seven games. And Yogi Berra was fired the next day.

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