DCS: peter robbins

As a child, Peter Robbins appeared in episodic television, from comedies to Westerns. At nine years old, he was cast as the voice of “Charlie Brown” in A Boy Named Charlie Brown, a documentary about the “Peanuts” comic strip. Peter went on the voice the beloved, yet hapless, character in six made-for-TV specials, including A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. His frustrated exclamation of “AUGH!!” (first heard in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown) continued to be included in “Peanuts” specials long after Peter had aged out of the role.

Peter continued in on-screen roles during his time as a voice actor, including guest parts in The Munsters, Love on a Rooftop and F Troop. He landed the role of young “Alexander Bumstead” in a short-lived sitcom based on the Blondie comic strip. An appearance in a 1972 episode of My Three Sons was his final acting role.

With his acting career behind him, Peter went into the real estate business, however a life-long battle with bipolar disorder interfered. Peter fought mental demons, turning to alcohol and drugs in an effort to self-medicate when wrongly-prescribed treatment failed him. He often had run-ins with law enforcement, stemming from accusations of stalking, harassment and even death threats. Peter was arrested multiple times and served several prison sentences. In December 2015, Peter was sentenced to four years and eight months as part of a plea agreement for threatening the manager of the mobile home park in which he lived. He was released on parole in October 2019 on the condition that he stop drinking alcohol and stop using drugs.

In 2020, Peter appeared to be getting his life together. He was prescribed new medication and was making appearances at entertainment conventions where he signed autographs and mingled with fans. He was booked and confirmed to appear at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in September 2022, a gathering I have attended many times.

In January 2022, Peter’s family reported that the actor had taken his own life. He was 65 years old.

Comments

comments

DCS: sherwood schwartz

Although it may seem otherwise, Sherwood Schwartz’s life began way before Gilligan’s Island. The New York native moved to southern California in pursuit of a Master’s degree in Biology. In desperate need of money, the naturally-funny Sherwood began writing jokes for Bob Hope’s radio show — a program on which Sherwood’s older brother Al was already employed as a gag writer. Comedian Hope took a liking to Sherwood’s consistently funny output and offered the young writer a permanent position of the show’s staff. Weighing his possibilities — curing the world of disease or making the world laugh — Sherwood chose a steady paycheck and the world of entertainment.

Sherwood went on to write for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Alan Young Show and I Married Joan until he was named “head writer” of the popular Red Skelton Show. Sherwood was awarded an Emmy Award in 1961 for his work on the variety show.

At the beginning of the 60s, Sherwood Schwartz pitched his idea for a sitcom to CBS. The show would tell the humorous adventures of a group of survivors of a shipwrecked charter boat. Sherwood envisioned Jerry Van Dyke in the title role, but he turned the part down in favor of the lead in My Mother, The Car. Sherwood went elsewhere to assembled a memorable cast. Gilligan’s Island premiered in 1964 and proved pretty popular with television viewers. With Gilligan’s Island to his credit, Sherwood pitched another idea to the network. Using the timely interest in space travel as a backdrop, Sherwood proposed a series involving two astronauts accidentally travelling back in time to the “caveman” period. The show, It’s About Time, starred comedian Imogene Coca and Car 54, Where Are You‘s Joe E. Ross as a prehistoric couple. To save costs, sets and props from Gilligan’s Island were reused for the new show. Sherwood appeared to be CBS’s “golden boy.” It’s About Time initially produced high ratings, but soon it began to plummet. The premise was reworked, switching the locale to modern times and introducing the cave-people as “fish out of water.” It didn’t work and the show was cancelled after a single season. A short time later, Gilligan’s Island was canceled as well.

As the decade drew to a close, Sherwood pitched a third idea. This wholesome family comedy surrounded a widower with three sons and an “unmarried.” woman with three daughters getting hitched. (The marital status of the woman was not clear if she was widowed or divorced — and the script was fairly ambiguous.) Contrary to popular belief, the premise was not inspired by the recent hit films Yours Mine and Ours or With Six, You Get Eggroll. Sherwood’s original script was conceived years before their 1968 releases. However, Sherwood shopped the show to all three networks, each taking an interest and each suggesting changes. As far as casting, Sherwood pushed for an unknown, up-and-comer named Gene Hackman in the role of widower “Mike Brady.” ABC insisted on the more recognizable Robert Reed, fresh from the legal drama The Defenders. The Brady Bunch was first broadcast on September 26, 1969 and ran for five seasons. Sherwood and Reed would continually butt heads during the series’ entire run. It didn’t matter that it was panned by critics. The show was hugely popular among a young target audience and it continues in reruns — nearly uninterrupted — to this day.

When The Brady Bunch ended its run, Sherwood Schwartz was kind of stuck. He regularly pitched variations on a theme — that theme being either Gilligan’s Island or The Brady Bunch. First, there was Dusty’s Trail, a carbon-copy of Gilligan’s Island with the setting switched from a desert island to the rocky terrain of the Old West. “Gilligan” himself, Bob Denver, played “Dusty,” the inept second-in-command of a wayward wagon that has been separated from the rest of the wagon train. The other characters were blatant copies of the characters from the Island. All three networks passed on the project, though the show found life in first-run syndication. It lasted only 26 episodes of a proposed 33. Sherwood wasn’t as subtle when he presented The Brady Brides, A Very Brady Christmas or the ill-fated and much-maligned Brady Bunch Variety Hour.

Over the years, whenever nostalgia reared its ancient head, Sherwood was front and center with the cast members who were willing to participate. Whether it was current sitcom offering a Gilligan or Brady-themed episode or a flat-out reunion, Sherwood was there with a smile on his face. Sherwood passed away in July 2011 at the age of 94. He outlived most of the Gilligan’s Island cast members, as well as his on-set nemesis Robert Reed.

Comments

comments

DCS: joe turkel

In a career that spanned six decades, Joe Turkel kept a pretty low profile. He has been credited with appearances in over one hundred films and television shows. He has played doctors, reporters, gangsters, low level criminals, soldiers and, of course, bartenders. Whatever was required, Joe could play it.

He is one of only two actors to appear in three films directed by Stanley Kubrick (British actor Philip Stone is the other). In 1956, Joe co-starred in The Killing for Kubrick. The following year, he played “Private Pierre Arnaud” in Paths of Glory, his personal favorite role. In 1980, Joe was cast in the iconic role of “Lloyd the Bartender” in The Shining.

Joe worked alongside actors Jack Lemmon, Kirk Douglas, George Segal and George C. Scott. He worked under directors Robert Wise and Roger Corman and Ridley Scott, for whom he played the CEO of the company creating the replicants in the science-fiction classic Blade Runner. He worked for low-budget producer-director Bert I. Gordon on three films, including a turn as “Abu the Genie” in The Boy and The Pirates. Along the way, Joe played a robber on the lam in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show and a janitor in Boy Meets World.

I met Joe at an autograph show in 2011. He was one of the nicest, friendliest, most interesting celebrities I have ever met. He told lively stories about his career and working with Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson. He even made a little joke in Yiddish to me, punctuating his remark with a wink.

Joe passed away in June 2022, just a few weeks shy of his 95th birthday.

Me and Joe, August 2011

Comments

comments

DCS: robert kieling

Robert Kieling loved Anne Murray. I mean he really loved Anne Murray.

Canadian singer Anne Murray was enjoying success with a string of easy listening hits, beginning with her 1970 hit Snowbird. She scored big on the pop charts several more times with Danny’s Song, You Needed Me and others. She gained fans in her native Canada and worldwide, but no one was a bigger Anne Murray fan than Robert Kieling.

A 44-year old wheat farmer from Saskatchewan, Robert Kieling began attending Anne Murray concerts and writing the singer letters. Then he started showing up at places — places he shouldn’t have been. He attended Anne Murray’s high school reunion. He attended her father’s funeral. He regularly sent the singer gifts. He showed up at her mother’s home with two train tickets to bring him and Murray back to his farm. In 1980, when he called her business office over 250 times, Murray became frightened for herself, her husband, her children and her entire family. A restraining order was issued, and soon violated, by Robert. He was arrested and, after a psychiatric evaluation, sent to a facility for monitoring and treatment for mental illness.

Robert was diagnosed with erotic paranoia, a schizophrenic condition in which he believed Murray’s husband and two children did not exist. He also believed that Murray’s lack of response to his amorous poetry was a test to prove his love.

In and out of different medical facilities for years, Robert passed away in 2002 at the age of 66. He was estranged from his family, including his identical twin brother. He died penniless and still delusional.

Canadian band Barenaked Ladies’ 1996 song Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank is about Robert’s obsession.

Comments

comments

DCS: barbara jordan

After two unsuccessful campaigns, Barbara Jordan was elected to the Texas Senate, becoming the first African-American since 1883 and the first black woman to serve in the state’s senate. In 1972, she was the first African-American female to serve as president pro tempore of the state senate. She also served one day — June 10, 1972 — as acting governor of Texas, making her the first African-American woman to serve as governor of a state. Also in 1972, Barbara was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. After serving to two years, she delivered a televised speech supporting the impeachment of President Richard Nixon. In 1976, her name was mentioned as a running mate for presidential candidate Jimmy Carter. Although she was not selected, she did become the first African-American woman to deliver a keynote address at the Democratic National Convention. Barbara retired from politics in 1979, taking a teaching position at the University of Texas.

Although she never discussed her private life publicly, The US National Archives acknowledges Barbara Jordan as the first LGBTQ woman to serve in Congress. In the 1960s, Barbara met Nancy Earl on a camping trip and two became a couple for over twenty years. Nancy sporadically wrote speeches for Barbara, but became her companion and later caregiver when the senator was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1973. Nancy saved Barbara from drowning in their backyard swimming pool during a session of physical therapy.

Barbara passed way in 1979 at the age of 59 and was interred in the Texas State Cemetery. She was the first African-American to receive this honor. Barbara had once campaigned to allow African-Americans to be buried in the notoriously-restricted state cemetery. Her grave is near that of state founder and slave owner Stephen Austin.

Comments

comments