Normally we like a little more variety here at Friday Buzzkills–you know, like one of those Hickory Farms samplers, only filled with blood sausage and rancid cheese. Unfortunately, while layoffs were rising and newspapers were folding and governors were doing stupid back-door politics shit and the rest of the world was generally still whimpering its way to the end of one of the most depressing years in recent memory, our celebrities somehow failed to follow suit: Next to nothing happened this week. Perhaps everybody was too busy combing through the various critics' nominations looking for their names, or compiling their completely arbitrary yet oddly infuriating "best of the year" list–or maybe it's just too cold to go out and embarrass yourself–but for whatever reason, there was very little schandenfreude-y or even genuinely sad news to report on the entertainment front, which leaves us with nothing to talk about. Oh, except for the fact that pretty much every day somebody dropped dead, and we don't just mean Jennifer Aniston's dignity. We've already paid homage to pin-up queen Bettie Page elsewhere, but that's really only the tasseled tip of the iceberg. There was more, much more reaping to be done–so much of it that we had to give our entire column over to cataloging it all. If RIPs aren't your thing (which is totally understandable… assholes), then we'll see you back here next week for the final Friday Buzzkills of the year. Everyone else, saddle up: It's respect-payin' time.
- Last time we briefly touched on the tragic case of actor Mark Ruffalo's brother Scott, by all accounts a humble hairstylist beloved by his community and genuinely an all-around nice guy–which made reports that he had been shot in the back of the head all the more troubling. Sadly, Scott Ruffalo died this week at the age of 39 after clinging to life for several days, leaving behind numerous questions as to who would have wanted him dead and why. Enter 26-year-old suspect Shaha Mishaal Adham, the "Saudi princess" who was in Ruffalo's apartment at the time of his death. Adham told police that Ruffalo had accidentally killed himself while playing a game of Russian roulette–which sounds nice and pat and all save for, you know, the fact that Ruffalo was shot in the back of the head.
Nevertheless, police released Adham after she spent 36 hours "suffering" in jail, leaving her free to walk the streets of L.A. and talk to the cameras of TMZ. The gossip site caught up with her and boyfriend Brian Scofield (who claims repeatedly to have been "vilified," despite the fact that this is the first time anybody's ever heard from him), and allowed her to give her side of the story: In short, "There's something called 'the Darwin Theory,' where everything that could go wrong went wrong" (Really? Was that what On The Origin Of Species was about?), there was a mystery "third person in the room" with them, and "the truth is on my side." Unfortunately, before she could go into any further details, Scofield yanked her away, leaving us to ponder not only this ever-deepening murder mystery, but also a culture where the main suspect in a seedy Hollywood scandal is served up to TMZ commenters like this guy:
hmmm…can't decide if killa' is good looking or not?? her mugshot made her out as a skank, but this video….I am not so sure….??thoughts??
Thoughts? How about the fact that sometimes reading the Internet is like spending every fucking day trapped in eighth-grade gym?
- As an addendum, it's certainly been a bad week to be the sibling of a famous person: Macaulay Culkin's 29-year-old sister Dakota was struck and killed by a car this Tuesday and died of massive head trauma. Her death was ruled an accident and the driver cleared of charges, which means the only culpable parties in this sad turn of events is Los Angeles TV station KCBS 2 who, as Defamer reported, chose two wholly inappropriate photos to go with the story. (And no, it's not the one you're thinking of.)
- Bettie Page was not the only sex symbol to die today: 1940s heartthrob Van Johnson–known as the "non-singing Sinatra" for the way he made bobbysoxers weak in the knees–also passed away at the age of 92. Johnson was a wholesome, boy-next-door type who often played the all-American love interest for ladies like Esther Williams and Elizabeth Taylor and starred in films such as 30 Seconds Over Tokyo, A Guy Named Joe, and The Caine Mutiny. Although his star faded rather quickly in the 1950s and '60s, Johnson returned to the stage, becoming one of the biggest and busiest names on the regional and dinner theater circuit by playing to, in his own words, "the white-haired ladies who come to matinees." Still, he never let his slide from Hollywood royalty get him down–perhaps not least because he was able to sell his paintings for as high as $10,000 a pop, opening the door for hundreds of celebrities to peddle their own "art" for decades to come.
- While she was probably best known as the TV wife to Fred MacMurray on the popular sitcom My Three Sons, Beverly Garland also had a long and fruitful career starring in dozens of cult B-movies, including five for Roger Corman (Swamp Women, Gunslinger, It Conquered The World, Not Of This Earth, and Naked Paradise, in case you were wondering). Garland's combination of va-va-voom looks and the gutsy way in which she handled herself made her a favorite of sci-fi fans, who loved the fact that she was always willing to grab a gun and fight back, even against fearsome foes like The Alligator People–something she also put to good use in her starring role in the 1950s series Decoy, which is said to be the first police show built around a female protagonist. Of course, she did more than just battle crooks and monsters: Garland also had roles in D.O.A., The Joker Is Wild, Pretty Poison, and Airport '75, then had a late-career renaissance playing the mother to Kate Jackson, Stephanie Zimbalist, and Teri Hatcher, respectively, on Scarecrow And Mrs. King, Remington Steele, and Lois And Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman. Garland died this week at the age of 82.
- With her regal bearing and slightly frosty demeanor, Nina Foch was a natural at playing coolly aloof "society" types, like the manipulative woman-of-means spurned by Gene Kelly in An American In Paris, but somewhat ironically it was her turn as a sympathetic secretary in Executive Suite that earned her an Academy Award nomination. Among her other major roles, Foch rescued the baby Moses in The Ten Commandments and later turned up in Spartacus as Helena, the calculating sister of Marcus Publius Glabrus, but while she achieved mainstream stardom with these–and also enjoyed a healthy career as a favorite of the film noir crowd with turns in My Name Is Julia Ross and The Dark Past–it was her off-screen work that had the biggest impact. Since the 1960s, Foch taught the highly influential "Directing The Actor" class at USC while also working as an independent script consultant, helping to shape the careers of directors like Randal Kleiser, Ed Zwick, and Amy Heckerling over her many decades of tireless teaching. In fact, Foch taught right up until her death, becoming ill while conducting class two weeks ago and passing away at the age of 84 last Friday. Unfortunately, Foch's performance in Executive Suite can't be embedded (although you can check it out here), but here's a scene from a film she out-and-out hated: 1944's Return Of The Vampire with Bela Lugosi.
- Whereas most actors work to keep themselves in tip-top shape for the cameras, Robert Prosky often attributed his long career to being fat and having prematurely gray hair, which afforded him the opportunity to play hundreds of avuncular types like the big-hearted desk sergeant "Stan Jablonski" on Hill Street Blues and the father to Kirstie Alley's character on Cheers, as well as heavies like the crime syndicate ringleader in Thief, evil garage owner in Christine, and a corrupt judge in The Natural. Along with racking up two Tony nominations for best actor, he had small but memorable roles in dozens of big movies that included The Great Outdoors, Broadcast News, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Dead Man Walking. But around here he may best be known for his role as the bitter-horror-movie-host-turned-vampire-reporter "Grandpa Fred" in The A.V. Club favorite Gremlins 2: The New Batch. Prosky died this week at the age of 77.
- The Classics IV began primarily as a covers act heavily into '50s doo-wop–particularly The Four Seasons, whom they sounded so much like on their Capitol Records debut single "Pollyanna," the management of the Seasons actually lobbied to keep it off the radio. The band slowly began to forge its own identity in the late 1960s, when drummer-singer Dennis Yost began taking on more of a central role and stepped up to the microphone full-time. Yost's smooth croon helped make the band's song "Spooky" a top 10 hit, suddenly putting them on a very heavy national touring circuit. Unfortunately, the group never really clicked as anything more than a singles act: The full-length Spooky relied so heavily on studio musicians that each song sounded completely different from the others, the only common thread being Yost's voice. Nevertheless, The Classics IV managed to top the charts twice more with the laid-back sounds of 1968's "Spooky" and 1969's "Traces" (ensuring their presence on various "AM Gold"-style compilations in perpetuity), and its songs enjoyed many second and third lives through covers by artists including Dusty Springfield, The Atlanta Rhythm Section, The Supremes, Daniel Ash, and Imogen Heap—not to mention Santana, who made "Stormy" a big hit again in 1978. Sadly, Yost became ill in 2006 after falling down a flight of stairs and suffering serious brain trauma, leaving him unable to perform ever again. He died late last week of respiratory failure at the age of 65.
Have a super weekend!