The “good death” of Carl Reiner

Denny O’Neil, David Mazzucchelli, and me

Carl ReinerIt appears that Carl Reiner had a good death on June 29. The 98-year-old was productive and vital until the very end.

This is very clear as I was watching If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast, the 2017 documentary for which Reiner was nominated for an Emmy. I caught it on July 3.

He “tracks down several nonagenarians [and older] to show how the twilight years can be rewarding.” The participants included Fyvush Finkel, who died before the release; the recently deceased Kirk Douglas; Betty White; Dick Van Dyke, with his much younger wife Arlene; Norman Lear; and naturally, his friend of 70 years, Mel Brooks. Here’s the preview.

I’m pleased to note that my daughter has watched all five seasons of The Dick Van Dyke Show, which Carl Reiner created, and which I love. Of course, he played the irritable TV star, Alan Brady, as well as the budding English anti-existentialist Yale Sampson, and several other annoying characters.

Not like his characters

But as Mark Evanier noted: “Carl Reiner was the friendliest, most talented person in show business… He was a guy I admired not just for his fine work as a writer, producer, director, and performer but for just the way he was as a person. Every time I was around him, he was an absolute delight – funny, engaging, willing to talk with anyone about anything. He was just what you’d want an idol to be. He was a role model for how to be truly successful and sane in show business.”

Yes, Carl Reiner was an actor (Ocean’s 11 franchise, Hot in Cleveland) and director (Oh, God; The Jerk; All of Me). But mostly he was a writer, going back to 1950s television, with Sid Caesar and Dinah Shore. He co-wrote and directed Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and The Man with Two Brains (1983).

I had wished he would have been selected for the Kennedy Center Honors, like his friends Mel Brooks had been in 2009 and Norman Lear in 2017. It may be that he was underappreciated as the straight man, such as the interviewer of Brooks’ 2000 Year Old Man.

Other recent deaths of note

Dennis O’Neil, who died June 11, was a comic writer who I admired greatly. His Green Lantern/Green Arrow with Neal Adams made the book relevant. He also did work on Iron Man and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Somewhere in my possession is a photo of O’Neil, David Mazzucchelli, Augustus Manly (Matt at the time), me, and a fifth person at the comic book store FantaCo in Albany. Denny and David were working on Daredevil at the time, so this had to be 1984 or 1985. He was quite pleasant, but I might have been a bit awestruck.

Hugh Downs, who passed away on July 1, was a constant presence in my television watching the last third of the 20th century. He hosted the game show Concentration (1958-1968), which BTW I was very bad at. Downs also co-hosted The Today Show (1962-1971).

With Barbara Walters, he co-hosted the news show 20/20 from 1978 until his retirement in 1999. In 1984, “he was certified by the Guinness World Records as holding the record for the greatest number of hours on network commercial television (15,188 hours).”

The reference to the “good death”, incidentally, comes from Paul McCartney explaining the song The End of the End from his 2007 album Memory Almost Full.

Mary Tyler Moore: “girl with the three names”

Danny Thomas thought Mary Tyler Moore had too small a nose to play HIS daughter on his sitcom

When I went to see the movie Ordinary People in 1980, I knew that, like the character Beth, Mary Tyler Moore, who died this week, had a son die tragically, and during the filming period. It’s impossible to ascertain how that event affected her acting. But it was a ferocious performance; one of my friends said, painfully, it reminded him of his growing up.

Mary was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, though she lost to Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter. But it was clear, Beth was NOT “Our Mare!” that we knew from the show named after her, one of the most popular TV shows ever, which “helped define a new vision of womanhood.” Mary Richards is the cultural ancestor Continue reading “Mary Tyler Moore: “girl with the three names””

D is for Richard Deacon

deacon2There are only two television shows for which I own the entire series on DVD, and they have several things in common.

Both, The Twilight Zone (1959-1964) and the The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966), aired around the same time on CBS-TV. They each featured actors that were not born in my hometown of Binghamton, NY, but who grew up there, attending Binghamton Central High School in the same time frame.

One, of course, was Rod Serling, creator and host of TZ. The other was Richard Deacon, the guy who played Mel Cooley, the put-upon producer of the Alan Brady Show, the fictitious variety show within the Van Dyke show, and not incidentally, Alan’s brother-in-law.

Richard Deacon was born in Philadelphia, PA on May 14, 1921. Continue reading “D is for Richard Deacon”

July rambling #2: Northwest disasters and Taxman v. Batman

Putin on the RIZLast Week Tonight with John Oliver: Stadiums, a ripoff for taxpayers; bail; and poisonous mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Laci Green (no relation): Systemic Racism for Dummies.

Muslim Groups Step In To Help Black Churches Burned In Wave Of Arson.

Why it’s never ‘the right time’ to discuss gun control.

Wil Wheaton: living with depression and anxiety.

Jeff Sharlet: I went to Skid Row to report on Charly “Africa” Keunang, “an unarmed homeless man held down and shot six times by Los Angeles police. Continue reading “July rambling #2: Northwest disasters and Taxman v. Batman”