It’s that time of year again. The time when we pay homage to those who passed away in 2011.
Last year I wrote an In Memoriam post that turned out to be very therapeutic for me because I wrote about the loss of my step-dad. It’s been over a year now and I still can’t believe that he’s gone. His passing changed my life drastically, not the least of which was my move from Los Angeles to San Diego so that I could be close to my Mom. There’s a universal truth that you can plan all you want but life will find a way to throw a wrench in it. I am living proof of that.
The post also gave me a chance to showcase those in the world of science fiction, fantasy and horror who probably didn’t get much attention when they were alive but who contributed greatly to their genres. Their pictures might turn up in an awards show or they might not and yet, without them the movies, TV shows, books, and comic books that we know and love wouldn’t be the same or wouldn’t exist at all. We owe them so much and yet, most people don’t even know their names.
This is my way of recognizing all that they did for the nerd lexicon.
Last year I picked 9 people and this year I picked 9 people. Despite the fact that 9 is my favorite number, that was not intentional. I chock it up to fate.
1. Bob Anderson – Swordmaster, Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings
An Olympic fencer, Bob Anderson spent more than 50 years choreographing fight scenes in some of the greatest science fiction and fantasy films ever made including Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, Highlander, The Princess Bride, The Three Musketeers, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mask of Zorro and several James Bond films. He coached everyone from Errol Flynn to Viggo Mortenson and even took the reins during Darth Vader’s fight scenes. His last credit is the upcoming and highly anticipated film version of The Hobbit. Anderson died just after the strike of midnight on New Year’s Day.
2. Roberts Blossom – Actor, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Deranged
Most people know Roberts Blossom as old man Marley in Home Alone but I knew him first as the farmer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (“I saw bigfoot once!”) Years later I saw him in Deranged as Ezra Cobb, a horror film about a man with mama issues and an interesting take on interior design. Highly intelligent, Blossom took a break from Harvard to serve in the Army in World War II before becoming an actor. He left acting in 1995 to write plays and poetry and received many awards for his efforts. Blossom passed away of natural causes in July.
3. Michael Gough – Actor, Batman
Born in Kuala Lampur to parents named Frances and Francis, Michael Gough has appeared in over 150 films. Most people know him as Alfred Pennyworth from four of the Batman films but he also starred in several horror films throughout the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s including Dracula and The Phantom of the Opera. On television he played Doctor Who nemesis The Toymaker (First Doctor) and, 17 years later, Councilor Hedin (Fifth Doctor). He even married Doctor Who companion Polly (Anneke Wills). He would also appear in one of the most well known and best loved episodes of The Avengers as Dr. Armstrong. He passed away in March after a short illness.
4. Kenneth Mars – Actor, Young Frankenstein
The fact that his last name is a planet is just the beginning. Kenneth Mars is best known for his role as Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein but this versatile character actor spent most of his time providing voices for the most beloved cartoons of the 80’s and 90’s including but not limited to: The Little Mermaid, The Land Before Time, Captain Planet, Darkwing Duck, Tale Spin, and Duck Tales. I remember him best from the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Shadowplay.” Mars passed away from pancreatic cancer this past February.
5. Pete Postlethwaite – Actor, The Omen, Inception, Clash of the Titans, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Alien3, DragonHeart
Pete Postlethwaite is one of those actors that you always recognize but never know his name (unless you’re like me and you’re favorite actor of all time is someone no one has ever heard of, but I digress). Dubbed “the best actor in the world” by none other than Steven Spielberg, Postlethwaite was extremely respected in his craft. He started out as a drama teacher before giving it a go himself. A smoker from the age of ten, he died of pancreatic cancer last January.
6. Jerry Robinson – Comic Book Artist, Batman
Although it’s disputed by the creators of Batman, it’s generally accepted that Jerry Robinson created the character of the Joker. He also played a part in the creation and development of Robin, Alfred Pennyworth and Two-Face. In addition to his work with DC Comics, he started his own studio and later became a prolific political cartoonist. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2004. Robinson died in his sleep in December.
7. Joe Simon – Comic Creator, Captain America
Somehow Joe Simon had a vision of the future back in 1941. Along with Jack Kirby he created Captain America and had him punching Hitler in the face on the cover of the first issue a full year before Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II. He was the first editor of Timely Comics, the studio that would later become Marvel and was an early pioneer of the horror comic genre. He was inducted into the Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1999. He passed away in December after a brief illness.
8. Elisabeth Sladen – Actress, Doctor Who, The Sarah Jane Adventures
Talis Kimberely said it best in her song “Goodnight Sarah-Jane.” Elisabeth Sladen was such an enormous hit on Doctor Who that she was given her own spin off The Sarah Jane Adventures. She was brought back into the Doctor’s life in a series of episodes culminating in the rescue of the Doctor and the saving of the galaxy. Not even the Doctor could save her from cancer; however, and she passed away in April after a long battle with it.
9. Yvette Vickers – Actress, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Attack of the Giant Leeches, Evil Spirits
Originally an aspiring journalist, Yvette Vickers stumbled into acting at UCLA. She went on to make several horror films and was a Playboy centerfold in July 1959, a move that was probably detrimental to her career. This queen of horror had a rather grisly end. In April her mummified remains were discovered in her home more than a year after her death from heart failure. The exact date of her death is unknown.
Do you know a nerd who Graduated in 2011 who deserves to be recognized? Please leave a comment and let me know or post a picture and comment on the Hot Nerd Girl facebook page.
Jackie Cooper – Actor, Superman
Peter Falk – Actor, The Princess Bride
Dolores Fuller – Actress/Ed Wood muse
Lilian Jackson Braun – Writer, “The Cat Who” series
Steve Jobs – Inventor, Entrepreneur
Bil Keane – Comic Strip Writer/Artist, The Family Circus
Anne McCaffrey – Writer
John McCarthy – Artificial Intelligence Pioneer
Dwayne McDuffie – Comic Book Writer, Spider-Man, Dark Knight, The Tick
Perry Moore – Producer, The Chronicles of Narnia
John Neville – Actor, The X-Files
Cliff Robertson – Actor, Spider-Man, The Outer Limits, Escape From LA, Twilight Zone, Batman (TV)
Andy Rooney – Journalist
Sol Saks – Creator, Bewitched
Karl Slover – Actor, The Wizard of Oz
Cory Smoot – Musician, GWAR
Andy Whitfield – Actor, Spartacus
Dana Wynter – Actress, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Laura Ziskin – Producer, Spider-Man
“Every life comes to an end when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted.”