The Nerdy Nine – In Memoriam 2012

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Every year I write an In Memoriam post in which I pay tribute to those who had a deep impact on the nerd ‘verse before they passed away. These are the people who aren’t necessarily famous in a main stream sense but they deserve to be remembered.

Every year is a little different. Some years there are more actors or comic book artists or directors. This year has leaned more heavily towards science. They say that deaths come in threes and we lost three astronauts this year. I desperately wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up and I’ve always been obsessed with space; therefore, I included all three in this year’s tribute.

1. Neil Armstrong – NASA Astronaut

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Neil Armstrong could fly a plane before he could drive a car. He was more than just the first man to walk on the moon, he was the very definition of a Real American Hero, in part because he was so reluctant to bear the title. An Eagle Scout and decorated Navy pilot, he flew more than 200 different models of aircraft over the course of his career. Known for being an intensely private and humble man, he retired to Cincinnati and became a professor after his mission to space was complete. Still, his sense of adventure never left him and he offered to command a mission to Mars in 2010 at the age of 80. He passed away during coronary artery bypass surgery on August 25th.

2. Ray Bradbury – Author, Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles

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Ray Bradbury started writing when he was 11 years old during the Great Depression. His daily writing regimen started after two events in his childhood. First, he saw Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, then he went to a carnival and was brought before a performer named “Mr. Electrico” who touched Bradbury’s nose with an electrified sword and shouted “live forever!” Young Ray’s hair stood on end and his imagination ignited. He was never the same after that and almost became a magician. Instead of going to college, which he couldn’t afford because of the Depression, he went to the library three days a week for ten years. He was an avid supporter and defender of libraries his entire life. He insisted that he was a fantasy writer and that Fahrenheit 451 was the only sci-fi book he ever wrote declaring that, “science fiction is the art of the possible.” Despite living most of his life in Los Angeles he never got a driver’s license. He was 91 years young when he died on June 5th after a lengthy illness.

3. Jean Giraud – Comic Book Artist

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Under the pseudonyms Mœbius and Gir, Jean Giraud became a well-known and highly influential comic book and storyboard artist. Best known for his Blueberry series, he was revered by Stan Lee and worked with him on a two-issue Silver Surfer miniseries called Parable. Raised in the suburbs of France by his grandparents, he only attended art school for one year before moving to Mexico for 8 months and later serving in the military and working for the army magazine. His work was the inspiration behind The Fifth Element and the Imperial Probe Droid in Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back. He worked on many films including Alien, Willow and The Abyss. Giraud passed away on March 10th of cancer at the age of 73.

4. Svetozar Gligorić – Chess Grandmaster

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Svetozar Gligorić and I have something in common, we’re both Groundhog babies. But that’s where the similarities end. But because of our shared birthday, I’ve known about this Serbian-Yugoslavian chess grandmaster for as long as I can remember. So I was saddened to learn that he’d passed away. His father died when he was young and to make ends meet his mother rented rooms to boarders. It was one of these boarders who taught an 11 year old Svetozar how to play chess. Lacking the funds to buy a set, he created his own by carving the chess pieces out of the corks of wine bottles. He went on to become the greatest chess player ever to come out of Serbia, a career that was interrupted only by WWII. He later became a renowned chess commentator. Svetozar died of a stroke on August 14th at 89 years old.

5. Bill Hinzman – Actor, Night of the Living Dead

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Hinzman was working as an Assistant Cameraman when George Romero spotted him and changed his life forever by casting him as the first zombie seen in Night of the Living Dead. When Producer Gary Streiner’s arm caught fire during an effects mishap on the set, he began running in terror, and Hinzman (in full zombie makeup) tackled him to the ground and helped extinguish the flames. Hinzman and Romero went on to work together many times over the years, helping Hinzman to become a cult figure and fan favorite at conventions. He was 75 when he passed away of cancer on February 5th.

6. Sir Bernard Lovell – Physicist & Astronomer

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Born in Bristol, England in 1913, Lovell was a physicist and radio astronomer who studied cosmic rays and constructed the largest steerable radio telescope in the world at that time. The telescope would later be named the Lovell Telescope and is still in use today. He established the Jodrell Bank Observatory and was its Director for 35 years. For his contribution to science, Lovell received an OBE in 1946 and was knighted in 1961. The first name of the fictional scientist Bernard Quatermass, the hero of several BBC Television science-fiction serials of the 1960s, was chosen in honor of Lovell. He was 98 years old when he passed away at home on August 6th.

7. Alan G. Poindexter – NASA Astronaut

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A born daredevil, it was only natural that Poindexter would become a Navy test pilot and NASA astronaut. In his career as a pilot he logged over 4000 flight hours on 30+ types of aircraft. His first trip to space was derailed by the Columbia disaster in 2002. It would be four more years before he finally flew to the International Space Station in 2008. He served on two missions to space before retiring from NASA and returning to the US Navy as Dean of Students at the Naval Postgraduate School. The youngest person on this list, he was only 50 years old when he died from injuries received during a personal watercraft accident in Little Sabine Bay off Pensacola Beach, Florida, being the daredevil he always was.

8. Sally Ride – NASA Astronaut

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As a young girl who was obsessed with all things space-related, Sally Ride was a huge idol of mine. Ride was a Physicist who answered an ad in the newspaper along with 8000 other people and became the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space as well as the first American woman to enter into low Earth orbit. She retired from NASA and went on to teach physics at UCSD, become the only person to serve on the panels for both the Challenger and Columbia accidents, found Sally Ride Science, and write several children’s books along with her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy. Fiercely private, she revealed more in her obituary than she had in 30 years of public life. She died on July 23rd of pancreatic cancer at age 61.

9. Maurice Sendak – Children’s Book Author, Where the Wild Things Are

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The child of Polish Jewish immigrants, Sendak’s childhood was marred by the passing of most of his extended family in the holocaust. Young Maurice escaped by reading and decided to become an illustrator after watching Disney’s Fantasia when he was 12 years old. He would go on to become one of the most famous children’s book authors and illustrators in the world with the massive success of Where the Wild Things Are. In May 2008 he quietly revealed that he was gay and had hidden his 50 year relationship with psychoanalyst Dr. Eugene Glynn from his parents. An atheist, he was quoted as saying “My gods are Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, Mozart. I believe in them with all my heart.” Maurice died on May 8th from complications of a stroke. He was 83 years old.

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Then there are the regular Joes. The nerds and geeks we know and love who aren’t famous. They don’t get recognized during awards shows or in magazines but their loss is just as devastating and much more personal for us. The nerd world lost two wonderful souls this past year who deserve to be recognized for the incredible people they were. They were both life-long nerds and meant a great deal to me.

Grandma Kay

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Her R2D2 outfit

My Grandma Kay was one of the most beautiful people I have ever met. She was warm and kind and accepting of everyone. I never once heard her say a negative word about anyone. She was always chuckling. I could pick out that chuckle in a noisy room and if I close my eyes I can still hear it. She took me to Kennedy Space Center see my first space shuttle launch (Endeavor) and introduced me to gators and herons in the blueways of central Florida. She was a life-long nature lover and one of the first computer wiz’s I ever knew. She wanted to see and learn everything she possibly could. She always said that people don’t die, they graduate. I miss everything about her. I miss her stories and blowing and catching kisses over the phone. I miss the way that she ate her half a danish every morning because she was half Danish. I even miss her terrible cooking which I totally inherited from her. When I was with her, everything was magical. She graduated in early July at 96 years young.

Papa Nick

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Papa Nick was not my biological grandfather, but much like my parental units, I’ve picked up a lot of grandparents through marriage, chance and circumstance along the journey of my life. Papa Nick was one of those. Together with his lovely wife Grace, I was one of the many indirectly related kids who was adopted into their brood of grandchildren. I took to Papa the instant I met him. His thick accent, Greek Fisherman’s cap, and ever-present pipe combined with his sharp wit and a steady stream of one-liners resulted in a man who you couldn’t help but love. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. His love of science and education was infectious. Papa passed away in early October at the age of 90.

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Do you know a nerd who Graduated in 2012 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.

Honorable Mentions:

Renato Dulbecco – Virologist, 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Michael Clarke Duncan – Actor, The Green Mile, Daredevil, Green Lantern, Sin City

Jonathon Frid – Actor, Dark Shadows

Harry Harrison – Sci-Fi Author, Make Room! Make Room!, etc.

Lars Hörmander – Mathematician, 1962 Fields Medal

Sir Andrew Huxley – Physiologist, 1963 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Kathryn Joosten – Actress, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files

William Standish Knowles – Chemist, 2001 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Rita Levi-Montalcini – Neurologist, 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

Patrick Moore – Amateur astronomer, writer, researcher, radio commentator, television presenter, co-founder of the Society for Popular Astronomy

Frank Sherwood Rowland – Chemist, Nobel laureate

Tony Scott – Director and Producer, Top Gun, Man on Fire, Unstoppable

Boris Strugatsky – Sci-Fi Author, The World of Noon series, etc.

William Thurston – Mathematician, 1982 Fields Medal

Mike Wallace – Journalist, 60 Minutes

William Windom – Actor, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek

Richard Zanuck – Producer/Director, Jaws, Planet of the Apes, Dark Shadows, Big Fish, From the Earth to the Moon

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Every life comes to an end when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted.

Spock (TAS: “Yesteryear“)

The Nerdy Nine – In Memoriam 2011

Please excuse me while I give a shout out to my bros in Sto'Vo'Kor

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.

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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.

Honorable mentions:

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

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Every life comes to an end when time demands it. Loss of life is to be mourned, but only if the life was wasted.

Spock (TAS: “Yesteryear“)