Categotry Archives: Hollywood

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Richard Pryor

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Military, Writers/Editors

rpryor.jpgControversial. Authentic. Foul-mouthed. Manic. Pioneering. Genius. These are just some of the words that have been used to describe actor/comedian Richard Franklin Lennox Thomas Pryor III. But fans and colleagues always add one other adjective to the list: Funny.
“He doesn’t fall into the [categories] of comedians we have, like prop comic, black comic, Jewish comic, white comic… he doesn’t even get comic. He’s just funny!” comedian and TV personality Jon Stewart said.
Born in Peoria, Ill., Pryor’s childhood was far from innocent. Raised in his grandmother’s brothel, he was sexually molested by a neighborhood teen and by a Catholic priest, and once saw his mother perform sexual acts on the town’s mayor. To escape from these horrors, Pryor watched movies from the colored section of the local theatre and played the drums at an area nightclub.
Pryor was kicked out of school at 14, and worked a variety of odd jobs (janitor, shoe shine man, meatpacker and truck driver). He served two years in the U.S. Army then began working the club circuit as a standup comedian. By the mid-1960s, he was performing in Las Vegas and making appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. But Pryor wasn’t happy with the media’s constant comparisons to Bill Cosby, so he took a two-year hiatus and returned to the comedy circuit with an act that featured unique characters and cutting edge social commentary.
Pryor next turned his attentions to Hollywood. During the 1970s and 1980s, he acted in dozens of films — such as “Lady Sings the Blues,” “The Wiz,” “Stir Crazy,” “The Toy,” “Superman III,” “Brewster’s Millions” and “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” — and became one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars.
In 1986, he co-wrote, co-produced, directed and starred in the film “Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling,” an autobiographical account of a popular comedian re-examining his life from a hospital bed. The film was an appropriate project for Pryor, who battled drug and alcohol addictions for years and nearly lost his life in 1980 when he caught on fire while freebasing cocaine. The incident, later described to Barbara Walters as a suicide attempt, caused him to suffer third degree burns over 50 percent of his body.
On television, Pryor headlined “The Richard Pryor Show” on NBC, a program that was canceled after only five broadcasts because the censors were so offended by his material. He hosted “Saturday Night Live” and the 1977 Academy Awards show, and won an Emmy Award and a Writers Guild Award for writing “The Lily Tomlin Special.” Pryor’s first screenwriting attempt, “Blazing Saddles,” which he co-wrote with Mel Brooks, brought him another Writers Guild of America Award. He released four comedy concert films, sold millions of comedy albums and co-wrote his 1995 autobiography “Pryor Convictions: And Other Life Sentences.”
Pryor suffered two heart attacks, and in 1986 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a degenerative disease of the nervous system. Nine years later, he received an Emmy nomination for guest starring as an MS patient on the CBS drama “Chicago Hope.” Pryor was honored by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1998 with the first Mark Twain Prize for humor. In 2004, he was selected as #1 on Comedy Central’s list of 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6438 Hollywood Blvd. Sheridan Road in his hometown of Peoria was renamed Richard Pryor Place in his honor.
Pryor married seven times to five different women and fathered seven children. A lifelong advocate of animal rights, he adopted stray animals, participated in letter-writing campaigns and was honored by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for saving baby elephants in Botswana.
Pryor died on Dec. 10 of a heart attack. He was 65.
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Ed Masry

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Categories: Hollywood, Law

emasry.jpgEdward Louis Masry, the personal injury lawyer featured in the Academy Award-winning movie “Erin Brockovich,” died on Dec. 5 of complications from diabetes. He was 73.
Born in Patterson, N.J., Masry’s family moved to Southern California when he was 12 years old. He joined the U.S. Army in 1952, served two years and was discharged as a corporal. Although Masry returned to California and attended the University of California Santa Barbara, University of California Los Angeles and University of Southern California, he never received his bachelor’s degree. However, high test scores gained him entrance to Loyola Law School, where he earned his J.D. degree.
Masry opened his own law firm in 1961 and focused on criminal defense, business litigation, entertainment law and First Amendment cases. For the next four decades, the cantankerous, risk-taking attorney worked on countless lawsuits, but was best known for winning a $333 million settlement against Pacific Gas & Electric.
In the 1990s, Masry and his self-trained legal assistant Erin Brockovich spearheaded the class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 600 residents of Hinkley, Calif. They claimed PG&E knowingly allowed its tanks to leak poisons into the groundwater and put the town’s residents at risk for serious health problems. At the time the case was settled, it was the largest toxic tort injury settlement in U.S. history.
Their efforts were depicted in the 2000 Steven Soderbergh movie “Erin Brockovich,” which starred Julia Roberts in the title role and Albert Finney as Masry. Roberts won the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of the feisty mother/advocate; Finney received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor. That same year, Masry was elected to the Thousand Oaks, Calif., City Council. He served for five years, including one as mayor pro tem, before retiring in Nov. 2005 to concentrate on his health and family.
Masry received numerous honors for his litigation career and environmental efforts, including the U.S. Congressional Award for Outstanding Trial Lawyer of the Year (1982, 1988 and 1990), the Academy of Justice Award from the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice and the Environmental Hero Award from the Environmental Defense Center for Commitment to Environmental Justice. He was also the president and CEO of Save the World Air, Inc., an organization that creates products designed to reduce harmful emissions from internal combustion engines.

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Pat Morita

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood

pmorita.jpgNoriyuki “Pat” Morita, the veteran actor who ran the malt shop on “Happy Days” and taught Daniel-san how to defend himself against bullies in “The Karate Kid,” died on Nov. 24. Cause of death was not released. He was 73.
The son of Japanese immigrants, Morita grew up in northern California and spent much of his childhood in a full body cast suffering from spinal tuberculosis. Although doctors told him he’d never walk, Morita proved them wrong and regained his mobility by the time he was 11. When the hospital released him, an FBI agent escorted Morita and his family to a Japanese-American internment camp, where they lived for several years during World War II.
Once released from captivity, Morita’s family moved to Sacramento and ran a Chinese food restaurant. At 30, he decided to become a stand-up comedian. Within five years, Morita worked his way up from performing gigs at area nightclubs and bars to entertaining millions on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.” He performed in clubs all over the U.S. and was the first Japanese-American to headline a show in Las Vegas.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Morita landed small roles on numerous television programs, including “The Odd Couple,” “Green Acres” and “M*A*S*H,” then joined the cast of “Happy Days” as Matsuo “Arnold’ Takahashi. He would eventually appear in more than 100 films and TV shows, and provide the voice of the Emperor of China in the Disney animated features, “Mulan” and “Mulan II.”
In 1984, Morita tackled his most famous role, that of handyman-turned-mentor Kesuke Miyagi in the film, “The Karate Kid.” His efforts to teach a young boy (played by Ralph Macchio) the basics of karate with household chores spoke to a generation of children who mimicked the “crane kick” from the finale of the movie and signed up for martial arts classes.
“The Karate Kid” grossed $91 million at the box office and spawned three sequels, all of which starred Morita. For his work in the original movie, Morita earned an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor. He also received an Emmy nomination for the 1985 TV movie, “Amos.” His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6633 Hollywood Blvd.
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Bill Hootkins

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood

bhootkins.jpgWilliam Michael Hootkins, a character actor who achieved cult status playing an ill-fated X-Wing pilot in the film “Star Wars IV: A New Hope,” died on Oct. 23 of pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
The burly Texan developed an interest in acting as a teenager at the St. Mark’s School of Texas. He studied astrophysics and Chinese linguistics at Princeton University before moving to England and training as an actor at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
One of Hootkins’ first major roles in Hollywood was also his most memorable. In the 1977 science fiction classic, “Star Wars,” he played Lt. Jek “Red Six” Porkins. Despite the fact that he had few lines and his character died during the rebel attack on the Death Star, Hootkins found fame with the saga’s most ardent followers. These same fans created entire Websites in his honor, purchased Jek Porkins action figures and sought out his autograph at science fiction conventions.
Hootkins followed that role with more than 40 others on the big and small screens. He played Major Eaton in “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Chuck Malarek in “White Nights,” Lt. Max Eckhardt in “Batman” and will appear as Frank Rich in the upcoming movie “Colour Me Kubrick.” The multilingual actor also made guest appearances on numerous television shows, including “Taxi,” “Valerie” and “The West Wing.”
On stage, Hootkins earned rave reviews as Alfred Hitchcock in “Hitchcock Blonde” on London’s West End. The show was scheduled to move to Broadway next year. In his spare time, Hootkins lent his vocal talents to audiobooks, video games and dozens of radio plays for the BBC.

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Jerry Juhl

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Categories: Hollywood, Writers/Editors

Jerome Ravn Juhl was only 23 years old when he and his friend Frank Oz met Jim Henson at a puppeteer’s convention. That fateful encounter in 1961 helped both young men land their dream jobs.
Juhl became the first full-time employee of the Jim Henson Co. He worked as a puppeteer on the TV show, “Sam and Friends,” and spent six years writing for “Sesame Street” after it debuted in 1969. Juhl wrote scripts for Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, the Count and Big Bird, and created the character Super Grover. For his efforts, he won three Emmy Awards and two Writers Guild Awards.
Oz became Henson’s closest collaborator, and for years provided the voices of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Bert, Animal, Grover and the Cookie Monster. He later gave a voice to Yoda (“Star Wars”), and directed numerous feature films, such as “The Dark Crystal,” “In & Out” and “The Score.”
From 1977 to 1981, Juhl served as the head writer for “The Muppet Show.” He wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for every Muppet movie, including “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” “Muppet Treasure Island” and “Muppets From Space.” Then in 1983, Juhl co-created “Fraggle Rock,” an idealistic puppet show that received critical acclaim for the four years it aired on HBO. Juhl’s wife, Susan Doerr Juhl, also worked as a writer and script editor on the program.
Born in St. Paul, Minn., Juhl always had a passion for puppetry. As a child, he made his own puppets and performed plays for his family and friends. While earning his bachelor’s degree in theater arts from San Jose State University in California, Juhl broke into show business by working on children’s shows for local TV stations.
Juhl died on Sept. 27 of complications from pancreatic cancer. He was 67.

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