Categotry Archives: Hollywood


Mitch Hedberg


Categories: Hollywood

mhedberg.jpgMitch Hedberg, a stand-up comedian TIME magazine once described as “the next Seinfeld,” died on March 30. Cause of death was not released. He was 37.
Born and raised in St. Paul, Minn., Hedberg was in his late teens when he decided to become a professional comedian. This was an odd career choice for someone who was painfully shy and experienced nightly battles with stage fright. But Hedberg overcame these conditions by performing with his eyes closed and mumbling his one-line non sequiturs. Since the early 1990s, he hid his fears behind a pair of dark sunglasses while performing in small clubs in South Florida, Seattle, Los Angeles, New York and Canada.
Hedberg favored a laid back style of comedy that found a loyal fan base on college campuses. The long-haired comic landed his first television appearance on the show “Comikaze” by walking into the MTV offices and performing his act for the talent coordinator. Appearances on A&E’s “Comedy on the Road,” Comedy Central’s “Comedy Product” and NBC’s “Comedy Showcase” soon followed, as did an invitation to perform at the prestigious Just for Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival.
Hedberg’s performance at the festival secured him a coveted spot on “The Late Show With David Letterman.” He became a favorite guest of the talk show host and appeared on the program nine more times. Hedberg also made guest appearances on “The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn,” “That ’70s Show,” “Ed” and Howard Stern’s radio program.
A publicly acknowledged habit of using drugs didn’t keep Hedberg from releasing two comedy albums, “Strategic Grill Locations” and “Mitch All Together,” and securing a development deal with FOX to create his own sitcom. In 1999, he wrote, produced and directed the independent film, “Las Enchiladas!” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. In his spare time, Hedberg sold incense that smelled like freshly baked cinnamon rolls. He is survived by his wife, comedian Lynn Shawcroft.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR
Mitch All Together Download MP3s of Hedberg’s Comedy Routines


Paul Henning


Categories: Hollywood, Writers/Editors

phenning.jpgPaul Henning, the screenwriter who created “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Petticoat Junction,” died on March 25 of natural causes. He was 93.
The Missouri native was the youngest of 10 children. Born on a farm and raised in Independence, he was working at the local drugstore when a county official named Harry S. Truman advised him to seek a career as a lawyer. Truman later became president of the United States.
Henning graduated from Kansas City School of Law, but decided against working in the legal field. Instead, he took a job at KMBC radio in Kansas City and became a radio writer. Henning contributed to several programs, including “Fibber McGee and Molly” and “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.” He then moved to Hollywood, landed an agent and began working in the new medium of television. From 1955 to 1961, Henning wrote and/or produced episodes of “The Bob Cummings Show,” “Love That Bob,” “The Real McCoys,” “Ford Startime” and “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Henning’s first original program, “The Beverly Hillbillies,” debuted on CBS in 1962. The series, which starred Buddy Ebsen as a poor mountaineer who strikes it rich and moves his eccentric family to California, was based on Henning’s encounters with people he had met in the Ozarks as a child. Henning penned the words and music to “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song to the show, as well. “The Beverly Hillbillies” shot to No. 1 within three weeks of its debut; the comedy continued to reside in the top 20 until its cancellation in 1971. A feature film adaptation was produced two decades later.
Henning later created the “Hillbillies” spin-off, “Petticoat Junction,” and helped cast and produce the rural comedy, “Green Acres.” He also co-wrote the Oscar-nominated screenplay, “Lover Come Back,” (1961) with Stanley Shapiro.
The Ballad of Jed Clampett Download “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”


Debra Hill


Categories: Hollywood

Debra Hill, a producer and screenwriter who wrote the classic horror film “Halloween,” died on March 7 of cancer. She was 54.
Born in Haddonfield, N.J., and raised in Philadelphia, Hill moved to Hollywood in the early 1970s and broke into showbiz as a production assistant on adventure documentaries. After stints as a script supervisor, assistant editor, assistant director and second-unit director, her big break came in 1979 when she and director John Carpenter joined forces to write “Halloween,” one of the first slasher films to become a box office hit. The movie, which Hill produced, grossed $60 million worldwide — a record for an independent picture at that time — and spawned numerous sequels. She and Carpenter also worked together on the films “Escape From New York” and “The Fog.”
“Back when I started in 1974, there were very few women in the industry, and everybody called me ‘honey.’ I was assumed to be the makeup and hair person or the script person. I was never assumed to be the writer or producer. I took a look around and realized there weren’t many women so I had to carve a niche for myself,” Hill once said.
In 1986, Hill and producer Lynda Obst formed Hill/Obst Productions, an independent production company that produced the films “Adventures in Babysitting,” “Heartbreak Hotel” and “The Fisher King.” Two years later, Hill signed a contract with Disney to produce “Gross Anatomy,” and several short films for the company’s theme parks starring Warren Beatty, Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn, Pee Wee Herman, Mel Gibson, George Lucas, Alan Alda, David Letterman, Rick Moranis and Mel Brooks.
A co-chairman of the PGAwards and the past chairman of the American Film Institute’s producing school, Hill received the Women in Film Crystal Award in 2003. One of her final projects was an upcoming film about the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.


Rev. Walter H. Halloran


Categories: Hollywood, Religious Leaders

Rev. Walter H. Halloran, the last surviving Jesuit participant of an exorcism that inspired a bestselling book and numerous films, died on March 1. Cause of death was not released. He was 83.
In 1949, the 27-year-old Minnesota native was working on his master’s degree in history at St. Louis University when he was summoned to the psychiatric wing of Alexian Brothers Hospital. There he met with Rev. William S. Bowdern and Rev. William Van Roo, two priests who needed his religious support and strong arms to exorcise a demonic presence from a 14-year-old boy.
The boy came from a Lutheran family in Cottage City, Md. Witnesses said the boy became extraordinarily strong after an experience with a ouija board, and spoke in a voice not his own. His body would twist and form a loop, with his heels touching the back of his head. At night, furnishings in his room allegedly levitated off the ground and moved across the room without any visible assistance. His bed also shook violently and the sounds of footsteps and scratchings emanated from the walls and ceilings of his house.
Unable to stop these occurrences or control the boy’s behavior, his parents brought him to St. Louis for a religious intervention. The boy underwent extensive medical and psychological evaluations as well as an examination from Bowdern, who determined the boy was possessed. Over the next 12 weeks, several priests endeavored to save his soul.
Bowdern performed the rites of exorcism as Roo and Halloran prayed and forcibly restrained the boy. Halloran later told the press that he observed the boy shout obscenities during these ministrations, and spit at people four feet away with unerring accuracy. He saw raised symbols and words appear on the boy’s body in the form of painful, red welts. During one particularly violent seizure, the boy even broke Halloran’s nose.
The exorcism was successful, however, and the boy reportedly went on to lead a normal life.
A three-paragraph article about the incident published in The Washington Post served as the inspiration for William Peter Blatty’s 1971 bestselling horror novel, “The Exorcist.” Blatty’s fictionalized version of events, which featured a girl possessed by the Devil, was adapted two years later into a hit film starring Linda Blair. The movie received 10 Oscar nominations and won for best adapted screenplay and best sound. Hollywood also produced several sequels and one prequel.
After the exorcism, Halloran worked for parishes in Minnesota, California and Wisconsin, and taught history at Marquette University and St. Louis University. At 48, he enlisted in the U.S. Army for chaplain duty during the Vietnam War. The oldest paratrooping chaplain at that time, Halloran received two Bronze Stars for his service.
“I saw more evil in Vietnam than I saw in that hospital bed,” Halloran once said.


John Raitt

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Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Musicians

John Emmett Raitt, the legendary Broadway musical star who created the role of Billy Bigelow in the original production of “Carousel,” died on Feb. 20 from complications of pneumonia. He was 88.
The California native began to develop his deep baritone voice in his teens. He studied physical education at the University of Southern California and the University of Redlands, but also sang at Rotary Club luncheons and church functions. Raitt made his professional debut in 1940 as a chorus singer with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera. Within five years, he became the company’s star, tackling lead roles in “The Barber of Seville” and “Carmen.”
In 1944, Raitt received an invitation to travel to New York City and audition for the role of Curly in “Oklahoma!” After four days on the train, he raced to the St. James Theater and requested a few minutes to warm up. When Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II acquiesced, Raitt launched into a rousing rendition of Figaro’s aria from “The Barber of Seville,” then performed all of Curly’s songs from “Oklahoma!” After a few moments of stunned silence, Rodgers and Hammerstein hired the talented singer to play the part in the show’s national touring company.
That audition left a strong impression on Hammerstein. When he and Rodgers began working on their second collaboration, “Carousel,” Hammerstein composed the seven-minute-long “Soliloquy” for Raitt. On opening night in 1945, Raitt made his Broadway debut as Bigalow, a ne’er-do-well carnival barker. His performance wowed the audience and earned him the Drama Critics Award and the Donaldson Award.
After a long run in “Carousel,” Raitt appeared in the Broadway productions of “Magdalena,” “Three Wishes for Jamie” and “Carnival in Flanders.” The hardworking performer then toured with Mary Martin in “Annie Get Your Gun,” and headlined in “South Pacific,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Kismet,” “Shenandoah,” “Zorba” and “Fiddler on the Roof.” Playing Sid Sorokin in the musical comedy “The Pajama Game,” he missed only one out of 1,060 performances. Raitt reprised the role in the 1957 film adaptation opposite Doris Day.
Raitt’s marriages to Marjorie Haydock and Kathleen Smith Landry ended in divorce, but his third union to high school sweetheart Rosemary Kraemer lasted until his death. Raitt had three children — two sons, Steven and David, and a daughter, Grammy Award-winning blues singer and guitarist Bonnie Raitt. He and Bonnie occasionally performed duets together and were particularly fond of singing the songs “Blowing Away” and “Hey, There.”
Raitt continued performing into his 80s, touring the country with his one-man show, “An Evening With John Raitt,” and was inducted into the New York Theater Hall of Fame in 1993. He released the album, “Broadway Legend,” in 1995, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Los Angeles Critics Circle three years later. His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6126 Hollywood Blvd.
On Feb. 22, the lights of Broadway were dimmed in his honor.
Playlist from IBDb
Listen to a Tribute From NPR
Watch Raitt and Shirley Jones Perform at the Kennedy Center
Oklahoma! Download “Surrey With the Fringe on Top” From “Oklahoma!”

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