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Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

Boomers Recall People Who Died in 2014

There were many people in music, TV, movies and politics who held great significance to the Boomer Generation who passed on in 2014. Here are some who played a role in Mister Boomer’s neighborhood.

Phil Everly (born 1939) – Jan. 3
As half of The Everly Brothers duo, Phil Everly made his indelible mark on the Boomer Generation, and Mister Boomer. He wrote about Phil Everly on January 12 last year: Bye, Bye Love: Another Boomer Icon Has Passed

Russell Johnson (born 1924) – Jan. 16
Boomers knew Russell Johnson as the Professor on Gilligan’s Island (1964-67). Mister Boomer watched all of the Gilligan’s Island episodes with his siblings. He has thought that even though the Professor could make a radio out of coconut shells, why would he want to fix the boat and leave the island when he was marooned with the likes of Mary Ann and Ginger?

Pete Seeger (born 1919 ) – Jan. 28
Pete Seeger became one of the top voices of folk music in the 1950s with the band the Weavers, and a voice of protest in the 1960s. Several of his songs are now forever etched in boomer minds as he penned the classics, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? (with Joe Hickson), Turn! Turn! Turn!, If I Had a Hammer and many others. It was Seeger who championed a young Bob Dylan, inviting him to appear at the Newport Folk Festival. Dylan and many other musicians named Seeger as a big influence on them. Seeger was a life-long activist, supporting causes for civil and labor rights, racial equality, international understanding, and anti-militarism and especially in his later years, environmental concerns for clean waterways.

Shirley Temple Black (born 1928 ) – Feb. 11
Like Tarzan movies, Shirley Temple movies were a staple on TV in the early days, despite having been made decades earlier. That is where Mister Boomer and probably a host of other boomers first became acquainted with her. She later served as U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.

Sid Caesar (born 1922) – Feb. 11
Mister B watched repeats of Mr. Caesar on TV with his parents for years (Your Show of Shows [1950-54] and Caesar’s Hour [1954-57]), but what sealed the deal and made Mister B a lifelong fan was Caesar’s performance in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in 1963. Mister B feels he was one of the greatest comedians ever.

Bob Casale (born 1952) – Feb. 17
Most boomers became acquainted with Bob Casale, himself a boomer, from his bass playing for the band, Devo. When Devo released their first album in 1978 (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We are Devo) Mister Boomer bought the vinyl and became a fan.

Mickey Rooney (born 1920 ) – April 6
Mister Boomer first saw Mickey Rooney in old movies on TV. Rooney had been performing since he was a child, with his first performance at the age of 17 months when his vaudeville actor parents included him in their show. Many boomers will recall Rooney from the Andy Hardy series of movies, though Mister B didn’t watch them. More than likely he first saw Rooney in Babes in Arms (1939) as he recalls Judy Garland with Rooney, and with Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet (1944). Rooney had carved out an image of the ultimate actor, being able to portray comedic and dramatic roles with equal aplomb. During the height of his popularity he went on to make forty-three movies before being drafted into the army during World War II. In the prime boomer years, Rooney received acclaim for his roles in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962) and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).

Ann B. Davis (born 1926) – June 1
The Brady Bunch wasn’t a show Mister Boomer’s family watched with any regularity, but every boomer knew of Ann B. Davis and her character, Alice, who was the maid for the Brady family. Early boomers may also recall her role as Charmaine “Schultzy” Schultz in The Bob Cummings Show (1955-59). Mister B does remember his parents watching that show in glorious black & white.

Chuck Noll (born 1932) – June 13
Mister B learned about Chuck Noll when he was the coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. He led the team to four Super Bowl wins. Though not a huge football fan himself, Mister B’s pals were big on the Steelers, Miami Dolphins and Dallas Cowboys. In the 1970s, Chuck Noll’s Steelers were synonymous with pro football; early in his tenure the Steelers acquired “Mean” Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw, who became household names and are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Casey Kasem (born 1932) – June 15
If not his face, boomers certainly knew Casey Kasem’s voice. He hosted and co-founded the radio program, America’s Top 40 (1970-88; then again1998-04). Boomers also knew him as the voice of many cartoon characters in movies and TV, most notably “Shaggy” Rogers on Scooby-Doo (1969-97; then again 2002-09).
Eli Wallach (born 1915) – June 24
An actor who made his Broadway debut in 1945, Mister B first saw Eli Wallach in the classic movie, The Magnificent Seven (1960) and knew he was something special.  Six years later he starred opposite Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). It is probably no coincidence that Wallach is in two of Mister B’s favorite Westerns of all time.

Paul Mazursky (born 1930) – June 30
Some of Mister B’s favorite movies of the 1970s were directed by Paul Mazursky. He was able to capture the zeitgeist of the era with films like, Bob and  Carol and Ted and Alice, Harry and Tonto and An Unmarried Woman. He began his career as an actor before he become a popular director. In his later years he returned to acting, appearing on The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Mister B had a special connection to Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, since he saw the film at a drive-in on a double date with his brother and his girlfriend. (Boomers Loved The Ford Mustang)

Robin Williams (born 1951) – Aug. 11
Himself a baby boomer, Williams hit Mister Boomer’s radar when he appeared as the alien Mork from Ork on Happy Days (1974). His recurring role landed him a spin-off show where he reprised his alien character role. Mork & Mindy debuted in 1978 with Pam Dawber as the Earthling who learned Mork’s identity and allowed him to move into her attic. Mork’s signature “Nanu Nanu” phrase was constantly repeated by boomers around the schoolyard. Though Mister Boomer enjoyed Robin Williams’ off-the-wall improvisations — as he did Jonathan Winters prior to Williams — he wasn’t a fan of Mork & Mindy.
Williams went on to numerous film, TV and stage roles, both comedic and dramatic. A couple of Mister B’s picks include Moscow on the Hudson (1984), The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988), Dead Poets Society (1989), Hook (1991) and Aladdin (1992). Most boomers would probably include Jumanji (1995), The Birdcage (1996) and Good Will Hunting (1997).

Lauren Bacall (born 1924) – Aug. 12
Somewhere in the ’60s Mister Boomer watched Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart in the movie, To Have and Have Not (1944) on the family’s black & white TV. Her sultry voice and good looks made her a natural pairing with the rugged Humphrey Bogart, despite their age difference — she was 19, he was 44. The two hit it off on the set and were married in 1945. Mister Boomer’s school chums would renact the movie’s “whistle” scene when the female objects of their desire walked by. A true legend to boomers and beyond, there was no doubt to Mister B that Lauren Bacall was a real-deal movie star.

Richard Kiel (born 1939) – Sept. 10
Best known to boomers as the actor who portrayed the character Jaws in two James Bond films: The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). Due to his height (7 ft. 1.5 in.) and ghostly appearance, he most often was cast as assassins, aliens and outcasts. He added an additional touch of humor to the tongue-and-cheek action of the Bond films of that time.

Paul Revere (born 1938) – Oct. 4
Musician, bandleader and all-around rock ‘n roll crazy man, Paul Revere was the organist and bandleader of Paul Revere and the Raiders. Known for always wearing colorful Revolutionary-War style clothing, he fronted the band from 1960 to 1976, then again from 1978 to 2014. Mister Boomer used to watch the band on Where the Action Is (1965-67), where the band appeared regularly. He recalls one time of their purposefully bad lip-synching to a song on a beach while playing their instruments — which obviously were not plugged into anything. Mister Boomer heard his music through Brother Boomer, and became a fan. Today he has a Greatest Hits album in his collection, but Hungry (1966) and Kicks (1966) remain his favorites.

Ben Bradlee (born 1921) – Oct. 20
Most boomers first heard about Ben Bradlee when Woodward and Bernstein’s stories about the Watergate break-in were published in The Washington Post in 1972. Ben Bradlee was the executive editor who supported the reporters’ investigation.

Marcia Strassman (born 1948) – Oct. 24
Marcia Strassman began her acting career in the 1960s, appearing on The Patty Duke Show, among others. At the age of 15, she replaced Liza Minnelli in the Off-Broadway production of Best Foot Forward. Strassman had aspirations for a singing career, and had a couple of minor hits in the late ’60s before returning to acting. Boomers mostly knew Marcia Strassman as Gabe Kaplan’s wife on Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-79). She also appeared in several popular TV shows of the ’70s, including The Rockford Files, The Love Boat, and as recurring character, nurse Margie Cutler on M*A*S*H. She later appeared in Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989) and Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992).

Jack Bruce (born 1943) – Oct. 25
There probably isn’t a boomer anywhere who didn’t listen to Jack Bruce when he played bass for Cream. Some of Cream’s biggest hits — all favorites of Mister B — were written by Mr. Bruce, including White Room, Sunshine of Your Love and I Feel Free. He helped define post-British Invasion music for the Boomer Generation.

Jimmy Ruffin (born 1932) – Nov. 17
After signing with Motown in 1966, What Becomes of the Broken Hearted was released, became a hit and was forever enshrined in the hearts of boomers. His younger brother, David, was the lead singer for The Temptations. Mister Boomer inherited two of Ruffin’s 45 RPM records from Brother Boomer: in addition to What Becomes of the Broken Hearted, he has another of Ruffin’s hits, I’ve Passed This Way Before.

Bobby Keys (born 1944) – Dec. 2
The sax player for The Rolling Stones, his musical stylings helped make Brown Sugar a super hit for boomers. He had toured with Buddy Holly and played on John Lennon recordings, too. He takes his place among the rock royalty with whom he played.

Ralph Baer (born 1922) – Dec. 6
As the inventor of the precursor to Pong and pioneer in the field of video gaming, Ralph Baer is called the “Father of Video Games.” As an engineer and inventor, he was part of team that developed the first TV video game console between 1966 and ’67. His console system was licensed to Magnavox in 1972, which released their design as Odyssey. Baer held over 150 patents, mostly in consumer electronics and gaming. He made Simon, the electronic memory game that is still selling today. Mister Boomer recalls going to his local airport with friends, where there was a Pong unit. In those days, there was little security in the airport, and teenagers with drivers’ licenses were free to come and go.

Ken Weatherwax (born 1955) – Dec. 9
Another fellow boomer, Ken Weatherwax is best known for his portrayal of Pugsley on The Addams Family (1964-66). Pugsley was the oldest of the two children of Gomez and Morticia Addams. He and his sister Wednesday were always engaging in life-threatening situations which were the opposite of what boomers’ moms would tell their children. Mister B enjoyed these crazy scenarios of electric chair experiments and the like.

Joe Cocker (born 1944) – Dec. 14
Mister Boomer, like many boomers, first heard about Joe Cocker from his performance at Woodstock (1969). His unique vocal style and bluesy sound was something Mister B could latch onto, and his version of The Beatles’ With a Little Help from My Friends remains in Mister B’s music collection.

Of course, there were many others who struck a chord and made their marks with Baby Boomers. Which passings in 2014 hold a special memory for you, boomers?

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