Each of the people mentioned here, some boomers and some not, affected boomers in different ways, with each leaving their own mark on our generation and culture. Like every boomer, Mister Boomer had a front row seat when they rocketed onto the scene, forever finding a place in our shared memories.
Rod Taylor (January 11, 1930 – January 7, 2015)
Australian actor Rod Taylor first appeared in U.S. films in the 1950s, working his way up from supporting roles to starring as a leading man. He appeared in more than 50 films, but a few are particularly memorable for boomers: The Time Machine (1960); The Birds (1963); as well as the love interest for Jane Fonda in Sunday in New York (1963). He worked his way up from supporting roles in the 1950s to starring as a leading man. Mister B recalls seeing him in many films, most notably when he went to a Saturday matinee with Brother Boomer and his cousin, who lived in a neighboring city, to see The Time Machine. The notion of time travel was an attractive idea for a young boomer. A few years later Mister B picked up the H.G. Wells book, having been introduced to it through Rod Taylor’s portrayal.
Donna Douglas (September 26, 1932 – January 1, 2015)
Gary Owens (May 10, 1934 – February 12, 2015)
Leslie Gore (May 2, 1946 – February 16, 2015)
Leonard Nimoy (March 26, 1931 – February 26, 2015)
Mister B felt compelled to write about these amazing individuals when they died at the beginning of the year. Truly they were all well known to boomers as TV and music stars. Here is a link to Mister B’s earlier post: Boomers Say Good-Bye to More Beloved Figures
Jimmy Greenspoon (February 7, 1948 – March 11, 2015)
Cory Wells (February 5, 1941 – October 20, 2015)
Jimmy Greenspoon and Cory Wells, members of Three Dog Night, both left us in 2015. The group had 21 consecutive Top 40 hits from late ’60s to mid ’70s. Greenspoon, a boomer himself, was a keyboard player and Wells was of three lead singers/guitarists in the band, something that made them stand out from many other bands. Mister Boomer wasn’t a big fan of the group, especially disliking Joy to the World (aka Jeremiah was a Bullfrog, released as a single in 1971), but did like Mama Told Me (Not to Come), a 1970 cover version of the song that was written by Randy Newman for Eric Burdon’s first solo album in 1966.
Gary Dahl (December 18, 1936 – March 23, 2015)
A copywriter turned entrepreneur by trade, Gary Dahl will be forever remembered by boomers as the inventor of the Pet Rock. His idea was said to be a joke, but when he found investors the idea became reality in time for Christmas shopping in 1975. The genius of Dahl was not in buying river rocks at pennies per pound and selling them for $3.95, but in the packaging: each rock came nestled on a bed of excelsior, surrounded by a cardboard box, complete with a handle and “air holes.” He sold millions of them to boomers and the children of early boomers. Later, Dahl was the book author of Advertising for Dummies. Mister Boomer did not own a Pet Rock, nor did his siblings or his friends, as far as he knows.
Cynthia Lennon (September 10, 1939 – April 1, 2015)
Cynthia Powell was the first wife of John Lennon and mother of Julian Lennon. The couple were married in 1963 when she was pregnant with son Julian. When The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan in February of 1964, the camera “introduced” each band member, isolating them in profile. When John was pictured, “Sorry girls, he’s married” was placed below his name on screen. They were divorced in 1968 after John left her for Yoko Ono. Cynthia was the only wife who had her own fan club. Mister Boomer recalls early photos of her because she was always smartly dressed in groovy ’60s outfits.
Percy Sledge (November 25, 1940 – April 14, 2015)
A singer for the ages, Percy’s When a Man Loves a Woman became a no. 1 hit in 1966. When he died last April, Mister Boomer wrote: “…every now and then a song comes around that so describes its genre that it is forever identified with it as a quintessential example. This song … fits the bill. A slow dance tune for boomers, it is equally enjoyed across generations for its melodic tone and powerful lyrics.”
Jack Ely (September 11, 1943 – April 28, 2015)
Ben E. King (September 28, 1938 – April 30, 2015)
Jack Ely was THE singer on the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie record in 1963.
Ben E. King was lead singer for The Drifters. He lent his voice to the boomer classics Save the Last Dance for Me (1960), This Magic Moment (1960), Spanish Harlem (1960) and perhaps his best known song, Stand by Me (1961), which he co-wrote with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. The Drifters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. Read more from Mister Boomer on these two unforgettable singers form an earlier post: Two More Boomer Icons Leave Us With Our Memories
Stan Freberg (August 7, 1926 – April 7, 2015)
Comic, satirist, radio personality, author, actor and voice actor, Stan Freberg is probably remembered in many different ways by boomers due to the depth of his presence from the 1950s all the way through the 2000s. Some recall his comedy records from the 1950s, including The Night Before Christmas/Nuttin’ for Christmas or his political parodies; others will recall his TV puppet show, Time for Beany (1950-53); others remember his voiceover work in animated cartoons for Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, including Lady and the Tramp (1955); still others will recall he played Deputy Sheriff in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). Mister Boomer remembers most if not all of Freberg’s work, but he was most fond of his TV commercials. Having formed an ad agency in the 1960s, he was one of the first to try to inject humor into the TV ad game. For that he has been called the “Father of Funny Advertising.” His commercials are now legendary, including some of Mister B’s favorites: A Jeno’s Pizza Rolls commercial that parodied a Lark cigarettes’ commercial use of the William Tell Overture that culminates with the Lone Ranger and Tonto eating pizza rolls; politically incorrect Chun King Chow Mein commercials and a campaign for prunes that tried to change people’s minds about eating them. One of the most memorable had very British actor Ronald Long saying, “They’re still rather badly wrinkled, you know.”
B.B. King (September 16, 1925 – May 14, 2015)
The “King of the Blues” had serious influence on rock guitarists throughout boomer era. Eric Clapton, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan are among the rock and blues guitarists to credit King as an influence in their styles and careers. B.B. King began recording in 1949, and had multiple hits in every decade of the fifties, sixties and seventies, including one of Mister B’s favorites, The Thrill is Gone (1971).
Christopher Lee (May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015)
Mister Boomer reported on Christopher Lee’s death back in June: Boomer-Era Villain Christopher Lee Dies
Patrick Macnee (February 6, 1922 – June 25, 2015)
An accomplished actor in both film and on television, Patrick Macnee is best known to boomers as John Steed in The Avengers TV show (1961-69 in England; 1965-68 in the U.S.) The U.S. version of the British show had him playing Mrs. Emma Peel’s (Diana Rigg) suave, British gentleman supervisor in the spy-fi show. Always pictured with a bowler hat and umbrella, Steed was the antithesis of the overtly physical James Bond — yet just as effective.
Omar Sharif (April 10, 1932 – July 10, 2015)
Appearing in dozens of movies during the boomer era, Omar Sharif got boomers’ attention in a big way in Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965), and Funny Girl (1968). His foreign “good looks” made him a favorite of many boomer girls — and their moms. Mister Boomer’s mom made remarks about only two actors back then: Anthony Quinn and Omar Sharif. Such was the attraction of this Egyptian-born actor. Nominated for his performance in Lawrence of Arabia, Sharif did not win an Oscar, but did take home a Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor in Lawrence of Arabia and another Golden Globe as Best Actor in Doctor Zhivago.
Judy Carne (April 27, 1939 – September 3, 2015)
A dancer, comedian and actor, Judy Carne was best known as the Sock-It-To-Me girl in Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In (1968-73). She was married to Burt Reynolds from 1963-65, then to producer Robert Bergmann from 1970-71. Read some of Mister B’s remembrances of Judy Carne in his exploration of Laugh-In phrases: Want a Walnetto? You Bet Your Sweet Bippy!
Yvonne Craig May 16, 1937 – August 17, 2015
Yvonne Craig was an American ballet dancer and actress who first caught boomers’ attention when she was dating Elvis Presley in the early sixties. With a little help from the King she landed a supporting role in two Elvis movies: It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963) and Kissin’ Cousins (1964). It was, however, her role as Batgirl — whose true identity was Commissioner Gordon’s daughter — in the Batman television series (1966) that forever cemented her into the minds of boomers. By the time she appeared as Marta, an Orion slave girl who danced her way into Captain Kirk’s heart in the Star Trek episode, Whom Gods Destroy (1969), boomers knew it was Yvonne under that green make-up. She also made an appearance on The Six Million Dollar Man (1974).
Warren Mitchell (January 14, 1926 – November 14, 2015)
Mostly an obscure actor by face to boomers, Warren Mitchell appeared in extremely influential film and TV shows during the boomer era. Some boomers will recall he played the character Abdul in The Beatles’ film, Help! (1965). Perhaps due even more to boomer influences, he created the character of Alf Garnett in the British TV series, Till Death Do Us Part (1966-75), which TV aficionados will know became the inspiration for the Archie Bunker character in All In the Family (1971-79).
Meadowlark Lemon (April 25, 1932 – December 27, 2015)
George Meadowlark Lemon was known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” when he played for the Harlem Globetrotters (1955-83, then toured with them again in 1994). Can anyone ever hear Sweet Georgia Brown without thinking of Meadowlark’s antics on the court? After retiring from the Globetrotters, he became an ordained minister in 1986. Mister Boomer saw the Harlem Globetrotters as a teen. Meadowlark Lemon performed all the tricks he was known for: amazing shots, antagonizing the referee and of course, pretending to toss a bucket of water on the ref — with the audience directly behind him — but the bucket was instead filled with confetti. A true entertainer, Wilt Chamberlain once named him as the greatest basketball player who ever lived.
Natalie Cole (February 6, 1950 – December 31, 2015)
The boomer daughter of Nat King Cole, she was forever in the shadow of the man who lent his voice to The Christmas Song. She began her music career in the 1960s and was immediately compared to Aretha Franklin for her powerful voice. She had a string of hits in the seventies, especially This Will Be (An Everlasting Love) (1975). In 1991, she grabbed the technology of the day and sang a duet with her long-passed father in what was then a groundbreaking video event. By splicing in film from her father and adding her own vocal performance to the song, Unforgettable became her biggest hit.
Of course, there were many more memorable people — boomers and boomer influencers — who left our realm in the 2015. We could not have become the people and generation we are without them.
On a personal note, Mister Boomer lost a friend over the holiday weekend. He was a consummate boomer, having experienced events of the era first-hand. Michael, your wit, humor and encyclopedic knowledge in so many fields is already greatly missed.