The trivia questions from last time were:
Roxie Roker, who played Helen Willis on “The Jeffersons,” has a famous son. Who is he?
ANSWER: Musician Lenny Kravitz, or Romeo Blue, his original stage name.
True of false, if the TV wives on “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times” were older than their TV husbands
Give yourself a gold star if you said true.
In fact, both Isabel Sanford, Mrs. Jefferson, and Esther Rolle, Florida Evans, were 20 YEARS OLDER than their TV husbands, Sherman Hemsley, George Jefferson, and James Evans, played by actor John Amos. Look it up.
Outside of Rolle in “Driving Miss Daisy,” the actresses didn’t do much after their series. Hemsley played a preacher in the sitcom “Amen,” with Clifton Davis from the 1970s sitcom “That’s My Mama.”
Amos, the only one of the four still living, has had a good career. Before “Good Times,” he was Gordy the weatherman on WJM’s “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” then the father in Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America,” and the leader of a group of terrorists in the second Die Hard movie with Bruce Willis — at the airport, with Sipowicz of “NYPD Blue,” Dennis Franz, the head of security at the airport.
Last time I was talking about Norman Lear and TV producers from the 1970s.
Today, I’m going to talk about a topic that is one of my favorites — the Unsung Heroes or TV.
If you watched television in the 1960s and 1970s, you saw a lot of faces you recognize — but you can’t put a name with a face.
There were a lot of opportunities for bit parts in television then. For instance, Cannon was a one-hour private eye story with one star, William Conrad.
So common sense would tell you the writers and producers had to fill in the story with guest stars. They did.
There is one episode of “Mannix” from season four in which six of these repeat offenders — little humor — act together.
It is an episode in which Joe Mannix is meeting six people for a reunion of his college football team. There were four men and two women.
Among the four men are actors Jason Evers, Robert Weber, Charles Aidman and Alan Oppenheimer, and the women are Marj Dusay and Diana Muldaur.
The first time I saw Jason Evers was in an episode of Perry Mason. He always played the character of a crook, or someone like a crook. He acted from 1949 until 1990. He died in 2005 at the age of 83.
Robert Weber could easily be mistaken for Evers — because he always played the same character. He acted from 1950 to 1989, and died the same year from Lou Gehrig’s Disease, also known by its initials, ALS, at age 64, I saw them in the same episode of “Cannon” the other night. Weber played a hit man, and Evers a crooked lawyer.
The same can be said of Aidman, but he did play some good-guy parts. Aidman acted from 1950 to 1987 on screen, and died in 1993 at the age of 68 from cancer. I saw him as a questionable doctor in an episode of “The Six Million Dollar Man” with Lee Majors.
Perhaps the most versed of the four was Oppenheimer, who played several roles in my fav “Hogan’s Heroes,” everything from Gestapo big shot Freytag, to a propaganda officer. His first TV role was in the Untouchables in 1963, and at the age of 89, is still working. The last time I saw him was as a network honcho in the original “Murphy Brown” series.
Muldaur, everybody’s girlfriend or mistress, had regular work in “L. A. Law” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” and played McCloud’s girlfriend. I also saw her as a long lost love of Steve McGarrett in the original “Hawaii 5-0.” Now 83, she acted for 40 years, 1953-1993.
Dusay was a beautiful brunette who did a lot of her acting on soaps, but also on “Hogan’s Heroes”, one time as a baroness Hogan was seeing, and another time as an Allied agent acting as the girlfriend of an industrialist.
There are so many more. I will write about them as I see them as I watch reruns.
Two more I feel obligated to mention, are these biggies, Charles Lane and Paul Picerni.
Lane always played an evil character, sort of a real-life Snidley Whiplash. Remember him, from the cartoon “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?”
The only regular gig I can remember him having was as Homer Bedlow, the evil railroad employee who was always trying to get rid of the Cannonball, the train on “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres.” He was in 24 episodes of the former, and died in 2007 at the age of 102!
Picerni, you may remember, as one of Eliot Ness’ Untouchables. He also did an episode of “Hogan’s Heroes” and darn near every TV show in the ’70s. His brother, Charles, also did a lot of TV guest roles in the ’80s.
I also feel obligated to crown the King and Queen of the Unsung Heroes of TV.
The King, I believe, is British-born J. Pat O’Malley, a bald, roly-poly actor who appeared in Hogan as General Tillman Walters. Signal Corps, who asks for Hogan’s help on a mission, and as a general Hogan goes to see to learn about D-Day.
He acted from 1940 until 1982, which was an episode of Taxi. He died in 1985 at the age of 80.
The Queen is Vera Miles, the pretty blonde who will turn 90 this August. She acted from 1950 until 1995, with her last repeat performance was in “Murder She Wrote.”
She was in the pilot episode of “Cannon” in 1971 as the wife of a motel owner friend of Cannon who was murdered, and she was accused of the murder.
This week’s trivia question:
Vicki Lawrence, Carol Burnett’s fake younger sister — although she looked like it for real — had a Top 40 hit on the charts in 1974.
Can you name the song?
HINT: It was covered, or redone, by another red-headed singer years later.