April 19: We remember…Elisabeth Sladen

Elisabeth_SladenElisabeth Sladen (1 February 1946 – 19 April 2011) played Sarah Jane Smith in Doctor Who. She appeared as a regular with both Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker. She also appeared in the pilot for the spin-off series, K9 and Company. Most recently, she reprised her role as Sarah Jane on Doctor Who and in its spin-off series, The Sarah Jane Adventures.

Sladen was interested in ballet and theatre from childhood, and began to appear on stage in the mid-1960s, although more often as a stage manager at this time. She moved to London in 1970 and an appearance in the police drama Z-Cars led to her being selected for a part in Doctor Who. She subsequently starred in other roles on both television and radio, before semi-retiring to bring up a family in the mid-1980s.

She died of pancreatic cancer on 19 April 2011. Her death made national and international news headlines, and major television stations and newspapers paid her tribute. [Wikipedia]

Watch a tribute to Elisabeth Sladen on the Babelcolour YouTube Channel.

April 19, 1992: We remember…Frankie Howerd

Celebrity-03-06-1917Frankie Howerd (6 March 1917 – 19 April 1992) was an English comedian and comic actor whose career, described by fellow comedian Barry Cryer as “a series of comebacks”, spanned six decades.

His first stage appearance was at age 13 but his early hopes of becoming a serious actor were dashed when he failed an audition for RADA. He began to entertain during World War II service in the British Army. Despite suffering from stage fright, he continued to work after the war, beginning his professional career in the summer of 1946 in a touring show called For the Fun of It.

His act was soon heard on radio, when he made his debut, in early December 1946, on the BBC’s Variety Bandbox programme with a number of other ex-servicemen. His profile rose in the immediate postwar period (aided with material written by Eric Sykes, Galton and Simpson and Johnny Speight). In 1954, he made his screen debut opposite Petula Clark in The Runaway Bus, which had been written for his specific comic talent. The film was an immediate hit, even though Howerd never established a major film presence thereafter.

After suffering a nervous breakdown at the start of the 1960s, he began to recover his old popularity, initially with a season at Peter Cook‘s satirical Establishment Club in Soho, London. He was boosted further by success on That Was the Week That Was (TW3) in 1963 and on stage with A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963–1965), which led into regular television work.

He was famous for his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks to the audience, especially in the show Up Pompeii!, which was a direct follow-up from Forum. His television work was characterised by direct addresses to camera and by his littering monologues with verbal tics such as “Oooh, no missus” and “Titter ye not”. A later sale of his scripts, however, showed that the seemingly off-the-cuff remarks had all been meticulously planned. Another feature of his humour was to feign innocence about his obvious and risqué double entendres, while mockingly censuring the audience for finding them funny.

Howerd appeared as Francis Bigger, one of the lead characters in 1967’s Carry On Doctor.

Throughout his career, Howerd hid his potentially career-destroying homosexuality from both his audience and his mother, Edith. In 1958, he met wine waiter Dennis Heymer at the Dorchester Hotel while dining with Sir John Mills; Heymer became his lover as well as manager, and stayed with him for more than thirty years, until Howerd’s death.

Having contracted a virus during a Christmas trip up the Amazon River in 1991, Howerd suffered respiratory problems at the beginning of April 1992 and was rushed to a clinic in London’s Harley Street, but was discharged at Easter to enjoy his last few days at home. He collapsed and died of heart failure two weeks afterwards, aged 75. Two hours before he died, he was speaking on the telephone to his TV producer about new ideas for his next show.  He died the day before fellow comedian Benny Hill. News of the two deaths broke almost simultaneously and some newspapers ran an obituary of Howerd in which Hill was quoted as regretting Howerd’s death, saying “We were great, great friends”. The quote was released by Hill’s agent, who was not aware that his client had died. [Wikipedia]

April 13: We remember Caron Keating

CARON KEATINGBritish television presenter Caron Keating, born 5 October 1962, died this day in 2004. Her parents were the television presenter Gloria Hunniford and the BBC producer Donald Keating. Keating studied at the University of Bristol where she graduated with a BA Honours Degree in English and Drama.

Keating’s television career began in Northern Ireland where she presented The Video Picture Show, Channel One and the music programme Greenrock, but her big break undoubtedly came when she was selected to join the team of Blue Peter late in 1986. She brought a new trendy image to the programme, and was popular with viewers because of her looks and fashion-conscious image, appearing on the programme with Peter Duncan, Janet Ellis, Mark Curry, Yvette Fielding, and John Leslie. Highlights of her Blue Peter career included a trip to Moscow in 1987 during the perestroika period, swimming with sharks, abseiling down skyscrapers and standing strapped to the top of a light aircraft whilst it performed aerial acrobatics. She also interviewed serving Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on the programme in 1988.

After four years, Keating left Blue Peter and joined BBC Radio 5 where, amongst other programmes, she co-hosted an early 90’s afternoon show with film critic Mark Kermode, the show was named “A game of two halves” and, in his autobiography, Kermode described Keating as “The very dictionary definition of Lovely”. She presented several other TV programmes including This Morning, before breast cancer was diagnosed in 1997.

After various conventional and alternative treatments, including a period away from her family on the Gold Coast, Australia, and at a hospice in Switzerland, she died at the age of 41, at her mother’s house in Sevenoaks, Kent.

Set up in Keating’s memory, The Caron Keating Foundation ( http://www.caronkeating.org/) is a fund-raising partnership set up to raise money to offer financial support to professional carers, complementary healing practitioners, and support groups dealing with cancer patients, as well as individuals and families who are affected by the disease. It will also financially help a number of cancer charities with their ongoing quest for prevention, early detection and hopefully an ultimate cure. It was set up by her mother, TV presenter Gloria Hunniford, and her two brothers Michael and Paul Keating. [Wikipedia]

April 12, 2009: We remember Marilyn Chambers

Celebrity-04-22-1952Known more for being an American pornographic film actress, especially for her 1972 hardcore film debut Behind the Green Door and her 1980 film .Insatiable, Marilyn Chambers (April 22, 1952 – April 12, 2009) was also an exotic dancer, model, actress, and vice-presidential candidate (Personal Choice Party, 2004 & 2008).

Chambers sought work in theatre and dance groups in San Francisco to no avail. In 1972 she saw an advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle for a casting call for what was billed as a “major motion picture”. She rushed to the audition only to find it was for a pornographic film, which was to be called Behind the Green Door. She was about to leave when producers Artie and Jim Mitchell noticed her resemblance to Cybill Shepherd. They invited her upstairs to their offices and told her the film’s plot. Chambers was highly dubious about accepting a role in a pornographic film, fearing it might ruin her chances at breaking into the mainstream. But she was turned on by the fantasy of the story and decided to take a chance, under the condition that she receive a hefty salary and 10 percent of the film’s gross. She also insisted that each actor get tested for venereal disease. The Mitchell Brothers balked at her request for a percentage of the film’s profits, but finally agreed, realizing the film needed a wholesome blonde actress.

Chambers won the starring role in film director David Cronenberg‘s low-budget Canadian movie Rabid, which was released in 1977. Cronenberg stated that he wanted to cast Sissy Spacek in the film lead, but the studio vetoed his choice because of her accent.  The director says that the idea of casting Chambers came from producer Ivan Reitman, who had heard that Chambers was looking for a mainstream role. Reitman felt that it would be easier to market the film in different territories if the well-known porn star portrayed the main character. Cronenberg stated that Chambers put in a lot of hard work on the film and that he was impressed with her.

Rabid-1977-movie-Chambers-cronenberg-7

Chambers was found dead in her home in California. She was discovered by her 17-year-old daughter. The autopsy revealed Chambers died of a cerebral hemorrhage and an aneurysm related to heart disease. The painkiller hydrocodone and the antidepressant citalopram were found in her bloodstream, but not enough to cause death. [Wikipedia]

April 10: Stars we lost this day…

Celebrity-06-23-1940a1962: Stuart Sutcliffe (23 June 1940 – 10 April 1962) was the original bass guitarist for the Beatles. Sutcliffe left the band to pursue his career as an abstract expressionist painter, having previously attended the Liverpool College of Art. As a member of the group when it was a five-piece band, Sutcliffe is one of several people sometimes referred to as the “Fifth Beatle”.

In April 1962, he collapsed in the middle of an art class in Germany after complaining of head pains. German doctors were unable to determine the exact cause of his headaches but, on 10 April 1962, he was taken to the hospital, but died in the ambulance on the way. The cause of death was later revealed to have been an aneurysm in his brain’s right hemisphere.

880590a1966: Evelyn Waugh (28 October 1903 – 10 April 1966) was an English writer of novels, biographies and travel books. His most famous works include the early satires Decline and Fall (1928) and A Handful of Dust (1934), the novel Brideshead Revisited (1945) and the Second World War trilogy Sword of Honour (1952–61).

His dislike for the welfare state culture of the postwar world and the decline of his health, darkened his final years, but he continued to write. To the public, Waugh displayed a mask of indifference, but he was capable of great kindness to those whom he considered to be his friends. After his death due to heart failure in 1966, he acquired a following of new readers through the film and television versions of his works, such as the television serial Brideshead Revisited (1981).

1991: Kevin Peter Hall (May 9, 1955 – April 10, 1991) was an American actor best known for his roles as the title character in the first two films in the Predator franchise and the title character of Harry in the film and television series, Harry and the Hendersons. He also appeared in the television series Misfits of Science and 227 along with the film, Without Warning.

Celebrity-05-09-1955

Celebrity-01-22-19362001: Nyree Dawn Porter (22 January 1936 – 10 April 2001), born Ngaire Dawn Porter (“Nyree” is the phonetic spelling of her birth forename), was a New Zealand-born stage, film and television actress.

Her film appearances include The Cracksman, Two Left Feet and two horror anthologies: The House That Dripped Blood and From Beyond the Grave. She appeared in several television productions and is probably best remembered for her role as Irene in The Forsyte Saga.  She also starred in Gerry Anderson’s live-action series The Protectors alongside Robert Vaughn (The Man From UNCLE) and Tony Anholt (Space: 1999).

Celebrity-06-29-19432003: Little Eva (born Eva Narcissus Boyd, June 29, 1943 – April 10, 2003), was an American pop singer. Although some sources claim that her stage name was inspired by a character from the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, she stated in an interview that she was named after her aunt, which prompted her family to call her “Little Eva.” As a teenager, she worked as a maid and earned extra money as a babysitter for songwriters Carole King and Gerry Goffin. It is often claimed that Goffin and King were amused by Boyd’s particular dancing style, so they wrote “The Loco-Motion” for her and had her record it.

She continued performing until she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2001. She died 18 months later at the age of 59.

Celebrity-04-02-19462014: Sue Townsend (2 April 1946 – 10 April 2014) was an English writer and humorist whose work encompasses novels, plays and works of journalism. She enjoyed great success in the 1980s, with her Adrian Mole books selling more copies than any other work of fiction in Britain during the decade. This series, which eventually encompassed nine books, takes the form of the character’s diaries. The earliest books recount the life of a teenage boy during the Thatcher years, but the sequence eventually depicts Adrian Mole in middle age.

Townsend was poor until well into her thirties, and used her experiences of hardship in her work. In her later years she suffered ill health, in part related to the diabetes she developed in the mid-1980s, and in her last years endured serious sight and mobility problems.  She died following a stroke.

Celebrity-10-06-19302015: Richie Benaud (6 October 1930 – 10 April 2015) was an Australian cricketer who, after his retirement from international cricket in 1964, became a highly regarded commentator on the game.  Benaud was a Test cricket all-rounder, blending leg spin bowling with lower-order batting aggression. He became the first player to reach 200 wickets and 2,000 runs in Test cricket, arriving at that milestone in 1963.

In November 2014, at age 84, Benaud announced that he had been diagnosed with skin cancer. He died in his sleep on 10 April 2015.

April 8: Pablo Picasso dies (BBC News)

Celebrity-10-25-18811973: The artist Pablo Picasso died of a heart attack at his chateau near Cannes on the French Riviera. His wife, Jacqueline, and son, Paolo, were with him when he died.

The artist who had lived in seclusion for some years is reported to have suffered from influenza during the winter but continued to paint.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/8/newsid_2523000/2523469.stm

April 8: Kurt Cobain found dead (BBC News)

Event-04-08-19941994: The lead-singer of American grunge rock band Nirvana, Kurt Cobain, was found dead in his Seattle home.  The 27-year-old rock star had a single gunshot wound to the head. A gun and suicide note were found nearby.

It appeared he had been dead for at least 34 hours when his body was discovered by an electrician who was carrying out repairs at the musician’s house. Mr Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor, said she had not heard from him for six days.

The troubled singer, whose band achieved global fame with the release of its album Nevermind in 1991, survived a drug and alcohol-induced coma in Rome the previous month.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/8/newsid_3522000/3522702.stm

April 7: Jim Clark killed in car crash (BBC News)

Celebrity-03-04-19361968: Motor racing world champion Jim Clark was killed in a car crash during a Formula Two race at Hockenheim.  Clark, 32, was at the wheel of his Lotus-Cosworth which left the track at 170mph (274km/h), somersaulted through the air and collided with a tree on a remote part of the German track.

The twice Formula One champion, who sustained a broken neck and a fractured skull, was dead before he reached hospital.  The cause of the accident is not yet known although experts have suggested it could have been a fault in the steering mechanism or rear-axle suspension.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/april/7/newsid_2837000/2837559.stm