Archive for the ‘Television Performers’ Category

Remembering Jean Stapleton

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

We’re sad to hear of the passing of actress Jean Stapleton, who died yesterday, Friday May 31, 2013, at the age of 90. Stapleton died of natural causes in her home in New York City. She’s best know for portraying the lovable “Edith Bunker” on All in the Family, but also enjoyed success on the Broadway stage with “Damn Yankees” and “The Bells Are Ringing,” and with several television movies.

Below are some selections from her 2000 Archive interview:

Her thoughts on how All in the Family dealt with bigotry:

Her description of “Edith Bunker”:

She was a very compassionate individual, had a peculiar way of arriving at things and thoughts. Not very bright, not well educated, but a great sense of wisdom and heart.  I guess I would describe it that way.  And also fun, a sense of joy about her and great, just great love for everyone, and a perception about people that was instinctive, intuitive, but certainly not intellectual.

And how she’d like to be remembered:

To be remembered?  I don’t think about that uh very much, frankly.  I don’t think anybody’s remembered too well, after awhile… I really don’t think it’s one of my goals or projects to decide that.  I hope that my work stands up, if it’s ever seen in the future.

Watch her full Archive interview and read her obituary in the Chicago Tribune.

Remembering Jeanne Cooper

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013

The Archive is sad to learn of the passing of actress Jeanne Cooper, who died this morning at the age of 84. Cooper was best known for playing “Katherine Chancellor” on the hit soap opera The Young and the Restless. She also had guest roles on The Twilight Zone, M Squad, and Perry Mason, and appeared opposite her son, Corbin Bernsen, on L.A. Law.

Below are some excerpts from her 2009 Archive interview:

On the set of her character’s house on The Young and the Restless:

My set, “Katherine Chancellor’s,” was the most expensive set ever built for daytime at that time. Which, in 1973, at $175,000 plus, was a lot of money because that was the budget for some shows. What it did was change all of the other shows and bring them out of the dark into a more updated presentation and it elevated daytime. That’s when they took on serious scripts and what have you. But we had sets. We had places, we had towns. People could identify. It was no longer, “My Girl Sunday,” Marion Lord, and old mining towns in West Virginia.

On whether she feels there’s a stigma associated with daytime television:

You’re not really looked down upon by, let’s say, prime time or motion pictures, because they’ve all been watching daytime. But you’re just not considered in their league.  And that is the sadness, for anyone who thinks like that. Because we have people that could get out there and probably outdo so many of them, more talented. Again, do you want to be an actress or do you want to be a movie star?  You have a chance to be an actress on daytime. I’ve proved that as the only media that allows you to get older. My character started 36 years ago. So there’s a big difference between me 36 years ago and today. I sort of helped say, “it’s okay to be over 50.” I helped, saying, “it’s okay to have a nip and a tuck here and there, if you need, what have you.” I’ve made it okay and strange enough, there’s a commercial that says, “I want to grow up to be an old woman.” I think back, then maybe the creators of women [characters] will be able to be older, allow the girls, after the cosmetic surgery and what have you, after the admission of age, come out and say, “hey, I’m not dead at 50. I’m just starting to live at 50.”

On having the first facelift on television in 1984 as “Katherine Chancellor:”

Well, I personally was going to have a facelift and I knew if I looked any better, “Katherine” was bound to have a few changes in her life.  So I talked to Bill Bell about, “can I have some time off, if I needed it?” – my vacation was coming up.  But if I needed another week, so he said, “well yeah, I’m sure.”  But he came down to the dressing room one day and he said, “Jeanne, how would you feel about if we sort of put ‘Katherine’ through this?” I said, well, “it’s a very good idea, since I’m going through it and I am ‘Katherine.’” … They filmed the surgery.  Most amazing thing. The next day I was to go to Dr. Glassman’s office to remove the bandages. He said, “if it’s too messy, if she bleeds a little bit too much, I want to be able to clean her up and we will rewrap it. I said, “I promise you, I won’t bleed.” So it was filmed.  And Jack Wellman, who was my doctor, was doing the voice, but you would see Harry Glassman’s hands doing all the work. We had 52% of the viewing audience of television that day; one of the highest ratings that CBS has ever had. Fifty-two percent of the people watching television were watching The Young and the Restless and this operation. It was so successful that it broke cosmetic surgery wide open.

On playing the mother of real-life son, Corbin Bernsen, on L.A. Law:

On winning a Daytime Emmy:

On how she’d like to be remembered:

Oh gosh, how would one like to be remembered?  I think possibly to be remembered, that… I made things possible. I made things happen. So that’s an impact on life. That I’ve impacted life somehow. Whether it’s better or worse is not for me or anyone else to say, I don’t think. But I think I’d like to be remembered as someone who loved doing what she did.

Watch Jeanne Cooper’s full Archive interview.

Remembering Jonathan Winters

Friday, April 12th, 2013

We’re sad to hear of the passing of comedian Jonathan Winters, who died last night at the age of 87 of natural causes in Montecito, California. Winters had a prolific career in television and film, and was known for many of the memorable characters he created, including “Maude Frickert”, “Elwood P. Suggins”, and “King Kwasi.” He made several appearances on The Tonight Show over the years, had his own program, The Jonathan Winters Show, and won an Emmy for his role on Davis Rules.

Below are some selections from Winters’ 2002 Archive interview:

On appearing on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson:

On “Maude Frickert”:

On Robin Williams and appearing on Mork & Mindy:

On advice for aspiring comedians:

Watch Jonathan Winters’ full Archive interview and read his obituary in The New York Times.

Comedienne Phyllis Diller dies at 95

Monday, August 20th, 2012

The Archive is truly sad to report that legendary comedienne Phyllis Diller has died at the age of 95. She was the first female comedian to headline a Vegas Club, the first woman to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (in drag!), and one of the first successful female stand-up comics. She also appeared on more Bob Hope Specials than anyone except Bob Hope. Phyllis Diller was not only a television pioneer, but a pioneering force for women in entertainment, as well.

Born Phyllis Aida Driver On July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio, Diller wanted to be a pianist as a young girl. She attended college at the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago for three years, but left to finish her studies at Bluffton College back in Ohio. She eloped in 1939 with Sherwood Diller, the brother of a classmate, and moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan and then to Alameda, California, where her husband worked at the Naval Air Station. Diller first got a job writing gossip and shopping columns for a local San Leandro newspaper, then as a fashion writer for Conn’s department store, moved on to writing for KROW radio in Oakland, and then to KSFO San Francisco as head of merchandising and press relations.

Her husband encouraged Diller to move to the talent side of the business, which she did by creating her “Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker” persona:

Diller and a few friends put together an act, and she soon became the breadwinner of the family. She began a five-year run performing at the Purple Onion night club, toured the country, and in 1958 made her TV debut on You Bet Your Life with host Groucho Marx. She had just begun to comprehend the importance of theatricality and slowly started crafting her signature look: bleach-blonde hair, colorful costumes, and exposed “chicken-legs”:

Two additional items became part of Diller’s persona – her laugh:

And her ever-present cigarette holder:

One of Diller’s most memorable creations was “Fang”, the mythical husband-figure she often complained about in her act, who wasn’t actually based on her real-life husband:

In 1962 Diller made her first hugely successful appearance on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. She soon secured her first movie role, as nightclub hostess “Texas Guinan” in Splendor in the Grass, and appeared in several regional theater plays including “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” with co-star Blythe Danner. In 1961 Diller became the first female comic to headline in Vegas, at the Flamingo. Of her Vegas act she told us, “I wrote my own material, and no one had ever heard it from a woman’s angle. Now the mother-in-law is his mother… I did a lot of housewife stuff. My first bit was stuffing a turkey. Now you think, well, this isn’t going to interest men, but it did because they’re interested in women. It became funny. If it’s funny, it’ll sell.”

Diller published her first book in 1963 and in 1964 made the first of many appearances on Bob Hope Specials. Diller felt she instantly clicked with Hope:

Throughout the 1960s Diller appeared on numerous talk and game shows, including: The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, I’ve Got a Secret, and Match Game. She traveled to Vietnam to entertain the troops with Bob Hope, and in 1966 starred in The Pruitts of Southampton, later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show – a half-hour sitcom about a wealthy family who suddenly becomes poor (“the opposite of The Beverly Hillbillies” as Diller described it.) She also appeared in a series of films including That Spy, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (with Bob Hope), and The Mad Monster Party.

1968’s The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show started out as a 90-minute special that blossomed into a season-long variety show (one of the writers of which was a young Lorne Michaels), and in 1970 became the sixth Dolly in Broadway’s “Hello, Dolly.” In the late ’60s and early ’70s she enjoyed a semi-regular role on Love, American Style, and debuted her “Dame Illya Dillya” concert pianist persona in 1971, which kicked-off a series of symphony shows around the country and allowed her to utilize her piano skills. She very publicly underwent a face-lift in 1972, appeared as judge on the premiere episode of The Gong Show in 1976, and in 1983 became the first woman to dress in drag to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (for Sid Caesar’s roast):

Diller suffered a heart attack in 1999, and hadn’t done stand-up since being fitted for a pacemaker. However, she played “Gladys Pope” on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful from 1999-2004, and continued to make talk show appearances. She was also active in voiceover work, voicing the Queen in A Bug’s Life, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nuttiest Nutcracker.

Phyllis Diller on her legacy:

Watch Phyllis Diller’s full Archive interview.

Remembering Sherman Hemsley

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of actor Sherman Hemsely, who passed away at the age of 74. Hemsley was best known for playing “George Jefferson” on the All in the Family spin-off The Jeffersons, and “Deacon Earnest Frye” on Amen. He also voiced “B.P. Richfield” on Dinosaurs, had recurring roles on The Love Boat and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and enjoyed an active career on Broadway.

Below are some selections from Hemsley’s 2003 Archive interview:

On his screen test for The Jeffersons’ executive producer, Norman Lear:

On “George Jefferson”:

On playing “Deacon Earnest Frye” on Amen:

On following his own path:

On advice to aspiring actors:

You got something steady telling you everyday, “go, go, go.” So rather than fight the voice, you just got to say ,”whew” and just start. That’s my advice to people – you want to do it? Start … Just go for it. Go for it; it’s fun.

Watch Sherman Hemsley’s full Archive interview

Read his obituary in The Huffington Post

The Seven Dirty Words That Got George Carlin Arrested

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Forty years ago today, on July 21, 1972, George Carlin was arrested for performing “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” at Summerfest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Carlin was subsequently charged with violating obscenity laws, but the case was dismissed in December of  ‘72, with a ruling that Carlin’s language was indecent, but not obscene.

The following year a similar case entered the court system when a man complained to the Federal Communications Commission after he and his son heard a radio broadcast of Carlin’s “Filfty Words” on WBAI in New York City. Thus began the five-year battle of F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation (Pacifica owned WBAI). The FCC cited Pacifica for violating FCC regulations that prohibited broadcasting obscene material, and the Supreme Court ruled that Carlin’s routine was “indecent but not obscene,” and declared that the FCC could require that indecent broadcasts air during hours when children were not likely to be listening (hence the beginning of “safe harbor” hours between 10pm and 6am). The battle over what constitutes indecent vs. obscene is still being waged today, which Carlin must be getting a kick out of.

Here’s the man himself on how he came up with the now infamous “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television”:

Watch George Carlin’s full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Phyllis Diller Turns 95!

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

She was the first female comedian to headline a Vegas Club, the first woman to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (in drag!), and one of the first successful female stand-up comics. She’s also appeared on more Bob Hope Specials than anyone except Bob Hope. Phyllis Diller, who turns 95 today, is not only a television pioneer, but a pioneering force for women in entertainment, as well.

Born Phyllis Aida Driver On July 17, 1917 in Lima, Ohio, Diller wanted to be a pianist as a young girl. She attended college at the Sherwood Music Conservatory in Chicago for three years, but left to finish her studies at Bluffton College back in Ohio. She eloped in 1939 with Sherwood Diller, the brother of a classmate, and moved to Ypsilanti, Michigan and then to Alameda, California, where her husband worked at the Naval Air Station. Diller first got a job writing gossip and shopping columns for a local San Leandro newspaper, then as a fashion writer for Conn’s department store, moved on to writing for KROW radio in Oakland, and then to KSFO San Francisco as head of merchandising and press relations.

Her husband encouraged Diller to move to the talent side of the business, which she did by creating her “Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker” persona:

Diller and a few friends put together an act, and she soon became the breadwinner of the family. She began a five-year run performing at the Purple Onion night club, toured the country, and in 1958 made her TV debut on You Bet Your Life with host Groucho Marx. She had just begun to comprehend the importance of theatricality and slowly started crafting her signature look: bleach-blonde hair, colorful costumes, and exposed “chicken-legs”:

Two additional items became part of Diller’s persona – her laugh:

And her ever-present cigarette holder:

One of Diller’s most memorable creations was “Fang”, the mythical husband-figure she often complained about in her act, who wasn’t actually based on her real-life husband:

In 1962 Diller made her first hugely successful appearance on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar. She soon secured her first movie role, as nightclub hostess “Texas Guinan” in Splendor in the Grass, and appeared in several regional theater plays including “The Dark at the Top of the Stairs” with co-star Blythe Danner. In 1961 Diller became the first female comic to headline in Vegas, at the Flamingo. Of her Vegas act she told us, “I wrote my own material, and no one had ever heard it from a woman’s angle. Now the mother-in-law is his mother… I did a lot of housewife stuff. My first bit was stuffing a turkey. Now you think, well, this isn’t going to interest men, but it did because they’re interested in women. It became funny. If it’s funny, it’ll sell.”

Diller published her first book in 1963 and in 1964 made the first of many appearances on Bob Hope Specials. Diller felt she instantly clicked with Hope:

Throughout the 1960s Diller appeared on numerous talk and game shows, including: The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, I’ve Got a Secret, and Match Game. She traveled to Vietnam to entertain the troops with Bob Hope, and in 1966 starred in The Pruitts of Southampton, later retitled The Phyllis Diller Show – a half-hour sitcom about a wealthy family who suddenly becomes poor (“the opposite of The Beverly Hillbillies” as Diller described it.) She also appeared in a series of films including That Spy, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number (with Bob Hope), and The Mad Monster Party.

1968’s The Beautiful Phyllis Diller Show started out as a 90-minute special that blossomed into a season-long variety show (one of the writers of which was a young Lorne Michaels), and in 1970 became the sixth Dolly in Broadway’s “Hello, Dolly.” In the late ’60s and early ’70s she enjoyed a semi-regular role on Love, American Style, and debuted her “Dame Illya Dillya” concert pianist persona in 1971, which kicked-off a series of symphony shows around the country and allowed her to utilize her piano skills. She very publicly underwent a face-lift in 1972, appeared as judge on the premiere episode of The Gong Show in 1976, and in 1983 became the first woman to dress in drag to sneak into the all-male Friar’s Club (for Sid Caesar’s roast):

Diller suffered a heart attack in 1999, and hasn’t done stand-up since being fitted for a pacemaker. However, she played “Gladys Pope” on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful from 1999-2004, and continues to make talk show appearances. She’s also active in voiceover work, voicing the Queen in A Bug’s Life, and the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nuttiest Nutcracker.

Stand-up, Broadway, TV, movies, voiceovers… Phyllis Diller is one talented lady. Happy 95th, Phyllis! Here’s to many, many more!

Watch Phyllis Diller’s full Archive interview.

- by Adrienne Faillace

Remembering Legendary Actor Ernest Borgnine

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

We’re sad to report that legendary actor Ernest Borgnine died today, July 8th, at the age of 95. The prolific Oscar-winning (for Marty) and Emmy-nominated actor (for McHale’s Navy and ER), began his carer in early live television, and is best known on TV for his starring roles in McHale’s Navy and Airwolf; plus, he is known to younger generations for his role as “Mermaid Man” on the animated SpongeBob SquarePants.

Born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut, Borgnine never thought he’d be an actor. It was at the urging of his mother (“Have you ever thought of becoming an actor? You always like to make a darn fool of yourself in front of people. Why don’t you give it a try?”) that he entered the field. We’re so grateful that he did!

After graduating high school, Borgnine joined the Navy in 1935, ended his service in 1941, and went right back in again when World War II broke out. Once he set his sights upon acting, he first attended Yale University, but then moved on to the Randall School of Drama in Hartford, CT to concentrate solely on the dramatic arts. After significant stage work at the Barter Theater in Virginia and time on Broadway in “Harvey”, Borgnine appeared as the evil “Nargola” on the popular 1951 children’s television show, Captain Video and his Video Rangers.

On working in early live television


In 1953 he played “Sgt. ‘Fatso’ Judson” in From Here to Eternity, but the role with which Borgnine would forever be associated came in 1955. Based on Paddy Chayefsky’s television play of the same name, Borgnine auditioned for, and won the part – and the Best Actor Oscar that year – for playing the title role in Marty.

On winning an Oscar for Marty

A big screen star, Borgnine soon conquered the small screen as well. In 1963 he made his first of many appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, and was asked to play the lead in a dramatic show called Seven Men Against the Sea, which as Borgnine explains in the following clip, eventually became the 1964 comedy McHale’s Navy.

On the genesis of McHale’s Navy



Borgnine began his run occupying center square on the popular game show Hollywood Squares in 1966, starred in the film The Poseidon Adventure in 1972, and appeared in the short-lived series Future Cop in 1976-77. In ‘77 he played “The Centurion” in Franco Zeffirelli’s TV miniseries Jesus of Nazareth, and from 1984-86 he was back starring in a TV series again, this time as “Dominic Santini” in the action-adventure show Airwolf.

On starring in Airwolf

After playing “Manny the Doorman” on the mid-’90s show The Single Guy and voicing “Carface” on the animated TV series All Dogs Go To Heaven, in 1999 Borgnine began lending his voice to SpongeBob SquarePants‘ “Mermaid Man”, thrilling girl scouts and adults alike with his maniacal catch phrase, “EVIIIIIIL!”

On voicing “Mermaid Man” on SpongeBob SquarePants



On acting

“As an actor, you’re supposed to know what life and, and love is all about.  There’s so much to life, so much to bringing forth something in yourself that you have experienced, or have had an experience, or are thinking of an experience, or are willing to experience, something that you can bring to this theater, to this picture. And this is what makes an actor, I feel  it’s what you have here (points to heart) and what you have here (points to head) that counts. It’s not just reading things off of a thing that, some writer has written for you.  You make the writer’s words your own, besides thinking, “Am I living those words?” That’s what counts.”

See the entire interview a http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/ernest-borgnine

About the interview:
In his two-and-a-half hour interview, Ernest Borgnine discusses his youth and the influence of his mother on his future acting ambitions. He reflects on enlisting in the Navy in the mid 1930s and on his service during World War II. He talks about his first appearances on television, including villainous roles on the DuMont children’s science fiction show Captain Video and His Video Rangers, and speaks of the role for which he is most associated – that of “Marty” in the 1955 film of the same name. He details his experience working with writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Delbert Mann (who had collaborated on the original television version)— and recounts stories about his audition for the part and of his Oscar win for Best Actor.  He details the popular 1960’s sitcom McHale’s Navy, describes the production schedule, and gives his impressions of the show’s ensemble cast. Borgnine recalls appearing on The Hollywood Squares, The Tonight Show, and (in an Emmy-nominated performance) the television movie “All Quiet on the Western Front.”  He chronicles his feature film roles in From Here to Eternity and in the disaster film classic The Poseidon Adventure, and comments on his work with directors Robert Aldrich and Sam Peckinpah,. He briefly speaks of his roles in the television series Airwolf, The Single Guy, and Spongebob Squarepants (he provides the voice of “Mermaid Man”).  The remarkably vital 91-year-old Borgnine spoke with humor and enthusiasm and a clear zest for life. Henry Colman and Jenni Matz conducted the interview on October 10, 2008 in Beverly Hills, CA.

Remembering Andy Griffith

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

The Archive is sad to report that actor Andy Griffith passed away this morning at the age of 86. Griffith was best known for his role as “Sheriff Andy Taylor” in The Andy Griffith Show, and also enjoyed success playing the title role in Matlock from 1986-1995. Griffith was also a Grammy winner and talented comedian and singer.

Here are some selections from his 1998 Archive interview:

On his early comedy routines:

On the play “No Time For Sergeants”:

On how The Andy Griffith Show got started:

On the genesis of Matlock:

On the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show:

Watch Andy Griffith’s full Archive interview

Read his obituary in the Huffington Post

Remembering Doris Singleton

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

The Archive is sad to report the death of actress Doris Singleton. Singleton passed away on June 26th at the age of 92. The multi-talented performer began her career as a ballet dancer in New York and transitioned to work as a singer and actress in network radio, where she appeared on many of the medium’s now-classic shows. She is probably best known in television for her recurring roles as “Carolyn Appleby,” one of Lucy’s friends on I Love Lucy; and as “Magda” on Hogan’s Heroes. She was married to writer Charlie Isaacs, who passed away in 2002.

The Archive interviewed her in 2005. Here are some selections from the interview:

On working on I Love Lucy

The camera over here was Lucy’s, over there was Desi’s, and there was one in the middle that got the whole thing.  You had to be very, very careful in your scenes with them that you did not put a hand in her camera. You had to be sure that you were back far enough.  It was quite different.  We didn’t have any teleprompters — we had notes all over a sweaty palm, which didn’t do us any good at all. And then there were many funny things that happened. Lucy and Vivian Vance were in a scene, and they were having a hard time because we had changes up to the very last minute.  And they were having a hard time with this particular scene and remembering the changes, so they wrote them all out on the coffee table, and that was fine.  And then we always had a break between acts.  The prop man would come and spray you if you had any jewelry on, anything that glittered was sprayed.  And then he sprayed their whole coffee table, and they had all of their notes on the table, so that was obliterated completely.  But they did it just fine.

On her recurring character on I Love Lucy, “Carolyn Appleby”

On the legacy of I Love Lucy

Every woman thinks that she sees herself in Lucy, wanting to do something more.  This was before women’s liberation and everything, and women were still housewives and they took care of the children and that was it, and they didn’t have big careers and so forth.  So she represented  what a lot of women would like to have in their lives.  And the show was funny.  It was clean.  It could be seen by anyone of the family, from the little child to the grandmother, and it wasn’t going to offend anyone. Of course, at that time, there was a lot of censorship.  I mean, they couldn’t be in the same bed together, ever.  And they couldn’t say when she was pregnant.  It had to be, “we’re having a baby.” and they did.

On her advice to aspiring actors

On a photo with her husband, writer Charlie Isaacs

That is my husband, Charlie Isaacs.  Best, best writer in television, bar none.  And that’s Doris Singleton, his loving wife.  Married for 60 years.  And loving every minute.

The entire 3-1/2 hour Archive of American Television interview is available at http://emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/doris-singleton.