News, notes and follow-ups

Category: pop culture

Bob Guccione, founder of Penthouse magazine, dies at 79

PLANO, Texas — Penthouse magazine founder Bob Guccione has died in a suburban Dallas hospital at age 79.

A statement issued by the Guccione family says he died Wednesday at Plano Specialty Hospital in Plano after a long battle with cancer.

The Brooklyn, N.Y.-born Guccione introduced Penthouse to the American public in 1969, at the height of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution.

The adult publication billed itself as "the magazine of sex, politics and protest," and quickly challenged Playboy magazine by offering a mix of tabloid journalism and provocative photography.

Guccione had estimated the magazine earned $4 billion during his reign as publisher, although he lost much of his personal fortune on bad investments and risky ventures.

 -- Associated Press

One year ago: Vic Mizzy

Mizzy "They're creepy and they're kooky, mysterious and spooky, they're altogether ooky: the Addams family."

With that catchy tune from the popular sitcom "Addams Family," film and television composer Vic Mizzy, who died one year ago, was propelled into Hollywood fame.

"I sat down; I went 'buh-buh-buh-bump [snap-snap], buh-buh-buh-bump,' " Mizzy recalled in a 2008 interview on CBS' "Sunday Morning" show. "Two finger snaps and you live in Bel-Air."

For his theme song, Mizzy played a harpsichord, which gives the theme its unique flavor. And because the production company, Filmways, refused to pay for singers, Mizzy sang it himself and overdubbed it three times.

Mizzy is also well known for writing the theme for another popular sitcom, "Green Acres," the 1965-71 rural comedy starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor.

Author Jon Burlingame described the themes for "The Addams Family" and "Green Acres" as "two of the best-remembered sitcom themes of all time."

Before his TV composing days, Mizzy wrote popular songs such as "There's a Faraway Look in Your Eye" and "Pretty Kitty Blue Eyes." Before that, he attended New York University and served four years in the Navy during World War II.

For more on the composer, read Vic Mizzy's obituary by The Times' Dennis McLellan.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Vic Mizzy. Credit: Associated Press


One year ago: Irving Penn


Irving Penn, who died one year ago at age 92, was one of the first commercial photographers to cross the chasm that separated commercial and art photography.

Penn, who began his work in the 1940s, had a "less is more" style that he applied to all his subjects -- models, cigarette butts, designer dresses. He isolated his subject against a plain backdrop, allowing for scarcely a prop and building a work of graphic perfection through his printing process.

Critics considered the results to be icons, not just images, each one greater than the person or object in the frame.

His most familiar photographs are the cosmetics ads he shot for Clinique that have appeared in magazines since 1968. Each image is a balancing act of face-cream jars, astringent bottles and bars of soap that threatens to collapse.

His work has appeared at New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and he shot more than 150 covers for Vogue magazine.

"His approach was never obvious," Phyllis Posnick, who collaborated with Penn at Vogue, told The Times. "He would make us go further and dig deeper and look beyond the obvious solution to a photograph to find something that was unique. He had a great wit, and you see some of that in his pictures."

Penn's brother, the noted director Arthur Penn, whose films included "Bonnie and Clyde," died last month.

For more on the famous photographer, read Irving Penn's obituary by The Times. Also, see a photo gallery of his work.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Irving Penn in a 1943 self-portrait.

Liz Smith looks back on Eddie Fisher


Longtime entertainment columnist Liz Smith recalls Eddie Fisher's personal and professional life in Monday's column, calling him "Poor Eddie."

Eddie Fisher died last week, age 82. All the obits pictured him with Miss Taylor, or else ran the famous shot of Eddie standing in between the opulent Widow Todd and his pert, trim wife, Debbie. Within weeks of this picture being taken, Eddie had been "taken." He was the property of Miss Elizabeth Taylor. His wonderful singing voice and huge pre-scandal popularity were duly noted, but the collapse of his career and reputation overshadowed all tributes.

Not only does Smith recount the 1950s pop music idol's marriages to Debbie Reynolds, Elizabeth Taylor and Connie Stevens, but she also has an Eddie Fisher-Jackie Kennedy anecdote. Read the rest of Liz Smith's column here, and click here for Dennis McLellan's obituary of Fisher that appeared in The Times.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: At the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas on April 3, 1957, Eddie Fisher poses with his current wife, Debbie Reynolds, right, and his future wife, Elizabeth Taylor, left. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Love at first sight for William 'Hopalong Cassidy' Boyd

Boyd Grace Bradley Boyd, who died Tuesday at age 97 at her home in Dana Point, was a 23-year-old Hollywood actress when she met the love of her life, William “Hopalong Cassidy” Boyd, in 1937. Boyd proposed to her three days later, and they were married three weeks after they met.

The marriage lasted 35 years, until William Boyd's death at age 77 in 1972.

During a 1995 appearance at the Lone Pine Film Festival, Grace Boyd recalled how quickly she discovered that Hoppy's appeal was not just to the young fans of his westerns.

“Believe me,” she said, “I used to have to fight the women off with a club. They'd be crawling under the bed in hotels because he really was a very handsome man. He had skin like a baby and very high coloring on his face, and his eyes were that light, piercing china blue — with black eyebrows and platinum-colored hair. He started to turn gray when he was 19. It was one of those family traits. In the old days, they used to put brown makeup in his hair.”

Read the full obituary of Grace Bradley Boyd.

Also available is the Times obituary of William Boyd from 1972.

— Dennis McLellan

Photo: William Boyd, who played "Hopalong Cassidy," and Grace Bradley Boyd on their wedding day in 1937.

One year ago: Lucy Vodden

Lucy Vodden, the inspiration behind the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds," died one year ago at age 46 after a long battle with lupus.

Vodden's connection to the Beatles dates to her early days, when she made friends with schoolmate Julian Lennon, John Lennon's son. Julian Lennon, then 4 years old, came home from school with a drawing one day, showed it to his father, and said it was "Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

The elder Lennon took that line and formed a song that is popularly thought to be a veiled reference to LSD, given the psychedelic imagery of the song and the acronym one could make out of its title.

Although she enjoyed her connection to the Beatles, Vodden told the Associated Press in June 2009 that she wasn't particularly fond of the song.

"I don't relate to the song, to that type of song," she said. "As a teenager, I made the mistake of telling a couple of friends at school that I was the Lucy in the song and they said, 'No, it's not you; my parents said it's about drugs.' And I didn't know what LSD was at the time, so I just kept it quiet, to myself."

For more on the real-life "Lucy in the Sky," read Lucy Vodden's obituary that appeared in The Times.

-- Michael Farr


One year ago: Trevor Rhone


Trevor Rhone, a leading Caribbean playwright and screenwriter, introduced reggae music and urban Jamaican culture to international audiences with his 1972 film "The Harder They Come."

Rhone, who died one year ago, wrote plays that often used satire to comment on the social conflicts in Jamaica after its independence from Britain in 1962. "The Harder They Come" tells the story of a singer who becomes a hero to the poor after killing a police officer.

Rhone was born a farmer's son in Kingston, Jamaica, and grew up in a rural village, Bellas Gate. In 1959, he left for Britain to attend drama school at Rose Bruford College in Kent. He was frustrated, however, by the lack of parts available to black actors in classical plays, and he returned to Jamaica in the late 1960s.

"My first acting jobs in the professional theater saw me perpetuating negative and stereotyped images of blacks," he added. "My first effort at writing a play was an attempt to find something worthwhile to perform."

His other works include "Smile Orange" (1971), which he wrote into film in 1976, and "School's Out" (1974).

For more, read Rhone's obituary that appeared in The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Trevor Rhone. Credit: William Doyle

Character actor Harold Gould dies at 86


Harold Gould, a veteran character actor who played con man Kid Twist in "The Sting" and Valerie Harper’s father on TV’s "Rhoda" and Betty White’s boyfriend on "The Golden Girls," has died. He was 86.

Gould died of prostate cancer Saturday at the Motion Picture & Television Fund retirement community in Woodland Hills, said Jaime Larkin, a spokeswoman for the fund.

A full obituary will follow at

-- Dennis McLellan

Photo: Harold Gould in 1987. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Irwin Silber, editor of folk journal Sing Out, dies at 84

Irwin Silber, the founding editor of the small but highly influential folk music magazine Sing Out, has died. He was 84.

Silber's stepdaughter Nina Menendez says he died Wednesday at an extended-care facility in Oakland. She says the cause of death was complications related to Alzheimer's disease.

Silber founded Sing Out in 1950 with musician Pete Seeger and musicologist Alan Lomax.

Although its circulation was never huge, under Silber's editorship Sing Out became a bible to the burgeoning American folk music scene of the early 1960s. It was one of the earliest publications to heap critical praise on Bob Dylan.

After leaving Sing Out in 1967, Silber went on to write for other publications and to publish several books.

-- Associated Press

One year ago: Army Archerd



Army Archerd had a Rolodex of Hollywood contacts that would be the envy of any entertainment reporter. The so-called "town crier of Hollywood" who made his name as a columnist at Daily Variety died one year ago.

Archerd wrote well over 10,000 columns for Variety and was considered the most trusted journalist in Hollywood. He retired his "Just for Variety" column on Sept. 1, 2005, after more than 50 years of writing it.

Stars often would not speak to anyone but him. When Johnny Carson celebrated his 25th year with NBC in 1987, the "Tonight Show" host left a message for his publicist: "I'm not doing any interviews, because if I do one, I'll have to do them all. But if Army calls, I'll speak to him."

Archerd's biggest scoop was in 1985 when he announced that actor Rock Hudson was suffering from AIDS. The actor became the first major Hollywood figure to be linked to the disease.

Archerd could name among his friends top stars and figures in the industry, but he was intentional about not being too close to the crowd he covered.

"I don't burn out because I'm not part of the scene, I'm looking at the scene," he told The Times in 1996. "I don't get involved like some unnamed people who cover this business."

The columnist became such an integral part of the daily ritual of Hollywood that when a bout of flu in 1983 forced him to miss work for the first time in 30 years, the Associated Press reported that "consternation and confusion reigned when the column failed to appear for three days."

Besides his work as a columnist, Archerd was, for 47 years, the official greeter at the Oscars, interviewing nominees and stars as they made their way across the red carpet.

For more on the famed Hollywood reporter, read Army Archerd's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Army Archerd. Credit: Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Adam Goldstein


Adam Goldstein, better known as DJ AM, was a disc jockey and Los Angeles club owner sought after by celebrities. He was found dead in his New York apartment one year ago, a result of an apparent accidental drug overdose.

Goldstein spun records at some of the world's most exclusive parties, including private events for Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Stiller, among many others, and could command more than $25,000 for a three-hour set. He was once engaged to socialite/reality TV star Nicole Richie and dated actress/singer Mandy Moore.

The DJ had struggles in his 20s with drugs, depression and his weight. In 1997, however, he underwent gastric bypass surgery, resulting in a drastic weight reduction, and gave up drugs and alcohol. Just a month before his death, he announced his participation in a reality TV show for MTV called "Gone Too Far," in which he helps the loved ones of drug addicts stage interventions.

Goldstein, who survived a Learjet crash in 2008 that killed two other passengers and left him with burns over his body, counted himself lucky for surviving the crash and the bouts of depression that brought him close to suicide earlier in his life.

"There's no reason why I should have lived or why I lived and they didn't," Goldstein said at a news conference a month before his death. "I'm alive and I'm here and I have another chance. So I have to do something better with my life this time."

For more, read Adam Goldstein's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: DJ AM (Adam Goldstein) spins on Feb. 22, 2009, at the 10th Annual Academy Awards after party benefiting Children Uniting Nations at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Credit: Getty Images 

One year ago: Dominick Dunne

Dominck-dunn Dominick Dunne seemed to have everyone whispering in his ear. The author and Vanity Fair writer, who died one year ago, made a career out of exposing the scandals of the Hollywood elite and zealously crusading against celebrity criminals.

Dunne was called the "Boswell of the bluebloods" and the "Jacqueline Susann of journalism," and he was described by the Cambridge History of Law in America as "one of the nation's premier popular chroniclers of notorious criminal trials and lawsuits involving celebrities."

Former Vanity Fair Editor Tina Brown said he was "the only person writing about high society from inside the aquarium."

Dunne fluidly mixed fact and rumor in his exposés, which were well-laden with anonymous sources. His technique earned him the disdain of many. Robert F. Kennedy Jr., after the murder conviction of his cousin Michael Skakel, said Dunne -- who fought for the conviction -- was "not a journalist. He's a gossip columnist."

Dunne was a television and film producer for two decades until drugs and alcohol ruined him. He had started life over as a writer when his daughter, Dominique, was killed in 1982. The slaying energized his foray into crime and court coverage, which was epitomized by the vigilance with which he advocated for O.J. Simpson's conviction in the murder of Simpson's wife, Nicole, and her friend, Ron Goldman.

Although conviction in the criminal case never came to be, Dunne, while ill, covered Simpson's 2008 armed robbery trial in Las Vegas, which resulted in a pronouncement of guilt -- a verdict that had Dunne awaited for more than a decade.

For more, read Dominick Dunne's obituary by The Times' Elaine Woo.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Dominick Dunne. Credit: Associated Press


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