News, notes and follow-ups

Category: Television

One year ago: Oral Roberts

Oral Oral Roberts, who popularized the idea of a "prosperity gospel" while becoming one of the most well-known evangelists in the country, died one year ago. He was 91.

Roberts garnered his popularity through international broadcasts, evangelistic crusades similar to those of  Billy Graham and appearances on entertainment shows. He also founded Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., in 1965.

In the 1970s, Roberts' prime-time TV specials drew 40 million viewers, and he appeared frequently on talk shows hosted by Johnny Carson, Dinah Shore and Merv Griffin.

By 1980, Roberts was recognized by 84% of Americans, close behind the sitting U.S. president and fellow evangelist Billy Graham and 40 points ahead of the next religious figure.

Roberts, who put great emphasis on faith healings in his broadcasts and crusades, helped integrate Pentecostalism into mainstream Christianity worldwide. The charismatic branch of Christianity, of which Pentecostalism is a part, grew from an estimated 20 million to 600 million adherents worldwide during Roberts' seven decades of ministry.

"Twentieth century history of Christianity will name Oral Roberts as the voice that brought the Pentecostal movement to be taken seriously by mainline Christianity," said Robert H. Schuller, founding pastor of the Crystal Cathedral.

At the time of his death, however, Roberts' ministry and celebrity had been in decline for years, a drop-off accelerated by a prophecy the preacher made that "God will call me home" unless $8 million was raised for scholarships to Oral Roberts University by March 31, 1987.

The money was raised, but by then Roberts had become a figure of ridicule to many inside and outside the Christian world.

Despite negative publicity and declining TV ratings, by the mid-1980s Roberts' organization was raising more than $100 million annually and employing 2,300 people. His son Richard continues his father's work through Oral Roberts Ministries.

For more on the charismatic preacher's life and ministry, read The Times' Oral Roberts obituary. Also, see a photo gallery of his life.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Oral Roberts at a Downey tent revival meeting in 1957. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Turning the channel to TCM Remembers 2010

Here at, we have a running picture gallery of notable deaths for the year.

Turner Classic Movies also compiles a lovely tribute package, studded with movie stars and streaming clips drawn from its trove of film treasures. The big names are all here -- Dennis Hopper, Lena Horne, Tony Curtis and Patricia Neal -- as well as a trio from "Airplane!" -- Peter Graves, Barbara Billingsley and Leslie NIelsen. The images fade in and out to the tune of Sophie Hunger's "Headlights."


You can watch it on the network's website or on YouTube, where you can also check out the remembrance clips from previous years.



-- Claire Noland


One year ago: Gene Barry

Gene-barry Gene Barry was an actor who made a career of playing dapper and debonair lead characters on television in the mid- to-late 20th century. He died one year ago at age 90.

Barry was a versatile performer who delivered a Tony-nominated performance in the hit 1980s Broadway musical "La Cage aux Folles," in which he portrayed a gay impresario of a drag nightclub named Georges. He considered the role the best of his career.

The impeccably dressed Barry, a suave and sophisticated magnet for beautiful women, wasn't interested in joining his era's crowded ranks of TV cowboys. Instead, he preferred "a guy who looked good in clothes," he told the Associated Press in 1989.

"He has the remarkable knack of wearing a tuxedo well. He is at home in it, secure in it," producer Aaron Spelling once told TV Guide.

Among Barry's other roles were a James Bond-ish character named Amos Burke in "Amos Burke: Secret Agent" (previously "Burke's Law"), a publishing tycoon in the 1968-71 NBC adventure series "The Name of the Game" and the lead character in "The War of the Worlds" (1953).

His acting career was in decline by the 1980s, but it regained traction with his performance in "La Cage aux Folles" in 1983. His final screen role was in Steven Spielberg's 2005 "War of the Worlds," in which Barry and Ann Robinson, his co-star in the 1953 movie, played the grandparents.

For more on the dashing actor, read Gene Barry's obituary by The Times' Dennis McLellan.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Gene Barry in 1951. Credit: Paramount Pictures

In appreciation of Don Meredith

Meredith Don Meredith, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and "Monday Night Football" announcer who died Sunday, had a collegial charm and an everyman ease about him that made him instantly likable to millions of viewers, writes The Times' Sam Farmer.

Meredith died of a brain hemorrhage at age 72.

Farmer writes that Meredith blazed his own path by retiring early from football after great success and finding even greater success in broadcasting, accentuated by his larger-than-life personality.

You can find Farmer's appreciation here and Meredith's news obituary here.

--Keith Thursby

Photo: Don Meredith, right, with fellow "Monday Night Football" announcers Frank Gifford, left,  and Howard Cosell in 1973. Credit: Associated Press/ABC-TV


Former Cowboys quarterback 'Dandy' Don Meredith dies at 72 [updated]


Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith has died in Santa Fe, N.M., after suffering a brain hemorrhage and lapsing into a coma on Sunday. He was 72.

Meredith's wife, Susan, confirmed the former football star's death.

Meredith played for the Cowboys from 1960 to 1968, becoming the starting quarterback in 1965. Although he never led the Cowboys to the Super Bowl, Meredith was one of the franchise's first stars.

Over his nine-year career, Meredith threw for 17,199 yards and 111 touchdowns. He retired unexpectedly before the 1969 season.

He later became a TV broadcaster on "Monday Night Football," paired with Frank Gifford and Howard Cosell.

[Update 5:35 p.m.] Read the complete Don Meredith news obituary by Times staff writer Diane Pucin.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Don Meredith, left, with his "Monday Night Football" partners Howard Cosell and Frank Gifford in 1972. Credit: ABC

Al Masini, creator of 'Star Search,' 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous,' dies in Hawaii at 80

Alfred "Al" Masini, a Hollywood producer who created "Entertainment Tonight," "Star Search," "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," "Solid Gold," and numerous other TV shows, died Monday in Honolulu. He was 80.

In a statement, actress and longtime friend Carol Burnett said she was very sorry to hear of Masini's death. She called him a "talented producer and a fine man."

Masini is survived by his wife, Charlyn Honda Masini, and his sister Melba Marvinny.

More later at

-- Associated Press

Dominican entertainer Freddy Beras Goico dies at 69


Freddy Beras Goico, an actor and comedian considered the most influential television figure in his native Dominican Republic, died Thursday in New York. He was 69.

Beras died at Mount Sinai Medical Center from complications of pancreatic cancer, according to Giancarlo Beras, his son.

His death prompted an outpouring of grief in his homeland and among Dominican communities in the United States.

President Leonel Fernandez praised him as a mediator of the country's political and social conflicts with his broadcasting and philanthropy.

"He appealed with energy and integrity for the construction of a better society," Fernandez said.

Beras began his television career as a cameraman in the early 1960s and went on to host a weekly variety show that aired for 30 years, featuring some of the most famous musicians of the Dominican Republic and Latin America. He also regularly appeared on other programs and nightclubs and created a charitable foundation.

Beras, whose family fled to Colombia during the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo, was also a political activist in the 1950s and 1960s and was jailed in 1965 for taking part with Gen. Francisco Alberto Caamano in a war to re-establish the democratic government of Juan Bosc.

He later became a critic of the late strongman Joaquin Balaguer, who held power off and on for 24 years until 1996.

Beras' body was scheduled to be transported back to his homeland Friday for a funeral.

-- Associated Press

Photo: Freddy Beras Goico on his television show in 1994. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Edward Woodward

Woodward Edward Woodward, a British actor who died one year ago, may have been best known in the United States for his role as Robert McCall on "The Equalizer," a detective TV series that ran from 1985 to 1989 on CBS. The character, a disillusioned former secret agent, was the last stop for people seeking justice. His newspaper ad read, "Got a problem? Odds against you? Call the Equalizer."

Woodward also starred in the gripping 1980 Australian film "Breaker Morant," about three Australian officers on trial for murdering Boer prisoners during the Boer War in South Africa. Spoiler alert: Click here only if you have already seen the movie. If you don't know the movie, you should. Find it and watch it today.

For more on the actor, read the Edward Woodward obituary by Dennis McLellan that appeared in The Times.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: Edward Woodward as "The Equalizer." Credit: CBS

One year ago: Ken Ober


Ken Ober once said it took a trip to the supermarket to grasp how MTV had changed his career.

"I was … reading TV Guide, and it said 'Ken Ober, comma, TV game show host,' " he told the San Diego Union Tribune in 1989. "And I said, 'Oh, no, I'm a game show host.' "

Ober, a comic and actor, was host of an untraditional game show, "Remote Control," which started on MTV in the late 1980s. Ober died a year ago at age 52.

The show was a sendup of all things television, with the college-age contestants sitting in Ober's basement answering questions while strapped into reclining lounge chairs. The show also featured some well-known comics early in their careers, such as Adam Sandler, Colin Quinn and Denis Leary.

Ober's obituary appeared in The Times on Nov. 17, 2009.

-- Keith Thursby

One year ago: David Lloyd [Updated]

David-lloyd David Lloyd, the father of television writer and producer Christopher Lloyd, was a television comedy writer who wrote the classic "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." He died of prostate cancer one year ago at age 75.

[For the record at 2:28 p.m.: An earlier version of this post stated the David Lloyd was the father of actor Christopher Lloyd. He was the father of television writer and producer Christopher Lloyd.]

Lloyd's four-decade comedy career included writing for "The Tonight Show," "Frasier," "Taxi" and "Cheers" among others. His famous "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" earned him an Emmy award in 1976.

"If you consider how long his career was and how much he wrote for such really popular shows, he's got to have been responsible for a record number of laughs in this world," said Les Charles, co-creator of "Cheers."

He was known for being both a quality and a quick-writing comedian. Allan Burns, co-creator of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," called Lloyd a "one-man writing staff."

Lloyd was born in Bronxville, N.Y., and studied English at Yale. After graduating in 1956, he served in the Navy and began teaching English at Rutgers Preparatory School in New Jersey before making his break into television.

For more, read David Lloyd's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: David Lloyd with his Emmy for comedy writing that he won in 1976 for his "Chuckles Bites the Dust" episode of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." Credit: Family photo.

Charlie O'Donnell funeral set for Wednesday

Charlieo.jpgA1 Funeral services for “Wheel of Fortune” announcer Charlie O’Donnell will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, 10828 Moorpark St., North Hollywood. O’Donnell died Monday of natural causes at his Sherman Oaks home. He was 78.

Read his obituary here.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Charlie O'Donnell first joined the "Wheel of Fortune" game show in 1975 and, except for a long break in the 1980s, remained the show's announcer until shortly before his death. Credit: O'Donnell family

Charlie O'Donnell of 'Wheel of Fortune,' as remembered by the show's host, Pat Sajak

Charlie O'Donnell

Obit writing has a great side benefit -- you often get to speak with people you’ve watched for years on TV and in the movies. My  DVR isn’t programmed for “Wheel of  Fortune” (solving word puzzles feels a little too much like work to me), so I wasn’t sure what to expect when the show’s host, Pat Sajak, called me Tuesday to talk about Charlie O’Donnell, the longtime “Wheel” announcer who died Monday at 78.

For starters, Sajak spoke in complete, ready-for-print paragraphs about the man he so clearly admired. He was wittty, self-deprecating and came across as exceedingly kind.

Here’s most of Sajak’s polished yet off-the-cuff memorial to his friend:

He was the perfect voice of the show. He had an old-school style that was a little over the top. It was perfect for the show. We’re a little over the top. We’re a throwback.

He loved warming up the audience. It was almost like the kids were  going to the circus and he was the barker bringing them in. It was perfect for our show. Ours is a very difficult show for [announcers] to do. We are still plug-full. If you didn’t have someone who could do it in an entertaining way, it would seem like one long commercial. He made it seem like fun. He was quick on the uptake. I f I threw something at him, he threw it back. He actually paid attention to what I said.

His voice is probably, almost certainly heard the most during the course of  the half-hour. He talked more than I do. He quite literally was the voice of  “Wheel.” It’s going to seem strange not to hear that. It’s going to take a period of adjustment, he’s been there so long.

Viewers really have adopted this show. It’s been on at dinnertime for so long, and the whole family watches. As hokey as it sounds, all of us are all part of their families. It’s going to seem a little empty at the dinner table.

He was great at warming up the crowd. He’s been in television forever. He loved performing in front of crowds. He took that role very seriously. … He loved meeting people, and when we went out on the road, Charlie was the first contact that thousands of people had with “Wheel of Fortune.” From an aural point of view, Charlie was the most recognizable part of this show.

He really was the most professional guy I ever knew. That’s what he took pride in. He’s sort of a vanishing breed. He was a broadcaster. He started in radio and grew up in television. He knew how to do everything, from hosting rock 'n' roll radio to doing a game show. Everything he did, he took seriously in a lighthearted business. He took great pride in what he did. He was a great inspiration to all of us.

We’ve done so many shows. He had genuine enthusiasm. How many trips has he plugged over the years? There was never a moment that you ever sensed that he was thinking, “I have to talk about another trip to Cabo.” Every time he announced that someone had won the money, it sounded like he won it.

This is the way he would have wanted to go out, working to the end. … Charlie’s great skill was timing. If something was 13 seconds long, next time it would be 11. I figure it applied to his life. If Charlie left, it meant it was time. He got a cue. I guess it was time for him to leave.

An acknowledgement of O’Donnell’s death will appear at the end of  the “Wheel of Fortune” scheduled to air Friday. “Jeopardy!” announcer Johnny Gilbert will fill in on “Wheel” until a permanent successor is chosen.

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Vanna White and Pat Sajak flank Charlie O'Donnell on "Wheel of Fortune." O'Donnell was the show's announcer for 28 years. Credit: Carol Kaelson / Califon Productions Inc.


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