Don Keefer, Had Classic Twilight Zone Role

By Chip Hitchcock: Don Keefer (b. Aug 18, 1916, Highspire, PA) died September 7 in Sherman Oaks, CA, age 98. He was a well-known character actor for half a century. His appearances in genre films included Sleeper (1974 Hugo winner) and Liar Liar (1997), but he was probably most visible as Dan Hollis, who is turned into a jack-in-the-box in the Twilight Zone dramatization of Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life” (originally published in Star #2). Amusing side note: the child who does this transformation was played by then six-year-old Billy Mumy, who later starred in the regrettable Lost in Space.

Randall Brunk (1955-2014)

By Martin Morse Wooster: Randall Brunk, an active fan for over 35 years, died on September 23. He committed suicide after being depressed for many years.

Randy Brunk was born on September 9, 1955 in Hyattsville, Maryland. I first met him in 1978 when I was attending meetings of the University of Maryland Science Fiction Society. (One friend recalled that Randy was president of the club, but I can’t confirm this.) We immediately became friends because we were both libertarians and both liked many of the same television shows, particularly SCTV. When the DVDs of SCTV became available, Randy bought them all, and delighted in reminding me whenever I went to a soccer match that on the show Guy Caballero, evil owner of the SCTV network, thought the surest way to kill the station was to broadcast “four hours of football.”

After graduating from the University of Maryland in 1978 with a computer science degree, Randy Brunk went to work for Peoples Supply Company, a plumbing and home supply company in Bladensburg, Maryland. When his father, Perry, died, Randy became president and CFO of the firm, where he supervised over 100 people. He left Peoples Supply in 2004 and went back to school, earning an accounting degree from Strayer University and ultimately passing his CPA exams. This was a proud achievement for him; being an accountant is hard work, since you have to pass eight exams full of arcane accounting knowledge. But Randy Brunk only worked intermittently after getting his CPA, due to the tight job market.

As a reader, Randy Brunk was one of Gene Wolfe’s biggest fans. Randy drifted in and out of fandom; he occasionally attended meetings of the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, and hosted two of the club’s fall picnics at his house. But he always kept buying Wolfe, and was proud of his first editions of Wolfe’s novels. He also bought many of the North Atlantic Books editions of Theodore Sturgeon, vowing to finish the massive set someday when he had more time.

In the late 1980s, Randy married Elizabeth Firebaugh. When I first knew Randy, he was a secular humanist, but after his marriage he became a devout Catholic. They had three children, Emily, Katy, and David, all of whom survive him.

Randy Brunk was also a passionate sports fan. Nearly every time I saw him, he had the local sports talk radio station on in his car. He was devoted to the Washington Redskins and the Washington Nationals. We had a substantial difference of opinion on this, because while he supported the Nationals, I remained a Baltimore Orioles fan. We had endless banter about this, but went to two Nationals-Orioles games at Camden Yards together. The last time I heard from Randy was a week before his death, when he called me to congratulate me on the Orioles winning their division for the first time in 17 years.

Randy Brunk was a quiet, steady, reliable friend. I knew him for over 35 years, and he never shouted or became emotional. I wish, in hindsight, he had been more emotional; I knew very little about his inner life.  But he was a smart guy who was always fun to be with.

I wish I had a better story about him, but this one will have to do. Balticon has an amateur film festival on Sunday nights. One year the con featured a 100-minute space opera that was a Trek-oid pile of thud and blunder. The film was so bad that the con subsequently has imposed a 45-minute limit on films so that the crowd would not have to suffer through feature-length turkeys.

Randy Brunk sat next to me as we watched the thing. At the end, the credits rolled, concluding with “written and directed by James Norcross.” (I may have the name wrong.) I shouted, “Get a job, James Norcross!”

A voice came up from the front. “Why don’t you come up here and say it to my face like a man?”

The MC then announced that the lengthy post-film discussion with the cast and director had to be cancelled because one of the members had an emergency hangnail operation, or something.

The lights came up and Randy turned to me. “I’m not sure I want to see movies with you,” he said. “You’re dangerous.

Randy Brunk was one of my oldest and dearest friends in fandom and I miss him.

Richard Kiel (1939-2014)

Richard Kiel in 2014

Richard Kiel in 2014

Richard Kiel, the 7-foot-tall actor who played villains, aliens and imposing sitcom characters, died September 10, three days shy of his 75th birthday.

He achieved stardom as the ominous killer Jaws opposite Roger Moore in two James Bond movies, The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979). Despite his prolific work in TV and low-budget movies he did not have a unique identity before then and complained that people were prone to confuse him with Ted Cassidy (Lurch on The Addams Family), Fred Gwynne or even Andre the Giant.

Michael Dunn and Richard Kiel in The Wild, Wild West.

Michael Dunn and Richard Kiel in The Wild, Wild West.

Prior to the Bond films his best role was in The Longest Yard (1974) as the football-playing prisoner who flattens a guard then cheerfully declares, “I think I broke his f***ing neck!” He also played one of Patrick McGoohan’s henchmen in Silver Streak (1976).

Between gigs Kiel worked as a nightclub bouncer, a cemetery plot salesman and a car salesman. LASFS member Charles Lee Jackson II knew Kiel in the Sixties when he worked at Star Lincoln Mercury in Glendale, CA. “He was a friendly, nice fellow who loved being recognized (in fact, he made many car sales that way – the dealer had glass walls and Dick was always visible).”

LASFSian Bill Warren met Kiel at a screening of Moonraker. “Kiel was in the lobby, as was Roger Moore, so I approached with a joke ready. ‘This is a long way from Eegah,’ I smirked. ‘Hell,’ said Kiel, ‘It’s a long way from The Human Duplicators!”

Eegah (1962) and the movie Kiel named in his response, The Human Duplicators (1965), were so notoriously awful that both appeared on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Kiel played the title character in Eegah, a giant caveman who somehow survived to the 20th Century. The movie bombed – its total box office take was $3,274 – and Michael Medved lists it as one of The Fifty Worst Films of All Time.

Nevertheless, The Human Duplicators was not bad enough to keep its makers from releasing it on VHS under the title Jaws of the Alien to cash in on Kiel’s notoriety from the James Bond movies.

"To Serve Man," from The Twilight Zone.

“To Serve Man,” from The Twilight Zone.

Kiel’s TV work was divided between Westerns, fantasy and sitcoms. He played a Kanamit in the classic Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man”. He was in Gilligan’s Island, The Monkees and I Dream of Jeannie. He played Voltaire, an assistant to the evil scientist Dr. Miguelito Loveless in The Wild, Wild West. And his appearance in the William Shatner western series Barbary Coast convinced producers he was ideal for the role of Jaws in The Spy Who Loved Me.

Kiel’s lesser-known talents included writing — he co-authored a biography of the abolitionist Cassius Marcellus Clay called Kentucky Lion.

He is survived by his wife, Diane, and their children and grandchildren.

Graham Joyce (1954-2014)

Graham Joyce in 2009.

Graham Joyce in 2009.

Graham Joyce, 5-time winner of the British Fantasy Award and author of the World Fantasy Award-winning novel The Facts of Life (2003), died September 9 at the age of 59 reports Locus Online.

Joyce announced in Spring 2013 that he had been diagnosed with cancer – at about the same time Iain Banks was discovered to have it. Unlike Banks, who died within two months, Joyce was able to pursue chemotherapy as an option. However, the treatment was unable to keep the disease from taking his life.

Joyce continued to blog about his circumstances and writing until August 2014. His last entry ends poetically –

And if a dragonfly buzzes my ear like an aeroplane I’ll still be going, ‘What did it say?‘ Because the screw that has for so long been loose in me hasn’t been tightened by cancer.

Actually I know what the dragonfly said. It whispered: I have inhabited this earth for three hundred million years old and I can’t answer these mysteries; just cherish it all.

And in turn the Heron asks, with shocking clarity as it flies from right to left and left to right: why can’t our job here on earth be simply to inspire each other?


Donatas Banionis (1924-2014)

Donatas Banionis

Donatas Banionis

Actor Donatas Banionis, who appeared in more than 70 films and is best known in the West for starring in Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, died September 4 at the age of 90.

In 2013, he was honored with the Lithuanian National Prize for his contribution to the arts.

Apart from his acting, Banionis’ other claim to fame (or infamy) is that his performance in the Soviet spy movie Dead Season (1968) was the reason Vladimir Putin joined the KGB. According to the Daily Beast

When Banionis met Putin at the Kremlin, the actor asked if it was true that his character influenced his choice of profession. Putin laughed and said, ‘Yes, I suppose you can say that.’

[Thanks to Gary Farber for the story.]

Stanley C. Skirvin (1927-2014)

Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, Deedee and Roy Lavender, and Stan Skirvin on a New York rooftop

Bea Mahaffey, Hannes Bok, Deedee and Roy Lavender, and Stan Skirvin on a New York rooftop. From the site.

By Bill Higgins: Stanley C. Skirvin, one-time Cincinnati fan, passed away March 28 in Scottsdale, Arizona at the age of 86.

Returning from Navy service in World War II, he found Cincy fandom. He claimed responsibility for persuading hometown fans to name themselves the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (CFG). Skirvin edited the 56-page program book for the Cinvention, the 1949 Worldcon (online here), and edited a Memory Book afterward. His account of the Worldcon, “Wha’ Happened?” is online here. He also attended Philcon in 1953 and Detention in 1959.

As an engineer for General Electric in the 1960s, Skirvin helped develop nuclear-powered aircraft engines, writing software that calculated airflow though hot reactors. Moving to Schenectady, NY, and finally settling in Scottsdale, he apparently gafiated, but CFG and other fans report some 21st-century e-mail contacts.

He was an avid fossil hunter and mountain climber.  “A Tribute to Stanley C. Skrivin,” by his mountaineering buddy Don McIver, is available in the Arizona Sierra Club’s Summer 2014 issue of Canyon Echo [PDF file].

While a member of the Arizona Mountaineering Club Skirvin participated in a number of rescues. He was also a member of the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society with his own cactus collection.

Skirvin is survived by his wife for more than 61 years, Joan, and his three children.

Kirby McCauley (1941-2014)

Literary agent Kirby McCauley died over Labor Day Weekend of renal failure associated with diabetes. McCauley represented many writers, Stephen King once among them, and in the 70s and 80s was one of the top agents in the field. He was George R.R. Martin’s agent for decades and Martin has written a lengthy tribute.

Whether due to overexpansion or McCauley’s personal problems, his agency suffered a downturn in the late 1980s. King dropped McCauley in 1988, and several other clients followed the agency’s departing employees.

However, the business recovered and in 1994 McCauley was able to lay the foundation of another great success. George R.R. Martin remembers:

When I sent him two hundred pages of a fantasy I had been working on for a few years, and asked him if he could maybe sell it for enough money to get me out of television, he chuckled and said he thought maybe he could…. Kirby sent the book all over New York, got six publishers to submit offers, and soon had two of them bidding each other up and up until… well, Bantam won, and I popped a bottle of champagne, bid farewell to television, and set to work on A Game of Thrones.

McCauley also co-founded the World Fantasy Convention, chairing the first one in 1975. His anthology Dark Forces won the World Fantasy Award in 1981.

Stan Goldberg (1932-2014)

Stan Goldberg. Photo by Luigi Novi.

Stan Goldberg. Photo by Luigi Novi.

Veteran comics artist Stan Goldberg died August 31 at the age of 82 reports Mark Evanier. He suffered a stroke two weeks ago.

Goldberg went to work for Marvel when he was 17. He was best known as a Marvel Comics colorist and in the 1960s helped design the original color schemes of Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and other major characters.

He also drew thousands of pages for Archie Comics, a relationship that lasted 40 years.

In 2012, the National Cartoonists Society presented him with its prestigious Gold Key Award

[Thanks to David Klaus for the story.]

Joe Bethancourt III (1946-2014)

Joe Bethancourt performing in 2004.

Joe Bethancourt performing in 2004.

W.J. (Joe) Bethancourt, a professional bluegrass singer with roots in filk and the SCA, died August 29 after a long illness.

Bethancourt joined the Society of Creative Anachronism, probably at the 1969 Westercon — the only date that fits with the rest of the official history — and was instrumental (pun intended) in founding Arizona’s Kingdom of Atenveldt where he was known as Master Ioseph of Locksely. He was one of the first to receive the kingdom’s “Order of the Laurel,” in April 1970. And he later held the office of Imperial Herald.

Bethancourt ran his own production company, White Tree Productions, and recorded solo, with noted filker Leslie Fish, and with the neo-Celtic band The Bringers. He taught acoustic instruments of all kinds out of Boogie Music in Phoenix.

He played 65 different instruments – banjo and 12-string guitar and the rest of a long list including 6-course Cittern, Celtic Harp, Lute, and Ozark Mouthbow.

His professional musical career included a stint as a studio musician in LA before returning to Phoenix where he worked 17 years performing at the Funny Fellows restaurant, hosted a radio show on KDKB “Folk Music Occasional,” appeared regularly on local TV on the “Wallace and Ladmo Show,” and worked with children in the Arizona Commission for the Arts’ “Artists in Education” program.

In March of 2013 he was inducted into the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall Of Fame.