George A. Romero (1940-2017)

American horror film director George A. Romero (1940-2017) died today (July 16), aged 77. Romero died in his sleep on Sunday after a ” brief but aggressive battle” with lung cancer, his manager told Variety.

Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) seeded the culture’s grim fascination with zombies.

His other genre films included: Season of the Witch (1972), The Crazies (1973), Martin, Dawn of the Dead (both 1978), Creepshow (1982), Monkey Shines (1988), Two Evil Eyes (1990, directed the segment “The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar”), The Dark Half (1993), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009).

Romero told an interviewer:

I don’t try to answer any questions or preach. My personality and my opinions come through in the satire of the films, but I think of them as a snapshot of the time. I have this device, or conceit, where something happens in the world and I can say, ‘Ooo, I’ll talk about that, and I can throw zombies in it! And get it made!’ You know, it’s kind of my ticket to ride.

He also said:

My zombie films have been so far apart that I’ve been able to reflect the socio-political climates of the different decades. I have this conceit that they’re a little bit of a chronicle, a cinematic diary of what’s going on.

In addition to making movies, Romero was executive producer for the TV series Tales from the Darkside, which ran 77 episodes from 1984-1988.

Romero won the Horror Writers Association Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

A pop culture legend, Romero had many cameos and uncredited appearances in movie and TV productions. His last acting credit was for voicing character “Don Adaded” in a 2014 episode of Phineas and Ferb, “Night of the Living Pharmacists.”

[Thanks to Steve Green and Chip Hitchcock for the story.]

LASFSian Dwain Kaiser Killed

Dwain Kaiser at LASFS 70th Anniversary Meeting in 2004. Photo by Mike Glyer.

LASFS member Dwain Kaiser (1947-2017) was shot to death on July 3 by a teenager who, together with his mother, lived with Kaiser and his wife in the apartment above their bookstore in Pomona.

Dwain George Kaiser, 69, owner of Magic Door Used Books, was shot several times and killed just after midnight in his apartment at 175 W. Second St., in the downtown Arts Colony area, police said. His apartment sits above the bookstore he and his wife have owned for more than a decade.

The teen suspect and his mother shared the apartment with Kaiser and his wife, according to Pomona police Sgt. Brian Hagerty. The two families are not related to each other. Hagerty said they were roommates.

It’s not clear what sparked the shooting.

Kaiser became an active fan in 1961 after receiving a copy of Cursed, edited by Arnie Katz and Len Bailes. His family moved to Las Vegas in 1963 and the next year he founded the Las Vegas SF Society.

When LASFS started APA-L in 1964 he began contributing a zine, and traveled to club meetings in LA when he could afford bus fare. He joined in 1965. The club had a place in his heart and he was one of the old-timers who came out for the LASFS’ 70th anniversary meeting in 2004, the last time I saw him in person.

His first convention was Pacificon II, the 1964 Worldcon, in Oakland, CA.

After his family moved from Vegas back to LA County in 1966, he started attending LASFS every week. With other San Gabriel Valley fans he also started the ValSFA. (Some of Kaiser’s photos from those days are here.)

Kaiser opened his first Magic Door used bookstore in 1967, in Claremont. (He closed it to return to college to avoid the draft.) Over the years, Kaiser opened several more in the Inland Empire including one in downtown Upland. The current store in Pomona was his fourth named Magic Door.

Dwain Kaiser was a highly active fanpublisher: a founding member of the amateur publishing associations APA-45 and TAPS, and the editor of many genzines, including Astron, Nimrod, Nonstop Fun Is Hard on the Heart, and No Time, No Energy & Not Much To Say.

He is survived by Joann, his wife of 32 years.

Joann and Dwain Kaiser at Loscon 2000. Photo by Dik Daniels.

Heathcote Williams (1941-2017)

By Steve Green: Heathcote Williams, British writer and actor, died 1 July, aged 75. Genre appearances include Slipstream (1989), Orlando (1992), Alice in Wonderland (1999), The Sandman (2000), Dinotopia (two episodes, 2002-3), and City of Ember (2008).

On a personal note, Ann and I caught him on a promotional reading tour for his verse-novel Whale Nation (1986). He was spectacular.

Hands Across the Water

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1252) “I only knew him for forty years,” said Wolf von Witting, “but in fact Waldemar began publishing Munich Round-Up before I was born.” It started in 1958, passing to Waldemar Kumming and Walter Reinecke in 1959, then continued under K after R died in 1981, for a total of 179 issues through 2014.

Von Witting first met Kumming in 1977. My first correspondence with K that I can find is from January 2001, after he asked me to help put names on photographs he’d taken for MRU at Chicon VI, the 58th World Science Fiction Convention, particularly costume photos; I’d judged the Masquerade, our on-stage costume competition.

He and I continued to correspond, and meet in person at Worldcons. I continued contributing to MRU, and gave it two hundred words in a review of fanzines for Chunga (“Unfolding Stars”, C 14, which I daren’t consider mostly harmless, prompted or not by that number). He knew the secret of the fearsome drink vurguzz (MRU 8, Van 483), whose relation to the world of Perry Rhodan is beyond my and perhaps your mortal powers. I tasted a bottle he offered me, also at Chicon VI, but by the time I recovered consciousness he had left that party and I missed my chance to inquire.

He joined the Science Fiction Club Deutschland — deliberately named with the first three words in English and the third in German, just as English-speakers at different times adopted Latin expressions like inter alia or French ones like à point, and in fact as Munich Round-Up, written in both German and English, was named in English — in 1956 as Member No. 481, and was its second chairman 1962-1968.

In 1967 he was brought into the Order of St. Fantony (there’s vurguzz again), Walter Ernsting giving the accolade. From the 1970s he was the German agent for Andy Porter’s Algol and S-F Chronicle. He was a Guest of Honor at Seacon ‘84, the combined Eastercon XXXV (United Kingdom) and Eurocon VIII. In 1993 he was given a Kurd Laßwitz Prize for MRU and his life work. In 2005 he was given the Big Heart, highest service award of the s-f community. He left us in April (1924-2017).

From 1959 he maintained the Phonothek (German; first h joins the p for the sound of f in derivations from Greek phi as with English, second h silent), sound recordings of German and international s-f gatherings, originally on magnetic tape which in those days was no small undertaking when you consider that the two Revox B77 recorders he used, excellent in their performance, each measured 18 x 16 x 8” (0.4 x 0.4 x 0.2 m) and weighed 37 lbs (17 kg).

With the new millennium Thomas Recktenwald, another great German fan, chair of SFCD, friend of K’s and mine, took on converting this wealth to digital media; see TR’s progress report, and fine appreciation of Kumming, in CounterClock 15 (Aug 2013).

He was humble yet unshrinking, generous, a good listener, as we all aspire. Few ever heard him raise his voice. There was one celebrated incident. The early days of SFCD were stormy. During one of its fierce verbal battles he suddenly cried “Stop!” All fell silent. He changed the tape in his machine and signaled the combatants to resume. R.I.P.

Denis Scheck, left, interviews Marion Zimmer Bradley, center, at STUCON 1980, while Waldemar Kumming captures it all on his tape recorder.

Anita Pallenberg (1944-2017)

By Steve Green: Model-turned-actress Anita Pallenberg died earlier today, aged 73. Her most famous roles were as ‘The Great Tyrant’ in Barbarella (1968) and one of the rock singer’s two muses in Performance (1970).Her final appearance was in 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011).

Adam West (1928-2017)

Adam West. Photo by Gage Skidmore.

Adam West, who became an icon of popular culture playing Batman in the campy TV series of the Sixties, died June 9 at the age of 88.

He started acting as a teenager in several productions of the Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse (1954-1955), but it was another four years before his career really took off.

TV was full of Westerns in the late Fifties and the fittingly-named West popped up in a lot of them, the highlights being several episodes of Maverick, and playing the Doc Holliday character on three different ABC series during the 1959 season, Lawman, Colt .45, and Sugarfoot.

He made his feature movie debut in The Young Philadelphians with Paul Newman in 1959.

West’s first genre film was Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) — he played the astronaut who didn’t make it, leaving Paul Mantee’s title character on his own. That same year West again played a crewman in a Mars expedition on TV’s Outer Limits.

Starring in Batman two nights a week, from 1966-1968, vaulted him into celebrity status, accompanied by Burt Ward as Robin the Boy Wonder. The earnest character from the comic books was subverted and played for comedy, befitting a 1960s American society with conflicted attitudes about law enforcement, with colorful psychedelic imagery, and absurd visual sound effects in the spirit of Roy Lichtenstein’s pop art paintings. During its first season Batman was a huge success, rated the number 10 program on Wednesdays and number 5 on Thursdays.

However, by the end of Season 3 ratings had fallen off to a degree that the show was canceled.

West’s identification with the Batman character was so strong it kept him from resuming his former career of playing dramatic characters, as it was always feared that audiences would be thinking about the silly TV show when he was onscreen. He continued to work, but within options limited by his association with the character.

Adam West’s genre work in the years after Batman included Night Gallery (1971), an astronaut again in the TV movie Time Warp (1981), and Omega Cop (1990).

He also voiced Batman in the animated series The New Adventures of Batman, and for episodes of Tarzan and the Super 7, and Legends of the Superheroes, SuperFriends: the Legendary Super Powers Show, and The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians. However, as a voice actor in Batman:The Animated Series, he played The Gray Ghost. For The Animaniacs he was Spruce Wayne, The Caped Crusader. And in a later series, The Batman, he voiced Mayor Grunge.

In fact, over the last couple decades of his career, West became a very successful voice actor and velvet-voiced narrator. His most prominent recurring role was in Family Guy as the voice of Mayor Adam West, the horribly corrupt, inept and vain leader of Quahog, Rhode Island (2000-2017).

West made a rare on-camera appearance in 2016 on The Big Bang Theory when the CBS sitcom celebrated its 200th episode — and marked the 50th anniversary of Batman.

The actor is survived by his wife Marcelle, six children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Remembering James H. Burns Who Died A Year Ago Today

Burns and Vertlieb at Sardi’s

By Steve Vertlieb: With the late James H. Burns at Sardi’s in New York for dinner during a chilly Winter’s evening in December, 2014. Jimmy was one of my most cherished pals. He was my friend, my muse, my collaborator, and my brother. We would chat literally for hours each week into the proverbial “wee small hours of the morning.” We’d laugh, we’d argue, we’d celebrate the best and the worst in the arts and in life.

Jimmy was as “corny as Kansas in August,” but he could also challenge one’s core beliefs with spirited discussion, and overwhelming intellectual conviction. He was a passionate, tireless advocate of the arts, both in journalistic pride, as well as theatrical participation.

Jimmy loved baseball, and was its most inspired supporter. Whether arguing over the big leagues, or merely cheering on a tiny little league game on the corner of his block late one balmy Summer’s night, no one loved the game more than Jimmy.

His puns were terrible, and his laughter infectious. He could be maddeningly persistent in his sometimes self-righteous beliefs, and spirited interrogation, but Jim was never a phony. He stood by his own personal standards of equality and justice, and fought ferociously for his beliefs.

He was among the original writers and columnists for Fangoria Magazine, and a compelling contributor to Newsday, The New York Times and, in his final days, Mike Glyer’s Hugo Award winning File 770. Jimmy grew more introspective and, perhaps, melancholy in his later years, writing what amounted to sheer poetry in his brief, yet utterly charming and beautiful remembrances of days and years “past remembered”, but not forgotten.

He was among the most dedicated and creatively committed individuals that I’ve ever known. Jimmy was my conscience, and my shadow. When I nearly died seven years ago during major open heart surgery, he was my humorous cheerleader and spiritual angel, telephoning me often three or four times during a single day to make me laugh, and to remind me of just how special life could be.

I cherished our friendship, and revere his memory. I miss our infinite, often interminable telephone correspondence, conversations, and arguments.

Jimmy loved New York more than anyone I’ve ever known. It was during that sweet Christmas of 2014 when he enthusiastically “dragged” Shelly and I all over Manhattan to show off the vibrant city that he so loved.

He was a writer, an actor, a journalist, a film and baseball historian, and a deeply passionate human being. More than that, however, he was my brother, my champion, and my friend. I’m thinking of Jimmy today and always, but particularly on this poignant first anniversary of his untimely physical passing, and departure from this all too lonely planet, and remembering the wonderful James H. Burns. I miss you, dear friend. Rest well, Jimmy.

Roger Moore (1927-2017)

Roger Moore as Ivanhoe.

By Steve Green: (Sir) Roger Moore died today, May 23, “after a short battle with cancer”, aged 89. Appearances as James Bond aside, he did take the double lead in The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970), adapted from Anthony Armstrong’s short story “The Strange Case of Mr Pelham”; Moore apparently considered it his favorite role and among his best performances. Recent work included a vocal role in Troll Hunters, scheduled for release next year.

Moore’s other roles of interest to genre fans include Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe in the Ivanhoe series (1958), Beau Maverick in Maverick (1959-1961), and Simon Templar in The Saint (1962-1969).

Remembering The Wonderful Frank Capra

By Steven J. Vertlieb: Spending a quiet afternoon with one of cinema’s greatest, most distinguished motion picture directors, the brilliant Frank Capra. An intoxicating afternoon in which Frank and I sat alone together for a couple of hours on a bench at the home of a mutual friend…just the two of us…watching a 16 mm print of his Oscar winning classic. It Happened One Night. Absolutely sublime. It just doesn’t get any better than that. Thanks for your friendship, Frank, and for the enduring legacy of your work in film. Today would have been your 120th year, and “Name Above The Title.” Happy Birthday, old friend.

Steven J. Vertlieb and Frank Capra.

During a particularly sad and lonely Christmas for my friend and hero, I wrote Frank Capra a few ineffectual words of hope and inspiration. His nearly heart-breaking response remains one of my most treasured letters. Today, May 18th, would have been his 120th birthday. He made, and continues to make, millions of people around the globe happy with the hope filled messages and optimism of his classic motion pictures, including It’s A Wonderful Life starring Jimmy Stewart and, of course, “Zuzu’s Petals.” Wishing you a joyous, and Happy Birthday in Heaven, Frank. Thanks for the memories. It truly was “A Wonderful Life.”

Actor Michael Parks (1940-2017)

By Steve Green: Michael Parks (1940-2017): American actor, died May 10, aged 77. Genre roles included The Bible: In the Beginning… (1963, as Adam), The Savage Bees (1976), Night Cries (1978), Fantasy Island (one episode, 1979), War of the Worlds (one episode, 1989), Nightmare Beach (1989), Twin Peaks (five episodes, 1990-91), SeaQuest 2032 (one episode, 1993), Sorceress (1995), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999, in a different role), Planet Terror (2007), We Are What We Are (2013). He was to have appeared in The Summoning, currently in early pre-production.