End of year memorials basically remember those deemed important and newsworthy and, yes, many of them are. But I want to take this post to remember some folks you probably haven’t heard of but were, in their own ways, important to current pop culture. I mean, if we can remember Anna Nicole Smith (what exactly did she do to warrant this much attention?), we should be able to remember at least some of the following who passed away in 2007.
Donnie Brooks – Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductee. Had hit songs “Mission Bell” and “Doll House.”
Helen Hill – Experimental filmmaker most noted for Mouseholes and Madame Winger Makes a Film.
Steve Krantz – Producer of such cult films as Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic, Cooley High, Ruby and Which Way is Up?
Peter Kleinow – Did the stop-motion animation for the Pillsbury Doughboy. Also helped with visual effects in The Right Stuff (model planes), Terminator 2 and Holes.
Bong Soo Han – Considered “Father of Hapkido” martial art. Appeared in Trial of Billy Jack, Kentucky Fried Movie and Force: Five.
Iwao Takamoto – Enormously influential animator at Hanna-Barbera Studios. Created Scooby-Doo among many others.
Enrico Barducci – Owner and manager of The Hungry-I, for many years a crucial launching pad for stardom for stand-up comics and musicians.
Bud Ekins – Stunt man and stunt coordinator for important action films such as Bullitt and The Towering Inferno.
Carlo Ponti – One of the most important film producers ever. Produced films such as Doctor Zhivago, Zabriskie Point, Contempt, Blow-Up and many others.
Tat-wah Cho – Portrayed the character Foon in a series of popular martial arts pictures in the 1950’s and 60’s.
Ron Carey – Stand-up comic famous for his portrayal of Officer Leavitt in Barney Miller and also appearing in 3 of Mel Brooks’ comedies.
Peter Ronson – Icelandic Olympian hurdler made one film appearance–a memorable one–as Hans in the sci-fi classic Journey to the Center of the Earth. Offered a film contract after the film’s success, but chose to live a quieter life instead.
Denny Doherty – One of the founding members of the classic folk-rock group The Mamas and the Papas.
Alfredo Ripstein, Jr. – Producer of notable films The Crime of Padre Amaro and Midaq Alley.
Liz Renay – Living a life only a screenwriter could think up, she was a striptease artist (performing along with her daughter), gangster’s moll, convicted felon and actress in such films as The Thrill Killers and Desperate Living.
John Majhor – Popular Canadian radio host became one of the original anchors of E! Entertainment TV.
Gordon Scott – Handsome musclebound actor starred as Tarzan in several pictures and later in Italian-made sword and sandal films.
Delbert Mann – Won the Oscar directing Marty and directed big screen classics Separate Tables and The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, but also extended his talent to excellent TV movies such as 1979’s All Quiet on the Western Front and The Last Days of Patton.
Joe Brooks – Familiar character actor appearing uncredited in many films and TV show until his role as the severely nearsighted Trooper Vanderbuilt brought him fame on the comedy F Troop.
David Ronne – You heard his sound mixing on such films as Silverado, On Golden Pond and Marathon Man.
Reg Park – Crowned Mr. Universe in 1951, Park later made several Italian-made sword and sandal films portraying Hercules and was reportedly an inspiration for Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Emanuele Luzzati – Oscar-nominated animator for La Grazza Ladra and Pulcinella.
Tige Andrews – Durable character actor most famous for portraying Capt. Adam Greer in TV’s The Mod Squad.
Bob Carroll, Jr. – Helped make Lucille Ball hilarious penning many classic episodes of I Love Lucy.
Billy Henderson – One of the original members of the classic soul group The Spinners.
Lonny Chapman – Longtime important supporting character actor appeared in The Birds, East of Eden and Baby Doll along with dozens of other films. Founded a repertory theater in North Hollywood.
Joe Hunter – Pianist/producer/arranger was one of Motown’s original Funk Brothers.
George Grizzard – Tony-award winning actor was in the original ground-breaking Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and had a number of notable film and TV credits, including Advise and Consent and The Oldest Living Graduate for which he won an Emmy.
Sir Ian Richardson – Known and knighted mainly for his stage work, this actor has also appeared in several films including Brazil and Dark City and TV’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Randy Stone – Won an Oscar for influential gay-themed short film Trevor .
Laraine Day – MGM contract player landing leads in several Westerns opposite George O’Brien, but became most noted for portraying Nurse Lamont in the Doctor Kildare series of films. Later married baseball managing great Leo Durocher and was dubbed “The First Lady of Baseball.”
Lee Patterson – Durable character actor most famous as one of the detectives in the TV series Surfside 6.
Janet Blair – Longtime actress of TV and film had her most memorable roles opposite more famous celebs Red Skelton in The Fuller Brush Man and Rosalind Russell in My Sister Eileen.
Bruce Bennett (aka Herman Brix) – As Brix, he was a star shot putter in the 1928 Olympics. Almost became one of the original Tarzans, but instead became a longtime character actor, mostly in Westerns, and notably in Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Andy Sidaris – Film director of cult status for such films as Picasso Trigger and Guns.
Brett Somers – Appeared in the film Bone and on many TV shows, including the recurring role of Blanche on The Odd Couple, but found her niche wisecracking on the wildly popular 70’s game show Match Game. Ironically, her game show sparring partner, Charles Nelson Reilly also passed away in 2007.
Hank Thompson – Country Music Hall of Fame inductee for his contributions mainly to Western Swing. Many Country hits including the No. 1 “The Wild Side of Life.”
Curtis Harrington – Underrated director of classic cult films Night Tide, The Killing Kind and What’s the Matter with Helen?
Gareth Hunt – Character actor noted to cult TV viewers as portraying Mike Gambit in The New Avengers.
Mel Tolkin – One of television’s great comedy writers, contributing work for Sid Caesar’s classic series (including Caesar’s Hour) and seminal work for All in the Family.
Teresa Brewer – Popular pre-Rock ‘n Roll singer who topped the charts in the early to mid-50’s with “Music, Music, Music” and covers of R&B tunes “A Tear Fell” and “Bo Weevil.”
Stuart Rosenberg – Directed Cool Hand Luke, The Pope of Greenwich Village and the very underrated WUSA.
Frank Capra, Jr. – Son of the Oscar-winning director and founder of a large film studio in Wilmington, NC, he’s most famous as a producer of such films as The Black Marble and Billy Jack Goes to Washington.