Beloved Fleischer Brothers and Betty Boop animator Myron Waldman died this weekend. He was 97 years old, and among his extensive work as an animator were years spent bringing characters like Ko-Ko the Clown, Popeye, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Superman, Casper, Little Lulu, and many others to cinematic life; he also created Betty's dog Pudgy (which The NY Times pictured with Betty in their obit today -- without noting Myron had created the l'il pup), and two of the color Fleischer color shorts Myron directed in the '30s were nominated for Academy Awards. His wife Rosalie and sons Robert and Steve and three grandchildren survive him; Myron's funeral was yesterday.
Check out my dear friend G. Michael Dobbs's post about Myron -- who Mike knew and loved --
Also passing this weekend was comedian/actor Al Lewis, best-known as Grandpa Munster on The Munsters, though for my generation Lewis made his mark as Officer Leo Schnauzer on Car 54, Where Are You?. Lewis co-starred in both with lanky Fred Gwynne (Herman in the former, Officer Francis Muldoon in the latter), and it was his chemistry with Gwynne that defined Lewis's persona for many of us who grew up with both sitcoms.
For genre fans like myself, Lewis had other claims to fame: according to many a source (Tim Lucas, care to weigh in?), it was Lewis featured in the "racier" (now quite tame) shot-in-US murder footage spliced into The Devil's Commandment, the American release version of the historic first Italian horror movie I Vampiri (1956) from director Riccardo Freda and cinematographer and future director Mario Bava. Just as Jose Mojica Marins parlayed his Brazilian horror character Ze do Caixao/Coffin Joe into a successful bid for political office, Lewis ran for New York City Major in 1998 (at age 88!) as the Green Party candidate. Lewis didn't win (Gov. George Pataki beat him handily), nor did he win his bid to have his name printed on the election ballots as "Grandpa Al Lewis" (ironically, Marins did win his election in Brazil -- via write-in votes! -- but was disqualified from serving because most of the votes were under his fictional character's name!).
Both Myron Waldman and Al Lewis were active to their dying days, and that is what I will remember them both for. Myron was drawing, lecturing, and touring right through 2005, while Lewis kept going, too, at one point prompting Howard Stern to utilize that 'delay' button when Lewis led an appropriately foul-mouthed chant against the FCC -- now, there's a claim to fame!
Once again, O my friends, bantering from across the veils of time, from the distant realm of 1968, Criswell predicts...
"I Predict... that birth control will no longer be a major problem in the United States. Placed in the water system of the country, in every city, regardless of size, will be chemicals which will act as contraceptives on the entire populace. In addition to this, the electricity that comes into each home will have certain ionic particles that cause contraception.
Birth control will be a function of the Federal Government. If you want a child, you will have to go to the proper Federal Government Agency and get yourself a pill so that you may conceive. You will have to receive the sanction of this Government agency before you will have the right to have a child.
Birth control in any of the forms which we know today will not exist by the year 1981, when these new systems will definitely be in effect in this country and the majority of the other nations throughout the world. This, mankind will agree, is the only way to control the population explosion."