It doesn't happen every day, thank goodness, but yesterday we lost three people who were, in their own ways, fairly prominent figures in the entertainment world of the 1970s and 1980s.
The first one we heard about was "Mean" Gene Okerlund, who started out here in the Twin Cities working with Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association as an announcer/interviewer, who then parlayed that gig into fame and fortune with Vince McMahon's various wrasslin' empires. Okerlund didn't have a lot of dash; I always thought he looked like a claims adjuster. But it's difficult to imagine the wrestling world without him. Here is an example of his early work in Minneapolis, featuring the one, the only, Da Crusher:
It's actually subtle -- he lets Da Crusher bluster on, occasionally giving the audience a somewhat worried expression, yet his "questions" invariably lead the viewer where Mean Gene wants the interview to go. Professional wrestling is all about stagecraft and narrative and Mean Gene was a one-man Greek chorus.
Later in the afternoon, we found out that Bob Einstein, best known (I think) as Super Dave Osborne, passed away. Einstein started out his career with the Smothers Brothers, playing an absurdly by-the-book officer named Officer Judy. This bit with another dude from Milwaukee, Liberace, is hilarious:
I loved the Super Dave shtick, which started out as a goof on Evel Kneivel but became something far more amusing. Einstein did a bunch of these Super Dave bits; this one is a personal fave. It's essentially an elaborate setup for an obvious sight gag, but it's a lot of fun a long the way. Trailers for sale or rent:
Einstein's genius was never breaking character -- he was as good at deadpan comedy as anyone I'd ever seen. What was even more amusing and amazing? His younger brother, Albert Brooks, is a master of the neurotic comedy style. Einstein also played the Marty Funkhouser character on Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" series; those bits are often hilarious but most of them are NSFW, so I'll let you head to YouTube for those on a separate visit.
Finally, we learned that Daryl Dragon, best known as the "Captain" in his musical pairing with his wife Toni Tennille. This song was unavoidable in 1975:
Dragon and Toni Tennille had a five-year run through the back half of the 1970 where their music was regularly part of the Top 40. He was also a well-known session musician who did extensive work with the Beach Boys. We haven't seen much of these two in recent years, but they were able to draw an audience long past their heyday.
We are now 40-45 years past many of these performances, so it's not surprising that the performers are leaving the stage. Still, it brings me up short.