Photo: 2001 Chevy Suburban hearse for sale on EBay. Bidding starts at $7,000.
Queen of the Dead – dateline August 29, 2011
• When songwriting great Jerry Leiber (“Hound Dog,” “Ready to Begin Again,” “Yakety Yak,” “Stand By Me,” “On Broadway”) died on Aug. 22 at 78, I asked musician and writer Josh Alan Friedman—who knew Jerry—for his input. “I’ve thought a lot about this,” says Josh. “Jerry was smarter, wittier, greater and more important than Irving Berlin. Trying to be sensitive about it, I’ll say I really love and miss the bastard.” My glam writer friend Donna Lethal adds, “Josh knew many more sides of Jerry than I did – I only knew the flirty Jerry, who refused to believe he was aging. I cut his veggies when he wasn’t looking and let him grab my leg under the table.”
• Not all child stars end badly—John Howard Davies, the whisper-thin blond lad of Oliver Twist (1948) and The Rocking Horse Winner (1949)—became one of England’s top TV producers and directors. He died on Aug. 22 at 72. His acting career was over by the early ‘50s, but Davies went on to head the comedy divisions of the BBC and Thames TV, and was associated with such classics as Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Fawlty Towers, Yes Minister, Not the Nine O’Clock News, Only Fools and Horses, Good Neighbors, and Steptoe and Son.
• As a Philadelphia Girl, I noted this week the passing (at 71, on Aug. 23) of Joey Vento, the founder of Geno’s Steaks. It opened in 1966—when I was way too wee to go all the way out to South Philly—but for better or worse, it became one of the most famous Philly Cheesesteak joints. I am not a cheese person, so I like mine well-done, with onions.
• TV and movie actor Michael Showers, 45, was found in the Mississippi River outside New Orleans this week. He appeared in supporting roles in movies (I Love You Phillip Morris, The Tree of Life) and on TV (Treme, Breaking Bad, The Vampire Diaries). He seems to have been a well-liked and talented actor, and I can’t help but feel bad that not only did he die in such an unpleasant way, but that he died before I got a chance to marry him and hyphenate my name.