A postcard of a 1959 Oldsmobile hearse, listed on EBay with bids starting at $8.99.
Queen of the Dead – dateline April 23, 2012
• The last of the old-time tummlers is gone. Lou Goldstein, famed at the borscht-belt hotel Grossinger’s from 1948 till it closed in 1986, died on April 2, aged 90. “Tummler” is, essentially, Yiddish for “obnoxious loud-mouth.” Not literally, of course: but they were hired by hotels to run around like six Lucille Balls on crack, making jokes, singing, clowning, anything to get lazy vacationers up and enjoying themselves, whether they goddam wanted to or not. Jerry Lewis, Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye, Sid Caesar and Red Buttons all started their careers as tummlers, so—well, there you are. Blogger Adam Dickter in The New York Jewish Week recalls Goldstein’s “winning personality as a natural people person, exactly the type the managers at Grossinger’s and other hotels needed: a front man to work the crowd, remember their names, kibitz with them and compliment their kids on how fine they’ve grown up.”
• The media gave so much coverage to the more-famous deaths last week (Dick Clark, The Band’s Levon Helm, Men at Work’s Greg Ham) that I wanted to highlight Carol Adams, who died on April 9, at 94. Adams, a 1930s-40s starlet and dancer, began her career billed as Bonnie Brighteyes, as a child actress in several Our Gang and Mickey McGuire shorts (the latter of which launched an already odious Mickey Rooney on an unsuspecting world); she also toured with the Gumm Sisters, the youngest of whom became Judy Garland. Changing her name, wisely, to Carol Adams, she was a chorine in such films as In Old Chicago, New Faces of 1937, The Big Broadcast of 1938 and Sally, Irene and Mary. She also “sound-doubled” the taps in some of Shirley Temple’s films. She worked her way up to larger roles in such westerns and B-films as Dancing on a Dime, Ridin’ on a Rainbow, Ice-Capades, Sis Hopkins, The Gay Vagabond and Bad Man of Deadwood. But by the early 1940s Adams was back to playing bits in the serial Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc. and Blondie Goes to College. She appeared in several Soundies—early music videos—and appeared onstage with The Ritz Brothers and in George White’s Scandals. Adams married head of the Art Department at Paramount Studios and retired from show business in the mid-1940s.
• New York cops are digging once again for the city’s second-most famous missing person (Judge Crater still holds the place of honor as Number One, and Dorothy Arnold probably is in the Number-Three spot). Six-year-old Etan Patz vanished on his first-ever walk alone to his bus stop in 1979. After a tip about a local handyman, cops are digging up the basement of a building in now-chic SoHo, which was a blue-collar/artsy neighborhood in the ’70s, leading to much local nostalgia (for 1970s SoHo, not for missing children). This search will probably come up as empty as all the others have, sadly, but the one bright spot in the story is the suspect’s cousin, interviewed in the Times and blessed with the wonderfully Tom Robbins-esque name “Merdine Splatt.”
• I loved Dark Shadows as a tot—even at the age of ten, I knew no-budget camp when I saw it. Star Jonathan Frid, 87, who shot to middle-aged stardom as unintentionally camp vampire Barnabas Collins, died on April 14 in Ontario. He was 87. After serving in the Royal Canadian Navy during World War II, Frid worked as a classically trained actor for decades. But it was in Dark Shadows that Frid became an unlikely star and pop icon: as the tormented Collins, he haunted both the modern and ancient Collinwood mansion in Maine, acting his way manfully through missed cues, on-set insects, crashing scenery and fangs falling off. Frid had a love/hate relationship with his role—much like William Shatner’s with Captain Kirk—though he good-naturedly attended Dark Shadows conventions and filmed a cameo in Tim Burton’s upcoming movie version of the show. “I have this cozy house here and I get three pensions from the States,” he said late in life, still doing theater work. “I’ve done nicely.” I also found out that “Jonathan” is a goddam impossible name to type quickly and correctly.