Tuesday, August 12, 2014

What happened to Dr Doolots/ Luis Avalos?

Luis Ávalos, a Cuban-born actor known for his long tenure on “The Electric Company,” the popular PBS children’s program of the 1970s, died on Wednesday in Burbank, Calif at Providence St Joseph Medical Centre on 22 Jan 2014. He was 67.

The cause was complications of a recent heart attack, his friend Gabriel Reyes said.

Mr. Ávalos joined “The Electric Company” in its second season, 1972, a time when there were few Hispanic faces on television. He remained with the show until it went off the air in 1977, appearing in more than 600 episodes.

“The Electric Company,” which taught English grammar and literacy to post-“Sesame Street” viewers, also starred Morgan Freeman, Rita Moreno and Judy Graubart.

A dapper, diminutive man, Mr. Ávalos played several recurring characters. He was known in particular for Dr. Doolots (sometimes spelled Dolots), a white-coated amalgam of the fictional Dr. Dolittle with all three Marx Brothers — boasting the voice of Groucho, the dash of Chico and the hair of Harpo.

Dr. Doolots, quite literally a prescriptive grammarian, ministers to his patients’ sundry linguistic ills with bumbling manic energy.

Mr. Ávalos’s other regular television roles include Dr. Thomas Esquivel on the CBS sitcom “E/R” in the 1980s and Principal Rivas on “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper” in the ’90s.

His film credits included “Hot Stuff” (1979), “Stir Crazy” (1980), “Hollywood Homicide” (2003) and “$5 a Day” (2008).

Mr. Ávalos was born in Havana on Sept. 2, 1946, and moved to the United States with his family when he was very young. Originally trained as a stage actor, he earned a bachelor of fine arts in theater from New York University and afterward joined the Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center.

His Broadway credits include a 1970 revival of Brecht’s “The Good Woman of Setzuan”; he also appeared Off Broadway and in regional theater.

He had guest roles on many TV shows, among them “The Jeffersons,” “Barney Miller,” “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue.”Avalos also went on to appear in 21 episodes of the CBS hospital-based sitcom “E/R” as Dr. Thomas Esquivel and as Principal Rivas on ABC’s “Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper.” Some of his other TV credits include “Jack & Bobby,” “Full House,” “Resurrection Blvd.” and “NYPD Blue.”
The Havana native was also featured in several films, including “Jungle 2 Jungle” with Tim Allen and “The Ringer” with Johnny Knoxville. His final film project, “$5 a Day,” was released in 2008.
A resident of Los Angeles, he was the founder and artistic director of the Americas Theater Arts Foundation there, which supports productions of plays with Latin American themes.

Mr. Ávalos’s only immediate survivor is his companion, Angel Febo.

In 1983, Mr. Ávalos starred in “Condo,” a short-lived ABC sitcom about an upscale white family and its Hispanic neighbors. The series, which also starred McLean Stevenson, was faulted by some critics for trafficking in ethnically based insult comedy.

“I think that the greatest enemy to the understanding among people of different backgrounds is not the expression of ideas or the occasional trading of insults,” Mr. Ávalos told The Associated Press in response. “The greatest enemy is invisibility.”

Avalos also often said in interviews that he turned down many roles because they negatively portrayed Latinos. "But I hate to turn down work," he said in a 1987 San Diego Union-Tribue Story,"because the same producer may have a good role next time, and won't offer it to you...Hispanis are an important part of the fabric of this nation, but they have a long way to go. Kids need to see images that are positive, not just to be shown as a a busboy."


What happened to "Hey You Guys!"/ Rita Moreno

U.S. actress Rita Moreno has had a thriving acting career for the better part of six decades. Moreno, one of the very few (and very first) performers to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony, and a Grammy, was born Rosita Dolores Alverío in Humacao, Puerto Rico on December 11, 1931. 

In the Electric Company, Rita was Carmela the singer, Otto The DirectorPandora the Little Girl, Millie the Helper and so many other roles.

She moved to New York City in 1937 along with her mother and  got her first movie experience at aged 11,dubbing Spanish-language versions of U.S. films. Less than a month before her fourteenth birthday in1945, she made her Broadway debut in the play "Skydrift" at the Belasco Theatre, costarring with Arthur Keegan and Eli Wallach. Although she would not appear again on Broadway for almost two decades, Rita Moreno, as she was billed in the play, had arrived professionally.

The cover of the March first, 1954 edition of "Life Magazine" featured a three-quarters, over-the-left-shoulder profile of the young Puerto Rican actress/entertainer with the provocative title "Rita Moreno: An Actresses' Catalog of Sex and Innocence." It was sex-pot time, a stereotype that would plague her throughout the decade. If not cast as a Hispanic pepper pot, she could rely on being cast as another "exotic", such as her appearance on Father Knows Best (1954) as an exchange student from India. Because of a dearth of decent material, Moreno as an actress had to play roles in movies that she considered degrading. Among the better pictures she appeared in were the classic Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The King and I (1956).

Filmmaker Robert Wise, who was chosen to co-direct the movie version of the smash hit Broadway musical West Side Story (1961) (a retelling of Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" with the warring Venetian clans the Montagues and Capulets reenvisioned as Irish/Polish and Puerto Rican adolescent street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks), cast Moreno as "Anita", the Puerto Rican girlfriend of Sharks' leader Bernardo, whose sister Maria is the piece's Juliet.

However, roles commensurate with that talent were not forthcoming in the 1960s. The following decade would prove kinder, possibly as the beautiful Moreno had aged and could now be seen by film-makers, T.V. producers and casting directors as something other than the spit-fire/sex-pot that Hispanic women were supposed to conform to. Ironically, it was in two vastly diverging roles -- that of a $100 hooker in director Mike Nichols brilliant realization of Jules Feiffer's acerbic look at male sexuality, Carnal Knowledge (1971) (1971) and that of Milly the Helper in the children's T.V. show The Electric Company (1971) (1971) -- that signaled a career renaissance.

During the seventies, Moreno won a 1972 Grammy Award for her contribution to "The Electric Company" soundtrack album, following it up three years later with a Tony Award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for The Ritz (1976), a role she would reproduce on the Big Screen. She then won Emmy Awards for "The Muppet Show" and "The Rockford Files".

In her personal life, Moreno had an eight year long affair with actor Marlon Brando. On June 18, 1965, Moreno married Leonard Gordon, a cardiologist who was also her manager. He died on June 30, 2010. They have one daughter, Fernanda Luisa Fisher, and two grandsons, Justin and Cameron Fisher. In an interview with Good Day LA, Moreno stated that Elvis Presley was not a good lover. They dated for quite some time, but whenever the opportunity presented itself to take the relationship to another level, Presley backed off.

This sexy still of Moreno and Brando during their film The Night of the Following Day was found hanging above Brando's desk when he died

Moreno continues to work steadily on screen (both large and small) and on-stage, solidifying her reputation as a national treasure, a status that was officially ratified with the award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in June 2004.

Rita Moreno face.jpg

Other accolades include: 

What happened to Love of Chair/ Skip Hinnant?

Joseph Howard 'Skip' Hinnant (b. Sept 12, 1940) was an actor and voice artist who was born on Chincoteague Island, Virginia. He was a part of the repertory cast on The Electric Company, playing J.J., the boy in "Love of Chair," Frankenstein's Monster, and most notably, bungling detective Fargo North, Decoder. The latter helped Sesame Street visitor Big Bird find his way home in a 1972 cross-over skit. In the special Out to Lunch, he reprised Fargo and others, and in cross-over segments with the Sesame Muppets, he performed a Puppy-Love Dessert Chow commercial with a Muppet dog (Jerry Nelson) and played an extra in Cookie Monster's "Kookamonga Kid" skit.

Skip's first major role was as Cathy's boyfriend, Ted, on the Patty Duke Show from 1963 - 1965 and in 967, he played Shroeder in the original off-Broadway case of Clark Gesner's You're a Good Man Charlie Brown, where his older brother played Snoopy.

Much earlier, Hinnant had been heard on Sesame Street itself, narrating the live-action insert "There Once Was a Hand." (First: Episode 0007).

Hinnant's Electric Company association extended to albums, including the 1977 record Spidey Super Stories (as Fargo and the villains Moleman, Mr. Measles, and the Jester). Prior to that, he had recurred on The Patty Duke Show as boyfriend Ted (1963-1965) and, in 1967, originated the role of Schroeder in the off-Broadway production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

However, most of his career has been spent as a New York-based voice actor, most infamously as the title feline in the 1972 X-rated feature Fritz the Cat and its sequel, The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974). He was also heard in the Rankin/Bass special The Easter Bunny Is Comin' to Town (as Sunny the Easter Bunny), and the 1980 stop-motion feature I Go Pogo (as Pogo and the narrator). Further voice work includes episodes of My Little Pony 'n Friends, the radio series The General Mills Radio Adventure Theatre (1977), and commercials ranging from a prominent Air Wick spot to spokescharacter Teddy Snow Crop for Snow Crop frozen foods. His few post-Electric Company on-camera appearances include guest roles on 3-2-1 Contact and Kate & Allie, as well as the 2006 PBS special The Electric Company's Greatest Hits & Bits.

Hinnant is the longest-serving president of the New York branch of the Screen Actors Guild.

What happened to Jennifer of the Jungle/ Judy Graubart?

Born in October 1943 in Fort Worth, Texas. Esther Judith "Judy Graubart  grew up in Chicago as a rabbi’s daughter, Graubart honed her acting skills in after-school improvisational classes and programs from age five.

“It was great for me,” she says over coffee at City Bakery. “I was an overweight kid and extremely nearsighted, and being insecure about all of that, so being involved in these little acting groups just pulled me out of that. It allowed me to think I was funny, and…I just loved being a part of dramatic activities.”

She honed her skills further at sleepaway camps following the death of Rabbi Graubart when Judy was eight, but didn’t get serious about performing until her attendance at the University of Chicago.

 “I did some productions in college, which were fine,” she says, “but my real break came because of a boyfriend I had, who was good friends with David Steinberg, and he was with Second City Comedy Group at the time.

Judith planned to be a French teacher since her major was Romance Languages, but she wound up doing in other roles. She loved doing improvisation and she said, "It’s not easy to do well; I think the ability to improvise successfully is there if actors are willing to relax and use it, but it can be hard to do a scene with somebody if they aren’t skilled in it. There were guys I had to work with who would just butcher what we were doing, and then I remember working with someone like Peter Boyle, who was TERRIFIC. I kept think that working with Peter was like talking with someone from your hometown; someone with whom you just speak a common language."

The tour ended in New York, and Graubart transplanted herself here along with other members of the company. Several plays and commercials continued to put bread and butter on Graubart’s table for a time,  Graubart managed to keep the bill collectors from the door and satisfy her artistic self, including the television version of Paul Sills’s “Story Theater,” shot in Canada, and then one day came the opportunity to audition for the new children’s educational program “The Electric Company,” produced by the Children’s Television Workshop.

She landed the job and would stay with the show for its full seven-year run through 1978, creating characters that would delight children all over the country.

“It was such a wonderful feeling to land a show as a regular, a show that was doing some good instead of just being a sitcom or something.” Again she was in illustrious company; Bill Cosby was a regular for the first two seasons, Rita Moreno would be with the show for some time, and other cast members included Todd Graff, Skip Hinnant, Luis Avalos, Hattie Winston, Lee Chamberlin, Melanie Henderson, June Angela, Gregg Burge, Irene Cara, and then-virtually-unknown Morgan Freeman. “It was marvelous that they welded together this group of different ethnic types and different energy levels. I guess I was the low-energy person in the family, except when I was doing a character like Jennifer of the Jungle, swinging on the vine and doing my “Oyoyoyoyoyoyoyoyoy” yell.”

She is married to Bob Dishy. They have two children.
Judy Graubart


What happened to Crank/ Jim Boyd?

Jim Boyd/ James A. Boyd  (1933 - 2013) was an actor best known for his work on The Electric Company, staying for the entire run from 1971 to 1977. Boyd was at first, a puppeteer on the WPIX-TV series The Surprise Show and was hired by CTW to reprise his puppet character Lorelei the Chicken, perform the suit character Paul the Gorilla, and providing off-screen voice-overs, notably as the angry caller J. Arthur Crank.

Beginning in the second season, Boyd brought Crank before the cameras and expanded his repertoire to include the Blue Beetle, The Wolfman, and the puppet Maurice the Plant. Mr Crank was the perpetually angry middle-aged New Yorker who always finds himself yelling at performers or the audience. The character appeared in all 780 episodes of the original Electric Company (1971-1977), a show that was created for older children who were no longer served by Sesame Street.

Crank remained Boyd's signature character and on one occasion, had the privilege of meeting two Sesame Street Muppets. He proved fairly sympathetic when encountering a tearful Grover at Vi's Diner, but later rejoiced in paying tribute to his mentor and role model, Oscar the Grouch.

Boyd also supplied the voice of Spider-Man in the Spidey Super Stories album based on the Electric Company skits.

Boyd died on January 2, 2013, after a brief illness. He was married to his wife, Kathleen, and was a loving father of Jeanne (Bill) Billings, devoted grandfather of Andrew Billings. J