Sunday, September 20, 2009

Henry Gibson, Patrick Swayze, and Mary Travers

Gibson, who more recently played a recurring role as cantankerous Judge Clark Brown on "Boston Legal," was part of the original ensemble cast of “Laugh In,” which ran ... from 1968 to 1973. ...

In the show's famous cocktail party scenes, when the music would stop and each cast member would deliver a funny line, Gibson was a religious figure holding a teacup and saucer. "My congregation supports all denominations," he said on one show, "but our favorites are twenties and fifties."

But Gibson was best known as the poet, holding a large flower and beginning his brief recitations with his signature catchphrase, "A poem, by Henry Gibson." ...

Gibson also played an Illinois Nazi in "The Blues Brothers," a menacing neighbor in "The 'Burbs" and a priest in "The Wedding Crashers." He also was the voice of Wilbur the Pig in the animated "Charlotte's Web."

A three-time Golden Globe nominee, Swayze became a star with his performance as the misunderstood bad boy Johnny Castle in "Dirty Dancing." ... It became an international phenomenon in the summer of 1987, spawning albums, an Oscar-winning hit song in "(I've Had) the Time of My Life," stage productions and a sequel, 2004's "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights," in which he made a cameo.

Swayze performed and co-wrote a song on the soundtrack, the ballad "She's Like the Wind," inspired by his wife, Lisa Niemi. The film also gave him the chance to utter the now-classic line, "Nobody puts Baby in a corner."

Swayze followed that up with the 1989 action flick "Road House," in which he played a bouncer at a rowdy bar. But it was his performance in 1990's "Ghost" that showed his vulnerable, sensitive side. He starred as a murdered man trying to communicate with his fiancee ( Demi Moore) – with great frustration and longing – through a psychic played by Whoopi Goldberg.

Swayze said at the time that he fought for the role of Sam Wheat (director Jerry Zucker wanted Kevin Kline) but once he went in for an audition and read six scenes, he got it.

Why did he want the part so badly? "It made me cry four or five times," he said of Bruce Joel Rubin's Oscar-winning script in an AP interview.

"Ghost" provided yet another indelible musical moment: Swayze and Moore sensually molding pottery together to the strains of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody." It also earned a best-picture nomination and a supporting-actress Oscar for Goldberg, who said she wouldn't have won if it weren't for Swayze.

"When I won my Academy Award, the only person I really thanked was Patrick," Goldberg said in March 2008 on the ABC daytime talk show "The View."

Swayze himself earned three Golden Globe nominations, for "Dirty Dancing," "Ghost" and 1995's "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar," which further allowed him to toy with his masculine image. The role called for him to play a drag queen on a cross-country road trip alongside Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo.

His heartthrob status almost kept him from being considered for the role of Vida Boheme.

"I couldn't get seen on it because everyone viewed me as terminally heterosexually masculine-macho," he told The Associated Press then. But he transformed himself so completely that when his screen test was sent to Steven Spielberg, whose Amblin pictures produced "To Wong Foo," Spielberg didn't recognize him.

There was also this number, with the late Chris Farley, from SNL:

Though their music sounded serene, Peter, Paul and Mary represented the frustration and upheaval of the 1960s, as a generation of liberal activists used their music not only to protest political policies, but also to spark social change. And even as the issues changed, and the fiery protests abated, the group remained immersed in musical activism. ...

The trio mingled their music with liberal politics, both onstage and off. Their version of "If I Had a Hammer" became an anthem for racial equality. Other hits included "Lemon Tree," "Leaving on a Jet Plane" and "Puff (The Magic Dragon)."

They were early champions of Dylan and performed his "Blowin' in the Wind" at the March on Washington in August 1963.

And they were vehement in their opposition to the Vietnam War, managing to stay true to their liberal beliefs while creating music that resonated in the American mainstream.

The trio's self-titled debut album — named the 19th best album of the '60s by Rolling Stone — was released in 1962 and became an instant hit thanks to "If I Had a Hammer" and another single, "Lemon Tree." Along with folk tunes, Peter, Paul and Mary were among the first to cover songs by up-and-coming writers like Laura Nyro and Gordon Lightfoot and they released one of the first covers from Dylan's Basement Tapes (their version of "Too Much of Nothing" appeared in 1967). Their own songs, like "The Great Mandala (The Wheel of Life)" or Stookey and Yarrow's adaptation of the folk song "The Cruel War," were also infused with social commentary, and they wrote and recorded a campaign theme song for Eugene McCarthy in 1968. For their efforts, they were rewarded with a letter of praise from John Kennedy and a stench bomb set off at a show in Oklahoma.

Peter, Paul and Mary disbanded in 1970, after which the trio recorded solo albums. Travers' first, Mary (1971), had a modest pop hit in a cover of John Denver's "Follow Me," and her 1972 album Morning Glory featured "Conscientious Objector (I Shall Die)," based on the writing of Edna St. Vincent Millay. The trio reunited in the late '70s and picked up where they left off, recording, touring and singing at political rallies for the homeless and against apartheid.

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