Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wanted: Dead or Alive When It Comes to Minor TV Celebs, It's Hard to Know Who's with Us and Who's Not

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wanted: Dead or Alive When It Comes to Minor TV Celebs, It's Hard to Know Who's with Us and Who's Not

Article excerpt

It can bring party conversation to a screeching halt. One minute, you're having an animated chat about the celebrities who occupied the nine Hollywood Squares and the next, someone asks, "George Gobel? Isn't he dead?" Silence.

Everyone starts thinking. There's general agreement that perennial center square Paul Lynde is no longer with us. Wayland Flowers kicked the can, someone puts in, but marionette Madam probably is still cracking wise in a museum somewhere. What about Norman Fell?

Well, Mr. Roper is alive. Ditto Rose Marie. Nipsey Russell is still reeling off rhyming couplets on late-night talk shows. Ruth Buzzi? Respirating normally and living, of all places, on "Sesame Street." But no one's sure about poor George Gobel, the deadpan, flat-topped everyman who sat in the bottom right corner for season. Since Hollywood Squares went off the air, it's become progressively harder to keep track of the herds of minor celebrities and character actors that once roamed the small-screen savannah. "The Love Boat" sails no more. "Murder, She Wrote" finally bit the dust. There are no more hour-long variety shows or Dean Martin (RIP, 1995) Celebrity Roasts. Even the star-studded game show, for so long the final refuge of has-beens and seldom-were's before the dinner theater circuit, has left the airwaves. Those with at least a modicum of talent or, at least, a fair amount of dough saved from their salad days of supporting roles, move on to second-class stardom in Vegas or open theaters in Branson. The ones with no talent and really good agents go into politics (how else do you explain Rep. Sonny Bono or the eight-year movie matinee "The Reagan Revolution"?). But for the most part, we're left wondering about our favorite kitschy celebrities. Not just "where are they now," but more basically, "are they?" We have a perverse fascination with knowing whether Conrad Bain is still breathing, even if his career isn't. (He is. …

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