In Memorium

Normally, the saying goes, these deaths come in threes but since I only learned about one a month late, we have four.

Bobby Gear

Bobby, along with her husband Marty, were fixtures in the Baltimore convention scene as well as the International Costumers’ Guild. Many’s a show you would find both dressed up in something suitably elaborate for a Masquerade and quite often they walked off with a prize.

Bobby was a school teacher and we had many a conversation about public education and she was an enthusiastic supporter of the writing I did for Rosen Books.

We didn’t speak often or at great depth, but we always made time for a smile and a hello since we were usually rushing off from place to place. But not once did I see her without a broad grin breaking out. She was full of life and charm.

Sadly, she passed away all too soon, and rather quickly after a series of medical problems surfaced.

When I get to Shore Leave next week, it will feel just a tad emptier and bit less inviting. My heart goes out to Marty and the family.

John Albano

Today, John is best remembered for co-creating DC’s western anti-hero Jonah Hex. He was actually a very creative, funny many who did his best work away from super-heroes and therefore was out of the fan spotlight. A check of his obit at the Comic Buyers’ Guide confirms his credits were largely in the mystery anthologies as well as Binky.

He did a lot of special projects work for DC in the 1980s and that’s the one time I met him. Around mid-summer 1980, Joe Orlando summoned me and Andy Helfer into his office. At the time, Andy was hired as a temp working with then-President Jenette Kahn on Wonder Woman’s 40th anniversary. I was hired to help prepare a Property Catalogue among other tasks while waiting to begin my first post-college job at Starlog Press. We shared a tiny, glass enclosed office which allowed us to see what was happening. We got to hang out with Bob Haney who regaled us with stories while he waited to meet with editors and got to know up and comers like J.M. DeMatteis, just cutting his teeth on series work. Along the way, we both got pulled in to help out on projects now and then. Among them were several for Joe since his Special Projects department was still in its infancy and under-staffed.

One afternoon, Joe summoned me and Andy to his office and we met John. I completely forget the project, but we need to brainstorm something for presentation in a day or two. We take seats on his couch and begin spitballing. John had us in stitches with comic asides while we were trying to perform well and impress Joe. It was well past six when we finally had the thing under control but not complete so Joe suggests we complete this over dinner. This proved to be my first business meal and once we knocked off the work, the two men began recounting story after story, the laughs coming frequently.

John impressed me with his quick mind, sense of humor and respect for the two youngsters who were obviously absorbing everything said and done that day. He was gracious and pleasant and I will miss him, another of a vanishing breed of professional.

John Fiedler

I think I first got to know Fiedler by voice and then look. He was a hard-working actor, frequently appearing on both dramatic and comedic television series. Yes, he was Mr. Hengist on a well-regarded episode of Star Trek, but he was so much more. And he was far more than simply the perfectly cast voice of Piglet, Winnie-the-Pooh’s cohort. I enjoyed his work, whether it was as the long-suffering Mr. Peterson on The Bob Newhart Show or some other network series.

It was later that I saw his feature film work and again he was impressive switching from Twelve Angry Men to The Odd Couple.

Paul Winchell

It’s wistful to watch one childhood icon after another vanish from view. Last year it was Mets announcer Bob Murphy and this week it’s Paul Winchell. My brother Neil really liked the Jerry Mahoney Show when WNEW aired it weekday afternoons. Knucklehead Smith was his favorite character. I enjoyed the show, its humor and antics.

Over the years, though, I gained a greater degree of respect for Winchell for things he did that were less noticed. He was always credited for helping do work on the first artificial heart but the New York Times obit credits him with 30 patents.

He was a businessman who got into a dispute with Metromedia, which then owned WNEW, over the repeat rights to Jerry Mahoney. In a fit of pique, Metromedia erased videotape of countless episodes and as I recall, he sued them for damages and won.

He was also a humanitarian who lobbied Congress in the 1980s, along with other celebrities, to fund the cultivation of Tilapia fish, which could be used to help feed people in the sub-Saharan Desert. Tilapia thrived in the brackish water that was found in the region and it made lots of sense. On the other hand, Congress wasn’t interested in helping.

And yes, he was the voice of Tigger, and there was a sad note that both Tigger and Piglet died over the same weekend.