Where Aren't They Now? 13 Overlooked Deaths of 2012
Every year, Cracked takes a few minutes to look back and reflect on the lives of the recently deceased whose deaths didn't necessarily make headlines, despite the fact that they each changed your life in some small way. So let's take a moment to remember ...
February 12 -- Cracked Royalty
John Severin, one of the fathers of the original Cracked magazine, way back in the day.
From being 90.
You're reading it. John Severin was one of the original creators of MAD Magazine, then helped launch Cracked, the granddaddy of the website you're reading right now. He continued as the lead artist there for 45 freaking years.
Born in 1921, Severin started selling comics at the age of 10 to The Hobo News -- a publication for, by, and about hobos. Hobos had their shit together back then. Severin went on to draw and ink for Marvel and EC Comics, and he gained a reputation as a stickler for historical detail. By the time Cracked the magazine was up and rolling, Severin was their go-to guy for covers and parodies, and he also invented their Alfred E. Neumanesque mascot, Sylvester P. Smythe. Among his last projects was reimagining the Rawhide Kid as a gay gunslinger -- that's what the guy was drawing in his 80s.
Related: Happy Birthday, Badass - August 12
February 19 -- Pinball (Creating) Wizard
Steve Kordek, inventor of pinball machines as you know them.
Natural causes: The dude was 100. (High score! MULTI-BALLLLLLLL!)
One of the great innovations in gaming history would have never happened if it hadn't been for a fateful rainstorm in Chicago. Twenty-six-year-old Steve Kordek was walking around without an umbrella during a downpour and decided, "Fuck this" (paraphrased). He slipped into Genco, a pinball machine manufacturing company, to escape the wet. Because it was 1937, the assumption was that everyone was unemployed, so the receptionist asked Kordek if he was looking for a job. He wasn't, but hey! Why not!
Back in those days, pinball players were forced to literally shake the entire game table to manipulate the ball into the cup or the hole, kind of like when you're God and you play that game where you pick which humans fall into earthquake cracks. Steve Kordek is the guy who said "What?!" and introduced two simple flippers positioned at the end that would let a person, you know, play pinball.
February 29 -- The Creator of Batman's (Non-Joker) Villains
Sheldon Moldoff, comic book artist, co-creator of Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze, Clayface, and Bat-Mite.
We're just going to skip over Signalman.
Natural causes (dude was 91).
You know the old story: A talent scout spots a young girl in a mall, and suddenly she's America's favorite covergirl supermodel. Moldoff's the comic book artist equivalent of that. We don't mean that his cold, dead eyes stare at you from a billboard selling face cream to spotty teenage girls. We mean that he was discovered as a teenager, while doodling with chalk on the sidewalk outside his apartment.
From there, he went on to become one of the most prolific artists of the Golden Age. Yep, if we keep typing away at Starbucks, eventually a publisher will look over our shoulder and give us a job. It's happened before, damn it!
March 3 -- The Real Genius Behind Star Wars
Parkinson's disease, age 82.
There is a 99.9999 percent chance that Star Wars would not exist if it wasn't for Ralph McQuarrie, which puts him right up there with George Lucas, Frank Herbert, and Joseph Campbell in that respect. Here's why: Back in the 1970s, McQuarrie was just a guy doing some technical art for Boeing, and George Lucas was just a guy who couldn't get his space opera financed, no matter how hard he tried. That is, until he commissioned McQuarrie to sketch some of the concepts he was trying to get across. McQuarrie said "Sure!" and went to work inventing the look of:
Darth Vader's breathing apparatus, helmet, and cape
Just ... all of it
Except for the prequels. Good man.
With McQuarrie's detailed, beautiful drawings in hand, Lucas had the big picture he needed to sell his story. And those designs became some of the most recognizable artistic creations in the history of human civilization.
March 8 -- Austin's Weirdest
Albert "Leslie" Cochran, cross-dressing street hero and Austin mayoral candidate.
Albert, or "Leslie," as he preferred to be known, was a fixture of Austin streets, and was considered the poster boy of the "Keep Austin Weird" movement. Cochran was frequently seen in women's clothing, most often a leopard thong and heels.
He also ran for mayor three times. And came in second place in 2000, earning 7.75 percent of Austin's vote. So when Austin picked the flamboyant homeless person as the champion of the "Keep Austin Weird" movement, they weren't just whistling Dixie. Over 7 percent of them wanted to make him their king. And what a fancy king he would have been. Godspeed, Mr. Cochran.
March 9 -- The First Ronald McDonald (Maybe)
Terry Teene, supposed inventor of Ronald McDonald.
Teene led an unusual life. Things got off to a strange start even before he was born -- his father's name was Kermit. Teene soon became a rockabilly star, most famous for the vaguely terrifying songs "Curse of the Hearse" and "Just Wait Til I Get You Alone." So, what next for a strange young man so obviously obsessed with death and stalking? Why, he became a clown, of course, performing under the name "Clownzo." In the course of that gig, he may have created the second most recognizable character on planet earth behind Santa Claus. See, in the early days, Ronald McDonald looked like this:
GAH! But "Clownzo, son of Kermit" says he worked with another man named George Voorhees to create the world-famous Ronald McDonald character design as you and every other human knows it today, claiming that they threw it together for an appearance at an LA area McDonald's in 1963, presumably because they didn't want to traumatize children with the monstrosity above. McDonald's doesn't give them credit for the design, but we can say that A) Keene was working as a clown at the time and B) he did his makeup like this:
We'll let you be the judge.
April 5 -- The Father of Loud
Jim Marshall, the inventor of Marshall amps, aka the things you see in the background of every concert and music video:
"When you see it ..."
In his youth, Marshall was a drummer in the English music scene. He also owned a London drum store. Musicians would come in and urge Marshall to stock guitars and amps, including the Who's Pete Townshend, who was "demanding a more powerful machine gun ... [to] blow people away all around the world ... I wanted it to be as big as the atomic bomb had been." Marshall came up with an innocent-looking black box with a speaker inside and controls on the top -- this was the prototype for the "Marshall stacks" that would become a mainstay of rock stages around the world.
Although the more expensive Fender amps had a more precise sound, scores of musicians wanted something bigger and louder. Marshall stacks were used by Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, "and almost every other major rock guitarist in the '60s and '70s."
On Twitter, Motley Crue bass player Nikki Sixx claimed that Marshall was "responsible for some of the greatest audio moments in music's history -- and 50 percent responsible of all our hearing loss."
June 2 -- The Family Feud Kisser
Game show host Richard Dawson.
While your grandparents might remember Dawson for his turn as Corporal Peter Newkirk on Hogan's Heroes, your parents (and you, if you're old enough) probably remember Dawson from Family Feud reruns -- he was the host who lip-assaulted all the lady contestants.
He also played the game show host in The Running Man, if that helps.
In a 2010 interview, Dawson said that the barely consensual kissathon started early on in his Feud career, when he saw a woman shaking as she tried to come up with the name of a green vegetable: "I said, 'I'm gonna do something that my mom would do to me whenever I had a problem of any kind ... And I kissed her on the cheek, and I said, 'That's for luck.' And she said, 'Asparagus.' ... They went on to win."
One of those smooches actually led to a marriage between Dawson and a contestant. Can you imagine delivering a kiss so memorable that Richard "The Man Whore" Dawson picked you for his wife? Can you imagine it without shuddering?
June 12 -- A Real Goodfella
The real-life Henry Hill, the New York City mobster who would later be played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.
Complications from longtime heart problems related to smoking (among other things).
Thanks to Henry Hill and the movie inspired by his biography, Goodfellas, we learned that you should never tell a short Italian man with a bad temper that he's funny, that "Layla" is by far the best Derek and the Dominos song to find a corpse to, and oh hey -- don't get involved in organized crime. It's just not worth it.
For those who never saw the movie, Hill was a mafioso who snitched to the government after his own drug bust in 1980. His testimony led to the convictions of 50 fellow wiseguys, all of whom would put Hill's head on a platter if they could.
So how did Henry Hill stay out of trouble for the next 32 years? He didn't. He was expelled from the witness protection program thanks to his continued drug use and behavior issues stemming from alcoholism. It probably didn't help that anonymity was like kryptonite to a guy like Henry Hill.
June 24 -- The Baddest Badass You Never Knew
Gad Beck, gay Holocaust survivor.
Imagine the worst possible scenario to be in in the history of bad scenarios. Did you pick being a gay Jewish man living in Nazi Germany? Because if not, we'd like to know what the hell it was.
Had Gad Beck been born about 20 years earlier, he would have enjoyed one of the most liberal, gay-friendly eras in Germany's history up to that point. Unfortunately, the Nazis started targeting homosexuals just about the time that Beck figured out that he liked men. Still, love prevailed and Beck found a boyfriend. Who was also Jewish. Who was, sure enough, snatched up by the Nazis.
Here's where things get amazing. Beck borrowed a Hitler Youth uniform from a neighbor, walked up to the temporary holding area where his boyfriend was held, and convinced the officer in charge that the young man was needed for a building project. And the guy believed him! Beck and his boyfriend walked right out the door, free as birds. Except Beck's boyfriend was just a teenager, like him, and leaving his family forever didn't sit well with him, so he went back. He and his family were later sent to Auschwitz.
That was the experience that shaped the rest of Beck's life -- one as the leader of a resistance movement that sheltered and transported Jews all over Europe, as a fighter in Israel's war for independence, and as the eventual director of Berlin's Center for Adult Education. Throughout it all, Beck kept his head in check. After getting invited to ride in New York's pride parade, he said, "Look, if I am a hero, I am a little one. Everyone has to fight sometime in their life."
June 24 -- The Rarest Creature in the World
Lonesome George, the very last Pinta Island tortoise.
Heart failure related to old age.
At one point, there were so many gargantutortoises clogging up George's island home that it was actually nicknamed the Isles of the Tortoises. Since then, pirates slaughtered the animals for their meat and hunters decided that tortoise oil was good for lamps. Before you knew it, only George, the 200-pound, 100-year-old tortoise, was left. And it turns out that being the last of your kind is a huge negative in the sex department. George's minders were so desperate for baby Georges that they offered a $10,000 reward for a lady-George, matchmaking him with four similar breeds of tortoise. No dice.
Farewell to the world's most expensive tortoise whore. You'll be missed.
August 23 -- The Count
Jerry Nelson, puppeteer best known for voicing the Count, Floyd Pepper, Gobo Fraggle, and Camilla the Chicken, and the first performer of Mr. Snuffleupagus.
For over 40 years, Jerry Nelson voiced the world's most beloved vampire besides Blacula. Counting is to the Count Von Count as orgasms are to women -- he can't get enough. And as little children, we all loved watching him annoy the shit out of the other Sesame Street denizens when he followed every number with a "Ha. Ha. Ha." Who among us hasn't done the same while eating individual spaghetti noodles or counting ambulances on their way to a tragic emergency?
A lesser publication would use this opportunity to make a hilarious number joke, but God help us, we wouldn't know how to count past six if it wasn't for Nelson. So we're hoping that he's enjoying that big math castle in the sky right now.
September 10 -- TV Bad Guy to End All TV Bad Guys
Lance LeGault, who played more villains than Alan Rickman.
Not specified, but he was 77. Let's say he was trying to ramp a motorcycle over something. Why not?
If you watched TV in the '80s, and one of the TV shows you watched had like a bad guy who was in the military -- congratulations! You know who Lance LeGault is.
LeGault played bad guy Colonel Decker in The A-Team. He played bad guy Colonel "Buck" Greene in Magnum, P.I. He played three DIFFERENT bad guys in Airwolf. He was even bad guy Colonel Glass in Stripes. He worked with John Candy, Tom Selleck, and Mr. T. Does it get any better? It does -- LeGault actually started out as Elvis' stunt double and is famously known for having a voice "four octaves lower than God's."
"Let's skip the bullshit, Captain."
He also appeared in the original Battlestar Galactica, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman, Buck Rogers, T.J. Hooker, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and, of course, MacGyver.
For more deaths we missed in the past, check out Where Aren't They Now?: 15 Overlooked Deaths of 2008 and Where Aren't They Now? 11 Overlooked Deaths of 2011.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 5 Most Unintentionally Creepy Christmas Albums.
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn the best way to regift those socks you got.
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