Years ago, stipple-happy Spy magazine brother-cartoonists Drew and Josh Alan Friedman prophesized a mid-21st-century Baltimore in which everyone, mysteriously, looks exactly like Ernest Borgnine. A whole Charm City of Ernests, beetle-browed and gap-toothed and more than vaguely simian, complaining — aww, Christ — about their corns.
This was sort of perfect, as no famous person has ever more closely resembled his or her Friedman caricature than Borgnine, who died of renal failure over the weekend at age 95. And yet in real life, it seems unlikely we'll see another Borgnine onscreen, or anything close.
After losing acting titan Ben Gazzara, 81, to pancreatic cancer the morning of February 3, the entertainment world took another hit when legendary softcore director Zalman King passed away Friday after his own battle with cancer at age 70. Gazzara and King are known primarily for their film work, but both also logged tons of hours in TV dramas and procedurals like The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Justice, and Arrest and Trial. While Gazzara was typically cast as a doctor, lawyer, or ex-soldier, King's much more minor acting career was marked by a lot of portrayals of dirtbags, junkies, and slimeballs. But the time logged playing skeevy dudes served King well when he transitioned into his real legacy: directing a series of erotic thrillers that might never make it into the Criterion Collection, but were no less well-loved as worn VHS tapes and in vividly recollected bits from twilight premium cable viewings.
Patrice O’Neal, the stand-up comedian and actor, has died at the age of 41, after suffering a stroke in October. O’Neal got his start in the Boston comedy circuit, then won national recognition via regular appearances on Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn in the early 2000s. He later landed roles in 25th Hour, The Office, Arrested Development, and Chappelle’s Show, on which he played one of the famed playa haters. He was also a regular guest on The Opie & Anthony Show, and it was Opie who confirmed O’Neal’s death by tweeting: “Yes it's true that our pal Patrice O'Neal has passed away. The funniest and best thinker I've ever known PERIOD.” In February, Comedy Central aired O’Neal’s comedy special Elephant in the Room. His last TV appearance came in September, on the Charlie Sheen roast. Above, a vintage clip of O’Neal covering Fashion Week for Tough Crowd. Representative bit of straight-shooting hilarity: “I think I see this bitch’s heart beating through her chest.”