Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Biting the Dust

You heard this guy died last week, right? It was all over the news:


In 2002, he was one of the snipers who randomly shot at people in the DC area while they walked across parking lots or filled their gas tanks. The region was paralyzed for several weeks while the police seemed completely incompetent, unable to catch the guys. For several days, they were stopping each and every white truck in the area, bottling up freeway traffic for hours, all due to a lead which was completely bogus. It was a tip from a bystander which finally brought Muhammad and his accomplice, Lee Malvo, to the attention of the keystone cops.

Muhammad was executed the day before Veteran's Day, which may have been ironic, as some reports indicated he suffered from post traumatic stress after his tour of duty during the first Gulf War. Who knew this monster had a family? He had several children by two ex-wives, one of whom was summoned to jail by our hero with this missive, "I don't want to be missed the day that these devils murder my innocent black ass." Yes, Muhammad never acknowledged his guilt, despite the evidence against him and the testimony of his cohort Malvo, who is currently serving life without parole.

I remember those frantic days in 2002. It was only a year after the 9/11 attacks, and these random killings were a pretty graphic reminder of that terrible day. While the snipers were enjoying their rampage, suburban DC was pretty terrorized. You would see people ducking toward the ground as they scurried across the parking lot from the Walmart to their car.

The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on Muhammad's behalf, and VA governor Tim Caine refused to offer a stay of execution, so he was lethally injected last Tuesday.

This guy died recently, too:


In the states, he was known primarily for his role as The Equalizer, a crime drama which ran from 1985-89. In it, he played a former intelligence agent who offered his services to those who could not get help from the police. He was a bigger star in England, performing in several hit TV series and maintaining a stage career as well. He trained at RADA, and made his American stage debut in Rattle of a Simple Man, which had transferred from London, in 1964. The role led Noel Coward to cast him as the male lead in the musical adaptation of his play, Blythe Spirit. High Spirits, which co-starred Tammy Grimes and Bea Lillie, had a healthy run on Broadway and established Woodward as a leading man for both musicals and straight plays. On film he appeared in The Wicker Man and Breaker Morant:

The long hours required to film The Equalizer damaged his health, and he developed heart and weight problems which affected him the rest of his life. He died Monday from pneumonia, at the age of 79.

If you live in LA or NY, you already know this guy died last week; those of us in the hinterlands did not get the word right away:


He was one of the most prolific sitcom writers in the business, furnishing dozens of scripts for series during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. He was a schoolteacher, if you can believe it, before entering television by writing monologue material for Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and Dick Cavett, with whom he went to Yale. In the early 70s, he was enticed to Hollywood, where he wrote an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show on spec, and sold it immediately. He was added to their writing team, and his career took off. His 1975 episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust" won him an Emmy, and is commonly named as one of the top episodes of any TV series in history.

He worked on all the offspring of the Moore show (Rhoda, Phyllis, Lou Grant) as well as on The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Wings, Frasier and more. He was often hired as a script consultant (in the theatre, we would call him a script doctor), and was well-respected for his ability to flesh out comic situations and furnish jokes with equal ease.

Lloyd deserves recognition for the only series he himself created, a sitcom called Brothers. The show concerned three brothers in working-class Philadelphia, one of whom bolts from the altar and announces he's gay. The networks shunned the premise, and the program ended up on Showtime for a healthy run. Years before Will and Grace, Brothers provided the first leading gay character on a sitcom who was not tortured by his sexuality.

David Lloyd is survived by several children including two sons who followed him into the business. Christopher Lloyd was a producer/writer for Frasier and currently helms Modern Family, while Stephen Lloyd produces How I Met Your Mother.

David Lloyd died last week at the age of 75, after a long battle with prostate cancer.