‘Tis the time of year for In Memoriams and there will be plenty of them. All of the awards shows and news organizations will have them. Heck, I even saw one last night on Turner Classic Movies (after watching the original 1968 version of Night of the Living Dead, of course).
My 95-year-old Danish Grandmother says that people don’t die, they Graduate. I don’t know what that has to do with her being Danish but I’ve always liked it and it’s a common saying in our family.
I know what you’re thinking…7 of 9 is a strange name for an In Memoriam post…but there’s a method to my madness. Out of all the folks who Graduated this year, I wanted to focus on the ones that are relevant to nerd culture. There were 7 that really stood out to me. I also lost several loved ones in the past year, 2 of which were huge nerds…7+2=9…7 of 9…get it? Well, it sounded cool to me 😉
So, here’s a post remembering 7 influential people in the Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror genres who Graduated this past year.
1. Corey Allen – Director, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
One of the latest surviving cast members of Rebel Without A Cause, Corey Allen got his start as an actor in the mid-1950’s. He switched to directing television in the 1960’s, eventually becoming a regular director on Star Trek: The Next Generation (including the first episode “Encounter at Farpoint”) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He Graduated from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
2. Peter Graves – Actor, Mission: Impossible
Best known for portraying Jim Phelps, leader of the IMF on Mission: Impossible, Peter Graves was in so many B science fiction films, like Killers From Space, that he ended up being an accidental regular on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Even though he was less than thrilled about the attention, it became such a running joke that he parodied himself in Men in Black: II. He Graduated from a heart attack after having brunch with his family.
3. Irvin Kershner – Director, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Irvin Kershner was a prolific musician and photographer when he joined the world of Cinema at USC. He was a quirky, independent film director when George Lucas approached him about directing the second installment of his epic trilogy. The exchange went something like this… Kershner: “Of all the younger guys around, all the hot-shots, why me?” Lucas: “Because you know everything a Hollywood director is supposed to know, but you’re not Hollywood.” He went on to direct Robocop 2 and several episodes of seaQuest DSV, but nothing has come close to matching the success he achieved with Empire. After a 3.5 year battle, lung cancer finally claimed him.
4. Grant McCune – Special Effects Designer, Star Wars, Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Trained in biology, Grant McCune was picked by Steven Spielberg to create the giant white shark for Jaws. He went on to win an Academy Award for Star Wars: A New Hope. His second Oscar nomination was for Star Trek: The Motion Picture. He created many aliens and creatures during his career, the most beloved of which has got to be the lovable robot R2D2. More recently he worked on Batman Forever, Red Planet and Spider-Man. He Graduated from pancreatic cancer.
5. Harvey Pekar – Underground Comic Book Writer, American Splendor
Harvey Pekar is most famous for his autobiographical graphic novel American Splendor which was eventually made into a hit feature film. His comics were not filled with Superheroes, but with everyday heroes and he took it upon himself to broaden the horizons of the comic book genre believing that they could do anything motion pictures could do. Often filled with pain and the trials of everyday life, his graphic novels were wax-poetic in their brutal honesty. He was often compared to Chekhov and Dostoevski by literary critics who don’t normally pay attention to the comic book genre. Having been diagnosed with cancer for the third time, he Graduated from an accidental overdose of medications.
6. Ingrid Pitt – Actress, The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, The House That Dripped Blood, The Wicker Man
To my knowledge, Ingrid Pitt (aka Ingoushka Petrov) is the only person on this list who is a holocaust survivor. She married an American soldier and moved to America in the 1950’s. After a small role in Doctor Zhivago, she embarked on a career that would earn her the cult title of the Queen of Horror for her participation in several horror genre films in the 1960’s and 70’s. She Graduated two days after her 73rd birthday after collapsing in London.
7. Zelda Rubinstein – Actress, Poltergeist
At the age of 45 Zelda Rubinstein the medical lab technician decided that it was high time she started her acting career. She went on to portray many psychics, most notably in the Poltergeist series of films. She was also a passionate AIDS and human right activist, to the detriment of her acting career. She succumbed to kidney and lung failure in January.
Then there are the regular Joes. The nerds and geeks we know and love who aren’t famous or involved in the entertainment industry. They don’t get recognized during awards shows or in magazines but their loss is just as devastating and much more personal for us. The nerd world lost 2 wonderful souls this past year who deserve to be recognized for the incredible people they were.
8. Randall Peterson – CS Lewis & classic science fiction enthusiast, Step-dad extraordinaire
My step-dad, Randall, collected many books in his 60 years and we shared a mutual love of Robert Service and CS Lewis. I’m pretty sure he owned every book Lewis ever wrote and every book ever written about Lewis. He was also a huge fan of Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke and other classic science fiction authors. He introduced me to Clarke and gave me my first Clarke novel, Against The Fall of Night. He was very supportive of my nerdiness, and would brave the screaming teenagers to go see the Twilight movies on opening night with me when no one else would. He even pretended that he liked them. Randall was a unique and wonderful human being and I miss him terribly. He Graduated from cancer this past October 3rd.
9. Kevin Workman – Super Trekkie, faithful friend
Every so often a person comes along who is a genuine joy and an inspiration to be around. Kevin was that person to his family, friends and colleagues. A die-hard Trekkie and computer genius, Kevin’s loved ones created an entire facebook page “get well card” after he fell ill inexplicably. A lot of people considered Kevin a good friend and there was a reason for that: he was a good man to the core and thought of others before he ever thought of himself. He Graduated just a few days ago at the much-too-young age of 40.
Do you know a nerd who Graduated in 2010 who deserves to be recognized? Please leave a comment and let us know or post a picture and comment on the Hot Nerd Girl facebook page.
Other notable Graduates that didn’t make the full fledge 7 of 9:
Lisa Blount – Actress, Prince of Darkness, Starman
David Brown – Producer, Jaws
Art Clokey – Creator, Gumby
Robert Culp – Actor, I Spy
Tony Curtis – Actor, Houdini, Lobster Man from Mars, The Mummy Lives, Alien X Factor, Stargames
Dino De Laurentiis – Producer, King Kong
John Forsythe – Actor, Charlie’s Angels
James Gammon – Actor, The Iron Giant
Corey Haim – Actor, The Lost Boys
Dennis Hopper – Actor, Super Mario Brothers, Waterworld, Land of the Dead, The Twilight Zone
Andrew Koenig – Actor, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Batman: Dead End
Kevin McCarthy – Actor, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Leslie Nielsen – Forbidden Planet, 2001: A Space Travesty, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Superhero Movie
Fess Parker – Actor, Davy Crockett
Meinhardt Raabe – Actor, The Wizard of Oz
Glenn Shadix –Actor, Beetlejuice, Nightmare Before Christmas