Friday, January 28, 2011

Charlie Callas (1924-2011) & Bruce Gordon (1916-2011)

Long before Michael Winslow of "Police Academy" fame was making people laugh with bizarre sound effects, Charlie Callas was doing the same as part of his nightclub act. It has just come to my attention that Callas has passed away at the age of 86 (some accounts give his age as 83).

Most of you will remember Callas' comedy act from numerous appearances on talk shows with Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and others. In fact, according to one account I read, when he appeared on The Merv Griffin Show, Callas so impressed Jerry Lewis with one of his routines that Lewis cast him in his 1967 movie, "The Big Mouth". Callas made one dramatic turn, playing restaurant owner Malcolm Argos opposite Robert Wagner & Eddie Albert on Switch in the mid-70's. Comics fans will recall----or likely prefer to forget----that Callas was cast as Green Lantern's enemy, Sinestro, in the 1979 miniseries, Legends of the Superheroes. Callas appeared to be miscast, in this writer's opinion.

Callas, meanwhile, was also a regular on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, called upon to play fictional acquaintances of the guest of honor du jour, like, for example, Frank Sinatra. For that episode, Callas was dressed as a mobster, in reference to the running joke that Sinatra had some connections with the mob that were never proven, insofar as I know.

Speaking of mobsters, that brings us to Bruce Gordon, whose lasting impression on television audiences was as gangster Frank Nitti on the original series version of The Untouchables. Gordon passed away on January 20 at 94.

Gordon would later parlay his Untouchables gig into one more starring role, this time in the 1966 CBS sitcom, Run, Buddy, Run. The last thing I remember Gordon doing, though, was an ad for Canada Dry ginger ale during its "Not too sweet" ad campaign in the mid-70's. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the ad on YouTube, but as memory serves, Gordon was, predictably, attired as a mobster for the spot, again playing off his signature role as Nitti.

Rest in peace, gentlemen.

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