At this time last year, in our Jan. 06, 2006, newsletter, I focused on two deceased actors who I had recently seen expressions of fan support for that honestly surprised me. My interest in this article was rekindled when I saw one of these two actors yesterday, actually when I was watching some episodes from the second season of Bewitched, which I have on DVD. These two actors, both famous for playing particularly quirky supporting characters, are just the type of character actors who would be much less expected to garner quite as ardent a fan following, but, in both cases, I was struck about just how vocal their fans could be.
Vincent Schiavelli. The first is Vincent Schiavelli, who had just passed away when I first wrote about this issue for the C3 Weekly Update. Schiavelli has a face who no one can ever forget, and you may not recognize the name but would certainly recognize him if you've ever seen one of the many movies he appeared in. Schiavelli played small roles in films from Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Man on the Moon to Ghost and Death to Smoochy. With his droopy eyes, his unique look helped develop a following even though his parts were never the major focus of any film. From the pill-hungry patient in One Flew to the territorial ghost in Ghost to the Friday's producer in Man on the Moon, the actor was remembered at the time for his small contributions to some of the richest work of the last few decades.
Schiavelli was remembered on a Legacy.com Web site, and I was interested in looking at the online guestbook for him that garnered hundreds of post in the first week or so after his death. These memorial comments were written by a variety of fans. While Schiavelli may not have had a strong online fan community built explicitly around him prior to his death, this became a makeshift fan expression--organized to remember an actor whose work had not generated a continued organized fan following but who momentarily organized a series of expressions to acknowledge and thank the actor for his decades of work in helping build some of the most memorable films of his era.
At the time I wrote and I believe even more ardently now that, while the main point of the Legacy Web site is for friends and family who cannot come in person to be able to extend their sympathies from afar, for the death of actors and celebrities, these online funeral guest books provide the tools necessary to form a momentary fan community built around an actor's death who may not have generated a consistently maintained organized fan following but who nevertheless had made an impact with people who considered themselves fans of the actor's work. The initial response to Schiavelli's death was one of those cases.
I don't how much longer Schiavelli's guest book will be live, but it is available here.
Paul Lynde. Lynde, on the other hand, was never a star television actor but nevertheless has maintained a continued fan follow more than 20 years after his death. Most known for playing the recurring role of Uncle Arthur on Bewitched, Lynde was known not for playing any regular consistent television character but rather his occasional appearance in one-time roles (or recurring in the case of Uncle Arthur) in a variety of television situation comedies in that era.
Lynde's comedic delivery made him memorable, despite the fact that he was never the main star or even a regular cast member of these shows. While I have always enjoyed Lynde's work and remember my mom explicitly pointing him out to me when I was watching old sitcoms as a child as one of her favorite television comedy actors for that time period. After the film version of Bewitched featured Steve Correll playing an amazingly good impression of Lynde's Uncle Arthur, I was interested in finding more information on Lynde's career, only to find a few online sites dedicated to him. Whether these sites are created by nostalgic fans remembering growing up watching Lynde's work or perhaps even a new generation of fans interested in the shows Lynde would occasionally appear in, like I am, I was surprised to find sites that explicitly celebrated Lynde's work decades after his death, considering that his was never a major role. That dedication shows the strength that these fan communities can sometimes carry, bringing names and stars from the past to a new audience who may continue the fan following on for another generation.