Thursday, May 19, 2005

It's A Sad Bat-Day

'The Riddler' Frank Gorshin Dies at 72

BURBANK, Calif. - Frank Gorshin, the impressionist with 100 faces best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the Riddler on the "Batman" TV series, has died. He was 72.

Gorshin's wife of 48 years, Christina, was at his side when he died Tuesday at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, his agent and longtime friend, Fred Wostbrock, said Wednesday.

"He put up a valiant fight with lung cancer, emphysema and pneumonia," Mrs. Gorshin said in a statement.

Despite dozens of TV and movie credits, Gorshin will be forever remembered for his role as the Riddler, Adam West's villainous foil in the question mark-pocked green suit and bowler hat on "Batman" from 1966 to '69.

"It really was a catalyst for me," Gorshin recalled in a 2002 Associated Press interview. "I was nobody. I had done some guest shots here and there. But after I did that, I became a headliner in Vegas, so I can't put it down."

West said the death of his longtime friend was a big loss.

"Frank will be missed," West said in a statement. "He was a friend and fascinating character."

Gorshin earned another Emmy nomination for one for a guest shot on "Star Trek," a 1969 episode called "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield."

In 2002, Gorshin portrayed George Burns on Broadway in the one-man show "Say Goodnight Gracie." He used only a little makeup and no prosthetics.

"I don't know how to explain it. It just comes," he said. "I wish I could say, `This is step A, B and C.' But I can't do that. I do it, you know. The ironic thing is I've done impressions all my life — I never did George Burns."

Gorshin's final performance will be broadcast on Thursday's CBS series "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."

Born in Pittsburgh, Gorshin broke into show business in New York. He did more than 40 impressions, including Al Jolson, Kirk Douglas, Bobby Darin, Dean Martin and James Cagney.

Later, he took his impressions to "The Ed Sullivan Show" on a memorable evening — the same night the Beatles were featured. He did impressions in Las Vegas showrooms, opening for Darin and paving the way for other impressionists like Rich Little.

Sammy Davis Jr. said it was Gorshin who taught him to do impressions, Wostbrock said.

"He said you had to look like them and walk like them. Once you get that down, the voice comes easy," he said.

Gorshin's movie roles included "Bells are Ringing" (1960) with his idol Dean Martin and a batch of fun B-movies such as "Hot Rod Girl" (1956), "Dragstrip Girl" (1957) and "Invasion of the Saucer Men" (1957).

"He was fun, fascinating, wild and always a class act," Wostbrock said. "Here's a guy who always wore great clothes, stood up when a woman walked into the room — he was a gentleman. We did all our deals with a handshake. There was never a signed contract."

His other TV credits included roles on "General Hospital, "The Edge of Night" and "The Munsters" as well as guest appearances on "Donny & Marie," "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson," "Late Night with Conan O'Brien," "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman," "Murder, She Wrote," "The Fall Guy," "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," "Wonder Woman," "Charlie's Angels" and "Police Woman."

Besides his wife, Gorshin leaves his son Mitchell Gorshin of Orlando, Fla., and sister Dottie Roland of Pittsburgh.

Wostbrock said the funeral would be private and Gorshin would be buried in the family plot in Pittsburgh.


I don't know how many of you used to watch the old, campy Batman show on TV, but I was a certified Batman freak when I was a young boy (and I refuse to discuss the time when, as a teenager, I was watching a soft core porn flick and saw Adam West (the ORIGINAL Batman) screwing some ugly chick. I refuse to discuss it because it didn't happen dammit). Now that I'm in my mid-30's, it seems that all the villains are dying off, proof positive that, as Batman always said, crime doesn't pay. Here's a list of all of the villains throughout the years and whether they're alive or dead. There's only a few left. RIP Riddler.

The Archer - Art Carney (dead)
The Black Widow - Tallulah Bankhead (dead)
The Bookworm - Roddy McDowall (dead)
If you were either Catwoman, it looks like you picked a great role.
Catwoman I - Julie Newmar (alive)
Catwoman II - Eartha Kitt (alive)
Chandell - Liberace (dead)
The Clock King - Walter Slezak (dead)
Colonel Gumm - Roger Carmel (dead)
Dr. Cassandra - Ida Lupino (dead)
Egghead - Vincent Price (dead)
False Face - Malachi Throne (alive)
The Joker - Caesar Romero (dead)
King Tut - Victor Buono (dead)
Louie the Lilac - Milton Berle (dead)
Lord Fogg - Rudy Vallee (dead)
Ma Parker - Shelly Winters (alive)
Marsha Queen of Diamonds - Carolyn Jones (dead)
Mad Hatter - David Wayne (dead)
The Minstrel - Van Johnson (dead)
Minerva - Zsa Zsa Gabor (alive)
Mr. Freeze I - George Sanders (dead)
Mr. Freeze II - Otto Preminger (dead)
Mr. Freeze III - Eli Wallach (alive)
Nora Clavicle - Barbara Rush (alive)
Olga Queen of the Cossacks - Anne Baxter (dead)
The Penguin - Burgess Meredith (dead)
The Puzzler - Maurice Evans (dead)
The Riddler I - Frank Gorshin (dead)
The Riddler II - John Astin (alive)
The Sandman - Michael Rennie (dead)
Shame - Cliff Robertson (alive)
The Siren - Joan Collins (alive)
Zelda the Great - Anne Baxter (dead)
The Webmaster - David Sutton (dead)

There you have it, 34 villains with 24 of them gone to the Bat Cave in the sky. That's a 71% mortality rate, if you were a villain. It sucks to get old, but I've come to realize it's better than the alternative.

Sorry for the gargantuan post, but I thought The Riddler deserved it.

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