Famed pro wrestling manager and legitimate mortician, William Moody, AKA Paul Bearer passed away today at the age of 58. Moody was most famous as Paul Bearer in the WWE, where he managed the Undertaker for over a decade to great success. He also managed Kane, Mankind and Vader among others in his time in WWE. Fans of World Class Championship Wrestling will remember him as Percy Pringle, who was a classic old school manager. He toured a lot of other territories as well, before working almost exclusively with the WWE for the remainder of his career.

No word yet on what caused his death, but while I typically avoid wrestling death mentions because of how often they happen, this one is a notable exception. The one and only time I dressed up for a wrestling event, was when I was a much, much younger man and I went as Paul Bearer. I wasn’t anything close to fat, so a pillow was needed to replicate Bearer’s girth, but it was an interesting experience. I could do a pretty good impression back then, shouting “OHHHHHHHHH YES!” and holding up a foam urn. My brother dressed as the Undertaker and the two of us had a lot of fun as well as taking plenty of photos with fans.

It was also one of the first experiences I ever had speaking with a wrestling personality, as we cornered Bearer near ringside and asked him what was in the urn. He replied rather calmly, “coffee”, which apparently as later shoot interviews would reveal, was the truth. Bearer will no doubt get a WWE Hall of Fame induction in the years ahead, but it’s a shame he couldn’t get inducted while he was living. By all accounts he was a pretty awesome guy.

When I was a kid, my Dad got me into watching Columbo. While I’m a casual fan of police procedurals, many of them do very little for me. Columbo was one of the first shows to really turn that genre on it’s ear, with it’s star Peter Falk proving to be anything but your typical detective. With his little car, a half smoked cigar, unkempt clothes and rapidly deteriorating lazy eye, Columbo was able to lull criminals into exposing their plots.

“Just one more thing,” he would ask as he naggingly tried to fill in the details, ever so slowly causing criminals to expose their lies. Columbo was an amazing show because unlike Law & Order, known for it’s twists and attempts to make you think various people were guilty… In Columbo, we know who did the crime. The drama in Columbo is watching Peter Falk as the seemingly bumbling gumshoe, outwit the culprit. It was a testament to Falk’s acting ability that this schtick not only worked, but did so for over 30 years.

Of course Falk did many other roles in his career and achieved some fame in other parts both on stage and screen. He even logged in a role in Princess Bride, ensuring cult status geek cred. However, it’s Columbo that has made him a small screen legend. Falk never begrudged Columbo or subsequent typecasting and embraced the role his entire career.

Sadly today at age 83 Peter Falk has passed away. Falk had wanted to do a final Columbo on NBC and had pushed for it a few years back, but NBC had gotten out of the Columbo business at the early part of the new century. Perhaps it’s better this way, as Columbo shouldn’t be killed or written off in dramatic fashion. Instead we’ll never learn what happened to Columbo, we just imagine he’s still out there on a beat somewhere, doing his thing.

We never learned a lot about Columbo, in fact. Sure we learned lots of amusing stories about his wife, but never her name. She was simply Mrs. Columbo, did she even exist? Then there’s Columbo himself, we never learned his first name. He simply says Lieutenant, when people ask. He once flashed his badge and it looked as though his name was listed as Frank, but it was never confirmed.

Trivial Pursuit once claimed Columbo’s first name was Phillip, based on information they had plagiarized from Fred L. Worth’s “Super Trivia” book. Little did Trivial Pursuit know, that like GI Joe’s inverted thumbnail, Fred Worth had made up that name for Columbo to protect his copyright. It even went to the Supreme Court, sadly, Fred was no Columbo and lost his case, but it makes for an interesting story none the less.

Just yesterday I was browsing the video store and saw a newer release of a film, called American Cowslip, which featured Peter Falk on the cover. I sort of took solace in that, thinking that ol’ Mr. Falk was still out there doing stuff and perhaps a new Columbo was still possible. Alas, as it turns out Falk had been battling early Alzheimer’s and hadn’t made a new movie for several years. Too bad, but Falk has left us with hours upon hours of entertainment and one truly iconic character which will live on in cinema forever… Columbo!

If you’ve never seen Columbo, Netflix has a pretty good selection of the series. Just one more thing… Thank you, Peter Falk.

If I wrote a tribute every time a wrestler died, I’d be writing one every other day it seems. The world of professional wrestling has been cruel to it’s performers and as painful as it has become, as a fan, it’s hard not to become desensitized to it all, in a sense. The passing of the Macho Man Randy Savage is different, though. While one has to wonder if steroids weren’t at least partially to blame for the tragic play out of events that led to Randy’s death, it’s hard to think or even care much about it. Truth is, Savage gave up that lifestyle years ago and seemingly was content to slink off into obscurity to enjoy out the rest of his days as a regular guy.

For a man who was so notoriously brash and flamboyant, the Macho Man had given up the wrestling lifestyle years ago. While on the surface, being age 58, that might seem like a forgone conclusion. The truth is that almost every other wrestler from Savage’s era, is still wrestling in some capacity or another. Macho Man gave it up, though. Perhaps he grew tired of the spotlight, or perhaps it was because he couldn’t perform up to the energetic level he had made famous. Whatever the case, Savage drifted off into the unknown and by all accounts, lived out the rest of his life as a happy family man.

Macho had left WCW before the fall of the company, making only one brief appearance in a battle royal towards the end. He done so completely unannounced, as a surprise, in typical Savage form. Beyond that, his only other wrestling appearances were for TNA in 2004 and those were very brief. I remember being quite excited to see him wrestle again in TNA, but sadly, the Macho Man that showed up was a shell of his former self. TNA and Savage both quickly realized that this was not going to work out and Savage left almost as soon as he had showed up. Going out though, with a shining moment and a final victory to be remembered. It was certainly a more fitting end for his career than some random WCW battle royal.

The Macho Man never got his grand return to WWE. He never got to soak in those cheers, one last time, even in a non-wrestling capacity. For reasons that have been speculated throughout the ages, WWE and Randy Savage did not get along. Only this past year did WWE even really begin to acknowledge Randy’s existence again through DVDs, action figures, video games and merchandising. I’m certain a WWE Hall of Fame nod will come in the next couple of years, but it’ll be an empty sentiment at best. Savage should have been inducted years ago. This year would have been a perfect time, but alas, now it’s too late. Lots of wrestlers are called legends these days but few fit the bill. Savage not only was a true legend, he was an original.

Randy Savage was one of my favorite wrestlers and that’s why he was truly worthy of a memorial post. As a kid, few wrestlers could incite emotion from me like Macho Man Randy Savage. He had always been my brother’s favorite wrestler, but he was also very much one of mine. Still to this day, whenever I get up on a step or a high ledge I dive off delivering flying double axehandles or flying elbow smashes to any poor sod that happens to be nearby (including my GF), because Savage engrained that into my head as the go to top rope moves.

Some of my favorite memories include the time Randy Savage was bitten by Jake Roberts King Cobra, in what remains one of the few wrestling angles that could never be repeated. Savage, always the loose cannon, was willing to get legit bitten by a cobra (devenomized mind you) just to put over the storyline. I remember being in awe of the storyline as a kid and knowing Macho was going to unleash some hell on Jake The Snake when he finally got his hands on him.

The Savage/Flair feud stands out to me as probably the best, as Ric Flair and Randy Savage had a way about them that allowed them to feud seamlessly for years. Sure it started in WWF over Miss Elizabeth, but the rivalry continued on in WCW and saw many new twists and turns. Both men were so adept at cutting promos and Savage, always so passionate in his quest for retribution. It was a classic feud that really embodied the spirit of the art form.

Of course it goes without saying that his battle with Steamboat was legendary, but his feud with Diamond Dallas Page was far superior, in my mind. DDP and Savage were kindred spirits in a lot of ways. They had a great feud, one that saw Macho Man really establish Page as a top tier player. Unlike many others, Randy was never afraid to give someone else the rub.

Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage had perhaps the best of friendships and the most bitter of rivalries. As the Mega Powers, nobody could stop them. As hated enemies, their intense rivalry seemed so very real. That’s largely because it was. Macho Man and the Hulkster didn’t always get along. Savage was at times jealous of Hogan and suspected that perhaps there was more than just storyline in his relationship with Elizabeth. Incredibly as much as the two men hated one another at times, you could tell they were like two angry brothers, always coming back together. It’s good to know Hogan and Savage had rekindled their friendship in recent years and were good again. Putting aside past differences and bad rap albums to just be, friends.

While it’s sad to say goodbye to the Macho Man, we have decades worth of great matches, promos, storylines and pop culture goodness to have him live on forever. And just as I always have, when I hear “Pomp and Circumstance”, I’ll think of the Macho Man. His many movie and TV roles showcased just a tidbit of what potential the man had, outside the ring. His guest spot on Space Ghost Coast to Coast as Grandpa Space Ghost was hilarious because it was Savage playing a crazy spoof version of himself. It still cracks me up. Macho Man took the wrestling business very serious and was known for being methodical in planning on his matches and yet, at the same time he never took himself too serious. Truly a rarity in the world of professional wrestling.

And so as another good one leaves us, so too is left a legacy that will never die… And the next time I’m up high, I’ll still twirl my finger and dive off because the Macho Man may be gone, but the Madness with never be forgotten.

Bit of sad news to round out the day, as word going around on the internet is that Brigadier Alastair Gordon Lethbridge-Stewart actor, Nicholas Courtney, has passed away at the age of 81. While I have not received an “official” word, it seems as though the story is legit. Courtney lived a long and by all accounts, full life. His contributions to Doctor Who are perhaps more vast than any other actor in the franchise’s history.

Courtney actually first appeared not as the Brigadier (or even Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart), but as Space Security Agent Bret Vyon in the William Hartnell first Doctor era. Shortly after he would begin the role that made him famous, encountering the Doctor (now in his second incarnation) as Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart. Eventually the character would be promoted to Brigadier and became a fixture on the program for decades. The Brigadier simply became his “name” to most Who fans.

Nicholas Courtney was also famous for his role as the Narrator in the cult classic, Rocky Horror Picture Show. His health waned in recent years, and he never did appear in the modern Doctor Who series. He did however have a brief cameo in the Sarah Jane Adventures and has been a fixture in the classic Who DVD commentaries and special featurettes as well as Audio Plays for some time. A Brigadier figure has been rumored for potential release this year. With that, we say farewell to an old friend and know that he’ll live forever in space and time as part of the Doctor Who mythos.

I’d be missing an opportunity during Ultraman Week to pay respect, if I didn’t mention the passing of Peter Fernandez, who died this past week at the age of 80. Fernandez along with Corinne Orr, and Earl Hammond among others dubbed the original Ultraman series. Of course most of that same crew were more famous for dubbing Speed Racer, but they also handled the Tsuburaya Productions.

Fernandez didn’t voice Hayata (Ultraman) but he did a whole bunch of the other voices. Dubbing often gets a bad wrap, but these people tried their hardest and helped introduce the characters to millions with their familar American voices. If you’re interested in the work of Peter and his cohorts, be sure to check out the Ultraman Series DVD set which has a great interview with the dubbing cast, including Peter Fernandez.