RIP Peter O’Toole

Today an old friend from whom I hadn’t heard from in years reached out via email to say that upon hearing the news of the passing of Peter O’Toole, he had to chuckle at my verbal parry with the actor many, many years ago when I was a teenager. The story went something like this:

It was on the set of MASADA, shot on location in Israel. O’Toole was between takes and required the makeup artist. But instead of sitting on his assigned chair, he approached me and asked my permission to share the apple box that I was sitting on.

“Mr. O’Toole, it’s all yours,” I quickly said. To be honest, I was flustered. I mean we’re talking Peter O’Toole here, OK?

“Nonsense!” said O’Toole with affected innocence. “I merely wish to share your seat! Come now. There you go!”

Indeed. There I was: a total valley girl sitting butt cheek-to-cheek on an apple box with Peter O’Toole and completely freaking out. I pretended to keep reading a paperback book but I couldn’t concentrate and he kept making small talk.

Suddenly, the situation became so untenable it was impossible to ignore.

“What? What? What is that smell?” said O’Toole, looking at me mischievously.

Could this really be happening? Peter O’Toole just farted and acted like it wasn’t him. No, not him at all!

I slammed my book shut. While I felt intimidated, I also felt provoked and looking into his impish blue eyes (and indeed they were very piercing) I could tell he wanted me to bring it on. So I did.

“Mr. O’Toole, did you just cut the cheese?” I blurted out; absolutely gobsmacked that the man who played the inimitable “El Aurens” was a pooter polluter.

“My dear, I nevah cut the cheese!” he boomed with his great thespian voice and a bright gleam in his eye.

“Well, sir, you sure spread it pretty thick!” I shot back.

“Ha!” guffawed O’Toole so uproariously that I couldn’t help but flinch. “Somebody buy my new little friend here a drink!”

When I told him that I was not of drinking age he told me not to worry — that in Israel a girl becomes a woman by the time she is 13 and that by the looks of it, I was “definitely a woman…a young woman to be sure…but nevah-theless, a woman!”

RIP Armen Mirzaian

armen mirzaian
Halloween 2010

Earlier today artist and animator Armen Mirzaian was laid to rest at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills. He had been killed in a car accident only a week before. Armen was once a co-worker of mine on a project I did a few years ago. While I didn’t know Armen very well outside of the office, his comical drawings and kindhearted humor always made my day.

The number of people that came to pay their respects today was astonishing and the church was overflowing. So much so that many mourners had to listen to the services from outside as there was no more places to sit within.

Outside there were other co-workers including everybody in this video (except of course, Armen) and I was reminded of the day I shot this clip: it was Halloween. April — the young woman with the black hair in this video — had thought it would be fun to prank Armen and dress up like him. So I set up a hidden camera to capture the moment of surprise when Armen saw her.

But unbeknownst to us, Armen and two other co-workers thought it would be fun to dress up like April and so the trio showed up at her cubicle impersonating her.

As you can see from this clip, both Armen and April were utterly pwned and it was awesome! (Armen is the one standing on the far left.)

When I spoke to the others that were in this video following the memorial service, I recalled to them this story. I believe Armen would have enjoyed this as a legacy moment to remember him by. It suits him. It’s funny, ridiculous, side-splitting laughable and fun. At least, it’s how I’ll always remember him because it’s tougher to realize that he’s no longer with us.

My condolences to Armen’s family and friends who knew him well.

Weeds “Little Boxes” 
Weeds Music Video Contest Entry.
Music composed and performed by Armen Mirzaian. Lyrics by Malvina Reynolds.
With Talar Kharadjian, Rosie Djibinian, Yasi Gorgin, Armen Amirkhanian, Adelina Pirijanyan, Sevan Melkounian, Armen Kocharian.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1948) Max Fleischer Studios & Jam Handy Productions

While Rankin-Bass gets all the love for their classic 1964 stop motion version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer“, the above featured animated short by Max Fleischer Studios was actually the first telling of the original story as written by Robert May in 1939.

May, a 34 year-old copywriter for the Chicago based department store Montgomery Ward’s, was assigned to create a property in-house that could be developed into a promotional giveaway intended to boost Ward’s 1939 Christmas sales.

At first May pitched his story ideas to his five year-old daughter Barbara and within a week delivered a rough draft of a Christmas story with rhyming couplets modeled after Clement C. Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas”.

Initially Ward’s publicity department decided to pass on the story. The feeling was that the imagery of a “red nose” was associated with drunkeness, rendering May’s Christmas pitch inappropriate for children.

Denver Gillen, “Rudolph the Red Nosed
Reindeer ” by Robert May

It wasn’t until Denver Gillen, an illustrator in the company’s art department, produced some initial concept drawings that anyone realized how endearing a character like Rudolph could actually be.

Gillen’s illustrations were so cute that the publicity department came to the conclusion that there was no way people would think of Rudolph as a drunkard and the story was approved for production.

On September 1, 1939, Montgomery Ward’s retail sales department announced the Rudolph book internally to all store managers with the following: “We believe that an exclusive story like this aggressively advertised in our newspaper ads and circulars… can bring every store an incalculable mount of publicity… and, far more important, a tremendous amount of Christmas traffic”.

They were right.

That year 2,365,016 copies of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” were given away. At the time, a production run of a mere 50,000 copies could make a book a best-seller. This overwhelming success garnered the property the “largest first edition yet recorded” by the press.

In 1948, Max Fleischer, acting as Head of the Animation Department for the Detroit-based industrial film company Jam Handy Productions, supervised the first animated adaptation of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”. It is this version that is more faithful to May’s original story and Gillen’s illustrations.  It’s worth noting that unlike most Rudolph products, this cartoon has fallen out of copyright, and is now available in the public domain.

Namaste, Rik Sharaj

I’m utterly shocked and deeply saddened to hear yet another friend has passed on into the light this year. While Rik Sharaj may have gone on to become one with Shiva his music will forever live in my heart.

Namaste, dear Rik. At every full moon I will remember you with joy and I will listen for your song amongst the stars. You have been such a sweet blessing to me and everyone in the community. Safe journey.

The Art of Clément Sauvé

The comic book art and animation community suffered a tragic loss on Wednesday when Clément Sauvé passed away at the young age of 33 after a struggle with cancer. I met Clément only once and worked with him if however briefly on “G.I. Joe Renegades” last year but in that short time came to recognize a highly gifted artist with a wicked sense of humor. My deep condolences to his family and friends who knew him well.

“My name is pronounced SO-VEY, but don’t feel bad, nobody manages to pronounce it correctly. And yes, I get Suave a LOT, including in credits, con badges and checks.”

— Clément

“A Table is a Table” – A Short Film starring Jack Danahy

To my great sadness today I discovered that actor Jack Danahy, a friend and colleague, passed away some time over the holiday season due to complications of lung cancer.

Jack was quite a conversationalist and it was through our mutual fascination and enjoyment of butoh that we connected.  But it was his love of evolutionary anthropology and his observations of humans as a species that really got him to talking.

This piece entitled “A Table is a Table” was written by Peter Bichsel and directed by Diego Quemada-Diez.  Of all the gigs that Jack had as an actor, it’s this precious artistic gem that I’m heartened to know has now become a cinematic part of his legacy.  It is so quintessentially Jack as I knew him.

Jack Danahy was a generous, thoughtful and articulate man with a kind soul. I surely will miss working with him. Rest in peace, Jack. Rest in peace.

Hollis Hawthorne A Year Later

A year ago this week my friend Hollis Hawthorne fell into a coma as a result of a motorcycle accident she suffered in India. Her progress has been slow but steady and both her friends and her family have been blogging about it and documenting every milestone.

For instance, recently her friends blogged as of the beginning of this year, she’s been singing and humming to songs she listens to on her iPod.
In the blog that Holli’s mom keeps she reported that yesterday Hollis was being evaluated to see if she is a candidate for the Shepherd Center of Atlanta, one of the top rehabilitation hospitals in the nation, specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury or brain injury.
These blogs are very poignant reads, so be sure to check them out by visiting

As a network of kith and kin I think we did a pretty amazing job of fundraising to get Hollis back home. However, her family is still burdened with out-of-pocket medical expenses recently such as the purchase of a new custom wheelchair and Botox injections in her right arm so they can stretch her arm out in order to place a brace on it to straighten it. There are other numerous costs as you can well imagine so fundraising for her medical continues. If you have a bit to spare, please donate to Hollis.

Rest In Peace: Martin Bosworth

I first met Martin Bosworth (aka @martinboz) a year ago this month at the L.A. Tweetup, a face-to-face social networking meetup for Los Angelenos. So in a weird way it seems fitting that I learned of his recent death on Twitter.
Bosworth was a managing editor at the consumer advocacy site He also posted to his personal blog Boztopia. In the short time that I knew him, I found him to be an extremely intelligent and articulate man full of mirth and wonderful ideas to share. Upon reading his blog post entitled “Who’s Gonna Take The Weight?” I discovered an in depth recounting of his fight against thyroid disease.
To me the tragedy in his passing is the fact that he had a long standing struggle with his insurance company to pay for his medical treatment because of a gap in coverage between jobs. He was only 35 years old. You can read more here.

Ensuring that health care reform isn’t just about providing coverage to the uninsured, but reforming the system to prevent excessive overbilling, medical errors, and other costly mistakes and bureaucratic snafus that only harm the patient and waste the provider’s time.

I have faith that my current issue will turn out okay. I’ve been through worse, after all. I think, in a philosophical sense, that I am going through this at this exact time in order to drive home how serious the need for better health care is. Listen to my story, share it, repeat it, and do everything you can to support real health care reform for all.

Martin Bosworth
The passage of a national health care reform bill is more than an economic issue: it’s a moral one as well. To quote the late Senator Kennedy providing access to health care is a “fundamental principle of justice and the character of our country.’’ Please contact your senator today.

Goodbye, Martin. I will miss your strong smart voice pixelating out from my little neighborhood of the blogosphere. May you rest in peace.

This clip featuring Twitterer @chaiguy and Bosworth was taken on 4 February 2009.
It’s from a longer video entitled “Is Twitter The Vomitorium of the 21st Century“?

Ukulele Underground’s Huntington Beach Jam

It was a super wet rainy day for a meet up with Aldrine Guerrero from Ukulele Underground who’s here in SoCal to attend NAMM. Since I don’t play the uke (and have no plans to) I thought I’d just come to see his live show on Tuesday at DiPiazza‘s in Long Beach. But then I saw that there was going to be meet up and since it was MLK Day which meant I was free I was like, well why not go? Eddie would! 🙂