|Subject: ARCHIVE: May 16, 1990 ~It was 27 years ago, entertainment world lost two giants of the industry -Sammy Davis Jr, 64, & Jim Henson, 53, both die hours apart, on different parts of the country. ...
Bios & PHOTOS
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Date Posted: Tuesday, May 16, 01:16:47pm
[ James Maury "Jim" Henson ]
(September 24, 1936 – May 16, 1990)
American puppeteer, artist, cartoonist, inventor, screenwriter, film director and producer who achieved international fame as the creator of the Muppets. Born in Greenville, Mississippi, and raised in Leland, Mississippi, and Hyattsville, Maryland, Henson began developing puppets while attending high school. While he was a freshman at the University of Maryland, College Park, he created Sam and Friends, a five-minute sketch-comedy puppet show that appeared on television. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in home economics, he produced coffee advertisements and developed some experimental films. Feeling the need for more creative output, Henson founded Muppets Inc. in 1958 (which would later become the Jim Henson Company).
Henson became famous in the 1960s when he joined the children's educational television program Sesame Street, and there helped develop characters for the series. He also appeared on the sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. In 1976, after scrapping plans for a Broadway show, he produced The Muppet Show. He won fame for his creations, particularly Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, and Ernie, and was involved with Sesame Street for over 20 years. Rowlf the Dog was a cast member on the Jimmy Dean Show in the early 60's. He also had frequent roles in Muppets films such as The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, and The Muppets Take Manhattan, and created advanced puppets for projects like Fraggle Rock, The Dark Crystal, and Labyrinth. During the later years of his life, he also founded the Jim Henson Foundation and Jim Henson's Creature Shop. His involvement in two television programs—The Storyteller and The Jim Henson Hour—led to Emmy Award wins.
Henson died of streptococcal toxic shock syndrome on May 16, 1990, at age 53, twenty hours after experiencing a medical emergency—an unexpected event that was widely lamented in the film and television industries. In the weeks after his death, he was celebrated in a wave of tributes. He was posthumously inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1991, and as a Disney Legend in 2011.
Samuel George "Sammy" Davis Jr.
(December 8, 1925 – May 16, 1990)
American singer, dancer, actor, and comedian. He was noted for his impersonations of actors, musicians and other celebrities. At the age of 3, Davis began his career in vaudeville with his father and Will Mastin as the Will Mastin Trio, which toured nationally. After military service, Davis returned to the trio. Davis became an overnight sensation following a nightclub performance at Ciro's (in West Hollywood) after the 1951 Academy Awards. With the trio, he became a recording artist. In 1954, he lost his left eye in a car accident, and several years later, he converted to Judaism.
Davis's film career began as a child in 1933. In 1960, he appeared in the Rat Pack film Ocean's 11. After a starring role on Broadway in 1956's Mr Wonderful, he returned to the stage in 1964's Golden Boy. In 1966 he had his own TV variety show, titled The Sammy Davis Jr. Show. Davis's career slowed in the late 1960s, but he had a hit record with "The Candy Man" in 1972 and became a star in Las Vegas, earning him the nickname "Mister Show Business".
Davis was a victim of racism throughout his life, particularly during the pre-Civil Rights era, and was a large financial supporter of the Civil Rights Movement. Davis had a complex relationship with the black community, and drew criticism after publicly supporting President Richard Nixon in 1972 (although he later returned to being a Democrat). One day on a golf course with Jack Benny, he was asked what his handicap was. "Handicap?" he asked. "Talk about handicap. I'm a one-eyed Negro Jew." This was to become a signature comment, recounted in his autobiography, and in countless articles.
After reuniting with Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, Davis toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally, before he died of throat cancer in 1990. He died in debt to the Internal Revenue Service, and his estate was the subject of legal battles.
Davis was awarded the Spingarn Medal by the NAACP and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and an Emmy Award for his television performances. He was the recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 1987, and in 2001, he was posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
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