Tuesday, January 31, 2012


In 1984, "The Films of the Bowery Boys" by David Hayes and myself was published by Citadel Press. This website is designed to amend and add information that has come to light since that book's publication. This includes obituaries of Bowery Boys / Eastside Kids /Dead End Kids players who have departed since the book's publication, filmography additions, amended solo credits and various other data of interest. -- Brent Walker

BERNARD PUNSLY (1923-2004)
I've just found out (on January 22, 2004) that Dr. Bernard Punsly, the last of the original Dead End Kids, has passed away in Torrance, California, where he long had a medical practice.Here is an obituary.

BENNY BARTLETT (1924-1999)
Benny Bartlett reportedly passed away on December 26, 1999, in Redding, California. Bartlett, "Butch" of the Bowery Boys, had retired from the screen to work in the insurance business in Santa Barbara, California. He was known as Floyd "Bud" Bartlett during his later years.

BILLY BENEDICT (1917-1999)
On Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1999, the actor best known as Whitey to Bowery Boys fans (and Skinny to Eastside Kids aficionados) succumbed at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in West Hollywood of complications after heart surgery. He was 82, and had remained very busy up until recently in commercials. His film appearances are estimated at over 150 (and likely WELL over 150), and he was also very busy in television for many decades. First appearing as a Little Tough Guy at Universal, Benedict was also familiar to fans of feature films as the quintissential newsboy and messenger boy "type" in films ranging from ROAD TO UTOPIA with Hope and Crosby to Ed Wood's BRIDE OF THE MONSTER.

HUNTZ HALL (1919-1999)
Huntz Hall passed away in his North Hollywood home of heart failure on Saturday, January 30, 1999, after five weeks in the hospital. Huntz had stayed busy with film, television and dinner theater work in recent years. After years of fighting alcoholism, Huntz kicked it in 1982. His second wife Lee passed away four years ago, after which many said that he became more reclusive. However, he lived to see his son Gary become Reverend and preside at All Saints Church in Pasadena, and his grandson become a screenwriter. With his passing, only Dr. Bernard Punsly survives of the original six Dead End Kids. Fortunately, Huntz will stay alive forever on screen as the irrepressible Sach (and Glimpy, Dippy, Pig, Goofy, Crabface, etc.)

David and I stand by the accuracy of 99% of the data in our book. However, there was one glaring error for which we were eternally embarrassed when the true facts came to light shortly after publication. On page 217, we reported that Mende (Mendie) Koenig, who played one of the gang in the last three Eastside Kids entries (in 1945), was deceased. Regrettably, this information was considerably erroneous, as we found out upon receiving a witty letter from Mr. Koenig himself on Tarzana Elementary School stationery greatly protesting the exaggerated reports of his death. In fact, Mendie was still alive and was none other than the principal of the above-mentioned educational institution in Tarzana, California. Unfortunately, since Citadel had printed 10,000 copies of the book (a print run that has apparently finally been exhausted), we were not able to get a correction made. However, let this serve as our humble apology for our premature literary burial of this fine actor and even more skilled educator.

Though Mendie Koenig lives, several key players did leave us since 1984. These include:
Leo's younger brother, who appeared in more Eastside Kids, Little Tough Guys and Bowery Boys films than anyone except Huntz Hall, died on October 23, 1984, in Van Nuys, California, at age 63, after a 10 day diabetic coma. He had been heading a halfway house for alcoholics and drug abusers since the Bowery Boys series ended in 1958.
Dell became the fourth of the original six Dead End Kids to pass away on July 3, 1988 (at age 68) in North Hollywood of leukemia. He had been very busy in theater and television up until his death, and he and Huntz had appeared together on "Robert Klein Time" not long before his death.
Sunshine Sammy died of cancer in Lynwood in July 1989. He was the original Our Gang kid, long before playing Scruno in the Eastside Kids.
Durand, who appeared in a couple Dead End Kids films and was a six-time Eastside Kid, died on July 25, 1998, in Bridgeview, Illinois, at age 77. He had been a child actor in silent films, including Our Gang comedies.
Grippo, agent of Gorcey and Hall and original producer of the Bowery Boys, passed away in March 1988 at age 81 in Los Angeles. Grippo also had a sideline as a magician.

Infamous fashion designer Mr. Blackwell, of the "Worst Dressed" lists, has long and loudly boasted of being a former Dead End Kid. While working on the book, we were unable to ascertain whether this claim was true or not. The only Blackwell in any series film was Carlyle Blackwell Jr., a strapping, waspish leading man (son of the silent film star of the same name) who appeared in the Eastside Kids entry DOCKS OF NEW YORK (1945). He was immediately discounted due to his completely dissimilar physical profile, and we made no attempt to speculate about the accuracy of Blackwell's claims in the book.
When Blackwell's sensationalized autobiography was published in the mid-90's, it was revealed that his real name was Richard Selzer. As such, he had appeared in a later road show version of the play "Dead End," and on film appeared as one of the background street kids (not a Dead End Kid/Little Tough Guy) in LITTLE TOUGH GUY (1938), the first release of the Universal sub-series. His character had only brief, background screen-time in this film, putting his claims to being a real Dead End Kid (i.e. working in tandem with any one of the six "original" kids) into the most nebulous of categories

Dead End Kids

The Dead End Kids were a group of young actors from New York who appeared in Sidney Kingsley's Broadway play Dead End in 1935. In 1937 producer Samuel Goldwyn brought all of them to Hollywood and turned the play into a film. They proved to be so popular that they continued to make movies under various monikers, including the East Side Kids, the Little Tough Guys, and the Bowery Boys, until 1958.


In 1934, Sidney Kingsley wrote a play about a group of children growing up on the streets of New York City. A total of fourteen children were hired to play various roles in the play, including Billy Halop (Tommy), Bobby Jordan (Angel), Huntz Hall (Dippy), Charles Duncan (Spit), Bernard Punsly (Milty), Gabriel Dell (T.B.), andLeo and David Gorcey (Second Avenue Boys). Duncan left for a role in another play before opening night and was replaced by Leo, his understudy. Leo had been a plumber's assistant and was originally recruited by his brother David to audition for the play.
The play opened at the Belasco Theatre on October 28, 1935 and ran for two years, totalling 684 performances. Samuel Goldwyn and director William Wyler saw the play and decided to turn it into a film. They paid $165,000 for the rights to the film and began auditioning actors in Los Angeles.[1] Failing to find actors that could convey the emotions they saw in the play, Goldwyn and Wyler had six of the original Kids (Halop, Jordan, Hall, Punsly, Dell, and Leo Gorcey) brought from New York to Hollywood for the film. The Kids were all signed to two-year contracts, allowing for possible future films, and began working on the 1937 United Artists' film, Dead End.
During production, the boys ran wild around the studio, destroying property, including a truck that they crashed into a sound stage. Goldwyn chose not to use them again and sold their contract to Warner Brothers.[2]
At Warner Brothers, the Dead End Kids made six films with some of the top actors in Hollywood, including James CagneyHumphrey BogartJohn GarfieldPat O'Brien, and Ronald Reagan, including Angels with Dirty Faces (1938). The last one was in 1939, when they were released from their contracts due to more antics on the studio lot.

[edit]Little Tough Guys

Shortly after they made their first film at Warner Brothers in 1938, Universal borrowed all of the Dead End Kids except for Bobby Jordan and Leo Gorcey and made twelve films and three 12-chapter serials under the team names of "The Dead End Kids and Little Tough Guys" and "Little Tough Guys." Universal also contracted Leo's brother David and Hally Chester to join the team. After Universal released Jordan from his contract, Warner Brothers quickly signed him to join the rest of gang.
Because the original Dead End Kids were now working for several studios, their Universal films were made at roughly the same time as the Warner Brothers' 'Dead End Kids' series, and later, Monogram Picture's "The East Side Kids" series. The final Universal film was Keep 'Em Slugging, released in 1943.

[edit]The East Side Kids

After Warner Brothers released the remaining Dead End Kids from their contracts in 1939, producer Sam Katzman at Monogram acted quickly and hired several of them, including Jordan and the Gorcey brothers, as well as Chester and some of the other Little Tough Guys to star in a new series using the name "The East Side Kids." This series introduced 'Sunshine' Sammy Morrison, one of the original members of the Our Gang comedy team, to the group.
A total of 22 East Side Kids films were made, ending with Come Out Fighting in 1945.

[edit]The Bowery Boys

In 1946, with only Monogram making films using any of the original Dead End Kids, Huntz Hall, Leo Gorcey, and Gorcey's agent, Jan Grippo, revamped The East Side Kids, rechristening them "The Bowery Boys". These films followed a more established formula than the earlier films. First Jordan, then Dell departed the series after several films. Gorcey left after the forty-first film and was replaced by Stanley Clements for the remaining films. In all, a total of 48 Bowery Boys films were made, ending with 1958's In the Money. During the series Hall and Dell did a nightclub act together. Gorcey and Hall reteamed on film in The Phynx.


The Dead End Kids' star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame
In total the various teams that began life as 'The Dead End Kids' made 89 films and three serials for four different studios during their 21 year long film career. The team was awarded a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, which can be found at the corner of La Brea and Hollywood.
One notable aspect of the group's history is their transition from stark drama to comedy. When they began, in "Dead End" and their other early films, their characters were serious, gritty, genuinely menacing young hoodlums. But by the height of their career, their movies were essentially comedies, with the Kids depicted as low-class but basically harmless, likable teens - comic caricatures of their former selves.
The original play has had two revivals. A 1978 adaptation played at the Quigh Theatre in New York and another in 2005 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, where the family of the original Dead End Kids (Leo Gorcey, Jr., Bobby Jordan, Jr., Gabe Dell, Jr., and the nieces and nephews of Billy Halop) attended a performance together.[1]
Leo Gorcey, Jr., Gabe Dell, Jr., Bobby Jordan, Jr., Zach Halop, Jennifer and Melissa Halop (nephew and nieces of Billy Halop), and other family members, had not met prior to the 2005 'Dead End' revival, at the Ahmanson Theatre. They were brought together for this event, which was hosted and organized by Colette Joel and David Key.
The Ahmanson Theatre's publicist Ken Werther, assisted Colette Joel in orchestrating the entire cast of Dead End, to meet with all of the family members of the original 'Dead End Kids'. Hollywood history came full circle when the actors (who played the parts of their predecessors) met the sons, nephew, nieces, grandson and granddaughter of the original Dead End Kids.
Also in attendance at The Ahmanson Theatre were various entertainment personalities and published authors, including Leonard Getz (From Broadway to the Bowery), Jan Alan Henderson (Speeding Bullet), Alexis Cruz (actor), David Mendenhall (actor/entertainment lawyer), Delilah Cotto (actress), Lesa Carlson (singer), Keiko Halop (concert pianist), DJ Rabiola and Anthony Rabiola (actors), and Anthony Tremblay (production designer)

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As his 80th birthday approaches, a look at the life and legacy of the late Ray Charles.

"I just do what I do." That's what Ray Charles told Billboard in June 2002 when asked to assess his role in music history. Of course, Charles' self-effacing response belies a groundbreaking career and a legacy that endures today, as fans look toward celebrating what would have been the legendary artist's 80th birthday Sept. 23. Looking back at Charles' storied career, what comes to mind is the phrase "musical genius." In Charles' case, that's no hype.

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity

In 1954, the artist's melding of gospel and blues yielded the pioneering hit "I've Got a Woman"-and forged an indelible imprint on R&B, rock and pop. His earthy, soulful voice graced a steady stream of classics after "Woman," including "Drown in My Own Tears," "What'd I Say," "Hit the Road Jack," "Unchain My Heart," "I Can't Stop Loving You" and "Georgia on My Mind."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Hit The Road Jack" in São Paulo, Brazil on September 22, 1963.

Video below: Ray Charles performs "Then I'll Be Home" in Montreux, Switzerland on July 19, 1997.

Just as at home on the Hammond B-3 organ as he was on the piano, he also landed at the top of Billboard's R&B, pop, country and jazz charts-and even the dance chart, collaborating with childhood friend Quincy Jones and Chaka Khan on "I'll Be Good to You."

His final recording, 2004's "Genius Loves Company," made history when it won eight Grammy Awards, including album and record of the year for his pairing with Norah Jones on "Here We Go Again."

But what many may not know is that the inimitable Charles was also a genius when it came to the business side of music. In the early '60s he negotiated a rare feat after leaving Atlantic Records to sign with ABC-Paramount: ownership of his own master recordings. He also established his own labels. Tangerine (his favorite fruit) came first, which later evolved into CrossOver Records.

A songwriter who penned nearly 200 songs, Charles also operated his own publishing companies, Tangerine Music and Racer Music. For these entities, Charles and longtime manager Joe Adams designed and built the RPM International office and studios on Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles. The Ray Charles Memorial Library will open in the building this fall.

Charles also found time to manage the careers of other acts, including Billy Preston and '70s R&B group the Friends of Distinction. And way before it was de rigueur for artists to do, Charles set up what became a foundation to help needy children with hearing disabilities and later on support education.

He was an amazing human being," says Jones, 77, who became friends with Charles when both were scrappy teenagers in Seattle. "A true innovator who revolutionized music and the business of music," he adds. "Growing up, we only had the radio; no Michael Jackson, Diddy or Oprah. So it was hard to imagine today's entrepreneurial world. But that didn't stop us. We spent a lot of time talking and dreaming about things that brothers had never done before."

"He really was a genius," says singer Solomon Burke, a former Atlantic labelmate. "He did things the way he wanted."

Charles was born Ray Charles Robinson Sept. 23, 1930, in Albany, Ga. As many learned through actor Jamie Foxx's Academy Award-winning portrayal in the 2004 film "Ray," Charles became blind by age 7 and orphaned at 15 while growing up in northwest Florida.

In eight years at a state school for the blind, the young Charles learned how to read and write music. Leaving Florida in 1947, he headed for Seattle ("Choosing the farthest place he could find from Florida," Jones says), where he notched his first hit two years later as a member of the Maxin Trio, "Confession Blues."

Even then, Charles was an enterprising individual. "He had his own apartment, record player, two pairs of pimp shoes, and here I am still living at home," Jones recalls with a laugh. "His mother trained him not to be blind: no cane, no dogs, no cup. His scuffed-up shoes... that was his guide and driving force. He was the most independent dude I ever saw in my life. Ray would get blind only when pretty girls came around."

Signing with Atlantic Records in 1952, Charles as a West Coast jazz and blues man recorded such songs as "It Should've Been Me" and label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun's composition, "Mess Around."

Then he connected in 1954 with "I've Got a Woman," which set off a chain reaction of more hits capitalizing on his bold gospel/blues fusion. But Charles was just getting started. In 1958, he performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, accompanied by a band that featured such jazz cats as saxophonists David "Fathead" Newman and Hank Crawford. Further bucking convention, he recorded "The Genius of Ray Charles," a 1959 release offering standards on one side (including "Come Rain or Come Shine") and big band numbers on the other, featuring members of Count Basie's orchestra and several arrangements by Jones.

Video below: Charles' 1966 Coke commercial, "So Tired."

Leaving Atlantic for ABC-Paramount, a fearless Charles recorded the seminal "Genius + Soul = Jazz" album in 1961. A year later, his earlier dabbling in country music grew serious with the release of the million-selling "Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music."

Complemented by lush strings and a harmony-rich choir, he scored with covers of Don Gibson's "I Can't Stop Loving You" and Ted Daffan's "Born to Lose"-and spent 14 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

For a black man to do this in 1962 was unheard of," says Tony Gumina, president of the Ray Charles Marketing Group, which handles the late artist's licensing affairs. "He was trying to sell records to people who didn't want to drink from the same water fountain as him. But this was one of his greatest creative and business moves: to not be categorized musically and cross over. Though he never worried about it, he was resigned to the fact that he might lose some core fans. But he thought he'd gain far more in the process."

Gumina was operating his own promotion company working with state lotteries when he met Charles in 1999. The two teamed up on a series of commercials for various state lotteries and also introduced a line of Ray Charles slot machines also accessible to the blind.

"Everything he did had a business acumen to it," says Gumina, who cites Charles' liaison with manager Adams as a pivotal turning point. Originally hired to be Charles' stage announcer, former radio DJ Adams segued into overseeing production of the singer's shows, lighting and wardrobe.

Together the pair designed and built Charles' L.A. business base, RPM International (Recording, Publishing and Management) studio. When he began recording there in 1965, the label rented the studio from him, so he made money on his recordings before they were even released.

To save money on travel expenses, Charles purchased an airplane to ferry his band around to gigs. A smaller plane was also acquired so that Charles could wing in to, say, New York to record a couple of songs before flying back out in time for a show.

"He understood the entertainment business enough to know that you may not be popular forever," Gumina says, "and you need to maximize your product. At the same time, he had as much fun as any rock star but without the sad money stories. There was a time to work and a time to play, and he knew the difference. He didn't have a bunch of homes or a large entourage. That's why he was able to save $50 million before he died."

Calling Charles an "incredibly smart man," Concord president John Burk says he learned a lot from the ailing singer while he was recording his final studio album, "Genius Loves Company."

Video below: Ray Charles performs "It Ain't Easy Being Green" in Trentnton, NJ on Nov. 7, 2002.

Going through "some sticky deal points, he was amazing," Burk recalls. "He had the whole agreement in his head. Without referencing any material, he knew all the terms we proposed and had the deal done for the album in two discussions."

Creatively, Burk says Charles was an artist dedicated to delivering "a true performance from the heart. Part of his creative legacy was his approach to singing. He opened the door to vocal improvisations, changing how people perceived you could sing a song. Many singers today are influenced by him and they don't even know it."

Rare & Unseen Ray Charles Photos | Charles on the Charts

80th Birthday Year Events | Charles Charity


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