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Kill Your TV: Obscure Goodbyes of 2015 

Wednesday, Dec 23 2015

James Best (b. 1926)

This guy not only appeared on one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes ("Jess-Belle"), but he popularized one of my favorite put-downs, "dipstick." He's best known for portraying Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard, who bumbled his way through Hazzard County with his trusty basset hound, Flash. Coltrane constantly referred to his deputy as a "dipstick," so much so that it seeped into the modern American lexicon in such a way as to force the dorkiest of us to pull over whenever we saw a street sign that said "DIP" so we could take ironic pictures of our drunk friends. As many erudite scholars have pointed out, the word was actually a watered-down version of "dipshit," which first emerged in the 1970s, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. (No, really.)

Judy Carne (b. 1939)

Carne was a well-known British TV actress before she moved stateside to be the butt of many a joke on the schlocky '60s variety show Laugh-In. Known as the "'Sock It To Me' Girl," she would frequently find her enthusiastic, micro-mini Austin Powers mambos end with buckets of water dumping on her or trap doors opening beneath her. According to her autobiography, she began to freakin' hate the show, which might account for her lifelong battle with heroin addiction. Or maybe her short-lived marriage to Bert Reynolds was the culprit? She claims he ditched their honeymoon to go watch football. (She also slept with Warren Beatty, but who didn't?) Still, there's something sadly poetic about a woman whose claim to fame was getting hammered by stage props ending up with a problem of, well, getting hammered.

Catherine E. Coulson (b. 1943)

Usually, when a Hollywood director tells a young actress that he wants to see her holding a huge log, it is some sort of casting-couch come-on. But when that person is David Lynch, well, it's just a surrealist being literal. This is how Coulson eventually became known as The Log Lady from Twin Peaks. She first met Lynch in the '70s while doing various behind-the-scenes things for his film Eraserhead — that's when he first brought up how amazing he thought she'd look cradling a birch. He created the role of Margaret Lanterman just for her when his about-to-return TV show debuted in the early '90s, and her character became one of the easiest things to dress up as for Twin Peaks parties.

Bud Paxson (b. 1935)

Here he is, folks, the man who can be blamed for the Home Shopping Network. Paxson got his start in radio, owning the aptly named station WACK in New York. On a lark, he decided to try and unload some homely avocado-green can openers on air (as opposed to running an actual commercial for them), and was reportedly baffled at the quick response from over 100 desperate housewives. Once he figured out there was a billion-dollar industry to be had in hawking crap to people who kept their phone right next to their television, he went on to do just that. Paxson was also an evangelical Christian, taking the wealth teachings of Jesus to heart. (At press time, his soul was reportedly still trying to press a camel through the eye of a needle.) Starting the PAX Network (now known as Ion) when he found no "family friendly" choices on cable, he took regular filth like Touched By An Angel and Highway To Heaven and bleeped out all the naughty bits. Paxson's greatest contribution, however, was his role in making Noam Chomsky's nightmare of manufactured consent come true, by paving the way for product placement.

Eugene Patton (b. 1932)

When you heard the opening strains of Count Basie's "Jumpin' At The Woodside" and then heard Chuck Barris squeal out, "Gene Gene, the Dancin' Machine!" you knew The Gong Show was in full swing. A portly black man with really big front teeth and a bigger smile would scoot out and shake it up, causing everyone else in the studio to do the same. He was technically just a stagehand, but Barris, like all great Hollywood moguls, saw something greater in Patton and gave him a regular spot on the Masterpiece Theater of shite. Fun facts: Patton was born in Berkeley and was the first African-American member of the stagehands' union. Sadly, he lost both of his magic legs to diabetes later in life, a tragic coda to an exemplary career.

Rest in peace, friends.

About The Author

Katy St. Clair


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