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Jim Varney, James Varney - Ernest Goes to... movies

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Jim Varney DeathJames Albert Varney Jr. (June 15, 1949 – February 10, 2000) was an American actor. He was best known for his character Ernest P. Worrell, originally created by Nashville advertising agency Carden and Cherry in the 1980s. The character was used in numerous television commercial campaigns and movies in the following years, giving him fame worldwide. He is best known for his slapstick style and his portrayal of "redneck" stereotypes in a friendly, approachable way.

Death of James Varney
James Varney died of lung cancer on February 10, 2000 at 4:45 a.m. in his White House, Tennessee home as the movie Ernest the Pirate neared completion and when Atlantis: The Lost Empire was still in production.He is interred at Lexington's cemetery.
James Varney was 50 year old at the time of his death

Jim Varney's TV commercial bloopers

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Early life
Varney was born in Lexington, Kentucky, where he grew up. He began his interest in theater as a teenager, winning state titles in drama competitions while a student at Lafayette High School (which he graduated from with the class of 1968) in Lexington. At the age of 15, he portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in a local children's theater production, and by 17, he was performing professionally in nightclubs and coffee houses. He listed a former teacher, Thelma Beeler, as being one of the main contributing factors in his becoming an actor.

Television commercial career
The first commercial as Ernest, filmed in 1980, was to advertise an appearance by the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders at Beech Bend Park, an amusement park located near Bowling Green, Kentucky. The character was franchised for use in markets all over the country, and was often used by dairies to advertise milk products. For example, the Midwestern dairy bar chain Braum's ran several advertisements using Ernest's catch phrase, "KnoWhutImean, Vern?" (as it was spelled in his registered trademark). Purity Dairies, based in Nashville, and Oakhurst Dairy in Maine ran commercials that were nearly identical, but with the dairy name changed.

For the same agency, Varney created a different character, "Sgt. Glory", a humorless drill instructor who harangued cows of the client's dairy into producing better milk. In another spot, Glory's home was shown as he had a date, and was so heavily decorated with the products of the sponsor and advertising specialty items for it that it was essentially devoid of any other decor. The Sgt. Glory character also appeared in an advertisement for a southern grocery chain, Pruitt's Food Town, in which he's drilling the checkout clerks on proper behavior. ("Bread on top. Repeat: Bread on top.") He approaches one of them at the end of the commercial with a look of menace and says, "You're not smilin'." The checkout bagger gives a very nervous and forced smile.

Varney also starred as Ernest in a series of commercials that ran in the New Orleans area, and throughout the Gulf South, as a spokesman for natural gas utilities. In one, he is seen kneeling down in front of Vern's desk under a lamp hanging from the ceiling, stating "Natural gas, Vern; it's hot, fast and cheap. Hot, fast, cheap; kinda like your first wife, Vern, you know, the pretty one!?" Vern then knocked the lamp into Ernest's head, knocking him down. Those same TV ads were also featured on TV channels in the St. Louis area for Laclede Gas, during the mid-1980s.

He was also noted for doing commercials for car dealerships across the country, most notably Cerritos Auto Square in Cerritos, California, Tyson's Toyota in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and Audubon Chrysler in Henderson, Kentucky. Another favorite Ernest vehicle was promotions for various TV stations around the nation, including the news team and the weather departments.

Varney also portrayed another character, "Auntie Nelda", in numerous commercials long before he resurrected the character for the movies Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, Ernest Goes to Jail and Ernest Goes to Camp. Dressed in drag and appearing to be a senior-citizen, the commercials gave off the tone of a motherly lady encouraging you to do what was right - in this case, buy whatever product was being promoted. This character, along with the "Ernest" character, ran a couple of years in Mississippi and Louisiana in commercials for Ledco Aluminum Siding, a company that would come out and give you an estimate for placing aluminum siding on your home. Ledco often bought 2 hour slots in local markets. During the 2 hour slot, a movie was televised and Varney, as one of his characters, and a Ledco representative, would be the only commercial breaks during the movie to promote Ledco.

During the 1990s, Jim reprised his role as Ernest for Blake's Lotaburger, a fast food chain in New Mexico. During these commercials, Ernest would typically be trying to get in to Vern's house to see what food Vern was eating. After a lengthy description of whatever tasty morsel Vern had, Ernest would get locked out, but continue to shout from outside.

An interesting fact about the commercials is how universal they were. For example, the dairy spots would be the same situation and script, changing only the name of the dairy. The same situations would be used (varying the script for the product, but resulting in the same punchline) for countless other products. The end result was that a finite number of commercials could sell a wide variety of products. However, all the commercials were not based on those cookie-cutter premises, and original commercials were shot for specific products/sponsors.

Ernest's popularity
Varney's character Ernest P. Worrell proved so popular that it was spun off into a TV series, Hey Vern, It's Ernest! and a series of movies in the 1980s and 1990s. Ernest Goes to Camp earned Varney a nomination for "Worst New Star" at the 1987 Golden Raspberry Awards (he "lost"). The movie was a huge hit; however, grossing $25 million at the box office.

Other Ernest movies included Ernest Saves Christmas, Slam Dunk Ernest, Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Goes to Africa, Ernest Goes to School, Ernest Scared Stupid, and Ernest in the Army. The Walt Disney World Resort's Epcot theme park featured Ernest. Epcot's Cranium Command attraction used the Ernest character in its preshow as an example of a "lovable but not the brightest person on the planet" type of person. And in addition to his Ernest Goes to... series, he starred as Ernest in several smaller movies for Carden & Cherry such as Ernest P. Worrell's Family Album, Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam, and Your World as I See It, all of which showcased his great facility with assuming a wide variety of characters and accents.

Non-"Ernest" work
Varney played a recurring guest on faux late-night-talk show Fernwood 2 Night

He also lent his voice to the character "Slinky Dog" in Disney's Toy Story film series, and to the character "Cookie" Farnsworth, from Atlantis: The Lost Empire, which was released the year after his death.

Varney provided the guest voice for the carny character "Cooder" for "Bart Carny" episode of The Simpsons.

Varney played the character "Walt Evergreen" in the Duckman episode "You've Come a Wrong Way, Baby".

Varney played the prince that Roseanne's sister Jackie started dating near the end of the 1990s television series Roseanne.

Varney played the villain Lothar Zogg in the 1998 film 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain.

Varney is in Hank Williams, Jr. 's video for "All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight," where he is briefly shown casually riding a bull.

Varney also played the part of Jed Clampett in the 1993 production of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Varney also played the entertainer/watch guard Rudy James in the movie Snowboard Academy.

He also has a small part in an independent production 100 Proof. Just prior to his stint as Ernest P. Worrell, Varney was a cast member on the notorious television flop Pink Lady and Jeff.

Varney was a special guest, appearing as himself, in the Bibleman Genesis Series Bibleman Jr..

Varney starred in three videos The Misadventures of Bubba, The Misadventures of Bubba II, and Bubba goes Hunting in which he played himself and taught young kids important safety rules about hunting and guns. He illustrated the rules with the help of his bumbling and accident prone cousin Bubba (also played by varney) and Bubba's imaginary hunting pal Billy Bob. The videos were distributed as part of a membership pack from Buckmasters' Young Bucks Club.

Personal life
Varney was married twice, to Jacqueline Drew (1977-1983), and Jane Varney (1988-1991). Both marriages ended in divorce, though he remained friends with Jane until his death.

He would visit hospitals, and entertain sick children in his "Ernest" persona.

Death
Varney died of lung cancer on February 10, 2000 at 4:45 a.m. in his White House, Tennessee home as the movie Ernest the Pirate neared completion and when Atlantis: The Lost Empire was still in production. He is interred at Lexington's cemetery.

Filmography

Cinema-Actor

  • Daddy and Them (2001) Hazel Montgomery
  • Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001) Jedidiah Allardyce "Cookie" Farnsworth (voice)
  • Toy Story 2 (1999) Slinky Dog (voice)
  • Treehouse Hostage (1999) Carl Banks
  • Existo (1999) Marcel HRowitz
  • 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998) Lothar Zogg
  • Ernest in the Army (1998) Pvt. Ernest P. Worrell/Captain Ernest P. Worrell/Operation Sandtrap Arab
  • Annabelle´s Wish (1997) Mr. Gus Holder (voice)(video)
  • Ernest Goes to Africa (1997) Ernest P. Worrell/Hey You, the Hindu/Auntie Nelda/African woman dancer
  • 100 Proof (1997) Rae's Father
  • Blood, Friends and Money (1997) The Older Mariner
  • Snowboard Academy (1996) Rudy James
  • Toy Story (1995) Slinky Dog (voice)
  • The Expert (1995) Snake
  • Slam Dunk Ernest (1995) Ernest P.Worrell (video)
  • Your World as I See It (1994) Ernest P.Worrell/Aster Clement/Baby Ernest/Auntie Nelda/Bonnie/Coy
  • Ernest Goes to School (1994) Ernest P. Worrell
  • Ernest Rides Again (1993) Ernest P. Worrell
  • The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) Jed Clampett
  • Wilder Napalm (1993) Rex
  • Ernest´s Greatest Hits Volume 2 (1992) Ernest P.Worrell (video)
  • Ernest Scared Stupid (1991) Ernest P. Worrell
  • Ernest Goes to Jail (1990) Ernest P. Worrell/Mr. Felix Nash/Auntie Nelda
  • Fast Food (1989) Wrangler Bob
  • Ernest Saves Christmas (1988) Ernest P. Worrell/Aster Clement/Auntie Nelda/The Snake Guy
  • Ernest Goes to Camp (1987) Ernest P. Worrell
  • Hey, Vern, Win $10,000 (1987) Ernest P. Worrell (voice)
  • Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam (1986) Dr. Otto/Rudd Hardtact/Laughin' Jack/Guy Dandy/Auntie Nelda/Ernest P. Worrell
  • The Ernest Film Festival (1986) Ernest P. Worrell (video)
  • Knowhutimean? Hey Vern, It's My Family Album (1983) Ernest P. Worrell/Davy Worrell & Company/Ace Worrell/Lloyd Worrell/Billy Boogie Worrell/Rhetch
  • Worrell/Pop Worrell (video)
  • Spittin' Image (1982) Sheriff

Television-Actor

  • The Simpsons episode - Bart Carny (1998) Cooder (voice)
  • Roseanne (1996) Prince Carlos of Moldavia
  • Hey Vern, It's Ernest! (1988) Ernest, Dr. Otto, Auntie Nelda, Sergeant Glory, Baby Ernest
  • The Rousters (1983) Evan Earp
  • Operation Petticoat (1977-1979) Seaman Broom

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Jean Shepherd - narrator of "A Christmas Story", Writer, Actor

Voice of A Christmas StoryJean Parker Shepherd (July 26, 1921 - October 16, 1999) was an American raconteur, radio and TV personality, writer and actor who was often referred to by the nickname Shep.

With a career that spanned decades, Shepherd is best-known to modern audiences for narrating the film A Christmas Story (1983), which he co-wrote, based on his own semi-autobiographical stories.

Death of Jean Shepherd
Jean Shepherd died on Sanibel Island in 1999 of "natural causes." at Lee Memorial Hospital near his home on Sanibel Island, Fla. Jean Shepherd was 78 years old at the time of his death.

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Jean Shepherd - "Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss"

Early life
Born on the south side of Chicago, Illinois, Shepherd was raised in Hammond, Indiana, where he graduated from Hammond High School in 1939. As a youth he worked briefly as a mail carrier in a steel mill and earned his Amateur radio license when he was 16. He later attended several universities.

During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Shepherd then had an extensive career in a variety of media:

Filmography
America, Inc. NET Playhouse (1970) (TV)
Jean Shepherd's America (1971) (TV)
The Phantom of the Open Hearth (1976) (TV)
The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters (1982) (TV)
The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski (1983) (TV)
A Christmas Story (1983)
The Great American Road-Racing Festival (1985) (TV)
Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss (1988) (TV)
My Summer Story (aka It Runs in the Family) (1994)

Radio career
Shepherd began his broadcast radio career on WSAI-AM in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1948. From 1951 to 1953 he had a late-night broadcast on KYW-AM in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, after which he returned to Cincinnati for a show on WLW. After a stint on television (see below), he returned to radio. "Shep," as he was known, settled in at WOR radio New York City, New York on an overnight slot in 1956, where he delighted his fans by telling stories, reading poetry (especially the works of Robert W. Service), and organizing comedic listener stunts. The most famous of the last involved creating a hoax about a non-existent book, I, Libertine, by the equally non-existent author "Frederick R. Ewing", in 1956. Later co-written by Shepherd, Theodore Sturgeon and Betty Ballantine, this Ballantine Book is now a collector's item. Among his close friends in the late 1950s were Shel Silverstein and Herb Gardner. With them and actress Lois Nettleton, Shepherd performed in the revue he created, Look, Charlie. Later he was married to Nettleton for about six years.

Print
Shepherd wrote a series of humorous short stories about growing up in northwest Indiana and its steel towns, many of which were first told by him on his programs and then published in "Playboy." The stories were later assembled into books titled "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash," "Wanda Hickey's Night of Golden Memories," and "A Fistful of Fig Newtons." Some of those situations were incorporated into his movies and television fictional stories. He also wrote a column for the early "Village Voice," a column for "Car and Driver" and numerous individual articles for diverse publications, including "Mad Magazine."

Television and films
Early in his career, Shepherd had a television program in Cincinnati called "Rear Bumper." Reportedly he was eventually recommended to replace the resigning Steve Allen on NBC's "The Tonight Show." NBC executives sent Shepherd to New York City to prepare for the position, but they were contractually bound to first offer it to Jack Paar. The network was certain Paar would hold out for a role in prime time, but he accepted the late-night assignment. However, he did not assume the position permanently until Shepherd and Ernest Kovacs had co-hosted the show.

In the early 1960s he did a weekly television show on WOR in New York. Between 1971 and 1994, Shepherd became a screenwriter of note, writing and producing numerous works for both television and cinema. He was the writer and narrator for the show "Jean Shepherd's America," produced by Boston Public Television station WGBH in which he told his famous narratives, visited unusual locales, and interviewed local people of interest. He used a similar format for the New Jersey Network TV show "Shepherd's Pie." On many of the Public TV shows he wrote, directed and edited entire shows.

He also wrote and narrated many works, the most famous being the feature film "A Christmas Story," which is now considered a holiday classic. In the film, Shepherd provides the voice of the adult Ralph Parker. (This narrative style was later appropriated, without acknowledgment, in the popular television sitcom "The Wonder Years.") He also has a cameo role playing a man overseeing the line at the department store waiting for Santa Claus. Much to Ralphie's chagrin, he points out to him that the end of the line is much further away.

A 1994 movie sequel, "My Summer Story," was narrated by Shepherd but featured an almost entirely different cast from the previous film. The PBS series "American Playhouse" aired a series of television movies based on Shepherd stories, also featuring the Parker family. These included "Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss," "The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters," and "The Phantom of the Open Hearth."

Live performances and recordings
Shepherd also performed for several years at The Limelight Cafe in New York City's Greenwich Village, and at many colleges nationwide. His live shows were a perennial favorite at Rutgers and Fairleigh Dickinson Universities. He performed at Princeton University annually for 30 years, until 1996. The Limelight shows were broadcast live on WOR radio.

He also performed before sold-out audiences at Carnegie Hall and Town Hall. He was also emcee for several important jazz concerts in the late 1950s. Shepherd improvised spoken word lyrics for the title track on jazz great Charles Mingus's 1957 album The Clown. Eight record albums of live and studio performances of Shepherd were released between 1955 and 1975. Shepherd also recorded the opening narration and the voice of the Audio-Animatronics "Father" character for the updated Carousel of Progress attraction at Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom.


Music
Many of his broadcasts were accompanied by novelty songs such as "The Bear Missed the Train" (a parody of the Yiddish ballad "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen") and "The Sheik of Araby", or by Shepherd himself, playing the Jew's harp, nose flute and kazoo.

On radio as well as on his WOR-TV show, he frequently used his own head as a musical instrument, knocking the top of his skull with his knuckles while changing the size of his open mouth to produce different notes. Shep facetiously claimed that his "Head Thumping" (as he called it) spanned about an octave.


Ham Radio
Jean held the Ham Radio call K2ORS. He was very active on ham radio until his death. Jean is also credited as the voice for the ARRL's tape series 'Tune in the world with Ham Radio'. This series of tapes helped many young people become ham radio operators.

John F. Kennedy, Jr.

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John F Kennedy JrJohn Fitzgerald Kennedy, Jr. (November 25, 1960 – July 16, 1999), often referred to as John F. Kennedy, Jr., JFK Jr., John Jr. or John-John, was an American lawyer, journalist, socialite and publisher. He was the son of President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and the younger brother of Caroline Kennedy (as well as of the deceased Arabella Kennedy and older brother of the deceased Patrick Bouvier Kennedy).

John F. Kennedy's Cause of Death:
On July 16, 1999, at the age of 38, John F. Kennedy Jr. was killed along with his wife and his sister-in-law, Lauren Bessette, when the aircraft he was piloting, N9253N, a Piper Saratoga II HP, crashed on a hazy night into the Atlantic Ocean en route from Essex County Airport in Fairfield Township, Essex County, New Jersey, to Martha's Vineyard, where the Kennedy family has a vacation house. Kennedy and his wife were traveling to the wedding of cousin Rory Kennedy, which was then postponed. Lauren was to have been dropped off at Martha's Vineyard.

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