Pop culture Mort Report

The recent death of Peter Breck, best known for his role as Nick Barkley in the 1960s western TV series “The Big Valley,” made me think about an occasional entry here making note of the passing of some pop culture — particularly geek pop culture — figures.

These won’t be weighty obituaries and don’t be surprised if important figures in the world of art or government aren’t included. I’ll just throw out a picture and a quick note of what they meant to me.

Breck was one of those dependable looking guys who populated 1960s TV series. “The Big Valley” was something of a gender-reveral “Bonanza” best known for employing Barbara Stanwyck late in her career as the matriarch of a ranch. Breck was the most gruff of the three sons on the show, the others being played by Richard Long and Lee Majors.

There’s been plenty of note of the passing of Don Cornelius and Ben Gazzara. Cornelius was best known for hosting “Soul Train,” the coolest and in many ways hottest of TV dance shows.

Gazzara was a Method actor best known for movies like “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie,” but pop culture fans know him as the detestable bad guy from the Patrick Swayze classic “Roadhouse.”

Nicol Williamson was another intense actor, this time of the British variety. He brought an offbeat touch to Sherlock Holmes in “The Seven Percent Solution.” Of course he will forever be remembered for his role as Merlin in “Excalibur.”

While we’re talking about Brits, how about Ian Abercrombie? He’s best known as Elaine’s boss on “Seinfeld.” I’ll remember him as a very good Alfred, the Wayne Manor Butler, on the short-lived “Birds of Prey” TV series.

Then there’s Dick Tufeld, who is best known for providing the voice of the robot on the 1960s TV series “Lost in Space.” But Tufeld was a longtime announcer and voice-over talent, the kind of behind-the-scenes figure that made TV work.

The pop culture world was the better for their presence.


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