Sunday, October 27, 2013

R.I.P. Marcia Wallace

So sad to hear of the passing of Marcia Wallace. She was 70. Marcia and I became good friends after working together… for one week. She starred in a pilot of ours in 1979. The project didn’t go, but I remained friends with her ever since. What a brave, courageous, funny lady.

Depending on your age, she is best known as “Carol Kester,” the receptionist on THE BOB NEWHART SHOW or the voice of schoolteacher, Edna Krabappel on THE SIMPSONS.

I’ve never met anyone who could deal with adversity with as much good humor as Marcia. And she dealt with a series of them. Breast cancer, her husband dying, a fire in her house.  How she did it I'll never know.  Every year Marcia would send a Christmas card that included a two-page letter detailing her past year.  Oy.  To read the way she handled one calamity after another, you didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I told her I both looked forward to and dreaded receiving her Christmas cards.

A few years ago Marcia wrote her autobiography. I recommend it. Typical Marcia: her teenage son announced that he wanted to be an actor. Marcia said, “Oh really? You want to be an actor. Act like you like me.”

One of the weirdest occurrences of my life involved Marcia.  A number of years ago I was in the Nashville airport getting ready to fly back home to Los Angeles.  Over the PA they paged "Bob Hartley."   That was Bob Newhart's name on THE BOB NEWHART SHOW.  That struck me as kind of odd and then five minutes later Marcia Wallace walks by.  She was on her book tour.   We both hummed the TWILIGHT ZONE theme. 

She weathered career ups and downs like she weathered everything else – with grace and perspective. I was so thrilled that she landed the SIMPSONS gig. If anyone deserved good things in their life it was Marcia. I hope there’s a heaven because she was made for that place.  Talk about perfect casting.

And if there is an afterlife, Marcia, could you please still keep those Christmas cards coming?  And maybe pop up in an airport?   With Marcia anything is possible. 

28 comments:

Anthony Strand said...

A really sweet tribute to a wonderful actress. I'm happy to know she was as delightful in real life as she was on Bob Newhart.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Nice tribute. I'm sorry you lost your friend.

wg

Michael said...

Ken, you do great tributes. I wonder if you've ever read Red Smith's To Absent Friends, a collection of columns about friends of his who died. It manages not to be maudlin in part because he was, like you, a wonderful writer.

Lyle said...

Ken . . . we've never met but you are a 'regular' in my life. Every morning you are a 'must read.'

Your tribute to Martha Wallace touched me as she was one of my favorite characters on the show.

I also wanted to thank you for your dedication to your blog. Every single day you are there! Amazing dedication! What's more amazing is that you constantly keep in interesting.

I really enjoy your work/play.

Keep 'em coming.

An admirer.

PS: I also worked with Bobby Rich when he was at B100. I did the traffic reports on the AM side, with Hudson and Bauer in the morning and Scruff Evans in the afternoon. (Mac Hudson passed away, Joe Bauer is in Utah, re-married (his first wife passed away during surgery) and is out of radio. Lost touch with Scruff Evans.

Mike Barer said...

I read about Marcia's passing in today's Seattle Times. It brought back memories of that great show and the delightful character that she played.

Jeffro said...

Beautiful remembrances, Ken. thanks for sharing them with us.

Ave atque vale, Marcia/Carol/Edna.

Jake Mabe said...

Heard the news last night. Bittersweet.

I watched "The Bob Newhart Show" in its entirety last year. Marcia Wallace is one of those actors who can crack me up just by walking into a scene. It was such a treat to "see" her as Edna Krabappel all these years on "The Simpsons."

Touching tribute, Ken. Well done, sir.

Mike Schryver said...

She was a wonderful actress, and it's nice to hear that she was a good person. The obit I read at another site listed just about all of her credits, but didn't mention her work on THAT'S MY BUSH, where she was great as always.

Kurt said...

Sorry to hear of her death. She was one of those performers who enhanced any scene she walked into.

What in the world was THAT'S MY BUSH?

Mike Schryver said...

THAT'S MY BUSH was a sitcom done by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, on the surface a parody of the Bush White House, but was actually a spoof of lame sitcom tropes.
Wallace played the housekeeper.

VP81955 said...

"That's My Bush" was not political but a clever send-up of sitcom convention, with Timothy Bottoms as what George W. would be if he were a bumbling, ineffectual sitcom husband a la Robert Young's Jim Anderson (although to be fair, that was more true of the radio version of "Father Knows Best" than when it moved to TV; there, Young's character was more of an all-knowing paterfamilias). For example, in one episode George is trying to illegally wire cable TV into the White House -- he says it's his way "to beat the man," until someone reminds him he's the man. IIRC, one of the actresses from the later show "She Spies" played a dimwit blonde White House employee.

It was meant as a limited-run, summer replacement-style series and ran in the summer of 2001, thankfully ending not long before 9/11. Bottoms was good as Bush, and so resembled him that a few years later he portrayed him in a completely serious TV movie about 9/11.

Ken, this leads me to a potential Friday question: Can you think of series that were superb the first season, but then were tinkered with and lost all the charm that had made them good? I can think of a few: the aforementioned "She Spies," unconventional the first season, uninteresting the second; the Tea Leoni sitcom "The Naked Truth," charming in its first year on ABC, but after it moved to NBC in its second year was forced to emulate that network's sitcom formula; and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch," which was really likable and clever in its first season (1996-97) but lost its showrunner, Nell Scovell, and simply wasn't as whimsical a series for the rest of its run.

Kurt said...

Oh, I remember that series now. I had completely forgotten Marcia Wallace was in the cast. Thanks, Mike.

Kirk said...



Did you know Marcia Wallace was once on BEWITCHED? I believe she played Larry Tate's secretary.

She's also did MATCH GAME quite a bit in the 1970s. In fact, I think Gene Rayburn was a bit horny for her. On one show, she's wearing what looks to be a halter top. Rayburn touches her bare shoulders and sez, "You are just about naked!" She rolled her eyes big time, and then laughed it off.

D. McEwan said...

Who didn't love Marcia? Back in the 1980s, I used to run into her periodically at the place where we both rented videos. She was always warm, approachable, and a hoot. Her beauty may have been mostly on the inside, but there was more than enough of it to turn her into a great beauty.

I see The Simpsons have declared her "irreplacable," and are having Miss Krabappel (My second-favorite "Edna") retire. Very respecful and appropriate. Ken, your loss is a loss for us all this week.

basura said...

I remember her appearing as herself on a Taxi episode being set up by Carol Kane with a date with Jim.

I'll dig it up to rehash more details.

Rich

Michael said...

Kirk, part of the charm of Match Game was Gene Rayburn's interest in every attractive woman who was on there.

Anonymous said...

Does The Simpsons really count as landing a role? She was always billed as a 'guest star', even winning an Emmy I think.

media_lush said...

who knew you'd make Halloween ..... sort of

http://grab.by/rwuA

Jason Matthews said...

Friday Question:

Hey Ken,

From reading your blog, I get a sense that you still have some great comedic chops.

Just curious, if the right project arose, would you ever consider leaping out of retirement and returning to a writer's room as a consulting producer?

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks for sharing this. A happy/sad read in itself.

Storm said...

First Marcia Wallace, and now, Lou Reed. This weekend sucked the big one.

Storm

Jeffro said...

Storm, indeed it did. And with further suckiness, for beer lovers out there, the Yuengling brewery in Tampa had a big fire this weekend. Millions in damage and a loss of plenty of product. Terrible, terrible weekend for me.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

VP81955:
I can think of a few that died after looking promising...
Just a few years ago, "Whitney" had a few good first episodes but you could tell the Networks tinkered with it until it was unwatchable.

Some shows that had a break out characters changed completely when the Networks forced the shows to spotlight the character in the background(for better or worse)...
Think of Family Ties (Alex), Family Matters (Urkel), Happy Days (The Fonz), Dallas (JR Ewing),Good Times (JJ), Alice (Flo)

ST said...

You could tell she had a great sense of humor by appearing on Taxi as herself. I still remember the episode well all these years later. Simka (Carol Kane) sets up the cast with whom she believes is their soul mate. For Rev. Jim it is the actual Marcia Wallace. He is so in love with her that he wrote words to the Bob Newhart Theme song, something like "Here comes Bob and Carol, his wife Emily..." Rev. Jim loved her so much he put her right after Bob in the song and Emily is an afterthought. At first she thinks Rev. Jim is a weirdo/loser but by the end finds his goofy ways endearing.

Anonymous said...

That episode of Taxi is how she got the job on the Simpsons. Sam Simon was a producer on Taxi and remembered her from that guest spot. He called her up and offered her the role as "a teacher" on a a new animated series...cut to 25 years later.

D. McEwan said...

"Anonymous said...
Does The Simpsons really count as landing a role? She was always billed as a 'guest star'"


She played the role for a quarter of a century. I'd say that role was securely "landed." "Landing" a role does not refer to your billing, only to your being cast in the part. Her guest star billing merely meant that she had a good agent who "landed" her special billing.

Kevin said...

I don't know if the term is still in use, but parts such as Marcia Wallace had on THE SIMPSONS--appearing regularly, but not every week, on an as-needed basis--used to be called recurring roles.

Thia said...

I knew scruff Evans from kfbk San Diego in the late 70s and am curious as to whatever happened to him. When did your paths cross??