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RIP Quinn O’Hara

Sad to report one of my fave interviewees 1960s starlet Quinn O’Hara has passed away.

A “red-headed gasser,” Quinn O’Hara certainly lived up to that description and became very popular with teenage audiences during the sixties.  A former Miss Scotland, this titan-haired beauty began on television before appearing in minor film roles with major stars such as Jerry Lewis and Jack Lemmon.  Younger audiences remembered her best for her two back-to-back starring roles in two beach-party movies.  O’Hara exuded a natural sex appeal that had every boy’s heart racing either playing the good girl as in A Swingin’ Summer (1965) or the vixen as in The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966).  She should have become a major star however, disenchanted with the roles being offered her, Quinn fled to England in the late sixties where she worked on stage, TV and an occasional film.

Quinn O’Hara was dramatically born in a hospital’s elevator going up in Edinburgh, Scotland on Jan. 3, 1941 to a Welsh father and a Scottish-Irish mother who named the impatient newborn Alice Jones.  Most of her childhood was spent in a convent boarding school in Wales.  When she turned fourteen, she and her mother moved to Quebec, Canada where the blossoming teenager learned to speak French.  After three years, they upped and moved to Long Beach, California where the red haired beauty stood out from the myriad of California blondes.  Her European origins prevented her from competing in the Miss California contest but she was dubbed Miss Scotland by the Royal Order of her home country.

With all the newfound attention she was receiving and with the acting offers coming in, Alice Jones morphed into the more appropriate name for a titan-hair Scottish lass, Quinn O’Hara.  Her big screen debut was in a bit part in The Errand Boy (1961) starring Jerry Lewis.  O’Hara would go on to work with Lewis again in The Patsy (1964) playing the minor role of a cigarette girl and in Who’s Minding the Store? (1963), though her scenes were cut.

O’Hara’s first taste of fame came when she was selected to appear with Vic Damone in his 1962 Emmy-nominated summer series The Lively Ones.  The popular show brought O’Hara notoriety and she became very much in demand on TV but she wasn’t having much luck with films.  Only her hand was on display in The Caretakers (1963) where she played a nurse.  Good Neighbor, Sam (1964) featured all of Quinn in the small role of a curvy secretary to recently promoted ad man Jack Lemmon. O’Hara kept persevering.  She began getting press in all the movie rags of the time and she was chosen by Photoplay to be photographed on a pre-arranged “date” with teen idol Fabian.  But surprisingly, the duo hit it off and it developed into a relationship that lasted a year.

Quinn’s Notable Quotable About Working with titan-haired witch Jill St. John in Who’s Minding the Store?

“[She] was an unbelievably cruel person who I am not fond of in the least.”

In 1965 Quinn O’Hara co-starred in one of the better Beach Party knockoffs A Swingin’ Summer with William Wellman, Jr. and James Stacy.  Though it was not her first color movie it was her first lead role.  She looked terrific in her mod swimsuits and more than held her own with rising superstar, Raquel Welch.

Quinn’s Notable Quotable About Working with diva-in-training Raquel Welch  in A Swingin’ Summer

“I had no trouble with Raquel. But everybody else did—including the cameraman and make up person. Lori Williams, who was such a nice girl, also had a terrible time with Raquel. I wasn’t on the set but I heard that Lori had the same color bikini on as Raquel and she told the director to go make Lori change her bathing suit! When we went to do promotion for the film in conjunction with Suzuki, Raquel and I both showed up wearing pink. I said to somebody, ‘If she thinks I’m going to change, she’s crazy.’ Raquel didn’t say a word and went and changed her outfit.”

Quinn next auditioned at AIP for the role of the sexy though bumbling Sinistra in what was then titled Bikini Party in a Haunted House.  It was not her first encounter with the studio.  The producers and director Don Weis originally wanted her for a role in Pajama Party (1964) but she declined because “I didn’t want to be just one of the beach girls so I turned it down.”  AIP decided they needed to pump new life into their beach-party genre so they came up with an idea of combining it with a horror angle, which had worked so well for them with the series of Edgar Allan Poe films.  Bikini Party in a Haunted House featured Tommy Kirk, Deborah Walley and Patsy Kelly as heirs to a fortune who gather at the creepy mansion of dead millionaire, Hiram Stokely, to hear the reading of his will.  O’Hara played the bumbling daughter of crooked attorney Basil Rathbone who instructs the vixen to off Kelly’s interfering nephew Aron Kincaid.  But her nearsightedness keeps getting in her way.

The head honchos at AIP decreed that Bikini Party in a Haunted House was not releasable.  To salvage the film, scenes with Boris Karloff as the recently departed Hiram Stokely and Susan Hart as his long-dead wife, Cecily, were added and the film was re-titled The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini.  Though the film was not a big moneymaker, AIP was so impressed with O’Hara that they offered her another film.  However, it was the laughable low-budget sci-fi flick In the Year 2889 (1967), co-starring Paul Petersen of The Donna Reed Show and directed by self-described “schlockmeister” Larry Buchanan.  Much better was the Academy Award-nominated short film, Prelude (1968) starring O’Hara as the bitchy wife of meek John Astin who meets his fantasy girl Karen Jensen in a supermarket.

It was shortly thereafter that Quinn O’Hara departed Hollywood for London to work on the stage.  One of the films Quinn O’Hara did while in Europe was a small role as a “witch wench” in the AIP horror film Cry of the Banshee (1970) starring Vincent Price.  O’Hara’s last movie was Rubia’s Jungle (1971), which was shot in the Netherlands.

During her time in England, O’Hara made periodical trips back to Hollywood to maintain her working status.  She could be seen on TV in To Rome with Love, The Smith Family and Ironside, and on the big screen in the cult sex comedy The Teacher (1974).  Then Quinn disappeared from show business.  On a trip to Africa to visit her father who was working there she met an Italian guy there.  She accompanied him back to Italy where they were suppose to marry but didn’t.  When she returned to Hollywood in the late seventies she found it surprisingly difficult to get work.  Her friend, director Don Weis, gave her a part in an episode of CHiPs and she landed two small roles on One Day at a Time.  Unfortunately, that was all she could muster.

Like a number of her contemporaries, O’Hara took up real estate to make ends meet.  After a short-lived marriage Quinn met Bill Kirk who is twenty years her junior in 1981.  They married, divorced, and have since reconciled.

In 2008, I attended The Hollywood Show and finally met Quinn in person. A guy bought my Drive-in Dream Girl book and asked for Quinn to autograph near her chapter. She then said the author is here too and can autograph. The guy said no thanks, grabbed the book, and walked away. I laughed but Quinn was so angry and thought that was so rude of him. I said a sale is a sale. That is how caring she was.

Looking back at her beach party days, Quinn said, “Beach movies reflected the times.  I think that is important that people look back on these films and remember them for what they were.  It was good clean fun not like the smut you see today on the Internet.  I am proud to have been a part of it.”

 

 

 

Dueling Harlows

Carol Lynley (fresh off her March 1965 Playboy semi-nude pictorial “Carol Lynley Grows Up”) replaced a fired Dorothy Provine as Jean Harlow in Bill Sargent’s Harlow (1965) for Electronovision–not to be confused with Joseph E. Levine’s Harlow (1965) starring Carroll Baker for Paramount. Read more in my book Dueling Harlows: Race to the Silver Screen.

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It’s Tiffin!

Tuesday Weld campaigned mightily to play ditsy Southern belle Scarlett Hazeltine in director/writer Billy Wilder’s frenetic hilarious political satire One, Two, Three (1961) starring James Cagney and Horst Buchholz, but he cast Pamela Tiffin instead who went on to receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

Read more in Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974.

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Boobs Away!

Joan O’Brien stepped in as Cary Grant’s leading lady in Operation Petticoat (1959) after Tina Louise passed due to the “boob jokes.” The WWII comedy co-starring Tony Curtis and Dina Merrill was a blockbuster and went on to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay boob jokes and all. Read more in my book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema.

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ON THE RADIO

tsdimSee below press release for my Indianapolis radio debut this Friday April 7, 2017 on Lakeshore Public Radio. If any one is in the listening area there will be 2 autographed books from me and Arlene Charles aka Charlie Smith to 2 winning random callers.
UPCOMING PROGRAMS & GUESTS:
FRIDAY, APRIL 7 — 1:00pm – “A LOOK AT THE ARTS
Guest: Book Author TOM LISANTI & Sixties Actress CHARLIE SMITH
A well known name to fans of 1960s Pop Culture — TOM LISANTI — has written several books on the topic and in the process of writing those, has interviewed numerous stars, starlets, models and heartthrobs of the era.

Tom Lisanti has a newly release book “TALKING SIXTIES DRIVE IN MOVIES” of which the title says it all! Were you catching the latest beach movies or Elvis flicks back in the day at your favorite neighborhood Drive-In Theater? Then you will want to check out his book — chock full of some folks you saw up on those silver screens between handfuls of pop corn and backseat smooching. Joining Tom on this program is one of those bikini beauties from back in the day — CHARLIE SMITH — a Northwest Indiana native professionally known in those days as Arlene Charles, while popping up in films alongside stars like Elvis Presley, James Stacy, Frankie Avalon and Vincent Price, to name but a few!

 

TALKING SIXTIES DRIVE-IN MOVIES

tsdimSoft cover edition of my new book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies is now available on Amazon.

Talking Sixties Drive-in Movies is a collection of profiles, interviews, and tributes about actors and films popular with the drive-in movie crowd during the sixties. Interviewees include Arlene Charles, Nancy Czar, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, and Irene Tsu talking Elvis Presley musicals; Bobbi Shaw and Steven Rogers talking beach party movies; Jan Watson and Diane Bond talking spy spoofs; Nicoletta Machiavelli talking spaghetti westerns; Mimsy Farmer, Lara Lindsay, LAda Edmund, Jr., and Maggie Thrett talking alienated youth movies; and Valerie Starrett talking biker films. Some of the chapters center on one movie or a genre while others are career profiles with a main focus on one or two drive-in movies.

First official review is in from Library Journal (link to full review):

Recommended for film lovers everywhere.”—Roy Liebman, formerly with California State Univ., Los Angeles/Library Journal

More raves from the interviewees:

A lovely book…amazing. Quoted me exactly. Not what I am used to.”—Lara Lindsay

I just love it [and] think it’s great! I am very pleasantly surprised at how detailed, correct, and complimentary.”—Jan Watson

 

Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies

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Proud to announce that my latest book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies from BearManor Media is now available in hard cover through Amazon.

The book is a collection of profiles, interviews, and tributes about actors and films popular with the drive-in movie crowd during the sixties. Interviewees include Arlene Charles, Nancy Czar, Shelley Fabares, Gail Gerber, Christopher Riordan, and Irene Tsu talking Elvis Presley musicals; Bobbi Shaw and Steven Rogers talking beach and beach parties-in-the-snow movies; Slaymate Jan Watson and Flint Girl Diane Bond talking spy spoofs; Nicoletta Machiavelli talking spaghetti westerns; Mimsy Farmer, Lada Edmund, Jr., and Lara Lindsay talking alienated youth movies; Valerie Starrett talking biker films; and Maggie Thrett and screenwriter Stephen Yafa talking about the making of Three in the Attic.

Advanced copies sent to the interviewees and below is what they had to say:

“It’s marvelous. Great job!” Bobbi Shaw Chance

“Informative, amusing, and wonderful. This is definitely a book we all need to read at this time. True entertainment…about entertainment.” Christopher Riordan

“WOW WOW WOW! [Tom’s] writing is so descriptive and entertaining. I was absolutely thrilled beyond that you had included so much about me.” Charlie Smith aka Arlene Charles
“Ignited the embers of some distant  memories. It’s entertaining and informative, and [Tom’s] enduring passion for those Moviola belles and brutes brings a warm smile.” Stephen Yafa
 

Viva Max!

This is a perfect time to revisit the 1970 film comedy Viva Max where the Mexicans take back the Alamo! Starring Peter Ustinov, Pamela Tiffin, Jonathan Winters, John Astin and in his film debut Peter Gonzales Falcon.

And you can read about the making of the movie in my book Pamela Tiffin: Hollywood to Rome, 1961-1974.

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Star Trek with Maggie Thrett: From Where No Man Has Gone Before to The Wild Wild West

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In my upcoming book Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies from BearManor Media, actress Maggie Thrett talks about her film appearances and especially about making the hit drive-in movie Three in the Attic (1968) written by Stephen Yafa and starring Christopher Jones, Yvette Mimieux, and Judy Pace. However, she is probably most remembered for her guest appearance in “Mudd’s Women” on Star Trek earlier in her career and some of her other TV roles.


Maggie Thrett was born Diane Pine in New York City. She had a natural gift for singing and in junior high school was chosen to be part of the All City Glee Club. She then attended the High School for the Performing Arts and began working as a model after accompanying a tall beautiful Israeli classmate to her modeling agency Plaza Five. One look at the attractive gal with long luxurious dark hair and they signed her as a client. Her first appearance in Harper’s Bazaar had her modeling street clothes accompanied by actor Michael J. Pollard. Soon after she was gracing their cover. She then signed with the more prestigious agency Eileen Ford while continuing her singing career. At age thirteen, she had a record out called “Your Love Is Mine” with the B-side “Lucky Girl.”

tsdimBob Crewe (most famous for writing a number of hits for The Four Seasons) was taken with the aspiring singer when she was dancing at the Greenwich Village discotheque Trude Heller’s the year she graduated high school. He produced her next single called “Soupy” for his label DynoVoice Records, but he changed her name to Maggie Thrett because “he thought it sounded British and more with it for the time.”

During this period Maggie reveals that she was ensconced in an unhappy abusive marriage to a wannabe actor. He got an audtion for Universal Pictures and Thrett agreed to read opposite him when his partner dropped out at the last minute. As luck would have it, she got signed and sent to Hollywood, while he was sent packing.

With her long brown, hair which she refuse to cut, the beautiful actress was able to play various ethnic types such as Mexicans or native Americans mostly on television. Her first film for the studio was the beach/spy spoof Out of Sight  (1966) starring Jonathan Pine, Karen Jensen, and Shindig dancer Carole Shelyne. Maggie played the karate-chopping F.L.U.S.H. assassin Wipeout who arrives in Malibu on a surfboard from Hawaii. They then gave her a role in an episode of Run for Your Life starring Ben Gazzara. There she met future husband actor Donnelly Rhodes. “We met at the Montecito Hotel where Universal Studios first put me up when I cam to Los Angeles. He was married at the time. We didn’t get together until later. He was nice and Ben was too.”

Next came her most notable role that of Ruth, a gorgeous alien humanoid, in “Mudd’s Women” on Star Trek for which she is most remembered for to this day. This episode was directed by Harvey Hart. It was one of three scripts submitted to be the second pilot however the adult content worried NBC. It was the sixth episode aired.

I was living in an apartment on Larrabee Street in Hollywood. Roger C. Carmel lived downstairs. It was a coincidence we both wound up cast. I had no idea what this show was because it was only the second episode they did [third if you count the original pilot with Jeffrey Hunter]. I had to read for the part and got it. I never got any role through connections. It was all by going in for the interview and auditioning.

The entire cast was really nice. I never saw any friction between any of the actors. William Shatner was very polite to me and a very pleasant guy. Susan Denberg was a German girl and she was a bit strange. Karen Steele was easier to get to know and her boyfriend actor Michael Rennie would visit her on the set. I thought he was actually there to see if he could get a job on the series. And of course I was already friends with Roger C. Carmel who was my neighbor. He was always very entertaining and a really good character actor. We had a good cast and a good director with Harvey Hart.

I thought this show was more adult then the other sci-fi shows on the air at the time. Our episode dealt with these women who was so desperate to remain young and beautiful that they would take a drug just to give them the illusion of beauty. They had no self-worth and thought their looks were the only thing going for them. [This episode smartly touched on the way women were made to feel as they matured. Hollywood was the worst offender and if an actress had not made it by thirty they were considered too old and put out to pasture.]

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I had no complaints about my costume here and apparently nobody else did either. What they give you is what you wear but here it was better than usual. The makeup part was tough when we age. They put duo surgical paste on our faces—like six coats of it to shrivel you up. I remember getting it off at night was just raw. When we filmed these scenes I remember we hit Golden Overtime that day. We were there from about 4 in the morning to about 9 or 10 at night. You are passed regular overtime and are into triple overtime. They didn’t want to pay. I had to fight for it through the Screen Actors Guild. They don’t like when you do that and hurts your chances to be on the show again. I got my money and no surprise was never invited back. Years later I got a letter from Gene Roddenberry to forfeit my residuals and to donate them to his charity. I declined.

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As Ruth, Maggie Thrett looked stunning in her tight emerald green sparkling gown as one of the three loveliest women (the others being Karen Steele and Susan Denberg) in the universe who mesmerize the male crew members of the Enterprise. The gals are cargo being transported by Roger C. Carmel’s Henry Mudd who acts an intergalactic pimp providing brides to lonely men. Ruth especially beguiles Dr, McCoy and drops in on sick bay to get information on the lithium crystal miners on the planet the Enterprise is en-route to. While there she inadvertently sets off McCoy’s medical scanner, which baffles him. Turns out the gals’ hypnotic effect on men comes from a Venus drug that transforms them from decrepit hags to glamour girls. When the drug begins to wear off, Ruth is desperate for Mudd to find the hidden pills so she can go back to the illusion of beauty to snare one of the miners. Maggie gives one of her finest performances here as the intense frantic Ruth who cannot bare to return to her true self.

I am shocked that years later I am best known for doing this episode. I am forever in TV history. At least it was not bad so I am not embarrassed by it. Some company contacted me to sell my autograph on these Star Trek cards. They pay me to and they resell at these Star Trek conventions. I was invited once but it didn’t work out. I think living in New York hurts because they are usually on the West Coast.

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Maggie Thrett next turned up twice on The Wild Wild West but her time there was not as enjoyable due to star Robert Conrad:

 He was the only lead actor I didn’t like and he was a real prick. You don’t have to be tall to be nice. He worked all the time and I do not know what his problem was about his height. Conrad also didn’t like to rehearse any scenes and wouldn’t run lines. He was only interested in the action scenes and those were the only scenes he would rehearse. I didn’t get it. Ross Martin, on the other hand, was a doll and he was the better actor. He was a professional and ran lines with us like you are suppose to do.

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On the second episode that louse Conrad, who was married, came on to me. It was like you belong to me because you are on my show. I said, ‘I’m too old for you. I heard you like younger girls.’ I was eighteen at the time. When I wouldn’t go back to his trailer with him, he had me replaced in a love scene we were supposed to do in the moonlight where he kisses me. I didn’t care because I had enough scenes and it didn’t really matter.

Thrett’s two episodes were “The Night of the Freebooters” where she played soft-spoken Rita Leon, a Mexican whose husband is being held prisoner by the Freebooters, a renegade army led by Thorald Wolfe (Keenan Wynn) set to invade and claim Mexico’s Baja, California. “The Night of the Running Death” gave Thrett more to do as a dancer named Deirdre (a.k.a. Topaz) who has a passion for molasses-covered Cherries Jubilee and is the girlfriend of assassin Enzo (played by female impersonator T.C. Jones). She fakes her death in order to aid Enzo, masquerading as a female British schoolteacher, in killing a princess. As a disguised Dierdre goes to shoot her, agent Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin) comes up from behind her and grabs her arm, deflecting the shot. He then says to his partner James West (Robert Conrad), “Let me present our dear friend Topaz to you James. We know her better as Deirdre.” Artemus then rips off her veil and quips, “And we gave you such a nice funeral.”

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Continuing in the western genre she played Indian maidens on two TV shows. The long forgotten 1967 summer series Dundee and the Culhane starred John Mills as an English lawyer partnered with American Sean Garrison bringing “frontier justice” to folks in the Old West. Sort of a Perry Mason on horseback. Her episode was “The Death of a Warrior Brief” and also guest starred James Dunn and Gus Trikonis.

I remember this because I thought Sean Garrison was such a weird nasty guy. Also because we shot on location in Arizona and it was like 120 degrees. They hired real native Americans as extras. Flies were swarming around them and they were used to it. I couldn’t believe it. It was interesting interacting with them.

More remembered was Cimarron Strip starring Stuart Whitman (“another really nice guy,” exclaimed Thrett) as a US marshal enforcing the law in the Kansas territory. In “Heller” Thrett played Red Deer part of an Indian tribe being harassed by an outlaw gang. Tuesday Weld also appeared playing a woman who is part of the gang but turns against them to help Whitman’s marshal because as a child she was raised by Indians and has sympathy for them. As Red Deer, Thrett has one gripping moment when she shames the men in her tribe that won’t help the marshal track down the outlaw gang.

I lied to get this part. I said I had been on a horse and that I owned brown contact lens. That weekend before filming began I had to go out and buy a pair, and went to a stable to learn how to get on and off a horse. I got away with it.

Thrett also made appearances on the TV series I Dream of Jeannie; McCloud (“I played Godiva and rode through the park actually topless with my hair covering my breasts”); and The Most Deadly Game working once again with Yvette Mimieux (“I don’t remember her on this but do recall George Maharis because he wore false eyelashes. He was the first actor I ever worked with that wore them. It made him look pretty”).

Maggie Thrett’s last TV role was in an episode of the cult series Run, Joe, Run in 1974 with then husband Donnelly Rhodes about a military trained German Shepherd named Joe falsely accused of attacking his Sergeant. The canine goes on the run and winds up helping people he encounters while being pursued. It was like a four-legged version of The Fugitive. “Funny, I do not recall this show at all. Donnelly and I lived together first and then got married in Tijuana.”

Maggie Thrett then abandoned acting to concentrate on her musical career where as Diane Pine she was a very successful backup singer in the studio and on stage. She left show business the mid-eighties choosing a life of domesticity.

Maggie Three is also profiled in my and Louis Paul’s book Film Fatales: Women in Espionage Film and Television, 1962-1973.

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FAREWELL FRANCINE!

I learned today the sad news that actress Francine York passed away this morning Jan. 6, 2017 from Cancer. Seems she was secretly struggling with the disease for over a year. Based on her cheery Facebook posts and drive to keep working, you would never have guessed it. That is why it came as such a shock for most of her fans.

I wrote to Francine in the late nineties to do a career interview for my first book Fantasy Femmes of Sixties Cinema. She called me and said, “I have been waiting for you for years. What took you so long! I have a whole lot to say!” And boy did she. A writer’s dream, Francine had stories from just about every movie and TV show she worked on. Outspoken, funny, and sometimes a bit boastful but in a sweet way, she regaled me with anecdotes about Jerry Lewis, Marlon Brando, Elvis Presley, George Peppard, and her iconic TV appearances on Batman, Lost in Space, Bewitched and so much more. Completely candid, if Francine liked you she praised you to the hilt, but if you wronged her she was not afraid to call you to task (hear that Tony Randall). She told me about her infamous wall of fame in her apartment that she so wanted me to see with photos from her career. When she auditioned for the 70s Saturday morning TV show Jason of Star Command, per Francine the casting director asked if she could play a queen, and she replied, “I am the Queen!” Naturally she got the part.

Francine and I stayed in touch ever since. I will miss receiving her wonderful photo Christmas cards each year. She hated to fly but could not pass up a big paycheck to do a commercial being shot in New York City. We met for dinner in Soho and had a lovely time. We took a photo together and it has remained one of my favorites.

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Francine never stopped acting unlike most of her 60s contemporaries. Her most recent credit was just last year in the comedy web series Where the Bears Are playing a wealthy mother of one of the gay characters. She was a wonderful presence on Facebook up until the night before she passed away. I always was entertained with her life which she shared almost completely and was in the midst of writing her memoir. I hope it still gets released. She was active to the very end.

Goodbye noble Niolani! You will be missed!