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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Two unforgettable faces have passed on

Some sad news to report: a few days ago Vincent Schiavelli passed away, and it's now being reported that Michael Vale has also died. Who were they? I bet you'd know 'em instantly if you saw them...

Vincent Schiavelli was one of the most well-known character actors of the past thirty years. He first came to prominence as Frederickson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Later on he appeared in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Amadeus. Fifteen years ago he had a memorable role in Ghost: he played the ghost in the subway who taught Patrick Swayze's Sam Wheat character how to move physical objects. Not long after that he played the Organ Grinder in Batman Begins, which I always thought was a role that he should have been given a lot more to do with: I mean c'mon, a guy with a Gatling machine gun built into his grind organ is a pretty cool thing. Maybe no one else will remember this but I gotta mention that he was pretty good in Tim Conway's "Dorf" videos too. Schiavelli wasn't just a great actor, he was also an accomplished gourmet chef who wrote three cookbooks and articles for various cooking magazines. He died of lung cancer at his home in Sicily (where he'd been busy directing some plays) at the age of 57... way too young for a guy with his talents, if you ask me.

Then not long after hearing that Schiavelli had left us, it came down the wire that Michael Vale died on Christmas Eve at the age of 83. Vale will forever be remembered by those of us who lived in the 80s and 90s as Fred the Baker, for whom it was always "Time to make the donuts!" at Dunkin' Donuts. So many hilarious commercials that Vale did for Dunkin' that come to mind. My favorite was the one where Fred dresses up as a woman in the aisles of some supermarket before confronting the store's bakery about how fresh their donuts were. Another one had him constantly going out his front door saying "Time to make the donuts!" before literally meeting himself at the end of the commercial saying "I made the donuts!" Vale retired from the Dunkin' Donuts commercials eight years ago, but to this day his is the face that always comes to mind whenever I drive past a Dunkin' Donuts store. In a far more serious vein, Vale also played a jewelry salesman in Marathon Man.

And its sad to see both of these guys depart from us. But they made a lot of people smile in the time that they were with us, and that's worth making a note of.