(Pictured: Peggy Lipton, in a 1972 still from The Mod Squad.)
We know they don’t really go in threes . . . although they do.
Peggy Lipton passed over the weekend at age 72. Her obituaries assumed the form that all celebrity obituaries do, hitting familiar highlights, in her case The Mod Squad, her marriage to Quincy Jones, Twin Peaks, and her celebrity daughter Rashida Jones. But Peggy Lipton had a brief recording career, too: a single album in 1968, produced by Lou Adler and backed by members of the Wrecking Crew. Peggy Lipton included a version of Laura Nyro’s “Stoney End,” which bubbled under the Hot 100 at #121 as 1968 turned to 1969, two years before Barbra Streisand hit with it. She cut a few other sides after that. One of them was “Lu,” which hit a few radio charts early in 1970 and bubbled under at #102. A version of Donovan’s “Wear Your Love Like Heaven,” which appears to have been recorded at the time of her album but not released on it, got a little traction in the summer of 1970, bubbling under at #108.
Doris Day died on Monday. Her obituaries had their own familiar form: big-band singer, solo star, movie star (Hitchcock and Rock Hudson), TV star, celebrity son Terry Melcher, animal rights activist. My introduction to her as a singer came during my brief time as a big-band radio jock. “Sentimental Journey,” from when she fronted the Les Brown band, is a record most people know, but she also sang on Brown’s “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time.” Both were #1 hits in 1945. I played her solo hits too, not just “Que Sera, Sera,” “Secret Love,” and “Everybody Loves a Lover,” but also “Love Somebody” with Buddy Clark, “An Old-Fashioned Walk” with Frank Sinatra, and “A Guy Is a Guy.”
Tim Conway died yesterday. His obituaries mostly involved television: McHale’s Navy, Turn-On, The Carol Burnett Show, Dorf on Golf, and Spongebob Squarepants, with a detour into his 1970s Disney movie comedies. But Conway, too, had a recording career. After he got out of the Navy in the late 50s, he worked for several years on local TV in Cleveland, with a partner, Ernie Anderson. As local TV personalities frequently did in those days, they would host the showing of a movie and goof off during the breaks. Conway and Anderson eventually released two comedy albums. Are We On? was recorded live at a show in Bowling Green, Ohio, and came out in 1967; Bull appeared in 1968. It’s not clear to me when the albums were recorded, however. Their Cleveland partnership had ended in 1962 when Conway went off to Hollywood, first for a featured-player role on The Steve Allen Show and later on McHale’s Navy. Anderson stayed in Cleveland, where he became famous as the horror host Ghoulardi, and later as the voice of ABC-TV in the 70s and 80s. He would also be reunited with Conway on The Carol Burnett Show, where Anderson was the announcer and an occasional actor. (Ernie Anderson was also the father of film director Paul Thomas Anderson, and he died in 1997.)
For the families and friends of Peggy Lipton and Doris Day and Tim Conway, the losses are deeply personal. For the rest of us, it’s our memories of them, and how we watched them with the family around the electronic hearth, that make their passings noteworthy. We remember The Mod Squad, and how we’d laugh at Tim Conway on Saturday nights with Carol Burnett, after laughing at Archie and Edith and Mary and Ted and Bob and Emily. Doris Day’s TV show (1968-1973) followed The Red Skelton Show, a particular favorite at our house, and I can’t hear her theme song, “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be),” without remembering that when it came on TV, we had to go to bed. In that same era, Mother sometimes said to my brothers and me, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” I didn’t know until years later that the line came from “A Bushel and a Peck,” which was a hit for Day in 1950, when Mother was a schoolgirl.
They don’t really go in threes . . . but however and whenever they go, they take pieces of our youth with them.