Saturday, April 02, 2005

Passings: Billy, Guitar Wolf Bassist and Jason Evers, Actor

The following two men couldn't have less in common, but their recent departures meant a lot to me, and you're unlikely to see their obituaries in most mainstream sources. I feel compelled to pay respects to both.

Hideaki Sekiguchi, AKA Billy, bassist for Petri Dish faves Guitar Wolf, died on the morning of March 20. He was only 38. Anyone who was lucky enough to see the Wolf live on their North American tour a few weeks ago can vouch for the fact that Billy hit the four-string like every note was his last. Like his band mates,Bass Wolf seemed frickin' immortal onstage, a hyperkinetic force of nature that never stopped giving his all, and never stopped having (and sharing) fun with rock and roll. His death is a blow, and a shock.

When Guitar Wolf played in 2003, Rita and I wormed our way backstage before the show and met Billy and his bandmates. In contrast to his snarling persona, Billy was quiet, sweet-natured, even downright shy in person. He and his fellow Wolves graciously signed stuff for us, and seemed really delighted at our admiration for them.

Billy died in his sleep of a heart attack.

I was tempted to make some pithy statement about him joining Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee in the Great Rock and Roll Hereafter, but this statement from Seiji on the Goner Records website speaks much better than I ever could. Rock on, Bass Wolf.

A heart attack, meanwhile, claimed the life of actor Jason Evers on March 13, 2005, at age 83. Evers' career spanned some forty years, with supporting roles in everything from the John Wayne Vietnam actioner The Green Berets to Escape from the Planet of the Apes, and guest shots on dozens of TV series. Even in unmitigated (if entertaining) crap like the Grizzly ripoff Claws, he gave solid, committed performances.

My favorite Jason Evers role, one of his few leads, came in 1959 as Dr. Bill Cortner in The Brain that Wouldn't Die, one of the wildest and most entertaining B flicks of that decade. In it, Dr. Cortner rescues and resuscitates his fiancee's decapitated head after a catastrophic car crash, then searches the Red Light District of his town for a fresh body onto which he can graft his love's disembodied noggin.

The movie packs a potent good time, with everything from a catfight to some shocking-for-the-time gore to a pinheaded giant in the closet (telepathically controlled by the Fiancee's Living Disembodied Head, no less!). It's all ridiculous as hell, but Evers (billed under his given name, Herb Evers) imbues his stock role with aristocratic good looks and a core of believability that subtly turns a lot of mad-scientist cliches on their respective ears. His inquisitive fervor, devotion to (what's left of) his would-be bride, and willingness to do harm to others in the name of science give the movie something really unbelievable; a corroded but definite soul.

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