When I was in high school and college back in the 1980s and '90s, my favorite TV father wasn't Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) on The Cosby Show. He was too cloying and the show just reeked of saccharine sweetness. It wasn't Steven Keaton (Michael Gross) on Family Ties. Nor was it Jim Walsh (James Eckhouse) on Beverly Hills 90210. No - it was Philip Banks (James Avery) in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. That's why hearing of Avery's death from complications from open-heart surgery hit me harder than I expected.
Avery was able to convey a tough as nails man who was more than capable of being a great father. He could go from silencing his nephew, Will Smith (Will Smith) with a glare to dispensing fatherly advice to his son, Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro) or one of his two daughters, Hilary (Karyn Parsons) and Ashley (Tatyana Ali). He was also a devoted husband to his wife, Vivian (Both Janet Hubert and Daphne Reid). Despite his angry looks, he clearly didn't mind being the butt of the fat jokes that Smith often tosses his way. It wasn't just his facial expressions that made him so memorable, though his angry bulging eyes and glower could be equally hilarious and terrifying. His deep voice was capable of conveying so much and he could modulate it quite well. He was gifted in physical comedy too - his scenes throwing Jazz out of his home were always funny.
Despite the jokes, Avery always seemed to use his size to command a scene, not crowd it. He was able to combine all three things: his face, voice and size to create such a unique, compelling persona in all of his roles. Anytime I saw him appear on a show, it always made me smile.
Of course, Avery was on other shows,appearing for short stints on shows like The Closer, He also did a ton of voiceover work, including shows like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, where he was the villainous Shredder (many people had their memories of him through that). The main thing was that he never was not working. In fact, he had just finished a movie with Zach Braff, Jim Parsons, Mandy Patinkin, Donald Faison and Kate Hudson before he passed away.
His death was such that it was even front-page news on CNN.com. Rest well, Uncle Phil. You'll always live on in syndication.
Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston can relax; they are now surpassed in the couples rumor mill by the betrothed Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. So we're here to quash some buzzings and entertain you with others.
The latest rumor is that Zeta-Jones wants to take Douglas' name after they wed, according to the New York Daily News. Does this make her Catherine Douglas or Catherine Zeta-Douglas? We're not sure. But while we find out, we can tell you that she's not converting to Judaism, according to Douglas.
"I have had no formal religious training myself, and there has never been any debate with Catherine about it. Religion has not entered into the equation. Our child will be raised the same way I was," Douglas, 55, told London's Mirror.
He also admits that he misplaced her engagement ring before he proposed New Year's Eve. When Douglas couldn't find the sparkler in his luggage, he was "sure someone had stolen it," but Zeta-Jones, 30, remembered seeing him fumbling with a box at their hotel room in Wales over Christmas. Douglas called the hotel and asked housekeeping if they'd found a box, and lo and behold, it was there. It was shipped to Aspen, Colo., where he proposed at his resort. Kudos to the FedEx people for going above and beyond the call of duty.
A SHAGADELIC LAUGH: "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me's" Mike Myers and "American Beauty's" Annette Bening took funniest film actor and actress honors at the American Comedy Awards on Sunday night at Los Angeles' Shrine Exposition Center. The awards will be telecast March 23 on Fox.
Funniest motion picture went to "Analyze This," a mob comedy starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, topping more offbeat nominees such as "American Beauty" and "Being John Malkovich."
Steve Martin was honored with a career achievement award. Said Myers, "I like Steve Martin because he's silly and smart, smart and silly."
MAKING PEACE: Before "Red Planet" opens Nov. 10 -- pushed back from June 16 -- Tom Sizemore would like to clear the air concerning reported rifts he had with co-star Val Kilmer.
"Val and I are friends," the 36-year-old actor told USA Today. "A lot of people say nasty things about him. ... We did 'Heat,' and he was sweet to me. We're together (in 'Red Planet') from Page 6 to the end, every day, for 16 hours. And we've had a really good time. "
Earlier reports said the two considered taking out restraining orders on the set. Kilmer says, "The idea that Tom and I have taken out restraining orders ... is completely untrue. I have known Tom for many years and have the utmost respect for him as a person and actor."
MAKING PEACE, PART II: Madonna, after giving some 65 interviews promoting her upcoming film "The Next Best Thing," finished her interview with Rosie O'Donnell and decided she had more good-doing to do. So the Material Girl popped on over to "Saturday Night Live" studios, where fellow diva Jennifer Lopez was rehearsing her musical number for this week's show. The two reportedly greeted each other warmly and laughed off rumors that Madonna snubbed Lopez at Donatella Versace's New Year's Eve bash over Lopez's criticism of her acting abilities in a Movieline.
OBITS: French director Claude Autant-Lara, known for his right-wing political stances and jabs at bourgeois society, died Saturday at age 98. Autant-Lara directed more than 30 films, many of them classics of 1940s and 1950s French cinema ...
John Vincent Imbragulio, a music executive who produced the rock 'n' roll single "Sea Cruise" among others, died Friday at age 74. Imbragulio owned Ace Records, Ace Music Publishers and Avanti Records ...
Todd Karns, who played James Stewart's younger brother in died Saturday of cancer at age 79. Karns' character, Harry Bailey, made the memorable toast in the film's final scene, saying "To my big brother, George. The richest man in town!" ...
Doris Kenner-Jackson, member of the Shirelles, died Friday of breast cancer. She was 58. The Shirelles, which also included Shirley Alston Reeves, Beverly Lee and the late Addie "Micki" Harris, had many hits in the early 1960s, including "Soldier Boy" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow."
QUICK TAKES: Add Clint Eastwood to the roster of presenters at this year's Academy Awards on March 26 in Los Angeles. Eastwood picked up Best Picture and Best Director awards for 1992's "Unforgiven." ...
... Phylicia Rashad (CBS' "Cosby") has made plans to renovate the Brainerd Institute, a historic black school where her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, graduated ...
Paul Newman ran into a little car trouble at the 24 Hours of Daytona race Saturday. His Porsche blew an engine and was retired only eight hours into the race. Luckily, the 75-year-old Newman was not in the car when it blew; likely he was off hand-gliding or preparing for the running of the bulls.