Monday, March 23, 2020

Rogers and Call Take Their Final Bows

I not a big country music enthusiast—jazz and classical are more my style—so I can’t claim great familiarity with the career of Kenny Rogers, who died this last Friday night, March 20, of “natural causes” at age 81. Sure, I remember some of his songs—notably “The Gambler” (1978) and “Islands in the Stream,” the latter of which he performed as a duet with Dolly Parton. But most of the works on Rogers’ discography are unfamiliar to me.

What I do recall, though, are a few of his acting roles. While I watched him in the 1980 TV movie The Gambler (which further exploited his number of that same title), Rogers’ performances in the only two episodes of the mystery MacShayne are more firmly lodged in my memory. You may or may not know that show, and you can be forgiven if you do not. Part of NBC’s short-lived 1990s “wheel series,” the Friday Night Mystery (which also featured a Hart to Hart revival and Lou Gossett Jr.’s Ray Alexander), it cast Rogers as John J. MacShayne, the head of security at a Las Vegas casino. The Thrilling Detective Web Site describes the character this way:
MacShayne, played by Rogers with all the shaggy charm he could muster, was an inveterate gambler whose bad luck streak seemed endless. So the casino’s board of directors strikes a deal with MacShayne, whereby he can work off his rather large hotel bill by becoming a sort of troubleshooter, protecting the hotel and casino from “thieves and con men.”

Of course, who was going to protect the casino/hotel from MacShayne was another story. A compulsive gambler and con artist himself, recently out of jail after serving ninety days (“the only man I know [who] can get arrested for illegal gambling in a state where gambling's legal”), MacShayne has his work cut out for him.
As I said, only two of these films were shown, both in 1994: MacShayne:Winner Takes All and MacShayne: The Final Roll of the Dice. They’re available through Amazon, at the links provided here.

It’s likely that memories of MacShayne will fade further with time, and that Rogers will be remembered solely for his singing. (Which may have included the theme from ABC’s 1969-1970 drama The New People.) Despite the “sandpapery” nature of his voice, The Washington Post’s pop music critic, Chris Richards, opined that it “was a rough, fine, reliable thing that made every sound around it feel smooth.”

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Another loss to the entertainment world came earlier, on February 27, when American actor Roy Dana “R.D.” Call died as a result of complications from back surgery in Layton, Utah.

As Deadline explains, Call “made his TV debut in 1979 on CBS’ Barnaby Jones. Appearances on Little House on the Prairie, V, and Trapper John, M.D. followed.” His résumé also included parts on small-screen dramas such as The X Files, Family Law, Burn Notice, Castle, and EZ Streets, the last being a 1996-1997 CBS crime series on which Call held a regular slot as gangster Michael “Fivers” Dugan. His films varied from At Close Range, I Am Sam, and Born on the Fourth of July to Waterworld and Murder by Numbers.

Call was 70 years old when he passed away.

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