Van Williams, 82, who played crime fighters on TV during the 1960s, most notably the Green Hornet on a short-lived ABC show that later attained a cult following and that introduced American audiences to the martial arts master Bruce Lee, died Nov. 29 in a care facility near his home in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The cause was renal failure.
A tall, athletic Texan, Williams looked the part of a superhero. He played the same character, a detective named Kenny Madison, on two ABC series: “Bourbon Street Beat,” with Richard Long and Andrew Duggan, in the 1959-60 season, and then “Surfside 6,” with Lee Patterson and Troy Donahue, until 1962.
He also played a young executive alongside Walter Brennan on another ABC series, “The Tycoon,” in 1964 and 1965.
None of those parts was as memorable as his starring role in “The Green Hornet,” based on a character who originated in a radio series from the 1930s. The show followed the adventures of Britt Reid, a rich newspaper publisher who fights crime as a masked vigilante with the help of Kato, his valet and an expert martial artist.
ABC hoped it would match the success of another show featuring a masked crime fighter and his sidekick: “Batman,” which starred Adam West in the title role and Burt Ward as Robin.
Williams told the Toronto Star in 1997 that he had been reluctant to take the part because he worried that the series would be silly.
“One of the things I absolutely insisted upon was that I was going to play it straight,” he said. “None of this ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ stuff that was going on with Batman.”
The series was canceled in 1967 after one season, but it became a hit in Hong Kong, where Lee grew up. It was called “The Kato Show” there, and its popularity helped Lee land a film deal.
Williams’ last credited role was the director of “The Green Hornet” in the 1993 biopic “Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story.”
Vanzandt Jarvis Williams was born in Fort Worth on Feb. 27, 1934.
Herbert Hardesty, 91, a tenor saxophonist whose name was synonymous with New Orleans rhythm and blues and early rock ‘n’ roll and whose lyrical solos were heard in nearly all of Fats Domino’s hit songs, died Dec. 3 in Las Vegas.
The cause was cancer.
Hardesty had been discharged from the Army and was playing in Dave Bartholomew’s band when he first worked with Domino, though he was unaware of him at the time. Hardesty thought that he and his bandmates were going to record for “The Fat Man,” a radio detective drama, not accompany Domino on his 1949 song “The Fat Man.”
In the liner notes to “They Call Me the Fat Man,” a Fats Domino anthology, Hardesty wrote that from the first recording, “I spent many hours in the studio helping build up Fats’ repertoire. His record sales were great, and the singles almost always made the charts, proving Fats and Dave to be a magical combination.”
Hardesty played on the sessions that created hits like “I’m Walkin’,” “My Blue Heaven,” “Ain’t It a Shame” and “Let the Four Winds Blow.” For the recording of “Blue Monday,” he played the baritone sax for what he said was the first time.
In all, he and Domino collaborated in the studio and onstage for nearly 50 years.
He was born in New Orleans on March 3, 1925.
Doyle Owens, 85, who turned the orphaned contents of passengers’ lost luggage into the Unclaimed Baggage Center, a major retail and tourist attraction in Scottsboro, Ala., died Dec. 3 at his home there.
Owens built his business on a traveler’s nightmare: not finding your suitcase, duffel bag or trunk on the airport carousel.
“We never know what’s in those suitcases until we open them,” Owens said in 1978. “It’s like buying a pig in a poke.”
An estimated 1 million people trek to Unclaimed Baggage each year and roam through its cavernous 40,000 square feet to sift through stuff that was never returned to its original owners.
Owens was selling insurance in 1970 when a friend with the Trailways bus company told him of its unclaimed baggage in Washington. Intrigued, Owens borrowed a pickup truck and $300 and bought the bags.
“We looked like Jed Clampett’s clan coming back down from Washington, D.C., to Alabama,” Owens said in an interview with his grandson Benjamin that was recorded four years ago.
Owens and his wife, Mollie Sue, rented a house, set up tables and sold out that first day, he recalled. The success accelerated his purchases: He bought up more unclaimed luggage of bus riders and then expanded his ambitions to airlines, which had many more bags to misplace.
Each day, at least 5,000 new items are added to the store’s shelves, brought by tractor-trailers from major airports. The merchandise goes through a retail triage: Employees decide what will be sold, donated or discarded. Many of the items that go on display are shoes, electronics, jewelry, and clothing that is dry-cleaned on site, selling for 20 to 80 percent off retail prices. Many laptops cost $200 to $400; wedding gowns range from $75 to several hundred dollars.
“This is just American ingenuity,” Brett Snyder, the president of Cranky Flier, an airline industry blog, said of the store. “Finding a niche opportunity and putting it to use.”
Hugo Doyle Owens was born on July 6, 1931, in Fyffe, Ala.