Though she lived a long time and was 90 at the time of her passing, we were still saddened to hear of the death of Jane Kean of the old “Jackie Gleason Show” the other day.
We hadn’t thought of her in a long time, not even enough to wonder if she was still around. But her death brought back warm memories of childhood TV viewing long ago when the “Gleason” show was one of the week’s most anticipated shows in the 1960s.
Gleason revived “The Honeymooners” on that one-hour variety show, and he brought back Art Carney to play Ralph Kramden’s friend, Ed Norton.
But he didn’t bring back the original Alice (Audrey Meadows) or Trixie (Joyce Randolph). Instead, he replaced them with Sheila MacRae and Kean.
And it got us thinking: Who else is still around from the TV shows of the now-distant past?
And we wondered: Who is TV’s oldest living personality? Some of the answers we unearthed — with the help of Web sites such as IMDB.com (the Internet Movie Database) and Wikipedia — surprised us.
For openers, original 1950s “Honeymooners” star Joyce Randolph — who ought to be declared a national treasure — is alive and well at age 89. Sheila MacRae is also 89.
In fact, they’re youngsters compared to the many TV luminaries now in their 90s whose personal histories on TV go back just as far.
Among the ones we were delighted to come across in our research: “Mister Ed” star Alan Young is 94; Noel Neill, who played Lois Lane in “The Adventures of Superman” in the 1950s, is 94; Patrick MacNee of “The Avengers” is 91; and Barbara Hale, who played savvy assistant Della Street on “Perry Mason,” is also 91.
Others who are still very active include Betty White (of course), 91, Carl Reiner, 91, and Don Pardo, still announcing for “Saturday Night Live” at age 95.
Possibly the oldest TV star who is still around is Norman Lloyd, 99, who starred in “St. Elsewhere” (the hospital drama that made Denzel Washington a star) and whose career stretches back to the 1930s — including working with such legends as Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin.
But the one name that intrigued us the most when we did our research is one you might not know: He’s a director, Richard L. Bare, who’s best-known for two things: He directed one of the most famous episodes ever of “The Twilight Zone” — the one titled “To Serve Man” (which we have for you to watch, above); and he directed just about every episode of “Green Acres.” Richard L. Bare is 100 years old.
There are many more TV stars now living into their 90s — too many to list here, but here are just a few: Monty Hall of “Let’s Make a Deal,” 92; Judge Joseph Wapner of “The People’s Court,” 94; Al Molinaro of “Happy Days” and “The Odd Couple,” 94; and Abe Vigoda of “Barney Miller” and “Fish,” 92.