There were only 16 episodes made up of 31 shorts, and the final show was broadcast 34 years ago. Yet something about the adventures of mild-mannered janitor Penrod “Penry” Pooch, his flawed superhero alter ego Hong Kong Phooey, his faithful cat Spot (who is, of course, striped), and an insanely catchy theme tune, hit a chord.
There’s a live-action/animated reboot on the way with Family Guy’s David Goodman involved. But what became of the original cast and crew of this minor classic? And how many of them ended up in the great filing cabinet in the sky?
Scatman Crothers – voice of Penrod Pooch/Hong Kong Phooey – 22 November 1986, Van Nuys, California, aged 76. In his early days on the Jazz circuit Crothers once played for Al Capone. Also famous for voicing Meadowlark Lemon in the Harlem Globetrotters, playing Louie the Garbage Man on Chico and the Man, and for appearing in four Jack Nicholson films, including The Shining as Dick Hallorann. Pneumonia brought on by lung cancer.
Joe E. Ross – Sergeant Flint – 13 August 1982, Los Angeles, California, aged 68. “Ooh! Ooh!” Seldom has a man been defined by such a simple sound. Ross hit the big time as mess sergeant Rupert Ritzik in The Phil Silvers Show, and as Patrolman Gunther Toody in Car 54, Where Are You? Married 11 times, Ross died while performing at the clubhouse of his apartment building. Heart attack.
Iwao Takamoto – creative producer – 8 January 2007, Los Angeles, California, aged 81. Became interested in animation at Manzana, where, like many Japanese Americans, he was interned after Pearl Harbour. After learning his trade at Disney, Iwao recognised that the classic animation industry was in decline and moved to Tv with Hanna Barbera. There he became renown as a character designer, creating Scooby-Doo, Dick Dastardly’s snickering side-kick Mutley, The Jetson’s dog Astro, Penelope Pitstop, among many others. Heart attack.
William Hanna – executive producer – 22 March 2001, North Hollywood, California, aged 90. Funny to think that after years of producing Tom & Jerry for MGM, Hanna and Barbera were told by phone that they, and indeed everyone else in the animation department, were to be sacked with immediate notice. Throat cancer.
Joseph Barbera – executive producer – 18 December 2006, Los Angeles, California, aged 95. The dynamic duo decided whose name would go up first on the masthead on the toss of a coin. Barbera is regarded as the one who added the comic gags and skilled drawing to the mix. There are some wonderful recollections about the great man on writer Michael Evanier’s site here. Natural causes.
Don Messick – voice of Spot/Narrator – 24 October 1997, Salinas, California, aged 71. Better known as the voice of Scooby-Doo, Ranger Smith, Boo Boo Bear, Muttley, Bamm-Bamm, and Papa Smurf. Stroke.
Jean Vander Pyl – Rosemary, the telephone operator – 11 April 1999, Dana Point, California, aged 79. Best known as the voice of Wilma on The Flinstones where she earned $250 an episode. Lung cancer.
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