post below that Russell Johnson has died at the age of 89. Like a lot of people I first encountered him in endless after school reruns of Gilligan's Island (and even though I hated the show and hated myself for watching it, I nevertheless watched it faithfully, because it helped me to master the art of self-loathing, which I was pretty sure would come in handy if I ever decided to pursue a career in the Humanities).
So it was jarring and delightful when I later discovered that he'd begun his career playing villains, mostly in westerns. But he was also a familiar face in science fiction films (such as It Came From Outer Space and Attack of the Crab Monsters), and TV series (Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Invaders). But fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 will remember him best as the drunken, abusive, and quickly deceased stepfather in The Space Children, and the prickly but heroic egghead Steve Carlson in This Island Earth.
Unfortunately, I can't boast the encyclopedic command of Hollywood trivia that someone like Chris Vosburg can, so I've only got one Russell Johnson story, and it's second-hand, but here we go: a few friends of mine went to a pre-release screening of MST3K: The Movie, which featured a Q & A with some of the surviving cast of This Island Earth (the movie within The Movie), including Rex Reason and Russell Johnson...
During the picture, as you may recall, Rex and leading lady Faith Domergue are placed in My Size plexiglas tubes, which are then filled with smoke, because Science! Naturally, the MST3K crew made a stoner joke, and after the movie an audience member asked Reason, "What was it like being inside the giant bong?
Rex, who apparently played straight arrow types for a reason (see what I did there?) had no clue what a bong was, which occasioned the biggest laugh of the night when Johnson leaned over to him and whispered an explanation, while vividly and unmistakably miming the act of sparking up a little smoke on the water. This is perhaps not surprising when you realize that one of Russell's other films is The Saga of Hemp Brown.
I'm sure Ivan will have something more enlightening to say, and unfortunately, I'm up to my armpits in on-rushing deadlines and roll-on deodorant, so I'm going to pull an Atrios and say, "Consider this an open thread for all your Russell Johnson-related recollections."