Donald L. Taffner
Distributor brought British TV shows to U.S.
Donald L. Taffner, 80, an independent television distributor and producer who adapted and delivered "The Benny Hill Show" and other British comedy programs for U.S. broadcasts, died Tuesday after a short stay at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, according to publicist Henri Bollinger.
A dealmaker and former William Morris agent, Taffner founded his own company in 1963 to negotiate international television rights. One of his biggest successes was "The Benny Hill Show," the risque and politically incorrect British sitcom that the businessman sold to small independent local channels in the United States in the late 1970s.
He also adapted the British sitcom "Man About the House" into an American version, "Three's Company," starring John Ritter, Joyce DeWitt and Suzanne Somers, and he turned "Keep It in the Family" into "Too Close for Comfort" for American audiences. Taffner also imported John Mortimer's British drama "Rumpole of the Bailey" to U.S. television.
"Two hundred episodes of one show is boredom. Now deals, that's the creative part," Taffner told the Guardian newspaper of London in 1995.
Born Nov. 29, 1930, in Brooklyn, Taffner grew up working in his father's candy store. After attending what is now St. John's University, he got a job in the mail room at the William Morris Agency in 1952 and became an agent handling international negotiations.
Taffner and his wife, Eleanor Bolta, whom he married in 1961, were major collectors of furniture and other work by the Scottish architect and designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh. She died in 2010. They had a daughter, Karen, and a son, Don Jr., who now runs the company.
In 1986 Taffner received an International Emmy and Founders Award for his efforts to bring foreign shows to the U.S. market.
New Orleans composer, arranger, bandleader
Wardell Quezergue, 81, a New Orleans composer, arranger, bandleader, producer and teacher who arranged "Chapel of Love" for the Dixie Cups and was dubbed the "Creole Beethoven" by fellow musician Allen Toussaint, died Tuesday at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, La. The cause was congestive heart failure, his family said.
FOR THE RECORD: A previous version of this obituary incorrectly reported that "Mr. Big Stuff" and "Groove Me" were recorded on the same day in 1961. They were recorded in 1970.
"What a mark he made. In fact, what several marks he made," Toussaint said. "He was just a magnificent man in every way. He was a superb musician and bandleader. He always inspired the best out of people who were playing with him."
Hits arranged by Quezergue include "Iko Iko" for the Dixie Cups, "Big Chief" for Professor Longhair, "Mr. Big Stuff" for Jean Knight and "Groove Me" for King Floyd — the last two recorded the same day in 1970 at Quezergue's Malaco Records in Jackson, Miss.
Quezergue also worked with artists as diverse as B.B. King, the Meters, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson and the Dameans — a quintet of New Orleans priests whose folky liturgical songs were popular after the Vatican decided the Mass should be in local languages rather than Latin.
Eve Brent, 81, a starlet who found enduring fame after becoming the 19th actress cast as Jane in the string of Tarzan adventure movies, died Aug. 27 at Pacifica Hospital of the Valley in Sun Valley. Her representative at the CESD Talent Agency confirmed her death. Born Jean Ann Lewis on Sept. 11, 1929, in Texas, she changed her name for professional reasons in 1957. A year later, she appeared opposite Gordon Scott in "Tarzan and the Trappers" and "Tarzan's Fight for Life." She went on to a successful career as a character actress in episodic television and in movies, including "The Barefoot Executive," "The Green Mile" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports