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Maila Nurmi, a former Vargas pin-up model who created the television character Vampira, died in her sleep Jan. 10 in her North Hollywood apartment. She was 86.

Nurmi made a bit of television history as the first horror movie hostess when "The Vampira Show" premiered May 1, 1954, on KABC-TV. She introduced films while wandering through a hallway of mist and cobwebs, chatting with her pet spider Rollo and encouraging viewers to write for epitaphs instead of autographs. She was nominated for a 1954 Emmy as most outstanding female personality.

When the series was canceled in 1955, she retained rights to the character of Vampira and took the show to KHJ-TV 9.

Her most notable film appearance was her $200 gig in Ed Wood's camp classic "Plan 9 From Outer Space" as a Vampira-like zombie.



Bob Popescu, co-owner with his wife, Catalina, of the jazz club that bears her name, died of a heart attack Jan. 5 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 77.

Popescu brought Catalina's Bar & Grill to the forefront of the dwindling Los Angeles jazz scene by convincing Dizzy Gillespie to play there on Easter weekend in 1987. A who's who from the jazz world — Benny Carter, Miles Davis, Cedar Walton and Freddie Hubbard, among others — came aboard for the event.

Popescu and his wife, both Romanian immigrants, had pooled their resources to open Catalina's as a restaurant. Once they decided to switch to jazz, they enlisted the help of Central Avenue veteran Buddy Collette. Popescu, a building contractor, was able to convert the space quickly, and it opened in 1986.



James Costigan, one of the major figures of TV drama in the 1950s and the Emmy-winning writer of the prestigious 1970s TV movies "Love Among the Ruins" and "Eleanor and Franklin," died Dec. 19 of heart failure at his home on Bainbridge Island, Wash. He was 81.

Costigan won his first Emmy in 1959 for his original teleplay "Little Moon of Alban," a critically acclaimed segment of "Hallmark Hall of Fame." In 1972, he wrote "A War of Children," about two Northern Ireland families — one Protestant and one Catholic — that won an Emmy for outstanding single program. In 1975, he won his second writing Emmy, for "Ruins." It was directed by George Cukor and starred Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier.

His third writing Emmy came in 1976 for "Eleanor and Franklin," an adaptation of Joseph P. Lash's best-selling biography.



Jon Stoll, who turned a teenage love of rock music into one of the largest independent promotion and performance companies in the U.S., died Jan. 12 in Palm Beach, Fla., after an extended illness involving brain cancer and other complications. He was 54.

In 1985, Stoll formed Fantasma Prods., which promoted concerts, staged trade shows and published Easy Times, a youth-oriented weekly newspaper. Gradually, the Fantasma empire expanded to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, then throughout Florida, the Southeast and other major locations, including in Las Vegas.

By 1987, Fantasma had grown to 50 employees who booked and managed more than 500 concerts a year.



Marie A. Fontana, the mother of television writer-producer Tom Fontana ("Homicide: Life on the Street"), died Dec. 25 in Buffalo, N.Y. She was 86.

Born in Buffalo in 1921, she worked for 55 years in the medical profession, primarily as a coordinator for the OB/GYN unit of Buffalo's Fillmore Hospital.

In October, she saw the completion of a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed boathouse, built for Buffalo's inner-city youth to learn competitive rowing, that was named for her and her late husband, Charles L. Fontana, who were involved in the sport for more than 40 years.
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