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Carol Bruce, a versatile actress and singer who appeared in Broadway musicals, film and television — most notably as Mama Carlson on the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati” — died Oct. 9 of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease at the Motion Picture & Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills. She was 87.
Born Shirley Levy in Great Neck, N.Y., on Nov. 15, 1919, she began her career in 1937 singing at a nightclub in Montreal. Her deep, sultry voice earned her roles in stage musicals, and she made her Broadway debut as Carol Bruce in 1940 in the musical comedy “Louisiana Purchase.”
She signed a contract with Universal, making three films between 1941 and 1942 — “This Woman Is Mine,” “Keep ‘Em Flying” and “Behind the Eight Ball” — before returning to the stage.
Bruce received critical praise for Broadway performances in a 1946 revival of “Showboat,” the 1949 musical revue “Along Fifth Avenue” and the 1965 musical “Do I Hear a Waltz?”
In 1979, she took over the role of Mama Carlson on “WKRP,” playing the tough-talking owner of a radio station managed by her son Arthur, played by Gordon Jump. Bruce kept the recurring role until the series ended in 1982.
Enrico Banducci, the owner and host of the Hungry I, the San Francisco nightclub where such performers as Mort Sahl, Barbra Streisand and Shelley Berman got their start, died Oct. 9 in San Francisco. He was 85.
The setting, with its brick-wall backdrop, was continental, but those who performed in front of it constituted a fresh stream in American comedy and singing. Among the comedians and musicians who appeared at Banducci’s club early in their careers were the double-talk artist Professor Irwin Corey, “the world’s foremost authority”; Bob Newhart, the accountant with the button-down mind; Mike Nichols and Elaine May, America’s most neurotic couple; and folk groups the Kingston Trio and the Limeliters.
Bill Cosby, Woody Allen and Jonathan Winters all paid their dues at the club.
Banducci, who had been a professional violinist, installed cork doors to muffle the sound of the cash registers and would not allow drinks to be served during performances.
James Robbins, a cable executive who ran Cox Communications for two decades and helped it grow to No. 3 in the industry, died Oct. 10 at his home in Westport, Mass. He was 65.
Robbins made his mark not only by expanding Cox fourfold but also by giving customer service high priority in an industry where it had not always been valued.
Before joining Cox in 1983, Robbins had worked as senior vp operations at Viacom Communications. He joined Cox as vp for the company’s New York City operations and was promoted to senior vp operations at its Atlanta headquarters.
Joseph Corbett “Corb” Donohue Jr., a music producer, marketer and editor, died Oct. 5 in San Clemente, Calif., after a long battle with cancer. He was 66.
Donohue served in executive positions at Elektra Records, ABC/Dunhill Records, A&M Records and Motown Records and also wrote, produced and coordinated talent for a syndicated international urban music TV show. Corb was instrumental in starting the careers of many music stars, among them Phil Ochs, Jim Croce and Jimmy Buffett.
Donohue had been public information director in the Peace Corps and ran Los Angeles’ first “head shop” in Westwood before he became the music editor at Daily Variety.
In recent years, his Donohue Marketing Communications was a marketing and artist development consultant.
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