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The Blob (1988) Actors You Might Not Know Passed Away

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's ... a very hungry pile of goo hitching a ride on an Earth-bound meteorite!

Released in the summer of 1988, "The Blob" delivered precisely what its title promised, awash in the slimiest of special effects. It was a gorier, color-injected updating of the 1958 classic that had put young "Steven" McQueen on the road to megastardom (even if the New York Times did call his debut performance "pretty terrible"); appropriately, this remake marked early efforts from director Chuck Russell (who would go on to make "The Mask"), writer Frank Darabont ("The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Walking Dead") and actors Shawnee Smith (the "Saw" films) and Kevin Dillon ("Entourage"). 

Almost as impressive as all that talent was ... all that goop. "The Blob" sports a slick sense of self-awareness, embracing the goofiness of its premise while sucking down residents of Arborville (and its governmental interlopers) with enough ooey, gooey slime to make the Ghostbusters see like rookies. 

In the decades since this remake became a classic of its own, we've lost a number of its marvelous cast. So let's take a fond look back at the actors from "The Blob" who are no longer with us, and try to not get the Blob theme song stuck in your head.

Art LaFleur (Pharmacist / Mr. Penny)

Mr. Penny may not play the biggest role in the Blob's reign of terror, but Arborville's pharmacist does get to enjoy one of the film's greatest set-up pay-off moments. 

Early into the film, scummy Scott Jeske (Ricky Paull Goldin) and Paul Taylor (Donovan Leitch), our supposed protagonist, swing by the local drug store. While buying some condoms for his date that night, Scott implies to the pharmacist that he's actually buying condoms on Paul's behalf. So, when Paul shows up at Mr. Penny's doorstep later that night for a date with his daughter Meg (Shawnee Smith), only one word comes to the pharmacist's mind: ribbed.

A seasoned character actor who got into showbiz late in life after moving to Los Angeles in his 30s, Art LaFleur is perhaps best known for portraying baseball star Babe Ruth in the 1993 coming-of-age classic "The Sandlot." You may also recognize LaFleur from two of "The Santa Clause" films where he played a clinical, crew-cut sporting Tooth Fairy. LaFleur had a knack for peppering baseball classics, memorably barking orders in "Field of Dreams" as Chick Gandil, one of the disgraced baseball players seeking redemption in an Iowa cornfield. He was also no stranger to the small screen, popping up in the likes of "Malcolm in the Middle," "The Mentalist," and "M*A*S*H."

After fighting a ten year battle with Atypical Parkinson's, LaFleur passed away on November 2021. As his wife Shelley wrote on Facebook, LaFleur "was a generous and selfless man, which carried over to his acting but more importantly it was who he was for his family and friends."

Billy Beck (Can Man)

The Can Man has only one line, but it's a doozy. Wrecked with pain, an alien snot rocket wrapped around his wrist, he whispers a warning that will go woefully unheeded: "it came from the sky." 

Indeed, the Can Man is the first casualty of the titular Blob, a victim of his own curiosity when he makes the fatal mistake of poking a meteorite crash with a stick, giving its goopy hitchhiker an easy path to a fleshy snack. As the Can Man, Billy Beck gets to showcase what makes "The Blob" a worthy veteran of the effects-heavy 1950s B-Movie remakes that dotted the '80s ("The Fly," "The Thing," "Cat People," etc.). Beck's Can Man is our first point of contact with the ooey, gooey grotesqueries the film has in store for us: from sentient balls of slime to a caustic puddle that used to be a human being.

A World War II veteran who joined the circus (the famed Montmatre institution Cirque Medrano, to be precise), Beck (born Frank Billerbeck) appeared in a number of TV and film roles over the course of his career, with "The New Exhibit" episode of "The Twilight Zone" and the 1986 horror-comedy "House" being of particular interest to horror fans. Beck passed away from natural causes at the age of 91 in June 2011, following a career spanning well over half a century.

Del Close (Reverend Meeker)

Despite featuring a caustic man-eating mass from outer space, "The Blob" is filled with human monsters capable of making skin crawl as well. Enter: Reverend Meeker, the town's religious presence and a local weirdo on the verge of a nervous breakdown. 

Despite his moral bankruptcy and weak constitution, Meeker manages to survive the Blob's rampage and even starts his own doomsday cult, worshipping salvaged pieces of the ravenous creature. He's the kind of religious wacko who's itching for judgment day. And the arrival of his new, blobby god gives him the perfect opportunity to let loose and proselytize about the impending apocalypse.

Rev. Meeker is played by Del Close, one of the primary improv pioneers and a literal (and spiritual) mentor for the vast majority of 20th century American comics. A marvelous documentary directed by Heather Ross, "For Madmen Only," was released in 2020 and paints a vibrant picture of Close's impact with interviews from students and collaborators, including Patton Oswalt, Adam McKay, and Bob Odenkirk. Anyone with a passing interest in the history of comedy would be wise to seek it out.

In addition to his profound influence on the shape of modern comedy, Close made various appearances on-screen and on-stage over the course of his career, including as an English teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and a corrupt town councilman in "The Untouchables."

As his New York Times obituary poetically summarizes, Close was a "mercurial and hard-living" man who "bequeathed his skull to the Goodman Theater" on his deathbed "so he could play Yorick in their next production of "Hamlet." Close passed away at the age of 64 in March 1999 due to emphysema.

Jack Nance (Doctor)

"The Blob" is a cornucopia of delights for genre fans. Whether you're an appreciator of special effects or pick up on the film's subtle jabs at its 1958 predecessor, the film truly feels like something made by and for genre film freaks. Case in point: the brief appearance of Jack Nance, a familiar face to anyone who's strayed into the weirder corners of the video store. 

Nance shows up for a quick stint as the town's doctor, who discovers the Can Man's partially digested corpse alongside Brain (Kevin Dillon). He's not on screen for long, but Nance's presence is always a delight.

Nance's stamp on Hollywood is inextricably bound up in his career-long collaboration with David Lynch, starring in the director's debut 1977 feature "Eraserhead," then playing key parts in "Dune," "Blue Velvet," "Wild at Heart" and "Lost Highway." His crowning achievement of acting, however, may have come in the role of kindly fisherman Pete Martell, who famously discovered Laura Palmer "dead ... wrapped in plastic." 

As his obituary noted, Nance's passing in December 1996 was as odd and peculiar as his roster of oddball characters. As the story goes, Nance got into a physical altercation outside a donut shop in the early hours of the morning, sustaining head trauma that would ultimately result in a subdural hematoma, a buildup of blood on the surface of the brain. As Catherine E. Coulson, assistant director on "Eraserhead," Log Lady on "Peaks" and Nance's first wife remembers, the actor was "as much a character in real life as he was on the screen and stage."  

Joe Seneca (Dr. Meddows)

When Dr. Meddows arrives on the scene, we're initially relieved. Oh good, the cavalry is here to visit sense on this chaos, we think. 

Dr. Meddows is calm, knowledgeable, and says he's here to help. He's the head of a government-sanctioned biological containment team. That sounds like exactly the kind of response that this doomed town needs, right? Wrong. As it turns out, Dr. Meddows' quiet, collected, confidence masks a dark secret: he and his team are absolutely willing to risk every life in Arborville if it means they can contain the Blob ... and use it for military purposes. 

Dr. Meddows ultimately meets his end when he is consumed by the Blob and sucked through a manhole. The man knew the thing was in the sewers, he really should have been looking where he was stepping. 

As his obituary in The Washington Post summarized, Joe Seneca is remembered for "an illustrious acting career in serious, acclaimed movies about slavery, black leaders, and human dignity." Seneca may be known to readers for his appearance in the 1982 legal drama "The Verdict," in which he appears as a substitute medical expert of dubious experience. He also enjoyed a prolific Broadway career, including a notable turn in August Wilson's production of "Ma Rainy's Black Bottom" in the mid-1980s. Seneca passed away at his home in the Summer of 1996 due to a coronary arrest brought on by an asthma attack.

Robert Axelrod (Jennings)

There is no reason not to like Jennings. While the powers that be may have a sinister edge to them, he's just following orders (and delivering helpful expository dialogue reminding us that the Blob has gotten significantly bigger since crash landing to earth). While the other scientists are prematurely celebrating what the Blob could mean for the U.S. military, Jennings is keen to remind his peers that there might not even be a U.S.A. if the Blob keeps chugging along, devouring everything in sight. Jennings is a good egg. And his peers stupidly ignore his insightful observation that they're clearly the baddies in this situation.

Born in New York City in 1949, Robert Axelrod is best remembered for his prolific voice acting career, where he appeared in everything from anime like "Cowboy Bebop," "Samurai Champloo," and "Neo-Toyko" to Western animated series like "Spider-Man: The Animated Series." He also appeared as the voice of Lord Zedd, a main antagonist of the iconic 1990s kids series "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers," where he also voiced Rita Repulsa's dog-like henchman Finster. After reportedly voicing over 150 characters in the course of his career, Axelrod passed away in September 2019 at the age of 70. No cause of death was supplied publicly.