How Did ALF Work?

Shortly after ALF debuted on NBC in 1986, the furry little wisecracking alien was seemingly everywhere: on lunchboxes, in toy stores, on T-shirts, and hanging from rear-view mirrors. Even though he had terrible table manners and house cats weren’t safe around him, ALF seemed like he’d be a fun guy to work with. But all was not happy on the set, due in no small part to the logistical nightmare Paul Fusco’s puppet presented.

Being ALF

For the first two seasons of the show, there was a little person inside of an ALF costume for any full-body scenes. At one point, 33-inch-tall Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros was listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s shortest person. And while life in his native Hungary as a youth was brutal (thanks to unscrupulous circus owners), a day in a furry costume under hot studio lights may often have been worse.

Any close-ups or talking shots of ALF were a puppet operated by the alien’s creator, Paul Fusco. The entire soundstage was built on a four-foot-high platform so that Fusco could sit underneath it and make ALF move and talk through one of the dozens of trap doors that were cut through the floor.

Members of the cast had to carefully negotiate the stage while reciting their lines without stumbling, and also without constantly gazing downward to make sure they avoided all the possible pitfalls. And every time ALF was moved to a different spot, all the lighting and camera positions had to be readjusted, making for endless delays. While a typical 30-minute sitcom takes about three to five hours to actually film, the ALF cast was required on stage and in makeup/wardrobe for 20 to 25 hours (spread over two days) to film each episode. Not surprisingly, none of the actors involved were disappointed when ALF was cancelled after its fourth season.

Where Are They Now?

Max Wright
The actor who played Willie Tanner had the most onscreen time with ALF, much to his consternation. Wright often resented all the best jokes being given to a puppet, but because of his hilarious portrayal of the long-suffering family patriarch, many of the plots paired him in some adventure or scheme with the furry alien. Wright went on to co-star in The Norm Show and make occasional appearances as the Central Perk manager on Friends. Sadly he received some unwanted publicity in 2005 when a tabloid published photos of him smoking crack cocaine. He now prefers to act in the theater, and acknowledges that despite his complaints at the time, “ALF brought a lot of joy to a lot of people.”

Anne Schedeen
After playing Kate Tanner, Anne Schedeen did a few small guest roles on other series, but she ultimately retired from acting. She turned her love of scavenging through antique shops and flea markets into a second career; she’s been professionally decorating the homes of friends and fellow actors in the Los Angeles area for the past dozen or so years.

Andrea Elson
While playing teenaged daughter Lynn on the show, Elson met a production assistant named Scott Hopper. Romance bloomed and the pair married in 1993. Elson continued to act for a while, but after the birth of her daughter in 1997 she decided that being a mom was the full-time job that appealed to her the most.

Benjamin Gregory Hertzberg
Benji Gregory, as he was known when he played the youngest Tanner, has mostly fond memories of life on the ALF set. However, he also remembered that the main thing he wanted to do every day was go home and skateboard. He’d started acting in commercials at age 13 months, and even though he did do a few cartoon voice-overs after ALF ended, he decided that he’d had enough. His parents invested his earnings and he went to the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. In 2003 he joined the U.S. Navy and eventually became an Aerographer's Mate at The Center for Naval Education in Biloxi, MS. Today he lives with his wife in Arizona.

Mihaly “Michu” Meszaros
Michu, who’d defected from Hungary in 1980, became a U.S. citizen in 1990, an occasion he described as “the biggest day of my life.” After retiring from show business, Michu became a real estate developer. The city of Hawthorne in southern California named its shortest street “Michu Lane.”

Report: Police Have Arrested a Suspect in California's Golden State Killer Case

From 1976 to 1986, a serial killer now known as the Golden State Killer committed a staggering number of crimes in California ranging from burglaries to rapes to 12 known homicides. Like the Zodiac killer, the individual’s ability to escape detection and capture led to a public fascination over the decade-long spree. Now, it appears authorities may have finally closed in on the person responsible.

According to The Daily Beast, Sacramento police are expected to announce Wednesday afternoon that an arrest has been made in connection with the 120 burglaries, 45 sexual assaults, and murders that ended more than 30 years ago. Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, has reportedly been arrested on two counts of murder, with authorities expected to confirm he is a suspect in the Golden State Killer cases. DeAngelo is a former police officer who worked just outside of Sacramento in the 1970s.

The Golden State Killer is the topic of a recent best-selling true crime book, Michelle McNamara’s I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer. McNamara, who spent five years researching the case, passed away suddenly in 2016, when she was only halfway done with the project. Her husband, comedian/actor Patton Oswalt, hired investigative reporter Billy Jensen to complete her work. The book, which is currently being turned into an HBO docuseries, is being credited with renewing both public and law enforcement interest in the case, which may have led to DeAngelo’s arrest.

The killer was active in the Sacramento suburbs of Rancho Cordova and Carmichael, as well as other parts of Southern California. He was also given the labels East Area Rapist, the Original Night Stalker, and the Diamond Knot Killer. His last suspected crime was the murder of an 18-year-old girl in Irvine, California in 1986.

[h/t: The Daily Beast]

John P. Johnson, HBO
Charles Dickens Wrote His Own Version of Westworld in the 1830s
John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

Charles Dickens never fully devoted himself to science fiction, but if he had, his work might have looked something like the present-day HBO series Westworld. As The Conversation reports, the author explored a very similar premise to the show in The Mudfrog Papers, a collection of sketches that originally appeared in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany between 1837 and 1838.

In the story "Full Report of the Second Meeting of the Mudfog Association for the Advancement of Everything," a scientist describes his plan for a park where rich young men can take out their aggression on "automaton figures." In Dickens's story, the opportunity to pursue those cruel urges is the park's main appeal. The theme park in Westworld may have been founded with a slightly less cynical vision, but it has a similar outcome. Guests can live out their heroic fantasies, but if they have darker impulses, they can act on those as well.

Instead of sending guests back in time, Dickens's attraction presents visitors with a place very similar to their own home. According to the scientist's pitch, the idyllic, Victorian scene contains roads, bridges, and small villages in a walled-off space at least 10 miles wide. Each feature is designed for destruction, including cheap gas lamps made of real glass. It's populated with robot cops, cab drivers, and elderly women who, when beaten, produce “groans, mingled with entreaties for mercy, thus rendering the illusion complete, and the enjoyment perfect.”

There are no consequences for harming the hosts in Westworld, but the guests at Dickens's park are at least sent to a mock trial for their crimes. However, rather than paying for their misbehavior, the hooligans always earn the mercy of an automated judge—Dickens's allegory for how the law favors the rich and privileged in the real world.

As for the Victorian-era automatons gaining sentience and overthrowing their tormenters? Dickens never got that far. But who knows where he would have taken it given a two-season HBO deal.

[h/t The Conversation]


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