Riffs Obits
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Published September 17, 2005
King Farouk Cuts Out
Mel Welles 1924 - 2005

Hang low thy wigs, my dear cats and kitties, the Mighty King Farouk has cut out. Movie actor, lip sync expert, psychologist and Lord Buckley collaborator Mel Welles has died.

Perhaps best known for his cult status role as Gravis Mushnik in the original Roger Corman film "Little Shop of Horrors", Mel had a long and colorful career in Hollywood that included a number of Corman films as well as many others.

Not content to just be in front of the camera he also worked behind the scenes in both television and film. He was an acknowledged expert in the lipsynching of foreign films. In addition, he had a Ph.d in Psychology from Columbia University and consulted in that capacity with Fortune 500 companies.

Mel was proud of his role in creating the hip version of The Gettysburg Address for Lord Buckley. He recalled that he wrote it in seven or eight minutes. His friendship with Lord Buckley was a strong one. On occasion he acted as Buckley's confessor although he never revealed what Buckley confessed.

He also mused on the fact that, "I'm really the only person to ever play Lord Buckley on the screen. He was supposed to play the part of Sir Bop in the film 'Rock All Night'. Charles [Griffith] wrote the part especially for him. But he disappeared two weeks before shooting was to start. And I replaced him. I did what I could with the part but it was really his part."

"Little Shop of Horrors" screenwriter Charles B. Griffith remembers Mel, "He was ten times bigger than life. It’s hard to say anything else because he was quite grand and made "Little Shop" into a cult film. I knew him fifty-three years, he was very kind to me and he bailed me out of a lot of situations. And he was very funny in his own way. He will be very heavily missed. He was my best friend for 30 or 40 years. We started all kinds of businesses, film companies mostly, but none of it panned out. But our friendship survived all the way.”

Mel died in Norfolk, Virginia on Thursday August 19, 2005. He will indeed be heavily missed.