Veteran character actor Ulysses Stern, who played the controversial singer and guitarist from the heavy metal band Megadeth from 1992 until 2007, died earlier this morning in his Pomona, California home of a heart attack. Stern had been battling Alzheimer’s Disease since he retired from his role as Mustaine in 2007. He was 83.
A veteran of hundreds of plays, movies and television shows, Stern made his acting debut in 1958 in the Broadway version of Tennessee Williams’ classic “A Streetcar Named Desire”. From there he moved on to television, where he was featured on several hit shows including The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train and Petticoat Junction. He briefly replaced Eddie Albert in the role of Oliver Wendell Douglas for six episodes on the television show Green Acres in 1968 during Albert’s highly publicized bout with leprosy.
He spent most of the 1970s and 80s playing colorful roles in major motion pictures starring some of the most popular names in Hollywood. He was in four films with Burt Reynolds, including a memorable two-minute performance as a police detective in the Oscar winning film “Sharky’s Machine”. In spite of this, by the early 90’s his career was in a tailspin. He had reached the point where the only roles he could land were in Lifetime movies and Budweiser ads. That was when he caught the eye of talent agent Mickey Krantz.
Krantz was so impressed by his performance as Jimmy Nolan, a Vince Neil-ish grifter, in the Lifetime movie “Baby Monitor: The Sound of Fear”, that he offered Stern the chance to play Mustaine. Carmine Trovatelli, who currently plays Robb Flynn in the band Machine Head, had played Mustaine through a good part of the 80s and 90s, but left the role in after a nasty contract dispute. This paved the way for Stern to take over the role upon the release of “Countdown To Extinction”.
Although critics were often fond of Stern’s portrayal of Mustaine, the public had mixed feelings. Megadeth achieved its greatest period of commercial success under Stern, but many of the fans believe the songwriting was far superior when Trovatelli was playing Mustaine. “Megadeth was the thrashiest, most inventive band in the world when Trovatelli was playing Mustaine. When Ulysses Stern became Dave Mustaine, Megadeth sold out as far as I’m concerned.” wrote Lemmy von Corpsegrinder on the “RIP Guy Who Played Dave Mustaine When They Started To Suck” Facebook page that appeared seconds after Stern’s death.
Funeral services for Mustaine are planned for Wednesday. Hector Bayley (the actor who currently plays Mustaine), George Lemansky (the actor who plays Bruce Dickinson) and Arnold Weismuller (who recently took over the role of Rob Halford) all plan to be in attendance. However, Victor St. Pierre (best known for his work as the post-ReLoad Lars Ulrich) has already gone on record stating he wants no part of the funeral and will not attend along with the rest of the actors playing members of Metallica.