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Archive for the ‘Obituaries’ Category

Willie Davis, who succeeded Duke Snider as the center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and used his blazing speed to steal 20 or more bases 11 straight years, led the National League in triples twice and set a record of three stolen bases in a World Series game, was found dead on Tuesday at his home in Burbank, Calif. He was 69. . . .

“Frank McCourt, the owner of the Dodgers, said in a statement that Davis was ‘one of the most talented players ever to wear a Dodgers uniform.’ Davis played 14 seasons for the Dodgers, on teams that were almost immediately the stuff of legend. Among his teammates were Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills. His 31-game hitting streak in 1969 is still a team record. It was the longest streak in the majors since Dom DiMaggio’s 34 games in 1949 for the Boston Red Sox.

“Davis holds six other franchise records, including hits (2,091), extra-base hits (585), at-bats (7,495), runs (1,004), triples (110) and total bases (3,094).

“Davis lifetime batting average was .279, and he had a total of 398 stolen bases. He made it to the major leagues in 1960 and retired after the 1979 season.

“Over his career, he played more than 2,200 games in center field, was a two-time All-Star and a three-time Gold Glove winner for his defense. He won World Series rings in 1963 and 1965, stealing three bases in one inning in the 1965 Series.” (more @ NY Times)

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“Author Barry Hannah, whose fiction was laced with dark humor and populated by hard-drinking Southerners, died Monday at his home in Oxford, Miss. He was 67. . . .

“Hannah’s first novel, ‘Geronimo Rex,’ was published in 1972. It received the William Faulkner prize for writing and was nominated for a National Book Award. His 1996 short story collection, ‘High Lonesome,’ was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

“Novelist and Mississippi native Richard Ford called Hannah ‘a shooting star.’

“‘Barry could somehow make the English sentence generous and unpredictable, yet still make wonderful sense, which for readers is thrilling,” Ford said from his home in Maine. ‘You never knew the source of the next word. But he seemed to command the short story form and the novel form and make those forms up newly for himself.'” (more @ NY Times)

Related: Writers Remember Barry Hannah (via Vanity Fair)

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J. D. Salinger, who was thought at one time to be the most important American writer to emerge since World War II but who then turned his back on success and adulation, becoming the Garbo of letters, famous for not wanting to be famous, died Wednesday at his home in Cornish, N.H., where he had lived in seclusion for more than 50 years. He was 91. . . .

“Mr. Salinger’s literary reputation rests on a slender but enormously influential body of published work: the novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye,’ the collection ‘Nine Stories’ and two compilations, each with two long stories about the fictional Glass family: ‘Franny and Zooey’ and ‘Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.’

“‘Catcher’ was published in 1951, and its very first sentence, distantly echoing Mark Twain, struck a brash new note in American literature: ‘If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.’

“Though not everyone, teachers and librarians especially, was sure what to make of it, ‘Catcher’ became an almost immediate best seller, and its narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, a teenager newly expelled from prep school, became America’s best-known literary truant since Huckleberry Finn.” (more @ NY Times)

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Eric Rohmer, the French critic and filmmaker who was one of the founding figures of the internationally influential movement that became known as the French New Wave, and the director of more than 50 films for theaters and television, including the Oscar-nominated ‘My Night at Maud’s‘ (1969), died on Monday. He was 89. . . .

“Aesthetically, Mr. Rohmer was perhaps the most conservative member of the group of aggressive young critics who purveyed their writings for publications like Arts and Les Cahiers du Cinéma into careers as filmmakers beginning in the late 1950s. A former novelist and teacher of French and German literature, Mr. Rohmer emphasized the spoken and written word in his films at a time when tastes — thanks in no small part to his own pioneering writing on Alfred Hitchcock and Howard Hawks — had begun to shift from literary adaptations to genre films grounded in strong visual styles.

“His most famous film in America remains ‘My Night at Maud’s,’ a 1969 black-and-white feature set in the grim industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand. It tells the story of a shy, young engineer . . . who passes a snow-bound evening in the home of an attractive, free-thinking divorcée.” (more @ NY Times)

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Jeanne-Claude, who collaborated with her husband, Christo, on dozens of environmental arts projects, notably the wrapping of the Pont Neuf in Paris and the Reichstag in Berlin, and the installation of 7,503 vinyl gates with saffron-colored nylon panels in Central Park, died Thursday in Manhattan, where she lived. She was 74.

“The cause was complications of a brain aneurysm, her family told The Associated Press.

Jeanne-Claude met her husband, Christo Javacheff, in Paris in 1958. At the time, Christo, a Bulgarian refugee, was already wrapping small objects. Three years later, they collaborated on their first work, a temporary installation on the Cologne docks that consisted of oil drums and rolls of industrial paper wrapped in tarpaulin.

“To avoid confusing dealers and the public, and to establish an artistic brand, they used only Christo’s name. In 1994 they retroactively applied the joint name ‘Christo and Jeanne-Claude’ to all outdoor works and large-scale temporary indoor installations. Indoor work was credited to Christo alone.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

Related: ‘The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005’ Christo and Jeanne-Claude

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Levi-StraussClaude Lévi-Strauss, the French anthropologist who transformed Western understanding of what was once called ‘primitive man’ and who towered over the French intellectual scene in the 1960s and ’70s, has died at 100. . . .

“A powerful thinker, Mr. Lévi-Strauss was an avatar of ‘structuralism,’ a school of thought in which universal ‘structures’ were believed to underlie all human activity, giving shape to seemingly disparate cultures and creations. His work was a profound influence even on his critics, of whom there were many. There has been no comparable successor to him in France. And his writing — a mixture of the pedantic and the poetic, full of daring juxtapositions, intricate argument and elaborate metaphors — resembles little that had come before in anthropology. . . .

“A descendant of a distinguished French-Jewish artistic family, Mr. Lévi-Strauss was a quintessential French intellectual, as comfortable in the public sphere as in the academy. He taught at universities in Paris, New York and São Paulo and also worked for the United Nations and the French government.

“His legacy is imposing. ‘Mythologiques,’ his four-volume work about the structure of native mythology in the Americas, attempts nothing less than an interpretation of the world of culture and custom, shaped by analysis of several hundred myths of little-known tribes and traditions. The volumes — ‘The Raw and the Cooked,’ ‘From Honey to Ashes,’ ‘The Origin of Table Manners’ and ‘The Naked Man,’ published from 1964 to 1971 — challenge the reader with their complex interweaving of theme and detail.” (more @ NY Times)

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soupysalesSoupy Sales, whose zany television routines turned the smashing of a pie to the face into a madcap art form, died Thursday night. He was 83.

“Mr. Sales’s former manager, Dave Usher, said the entertainer died in a hospice in New York City after suffering from multiple health problems.

“Cavorting with his puppet sidekicks White Fang, Black Tooth, Pookie the Lion and Hobart and Reba, the heads in the pot-bellied stove, transforming himself into the private detective Philo Kvetch, and playing host to the ever-present ‘nut at the door,’ Soupy Sales became a television favorite of youngsters and an anarchic comedy hero for teenagers and college students.

“Clad in a top hat, sweater and bow tie, shuffling through his Mouse dance, he reached his slapstick heyday in the mid-1960s on ‘The Soupy Sales Show,’ a widely syndicated program based at WNEW-TV in New York.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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SgtPepperLucy O'Donnell“Lucy O’Donnell, the woman who inspired the classic Beatles song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, has died aged 46.

“The song [was] featured on the ground-breaking 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“John Lennon’s elder son Julian said it was inspired by a picture he drew of his classmate Lucy O’Donnell when they were at a nursery school in Weybridge, Surrey, in 1966.

“Julian said he took the picture home and showed it to his father, explaining, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.'” (more @ Daily Telegraph)

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jim_carrollJim Carroll, the poet and punk rocker in the outlaw tradition of Rimbaud and Burroughs who chronicled his wild youth in ‘The Basketball Diaries,’ died on Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 60. . . .

“As a teenage basketball star in the 1960s at Trinity, an elite private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Mr. Carroll led a chaotic life that combined sports, drugs and poetry. This highly unusual combination lent a lurid appeal to ‘The Basketball Diaries’ the journal he kept during high school and published in 1978, by which time his poetry had already won him a cult reputation as the new, Bob Dylan.

“‘I met him in 1970, and already he was pretty much universally recognized as the best poet of his generation,’ the singer Patti Smith said in a telephone interview on Sunday. ‘The work was sophisticated and elegant. He had beauty.'” (more @ NY Times)

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Peter & Gordon“Gordon Waller, who formed half of Peter and Gordon, a successful pop duo that followed the Beatles to America as part of the British Invasion of the 1960s and that scored a No. 1 hit with ‘A World Without Love,’ died on Friday in Norwich, Conn. He was 64 and lived in Ledyard, Conn. . . .

“The song, a lilting, plaintive ballad, opens with the lyrics, ‘Please lock me away/And don’t allow the day/Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness/I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay/In a world without love.’

“Peter and Gordon toured the United States and appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show‘ and other network variety shows — part of a wave of British groups that swept the United States, among them Chad and Jeremy, the Dave Clark Five and Herman’s Hermits.” (more @ NY Times)

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Tom WilkesTom Wilkes, an art director, photographer and designer whose posters for the Monterey Pop Festival and album covers for the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, George Harrison and others helped illustrate the age of rock ’n’ roll, died on June 28 in Pioneertown, Calif., in the high desert east of Los Angeles. He was 69. . . .

“For the Rolling Stones, he created a controversial cover for the album ‘Beggars Banquet,’ using a photograph of a toilet stall with the name of the band prominent on a wall filled with graffiti. The record label initially refused to release the cover, and replaced it with a fake invitation to a dinner. Mr. Wilkes’s version was released later.

“For Dave Mason’s ‘Alone Together,’ Mr. Wilkes photographed Mr. Mason wearing a top hat and a long-tailed coat against a backdrop of canyon rocks. For Joe Cocker’s ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen,’ he placed a photograph of the long-haired Mr. Cocker flexing his right bicep within an illustration of a mirror frame. For George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass,’ he depicted the former Beatle as if he were a woodsman in a fairy tale, surrounded by reclining trolls.

“Only hours before Janis Joplin’s fatal drug overdose in 1970, Mr. Wilkes photographed her for the album ‘Pearl,’ colorfully dressed and coiffed and looking remarkably relaxed and happy. He photographed Eric Clapton, sitting in a chair in a white suit, for his first solo album, and for Neil Young’s ‘Harvest,’ he created the typescript title over a red sun set against a wheat-colored background.” (more @ NY Times)

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sugarshack“Ernie Barnes, whose drawings and paintings of athletes, dancers and other figures in motion reflected his first career as a professional football player, died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 70. . . .

“Mr. Barnes was an offensive lineman in the old American Football League, playing four seasons in the 1960s for the New York Titans, the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos. He would often say later that even during his playing days, his heart was more in the painting and sketching he had been doing since he was a child.

“But the athletic experience clearly influenced his painterly vision. His work, which mostly depicts black people — Mr. Barnes was black — is kinetic and often vividly bright, though even in his black-and-white pencil drawings the strain of competing bodies is evident in the curves, stretches and muscular exertions of the figures.

“While his most famous painting, ‘Sugar Shack,’ a jubilant dancing scene that appeared on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album ‘I Want You’ and was shown during the closing credits of the television situation comedy ‘Good Times,’ is not literally sports-related, it is nonetheless a characteristic work, with its vibrant tumble of bodies.” (more @ NY Times)

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Judith F. Krug, who led the campaign by libraries against efforts to ban books, including helping found Banned Books Week, then fought laws and regulations to limit children’s access to the Internet, died Saturday in Evanston, Ill. She was 69. . . .

“As the American Library Association’s official proponent of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech since the 1960s, Ms. Krug (pronounced kroog) fought the banning of books, including ‘Huckleberry Finn,’ ‘Mein Kampf,’ ‘Little Black Sambo,’ ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and sex manuals. In 1982, she helped found Banned Books Week, an annual event that includes authors reading from prohibited books.

“She also fought for the inclusion of literature on library shelves that she herself found offensive, like ‘The Blue Book’ of the ultraconservative John Birch Society. The book is a transcript of a two-day monologue by Robert Welch at the founding meeting of the society in 1958.

“‘My personal proclivities have nothing to do with how I react as a librarian,’ Ms. Krug said in an interview with The New York Times in 1972. ‘Library service in this country should be based on the concept of intellectual freedom, of providing all pertinent information so a reader can make decisions for himself.’ (cont’d @ NY Times)

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fidrychMark Fidrych, an eccentric All-Star pitcher nicknamed ‘The Bird’ whose career was shortened by injuries, was found dead Monday in an apparent accident at his farm. He was 54. . . .

“The curly-haired right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1976 when he went 19-9 with a 2.34 ERA and 24 complete games. He spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. . . .

“Fidrych acquired the nickname ‘The Bird’ because of his resemblance to the Big Bird character on the Sesame Street television show. During games, he would bend down and groom the mound with his hands, talk to the baseball and slap five with teammates in the middle of the diamond.” (more @ ESPN)

RelatedIn ’76, Bird was the word

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Robert Delford Brown, a painter, sculptor, performance artist and avant-garde philosopher whose exuberantly provocative works challenged orthodoxies of both the art world and the world at large, usually with a big wink, was found dead on March 24 in the Cape Fear River in Wilmington, N.C. . . .

“A colleague of artists like Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg and Nam June Paik, Mr. Brown was a central figure in the anarchic New York art scene of the early 1960s, a participant in — and instigator of — events-as-art known as “happenings.” He saw the potential for aesthetic pronouncement in virtually everything. His métier was willful preposterousness, and his work contained both anger and insouciance.

“His raw materials included buildings, pornographic photos and even meat carcasses.

“He often performed in the persona of a religious leader, but dressed in a clown suit with a red nose and antennas hung with ripe bananas. In the end his message to the world was that both spirited individualism and unimpeded creativity must triumph.” (more @ NY Times)

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levittHelen Levitt, a major photographer of the 20th century who caught fleeting moments of surpassing lyricism, mystery and quiet drama on the streets of her native New York, died in her sleep at her home in Manhattan on Sunday. She was 95. . . .

“Ms. Levitt captured instances of a cinematic and delightfully guileless form of street choreography that held at its heart, as William Butler Yeats put it, ‘the ceremony of innocence.’ A man handles garbage-can lids like an exuberant child imitating a master juggler. Even an inanimate object — a broken record — appears to skip and dance on an empty street as a child might, observed by a group of women’s dresses in a shop window.

“As marvelous as these images are, the masterpieces in Ms. Levitt’s oeuvre are her photographs of children living their zesty, improvised lives. A white girl and a black boy twirl in a dance of their own imagining. Four girls on a sidewalk turning to stare at five floating bubbles become contrapuntal musical notes in a lovely minor key.

“In Ms. Levitt’s best-known picture, three properly dressed children prepare to go trick-or-treating on Halloween 1939. Standing on the stoop outside their house, they are in almost metaphorical stages of readiness. The girl on the top step is putting on her mask; a boy near her, his mask in place, takes a graceful step down, while another boy, also masked, lounges on a lower step, coolly surveying the world.

“‘At the peak of Helen’s form,’ John Szarkowski, former director of the photography department at the Museum of Modern Art, once said, ‘there was no one better.'” (more @ NY Times)

Related

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John Hope Franklin, a prolific scholar of African-American history who profoundly influenced thinking about slavery and Reconstruction while helping to further the civil rights struggle, died Wednesday in Durham, N.C. He was 94. . . .

“During a career of scholarship, teaching and advocacy that spanned more than 70 years, Dr. Franklin was deeply involved in the painful debates that helped reshape America’s racial identity, working with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., W. E. B. Du BoisThurgood Marshall and other major civil rights figures of the 20th century. . . .

“Dr. Franklin combined idealism with rigorous research, producing such classic works as ‘From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans,’ first published in 1947. Considered one of the definitive historical surveys of the American black experience, it has sold more than three million copies and has been translated into Japanese, German, French, Chinese and other languages. . . .

“Dr. Franklin also taught at some of the nation’s leading institutions, including Harvard and the University of Chicago in addition to Duke, and as a scholar he personally broke several racial barriers.” (more @ NY Times)

RelatedJohn Hope Franklin, Scholar and Witness

[During my brief time as an undergraduate in 1970-71 at York College in Jamaica, New York, I was a double-major in English and the relatively new academic discipline, African-American Studies. While my interest in books and reading was derived from my uncle, the first member of our family to earn a college degree and whose library of literary classics and contemporary sociology lined a wall in my grandparents’ apartment, my interest in “Black Studies” was in part a protest against my father whose ambivalence about civil rights despite working for twenty years as a salesman in a men’s clothing store on 125th Street in Harlem frustrated my make-love-not-war/power-to-the-people counter-culturalist sensibilities. John Hope Franklin’s From Slavery to Freedom was required reading for my freshman Afro-Am 101 class. But while I respected Franklin’s long view of history, I was much more excited by my readings of Eldridge Cleaver, Amiri Baraka (the former LeRoi Jones), Stokely Carmichael and other black writers who spoke forcefully of the need for political and social change “now.” So struck was I by the writings of these powerful black voices that when I first became eligible to vote, I tried, albeit in vain, to register as a member of the Black Panther Party (my consolation, the only reasonable choice if I intended to vote, was to register as an Independent). Twenty years later, when as a graduate student at Yale University (in neither English nor African American studies) I reconsidered some of my freshman readings in cultural studies, it was Franklin’s books — exemplars of fair-minded scholarship and idealism — that mattered most in the then and “now.” R.I.P.]

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Johnny Blanchard, a power-hitting catcher and outfielder known as Super Sub who played in five consecutive World Series for the Yankees in the 1960s, died Wednesday in Robbinsdale, Minn. He was 76. . . .

“As a left-handed hitter who could deliver the long ball, Blanchard seemed a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium and its short right-field fence. But he was essentially a catcher and had little chance of breaking into the starting lineup since the Yankees had Yogi Berra and Elston Howard.

“Blanchard’s best season was 1961, when he hit a career-high 21 home runs and batted .305 in 93 games. He was decidedly in the shadow of Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s record with 61 homers, and Mickey Mantle, who hit 54 home runs . . .” (more @ NY Times)

[Johnny Blanchard hit a home run in the first baseball game I ever attended. My father had taken me to a Sunday doubleheader at Yankee Stadium where I spent the entire first game waiting with glove in hand to catch a Mickey Mantle home run (we were sitting in foul territory behind third base but I was young and unwilling to give in to the territorial realities of a sport I was just beginning to understand). About mid-way through the second game, and having not yet caught a Mantle home run — no one other than Blanchard had connected for a homer all day — my father suggested we leave right then so we could beat the traffic leaving the stadium at game’s end. As he started up the car in the parking lot, the roar from the stadium behind us left little doubt of what had just happened – Mickey Mantle had hit a home run! It took me quite some time to forgive my father for ruining my chance to catch Mantle’s homer but I still remember fondly the Yankee whose home run I did witness that day – Johnny Blanchard. R.I.P.]

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kellGeorge Kell, the Hall of Fame third baseman who won the American League batting title in 1949 with the Detroit Tigers and was a longtime broadcaster for the team, died Tuesday at his home in Swifton, Ark. He was 86. . . .

“Kell played in the A.L. for 15 seasons, was an All-Star 10 times and had a career batting average of .306 with 2,054 hits. He hit at least .300 in nine seasons and led the league’s third basemen in fielding percentage seven times.

“He captured the batting crown in a race that went down to the final day of the 1949 season, finishing a few decimal points ahead of Ted Williams of the Boston Red Sox. Kell’s batting average was .34291 (rounded off to .343) to Williams’s .34276.” (more @ NY Times)

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bozo“Alan W. Livingston, an entertainment executive who had significant roles in bringing Bozo, the Beatles and ‘Bonanza‘ to American audiences, died Friday at home in Beverly Hills. He was 91. . . .

“In 1963, Mr. Livingston was president of Capitol Records, which had declined three different times to release singles by a British band, then little known in the United States, called the Beatles. After another Capitol executive turned down a fourth opportunity, this one to release the song ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ a telephone call placed to Mr. Livingston probably changed rock ‘n roll history. . . .

“Capitol released the single and the next year brought the Beatles to the United States, unleashing the tsunami of adoration that came to be known as Beatlemania.” (more @ NY Times)

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