Archive for the ‘Obits’ Category

Obit watch: January 17, 2017.

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Eugene Cernan, Gemini 9, Apollo 10, and Apollo 17 astronaut. NYT. NASA.

Hans Berliner, master chess player and prominent developer of early game playing computers (such as HiTech and BKG 9.8.)

Mr. Berliner was an expert at correspondence chess, in which moves can be sent by postcard or, more recently, over the internet. Players have days to think about each move, and games usually last months or even years. When Mr. Berliner won the Fifth World Correspondence Chess Championship, the final began on April Fools’ Day in 1965 and did not end until three years later.

Obit watch: January 15, 2017.

Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Tommy Allsup, guitarist, producer, and historical footnote.

As a guitarist, he was touring as a part of Buddy Holly’s band in February of 1959. This is the same tour that Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson were on…

Mr. Allsup flipped a coin to see whether he or Valens would get a seat on the plane. He lost and took a bus to the next stop on the tour.
Holly, Valens, the Big Bopper (J. P. Richardson) and the pilot, Roger Peterson, died when the plane crashed in the Iowa countryside. Their deaths were recalled as “the day the music died” in Don McLean’s 1971 hit song, “American Pie.”

For the record: William Peter “The Exorcist” Blatty. NYT. WP.

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. I’m torn about this. On the one hand, I hate to see nearly 150 years of history flushed down the drain, and I’m sad for the circus population that’s going to lose their jobs (and possibly, for some of them, homes). I’m also sad that this decision appears to have some roots in the organized campaigns by various “animal welfare” organizations. (Remember, when you see those sad animals on TV and Sarah McLachlan in the backgrond: that money’s going to pay Ringling’s legal fees.)

On the other hand…the last time I went to a Ringling Circus was over 30 years ago, before my first attempt at college. And what I remember most about it from that time was that I found it kind of sad and depressing. It isn’t that I’m some sort of crypto-animal-rights activist; it just felt like there was something sad and wrong about the whole thing. I guess I’m sad for the people, and sad for the lost history, but I’m not so sad for the institution itself. (And as the article notes, Feld Entertainment has a bunch of other stuff going on, much of which appears to contain the phrase “…On Ice!” so they’ll probably do okay for a while longer.)

Obit watch: January 12, 2017.

Thursday, January 12th, 2017

Roy Innis, head of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

I’m just going to put this out there: he was an interesting guy.

Though court decisions and new laws banned discrimination in education, employment and public accommodations, Mr. Innis was disillusioned by that progress, saying integration robbed black people of their heritage and dignity. He pronounced it “dead as a doornail,” proclaimed CORE “once and for all a black nationalist organization” and declared “all-out war” on desegregation.

In the early 1970s, Mr. Innis toured Africa, visiting Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya, Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and Idi Amin in Uganda. He made Amin a life member of CORE and predicted that he would lead a “liberation army to free those parts of Africa still under the rule of white imperialists.” He later urged black Vietnam veterans to assist anti-Communist forces fighting in Angola.

He supported Nixon and Reagan’s presidential campaigns, and the Supreme Court nominations of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas.

Mr. Innis acknowledged that his loss of two sons to gun violence in New York — Roy Jr., 13, in 1968, and Alexander, 26, in 1982 — influenced his decision to oppose gun control and defend citizens’ rights to carry arms in self-defense. He became a life member and a director of the National Rifle Association.

He also supported Bernard Goetz.

A favorite of conservative talk shows, Mr. Innis twice engaged in televised scuffles in 1988. On “The Morton Downey Jr. Show,” he erupted at challenges to his leadership and shoved the Rev. Al Sharpton to the floor. On “Geraldo,” he choked John Metzger of the White Aryan Resistance, who had called him an “Uncle Tom,” and the host, Geraldo Rivera, suffered a broken nose in the ensuing brawl.

Obit watch: January 11, 2017.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

Michael Chamberlain, ex-husband of Lindy Chamberlain and father of Azaria Chamberlain.

You may remember the Chamberlains from the “dingo ate my baby” case, which I have touched on before.

Detective Steven McDonald of the NYPD. Det. McDonald was shot by a 15-year-old boy in 1986. The shooting left him completely paralyzed from the neck down.

A plainclothes police officer when he was shot, Officer McDonald remained on the Police Department’s payroll afterward as a first-grade detective, at times appearing at roll calls and offering support for wounded officers.
His son, Conor, who was born six months after the shooting, is a sergeant with the New York Police Department and represents the fourth generation of the family to serve in the department.

Obit watch: January 9, 2017.

Monday, January 9th, 2017

Nat Hentoff has passed away at the age of 91. NYT. Reason. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. I can’t link to them directly, but Popehat has been retweeting a lot of very good tributes to Mr. Hentoff.

hentoff

Mr. Hentoff was a personal hero of mine (who I never met). Stipulated: he was a liberal, and we probably would have disagreed on many of the social issues of the day. But there was one thing we agreed on: freedom of speech. Mr. Hentoff was an absolutist. He didn’t care if you were left, right, a student, or even a Nazi. If someone was trying to stop you from speaking, he was against it. He wrote eloquently and well for many years for the Village Voice in opposition to censors and censorship. He didn’t just limit himself to government action, though there was plenty of fertile ground there. He also spoke out against private censors. I particularly remember his condemnations of CBS for suspending Andy Rooney

(I don’t know how long he’d been ill, but I wonder what, if anything, he would have said about Milo Yiannopoulos and Simon & Schuster.)

One of the things I respected about him was his intellectual consistency. That didn’t just apply to freedom of speech. He was opposed to the death penalty. But he was also opposed to abortion (he was the only anti-abortion voice in the Voice, and he wasn’t shy about expressing his views) and euthanasia. I like the way Wikipedia summarizes his view:

Hentoff argued that a consistent life ethic should be the viewpoint of a genuine civil libertarian, arguing that all human rights are at risk when the rights of any one group of people are diminished, that human rights are interconnected, and people deny others’ human rights at their own peril.

When I was a young lad in middle school and high school, Hentoff’s books on free speech were in the school library, and my high school had a subscription to the Voice. Nat Hentoff shaped my views on freedom of speech, and inspired me (in my own small way) to be a first amendment advocate and activist.

I’m reminded of that quote from Melville Davisson Post that I often use: “He stood up as though he stood alone, with no glance about him to see what other men would do…No one of them believed in what the other taught; but they all believed in justice, and when the line was drawn, there was but one side for them all.” That was Nat Hentoff.

(He also was a pretty prominent writer on jazz, though I was born without the jazz appreciation gene and am not as well read in his jazz writings.)

91 is a good run, but the world is still a lesser place today.

Obit watch: January 2, 2017.

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

William Christopher, most famous as Father Mulcahy on “M*A*S*H” and “AfterMASH”.

(My mother observed that she saw him recently on a “Murder She Wrote” rerun, in which he was the bad guy. It looks like he knocked around a bit before “MASH”:

He appeared on a number of popular shows, including “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Patty Duke Show,” “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.,” “Hogan’s Heroes” and “The Love Boat.”

)

(And I was reading up a little on “AFterMASH” over the weekend. Yes, it was probably a bad idea in retrospect: even the executive producer thinks so, though I disagree with his assertion that it featured “the three weakest characters”: I don’t think he gives Harry Morgan enough credit.

But the thing that surprises me (I never watched an episode) is that it was actually a top 10 show in the first season. The thing that killed it wasn’t quality, or the lack thereof: it was that CBS, in their infinite wisdom, decided “AfterMASH” could go head-to-head against “The A-Team” for the second season. That…didn’t quite work.)

Obit watch: December 30, 2016.

Friday, December 30th, 2016

George S. Irving has died. He was 94.

Mr. Irving was a Tony award winner (for a revival of “Irene” in which he acted opposite Debbie Reynolds):

Mr. Irving was a regular on Broadway, in the musicals “Can-Can,” “Bells Are Ringing” and “Irma La Douce,” among others, and in plays like Gore Vidal’s political satire “An Evening With Richard Nixon and…,” in which he played the title role.

He was also a television spokesman for White Owl cigars, and narrated episodes of “Underdog”.

But he was perhaps best known as the voice of Heat Miser in “The Year Without a Santa Claus”. He was also in “A Miser Brothers’ Christmas” (which I’d never even heard of, but I was apparently in my 40s when that premiered).

Obit watch: December 29, 2016.

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

The Grim Reaper finally caught up with Vesna Vulovic (or Vesna Vulović). She was 66 years old, and had managed to outrun him for nearly 45 of those years.

If that sounds callous, well, Ms. Vulovic had an amazing story. You might even remember it if you were an obsessive reader of the Guinness Book of World Records when you were young.

Ms. Vulovic was a flight attendant on JAT Flight 367 between Stockholm and Belgrade on January 26, 1972. She had actually swapped places with another girl and wasn’t originally scheduled to work this flight. As we see so often in movies and television, this never ends well…

An hour into the flight, the plane, a DC-9, blew up over the Czech village of Srbska Kamenice. As others were believed to have been sucked out of the jet into subfreezing temperatures, Ms. Vulovic remained inside part of the shattered fuselage, wedged in by a food cart, as it plunged.
Trees broke the fall of the fuselage section and snow on the hill cushioned its landing.

Ms. Vulovic is believed to have fallen 33,000 feet, which (according to Guinness, at least) is the longest documented fall survived without a parachute. She was badly injured, but Ms. Vulovic was the only survivor of Flight 367. It is generally believed that the plane was blown up by a terrorist bomb in the forward cargo hold.

But an investigation by two reporters in Prague in 2009 challenged that account. They concluded that the DC-9 was mistakenly shot down by the Czechoslovak Air Force at an altitude of only 800 meters, or about 2,625 feet.

I think the Wikipedia page (I know, I know) on Flight 367 has a fairly good explanation of why this theory is bolshie bushwa. Here’s a hint: the black boxes…

…which provided the exact data about the time, speed, direction, acceleration and altitude of the plane at the moment of the explosion. Both black boxes were opened and analysed by the service companies in Amsterdam in the presence of experts from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and the Dutch Aviation Office (Raad voor de Luchtvaart).

I could buy a couple of Communist countries being in on the conspiracy. But the Dutch?

Sometimes there’s just nothing you can say. Debbie Reynolds: NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

Obit roundup: December 28, 2016.

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

Carrie Fisher: NYT. LAT. A/V Club.

You know, I’d totally forgotten this one:

NYT obit for Vera Rubin.

NYT obit for Richard Adams.

Obit watches, firings, ocelots, and other stuff: December 27, 2016.

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

I think I’m going to wait until tomorrow to try to pull together the Carrie Fisher obits. Not that it was entirely unexpected (though I think we were all hoping for the best for her), but I feel better letting things sit for a day.

By way of Lawrence: Richard “Watership Down” Adams. A couple of pithy quotes:

The book, and a subsequent animated film in 1978, became synonymous with rabbits and at least one enterprising butcher advertised: “You’ve read the book, you’ve seen the film, now eat the cast.”

“If I saw a rabbit in my garden I’d shoot it,” he once said.

By way of my beloved sister-in-law: Vera Rubin, noted female astronomer.

Rubin’s uncovering of evidence for dark matter revealed that “there’s much more out there than we would expect based on our common-sense experience,” said James Bullock, professor of physics and astronomy at UC Irvine. “Today, the standard interpretation is that 80% of matter is in this form that’s different than anything that is known to science. And without this dark matter, a lot of other things about the universe don’t make sense: Galaxies themselves wouldn’t exist; stars wouldn’t exist, and we would not exist.”

Rex and Rob Ryan both OUT in Buffalo.

The Bills went 1-7 this season against teams with a record better than .500, with the one victory coming against the New England Patriots, who were without suspended quarterback Tom Brady and started rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett.

He’s still due $16.5 million after compiling a 15-16 record as Bills coach, a .483 winning percentage that is actually the best of the seven head coaches (including Perry Fewell on an interim basis) who have followed Wade Phillips since the 2000 season.

Babou (either one), call your office, please.

…biologists working in Laguna Atacosa National Wildlife Refuge near Harlingen found the first known ocelot den in two decades.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the cheetah is “rapidly heading towards extinction”. While sad, this comes as no great shock to us…because, as we all know, cheetahs never win.

This is kind of cool, at least to me: a homebrew short-range transmitter that sends out time signals on the WWVB 60 KHz frequency. Why would you want to do this, other than for the challenge?

Unfortunately, I can’t get my wristwatch to receive the 60 kHz amplitude-modulated time signal in my dorm room in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Obit watch: December 18, 2016.

Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Finally found a reliable source to confim: Zsa Zsa Gabor. (Edited to add 12/19: NYT. A/V Club.)

In 1958 she made an impression as a strip-club owner in the Orson Welles cult classic “Touch of Evil” and appeared in the campy “Queen of Outer Space,” one of her many more forgettable movies. She acted in at least 30 films.

You know, I have seen “Touch of Evil”, but I don’t remember Zsa Zsa at all. (It was a while ago, though. It might be worth watching that again, especially since I think the current version is slightly different than the restored version I saw.)

Well covered elsewhere, but for the historical record: Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, inventor of the epinonimous maneuver.

Obit watch: December 14, 2016.

Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Alan Thicke. A/V Club.

Anyone remember “Thicke of the Night”? I do, but only as being synonymous with “legendary disaster”.