Archive for the ‘Obits’ Category

Obit watch: July 11, 2016.

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Sydney H. Schanberg, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, passed away on Saturday.

Mr. Schanberg was a correspondent for the NYT who covered the fall of Cambodia.

In the spring of 1975, as Pol Pot’s Communist guerrillas closed in on the capital, Phnom Penh, after five years of civil war in Cambodia, Mr. Schanberg and his assistant, Dith Pran, refused to heed directives from Times editors in New York to evacuate the city and remained behind as nearly all Western reporters, diplomats and senior officials of Cambodia’s American-backed Lon Nol government fled for their lives.
“Our decision to stay,” Mr. Schanberg wrote later, “was founded on our belief — perhaps, looking back, it was more a devout wish or hope — that when the Khmer Rouge won their victory, they would have what they wanted and would end the terrorism and brutal behavior we had written so often about.”

That didn’t quite work out the way Mr. Schanberg hoped. He was eventually thrown out of Cambodia and returned to the United States, but he never forgot Mr. Dith.

Overwhelmed with guilt over having to leave Mr. Dith behind, he asked for time off to write about his experiences, to help Mr. Dith’s refugee wife and four children establish a new life in San Francisco and to begin the seemingly hopeless task of finding his friend.

Dith Pran escaped Cambodia in 1979 and made his way to the United States. He and Mr. Schanberg got back together, Mr. Schanberg got him a job as a photographer with the NYT, and wrote an article for the NYT magazine, “The Death and Life of Dith Pran”. That became a book, and eventually the movie “The Killing Fields”.

“I’m a very lucky man to have had Pran as my reporting partner and even luckier that we came to call each other brother,” Mr. Schanberg said after Mr. Dith died in 2008. “His mission with me in Cambodia was to tell the world what suffering his people were going through in a war that was never necessary. It became my mission too. My reporting could not have been done without him.”

Obit watch: July 3, 2016.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

I’ve been running flat out for the better part of the past two days, and haven’t been near a real computer, so I want to get these up before I crash.

I really don’t have anything profound to add to the flood of Elie Wiesel appreciations. I haven’t read Night, though I know I probably should at some point.

Michael Cimino. I also haven’t watched a single Cimino movie, though I do have the Criterion director’s cut edition of “Heaven’s Gate”. I do plan to watch that at some point, but we watched “Spartacus” (also the Criterion edition) recently and thought that was long: “Heaven’s Gate” in the director’s cut is about 30 minutes longer. A/V Club.

Finally, Robin Hardy, director of the “good” (or maybe just “not batshit insane”) version of “The Wicker Man”.

Obit watch: June 29, 2016.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

So Cormac McCarthy isn’t dead.

However, Alvin “Future Shock” Toffler is.

“No serious futurist deals in ‘predictions,’” he wrote in the book’s introduction. “These are left for television oracles and newspaper astrologers.”
He advised readers to “concern themselves more and more with general theme, rather than detail.” That theme, he emphasized, was that “the rate of change has implications quite apart from, and sometimes more important than, the directions of change.”

(I’ve never actually read Future Shock. When it was first published, I was distracted by other things, like my binky: when I reached the age where I might have been able to appreciate it, it seemed…quaint. Perhaps I should fix this.)

I find this obit for Phil Parker oddly touching. Son of a Baptist preacher, drank for the first time in grad school at Harvard, ended up an alcoholic living on the streets of the Bowery, finally went to AA and got sober…

In 1974, just a few years after he stopped drinking, Mr. Parker founded a supported work program that over the next several decades would help countless other homeless alcoholics. And as the derelict population became disproportionately young and black, Mr. Parker, who was black, became a social worker himself, supervising the program at the city’s East Third Street Men’s Shelter just off the Bowery.

He stayed sober for 48 years. Cancer got him in the end.

Obit watch: June 28, 2016.

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

Bad day for sports.

Pat Summitt, University of Tennessee basketball coach. Knoxville News-Sentinel. ESPN.

She was only 64. Alzheimer’s sucks.

Buddy Ryan, one of the great NFL defensive coaches. ESPN.

Noted without comment:

Ryan later punched offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride on national TV on Jan. 2, 1994, when both were assistant coaches with the Houston Oilers.

Obit watch: June 25, 2016.

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

Michael Herr, author of Dispatches. This is supposed to be one of the great Vietnam War books: I personally haven’t gotten around to reading it.

Things I did not know:

He contributed the narration to “Apocalypse Now,” Francis Ford Coppola’s epic adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” and with the director Stanley Kubrick and Gustav Hasford wrote the screenplay for “Full Metal Jacket” (1987), adapted from Mr. Hasford’s novel (“The Short-Timers”).

Bernie Worrell, legendary keyboard player.

His stint in the 1970s as keyboardist and music director in groups led by George Clinton — Parliament, Funkadelic and their eventual merged identity of Parliament-Funkadelic, or P-Funk — taught generations of musicians and listeners that synthetic sounds could be earthy and untamed.

Later on, of course, he played with the Talking Heads. I think this clip has some good shots of Mr. Worrell in action with the Heads:

He played, and played with, whatever technology was available to him at the time: piano, electric piano, clavinet, Hammond organ, as well as Moog, ARP, Yamaha and Prophet synthesizers. What he brought to every piece of technology was a human element: quirks and syncopations, complex structures and outbursts of anarchy. His oft-repeated advice to young musicians was “hands on” — to keep the human touch in music rather than depending on machines.

A/V Club.

Obit watch: June 24, 2016.

Friday, June 24th, 2016

For the historical record: noted musician Dr. Ralph Stanley. A/V Club.

Obit watch: June 23, 2016.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

David Thatcher has passed away at the age of 94.

Mr. Thatcher was the tail gunner in the “Ruptured Duck”, one of the 16 B-25s in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan.

After the raid, the Duck crash-landed and several of the crew were injured. Mr. Thatcher tended their injuries.

Corporal Thatcher, the only crew member able to walk, joined with Chinese peasants and armed guerrillas to take the four injured airmen on a grueling five-day trek, by land and boat, to a hospital on the mainland, carrying them on stretchers and sedan chairs and managing to evade Japanese troops.

All of the crew evaded capture and eventually made it home, though the pilot (Ted Lawson, who also wrote Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a book I remember reading when I was very young) lost a leg.

As cited in James M. Scott’s book “Target Tokyo” (2015), Colonel Doolittle told Corporal Thatcher’s parents that “all the plane’s crew were saved from either capture or death as a result of his initiative and courage in assuming responsibility and in tending the wounded himself day and night.”
Corporal Thatcher was awarded the Silver Star for valor.

Mr. Thatcher’s death leaves one surviving crew member from the raid, Richard Cole, who was Doolittle’s co-pilot.

Obit watch: June 20, 2016.

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Donald Shea passed away last Friday at the age of 90.

Mr. Shea served for 36 years with the NYPD. He was perhaps most famous as one of the two patrol officers who captured Willie Sutton.

On that day in February 1952, he was a 26-year-old officer on patrol with a partner, Joseph J. McClellan. A 24-year-old clothing salesman, Arnold Schuster, had alerted the two officers after recognizing Mr. Sutton on the subway and following him out onto the street.

Both Mr. Shea and Mr. McClellan were promoted three ranks on the spot, to first-grade detectives, by Police Commissioner George P. Monaghan, who called the arrest the culmination of “one of the greatest manhunts in the history of the department.”

Mr. Schuster was famously gunned down in the street about a month after the arrest, allegedly on the orders of Albert Anastasia.

Obit watch: June 19, 2016.

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Anton Yelchin, Chekov in the new Star Trek movies. LAT. A/V Club. He was only 27.

Lois Duncan. YA author, perhaps most famous for I Know What You Did Last Summer. A/V Club.

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the reasons I like linking to A/V Club obits is that they’re very good at putting people’s lives in context – explaining who this person was, and why they mattered – without snark or meanness. They’re also quicker and better about acknowledging popular culture figures than, say, the NYT.

This obit for Ron Lester is a good example of what I’m talking about. Mr. Lester was Billy Bob in “Varsity Blues” and had roles on “Freaks and Geeks” and “Popular”.

…for a time, he became the go-to actor for casting directors looking to cast large, funny young men.

But his weight was killing him, so he had gastric bypass surgery. The problem was, after he lost a whole bunch of weight, he was no longer distinctive as a large funny guy, and was just one of many interchangeable normal sized funny guys in Hollywood.

The A/V Club links to this Grantland profile of Mr. Lester from 2014, which I commend to your attention. Mr. Lester was 45.

Obit watch: June 10, 2016.

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Wanted to get this in before another busy weekend: Gordie Howe. ESPN.

By the time he retired for the second and final time in 1980 as the oldest player in N.H.L. history, Howe had set records for most seasons (26), games played (1,767), goals (801), assists (1,049) and points (1,850). He won both the Hart Trophy as the N.H.L.’s most valuable player and the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top points scorer six times.

I’ve never been a huge hockey fan, but even I knew who Gordie Howe was, and kind of liked the guy.

Followups.

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

Theresa Saldana: NYT. A/V Club.

Lawrence was kind enough to throw me a backlink and add some additional context to the Jana Duty story. Latest update: even though Duty will be out after the election, “Williamson County business leaders” are demanding that she resign now. In addition to her troubles with the State Bar, the people demanding her resignation are claiming she’s pretty much stopped showing up for work:

Justice of the Peace Bill Gravell also spoke at the news conference and said that Duty “has largely been absent from her post.”
“This makes doing my job as a judge in the community more challenging and very difficult to serve the people of Williamson County effectively,” Gravell said.

And Mike the Musicologist sent me a link to a CNN story about Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau pleading guilty to one count of “making a false statement to investigators”.

Two things about that story:

1) Rear Admiral Gilbeau’s plea is related to the ongoing investigation into the “Fat Leonard” scandal.

2) Linked it before, I’ll link it again: “Really, seriously, just shut the fuck up.”

Obit watch: June 6, 2016.

Monday, June 6th, 2016

Peter Shaffer, noted playwright (“Equus”, “Amadeus”).

The production [“Equus” – DB] also attracted a remarkable parade of replacements for Mr. Hopkins, including Anthony Perkins, Alec McCowen, Leonard Nimoy and Richard Burton. Burton subsequently starred in the 1977 film version, directed by Sidney Lumet. (A 2008 Broadway revival starred Richard Griffiths as Dysart and Daniel Radcliffe as Strang.)

I’ve never seen “Equus”, either the play or the film; I wouldn’t mind seeing Burton, but I’m also oddly fascinated by the idea of the Nimoy version.