Archive for the ‘Obits’ Category

Firings and obits: November 22, 2017.

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

Seems like the story of my life, firings and obits. Anyway:

Ken Norton Jr. out as the defensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders.

I don’t think this is the dumbest thing I’ve read on ESPN, but I do think it is in the top 10.

…if you are a college football player, try to avoid punching one of your assistant coaches in the head twice.
Because that behavior doesn’t just get you benched: it gets you thrown off the team and expelled from the university.

And now, it gets you charged with aggravated assault.

Bob Stitt out as Montana’s head coach.

Obits, mostly for the record: David Cassidy. Della Reese.

Obit watch: November 20, 2017.

Monday, November 20th, 2017

Man, it was a weekend, wasn’t it? Sorry I didn’t get to some of this yesterday, but I spent a large part of the day foraging for food in Westlake (Why is it so hard to find a restaurant that’s open on Sunday in that part of town?) and then on an expedition to Pflugerville to visit the new Aldi grocery store. (The natives are wary, but I think we started to win them over.)

Anyway: Malcolm Young, AC/DC co-founder. I feel a musical interlude coming on, but I think I’ll do a jump first.

Mel Tillis, who sang both types of music: country and western.

He even went so far as to make the nickname Stutterin’ Boy, conferred upon him by the singer Webb Pierce, the title of his autobiography (written with Walter Wager and published in 1984), and to have it painted on the side of his tour bus. He also named his personal airplane Stutter One and referred to his female backup singers as the Stutterettes.

Dr. John C. Raines is dead at the age of 84. This name is probably not familiar to you, but the story is interesting.

Dr. Raines, along with seven others, broke into a FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania on the night of March 8, 1971 (during the Frazier-Ali fight) and stole a large number of FBI internal documents. They later released those documents to the press and to members of Congress.

The burglary, and subsequent lawsuits by NBC and others, prompted a groundbreaking investigation in 1975 by the so-called Church committee, a special Senate panel led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho. The committee revealed details of the F.B.I.’s secret Cointelpro, or counterintelligence, operation, which included illegal sabotage of dissident groups deemed to be subversive.

The NYT obit gives a pretty good summary of the whole affair. But, if you’re interested, I recommend The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover’s Secret FBI by Betty Medsger: it gives a detailed account of the planning, the execution, the aftermath, and what happened to the principals (as of 2013-2014).

Last, and definitely least, Charles Manson is burning in Hell. NYT. LAT. Lawrence.

I’ve felt for a while now that we would be much better as a culture if we all agreed to ignore Manson, beyond providing him with basic human needs (food, shelter, medical care). No publicity, no interviews, no cover versions of his “music”: we should have just let him rot silently.

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, they’re all together spooky, the Manson family.

Mr. Manson was a semiliterate habitual criminal and failed musician before he came to irrevocable attention in the late 1960s as the wild-eyed leader of the Manson family, a murderous band of young drifters in California. Convicted of nine murders in all, Mr. Manson was known in particular for the seven brutal killings collectively called the Tate-LaBianca murders, committed by his followers on two consecutive August nights in 1969.

I do like that paragraph: “semiliterate habitual criminal and failed musician”, indeed. This one, too:

Manson was a pathetic, cowardly con man & should be remembered for that alone.

Time for a palate cleanser. After the jump, musical interludes.

(more…)

Obit watch: November 16, 2017.

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Ferdie Pacheco, Muhammad Ali’s fight doctor and later television boxing analyst.

“When Ali wouldn’t quit the exciting world of boxing, I did,” he wrote in “Muhammad Ali: A View From the Corner” (1992), one of several books he wrote. “If a national treasure like Ali could not be saved, at least I didn’t have to be part of his undoing.”

Firings and obits: November 13, 2017.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Butch Jones volun-told to leave as head coach of the Tenessee Volunteers. He was 34-27 over five seasons, and 14-24 in the SEC. The team is currently 4-6, with all six losses being to other SEC teams.

For the record (I’m a little behind. Sorry.): John “Howard Johnson” Hillerman. You know, I had no idea he was a native Texan…

And speaking of other Texans who have died: Liz Smith, notorious gossip columnist.

Obit watch: November 8, 2017.

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Roy Halladay, former pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays and Philadelphia Phillies, was killed in the crash of his small plane yesterday. Tampa Bay Times. Miami Herald.

There are a few things in these articles that are…interesting. The plane was an ICON A-5:

The A5 is a single-engine, high wing aircraft that seats two people. It’s amphibious, so it can land on solid ground or water. It’s unique in that its wings fold to allow towing.
The plane is a light sport aircraft, meaning it falls below certain weight and maximum speed thresholds. The Federal Aviation Administration mandates fewer hours of training for light sport pilots.

Here’s a run-down of the sport pilot requirements from the EAA. But this is interesting because Mr. Halladay was pretty well trained:

Halladay said last March that he had accrued about 800 hours in the air. He had received his instrument rating and multi-engine rating. He was working toward a commercial rating.

(The A-5 also has some interesting safety features: it isn’t absolutely clear to me that the $389,000 “Founders Edition” comes standard with the parachute, but for that money, I’d expect it to come with everything including a full IFR panel and Otto Pilot.)

Halladay did not file a flight plan Tuesday, according to flightaware.com, which tracks aircraft movement. The National Weather Service reported clear skies and unlimited visibility in the area at the time of the crash.

So it sounds like he was flying VFR in CAVU conditions. RoadRich or someone else with more light aircraft experience can correct me, but the way I understand it, it’s perfectly normal not to file a flight plan for VFR flights.

No recording devices were recovered in the wreckage, according to the sheriff.

Of course, light sport aircraft and small planes aren’t required by FAA regulations to have recording devices.

Halladay is not the first Major League player to die piloting a plane, joining former New York Yankees captain Thurman Munson in 1979, the Chicago Cubs’ Ken Hubbs in 1964 and most recently Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, who crashed a small aircraft in New York City in 2006. The Pittsburgh Pirates’ Roberto Clemente also died in a plane crash, as a passenger on a mission to deliver aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims in 1972.

I’m not sure why they threw in the reference to Roberto Clemente, since he wasn’t piloting the DC-7 that crashed, and (from what I’ve read) that was just a completely f-ed up situation.

Obit watch: regular edition, November 1, 2017.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Jack Bannon passed away last week.

He was one of those knock-around actors: he had credits on “Love Boat”, “Kojak”, “Mannix”, “Petticoat Junction”, “Beverly Hillbillies”, and lots of other television shows.

But he was best known to me as “Art Donovan” on “Lou Grant”.

Nostalgia is a moron, but I loved that show when I was in high school, and the DVDs are on my Amazon wish list. Memory tells me that there was less eyeball bleeding liberalism in the series than you’d expect from a show starring Ed Asner, but it was a long time ago…

Obit watch: special crime and law edition, November 1, 2017.

Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

June Robles Birt, better known under her maiden name, passed away September 2nd. Her death was not widely reported until a few days ago, after a writer working on a book contacted the NYT.

In the afternoon on April 25, 1934, Ms. Robles, who was six years old, was returning from her school in Tuscon, Arizona.

A man approached her. He said her father had asked him to give her a lift to his store. After some cajoling, she got into his car, a black Ford sedan.
Later that day, a local boy handed her father a ransom note. The boy said an unidentified man had given him 25 cents to deliver it. The note demanded $15,000 (about $300,000 in today’s money). Mr. Robles scribbled a reply — its text was not reported — and gave it to the boy to carry back to the kidnapper. According to the testimony, however, when the boy looked for the man, he was gone.

To make a longish story somewhat shorter, the Robles family went around with the kidnappers for 19 days. Finally, the kidnappers sent a map and directions to the governor, prompting a search. Clarence Houston, the county attorney, found “…a mound of dirt covered with sagebrush, mesquite and cholla cactus. Beneath it, he discovered a perforated sheet of metal, which proved to be the top of a narrow, coffinlike underground cage.”

June Robles was still alive.

The girl was filthy, blistered by prickly heat and bitten by ants, her ankles chafed by chains attached to an iron stake. She said she had subsisted on fruit, bread and jam, potato chips and graham crackers that the kidnappers had left. She had made do with a ceramic pot for a toilet.
Immediately after her rescue, as she was escorted away, all she seemed concerned about was her report card, which she had left behind in her underground cell. “I went back and got it,” she told The Tucson Daily Citizen. “I wanted my mama to see it.”

Nobody was ever convicted of the kidnapping. One person was suspected, but the authorities were unable to make a case against him. There are hints in the NYT that some people (possibly including Hoover’s FBI) thought the whole thing was some sort of setup.

Ms. Robles lived the rest of her life quietly.

The last time Little June was interviewed, in 1936, she said that all she had wanted was “to be a mother like my mother.” And that was what she became.
Her marriage in 1950 was to Dancey Birt, an aircraft factory supervisor at the time. He survives her. Besides her son James, she is also survived by three other children, Thomas, Bruce and Barbara; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Jon Lester passed away in England on August 14th. According to his family, he committed suicide. He was 48 years old.

Mr. Lester was 17 years old and living with family in the Howard Beach section of Queens on December 20, 1986. Early that morning, he ran into three men whose car had broken down in the neighborhood. Mr. Lester went back to a birthday party nearby.

“There’s niggers on the boulevard,”…[Lester] was quoted as telling the beered-up partygoers, adding (and inserting an expletive), “Let’s go kill them.”
According to later courtroom testimony, the 5-foot-4 Mr. Lester was a ringleader of a dozen white teenagers who jumped into three cars and ambushed the black men at a nearby pizza parlor.

The gang beat the crap out of Cedric Sandiford “with a baseball bat, a tire iron and a tree limb”. Another man, Timothy Grimes, escaped. A third man, Michael Griffith, fled onto a “busy highway”, where he was struck by a car and killed.

Mr. Lester was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and first-degree assault in 1988 and received a prison term of 10 to 30 years. He was paroled in 2001 and immediately deported back to England.

“He suffered from depression due to the fact that he was wrongly convicted,” his sister Jayne Lester said in a telephone interview from Florida, where she lives. “He was just tormented. He was never the same person.” Her brother was haunted by “guilt dreams,” she said, but was not a coldblooded killer.
“He really wasn’t a bad person the way they made him out to be,” she said. “He wouldn’t tell on anybody, and they had to blame someone.”

“In my heart I’m sorry to hear of his death,” Mr. Griffith’s mother, now Jean Griffith Sandiford, said of Mr. Lester in a telephone interview on Monday. “Regardless of what happened, I always forgave them.”

He added, however: “I accept responsibility for Michael Griffith’s death. If we hadn’t chased him, he wouldn’t have died.”
Charles J. Hynes, the special prosecutor in the case, rejected Mr. Lester’s version of events and expressed dismay at his release from prison after he had been rejected four times for parole.
“Jon Lester can try and rewrite history all he wants,” Mr. Hynes wrote in an email on Monday. “Some would say 15 years’ imprisonment is significant punishment, but after 15 years he was alive, and Michael Griffith is dead.”

“I was just a typical cocky teenager who got involved in a situation which I couldn’t control,” he told the British newspaper The Sunday Mirror in 2001.
“I’m not that baby-faced thug anymore,” he told The Daily News.
“I’m responsible for someone being dead,” he said in an interview with The Times Herald-Record of Middletown, N.Y. “I can never undo that, and I will live with it every day forever.”

“In his last days he was a successful and caring businessman with a high degree of integrity who tried to live his life and give back to society,” his sister Jayne Lester said. “He always regarded the Howard Beach case as a huge tragedy to everyone involved.”
She added, “The fact that he couldn’t come back to America is basically what killed him, because he couldn’t be with his family.”

Obit watch take 2.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Fats Domino.

At a news conference in Las Vegas in 1969, after resuming his performing career, Elvis Presley interrupted a reporter who had called him “the king.” He pointed to Mr. Domino, who was in the room, and said, “There’s the real king of rock ’n’ roll.”

Obit watch: October 25, 2017.

Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Robert Guillaume.

Man, what a career.

He landed his part in “Soap” in 1977 after a Tony-nominated run as Nathan Detroit in an all-black Broadway revival of “Guys and Dolls.”

I’d love to see that. I’m sure it exists…in an archive…somewhere in New York City…

Mr. Guillaume said Benson’s sharp tongue and dignified mien had allowed him to transcend his station while getting laughs. “What made the humor was that he didn’t care what people thought about him,” he said of the character in an interview for this obituary in 2011. “He wasn’t trying to be mean; he was just trying to be his own man.”

Obit watch: October 23, 2017.

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

Federico Luppi, noted Argentinian actor.

He was also the lead in Guillermo del Toro’s “Cronos” (which I have seen) and is in “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth”. (I have not seen the latter two, but “Devil’s Backbone” is scheduled for this Saturday.)

Mr. Luppi played the monstrous Gris with touches of weakness — at one point in the film he sinks to a bathroom floor to lap up a spot of blood.

Yeah, having seen “Cronos”, describing Luppi’s character as “monstrous” is more than a bit of a stretch. Especially compared to Ron Perlman’s character. Further deponent sayeth not, because spoilers.

Edited to add:

NYT writers, meet the NYT Twitter feed. Hope you guys get along.

Norts spews.

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Two quick ones, because I have a doctor’s appointment shortly and probably won’t feel like blogging afterwards:

1) Well covered, but at least one person sent this to me, and it does involve blow (maybe):

Chris Foerster has resigned his position from the Miami Dolphins hours after a video surfaced showing the team’s offensive line coach snorting a white powdery substance off what is believed to be his desk at the team’s training facility.

He apparently resigned in lieu of a firing, so I’m putting this into the “firings” checkbox.

Related: “Just who is this model whose snorting video brought down a married Dolphins coach?”

Obit watch: the great Y. A. Tittle.

Tittle threw for dozens of touchdowns and thousands of yards, won a Most Valuable Player award and was selected to seven Pro Bowls. But he endeared himself to New York not as a golden boy but as a muddied, grass-stained scrapper.
He was a balding field general with a fringe of gray who, at 34, in his old-fashioned high-topped shoes, had undeniably lost a step or two, but kept picking himself up off the ground to find a way to beat you, and New York cheered.

And he was a good Texas boy, too. ESPN.

Obit watch: October 9, 2017.

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Two obits from the past few days that I find sadder than usual:

Connie Hawkins. As a young man, he was a basketball prodigy.

Even as a playground legend, Hawkins had the jaw-dropping flash that superstars like Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving and Michael Jordan would display, turning pro basketball into a national sports spectacular.
“He was Julius before Julius, he was Elgin before Elgin, he was Michael before Michael,” the longtime college and pro coach Larry Brown once said in an ESPN documentary on Hawkins. “He was simply the greatest individual player I have ever seen.”

But he was banned from college ball and the NBA in 1961.

College basketball at the time was engulfed in its second point-shaving scandal after players had received money from gamblers to affect the final score of games. Hawkins was questioned by the New York City authorities about possible connections with one of the fixers, but he was never accused of wrongdoing.

He played with the ABA and the Globetrotters for a while.

Hawkins’s path to the N.B.A. was buoyed in part by a 1969 article in Life magazine by David Wolf. “Evidence recently uncovered,” Mr. Wolf wrote, “indicates that Connie Hawkins never knowingly associated with gamblers, that he never introduced a player to a fixer, and that the only damaging statements about his involvement were made by Hawkins himself — as a terrified, semiliterate teenager who thought he’d go to jail unless he said what the D.A.’s detectives pressed him to say.”
On Hawkins’s behalf, Roslyn Litman, a civil liberties activist, along with her husband and law partner, S. David Litman, and another lawyer, Howard Specter, sued the N.B.A. on antitrust grounds, arguing that the league had in effect illegally barred Hawkins and deprived him of the “opportunity to earn a livelihood.”
They won. The league paid Hawkins a settlement of nearly $1.3 million and dropped the ban. Hawkins joined the N.B.A. in 1969 and became an instant star with the Suns.

He played seven seasons in the NBA, was a four-time all star with the Suns, and was named to the Hall of Fame in 1992.

John Thompson.

Mr. Thompson was arrested in 1985 and charged with carjacking and an unrelated murder.

After being sentenced to 49 years in prison for the carjacking that he insisted he did not commit, Mr. Thompson was convicted of murder and received the death penalty.

He spent 14 years on death row in Angola.

Just 30 days before his scheduled execution, a private investigator hired by his lawyers stumbled upon a forgotten microfiche.
The film included images of a laboratory report that had been received by the district attorney two days before Mr. Thompson’s trial was to begin. The report categorically undermined the prosecution’s case, revealing that the blood type of whoever committed the carjacking did not match Mr. Thompson’s.
Moreover, in a deathbed confession, a former assistant prosecutor admitted he had deliberately hidden the blood evidence from Mr. Thompson’s trial lawyers.
After tests confirmed that Mr. Thompson’s blood type and DNA did not match the perpetrator’s, his robbery conviction was overturned. In 2002, the murder verdict was reversed. A year later, he was retried and acquitted after the jury deliberated for 35 minutes.

Mr. Thompson was awarded $14 million for his wrongful conviction.

But in 2011, an ideologically split United States Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that Mr. Thompson was not entitled to damages after all.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dissented, said at least five prosecutors had been complicit in violating Mr. Thompson’s constitutional rights because “they kept from him, year upon year, evidence vital to his defense.”
But Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said Mr. Thompson had not demonstrated that the office of District Attorney Harry Connick Sr. (father of the singer) had systematically withheld exculpatory evidence, particularly from black defendants, or had not trained his assistants sufficiently.
“The role of a prosecutor,” Justice Thomas wrote, “is to see that justice is done. By their own admission, the prosecutors who tried Thompson’s armed robbery case failed to carry out this responsibility.
“But the only issue before us,” he added, “is whether Connick, as the policy maker for the district attorney’s office, was deliberately indifferent to the need to train the attorneys under his authority.”