| Sunday, January 06, 2008
|FAMOUS IN LIFE, NOTED IN PASSING
In 2007 we said goodbye to the novelist who would be king, the motorcycle daredevil who would be Peter Pan -- and some folks who won't be missed.
NORMAN MAILER, 84
Whatever you thought of him, he never dodged a risk - writing novels about Jesus, Hitler and ancient Egypt, getting the killer Jack Henry Abbott out of prison, running for mayor of New York. Or a controversy: over race, war, feminism. His best book? His 1948 debut, "The Naked and the Dead?" One of his Pulitzer Prize winners -- "The Armies of the Night" (1968) or "The Executioner's Song" (1979)? Something else? None? We'll never stop arguing about him. He would have loved that.
YVONNE DE CARLO, 84
She played Moses' wife in "Ten Commandments" and debuted Sondheim's "I'm Still Here" on Broadway. But for boomers, primary address will always be 1313 Mockingbird Lane c/o "The Munsters".
KURT WALDHEIM, 88
A two term UN Secretary General, he ran (successfully) for president of Austria in 1985 - and critics found he'd misrepresented his service as a Nazi officer. A committee of historians concluded he'd know about war crimes but didn't participate. In a posthumously disclosed letter, he fessed up to "mistakes"; only Syria and Japan laid wreaths at his funeral.
LEONA HELMSLEY, 87
A staple of New York gossip columns, the real - estate and hotel mogul never lived down her billing as "the Queen of Mean" -- for her 1989 conviction for tax evasion, which got her 16 months. In her will she left $12 million to her white Maltese. The dogs' name? Trouble.
MARCEL MARCEAU, 84
The greatest of classical mimes (Chalk-white face, top hat with red flower. Hunts invisible net. Struggles against invisible wind. Performs "Youth, Maturity, Old Age and Death"; folds into embryo, gets up, strides stage, crumples, folds.) The rest is really silence.
BROOKE ASTOR, 105
A sparkling socialite who danced at parties well into her 90s, she dispensed nearly $200 million from a foundation left by her third husband, Vincent Astor, to cultural and social organizations. Her last years, spent in seclusion with dementia, were tainted by a scandal targeting her only child, Anthony Marshall, over her care and finances. He's been charged with fraud.
ANNA NICOLE SMITH, 39
For a while there, it was a fabulous life; Playboy model, widow of a billionaire, reality-TV star, mother of two. It all ended in a fog of pills and dueling paternity claims in a Florida hotel. Maybe Vickie Lynn Hogan shouldn't have left Mexia, Texas.
WALTER SCHIRRA, JR., 84
Of NASA's original seven astronauts, only Schirra flew in all three of the first programs; Mercury, Gemini and Apollo. On the 1962 Mercury mission he told the world " I'm having a ball up here drifting". Two decades later he said ,"It's mostly lousy out there. It's a hostile environment, and it's trying to kill you".
IRA LEVIN, 78
Unprolific? Maybe. But his seven novels include "Rosemary's Baby (1967), "The Stepford Wives" (1972)and
"The Boys from Brazil" (1976), all best sellers, all hit films, all tapping into deep personal fears, and cultural anxieties. And his 1978 play "Deathtrap" was a Broadway smash.
HENRY HYDE, 83
As a six-term congressman and House Judiciary Committee chairman from 1995 to 2001, the Illinois Republican led fights to ban federal funding for abortions. He forced through the vote to impeach Bill Clinton. But supported Clinton in trying to ban assault weapons; would the base support him today?
LIZ CLAIBORNE, 78
She called them "Liz Ladies" -- often the first female executives in their companies, with no time to shop. Claiborne was one herself; a mother who toiled in other designers' back rooms until launching her own line in 1976. Within 10 years, she had the first Fortune 500 company founded by a woman.
MERV GRIFFIN, 82
No contestant ever took home as much money from a game show as he did. The ex nightclub crooner, talk show host and hotelier, Griffin created "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!" Congratulations! You've won more than a billion dollars.
PAUL TIBBETS JR., 92
After dropping the first atom bomb, on Hiroshima in 1945, he returned a hero. But according to his granddaughter, he chose to be cremated so no one could deface his headstone."I viewed my mission as one to save lives," he said. Many World War II vets agreed.
BEVERLY SILLS, 78
The Brooklyn- born coloratura soprano could have been, you know, a diva. But her warmth, humor and acting ability made her a star that a wide public could embrace -- in part, through her ebullient TV appearances with Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett and the Muppetts. Long a fixture at the New York City Opera, she finally made her Met debut in 1975. After retiring, she became a powerful arts administrator, fund-raiser and cultural ambassador.
EVEL KNIEVEL, 69
The no-wires Peter Pan made first motorcycle jump over rattlesnakes and mountain lion; then came rows of buses, the fountains at Caesars' Palace and Idaho's Snake River Canyon. (Lucky he had a parachute) The self styled "last gladiator in the new Rome" retired in 1980, still denied permission for the Grand Canyon.
IKE TURNER, 76
What's love got to do with it? Not much, when most people think about Tina's ex. But Ike was a world-class musician; instrumentalist, bandleader, promoter, songwriter, talent scout and blues-rock innovator who paved the way for Elvis and Chuck Berry, to name a few. And yes; he was a world class jerk , too.
She was in her 40s when her 1963 children's sci-fi novel "A Wrinkel in Time", enabled her to quit running her general store in Connecticut. Rejected by 26 publishers, it won the Newberry Medal and hasn't stopped selling since. Nor have fundamentalist stopped protesting its Jungian-Einsteinian Christianity and its tendency to involve young readers in fantasy - for her, the job description.
MICHAEL DEAVER, 69
If Ronald Reagan was the Great Communicator, Deaver was the Great Lighting director. As presidential adviser, he mastermind those stunning photo ops; remember Reagan standing on a cliff overlooking the English Channel during the 40th anniversary of D-Day? Deaver even orchestrated Reagan's funeral over the Pacific Ocean just as the ceremony ended.
LUCIANO PAVAROTTI, 71
The Italian tenor lived larger in every sense, and his showmanship matched the rare beauty of his voice. Though it was said he couldn't read music, he stormed the opera stage, then barreled far beyond it. The King of the High Cs became a pop star with his Three Tenors gig; he sang with Bono, Sting and even the Spice Girls for charity. No one did more to popularize opera -- while selling 50 million of his own albums worldwide.
TAMMY FAYE BAKKER MESSNER, 65
Those eyelashes were her trademark when she and televangelist husband Jim Bakker hosted the "PTL Club" in the 70s and 80s. They shed mascara when the Bakkers tearfully revealed he'd had sex with a young (perhaps unwilling) church secretary. And she wore them still, on "Larry King Live", the day before she died of cancer.
JANE WYMAN, 90
Wyman made 80 films and 350 television shows in her long career, and won a 1948 Oscar for playing the deaf girl who's raped in "Johnny Belinda". The movie that made her the toast of Hollywood came out the same year she split from her husband, and actor named Ronald Reagan. Coincidence?
ARTHUR M SCHLESINGER., 89
The first president that Schlesinger wrote a book about was Andrew Jackson; the last was George W. Bush. The bow-tied historian didn't get to every heavyweight of the intervening 175 years, but almost; Kennedy (John, for whom he was an aide, and Robert), FDR (Three Volumes) -- 20 books in all, with a 1-in-10 Pulitzer Prize percentage. His 1973 book on Nixon, "The Imperial Presidency", gave us an enduring term -- and an enduring case of the willies.
ART BUCHWALD, 81
His Pulitzer Prize winning columns found humor in odd places; East Germany, foster care and, of course, American politics. But he saved his most surprising laugh lines for last; writing about his own death -- or rather, about hos he hadn't died, despite his doctor's predictions. "Instead of going upstairs", he wrote after walking out of his hospice, "I am going to Martha's vineyard."
DEBORAH KERR, 86
She waltzed with Yul Bryner ("The King and I"), donned a nun's habit ("Black Narcissus") and stood up Cary Grant ("An Affair to Remember"). The ladylike Kerr erotiziced her image in "From Here to Eternity", tangling in the waves with Burt Lancaster. She got six Oscar nominations; she never won, but she had great taste in costars.
KURT VONNEGUT, 84
Call his novel satire, sci-fi or fantasy -- generations of hip young readers ate them up. As a POW of the Nazis, he witnessed the American firebombing of Dresden; two decades later, it inspired "Slaughter House Five". He tried metafiction ("This is a very bad book you're writing," he wrote in "Breakfast of Champions"), graphic art and political polemics -- all with notable success.
E. HOWARD HUNT JR., 88
CIA agent, spy novelist, Watergate felon, Selig of the dark side -- Hunt wore more hats than just his snappy fedor. He helped plan the 1954 coup in Guatemala and the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion as well as the 1972 break-in at the DNC headquarters. On tape in 2007he dished deathbed dirt about JFK's assassination' you don't want to know.
PORTER WAGONER, 80
Yes, he made Dolly a star. But a pompadoured, Nudie-suited singer had a warm, down-home delivery and a string hits; "A Satisfied Mind" (1955) and "The Green, Green Grass of Home" (1965). On recent CDs, his voice sounds time worn and enriched.
JOEY BISHOP, 89
Bishop didn't drink or raise hell much, and he was often overshadowed by the wilder members of the Rat Pack; Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter Lawford. But he wrote most of the lines they spoke for their legendary "Summit Meeting" shows at the Sands in Las Vegas, though he like to to ad-lib his own stuff. "Marilyn", he once called out when Monroe, in white ermine, arrived in the middle of the comedy act, "I told you to wait in the truck".
RUTH BELL GRAHAM, 87
She was the quintessential preacher's wife -- to the quintessential preacher, Billy Graham -- but she wasn't demure. His most outspoken adviser, she told him not to run for president or pursue a TV career. The sign above her bedroom door read: NOBODY KNOWS THE TROUBLE I'VE BEEN.
SOL LeWITT, 78
LeWitt's modular cube sculptures helped launch Minimalism, and his lucid writing revealed a ready wit. One piece began: "The editor ... is in favor of avoiding the 'notion that the artist is a kind of ape that has to be explained that has to be explained by the civilized critic.' This should be good news to both artists and apes."
MAX ROACH, 83
A pair of bad breaks gave the 17 year old Roach his: World War II took drummers off the scene, and Duke Ellington's regular timekeeper fell ill. Roach was soon an indispensable part of the bebop revolution, along with Parker, Gillespespie, Bud Powell, Monk and the young Miles Davis. And he kept experimenting; with waltz time, all percussion ensembles and all Roach solo performances.
DAVID HALBERSTAM, 73
The Pulitzer Prize journalist covered Vietnam JFK tried to get The New York Times to pull him out -- and wrote 20 books; on the auto industry, baseball, firefighters and, in "The Powers That Be" (1979) the media itself. "The Best and the Brightest" (1972), on Vietnam-era decision making, still gives a chill; his final book, on the Korean War, came a few months after his death.
JACK VALENTI. 62
LBJ's devoted aide remained a booster even in his posthumous memoir. His second career was president of the Motion Picture Association of America The bawdy Johnson might have been proud that his guy created the rating system that ends with X.
MICHAELANGELO ANTONIONI, 94
Even in the 60's, his enigmatic films caused controversy. "Lavventura" - a slow-paced study in alienation - was booed at Cannes, then embraced by critics. In his first English film "Blowup" (1966), a London photographer believes a picture he shot contains the clue to a murder. But it's the final tennis scene that will blow your mind.
BORIS YELTSIN, 76
The beefy, sybaritic Siberian left a mixed legacy -- the communist boss who finally smashed the Party, yet left an unstable Russia, prey for oligarchs, quagmired in Chechnya. But he allowed the press and business to operate freely, and in 1991, he climbed on top of a tank to stare down communists threatening a coup of President Mikhail Gorbachev -- perhaps single handedly saving the country's fledgling reformation. In 1999, he became the first Russian to relinquish power voluntarily. Vladimir Putin, Yeltsin's hard line, hand picked successor, says he'll do the same. We'll see.
(Source: ABSTRACTED FROM NEWSWEEK for Dec. 31,2007 to Jan. 7, 2008)
|posted by infraternam meam @ 9:33 PM