Saturday, December 18, 2010

Philip Joseph Cavarretta

Star player for the Cubs -- via the Washington Post. 1945's NL MVP!

Walter "Walt" "Moose" Dropo

First baseman for several Major League teams -- via the Hartford Courant. He was the 1950 AL Rookie of the Year.

Clay Cole aka Albert Rucker Jr.

TV host and producer, radio dj, actor and dancer -- via A key part of the early years of rock and roll, his "Clay Cole Show" on TV defined what was cool for the East Coast teen audience. He was witty, stylish -- and he hosted a fully integrated audience. Here's a nice take on him from the New York Times --

Derek V. Browne

Camera operator and director of photography -- via His long career stretched from 1943 to 2007. He worked on classics such as "Peeping Tom," "A Hard Day's Night," and Zeffirelli's "Hamlet."

Adrienne Roy

Color artist for the comics -- via ComicMix. She was once voted "The Most Beautifully Tattooed Female"!

Jane Royle

Makeup artist -- via the Times of London.

Gary Chapman

Writer, educator and ethicist -- via the New York Times. For seven years, he was the executive director of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility.

James Peterson

Blues guitarist -- via

E. Gene Smith

A scholar of Tibetan literature and history -- via the Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center.

Jorge "George" Covarrubias

Tae kwon do instructor -- via the Chicago Sun-Times. He was a fun-loving guy with a unique collection -- one of over 1,500 G.I. Joes.

David Alexander

Stage magician, science museum curator and the authorized biographer of Gene Roddenberry -- via the Chicago Sun-Times.

Meirion Pennar

Poet and translator -- via the BBC.

Robin Rogers

Blues singer -- via Vermont Public Radio.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Captain Beefheart aka Don Van Vliet aka Don Vliet

One of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century -- via Rolling Stone. An eclectic and catholic spirit ruled his soul; he saw no barriers and broke them all. Beyond that, his work is endlessly fascinating, and even a bit danceable. He combined and transfigured genres into new dimensions, earning the respect of Frank Zappa, for one. The three albums of his I own -- "Trout Mask Replica," "Safe As Milk" and "Ice Cream for Crow" were essential to the development of my sensibilities. After his retirement from music, he developed his other artistic abilities and became a world-class painter.

Here are more comprehensive overviews of his life from the New York Times and the L.A. Times. If you don't know his work, find out about it -- it will change your life. Thanks, Captain!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ruth Park

Esteemed writer for both adults and children -- via the Herald Sun.

Domini Blythe

Actress -- via the CBC. Not only accomplished, but one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen.

Peter O. Chotjewitz

Writer -- via Der Spiegel.

Alberto Segado

Actor -- via

Takeshi Watabe

Voice actor -- via Anime New Network.

Ros Mey

Buddhist religious leader -- via the Providence Journal.

Urszula Modrzynska

Actress -- via

John A. Ferraro

TV actor and director -- via the L.A. Times.

Michael Samuels

Philologist -- via the Guardian. It took him 40 years, but he completed his Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary last year. To a word-lover such as myself, it sounds fascinating!

John Ezard

A good journalist -- via the Guardian.

Jean Rollin

Film director -- via A leading craftsman of what many term "eurosleaze" or exploitation films such as "The Living Dead Girl," "Anal Madness," "Lips of Blood" and "Dracula's Fiancee."

Jack Mustarde

Plastic surgeon who aided the impoverished in Africa -- via the Telegraph.

Gunter Grabbert

Actor -- via

Neva Patterson

Actress in film and TV, and on stage -- via the L.A. Times.

B.S. Ranga aka Bindinganavale Srinivas Iyengar Ranga

Director and cinematographer -- via

Rebecca Neason

Science fiction and fantasy writer -- via

Anthony Eromosele Enahoro

Activist who helped Nigeria gain independence from Britain -- via NEXT.

Mary Jane Neville Chinn Odell

Broadcast pioneer -- via the Des Moines Register.

Bill Foxley

A British airman who transcended his burn injuries and helped others -- via the Telegraph.

Rene Le Berre

Entomologist -- via the Washington Post. He saved millions from river blindness (onchocerciasis), a disease caused by parasites in rural Africa.

Alhaji Sikiru Ololade Ayide Balogun aka Ayinde Barrister aka Alhaji Agba

Master of Fuji music -- via the Vanguard. Fuji is a popular Nigerian musical genre that derives from the were/ajisari music sung by Muslim artists in Yorubaland to wake the faithful for fasting during Ramadan.

Blake Edwards aka William Blake "Blackie" Crump

Film director, producer and writer -- via the Washington Post. His name will be irretrievably linked to the "Pink Panther" movies series, but he accomplished quite a lot more than that.

He began in radio, working with Orson Welles, and later created and wrote the snappy, popular "Richard Diamond, Private Detective" radio series for Dick Powell, and contributed to other hard-boiled series such as "Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar." He then broke in to film and TV as a writer, scripting "My Sister Eileen," for instance, and creating shows such as a TV version of "Richard Diamond," "Mr. Lucky" and "Peter Gunn." (Mary Tyler Moore's first big break was playing Richard Diamond's secretary, Sam -- seen mostly as a pair of shapely legs!)

Then the films began, and Edwards was as good at drama as he was at comedy. He directed "Breakfast at Tiffany's," the highly under-regarded "Experiment in Terror," and the film version of "The Days of Wine and Roses." (Trivia question: who directed the original "Playhouse 90" teleplay? John Frankenheimer.)

His career exploded, and became bogged down, by the Inspector Clouseau series. Still, he managed to make very funny, and sometimes insightful and melancholy, studies of desperate people -- "'10'," "S.O.B.," "Victor/Victoria" and "Sunset," to name a few. His career was uneven, but only because he kept trying new things.

Here's his Oscar presentation --

And, when push comes to shove, he would like us to remember him with a laugh. So here we go:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bob Feller aka Robert William Andrew Feller

Hall of Fame pitcher for the Cleveland Indians -- via WHO. He grew up 100 miles east of where I grew up, in the beautiful fields of Van Meter, Iowa. He grew up working on the farm. He started playing in the major leagues at the age of 17; he never spent a day in the minors.

266 wins; 2,581 strikeouts. He set a modern record of 18 strikeouts in one game. He's the only man to pitch a no-hitter on Opening Day, one of his three no-hitters. He had amazing stamina and discipline, and is estimated to have been one of the three hardest-throwing pitchers in baseball history. His nicknames: "the Heater from Van Meter," "Bullet Bob," "Rapid Robert."

A legend, a near-mythic figure. One of my heroes. God bless him.

J. Michael Hagopian

Documentary filmmaker -- via the L.A. Times. Much of his work centered on a catastrophe he survived, the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stuart "Woolly" Wolstenholme

Keyboardist and singer, most notably with prog-rock group Barclay James Harvest -- via

Jacob Lateiner

Classical pianist, professor and scholar -- via the New York Times. He commissioned Elliott Carter's Piano Concerto, and premiered Roger Sessions's Third Piano Sonata.

Eric Fullilove

TV director best known for "Skippy the Bush Kangaroo" -- via the Guardian.

Wayne Ruppert Sr.

A police officer and, eventually, Police Chief of York City, PA -- via the York Dispatch. He mentored kids in trouble, he helped the community, he saved lives -- he cared and went that extra mile!

Donald Locke

Artist -- via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Richard Holbrooke

Diplomat and foreign-policy expert -- via the Washington Post. Although his death has been covered extensively in the mainstream media, I provide the Post's comprehensive summary of his life for reference purposes, and to emphasize his last chilling words -- "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."