April 1, 2016

RIP

Patty Duke
Born: December 14, 1946, Elmhurst, New York City, NY
Died: March 29, 2016, Coeur d'Alene, ID
Height: 5′ 0″

 
 Patty Duke, Child Star and Oscar Winner, Dies at 69
Patty Duke, an Oscar-winning actress renowned at midcentury as a child star of stage, film and television, who, amid public struggles with bipolar disorder, went on to cultivate a respected career in adulthood as an actress and mental-health advocate, died on Tuesday at a hospital near her home in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. She was 69.
The cause was complications of a ruptured intestine that Ms. Duke suffered on Thursday, said her husband, Michael Pearce.
Ms. Duke came to wide public notice in 1959, at 12, when she starred as Helen Keller in the original Broadway production of William Gibson’s drama “The Miracle Worker.” Anne Bancroft played Helen’s teacher, Annie Sullivan.
For her performance in the 1962 Hollywood film adaptation, in which she and Ms. Bancroft reprised their roles, Ms. Duke won the Academy Award for best supporting actress.

She came to even wider attention the next year, with the debut of “The Patty Duke Show,” the popular ABC sitcom in which Ms. Duke played the dual roles of Patty Lane, an unaffected Brooklyn girl, and her worldly, Scottish “identical cousin,” Cathy Lane.
Broadcast on ABC, the show ran through 1966, and also starred William Schallert as Patty’s father.
Homey, comforting and sentimental, the show, with its emblematic theme song (“Where Cathy adores a minuet,/The Ballets Russes, and crêpes suzette,/Our Patty loves to rock and roll,/A hot dog makes her lose control;/What a wild duet!”) remains a touchstone of American nostalgia.
But in an irony not lost one iota on Ms. Duke, the fame she won for playing a typical teenager — who inhabited a world of bubble gum, bobby socks and few real problems — belied the lifelong upheavals that began in childhood.
Among them were a threadbare upbringing; parental alcoholism; her removal from her home by her managers, who co-opted not only her earnings but also, Ms. Duke later wrote, her very identity; implication in the television quiz-show scandals of the late 1950s; sexual abuse; four marriages; and more than one suicide attempt.


In the end, however, Ms. Duke found contentment in an enduring fourth marriage; the presidency of the Screen Actors Guild; the proper diagnosis and treatment of her bipolar disorder; her public lobbying for causes including mental health, AIDS awareness and nuclear disarmament; and a renewed television career that brought her three Emmys.

The youngest of three children, Anna Marie Duke was born in New York City on Dec. 14, 1946, and reared in Queens. Her father, John Patrick Duke, was a handyman and cabby; her mother, the former Frances McMahon, was a cashier.
Her mother, Ms. Duke later said, was chronically depressed; her father was an alcoholic. When Anna was 6, her father left the family, and she saw him again only occasionally.
Anna began acting at about 8, when she was taken on by John and Ethel Ross, husband-and-wife managers who represented her older brother Raymond.
The Rosses immediately set to work neutralizing Anna’s prominent Queens accent. They also changed her name to the pert, less ethnic-sounding Patty.
“Anna Marie is dead; you’re Patty now,” she was told, as she recalled in a memoir, “Call Me Anna” (1987, with Kenneth Turan).
As Patty Duke, she landed bit parts in films and on television before being cast in “The Miracle Worker.” To prepare her to audition for the part, the Rosses took to blindfolding her and moving the furniture around.
Playing the young Helen Keller — a rigorous role that required her to act, persuasively but without sentimentality, the part of a deaf-blind child subject to fearsome rages; to learn the manual alphabet; and to engage nightly in an ad-libbed, highly physical onstage fight with Ms. Bancroft that could last nearly 10 minutes — she won critical plaudits and enduring fame.
Reviewing the play in The New York Times, Brooks Atkinson wrote:
“As Helen, little Miss Duke is altogether superb — a plain, sullen, explosive, miniature monster whose destructive behavior makes sympathy for her afflictions impossible, but whose independence and vitality are nevertheless admirable.”
In the view of many critics, Ms. Duke’s passage from Helen Keller to Patty Lane was a voyage from the sublime to the ridiculous.

From its pilot episode, scripted by Sidney Sheldon, the show gloried in its preposterous premise: two cousins so genetically indistinguishable that, as its theme song proclaimed, “They laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike.”
But the public ate it up, along with vigorously marketed merchandise like dolls, clothes, puzzles and board games.
The show’s success — and Patty Lane’s popularity in particular — was something Ms. Duke came to deplore.
“I hated being less intelligent than I was,” she later wrote. “I hated pretending I was younger than I was, I hated not being consulted about anything, having no choice in how I looked or what I wore, I hated being trapped.”
The Rosses, who by now saw Ms. Duke as a golden goose, removed her, against her wishes, from her mother’s home and took her to live with them. They monitored her every movement, she later said, telling her what to wear, what to do and what to eat, and fiercely controlled her mother’s access to her.
They also, Ms. Duke said, fed her uppers and downers and introduced her to alcohol. Both members of the couple, she later wrote, sexually molested her on occasion.
There was also financial malfeasance. In 1959, testifying before a congressional committee, Mr. Ross, admitted that Patty, who had appeared not long before on the TV quiz show “The $64,000 Challenge,” had been fed the answers by the show’s producers.

She won $32,000 on the show, of which Mr. Ross took his standard 15 percent fee.
By the time Ms. Duke broke with the Rosses as a young woman, she later said, she discovered that they had embezzled the vast portion of her career earnings — about $1 million.
To extricate herself from the Rosses’ Svengali-like clutches, she married Harry Falk, an assistant director on “The Patty Duke Show,” when she was still a teenager; the marriage ended in divorce. A second marriage, to Michael Tell, was annulled after 13 days.
In 1972, Ms. Duke married the actor John Astin; during their marriage, she was billed as Patty Duke Astin. They divorced in 1985.
Her other roles include the female lead in “My Sweet Charlie,” a 1970 TV movie in which she portrayed a pregnant runaway who falls in love with a black man, played by Al Freeman Jr. Her performance garnered her the first of her three Emmy Awards.
On the big screen, she appeared in “Valley of the Dolls,” the 1967 adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s novel, playing Neely O’Hara, a woman addicted to sex, drugs and alcohol.
But all the while, Ms. Duke was dealing increasingly with a real-life emotional lability for which she had no name. She attempted suicide several times, and was committed to mental hospitals.
Only in 1982 did she receive a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, along with proper medication. She recounted her experiences in another memoir, “A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic-Depressive Illness” (1992, with Gloria Hochman).
Ms. Duke’s survivors include her fourth husband, Mr. Pearce, an Army drill sergeant whom she married in 1986 (she preferred afterward to be known in private life as Anna Pearce); her brother, Raymond; two sons, the actors Sean Astin and Mackenzie Astin; a stepdaughter, Charlene Gibson, from her marriage to Mr. Pearce; a son, Kevin, with Mr. Pearce; and six grandchildren. Another stepdaughter from her fourth marriage, Raelene Pearce, died in 1998.

Among Ms. Duke’s other television credits are the 1976 NBC mini-series “Captains and the Kings,” for which she won her second Emmy, and a 1979 TV adaptation of “The Miracle Worker” for which — playing Annie Sullivan to Melissa Gilbert’s Helen — she won her third.
Ms. Duke played her adult self in “Call Me Anna,” a 1990 TV movie based on her memoir. Over the years she had guest roles on a string of shows, including “The Love Boat,” “Amazing Grace,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Glee.”
She served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1985 to 1988.
In a quotation on her website, officialpattyduke.com, Ms. Duke summed up her quicksilver life in lines whose final word fairly rings with resonance:

“I’ve survived,” she wrote. “I’ve beaten my own bad system and on some days, on most days, that feels like a miracle.”

-NYT

Belated RIP

Umberto Eco
Born: January 5, 1932, Alessandria, Italy

Died: February 19, 2016, Milan, Italy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umberto Eco, Italian novelist and intellectual, dies aged 84

The revered literary critic, author and essayist – most famous for 1980 novel The Name of the Rose – had been suffering from cancer

The celebrated Italian intellectual Umberto Eco, who shot to fame with his 1980 novel The Name of the Rose, has been remembered as a master of Italian culture after his death at the age of 84.
Eco died on Friday night after suffering from cancer, prompting tributes to pour in for the esteemed writer.
He was “an extraordinary example of a European intellectual, combining unique intelligence of the past with a limitless capacity to anticipate the future”, said Italy’s prime minister, Matteo Renzi. “It’s an enormous loss for culture, which will miss his writing and voice, his sharp and lively thought, and his humanity,” Renzi told the Ansa news agency.
Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, said Eco remained youthful until his last day. “A master who brought Italian culture to the whole world,” Franceschini wrote on Twitter.
Leading daily Corriere della Sera called Eco “the writer who changed Italian culture”, while newspaper La Stampa described a country in mourning for the author’s death.
Through Eco’s academic writings and his bestselling books, he became a respected intellectual voice both in Italy and abroad.
Internationally, he remains best known for his bestseller The Name of the Rose, a medieval detective novel set in an Italian abbey, which follows Brother William of Baskerville as he investigates a series of suspicious deaths. The novel captured imaginations globally and was turned into a film starring Sean Connery as William.
The work secured Eco’s international reputation and he went on to pen a number of other novels, including Foucault’s Pendulum in 1988. His most recent work, Numero Zero, was published last year and centres on a new newspaper in Milan funded by a meddling tycoon. Later this year a final novel will be released posthumously, Italian media reported.
Although Eco’s works sold millions of copies, he was not one to pander to popular tastes. “It’s only publishers and some journalists who believe that people want simple things. People are tired of simple things. They want to be challenged,” he told the Guardian in 2011.
While his first novel was not published until 1980, Eco said he had always had a “narrative impulse” and began writing stories at the age of 10 or 12. Born on 5 January 1932 in Alessandria, north-west Italy, Eco rejected his father’s wish that he study law and instead read philosophy and literature at the University of Turin.
After finished his doctoral thesis, Eco lectured at his alma mater and during the same period worked at Italy’s state broadcaster, RAI, as a cultural editor. He went on to develop his interest in semiotics, the study of signs and symbols, and became a professor of the subject at the University of Bologna. His significant academic writings include On Beauty and the later On Ugliness, exploring how people’s perceptions are shaped through history.
George Lakoff, a professor of cognitive linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, credited his friend with changing academia’s approach to literature by giving respectability to the study of popular art forms.
“He showed how not only to understand culture, in general, but to create new culture that way. That is what this man was about,” Lakoff told the BBC World Service. “Not only that, he loved it, he enjoyed every minute of it. To be with Eco was to just enjoy life.”

-The Guardian

Quote of the Day

“If you want to know what a man's like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
J.K. Rowling

February 23, 2016

RIP

Harper Nelle Lee
Born: April 28, 1926, Monroeville, AL
Died: February 19, 2016, Monroeville, AL
 











Author Nelle Harper Lee, who won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 for her book, "To Kill a Mockingbird," passed away in her sleep Friday morning at the age of 89, her family has confirmed.
"This is a sad day for our family. America and the world knew Harper Lee as one of the last century's most beloved authors," Hank Conner, Lee's nephew and a spokesman for the family, said in a statement Friday morning.
"We knew her as Nelle Harper Lee, a loving member of our family, a devoted friend to the many good people who touched her life, and a generous soul in our community and our state. We will miss her dearly."
Conner's statement indicated that "Ms. Lee passed away in her sleep early this morning. Her passing was unexpected. She remained in good basic health until her passing."
Services for Lee have not been announced, but Conner said the funeral will be private as per her request.
Lee was born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, the youngest of four children of lawyer Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee.
As a child, Lee attended elementary school and high school just a few blocks from her house on Alabama Avenue. In a March 1964 interview, she offered this capsule view of her childhood: "I was born in a little town called Monroeville, Alabama, on April 28, 1926. I went to school in the local grammar school, went to high school there, and then went to the University of Alabama. That's about it, as far as education goes."
She moved to New York in 1949, where she worked as an airlines reservations clerk while pursuing a writing career. Eight years later, Lee submitted her manuscript for "To Kill a Mockingbird" to J.B. Lippincott & Co., which asked her to rewrite it.
On July 11, 1960, "To Kill a Mockingbird" was published by Lippincott with critical and commercial success. The author won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the following year.
Lee's novel tells the story of small-town lawyer Atticus Finch of Maycomb, Ala.—based on Monroeville — and his children, Scout and Jem. Told from Scout's point of view, the book reflects the innocence of children growing up in the early 1930s. It also depicts the various social classes that existed then, and brings the undercurrents of racism to light. 
More than a half-century after its publication, the novel continues to be studied by high school and college students. It has sold more than 30 million copies—still selling nearly a million copies per year by the 50th anniversary of its publication in 2010, according to Publishers Weekly--and has been translated into more than 40 languages. 
The film adaptation of the novel, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout, opened on Christmas Day of 1962 and was an instant hit. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won four, including Best Actor for Peck and Best Screenplay for Horton Foote, who wrote the screenplay for the movie based on the book. Lee became close friends with both of them.
The novel also inspired a generation of lawyers with its portrayal of the gentle, wise Atticus Finch, who defends a black man, Tom Robinson, falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman. Meanwhile, the Finches' strange neighbor, Boo Radley, who strikes fear in Scout's and Jem's hearts, turns out not to be the monster the children expect him to be.

Though Lee denied that the novel was autobiographical, many parallels exist between "To Kill a Mockingbird" and Lee's own childhood. Her father was also a lawyer who owned the town newspaper.  Comparisons have been made between Lee and Scout, the 9-year-old tomboy protagonist, especially in her friendship with Dill, a character widely considered to have been based on Lee's own childhood friend, Truman Capote.  
When he was a child, the author of "In Cold Blood" often stayed with his cousins, who lived next door to the Lees. Capote and Lee collaborated on the early stages of his novel and remained lifelong friends. 
The interior of the Monroe County Courthouse was reconstructed on a movie set in Hollywood for the film's pivotal courtroom scenes, and local actors bring the book to life each spring at the courthouse itself, where they stage "To Kill a Mockingbird" to sellout crowds. 
The press-averse author was thrust into the public eye in February 2015, when her publisher, HarperCollins, announced the upcoming release of "Go Set a Watchman," Lee's second and final full-length published work.
The announcement almost immediately sparked rumors that Lee – who had long said she would never publish another novel – had been taken advantage of by her attorney, Tonja Carter.
In February 2015, the Alabama Department of Human Resources met with Lee at Meadows of Monroeville, the southern Alabama assisted living facility where she resided, and concluded that she was mentally competent to handle her affairs, but rumors persisted that she was not lucid enough to sign off on business decisions.
A guardedly private individual, Lee was respected and protected by residents of the town that displays Mockingbird-themed murals and each year stages theatrical productions of "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Lee returned to Monroeville for good once her beloved sister Alice became ill and needed help. She'd eat breakfast each morning at the same fast-food place, and could later be seen picking up Alice from the law firm founded by their father, which currently employs Carter.
Since she stopped granting interviews in 1964, Harper Lee has been fiercely protected by Monroeville residents. In addition to maintaining an apartment in New York City, Lee lived in her hometown with her sister, Alice Finch Lee, who is 15 years older and practiced law until she was 100 years old.  
In recent years, Harper Lee had experienced declining health after a stroke left her partially paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. She also had lost 95 percent of her vision, according to a 2011 interview with Alice Lee in the Press-Register.
AL.com reporter Michelle Matthews contributed to this report.

AL.com

Quote of the Day

“Sometimes you climb out of bed in the morning and you think, I'm not going to make it, but you laugh inside — remembering all the times you've felt that way.”
Charles Bukowski

January 30, 2016

RIP

René Angélil
Born: January 16, 1942, Montreal, Canada
Died: January 14, 2016, Henderson, NV












 

René Angélil, Who Discovered and Then Married Celine Dion, Dies at 73

René Angélil, the producer who discovered the singer Celine Dion at age 12 and later married her after leading her to stardom, died on Thursday at their home in Las Vegas. He was 73.
In a statement posted online, Ms. Dion said the cause was cancer. The Clark County coroner, John Fudenburg, said in a statement that Mr. Angélil died of throat cancer.
Mr. Angélil’s life and career were intertwined with those of Ms. Dion, a Grammy- and Oscar-winning vocal powerhouse known for love ballads and torch songs, notably the megahit “My Heart Will Go On,” the theme song to the movie “Titanic” and recipient of the Grammy record of the year award in 1999.
But when the two first met she was only a child. Ms. Dion’s older brother, Michel, sent Mr. Angélil a demo tape of her singing “It Was Only a Dream,” written by their mother.
“I listened to it right away, and I couldn’t believe it,” Mr. Angélil told The New York Times in 1997. “She wasn’t the cutest 12-year-old. She had a problem with her teeth, and she was very shy, but her eyes were incredible.”
Mr. Angélil was born in Montreal on Jan. 16, 1942, and became an established player in the entertainment industry in Quebec. He once sang as part of the French-Canadian pop group the Baronets and previously managed the career of another Quebecois child star, Ginette Reno, but he was soon firmly in the business of Celine Dion.
He began managing her career in 1981 and mortgaged his house to finance her debut album, which became a hit in French Canada and France.
Under his guidance, Ms. Dion became a household name in Quebec. She achieved her first taste of international fame by winning the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin in 1988.
Her first American hit came two years later with the release of her first English-language album, and her celebrity was secured when she sang the title track of the 1991 Disney film “Beauty and the Beast,” which won an Academy Award in 1992.
Mr. Angélil guided her career in those years with a strong hand. The pair merged their professional and personal lives in 1994, marrying in a lavish ceremony at the Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal. White haired and goateed, Mr. Angélil was 26 years older than his bride.
Ms. Dion made the decision to leave recording and touring behind her in 2003 to take up a multimillion-dollar residency in a custom-built, 4,100-seat theater at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, where she and Mr. Angélil, an avid gambler, put down roots. Her first show lasted five years and a second, launched in 2011, is scheduled to run until 2019.
Mr. Angélil first received a cancer diagnosis in 1999. He was successfully treated, a turn of events that he described as “a miracle” to Oprah Winfrey in 2002. Mr. Angélil and Ms. Dion’s first child, René-Charles Angélil, was born two years later, and a set of twins, Nelson and Eddy, followed in 2010.
But the cancer returned on their wedding anniversary in 2013, Ms. Dion told ABC News last year.
He began treatment again, but this time it took a painful toll. Ms. Dion said that radiation treatment had damaged his hearing and that he was eventually unable to use his mouth. She fed him through a feeding tube three times a day, she said, and took a break from show business to focus on him and their children.
“I do this myself,” she told ABC. “I feed my husband, and I feed my kids, and unfortunately I had to say, Listen, I can’t be half here and half over there, please allow me to stay home.”
She returned to the stage in August 2014 at her husband’s urging, she said. “We are creating this show together,” she told Entertainment Tonight last May. “He wants me back, he wants me strong.”
Besides Ms. Dion and their three children, Mr. Angélil is survived by a son and a daughter from two previous marriages.











~NYT

January 28, 2016

Vintage TV Show of the Day

Laverne & Shirley
 


Theme music composer Norman Gimbel (lyrics) Charles Fox
Opening theme "Making Our Dreams Come True", performed by Cyndi Grecco
Composer(s)



RIP

Abe Vigoda
Born: February 24, 1921, Brooklyn, New York City, NY
Died: January 26, 2016, Woodland Park, NJ
Height: 6′ 1″

Abe Vigoda, of ‘Godfather’ and ‘Barney Miller,’ Dies at 94
Abe Vigoda, the sad-faced actor who emerged from a workmanlike stage career to find belated fame in the 1970s as the earnest mobster Tessio in “The Godfather” and the dyspeptic Detective Phil Fish on the hit sitcom “Barney Miller,” died on Tuesday morning in Woodland Park, N.J. He was 94, having outlived by about 34 years an erroneous report of his death that made him a cult figure.
His daughter, Carol Vigoda Fuchs, told The Associated Press that Mr. Vigoda had died in his sleep at her home.
Mr. Vigoda, tall and graying with a long face, sturdy jaw and deep-set eyes, was a 50-year-old stage actor who had earned his stripes on and off Broadway performing Shakespeare, Strindberg and Shaw when he got his big Hollywood break, winning the role of Salvatore Tessio in Francis Ford Coppola’s epic 1972 adaptation of the Mario Puzo novel “The Godfather.”

“I’m really not a Mafia person,” Mr. Vigoda, who was of Russian-Jewish descent, told Vanity Fair magazine in 2009. “I’m an actor who spent his life in the theater. But Francis said, ‘I want to look at the Mafia not as thugs and gangsters but like royalty in Rome.’ And he saw something in me that fit Tessio as one would look at the classics in Rome.”
To prepare himself for the role — a high-ranking mobster, or capo, who runs a crew of his own — Mr. Vigoda frequented the Lower East Side and other New York neighborhoods that are backdrops in the story. He told Vanity Fair that he “practically lived in Little Italy during the shoot.”
Tessio is an old friend and ally of the Godfather, Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando). But in a story that traces a classical tragic arc, he becomes a figure of disloyalty who pays a steep price for his betrayal.
He reprised the role in a flashback scene in “The Godfather: Part II” in 1974.
A year after that, Mr. Vigoda was cast as the worn-out Detective Fish on the station-house sitcom “Barney Miller,” opposite Hal Linden in the title role. Mr. Vigoda stayed with the series for two seasons, 1975-76 and 1976-77, and the opening episodes of a third, earning three Emmy nominations for best supporting actor in a comedy series. (The show continued without him until 1982.)
He was so successful that he achieved a rare television feat: appearing in his own spinoff, “Fish,” while still in the cast of the original show. “Fish” centered on the detective’s home life as the foster parent of five children of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. It ran from February 1977 to May 1978.
Mr. Vigoda’s days as a television star seemed to be behind him in 1982 when People magazine reported that he had died. Mr. Vigoda responded by placing an ad in Variety with a photo showing him sitting up in a coffin and holding a copy of the offending issue of the magazine.
His “death” became a running joke. “I have nothing to say about Abe,” Billy Crystal said at a roast of Rob Reiner at the Friars Club, where Mr. Vigoda was a regular. “I was always taught to speak well of the dead.”

David Letterman and Conan O’Brien invited him onto their late-night shows to prove he was still alive. A website, abevigoda.com, continued to give updates on his status.
His name was kept alive in other ways as well. A punk-rock group appropriated his name as its own. And the Beastie Boys rapped about him in their 1986 album, “Licensed to Ill”: “I got a girl in the castle and one in the pagoda/You know I got rhymes like Abe Vigoda.”
Abraham Charles Vigoda was born in New York City on Feb. 24, 1921, to Samuel Vigoda, a tailor, and the former Lena Moses, immigrants from Russia. Abe, one of three brothers, began acting as a teenager and turned professional in 1947, performing almost entirely onstage for the next 20 or more years.

In 1960, he starred in an Off Broadway production of the Strindberg drama “The Dance of Death,” and he appeared frequently at the New York Shakespeare Festival in the early ’60s, as John of Gaunt in “Richard II” and King Alonzo in “The Tempest,” among other roles.
In 1963, he had the lead in an Off Broadway production of Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.” Five years later, he was on Broadway in Peter Weiss’s “Marat/Sade.”
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Vigoda is survived by three grandchildren and a great-grandson, The Associated Press reported. His second wife, Beatrice Schy, died in 1992.
After his successes in “The Godfather” and “Barney Miller,” Mr. Vigoda was seen in several television movies and on many prime-time series, including “Law & Order,” “Mad About You” and “Touched by an Angel.” He also appeared on the daytime soap operas “As the World Turns” in 1985 and “Santa Barbara” in 1989.
He acted in dozens of movies as well, including “Cannonball Run II” (1984), “Look Who’s Talking” (1989), “Joe Versus the Volcano” (1990), “Sugar Hill” (1993) and “Underworld” (1996). One of his last performances was in a Snickers commercial, first shown during the 2010 Super Bowl, which also featured his fellow octogenarian Betty White.
He continued to make occasional television and film appearances well into the 21st century, but it was the first film that mattered the most to him.
“‘The Godfather’ changed my life,” he told The New York Times in 2001.
Probably his most indelible scene from the film was his last, in which the consigliere or family lawyer Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) and four henchmen confront Sal Tessio outside the Corleone compound after discovering that he had been in on a plot to kill the Godfather’s son and successor, Michael (Al Pacino).
Tessio’s face drops; he doesn’t have to be told what will happen next.
“Tell Mike it was only business,” he says to Hagen resignedly. “I always liked him.”
Tessio makes a final plea.

“Tom, can you get me off the hook? For old times’ sake?”
Hagen shakes his head; the code must be honored.
“Can’t do it, Sally.”

-NYT

January 17, 2016

Literary Pick (***)

Hollywood
-Charles Bukowski



















Probably my least favorite of his novels that I've read so far, but it always feels good to read nonetheless, because no matter what, you hear his voice come through in all his works.

Literary Pick (**)

Pedro Pietri: Selected Poetry
-Pedro Pietri

















I'm sad to report I was very disappointed by this collection of poetry. I'd been looking forward to reading Pietri's work for many years now, but was never able to find anything of his works in book stores. I really thought I was going to be transported to the days I grew up in Brooklyn..the bodegas, the sounds, the smells..the memories... it wasn't the kind of Nuyorican poetry I was expecting and hoping for.

RIP

Alan Rickman, Watchable Villain in ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Die Hard,’ Dies at 69

Born Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman
21 February 1946
Acton, London, England, UK
Died 14 January 2016 (aged 69) London, England, UK













Alan Rickman, the accomplished British stage actor who brought an erudite dignity to film roles like Hans Gruber, the nefarious mastermind of “Die Hard,” and Severus Snape, the dour master of potions in the “Harry Potter” series, died on Thursday in London. He was 69.
His death was confirmed by a publicist, Catherine Olim, who said the cause was cancer.
In an acting career of more than 40 years, Mr. Rickman, with his sensuous, shadowy purr of a voice and often an enigmatic grin, played a panoply of characters whose outward villainy often concealed more complicated emotions and motivations.


Mr. Rickman, who attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, had his early successes in stage works like the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1985 production of Christopher Hampton’s “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” in which, in a leading role, he played the manipulative Vicomte de Valmont. He earned a Tony Award nomination for the performance after the production transferred to Broadway in 1987.
Mr. Rickman gained a worldwide audience the following year in “Die Hard,” the first of the Hollywood action-thriller franchise, playing Gruber, the devious, well-spoken terrorist whose takeover of the fictional Nakatomi Plaza building in Los Angeles is foiled by the resourceful police officer John McClane, played by Bruce Willis.
Mr. Rickman wrung every malevolent drop that he could from Gruber’s boastful lines. (“Who are you?” he asks McClane, who is constantly frustrating his plans. “Just another American who saw too many movies as a child? Another orphan of a bankrupt culture who thinks he’s John Wayne?”)
Some 13 years later, Mr. Rickman brought nuance to the role of Severus Snape, a sarcastic, cutting instructor at the Hogwarts school in the “Harry Potter” franchise, adapted from J. K. Rowling’s best-selling novels. The character was introduced on screen in the 2001 film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
Professor Snape seemed at first to be a traditional foil for the titular protagonist, but through Mr. Rickman’s increasingly intricate performances over eight films, he would be revealed as having had a more crucial and courageous role in the young hero’s life.
Mr. Rickman saw the mysterious Professor Snape as an unusually complex character, he said in an interview with The New York Times in 2012, and he signed on without a clear idea of how the character would evolve over the course of the series, which ended with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2.”
“With the last film it was very cathartic because you were finally able to see who he was,” Mr. Rickman said “It was strange, in a way, to play stuff that was so emotional. A lot of the time you’re working in two dimensions, not three.”
Though Mr. Rickman was never nominated for an Academy Award, he shrugged off the value of awards in general. “Parts win prizes, not actors,” he told IFC in 2008.
“You always know a part that’s got ‘prize winner’ written all over it,” he continued, “and it’s almost like anybody could say those lines and somebody will hand them a piece of metal.”
On Thursday, his life and work were celebrated by his “Harry Potter” collaborators in emotional online remembrances.
On her Twitter account, Ms. Rowling called him a “magnificent actor.” And
Daniel Radcliffe, who played the headstrong Harry Potter, wrote in a social media post that Mr. Rickman was “one of the first of the adults on ‘Potter’ to treat me like a peer rather than a child.”
Whatever people concluded about Mr. Rickman from his screen roles, Mr. Radcliffe wrote, “Alan was extremely kind, generous, self-deprecating and funny. And certain things obviously became even funnier when delivered in his unmistakable double-bass.”
Alan Rickman was born Feb. 21, 1946, into a working-class family in the Acton section of London. After a peripatetic art career, including studies at different art colleges and a brief involvement in a graphic design studio, he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and was accepted in 1972.
After leaving the academy in 1974, he worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company, appearing in acclaimed 1980s productions of “Troilus and Cressida” (as Achilles) and “As You Like It” (as Jaques); in that same period he also performed in “Mephisto” as Hendrik Höfgen, a character modeled on the German actor Gustaf Gründgens.
Mr. Rickman made his television debut in 1978, playing Tybalt in a BBC version of “Romeo and Juliet.” He also appeared in a 1980 mini-series adaptation of “Thérèse Raquin” and the 1982 mini-series “The Barchester Chronicles,” adapted from the Anthony Trollope novels.
Following his success in “Liaisons Dangereuses,” Mr. Rickman traveled to Los Angeles, where he was offered the role in “Die Hard” by the producer Joel Silver.
As Mr. Rickman would recall, at a celebration of his career held by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, he was not initially impressed by the movie or its screenplay, credited to Jeb Stuart and Steven E. de Souza.
“I didn’t know anything about L.A. I didn’t know anything about the film business,” Mr. Rickman said, according to The Guardian. “I’d never made a film before, but I was extremely cheap.” He said his reaction to the script was: “What the hell is this? I’m not doing an action movie.”
Mr. Rickman said: “I got Joel saying, ‘Get the hell out of here, you’ll wear what you’re told.’ But when I came back, I was handed a new script. It showed that it pays to have a little bit of theater training.”
Mr. Rickman’s many other film roles included the dastardly sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991) and a married man tempted by his young secretary in Richard Curtis’s romantic ensemble comedy “Love Actually” (2003). He appeared in the 1999 science-fiction spoof “Galaxy Quest,” in a role sending up classical British actors relegated to lightweight fantasy fare.
In 2013, he played Ronald Reagan in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” and Hilly Kristal in “CBGB,” a biographical film about the founding of the New York punk-rock club.

The latter portion of his film career was defined by the Snape character in “Harry Potter,” a franchise that has sold more than $7.6 billion in tickets worldwide.
Beneath his ominous exterior, Snape proved to be “unutterably honorable,” Mr. Rickman said in a 2011 interview with The Times.
Pointing to more upstanding and honorable figures he had played, like the suitor Colonel Brandon in Ang Lee’s film adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility,” Mr. Rickman said it was a mistake to associate him only with corrupted characters.
“The label gets written because of a very small amount of work that’s had a lot of publicity,” he told The Times.
Mr. Rickman continued to perform on stage in London and New York. He returned to Broadway in 2002 in a production of Noël Coward’s “Private Lives,” and in 2011 in the Theresa Rebeck comedy “Seminar,” playing a novelist and writing instructor whose merciless teaching methods are not all that they seem.
At London’s Royal Court Theater in 2005 he directed the play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie,” about the young American protesting the demolition of a Palestinian’s house in Gaza who was run over by an Israeli Army bulldozer. The production was to transfer to the New York Theater Workshop the following year, but was canceled; the group’s artistic director, James C. Nicola, said that “the fantasy that we could present the work of this writer simply as a work of art without appearing to take a position was just that, a fantasy.”
Mr. Rickman was critical of the decision, calling it “censorship born out of fear.” (The play was staged later that year at the Minetta Lane Theater.)
In 2008, Mr. Rickman directed a Donmar Warehouse production of Strindberg’s “Creditors,” adapted by the playwright David Greig, that was presented at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2010, where he also starred in an Abbey Theater production of Ibsen’s “John Gabriel Borkman” in 2011.
He directed the 2014 film “A Little Chaos,” a period drama in which he also played Louis XIV. His coming movies include “Eye in the Sky,” a thriller with Helen Mirren and Aaron Paul, and “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” as the voice of the Blue Caterpillar.
Mr. Rickman is survived by his wife, Rima Horton. The couple secretly wed in 2012, but had been together for more than 40 years, People magazine reported last April.
He is also survived by his siblings Michael, David and Sheila Rickman, Ms. Olim, the publicist, said.
Emma Thompson, the actress and writer who worked with Mr. Rickman in films like “Sense and Sensibility” and “Love Actually,” said in a statement on Thursday that it was Mr. Rickman’s “intransigence” that “made him the great artist he was,” recalling “his ineffable and cynical wit, the clarity with which he saw most things, including me, and the fact that he never spared me the view.”
“I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with his face next,” she said.

Correction: January 15, 2016
An earlier version of this obituary omitted part of the name of the theater in London where Mr. Rickman directed the play “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” in 2005. It is the Royal Court Theater, not the Court Theater.

 -NYT

January 11, 2016

RIP

David Bowie

Born David Robert Jones
8 January 1947
Brixton, London, England
Died 10 January 2016 (aged 69) Manhattan, New York, U.S.

















The artist's Facebook page announced the news, with the singer's rep confirming his death to Rolling Stone. "David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family after a courageous 18-month battle with cancer," the statement read. "While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family's privacy during their time of grief."
One of the most original and singular voices in rock & roll for nearly five decades, Bowie championed mystery, rebellion and curiosity in his music. Ever unpredictable, the mercurial artist and fashion icon wore many guises throughout his life. Beginning life as a dissident folk-rock spaceman, he would become an androgynous, orange-haired, glam-rock alien (Ziggy Stardust), a well-dressed, blue-eyed funk maestro (the Thin White Duke), a drug-loving art rocker (the Berlin albums), a new-wave hit-maker, a hard rocker, a techno enthusiast and a jazz impressionist. His flair for theatricality won him a legion of fans.
Along the way, he charted the hits "Space Oddity," "Changes," "Fame," "Heroes," "Let's Dance" and "Where Are We Now?" among many others. Accordingly, his impact on the music world has been immeasurable. Artists who have covered Bowie's songs and cited him as an influence include Nirvana, Joan Jett, Duran Duran, Smashing Pumpkins, Marilyn Manson, Arcade Fire, Oasis, Ozzy Osbourne, Morrissey, Beck, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Bauhaus and Nine Inch Nails.
Bowie's son, Duncan, tweeted a photo of his father holding him early Monday morning and wrote, "Very sorry and sad to say it's true." The singer's frequent collaborator, Brian Eno, tweeted, "Words cannot express."
"David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime," Kanye West wrote on Twitter. "I pray for his friends and family."
Bowie was born David Robert Jones on January 8th, 1947 in a working-class London suburb. His father, Heywood Jones, worked in promotions for a charity that benefitted children and his mother, Margaret Mary Jones, was a waitress. A fight with a classmate when he was young left the singer with a permanently dilated left pupil. He began learning saxophone at age 13 and attended a high school that would prepare him for a career as a commercial artist. By 20, he had spent time at a Buddhist monastery in Scotland and dabbled in theatrical troupes.
Once he began focusing on music, he played with groups like the King Bees, the Manish Boys (who once recorded with Jimmy Page) and Davey Jones and the Lower Third. He took on the Bowie pseudonym – after the knife – in an effort to prevent confusion with Monkees singer Davy Jones. Bowie put out a folky self-titled album in 1967, but it charted poorly in the U.K. and not at all in the U.S. That would change with his next release.
The album contained the hit "Changes" and its threat/promise "Look out you rock & rollers/ One of these days you're gonna get older," fan favorites "Oh! You Pretty Things" and "Life on Mars" and songs about Bob Dylan ("Song for Bob Dylan") and Andy Warhol ("Andy Warhol"). (He'd portray the latter artist years later in the film Basquiat.) 
 
It was on 1972's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, though, where Bowie hit his stride. In the role of the titular rock-star also-ran, he innovated a glammy look for himself which he amplified in his highly theatrical live shows where he'd tussle with guitarist Mick Ronson. A far cry from the Sixties hippie idealism he'd come up with, Ziggy was brazen and arrogant, a decadent rogue who was also endearing to fans. In addition to the title track, "Starman," "Suffragette City" and "Five Years" became audience favorites. The album would be certified gold in the U.S. in 1974.
Around this period, Bowie began working behind the scenes for some of his friends. In 1972, he produced and played saxophone on Mott the Hoople's All the Young Dudes album, writing the album's hit title song. That same year, he resuscitated former Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed's career by giving him a glam makeover on Transformer. And in 1973, he mixed Iggy and the Stooges' Raw Power. A few years later, during his Berlin period, Bowie would also work on Iggy Pop's solo breakthrough LPs The Idiot and Lust for Life, touring with Pop as his pianist to support the records.
Bowie kept the Ziggy Stardust persona on 1973's Aladdin Sane, which contained "The Jean Genie," "Drive-In Saturday" and a rag-tag cover of the Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together." Pin Ups, Bowie's covers album, followed later that year. He'd attempted to retire Ziggy for 1974's cabaret-ready Diamond Dogs, but the overwhelming glamminess of "Rebel Rebel" suggested otherwise. 
He did an about-face on 1975's Young Americans, incorporating soul, funk and disco into songs like the title cut and "Fame," and he co-wrote "Fascination" with Luther Vandross. It was a risky move, but it reached Number Two in the U.K. and Number Nine in the U.S. He delved deeper into funk on the following year's Station to Station, picking up a well-documented cocaine habit along the way, and scored a hit with the buoyant "Golden Years." The album as a whole, though, signaled a newfound interest in the avant-garde.
It was to be a short-lived transformation, though, as Bowie would disappear to Berlin and dive deeper into experimenting with music and with drugs. Beginning with 1977's Low, which combined art-rock with ambient minimalism, the singer stumbled on an acidic, epic sound, bolstered by collaborating with Brian Eno. The LP contained the U.K. hit "Sound and Vision" and set the tone for his next two records, that year's "Heroes," with its iconic title song, and 1979's Lodger, which contained the hit "Boys Keep Swinging." Minimalist composer Philip Glass would later write a symphony using music from Low.
Bowie quit drugs in the Seventies and emerged in the Eighties with a renewed interest in more radio-friendly music, scoring a Number One hit in the U.K. with "Ashes to Ashes," which continued the story of Major Tom, and the hit "Fashion." Both appeared on 1980's Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). In 1981, he recorded the duet "Under Pressure" with Queen, weaving his voice with Freddie Mercury's for another Number One in the U.K. and a Top 30 single in the U.S. 
In 1983, he put out Let's Dance, which he co-produced with Chic mastermind Nile Rodgers. The collaboration, which included lead guitar work by Stevie Ray Vaughan, proffered the singles "Let's Dance," "China Girl" and "Modern Love." He'd follow these with the hit "Blue Jean," off Tonight the following year. Bowie notched his final Number One in the U.K. in 1985 with a cover of Martha and the Vandella's feel-good hit "Dancing in the Street," a duet with Mick Jagger. 
 
With the exception of the Beatlesesque 1986 single "Absolute Beginners," the rest of the Eighties were less fruitful for Bowie musically. He put out Never Let Me Down in 1987, and closed out the decade as a member of the hard-rock group Tin Machine, which would put out another record in 1991.
Bowie changed his musical output again in 1993 and put out the electronic-influenced Black Tie White Noise, another co-production with Nile Rodgers that proved less commercially successful in the U.S. He flirted with industrial on 1995's Outside, and the following year he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 by former Talking Heads frontman David Byrne.
In 1997, he celebrated his 50th birthday with an all-star concert at New York City's Madison Square Garden; Lou Reed, the Cure's Robert Smith, Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, Pixies' Black Francis, Foo Fighters and Sonic Youth all joined him onstage. He pioneered "Bowie Bonds," a way in which people could invest in him, that year, earning him $55 million. Also, that year, he collaborated with Trent Reznor on the Brian Eno co-produced Earthling, and returned to rock on 1999's Hours…. It's a sound he'd improve upon on 2002's Heathen and the following year's Reality, both of which found him working again with Visconti.
The singer suffered a heart attack in 2004 and subsequently retired from touring, though he'd make occasional appearances, singing with Arcade Fire and David Gilmour, among others. He made his last singing appearance onstage in 2006, where he dueted with Alicia Keys. During this time, he also sang on records by TV on the Radio, Scarlett Johansson and Arcade Fire.
Concurrent with his music, Bowie also enjoyed a long career as an actor. His first starring role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in 1976's The Man Who Fell to Earth, a surrealistic film about a marooned alien attempting to bring water back to his home planet. In 1980, he played the titular role in a theatrical production of The Elephant Man. He played a vampire in Tony Scott's 1983 erotic horror The Hunger and had roles in Julien Temple's 1986 film Absolute Beginners, Martin Scorsese's 1988 film The Last Temptation of Christ and David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. In 1986, he played the shrub-haired, codpiece-wearing Jareth the Goblin King in the puppet-starring musical Labyrinth. Beginning in 2000, he hosted a TV series based on The Hunger, and he played himself in Zoolander and the TV show Extras. He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige, lent his voice to SpongeBob SquarePants and played himself in the Vanessa Hudgens film Bandslam.
In 2013, Bowie put out his first album in a decade, The Next Day, which went to Number One on the U.K. chart and Number Two in the States. He had recorded the LP in secret and announced its existence on his birthday that year.
Two days before his death, the singer put out (pronounced "Blackstar"), this time on his birthday. The record reflected the ever-evolving artist's interest in jazz and hip-hop. "We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar," producer Tony Visconti told Rolling Stone of the recording sessions. "We wound up with nothing like that, but we loved the fact Kendrick was so open-minded and he didn't do a straight-up hip-hop record. He threw everything on there, and that's exactly what we wanted to do. The goal, in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll." 
 
The artist's latest theatrical foray was the 2015 off-Broadway play Lazarus, which stars Michael C. Hall and continues the story of Newton from The Man Who Fell to Earth. Along with songs from throughout Bowie's career, it also featured new tunes.
Bowie married his first wife, Mary Angela Barnett, in 1970. A year later, Angela gave birth to the couple's son, Duncan Zowie Haywood Jones. The couple would divorce in 1980.
Despite his marriage, Bowie claimed to be gay in the British music press in 1972, and, in 1976, he came out to Playboy as bisexual. He'd later regret the assertion. "The biggest mistake I ever made was telling that Melody Maker writer that I was bisexual," he told Rolling Stone in 1983. "Christ, I was so young then. I was experimenting." He also said he'd never done "drag." He later recanted his unhappiness with coming out as bisexual, saying he didn't like the way Americans put emphasis on it.
In 1992, Bowie married Somali-American model Iman. The couple had a daughter named Alexandria Zahra Jones in 2000.
"He always did what he wanted to do, and he wanted to do it his way and he wanted to do it the best way," Visconti wrote on Facebook after the news of Bowie's passing was out. "His death was no different from his life – a work of art. He made  for us, his parting gift. I knew for a year this was the way it would be. I wasn't, however, prepared for it. He was an extraordinary man, full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry."

-Rolling Stones