Blog Archives

Rex Babin, Sacramento Bee Editorial Cartoonist, Dies at 49

Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Rex Babin, who often appeared on this blog’s Cartoon(s) of the Week segment, died  at his home after a long battle with cancer. He was 49.

Babin’s favorite cartoons were often his most poignant. After the attacks on the World Trade Towers in 2001, he drew Libertas slumped and weeping with her head in her hands.

Babin continued drawing until recently,lending his pen to both local Sacramento Politics and the National campaign for the Republican nomination.
Here is one of his cartoons from the ongoing primaries:

It’s a shame to lose so good a cartoonist at so early an age.

Rue McLanahan dies at 76…

The first time I ever saw Rue McLanahan perform was in the early 70s in an off-Broadway production of Dylan, where she played Dylan Thomas’ wife. She was impressive then and even more impressive as she branched into her long film and television career.

She died early this morning of a massive stroke. She had recently had surgery which had caused a minor stroke from which she was recovering.

McLanahan was an Oklahoma native who came to NYC in the 1950s to act.

This bio segment from IMDB:

Rue McClanahan was an actress noticed by television executive, Norman Lear. Lear cast her in a number of television shows, including “All in the Family” (1971) with ‘Carroll OConnor’ and “Maude” (1972) with Bea Arthur. McClanahan next co-starred with Vicki Lawrence, Ken Berry, Betty White and Carol Burnett in “Mama’s Family” (1983) for three years, and after it was canceled by NBC, McClanahan was probably best known for her role as the saucy, sharp southern belle, Blanche, in “The Golden Girls” (1985). She once again worked with Bea Arthur and Betty White, and with relative newcomer Estelle Getty. All four of the women won Emmy Awards for their roles. After Bea Arthur left the show after eight seasons, McClanahan, White and Getty returned for a brief spin-off in “The Golden Palace” (1992). In the mid-nineties, McClanahan was diagnosed with cancer, but was able to fight it successfully. In addition to lending her talents to a number of made for TV films, McClanahan has also appeared on the big screen in recent years co-starring with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau in the comedy Out to Sea (1997) and with Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers (1997).

Alexander Haig Dies at 85

Former Secretary of State, General Alexander Haig died today from complications from an infection. The Four Star General served both Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, who gave him the State Department.

He is remembered for a comment he made to the Press on March 30, 1981, after an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Reagan: “I am in control here, in the White House,” bypassing the Vice President and other National Leaders. It was a mistake he had a hard time living down.

Gen. Haig served as chief of staff during the waning days of the Nixon administration, chief military assistant to Henry Kissinger, supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and foreign-policy adviser to campaigning candidate Reagan before being named Secretary of State.

Activist Historian Howard Zinn has Died


Howard Zinn, the Boston University historian and political activist who was an early opponent of US involvement in Vietnam and a leading faculty critic of BU president John Silber, died of a heart attack today in Santa Monica, Calif, where he was traveling, his family said. He was 87.

Zinn was the author of A People’s History of the United States, which was first published in 1980. Harper Collins, the publisher, lists this description of the current edition:

Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People’s History is the only volume to tell America’s story from the point of view of — and in the words of — America’s women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country’s greatest battles — the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women’s rights, racial equality — were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance. Covering Christopher Columbus’s arrival through President Clinton’s first term, A People’s History of the United States, which was nominated for the American Book Award in 1981, features insightful analysis of the most important events in our history.

Revised, updated, and featuring a new afterword by the author, this special twentieth anniversary edition continues Zinn’s important contribution to a complete and balanced understanding of American history.

Last week he wrote his final essay for The Nation. You can read it HERE.

Jean Simmons dies at age 80

I just saw the notice that Jean Simmons, one of my favorite film actresses, died this weekend.

According to the NY Times:

Ms. Simmons became a star before she was 20 years old, and always seemed to place opposite strong leading men such as Laurence Olivier, Marlon Brando and Burt Lancaster. She was best known from her early work in “Great Expectations” and “Hamlet” and later in her career, “Guys and Dolls,” and “Spartacus.”

I guess the many times I’ve watched Guys and Dolls on TV and my fond memories of the opening of Spartacus during my teen years leave me thinking about Simmons at a particular age… I just don’t imagine her “old”.

She played Estella in Great Expectations the year I was born…1946… and her career as an actress in films, on stage and on television lasted over 40 years.

She will be remembered by so many of us.

David Levine, the great caricaturist, dies at 83

I was sorry to read of the death of David Levine today. How many Book Reviews were illustrated with his wonderful caricatures? I couldn’t count.

I started enjoying Levine’s work almost fifty years ago when I was a freshman in prep school.

The NY Times, whose Book Review he decorated for decades, said:

Mr. Levine’s drawings never seemed whimsical, like those of Al Hirschfeld. They didn’t celebrate neurotic self-consciousness, like Jules Feiffer’s. He wasn’t attracted to the macabre, the way Edward Gorey was. His work didn’t possess the arch social consciousness of Edward Sorel’s. Nor was he interested, as Roz Chast is, in the humorous absurdity of quotidian modern life. But in both style and mood, Mr. Levine was as distinct an artist and commentator as any of his well-known contemporaries. His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one; he was, in fact, beyond his pen and ink drawings, an accomplished painter.

The Times compared him to the 19th Century greats Honoré Daumier and Thomas Nast, and I think they are correct.

Farewell David Levine.

Jennifer Jones is dead at 90…

Not many people think about Jennifer Jones today… although in the 50s she was a big deal. I remember first seeing her with Gregory Peck in “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit”, and, of course, she is probably best known for the lead in “The Song of Bernadette.”

She made 27 films, was married three or four times and had an up and down career, finally getting out of acting when she married Norton Simon, founder of the Norton Simon Museum where she was an emeritus board member.

The Washington Post as a nice obit on her HERE.

Apparently, Oral Roberts is Dead

Here’s where to go to read a summation of the man’s life and mistakes:

You’ll excuse me if I don’t say any more here, except for the blog entry put in by The Aristocrats:
Oral Roberts Dies; Anal Roberts Lives.

Sadness in the Art World: Jeanne-Claude, Collaborator With Husband Christo, Dies…

At the age of 74, Christo’s wife and collaborator on so many projects (the wrapping of the Pont-Neuf in Paris and the Yellow saffron gateways all over Central Park in NYC are two of them) has died of a brain aneurism.

Although she had been collaborating with Christo since 1961, it wasn’t until 1994 that her name joined his on the collected body of work, where it was applied retroactively.

The NY Times commented on the work they were in the middle of at the time of her death on Wednesday:

Before Jeanne-Claude’s death, she and Christo were at work on two projects: “Over the River,” a series of fabric panels to be suspended over the Arkansas River in Colorado, and “The Mastaba,” a stack of 410,000 oil barrels configured as a mastaba, or truncated rectangular pyramid, envisioned for the United Arab Emirates.

Like all of their projects, these were intended to be temporary, a quality at the heart of the artistic enterprise. Whether executed in oil drum or brightly colored fabric, the art of her and her husband, Jeanne-Claude said, expressed “ the quality of love and tenderness that we human beings have for what does not last.”

I have a personal remembrance from my earlier years in NYC of Christo (and Jeanne-Claude) and their “wrapping” of the Whitney Museum on upper Madison Avenue (it was there that I was soon to do my first production with Ed Roberts of The Hunting Of The Snark.) They covered the entirety of the, then, new museum building with a dull canvas tied with heavy ropes.

I hope Christo is able to continue. I know how hard it is when creative people lose their career-long personal relationships. I feel very sad for him.

Roy DeCarava, Harlem Photographer, dies at 89

Roy DeCaravaYou didn’t do arts administration in the various community centers of NYC without knowing Roy DeCarava. I first met him in a show we did at the Jamaica Arts Center in Queens of black photographers.

Roy was a great photographer and teacher who documented his world, especially in the area of modern jazz and the performers that made it great. From his home in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant section he was present at just about every black photography event in the city when I was working in the 1970s.

My favorite image of Roy’s is one that he did of John Coltrane in the 50s while he was a Guggenheim Fellow (and the first black to hold that title):

Coltrane by RoyDeCarava

So we wish a great farewell to Roy deCarava and are glad to have experienced the work and the man.

Soupy Sales dies at 83…

SoupyWhere to begin?

So few television personalities from my childhood grew into the role and kept returning throughout the years. Born Milton Supman in Franklinton, North Carolina, friends would call “Hey, Soupman,” and later “Hey, Soupy.” He added the name Sales after a noted humorist of the first part of the Century, Chic Sales, who wrote “The Specialist” in 1929.

Starting on children’s television in Cleveland in 1949, Soupy built an early career on getting a pie in the face (which he estimated in his career to be 5000 pies.) He went on to do prime time, then quiz shows, some films and, about a year ago, wrote his memoirs.

Here’s a salute to Soupy… We’re glad to have known you.

Irving Penn, 92, American Photographer Dies

penn_ss1Irving Penn (June 16, 1917 – October 7, 2009) was an American photographer known for his portraiture and fashion photography.

Included in Penn’s best works were his portraits of Pablo Picasso, David Smith, Saul Steinberg, and Marcel Duchamp; studies of indigenous peoples in New Guinea and Peru; provocative still lifes; and influential fashion studies.

Major magazines, ad campaigns, museum shows… Penn did them all. His work will be an ongoing remembrance.

William Safire has Died at Age 79

Conservative Columnist and former White House Speech Writer has died of cancer in a Maryland hospice. He wrote a NY Times column for 30 years and, during the Nixon Administration, coined Spiro Agnew’s famous phrase: “nattering nabobs of negativism.”

Safire made a specialty of analyzing the correct use of the English language, and in more than 3000 columns and 15 books he had plenty of opportunity to show off his craft.

I never agreed with his point of view, but I must say I admired his weight and staying power in journalism.

Irving Kristol Died (Does he take Conservatism with him?)

The NY Times just did this piece on the death of political commentator Irving Kristol:

kristol“Irving Kristol, the political commentator who, as much as anyone, defined modern conservatism and helped revitalize the Republican Party in the late 1960s and early ’70s, setting the stage for the Reagan presidency and years of conservative dominance, died Friday in Arlington, Va. He was 89 and lived in Washington.”


“Neoconservatism may have begun as a dispute among liberals about the nature of the welfare state, but under Mr. Kristol it became a more encompassing perspective, what he variously called a “persuasion,” an “impulse,” a “new synthesis.” Against what he saw as the “nihilistic” onslaught of the ’60s counterculture, Mr. Kristol, in the name of neoconservatism, mounted an ever more muscular defense of capitalism, bourgeois values and the aspirations of the common man that took him increasingly to the right.”

To read it all, go HERE.

And at one time he was a liberal. My, my.

Patrick Swayze is Dead at 57

patrick-swayzeThis news just came in and Elly and I both said “Oh no!” at the same time.

Of course, we knew Swayze’s Cancer was severe and even in his recent television work he didn’t look well. Swayze told ABC’s Barbara Walters that he hoped to live long enough “until they find a cure,” but he was “not going to chase [the idea of] staying alive….I’ll be here, or I won’t.”

I guess he won’t. Farewell to actor and dancer Patrick Swayze.

Devastating! Larry Gelbart, America’s Master of Comedy/Drama, is Dead at 81.

gelbartThis was NOT the news I wanted to see in the NY Times this morning… that cancer had taken the life of a man so influential on Television, Broadway and Films, Larry Gelbart.

But Gelbart succumbed to Cancer yesterday, age 81, after a career that gave us A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, M.A.S.H., TOOTSIE and so man others.

He wrote on radio for Danny Thomas, Fanny Brice, Bob Hope and Eddie Cantor. On television he broke in with the early writers for Sid Caesar (which matched him with other comic geniuses like Carl Reiner and Woody Allen.)

As he grew older, he continued to work, writing for HBO, more plays and a book of his own remembrances.

His comment on growing old:

“Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the legs that go first, it’s remembering the word for legs.”

Gelbart is survived by his wife.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy 1932 – 2009

Senator-Ted-KennedyWhat a thing to wake up to at 5:00 in the morning… Ted Kennedy, at 77, is dead. What this means for the Senate, for America and for the Health Care legislation has yet to be seen… but it certainly will have an effect.

The Kennedy Family issued this statement:

“We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever. He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it’s hard to imagine any of them without him.”

Kennedy played a major role in passing many pieces of legislation that have affected the lives of all Americans, including the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the National Cancer Act of 1971, the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, the COBRA Act of 1985, the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Ryan White AIDS Care Act in 1990, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, the Mental Health Parity Act in 1996 and 2008, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, and the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in 2009.

This almost certainly means that the Health Care Bill in the Senate will end up going through a reconciliation vote requiring only 50 Senators, since without a Massachusetts Democrat for another 5 months until a State election can be held, the 60 Senator majority is now gone. This will be a major problem for the President and, yes, for all of us.

Don Hewitt Dies at 86

Don HewittCBS just put out a notice that Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes has died of pancreatic cancer.

After stepping down as the 60 Minutes producer in 2004, he was Executive Producer at CBS. He spent 60 years working for a single network.

Hewitt was famous for producing the Kennedy-Nixon Debate in 1960, which many credited Nixon’s loss to.

Robert Novak Dead at 78

Novak on Meet the PressConservative newspaper columnist and Television gadfly Robert Novak passed away in Chicago at 4:30 a.m., due to a malignant brain tumor, discovered July 27, 2008.

From the Chicago Sun-Times obit:

On May 15, 1963, Novak teamed up with the late Rowland Evans Jr. to create the “Inside Report” political column, which became the must-read syndicated column. Evans tapped Novak, then a 31-year old correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, to help with the workload of a six-day-a-week column.

Evans and Novak were the odd couple: Evans a Philadelphia blue blood and Yale graduate; Novak from Joliet, Ill. who attended the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana campus.

The Right will no doubt miss him. Not sure that I will.

John Hughes Dead at 59

We’re having one of those sweeps of people dying, but this is one I never expected. I’ll pull this entire quote from Variety:

hughes_johnJohn Hughes, director of culturally significant films such as “The Breakfast Club,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” died suddenly today of a heart attack while taking a morning walk during a trip to Manhattan. He was 59.

John Wilden Hughes, Jr., born on Feb. 18, 1950 in Michigan, began as an advertising copywriter in Chicago.

In the last decade, he stepped back from the legacy he created to enjoy time with his family, maintain a functioning farm in northern Illinois and support independent arts. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Nancy, two sons, John and James, and four grandchildren.

And goodbye to Harve Presnell at 75…

Harve Presnell w/ Tammy GrimesThis has really been death season for my favorite performers… and this morning, the news of Harve Presnell, singing Broadway and Film actor and, more recently, character actor in film and on television, is another that I didn’t expect.

He was best known for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, on Broadway with Tammy Grimes and on film with Debbie Reynolds, singing “Colorado My Home” and other numbers.

The Coen Brothers cast him in Fargo, which radically changed his acting career.

Farewell to Karl Malden…Dead at 97

For many of us he will always be Mitch of “Streetcar Named Desire” or Father Corrigan of “On The Waterfront”. The Academy Award winning method actor who was usually in second place to actors like Marlon Brando or Burt Lancaster in his films has just been awarded (last month) the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Karl MaldenIn the 1970s he was Lt. Mike Stone on the Streets of San Francisco, which gave a step up to a young Michael Douglas who considered him a mentor.

Born Mladen Sekulovich in Chicago, he so regretted having to change his name in order to have a career that he insisted Fred Gwynne’s character in On The Waterfront be named Sekulovich.

He was married to his wife Mona for 70 years… a one woman man in an industry that estroys personal relationships. But Malden placed high values on family.

We will miss Karl Malden, but he has left us so much to remember.

We’re having too many celebrity deaths lately… Billy Mays was found dead this morning…

The Late Billy Mays

He was only 50 years old and was known as the TV Pitchman for OxiClean, Orange Glo and other products. Some thought he was a great salesman with his big voice and black beard (I did)… others didn’t (he made my wife change the channel whenever he came on.)

Apparently he bumped his head yesterday on a rough US Airlines landing… and went to bed last night not feeling very well… this according to his wife who found him at 7:45 this morning at their home in Tampa, FL. Monday there will be an autopsy to find out just what happened. The police,however, do not expect foul play.

This was both a shock and a surprise. After Ed McMahon, Shelley Gross, Farrah Fawcett, Morton Gottlieb and Michael Jackson, we are certainly starting the new week in a dim light.

Another Broadway Producer Dies— Morton Gottlieb is gone at 88

“The Broadway theater is the only place in the world where the easiest way to break in is by starting at the top.” That was the word of Morton Gottlieb, a Broadway producer I had immense respect for.

The biggest hit he produced was “Sleuth”. I had a friendship at the time with one of his big investors, which got me a chance to see the show and visit with the leads in their dressing rooms after.

Gottlieb produced “The Killing of Sister George, Enter Laughing, Same Time Next Year and others. He was famous for early repayment to his investors.

Michael Jackson Dead at 50 in L.A.

I’m not even sure why I’m listing him, he’s not someone whose career I follow… but it’s taking up the news on MSNBC.

Michael Jackson will, hopefully, be remembered for his music and not for his relationships with children and various other things that made up his wierd life.