Wednesday, 12 December 2012

2012 In Memoriam (part four)

17th July – Marsha Singh, 57

Labour MP for Bradford West from 1997 to 2012, when he resigned due to poor health. He had previously been employed by the Bradford Community Health Trust.

17th July – Morgan Paull, 67 

Actor best known for his role in Blade Runner, where as Holden he gives new applicants the test to see if they are Repplicants or not.

20th July – Simon Ward, 70 

Renowned actor. Came to fame as his role as young Winston Churchill in the film Young Winston. He had previously had uncredited roles on the cult classic If..., and the 1975 film of All Creatures Great and Small, he played the role of James Herriot. He had a role in the criminally overlooked 1976 World War one film, Aces High, about the nascient RAF type pilots during that war. In later years he had audience spotting recurring roles in The Tudors and Judge John Deed.

20th July - Alistair Burnet, 84 

Old school British broadcaster who presented News at Ten for eighteen years, who anchored several UK election coverages, who interviewed royalty and celebrity. He was also ITV’s anchor man for the 1969 man landings. Several – including Spitting Image – would later lovingly take the piss out of his rather cosy style, but whilst not having the “best mate” style of, say, David Dimbleby, Burnet had the authority and presence on important live TV to carry shows of grand importance on both the major TV channels for thirty years.

21st July – Angharad Rees, 68
Poldark actress.

22nd July – Frank Pierson, 87
American screen writer who won the Oscar for his script of Dog Day Afternoon. He also provided the script for the 70s remake of A Star is Born, as well as several other projects including an episode of Mad Men from this year! Mad Men was a show he worked as consultant producer on until his death.

23rd July – Lakshmi Sahgal, 97 

Indian freedom fighter and feminist. For more details, see my Brilliant People article here.

23rd July – Sally Ride, 61
First woman in space.

24th July – Sherman Hemsley, 74
American actor known for many TV roles, known over here for his role as the boss Triceratops in Dinosaurs.

24th July – John Atta Mills, 68
President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012. Turned Ghana into the world's fastest growing economy by 2011. Invested massively in public education, providing free school uniforms and laptops to deprived areas. Substantially increased the National Ambulance Service, one of a number of expansions of the health service.

"This is the saddest day in our nation's history. Tears have engulfed our nation and we are deeply saddened and distraught. I never imagined that one day that it would place our nation in such a difficult circumstance. I'm personally devastated, I've lost a father, I've lost a friend, I've lost a mentor and a senior comrade. Ghana is united in grief at this time for our departed president."
John Dramani Mahama, former Ghanian VP, now Ghana President

25th July – David Barby, 63

Well known face on British tv, showing up almost daily in his antiques expert role on Flog It and the never ending Bargain Hunt.

26th July – Mary Tamm, 62

(The following previously appeared in Issue 24 of Whotopia magazine)

Mary Tamm...dead. That doesn’t seem to make any sense, surely a joke. She always seemed so alive, in her many television roles and her real life appearances going back over thirty years. Dead at only sixty-two. Life is full of such unwanted surprises.

However, the tragedy of Mary’s death, far too soon, should never be allowed to take away from us the great joy of her existence. You never needed to have met Mary Tamm for her to have meant something, it is the affection held for all companions in our beloved show.

And yet, it’s an added thing with Tamm. We all know how Lalla Ward took her role in the second two series starring Romana, and we all know Ward as a larger than life actress, with all the baggage of being Mrs Tom Baker for a period. That would cast a shadow over the companion of Romana at large, and leave the first incarnation we see, relegated to the Key to Time season, as an afterthought.

But then, we wouldn’t have banked on Mary Tamm. For the six stories with her are the six best Romana stories, and no offence to Ms Ward. Tamm sits in the highest echelon of underrated wonderfully actresses in the role of Doctor Who companion. Look at the cast list she had to work with: the effervescent Peter Jeffrey, the sublime John Woodvine, the dependable Philip Madoc, and a whole host of RSC faithful. I’ve always said you can tell an actors quality by how they stand out next to other quality actors. In top rate surroundings, Tamm was never less than wonderful. [Not that this was a surprise, of course. She got an early break opposite one of TV’s greatest actors, Alfred Burke, in Public Eye, and passed that test with flying colours also.] She portrayed her Romana with a sense of knowledge and naivety simultaneously (no mean feat). She also got the hand of comic timing working with Tom Baker spot on, in a way on Frazer Hines got close with his Doctor. There are whole sections of Ribos Operation that would be dreadfully stilted in the hands of a less talented actress, yet the timing is there, the reactions brilliant, and it remains a hilarious slice of comic TV.

The breadth of her quality in Season Sixteen is remarkable, going from comedy, to Hammer horror, to ecological Doomwatch, to hardened SF with heavy CSO as easy as turning channels on a remote. In The Androids of Tara, she manages to make both herself and Strella, and the androids, all slightly different in mannerism, so we could tell which is which without the need for dialogue. A fine actress. Much like the recent departed Caroline John, she is a companion who will be loved all the more in hindsight, as people realise just how great she was.

It takes a great woman to be the middle point between Louise Jameson and Lalla Ward and still come off as a force to be reckoned, after all.

The acting world saw her talents on Doctor Who, and until her final illness she was never out of work. So many fine roles, too many to mention. I’ll point out three which appealed specificially to me. First, an early Poirot, in which she played a lady with an acidic tongue. In the rather spooky Jonathan Creek episode Satan’s Chimney, she plays the tragic Vivian Brodie, possibly the most tragic character in all of that show. And finally, in an episode of the brilliant BBC Twisted Tales series from 2005. In “Flat Four”, she delivers a massively creepy performance which manages to steal the show from Paul Darrow. Again, not an easy feat.

We’ve lost the finest of actresses, and a lovely woman too.

There will be no new fond memories, for a Who family suffering far too many bereavements in recent times, only the fondest recall of memories of a great one who will never die, not really, in our memories, and on the our DVDs.

And what wonderful memories they are.

27th July – Norman Alden, 87
Actor who immediately comes to mind as the cameraman, Bill, in Tim Burton's loving look at Ed Wood. In a career full of TV roles that I suspect the American version of me would recognise more readily (over 2500 in all in fact, according to the BBC) , he was perhaps best known to wider audiences for his role as Lou in the Back to the Future film.

27th July – RG Armstrong, 95
Long lived actor. A role in the sadly lost (to the best of my knowledge) 1961 adaptation of The Monkeys Paw was merely a few years into his career, yet his roles numbered in the dozens by then. Multiple roles in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents/Hour strands, as well as Perry Mason, and four separate roles in four separate episodes of Rawhide. In Heaven Can Wait, a film so beloved by my mum, he plays the General Manager. (It's sort of an Its a Wonderful Life tale if I recall correctly.) In Predator, he assigns Arnie's team who get picked off one by one. He might be best known for his long collaboration with Sam Peckinpah, however, appearing in no less than four of the maverick directors films.

27th July – Geoffrey Hughes 68

Much loved actor of film, tv and stage, with a flair for the comic. He was Eddie Yeats in Coronation Street for nine years until 1983, returning for a while in 1987. Yeats was a character who started off seemingly spending more time in jail than out, but his lovable rogue status grew (as did his heart) and he wound up married off. In fact, lovable rogue is a good way to describe his roles in Heartbeat (as Vernon Scripps) and Keeping up Appearances (as Onslow). In the midst of so many long running series roles, he even found time to get that which almost seems to come free with an Equity card: yes, he was the rather Dickensian fellow Popplewick in the Doctor Who story Trial of a Time Lord!

27th July – Tony Martin, 98
Legendary crooner.

27th July – Jack Taylor, 82
English referee who took charge of the 1974 World Cup final.

28th July – Ruth Mott, 95
British cook, best known for starring in the TV cooking series, The Victorian Kitchen.

30th July – Maeve Binchy, 72

30th July – Jonathan Hardy, 71
Actor best known for his role in Farscape.

31st July – Gore Vidal, 86
Controversial writer.

6th August – Sir Bernard Lovell, 98

The man who saw the stars. What to say of a true pioneer, who inspired a generation to start up the idea of space travel in the UK, who wound up the inspiration for Bernard Quatermass, a character who was to inspire most of British SF from his invention on, and a man who lived long enough to just miss out on the Mars landing. A man who helped found Jodrell Bank observatory, and then was its Head for thirty-five years. A man who won every award under the sun, including the OBE and Knighthood, and whose work in radar was pioneering. A maverick who used to have arguments on the radio with his own colleagues, and who admitted he would "lose interest in a scientific theory once it became popular" as part of a thirst for the new.

"Bernard Lovell ranks as one of the great visionary leaders of science. He had the boldness and self-confidence to conceive a giant radio telescope, and the persistence to see it through to completion, despite the risk of bankruptcy. What is even more remarkable is that, more than 50 years later, this instrument (after several upgrades) is still doing 'frontier' science. I recall the celebrations of the telescope's 50th anniversary in 2007. Lovell, though nearly blind, played a full part in the festivities and made a superb speech. He rightly took great pride in this lasting monument."
Lord Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

As if by a miracle, once up and running, the Mark 1 telescope was the only instrument that could both detect the first Soviet and American satellites and transmit instructions to them. Amazing as it now seems, the need for such a telescope had escaped both the telecommunications industry and the military leaders of both superpowers. Despite its spectacular success, which included tracking the Sputnik 1 satellite mission in 1957, the government did nothing to alter the remaining debt, being bound by the iron restraint of Treasury rules. It was Lord Nuffield who did so, thereby demonstrating the superiority of aristocratic, rather than state support, to science – and indeed to all intellectual activity, a view which Lovell expressed frequently and forcefully to the end of his life.
Guardian obit

During the war Lovell was drafted in to help the Air Ministry research the use of radar for detection and navigation purposes. Working with the Telecommunications Research Establishment, first at Langton Maltravers in Dorset and later at Malvern, Lovell was in charge of a team developing “blind bombing” radar systems which enabled night fighters to locate enemy aircraft, improved the aim of bombers during night raids, and enabled Coastal Command aircraft to detect submarines surfacing under cover of darkness — a development which dramatically cut back shipping losses in the Atlantic. Hitler confessed that “the temporary setback in our U-boat campaign is due to a single technical invention of our enemies”. For his wartime work, Lovell was appointed OBE in 1946.
Telegraph obit

There is a fine interview, recorded in 1971, which can be found here, which I can't do more than link to for copyright reasons.

6th August – Marvin Hamlisch, 68
Pulitzer Prize, Golden Globe, Oscar, Tony, Grammy and Emmy award winning composer. Won his Oscars for The Sting and The Way We Were, but his best loved song was Nobody Does it Better, as sung by Carly Simon for the 1977 James Bond film, The Spy Who Loved Me. 

8th August – Kurt Maetzig, 101
Director from East Germany who did a lot to inspire the East German film industry.

9th August – Mel Stuart, 83
Director of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, the adaptation with Gene Wilder that Roald Dahl hated, but which the general public continue to love.

10th August – Carlo Rambaldi, 86
SFX artist who built the titular creatures in ET and Alien.

11th August – Red Bastien, 81
Old school pro-wrestler taught in the 1950s by Verne Gagne, who pioneered the use of head scissors, dropkicks and the dreaded atomic drop (all three commonly used today) in American wrestling. Twice with his partner Lou Klein, they dethroned the legendary Graham Brothers for the US tag team championships in the 60s, In later life, he discovered both Sting and the Ultimate Warrior, future World Champions, and was best man at Roddy Pipers wedding as well as President of the Cauliflower Club (An American organisation which looks after retired wrestlers and boxers) for six years before succumbing to the early stages of Alzheimer's.

11th August – Sid Waddell, 72 

The motormouth with the wit of Shakespeare, Sid Waddell brought class to the game of darts.

"When Alexander of Macedonia was 33, he cried salt tears because there were no more worlds to conquer … [Eric] Bristow's only 27."

"He looks about as happy as a penguin in a microwave."

"The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a portion of chips, you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them."

"There's only one word for that: magic darts!"

"William Tell could take an apple off your head, Taylor could take out a processed pea."

"The players are under so much duress, it's like duressic park out there!"

"Keith Deller's not just an underdog, he's an underpuppy!"

Sid is lucky to be alive in the era of Taylor, and we are lucky to be alive in the era of Sid."

Giles Smith

You can split Sid Waddell's lines into two categories: ones I've knicked, and ones I am going to...

12th August – Alf Morris, 84

Labour MP for Manchester from 1964 to 1997, who was Minister for the Disabled for Harold Wilson. A life long activist for disability rights.

"In 2007, speaking in support of the Welfare Reform Bill he could claim: "All our current disability benefits are founded on legislation promoted in my years as minister for disabled people from 1974 to 1979: incapacity benefit, the non-contributory invalidity pension ... the mobility allowance, the disabled housewives' allowance and the carers' allowance – all of them were aimed at reducing the socially handicapping effects of disability."
Andrew Roth, Guardian

"The book describes how his first taste of social injustice was in his own home, where at the age of seven, his father died a belated casualty of the First World War. George Morris returned from war blind in one eye, with one leg shattered, and his lungs wrecked by gassing in the trenches. But because the official cause of death was heart failure, his widow Jessie was not entitled to a war pension - until her local MP Harry Thorneycroft took up her case and won after a three-year battle."
the MEN review of Alf Morris: People's Parliamentarian

That fight strikes a chord with me, ringing so similar to my Uncle Richards fight for his mother, my great-grandmother's war pensions and upkeep after the death of my great-grandfather due to wounds suffered in the First World War in 1947.

"FORTY years ago, a new Bill began its journey through Parliament. It was the first of its kind in the world. It became law, in dramatic fashion, just before Parliament was dissolved for Harold Wilson to fight the 1970 General Election.
That law, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act, transformed the lives of millions, not only people who were disabled and infirm, but also their families and carers, their neighbours and communities.

Official statistics indicate that over its 40-year lifetime it has helped more people than the present population of our country. It also brought lasting change in our built environment, our streetscapes and our public transport.

It gave millions of disabled people opportunities to go into higher education, training and employment which had been denied to them, since time began, for lack of ramps, handrails, lifts and other practical aids. It allowed them to be more active, enjoy a fuller social life and stay in better physical and mental health. It freed time, energy and financial resources for carers and families. Taken together, these effects have saved the country billions of pounds, particularly in health and welfare payments, and added billions to national output and tax receipts.

The Act has been followed – and sometimes directly imitated – in most other countries in the world. The number of beneficiaries has risen into billions: global society and the global economy have made the same lasting gains as we at home."

Alf Morris in the Yorkshire Post

What did the Chronically Sick and Disabled People Act put into law? Well...

1. The right to specialist education and care in the home, and travel assistance.

2. Toilets and parking for disabled people at public places, including ramped entrances for wheelchair users.

3. Disabled badges for cars, and legalising mobility scooters.

4. Representation on public bodies

5. Hospital segregation, especially for people with severe mental health problems.

6. The war pensions issue

He went on to provide support for the Disability Discrimination Act.

"Over the years Lord Morris has championed the rights of disabled people, including injured Service personnel, to an extent that, in many ways, has transcended party politics. As well as concerted campaigning - both publicly and behind the scenes - on a variety of issues relating to the Armed Forces family and giving advice to the Legion, Lord Morris has served on the Gulf War Group for many years."
The Royal British Legion, in 2009

"He was the honorary parliamentary adviser to the Royal British Legion, which had been demanding an official public inquiry into Gulf war syndrome, and compensation for its victims, since 1997. In 2004 he set up an independent inquiry into the matter, financed by £60,000 in private philanthropy, which concluded that the damage to veterans' health was "indisputable" and that the Ministry of Defence should set up a special fund to make compensation payments."
Guardian obit

"If we could bequeath one precious gift to posterity, I would choose a society in which there is genuine compassion for long-term sick and disabled people; where understanding is unostentatious and sincere; where needs come before means; where if years cannot be added to their lives, at least life can be added to their years; where the mobility of disabled people is restricted only by the bounds of technical progress and discovery; where they have the fundamental right to participate in industry and society according to ability; where socially preventable distress is unknown; and where no one has cause to be ill at ease because of his or her disability."Alf Morris, 1969

He will continue to help the disabled from beyond, having set up a trust fund to carry on his work after his death.

Is the Minister aware that large numbers of severely disabled people are being herded on to waiting lists for services for which they have been assessed, and are being made to wait, not just week by week or month by month, but year by year now, for services that they desperately need? Is the Minister further aware of Mr. Peter Westland's statement on behalf of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities that, because of the Government's cuts in local authority spending, some councils can no longer meet their legal duties under the Act? Is that why he is not using his default powers in appropriate cases, as the Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation and 14 other major organisations of and for the disabled wish him to do?Alf Morris speaking, in 1982. How little has changed.

13th August – Helen Gurley Brown, 90
Editor of Cosmopolitan for 32 years.

15th August – Harry Harrison, 87
Much loved SF author, best known for works such as the Stainless Steel Rat.

16th August – William Windom, 88
Actor who had the lead role in one of the finest Twilight Zone episodes, playing the role of the Major in Five Characters in Search of an Exit. He was also the Prosecutor in To Kill a Mockingbird.

17th August – Winnie Johnson, 78
Mother of a child murdered by Ian Brady, who spent over forty years active trying to find her sons body. Proof if any was needed, it is not just the murdered people who are the victims of a vile serial killer.

18th August – Scott McKenzie, 73
Singer song-writer.

19th August – Tony Scott, 68
Tragic film director and brother of Ridley Scott, he was responsible for Enemy of the State, Crimson Tide, Days of Thunder, The Last Boy Scout, and, of course, Top Gun.

19th August – Dom Mintoff, 96
The Architect. PM of Malta from 1951-4 and again from 1971-84.

"By the time the last British forces left the island in 1979, Mintoff was able to boast to a New York Times correspondent that when he had regained power in 1971 “we had an English governor-general, an English queen, English currency, a Bank of England man as the head of our central bank. The biggest commercial bank was English entirely, Barclays; our dry docks were run by a British firm, Swan Hunter; our development corporation was run by a chairman who was English.

“We had a police force, which was run by a commissioner, who stated openly that his loyalty was to the British Crown and nobody else. We had an army which was run by a brigadier-general as an appendage of the British Army. We had an agreement with Britain, imposed by Britain before the so-called independence of 1964, whereby the British had the right to acquire any land on the island for defence purposes. Now Malta is a republic. Everything has changed. Nothing is British any more.”

Telegraph obit

19th August – Phyllis Diller, 95
A comedian who declared that “90 is the new 30” and had a toyboy in her 90s. A fine example for us all!

22nd August – Nina Bawden, 87
Writer of Carries War, one of the finest childrens novels ever written.

23rd August – Jerry Nelson, 78

Muppets puppeteer.

24th August – Felix, 74
Goalkeeper for the 1970 World Cuo winning Brazil side.

25th August – Neil Armstrong, 82 

The first man to walk on the moon. His name will echo in history.

(All pictures come from public domain to the best knowledge of the author...)

2013 note - Carl Davis was originally noted to have died in 2012. This was an obit mix up with an American singer, and not the composer of renown. Apologies for that one.