Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 Memoriams November and December

1st November 2014 – Wayne Static, 48

Leader singer of Static X.

1st November 2014 – Joel Barnett, 91

Peer and former Labour treasury minister best known for the Barnett formula.

“Barnett, who has died aged 91, believed in government as a force for making life better for people, but at the Treasury he grew cynical, as funding decisions were driven by short-term political aims. He admitted that having started as an optimist about the economy, he ended as a pessimist. In 1978 he worked out the so-called Barnett formula to allocate increments of public spending to different parts of the UK. He wanted to end the annual spending rows between the Treasury and the secretaries of state for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and to head off demands for separatism by Scottish Nationalists. But during the referendum on independence for Scotland in September, Barnett disavowed the convention that bore his name. He said it had been drawn up on the back of an envelope, was not based on need, and now unfairly gave advantages to Scotland at the expense of other nations, particularly England. It was now “a national embarrassment,” he said. The intervention was significant in fuelling demands for a better deal for England.”
Dennis Kavanagh, Guardian obit

2nd November 2014 – Larry Latham, 61

Animator who worked on Ducktales and Tail Spin.

2nd November 2014 – G L Harriss, 89

English medievial parliamentarian historian. A fellow and tutor of Magdalen, Oxford, from 1967 to 1992, he wrote books such as Henry V: The Practice of kingship and King, parliament and public finance in medieval England.

2nd November 2014 – Acker Bilk, 85


4th November 2014 – Gerard W Hughes, 90

Former Chaplain of the University of Glasgow.

6th November 2014 – Sir Anthony Reeve, 76

Former diplomat who was Britain’s representation in South Africa during the end of apartheid.

“The African National Congress had not been enamoured of Margaret Thatcher's opposition to UN sanctions, so that one of Reeve's most important priorities was to establish whether he would receive a frosty reception from Mandela. To his huge relief Mandela instantly showed himself willing to make a fresh start, and indeed maintained a close relationship with Reeve during his six years first as Ambassador and later as High Commissioner, when South Africa were readmitted to the Commonwealth. In the years that followed Reeve busied himself doing what he could to ensure a peaceful transition as South Africa went through the extremely delicate business of consigning apartheid to the past and shifting power from the National Party to the ANC... as a skilled and patient diplomat he established trust with most of the important elements, hosting many encounters at his residence during what he called "knife-edge years." Described as self-effacing, in a sense he did exactly what it said on the tin. He outlined his approach within months of his arrival, declaring: "We are not required to act as go-betweens – I am delighted to say South Africans of all political persuasions are now talking to each other. But what we can do is to play the role of the interested and I hope informed outsider, and by sympathetic questioning to encourage all the parties to explain their policies to the country at large and to the world outside."”
David McKittrick, Independent obit

9th November 2014 – Sammy Reid, 75

Former Motherwell player.

9th November 2014 – R.A. Montgomery, 78

Writer of the Choose Your Own Adventure series.

10th November 2014 – Ernest Kinoy, 89

Screen writer who wrote Roots.

““We mourn his loss but celebrate his life,” said Michael Winship, WGA East president. “My most vivid memory of Ernie Kinoy is the phone calls he made to me during the 2007-08 Writers Guild strike in which he offered greatly valued advice, support and encouragement. This Emmy Award winner was an important member of the Guild East, a past president who received two of our highest awards: the Hunter Award for career achievement and the Jablow Award for devoted service to the union. Winship continued: “It speaks to Ernie’s ardent belief in justice and civil liberty that this man, who as a Jewish World War II POW was sent to the brutal German concentration camp at Berga, would 35 years later find within himself the ability to write the moving teleplay ‘Skokie,’ the story of free speech and a neo-Nazi march through a Jewish community.””
Dave McNary, Variety

10th November 2014 – Steve Dodd, 86

Actor who was in The Matrix and Gallipoli.

12th November 2014 – Richard Pasco, 88
Actor who appeared in The Gorgon and Mrs Brown.

12th November 2014 – Rebekah Gibbs, 41

Actress who appeared in Casualty.

12th November 2014 – Warren Clarke, 67

Actor best known for his lead role in Dalziel and Pascoe, and his earlier role in A Clockwork Orange.

13th November 2014 – Jim  Storrie, 74

Footballer who played for Leeds.

13th November 2014 – Irving Peress, 97

Dentist who was attacked by Joseph McCarthy and his Witchhunts.

“He was commissioned an officer in 1952 and signed an oath affirming that he had never been a member of an organization that sought to overthrow the government by unconstitutional means. But he invoked his Fifth Amendment right to protection against self-incrimination when asked if he had ever been a member of the Communist Party or any affiliated body. This got him put under Army surveillance, but he was promoted nevertheless from captain to major in October 1953. An anonymous source told the Senate’s Government Operations Committee about it. McCarthy, a Wisconsin Republican sitting on the committee and serving as chairman of its subcommittee on investigations, decided to hold hearings into communist saturation of the Army. He wanted to know: How could someone under surveillance for communist connections get a promotion in the Army? This looked like yet another example of “coddling communists,” the senator said, adding that there was somewhere at the Pentagon a “secret master” who had somehow engineered Dr. Peress’s promotion. Several times during his testimony before McCarthy’s committee, Dr. Peress invoked the Fifth Amendment. McCarthy called him a “Fifth Amendment communist.” Dr. Peress said anyone attacking him for exercising this right was himself guilty of subversion. He repeated that he never sought the violent overthrow of the U.S. government.”
Bert Barnes, Washington Post

13th November 2014 – Sir William Dugdale, 92

Chairman of Aston Villa when they won the European Cup.

13th November 2014 – Mike Burney, 70

Musician who was a part of Wizzard.

14th November 2014 – Glen A Larson, 77

American TV producer, creator of Alias Smith and Jones, The Six Million Dollar Man, Quincy ME, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Magnum PI and Knight Rider.

14th November 2014 – Diem Brown, 34

Reality TV star.

15th November 2014 – Jack Chalker, 96

Artist and former POW.

“The construction of a 258-mile railway line between Bangkok in Thailand to Rangoon in Burma during 1943 was intended to provide a supply route for Japanese forces in Burma. Chalker, a bombardier who had been captured at Singapore, worked on a stretch of the line at Kanchanaburi Province in the west of Thailand. His sketches and watercolours, along with the works of his fellow PoW artists, Philip Meninsky, Ashley George Old and Ronald Searle, now form a valuable record of the brutality experienced by the men who were made to work for the Japanese forces, sometimes for up to 16 hours a day. In later life Chalker described the conditions on the railway as “singularly horrific”. Torture, malnutrition, illness and execution were daily perils. “If you weren’t working hard enough they would make you stand and hold a stone above your head,” recalled Chalker. “You picked it up, which was better than collapsing because then they kicked you all over the place.” That image – of a sick, beleaguered man holding a boulder aloft – is one of many that he captured on paper. Chalker managed to produce an exceptional body of work, numbering over 100 drawings, sketches and paintings, detailing the hellish circumstances of his captivity between 1942 and 1945.”
Telegraph obit

16th November 2014 – Charles Champlin, 88

American film critic.

“During his 26 years at The Times, Champlin served as the paper's principal film critic from 1967 through 1980. He then shifted to book reviewing and, with his "Critic at Large" column, offered a more general overview of the arts. He retired in 1991 but continued to contribute to The Times' daily and Sunday Calendar sections and wrote two books despite becoming legally blind from age-related macular degeneration in 1999. In honor of his film coverage and criticism, Champlin received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007. "Charles Champlin was one of the great gentlemen of American film criticism and a pioneer in showing that mass-market newspaper reviewing could be smart and well-written as well as accessible," Times film critic Kenneth Turan said.”
Dennis McLellan, LA Times obit

17th November 2014 – Jimmy Ruffin, 78

Singer who wrote the song “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?” and was the brother of Temptations singer David.

19th November 2014 – Mike Nichols, 83

Director of The Graduate.

“He won nine Tony awards for his work in the legitimate theatre and an Oscar for his second film, The Graduate (1967), which introduced Dustin Hoffman to the screen and became a landmark of the new permissive cinema of the Sixties. Nichols won his most recent Tony award in 2012 for directing a Broadway revival of Death of a Salesman. In the theatre he was known as an innovator in terms of dramatic “business” and as an actor’s director. His skill with actors carried over into the cinema, where he coaxed Elizabeth Taylor and Sandy Dennis into Oscar-winning performances in his first film, an adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966). In the same film, Richard Burton was outstanding as the waspish academic whose deteriorating marriage forms the focus of the drama. Other players who did some of their best work under Nichols’s direction included Meryl Streep in Silkwood (1983), Heartburn (1986) and Postcards from the Edge (1990); Melanie Griffith and Sigourney Weaver in Working Girl (1988); Jack Nicholson in Carnal Knowledge (1971) and Heartburn (1986); and Julia Roberts in Closer (2004) and Charlie Wilson’s War (2007). He directed John Travolta, as a Clintonlike president, in Primary Colors (1998), and in 2003 he turned the 1993 Broadway sensation Angels in America into a successful television miniseries.”
Telegraph obit

“Nicholas, actually, was wonderful at making films that offered realistic portrayals of women. Perhaps this went unnoticed because it has not, historically, been a Hollywood priority. But it was the outstanding feature of those two early films, and of many of his films since. Quite a few of his movies have been about women or written by women. Silkwood starred Meryl Steep as a nuclear power whistleblower, and was written by Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen. Postcards from the Edge starred Streep again, as a drug-addicted actress, and was based on Carrie Fisher’s screenplay. Gilda Live was a film of Gilda Radner’s one-woman Broadway show. Two of his films, Primary Colors and 1996’s The Birdcage, were written by his former comedy partner of several decades earlier, Elaine May. Even the fact that the guy had a female comedy partner in the 1950s suggests that his view of women was notably progressive for its time.”
Deborah Orr, Guardian

“By 1988, when he had another hit with Working Girl, Nichols’s reputation for urbanity, for eliciting spectacular star performances, and for maintaining a very high level of taste in a very crass industry was long secure. But his protean nature (he’s one of only a dozen or so “egots,” having won four Emmys, one Grammy, one Oscar, and nine Tonys) led him to keep revising himself. “You could look at that and say this is someone who has a remarkable understanding of the culture,” says Scott Rudin, the producer of Salesman, “or someone who is on the run from himself.” Or both. In any case, starting in the nineties, Nichols began to take a broader, more political stance, even as the climate for such work became less hospitable. Along the way, there have been notable successes, including the HBO Angels in America and, of all things, the smash Broadway silly-fest Spamalot. But there have also been a few head-scratchers, like the Garry Shandling vehicle What Planet Are You From? in 2000 and the seemingly aimless revival of The Country Girl on Broadway in 2008.”
Jesse Green, NY Mag 2012

23rd November 2014 – Dorothy Cheney, 98

Tennis player who won the US Open in 1938.

24th November 2014 - Marion Barry, 78

Former Mayor of the DC.

25th November 2014 - Brenda Horsfield, 88

Spitfire pilot and former member of the Womens RAF, who later worked with David Attenborough.

"She resurfaced professionally in 1956, working on women’s programmes for BBC Television. By 1960 she was directing a medical series, Replacements for Life, about spare parts for the body. She interviewed well-known scientists for The State of the Individual, a 1962 series edited by David Attenborough. By the mid-1960s she had moved to the Further Education department, where she remained until her retirement, producing an eclectic mix of programmes. She researched deeply, read widely and delivered authoritative series on, among other topics, the weather, the history of railways, Native Americans, Britain’s geology (On the Rocks), science fiction and sailing. She collaborated on many of the books accompanying these series and also wrote in 1972, with Peter Bennet Stone, Great Ocean Business, on the movement of tectonic plates on the ocean floor. Meanwhile she went on gliding, and pressing the case for the proper recognition of women pilots. As the chair of The Women’s Pilots’ Association she made a contribution to defining the terms of 1975 Sex Discrimination Act. This process led to the formation of the Equal Opportunities Commission."

Bernard Adams, Independent obit

26th November 2014 – Arthur Montford, 85

Scottish sports commentator who was presenter of Scotsport. A way of words like the late Sid Waddell, his common lines like “What a stramash!” and referring to events as “a bit of a contretemps” I have nicked time and again.

“He started his career as a print journalist and radio broadcaster before joining Scottish Television in 1957 as a continuity announcer. But his big break which made him a household name in Scotland came when he was chosen to present Scotsport (originally known as Sports Desk), which became the world’s longest-running sports programme. He retired in 1989 after presenting more than 2,000 editions of the programme, including 350 commentaries and 38 Old Firm games. In an interview with The Scotsman’s award winning journalist Aidan Smith last August, Montford recalled that his greatest-ever match was the 1960 European Cup final at Hampden, when Real Madrid beat Eintracht Frankfurt 7-3. STV were told by rivals BBC that there was no room for their cameras in the gantry in Hampden’s South Stand. He said that, undeterred, they set up in the North Stand and ended up winning the local battle for viewers. Montford also told Smith: “One of my biggest regrets is being on National Service in 1949 and so missing ‘Jimmy’s Wembley’ (twice in a row Morton keeper Jimmy Cowan helped Scotland win there).”
Shan Ross, Scotsman obit

26th November 2014 – Peter Underwood, 91

British folklore anthologist, and mentor to Mandy. She takes up the mantle here.

Peter Underwood, FRSA, is a name that commands respect in the modern ghost-hunting fraternity. With a career spanning approximately 70 years, 50 books and innumerable ghost hunts under his belt, it’s easy to see why he is so appreciated. And at the age of 90, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down – at least, not by most people’s standards. 

Born in Letchworth on 16 May 1923, Underwood’s first ghostly experience occurred at the age of nine, on the night of his father’s death. As he grew older, he developed his interest in ghosts, thanks in part to his grandparents’ farm at Rose Hall, by Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire. The house was well known for a haunted bedroom which accommodated a headless ghost. It often fell to the young Underwood, who spent a lot of his childhood there, to look after visitors wishing to see the room. Quite often, they would tell him tales of their own haunted houses, which he began to note down, finding them intriguing. 

As he entered his teens, Underwood began visiting haunted locations and even entered into correspondence with the great ghost hunter Harry Price, famous for investigating the Borley Rectory haunting. In fact, Underwood managed to visit the ruins of the house before it was demolished in the late 1940s. These days he is regarded as the world expert on the case, having spoken to just about everyone who had been involved.

Thanks to his regular letters, Price invited Underwood to join the Ghost Club, a legendary psychical research group dating well back into the 19th century. It boasts the likes of Dennis Wheatley, former Prime Minister Arthur Balfour, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Colin Wilson amongst its former members. Membership was by invitation only, and Harry Price was rather strict about it, so Underwood did rather well to get in! Unfortunately, the Club fell by the wayside shortly after as Price died suddenly, but Underwood soon got it up and running again, turning it into an organisation that could well keep up with the prestigious Society for Psychical Research, of which Peter Underwood was also a member. 

In the 1940s, Underwood was involved in what he describes as the first official ghost hunt at a house in Weathercock Lane, Aspley Guise. In his autobiography, No Common Task, Underwood writes that the investigation came about after the owner of the house tried to get his rates reduced because of the haunting! The ensuing investigation, which had two mediums, also included H W Richards, a councillor on the Area Assessment Committee. The story was that the house was haunted by two young lovers, who had been killed in a house that previously stood on the property by being locked in a cupboard by the girl’s irate father. The bodies had been found by none other than Dick Turpin, who offered to keep quiet about it as long as he was allowed to use the house as a hideout. Of course, that notorious highwayman also featured as a ghost. 

In all, Underwood paid two visits to the house and learned a few tricks he would apply to his later ghost hunts. And there were many of them over the decades. Underwood would investigate hauntings he had been contacted about, take groups off to investigate more famous sites and even took a group back to his grandparents’ old home. In that time, he came up with many investigative techniques, such as drawing an outline around a trigger object that was then locked in a room to see if it moved by paranormal means, spreading flour and sugar to catch foot prints, setting up threads on stairwells and passage ways – the list is quite impressive.

Many of these methods are still in use today, though ghost hunting has gotten incredibly technological with the use of infra-red cameras, a variety of thermometers, various gadgets to capture Electronic Voice Phenomenon, where it’s thought ghosts are communicating with investigators, Electro-magnetic Pumps and meters. It’s a gadget freak’s dream! Though Peter Underwood doesn’t give too much credence to them. He believes that they have their place, but are perhaps a little too sensitive to be reliable! To him, the golden age of ghost hunting was back in his day, when they relied less on technology and more on the ingenuity of a good investigator. He also has some interesting beliefs on what he thinks a ghost is. Not for him the discarnate spirits of the dead – he believes there is a more scientific basis behind what goes bump in the night. We’ve just got to find out what it is. 

And whilst Underwood has come up with some convincing evidence of ghosts, such as some eerie recordings captured one night in Borley Church, he’s also caught out a few frauds. In a poltergeist case, he caught out the young girl at the heart of it all by lining her bedroom door with a purple dye. Once the ‘polt’ had acted up for the night, he inspected the girl’s hands and feet and sure enough, they were covered in the dye. Perhaps the most memorable one was a case he was sent on where music could be heard in various rooms of a man’s home, but no rational explanation could be found. Several investigators had been convinced by it, and on his visit, Underwood himself was treated to the spooky performance. However, it came undone when his host went to make some tea and Underwood decided to investigate the chair the home owner was sitting in. On sitting there himself, Underwood felt various parts of the generous upholstery, and the mysterious music began playing. The host rather sheepishly entered the room, admitting he’d been busted.”

Early in her folklore career, Mandy wrote to Underwood, after much pressing by me, Jon Arnold and Duncan Lunan to do so. He wrote back with great advice on how to go about writing in the area, things to be wary of, and the like. The preceding article, written in 2013, was originally published in Winterwind magazine, read by the man himself, and Mandy wound up with fan mail!

27th November 2014 – Phillip Hughes, 25

Cricketer who died after a pitch incident.

27th November 2014 – P.D. James, 94

British crime novelist.

“People who know no better sometimes describe her work as cosy. If a scalpel is cosy, then so was Phyllis. She was proud of her work, and rightly so. She always took it seriously and we are the beneficiaries of that. Four writers of her generation reshaped the way we experience the English crime novel – PD James, Ruth Rendell, Reginald Hill and Colin Dexter. When we awarded her the outstanding contribution award at the Theakstons Harrogate crime-writing festival, I was responsible for escorting her to the signing table afterwards. The room was packed. I shouted, “Make way, legend coming through.” They parted like the Red Sea for Phyllis in a way they would have done for few others.”
Val McDiarmid, Guardian

“Phyllis James was not a writer who simply viewed murder as an excuse for a story. All her crime novels – whether starring her tall dark and handsome detective Adam Dalgliesh, who has not only written but actually published poetry, or her female detective Cordelia Gray – are serious explorations of the world in which they are set. An Anglican theological college in Death in Holy Orders or a long-established publishing firm in Original Sin provide the backdrop for a rigorous and unsentimental look at how English society works. She had a background as a civil servant in the criminal section of the Home Office and, later, as a life peer and governor of the BBC, that brilliantly qualified her for the task of analysing how the establishment works. Her hero Dalgliesh, unlike so many other gentlemen detectives, is a serious and substantial figure, while Cordelia Gray is a totally credible struggling private eye who owes more to Raymond Chandler than the golden age of the English detective story. Her original fiction, such as Innocent Blood, or her brilliant piece of dystopian science fiction The Children of Men, reveals a writer of true originality.”
Nigel Williams, Guardian

30th November 2014 – Ian Player, 87


“The older brother of the professional golfer Gary Player, Ian became involved in conservation in the 1950s as a game ranger on the Umfolozi Game Reserve in KwaZulu-Natal, Africa’s oldest official nature reserve. When it was established in 1897, there were only about 50 southern white rhinos left in the world, all of them on the reserve. By the time Player began work there, the population had recovered somewhat to under 500, but the animal’s future still looked bleak. Vast numbers of hungry Zulus displaced by the government’s land policy were settling on the periphery of the reserve, and poachers had free rein. Moreover, the concentration of the animals meant that a single anthrax-infected cow straying into the reserve could wipe out an entire species. During the 1950s Player and other Umfolozi rangers fought a defensive battle to save the rhinos from extinction. When the government invited white farmers to graze their cattle on the reserve Player directed them to a region where ticks were sure to infect their livestock. By 1960 Umfolozi’s population of white rhinos had grown to 600. But Player realised that it was dangerous to keep an entire subspecies restricted to one small park, so he badgered his reluctant superiors into allowing him to move some of the animals to other protected parts of their former habitat and to ensure the survival of the species by establishing a gene pool abroad.The resulting Operation Rhino became one of the most successful wildlife translocation programmes ever carried out.”
Telegraph obit

30th November 2014 – Martin Litton, 97


“A pilot, oarsman, writer and photographer, Litton was above all a passionate defender of the wild. He was an environmental purist who disdained compromise, a master of what a contemporary called "articulate outrage." He played a pivotal role in keeping dams out of his beloved Grand Canyon and a ski resort out of the southern Sierra's majestic Mineral King Valley. He was a leading force in the establishment of Redwood National Park and fought a bitter, losing fight against the construction of a nuclear power plant in Diablo Canyon on the California coast. The preeminent conservationist David Brower called Litton his conscience. "When I would waver in various conservation battles, he would put a little starch in my backbone by reminding me that we should not be trying to dicker and maneuver," Brower said. "I guess I got some of my extremism from Martin Litton, and I'm grateful for it." Litton was as unyielding to age as he was to those who would destroy the wild. He continued to crusade, pilot his vintage Cessna, row a dory through the Grand Canyon and enjoy a good martini past his 90th birthday. With a powerful voice and strong features wreathed in a white beard and soaring eyebrows, he remained a commanding presence.” Bettina Boxall, LA Times

3rd December 2014 – Ian McLagan, 69

Musician in the Small Faces and The Faces.

4th December 2014 – Jeremy Thorpe, 85

Controversial Liberal politician. After taking over from Jo Grimmond in the 1960s, Thorpe was seen as the bright young thing of the Liberal party, a Charles Kennedy of his day. But his image and PR was forever tarnished by the claims and subsequent court case involving Norman Scott, who claimed they had been lovers and Thorpe had ordered his death. The trial had what many people feel was an unsatisfactory ending, and who knows if more will appear in years to come.  Thorpe had been in poor health with Parkinsons for over 20 years, and had suffered the loss of his long loyal wife Marion earlier this year.

4th December 2014 – Bob Montgomery, 77

Singer-songwriter who performed with Buddy Holly and wrote the song Misty Blue.

5th December 2014 – Silvio Zavala, 105

Mexican law historian

6th December 2014 – Jimmy Del Ray, 52

American pro-wrestler who toured the territories and indies of the 1980s. Forming a tag team with Dr Tom Prichard, they became the Heavenly Bodies, and the Smoky Mountain Wrestling champions. Jumping to the WWF in 1993, they found themselves in the big league right as the tag team division there had died a death. So the talent team found themselves working as enhancement talent, when a few short years previously they’d have been far better treated. Part of success in wrestling is timing. Del Ray later showed up in WCW as a graffiti artist gimmicked enhancement talent.  He ended a long running feud with Dr Tom in early November, just weeks before his premature death in a car accident.

6th December 2014 – Ralph H Baer, 92

“His epiphany of shifting the one-way broadcast model of television to allow viewers to interact with the images first occurred in the mid-fifties, but his employer at the time was less than impressed by the idea. While waiting at a bus stop in 1966, his reflection on the ubiquitous nature of colour televisions prompted a rethink. "The concept of playing games on an ordinary TV set had bubbled up once again from my subconscious and I got that exciting feeling of 'being on to something'," Baer said in his 2005 autobiography, Videogames: In the Beginning. His employer granted him $US2500 in funding after viewing a crude device Baer had created with a fellow engineer that allowed two users to play "tag" on a television screen by moving two white dots around. Now fully funded, he and a small group worked to make the machine smaller, easier to use and more functional. Some of the designs included guns that could be pointed at the television to interact (yes, light guns are an invention of Baer as well. He invented numerous things between the 1960s and 2000s).” Tim Biggs, Sydney Morning Herald

The man who invented the video games console.

“Odyssey did not become a market force, but it was unarguably the first home video game console, and there is little doubt that Baer's invention spurred subsequent innovation in the fledgling electronic entertainment industry. Atari founder Nolan Bushnell attended a Magnavox product exhibition which included a demonstration of Odyssey's tennis game not long before introducing Pong, the first widely successful arcade video game. The interchangeable game cartridge principle employed in a primitive form by Odyssey was refined by the ROM cartridge design utilized in the Fairchild Channel F and Atari 2600. And the crude wired controllers shipped with Odyssey inspired more sophisticated joystick and D-pad designs. Though Baer certainly profited as a result of his contributions to video games, he never became the same kind of iconic entrepreneurial success story as contemporaries Nolan Bushnell, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates. But he never stopped inventing. After Odyssey, he created dozens of fascinating devices and toys. The most famous among these was Simon, the popular electronic game of musical matchmaking, but he also pioneered voice synthesis methods, instant replay in video games, digitized facial scanning for video games, recordable audio systems for children's books, and dozens of other original creations.” Jared Petty, IGN

Argh, Simon! I still have no idea how that game works.

But video games, I spent a good period of time in my life on the N64. There are millions of gamers nowadays, on multiple choice gaming systems,  enjoying all kinds of simmed environments.

And it’s all down to Mr Baer.

“Not too shabby for an idea that took off from a few notes scribbled in New York in August of 1966.”
Ralph Baer, Guardian

7th December 2014 – Norman Mair, 86

Scottish rugby player who later became a journalist.

“Norman never was persona grata with all members of the Scottish Rugby Union because he wrote what he felt and had the ear of some very influential people in the game. There have been times when I have had to read one of Norman's sentences two or three times over in order to get the gist, but he has been one of the most perceptive of analysts and his articles have been both enlightening and enjoyable - especially the little humorous stories that were so often his punchlines."
Bill McLaren, Talking of Rugby

7th December 2014 – Ken Weatherwax, 59

Actor best known as Pugsley in the Addams Family.

9th December 2014 – Sheila Stewart, 77

Folksinger and story teller.

“As fame spread, the family found itself invited to folk clubs and festivals increasingly far afield and eventually across the Atlantic, with Alex, Belle, Sheila and Cathie performing for President Ford (along with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh) at the White House during the Bicentennial celebrations in 1976. In 1982, Sheila faced her largest audience ever – some 300,000 – when she sang Ewen MacColl’s Moving On Song for Pope Paul II at Bellahouston Park. Belle, who died in 1997, was awarded a British Empire Medal for services to traditional music, and Sheila would also be honoured, in 2006, with an MBE. The following year she was inducted into the Scots Traditional Music Hall of Fame. Sheila also sat on the Secretary of State for Scotland’s advisory committee on travellers. When I interviewed her in 2000 on the release of her album From the Heart of the Tradition, she hadn’t long returned from a lecture tour in the States. A bit different from those fabled berry fields of Blair, I suggested. “Nae half,” she replied. “And yet there’s mair fun in picking berries.”
Jim Gilchrist, Scotsman obit

9th December 2014 – Mary Ann Mobley, 77

American General Hospital actress who appeared in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

11th December 2014 – Robert Taylor, 70

Director and writer of Fritz the Cat.

11th December 2014 – Tom Adams, 76

Actor who appeared in The Great Escape as Dai Nimmo.  Also appeared in The Onedin Line as Sir Daniel Fogarty, the Doctor Who story Warriors of the Deep as Commander Vorshak, and the Hammer House horror Mark of the Devil.

12th December 2014 – John Baxter, 78

Footballer who played for Hibernian, Falkirk and Clydebank, and played in the 1958 Scottish Cup final.

12th December 2014 – Norman Bridwell, 86

Author of the Clifford the Big Red Dog book series.

15th December 2014 – Booth Colman, 91

Dr Zaius from Planet of the Apes.

16th December 2014 – Millie Kirkham, 91

Backing singer of Elvis, famous for her singing on Blue Christmas.

“"Everybody loved Millie," said A-Team session guitarist and Country Music Hall of Fame member Harold Bradley. "I worked with her for a long, long time," he said. "She was a wonderful singer, but she was also a wonderful person and she always was smiling and never gave anybody any problems at all." He also said that she did not mind sticking her neck out, which is what she did when coming up with the harmony on "Blue Christmas." Gail Pollock, Moore's companion and a Nashville music business veteran, said her good friend "did not want to be remembered for being Elvis' woo-woo singer," but she was resigned to the fact that she would, indeed, be remembered for that little phrase she inserted during horseplay with Elvis and everyone else in the session.”
Tim Ghianni, Reuters

16th December 2014 – Ernie Terrell, 75

Boxer who took on Muhammad Ali for the World title.

17th December 2014 – Dieter Grau, 101

German who started life working on the V2 rockets during WW2, and ended it as part of Van Braun’s NASA group, overseeing safety on Saturn V.

“Grau defected from Germany with von Braun at the end of World War II. He was one of 100-plus German scientists and technicians brought to America by the U.S. military in what was called Operation Paperclip. They spent several years at Fort Bliss, Texas, before transferring to Huntsville to resume their work for the Army at Redstone Arsenal. The team transferred to NASA when it was formed. Grau was at Cape Canaveral when Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped foot on the moon in 1969, but he told Huntsville Times reporter John Peck in a 2008 interview that the team didn't celebrate then. "The moon landing was only part of it. They still had to come back," Grau said.  Ed Buckbee, a public affairs official at Marshall in the 1960s, said today that Grau was a key member of von Braun's team and part of its unofficial "board of directors." "When Dieter spoke, everybody in the room listened," Buckbee said.  Buckbee said Grau "was the guy who had to say that Saturn is safe for our astronauts to ride on."He touched 33 Saturn, Saturn 1, Saturn 1-B and Saturn V rockets, Buckbee said, "that were all successful, that never failed, never carried a weapon and transported astronauts to space and to the moon."”
Lee Roop, Alabama Today

18th December 2014 – Larry Henley, 77

Songwriter who co-wrote “Wind Beneath My Feet”.

18th December 2014 – Mandy Rice Davies, 70

Woman who found herself at the centre of the Profumo Affair.

“In June 1963, Rice-Davies made a headline-grabbing appearance at Ward’s trial for living off immoral earnings. She claimed that among her lovers had been Viscount (“Bill”) Astor, on whose Cliveden estate the Conservative politician John Profumo, holder of the non-cabinet post of war secretary, first began his infamous sexual liaison with Rice-Davies’s friend Christine Keeler, who was simultaneously bedding a Soviet naval attache. It was put to Rice-Davies in the witness box that Astor denied her allegation. “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?” she quipped. The remark dominated the front pages the next day, damned Astor in the public’s eye (he was to die three years later, a broken man), and ultimately earned Rice-Davies a place in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (between Jean Rhys and Samuel Richardson). “
Peter Stanford, Guardian obit

19th December 2014 – Arthur Gardner, 104

Actor who appeared in All Quiet on the Western Front.

20th December 2014 – John Freeman, 99

Labour MP for Watford from 1945 to 1955, who later became a journalist, hosting the controversial Face to Face series.

21st December 2014 – Alan Williams, 84

Former Swansea MP for Labour from 1964 to 2010, who was Father of the House from 2005 on.

21st December 2014 – Billie Whitelaw, 82

Actress who appeared in The Omen as a demonic nanny (and was frankly terrifying in it) and in Hot Fuzz. She had appeared early in her career with Samuel beckett.

21st December 2014 – Udo Jurgens, 80

Austrian winner of the 1966 Eurovision Song Contest.

21st December 2014 – Jane Brown, 89

British photographer for The Observer.

22nd December 2014 – Fritz Sdunek, 67

Trainer of the Klitscho brothers.

22nd December 2014 – Joe Cocker, 70

Singer best known for his covers of With a Little Help from my  Friends.

22nd December 2014 – Chistine Cavanaugh, 51

Voice actress who was the voice of Babe, the Sheep pig, Chuckie from Rugrats and Dexter from Dexter’s Laboratory.

22nd December 2014 – Joseph Sargent, 88

Director of MacArthur and the original Taking of Pelham 123.

22nd December 2014 – Jeremy Lloyd, 84

Screenwriter who, with David Croft, wrote Are You Being Served and Allo Allo.

23rd December 2014 – Debbie Purdy, 51

Assisted suicide campaigner.

25th December 2014 – David Ryall, 79

Recognisable British character actor who appeared in everything from Harry Potter to The Singing Detective. He was the ghost in The Tractate Middoth, shown Christmas 2013.

“He was familiar in patrician, or grandfatherly, roles in the most adventurous series on television in the last few decades: suffering from dementia as Claire Skinner’s father, Frank, in the semi-improvised family comedy series Outnumbered; as patriotic Eric in Goodnight Sweetheart starring a time-travelling Nicholas Lyndhurst; or as old Bert, who recounts his life in a series of flashbacks, in The Village, starring John Simm and Maxine Peake. He last appeared at the National in 2011, when he played a wry, decrepit Feste in Peter Hall’s 80th birthday present production of Twelfth Night, with Hall’s daughter, Rebecca, as Viola. The theory was that this Feste might have been a defrocked priest in a former life; he certainly came with a lot of buried baggage, and made it tell. And having once played Gloucester, beautifully, to the King Lear of Oliver Ford Davies at the Almeida theatre in 2002, he signed off as Lear himself in a low-key fringe production at the Cockpit theatre, London, in March 2014. This was a remarkable performance. Recovering from a course of chemotherapy, Ryall played the monarch with a script in hand, and with his daughters in the cast, as his carers, almost: Imogen was the doctor, and Charlie, the younger sibling, was a touching Cordelia.”
Michael Coveney, Guardian obit

26th December 2014 – Leo  Tindemans, 92

Belgian PM from 1974 to 78.

27th December 2014 – Ron Henry, 80

English footballer who played as left back for Tottenham during the 1950s and 60s.

29th December 2014 – Leslie Silver, 89

Chairman of Leeds United from 1983 to 1996, including their title win of 1992.

30th December 2014 – Luise Rainer, 104

Actress who won 2 consecutive Oscars, for The Great Ziegfeld and The Good Earth, in the 1930s. When threatened with blacklisting by Louis B Mayer in 1940, she replied: “In twenty years time, I shall be 50, the prime age for an actress, and you will be dead.”

“I was always very rebellious. I felt constricted. My rebellion was against the superficial. My wealthy parents were both immensely musical and cultured, but my father wanted me to marry and have children...I  became an actress only because I had quickly to find some vent for the emotion that inside of me went around and around, never stopping. I would have been happy instead of turning to the stage, to write, to paint, to dance, or, like my mother, to play the piano beautifully.”
Luise Rainer, Guardian

“So convinced was Rainer that she had no chance of winning the coveted Oscar for the second year running that on the night of the ceremony she stayed at home in her pyjamas. At 8.35pm, the names of the winners were given to the press, and a member of the Academy telephoned her to tell her she had won. She had to change quickly into evening dress and dash across town with [Clifford] Odets, whom she had married the previous year, to receive her second statuette.  Rainer never made big money in Hollywood. She had opportunities to increase her salary, but was disinclined to accept the method of negotiation offered by Mayer. The mogul said to her: “Why don’t you sit on my lap when we’re discussing your contract, the way the other girls do?” The fiery Rainer told him to throw her contract in the bin. “We made you and we’re going to kill your career,” Mayer roared. She replied: “Mr Mayer, I was already a star on the stage before I came here. Besides, God made me, not you!” Ronald Bergen, Guardian obit

31st December 2014 - Duke of Wellington, 99

8th Duke of Wellington, who was a Brigadier in World War 2, and sat in the House of Lords until 1999.

"Valerian joined the army at the start of the second world war, fighting chiefly in the Middle East and in 1941 winning the Military Cross. From 1943, when his father succeeded as 7th Duke of Wellington, he was styled Marquess of Douro. In 1944 he married Diana McConnel. The army accounted for much of the rest of his life. In 1954 he became the lieutenant colonel commanding the Royal Horse Guards, followed by spells as Silver Stick in Waiting and lieutenant-colonel commanding the Household Cavalry, commander of the 22nd Armoured Brigade, and commander of the RAC 1st (British) Corps. From 1964 to 1967 he was defence attache in Madrid. He succeeded as Duke of Wellington on the death of his father in 1972. From 1974 until 2007, he was colonel-in-chief of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, and then, when the regiment was amalgamated into the Yorkshire Regiment, deputy colonel-in-chief."
Dennis Barker, Guardian obit