1st April 2015 – Dave Ball, 69
“I get bored quite quickly so I tend to swap from one thing to another. For instance, I was going through a period of wanting to write, and then suddenly I’ll stop that and I’ll go through a period of wanting to just play the guitar, play music. So I have this compulsive behavior, but when I start to focus on one thing I focus a hundred per cent, but then it switches – then I want to do something entirely different and so I have this threshold where I become bored and move on. Right now, I’ve been playing a lot and I have a guitar sitting over here (points to the instrument in the room behind him) which is my acoustic, and I have some bits of recording gear to work on the tunes for the next album.”
Dave Ball, DNME interview 2015
1st April 2015 – Cynthia Lennon, 75
Wife of John Lennon and mother of Julian Lennon.
“Cynthia had done her best to share Lennon’s journey through drugs, mysticism and superstardom, but it proved an impossible challenge. When she returned that year from a trip to Greece to their Surrey mansion to find Lennon and the artist Yoko Ono, in matching towelling robes, gazing at each other, she realised the game was up. “The Beatles had overdosed on everything that fame can bring,” she reflected later.The couple divorced that November, but Cynthia never managed to escape completely from Lennon’s giant shadow – “having tried to live an ordinary life for so many years since John and I parted, I have come to realise that I will always be known as John’s first wife,” she wrote in her 2005 memoir John – but for the rest of her life she kept trying her hand at a variety of roles. She opened restaurants, wrote books and even made a stab at becoming a recording artist. She married three more times and was a devoted mother to her son, the musician Julian Lennon.”
Adam Sweeting, Guardian obit
Adam Sweeting, Guardian obit
“It's always down to those who appreciate whatever they appreciate. We all appreciate different things on different levels. And that's not my cup of tea as they say in England. It doesn't mean that it isn't somebody else's cup of tea. Life has changed so much since the 60s and World War II that anything goes at this point. Anybody can try anything. If they succeed, they succeed. I would never deny anybody making money out of something that somebody else wants. But, it's not something that I would want.”
Cynthia Lennon, Classic Bands interview
1st April 2015 – Misao Okawa, 117
Oldest woman in the world, who attributed her longevity to a love of sushi.
1st April 2015 – Nicolae Rainea, 81
Romanian referee who was in charge of the 1983 European Cup final, and was known for his lenient style. Not very popular in Northern Ireland after an error in the 1982 World Cup chalked off a goal which shouldn’t have been, leading to elimination, or in Argentina, where he allowed Maradona to be manhandled during a clutch clash with future champions Italy. However, he was well regarded in his home land.
“After retiring from arbitration, Rainea has been an observer and was later president of the Galati Football Association, where he received honourary chairman. "I am the sole arbiter in the world who had a chance to judge all the teams that have won a World Championship. The greatest satisfaction of mine is that when you walk down the street, throughout Galati people recognize me and greeted me ", said Rainea for adevarul.ro in his last interview.”
Sorina Opritescu, Pro Sport Romania obit
2nd April 2015 – Manoel de Oliveira, 106
Long lived Portuguese director of Past and Present, who had an 88 year film career, and whose last film was released in 2014.
“What is equally astonishing is that he was never more prolific than after he turned 80, writing and directing a film a year even as a centenarian. Oliveira was obviously making up for lost time. He had found no favour under the regime of António de Oliveira Salazar in Portugal, when he was condemned to years of silence and inactivity. After the dictator died in 1970, Oliveira still found it difficult to make films, being charged with the sin of “elitism” under the socialists. As a result, he had to wait to fully explore his principal themes of desire, fear, guilt and perdition, underscored by the very Portuguese sentiment of the “consolation of melancholy”.
Ronald Bergan, Guardian obit
He had troubles in post-Salazar Portugal, as he belonged neither to the pro-Salazar camp or the leftist camp, he was ambigious and in the middle, and thus persecuted (jailed by Salazar, bankrupted by his opponents) by both.
“If he deserves to be regarded as a master—and I believe he does—his mastery belongs partially in an eccentric category of his own invention, comparable to that of Thelonious Monk as an idiosyncratic jazz pianist. And it’s a mastery of sound and image that took shape fairly early—even though, as a director of actors, his foregrounding of artificial styles of performance doesn’t always enhance the technical gifts of his players. A few of Oliveira’s films are worth seeing principally for their actors: Voyage to the Beginning of the World (97) offers Marcello Mastroianni’s last screen performance (as an Oliveira surrogate); the all-star cast of A Talking Picture includes Catherine Deneuve, John Malkovich (in a hilarious turn as a charming if self-absorbed American cruise ship captain), Irene Papas, Stefania Sandrelli, and Leonor Silveira; Trepa’s best turn probably comes in the decorous but static The Fifth Empire, in which he plays clueless, despotic King Sebastian I (1544–78); and Michel Piccoli is especially fine in representing the joys and sorrows of getting old in I’m Going Home (01), perhaps the most accessible of Oliveira’s fiction films. But none of these are exactly characteristic.”
Jonathan Rosenbaum, The Classical Modernist: Manoel de Oliveira, Film Comment July 2008
“For me it has to be the 25th April 1974, and the end of the military dictatorship in Portugal. It was an extraordinary moment. The people who acted on that day did not want to take power, they simply wanted to give power back to the people. That was a rare moment, perhaps unique in our time. After that date, there was socialism in France, then socialism in Spain, and then the Berlin Wall fell, and the way was open to a new world. But then we have had Kosovo, terrorism and many awful things, culminating now in the world financial crisis and the failure of the banks. It is a problem for us all, for the global community. It is a major problem, but I believe we have the power to deal with it – I hope so. Standing still is to die; that is the point. The worst thing would be to do nothing, to be scared of acting. The fact is that the people who tried to get their money out only aggravated the situation. But, that is life. Now, it would be a mistake to stand still, to not try something.”
Manoel de Olveira, on the most important event of the 20th Century to him, Euro News interview 9 December 2008
2nd April 2015 – Dennis Marks, 66
“Dennis’s desire to communicate his love and knowledge of music, and the context in which it was created, lay at the heart of the outstanding TV documentaries that he produced. Liszt in Weimar (1986), for example, covered the composer’s piano playing, romances, travels and the social, cultural and political world that nurtured him. Dennis could tell this story in all its cultural complexity and thereby further understanding of Liszt’s music, because, as with his other favourite composers – Mahler, Janáček, Wagner and Bartók – he was a true European. Mitteleuropa was in his blood. He thought big and took risks, as with the wonderfully evocative Vespers in Venice (1989). When John Eliot Gardiner conducted Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 in St Mark’s, Dennis seized the opportunity to highlight the basilica’s spectacular architecture, shooting on film to guarantee richer and deeper colours. This called for six cameras placed all over the building, synchronised with each other and with the sound recording, and proved a triumph for all concerned. At the BBC, Dennis held posts as editor, music programmes (1985-88), assistant head of music and arts (1988-91) and head of music programmes (1991-93). New music, particularly new opera, was an abiding passion: he directed a TV version of Tippett’s New Year, produced a TV version of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek, directed by Peter Maniura, and televised Michael Nyman’s The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”
John Abulafia and Humphrey Burton, Guardian obit
2nd April 2015 – Mordecai Roshwald, 93
Polish-American academic, who wrote the famous SF novel Level 7. It was adapted by the BBC in the 1960s and is available on DVD.
“It is the concern for humanity, of which I and my family happened to be a part, which made me write a novel, entitled Level Seven, which was first published in England in 1959. It was an imaginary tale cautioning the world of the dangers inherent in a world divided into two political blocs, each armed with nuclear weapons with efficient means of delivering them to their respective targets. I was scared and I thought I ought to make the world scared. To my surprise, the book met with fairly widespread and occasionally strong approval by well know personalities, such as the English philosopher Bertrand Russell, the novelist and playwright J.B. Priestley, the American scientist Linus Pauling and many others. The book was reprinted several times in England and the United States and translated into 14 languages. A Polish translation is due in 2009 or 2010. Now, fifty years after the original publication, I still get an occasional letter or telephone call from someone who read the book as a teenager and has cherished it to date. Curiously enough, the success has had some side-effects. The book came to be classified as science-fiction, and occasionally I have received reprimands (in print), why I did not produce additional books in science-fiction, as other writers did. As a matter of fact, I have published several more books—almost all of them non-fiction—which my critics were not aware of. However, I was branded—for better or for worse.”
Mordecai Roshwald, interview with Mike Strozier, 22 November 2009
3rd April 2015 – Robert Rietti, 92
Italian voice actor who frequently dubbed over non-English speaking actors in films. His was the voice of Emile Largo in Thunderball, dubbing over for Adolfo Celi. His voice also appeared in Dr Zhivago, Khartoum and other films. In The Italian Job, he made a small appearance, on screen, as a police chief.
5th April 2015 – Richard Dysart, 86
Actor who played the star of LA Law, Leland McKenzie. He also played a Doctor in Being There.
6th April 2015 – Gertrude Weaver, 116
American woman who became the oldest person in the world following the death of Misao Okawa five days previously.
6th April 2015 – James Best, 88
American actor who appeared in Perry Mason, The Twilight Zone (the Lee Marvin styled episode The Grave), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and was best known for his role as Sheriff Rosco in The Dukes of Hazzard.
7th April 2015 – Dickie Owen, 88
British actor who played the Boer, Corporal Schiess, in Zulu. He also had roles in The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (as the Mummy), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as Major Domo.
7th April 2015 – Tom Coyne,84
British TV presenter who was one of the original hosts of Top Gear.
“Tom Coyne, who previously worked for ITV and also presented Midlands Today, was a familiar face on the region’s screens throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He and Angela Rippon were the original presenters of Top Gear, which was based at the BBC’s old Pebble Mill studios in Edgbaston and screened for the first time in April 1977. And he was involved in the coverage of some of the era’s biggest news stories – including the 1972 Battle of Saltley Gate, linked to that year’s miners’ strike. “I could hardly find a seat in the studio for shop stewards, we had so many in,” he said in an interview last year to mark the 50th anniversary of Midlands Today’s launch. I always knew when the shop stewards had been in because the brandy bottle went. It was drained.””
James Cartledge, Birmingham Mail
8th April 2015 - Turnbull Hutton, 69
Former owner of Raith Rovers. During the Rangers saga of summer 2012, he was a steadfast force for the rights of the smaller clubs.
8th April 2015 – Ion Trewin, 71
Anthologist, writer, and director of The Booker Prize. He was also the editor of the Alan Clark Diaries.
“He became the [Times]’s literary editor in 1972 and for the next seven years presided over its book reviews and feature articles on authors. It was a defining moment for a career that saw him trusted and admired by writers from many different backgrounds. He did not specialise in any particular genre but understood intuitively what was good in its own terms. A heavyweight novel, a popular history or a show business autobiography were all of interest to him, providing they were works of integrity and unlikely to bomb in the bookshops. An instinctive judgment for what would be successful commercially stood him in good stead when he moved into publishing in 1979 – the year of the strike that put the Times out of action for several months. It was a decision he never regretted. He was senior editor with Hodder and Stoughton for six years, rising to the post of editorial director in 1985 and becoming publishing director in 1991. It was there that he came across Schindler’s Ark. Keneally was at the time published in Britain by Collins, but it was Trewin at Hodder and Stoughton who was persuaded that the story of Oskar Schindler, the Nazi who rescued many Jews from the concentration camps, would work better as a novel rather than the biography that Keneally had set out to write. Trewin’s influence on the gestation of one of the most gripping and morally enthralling tales of the 20th century cannot be exaggerated.”
Alistair Niven, Guardian obit
9th April 2015 – Paul Almond, 83
Director of the original Seven Up documentary.
“Seven Up! appeared in Granada Television’s current affairs slot, World in Action. The series was then in its second year and known for its brash, steamroller delivery of facts and opinions (and, in the trade, for its cavalier disregard of the technical niceties of documentary film-making). Taking the unjournalistic – indeed, essayistic – topic of the persistence of class in 1960s “swinging” Britain, Seven Up! did not quite fit the programme’s news-driven agenda. It certainly did not make headlines in the Tuesday morning papers – always the show’s ambition at this time.”
Brian Winston, Guardian obit
10th April 2015 – Judith Malina, 88
Actress who was founder of The Living Theatre, and who appeared in Grandma Addams in the 1991 Addams Family movie.
“For movie and television buffs, especially those not old enough to remember beatniks, Lenny Bruce, Vietnam War protests or other symbols of remonstration against Eisenhower-era complacency, Ms. Malina was best known as a character actress. She appeared on “The Sopranos” (as Aunt Dottie, a dying nun who reveals to the gangster known as Paulie Walnuts that she is actually his mother) and in films including “The Addams Family,” Woody Allen’s “Radio Days” and, perhaps most memorably, “Dog Day Afternoon,” as the anguished and frantic mother of Sonny Wortzik, the misguided bank robber played by Al Pacino.”
Bruce Weber, NY Times obit
10th April 2015 – Lauren Hill, 19
Teenage basketball player who had continued to play for her team despite terminal cancer.
“Hill gained headlines as she fulfilled her dream last November of playing collegiate basketball for Ohio's Mount St. Joseph's University. She had been diagnosed with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma after she turned 18 in October 2013. "To put my foot down on the floor and hear the roar of the crowd -- I just love it so much. I love basketball," Hill said after the game, where over 10,000 people attended, according to the Associated Press. The away game was originally scheduled for later in the month, but the NCAA allowed it to be moved up due to Hill's condition. It was also held at Xavier University to accommodate the large, sold out crowd.
Lucy McCalmont, Huffington Post obit
10th April 2015 – Richie Benaud, 84
Australian cricketer who played over 250 First class cricket matches, scored over thirteen thousand runs, and later became a regarded commentator on the sport.
“Benaud was taught to bowl leg-spin by his father, Louis, and is one of the few players in history who can lay claim to having mastered the art. It took him until his 25th Test to pick up his first five-wicket haul, but he became a potent force in Australia's attack, taking 248 wickets at an average of 27.03. Never afraid to innovate, he single-handedly spun Australia to an unlikely victory in the Old Trafford Ashes Test of 1961 when he became the first player to go round the wicket and bowl into the footmarks made by the bowler at the opposite end. England had reached 150-1 in pursuit of 256 when Benaud took five wickets in 25 balls to win the match and series, thus retaining the Ashes.”
“Mr Benaud pioneered the precious art of addressing the viewer when there was something he could add to the pictures. Gradually he also acquired the ability of wry observation. But he never tried to become a character. As David Frith says in his obituary of the great cricketer, Mr Benaud was careful to ration his opinions. He didn’t need to be in our faces all the time. His unique selling point, as he and we understood for some 40 years, was his shrewdness.Today, former sports stars routinely follow the career path from player to commentator or pundit. Far too many of them, though, have very little to say, though not in the artful and considered way of keeping it brief perfected by Mr Benaud. In modern sports commentary, collective bloke think and intensity are all, perhaps not yet in the relentless motormouth way of US sports commentary, though we are getting there. Today a former Test player is valued for bringing attitude, not for the judgment Mr Benaud offered. They are expected to be partisan, more excited by a home win than a good match, another error into which the scrupulously fair Mr Benaud never slipped. Mr Benaud always loved the game with which his life was synonymous. But, like all top commentators of all ages, he cared just as much about incisive journalism too.”
Guardian editorial, 10 April 2015-09-08
“And Glenn McGrath dismissed for two, just 98 runs short of his century”
A typical example of Richie Benaud commentary. Hey, I know sod all about cricket and I laughed!
“The death of Australian cricket legend Richie Benaud will sadden millions of Australians who have never known our national game without him. Richie was one of the most influential figures in the long and proud history of Australian cricket. He was the voice of summer – and it’s hard to imagine future Australian summers without him Across five decades Richie’s career as a cricket commentator endeared him to cricket fans old and new. Richie set the standard for sports commentary in this country which will never be surpassed. On the field Richie was as successful as he was off it, with an extraordinary Test career and as one of our most successful Australian captains.”
Mike Baird, New South Wales Premier
11th April 2015 – Viv Nicholson, 79
Woman who famously won the Pools.
“Although money left her as wildly impulsive as did the lakes of alcohol she consumed before she became a Jehovah’s Witness in 1979, she was clever, persevering and deservedly proud to see her children enjoy a much better start and far more encouragement in life than she had had. She was 25 and packing Pontefract liquorice cakes in 1961 when her second husband, Keith Nicholson, landed £152,319 – worth several million at today’s values – with eight score draws on Littlewoods pools. The money was not a record – long-forgotten Nellie McGrail from Stockport had won £205,235 four years earlier – but the couple’s reaction became legendary.”
Martin Wainwright, Guardian obit
11th April 2015 – Guy Hannen, 90
WW2 Military Cross winner.
“In December 1944, Hannen was in command of a troop of 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers. On the afternoon of December 7, during the battle for a bridgehead over the River Lamone, he was ordered to move to the village of Pidéura, a key position, south-west of Faenza, to relieve a troop which had taken heavy losses while supporting a platoon of 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. After a hazardous approach, he got three of his tanks into the village. Half the houses were still in German hands but he managed to site three of his tanks around the church. This was under fire from self-propelled guns, the enemy infantry was only 200 yards away and Hannen’s field of fire was very restricted. During the night, the Germans made determined efforts to infiltrate and all the next day Hannen and his men came under relentless mortaring, shelling and sniping. The following night, the enemy launched a strong attack with two companies. They succeeded in mounting two of the tanks and demanding their surrender but were immediately killed by the tank crews. Hannen’s tank was then hit by a bazooka and, for the next hour and a half, there was fierce close quarter fighting between the two sides. Hannen personally directed the machine gunfire of his three tanks and forced the Germans to withdraw, leaving behind 12 dead, a number of wounded and four who were taken prisoner. Two more attacks were made during the night but these were broken up by intense fire from the Browning machine guns. Hannen was awarded an Immediate MC. He and five members of his troop had been wounded but they had beaten off four attacks in strength and fought their tanks for three days and three nights without sleep and without being able to dismount.”
11th April 2015 – Peter Jones, 95
Music journalist for the Record Mirror who wrote early biographies of The Beatles.
“Paul McCartney did his first ever national music press interview with the paper, and in 1963 Jones wrote a biography of the band. Based almost entirely on interviews with group members and those close to them, such as Cilla Black and George Martin, it was published in 1964 as The True Story of the Beatles. The author was given as Billy Shepherd, the pen-name used by Jones for his writing and editing work on the Beatles Monthly Book, an authorised magazine for the group’s fans in which the True Story had previously been serialised. In 1963, too, Jones became the first journalist to discover the Rolling Stones, when their earliest promoter, Giorgio Gomelsky, persuaded him to attend a show at the Station hotel in Richmond upon Thames, Surrey. Although not a rhythm & blues expert, Jones was so enthused that he commissioned Jopling to write an article, the first time Record Mirror had featured a band without a recording contract.”
Dave Laing, Guardian obit
12th April 2015 – Doug Gregory, 92
WW2 pilot. Fought for his country, killed by a hit and run driver.
“With his navigator, Steve Stephens, he joined No 141 Squadron in January 1943. They were to remain together as a crew for the rest of the war. Initially the squadron was equipped with the Beaufighter and they flew patrols over the Bay of Biscay on anti-U-boat operations, attacking targets in Brittany. By the middle of 1943, German night fighters had developed a tactic of infiltrating the stream of RAF bombers and using their air intercept radar to stalk one before destroying it. The RAF created No 100 (Bomber Support) Group within Bomber Command to meet this increasing threat. British scientists at the Telecommunications Research Establishment built a special receiving device to enable RAF night-fighter crews to detect the radar transmissions of the enemy aircraft and to home in on it before shooting it down.”
13th April 2015 – Herb Trimpe, 75
Comic book illustrator who created the popular X-men character, Wolverine.
13th April 2015 – Bill Moores, 80
British actor who appeared as the coach driver in Willie Russell’s Our Day Out, in Boys from the Blackstuff, and as Cedric in the Liverpool sitcom Watching with Liza Tarbuck.
“He began his acting career in local am-dram, performing with the Rainhill Garrick Society and the Rainhill Amateur Operatic Society.Alongside his TV and theatre work, he was head of the Liverpool division of actors’ union Equity for several years. He was also a familiar face behind the counter at HLS Motor Factors on Warrington Road, Prescot, and KLS on Hall Lane. In his later years he toured retirement homes with an acting company.“Everybody always thought he’d die on stage, and he did several times,” the family told Prescot Online, “but he was doing what he loves right until the end.”They added: “He did everything with a smile on his face.”
Prescot Online obit
He was also in the Alan Bleasdale film "No Surrender", and being the caveman in The Land That Time Forgot that Doug McClure judo kicks in the head!
He was also in the Alan Bleasdale film "No Surrender", and being the caveman in The Land That Time Forgot that Doug McClure judo kicks in the head!
13th April 2015 – Gunter Grass, 87
Controversial German novelist.
“He was always controversial, and sometimes bitterly attacked by critics at home for discussing German victimhood as well as German guilt. Outside his country he was, inevitably, called Germany’s postwar conscience, a label he shared with the older writer Heinrich Böll. In 1999, much later than expected, he won the Nobel prize for literature. The Scandinavian judges praised his “creative irreverence” and “cheerful destructiveness”. Seven years later, he stunned critics as well as admirers by admitting in the autobiographical Peeling the Onion that at the age of 17 he had been drafted into the notorious Waffen-SS in the last few months of the second world war. Some claimed that he had revealed his long-held secret for cynical reasons to boost book sales, or that he had suppressed it for so long to avoid jeopardising his chances of winning the Nobel .Grass’s adolescence of unthinking patriotism was well known before Peeling the Onion. His father, Wilhelm, was German, and his mother, Helene (nee Knoff) was Polish, and they ran a grocer’s shop in Gdańsk (then the interwar free city of Danzig). Günter joined the Hitler Youth: his political awakening came later, when, after the war, he worked in potash mines and as a stonemason’s apprentice, rubbing shoulders with ex-Nazis and ex-communists. He decided scepticism and moderation were better than ideological extremes, a position he maintained throughout his life.”
Jonathan Steele, Guardian obit
13th April 2015 –Rex Robinson, 89
Actor who appeared in Superman IV. He also had roles in Only Fools and Horses, Yes Minister, The Onedin Line, and Z-Cars. Alongside director Lennie Mayne, he made three appearances in Doctor Who: Tyler in The Three Doctors, Gebek in The Monster of Peladon, and Dr Carter in The Hand of Fear.
13th April 2015 – Thelma Coyne Long, 96
Australian tennis player who won the Australian Open in 1952 and 1954.
13th April 2015 – Ronnie Carroll, 80
Irish singer who represented the UK in the 1962 and 1963 Eurovision Song Contests. He later stood for election to parliament under a series of fringe party names, and was running in the Hampstead and Kilburn constituency for the 2015 election when he died.
14th April 2015 – Percy Sledge, 74
Soul singer who sang “When a Man loves a Woman”.
“Sledge enjoyed a streak of chart success and critical adulation in the wake of When a Man Loves a Woman, with Warm and Tender Love and It Tears Me Up following it into the R&B top 10 that year, but his popularity waned during the 1970s, despite a comeback with I’ll Be Your Everything in 1974. Yet Sledge’s trademark tune didn’t let him down, and came to his rescue once again in the 1980s, when Levi’s used When a Man Loves a Woman in a jeans commercial in the UK, in the process propelling the song to No 2 in the British charts in 1987. Ironically, it was kept out of the top spot by the reissue of another soul staple, Ben E King’s Stand By Me. Audiences were reminded of the song’s indelible power again in 1991, when Michael Bolton’s version went to the top of the Billboard charts and won Bolton a Grammy.”
Adam Sweeting, Guardian obit
16th April 2015 – Tommy Preston, 82
Scottish footballer who played for Hibernian in the 1950s and 60s.
17th April 2015 – Francis George, 78
Controversial American cardinal.
18th April 2015 – Sir Christopher Bayly, 69
Well-respected British historian who was a colleague of mums and who specialised in British Imperial and Indian history. He was working at the University of Chicago at the time of his unexpected death.
“Bayly was in the second term of his visiting appointment at UChicago, where he was teaching a course on India in world history and preparing to present the Vivekananda public lecture next month. Last year, during his first term at the University, he delivered a widely attended lecture titled “Making Hinduism a ‘World Religion’: Before and After Swami Vivekananda.” In a message to faculty, Martha Roth, dean of the Division of the Humanities, remembered Bayly as a friend and colleague to many at the University. “His presence on campus as a superb scholar and generous friend will be missed,” she wrote.”
Susie Allen, University of Chicago obit
Bayly had delivered the inaugural Vivekananda lecture in 2014.
“Only connect’: the motto was E. M. Forster’s but it could easily have been Chris Bayly’s. Chris always joined what others had put asunder: town and country in his first book, the history of Allahabad in the 18th century; the century across the alleged ‘colonial’ divide in India in his classic Rulers, Townsmen and Bazaars (1983); metropolitan Britain and its global empire in Imperial Meridian (1989); every part of the globe in his multi-dimensional masterpiece, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914p and intellectual history and South Asian history in Recovering Liberties (2012), among his many scholarly achievements, unparalleled by any other historian of his generation. Above all, Chris connected people, through mentoring, collaboration and exchange, across regions and fields but most lastingly across generations. For him, there was no collegiality without conviviality. The 25 years I knew him seem like one long conversation, in seminar rooms and (especially) watering-holes from Sydney to Chicago and many points between. Two of my own books simply would not have existed without him; at least two others would have been greatly the poorer without his prodding and encouragement. I still can’t speak of Chris in the past tense: the questions he asked, the books he leaves and the kindness he spread will all continue to inspire new connections across the world.”
David Armitage, History Today
“A master of the historian’s craft Bayly could weave the most fascinating social history from what could go unnoticed as mundane and ordinary bits of information. His pathbreaking book Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870 alerted us to the fact that British colonialism in India was entangled in webs of formal and informal information networks that welded pre-colonial India together. As he went on to lay out the long history of India’s information ecumene from the early medieval period he shifted the focus from official policy and State actors and put the spotlight on people and communities who worked in the shadows of Empire. Merchants, pundits, barbers, midwives, holy men and ascetics who spanned across the length and breadth of the Subcontinent suddenly grabbed headiness as critical agents who made both the Mughal and the later British rule possible. Bayly’s influential writings on the role of social groups and communities who made the Empire possible and whose long histories he traced to the pre-colonial Mughal society had serious implications for the way we studied modern Indian history.”
Rediff News obit, “The Scholar Who Loved India”
“Among other things the two historians provided an uncomfortable analysis of the last years of the European empires in Asia, a period that is generally held to have reflected well on the British: “Reduced in political might and fearing the spread of communism,’’ they wrote, “the waning colonial powers – Britain, France and the Netherlands – redeployed the weapons of the Second World War in the guise of counter-insurgency campaigns in those territories where they retained a fragile hold. As a result, the hopes for liberal democracy that had sustained for decades colonial nationalists and European liberals alike were largely dashed.’’ In a hugely ambitious later work, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (2004), described as “epoch-making” by one reviewer, Bayly turned his attention to the mid-18th century roots of such modern complexities as mass migration, multiculturalism and post-imperial identities. His theme was that history is no longer national or regional but global in scope and complexity. Even in the 18th century political, cultural and social changes showed a high degree of interconnection: crises such as the European revolutions and the American Civil War had “ripple effects” around the world.”
“Chris Bayly came to Cambridge after his undergraduate and graduate years in Oxford and held the Vere Harmsworth Chair of Imperial and Naval History from 1992 until his retirement in 2013. Here he published a series of hugely influential books that redefined Indian history, progressively expanding from his doctoral work on Allahabad to integrate the history of the sub-continent into the wider currents of regional, imperial, intellectual and global history, including his magisterial 2004 volume The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, 1780-1914. His standing in the profession was reflected in election as a Fellow of the British Academy (1990), award of the Wolfson History ‘Oeuvre’ Prize (2004) and a knighthood for services to history (2007). Chris was also a trustee of the British Museum. Among his many contributions to Cambridge, he served as Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies and as President of his college, St Catharine’s.”
Cambridge Faculty of History
““Chris…was a presence in my life ever since I came into the world of South Asian history…. The field was very divided along ideological lines…[but] in 1983, came Bayly’s masterpiece, Rulers, Townsmen, and Bazaars…that completely changed the face of 18th-century India…. Our academic community…loved him…a great scholar, a wonderful person, and an enabler of other, and especially younger, scholars.”
Professor Dipesh Chakrabarty
“He read everything and might be found in the break before lunch quietly browsing through a treatise on Japanese archaeology or Ethiopian land tenure practices, far from his field. He had an astonishing capacity to respond quickly to new perspectives and had the knack, in particular, of grafting historical ideas from one specialism to another, finding connections, for example, between 18th-century Mexico and India. He similarly read widely across the social sciences and had a magpie’s eye for something brilliant in another discipline. The award to him in 2005 of the Wolfson prize for history, not as is usual for a single work, but for his entire oeuvre, offers some index of how he was prized as a historical intellectual across the discipline.”
Richard Drayton, Guardian obit
19th April 2015 – Tom McCabe, 60
The first MSP. In 1999, after the polls shut, Tom McCabes result in Hamilton South was the first declaration. He worked as Finance Minister under Jack McConnell, and held his Hamilton seat until the SNP surge of 2011.
“He was a key figure in the early years of devolution and served in the cabinets of three First Ministers – Donald Dewar, Henry McLeish and Jack McConnell. Lord McConnell said Mr McCabe had been “a major influence on local and national politics in modern Scotland”. He went on: “He was the one who persuaded me to push ahead with the smoking ban and the minister who did the roadshows around the country to promote it. “From modernising local services as a council leader to steering the new parliament through difficult early years, his judgment and commitment were obvious to all who knew him. “From the smoking ban to parliamentary standards, Tom’s legacy is considerable. He will be missed by family, friends and by Scotland.”
Scott Macnab, Scotsman obit
19th April 2015 – Tommy Graham,71
Scottish MP, who represented Renfrew West and Inverclyde from 1987 to 1997 as a Labour MP, and as a MP for Renfrewshire West from 1997 to 2001. When the Paisley MP Gordon McMaster committed suicide in 1997, he revealed in a suicide note that he was being bullied over his sexual orientation by Graham. Graham denied the charge, but was later expelled from the Labour party over it.
19th April 2015 – Sir Raymond Carr, 96
English historian who worked in Spanish history. His Spain 1808-1939 was a standard text in Scottish history classes during the 1970s.
“Carr did not publish his first book until 1966, when he was in his forties, but it was a masterpiece which established his national and international reputation. Spain 1808-1939 was part of the Oxford History of Modern Europe series and is written on a vast scale, reflecting throughout its author’s equally vast knowledge of his subject, perhaps unequalled among his contemporaries. Carr attempted to weave together social and political history, and to a remarkable degree succeeded. Although he was never quite an elegant writer, he marshalled a vast armoury of sources — above all from the latter half of the 19th century, about which he probably knew as much as anyone alive, Spaniard or otherwise. His learning was based on deep archival research as well as wide reading. Towards the end of the book politics take over entirely, as Spain approached the cataclysm of the Civil War. Just as “le Cobb” (Professor Richard) and “il Mack Smith” (Mr Denis) enjoyed an extraordinary fame in the countries (France and Italy respectively) which they made their subjects, so “el Carr” became little short of a national hero in Spain. Some years before he received his British knighthood he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Alfonso el Sabio. On occasion he even represented the Spanish government when a polyglot intellectual eminence was called for — at the Frankfurt Book Fair, for example.”
19th April 2015 – Roy Mason, 91
Labour MP for Barnsley from 1953 to 1987. He was Minister of Defense Equipment, Power and President of the Board of Trade in Harold Wilsons first government, and Defence Secretary in Wilson’s 2nd. When Jim Callaghan came to power in 1976, Roy Mason was moved to the Northern Ireland job, where he was known for his hardline approach to the job. As a result, he needed police protection decades after he left the job, following the Labour election defeat in 1979.
“Callaghan’s appointment of Mason was seen as an indication that there would be no new political initiative. Callaghan lacked a majority and was dependent on smaller parties, including the various unionist parties, who between them had 11 MPs and were hostile to any further experiment with power-sharing. Mason, regarded as the security forces’ friend for the ferocity with which he had fought defence spending cuts in 1975, reinforced that expectation when he said at the Labour conference of October 1976: “Ulster has had enough of initiatives. Essentially, Mason concentrated on security, aiming to return control of policing from the army to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and break the Provisional IRA by force. Mason, as defence secretary, had introduced the SAS into Armagh and allowed its increased use against IRA units. He also pursued a hardline policy of removing political status from prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes. That led to the dirty protests inside the H-Blocks in the Maze prison. Mason earned a reputation summed up by a Provisional IRA slogan during the Queen’s 1977 Jubilee visit to Northern Ireland: “Stonemason will not break us.”
Anne McHardy, Guardian obit
20th April 2015 – Peter Howell, 96
Actor who was the voice of Saruman in the BBC radio Lord of the Rings film. He also had roles in Pride and Prejudice (the 1980 version), as a MP in Yes Minister, and as Professor Popple in the Death at Bargain Prices episode of The Avengers. For ten years, on Emergency Ward 10, he played Dr Peter Harrison. He played a professor in The Prisoner, Lord Howard in Elizabeth R, an investigator in Doctor Who (The Mutants), Goddard in The Freewheelers, and Francis Knollys in Edward VII. He had a memorable role as the religiously fanatic Borstal Governor in the controversial film Scum, and in the 1980s had memorable appearances in The Professionals, Rumpole of the Bailey and Tales of the Unexpected. His versatility continued to be a great boon: in 1990, he appeared alongside David Suchet’s Poirot, and Harry Enfield. He played ministers and doctors and judges and other court officials into his later life, as well as appearing regularly on The Alexei Sayle Show. His final years before retirement in 2004 managed to mix appearance in the high brow Poliakoff drama Perfect Strangers, with showing up in the Dom Joly TV movie.
“In 1964 I had shared a dressing-room with him, during my first play in London, A Scent of Flowers: and after just a few months he entrusted me to be godfather to his new daughter Tamara. We had bonded over politics. Peter was a staunch Labour party supporter, the sort of dedicated party member who diligently attends constituency meetings, organises committees and stirs up sluggish voters at Election time. He couldn't do that this year, as he lay frail in his bed at Denville Hall. where many a distinguished actor ends his days. He died there in his sleep last night. His life was dedicated to making the world a fairer place: fairer in both senses. He was appalled at social injustice and he loved the beauty of the arts. So he supported our union Equity at every turn and typically, almost single-handedly, he raised the funds to build a Thamesside theatre near his home in west London, Watermans Arts Centre. So he has a worthy memorial.”
Ian McKellen, London, 21 April 2015
His concern for social justice fueled his excellently infuriating performance as the sanctimonious governor in the furiously controversial Scum (1979), the cinema remake of the BBC's banned Play for Today, while his political and professional life merged beautifully when he starred as a Labour Home Secretary in Trevor Griffiths' prescient serial Bill Brand (1976), in which Jack Shepherd starred as a newly elected MP trying to cling to his socialist principles while toeing the party line....the mighty social conscience that the war had stirred in him, a conscience born out of the disgust he felt at the discrepancies between his own comfortable cabin on a ship to Tunisia and the squalid conditions of the men below. Once back in England he became a staunch member of the Labour Party, campaigning and canvassing for the rest of his life. He was invalided out of the army in 1943, and his acting career began at Rada – not as a student, but bolstering up productions by filling the shoes of males who were away fighting. After finding himself in an air-raid shelter with now-forgotten stars Nicholas Hannen and Athene Seyler, he was recommended to join Olivier's company at the Old Vic, which bombing had relocated to the New Theatre (now the Albery). He was soon acting alongside Olivier in Richard III, and Ralph Richardson and Sybil Thorndike in Peer Gynt.”
Simon Farquhar, Independent obit
21st April 2015 – MH Abrams, 102
Founder of the Norton Anthology, which remains both highly useful for English Literature courses, and which weighs a ton. Especially if you have both volumes. It’s an introduction to 2000 years of British literature, with everyone from TS Eliot to Chaucer, Francis Drake to Andrew Motion. Its pantheon has done well to keep unfairly forgotten writers in print like the 1790s far seeing poet, Mary Robinson.
“In 1945 he became an assistant professor at Cornell, in Ithaca, New York, where overt antisemitism had declined with news of German persecutions – and a need to fill postwar posts. It was there that he wrote The Mirror and the Lamp. Recondite though Abrams’s forays into 18th-century German thought may have seemed, the book was a surprise success. Essentially, it argued that, where art and literature had once sought to reflect the real world, Romantic artists and writers sought to illuminate it, often by revealing their souls. Though it was hugely influential, Abrams set greater store by Natural Supernaturalism, an examination of the key English and German Romantics which explores the nature of revolution from a cognitive rather than a political perspective, showing how ideas from earlier epochs invigorated the Romantic movement. It adroitly surveys the Romantic age to show that even as atheistic a poet as Shelley was steeped in the Bible.”
Christopher Hawtree, Guardian obit
“Professor Abrams was best known to generations of undergraduate students as the general editor of “The Norton Anthology of English Literature,” a monumental work first published in 1962. In that role, he selected and supervised a team of six scholars, each responsible for a specific period of English literature. He took on the job of developing the section on Romanticism. More than 8 million copies of the anthology had been printed by 2006, when the eighth edition came out. (A ninth edition was published in 2012.) Unlike previous anthologies, which presented snippets of the works selected by the editorial team, “The Norton Anthology” included the complete texts whenever possible. In the case of long works like “The Canterbury Tales” or “Paradise Lost,” extensive passages were included. Throughout, Professor Abrams insisted on informative introductions written with scholarly authority, while providing explanatory footnotes geared to the undergraduate level. For the eighth edition, the Shakespeare scholar Stephen Greenblatt took over as general editor. “I thought that we’d get the anthology done in about a year, and the thing would have fair sales for about a decade or so,” Professor Abrams told the Cornell Alumni Magazine in 2006. “Instead of a year, it took four years, and instead of lasting a decade, it seems to have become eternal.” He was gratified by the work’s staying power. Interviewed by The New York Times Book Review in 2012 on the occasion of the anthology’s 50th anniversary, he said, “One of the pleasures of being an editor of the anthology is to meet middle-aged people who say: ‘I still have the Norton Anthology that I used 20 years ago. I have it at my bed’s head, and I read it at night, and I enjoy it.’”
William Grimes, NY Times obit
On finally unpacking a box of books last week (these things tend to slow down with a toddler about) I was delighted to find we still have both of my copies of the weighty tomes. You can probably get both for Kindle these days, but that would lose the fun of trampling up to the top of University Avenue with three stones worth of compressed literature in your rucksack.
21st April 2015 – James R Messenger, 67
The Father of the Information Age.
“James R. Messenger, the American Telephone & Telegraph Company employee who conceived The Theory of the Information Age on December 12, 1982, then led the effort to create a global digital telecommunications infrastructure to enable the worldwide interconnection of computers, has been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. “When I began my work over 30 years ago, I had only one goal, which still remains my goal – to give the world a new chance as the Industrial Age was dying and to offer a Renaissance instead. However, the world is currently on two distinctly different paths”.Messenger is little known outside of the telecommunications industry, because once business began operating on the economic/social/technological platform he created, Messenger was pushed aside in favor of the glamour of “Internet billionaires,” though none of that wealth would exist without the all-digital infrastructure James Messenger put into place. From that time, he has been denied participation in the public discussion regarding how best to use the technological, economic, social tool he created. Messenger has continued to speak, however, and on the 25th Anniversary of The Theory of the Information Age, he published a history of how he was able – as an individual – to create a true new age based upon the power of ideas. The book was titled The Death of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company – How “Ma Bell” Died Giving Birth to the Information Age.”
Business Wire announcement of his ill health
He died sans obits. But presumably without his input, you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
22nd April 2015 – Dick Balharry, 77
“In 1970 he became the Nature Conservancy Council’s chief warden responsible for the management of much of the Scottish Highlands. The purchase for the nation in 1985 of Creag Meagaidh, now one of nine national nature reserves in and around the Cairngorms National Park, proved a significant step. Dick worked tirelessly to control its deer, in order to encourage the regeneration of native woodland; the outcome is the wonderfully wooded mountain landscape reaching up from Loch Laggan. At the privately owned Glenfeshie shooting estate in the Cairngorms, he worked with the owner and managers to reduce the number of deer, again with benefits for the rejuvenation of wild land. In accepting the Royal Scottish Geographical Society’s Geddes Environmental medal there shortly before his death, he called for a collaborative approach to wild deer management; this should influence the Scottish government’s land reform programme.”
Des Thompson and John Birks, Guardian obit
22nd April 2015 – Dorothy Custer, 103
Comedian and harmonica player. She celebrated her 102nd birthday by BASE jumping!
“Dorothy Custer is no stranger to extreme celebrations; to mark her 101st birthday she zip-wired across a canyon. This year she took to the skies again for a birthday base jump off the Perrine Bridge in her native Idaho. "It was too short!" Ms Custer said after landing. "I don't know why it went down so quickly, but that was alright. There's nothing left to do but just live now."
Gregg Morgan, Telegraph
23rd April 2015 – Desmond Boal, 85
Chairman of the DUP from 1971 to 1973, and MP for Belfast Shankill from 1960 to 1972 in the Northern Irish Parliament.
“Boal was instrumental in ending the use of “supergrasses” in terrorism cases. In 1984, defending 39 Republicans charged on “supergrass” evidence, his submissions to the judge-only “Diplock court” brought about the collapse of what was then Britain’s biggest terrorist trial. He was at his most eloquent in 1992, defending Brian Nelson, an ex-soldier who had been a double agent for the Army and the Ulster Defence Association. Nelson, charged with conspiring to murder five Republicans, had provided the names of 217 people targeted by Loyalist death squads. Boal told the court: “He helped save the lives of people who, ironically, are now screaming about his activities. He was under no illusions he would get a bullet in the back of the head. He continued for three years living with the threat of death ever present, every minute of the day and night.” Rated by one colleague “quite mad, but the most brilliant man in the province”, Boal was regarded as the political brains behind Paisley. But he could also turn on the invective, in one Stormont debate making the bombastic Paisley “sound like a quiet nun”. Boal’s politics had a strong Left-wing tinge. This did not endear him to the Unionist establishment, but made him a good fit for Belfast's working-class Shankill constituency which he represented at Stormont from 1960 until the imposition of direct rule from Westminster.”
23rd April 2015 – Sir Philip Carter, 87
Former owner of Everton football club.
“Carter had three spells at Goodison Park in various roles but under his chairmanship, the Blues enjoyed their most successful period. The Scottish-born businessman first joined the club as vice-chairman in the mid-1970s before taking over the role of chairman in 1978. During that time, Carter famously stuck by manager Howard Kendall despite calls from supporters for him to be sacked. And Carter’s faith was repaid spectacularly as Kendall over saw two league titles, and FA Cup win and the club’s first - and only - European trophy success. Carter stepped down from the club when Peter Johnson took over but was asked to return when Bill Kenwright bought the club.”
Greg O’Keefe, Liverpool Echo
25th April 2015 – Colin Bloomfield, 33
BBC radio presenter who used his fight with terminal cancer to raise money for charity.
“Radio Derby's editor Simon Cornes told the BBC: "Reporter, producer, commentator, presenter - Colin was all of those."You're lucky in radio if you're good at one of these things but Colin's talent was a rare one and he was extraordinarily accomplished at all of them. He made it seem easy. We know it isn't." He described Colin as a "perfect colleague" who was modest and warm, with a positive attitude to life. He added: "We've lost our friend but it's a mark of the man that so many of our listeners feel they've lost their friend too. All of us are going to miss him dreadfully."
Louise Sassoon, Mirror obit
25th April 2015 – Arthur Brittenden, 90
British journalist who became editor of the Daily Mail when it was still a broadsheet.
“Brittenden took up his post at the Mail in December 1966 on his return from New York, where he had been on honeymoon with his second wife, the Daily Express reporter Ann Kenny. He adopted a more populist tone in the paper , though he retained a small nest of serious writers who became frequent guests at a Friday lunch club that Brittenden ran at an Indian restaurant near Leicester Square. One was Bernard Levin, whose endorsement of Labour in his column on the eve of the 1970 general election greatly angered Brittenden and Rothermere. After several unavailing attempts by both editor and proprietor to persuade him to tone down the piece, Levin resigned. The most spectacular event sponsored by the paper during Brittenden’s tenure was the Daily Mail Transatlantic Air Race of 1969, marking 60 years of the newspaper’s support of the air industry that had begun with Blériot’s channel crossing in 1909.”
25th April 2015 – Don Mankiewicz, 93
Screen writer who wrote I Want To Live (for which he was nominated for an Oscar), and the Court Martial episode of Star Trek.
“Don Mankiewicz grew up in Beverly Hills. At Halloween, he later joked, he and his brother, Frank — who became an aide to Robert F. Kennedy and head of National Public Radio — sat in the backseat of the family limo while their chauffeur knocked on doors and asked for candy. His parents' dinner guests included the Marx Brothers and Greta Garbo. Early in his TV career, Mankiewicz wrote scripts for the drama series "Playhouse 90." He was assigned to adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Last Tycoon" at least in part because he grew up steeped in its luminous, old-Hollywood setting. "I was probably the only writer around who had actually seen Fitzgerald in person," he told TV historian Stephen Bowie in a 2007 oral history. "He hung around with my father a little bit.... All I remembered is that he wore a white sweater that had the 1932 Olympic emblem on it." While a number of entertainment figures emerged from the Mankiewicz dynasty, Don was drawn to politics and union activism. Active in the Writers Guild of America, he helped gain union representation for quiz-show writers.”
Steve Chawkins, LA Times obit
26th April 2015 – Jayne Meadows, 95
Actress who appeared alongside David Niven in Enchantment and Katharine Hepburn in Undercurrent.
“Her first movie was “Undercurrent” (1946), starring Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum. She recalled on her website that George Cukor, who had directed her screen test, asked Ms. Hepburn’s opinion of the newcomer, and that she replied, “Considering I’m old enough to be her mother and she’s playing my rival, I think she’s a genius.” Her next few years in Hollywood were busy. She made three movies in 1947 alone: “Dark Delusion,” with Lionel Barrymore; “Lady in the Lake,” with Robert Montgomery, in which she played a psychopathic murderer; and “Song of the Thin Man,” with William Powell and Myrna Loy. Her work in “Enchantment” (1948), with David Niven, led one reviewer to call her “violently sinister.” She was also in the biblical epic “David and Bathsheba” (1951), with Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. She married Milton Krims, a screenwriter, in 1948; they later divorced. Ms. Meadows returned to Broadway in the 1958 production of “The Gazebo,” with Walter Slezak. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote, “Miss Meadows gives an animated, sardonic performance that pulls the play up taut when it threatens to amble off.”
Michael Pollak, NY Times obit
27th April 2015 – Chris Turner, 64
Football player who later became manager of Cambridge United and Peterborough United.
“Turner, who spent nine years as a player with Posh before winning back-to-back promotions as manager in the early 1990s, was diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia in 2006. His wife Lynne previously said doctors told her the illness was "caused by heading too many balls". Turner also played for Cambridge United, Luton, Swindon and Southend. He started his playing career at Peterborough in 1969 and made more than 300 appearances.”
27th April 2015 – Andrew Lesnie, 59
Cinematographer for both The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy.
“The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which also included The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003), was anything but a surefire movie hit. “They didn’t have an inkling [that it would be successful] until they showed 20 minutes in Cannes, in May 2001,” said Viggo Mortensen, who played Aragorn. “They were in a lot of trouble, and Peter had spent a lot.” The bulk of the three films had been shot in New Zealand by the end of 2000, but reshoots extended over the next few years. Jackson retained Lesnie’s services for King Kong (2005) and The Lovely Bones (2009). When he came to give the three-film treatment to Tolkien’s The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey (2012), The Desolation of Smaug (2013) and The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) – there could be no other choice for cinematographer. Lesnie’s achievement in the Tolkien films was to bring both grandeur and intimacy to Jackson’s vision. He benefited from the novelty of a New Zealand landscape that had been largely unexploited in cinema, but his work cannot be dismissed as just pretty pictures. Crucial to the movies was the tension between a gloopy, churning underworld of orcs and uruks, dragons and ringwraiths, and the bucolic idyll that the hobbits and elves were defending – a metaphor in landscape form of the inner conflict for which the struggle for the ring was the catalyst.”
Ryan Gilbey, Guardian obit
27th April 2016 – Verne Gagne, 89
Former pro-wrestler who later ran the AWA wrestling organisation for 40 years. A member of all four pro-wrestling Halls of Fame, and the Cauliflower Alley Club, Gagne was a member of the 1948 US Olympic wrestling team. He won the NCAA Championship two years running in 1948 and 1949. He became a wrestling training, training the likes of Curt Hennig (my favourite and having trained Curt’s dad Larry too!), former World Champion Bob Backlund and Baron Von Raschke. In the one class in 1971, he trained Ric Flair, Ricky Steamboat and The Iron Sheik, who amassed thirty-two world titles between them.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, Gagne became a promoter and eventually the sole owner of the AWA. He remained an active competitor until the early 1980s, holding the AWA World Heavyweight Championship title 10 times between 1960 and 1981.The AWA "cranked out" a lot of stars, Okerlund said, including Hulk Hogan, Mad Dog Vachon and Nick Bockwinkel. It also was the breeding ground for future WWE stars, such as Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Pat Patterson, according to the WWE. "He was a taskmaster without a question," Okerlund said. "He demanded a lot out of people and he got a lot out of people." Gagne trained former pro wrestler Ric Flair in early 1971, and the first day was so intense that Flair said "I quit." "He came over to my house, walked to the front door, threw me into the front yard and told me 'You're not quitting on me. He said, 'I'll see you tomorrow.' ... I went back out, lasted 2 days and I quit again. It was so hard," Flair told The Associated Press, adding, "He made me who I am."
Associated Press obit
“It is hard to overstate the impact Gagne had on pro wrestling in the early 1950s, especially in the Midwest. Television was enamored with the sport because it was easy to film (just two men in one spot, not dozens of athletes running all over the field like in football, or ten men in basketball) and the skimpy attire. It has been said that pro wrestling was one of the major factors in the early success of television. Handsome, articulate and charming, Gagne was hugely popular. Legendary sportscaster Jack Brickhouse did commentary for pro wrestling in Chicago in the 1950s, as well as games of the Chicago Bears, Cubs and White Sox. He once said that walking down the street with Verne Gagne drew bigger crowds than with any other pro star -- Bear, Cub or White Sox. Through the decades, Gagne was a huge promoter of amateur wrestling in Minnesota. According to Alan Rice, one of the founders of the highly-successful Minnesota Wrestling Club, Gagne played a key role in assisting the club in its early years. Gagne also supported his alma mater generously for decades. Not only was Gagne a star in the ring but he was one of the nation's leading promoters. He started the careers of many pros and gave former college and Olympians a chance to earn a good living.”
Mike Chapman, Slam Wrestling
“"I don't know what the rules are in wrestling today. We had certain rules -- over the top rope was a disqualification, if you threw someone over the top rope, if you ran them into a ring post, you were out of there. Now they bring in tables, chairs, and slam them on there. And they let it go. There's nothing that makes it a sport of any sort. ... It's kind of pathetic. But it's getting ratings, and it's selling merchandise so what are you going to do?"
Verne Gagne, to Greg Oliver, 2006
When Vince McMahon started to buy out the various territories in the 1980s, Verne and the AWA held out the longest, running matches until 1990, when all of their stars had slowly been picked up by the WWF. Had it not been for some... stubborn character flaws, he might even have beaten Vince at his own game. He had the major Chess piece at one time after all, Hulk Hogan. But so it goes.
In most walks of life, you don’t get that many polymaths. The Jack of all trades, master of none is far more prevalent. Verne Gagne was a man who had carved out a Hall of Fame career as a wrestler, as a trainer, and as a promoter. No one else in the history of the sport has carved out a legacy in all aspects of the business like that. He was unique.
28th April 2016 – Keith Harris, 67
Ventriloquist known for Orville the Duck.
29th April 2016 – Brian Sedgemore, 78
Labour MP for Luton West from 1974 to 1979, and Hackney South and Shoreditch from 1983 to 2005. He defected to the Liberal Democrats shortly before retirement.
“The closest he came to a role in government was when James Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson as prime minister in 1976 and Sedgemore’s name was included, immediately after that of Neil Kinnock, on a list of capable backbenchers suggested for promotion as junior ministers by the then political secretary in Number Ten, Bernard (now Lord) Donoughue. Sedgemore had been in the Commons only since February 1974, when he won Luton West, but Callaghan’s wily intuition had already led him to believe that the newcomer was not trustworthy, not least because he had voted for Tony Benn in the recent Labour leadership election. The consequence was that a few months later Sedgemore instead became parliamentary private secretary to Benn, despite Callaghan asking and failing to get a written assurance of his suitably obedient behaviour in this unpaid minor government post. It was the beginning of the Labour party’s destructive internal warfare, in which Benn played a leading part and Sedgemore, now regarded as an iconoclastic leftwinger, was a powerful player in the team. “Brian has certainly become sillier while working for Benn,” Donoughue wrote in his diaries. He did not last long as a PPS, being sacked by Callaghan in 1978 for leaking a secret Treasury paper to the embarrassment of the Chancellor, Denis Healey, and he remained a trenchant critic of the party establishment, as much as that of the country’s Establishment.”
Julia Langdon, Guardian obit
“Sedgemore made no secret of his contempt for “New Labour”. In a speech in 1998 he disparaged the previous year’s intake of female Labour MPs as “Stepford Wives… who’ve had the chip inserted into their brain to keep them on message ”. Yet his decision to break with Labour during the 2005 general election angered even sympathetic colleagues. Acquiring Sedgemore may have helped the Lib Dems make some of their unexpected gains from Labour in that election. But they came to regard him as an embarrassment, notably when he delivered a personal attack on Gordon Brown at their 2007 party conference. Sedgemore was at his best exposing skulduggery. His greatest success came in 1985, forcing the pace over the investigation of alleged fraud at Johnson Matthey Bankers by naming businessmen implicated under parliamentary privilege. His vivid and detailed allegations triggered a police inquiry that years later brought several arrests, a grudgingly admiring Nigel Lawson telling him: “I think I could get you a job in the Fraud Squad.””
29th April 2016 – Francois Michelin, 88
CEO of Michelin from 1955 to 1999.
30th April 2016 - Nigel Terry, 69
Actor who was Arthur in Excalibur. A RSC familiar, he also appeared in The Lion in Winter and Troy.
“Terry’s first major appearance came in 1968 in Anthony Harvey’s “Lion in Winter,” where he played Prince John alongside Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn. The British actor went years without another big film role until “Excalibur” came along, which also starred Helen Mirren as Morgana and Nicol Williamson as Merlin. Terry played the titular Italian painter in the 1986 “Caravaggio,” directed by Derek Jarman. He and Jarman worked together on four more films: “The Last of England” (1988), “War Requiem” (1989), “Edward II” (1991) and “Blue” (1993).”
Alex Stedman, Variety obit
He later appeared in Doctor Who, in The Doctor's Daughter.
30th April 2016 – Ben E King, 76
American singer, formerly lead singer of The Drifters, best known for the song Stand By Me, which became a massive hit in 1961, reaching the top of the US charts and the top 40 in the UK. When the song was used as the theme for the film Stand By Me in 1986, the song hit the charts again, reaching the top ten in the uS, and cracking the UK number one slot.
“It was with Spanish Harlem that he stamped his own identity on the airwaves and the pop charts in the early weeks of 1961. Here was an instant pop classic, Leiber’s romantic, evocative lyric perfectly matching a melody, composed by the 21-year-old wunderkind Phil Spector, that artfully heightened the drama by suddenly tightening in the middle couplet of each six-line verse before gently releasing the consequent tension. Accompanied only by a marimba, a double bass, a choked triangle, a bass drum and a discreet backing choir, with those swirling strings and a solo soprano saxophone creating an instrumental interlude, King’s rich, ardent voice was at its most compelling, and the record became his first solo top 10 hit. With Stand By Me, a few months later, he had his first R&B No 1, and went to No 4 on the pop charts. Credited to Leiber and Stoller (under their regular nom de plume) and King, it was based, like many early soul songs, squarely on an old gospel tune. Again the arrangement was spare but highly effective, inspiring King to respond with a majestic performance in which powerful emotions were typically expressed with a dignified restraint – King wrote the words about his wife-to-be, Betty, whom he would marry in 1964.”
Richard Williams, Guardian obit
“I would imagine it gave it that lift that every artist hopes to find along the way. You get to a certain point in your life where you think 'O.K. I know where everything is at and I'm gonna be here for a long period of time if not forever', and you find pretty much a happy medium about things. And, when that happened, it came completely out of the blue, and it snowballed. Of course, the kids who had never heard of a person called Ben E. King were then aware of the name associated with the song. That gave a tremendous lift to me as an artist.”
Ben E King, Classic Bands interview with Gary James