Friday, 9 December 2016

2016 Memoriam: March

1st March 2016 – Louise Plowright, 59

Stage actress who became better known to TV audiences for her role as Julie Cooper in Eastenders.

“Having created the role of Tanya (for which she received an Olivier award nomination) in Catherine Johnson’s Abba musical Mamma Mia! at the Prince Edward Theatre in 1999, she graduated to leading lady Donna the following year and remained with the show until 2004.In 2006 she was seen as Phyllis in Follies (Royal Theatre, Northampton) and on tour as the Baroness in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, reuniting with Catherine Johnson in 2009 to play the mother in her disturbing exploration of incest and child abuse, Suspension, at the Bristol Old Vic Studio.The same year she appeared in Oklahoma! for Chichester Festival Theatre and White Christmas at The Lowry, Salford.” Michael Quinn, The Stage obit, 8 March 2016

1st March 2016 – Tony Warren, 79

Writer who created Coronation Street.

“Originally commissioned for 12 episodes, Coronation Street has run for almost half a century and at its height of popularity was regularly watched by some 20 million viewers in Britain. It was seen in almost every continent on the planet, and earnestly studied for degree dissertations. Just 23 when he created Coronation Street, Warren attached a brief memo to his original outline, describing in three phrases the street and its characters: “A fascinating freemasonry, a volume of unwritten rules. These are the driving forces behind a working-class street in the north of England. Coronation Street sets out to explore these values and, in doing so, to entertain.” His memo, a charter for the Street, still hangs on the wall of the producer’s office.” Telegraph obit

3rd March 2016 – Gary Hutzel, 60

Special effects creator who worked on Star Trek and Battlestar Gallactica.

3rd March 2016 – Hayabusa, 47

High flying Japanese pro-wrestler who worked for the Frontier Martials Arts Wrestling company in the 1990s, and earned a cult fandom among Western fans for appearances in ECW. His career was ended prematurely in October 2001, when one of his moves – a moonsault – went array and he landed on the back of his head. Wheelchair bound as a result, Hayabusa continued to have an influence in the backstage workings of wrestling, and never gave up the impossible dream of wrestling once more. Indeed, by the end of 2015, he even took a few strained steps in front of the media, an example of his rehab determination and never say die spirit.

3rd March 2016 – Tony Dyson, 68

Designer who built R2D2 for the Star Wars films.

3rd March 2016 – Martin Crowe, 53

Former captain of the New Zealand cricket team, and regarded as one of their greatest players. In the 1992 cricket world cup, he was the player of the tournament, and had 456 runs as New Zealand reached the semifinal, only for injury to limit the impact of their star player in the final match.

“Yet it was the way he played, rather than the sheer volume of his run-making, that sparked the cricketing public’s imagination. Possessed of what Wisden called an “utterly correct, old-fashioned batting technique”, he had superb, effortless timing and could play every shot in the book with a lazy, upright grace. Throughout the 1980s and early 90s those qualities served him well on many continents as a Test player, in domestic first class cricket with Auckland, Central Districts and Wellington in New Zealand, and with Somerset in England, before he retired through injury aged 33. Along with the great Richard Hadlee, Crowe was a star turn during a profitable era for New Zealand cricket, playing a significant role in the country’s first Test series win in England in 1986 and, as captain, taking them to the semi-finals of the World Cup in 1992.”
Peter Mason, Guardian obit, 3 March 2016

4th March 2016 – Bud Collins, 86

Tennis commentator.

4th March 2016 – Pat Conroy, 70

Author who wrote The Prince of Tides.

“The Lords of Discipline,” which drew heavily on Mr. Conroy’s years as a student at the Citadel, the military academy in Charleston, followed the same pattern: modest commercial success amplified by translation to the screen in 1983.With “The Prince of Tides,” Mr. Conroy hit the jackpot. His sprawling story of Tom Wingo, an unemployed high school teacher who confronts his past when he travels to New York to help his suicidal sister, sold more than 350,000 copies in hardcover and spent nearly a year on the best-seller lists. After Barbra Streisand directed and played a starring role in the film version, with Nick Nolte as the novel’s hero, Mr. Conroy moved to the front ranks of popular American writers.”
William Grimes, Pat Conroy, Author of “The Prince of Tides” and “The Great Santini”, Dead at 70, NY Times, 5 March 2016

4th March 2016 – John Brooks, 88

Labour politician.

“That is one of the lessons one is taught. I am afraid that I was never very good at boxing. In fact I share a distinction with the late, great, Rocky Marciano, former heavyweight champion of the world. He boxed 49 times and won all 49 contests; that is 100 per cent. I boxed four times and lost on each occasion. That is 100 per cent. also, whichever way one looks at it.”
Lord Brooks of Tremorfa, Hansard 5th April 1995

“He also tried to have Welsh football clubs exempted from Mrs Thatcher’s ID card legislation – subsequently dropped – and unveiled a plan to demolish Cardiff Arms Park and build a new international stadium on the outskirts of Cardiff – a project superseded by the Millennium Stadium. Brooks became a steward with the BBBC in 1986, chaired it in 2000 and moved up to president in 2004.As vice-chairman he met the Home Secretary Jack Straw over Mike Tyson’s planned return to Britain to fight, some years after being convicted of rape. The bout did not take place. Brooks was credited with saving the Board from bankruptcy after Michael Watson was awarded £400,000 damages against it for negligence over brain injuries he had suffered in a fight with Chris Eubank in 1991. He arranged for its relocation from London to Cardiff, where it could function much more economically.”
Telegraph obit

4th March 2016 – Joey Feek, 40

Grammy nominated country music singer who had suffered a long battle with cancer. Joey and Rory, which she formed with her husband, had three albums in the top ten of the US country charts.

5th March 2016 – Ray Tomlinson, 74

Computer programmer and internet pioneer. He helped create the first email. “It seemed like a neat idea”, he later said.

“Yet, for all its faults, we've still not found anything better. Which is why, as the technology world mourns the loss of Ray Tomlinson, it's only right to spend a moment to appreciate what a remarkable contribution he made to the business of communication. He's credited as sending the first email as we know it today - and commandeering the @ symbol as a way to simplify how it works. The first messages were sent between computers that were a mere 10 feet apart, but the feat was enormous.”
Dave Lee, Ray Tomlinson’s email is flawed but never bettered, BBC News 7 March 2016

“The first message was sent between two machines that were literally side by side. The only physical connection they had (aside from the floor they sat on) was through the ARPANET. I sent a number of test messages to myself from one machine to the other. The test messages were entirely forgettable and I have, therefore, forgotten them. Most likely the first message was QWERTYUIOP or something similar. When I was satisfied that the program seemed to work, I sent a message to the rest of my group explaining how to send messages over the network. The first use of network email announced its own existence.”
Ray Tomlinson, The First Network Email

5th March 2016 – Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 86

Austrian conductor.

5th March 2016 – Lord John Evans, 85

Former Labour Party Chairman, who was MP for Newton from 1974 to 1983, and St Helens North from 1983 to 1997.

“The former shipyard worker was first elected to Parliament in 1974 as a Labour MP for Newton. He then served as MP for the new St Helens North seat from 1983, when the Newton seat was abolished. He remained in Parliament until 1997, a period that included spells as Labour party chairman and member of its National Executive Committee. Labour MP Mr McGinn said: “John Evans was a much-loved member of our Labour family in Newton-le-Willows and St Helens and he will be sadly missed. “He was a fine public representative who served the people of our borough with distinction. He will forever be associated with the Parkside Colliery - which he fought so valiantly to defend from closure - and he honoured the men who worked there, and the local community, by taking Lord Evans of Parkside as his title after entering the House of Lords when he stepped down from the House of Commons in 1997.””
Tom Belger, Liverpool Echo 8 March 2016

6th March 2016 – Nancy Reagan, 94

Former First Lady of the United States.

7th March 2016 – Michael White, 80

Producer of Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“White was always, effortlessly, super-hip and especially so in the comparatively conservative worlds of theatre and cinema. His culture was that of rock’n’roll, swinging down the King’s Road in Chelsea, the Cannes film festival, the female companions he referred to as “hotties” and the Beverley Hills Polo Lounge, while the rest of the arts world locked horns with the grey establishment. That world, to Chalky, as he was known, was anathema. He had offices not on Shaftesbury Avenue but in Duke Street, St James’s. For him, the arts were a party, not a social service, and he never produced anything he did not want to see himself.”
Michael Coveney, Guardian obit, 9 March 2016

8th March 2016 – Richard Davalos, 85

Actor who appeared in Cool Hand Luke as Blind Dick.

8th March 2016 – Ross Hannaford, 65

Musician who was founder and lead guitarist of the Australian rock band, Daddy Cool. He kept performing despite a long battle with cancer.

“In 2014 the original line-up of Daddy Cool was inducted into The Age Music Victoria Hall of Fame and performed for the last time together.Immediately after Daddy Cool broke up, Hannaford formed Mighty Kong (also with Wilson) before several other bands, including Billy T, Diana Kiss (who had a residency at St Kilda's Esplanade Hotel for many years), the Ross Hannaford Trio and Hey Gringo. He also collaborated with countless musicians throughout his long career, including Ian Moss, Steve Hoy, the Black Sorrows, Renee Geyer and Goanna. Always happy to be on stage, Hannaford looked just as comfortable playing guitar for shoppers at South Melbourne market, which he did regularly.”
Martin Boulton, Daddy Cool guitarist Ross Hannaford dies, Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 2016

10th March 2016 – Sir Ken Adam, 95

Legendary British film set designer, often considered the ‘real Q’ of the Bond film series, responsible for the early Bond film sets and designs and the iconic look of the Dr Strangelove war room. His work on Sleuth added a surrealist streak to the drama, and he won an Oscar for his work on Barry Lyndon with Stanley Kubrick, for his “scrupulously researched art design” (Tim Robey, Telegraph, 27 July 2016). When it came to The Spy Who Loved Me, Eon specifically built a new £1.8m sound stage specifically for his supertanker set. His influences ranged from Eisenstein (Spy Who Loved Me) to German expressionism (Strangelove) to the baroque period (Goldfinger), and it was his ability to jump between styles which helped produced icons of film setting in so many of his work. For the filming of Goldfinger, the production team weren’t allowed inside Fort Knox, so its appearance in the film (and in everything subsequent in pop culture) is based on Adam’s own imagination.

“"We had the idea when we were scouting for locations in Japan. I showed some sketches to Cubby Broccoli and he said, 'That's quite a good idea, how much is it going to cost?' I said, 'I have no idea.' He said, 'If I give you a million dollars, will you do it?' And I said, 'I'll do it.' Although I had no idea if it was possible. The height of the volcano crater lake from the floor of the set was 120 feet, the crater lake diameter was between 60 and 70 feet and I built it on an incline so you could see the whole circle. The diameter of the interior was about 400 feet so it was a huge structure. There were lots of problems, the pressure that the film would be on release in five months' time and the people who lived near Pinewood hated it -they never expected to have a volcano on their doorstep. Then the plasterers and riggers demanded danger money because they were working so high up. But, as often happened on the Bond films, the team got so excited about doing something that had never been done before that they ended up working day and night, and at the weekend they'd bring their families along to look at it. I suppose now you'd use CGI but we tried not to cheat the audience. When we showed 500 stuntmen sliding on ropes down from the roof there really were 500 men."
Ken Adam, to Johnny Dee, Licensed to Drill, The Guardian 17 September 2005

“In 1981, when Ronald Reagan became the 40th President of the United States, he hadn't been in a movie for 16 years. But the former matinee idol was still captivated by the magic of cinema. There's a story that just after he was elected he was being shown around the White House. As the tour drew to a close, a questioning expression came over his face. 'But where,' he asked his guide, 'is the War Room?' Such was the potency of the set from Stanley Kubrick's Dr Strangelove - the giant circular table covered with green baize, the bunker-like reinforced concrete walls and black shiny floor reflecting vast, illuminated walls of maps - that the new leader of the free world was convinced that he'd be conducting his Cold War diplomacy from within it. Ken Adam laughs gleefully as he recalls the story - 'I think it is true!' Adam is the production designer who imagined and created the War Room set, and the man who is most famous for giving substance to all the wild neurotic dreams of Cold War-era film megalomaniacs, from Strangelove to Ernst Stavro Blofeld.”
Horatia Harrod, Ken Adam: the man who drew the Cold War, Telegraph, 11 March 2016

“"I was in the States giving a lecture to the Directors Guild when Steven Spielberg came up to me. He said 'Ken, that War Room set for Strangelove is the best set you ever designed'. Five minutes later he came back and said 'no it's the best set that's ever been designed'."
Ken Adam, to Vincent Dowd, Kubrick recalled by influential set designer Sir Ken Adam, BBC World Service, 16 August 2013

He also won BAFTAs for his work on The Ipcress File and Dr Strangelove, and a second Oscar for The Madness of King George.

It is a manner of the talent of Sir Ken that his work on The Trials of Oscar Wilde, or Funeral in Berlin, or creating the car from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, would be headline achievements for any other designer, but are footnotes in his legendary career. Having escaped from the Nazis as a teenager, he was knighted in 2003.

“The basic requirement is talent and a way of convincing the director, producer and cameraman, and yourself, that what you’re doing is right for the film. You have to learn the basics, and then you have to learn how to express yourself. Sometimes that can be difficult, because there are people with a lot of ego problems, so you have to be a diplomat as well.Think big – that was the first thing I learned when I was working for Mike Todd [producer, Around The World In Eighty Days]. It doesn’t mean that everything has to be big but there’s nothing which prevents you from expressing yourself.”
Ken Adam, RIBA, 4 April 2011

10th March 2016 – Keith Emerson, 71

Musician known for his role as keyboardist in Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

10th March 2016 – Roberto Perfumo, 74

Argentine football defender who played over 450 matches for Racing Club, Cruzeiro and River Plate in the 1960s and 70s. He played in the 1966 and 1974 World Cups, and was the Argentina captain for the latter.

10th March 2016 – Anita Brookner, 88

Author who won the Booker Prize in 1984 for Hotel du Lac.

"It was, I saw, a flat to get out of rather than one to stay in. It was a machine for eating and sleeping in, a suitable dwelling place for a working woman, whose main interest is in her work. I disliked this version of myself, which seemed to negate my other activities, reduced them to after-hours amusements, whereas I had always thought them pretty central. These mute, white walls had been silent witnesses to many encounters; nevertheless, they withheld comment, and their very withholding struck me as unfriendly. Unheimlich was the word which came to mind when I stood on the threshold of my bedroom."
Anita Brookner, A Friend from England (1987)

“That sense of an unfulfilled world carried over into her career as a novelist, which she started in her 50s, when she had already distinguished herself as an accomplished art historian. Her fiction soon found acclaim, leading to a Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, for her fourth novel, “Hotel du Lac,” published in 1984. That triumph was seen by some literary figures as a surprise; J. G. Ballard’s “Empire of the Sun” had been widely expected to win the prize. But Ms. Brookner fulfilled her promise, writing a book a year for much of the rest of the 20th century. “It is the women who dominate her landscape,” the English critic Miranda Seymour wrote in The Atlantic magazine in 2001, “and they tend to be women of a type: forlorn figures who seem always to be looking for Henry James’s bench of desolation on which to deposit their meekly skirted behinds for an afternoon of fruitless anticipation.”
Alan Cowell, Anita Brookner, whose bleak fiction won the Booker Prize, dies at 87, New York Times 15 March 2016

11th March 2016 – Billy Ritchie, 79

Rangers goalkeeper in the 1950s and 1960s. He later moved to Partick Thistle and Motherwell.

12th March 2016 – Lloyd Shapley, 92

Noble Prize winning economist in 2012 for “matching theory”.

13th March 2016 – Adrienne Corri, 85

Scottish actress who appeared in Quo Vadis, Bunny Lake is Missing, and Doctor Zhivago.

14th March 2016 – Joan Bates, 86

The widow and co-founder of the Principality of Sealand, also known as Princess Joan of Sealand.

“In 1967, however, when a law took effect making it illegal for pirate radio operators to employ British citizens, Bates, who had fought in the International Brigade in Spain and once faced a fascist firing squad in Greece, knew how to respond. On his wife’s birthday, September 2, he declared UDI and founded Sealand, declaring it exempt from British taxes. Styling themselves Prince Roy and Princess Joan, they took up residence with their children – and Fruitcake the family cat. Their motto was E Mare Libertas (“From the Sea, Freedom”). Not long after Sealand’s birth, shots were fired in a confrontation with the British authorities, landing Bates in court. But the judge concluded that Sealand was in international waters and therefore beyond British jurisdiction. The Bateses took the ruling as de facto recognition of Sealand’s independence (though it has never been recognised by Britain or any other country).”
Telegraph obit

14th March 2016 – Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, 81

English composer who was fond of the new and experimental. He would write symphonies, then shock the music critics of the 1960s by taking popular classical music and “parodying” it. He was made Master of the Queens Music in 2004.

“It was his association with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra which also yielded the ten Strathclyde Concertos, which in turn furnished a formula for the ten Naxos Quartets two decades later. Beginning with the oboe and then cello concertos, Maxwell Davies contrived works for solo pairs (No. 3 for horn and trumpet, and No. 5 for violin and viola) and for wind sextet (No. 9), as well as a concerto for orchestra (No. 10) and a further four for solo instruments (clarinet, flute, double bass, bassoon). The works typified the masterly professional empathy Davies has not just for his material, but for the capacity and character of the individual players and orchestras he is writing for, something also evidenced by his concertos for other full-sized orchestras. The emergence of Symphony No. 7 also coincided with the most recent of Davies’s operas, Mr. Emmet Takes a Walk, a fascinating and surreal work written in collaboration with David Pountney. This followed on from the pair’s previous grand opera The Doctor of Myddfai, which Pountney directed for Welsh National Opera and Davies’s own hard-hitting extravaganza to his own libretto, Resurrection, a violent but comic parody of the maladjustment that befalls the individual when mistreated and misunderstood by society and family (thus, as it happens, in part aligning himself with the preoccupations of his friend Henze with the role of the repressed outcast in bourgeois society and the necessary violent response required of the individual to counteract it).”
Roderic Dunnett, Maxopus, August 2009

“With astonishing speed, [he] produced his Opus 1 – a trumpet sonata for Howarth and Ogdon. It was in a brand new, hard-edged, angular style, every note underpinned with a severe note-to-note logic closely modelled on Schoenberg’s so-called “12-note” method. It seemed unlikely that such a startling and seemingly wilful change of direction would last. Yet in those few weeks, Maxwell Davies acquired the creative mindset he would retain until the end. It was based on the unshakable conviction that to be valid, musical works needed a source of authority that was shored up by constructivist rigour, and therefore beyond style. Though he never said as much, Maxwell Davies seemed to believe that if the constructive basis of a piece of music was strict enough, comprehension on the part of the listener would be guaranteed. This seemed to place Maxwell Davies firmly alongside European avant-gardists such as Boulez. But from the beginning, Maxwell Davies’s brand of rationality was profoundly different. He never abandoned a sense that musical line, and the combination of lines into counterpoint, was at the root of music. This is why the characteristic Maxwell Davies “sound” is very distant from the pointilliste, splintered musical world of the European avant-gardists. It is a tensile, highly dissonant combination of lines, etched in primary colours, with absolutely no harmonic or colouristic padding to ingratiate the listener. At its best, the sound embodies a keen-edged and tragic lucidity, a high seriousness as much ethical as musical.
Ivan Hewett, Guardian obit 14 March 2016-09-16

For those coming new to Maxwell Davies, some of his famed esoteric stuff can need acclimatising towards, so I recommend his Farewell to Stromness as a fine piece of modern classic music. He lived in Orkney for over forty years, and becoming a committed Orcadian.

14th March 2016 – Drewe Henley, 75

Actor who appeared in Frenzy, The Protectors and The Doctors (in the latter as the amusingly named Dr David Owens), but had a cult following over forty years as the Red Leader in Star Wars.

15th March 2016 – Sylvia Anderson, 88

Film producer who helped create Thunderbirds, Captain Scarlet and many others with her then husband Gerry.

"I created Lady Penelope as something that would appeal to the Americans, and to Lew Grade, who'd given us so much. They thought everyone over here was either a Cockney or a lady living in her manor house. Well, Lady Penelope was both and neither. One of my favourite characters growing up was the Scarlet Pimpernel, someone who was very different by day – a bit of a fop – and a spy by night. So that was her back-story and Parker, the safe-cracker, was a part of that.”
Sylvia Anderson, to Nathalie Olah, Being Lady Penelope, Independent 2 November 2013

She also voiced Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds, having convinced Lew Grade to give the show hour long slots instead of the planned thirty minutes. She scrip-edited on Thunderbirds, Stingray and Fireball XL5, produced 24 episodes of Space 1999 and Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, and was also the voice of Melody Angel in Captain Scarlet. A writer of several episodes of Supercar and the debut episode of Stingray, she also wrote Trapped in the Sky (the first episode of Thunderbirds) and The Thunderbirds Are Go film.

She was in charge of voice casting for the shows (including voices which seem synonymous with Anderson shows like Francis Matthews and David Graham), and as costume designer, she had a major influence on the sound and look of the shows.

"All the series we did were jointly created, from the early days right up to 'SPACE:1999'. Most people ask me this, and it's very difficult to say how the collaboration worked exactly, but basically Gerry was more on the technical side of things, and I was more on the character side. I would think up the human situations if you like, and the characters. We'd then supervise alternate scripts. You really had to do that to keep your sanity because we were turning out films every ten days. So I'd have my group and Gerry would have his, and you'll probably find that mine were dealing more with human relationships. Although the best ones were probably the combination of the two."
Slyvia Anderson, TV21 interview, 1992

Captain Scarlet was less popular at the time than its predecessor Thunderbirds, but it remains for me the favourite of the lot. It’s grim kids TV, and the heroes don’t always win, but there was a genuine sense of drama rather than boys own adventure. Something which always struck me about this and Space 1999 was the multi-level shades of grey. The Mysterons are not this evil for the sake of evil force, they originally offer a hand of peace, and it is Earth which strikes first. Time and again, even when their attacks on Earth seem more than retaliation, and peace is offered, it becomes clear that the Mysterons, from their time on Earth, can never properly trust humans not to stab them in the back at the first opportunity, and that their attacks come more from fear than malice.

The Andersons split, acrimoniously, in the 1970s, and it has been the done thing for people to tend to look to Gerry Anderson and ignore Sylvia. But without her massive influence on the shows, we would have had entirely different, not so good shows. In fact, without her, we might not even have had the shows themselves.

15th March 2016 – Asa Briggs, 94


16th March 2016 – Frank Sinatra Jr, 72

Son of Frank Sinatra, and a singer in his own right.

17th March 2016 - Cliff Michelmore, 96

BBC broadcaster who presented TV for nearly fifty years, and was the presenter for both the moon landings and the 1966 and 1970 general elections. He was first journalist on the scene at Aberfan, an experience which changed his outlook on life forever.

17th March 2016 – Paul Daniels, 77

TV magician, and arguably the most famous British magician (outside perhaps Tommy Cooper) of all time.

“He made his first television appearance on ITV’s Opportunity Knocks in 1970 and, after extensive stage touring, was given a regular slot on Granada’s The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, hosted by Colin Crompton and Bernard Manning, in 1974. The following year he was on The David Nixon Show, on Thames TV, prompting Clive James to comment in The Observer: “One of [the] guests was a very droll ‘unusualist’ called Paul Daniels, of whom one hopes to see more.” And we did, of course. ITV gave him his own series, Paul Daniels’ Blackpool Bonanza, in 1978 and he made his first series for the BBC, For My Next Trick, the same year. This led to The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran on BBC1 from 1979 to 1994 and made him a household name. Some of the tricks he performed were astounding – recreating the stunts of Houdini, for example, or making a television camera in a crate disappear while transmitting what the camera is seeing in real time. In all these performances he employed old-fashioned conjuring techniques, never resorting to using television technology to cheat or enhance illusions. He had a strict moral code on such matters and had strong feelings about the new generation of TV wonder-workers, much of whose impact is achieved by preparations carried out by researchers ahead of the recording.”
Stephen Dixon, Guardian obit, 17 March 2016

17th March 2016 – Rev Sandy McDonald, 78

Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly from 1997 to 1998.

“His warm, friendly, jocular, down-to-earth manner made for a refreshing change and his influence upon the moderatorial role is still felt today. More recently, as he knowingly approached the end of his life, Mr McDonald spoke out courageously in favour of the right-to-die. Suffering from a terminal illness, he declared in February 2015 that it was time for society to take seriously “the provision of a peaceful end of life for all those who want it.” The Kirk is formally opposed to assisted suicide. Throughout his career he often tackled controversial subjects and spoke out when the need arose. His year as Moderator began with a personal declaration that it was important for the Church of Scotland to foster an interest in matters political. As the public face of the Kirk he criticised the National Lottery, at the time only three years old, accusing it of “conning” poor people out of their money. He also called for a more equal sharing of the nation’s wealth and an end to the “awful injustice” of folk who receive no state benefit because they are homeless.”
Allan Laing, Herald obit, 17 March 2016

He appeared alongside his son, the actor David Tennant, in the Doctor Who episode The Unicorn and The Wasp.

 18th March 2016 – Barry Hines, 76

Author who wrote A Kestrel for a Knave in 1968, which was adapted for the film Kes the following year.

21st March 2016 – Anker Jorgensen, 93

Two time Prime Minister of Denmark, who was known for his support of the welfare state, and who negotiated with Saddam Hussein for the release for Danish prisoners in 1992.

“He was a trade union leader with no government experience when he was picked to succeed Prime Minister Jens Otto Krag, who resigned for personal reasons in 1972. Mr. Jorgensen described his selection as “a bit of a shock,” adding, “Somebody has to do the job, so I accepted.” Danes appreciated Mr. Jorgenson’s humble demeanor and called him by his first name. Instead of moving into the prime minister’s official residence, he and his family stayed in their apartment in a working-class neighborhood of Copenhagen. Mr. Jorgensen drew criticism from Washington and NATO allies for opposing the Vietnam War and calling for diplomatic ties with Communist East Germany. He also supported the Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, and said the Palestinians should have their own state.”
Associated Press obit, 21 March 2016

21st March 2016 – Bob Ebeling, 89

NASA engineer who warned that the Challenger space shuttle was unsafe, three months before its fatal launch in 1986.

“Mr. Ebeling (pronounced EBB-ling), an engineer at Thiokol, knew what the rest of the world did not: that the rubber O-rings designed to seal the joints between the booster rocket’s segments performed poorly in cold weather. A severe cold snap in Florida was about to subject the O-rings to temperatures more than 30 degrees lower than at any previous launch During the afternoon and evening before the launch, Thiokol engineers, relying on data provided by Mr. Ebeling and his colleagues, argued passionately for a postponement of the launch in conference calls with NASA managers at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. They were overruled not only by NASA, but also by their own managers.”
William Grimes, Robert Ebeling, Challenger Engineer Who Warned of Disaster, Dies at 89, New York Times, 25 March 2016

“Ebeling carried three decades of guilt. "That was one of the mistakes God made," Ebeling, now 89, told me three weeks ago at his home in Brigham City, Utah. "He shouldn't have picked me for that job. But next time I talk to him, I'm gonna ask him, 'Why me? You picked a loser.' Jim Sides listened to the NPR story in his car in Jacksonville, N.C. "When I heard he carried a burden of guilt for 30 years, it broke my heart," Sides, an engineer, says. "And I just sat there in the car in the parking lot and cried." Like many engineers who responded to Ebeling's story, Sides knows what it's like to present data and face resistance. He's also certain about who bears responsibility for the decisions that result."He and his colleagues stated it very plainly. It was a dangerous day for the launch," Sides says. "But [Ebeling] was not the decision-maker. He did his job as an engineer. He should not have to carry any guilt."
Howard Berkes, Your Letters Helped Challenger Shuttle Engineer Shed 30 Years of Guilt, NPR 25 February 2016

Ebeling personally blamed himself for the disaster, and never recovered from it, although an NPR interview in January 2016 led to a flood of letters from listeners concerned about him.

21st March 2016 – Andrew Grove, 79

Former chairman of Intel.

“At Intel, Mr. Grove helped midwife the semiconductor revolution — the use of increasingly sophisticated chips to power computers — that proved to be as momentous for economic and social development as hydrocarbon fuels, electricity and telephones were in earlier eras. Intel’s microprocessors were also essential for digital cameras, consumer electronic products, household appliances, toys, manufacturing equipment and a wide assortment of devices that depended on computerized functions. Besides presiding over the development of Intel’s memory chips and microprocessors in laboratory research, Mr. Grove gained a reputation as a ruthlessly effective manager who spurred associates and cowed rivals in a cutthroat, high-tech business world where companies rose and fell at startling speed. Mr. Grove’s famous slogan, “Only the Paranoid Survive,” became the title of his 1996 best seller describing his management philosophy.”
Jonathan Kandell, Andrew S Grove Dies at 79; Intel Chief Spurred Semiconductor Revolution, New York Times 21 March 2016

22nd March 2016 – Glen Dawson, 104

Rock climber.

“Dawson, who was short and wiry, was a natural climber with a low center of gravity who made several other first ascents in the Sierra while still a teenager. Later, he also led a group that included his brother up the East Buttress of Mt. Whitney in 1937 — another first, said friend and Sierra Club mountaineering historian Bill Oliver. Dawson's climbs helped introduce modern rope techniques to the West and launched a golden age of Sierra climbing, said Bob Cates, history committee chairman of the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club.”
Jill Leovy, La Times obit, 28 March 2016

22nd March 2016 – Richard Bradford, 81

Actor who was the lead McGill in Man in a Suitcase.

22nd March 2016 – Rob Ford, 46

Controversial former Mayor of Toronto.

23rd March 2016 – Sir Peter Moores, 83

Philanthropist and former director of Everton Football Club.

“There was nothing dilettantish about Moores’s commitment. His tastes were discriminating and his knowledge extensive – particularly in the field of opera – and he was personally involved in every funding decision as well as initiating projects such the Peter Moores Foundation scholarships. A notice posted on the Peter Moores Foundation website directed grant applicants to look elsewhere for financial support, because the “Foundation supports projects which come to the attention of its Patron, or Trustees, through their interests and special knowledge... General applications for grants are not encouraged and are unlikely to succeed.” Yet Peter Moores’s aims were the opposite of elitist. He began his philanthropy in the 1950s, helping struggling young singers and musicians whom he thought promising. Joan Sutherland was an early beneficiary as was the conductor Colin Davis. He became a leading supporter of operas sung in English; in the 1960s he cajoled a reluctant EMI to produce and issue Reginald Goodall’s Ring Cycle, recorded live at the Coliseum; he financed more than 30 other recordings of opera in English on the Chandos label and in 2004 the foundation announced it would be financing a filmed version of Mozart’s Magic Flute directed by Kenneth Branagh.”
Telegraph obit

23rd March 2016 – Ken Howard, 71

Tony award winning American actor who appeared in Michael Clayton and The Thorn Birds.

24th March 2016 – Garry Shandling, 66

Comic who was the star of the Larry Sanders Show.

24th March 2016 – Earl Hamner,Jr, 92

American screenwriter who worked on the Waltons. He also wrote eight stories for The Twilight Zone, including You Drive and Stopover in a Quiet Town.

24th March 2016 - Johan Cruyff, 68

Widely considered the finest footballer never to win the World Cup, Cruyff and his Dutch side, exhibiting all the latent talents of Total Football, reached the 1974 World Cup final. He later managed Barcelona to their first European Cup, and is widely credited with transferring his Total Football values to the Catalan club. 

 25th March 2016 – Raul Cardenas, 86

Mexican footballer who played at the 1954, 58 and 62 World Cups, and managed his homeland to the Quarterfinals of the 1970 World Cup.

25th March 2016 – Terry Brain, 60

Animator who created The Trap Door, and Stoppit and Tidyup.

“Terry, a father-of-two, from Fishponds, Bristol, was discovered by Tony Hart in the 1980s and joined his art show Hartbeat, before teaming up with fellow animator Charlie Mills. They went on to create two series of the 1984 hit The Trap Door, based around a series of creatures living in the cellar of a castle. His son added: "He was a big kid. He was always trying to make people laugh. The house was full of toys and models and his sketches. "He never had a bad word to say about anyone, and no one ever said anything bad about him."
Bethany White, The Trap Door animator Terry Brain dead age 60 following two-year cancer battle, The Mirror, 29 March 2016

26th March 2016 – Jim Harrison, 78

Author known for Legends of the Fall.

29th March 2016 – Patty Duke, 69

Actress who won an Oscar for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker in 1962.

30th March 2016 - Ronnie Corbett, 85

Comedy genius best known for his partnership with the other Ronnie, Ronnie Barker. 

30th March 2016 – Andy “Thunderclap” Newman, 73

Musician whose band, Thunderclap Newman, reached the top of the UK charts in 1969 with Something in the Air.

“[Pete]Townshend and Newman, a pianist, became friends in art college, and hired him when he was looking to create a project around the songs of John “Speedy” King, a drummer/singer and member of the Who’s road crew, who had written “Armenia City in the Sky” on 1967’s The Who Sell Out. They were rounded out by Jimmy McCulloch, a teenage guitar wizard who would spend three years with Paul McCartney in Wings. “Something in the Air” reached No. 1 in the U.K. when it was used in The Magic Christian, the same film that helped launch Badfinger to stardom. It only got as far as No. 37 in the U.S., but has remained a steady presence on classic rock radio. It was covered Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers as a bonus track on their 1993 Greatest Hits compilation.”
Dave Lifton, Andy “Thunderclap” Newman of Something in the Air fame dies at 73, Ultimate Classic Rock, 31 March 2016

31st March 2016 – Kris Travis, 33

British pro-wrestler who was tipped for the top but struggled with stomach cancer.

31st March 2016 – Zaha Hadid, 65

Architect responsible for the Riverside Museum and the Broad Art Museum, among other works.

“Hadid belonged to the last generation of architects to work with tracing paper and T-squares. She talked about the care with which she would use a Rotring pen and a ruler to draw. The trick, she said, was to ensure that there was no overlap when she joined two lines to make a sharp point at the corner of a rectangle. Despite these beginnings, she built a modern architectural office equipped with ranks of computers, and sophisticated parametric modelling software, in which rows of assistants sit working at screens plugged into headphones. She was able to navigate a huge jump in the scale of her office. When she started out, a large architectural practice was 25 people. With her architectural partner Patrik Schumacher, she built a practice of 400. She took over the entire school building in which she had started, spread into a second building, and had plans to set up in the US. It is an operation that will certainly continue to make a mark: as Schumacher once said, the only way to be relevant against a background in which architecture is being defined by ever larger buildings is for an architectural practice to grow.”
Deyan Sudjic, Guardian obit, 1 April 2016

31st March 2016 – Douglas Wilmer, 96

(Previously published in The Spooky Isles, 3rd April 2016)

Douglas Wilmer, who has died at the venerable age of 96 after a bout of pneumonia, was a familiar face to British cult fans. He appeared in Cromwell, The Golden Voyages of Sinbad and the Inspector Closeau film A Shot in the Dark, but it was as a famous detective he best became known. In 1964, the BBC, after a long time negotiating, won the rights from the Doyle estate to adapt five of the Sherlock Holmes stories. The Speckled Band was settled on as the pilot for such a series (as there was an option to extend the number of stories if the Doyle estate were happy with the end results) and character actor Douglas Wilmer was cast as the BBC’s first Sherlock Holmes.

Wilmer, who didn’t consider himself a fan of Doyle’s detective (though he was an admirer), felt that the big adaptations to date had tried to turn him into a stock hero type, when the actual character in Conan Doyle is capable of some right unpleasantness. Wilmer thought if you could try and get both sides of the character, his flaws and his greatness, across, then that would make for a far more enthralling TV drama than merely presenting him as the Victorian Superman with bumbling sidekick. (A rule of thumb for the writer is to judge a Holmes adaptation on how it treats its Watson – he’s not a bumbling sidekick, he’s a bloody Doctor. That a genuinely intelligent man is still stumped by the deduction genius required by Holmes is the whole point!)

“The scripts came in late and some of them I rejected and rewrote myself. They went straight into the waste paper basket; I simply refused them. The Red-Headed League had 14 characters that don’t exist in Doyle, and I said no way. This is not on. And they all sounded when I read the script – before throwing it into the waste paper basket – as if they’d been borrowed from Damon Runyan. One was called Harry the Horse!” 
Douglas Wilmer, Movietone News interview, 10 May 2009

Unhappy with the lack of rehearsal time, Wilmer turned down the option to play Holmes in a second season, and the role fell to Peter Cushing. It wasn’t his final appearance alongside the detective, however. He appeared twice in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, of course, as Professor Van Dusen, but in 1975, he was Holmes once more, opposite Gene Wilder’s Sigerson Holmes, in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Smarter Brother. And then, in 2012, he had a background role in the Steven Moffat Sherlock! Sometimes, you just can’t escape the detective.

There was far more to Douglas Wilmer than Sherlock Holmes though, as the character actor had a career of 60 years in film, TV and stage. Not bad for a man who postponed his RADA training to join up for World War Two, and then wound up out of the war after contracting TB on the African front! An early role which showed his immense promise was in It is Midnight, Doctor Schweitzer, in which he plays a missionary who helps Andre Morell’s German doctor on the brink of the First World War, trying to run a malaria hospital in a French colony. It’s all about good people trying to do their best, all the while events completely out of their control conspire to make them officially enemies of war, and Wilmer is fantastic in it, giving his Father Charles a quiet dignity.

He played Charles II in the 1958 adaptation of Samuel Pepys diaries, Decimus in Cleopatra and Nayland Smith in The Brides of Fu Manchu. He was The Baron in The Vampire Lovers, a film much loved by contributors to The Spooky Isles for one reason or another. UFO, The Avengers, The Protectors and countless other great British cult TV shows were enhanced by guest appearances by him, and he had a long run in TV adaptations of Shakespeare: as Agrippa in a performance of Antony and Cleopatra, as Julius Caesar himself, and as the Duke of Venice, to name but three. He made an appearance in the Bond franchise, as art expert Jim Fanning in Octopussy.

He was also the headmaster in the creepy, and underrated British horror film, Unman, Wittering and Zigo. David Hemmings young teacher Ebony arrives at a private school to replace a teacher who died. A terrible accident, everyone claims at first, but as acclaimed director John “Frenzy” MacKenzie manages to make the Cornish outdoors seem claustrophobic and wrong with his camera choices, there is the lingering doubt that there’s a cover up going on. Something about the kids, and what happened to the former teacher. And how Hemmings himself is now at risk. There is danger everywhere, and he should be able to confide in his own boss, the headmaster. And yet, anytime something happens, there’s the headmaster to point out he has no proof. Wilmer plays the role sublimely, with viewers never quite sure if the man is covering up crimes, if he genuinely sees nothing, or if he is on it himself. In a horror film which is all about human nature, with no monster suits in suit, it is an important bridge between the horror and the everyday, and Douglas Wilmer pulls it off with ease, much like he did with every other role.

One of the greats of his generation, Wilmer’s death is a sad loss for fans of British TV and film.

“Dapper, brilliantined and superior looking, Wilmer was reckoned to bear an uncanny resemblance to the sleuth in Sidney Paget’s original illustrations. He had been a notable radio Holmes before he was invited in 1964 to take the role on BBC television alongside Nigel Stock as Watson. After filming a pilot episode (of The Speckled Band), he resolved to make his Sherlock “a primitive person... savage and ruthless,” observing that “He was a surprisingly unfashionable individual for a Victorian writer to portray - completely unsentimental in a very sentimental age.”
Telegraph obit

31st March 2016 – Reg Whitehead, 83

Actor who appeared in The Saint, The Avengers and Z Cars, but had a cult following for his appearance as one of the first Cybermen in the final William Hartnell Doctor Who story, The Tenth Planet.

“Despite his input into their original creation he was happier with the more streamlined and less cumbersome costumes that were created for the Cybermen in their second and third stories. “There was no question that they would have to redesign them, [for The Moonbase] but it [the discomfort] was still dire, it really was.” Having been a monster in Doctor Who he felt it difficult to be taken seriously by the production team as an actor outside of the costume but he did make a friend on The Moonbase. He and Frazer Hines shared a love for horses and the two of them would monitor the racing and betting in between rehearsals.
Toby Hadoke, Reg Whitehead RIP – The First Cyberman Dies Aged 83, 4 April 2016

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