Obituary

Dick Gregory 1932-2017

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Dick Gregory was one of the greatest civil rights advocates in American history, full stop. His legacy is that of activist and entertainer, but his impact was felt everywhere in popular culture. If you are sad about Bill Cosby, then be grateful for Dick Gregory, who did more than virtually every entertainer of his era to advocate for Civil Rights.

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who broke barriers in the 1960s and became one of the first African-Americans to perform at white clubs, died Saturday.

He was 84. 

Gregory recently rescheduled an event in Atlanta because he was hospitalized. He died in Washington, his son posted on social media without giving details. 

    "The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love, and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time," Christian Gregory said. "More details will be released over the next few days."

    Gregory satirized segregation and racial injustice in his acts, and was arrested several times in the 1960s for joining civil rights rallies.

    Gregory died a day before Jerry Lewis, and their coincidental demise is a reminder that most celebrities stay the hell away from controversy and charity.  Gregory didn't shy away from the violence of the 1960s--he was a victim of it, numerous times. Never once did he bow out and take the easy route to fame and fortune. He lived his entire life trying to make this country a better place. Lewis spent many, many years raising money for Muscular Dystrophy victims and trying to make this country better.

    We will not see their like ever again.

    Jerry Lewis 1926-2017

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    Jerry Lewis was one of the most famous men of the 20th Century, and history has never been kind to his legacy as an entertainer or public figure:

    Love or hate Jerry Lewis, you knew he was in the room.

    Lewis, who died Sunday at age of 91, turned himself into an American entertainment institution, first as a maniacal slapstick comedian and then as the 45-year host of tear-jerking annual TV telethons that raised a staggering $2.6 billion for muscular dystrophy research.

    His death was confirmed in a statement tweeted by a reporter for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

    "Legendary entertainer Jerry Lewis passed away peacefully today of natural causes at 91 at his home w/ family by his side,” the statement read.

    Inside the comedy world, Lewis was revered as a genius. The 2011 Lewis documentary "Method to the Madness" featured comedians from Billy Crystal to Eddie Murphy to Chevy Chase praising his singular style of comic lunacy and pathos.

    "I get paid," Lewis once said, "for what most kids get punished for."

    Is there anyone who raised more money for charity? Is there anyone who was up and down so many times? 

    Mary Tyler Moore 1936-2017

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    It would appear that 2017 is going to be just as much of an asshole as 2016:

    Mary Tyler Moore, the Oscar-nominated actress best known for her roles in the television sitcoms "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show," has died. She was 80.
    "Today, beloved icon, Mary Tyler Moore, passed away at the age of 80 in the company of friends and her loving husband of over 33 years, Dr. S. Robert Levine," her publicist, Mara Buxbaum, told ABC News. "A groundbreaking actress, producer, and passionate advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Mary will be remembered as a fearless visionary who turned the world on with her smile."
    Moore's portrayal of the single career woman Mary Richards in her eponymous 1970s show arrived alongside the Women's Movement, making her a role model for generations of women, even though Moore didn't consider herself a feminist. The show, which centered on Richards' work as a producer in a fictional Minneapolis newsroom and her life as a single woman, earned 29 Emmy Awards, the most for any scripted series until "Frasier" won its 30th Emmy.

    I grew up in Minnesota, and the iconic image of Moore throwing her beret into the air on the Nicollet Mall is a timeless piece of television history. 

    Alan Rickman 1946-2016


    No, dammit, no.
    Alan Rickman, one of the best-loved and most recognizable British actors of his generation, died Thursday after a battle with cancer, his family announced. Rickman, who was 69 years old, first attracted widespread attention in 1985 playing the Vicomte de Valmont in Christopher Hampton’s stageplay of Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Rickman went on to play many memorable roles, such as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies and Hans Gruber in Die Hard. Rickman developed a specialty for playing pantomime villains; in addition to the terror ringleader Gruber, he also found acclaim as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and as Rasputin in a 1995 HBO production. He is survived by his wife, Rima Horton, whom he met in 1965 and married in 2012.
    Alan Rickman was a criminally underrated and under-awarded actor. Why he didn't have at least Oscars on his mantle is a question for the ages. He was better--by a wide fucking margin--than virtually anyone who dared to act with him.

    Goddamn it.

    Casey Kasem Was Not a Beloved Figure


    There have been a lot of tributes to Casey Kasem in the wake of his death, but, really, they ignore the fact that he was not a beloved figure within his own radio community.

    This outtake was leaked specifically because it was hilarious and showed the real man. He goes ballistic in the studio, yelling at his staffers, and they leaked it because he was a dick, plain and simple.

    What will endure for Kasem is the voice work he did for animated shows. He will forever be the voice of Shaggy from the Scooby Doo cartoons, but no one will remember the various Top 40 programs in any substantive way. He was responsible for killing the franchise he created by leaving the program over money and then creating a rival show with the same format.

    It was formula broadcasting--the host would record intros and bumpers and filler and then engineers would use the full three hour block to inject songs into the program wherever there weren't commercials. Radio stations were issued this program on vinyl records for decades, and I remember spinning them. The manner in which it airs now is irrelevant largely because it is in the hands of Ryan Seacrest and, because of that, it's all but dead in terms of cultural significance.

    It was filler, and nothing more. Radio hosts like Kasem have gone the way of Arthur Godfrey.

    I know. Who?

    Shirley Temple and Her Reviewer, Graham Greene


    Shirley Temple has died at the age of 85. She was the original child star, and she was famous forever. I mean, literally, forever. She went on to have a life that did not resemble that of your garden variety Mileys or Britneys or even your Shias and your Drake Bells. She did have one thing in common with the modern Disney Channel stars--she was an early, and wildly inappropriate, sex symbol.

    Graham Greene famously had a hand in revealing why so many sweaty, nervous clergymen loved her::
    In 1937 Greene was a film reviewer for Night and Day magazine. In a review of the Shirley Temple vehicle Wee Willie Winkie, he wrote: "Her admirers – middle-aged men and clergymen – respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire."
    Twentieth Century Fox sued on behalf of Temple, then aged eight, on the grounds that Greene had implied she played deliberately to "a public of licentious old men, ready to enjoy the fine flavour of such an unripe, charming little creature", Cavalcanti wrote. He added: "Thanks to vigilant, quick-witted friends, Graham was warned that the Americans producing the film had introduced a writ of libel against him, meaning that not only would the backers of Night and Day pay a large fine, but he, Graham himself, faced a prison sentence. The only solution was to find a country without extradition. They chose Mexico and our poor Graham went away very quickly indeed. Very likely Shirley Temple never learned that it was partly thanks to her that, during his exile, Graham Greene wrote one of his best books."
    The trial was held on 22 March 1938. Greene had left for Mexico on 29 January and did not return to Britain until May. The judge, who fined the magazine a crippling £3,500, lamented it was a shame Greene was out of the court's reach, said Cavalcanti.
    Greene's career was not destroyed, but Temple's film career eventually fell apart when she got older and stopped trying to find quality material. She knew what it was like to go from world adulation to a relative normal life with children and tremendous personal accomplishments. She was the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and then to Czecheslovakia and was a Republican who gained enormous benefit from being associated with California politics and Ronald Reagan.

    Shirley Temple was one of the most famous people in the world during the 1930s and 40s. Fame did not destroy her.

    Andre Cassagnes 1926-2013




    Worth noting:
    Andre Cassagnes, the inventor of the Etch A Sketch toy that generations of children drew on, shook up and started over, has died in France, the toy's maker said. 
    Cassagnes died Jan. 16 in a Paris suburb at age 86, said the Ohio Art Co., based in Bryan in northwest Ohio. The cause wasn't disclosed Saturday. 
    "Etch A Sketch has brought much success to the Ohio Art Company, and we will be eternally grateful to Andre for that. His invention brought joy to so many over such a long period of time," said Larry Killgallon, president of Ohio Art. 
    Then an electrical technician, Cassagnes came upon the Etch A Sketch idea in the late 1950s when he peeled a translucent decal from a light switch plate and found pencil mark images transferred to the opposite face, the Toy Industry Association said.

    Robert Hughes 1938-2012


    Robert Hughes will not get the same attention as Gore Vidal or John Keegan, but he straddled their two worlds with brilliance.

    I read The Fatal Shore in 1992 while sitting at a cubicle desk, working as a long distance operator. In those days, we could read while there were no calls; when a call came in, we had to put the book down. It was my first exposure to someone who had complete mastery over a subject and could explain things that were remote and difficult to grasp.

    Hughes was much, much more than that.

    Gore Vidal 1925-2012



    Gore Vidal, the author, playwright, politician and commentator whose novels, essays, plays and opinions were stamped by his immodest wit and unconventional wisdom, his nephew said Tuesday.

    Vidal died at his home in the Hollywood Hills at about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday of complications from pneumonia, Burr Steers said. Vidal had been living alone in the home and had been sick for "quite a while," he said.