DON GRADY, WHO PLAYED ROBBIE ON ‘MY THREE SONS’
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: June 28, 2012
Don Grady, who played Chip and Ernie’s wholesome, heartthrob big brother Robbie on the long-running television sitcom “My Three Sons,” died on Wednesday at his home in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was 68.
Robert Mora/Getty Images
Mr. Grady in 2003.
A family spokesman said the cause was cancer.
Mr. Grady, a versatile musician and singer who got his start in television as a Mouseketeer on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” considered music his vocation and his acting career something of an accident. At 14, he was an aspiring musician in high school who played ukulele, drums, accordion and clarinet while acting on the side when he was called to audition for the part of Robbie Douglas, one of three sons of the wistful, pipe-smoking widower Steve Douglas, played by Fred MacMurray.
The producers had already cast another actor. “But, for reasons I never found out, they needed to replace him,” Mr. Grady wrote in the forward to “Fred MacMurray,” a 2007 biography by Charles Tranberg. “I was summoned to a hastily held audition at noon, and by 3 p.m. I was cast as the new Robbie. My acting abilities probably helped, but I still believe the reason I got the part was because the cleft in my chin looked like Fred’s.”
He played Robbie throughout the life of the show, more than 300 episodes from 1960 to 1972, although his place in the fictional family hierarchy shifted slightly over time. He was Mr. Douglas’s middle son in the first few years, until the role of the original older brother, Mike (Tim Considine), was written out of the script and a new brother — the adopted son, Ernie (Barry Livingston) — was written in. Chip Douglas (Stanley Livingston, Barry’s older brother in real life) took Robbie’s place in the middle.
Mr. Grady’s Robbie was always the coolest son. He was the teen idol of the cast, his face having been featured on the cover of teen magazines since his days as a Mouseketeer. Like Ricky Nelson of “Ozzie and Harriet,” Robbie sang in a band, and it performed on the show.
As the eldest son for most of the show’s run, Mr. Grady was the family’s earnest grown-up-in-training and the most frequent recipient of the fatherly advice that capped almost every episode.
“Now, Rob, do you really think that’s the right thing to do?” Mr. MacMurray said in the 13th episode of Season Four, poking the air with his pipe.“Well, no, Dad,” Robbie answered. “Not when you put it like that.”
Don Louis Agrati was born in San Diego on June 8, 1944. His parents divorced when he was in his teens, and his mother, Mary, became a theatrical agent. One of his two sisters, the actress Lani O’Grady, died in 2001. He is survived by his wife, Ginny, his two children, Joey and Tessa, his mother, and another sister, Marilou Reichel.
Mr. Grady appeared in other shows besides “My Three Sons,” including “The Rifleman” and “Wagon Train.” But he focused mainly on his music after the series ended, forming a pop singing group, “The Yellow Balloon,” which recorded a song of the same name in 1967. It was the band’s only hit, reaching No. 25 on the Billboard pop charts.
He later composed music for television, theater and films, including the theme song to Phil Donahue’s talk show, songs for the TV series “The Kid-a-Littles” and the 1985 film “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.” He was a co-writer of “Keep the Dream Alive,” which was recorded by Herbie Hancock, Della Reese and others for the Jazz to End Hunger project.
Stanley Livingston said in an interview on Thursday that Mr. Grady was a lot like the character he played on “My Three Sons.”
“He had a lot of charm,” said Mr. Livingston. “He was a good guy to be with. People loved him. He really was a wonderful big brother.”
YITZHAK SHAMIR, FORMER ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER
Yitzhak Shamir, center, during a 1977 visit from President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt, left, to the Israeli Knesset. More Photos »
Published: June 30, 2012
Yitzhak Shamir, who emerged from the militant wing of a Jewish militia and served as Israel’s prime minister longer than anyone but David Ben-Gurion, promoting a muscular Zionism and expansive settlement in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, died Saturday at a nursing home in Tel Aviv. He was 96.
Mr. Shamir had Alzheimer’s disease for at least the last six years, an associate said. His death was announced by the prime minister’s office.
A native of Poland whose family was wiped out in the Holocaust, Mr. Shamir was part of a group of right-wing Israeli politicians led by Menachem Begin who rose to power in the 1970s as the more left-wing Labor Party declined, viewed as corrupt and disdainful of the public.
Stubborn and laconic, Mr. Shamir was by his own assessment a most unlikely political leader whose very personality seemed the perfect representation of his government’s policy of patient, determined, unyielding opposition to territorial concessions.
Many of his friends and colleagues ascribed his character to his years in the underground in the 1940s, when he sent Jewish fighters out to kill British officers whom he saw as occupiers. He was a wanted man then; to the British rulers of the Palestine mandate he was a terrorist, an assassin. He appeared in public only at night, disguised as a Hasidic rabbi. But Mr. Shamir said he considered those “the best years of my life.”
His wife, Shulamit, once said that in the underground she and her husband had learned not to talk about their work for fear of being overheard. It was a habit he apparently never lost.
Mr. Shamir was not blessed with a sharp wit, a soothing public manner or an engaging oratorical style. Most often he answered questions with a shrug and an air of weary wisdom, as if to say: “This is so clear. Why do you even ask?”
In 1988, at a meeting of the political party Herut, he sat slumped on a sofa, gazing at the floor as party stalwarts heaped praises on him. Shortly thereafter, he said: “I like all those people, they’re nice people. But this is not my style, not my language. This kind of meeting is the modern picture, but I don’t belong to it.”
Rather than bend to them, Mr. Shamir often simply outlasted his political opponents, who were usually much more willing to say what was on their minds, and sometimes to get in trouble for it. To Mr. Shamir, victory came not from compromise, but from strength, patience and cunning.
“If he wants something, it may take a long time, but he’ll never let go,” Avi Pazner, his media adviser, once remarked.
In a statement on Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Mr. Shamir “belonged to the generation of giants who founded the State of Israel and fought for the freedom of the Jewish people.”
“As prime minister,” he added, “Yitzhak Shamir took action to fortify Israel’s security and ensure its future.”
Prime Minister Begin appointed Mr. Shamir as foreign minister in 1980. When Mr. Begin suddenly retired in 1983, Mr. Shamir became a compromise candidate to replace him, alternating in the post with Shimon Peres for one four-year term. Mr. Shamir won his own term in 1988. He entered the political opposition when Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party was elected prime minister in 1992. Mr. Shamir retired from politics a few years later, at 81.
A Hard-Line Approach
As prime minister, Mr. Shamir promoted continued Jewish settlement in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which Israel conquered in 1967; the Jewish population in the occupied territories increased by nearly 30 percent while he was in office. He also encouraged the immigration of tens of thousands of Soviet Jews to Israel, an influx that changed the country’s demographic character.
One of the most notable events during his tenure was the Palestinian uprising against Israeli control that began in December 1987, the so-called intifada. He and his defense minister, Mr. Rabin, deployed thousands of Israeli troops throughout the occupied territories to quash the rebellion. They failed; the years of violence and death on both sides brought criticism and condemnation from around the world.
The fighting also deepened divisions between Israel’s two political camps: leftists who believed in making concessions to bring peace, and members of the right who believed, as Mr. Shamir once put it, that “Israel’s days without Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and the Gaza Strip are gone and will not return.”
The intifada dragged on year after year as the death toll climbed from dozens to hundreds. Israel’s isolation increased, until finally the rebellion was overshadowed in 1991 by the first Persian Gulf war.
During that war, at the request of the United States, Prime Minister Shamir held Israel back from attacking Iraq, even as Iraqi Scud missiles fell on Tel Aviv. For that he won new favor in Washington and promises of financial aid from the United States to help with the settlement of new Israeli citizens from the Soviet Union.
Then in the fall of 1991, under pressure from the first President George Bush and Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Mr. Shamir agreed to represent Israel at the Middle East peace conference in Madrid, Israel’s first summit meeting with the Arab states. There, he was as unyielding as ever, denouncing Syria at one point as having “the dubious honor of being one of the most oppressive, tyrannical regimes in the world.”
Yitzhak Shamir was born on Oct. 22, 1915, in a Polish town under Russian control to Shlomo and Perla Penina Yezernitzky. He immigrated to the Palestine mandate when he was 20 and selected Shamir as his Hebrew surname. The word means thorn or sharp point.
Members of his family who remained in Poland died in the Holocaust; his father was killed by Poles whom the family had regarded as friends. Memories of the Holocaust colored his opinions for the rest of his life.
In the British-ruled Palestine mandate, Mr. Shamir first worked as a bookkeeper and a construction worker. But after Arabs attacked Jewish settlers and the British in 1936, he joined the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the underground Jewish defense league. In 1940, the Irgun’s most militant members formed the Lehi, or Stern Gang, named for its first leader, Abraham Stern.
After the British police killed Mr. Stern in 1942, Mr. Shamir became one of the group’s top commanders. Under his leadership it began a campaign of what it called personal terror, assassinating top British military and government officers, often gunning them down in the street.
To the Jewish public, and even to the other Jewish underground groups, Mr. Shamir’s gang was “lacking even a spark of humanity and Jewish conscience,” Israel Rokach, the mayor of Tel Aviv, said in 1944 after Stern Gang gunmen shot three British police officers on the streets of his city.
Years later, however, Mr. Shamir contended that it had been more humane to assassinate specific military or political figures than to attack military installations and possibly kill innocent people, as the other underground groups did. Besides, he once said, “a man who goes forth to take the life of another whom he does not know must believe only one thing: that by his act he will change the course of history.”
Several histories of the period have asserted that he masterminded a failed attempt to kill the British high commissioner, Sir Harold MacMichael, and the killing in Cairo of Britain’s minister of state for the Middle East, Lord Moyne. When Mr. Shamir was asked about these episodes in later years, his denials held a certain evasive tone.
It was during his time in the underground that Mr. Shamir met Shulamit Levy, who was his courier and confidante, he wrote in his autobiography, “Summing Up.” The couple married in 1944, meeting at a location in Jerusalem and gathering people off the street as witnesses, said their daughter, Gilada Diamant. After a hasty ceremony in deep cover, each departed immediately for a separate city.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Shamir is survived by a son, Yair, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. His wife died last year.
For a brief period after World War II, the three major Jewish underground groups cooperated — until the bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on July 22, 1946. Scores of people were killed, and Mr. Shamir was among those arrested and exiled to an internment camp in Eritrea. But he escaped a few months later and took refuge in France. He arrived in the newly independent Israel in May 1948.
Entry Into Politics
Mr. Shamir was a pariah of sorts to the new Labor government of Israel, which regarded him as a terrorist. Rebuffed in his efforts to work in the government, he drifted from one small job to another until 1955, when he finally found a government agency that appreciated his past: the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service. He served in several posts, including that of top agent in France, but returned to Israel and spent several years in business.
He joined Mr. Begin’s Herut Party in 1970 and was elected to Parliament in December 1973. When the Likud, or unity, bloc, which absorbed Herut, won power in 1977, Mr. Shamir was elected speaker. And when President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt visited Jerusalem in November 1977, Mr. Shamir and Israel’s president, Ephraim Katzir, escorted him to the speaker’s rostrum for his speech. But the next year, when the Parliament voted on the Camp David accords, which set out the terms for peace with Egypt, Mr. Shamir abstained.
In 1979, when Moshe Dayan resigned as foreign minister, Mr. Begin proposed appointing Mr. Shamir to replace him. Yechiel Kadishai, chief of the prime minister’s office under Mr. Begin, recalled that Mr. Shamir was chosen because the prime minister did not want or need a powerful figure high in his cabinet.
“Begin had already established himself,” Mr. Kadishai said. “But by 1980, he wanted no competitors for power and selected Shamir because he was not so known in political circles.”
The liberal members of Mr. Begin’s coalition objected, so Mr. Begin named himself foreign minister until 1980, when Mr. Shamir finally took the post. The Labor Party saw his appointment as an mistake, since it considered him an extremist.
Mr. Shamir’s political opponents said that his laconic nature played into his handling of the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in West Beirut in September 1982, during Israel’s war in Lebanon.
On the evening of Sept. 16, Phalangists — Lebanese Christian militiamen — entered the camps and began killing hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children while the Israeli Army, largely unaware of the killings, stood guard at the gates.
The next morning in Tel Aviv, Ze’ev Schiff, a prominent Israeli journalist, received a call from a military official who told him about the slaughter. He rushed to the office of his friend Mordechai Zipori, the minister of communications, and told him what he had heard. Mr. Zipori then called the foreign minister, Mr. Shamir.
Mr. Shamir was scheduled to meet with military and intelligence officials shortly, so with some urgency Mr. Zipori told him to ask about the report he had received that the Phalangists “are carrying out a slaughter.”
Mr. Zipori remembered that Mr. Shamir promised to look into the report. But according to the official findings of an Israeli government commission of inquiry, Mr. Shamir merely asked Foreign Ministry officers to see “whether any new reports had arrived from Beirut.” When the meeting ended, Mr. Shamir “left for his home and took no additional action,” the report said.
Years later, Mr. Shamir said: “You know, in those times of the Lebanese war, every day something happened. And from the first glance of it, it seemed like just another detail of what was going on every day. But after 24 hours, it became clear it was not a normal event.”
Mr. Shamir was certainly not the only Israeli official who failed to act, but the commission found it “difficult to find a justification” for his decision not to make “any attempt to check whether there was anything in what he heard.”
When Mr. Begin retired in 1983, Mr. Shamir was designated his successor largely because of his position in the Foreign Ministry.
Even many in his own party thought Mr. Shamir would lose the election. And even after he took office, many saw this low-key, colorless man as a caretaker. In some ways he was. Asked once what he intended to do in his second full term in office, he said he had no plans except to “keep things as they are.”
“With our long, bitter experience,” he added, “we have to think twice before we do something.”
Ethan Bronner and Jodi Rudoren contributed reporting.
NORA EPHRON, ESSAYIST, SREENWRITER AND DIRECTOR WITH A GENIUS FOR HUMOR
Nora Ephron on the set of her 2009 film, “Julie & Julia,” starring Ms. Streep, seated. More Photos »
Published: June 26, 2012
Nora Ephron, an essayist and humorist in the Dorothy Parker mold (only smarter and funnier, some said) who became one of her era’s most successful screenwriters and filmmakers, making romantic comedy hits like “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally…,” died Tuesday night in Manhattan. She was 71.
The cause was pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia, her son Jacob Bernstein said.
In a commencement address she delivered in 1996 at Wellesley College, her alma mater, Ms. Ephron recalled that women of her generation weren’t expected to do much of anything. But she wound up having several careers, all of them successfully and many of them simultaneously.
She was a journalist, a blogger, an essayist, a novelist, a playwright, an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and a movie director — a rarity in a film industry whose directorial ranks were and continue to be dominated by men. Her later box-office success included “You’ve Got Mail” and “Julie & Julia.” By the end of her life, though remaining remarkably youthful looking, she had even become something of a philosopher about age and its indignities.
“Why do people write books that say it’s better to be older than to be younger?” she wrote in “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” her 2006 best-selling collection of essays. “It’s not better. Even if you have all your marbles, you’re constantly reaching for the name of the person you met the day before yesterday.”
Nora Ephron was born on May 19, 1941, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, the eldest of four sisters, all of whom became writers. That was no surprise; writing was the family business. Her father, Henry, and her mother, the former Phoebe Wolkind, were Hollywood screenwriters who wrote, among other films, “Carousel,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Captain Newman, M.D.”
“Everything is copy,” her mother once said, and she and her husband proved it by turning the college-age Nora into a character in a play, later a movie, “Take Her, She’s Mine.” The lesson was not lost on Ms. Ephron, who seldom wrote about her own children but could make sparkling copy out of almost anything else: the wrinkles on her neck, her apartment, cabbage strudel, Teflon pans and the tastelessness of egg-white omelets.
She turned her painful breakup with her second husband, the Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein, into a best-selling novel, “Heartburn,” which she then recycled into a successful movie starring Jack Nicholson as a philandering husband and Meryl Streep as a quick-witted version of Ms. Ephron herself.
When Ms. Ephron was 4, her parents moved from New York to Beverly Hills, where she grew up, graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1958. At Wellesley, she began writing for the school newspaper, and in the summer of 1961 she was a summer intern in the Kennedy White House. She said later that perhaps her greatest accomplishment there was rescuing the speaker of the house, Sam Rayburn, from a men’s room in which he had inadvertently locked himself. In an essay for The New York Times in 2003, she said she was also probably the only intern that President John F. Kennedy had never hit on.
After graduation from college in 1962, she moved to New York, a city she always adored, intent on becoming a journalist. Her first job was as a mail girl at Newsweek. (There were no mail boys, she later pointed out.) Soon she was contributing to a parody of The New York Post put out during the 1962 newspaper strike. Her piece of it earned her a tryout at The Post, where the publisher, Dorothy Schiff, remarked: “If they can parody The Post, they can write for it. Hire them.”
Ms. Ephron stayed at The Post for five years, covering stories like the Beatles, the Star of India robbery at the American Museum of Natural History, and a pair of hooded seals at the Coney Island aquarium that refused to mate.
“The Post was a terrible newspaper in the era I worked there,” she wrote, but added that the experience taught her to write short and to write around a subject, since the kinds of people she was assigned to cover were never going to give her much interview time.
In the late 1960s Ms. Ephron turned to magazine journalism, at Esquire and New York mostly. She quickly made a name for herself by writing frank, funny personal essays — about the smallness of her breasts, for example — and tart, sharply observed profiles of people like Ayn Rand, Helen Gurley Brown and the composer and best-selling poet Rod McKuen. Some of these articles were controversial. In one, she criticized Betty Friedan for conducting a “thoroughly irrational” feud with Gloria Steinem; in another, she discharged a withering assessment of Women’s Wear Daily.
But all her articles were characterized by humor and honesty, written in a clear, direct, understated style marked by an impeccable sense of when to deploy the punchline. (Many of her articles were assembled in the collections “Wallflower at the Orgy,” “Crazy Salad” and “Scribble Scribble.”)
Ms. Ephron made as much fun of herself as of anyone else. She was labeled a practitioner of the New Journalism, with its embrace of novelistic devices in the name of reaching a deeper truth, but she always denied the connection. “I am not a new journalist, whatever that is,” she once wrote. “I just sit here at the typewriter and bang away at the old forms.”
Ms. Ephron got into the movie business more or less by accident after her marriage to Mr. Bernstein in 1976. He and Bob Woodward, his partner in the Watergate investigation, were unhappy with William Goldman’s script for the movie version of their book “All the President’s Men,” so Mr. Bernstein and Ms. Ephron took a stab at rewriting it. Their version was ultimately not used, but it was a useful learning experience, she later said, and it brought her to the attention of people in Hollywood.
Her first screenplay, written with her friend Alice Arlen, was for “Silkwood,” a 1983 film based on the life of Karen Silkwood, who died under suspicious circumstances while investigating abuses at a plutonium plant where she had worked. Ms. Arlen was in film school then, and Ms. Ephron had scant experience writing for anything other than the page. But Mike Nichols, who directed the movie (which starred Ms. Streep and Kurt Russell), said that the script made an immediate impression on him. He and Ms. Ephron had become friends when she visited him on the set of “Catch-22.”
“I think that was the beginning of her openly falling in love with the movies,” Mr. Nichols said in an interview, “and she and Alice came along with ‘Silkwood’ when I hadn’t made a movie in seven years. I couldn’t find anything that grabbed me.” He added: “Nora was so funny and so interesting that you didn’t notice that she was also necessary. I think a lot of her friends and readers will feel that.”
An Appraisal: From Sharp Edges to Sugary Success and Back(June 27, 2012)
ArtsBeat: Nora Ephron, the Queen of Quips(June 27, 2012)
Diner’s Journal: At the Table, Nora Ephron Knew Best(June 27, 2012)
Diner’s Journal: Nora Ephron Never Forgot the Food(June 27, 2012)
Times Topic:Nora Ephron
Op-Ed Articles by Nora Ephron
Opinion: iToo …Could Have Known Steve Jobs. Or Did I?(October 16, 2011)
Op-Ed Contributor: Who Are You?(August 12, 2007)
Op-Ed Contributor: The Six Stages of E-Mail(July 1, 2007)
Op-Ed Contributor: What to Expect When You’re Expecting Dinner(September 13, 2006)
Ms. Ephron followed “Silkwood” three years later with a screenplay adaptation of her own novel “Heartburn,” which was also directed by Mr. Nichols. But it was her script for “When Harry Met Sally…,” which became a hit Rob Reiner movie in 1989 starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, that established Ms. Ephron’s gift for romantic comedy and for delayed but happy endings that reconcile couples who are clearly meant for each other but don’t know it.
“When Harry Met Sally…” is probably best remembered for Ms. Ryan’s table-pounding faked-orgasm scene with Mr. Crystal in Katz’s Delicatessen on the Lower East Side, prompting a middle-aged woman (played by Mr. Reiner’s mother, Estelle Reiner) sitting nearby to remark to her waiter, indelibly, “I’ll have what she’s having.”
The scene wouldn’t have gotten past the Hollywood censors of the past, but in many other respects Ms. Ephron’s films are old-fashioned movies, only in a brand-new guise. Her 1998 hit, “You’ve Got Mail,” for example, which she both wrote (with her sister Delia) and directed, is partly a remake of the old Ernst Lubitsch film ‘The Shop Around the Corner.”
Ms. Ephron began directing because she knew from her parents’ example how powerless screenwriters are (at the end of their careers both became alcoholics) and because, as she said in her Wellesley address, Hollywood had never been very interested in making movies by or about women. She once wrote, “One of the best things about directing movies, as opposed to merely writing them, is that there’s no confusion about who’s to blame: you are.”
Mr. Nichols said he had encouraged her to direct. “I knew she would be able to do it,” he recalled. “Not only did she have a complete comprehension of the process of making a movie — she simply soaked that up — but she had all the ancillary skills, the people skills, all the hundreds of things that are useful when you’re making a movie.”
Her first effort at directing, “This Is My Life” (1992), with a screenplay by Ms. Ephron and her sister Delia, based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer about a single mother trying to become a standup comedian, was a dud. But Ms. Ephron redeemed herself in 1993 with “Sleepless in Seattle” (she shared the screenwriting credits), which brought Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together so winningly that they were cast again in “You’ve Got Mail.”
She and Ms. Streep had been friends since they worked on “Silkwood” together. “Nora just looked at every situation and cocked her head and thought, ‘Hmmmm, how can I make this more fun?’ ” Ms. Streep wrote in an e-mail on Tuesday.
Ms. Ephron earned three Oscar nominations for best screenplay, for “Silkwood,” “Sleepless in Seattle” and “When Harry Met Sally….” But in all her moviemaking years she never gave up writing in other forms. Two essay collections, “I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Reflections on Being a Woman” (2006) and “I Remember Nothing” (2010), were both best sellers. With her sister Delia she wrote a play, “Love, Loss, and What I Wore,” about women and their wardrobes (once calling it “ ‘The Vagina Monologues’ without the vaginas”) and by herself she wrote “Imaginary Friends,” a play, produced in 2002, about the literary and personal quarrel between Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy.
She also became an enthusiastic blogger for The Huffington Post, writing on subjects like the Las Vegas mogul Steve Wynn’s accidentally putting a hole in a Picasso he owned and Ryan ONeal’s failing to recognize his own daughter and making a pass at her.
Several years ago, Ms. Ephron learned that she had myelodysplastic syndrome, a pre-leukemic condition, but she kept the illness a secret from all but a few intimates and continued to lead a busy, sociable life.
“She had this thing about not wanting to whine,” the writer Sally Quinn said on Tuesday. “She didn’t like self-pity. It was always, you know, ‘Suck it up.’ ”
Ms. Ephron’s first marriage, to the writer Dan Greenburg, ended in divorce, as did her marriage to Mr. Bernstein. In 1987 she married Nicholas Pileggi, the author of the books “Wiseguy” and “Casino.”(Her contribution to “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure,” edited by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser, reads: “Secret to life, marry an Italian.”)
In addition to her son Jacob Bernstein, a journalist who writes frequently for the Styles section of The Times, Ms. Ephron is survived by Mr. Pileggi; another son, Max Bernstein, a rock musician; and her sisters Delia Ephron; Amy Ephron, who is also a screenwriter; and Hallie Ephron, a journalist and novelist.
In person Ms. Ephron — small and fine-boned with high cheeks and a toothy smile — had the same understated, though no less witty, style that she brought to the page.
“Sitting at a table with Nora was like being in a Nora Ephron movie,” Ms. Quinn said. “She was brilliant and funny.”
She was also fussy about her hair and made a point of having it professionally blow-dried twice a week. “It’s cheaper by far than psychoanalysis and much more uplifting,” Ms. Ephron said.
Another friend, Robert Gottlieb, who had edited her books since the 1970s, said that her death would be “terrible for her readers and her movie audience and her colleagues.” But “the private Nora was even more remarkable,” he added, saying she was “always there for you with a full heart plus the crucial dose of the reality principle.”
Ms. Streep called her a “stalwart.”
“You could call on her for anything: doctors, restaurants, recipes, speeches, or just a few jokes, and we all did it, constantly,” she wrote in her e-mail. “She was an expert in all the departments of living well.”
The producer Scott Rudin recalled that less than two weeks before her death, at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital, he had a long phone session with her while she was undergoing treatment, going over notes for a pilot she was writing for a TV series about a bank compliance officer. Afterward she told him, “If I could just get a hairdresser in here, we could have a meeting.”
Ms. Ephron’s collection “I Remember Nothing” concludes with two lists, one of things she says she won’t miss and one of things she will. Among the “won’t miss” items are dry skin, Clarence Thomas, the sound of the vacuum cleaner, and panels on “Women in Film.” The other list, of the things she will miss, begins with “my kids” and “Nick” and ends this way:
“Taking a bath
Coming over the bridge to Manhattan
Paul Vitello contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 28, 2012
An obituary on Wednesday about Nora Ephron, the writer and filmmaker, omitted the name of a co-editor of the book “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure,” in which Ms. Ephron is quoted as saying: “Secret to life, marry an Italian.” Besides Larry Smith, the book was also edited by Rachel Fershleiser.
BARRY BECHER, A CREATOR OF GINSU KNIFE COMMERCIALS
Published: June 30, 2012
“In Japan, the hand can be used like a knife,” the off-screen narrator of a television commercial intones as a wooden board is karate-chopped in two. “But this method doesn’t work with a tomato.” Suddenly the hand tries to cleave a plump tomato. Splat!
That commercial was the first of a hokey series for Ginsu knives, broadcast from 1978 to 1984. And masterminding them were Barry Becher and Ed Valenti, business partners who made a fortune marketing the knives on television as ultrasharp and versatile and helping to pave the way for the infomercial and other kinds of direct-response television.
Both had a hand in the commercials, literally. That was Mr. Valenti (or part of him; only his right hand was visible) chopping the board and smashing the tomato in the first of the series, and Mr. Becher (pronounced BESH-er) performed in many others (his face often visible).
“Barry had various cutting roles: slicing ham, cutting a tin can, a hose,” Mr. Valenti said on Thursday, days after Mr. Becher had died at 71 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Mr. Becher’s stepdaughter Stacy Paradise attributed his death, on June 22, to cancer.
The partners’ two-minute Ginsu commercials — offering “an amazing, low, low price!,” urging viewers to “Order now!” because “Operators are standing by,” and sweetening the pitch with their trademark, “But wait, there’s more!” — were an inescapable staple of television, mostly in the late hours, for almost a decade.
They also became a small, often lampooned part of pop culture. Johnny Carson sometimes used the knives in his routines, and Jerry Seinfeld did a Ginsu bit on the “Tonight Show. ” Mr. Becher and Mr. Valenti, who called themselves the Ginsu Guys, wrote the commercials with the copy writer Arthur Schiff and performed in them while reaping substantial profits for their twin companies, Dial Media and Ginsu Products, based in Warwick, R.I. They sold more than three million sets of knives (priced from $9.95 to $29.95 per set), racking up more than $30 million in sales by the time Ginsu was acquired by Warren E. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in 1985.
But Ginsu (pronounced with a hard G) was not made in Japan. Searching for a product they could market on television, Mr. Becher and Mr. Valenti came across a sturdy set of knives manufactured by the Scott Fetzer Company in Ohio. Wondering who would buy a knife called Fetzer, they renamed it with hope of evoking samurai swords and the dashing knife-work in Japanese steakhouses — even though Ginsu has no meaning in Japanese.
“Can it really cut through a nail and still go through a pineapple like this?” one commercial asks. “Incredible! Isn’t that amazing?”
Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, once told The Toledo Blade that the Ginsu commercials occupied a special niche in television history.
Barry Harris Becher was born in Brooklyn on April 24, 1941, to Harold and Cora Becher. After high school, he moved to Warwick, where he bought two Aamco transmission franchises. One day, Mr. Valenti, an account executive for a local NBC television station, drove to one of the Aamco shops to see if Mr. Becher wanted to buy advertising time.
“I was driving an orange Datsun 240Z, and he had one also,” Mr. Valenti said. “I thought, this guy’s got some class, and we quickly became friends.” Soon they had formed their own marketing firm.
Their first commercial — for Miracle Painter, a splatter-resistant product designed to render the paint brush “obsolete” — appeared in 1975 featuring a man in a tuxedo painting a ceiling. (“You’ll paint an average size room in just half an hour!”)
The partners later reprised their winning television formula for products created by others, among them the Miracle Slicer, Lusterware silverware and Royal DuraSteel mixing bowls.
Mr. Becher’s first marriage, to the former Charlotte Pimental, ended in divorce. Besides his stepdaughter Stacy, he is survived by his wife of 18 years, the former Leslie Smyler; two daughters from his first marriage, Lisa Young and Kim Delmastro; another stepdaughter, Jodi Lynes; two stepsons, Adam and Eric Friedman; his sister, Gail Scott; and 10 grandchildren.
For Mr. Valenti, an old T-shirt sums up the partnership. “It says, ‘TV made me what I am today,’ and that would be true for Barry and me,” he said.
“Barry had a great saying,” he added. “Whenever someone would ask, ‘What does Ginsu mean in English?’ he would say, ‘I never have to work again.’ ”
JOAN DUNLOP, FOUGHT FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH RIGHTS
Published: June 30, 2012
Joan Dunlop, a global leader in addressing women’s issues who helped prod the United Nations to define a woman’s right to say no to sex as an essential human right, died on Friday at her home in Lakeville, Conn. She was 78.
The cause was breast cancer, said her sister, Penelope West.
Ms. Dunlop devoted herself to expanding women’s rights to control their own bodies. The right to say no to a request for sex was endorsed as a universal guideline by more than 180 nations at a conference in Beijing in 1995. Ms. Dunlop lobbied the delegates as president of the International Women’s Health Coalition, an advocacy group that supports 50 health projects in eight countries. She held the post from 1984 to 1998.
Her leadership in women’s issues grew from her involvement in organizations dedicated to controlling population. She believed that if women have better living standards and more independence, they will be empowered to decide how many children they will bear.
“When we say population policy, people think family planning, and we’re saying it’s far more than that,” she said in 1994 in an interview with The New York Times.
That year, she summoned 15 colleagues to London in advance of a United Nations conference on population and development in Cairo. They wrote the “Women’s Declaration on Population Policies,” a set of guidelines that the United Nations ultimately adopted. It was the first international agreement on population policy that made women’s rights a central concern.
Ms. Dunlop had an illegal abortion as a young woman in England, an experience that fueled her campaign to improve women’s reproductive choices, she said. She was also angry at the rise of the anti-abortion movement in the United States, which she perceived as “an organizing tool” for conservatives promoting their broader political agenda.
“It’s about getting people onto the street,” she said in a 2004 oral history. “It’s getting political activism for a much broader purpose.”
She often directly attacked the Vatican and conservative politicians, including President Ronald Reagan, on the abortion issue.
“To give the unborn child — I don’t care what stage of gestation they are — preference over the woman in whom parents, teachers, society, culture has deeply invested, and say that investment has less value than a bunch of cells, is just to me an outrage,” she said in the oral history, created by Smith College.
Joan Marie Banks was born in London on May 20, 1934, and grew up in a London suburb that she described as “Stockbroker Tudor.” Her father was deputy chairman of British Petroleum, her mother an American. On a visit to her American relatives when she was 12, she fell in love with America. Several years later, she applied to Vassar College and was accepted, but her parents refused to let her go, fearing they would never see her in England again.
Remaining in Britain, she graduated from Queens Secretarial College in London. After working at the BBC and in other jobs, she went to the United States and became a secretary at a Manhattan advertising agency. Through family connections, she was hired by the Ford Foundation, where she worked on urban policy projects that became a blueprint for the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty.
She went on to work in the New York City budget office under Mayor John V. Lindsay and the Fund for the City of New York foundation and as an adviser to John D. Rockefeller III on population issues, drawing on her Ford Foundation work. At her employment interview, she told Mr. Rockefeller about her own abortion.
“He listened with great attentiveness,” she told The Times in 1998. “I sometimes wonder if that wasn’t what got me the job.”
The job was with the Population Council, which Mr. Rockefeller founded in 1952 to provide governments with scientific research on population questions. Ms. Dunlop helped broaden its research to include gender roles and sexuality, and she introduced Mr. Rockefeller to feminist leaders, including Germaine Greer and Gloria Steinem.
Ms. Dunlop was later vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood in New York and an assistant to Vartan Gregorian, president of the New York Public Library.
Ms. Dunlop’s marriages to Peter Dunlop and Edward Deagle ended in divorce. She once said she was never “faintly interested” in having children. In addition to her sister, she is survived by her brother, Peter Banks.
On her last day of work at the International Women’s Health Coalition in 1998, Ms. Dunlop was presented with a volume of letters from women around the world describing what she had done for them.
“It’s almost better than an obituary,” Ms. Dunlop said on the occasion, “because you’re not dead.”
DORIS SINGLETON, ‘I LOVE LUCY’ NEIGHBOR
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: June 29, 2012
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Doris Singleton, who played Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s neighbor on the hit 1950s sitcom “I Love Lucy,” died here on Tuesday. She was 92.
Lucie Arnaz, the daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, confirmed the death in a post on her Facebook page.
Ms. Singleton appeared on dozens of other TV shows in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, including another Lucille Ball program, “Here’s Lucy,” “Perry Mason,” “All in the Family” and “Days of Our Lives.” She played Margaret Williams, the mother-in-law of Chip Douglas, in later episodes of “My Three Sons.”
But she is probably best remembered for her role in 10 episodes of “I Love Lucy” as Lucy’s neighbor — first called Lillian Appleby and then Caroline Appleby — the wife of a radio station owner played by Hy Averback.
“She was sort of Lucy’s nemesis” because both had young sons they would brag about, Ms. Singleton said in a 2005 interview for the Archive of American Television of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation. “There was a rivalry there, but she had to be nice, Lucy had to be nice to Caroline, because her husband owned the radio station.”
Ms. Singleton appeared in a memorable episode that featured Ms. Ball and Harpo Marx mirroring each other’s movements. Mr. Arnaz died in 1986 and Ms. Ball in 1989.
Dorothea Singleton was born Sept. 28, 1919, in Brooklyn. She was a professional ballet dancer in her teens and became a singer and radio actress. She was married to the comedy writer Charlie Isaacs for 61 years before his death in 2002.
Ms. Singleton told the television archive that the shooting schedule for “My Three Sons” was tailored for Fred MacMurray, the star, and that she was required to leave her clothes for the show at the studio for six weeks.
When she asked why, she was told: “Well, because Fred doesn’t come in until after all the other scenes are shot, and then he does the scenes with the people that he’s involved with, but you have to leave the clothes there because we never know if we’re going to have to do retakes on something.”
Because she had no scenes with Mr. MacMurray, she added, she never met him.