EDWARD KENNEDY, STALWART OF THE SENATE
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, in 2001 working on his remarks before a patient’s bill of rights rally. More Photos >
Published: August 26, 2009
Senator Edward M. Kennedy
of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew acclaim and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died late Tuesday night. He was 77.
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The death of Mr. Kennedy, who had been battling brain cancer, was announced Wednesday morning in a statement by the Kennedy family, which was already mourning the death of the senator’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver
two weeks earlier.
“Edward M. Kennedy — the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply — died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port,” the statement said. “We’ve lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever.”
said Mr. Kennedy was one of the nation’s greatest senators.
“His ideas and ideals are stamped on scores of laws and reflected in millions of lives — in seniors who know new dignity, in families that know new opportunity, in children who know education’s promise, and in all who can pursue their dream in an America that is more equal and more just — including myself,” he said. Mr. Obama is scheduled to speak at a funeral Mass for Mr. Kennedy on Saturday morning in Boston.
Mr. Kennedy had been in precarious health since he suffered a seizure in May 2008. His doctors determined the cause was a malignant glioma
, a brain tumor that carries a grim prognosis.
As he underwent cancer treatment
, Mr. Kennedy was little seen in Washington, appearing most recently at the White House in April as Mr. Obama signed a national service bill that bears the Kennedy name. In a letter last week, Mr. Kennedy urged Massachusetts lawmakers
to change state law and let Gov. Deval Patrick
appoint a temporary successor upon his death, to assure that the state’s representation in Congress would not be interrupted.
While Mr. Kennedy was physically absent from the capital in recent months, his presence was deeply felt
as Congress weighed the most sweeping revisions to America’s health care system in decades, an effort Mr. Kennedy called “the cause of my life.”
On July 15, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Mr. Kennedy headed, passed health care legislation, and the battle over the proposed overhaul is now consuming Capitol Hill.
Mr. Kennedy was the last surviving brother of a generation of Kennedys that dominated American politics in the 1960s and that came to embody glamour, political idealism and untimely death. The Kennedy mystique — some call it the Kennedy myth — has held the imagination of the world for decades, and it came to rest on the sometimes too-narrow shoulders of the brother known as Teddy.
Mr. Kennedy, who served 46 years as the most well-known Democrat in the Senate, longer than all but two other senators, was the only one of those brothers to reach old age. President John F. Kennedy
and Senator Robert F. Kennedy
were felled by assassins’ bullets in their 40s. The eldest brother, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., died in 1944 at the age of 29 while on a risky World War II bombing mission.
Mr. Kennedy spent much of the last year in treatment and recuperation, broken by occasional public appearances and a dramatic return to the Capitol last summer to cast a decisive vote on a Medicare
He electrified the opening night of the Democratic National Convention
in Denver in August with an unscheduled appearance and a speech
that had delegates on their feet. Many were in tears.
His gait was halting, but his voice was strong. “My fellow Democrats, my fellow Americans, it is so wonderful to be here, and nothing is going to keep me away from this special gathering tonight,” Mr. Kennedy said. “I have come here tonight to stand with you to change America, to restore its future, to rise to our best ideals and to elect Barack Obama
president of the United States.”
Senator Kennedy was at or near the center of much of American history in the latter part of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. For much of his adult life, he veered from victory to catastrophe, winning every Senate election he entered but failing in his only bid for the presidency; living through the sudden deaths of his brothers and three of his nephews; being responsible for the drowning death on Chappaquiddick Island of a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne, a former aide to his brother Robert. One of the nephews, John F. Kennedy Jr.
, who the family hoped would one day seek political office and keep the Kennedy tradition alive, died in a plane crash in 1999 at age 38.
Mr. Kennedy himself was almost killed in 1964, in a plane crash that left him with permanent back and neck problems.
He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy.
Senator Robert C. Byrd
, Democrat of West Virginia, one of the institution’s most devoted students, said of his longtime colleague, “Ted Kennedy would have been a leader, an outstanding senator, at any period in the nation’s history.”
Mr. Byrd is one of only two senators to have served longer in the chamber than Mr. Kennedy; the other was Strom Thurmond
of South Carolina. In May 2008, on learning of Mr. Kennedy’s diagnosis of a lethal brain tumor, Mr. Byrd wept openly on the floor of the Senate.
More Than a Legislator
Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a playboy and a rake for many of his years. Dismissed early in his career as a lightweight and an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. A man of unbridled appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad landscape of social policy.
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He never gave up the fight, for the poor, the disadvantaged, the homeless, the forgotten, the neglected.
He stood for those whose voices were ignored, or worse……silenced.
He worked with those who bitterly opposed him on many policies, programs, and congressional bills—-many of those in the end who could not help but have respect for the Lion of the Senate.
Senater Edward Moore Kennedy (1932-2009) is now gone from us.
May he rest in peace.
Farewell, Sen. Kennedy.
Thank you for showing grace under pressure.
Farewell, Sen. Kennedy.
You were more than one-of-a-kind. You set the standard on standing your ground in the fight for millions of American’s rights, and America is a better place because of your endeavors.
DORIS WALKER, LEADER OF ANGELA DAVIS’ DEFENSE
Published: August 28, 2009
Doris Brin Walker, a radical lawyer who pursued her goal of keeping “the road clear of legal roadblocks” for revolutionaries by helping to defend Angela Davis against murder and kidnapping charges in the 1970s, died on Aug. 13 in San Francisco. She was 90.
Doris Walker with her client Angela Davis on May 25, 1972.
The cause was a stroke, Dan Feldman, her son-in-law, said.
Ms. Walker was a principal defense lawyer when Ms. Davis was tried in 1972 on charges of helping to kill a California judge. A jury acquitted her.
Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a professor at Harvard
Law School, said in a seminar in 2005 that the defense team had broken ground in using consultants during jury selection.
Ms. Walker also represented John W. Powell, a journalist who had been charged with sedition after asserting in print that the United States had used biological weapons in the Korean War. A mistrial resulted, after which the government added the more serious charge of treason. But it could not produce two eyewitnesses to the same overt act, a legal requirement in proving treason.
“The reason they don’t have the witnesses is that they just never existed,” Ms. Walker was quoted as saying by The New York Times. “The reason is that they have committed no crime. It’s that simple.”
A United States commissioner, the forerunner of today’s federal magistrate, ordered the treason charges dropped in 1959. Two years later, the government dropped the sedition counts.
After being fired from a law firm in 1946, she was fired by a succession of canneries for union organizing. She joined Cutter Laboratories in San Francisco, makers of antibiotics and serums.
Cutter fired her, in part, for being a Communist, but a unit of the National Labor Relations Board
and a California state court ordered her reinstatement. In 1955, the California Supreme Court reversed the lower court, holding that Communists would be presumed to be dedicated to the practice of sabotage.
The United States Supreme Court upheld the California high court, on the narrow ground that the issue was not a federal matter. Justice William O. Douglas, in a dissent, addressed a broader issue. “Belief cannot be penalized consistently with the First Amendment,” Justice Douglas said.
In 1957, Ms. Walker helped represent 14 Californians at a trial in which they were convicted under the Smith Act of advocating the violent overthrow of the federal government. The United States Supreme Court reversed their conviction, ruling that for the Smith Act to have been violated, a person must have advocated for a specific seditious action and not just held seditious beliefs.
In 1970, Ms. Walker was elected president of the National Lawyers Guild, an organization founded in 1937 to counter the American Bar Association
’s opposition to New Deal initiatives. Membership had fallen in the 1950s after the House Un-American Activities Committee called the group the “foremost legal bulwark of the Communist Party.”
The guild bounced back during Ms. Walker’s year-and-a-half term as a new generation of lawyers joined, many of them opposed to the Vietnam War and holding countercultural views. Even so, as the first woman to hold the president’s post, Ms. Walker had to overcome opposition by some women in the ranks who called her “a man in a woman’s skirt.”
In an interview with The St. Petersburg Times in 2008, Ms. Walker said she “must be the oldest living Communist Party member of my generation.” One of the first things she did after joining the party in the early 1940s was to invite the writer Jessica Mitford and Ms. Mitford’s husband, Robert Treuhaft (later Ms. Walker’s law partner), to enroll.
“We wondered when you were going to ask us,” Ms. Mitford replied, as she recounted the episode in “A Fine Old Conflict,” a memoir.
Ms. Walker contended in interviews that she had been a Communist continuously since at least 1942. But in May 1956, The New York Times printed a correction to an article the day before that had identified Ms. Walker as a Communist. In the correction, she said she was not a Communist “at present.”
Ms. Walker’s first marriage, to Henry Marasse, ended in divorce. She then married George Walker, whose name she used for professional purposes. Her third husband was Mason Roberson, to whom she was married for 25 years until his death in 1977.
Ms. Walker is survived by her daughter, Emily Brin Roberson; her sister, Jean Zembrosky; and a granddaughter.
DOMINICK DUNNE, WRITER WHO CHRONICLED HIGH-PROFILE CRIME
Published: August 26, 2009
, who gave up producing movies in midlife and reinvented himself as a best-selling author, magazine writer, television personality and reporter whose celebrity often outshone that of his subjects, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.
Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
Dominick Dunne at his home in Manhattan in 2002.
Pool Photo by Isaac Brekken
Mr. Dunne sits near O. J. Simpson at Mr. Simpson’s 2008 trial in Las Vegas. He also reported on Mr. Simpson’s murder trial.
The cause was bladder cancer, a family spokesman said. The spokesman had initially declined to confirm the death, saying the family had hoped to wait a day before making an announcement so that Mr. Dunne’s obituary would not be obscured by the coverage of Senator Edward M. Kennedy
In the past year Mr. Dunne traveled to the Dominican Republic and Germany for experimental stem-cell treatments to fight his cancer, at one point writing that he and the actress Farrah Fawcett
, who died in June, were in the same Bavarian clinic.
He sprang to national prominence with his best-selling novels “The Two Mrs. Grenvilles” in 1985 and “An Inconvenient Woman” in 1990, both focused on murders in the upper realms of society. He later chronicled high-profile criminal trials and high society as a correspondent and columnist for Vanity Fair magazine.
He achieved perhaps his widest fame from his reporting of the O. J. Simpson
murder trial in 1994 and 1995 and later as the host of the program “Dominick Dunne’s Power, Privilege and Justice,” on what was then Court TV (now TruTV).
Last year, as a postscript to his Simpson coverage, Mr. Dunne defied his doctor’s orders and flew to Las Vegas to attend Mr. Simpson’s kidnapping and robbery trial.
Mr. Dunne’s magazine career was weighted toward the coverage of sensational murder trials. He made no secret of the fact that his sympathy generally lay with the victim, and he was vocal about what he considered the misapplication of justice.
He never hesitated to admit that his sympathetic stance stemmed from the murder of his daughter, Dominique, by John Sweeney, her ex-boyfriend, in 1982. Ms. Dunne, a 22-year-old actress, was found strangled, and Mr. Sweeney, who was found guilty only of voluntary manslaughter and a misdemeanor for an earlier assault, served less than three years.
“I’m sick of being asked to weep for killers,” Mr. Dunne often said. “We’ve lost our sense of outrage.”
During the trial, Tina Brown
, who was the editor of Vanity Fair at the time, suggested he keep a journal. The account, “Justice: A Father’s Account of the Trial of His Daughter’s Killer,” was published in Vanity Fair in 1984.
“He never pretended to be objective in covering trials,” Graydon Carter
, the current editor of Vanity Fair, said Wednesday. “He was always writing from the point of view of the victim because of what happened to his daughter, and he had a riveting way of knowing, almost like Balzac, what to tell the reader when.”
“I realized the power writing has, and it has also helped me deal with my rage,” he said in an interview with The New York Times for this obituary in 2000. “It gave me a lifelong commitment not to be afraid to speak out about injustice.”
Mr. Dunne’s speaking out led to a lawsuit for slander filed by Gary Condit, a Democratic congressman from California, over remarks Mr. Dunne had made on national radio and television in 2001. Mr. Condit had been scheduled to testify in a deposition about his relationship with Chandra Levy
, a federal government intern who disappeared in May 2001 and whose body was found in a Washington park in 2002.
Mr. Dunne quoted a man who asserted that he had heard that Mr. Condit had talked about his relationship with a woman whom he had described as a clinger. Mr. Dunne said this had created an environment that led to Ms. Levy’s disappearance. Mr. Condit’s suit, originally seeking $11 million in damages, was settled for an undisclosed sum and an apology. A later suit by Mr. Condit was dismissed.
Mr. Dunne also clashed with the Kennedy family about his involvement in the 2002 trial of Mr. Skakel, a first cousin of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Mr. Skakel was sentenced to 20 years to life in the murder of Martha Moxley
in 1975. Her body was found beneath a tree on her parents’ property in Greenwich, Conn.
In 2003, in a 14,000-word article in The Atlantic Monthly arguing that the case against his cousin was flawed and had left reasonable doubt, Mr. Kennedy accused Mr. Dunne of intimidating prosecutors and helping to drive the news media into “a frenzy to lynch the fat kid.”
Mr. Dunne said in The Times interview that he had also been a source of information for a book that Mark Fuhrman
was writing about the Skakel trial. He had met him when Mr. Fuhrman testified during the O. J. Simpson murder trial. “I had some hot information about Skakel,” Mr. Dunne said, “and I knew Fuhrman would bring it to attention.”
Mr. Dunne, known as Nick to his friends, was a ubiquitous figure in both American and European society. He attributed his success to his being a good listener. “Listening is an underrated skill,” he said in discussing his interviews with political figures and celebrities like Imelda Marcos
, Elizabeth Taylor
, Diane Keaton
and Mr. von Bulow.
At Michael’s restaurant in Manhattan, a favorite gathering spot of the news media elite, Mr. Dunne could often be found at his regular corner table receiving admirers. Even as his health declined, he would show up in his trademark round glasses and a Turnbull & Asser shirt, with the proper white collar and large blue stripes.
With his appetite for gossip, a short stop at his table would usually yield some nugget.
And the story would almost always start with, “Do you know what I heard?” and end with “Can you believe that!”
‘A Rotten Athlete’
Born in Hartford, Dominick John Dunne was one of six children of a fourth-generation Irish-Catholic family. His father, Richard, was a heart surgeon, and although the family was well-off, his childhood was not happy.
“I was a rotten athlete, I liked puppet shows and I was kind of a sissy,” he recalled in The Times interview. “Something about me drove my father crazy. He mocked me and often beat me with a wooden coat hanger, and although we belonged to WASP clubs, we were never a part of things. We were like minor-league Kennedys.”
Drafted into the Army during his senior year in high school, Mr. Dunne fought in the Battle of the Bulge and won both his father’s admiration and a Bronze Star for crawling past Nazi sentries and carrying back a wounded soldier. After his Army service, he attended Williams College
, where he and a group that included Stephen Sondheim
started a theater.
After graduating in 1949, he moved to New York, where he became stage manager for television shows and later an assistant to the producer of “Playhouse 90.” In 1954 he married Ellen Griffin, who was known as Lenny and with whom he had two sons, Griffin and Alexander, in addition to Dominique.
By 1957 he was in Santa Monica, Calif.; a year later he was producing at 20th Century Fox and living in Beverly Hills. By the 1970s he was a vice president of Four Star Television and produced “The Boys in the Band,” “Panic in Needle Park” and other films.
Dominick and Lenny Dunne became famous in the industry for their parties, the most memorable of which was a black and white ball, held in 1964 to celebrate their 10th anniversary. The guests included Nancy and Ronald Reagan
and Truman Capote
, who two years later used the idea for his own ball of the same name, at the Plaza Hotel
in New York, a renowned event to which the Dunnes were not invited.
“My jobs never qualified me for the strata of Hollywood we moved in,” he recalled. “I always kept scrap books and saved everything. On some level, I knew it was not going to last.”
It didn’t. Devastated when his wife asked for a divorce — “She was the real thing, and I became a fake,” he said — he declined into “a hopeless alcoholic,” he admitted, and started to use cocaine. Returning from Mexico, he was arrested for drug possession at the airport in Los Angeles.
But his drinking continued, and though none of his films were box-office smashes, the denouement came in 1973 with the widely panned “Ash Wednesday,” a picture he produced starring Ms. Taylor. Compounding that failure was the publication in a trade newspaper of a joke he told, while he was drinking, about a Hollywood power broker.
“I kind of knew it was going to be my swan song,” he said of the remark. He became a nonperson in the industry.
At one point he sold all his possessions including, for $300, his dog, a West Highland
terrier. He went on unemployment, all the while terrified that his friends would see him in the line.
In 1979, approaching his mid 50s, he left Los Angeles. “I got into the car and didn’t know where I was headed,” he said in an interview. “I drove north, stopped for a flat tire in Oregon and stayed there in a one-room cabin for six months.” There he started to write for the first time. The book was a novel of Hollywood, “The Winners.”
A New Chapter
He moved to New York in 1981. Reviews of “The Winners” were scathing, but his editor, Michael Korda
, advised him to go in another direction.
“He told me there was nothing people liked more than reading about the rich and powerful in criminal situations,” Mr. Dunne said. “It was, like, ‘Boing’ in my head, and I made a genre out of the thing. I wrote ‘The Two Mrs. Grenvilles,’ about a social family whose son married a showgirl who was then accused of murdering him. Two million copies were sold and that book utterly changed my life.”
Other books followed, among them “People Like Us”; “A Season in Purgatory,” based on a rich Catholic family and murder; and “An Inconvenient Woman,” about a social couple and the murder of the husband’s mistress.
In 1999 he published a memoir, “The Way We Lived Then, Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper,” studded with photographs of the famous.
His increasing prominence as a reporter, writer, author and television personality made him a staple at fashionable dinner parties and social events.
“All the people who dumped me years before were now giving dinner parties for me,” he said during Mr. Simpson’s trial. “And I went.”
Although he had been divorced for two decades, he remained devoted to his ex-wife, who learned she had multiple sclerosis in 1972, until her death in 1997. He is survived by his sons Griffin, an actor and director of New York, and Alexander of Portland, Ore.; and a granddaughter, Hannah Dunne.
In 2000, Mr. Dunne was found to have prostate cancer. Six years later he was being treated in a hospital when, he said, he decided to leave. Disconnecting himself from the medical instruments attached to him, he walked out and took a taxi home.
“It caused a lot of commotion at the hospital,” he said. “But I was convinced I was going to die, and the room was not the right setting for my death scene.
“I stayed home for five days and did everything the doctor told me to do,” he added, “and a week later I flew to Europe.”
JOHN E. CARTER, DOO-WOP FALSETTO
Published: August 25, 2009
John E. Carter, whose soaring falsetto was an instantly recognizable signature on hit records by the seminal doo-wop groups the Flamingos and the Dells, died on Friday in Harvey, Ill. He was 75 and lived in Park Forest, Ill.
Evan Agostini/Getty Images
John E. Carter
The cause was lung cancer, family members told The Chicago Tribune.
Mr. Carter, known as Johnny, was a founding member of the Flamingos and later sang for nearly half a century with the Dells, adding his pure, almost ethereal top notes to songs now regarded as doo-wop and rhythm and blues classics.
Some were national hits, while others achieved belated recognition by doo-wop connoisseurs. They included “Golden Teardrops” and “I’ll Be Home” with the Flamingos and, with the Dells, “Stay in My Corner,” “There Is” and the 1969 reissue of the 1956 hit, “Oh, What a Night.”
“When he sang lead, which was not all that often, it was a nice voice,” said Marv Goldberg, who documents the history of doo-wop groups on his Web site, uncamarvy.com
. “But when he did high tenor backup, it was simply amazing.”
Mr. Carter grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where he sang in the choir of a neighborhood church. Around 1950, he and several fellow choir members, calling themselves the Swallows, began singing on street corners and front steps in the close-harmony style that would later be called doo-wop, after one of the typical nonsense syllables used as rhythmic filler.
The Flamingos, who adopted their name when another group called the Swallows began climbing the charts, developed a smooth, expertly blended harmonic style that lent itself to slow ballads. After signing with the Chance label in 1953, they scored local hits with the singles “If I Can’t Have You” and “That’s My Desire” before recording “Golden Teardrops,” a record widely regarded as one of the supreme achievements of the doo-wop era, although it failed to make the national charts.
The song, a slow ballad with intricate harmonies, features Mr. Carter’s haunting falsetto floating over the melody like a voice from another world. In a 1992 interview, Sollie McElroy, the lead singer, compared the slow process of developing the song to putting together a puzzle. “We rehearsed a long time on that song,” he said. “In fact we were almost ready to give it up. We couldn’t get it like we wanted to. And Johnny started bringing in that tenor and it started fitting in.”
After signing with Chess Records in 1955, Mr. Carter and the Flamingos recorded “I’ll Be Home” for the company’s Checker label. It reached No. 5 on the rhythm and blues charts but failed to achieve crossover success when Pat Boone
recorded his hit version of the song. Three other songs for Checker, with Nate Nelson singing lead, have come to be regarded as doo-wop high-water marks: “A Kiss from Your Lips,” “The Vow,” and “Would I Be Crying.”
In 1956, Mr. Carter was drafted into the Army. After serving as a cook in Germany, he returned to Chicago to find that he had been replaced as a Flamingo. He did not get the chance to sing on the Flamingos hits “Lovers Never Say Goodbye” and “I Only Have Eyes for You,” but he did appear with them in the Alan Freed film “Rock, Rock, Rock!” (1956) singing “Would I Be Crying.”
In 1960 Mr. Carter joined the Dells, another Chicago-area group known for its close-knit harmonies. Over the years the Dells made the transition from doo-wop to rhythm and blues, keeping their personnel intact. The up-tempo “There Is” (1968) was a solid hit for the group, and “Stay in My Corner” (1968), with Mr. Carter sharing lead vocals with Marvin Junior, reached the top of the rhythm and blues charts.
The group’s rerecording of “Oh, What a Night,” this time as a soul song with Mr. Carter’s ringing soprano on top, reached the Top 10 on the pop charts, No. 1. on the rhythm and blues charts and sold more than a million copies.
After recording the hits “The Love We Had (Stays on My Mind)” (1971) and “Give Your Baby a Standing Ovation” (1973), the Dells settled into a decades-long schedule of touring that lasted until 2008.
The Dells served as consultants for the 1991 film “The Five Heartbeats,” which was loosely based on their story. “A Heart Is a House for Love,” recorded for the film, became a minor hit. In 2000 they recorded the album “Reminiscing.”
Mr. Carter is survived by five daughters, Jewel
Carter, Ouida Carter, Tamla Harper, Kenyatta Davis and Thela Davis, and five grandchildren, The Tribune reported.
The Flamingos, of whom Mr. Carter was the last surviving member, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
in 2001, and the Dells followed in 2004.
ERNEST BROWN, LAST MEMBER OF THE ORIGINAL TAPPING COPASETICS
Published: August 25, 2009
Ernest Brown, the last surviving and most diminutive member of the Original Copasetics, an ensemble of tap-dancing stars formed in 1949 that helped to revive the art of tap, died on Friday in Chicago. He was 93 and lived in Chicago.
His death was confirmed by Reginald McLaughlin, a tap protégé known as Regio the Hoofer, with whom Mr. Brown performed for 16 years.
The Original Copasetics was a fraternity of vividly individual tap dancers, each with his own casually authoritative style and specialty. Its shows throbbed with the street-corner improvisation at the heart of American tap dance and hinted at the revues and film musicals through which tap and the dancers had gained new audiences.
Formed on the death of Bill Bojangles Robinson, the international tap star, the group took its name from Robinson’s familiar observation that “everything is copasetic,” or perfect.
The group was formed in part as a survival mechanism for its dancers and for the art of tap, regrouping often as the years (and “tap revivals”) went by. The groups played a crucial role in the tap boom of the 1970s and ’80s.
The first Copasetics group included the composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn and the choreographer Cholly Atkins. But its focus was dancers. Its founding members also included stars like Honi Coles and Charles Cookie Cook, with whom Mr. Brown performed into the 1960s as half of the long-lived Cook and Brown comedic tap vaudeville duo. (The partners also performed together in other acts, including one called “Garbage and His Two Cans,” in which they played the cans.)
The Copasetic shows not only brought new acclaim to the old-time tap stars but also featured young dancers to whom those stars were mentors, following one of tap’s long traditions. That relationship and the tap boom years are reflected in Gregory Hines
’s 1989 film “Tap,” a loving homage to veteran and new tappers. They were celebrated, too, in the Broadway revue “Black and Blue,” also in 1989.
But there was nothing quite like the Copasetic shows. Presented often in small, funky theater spaces, they featured a diverse range of tap stylists who would saunter, skid and explode in fusillades of articulated footwork and rhythms across a stage. There was the dreaming lope of Chuck Green, for instance, or the skimming flight of Jimmy Slyde and the flinty rhythmic exercises of Howard Sandman Sims.
And then there was Mr. Brown, known universally simply as Brownie. About 4 feet 8 inches tall, with an innocently joyous air and ease, he had more than a little Jiminy Crickett in him, though he did not hesitate to press loud and strong when he thought he and other dancers were being cheated.
In a revealing clip from “Cow Cow Boogie,” a 1942 Dorothy Dandridge
“soundie,” the 1940’s equivalent of the music video, Mr. Brown is seen in his typical guise of a sweet-natured little second banana to the dapper Mr. Cook. (Mr. Cook died in 1991.)
Mr. Brown’s footwork is less flashy than Mr. Cook’s, but those short legs work with surprisingly lanky-looking expertise, and his timing is deft in a small, quick-passing moment when Mr. Cook cups Mr. Brown’s plump face in his hand. Mr. Brown’s exit may be childlike, his bent body following in the slipstream of Mr. Cook’s dancing, but it is not childish. What stood out about Mr. Brown’s performing was more unforgettable presence than style.
“He had an amazing sense of ‘entitlement’ in a good way,” Jane Goldberg, the tap performer and historian, wrote in an e-mail message on Monday. “He always felt he belonged on the stage, shaking his shoulders in that jazzy, goofy move he was known for, even while Honi Coles was cutting Gregory Hines in a tap battle, or other of the greats were there. I don’t think Brownie was tap as much as jazz, and he had a wonderful feeling for jazz.”
Mr. Brown began to perform professionally as a child. His career, of more than 80 years, included headlining at the Roxie, Radio City Music Hall
and the Cotton Club in New York, the Palladium
in London and the Latin Casino in Paris in the 1930’s and 40’s.
Cook and Brown also danced on Broadway in the musical “Kiss Me Kate” (1948) and performed twice at the Newport Jazz Festival in the 1960’s.
In later years, with a decline in the popularity of tap acts, Mr. Brown earned a living as a bank security guard. But he eventually returned to Chicago, where he formed an act with Mr. McLaughlin. Mr. Brown’s last performance was with Mr. McLaughlin in the American Tap Dance Foundation’s Tap City festival last year in New York City. The two may also be seen in the Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s tap documentary, “JUBA — Masters of Tap and Percussive Dance,” which was nominated for an Emmy.
Among the honors bestowed on Mr. Brown in recent years was the American Tap Dance Foundation’s 2004 Hoofer Award.
Mr. Brown is survived by his daughter, Barbara Jenkins, of Chicago, and four grandchildren.
ELLIE GREENWICH, POP SONGWRITER
Published: August 26, 2009
Ellie Greenwich, a songwriter who collaborated with Phil Spector
, Jeff Barry and others to create a greatest-hits list of 1960s teenage pop songs like “Da Doo Ron Ron,” “Then He Kissed Me,” “Hanky Panky” and “Leader of the Pack,” died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 68.
William E. Sauro/The New York Times
Ellie Greenwich in 1984, at the Bottom Line in New York.
Patrick Riviere/Getty Images
Ellie Greenwich, left, with Pete Norman in 2003.
The cause was a heart attack following a case of pneumonia, her niece, Jessica Weiner, said.
Ms. Greenwich was among the songwriters, music publishers and producers working at the Brill Building, at 1619 Broadway in Manhattan, which (along with 1650 Broadway, across the street) became a center of pop music in the early 1960s.
The buildings were home to the songwriting teams of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Burt Bacharach
and Hal David, and Carole King
and Gerry Goffin, among many others, and from their offices and studios came a flood of teenage anthems, story songs and achy love songs fraught with the hormonal angst of the young.
For a time Ms. Greenwich and Mr. Barry, who was then her husband, were the most successful of the teams, especially when they wrote for the girl groups the Crystals, the Dixie Cups, the Shangri-Las and others.
In 1964 alone, 17 singles by Ms. Greenwich and Mr. Barry landed on the pop charts, according to “Always Magic in the Air,” a 2005 book by Ken Emerson about the Brill Building days. They included “Chapel of Love,” a No. 1 for the Dixie Cups, and “Do Wah Diddy Diddy,” which became a No. 1 for Manfred Mann.
Ms. Greenwich and Mr. Barry also wrote “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “River Deep — Mountain High” (all with Mr. Spector). They were also singers, recording their own songs and those of others as the Raindrops.
Perhaps their most famous song was “Leader of the Pack,” which Ms. Greenwich and Mr. Barry wrote with the producer Shadow Morton. His previous hit, for the Shangri-Las, was the idiosyncratic “Remember (Walking in the Sand),” a song about a girl’s heartbreak that included sound effects and spoken words.
“Leader of the Pack” made use of similar tools, creating what Mr. Barry called “a movie for the ear.” Telling a soap-opera-like story of a girl who is in love with a biker but forbidden by her parents to see him, it ends with the biker’s death as he speeds away from her after their breakup and crashes. The music is melodramatic — “I met him at the candy store” was its signature wail — and woven into it are the sounds of a revving motorcycle, the fatal crash and the cooing, speaking voices of the girl’s friends.
“Leader of the Pack” was a No.1 hit for the Shangri-Las
in 1964, and it became emblematic enough to be lampooned almost immediately by a band calling itself the Detergents, which recorded a song called “Leader of the Laundromat.”
“Leader of the Pack” also became the title of a stage show, a theatrical collage of songs by Ms. Greenwich and others that made it to Broadway in 1985.
Eleanor Louise Greenwich was born in Brooklyn on Oct. 23, 1940. When she was 11 her father, William, an electrical engineer, and mother, Rose, a medical secretary, moved the family to Levittown, on Long Island. She attended Queens College
and graduated from Hofstra University
, but her planned career as a teacher ended after only a few months when it became evident that she would rather write songs than stand in front of a class.
She got her break in 1962, when she showed up for an appointment at Trio Music, the company started by Mr. Leiber and Mr. Stoller, in the Brill Building. Mr. Leiber offered her a chance to use the company’s resources in exchange for the right of first refusal to publish her songs.
She met Mr. Spector at Trio as well. He produced some of her early songs, written with Tony Powers, like “Why Do Lovers Break Each Other’s Heart?,” for Bob B. Soxx and the Blue Jeans, and “Today I Met the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” for Darlene Love.
Ms. Greenwich was also an arranger and producer, and she is generally given credit for discovering Neil Diamond
. She co-produced Mr. Diamond’s early hits, including “Cherry, Cherry” and “Kentucky Woman.”
“Ellie Greenwich was one of the most important people in my career,” Mr. Diamond said in a statement on Wednesday. “She discovered me as a down-and-out songwriter.”
Ms. Greenwich’s marriage to Mr. Barry ended in divorce. She is survived by a sister, Laura Weiner of Greenlawn, N.Y.