Monthly Archives: September 2009

SADIE AND BESSIE DELANY: “HAVING OUR SAY” – THE THEATRICAL PRESENTATION RETURNS

A few years ago I was delighted to read the autobiographical book of the famous Delany sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delany:
  
  
Having Our Say The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. by Emily Mann, Annie Elizabeth Delany, Sarah Louise Delany, and Amy Hill Hearth (Paperback – Jan 1998)
4.4 out of 5 stars (100)
  
  
Their lovely book told of their lives from young women making their way in the world, through segregation, lynchings, racism, and sexism, the Civil Rights Movement, all the way up to their twilight years, when they still showed the sass and spiritual faith that had taken them so far in life. Bessie and Sadie both received college degrees, when many people did not even finish a high school education. (Bessie became the second Black woman to practice dentistry in New York, and Sadie became the first Black home economics teacher in a New York high school.)
 
The sisters were not shy in telling the world the story of their lives, even though they could not see why anyone would be interested in their lives. But, after reading their words, one cannot help but be drawn into such fascinating and interesting lives. (The sisters remained unmarried, and they both lived together, until they died—-Bessie, at 104 in 1995, and Sadie at 109, three and a half years later.) They left a marvelous legacy of remarkable lives, the essence of which still speaks to us all in how to take on the world.
  
Now, being presented again at the McCarter Theater Center, is the play “Having Our Say: The Delany Sister’s First 100 Years”. The play, written and directed by Emily Mann, has opened to great reviews, and the following New York Times article of the play is a wonderful review.
  
For those of you who are fortunate, try to go see this play.
  
The Delany sister’s book is a cherished memoir of their lives, and it is good to see their story on the stage.
  
They are truly missed.
  
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THEATER REVIEW: EMILY MANN’S ‘DELANY SISTERS’ BACK AT MCCARTER THEATER
 
Published: September 25, 2009
 
Emily Mann couldn’t have planned it better. Just as the nation’s politicians and pundits are talking about race as if it were a new phenomenon and debating whether talking about it helps or hurts African-American leaders like President Obama, Ms. Mann has brought “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” back to the McCarter Theater Center in a truly lovely production.
 
 
 
T Charles Erickson

IN HARMONY Lizan Mitchell, left, and Yvette Freeman portray the centenarian siblings Sadie and Bessie in “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” written and directed by Emily Mann.

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Times Topics: New Jersey Arts Listings | New Jersey Arts

The Delany sisters are two maiden ladies (their term) living quietly together in Mount Vernon, N.Y., and talking (although they can’t imagine why anyone would be interested) about their family and their lives, which span a century.
 
Sadie, a retired schoolteacher, is 103 years old. Bessie, a retired dentist, is 101. Their father was born a slave in 1858. After hearing Civil War stories at their father’s knee, the sisters lived to see Jim Crow laws, rampant lynchings, the civil rights movement, the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the battle of Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill. (“I know a rascal when I see one,” Bessie observes.)
 
The play is set in 1993, and Bessie (Yvette Freeman) predicts that the United States will have a white woman as president before a black man. “I’m a little psychic,” she explains to Sadie (Lizan Mitchell) and the audience.
 
That prediction is one of the newly meaningful pleasures in “Having Our Say,” which had its world premiere at the McCarter in early 1995 and moved to Broadway two months later. Ms. Mann, the McCarter’s artistic director, wrote the play and directed it, as she does again, expertly, in 2009. It’s based on an oral history of the same name by the Delanys and a journalist, Amy Hill Hearth.
 
Fourteen years later, the Delanys’ observations are as fresh as ever, and Ms. Freeman and Ms. Mitchell give splendid performances.
 
Bessie won’t put up with any nonsense. “People learn not to mess with me from Day 1,” she announces early on. Sadie is confident but a more philosophical sort. “It takes a smart woman to fall in love with a good man,” she observes.
 
Although they had suitors, neither sister ever married. And after living together all these years, they not only finish each other’s sentences; they finish them together in effortless harmony.
 
On opening night, there was an unfortunate hint of condescension at first. The predominantly white audience seemed at times to find every pronouncement a little too funny, à la “Elderly black women say the darndest things.” But as the evening proceeds, Bessie and Sadie’s dignity knocks that silliness out of theatergoers’ heads. And the women’s most personal memories remind everyone that we’re all in this together.
 
In the third and last act, Sadie and Bessie recall the death of their father, an educator who became the first black Episcopal bishop. Both women had been living on their own for a while, but the loss of their father was devastating. “I didn’t realize how safe I felt in the world” when he was around, Sadie recalls. Bessie wishes she had spent more time with her mother and regrets leaving the room and not being at her mother’s side when she breathed her last.
 
This is a handsome production with exquisitely low-key sets by Daniel Ostling and beautiful projection design by Wendall K. Harrington. Imagine a horizontal black-and-white photograph the height and width of the stage, with a cutout in the bottom center. There the action takes place. Sometimes the screen projection is a Delany family portrait, sometimes a montage of “whites only” signs, sometimes film of civil rights protests, images of the changing world the sisters knew.
 
Bessie died at 104 in 1995, after “Having Our Say” had been received well on Broadway. Sadie, left behind, died almost three and a half years later. She was 109.
 
“Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” by Emily Mann, is at the Berlind Theater, McCarter Theater Center, Princeton, through Oct. 18. Information: (609) 258-2787 or mccarter.org.
 
 
 
 
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Other books by the Delany sisters:
 
 
The Delany Sisters' Book of Everyday Wisdom
The Delany Sisters’ Book of Everyday Wisdom by Sarah Delany (Paperback – September 15, 1996)

4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (8)  

 

On My Own at 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie
On My Own at 107: Reflections on Life Without Bessie by Sarah L. Delany (Paperback – February 11, 1998)

5.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (13)  

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 9-27-2009

SUSAN ATKINS, MANSON FOLLOWER
 
Published: September 25, 2009
 
Susan Atkins, a member of Charles Manson’s murderous “family” who spent the last four decades in prison for her role in one of the most sensational crimes of the 20th century — the killings of the actress Sharon Tate and seven others in 1969 — died Thursday at a women’s prison in Chowchilla, Calif. She was 61.
 
 
September 25, 2009    

Associated Press

Susan Atkins in a 1969 file photo.

September 25, 2009    

Pool photo by Ben Margot

Susan Atkins beside her husband, James Whitehouse, during her parole hearing on Sept. 2.

 

 

She died of natural causes, said Gordon Hinkle, a spokesman for the California Department of Corrections. A year ago, Ms. Atkins received a diagnosis of brain cancer and had a leg amputated.
 
Before being moved to a medical clinic at the California Central Women’s Facility in Chowchilla last year, Ms. Atkins was incarcerated at the California Institution for Women, in Corona. At her death, she was the longest-serving woman in the California penal system, Mr. Hinkle said.
 
Ms. Atkins, 21 years old at the time of the killings, was the best known of the three young women convicted with Mr. Manson. Her grand jury testimony helped secure an indictment against Mr. Manson and several adherents — among them Ms. Atkins herself — in what became known as the Tate-LaBianca murders, a killing spree over two nights.
 
On Aug. 8, 1969, acting on Mr. Manson’s orders, Ms. Atkins and several “family” members broke into Ms. Tate’s home near Beverly Hills, Calif. In the early hours of Aug. 9, they killed five people: Ms. Tate, who was eight and a half months pregnant; Abigail Folger, an heiress to the Folger coffee fortune; Jay Sebring, a celebrity hairstylist; Voytek Frykowski; and Steven Parent. Ms. Tate’s husband, the director Roman Polanski, was abroad at the time.
 
The next night, also at Mr. Manson’s direction, several of his associates murdered Leno LaBianca, a wealthy supermarket owner, and his wife, Rosemary, in their Los Angeles home.
 
The motive for the killings was not immediately apparent. Several of Mr. Manson’s followers later testified that he had ordered them in the hope of starting an apocalyptic race war, which he called Helter Skelter, after the Beatles song.
 
The murders and the ensuing 22-week trial drew the fevered attention of the news media.
 
They were the subject of a best-selling nonfiction book, “Helter Skelter” (Norton, 1974), by the prosecutor in the case, Vincent Bugliosi, with Curt Gentry, and also engendered a spate of movies, songs and even an opera.
 
Susan Denise Atkins was born on May 7, 1948, in San Gabriel, Calif., and reared mainly in Northern California. The middle of three children, Ms. Atkins said that her parents were alcoholics and that she was sexually abused by a male relative when she was a girl.
 
A quiet, middle-class girl, Ms. Atkins sang in her school glee club and church choir. When she was a teenager, her mother died of cancer. Afterward, Ms. Atkins’s father, financially depleted by his wife’s illness, moved the family frequently, often leaving Ms. Atkins and her younger brother with relatives as he looked for work.
 
At 18, Ms. Atkins quit high school and left home, winding up in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. She supported herself through odd jobs like secretarial work and topless dancing. Soon, she met Mr. Manson and joined his band of adherents, who settled for a time at the Spahn Ranch, a dilapidated former film set north of Los Angeles. As a member of the “family,” Ms. Atkins was given a new name, Sadie Mae Glutz.
 
In 1968, Ms. Atkins gave birth to a son. Mr. Manson — who by all accounts was not the father — had her name the child Zezozose Zadfrack Glutz. While he was still a baby, the child was removed from Ms. Atkins’s care and later adopted.
 
The first murder in which Ms. Atkins was involved was that of Gary Hinman, a friend of Mr. Manson’s. On July 25, 1969, according to news accounts, Mr. Manson dispatched Ms. Atkins and other followers to Mr. Hinman’s home to demand money. After torturing Mr. Hinman for several days, one of the group, Bobby Beausoleil, killed him. The Tate-LaBianca murders took place two weeks later.
 
In October 1969, Ms. Atkins was arrested for the Hinman murder. In jail, according to Mr. Bugliosi’s book and other accounts, she boasted to cellmates of having stabbed Ms. Tate, tasting her blood and using it to write “Pig” on the front door of the house.
 
Ms. Atkins, Mr. Manson and other “family” members were charged with the seven Tate-LaBianca murders. Ms. Atkins testified before a grand jury that she had stabbed Ms. Tate repeatedly as she begged for the life of her unborn child. Ms. Atkins later recanted the confession.
 
The trial began in the summer of 1970. On Jan. 25, 1971, after deliberating for nine days, the jury found Ms. Atkins, Mr. Manson and Patricia Krenwinkel guilty of the five Tate murders. It also found the three of them and Leslie Van Houten guilty of the two LaBianca murders. (Another “family” member, Charles Watson, was convicted separately of all seven murders.) In other trials, Ms. Atkins, Mr. Manson, Mr. Beausoleil and Bruce Davis were convicted of Mr. Hinman’s murder.
 
Mr. Manson and the three women were sentenced to death. In 1972, after the death penalty was temporarily abolished in California, their sentences were reduced to life imprisonment.
 
In 1974, Ms. Atkins became a born-again Christian, according to her memoir, “Child of Satan, Child of God” (Logos International, 1977; with Bob Slosser). She denounced Mr. Manson, formed a prison ministry and did charitable work of all kinds. She was routinely denied parole, most recently this month.
 
In 1981, Ms. Atkins was married in a prison chapel to a flamboyant Texan named Donald Lee Laisure. Mr. Laisure, who said he first met Ms. Atkins in the mid-1960s, described himself in interviews as a multimillionaire; he spelled his surname with a dollar sign in place of the “s.”
 
Mr. Laisure also told reporters that Ms. Atkins was his 29th wife, in other accounts, his 36th. The marriage was dissolved after a few months. In 1987, Ms. Atkins married James W. Whitehouse, who is now a lawyer.
 
Ms. Atkins had two brothers, Michael and Steven. The whereabouts of her son are unknown.
 
 
Dennis Hevesi contributed.
 
  
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WILLIAM SAFIRE, TIMES COLUMNIST
George Tames/The New York Times

William Safire in 1984. More Photos >

Published: September 27, 2009
 
William Safire, a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon and a Pulitzer Prize-winning political columnist for The New York Times who also wrote novels, books on politics and a Malaprop’s treasury of articles on language, died at a hospice in Rockville, Md., on Sunday. He was 79. 
September 26, 2009    
William Safire, Times Columnist, Dies at 79

Brendan Smialowski/Reuters

William Safire during a taping of “Meet the Press” in 2006. More Photos »

 

 

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Martin Tolchin, a friend of the family.
 
There may be many sides in a genteel debate, but in the Safire world of politics and journalism it was simpler: there was his own unambiguous wit and wisdom on one hand and, on the other, the blubber of fools he called “nattering nabobs of negativism” and “hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history.”
 
He was a college dropout and proud of it, a public relations go-getter who set up the famous Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate” in Moscow, and a White House wordsmith in the tumultuous era of war in Vietnam, Nixon’s visit to China and the gathering storm of the Watergate scandal, which drove the president from office.
 
Then, from 1973 to 2005, Mr. Safire wrote his twice weekly “Essay” for the Op-Ed Page of The Times, a forceful conservative voice in the liberal chorus. Unlike most Washington columnists who offer judgments with Olympian detachment, Mr. Safire was a pugnacious contrarian who did much of his own reporting, called people liars in print and laced his opinions with outrageous wordplay.
 
Critics initially dismissed him as an apologist for the disgraced Nixon coterie. But he won the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, and for 32 years tenaciously attacked and defended foreign and domestic policies, and the foibles, of seven administrations. Along the way, he incurred enmity and admiration, and made a lot of powerful people squirm.
 
Mr. Safire also wrote four novels, including “Full Disclosure” (Doubleday, 1977), a best-seller about succession issues after a president is blinded in an assassination attempt, and nonfiction that included “The New Language of Politics” (Random House, 1968), and “Before the Fall” (Doubleday, 1975), a memoir of his White House years.
 
And from 1979 until earlier this month, he wrote “On Language,” a New York Times Magazine column that explored written and oral trends, plumbed the origins and meanings of words and phrases, and drew a devoted following, including a stable of correspondents he called his Lexicographic Irregulars.
 
The columns, many collected in books, made him an unofficial arbiter of usage and one of the most widely read writers on language. It also tapped into the lighter side of the dour-looking Mr. Safire: a Pickwickian quibbler who gleefully pounced on gaffes, inexactitudes, neologisms, misnomers, solecisms and perversely peccant puns, like “the president’s populism” and “the first lady’s momulism.”
 
There were columns on blogosphere blargon, tarnation-heck euphemisms, dastardly subjunctives and even Barack and Michelle Obama’s fist bumps. And there were Safire “rules for writers”: Remember to never split an infinitive. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors. Proofread carefully to see if you words out. Avoid clichés like the plague. And don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
 
Behind the fun, readers said, was a talented linguist who could not resist his addiction to alliterative allusions. There was a consensus too that his Op-Ed essays, mostly written in Washington and syndicated in hundreds of newspapers, were the work of a sophisticated analyst with voluminous contacts and insights into the way things worked in Washington.
 
Mr. Safire called himself a pundit — the word, with its implication of self-appointed expertise, might have been coined for him — and his politics “libertarian conservative,” which he defined as individual freedom and minimal government. He denounced the Bush administration’s U.S.A. Patriot Act as an intrusion on civil liberties, for example, but supported the war in Iraq.
 
He was hardly the image of a buttoned-down Times man: The shoes needed a shine, the gray hair a trim. Back in the days of suits, his jacket was rumpled, the shirt collar open, the tie askew. He was tall but bent — a man walking into the wind. He slouched and banged a keyboard, talked as fast as any newyawka and looked a bit gloomy, like a man with a toothache coming on.
 
His last Op-Ed column was “Never Retire.” He then became head of the Dana Foundation, which supports research in neuroscience, immunology and brain disorders. In 2005, he testified at a Senate hearing in favor of a law to shield reporters from prosecutors’ demands to disclose sources and other information. In 2006, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. From 1995 to 2004, he was a member of the board that awards the Pulitzer Prizes.
 
William Safir was born on Dec. 17, 1929, in New York City, the youngest of three sons of Oliver C. and Ida Panish Safir. (The “e” was added to clarify pronunciation.) He graduated from the Bronx High School of Science and attended Syracuse University, but quit after his second year in 1949 to take a job with Tex McCrary, a columnist for The New York Herald Tribune who hosted radio and television shows; the young legman interviewed Mae West and other celebrities.
 
In 1951, Mr. Safire was a correspondent for WNBC-TV in Europe and the Middle East, and jumped into politics in 1952 by organizing an Eisenhower-for-President rally at Madison Square Garden. He was in the Army from 1952 to 1954, and for a time was a reporter for the Armed Forces Network in Europe. In Naples he interviewed both Ingrid Bergman and Lucky Luciano within a few hours of each other.
 
In 1959, working in public relations, he was in Moscow to promote an American products exhibition and managed to steer Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev into the “kitchen debate” on capitalism versus communism. He took the photograph that became an icon of the encounter. Nixon was delighted, and hired Mr. Safire for his 1960 campaign for the presidency against John F. Kennedy.
 
Starting his own public relations firm in 1961, Mr. Safire worked in Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s 1964 presidential race and on John V. Lindsay’s 1965 campaign for mayor of New York. Mr. Safire also wrote his first book, “The Relations Explosion” (Macmillan, 1963).
 
In 1962, he married the former Helene Belmar Julius, a model, pianist and jewelry designer. The couple had two children, Mark and Annabel. His wife and children survive him, as does a granddaughter.
 
In 1968, he sold his agency, became a special assistant to President Nixon and joined a White House speechwriting team that included Patrick J. Buchanan and Raymond K. Price Jr. Mr. Safire wrote many of Nixon’s speeches on the economy and Vietnam, and in 1970 coined the “nattering nabobs” and “hysterical hypochondriacs” phrases for Vice President Spiro T. Agnew.
 
After Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of The Times, hired Mr. Safire, one critic said it was like setting a hawk loose among doves. As Watergate broke, Mr. Safire supported Nixon, but retreated somewhat after learning that he, like others in the White House, had been secretly taped.
 
Mr. Safire won his Pulitzer Prize for columns that accused President Jimmy Carter’s budget director, Bert Lance, of shady financial dealings. Mr. Lance resigned, but was acquitted in a trial. He then befriended his accuser.
 
Years later, Mr. Safire called Hillary Clinton a “congenital liar” in print. Mrs. Clinton said she was offended only for her mother’s sake. But a White House aide said that Bill Clinton, “if he were not the president, would have delivered a more forceful response on the bridge of Mr. Safire’s nose.”
 
Mr. Safire was delighted, especially with the proper use of the conditional.
 
  
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DON YARBOROUGH, STIRRED TEXAS POLITICS
 
Published: September 23, 2009
 
Don Yarborough, a liberal Texas Democrat whose stiff challenge to John B. Connally Jr. in the primary race for governor in 1962 exposed political tensions that John F. Kennedy hoped to smooth when he visited Texas the following November, died Wednesday at his home in Houston. He was 83.
 
 
Don Yarborough in 1968.

 

 

The cause was Parkinson’s disease, said his daughter Sophie de Vise Yarborough.
 
Mr. Yarborough, a Houston lawyer, put together a surprisingly successful coalition of urban liberals, labor unions, Mexican immigrants and blacks that nearly beat Mr. Connally in a runoff primary in the Texas race in 1962.
 
Mr. Yarborough campaigned as an all-out supporter of Kennedy and his New Frontier policies. He repeatedly called Mr. Connally “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” for his repudiation of such Kennedy policies as medical care for the aged and increased federal spending on education.
 
As the 1964 primary season approached, it was generally assumed that Mr. Yarborough, a vocal supporter of Kennedy’s recently proposed civil rights bill, would challenge Mr. Connally again and that another divisive campaign might lead to a split party and a Republican victory in the national election. One purpose of Kennedy’s two-day swing through the state was to unite fractious Democrats.
 
After Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on Nov. 22, Lyndon B. Johnson, as president, tried to enforce a political truce in Texas. Liberal candidates agreed not to run against Mr. Connally in the primary race for governor, while conservatives agreed not to run against Senator Ralph Yarborough, a liberal who was unrelated to Don Yarborough.
 
Don Yarborough, rebuffing Johnson, entered the fray, but this time around, circumstances were quite different. Mr. Connally, who had been shot with Kennedy in Dallas and campaigned with his arm in a sling, won a resounding victory.
 
Donald Howard Yarborough was born in Dec. 15, 1925, in New Orleans, where his father was president of a bank that went under during the Depression. The family moved to Houston when Don was 12.
 
After graduating from San Jacinto High School, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, completed officer-training school and he served as a company commander in China at the end of World War II.
 
He attended the University of Texas on the G.I. Bill, earning a law degree in 1950, and then re-entered the Marines as a judge advocate. On leaving the service, he returned to Houston, where he started a law firm and plunged into civic affairs.
 
He became president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1956 and in 1960 won its national public-speaking contest.
 
Paul Harvey, the Chicago radio commentator, heard Mr. Yarborough’s speech and called him a future national leader on his widely syndicated radio show, an endorsement that led to speaking invitations all over Texas.
 
Mr. Yarborough made an unsuccessful run for lieutenant governor in 1960, but his strong showing against a longtime incumbent encouraged him to run against five other Democrats in the 1962 primary.
 
He won enough votes to force a runoff with Mr. Connally, who then squeaked by to win the party’s nomination in June by fewer than 30,000 votes.
 
After his defeat in 1964, Mr. Yarborough entered the primary for a third time in 1968 but lost to Preston A. Smith, the state’s lieutenant governor.
 
Mr. Yarborough’s first two marriages ended in divorce. Besides his daughter Sophie, of Garrett Park, Md., he is survived by his wife, Charity O’Connell Yarborough; his children, Inez Vanderburg of Austin, Tex., Francey Yarborough of Manhattan, Leverett Yarborough of Bend, Ore., Danny Yarborough of Los Angeles, Donald Arthur Yarborough, known as Patrick, and Mollie O’Connell Yarborough, both of Houston; and four grandchildren.
 
After leaving politics, Mr. Yarborough returned to his law practice but discovered a new cause in the late 1970s, when he became a Washington lobbyist for a group working for research to cure paraplegia; he also became active in the Council for a Livable World, an organization devoted to halting the spread of nuclear weapons.
 
  
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ART FERRANTE, POP PIANIST IN FAMED DUO
 
Published: September 22, 2009
 
Art Ferrante, who, as half of the piano duo Ferrante & Teicher, entranced millions of listeners in the 1950’s and 1960’s with florid, arpeggio-packed versions of movie themes and popular songs, sprinkled with classical showpieces, died on Saturday at his home in Longboat Key, Fla. He was 88.
 
 
September 22, 2009    
Courtesy of the Scott W. Smith Collection

The pianists Art Ferrante, standing, and Lou Teicher in 1964.

 

 

The death was confirmed by his manager, Scott W. Smith.
 
In the golden age of easy-listening music, when conductors and arrangers like Mantovani and Percy Faith soothed American ears assaulted by rock ’n’ roll, Ferrante & Teicher emerged as headliners with their high-energy, declamatory approach to Broadway tunes and film scores, like their hit recordings of the themes from “The Apartment,” “Exodus” and “Midnight Cowboy,” to name three of their biggest hits.
 
Their records from the 1950’s, which used special effects often intended to highlight the sound capabilities of hi-fi systems, earned them a new generation of fans in the 1990’s who embraced them as seminal figures of the space-age bachelor-pad genre, also known as space-age pop.
 
Arthur Ferrante was born in Brooklyn on Sept. 7, 1921, and began playing piano at an early age. From childhood he attended Juilliard, where he studied with Carl Friedberg and often played duets with a fellow child prodigy, Lou Teicher.
 
After graduating in 1940 and earning a postgraduate diploma in 1942, Mr. Ferrante worked as an accompanist for the dancer Paul Draper and also worked with Irving Berlin to help orchestrate his film scores in Hollywood. But he returned to Juilliard in 1946 to teach music theory. There he resumed his partnership with Mr. Teicher in earnest.
 
The two began performing at nightclubs and in 1947 won a contest on a radio program called “The Big Break” with a torrid rendition of “Begin the Beguine.” The prize — which they got to choose — was a concert at Town Hall in Manhattan, where they made their debut in 1948.
 
For the next four decades, Mr. Ferrante and Mr. Teicher, who died last year, maintained a busy schedule of touring and recording, although the early years were tough.
 
“We were not wealthy kids from wealthy families,” Mr. Ferrante told the television show “Entertainment Tonight” in 1986. “We acquired a small fleet of trucks to haul our Steinways in. We drove the trucks, unloaded the pianos, attached the pedals, hammered in the legs. Once we had move them onto the stage we tuned the pianos and practiced.
 
Then we came back and performed a two-hour concert.”
 
The duo broke through as recording artists in 1960 with the theme from “The Apartment,” recorded with full orchestra and chorus. The single rose to the upper levels of the pop charts and sold more than a million copies.
 
Scaling back on the classical selections and embracing film music, the Movie Theme Team, as the duo became known, sold 14 million records in the next four years. “Exodus,” their biggest hit, sold 6.5 million copies and rose to No. 1. A string of film-related hits followed, including “Tonight” from “West Side Story” and the themes from “Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Cleopatra” and “Lawrence of Arabia.”
 
On stage, the duo developed a flashy, Vegas-style look to complement the trickling glissandi pouring from their keyboards.
 
“In their patent leather shoes, electric red jackets, black-rimmed spectacles and matching pompadour toupees they are the Tweedle twins of the concert stage,” Time magazine wrote in 1965.
 
Ferrante & Teicher recorded more than 150 albums. While most stuck to the highly successful formula of movie themes, pop tunes and selections from the classics, their early records, from the 1950’s, explored the outer limits of sonic special effects. Preparing their pianos with rubber mutes, sandpaper, strips of metal, cotton balls and cardboard, and occasionally pounding or plucking the strings, Mr. Ferrante and Mr. Teicher elicited all sorts of odd sound effects in the albums “Hi-Fireworks” (1953), “Soundproof” (1956) and “Blast Off” (1959).
 
Mr. Ferrante and Mr. Teicher retired in 1989, after performing about 5,200 concerts and making more than 200 television appearances. On “The New Hollywood Squares” in the mid-1980’s, each was given a little electric piano to answer musical questions.
 
After retirement, they continued to record occasionally. In 2001 they returned to an experimental piece they had begun as Juilliard teachers in 1950, “Denizens of the Deep.” They released it on their own label, Avant-Garde Records, which they had founded in 1983.
 
Mr. Ferrante is survived by his wife, Jena; a daughter, Brenda Eberhardt of Colorado Springs, Colo.; and two grandchildren.
 
  
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WILMA COZART FINE, CLASSICAL MUSIC RECORD PRODUCER
 
Published: September 24, 2009
 
Wilma Cozart Fine, a record producer who, with her husband, C. Robert Fine, ran the classical division of Mercury Records in the 1950s and early ’60s, producing hundreds of recordings that are still prized by collectors for the depth and realism of their sound, died on Monday at her home in Harrison, N.Y. She was 82.
 
 
September 25, 2009    
Universal Music Group

Wilma Cozart Fine

 

 

Her death was announced by her son Thomas.
 
Mrs. Fine was one of the first women to excel at record production, a field that is still dominated by men. She brought sensitivity and taste to her work, which included notable recordings by the conductors Rafael Kubelik, Antal Dorati and John Barbirolli; the composer and conductor Howard Hanson; the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony; the pianists Byron Janis, Gina Bachauer and Sviatoslav Richter; and the cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
 
With Mr. Fine, an ingenious recording engineer whom she married in 1957, she developed recording techniques that, even in their early monaural recordings, seemed to capture not only the performance but also a sense of the space in which it took place.
 
The Fines were among the first to make mass-market stereo recordings, and in the early 1960s they experimented with recording on 35-millimeter film instead of on magnetic recording tape. Among their productions were sonic spectaculars like a 1954 recording of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” by Dorati and the Minneapolis Symphony, with bells recorded at Yale University and a cannon recorded at West Point, and a 1958 remake, with different bells and cannon.
 
Mrs. Fine also had a brilliant marketing sense. One of the first things she did when she joined Mercury, in 1950, was persuade the label’s president, Irving Green, to sign the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, then floundering. Mercury’s first recording with that orchestra, overseen by the Fines, was Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” with Kubelik conducting, in April 1951. When the recording was released that fall, along with another recording of works by Bartok and Bloch, Howard Taubman wrote in The New York Times that “unless this recording has flattered the ensemble’s competence out of all recognition, one must welcome the Chicagoans back to the top rank of American orchestras.”
 
But it was another sentence in the review that caught the Fines’ attention: “Thanks to one of the finest technical jobs of recording made on this side of the Atlantic the orchestra’s tone is so lifelike that one feels one is listening to the living presence.” Thereafter, Mercury’s classical discs bore the legend “Living Presence,” and the slogan helped define the company’s goals and achievements.
 
Mrs. Fine was born in Aberdeen, Miss., on March 29, 1927, and grew up in Fort Worth. She studied music education and business administration at North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) in Denton and found a job working as Dorati’s personal secretary when he was music director of the Dallas Symphony. When Dorati moved to the Minneapolis Symphony, Mrs. Fine followed, but she soon decided to move to New York, where, with a recommendation from Dorati, she was hired by Mercury.
 
Besides signing and recording American orchestras, Mrs. Fine and her crew made recordings in London, Vienna and Moscow. She retired in 1964 to rear her sons, who survive her. In addition to Thomas, of Brewster, N.Y., her sons are Matthew, of Montclair, N.J., John, of Port Chester, N.Y., and Christopher, of Ridgewood, N.J. She is also survived by a brother, Eugene Cozart of Fort Worth; and four grandchildren. Mr. Fine died in 1982.
 
Mrs. Fine came out of retirement in 1989 to oversee the reissue of the Mercury Living Presence recordings on CD. She worked on the remastering project for a decade.
 
 
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 26, 2009
An obituary on Friday about Wilma Cozart Fine, a classical record producer, omitted one of her surviving sons. He is Christopher, of Ridgewood , N.J.
 
 
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COLORLINES: SAVE THE DATE – FACING RACE 2010

 

  

ARC

d


September 24, 2009 ColorLines Direct. News and commentary from ColorLines magazine and RaceWire blog.

Facing Race 2010

Building on the success and excitement generated by racial justice activists from across the country, Facing Race 2010 guarantees lively discussions on today’s hot-button race issues while offering models for real change.

Facing Race will take place September 23-25, 2010 at the McCormick Hyatt Regency in Chicago, IL.
Check arg.org/ facingrace2010 for more information and updates.

colorlines


Sept/Oct 2009 Issue Online Now!

Homeland Security Pushes for Pass ID
Immigrant rights advocates say it’s no better than Real ID.

Music Review: Darius Rucker
“Learn to Live” reflects on reaching middle-age with a raw and honest vulnerability.


racewire

The Obama Plan in 4 Minutes
Learn the basic principles of President Obama’s health insurance reform plan as presented to Congress on September 9, 2009.
Seth Wessler on WBAI: Racism Rigged the Economy [AUDIO]
Our own Seth Wessler appeared on WBAI’s Talk Back! with Hugh Hamilton last week. Seth and Hugh discussed racial disparities in the economy, as detailed in ARC’s Race and Recession report from earlier this year.

Ben Jealous: Personal Responsibility Alone Won’t Fix Structural Inequalities
Benjamin Todd Jealous, President of the NAACP, writes about personal responsibility and the structural components that should be part of the conversation also.

DC Mayor Closing Low-Income Child Care Centers
DC Mayor Fenty’s 2010 budget eliminated funding for the DC Department of Parks and Recreation’s Early Childhood and Out of School Time programs in Wards 6, 7 and 8, some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
Rinku Sen: “Illegal” Word is a Gateway to Racism and Exploitation

Rinku Sen takes the term ‘illegal’ to task, showing how it’s been used to make us comfortable with the suffering and exploitation of millions of undocumented immigrants.


   
ColorLines Direct is the weekly news update of the Applied Research Center (ARC) sent to subscribers, supporters and participants in ARC’s activities. ARC publishes ColorLines Magazine, Racewire.org and most recently hosted The Compact for Racial Justice Phone Forums.


:: ColorLines Magazine Online :: The Applied Research Center

ColorLines Magazine

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HATEWATCH: HUGE BUST IN L.A. TARGETS ANTI-BLACK STREET GANGS

Of course it is no surprise that this anti-black racial pogrom has been going on for quite some time, and that imprisoned racist convicts can call out murderous attacks against Black citizens, via their use of cell phones in California prisons.
 
Then again, the callous disregard for black life in America, is very evident in the inhumane brutality that these savages show towards Black citizens:
 
 
“The indictment alleged that gang members ‘have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans.’ ”
 
 
If these were White citizens being attacked in their neighborhoods in this way, the whole world would have known about it.
 
That these sadistic gang bangers target Blacks with hate crimes is just more proof that Black people are still devalued in America. Then again, why should Aryan white supremacists go out of their way to attack Blacks when they have race scab ass-kissers of whiteness-running-dog lackeys such as these gang bangers to do their work for them?
 
So much for a so-called post-racial America.
 
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Huge Bust in Los Angeles Targets Anti-Black Street Gangs
 
by Sonia Scherr on September 23, 2009
Police mounted a large-scale raid this week aimed at weakening a violent Los Angeles street gang that regularly targets blacks.
 
Some 1,300 local, state and federal law enforcement officials were involved in the pre-dawn sweep on Tuesday that followed a year-long investigation and led to the arrest of more than 45 people connected to the Avenues gang. A far-reaching federal indictment named 88 members or associates of the Avenues who were wanted on charges that included murder, attempted murder, drug dealing, witness intimidation and money laundering.
 
The Avenues is a largely Hispanic gang controlled by the Mexican Mafia from within the California state prison system. The 222-page indictment unsealed Tuesday describes how the group tries to terrorize blacks who venture into its territory in Northeast Los Angeles.
 
“Neighborhoods controlled by the Avenues gang are frequently ‘tagged’ with racist threats directed against African-Americans that are intended to intimidate African-Americans and prevent African-Americans from living in the neighborhood,” it said. “Avenues gang members also confront African-Americans with threats of violence and murder in order to intimidate and prevent African-Americans from residing in or entering the neighborhoods controlled by the Avenues gang.”
 
The indictment also noted several specific incidents of violence and intimidation directed at blacks. In a Sept. 5, 2000, incident, gang members including Sam Vega (also known as “Fox”) pulled a gun on a black man and said, “This is Avenues gang, what’s up nigger?”
 
On March 8, 2005, gang members including Freddy Bailon (also known as “Thief”) attacked one victim and stabbed another in their home, “while shouting racial epithets and ordering them to move out of the neighborhood controlled by the Avenues gang,” according to the indictment.
 
And on Feb. 21, 2009, while using a hidden telephone from his prison cell, gang member Richie Aguirre (also known as “Lil Pee Wee”) ordered his daughter not to associate with blacks.
 
An article published in 2006 in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report documented how the Avenues and other Hispanic street gangs in Los Angeles were waging campaigns of terror against blacks. After the racially-motivated murders of two black men, for instance, four Avenues gang members were convicted in 2005 of violating federal hate crime laws and sentenced to life in prison.
 
This spring, 147 members and associates of another racist street gang in the Los Angeles suburbs, Varrio Hawaiian Gardens, were indicted on racketeering charges, including murder, attempted murder and kidnapping.
 
The indictment alleged that gang members “have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans.”
 
SOURCE  

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 9-20-2009

ZAKES MOKAE, TONY-WINNING ACTOR
 
Published: September 15, 2009
 
Zakes Mokae, a Tony-winning South African actor whose partnership with his countryman, the playwright Athol Fugard, in plays like “The Blood Knot,” “Boesman and Lena” and “Master Harold … and the Boys,” brought the insidious psychological brutality of apartheid to the attention of a world audience, died in Las Vegas on Friday. He was 75 and lived in Las Vegas and Cape Town.
 
 
September 15, 2009    

Ruby Washington/The New York Times

Zakes Mokae in 1986.

 

 

The cause was complications of a stroke he had on May 6, said his wife, Madelyn. He had previously received diagnoses of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, she said.
 
Mr. Mokae, who was black, and Mr. Fugard, who is white, were part of a drama collective in South Africa in the 1950s. In 1960, when they performed together in Mr. Fugard’s play about brothers with skins of different hues, “The Blood Knot,” it was the first time, Mr. Fugard said in an interview Monday, that black and white performers had appeared on the same stage in South Africa. The play not only defied a national taboo, but also propelled Mr. Fugard to international fame as a playwright and Mr. Mokae to a rich and varied career in theater, film and television.
 
The play’s local fame persuaded an English producer to open it in London, where Mr. Mokae continued to act in it, though Mr. Fugard did not. It was a sensation (despite a scathing review by Kenneth Tynan). As Mr. Fugard continued to explore the corrosive effects of racial separatism on the individual psyches of both blacks and whites in subsequent plays, Mr. Mokae took on key roles in several of them. In “Boesman and Lena,” about a mixed-race couple migrating from one bleak settlement to another, both emotionally embittered and inextricably yoked by their predicament, Mr. Mokae appeared in the 1970 American premiere Off Broadway, with Ruby Dee and James Earl Jones. Mr. Mokae first played an old black man, nearly incapable of communicating, who nonetheless befriends Lena, and later took over for Mr. Jones as Boesman.
 
In “A Lesson From Aloes” he played a political activist who confronts a white man, a former friend he fears may be a government informer, taking the role in regional theater and appearing as an understudy to Mr. Jones on Broadway.
 
And in 1982 he won a Tony for his performance as Sam, one of two servants working in a tea room in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, in “Master Harold,” the first of Mr. Fugard’s works to have its world premiere outside of South Africa. In the play Sam looms as a surrogate father for a spoiled white teenager, whose frustrations with his actual parents result in the eventual manifestation of his ugly, racist upbringing. The play had its roots in his own childhood, Mr. Fugard said, and the character of Sam in two men he himself had known.
 
“I knew I wanted Zakes in that defining role in the play,” Mr. Fugard said.
 
Zakes Makgona Mokae (pronounced ZAYKES Muh-KWA-nuh Mo-KYE) was born in Johannesburg on Aug. 5, 1934. In vicious times in South Africa, he was jailed several times as a young man. He was playing saxophone in a jazz band in the late 1950s when he was introduced to Mr. Fugard by a black journalist, Bloke Modisane, who was helping Mr. Fugard create a theater that was specifically about South African life, a theater that did not exist at the time. He had had no previous acting experience, but Mr. Fugard, sensing a bond between them, cast him in two plays even before “The Blood Knot.” When “The Blood Knot” was revived by the Yale Repertory Company in the United States in 1985, with Mr. Fugard and Mr. Mokae again acting together, it was, Mr. Fugard said, among the most emotional occasions of his life.
 
After “The Blood Knot” opened in London, Mr. Mokae was barred from returning to South Africa. He did not return until 1982, when he learned his brother James was to be hanged for murders committed during a robbery, though it was unclear whether James was present during the killings. Mr. Mokae, who learned of the death sentence on the night he won his Tony Award, returned to Johannesburg in time to witness his brother’s execution.
 
In addition to his wife, whom he married in 1966, divorced in 1978 and then remarried in 1985, he is survived by two sisters and two brothers in South Africa; a daughter, Santlo Chontay Mokae, of Atlanta; and three grandchildren. Mrs. Mokae said they moved back to South Africa in 2005, while his mind was still mostly intact, “so he could live under freedom there and have some memory of it.”
 
Mr. Mokae’s many films included “The Comedians,” “Darling,” “Cry Freedom” and “A Dry White Season.” In 1993 he was nominated for a Tony for a supporting role in “The Song of Jacob Zulu,” a first play by a white playwright, Tug Yourgrau, about the South African trial of a black activist. Mr. Mokae played a man who had spent much of his life in prison.
 
“If you’re a black man in South Africa and you’ve never been in prison there’s something wrong with you,” Mr. Mokae said in an interview with The New York Times at the time, adding that a tirade spewed by his character had grown out of conversations he had with Mr. Yourgrau.
 
“Tug hasn’t been in prison a lot with black folks, so I had to talk about it with him,” Mr. Mokae said. “It’s true that when they count you at night they walk on your face with their boots. And they do it all night. All night, somebody’s being beaten. Somebody’s screaming. That stuff to me, it’s real. You have to tell a white person, ‘That’s what it is,’ so that he gets it, the filth and the stink, the kind of poetry that comes out of that.”
 
  
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CRYSTAL LEE SUTTON, THE REAL-LIFE ‘NORMA RAE’
 
Published: September 15, 2009
 
Crystal Lee Sutton, the union organizer whose real-life stand on her worktable at a textile factory in North Carolina in 1973 was the inspiration for the Academy Award-winning movie “Norma Rae,” died Friday in Burlington, N.C. She was 68.
 
 
September 15, 2009    

Joseph Rodriguez/News & Record, via Associated Press

Crystal Lee Sutton

The cause was brain cancer, her son Jay Jordan said.
 
Ms. Sutton (then Crystal Lee Jordan) was a 33-year-old mother of three earning $2.65 an hour folding towels at the J. P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., when she took her stand. Low pay and poor working conditions had impelled her to take a leading role in efforts to unionize the plant. She was met with threats, she said.
 
“Management and others treated me as if I had leprosy,” she later said in an interview for Alamance Community College, in Graham, N.C., which she attended in the 1980s.
After months trying to organize co-workers, Ms. Sutton was fired. When the police, summoned by the management, came to take her away, she made one last act of defiance.
 
“I took a piece of cardboard and wrote the word ‘union’ on it in big letters, got up on my worktable, and slowly turned it around,” she said in the interview. “The workers started cutting their machines off and giving me the victory sign. All of a sudden the plant was very quiet.”
 
Within a year, the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union had won the right to represent 3,000 employees at seven plants in Roanoke Rapids, including J. P. Stevens, which was then the second-largest textile manufacturer in the country.
 
In 1977, a court ordered that Ms. Sutton be rehired and receive back wages. She returned to work for two days, then quit and went to work as an organizer for the union.
 
For legal reasons, Ms. Sutton’s name was not used in the 1979 movie “Norma Rae,” for which Sally Field won the Oscar for best actress, a Golden Globe and the best-actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, all in 1980.
 
Bruce Raynor, who is now president of Workers United and executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union, worked with Ms. Sutton in her organizing career.
In a statement on Monday, he said, “The fact that Crystal was a woman in the ’70s, leading a struggle of thousands of other textile workers against very powerful, virulently anti-union mill companies, inspired a whole generation of people — of women workers, workers of color and white workers.”
 
Crystal Lee Pulley was born in Roanoke Rapids on Dec. 31, 1940, a daughter of Albert and Odell Blythe Pulley. Both her parents worked in the mills and, starting in her late teens, so did she.
 
Ms. Sutton’s first marriage, to Larry Jordan Jr., ended in divorce. Besides her son Jay, she is survived by her husband of 32 years, Lewis Sutton Jr.; two daughters, Elizabeth Watts and Renee Jordan; two other sons, Mark Jordan and Eric Sutton; two sisters, Geraldine Greeson and Syretha Medlin; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.
 
After more than a decade as a union organizer, Ms. Sutton earned certification as a nursing assistant from Alamance Community College in 1988. In later years, she ran a day care center in her home.
 
Jay Jordan said his mother kept a photograph of Ms. Field, in the climactic scene from “Norma Rae,” on her living room wall.
 
  
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PATRICK SWAYZE, ACTOR WITH PHYSICAL GRACE
 
Published: September 14, 2009
 
Patrick Swayze, the balletically athletic actor who rose to stardom in the films “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” and whose 20-month battle with advanced pancreatic cancer drew wide attention, died Monday. He was 57.
 
 
 
Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

Patrick Swayze in 2005. More Photos »

Related

Times Topics: Patrick Swayze

Health Guide: Pancreatic Cancer

 
His publicist, Annett Wolf, told The Associated Press in Los Angeles that Mr. Swayze had died with family members at his side.
 
Mr. Swayze’s cancer was diagnosed in January 2008. Six months later he had already outlived his prognosis and was filmed at an airport, smiling at photographers and calling himself, only half-facetiously, “a miracle dude.”
 
He even went through with plans to star in “The Beast,” a drama series for A&E. He filmed a complete season while undergoing treatment. Mr. Swayze insisted on continuing with the series. “How do you nurture a positive attitude when all the statistics say you’re a dead man?” he told The New York Times last October. “You go to work.”
 
The show, on which he played an undercover F.B.I. agent, had its premiere in January and earned him admiring reviews.
 
A week before the series began, Mr. Swayze was the subject of a one-hour “Barbara Walters Special” on ABC, in which he talked about his illness. “I keep my heart and my soul and my spirit open to miracles,” he told Ms. Walters. But he said he was not going to pursue every experimental treatment that came along. If he were to “spend so much time chasing staying alive,” he said, he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the time he had left.
“I want to live,” he said.
 
Shortly after the interview, he was hospitalized for pneumonia. At least one tabloid newspaper ran photographs of him in April with reports that the cancer had metastasized and that his weight had dropped to 105 pounds.
 
Mr. Swayze rose to stardom in 1987. He had received attention in several early movies and in the mini-series “North and South,” but the coming-of-age film “Dirty Dancing” established him as a romantic leading man. He starred opposite Jennifer Grey as a young working-class dance instructor at a Catskills resort who proved to have more heart, integrity and sex appeal than many of the wealthy guests with whom he was forbidden to fraternize.
 
He exhibited similar emotional intensity in the supernatural romance “Ghost” (1990), an enormous box-office hit. His character, a loft-living yuppie banker, is murdered early in the film and spends the rest of it as a spirit, desperately trying to communicate with his fiancée (Demi Moore) with the help of a psychic (Whoopi Goldberg). The film, which also showcased his physical grace, solidified his stardom.
 
Mr. Swayze was proud of “Ghost,” as he told The San Francisco Chronicle in 1990. “I needed to do something that will affect the audience in a positive way, make them feel better about their lives and appreciate what they have,” he said.
 
Patrick Wayne Swayze was born on Aug. 18, 1952, in Houston, the son of Jesse Wayne Swayze, an engineer and rodeo cowboy, and Patsy Swayze, a dance instructor and choreographer. He began dancing as a child and was often teased about it. But he was also a student athlete, and his dancing career was hampered by a football injury.
 
After attending San Jacinto, a community college in Texas, Mr. Swayze moved to New York to study dance, becoming a member of Eliot Feld Ballet. He made his Broadway debut in 1975 as a dancer in “Goodtime Charley” and was cast in the original Broadway production of “Grease,” taking over the lead role. (He returned to Broadway almost three decades later, filling in as the razzle-dazzle lawyer Billy Flynn in “Chicago” in 2003.)
 
He made his screen debut in “Skatetown, U.S.A.” (1979), a roller-disco movie starring Scott Baio. Looking back on that film, he told the Toronto newspaper The Globe and Mail in 1984, “I saw that with not too much trouble I could become a teenybopper star, but I knew if I accepted that, it would take years to win credibility as a serious actor.”
 
His first notable film was “The Outsiders” (1983), a drama about teenage gangs that starred other newcomers like Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon and Emilio Estevez. The same year he was cast in a short-lived television series, “Renegades,” a sort of updated “Mod Squad” about young gang leaders turned deputies.
 
His public profile grew steadily, especially with his appearances in “Red Dawn” (1984), a film about small-town high school students fighting the Soviets in World War III, and in “North and South” (1985), a 12-hour mini-series in which he played a conflicted Southern soldier.
 
“People don’t identify with victims,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press, discussing his “North and South” character, originally written as a more passive man. “They identify with people who have the world come down on their heads and who fight to survive.”
 
After that came “Dirty Dancing” and then, just three years later, “Ghost,” with a few largely forgotten movies in between.
 
During the 1990s he was a bank-robbing surfer in “Point Break” (1991) and a drag queen with the daunting name Vida Boheme in “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” (1995). “To Wong Foo” earned him his third Golden Globe nomination. (The others were for “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost.”)
 
His portrayal of a noble doctor in Roland Joffé’s “City of Joy” (1992) was not well received. But then, critics rarely praised his acting ability. At best he was commended for his athletic presence and stalwart demeanor.
 
From 1995 to 2007 he made more than a dozen feature films, including “Donnie Darko” (2001), in which he played an obnoxious motivational speaker. In 2006 he surprised many by starring in London as the streetwise gambler Nathan Detroit in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” His last film was “Powder Blue,” a drama with Lisa Kudrow that was released on DVD this year. As a young unknown, Mr. Swayze met Lisa Niemi, a fellow Houstonian, in one of his mother’s dance classes. They married in 1975. She survives him, along with his mother; two brothers, Don and Sean; and a sister, Bambi. Another sister, Vicky, died in 1994.
 
Mr. Swayze said more than once that he was determined not to be typecast. In a 1989 interview with The Chicago Sun-Times, he said, “The only plan I have is that every time people think they have me pegged, I’m going to come out of left field and do something unexpected.”
 
He also expressed concern about the dangers of Hollywood superficiality. “One of the reasons I bought my ranch was because I didn’t want to hear the hype,” he told The A.P. in 1985, referring to his horse ranch in the San Gabriel Mountains. He added, “Your horses don’t lie to you.”
 
  
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PAUL BURKE, ACTOR WHO STARRED IN TV’S ‘NAKED CITY’
 
Published: September 16, 2009
 
Paul Burke, who played the upright, soul-searching detective Adam Flint on the acclaimed television drama “Naked City,” but whose career was halted decades later after he was tried and acquitted on federal racketeering charges, died on Sunday at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 83.
 
 
September 16, 2009    

ABC, via Photofest

Paul Burke in the ABC television drama “Naked City.”

 

 

September 16, 2009    

ABC, via Photofest

Also on ABC, Paul Burke was in the series “12 O’Clock High.”

 

 

The cause was leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, said his daughter Dina Burke Shawkat.
 
Inspired by the 1948 film “The Naked City,” the television series was broadcast on ABC from 1958 to 1963. Noirish and brooding, it was filmed on location in New York and anticipated “Kojak” and “Law & Order” in its gritty yet warm portrayal of the city and its people. “Naked City” also starred Horace McMahon as Flint’s superior officer and Harry Bellaver as a jovial colleague.
 
The show is also widely remembered for its closing voiceover, delivered by the actor Lawrence Dobkin: “There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”
 
Dark-haired, with large, nearly triangular eyes, Mr. Burke joined “Naked City” in its second season, when it was expanded from 30 minutes to an hour. (The first season, 1958-59, starred James Franciscus as Detective James Halloran.)
 
Mr. Burke received two Emmy nominations for his work on the show. He later was a star of the ABC series “12 O’Clock High,” about World War II bombardiers, and appeared regularly on “Santa Barbara” and “Dynasty.” His film credits include “Valley of the Dolls” (1967) and “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968).
 
Paul Burke was born in New Orleans on July 21, 1926. His father, Martin, a prizefighter, was a regular sparring partner of the heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey. Paul grew up fascinated by the denizens of the nightclub that his father owned in the city’s French Quarter; they would provide the grist, he later said, for many of the characters he played.
 
After training at the Pasadena Playhouse, Mr. Burke began appearing in small film and television parts. His first starring role was as the veterinarian Noah McCann in the television series “Noah’s Ark,” broadcast on NBC from 1956 to 1957.
 
Mr. Burke’s first marriage, to Peggy Pryor, ended in divorce. He is survived by his second wife, the former Lyn Peters; three children from his first marriage, Paula Burke Lopez, Paul Brian Burke and Ms. Burke Shawkat; six grandchildren, among them the actress Alia Shawkat, who starred in the television series “Arrested Development”; and two great-grandchildren.
 
Throughout the 1970s and ’80s Mr. Burke had guest roles on many television shows, including “Medical Center,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Fantasy Island.”
 
In 1990, Mr. Burke, the New Orleans District Attorney Harry F. Connick and several others were tried on racketeering charges in federal district court there. Mr. Burke was accused of having interceded with Mr. Connick, a childhood friend, on behalf of a Louisiana bookmaker, Walton Aucoin.
 
The indictment charged that Mr. Burke, an acquaintance of Mr. Aucoin, had helped persuade Mr. Connick to return gambling records seized from Mr. Aucoin in a 1988 police raid. Mr. Burke was also charged with having lied to a grand jury investigating the case.
After a six-week trial, a jury acquitted Mr. Burke, Mr. Connick and two co-defendants while convicting three others, including Mr. Aucoin. Mr. Connick is the father of the jazz singer Harry Connick Jr.
 
Despite his acquittal, Mr. Burke later said, the publicity surrounding the case seemed to put an end to his career. He retired soon afterward.
 
“Before the trial I was just getting into roles playing older men, and suddenly I get back to California and there’s no work,” Mr. Burke told The Associated Press in 1992. “I can’t definitely correlate it to the trial, but I couldn’t get a job, so I said the hell with it.”
 
  
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HENRY GIBSON, ACTOR AND POET LAUREATE OF ‘LAUGH-IN’
  
Published: September 16, 2009
Henry Gibson, a cherub-faced actor who recited nonsense poems in a Southern drawl on the TV series “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” and who later stood out as a smarmy country star in the 1975 film “Nashville,” died on Monday at his home in Malibu, Calif. He was 73.
 
 
September 17, 2009    
NBC

Henry Gibson, bottom center, with “Laugh-In” cast members. He appeared in that sketch-comedy show from 1968 to 1971.

The cause was cancer, his son Jon said.
 
Mr. Gibson made his living working the margins in dozens of films and TV shows.
 
It was the hit “Laugh-In” that made him a star. Wearing clerical garb and sipping tea, he would calmly circulate in the show’s frenetic cocktail-party scene, deliver a one-liner and then melt into the crowd.
 
As a simpering poet, he would hold a single flower and announce, with deadpan formality, “A Poem, by Henry Gibson.”
 
The verse that followed, always written by Mr. Gibson, was ludicrous, like “The Eyelash”:
 
The eyelash is a friend to man.
It lives to serve the eye.
It fights the dirt and dust and grime,
And keeps the eyeball dry.
 
As the egomaniacal Haven Hamilton in Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” Mr. Gibson showed that he could do more than sketch comedy. His performance as an evil-tempered superpatriot earned him the National Society of Film Critics’ award for best supporting actor.
 
Mr. Gibson, whose real name was James Bateman, was born on Sept. 21, 1935, in Philadelphia, and at the age of 8 he began acting. After earning a bachelor’s degree at Catholic University of America in 1957, he served in France as an intelligence officer in the Air Force.
 
In the early 1960s he and Jon Voight, a college friend, hit on a scheme to get their acting careers off the ground.
 
“We decided that we would be two brothers from the Ozarks who represented the United States on cultural tours and caused riots wherever they went,” Mr. Voight said on Wednesday. “I gave him the name Henry Gibson, which I got from Henrik Ibsen.”
 
Mr. Gibson wangled a booking for the act, at which point Mr. Voight bowed out. Mr. Gibson recited his poetry, tickled the audience and was invited back.
 
The character evolved, and in 1961 Mr. Gibson recorded a poetry album, “The Alligator and Other Poems.” Soon afterward, Jerry Lewis cast him in “The Nutty Professor” (1963). Small and offbeat comic roles followed.
 
In 1966 he married Lois Geiger, who died in 2007. In addition to his son Jon, of Santa Monica, Calif., he is survived by two other sons, Charles, also of Santa Monica, and James, of Culver City, Calif.; his sisters, Adele Donahue of West Chester, Pa., Elizabeth Malloy of Tucson and Mary Lee of Media, Pa.; and two grandchildren.
 
Mr. Gibson’s appearances on “Laugh-In” from 1968 to 1971 opened up a wide variety of film and television roles, usually small, but often choice. They ranged from the leader of the Illinois Nazi Party in “The Blues Brothers” (1980) to a priest in “Wedding Crashers” (2005).
 
Mr. Gibson also recorded a second comedy album, “The Grass Menagerie” (1968), and wrote a book, “A Flower Child’s Garden of Verses.”
 
He worked steadily on TV shows both comic and dramatic, including “Boston Legal” as Judge Clark Brown as recently as 2008.
 
  
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MARY TRAVERS, SINGER OF PROTEST ANTHEMS, AND MEMBER OF THE GROUP ‘PETER, PAUL & MARY”
 
Published: September 16, 2009
 
Mary Travers, whose ringing, earnest vocals with the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary made songs like “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “If I Had a Hammer” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” enduring anthems of the 1960s protest movement, died on Wednesday at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 72 and lived in Redding, Conn.
 
 
 
Mary Travers More Photos »

 

 

September 16, 2009    
Mary Travers of Peter, Paul and Mary Dies

Eric Thayer/Reuters

Paul Stookey, Mary Travers and Peter Yarrow in New York in 2006. More Photos >

 

 

The cause was complications from chemotherapy associated with a bone-marrow transplant she had several years ago after developing leukemia, said Heather Lylis, a spokeswoman.
 
Ms. Travers brought a powerful voice and an unfeigned urgency to music that resonated with mainstream listeners. With her straight blond hair and willowy figure and two bearded guitar players by her side, she looked exactly like what she was, a Greenwich Villager directly from the clubs and the coffeehouses that nourished the folk-music revival.
 
“She was obviously the sex appeal of that group, and that group was the sex appeal of the movement,” said Elijah Wald, a folk-blues musician and a historian of popular music.
 
Ms. Travers’s voice blended seamlessly with those of her colleagues, Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, to create a rich three-part harmony that propelled the group to the top of the pop charts. Their first album, “Peter, Paul and Mary,” which featured the hit singles “Lemon Tree” and “If I Had a Hammer,” reached No. 1 shortly after its release in March 1962 and stayed there for seven weeks, eventually selling more than two million copies.
 
The group’s interpretations of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” translated his raw vocal style into a smooth, more commercially acceptable sound. The singers also scored big hits with pleasing songs like the whimsical “Puff the Magic Dragon” and John Denver’s plaintive “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
 
Their sound may have been commercial and safe, but early on their politics were somewhat risky for a group courting a mass audience. Like Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey, Ms. Travers was outspoken in her support for the civil-rights and antiwar movements, in sharp contrast to clean-cut folk groups like the Kingston Trio, which avoided making political statements.
 
Peter, Paul and Mary went on to perform at the 1963 March on Washington and joined the voting-rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965.
 
Over the years they performed frequently at political rallies and demonstrations in the United States and abroad. After the group disbanded, in 1970, Ms. Travers continued to perform at political events around the world as she pursued a solo career.
 
“They made folk music not just palatable but accessible to a mass audience,” David Hajdu, the author of “Positively Fourth Street,” a book about Mr. Dylan, Joan Baez and their circle, said in an interview. Ms. Travers, he added, was crucial to the group’s image, which had a lot to do with its appeal. “She had a kind of sexual confidence combined with intelligence, edginess and social consciousness — a potent combination,” he said. “If you look at clips of their performances, the camera fixates on her. The act was all about Mary.”
 
Mr. Yarrow, in a statement on Wednesday, described Ms. Travers’s singing style as an expression of her character: “honest and completely authentic.”
 
Mr. Stookey, in an accompanying statement, wrote that “her charisma was a barely contained nervous energy — occasionally (and then only privately) revealed as stage fright.”
 
Mary Allin Travers was born on Nov. 9, 1936, in Louisville, Ky. When she was 2 her parents, both writers, moved to New York. Almost unique among the folk musicians who emerged from the Greenwich Village scene in the early 1960s, Ms. Travers actually came from the neighborhood. She attended progressive private schools there, studied singing with the music teacher Charity Bailey while still in kindergarten and became part of the folk-music revival as it took shape around her.
 
“I was raised on Josh White, the Weavers and Pete Seeger,” Ms. Travers told The New York Times in 1994. “The music was everywhere. You’d go to a party at somebody’s apartment and there would be 50 people there, singing well into the night.”
 
While at Elisabeth Irwin High School, she joined the Song Swappers, which sang backup for Mr. Seeger when the Folkways label reissued a collection of union songs under the title “Talking Union” in 1955. The Song Swappers made three more albums for Folkways that year, all featuring Mr. Seeger to some degree.
 
Ms. Travers had no plans to sing professionally. Folk singing, she later said, had been a hobby. At New York clubs friends like Fred Hellerman of the Weavers and Theodore Bikel would coax her onstage to sing, but her extreme shyness made performing difficult. In 1958 she appeared in the chorus and sang one solo number in Mort Sahl’s short-lived Broadway show “The Next President,” but as the ’60s dawned she found herself at loose ends.
 
By chance, Albert Grossman, who managed a struggling folk singer named Peter Yarrow and would later take on Mr. Dylan as a client, was intent on creating an updated version of the Weavers for the baby-boom generation. He envisioned two men and a woman with the crossover appeal of the Kingston Trio. Mr. Yarrow, talking to Grossman in the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village, noticed Ms. Travers’s photograph on the wall and asked who she was. “That’s Mary Travers,” Grossman said. “She’d be good if you could get her to work.”

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Times Topics: Peter, Paul and Mary

Mr. Yarrow went to Ms. Travers’s apartment on Macdougal Street, across from the Gaslight, one of the principal folk clubs. They harmonized on “Miner’s Lifeguard,” a union song, and decided that their voices blended. To fill out the trio, Ms. Travers suggested Noel Stookey, a friend doing folk music and stand-up comedy at the Gaslight.
 
After rehearsing for seven months, with the producer and arranger Milt Okun coaching them, Peter, Paul and Mary — Mr. Stookey adopted his middle name, Paul, because it sounded better — began performing in 1961 at Folk City and the Bitter End. The next year they released their first album.
 
Virtually overnight Peter, Paul and Mary became one of the most popular folk-music groups in the world. The albums “Moving” and “In the Wind,” both released in 1963, rose to the top of the charts and stayed there for months. In concert the group’s direct, emotional style of performance lifted audiences to their feet to deliver rapturous ovations.
 
Ms. Travers, onstage, drew all eyes as she shook her hair, bobbed her head in time to the music and clenched a fist when the lyrics took a dramatic turn. On instructions from Grossman, who wanted her to retain an air of mystery, she never spoke. The live double album “In Concert” (1964) captures the fervor of their performances.
 
On television the group’s mildly bohemian look — Ms. Travers favored beatnik clothing and Mr. Yarrow and Mr. Stookey had mustaches and goatees — gave mainstream audiences their first glimpse of a subculture that had previously been ridiculed on shows like “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”
 
“You cannot overemphasize those beards,” Mr. Wald said. “They looked like Greenwich Village to the rest of America. They were the first to go mainstream with an artistic, intellectual, beat image.”
 
Although the arrival of the Beatles and other British invasion bands spelled the end of the folk revival, Peter, Paul and Mary remained popular throughout the 1960s. The albums “A Song Will Rise” (1965), “See What Tomorrow Brings” (1965) and “Album 1700” (1967) sold well, as did the singles “For Lovin’ Me” and “Early Morning Rain,” both by Gordon Lightfoot, and Mr. Dylan’s “When the Ship Comes In.” The gently satirical single “I Dig Rock and Roll Music” (1967) reached the Top 10, and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (1969), their last hit, reached No. 1 on the charts.
 
In 1970, after releasing the greatest-hits album “Ten Years Together,” the group disbanded. Ms. Travers embarked on a solo career, with limited success, releasing five albums in the 1970s. The first, “Mary” (1971), was the most successful, followed by “Morning Glory” (1972), “All My Choices” (1973), “Circles” (1974) and “It’s in Everyone of Us” (1978).
Ms. Travers’s first three marriages ended in divorce. She is survived by her fourth husband, Ethan Robbins; two daughters, Erika Marshall of Naples, Fla., and Alicia Travers of Greenwich, Conn.; a sister, Ann Gordon of Oakland, Calif.; and two grandchildren.
 
Peter, Paul and Mary reunited to perform at a benefit to oppose nuclear power in 1978 and thereafter kept to a limited schedule of tours around the world. Many of their concerts benefited political causes. “I was raised to believe that everybody has a responsibility to their community and I use the word very loosely,” Ms. Travers told The Times in 1999. “It’s a big community. If I get recognized in the middle of the Sinai Desert I have a big community.”
 
It was a faithful community. Musical fashions changed, but fans stayed loyal to the music and the political ideals of the group. Ms. Travers once told the music magazine Goldmine, “People say to us, ‘Oh, I grew up with your music,’ and we often say, sotto voce, ‘So did we.’ ”
  

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HATEWATCH: SKINHEAD PLEADS GUILTY TO HATE-CRIME ASSAULT

After reading the following article, I have to wonder what part of his anatomy did this judge shove his head into to propose a lame sentence for what this racist did.
  
“But in return for the guilty plea, Judge Bruce Clark said he would consider a lighter sentence than the seven years Schumacher faces: 180 days in county jail and three years’ probation.”
  
Then again, maybe the judge is related to Schumacher, or he has sympathies with the ideology of racist skinheads.
  
**********************************************************************************
 
 
Gang Member Pleads Guilty to Hate-Crime Battery
 
Oak View man attacked interracial couple at gas station

By Mike Harris
Friday, September 11, 2009

A reputed white supremacist skinhead gang member has pleaded guilty to a hate-crime battery of an interracial couple in Oak View.
 
Matthew Schumacher, 27, of Casitas Springs is scheduled to be sentenced in October, after pleading guilty last week in Superior Court to one count of battery and three enhancement allegations.
 
Those allegations, which prosecutors said increased the charge from a misdemeanor to a felony, are that the battery was a hate crime, that it was carried out as part of gang activity, and that Schumacher has previously served time in prison for a drug-related offense.
 
The District Attorney’s Office wants Schumacher, a reputed member of a Ventura-based skinhead gang, sent back to prison. But in return for the guilty plea, Judge Bruce Clark said he would consider a lighter sentence than the seven years Schumacher faces: 180 days in county jail and three years’ probation.
 
Schumacher remains in custody in lieu of $145,000 bail pending sentencing Oct. 2.
Deputy District Attorney John Barrick said Schumacher assaulted a white man who was with his African-American girlfriend at a gas station in Oak View on July 25. Barrick said Schumacher uttered racial slurs at the couple, who are both 25-year-old residents of Ventura.
 
Barrick said Schumacher punched the man in the back of his head while he was gassing up his vehicle. The blow knocked the victim to the ground but did not seriously hurt him.
Barrick, who prosecutes most alleged hate crimes in the county, said that even though the victim’s injuries were slight, he disagreed with the judge’s decision to consider putting Schumacher on probation.
 
“I feel that once a guy goes to prison, any felony he does after that, he shouldn’t get probation,” Barrick said. “The victim’s injuries were very minor. But it was the conduct itself and who perpetrated the offense that we obviously take very seriously. We really don’t like people in this county getting beat up because they’re dating minorities.”
 
Clark is a retired judge who filled in for Judge Edward Brodie the day Schumacher pleaded guilty, the prosecutor said. Brodie will be back from vacation by the sentencing date, Barrick said, and “I can almost guarantee that Judge Brodie is not going to go along with” a probation sentence.
 
Brodie could send the case back to Clark for sentencing, “because when a defendant pleads guilty, he’s entitled to have the judge he pled guilty in front of be the sentencing judge,” Barrick said.
 
Deputy Public Defender Nicholas Gray, who represents Schumacher, did not return a phone call seeking comment.
 

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ALICE RANDALL: THE WRITER OPENS A DOOR

WHAT MATTERS MOST: AT HOME WITH ALICE RANDALL

  

Josh Anderson for The New York Times

Alice Randall in the dining room of her home. More Photos >

 

Published: September 16, 2009

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

ALICE RANDALL may be the first person to establish a link between the metaphysical poetry of John Donne and the country classic “Drop Kick Me Jesus (Through the Goalposts of Life),” and then create a career writing country music out of that insight. She is almost certainly the first African-American woman to write a No. 1 country hit.

Freedom of speech champions know her as the author to set fire to the Civil War institution “Gone With the Wind” with her 2001 novel, “The Wind Done Gone,” which imagined the life of a slave half-sister for Scarlett O’Hara and caused a ruckus when the Mitchell estate sued Ms. Randall’s publisher.

On a recent September afternoon, though, Ms. Randall, whose new book, “Rebel Yell,” comes out in October, was less the polymathic First Amendment warrior and more the homebody, eager to show off what she called her palimpsest — the putty-colored early 20th century house she shares with her husband, David Ewing, and her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams, now a senior at Harvard.

Stung by the furor surrounding the publication of “The Wind Done Gone,” Ms. Randall has made a practice of keeping her home life private. It still stuns her that what she imagined as “this obscure literary thing” written for a small, highbrow audience — a prequel akin to the Jean Rhys novel “Wide Sargasso Sea” — would be miscast as an “attempt to do some free writing” off Margaret Mitchell’s sacred cow.

The case was settled on First Amendment issues and the book became a New York Times best seller; last spring, it was taught at Harvard, Ms. Randall’s alma mater, in a course that included the works of two other African-American female canon-teasers, Toni Morrison and the playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

But at 50, and with three novels under her belt, “I’m coming from a different place,” she said, curling into one of two white barrel chairs in her bright living room.

She has recently opened her home to her readers, with a stylish Web site that presents, in words and photos, “these little pieces of shelter,” as she put it, “these icons of what women do and like, things that matter to women — home, family, food — and are really important to me.”

Ms. Randall said she wrote “XXX’s and OOO’s,” the wryly feminist ballad of single motherhood that became her No. 1 song, in the shower, inspired by a phone call summoning her to Caroline’s school in the middle of a hectic day. “That’s what gave me the line ‘phone rings, baby cries, TV diet guru lies,’ ” she said. (The song was recorded by Trisha Yearwood in 1994.)

And while her new book focuses on how the domestic terrorism of the civil rights era gave rise to the black neoconservative movement, it also allows Ms. Randall to tease out themes she’s been chewing over in her music and books for decades: what it means to be a good mother, and how the roles of mother and spouse can be in opposition.

MS. RANDALL moved to Nashville at 23. The day her first song, “Reckless Night,” a retelling of “The Scarlet Letter,” was recorded, the man who would become her first husband, Avon Williams III, a Nashville-born lawyer, proposed to her. Their five-year marriage, like that of the main characters in “Rebel Yell,” careered from Manhattan to Washington, D.C., the Philippines and Martinique, though Ms. Randall said that “Rebel Yell” is her least autobiographical work.

In 1990, when Caroline was 3, her parents divorced, and she and her mother moved back to Nashville. Ms. Randall still has the narrow daybed she bought to sleep on after her marriage unraveled. It was a purchase she made to remind herself that she was strong enough to sleep alone.

She and Mr. Ewing, whom she married in 1997, spent their first year of marriage on it (and Mr. Ewing is 6-foot-5). Three years later, they bought this Hillsboro house (and a bigger bed) for about $400,000. They peeled off layers of roof and repainted the wide rooms, and a friend made them a table to seat 18.

Ms. Randall is highly attuned to the community building that grows from shared meals and culinary traditions. Her collection of cookbooks is formidable, an olla podrida of Junior League and soul food cookbooks and classics like “The Joy of Cooking.” In “Rebel Yell,” she explores the foodways of the South to delicious effect; it is one of the many prisms through which she presents the African-American experience, a mandate she has followed in all her work to date.

“Living in the South, and living in an increasingly post-racial society, it becomes harder to call out the places we are not,” she said. “I like to look at the things people won’t look at.”

Like all of Ms. Randall’s books, “Rebel Yell” can be read on many (sometimes baffling) levels: as a rollicking spy story, as cultural anthropology and, finally, as the postmortem of a marriage. Barack Obama makes an appearance, as does Abu Ghraib, and there is a slew of semi-obscure literary references that readers might need help decoding if they are not well schooled in the literary canon.

Anton Mueller, the executive editor of Bloomsbury USA and the editor of all three of Ms. Randall’s books, has known her since they shared a house — and a taste for Hank Williams — in Washington nearly 30 years ago. Editing her, he said, requires bringing to bear “a more average pair of eyes and a more average brain to what she does — not that I understand everything.” 

Ms. Randall, who was born in Detroit and grew up in Washington, had the sort of lonely childhood that drove her to the library, where she discovered the safe and tidy worlds in the novels of the Brontë sisters and English detective fiction.

Her mother, now deceased, was a political consultant who divorced the father Ms. Randall adored when she was in the third grade; Ms. Randall describes her as “glamorous and distant” and in the habit of leaving her only child alone for stretches of time.

In the summer, Ms. Randall said, she read a book a day and she taught herself to cook, mastering scones, crepes and chocolate mousse. “Cooking became my private adventure,” she said. “In some ways, my mother’s distance was a saving thing for me.”

Her cozy fantasy world transmogrified in college into an unusual independent project. “I think I’m the only person to have studied with Julia Child for college credit,” she said, explaining how she hatched a course about the study of high tea and pitched it cold to Ms. Child by telephone.

It nurtured a tradition she returned to years later with her daughter, for whom she made strawberry cakes and milky cups of Earl Grey.

“I had to imagine my way into being a good mother,” she said. “All parents don’t love their children. There is no question in my mind that my mother did not love me. I certainly spent a lot of time loving her.”

“In ‘The Wind Done Gone,’ I had the fantasy openly that the mother who seemed to not love her child really did,” she said. “In my real life, I try to keep a firm grip on my wishes and reality.”

It was Ms. Randall’s daughter who nudged her into marrying Mr. Ewing, and her first husband’s aunt who made the match in the first place. Thus heavily armed, Mr. Ewing proposed in the middle of the Capitol grounds, during Bill Clinton’s second Inauguration, suddenly dropping to his knees in front of Ms. Randall.

“Being a neurotic worrier, I thought he had been shot or had a heart attack,” she said. “It comes to me when the crowd starts clapping around us that he was proposing.”

The other day, Ms. Randall and Mr. Ewing served a visitor searingly spicy fried chicken at their long table, with tiny roasted sweet peppers, cornbread madeleines and sweet tea. When the visitor’s eyes stopped streaming, they took to her to Patterson House, a local bar that developed a whiskey drink named for Ms. Randall’s new book.

“I love this place,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Can I have a drink for my new novel?’ ”

As her husband noted, Nashville is a very big small town. (Mr. Ewing, a lawyer, likes to say that his family has been here for nine generations, though the first four were involuntary.)

“I think Alice totally underestimates her achievement in Nashville, because you can’t take the stumbling block of race out of it,” said Steve Earle, the alt-country star whom Ms. Randall credits with teaching her the basics of country music. “I remember calling her the day Obama won. She was in tears.”

He continued: “Another friend had called and said something like, ‘It’s really great that it’s this black president.’ In other words, the correct black man. She wasn’t prepared for someone qualifying it in that way.”

And then he fretted, “Alice is also incredibly prolific, and that really ticks me off.”

SOURCE

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