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.
Susan Atkins in a 1969 file photo.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.