Monthly Archives: December 2009


Many people are familiar with the phrase, “once in a blue moon”, which has to do with the rarity of two full moons occurring within the same month. But, in some rare cases, there have been blue moons.

As the article states, blue moon is a name for a type of moon, such as the harvest moon, beaver moon, etc. which occur in certain months:

January: January –  Wolf Moon July: July –             Hay or Buck Moon
February: February – Ice or Snow Moon August: August –         Corn or Sturgeon Moon
March: March –     Storm or Worm Moon September: September –  Harvest Moon
April: April –        Growing or Pink Moon October: October –       Blood or Hunter’s Moon
May: May –         Hare or Flower Moon November: November –   Snow or Beaver Moon
June: June –        Mead or Strawberry Moon December: December –   Cold Moon


Other moon names can be found here.

The definition of a blue moon is described as follows:

blue moon

n. 1. a. The third full moon in a three-month calendrical season that has four full moons.

b. The second of two full moons occurring in the same month.2. Informal A relatively long period of time:  I haven’t seen you in a blue moon.

[Sense 2, probably from the rare occurrence whereby the moon appears blue from high amounts of dust in the atmosphere, as from a volcanic eruption.]

 The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company


The Farmer’s Almanac gives a description of the names of moons:


Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac’s list of the full Moon names.

Full Wolf Moon – January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.

Full Snow Moon – February Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February’s full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.

Full Worm Moon – March As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.

Full Pink Moon – April This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.

Full Flower Moon – May In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.

Full Strawberry Moon – June This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!

The Full Buck Moon – July July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s Moon was the Full Hay Moon.

Full Sturgeon Moon – August The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.

Full Corn Moon – September This full moon’s name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested. Most often, the September full moon is actually the Harvest Moon.

Full Harvest Moon – October This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.

Full Beaver Moon – November This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.

The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon – December During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.


Just the same, anytime to look up at the Moon is a great time. So, when you look up at the Moon this Thursday night, realize that you are seeing a moon that truly comes along once in a blue moon. Who knows, that night if the atmospheric conditions are right, it may just actually be a blue moon.

And as Earth’s only satellite, it never ceases to give joy and pleasure to me.


File:Lunar libration with phase2.gif
Lunar libation (Author: Tomruen  SOURCE)



File:Full Moon Luc Viatour.jpg


This Moon illustration was made by Luc Viatour

Luc Viatour in the immediate vicinity of the image. Website



By ALICIA CHANG, AP Science Writer Alicia Chang, Ap Science Writer 14 mins ago

LOS ANGELES – Once in a blue moon there is one on New Year’s Eve. Revelers ringing in 2010 will be treated to a so-called blue moon. According to popular definition, a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. But don’t expect it to be blue — the name has nothing to do with the color of our closest celestial neighbor.

A full moon occurred on Dec. 2. It will appear again on Thursday in time for the New Year’s countdown.

“If you’re in Times Square, you’ll see the full moon right above you. It’s going to be that brilliant,” said Jack Horkheimer, director emeritus of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium and host of a weekly astronomy TV show.

The New Year’s Eve blue moon will be visible in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Africa. For partygoers in Australia and Asia, the full moon does not show up until New Year’s Day, making January a blue moon month for them.

However, the Eastern Hemisphere can celebrate with a partial lunar eclipse on New Year’s Eve when part of the moon enters the Earth’s shadow. The eclipse will not be visible in the Americas.

A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full moon in a month — a blue moon — occurs every 2.5 years. The last time there was a lunar double take was in May 2007. New Year’s Eve blue moons are rarer, occurring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990; the next one won’t come again until 2028.

Blue moons have no astronomical significance, said Greg Laughlin, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

“`Blue moon’ is just a name in the same sense as a `hunter’s moon’ or a `harvest moon,'” Laughlin said in an e-mail.

The popular definition of blue moon came about after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946 misinterpreted the Maine Farmer’s Almanac and labeled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons, not the usual three.

Though Sky & Telescope corrected the error decades later, the definition caught on. For purists, however, this New Year’s Eve full moon doesn’t even qualify as a blue moon. It’s just the first full moon of the winter season.

In a tongue-in-cheek essay posted on the magazine’s Web site this week, senior contributing editor Kelly Beatty wrote: “If skies are clear when I’m out celebrating, I’ll take a peek at that brilliant orb as it rises over the Boston skyline to see if it’s an icy shade of blue. Or maybe I’ll just howl.”


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Published: December 22, 2009
December 27, 2009    

Yale Joel/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

THE SAVVY BUSINESS MODEL The cover of the Oct. 17, 1969, issue of Life magazine.

The Lives They Lived
The Lives They Lived

A look at some notable people whose lives, and deaths, were worthy of exploration and appreciation in 2009.

On the same day she graduated from Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh, Naomi Sims set out for Manhattan, leaving behind a city where she never felt as if she belonged. She was like many New York aspirants — creative, ambitious, an escapee from somewhere too small and stifling. Except that her sense of isolation, in the place she left, was extreme. What Naomi Sims would soon experience was a newly arrived New Yorker’s fairy tale: extraordinary and nearly instant success.

Living with an older sister in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, she found herself short on money and decided to try modeling. Without an agency to represent her, she cannily cultivated relationships with photographers and other figures in the fashion industry and, at 19, graced the cover of the August 1967 issue of Fashions of the Times, a supplement to The New York Times Magazine. The next year, she appeared on the cover of Ladies Home Journal — the first black model to be featured on the front of a mainstream women’s magazine.

Nearly six feet tall, with ebony skin and African features, Sims was regal in carriage and intuitive in her sense of style. She projected the rare and alluring combination of sultriness and rectitude. She walked everywhere in Manhattan, and her leggy strides once were described as “enough to sizzle the sidewalks on a cold day.” In 1973, she married the art dealer Michael Findlay and lived in an apartment filled with classical music and fresh flowers. Findlay told me about first meeting her at a party where Timothy Leary was wooing her. “She dissuaded him in a charming but definitive way,” he said. “With such aplomb.”

Such outward self-assurance gave no hint of Sims’s painful upbringing. Her mother, separated from Naomi’s father shortly after her birth, gave her up when she was about 10. Naomi spent time in a group home and then was raised as a foster child by a working-class black couple in Pittsburgh’s Homewood section. She would later recall that a younger foster daughter in the house, lighter in skin tone, was treated “like a daughter” while she felt more like a helper. Naomi’s mother lived about a mile away, where she raised Naomi’s two older sisters. (Why her mother gave her up remains unclear.)

Sims landed in New York at a cultural moment when the city’s aesthetic arbiters were ready to embrace her alongside the doe-eyed frailness of blondes like Twiggy, who came to New York at about the same time. Andy Warhol befriended her, and she was among the crowd at the Factory and Studio 54, but not every night. Sims was known within her industry as someone who showed up on time and prepared, usually having already done her own hair and makeup because few stylists knew how to work with a black woman.

Sims sold Avon products door to door during her teenage years and took lifelong pride in having been a top seller. She modeled for just five years before creating and selling a line of wigs for black women, later adding cosmetics and hair products branded as the Naomi Sims Collection. She also wrote books stuffed with no-nonsense advice directed at black women, giving guidance on how to speak (no swear words), how to write a résumé (on heavy bond paper) and how to shake hands (never while seated).

They were the kind of rules that might help outwardly order a life when it grew internally chaotic, which happened often to Sims. Her bouts of furious creativity and then depression were diagnosed as bipolar disorder in her mid-30s. She told almost no one about her illness, which crippled her at times and led to several hospitalizations. “She suffered without the support of many who knew her,” says Michael Findlay, whose marriage to Sims ended in divorce after 18 years.

In 2005, Sims was among the honorees at the Oprah Winfrey-sponsored “Legends Ball,” saluting 25 trailblazing black women. It was a rare public appearance. The woman who had flashed onto the New York scene had by then receded so deeply into privacy that some friends did not know she had left Manhattan until the announcement of her death. She had lost control of her business, experienced financial setbacks and lived for the last decade, before succumbing to breast cancer, in Newark.

Bob Findlay, the son of Sims and Michael Findlay, spent many years helping his mother find care and thinking about how to square the different parts of her life. “She was the person at the breakfast table in her bathrobe, without makeup, telling me to pick up my stuff,” he says. “But there were these pictures of her in the apartment, from her modeling days, and she was impossibly glamorous. I spent hours looking at those pictures.”

He remembers his mother once waking him up in the middle of the night when he was a child and the two of them walking for hours on the city streets. He thinks he was not quite 5: “We walked all around Manhattan, and she just talked and talked. It felt like an amazing adventure with my mother, but looking back on it, I think it was more than that.”

Bob Findlay says his mother never spoke publicly about her mental illness, and told few friends, out of a sense of propriety and perhaps from a fear of damaging the Naomi Sims brand. “Three months ago, as she knew she was dying, she told me, ‘I’m ready to share it.’”

Michael Sokolove, a contributing writer, is the author of “Ticket Out.”


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Congratulations, Serena.

Way to go!



Associated Press

Playing her best at the most important events, Serena Williams re-established herself as the top player in women’s tennis in 2009 and was a landslide choice as Female Athlete of the Year by members of The Associated Press.

Williams received 66 of 158 votes cast by editors at U.S. newspapers that are members of the AP. No other candidate got more than 18 votes in the tally, which was announced Tuesday.

Serena Williams
Nicolas Luttiau/Presse Sports/US Presswire

Serena Williams returned to the top of women’s tennis in 2009.


Clearly, Williams’ most infamous on-court episode — a tirade directed at a line judge after a foot-fault call near the end of her U.S. Open semifinal loss in September — didn’t hurt her standing in the eyes of the voters.

“People realize that I’m a great player, and one moment doesn’t define a person’s career,” Williams told the AP. “And I was right, for the most part: It wasn’t right the way I reacted — I never said it was — but I was right about the call.”

She also noted that the outburst, which resulted in a record fine and two-year probationary period at Grand Slam tournaments, “got a lot more people excited about tennis.”

The 28-year-old American tends to do that, thanks to her powerful, athletic play and her outgoing personality.

“We can attribute the strength and the growth of women’s tennis a great deal to her,” WTA chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a telephone interview. “She is a superstar.”

Williams, who is based in Florida, also won the AP award in 2002, a seven-year gap that is the longest between AP Female Athlete of the Year honors since golf’s Patty Berg won in 1943 and 1955.

“I’m just happy and blessed to even be playing seven years later. All this is a bonus, really,” Williams said. “In 2002, I just was really dominant, and I think in 2009, I just brought that back. I kind of became that player again.”

Runner-up in the AP voting was Zenyatta, who capped a 14-0 career by becoming the first female horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Tennis’ Kim Clijsters finished third with 16 votes.


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New York is a city of characters. The Green Thumb, whose community garden in a Brooklyn housing project shows children that eggs do not come from eggplants. The Dictaphone Doctor, last of a dying breed. The Jury Clerk, who says ‘Good morning’ 200 times a day, and means it. The Teenage Mother. The Tabloid Photographer. The Iraq Veteran. The Walking Miracle. Throughout 2009, the Times introduced 54 such individuals in sound and images, ordinary people telling extraordinary stories—–of passions and problems, relationships and routines, vocations and obessions.


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IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-27-2009


Published: December 22, 2009
Alaina Reed-Amini, an actress and singer whose best-known characters were denizens of two of television’s celebrated addresses, “Sesame Street” and the tenement known only by its street number, “227,” died Thursday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 63.
December 23, 2009    


The cast of “Sesame Street” in the 1980s, with Alaina Reed-Amini standing between Big Bird and Aloysius Snuffleupagus.

The cause was cancer, her publicist, Billy Laurence, said.

Through most of her career — before her marriage to Tamim Amini in 2008 — Ms. Reed-Amini was known as Alaina Reed Hall or Alaina Reed. She was an accomplished cabaret singer and musical theater performer when she arrived on “Sesame Street,” public television’s long-running children’s program, in 1976, seven years into the life of the show. She played Olivia, a photographer whose brother, Gordon (played by Roscoe Orman) was already a character on the show.

She remained in the cast until 1988, frequently performing in skits with Mr. Orman that illustrated lessons about sibling relationships. She also sang, either solo or with her “Sesame Street” neighbors, human and puppet.

In 1985, Ms. Reed-Amini was cast in “227,” a comedy series about the residents of an apartment building in Washington that focused on the character of Mary Jenkins, an engaging busybody (played by Marla Gibbs), her family and their neighbors. Ms. Reed-Amini played Rose Lee Holloway, a single neighbor and friend of Mary’s who became, at one point, the building’s landlord. While working on “227” she met and married a fellow cast member, Kevin Peter Hall. (Their characters married on the show as well.) Mr. Hall died in 1991.

Bernice Reed was born Nov. 10, 1946, in Springfield, Ohio, and attended Kent State University. She was already known as Alaina Reed when she began singing in New York nightclubs in the early 1970s, usually to glowing reviews.



“Miss Reed is a lean, willowy young woman with a gospel-based style that sometimes takes her to the edges of the Aretha Franklin idiom of pop singing but, primarily, is used to project her songs with an unusual sense of believability,” John S. Wilson wrote of her in The New York Times in 1972.

She appeared in musical theater pieces, including “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on the Road,” an adaptation of the Beatles’ album, and William Finn’s “In Trousers,” the first of a trilogy of plays about a young gay man named Marvin. (Parts two and three became the Broadway musical “Falsettos.”) On Broadway, she appeared as a replacement cast member in the original “Chicago,” the 1977 revival of “Hair” and “Eubie!”

Ms. Reed-Amini appeared on numerous television series, among them “A Different World,” “Ally McBeal,” “Friends,” “The Drew Carey Show” and “E.R.” Her movie credits included “Death Becomes Her” and “Cruel Intentions.”

Ms. Reed-Amini’s first marriage ended in divorce. Her survivors include her husband; information about others was not available.




Published: December 26, 2009

Filed at 6:03 p.m. ET

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) — Esther Chavez, a women’s rights activist who first drew attention to the brutal slayings of women in the border city of Ciudad Juarez, has died, her nephew said Saturday. She was 73.

Hector Chavez Arbizu said his aunt died of cancer on Friday and will be buried in Ciudad Juarez, where more than 100 women were strangled and their bodies dumped in the desert or vacant lots in a string of killings that began in the 1990s.

Chavez founded Casa Amiga, a shelter for female victims of violence in this city of 1.5 million across the border from El Paso, Texas.

She worked tirelessly to denounce the decade-long string of killings and to demand that the deaths be properly investigated. Most of the victims were young and many worked at border assembly factories known as maquiladoras.

Authorities in Chihuahua state initially downplayed the problem, and many of the crimes remain unresolved.

To the end of her life, Chavez remained highly critical of police efforts and said the total death toll from the wave of violence against women in the city was in the hundreds.

”The death of activist Esther Chavez represents a loss for the fight for human rights and the rule of law in this country,” the Mexican newspaper La Jornada wrote in an editorial Saturday. ”She made the problems in Chihuahua visible on the international stage.”

In 2008, Chavez won Mexico’s National Human Rights Award. And a month before she died, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a ruling criticizing Mexico for a lack of diligence in investigating the slayings of 3 of the victims.

The court said it found irregularities in the probes, including the mishandling of evidence and the coercing of innocent people to confess.

The court said Mexico should pay a total of $800,000 in compensation to the victims’ families, solve the killings and fix its procedures for investigating the slayings. Mexico has agreed to be bound by the court’s rulings.

In 2005, the then-special prosecutor for the Ciudad Juarez killings, Claudia Velarde, said prosecutors had solved 80 percent of the killings, but many relatives doubt the real culprits have been caught.

While so-called ”profile” killings involving young women strangled and left in desert dumping grounds tapered off around mid-decade, Ciudad Juarez is now in the grips of a wave of drug-cartel violence that has cost about 2,000 lives in 2009.

Chavez is survived by her nephew and her brother. A memorial service was held for her Saturday.


Ms. Chavez was a voice who spoke for the forgotten women of Cuidad Juarez. A champion who refused to allow the murdered women and girls of maquilladoras to remain faceless.

May her efforts even in death, continue to bring justice and solace for the victims and their families.

Rest in peace, Ms. Chavez.

Rest in peace.



Published: December 22, 2009
Ann Nixon Cooper, the centenarian lauded by President Obama last year in his election night speech as someone who had witnessed “the heartbreak and the hope” of the past century, died Monday in Atlanta. She was 107.
Lorenzo Ciniglio/Polaris

Ann Nixon Cooper

Her death was confirmed by Carl M. Williams Funeral Directors of Atlanta. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution said Ms. Cooper died in the home she had lived in since 1938.

“This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations,” Mr. Obama said on Nov. 4, 2008, in his victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago. “But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election, except for one thing: Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

“She was born just a generation past slavery,” Mr. Obama continued, “a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons — because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.”

Ms. Cooper’s autobiography, “A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name,” written with Karen Grigsby Bates, is scheduled to be released in January by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, in honor of her 108th birthday.

Ann Nixon was born on Jan. 9, 1902, in Bedford County, Tenn., near Nashville, the daughter of tenant farmers. She met her future husband, Dr. Albert Berry Cooper II, while he attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Atria Books said. They settled in his hometown, Atlanta, where he established a successful dental practice. He died in 1967. Of their four children, one survives, Joyce Bobo, 84. Survivors also include 15 grandchildren.

Ms. Cooper first registered to vote on Sept. 1, 1941, but because of segregation did not vote for years, The Associated Press reported.




Published: December 23, 2009
Lester Rodney, who occupied an unlikely niche in journalism — sports editor of the American Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker — and used that platform to wage an early battle against baseball’s color barrier, died Sunday in Walnut Creek, Calif. He was 98.
December 24, 2009    

Byron LaGoy

Lester Rodney

His death was announced by his family.

Even in The Daily Worker’s heyday, during the Depression, the working classes the newspaper championed were hardly lining up at newsstands for its box scores. But the paper, published in New York City, did have a sports section, run by Mr. Rodney, who was a card-carrying member, in the parlance of his day, of both the Communist Party USA and the Baseball Writers Association of America.

In the 1930s and early ’40s, Mr. Rodney, a grandson of Jewish immigrants from Europe, became an outspoken voice among sportswriters, apart from the black press, in condemning racial discrimination in professional sports.

Running a six-day-a-week Daily Worker sports section that he introduced in 1936, more than a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier, Mr. Rodney pressured the baseball commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, and the major league club owners to end baseball’s racial barrier.

His columns cited the exploits of stars of the Negro leagues like Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson, and he quoted major league players and managers praising the talents of black players to buttress his argument that they offered a vast talent pool. He publicized Communist-led petition drives aimed at ending the majors’ exclusion of blacks.

“Negro soldiers and sailors are among those beloved heroes of the American people who have already died for the preservation of this country and everything this country stands for — yes, including the great game of baseball,” Mr. Rodney wrote in an open letter to Landis published in The Daily Worker in May 1942. “You, the self-proclaimed ‘Czar’ of baseball, are the man responsible for keeping Jim Crow in our National Pastime. You are the one refusing to say the word which would do more to justify baseball’s existence in this year of war than any other single thing.”

In recounting the mounting pressures baseball faced to end its color barrier, Arnold Rampersad wrote in his 1997 biography “Jackie Robinson” that “the most vigorous efforts came from the Communist press.”

Mr. Rampersad told The San Francisco Chronicle in 2005 that Mr. Rodney “was forgotten because he was a Communist.”

“But,” he added, “if Robinson was perceived by civil rights workers — and especially by Martin Luther King — as a historical turning point, anybody who facilitated the emergence of Jackie Robinson should be seen as one of the heroes of race integration.”

In his 1983 book “Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy,” Jules Tygiel wrote that The Daily Worker and Mr. Rodney “unrelentingly attacked the baseball establishment.”

Mr. Tygiel said that “the success of the Communists in forcing the issue before the American public far outweighed the negative ramifications of their sponsorship.”

Lester Rodney grew up in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, became a Dodger fan, covered sports for the New Utrecht High School newspaper, and played basketball and ran track. His father was a staunch Republican who had owned a silk factory but was ruined financially by the 1929 stock market crash.

While Mr. Rodney was attending night school at New York University in the mid-1930s, a young Communist Party recruiter handed him a copy of The Daily Worker. He found its limited sports coverage to be little more than a dull representation of the Communist line, viewing athletic competition as a means of appeasing the oppressed masses. So he wrote a letter to the paper’s editor telling him to lighten up.

The editor invited him in for a chat and asked him to contribute sports articles. Mr. Rodney was soon hired as the paper’s first sports editor, at a time when the Communist Party was seeking to broaden its appeal in the United States by reflecting the interests of working-class men and women. Mr. Rodney joined the party because Daily Worker staff members were expected to do so.

“I never thought of myself as a ‘Communist sportswriter,’ ” Mr. Rodney told Irwin Silber for his 2003 biography “Press Box Red.” As he put it: “I was a sportswriter who happened to be writing for a Communist newspaper. By the time The Daily Worker was something the players might react to negatively, they knew me as a sportswriter and a person.”

After Army service in the Pacific during World War II, Mr. Rodney returned to The Daily Worker. He resigned from the Communist Party in January 1958 when the paper suspended publication, its top editors having refused to continue unwavering acceptance of the Soviet Communist Party line. (The American party later resumed putting out a newspaper under different names, the latest being The People’s Weekly World.)

Mr. Rodney moved to California and, after several years in advertising work, became the religion editor of The Long Beach Independent Press-Telegram. He retired in 1975.

He is survived by his daughter, Amy Rodney, of Santa Rosa, Calif.; his son, Ray, of Fairfax, Calif.; a granddaughter, Jessie Amanda Rodney LaGoy; and his companion, Mary Harvey. His wife, Clare, died in 2004.

Mr. Rodney looked back with pride on his long campaign against racism in sports. But he also displayed a wry side, as when he told Mr. Silber about his first days as the Daily Worker sports editor, just before the 1936 World Series between the Yankees and the New York Giants:

“I remember my first headline: ‘Giant Power Threatens Yankees,’ in 60-point railroad Gothic caps. I also remember thinking what fun it would have been if Cincinnati had won the National League pennant and the headline said, ‘Reds Power Threatens Yankees.’ ”




Published: December 26, 2009
Alice Schiller, a well-brought-up Midwestern woman who burst into tears the day her husband announced he was opening a burlesque house in Los Angeles, but who rallied to make the place — the Pink Pussycat of Hollywood — one of the most successful, celebrated and profusely feathered nightclubs of its era, died on Dec. 19 at her home in Washington. She was 95.
December 26, 2009    
Courtesy of Carole Feld

Alice Schiller surrounded by some of the Pink Pussycat dancers in the mid-1960s.

Her niece, Carole Feld, said her aunt died in her sleep. Mrs. Schiller leaves no immediate survivors.

Mrs. Schiller, who by her niece’s account never drank or smoked or swore, had not set out to own a supper club in which performers left the stage vastly lighter than when they came on. But for nearly two decades, from the early 1960s to the late 1970s, she reigned gamely as a doyenne of the diaphanous, owning and operating the Pink Pussycat with her husband, Harry.

Located near the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, the club was a popular destination of tourists and locals alike, known for its glittering stage shows and equally glittering celebrity clientele.

It was a favorite watering hole of the Rat Pack, and for good reason. Mrs. Schiller shrewdly gave her dancers stage names like Fran Sinatra, Samya Davis Jr., Deena Martin and Peeler Lawford, and the originals soon showed up to inspect their namesakes.

The club was also internationally famous for its attached institution of higher learning, the Pink Pussycat College of Strip Tease, familiarly called the Navel Academy of the West.

With the decline of burlesque theaters in the postwar years, a wave of more respectable if scarcely less naked establishments rushed in to take their place. Perhaps the best known of these was the Pink Pussycat, which literally embodied the transition between the seamy bump and grind of the burlesque house and the upscale gentlemen’s club of today.

“It was one of a few clubs that after World War II redefined what striptease was,” Rachel Shteir, the author of “Striptease: The Untold History of the Girlie Show” (Oxford University, 2004), said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “So these clubs really served a function.”

The Schillers’ club was tasteful — practically wholesome. Men were encouraged to bring their wives and sometimes did. Dancers took the stage in oceans of sequins, acres of rhinestones and clouds of feathers. They departed peeled, but still strategically covered by G-string and pasties, or, as Mrs. Schiller genteelly called them, “bosom bonnets.”

“I myself am an authority on beauty and glamour,” Mrs. Schiller told The Los Angeles Times in 1967. “I’ve probably glamorized 1,000 pussycats. Twenty of my pussycats married multimillionaires. One of my girls got a $2,700 tip one night. She disappeared. We heard she’d fixed her nose with some of the money, but we never saw her again.”

By day, the club was transformed into the College of Strip Tease. The Pink Pussycat was not the only American strip club to have an adult-education division, but it undoubtedly had the most distinguished faculty: Sally Marr, the noted striptease artist, was for many years its de facto chancellor, provost, dean and sole professor. (Ms. Marr’s son, the comic Lenny Bruce, sometimes appeared on the Pink Pussycat’s stage.)

Tuition was $100 for 10 sessions. The curriculum, as Time magazine reported in 1961, included “The History and Theory of the Striptease,” “The Psychology of Inhibitions,” “Applied Sensual Communication” and “Dynamic Mammary, Navel and Pelvis Rotation.”

Alice Feld was born on July 14, 1914, in Indiana Harbor, Ind.; her parents divorced when she was young. She was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household by her mother, who ran a delicatessen, and her maternal grandfather. After an early marriage that ended in divorce, Alice married Harry Schiller in the mid-1950s, and they opened a men’s clothing store in Beverly Hills.

In the late ’50s, on impulse, Mr. Schiller bought the Club Seville, a Latin dance club on Santa Monica Boulevard. The couple ran it briefly as a jazz club but made little money. One day in the very early ’60s, Mr. Schiller had a brainstorm: burlesque. Mrs. Schiller wept. Then she dried her tears and named the club. It was one of the first instances, if not the first, of the now-ubiquitous “Pink Pussycat” as a business name, her niece said.

In the late ’70s the Schillers turned the club into a discotheque renamed Peanuts. Harry Schiller died in 1982; in the late ’80s, the discotheque became Club 7969 and was run by Mrs. Schiller’s nephew. The family sold the club about two years ago.

The Pink Pussycat was also a leader in the field of distance learning. For $4.95 plus postage, nonmatriculated students could order a home-instruction kit complete with two bosom bonnets, one G-string, a rhinestone for the navel and a copy of the curriculum.

The final exam was on the honor system. Those who passed could order a Pink Pussycat diploma, signed, sealed, beribboned and suitable for framing.




Published: December 26, 2009

OSLO (AP) — A Norwegian museum official said Saturday that Knut Magne Haugland, the last of six crew members who crossed the Pacific Ocean in 1947 on board the balsa wood raft Kon-Tiki, had died. He was 92.

The director of the Kon-Tiki Museum, Maja Bauge, said that Mr. Haugland, a former Norwegian resistance fighter and explorer, died in an Oslo hospital on Friday.

Mr. Haugland, decorated by the British in World War II for helping prevent the German nuclear program from acquiring heavy water to make weapons, joined the expedition of a Norwegian anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl, as a radio operator.

The Kon-Tiki team sailed the raft with basic equipment 4,900 miles to Polynesia from Peru in 101 days to prove Mr. Heyerdahl’s theory that ancient mariners may have migrated across ocean stretches.




Published: December 27, 2009
Percy E. Sutton, a pioneering figure who represented Malcolm X as a young lawyer and became one of the nation’s most prominent black political and business leaders, died in a Manhattan nursing home on Saturday, his family said. He was 89.
Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Percy E. Sutton in 2005. More Photos »

December 28, 2009    

Vernon Smith/Scope

Percy E. Sutton served as Manhattan borough president and was Malcolm X’s lawyer. More Photos >

Entering politics in the early 1950s, Mr. Sutton rose from the Democratic clubhouses of Harlem to become the longest-serving Manhattan borough president and, for more than a decade, the highest-ranking black elected official in New York City.

Mr. Sutton, whose passion for civil rights was inherited from his father, was arrested as a Freedom Rider in Mississippi and Alabama in the 1960s, yet once described himself as “an evolutionist rather than a revolutionist” in matters of race. “You ought always to keep the lines of communication open with those with whom you disagree,” he said.

He was the senior member of the group of prominent Harlem politicians who became known, sometimes derisively, as the Gang of Four. The other three were David N. Dinkins, New York’s first black mayor; Representative Charles B. Rangel; and Basil A. Paterson, who was a state senator and New York’s secretary of state. Mr. Sutton was also a mentor to Mr. Paterson’s son, Gov. David A. Paterson.

“It was Percy Sutton who talked me into running for office, and who has continued to serve as one of my most valued advisers ever since,” Governor Paterson said in a statement on Saturday night.

In a statement on Sunday, President Obama called Mr. Sutton “a true hero to African-Americans in New York City and around the country.”

Mr. Sutton was the first seriously regarded black candidate for mayor when he ran in 1977. But after he finished fifth in a seven-way Democratic primary, his supporters saw the loss as a stinging rebuke of his campaign’s strenuous efforts to build support among whites. Still, Mr. Dinkins, who was elected in 1989, called Mr. Sutton’s failed bid indispensable to his own success.

“I stand on the shoulders of Percy Ellis Sutton,” he later said.

Mr. Sutton’s business empire included, over the years, radio stations, cable television systems and national television programs. Another business invested in Africa. Still another sold interactive technology to radio stations.

Mr. Sutton had an immaculately groomed beard and mustache, tailored clothing and a sonorous voice that prompted a nickname, “wizard of ooze.” Associates called him “the chairman,” a nickname more to his liking.

Percy Ellis Sutton, the last child in a family of 15 children, was born on Nov. 24, 1920, in San Antonio and grew up on a farm nearby in Prairie View, Tex. His father, Samuel Johnson Sutton, born in the last days of slavery, was the principal of a segregated high school in San Antonio. His mother, Lillian, was a teacher.

The 12 children who survived into adulthood went to college, with the older ones giving financial and moral support to the younger. (One of the brothers, Oliver C. Sutton, became a State Supreme Court justice in Manhattan.)

His father was an early civil rights activist who farmed, sold real estate and owned a mattress factory, a funeral home and a skating rink — in addition to being a full-time educator.

Percy milked the cows and sometimes helped his father deliver milk to the poor, riding in the same Studebaker that was used for funerals.

At 12, he stowed away on a passenger train to New York, where he slept under a sign on 155th Street. Far from being angry, his family regarded him as an adventurer, he later said.

From an early age, he bristled at prejudice. At 13, while passing out N.A.A.C.P. leaflets in an all-white neighborhood, he was beaten by a policeman.

Mr. Sutton attended Prairie View A & M, as well as Tuskegee in Alabama and Hampton University in Virginia, without earning a degree. During college, he took up stunt-flying on the barnstorming circuit, but gave it up after a friend crashed.

When World War II began, he tried to enlist in Texas but was turned away. He finally enlisted in New York, and served as an intelligence officer with the Tuskegee Airmen, the famed all-black unit of the Army Air Forces. He won combat stars in the Italian and Mediterranean theaters.

After the war, Mr. Sutton entered Columbia Law School on the G.I. Bill on the basis of his solid college grades, but transferred to Brooklyn Law School because he worked two jobs — at a post office from 4 p.m. until midnight, then as a subway conductor until 8:30 in the morning. He reported to law school at 9:30. This schedule continued for three years until he graduated.

The punishing pace so annoyed his wife, the former Leatrice O’Farrell, that she divorced him in 1950 — only to remarry him in 1952. In between, he married and divorced Eileen Clark.

Mr. Sutton is survived by his wife, Leatrice; a son from their marriage, Pierre; a daughter from his second marriage, Cheryl Lynn Sutton; his sister, Essie Mae Sutton of New York; and four grandchildren.

December 27, 2009    

Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Mr. Sutton, center, with David N. Dinkins, left, and Charles B. Rangel at a fund-raiser for Mr. Dinkins’s campaign for mayor in 1989. More Photos >


In Harlem, Reflections on the Life of Percy Sutton (December 28, 2009)

Times Topics: Percy E. Sutton

December 28, 2009    


Mr. Sutton with Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s widow, in 1965. More Photos >

After law school, Mr. Sutton made what he called “a major miscalculation” — enlisting in the Air Force because he mistakenly thought he had failed the bar exam.

He served in the Korean War, and in 1953 opened a law practice in Harlem. The initial going was tough; he had to take extra jobs, one of which involved scrubbing floors.

Mr. Sutton threw himself into the civil rights movement, representing more than 200 people arrested in protests in the South. He heard Malcolm X preaching at 125th Street and Seventh Avenue and introduced himself, telling the activist that he was his new lawyer.

Mr. Sutton represented Malcolm X beyond his assassination in 1965, when cemeteries refused his body. Mr. Sutton arranged for burial in Westchester County.

“Had it not been for Percy, I don’t know where Malcolm would have been buried,” Mr. Dinkins said.

In the 1950s, Mr. Sutton worked in political campaigns, both for others and for himself. He lost seven times in 11 years in challenges to established Democrats for a State Assembly seat, finally winning by a slim margin in 1964.

In 1966, the Manhattan borough president, Constance Baker Motley, was appointed to a federal judgeship, and the City Council chose Mr. Sutton to replace her. He was elected that fall to serve the remaining three years of her term, then was re-elected twice, in 1969 and 1973. When the Beame administration, engulfed in the fiscal crisis, could not come up with the $20,000 needed to expand the New York City Marathon into a five-borough race in 1976, Mr. Sutton solicited $25,000 from Lewis and Jack Rudin, the real estate executives..

In 1973, Mr. Sutton threw his support to Abraham D. Beame, who faced a strong challenge from Representative Herman Badillo. Mr. Sutton hoped that, in return, Mr. Beame would support him in 1977 in the race for mayor of New York.

Mr. Sutton saw his path to victory as combining minority support with that of the white liberals and organization Democrats who had elevated Mr. Beame. But the mayor delayed making a decision on running for re-election, causing Mr. Sutton to tell The New York Times, “It’s rather castrating to be waiting on others for your future.”

Mr. Beame finally decided to run again, and Mr. Sutton embraced a strategy of appealing to whites by taking strong anti-crime stands and championing white ethnic neighborhoods. But polls suggested that many New Yorkers saw mainly the color of his skin. This, to Mr. Sutton, was “the most disheartening, deprecating, disabling experience.”

As the Democratic primary grew more crowded, with seven candidates running, Mr. Sutton eventually switched tactics and tried to shore up his black support. It was not enough, though the eventual victor, Edward I. Koch, later called Mr. Sutton “one of the smartest people I have met in politics or outside of politics.”

Mr. Sutton blamed the news media as much as his opponents for his defeat. “It’s racism pure and simple,” he declared.

Mr. Sutton began investing in media companies in 1971, while he was Manhattan borough president, and he was part of a group that bought The New York Amsterdam News, New York’s largest black newspaper. Later that year, the same group’s purchase of an AM station, WLIB, made it the first black-owned radio station in New York.

Critics said the borough president was using the weekly to further his own political career, but he insisted he wanted to “liberate” blacks by expanding their influence in the media.

(Skeptics could not help noting that an Amsterdam News writer wrote that he had never seen “a more diligent or competent public official” than Mr. Sutton.)

Mr. Sutton sold his stake in the paper in 1975, calling it “a political liability.”

In 1974, he and his investors bought WBLS-FM, and the group, Inner City Broadcasting, grew to own, at various times, 18 radio stations in other cities and cable franchises in Queens and Philadelphia.

In 1981, Inner City, of which Mr. Sutton was chairman, bought the Apollo, the celebrated Harlem theater, at a bankruptcy sale for $225,000. He presided over a $20 million renovation, which included building a cable television studio used to produce the syndicated television program “It’s Showtime at the Apollo.” The theater reopened in 1985.

In 1992, a nonprofit foundation took over the theater after Mr. Sutton said he could no longer afford to run it. Some years later, Mr. Sutton became a defendant in a lawsuit by the state attorney general, Dennis C. Vacco, that accused the foundation, of which Mr. Rangel was chairman, of failing to collect $4 million from Inner City. Mr. Sutton denied wrongdoing, and the suit was eventually settled. When Inner City began producing a program called “Showtime in Harlem” in 2002, the theater accused the company of violating the Apollo trademark and filed suit.

Feuds and controversies materialized in Mr. Sutton’s political career, as well. There was bitterness between him and Mr. Badillo over the 1977 mayoral race — when the supporters of each accused the other of splitting the black and Hispanic vote — as well as the 1985 race, when Mr. Sutton and other Harlem leaders refused to endorse Mr. Badillo. They instead backed Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell Jr.

In 1970, Mr. Sutton was criticized when he helped Mr. Rangel unseat Representative Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Ebony magazine said Mr. Sutton’s actions “did little to endear him to blacks in New York and across the nation.”

Mr. Sutton sometimes recalled how his father would not let his children play in a segregated San Antonio park on the one day of the year that they were allowed in — on June 19, the anniversary of Texas’s implementation of the Emancipation Proclamation.

But Mr. Sutton also remembered something else he had learned from his father: “Suffer the hurts, but don’t show the anger, because if you do, it will block you from being able to effectively do anything to remove the hurts.”




Saying Goodbye to a Godfather of Black Politicians

Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times

Leatrice Sutton, with her son Pierre Sutton, listened to tributes to her late husband, Percy Sutton, at Riverside Church in New York.

// //

Published: January 6, 2010

They filed one after another into Riverside Church, mayors and governors and renowned preachers and musicians, all come to pay their respects to that most unusual product of our nation’s history, a son of a former slave who became father to modern Harlem and godfather to generations of black politicians. 


Times Topics: Percy E. Sutton

Percy Ellis Sutton, who died last month at age 89, never rose higher than Manhattan borough president, an office he held for 11 years. But in a more racially enlightened age, speaker after speaker noted in eulogies on Wednesday, this stylish and gifted politician well might have been commemorated as a former mayor or governor.

“I’m a proud son of this city, and Percy Sutton was a father to so many,” Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told an audience that filled every seat in every pew on the grand floor and balconies.

Mr. Holder pointed, jabbed really, at Mr. Sutton’s cherry-oak coffin, which lay garlanded in purple flowers. “Without him, there would be no me.”

For three hours on this cold winter day, Riverside Church, with its soaring gothic reaches, became the Westminster Abbey of black political royalty: Gov. David A. Paterson, Representative Charles B. Rangel, former Mayor David N. Dinkins, the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and a host of City Council and Assembly representatives. More than a few white notables mixed among them, from Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to Senator Charles E. Schumer and former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo. They exchanged confidences and laughs and bowed to a master of their game.

Basil Paterson, the black former deputy mayor and secretary of state for New York who was a political partner of Mr. Sutton’s for many decades and one of Harlem’s famous Gang of Four (together with Mr. Dinkins and Mr. Rangel), came stepping up to the pulpit with a bounce that belied his eight decades.

“When I came down the aisle, it was like old home week,” Mr. Paterson said, smiling at his old cronies and at Mr. Sutton’s vast family, who filled two dozen rows of pews. “I am known as the governor’s father. But before that I was known as Percy Sutton’s friend.”

Mr. Sutton and his friends embody a history quickly passing into shadow. He was a Tuskegee Airman and intelligence officer during World War II, a man pushed north by the Jim Crow diaspora, a civil rights activist jailed in the cruelest prisons of the South, and a lawyer to Malcolm X when that was nothing to boast of, even in black circles. He fought to open City University to blacks.

In time, he became a grandee in the most sophisticated and influential black political club in New York City.

And he turned himself into a businessman, some days walking from bank to bank to bank in search of loans. He became a millionaire, owner of what were at one time the city’s two most influential black radio stations, the WBLS hit-maker on FM and the intensely, incessantly political WLIB on AM.

“He represented Malcolm, an act of defiance and dignity, he marched for civil rights, he embraced Mandela,” Mr. Jackson said. “To buy WLIB, he had to go to 62 banks. He never stopped.”

To his family, not least his 12 brothers and sisters (a preternaturally accomplished group that produced judges, civil rights leaders, Ph.D.’s and legislators in several states), he was known as Uncle Jimmy, who came back many summers to relax on the family farm outside San Antonio. But to his friends up north, he was known simply as The Chairman.

With his pencil-thin mustache and slow-burning growl of a voice, he seemed to glory in the daily act of politics, whether shaking hands on 125th Street or telling stories to fifth graders at Public School 166 on the Upper West Side in the late ’60s.

“Most elected officials when I was growing up, they were kind of suspicious,” Governor Paterson recalled in a phone interview after the funeral. “His attitude was, if you go out and run for office, and want people to know you well, then be happy when they did!”

Malcolm X’s daughter, Attalah Shabazz spoke of his service to her father. After Malcolm X was assassinated, and no cemetery would bury him, Mr. Sutton found a graveyard.

“Percy kept his oath to keep us from harm,” she said. “And always with that wonderful grace.” Then she imitated his flirtatious growl, punctuated by a typical greeting: “ ‘How are you doing today, laaaady Shabazz?’ ”

Mr. Sutton’s funeral was a reminder of when Harlem defined the black political solar system.

And yet theirs was a world circumscribed. These black political aristocrats possessed law degrees and recited poetry and traveled the world, but they returned to a neighborhood without basic services. Basil Paterson recalled driving to a distant white neighborhood just to find a drugstore to fill a prescription.

In the end of the end came goodbye. Roscoe Brown, a commander in the Tuskegee Airmen and a college president and a touch unsteady, saluted his old friend and presented Leatrice, the widow, with a folded flag.

A granddaughter danced and laid a white rose atop his casket; Pierre Sutton, the son, whispered: “My father, we will miss you. Lie down in peace.”

And a flutist played and the family lined up, and soon enough the funeral procession moved down the hill from Riverside Church to 125th Street, the grand boulevard of Harlem.




Humanitarian was ‘a force of nature’


Dec. 28, 2009, 7:09AM

Mitchell archive

Cynthia Woods Mitchell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2002.

Cynthia Woods Mitchell, patron of the arts, impassioned environmentalist and avid historical preservationist, died Sunday morning surrounded by family at her home in The Woodlands. She was 87.

Reared by a single mother in Depression-era New York City, Mitchell embraced a wide range of causes and interests, ranging from the Boy and Girl Scouts to Trinity Episcopal Church and Texas Children’s Hospital.

Survivors include her husband, oilman-real estate developer George Mitchell, and 10 children.

“She was a force of nature,” the Mitchell family said in a prepared statement. “Our family will always remember the dynamic, colorful person that she was: intelligent, altruistic, totally original and hilariously funny. Her kindnesses are remembered by people she barely knew.”

Mitchell came to Houston with her twin sister, Pamela Loomis, in 1939 to study literature, art and psychology at the University of Houston. She met her future husband two years later while traveling by train from College Station to Houston. The couple were married on Halloween 1943.

George Mitchell founded Mitchell Energy and Development in 1946. In 1952, defying common oil business wisdom, he bought 10,000 acres in a North Texas region near Bridgeport known as “the wildcatter’s graveyard.” In little more than a year, the fledgling company had drilled 13 consecutive producing development wells and placed 300,000 acres under lease.

Galveston projects

It was among the first of many daring moves that propelled the company into the nation’s big-time natural gas business.

In the mid-1970s, Mitchell launched plans for The Woodlands, an innovative planned community 30 miles north of Houston. Cynthia Mitchell picked the new development’s name.

Together, Mitchell and her husband moved to breathe new life into economically bypassed Galveston, George Mitchell’s hometown.

Beginning with the 1871 League Building in 1976, the Mitchells restored 17 iron-front buildings in the island city’s historic downtown. Among their projects were conversion of the Leon and H. Blum Building into the luxurious, European-styled Tremont Hotel. On the beachfront, they bought and restored the Galvez Hotel. On the Gulf and Galveston Bay, they built two new hotels, the San Luis and the Harbor House.

“Mrs. Mitchell brought style and sophistication to all the family’s work to preserve historic Galveston,” said Dwayne Johnson, Galveston Historic Foundation executive director.

Mitchell’s interest in history and historic preservation manifested itself on the national level in the 1990s when she became a board member of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The group later presented her its highest honor, the Crowninshield Award.

Community support

Mitchell’s interests and philanthropies extended to arts and sciences. Serving on the board of the World Wildlife Fund, she underwrote exhibits featuring endangered animals at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

At the University of Houston, Mitchell underwrote a distinguished authors’ program. She was a benefactor of the Houston Symphony, Houston Grand Opera and Houston Ballet.

She was instrumental in creating UH’s Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

UH President Renu Khator said the arts center has helped position the arts as one of the university’s priorities.

“Just as she lived a productive and creative life with extraordinary commitment to our community, she has left a legacy that will fuel creativity for future generations in our community and beyond,” Khator said.

Mitchell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2002. It was a diagnosis she met with “optimism and dignity,” said family spokeswoman Dancie Ware.

In the wake of medical bad news, the Mitchell family poured resources into research to find a cure for the degenerative disease. Created were the George and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases at the University of Texas Medical Branch-Galveston and the George P. and Cynthia Mitchell Center for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Brain Disorders at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. The family also supported research at Baylor College of Medicine.

Isle memorial service

“Cynthia Woods Mitchell filled the most demanding roles, from parent to civic entrepreneur, beautifully and with sparkling intellect,” said Dr. Larry Kaiser, UT Health Science Center president.

“She provided generously for the health of future generations by giving to medical research. She brought a sense of optimism as well as common sense and business acumen to the most daunting project and in all that she did, she defined womanly grace.”

The funeral will be private, but there will be a memorial service Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church in Galveston, followed by a reception at the Tremont House.

The Houston Symphony is scheduled to play a special concert celebrating the life of Cynthia Woods Mitchell April 29 at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands.


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What a wonderful and uplifting article. Four siblings who made it to college together and to the same university. Not to mention, the first set of quads to be accepted by Yale.

Cheers to you all!



Published: December 18, 2009
DANBURY, Conn. — Ray Crouch, a senior at Danbury High School, logged onto the computer in his family’s living room just after 5 p.m. on Tuesday and entered the Web site of the Yale admissions office.
December 19, 2009    

Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Kenny, Martina, Ray and Carol Crouch have until May 1 to decide whether to attend the same college or to branch out.

December 19, 2009    

Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times

Kenny, Martina, Ray and Carol Crouch have collectively made more than 30 applications to college, and not to all the same places.

Suddenly the screen turned blue — Yale blue — and an image of a bulldog, the university mascot, appeared, followed by “Welcome to the Class of 2014.” Ray, 18, had been offered a spot in the next freshman class, under its early-admission program. Standing behind him, his mother, Caroline, screamed.

But that was only the beginning. Moments later, Ray’s brother, Kenny, also 18, went to the Yale site and got an identical message. He was followed by their sister Carol. Same news. Then the room fell silent. Ray, Kenny and Carol are quadruplets, and their sister Martina had applied to Yale, too.

“I was thinking, it’s going to be really awkward when I don’t get in,” Martina recalled Friday.

But the computer turned blue for her as well, which prompted such an outpouring of joy from their mother that she wrestled their father, Steven, to the floor in a hug.

The Crouches’ perfect batting average represents a first for Yale — the first time in anyone’s memory that it has offered admission to quadruplets. It is also, of course, no small milestone for the siblings, who were born more than two months premature. (Ray was the last to be released from the neonatal unit, more than four months later.)

They made up for that rough start. Their class rankings range from 13 out of a class of 632 (Kenny) to 46 (Martina) — and they have sky-high SAT scores (including Carol’s perfect 800 on the verbal part of that exam).

But whether any one of them, let alone all four, winds up at Yale remains an open question. Under Yale’s early-admission program, accepted applicants can apply to other colleges and need not make up their minds until May 1.

For one thing, money is still an issue. With a father who works for the State of Connecticut as a case manager in the Department of Mental Health, and a stay-at-home mother who is studying for her master’s degree in social work, the quadruplets say their decision will be heavily influenced by financial aid.

“We have to be practical,” Kenny said.

While the family has some savings, the four say they do not want their parents to have to pay much of anything for their education.

As a so-called need-blind institution, Yale commits in advance to meet any admitted applicant’s financial need. But it is the university — and not the student — that defines what that need is. For the Crouches, such calculations will be made further down the road. They have yet to complete their financial aid paperwork.

What they have done, though, is submit applications to other colleges — more than 30 applications, collectively. In fact, Kenny received a phone call last week confirming a Harvard interview.

While all four have also applied to the University of Connecticut — only Martina has received a response, and it was positive — each has also submitted applications to colleges that the others have not. Kenny, a standout sprinter regarded by his siblings as “the brain,” has also applied to Princeton, Williams, Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania, among other institutions.

Martina, an obvious free spirit — she wears a smudge of bright red makeup under each eye, to promote eye contact — is intrigued by Wesleyan, as well as New York University. Ray, a long-distance runner, has applied to Duke and Brown. And Carol, the family’s acknowledged social conscience who wears her brown hair in an oversize Afro, is interested in Boston College, as well as Wesleyan and N.Y.U.

In an e-mail message Friday, Jeffrey Brenzel, the dean of admissions at Yale, said, “Their applications were terrific, and we simply hope that they will all decide to come!”

Asked if Yale had any policy on admitting members of the same family as a package, Mr. Brenzel said, “We don’t feel an obligation to render the same decision on siblings in the same year.”

But Mr. Brenzel said the enormous financial burden facing their parents — four children starting four years of college in the same year — would be a factor in assessing their financial need. He wrote: “All financial aid offices, ours included, always take into account the number of other children in the family in determining an aid award.”

Even before receiving the good news Tuesday, the Crouch children had drawn attention here for their many activities; their acceptances from Yale were reported Friday in two local papers, The Connecticut Post and The News-Times of Danbury.

While the Crouch siblings are similar in many ways — all four love to laugh, and are volunteers at the Danbury Public Library — the essays they submitted to Yale indicate part of what makes each unique.

Carol wrote, in part, about tutoring children in special education. Ray chose a subject that he hoped would catch an admissions officer off guard: his oblique muscles (not just to emphasize his identity as an athlete, but also his propensity for “nonlinear” thinking).

Martina, the iconoclast, built a whole essay on the phrase, “I’m not going to stop you…” which her mother had once uttered to her. Kenny described visiting the village in Nigeria where his mother grew up.

The siblings said their mother and father had met as students at Western Connecticut State University here, and had always emphasized the importance of education.

One advantage that Yale may hold in landing the four Crouch children is that they seem reluctant to part, after being inseparable for so long. Which is not to say they have not imagined what it would be like to go solo.

As Kenny put it: “It might be fun to go somewhere where I’m not ‘one of the quads.’ ”


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“How can those who tortured and those who were tortured co-exist in the same land? How to heal a country that has been traumatised by repression if the fear to speak out is still omnipresent everywhere? And how do you reach the truth if lying has become a habit? How do we keep the past alive without becoming its prisoner? How do we forget it without risking its repetition in the future? Is it legitimate to sacrifice the truth to ensure peace? And what are the consequences of suppressing that past and the truth it is whispering or howling to us? Are people free to search for justice and equality if the threat of a military intervention haunts them? And given these circumstances, can violence be avoided? And how guilty are we all of what happened to those who suffered most? And perhaps the greatest dilemma of them all: how to confront these issues without destroying the national consensus, which creates democratic stability?”

Ariel Dorfman, afterword to the original stage play, Death and the Maiden



Mrs. Johnnie Mae Chappell

Addie Mae Collins

Carole Robertson

Cynthia Wesley

Denise McNair

Wharlest Jackson

Clifton Walker

Rev. George E. Lee

Lamar Smith

Herbert Lee

Vernon Dahmer

Louis Allen

Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman


The remains of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner removed from the earthen dam on August 4, 1964.  (SOURCE)



The earthen dam where bodies of slain civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner were found is seen June, 1964 just southwest of Philadelphia, Mississippi.  (SOURCE)


These are the names of just a few of the many brutally murdered Civil Rights Movement workers who put their lives on the line for justice, fairness, and equality under the law for everyone.

Many of these brave individuals were murdered in the most horrific and sadistic fashions:  shotgun blasts to the face, burned to death in their fire-bombed homes, shot down on courthouse lawns in broad daylight—-and even murdered while fellowshipping in church:


Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing



Very, very few victims have received any justice. In the case of the 16TH Street Baptist Church bombing, all but, one of the accused murderers died in prison. Still, so many more have not received the justice they have been denied. These are the many cold cases that were never solved, let alone, brought to court, for the slain to receive justice.

Many of these women and men who fought against the virulent and rabid racist monsters during the height of the Civil Rights Movement have been lost to memory, time, and the denial of the hated wrongs done to them. But, thankfully, there is a project that has begun to address their murders, and this organization, The Civil Rights Cold Case Project, seeks to bring justice to their lost lives:


Cold Case logo 
“A multimedia investigation of the untold stories of unsolved civil rights-era murders in the South.
The Civil Rights Cold Case Project brings together the power of investigative reporting, narrative writing, documentary filmmaking and interactive multimedia production to reveal the long-neglected truths behind scores of race-motivated murders, and to facilitate reconciliation and healing.

Our reporters are reopening and investigating several cold cases—producing important evidence that prosecutors have used to build criminal cases against killers and conspirators who have walked free for more than 40 years.”

The Civil Rights Cold Case Project relies on newspaper reporters to go over cold cases with their investigative expertise, tips from still living witnesses who feel they can now come forward, and any evidence that leads to the conviction of murderers who have freely walked this earth for over 40 years.

The numerous bombings of churches, homes, cars, businesses, the cruel deaths by inhuman cowards must never be forgotten.

That the Civil Rights Cold Case Project will not let the many martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement be forgotten and disregarded is a welcome blessing.






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Last Updated: 1:24 PM, December 21, 2009

Posted: 2:29 AM, December 20, 2009

A pregnant Brooklyn woman suffering a fatal seizure in a coffee shop in the shadow of FDNY Headquarters was ignored by two callous city medics who continued to buy their breakfast, eyewitnesses told The Post.

“The EMTs just said we had to call 911. They got their bagels and left,” said a disgusted worker.

Frantic employees at the Au Bon Pain at 1 Metrotech Center approached the FDNY medics at 9 a.m. on Dec. 9, shortly after colleague Eutisha Revee Rennix, 25, began to complain of shortness of breath and intense stomach pains. Workers immediately dialed 911.

NO HELP: Witnesses say that as Eutisha Revee Rennix (above) lay dying at a Brooklyn Au Bon Pain 600 feet from FDNY headquarters, two EMTs on break refused to assist her, leaving son Jahleel, 3, motherless.

Helayne Seidman
NO HELP: Witnesses say that as Eutisha Revee Rennix (above) lay dying at a Brooklyn Au Bon Pain 600 feet from FDNY headquarters, two EMTs on break refused to assist her, leaving son Jahleel, 3, motherless.

“People were calling out saying, ‘She’s turning blue! She’s pregnant!’ ” said the witness.

But the EMTs appeared unfazed.

“I remember them saying they couldn’t do anything because they were on their break,” another worker said. “We started screaming and cursing at them.”

Rennix fell in a heap and began foaming at the nose and mouth in the back room.

That sent a manager rushing to the front to again ask someone in the Metrotech coffee shop to help.

This time, two good Samaritans in blue FDNY sweaters ran to the back office. One called 911 from his cellphone while the other tried to help keep Rennix still.

“That was when the manager ran out to try and get help from across the plaza,” said a worker who was there. “Then the ambulance finally came, but it was too late.”

The Fire Department, which runs the city’s Emergency Medical Service, is now investigating the incident, and has placed the two EMTs on paid but restricted duty, barred from providing patient care.

“All of our members take an oath to assist others in need of emergency medical aid. They have a duty to act when called,” said FDNY spokesman Steve Ritea.

Ironically, the EMS emergency dispatch center that fields 911 calls is located in the same building as Au Bon Pain — just floors above where Rennix collapsed.

And the FDNY headquarters is about 600 feet away within the same Metrotech complex. In fact, the coffee shop is regularly filled with FDNY and EMS personnel and top brass.

The first ambulance on the scene was a private hospital crew that arrived 11 minutes after the initial 911 call.

But that crew’s actions are also being investigated, the FDNY confirmed. Witnesses said the EMTs didn’t have one of the equipment bags needed to administer aid.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said an eyewitness. “The whole thing was like a bad joke.”

Rennix, a mother of a 3-year-old son, Jahleel, was rushed to Long Island College Hospital a mile away in cardiac arrest at approximately 9:48 a.m. She was pronounced dead at 10:17, police records show.

The 6-month-old fetus — a girl posthumously named Jahniya Renne Woodson — outlived her young mother by two hours and 10 minutes, but was born too premature to survive, said distraught grandmother Cynthia Rennix.

Rennix and her baby were buried at Canarsie Cemetery Friday, said twin brother Eudane Rennix, who flew home for the funeral on emergency leave from his second GI tour in Iraq.

His vivacious and fun-loving sister had recently developed some asthma problems but was otherwise the picture of health, family members said.

EMS-union head Pat Bahnken said the allegations against the EMTs are being taken seriously.

“Such an isolated incident in no way reflects the professionalism our members exhibit every day. But, if a full investigation shows the allegations to be true, we expect these people to be punished to the fullest extent,” he said.

Additional reporting by Douglas Montero





Dec 22, 2009 The mother of a pregnant woman says the emergency medical was taken to Long
Island College Hospital, where she died a short time later.
Dec 21, 2009 The woman and her baby later died. Bloomberg said refusing to help goes against
human Medics Accused Of Ignoring Dying Pregnant Woman


Is it, or is it not, the duty of trained medical personnel to respond to a medical emergency, no matter where the emergency is occurring? That no matter the time, nor place, nor situation, that they are to render medical aid to a person in need of help especially if the bystanders are responding in the following way:


“People were calling out saying, ‘She’s turning blue! She’s pregnant!’ ” said the witness.”

Obviously the colleagues of Ms. Rennix were fearful of what was happening to her, but, according to witnesses, it was the response of the EMTS that really blew their minds:

“I remember them saying they couldn’t do anything because they were on their break,” another worker said. “We started screaming and cursing at them.”

Witnesses said the EMTs didn’t have one of the equipment bags needed to administer aid.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said an eyewitness. “The whole thing was like a bad joke.”

Over a freaking break.

Over a damn bagel.

No break is worth more than the life of a person in medical need. As for their not having a special bag, that in no way exonerates their callous behaviour. As EMTS, they should have received proper training in how to respond to a medical emergency (heart attack, stroke, person not breathing, etc.) and should have come to Ms. Rennix’s aid with what they learned in how to handle an emergency such as hers. You would think they had something as basic as CPR training, checking the pulse rate, checking a person’s response (if they could respond) to questions asked of them, at least to try to medically evaluate her symptoms that she exhibited.

Most importantly, did they not take a Hippocratic Oath to act professionally and compassionately where a person’s life is on the line?

“Twelfth-century Byzantine manuscript the oath was written out in the form of a cross, relating it visually to Christian ideas” from the Folio Biblioteca Vaticana. The source is page 27 of Surgery: An Illustrated History by Ira M. Rutkow, M.D. published in 1993: ISBN 0801660785.


 Not to mention, their failing to acknowledge the Good Samaritan   Law.


File:Good Samaritan Sicard Tuileries.jpg
The Good Samaritan by François-Léon Sicard (French, 1862–1934). In the Tuileries Gardens, Paris. (SOURCE)


Is there not such a thing as a “duty to act”, that basically states that if you are in a public location, in uniform, and an emergency arises, you are bound by the terms of your oath to take whatever necessary steps, and actions, within your technical capabilities and resources to provide patient care?

You even do not have to be a licensed or any other allied health/medical profession person, to just simply…give…a…damn.

Instead, your break time was more important to you than coming to render aid.

Now there are two people dead—-a mother, and her unborn girl baby who died a few hours after her mother passed.

All because two people just couldn’t be bothered with leaving their precious break.

One question for these people:

“Do you think that a 20-30 minute break was worth this mother and her unborn baby dying? Oath, or no oath, in uniform, or not in uniform, this was another human being. A mother who was with child. Two people whose lives that had worth and value.

“I wonder if anyone can say the same for yours.”


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by LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ | 12/21/09 04:22 PM | AP



MIAMI — President Barack Obama is on track to name more Hispanics to top posts than any of his predecessors, drawing appointees from a wide range of the nation’s Latino communities, including Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Colombians.

That won’t necessarily give the president a free pass on issues such as immigration, but it may ease Hispanics’ worries about whether Obama will continue reaching out to a group that was key to his winning the White House.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is by far Obama’s most famous Hispanic appointee. In less than a year in office, the president has also tapped at least 48 other Hispanics to positions senior enough to require Senate confirmation. So far, 35 have been approved.

That compares with a total of 30 approved under Bill Clinton and 34 under George W. Bush during their first 20 months in office, according to U.S. Office of Personnel Management data.

The personnel office does not track appointments of judges or ambassadors. Early indicators suggest Obama is naming many Hispanics to those positions as well, though he has been slow to appoint judges in general.

“He’s really captured our trajectory, and the vast, vast array of Latinos that make up our country, whether it’s Mexicanos, Puertorriquenos or Dominicanos,” said Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, the Cabinet’s first Hispanic woman.

The officials cover a wide swath of policy areas and include:

_ Solis, a California native and former congresswoman whose parents hail from Mexico and Nicaragua.

_ Thomas Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, an Ivy Leauger from New York whose parents fled the Dominican Republic dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo.

_ Jose Riojas, assistant secretary for veterans affairs, a retired brigadier general and Mexican-American from Missouri.

In some ways, Obama is simply following his predecessor’s example. Until the Obama administration, Bush’s Cabinet was widely considered the most ethnically diverse in U.S. history, with Hispanics serving as secretaries of commerce and housing and as attorney general. Less than half of Obama’s Cabinet consists of white men.

Al Cardenas, a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a Cuban-American, said he was impressed by Obama’s initial Hispanic appointments, particularly to positions in defense, treasury and housing, though he said he will be watching to see whether the pace falls off.

About half of Obama’s picks trace their roots to Mexico and the former Spanish holdings in the Southwest, not surprising since two-thirds of Hispanics in the U.S. identify themselves as Mexican-American. But the administration also includes about half a dozen people of South American descent and nearly a dozen Hispanics from the Caribbean.

Oddly, that geographic and international diversity may come in part from Obama’s lack of experience in working with Hispanics, said Matt Barreto, an associate professor at the University of Washington who studies Latino politics.

Bush had a long history of working with Mexican-Americans in Texas and had family and political connections to the Republican-leaning Cuban-American community in Florida. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama’s chief opponent during the primaries, had strong support from the Democratic Hispanic leadership in heavily Mexican-American Texas and California, and to some extent Florida. Obama didn’t have those ties.

“In some ways, the Latino community benefits from being new to Obama outreach. He doesn’t have the entrenched interests,” Barreto said.

More than half of the appointees hold an Ivy League degree, and more than a quarter, like the president, have a diploma from Harvard, an Associated Press review found.

Special counsel to the president Michael Camunez, one of the Harvard graduates, noted that a number of the Hispanic appointees, including himself and Solis, were the first in their families to attend college.

“It says a lot about our country that these people have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and have obtained a high degree of success,” he said. “It is an American success story.”

The story may not be enough for Ruben Sepulveda, 47, a Miami-based mortgage broker who recently became a citizen and cautiously supports Obama. The Colombian native said he hasn’t seen enough new controls over the nation’s financial institutions and is waiting for more leadership on immigration reform and on foreign policy in Latin America.

“The nominations are positive, and there’s still time for good things to happen, but enough ‘blah, blah, blah,'” Sepulveda said in Spanish. “We need to see some action.”

Professor Michael Jones-Correa, who studies Hispanic politics and immigration at Cornell University, said Latinos in the administration have ensured that immigration remained on the table when some advisers hoped to delay it until after next year’s midterm elections.

The White House has signaled it wants to see an immigration bill next year, and last week, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., offered the first crack at comprehensive reform since 2007.

The most significant legacy of the Obama appointments may be a ways off, Jones-Correa said, noting that midlevel officials often go on to win major state and federal elections.

“The real impact of these appointments, in my opinion, will be felt not in the next few years, but in the next 15 or 20,” he said.



Okay, President Obama, I do hope you are not appointing Latinos for the sake of the Latino vote (past 2008 Presidential Election), nor for any future votes you may lobby for from the ever-increasing Latino population.

Latino appointments aside. . . .

. . . .I want to know how these people stand on the following:   

-Health care

-Civil Rights

-Veteran’s affairs


-the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

-Medicare, Medicaid, TANF

-Social Security


-Tax cuts

-Student Aid and Student Loans (for college)


-Most especially, Welfare Reform

Regardless of all of these people you are appointing President Obama, they had better be people who look out for and have the best interests of the U.S. citizens in mind.

There have been enough elected (and appointed) officials who have cared for no one but themselves and their own agendas.

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By now, everyone has gotten all of their Christmas shopping done, gifts all wrapped and put under the tree, cards sent, cards received, and feast preparations begun. The guests (those who can make it to Grandma’s (or Grandpa’s) house, will look forward to visits with family and friends, and the hostsess and hosts will try and plan activities for those who come to visit.

What better way to relax, unwind, rest and recuperate from the season’s holiday shopping, giving and receiving presents, and filling oneself up with delicious food, than to sit down to view a great classic movie.

Yep, that great classic. . . .

Ben Hur, starring Charlton Heston and Stephen Boyd. Ben-Hur (or Benhur) is a 1959 epic film directed by William Wyler. It premiered at Loew’s State Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1959. This year, Ben Hur celebrates its 50TH Anniversary.

Running at 212 minutes, the film was the most expensive ever made at the time, and its sets were the largest yet built for a film.


  • Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur
  • Stephen Boyd as Messala
  • Martha Scott as Miriam
  • Cathy O’Donnell as Tirzah Bat-Hur
  • Haya Harareet as Esther Bat-Simonides
  • Sam Jaffe as Simonides
  • Jack Hawkins as Quintus Arrius
  • Hugh Griffith as Sheik Ilderim
  • Claude Heater (uncredited) as Jesus Christ
  • Finlay Currie as Balthasar/Narrator


The movie is  the third film version of an 1880 fictional novel, Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, which was written by General Lewis “Lew” Wallace, a Union general of the Civil War.

File:Lew Wallace - Brady-Handy.jpg

The movie was filmed in a process known as “MGM Camera 65“, 65 mm negative stock from which was made a 70 mm anamorphic print with an aspect ratio of 2.76:1, one of the widest prints ever made, having a width of almost three times its height. An anamorphic lens which produced a 1.25X compression was used along with a 65 mm negative (whose normal aspect ratio was 2.20:1) to produce this extremely wide aspect ratio. This allowed for spectacular panoramic shots in addition to six-channel audio. In practice, however, “Camera 65” prints were shown in an aspect ratio of 2.5:1 on most screens, so that theaters were not required to install new, wider screens or use less than the full height of screens already installed.

At the time of filming, in casting for the role of Ben-Hur,  many other men were offered the role before Charlton Heston. Burt Lancaster claimed he turned down the role of Ben-Hur because he “didn’t like the violent morals in the story”. Paul Newman turned it down because he said he didn’t have the legs to wear a tunic. Rock Hudson and Leslie Nielsen were also offered the role. (Leslie Neilsen as Ben Hur. Hmm. Just can’t picture him in my mind, especially after the many comedy films he has starred in, even though he started out in drama roles.) Anyway, after Charlton Heston’s performance on the silver screen, he owned that role.

Out of respect, and consistent with Lew Wallace’s stated preference, the face of Jesus is never shown nor do we hear Him speak. (Which was as it should be.) Jesus was played by opera singer Claude Heater, who received no credit for his only film role.

The chariot race in Ben Hur  was directed by Andrew Martin. Even by current standards, it is considered to be one of the most spectacular action sequences ever filmed. Filmed at Cinecitta Studios outside Rome way before the coming of computer-generated fx, it took over three months to complete, using 15,000 extras for the spectators on the largest film set ever built. Eighteen chariots were  built, with half used for practice. The race took five weeks to film.

The section in the middle of the circus, the spina, is a known feature of circi. The golden dolphins, that counted down the number of turns the chariots had to make, was the lap counter, a feature of the Circus Maximus in Rome.

The galley sequence is purely fictional, as the Roman navy, in contrast to its early modern counterparts, did not employ galley slaves.


The film means many things to many different people.

It is a Tale of the Christ, where at the film’s beginning, the birth of Jesus (the Nativity) occurs, the Sermon on the Mount, the Passion of Christ, and the Crucifixtion, and throughout the film His impact on the lives of those who cross paths with Him, especially Ben Hur.

The film follows Judah Ben Hur through the turbulent times in life when he suffers a falling out with his best friend Messala (Stephen Boyd), his family sent to prison for an unjust crime they were accused of, Ben Hur’s search for them, his attacking Messala for his treachery, his being sent to the galleys as a slave who was one of many slaves rowing Roman vessals, his rescue from slavery, his meeting with Messala to get his family back from the leper colony they now lived in, and finally, his dramatic meeting with Messala in the chariot race.

Who can forget that famous chariot race that would have been held in the ancient Circus Maximus? Never before has a scene so full of drama, excitement and cinematic choreography been filmed before……or since:

Not to be forgotten, nor slighted, is the beautiful music score composed by Miklos Rozsa, one of the most lovely soundtracks created for a movie:


The movie addresses loss, faith, revenge, redemption, and salvation.

It is a movie that stands the test of time, and a true example of Hollywood at its finest.

Ben Hur went on to win a record of eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, a record that stood for decades until those other films , Titanic (1998) and Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2004) came along.

So, relax, pull up a chair, and put on Ben Hur.

They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

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