Published: March 27, 2010
The prominent American poet Ai, whose work — known for its raw power, jagged edges and unflinching examination of violence and despair — stood as a damning indictment of American society, died on March 20 in Stillwater, Okla. She was 62 and lived in Stillwater.
March 28, 2010    

Oklahoma State University

Ai, a poet and professor.

The cause was pneumonia, a complication of previously undiagnosed cancer, said Carol Moder, head of the English department at Oklahoma State University, where Ai had taught since 1999.

Born Florence Anthony, the poet legally changed her name to Ai, which means love in Japanese, as a young woman. She received a National Book Award in 1999 for “Vice: New and Selected Poems,” published that year by W. W. Norton & Company.

Her other books include “Sin” (1986), “Fate” (1991), “Greed” (1993) and “Dread” (2003). A posthumous volume, “No Surrender,” is to be published by Norton in September.

Ai’s poems, which have been widely anthologized, are nearly always dramatic monologues, a form closely associated with the 19th-century English poet Robert Browning. To this form, she brought a flinty, distinctly 20th-century American sensibility.

“Imagine a Browning monologue rewritten in the terse manner of Sam Shepard,” the poet David Wojahn wrote in The New York Times Book Review in 1986, “and you have a good idea of what an Ai poem sounds like.”

Though Ai’s work was determinedly not autobiographical, its concern with disenfranchised people was informed, she often said, by her own fractional heritage. Many poems could be read as biting dissertations “On Being 1/2 Japanese, 1/8 Choctaw, 1/4 Black, and 1/16 Irish,” as the title of a 1978 essay she wrote in Ms. magazine put it. (The proportions are telling, too, for not quite adding up to a complete person.)

The narrators of Ai’s poems are male and female, young and old, famous and unsung. Many are profoundly unlikable, some genuinely evil. They do terrible things. In the worlds they inhabit, families are shattered, lovers abandoned, children abused.

In her early work, characters tend to be people on the margins of society, poor, anonymous, festering in small towns. Their relationships are defined by sexual yearning, but also by neglect, betrayal and violence. Her poem “Salomé” opens:

I scissor the stem of the red carnation

and set it in a bowl of water.

It floats the way your head would,

if I cut it off.

But what if I tore you apart

for those afternoons

when I was fifteen

and so like a bird of paradise

slaughtered for its feathers.

Even my name suggested wings,

wicker cages, flight.

Come, sit on my lap, you said.

I felt as if I had flown there;

I was weightless.

You were forty and married.

That she was my mother never mattered.

She was a door that opened onto me.

Ai’s later poems are often narrated by historical figures, as if the famous dead — be they villainous or venerated — had been given one last chance to speak. These narrators include Jimmy Hoffa, Marilyn Monroe, Lenny Bruce, Joseph R. McCarthy, Ferdinand Marcos and Elvis Presley.

Florence Anthony was born in 1947 in Albany, Tex., and reared mostly in Arizona by her mother and stepfather. For years her biological father’s identity was kept from her. She later learned, as she wrote in an autobiographical essay in the reference work Contemporary Poets, that “I am the child of a scandalous affair my mother had with a Japanese man she met at a streetcar stop.”

In 1969 Ms. Anthony received a bachelor’s degree in Oriental studies, with a concentration in Japanese, from the University of Arizona. She earned a master of fine arts in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, in 1971. Her first collection of poems, “Cruelty,” was published by Houghton Mifflin in 1973.

A half-sister, Roslynn O’Carroll, is her only immediate survivor.

Over the years, some reviewers criticized Ai’s poetry as sensationalist, formally repetitive and unremittingly bleak. Others, however, praised it for its steadfast candor and for its diverse array of characters. Writing in The Times Book Review in 1976, the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Louis Simpson described her work this way:

“What separates poets from mere versifiers is a quality of feeling based in experience. This is why the poems of Ai, for example, make the poems of most of her contemporaries seem like kid stuff.”




Published: March 24, 2010
Robert Culp, who teamed with Bill Cosby as a secret agent in the hit 1960s television series “I Spy” and starred as one of the sexually adventurous title characters in the 1969 film “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 79.
March 25, 2010    

NBC, via Associated Press

Robert Culp, left, and Bill Cosby in “I Spy,” in the mid-1960s.

March 25, 2010    

Columbia Pictures

Mr. Culp, in love beads, in “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice” (1969), with Elliott Gould, far left, Natalie Wood and Dyan Cannon.

His agent, Hillard Elkins, said that Mr. Culp apparently died of a heart attack after collapsing outside his home.

Later in his career Mr. Culp had a recurring role as Ray Romano’s father-in-law in the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” but he may be best remembered for his role in NBC’s “I Spy” as part of an easygoing, wisecracking interracial team that was a first for network television and the inspiration for later black and white buddy films.

Secret agents and international intrigue in exotic locations loomed large on the big and small screens in the mid-1960s after the runaway success of the James Bond films. “I Spy,” which ran from 1965 to 1968, presented viewers with a couple of new twists on the formula.

Kelly Robinson, played by Mr. Culp, posed as a dissolute, globe-trotting tennis bum accompanied by his trainer, Alexander Scott, played by Mr. Cosby. Traveling from one tournament to another in glamorous settings, they carried out dangerous assignments in their real roles as agents for the Pentagon.

Blending comedy and drama, “I Spy” clicked with television audiences and established Mr. Culp as a suave leading man. After the series ended he took a starring role with Natalie Wood, Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon in Paul Mazursky’s “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice,” playing a documentary filmmaker keen to test emotional and sexual limits after attending a group therapy session.

Later he played the F.B.I. agent Bill Maxwell in the television series “The Greatest American Hero,” which ran from 1981 to 1983.

Robert Martin Culp was born on Aug. 16, 1930, in Oakland, Calif., and attended high school in Berkeley. He attended the College of the Pacific in Stockton, Calif.; Washington University in St Louis; San Francisco State College; and the drama school of the University of Washington, though he never earned a degree.

His first starring role in television came in 1957 with the CBS series “Trackdown,” a spinoff of “Zane Grey Theater.” As Hoby Gilman, a Texas Ranger, he hunted down criminals all over the state.

When “Trackdown” ended in 1959, Mr. Culp appeared in numerous television series, including “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Bonanza,” “The Rifleman” and “The Outer Limits” before teaming up with Mr. Cosby. Mr. Culp wrote the scripts for seven episodes of “I Spy,” and was nominated for an Emmy for all three years the show was in production. Each year, he lost to Mr. Cosby.

There were no hard feelings. He reunited with Mr. Cosby in 1972 on the film “Hickey & Boggs,” a fast-paced comedy about a couple of seedy private-eyes. The film was Mr. Culp’s directorial debut. He later appeared opposite Mr. Cosby in a 1987 episode of “The Cosby Show,” playing Scott Kelly, an old friend of Dr. Cliff Huxtable’s, and, once again as Kelly Robinson, in a 1999 episode of “Cosby” that included a dream sequence of “I Spy.” They had also reunited in the television movie “I Spy Returns” in 1994.

In other films Mr. Culp played John F. Kennedy’s best friend in “PT 109” (1963), Wild Bill Hickok in “The Raiders” (1963), Jane Fonda’s fiancé in “Sunday in New York” (1963), and the president of the United States in “The Pelican Brief” (1993).

Mr. Culp was married five times. He is survived by his daughters, Samantha, who lives in China, and Rachel, of San Francisco; and his sons, Joseph, Joshua and Jason, all of Los Angeles.

Anahad O’Connor contributed reporting.




Published: March 26, 2010
Johnny Maestro, the pure-toned tenor who as the lead singer for the Crests, the Del-Satins and the Brooklyn Bridge recorded rock ’n’ roll hits like “Sixteen Candles” and “The Worst That Could Happen,” died Wednesday at his home in Cape Coral, Fla. He was 70 and had lived in Islip, N.Y., until seven years ago.
March 26, 2010    


Johnny Maestro, center, with members of the Brooklyn Bridge.

The cause was cancer, said Les Cauchi, an original member of the Brooklyn Bridge, which continues to perform before graying audiences, swaying to the tunes of their teenage years.

“The original Brooklyn Bridge had 11 members, singing and playing,” Mr. Cauchi said. “Now there are six members, without Johnny.”

The Bridge, as the group is often called, was a merger in 1968 of two bands, the Del-Satins and the Rhythm Method. It was originally billed as Johnny Maestro, the Del-Satins and the Rhythm Method. A bit too bulky.

“So we decided we’d pick a new one,” Mr. Maestro told The New York Times in 1994. “We were sitting around the office, and someone said: ‘This is going to be difficult. We have 11 people. That’s hard to sell. It’s easier to sell the Brooklyn Bridge.’ We said, ‘That’s the name!’ ”

With their strong vocal and horn arrangements, the Bridge recorded a series of hits, including “Welcome Me Love,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Your Husband, My Wife.” But lightning struck for the band with the songwriter Jimmy Webb’s “Worst That Could Happen.”

In December 1968, the Brooklyn Bridge performed the song on “The Ed Sullivan Show” (with Mr. Sullivan mispronouncing Mr. Maestro’s name as MAY-stroh, not MY-stroh). In the song, a man sings about the impending marriage of a woman he still loves, and reluctantly wishes her well.

“If he loves you more than me,” Mr. Maestro sings, “maybe it’s the best thing, maybe it’s the best thing for you, but it’s the worst that could happen to me.”

That Sullivan show appearance, Mr. Cauchi said, “launched our career.”

Mr. Maestro’s career had taken off before. In the late 1950s he was the lead singer for the Crests, fronting hits like “Sixteen Candles,” “Trouble in Paradise,” “The Angels Listened In” and “Step by Step.”

John Peter Mastrangelo was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on May 7, 1939, one of three children of Salvatore and Grace Mastrangelo. He is survived by his wife, Grace; his brother, Ronald; two daughters, Tracy and Lisa; a son, Brad; and four grandchildren.

The Crests were a band of street kids from the Lower East Side, and quite a mix. “There were three blacks, one Puerto Rican,” Mr. Maestro said, “and I was the Eye-talian.” They performed at parties and dances and rode the subway for the drop of a few coins. One day a rider handed them a business card; that led to a record contract.

On the Coed label, they recorded “Beside You.”

“The B side was ‘Sixteen,’ ” Mr. Maestro said. “Who knew?”


Published: March 24, 2010

Harold W. McGraw Jr., who as leader of McGraw-Hill, his family’s publishing business, helped build it into a billion-dollar enterprise in the 1970s and ’80s, died on Wednesday at his home in Darien, Conn. He was 92 .

His son Harold W. McGraw III, who is now chief executive of the company, announced his father’s death, attributing it to natural causes.

Mr. McGraw’s leadership at McGraw-Hill was far from a simple matter of inheriting and minding the family store. He played a significant role in its growth and survival as an independent and diversified company in the last half of the 20th century, withstanding a bitter takeover attempt by American Express.

Though McGraw-Hill lacked the prestigious trade book department of rivals like Random House and Doubleday, it remained one of the largest publishing conglomerates in America when Mr. McGraw became chief executive in 1975, reporting gross revenue of about half a billion dollars. In his eight years in the post, McGraw-Hill’s revenue more than doubled and its earnings per share more than tripled, the company said.

Self-effacing, formal in bearing and courteous in an old-fashioned way, Mr. McGraw seemed an unlikely candidate to climb to the top of the corporate ladder. He was the eldest son of the only second-generation member of the family who had never run the company. The man he worked for in the book division, Edward E. Booher, thought little of his abilities. “It just never occurred to me that Harold would one day be my boss,” Mr. Booher told Fortune magazine.

Yet in 1968, Mr. McGraw succeeded Mr. Booher as president of McGraw-Hill Book Company, which had been founded in 1909 when Mr. McGraw’s grandfather James H. McGraw and John A. Hill, owners of separate publishing companies, merged their book departments.

By the late 1960s, the house had become the top-ranked publisher of textbooks for colleges and elementary and secondary schools. Among its best-known texts is “Economics,” by Paul A. Samuelson. In 1966, it acquired Standard & Poor’s, the financial rating service, adding it to a number of companies.

While Mr. McGraw was running the book division, McGraw-Hill drew publicity when it paid a $765,000 advance for what was portrayed as a memoir by Howard R. Hughes, the reclusive billionaire, said to have been taped by Clifford Irving, a novelist. It turned out to be a fraud and was never published.

In 1974 Mr. McGraw took over as president of the parent company, whose name had been changed to McGraw-Hill Inc. (It is now the McGraw-Hill Companies) He succeeded Shelton Fisher, who had led the company through a period of expansion, including the move of its headquarters from West 42nd Street in Manhattan, near Times Square, to a sleek steel and glass tower on the Avenue of Americas, near Rockefeller Center.

Mr. McGraw subsequently became chief executive and chairman, guiding the company through a period of growth, with revenues surpassing $1 billion in 1980 for the first time.

A pivotal moment of his tenure came in 1979, when American Express began one of the bitterest takeover attempts in Wall Street history. On a January evening, James D. Robinson III, the chairman of American Express, and Roger Morley, the president, came to Mr. McGraw’s office and presented an offer of almost $1 billion for McGraw-Hill, with an initial bid of $34 a share for its stock, then trading at $26. The offer was later raised to $40.

Mr. McGraw listened politely but was said to have been furious. A few days later, Newsweek reported, “his face streaked with perspiration, his voice trembling with emotion, the chairman of McGraw-Hill formally presented his board’s unanimous rejection.”

Mr. McGraw publicly condemned American Express. It “lacks the integrity, morality and sensitivity” to merge with McGraw-Hill, he said, adding that the offer was “illegal, unsolicited and improper.”

A corporate drama ensued, featuring secret meetings, public name-calling, simmering family rivalries and threatened lawsuits and countersuits. In one instance, American Express representatives followed a family stockholder to a dental appointment in the hope of inducing him to sell.

Mr. McGraw persuaded family stockholders to vote against the merger. The battle cost McGraw-Hill $3.4 million and American Express $2.4 million.

Mr. McGraw’s critics argued that McGraw-Hill would have been better off financially as part of American Express and wondered what a professional manager who was not part of the family would have done. Barron’s magazine suggested that the stockholders had gotten “a raw deal,” though 10 years later Robert M. Bleiberg wrote in his Barron’s column that “we owe Harold W. McGraw Jr. a forthright (and belated) retraction.”





Published: March 26, 2010

In the days of rickety open-cockpit biplanes seemingly held together by baling wire, 8-year-old Elinor Patricia Ward got her first flying lesson — at her kitchen table in Freeport, N.Y., on Long Island.

March 28, 2010    

Elinor Smith in 1942.

“My earliest memory was at dinner with Dad using a knife to show us how the controls of a plane worked,” she told The New York Daily Mirror in 1942.

Within weeks Elinor’s father, Tom Ward, took her to a makeshift airfield on a potato farm, where a pilot strapped her into the rear seat for a fast flight, for a fee. Mr. Ward was a vaudeville song-and-dance man who hated trains and, while on the road, had hired pilots to take him from town to town. (There was another Tom Ward on the vaudeville circuit, so he changed the family name to Smith.)

That first flight sealed Elinor Smith’s fate. Ten days after she turned 16, Elinor received her pilot’s license, becoming one of the youngest pioneers of aviation. Soon, she was breaking records, doing daredevil stunts and making headlines as the “The Flying Flapper of Freeport.”

On March 19, Elinor Smith Sullivan died at a nursing home in Palo Alto, Calif., her son, Patrick, said. She was 98.

“I remember so vividly my first time aloft that I can still hear the wind swing in the wires as we glided down,” she wrote in her autobiography, “Aviatrix” (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1981). “By the time the pilot touched the wheels gently to earth, I knew my future in airplanes and flying was as inevitable as the freckles on my nose.”

Tom Smith took flying lessons, then bought an open-cockpit Waco 10 biplane. Elinor insisted on taking lessons. She took her first solo flight when she was 15. Within two years, she was carrying passengers on short flights from Roosevelt Field over Long Island. Then, on Oct. 21, 1928 — after being baited by boys at her high school — she took off alone, headed west, then south and swooped under the four East River bridges.

“Miss Smith was informed here that the Department of Commerce might ‘ground’ her for her stunt,” The New York Times reported the next day, “but she said that she would rather take that chance than disappoint a number of persons who had expected her to carry out her plan.” She was grounded for 10 days.

Publicity soon propelled Elinor, a blue-eyed, 5-foot-3, curly blond teenager, onto the list of pioneering women in aviation, among them Bobbi Trout, Katherine Stinson, Pancho Barnes , Fay Gillis Wells, Louise McPhetridge Thaden and Amelia Earhart.

On planes provided by corporate sponsors, she began setting records. In January 1929 she set the women’s solo endurance record at 13 ½ hours. Then, three months later she reset it with a 26 ½-hour flight. In 1930, she set the women’s altitude record at 27,419 feet. Within a year, she reset the altitude record at 32,576 feet.

That flight, in a Bellanca monoplane, nearly cost her her life. As The World-Telegram reported on March 11, 1930: “The altimeters on the ship registered 30,000 and 32,000 yesterday when she was forced by motor trouble and waning gas supply to return to Roosevelt Field, where she narrowly averted an accident in making a dead-stick landing. At about 30,000 feet, as the motor sputtered, she lost consciousness. A mile lower she recovered. The plane, without her guiding hand, had glided slowly down.”

In 1934, Miss Smith became the first woman to appear on a Wheaties cereal box.

She was born on Long Island on Aug. 17, 1911, one of three children of Thomas and Agnes Ward. Her husband of 23 years, Patrick H. Sullivan II, who had been a New York State assemblyman, died in 1956. In addition to her son, she is survived by three daughters, Patricia Sullivan, Pamela Sullivan and Kathleen Worden; five grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Miss Smith took a long time off from flying after she married. But nine years ago, at the age of 89, she was invited to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center in Sunnyvale, Calif., where she participated in a simulated landing of the space shuttle.

Always vivid in her memory was that day almost 84 years ago when she first soloed.

She was about to climb into a Farman Pusher biplane, she recalled in an interview for a 1998 PBS documentary, “Daredevils and Dreamers.” She thought it was to be just another flying lesson before she went off to school in Wantagh, a nearby town.

“I was scared silly because Russ” — her teacher — “hadn’t told me I was going to solo that day,” she said on camera. Waving her arm in imitation of her instructor’s direction, she said he suddenly jumped out of the cockpit and simply told her, “Go.”

For a moment she was stunned, then realized that he thought she was ready. “I made three landings,” she said. “Then it was time to go back to Wantagh because I had to go to school.”


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