CHARLES E. SILBERMAN, WHO WROTE ABOUT RACISM IN THE U.S.
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: February 13, 2011
Charles E. Silberman, a journalist whose books addressed vast, turbulent social subjects including race, education, crime and the state of American Jewry, died on Feb. 5 in Sarasota, Fla. He was 86 and had lived in Sarasota in recent years.
Neal Boenzi/The New York Times
Charles E. Silberman in 1985.
A former writer and editor at Fortune magazine, Mr. Silberman was known in particular for three books that took on some of the most highly charged issues of the day: “Crisis in Black and White” (1964), “Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education” (1970) and “Criminal Violence, Criminal Justice” (1978).
In “Crisis in Black and White,” he explored the nation’s long history of racial oppression and its dire effects on the economic, social and educational prospects of 20th-century blacks. The book spent nine weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. Reviewing it, Time magazine wrote that Mr. Silberman “marches in no-nonsense fashion to a number of hard truths that are not meant to comfort or console.”
In “Crisis in the Classroom,” the product of a study underwritten by the Carnegie Foundation, Mr. Silberman turned his attention to the state of American public education, which he indicted as bleak, oppressive and generally in disarray.
“Criminal Violence, Criminal Justice” examined American crime and punishment through the lens of racism.
Reviewing the book in The New York Times, Roger Wilkins said, “In a field as beset by emotion, mythology and fear as crime is, honest reporting, earnest analysis and honorable speculation can surely serve the republic well, and that is what this book does — and more.”
Charles Eliot Silberman was born on Jan. 31, 1925, in Des Moines and grew up in New York City. After Navy service aboard a minesweeper in the Pacific in World War II, he earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Columbia University in 1946 and did graduate work in economics there.
Mr. Silberman taught economics at Columbia and the City College of New York. He joined Fortune in 1953 and was on staff there until the early 1970s.
Mr. Silberman’s wife, the former Arlene Propper, whom he married in 1948, died last year. He is survived by four sons, David, Rick, Jeff and Steve, and six grandchildren.
His other books include “The Myths of Automation” (1966), written with other Fortune editors, and “A Certain People: American Jews and Their Lives Today,” which he described in interviews as his most personal book.
Published in 1985, “A Certain People” drew wide attention for its hopeful assertion — contrary to the hand-wringing by many prominent Jewish writers over intermarriage and assimilation — that American Jewry was undergoing a renaissance.
Jews could now enjoy success without fear of anti-Semitic reprisals, Mr. Silberman argued, and there was renewed interest among young Jews in keeping the faith.
To critics who took the book to task for naïve optimism, Mr. Silberman’s response was simple. As he told Newsweek in 1985, “It takes guts to bring good news to the Jewish community.”
JOANNE SIEGEL, THE MODEL FOR LOIS LANE
Courtesy of Laura Siegel Larson, left; Joe Shuster, right
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: February 15, 2011
Joanne Siegel, who as a Cleveland teenager during the Depression hired herself out as a model to an aspiring comic book artist, Joe Shuster, and thus became the first physical incarnation of Lois Lane, Superman’s love interest, died on Saturday in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 93.
Lois Lane and Clark Kent on a Superman comic book cover.
Noel Neill and George Reeves in the 1950s television show “The Adventures of Superman.”
TMS & DC Comics Inc., via Associated Press
Margot Kidder and Christopher Reeve in the 1978 movie.
A high school girl with an ambitious nature and stars in her eyes, young Joanne, like teenagers everywhere, was seeking a way to earn some money when she posed for the first time as Lois Lane. It was probably 1935, her daughter said, and “somebody had told her modeling was easy,” so she placed a brief ad in the classified section of The Plain Dealer, declaring herself available for modeling work and confessing that she had no experience. Most of the responses to the ad were requests for dates, but one at least seemed serious, and she presented herself to Shuster and Siegel, who were then developing Superman. (The first Superman comic was published in 1938.)
By that point the character was well along in Siegel’s mind; he knew he wanted her to be a journalist, and his model was a film character, a clever reporter named Torchy Blane who had been featured in a series of B movies, played by Glenda Farrell. (In the 1938 film “Torchy Blane in Panama,” the title character was played by Lola Lane, a singer and actress who some sources — including Ms. Larson — say influenced the name of Superman’s leading lady.)
In any case, during the modeling session Joanne struck various poses — draping herself over the arms of a chair, for example, to show how she might look being carried by Superman in flight — and she and the two men, who were barely in their 20s, became friends. Shuster’s drawings reproduced her hairstyle and her facial features, though in the most famous of the original drawings, Lois is considerably more voluptuous than her model was.
“Joe might have taken a few liberties,” Ms. Larson said with a laugh. She added that her mother’s irrepressibility, ambition and spunk informed her father’s development of the character: “My dad always said he wrote Lois with my mom’s personality in mind.”
The daughter of Hungarian immigrants, she was born Jolan Kovacs in Cleveland on Dec. 1, 1917; classmates and teachers who couldn’t or wouldn’t pronounce her name properly — YO-lan — called her Joan or Joanne, and the second name is the one that eventually stuck.
After her Lois Lane debut, she was an artist’s model in Boston and elsewhere. (For a time she used the name Joanne Carter.) During World War II she worked for a California ship builder, supporting the war effort. Returning to New York, she re-established a connection with Siegel at a fund-raising ball for cartoonists at which, according to family lore, the costumes were judged by Marlon Brando, then in the middle of his Broadway run in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
Both had been married; she was divorced and he was soon to be. They married in 1948 and lived in Connecticut and on Long Island before moving to California in the 1960s. In addition to her daughter, who lives in the Los Angeles area, she is survived by a sister, Sophie Halko of Cleveland, and two grandsons.
Ms. Siegel worked at a number of jobs during her marriage — as one of California’s early car saleswomen, she sold new and used Chevys from a lot in Santa Monica — but much of her life was taken up trying to reclaim the original Superman copyright that Shuster and her husband sold to Detective Comics in 1937 for $130.
Of course, since then Superman as a character had become the central figure in comic books, television shows and blockbuster movies, not to mention the progenitor of legions of other superheroes. Ms. Siegel was the first in a long line of Lois Lanes, who have included Phyllis Coates, Noel Neill, Teri Hatcher, and Erica Durance on television and Margot Kidder in the movies.
The story of the plight of Shuster and Siegel, whose lives were marked by privation, is one of the cautionary tales in the annals of intellectual property. In a series of legal and public relations battles that began in 1947, the families eventually won some compensation from DC Comics (the successor to Detective Comics), and in 2008 a federal judge restored Siegel’s co-authorship share of the original Superman copyrights, though how much money the Siegel family is entitled to is still being adjudicated.
“All her life she carried the torch for Jerry and Joe — and other artists,” said Marc Toberoff, the lawyer for both the Siegel and Shuster families. “There was a lot of Lois Lane in Joanne Siegel.”
BILL MONROE, FORMER ‘MEET THE PRESS’ MODERATOR
Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford at Tulane University in 1985 with Bill Monroe, center.
By DOUGLAS MARTIN
Published: February 17, 2011
Bill Monroe, a television journalist whose long career with NBC included stints as the network’s Washington bureau chief and moderator of its Sunday interview program, “Meet the Press,” died on Thursday at a nursing home in Potomac, Md. He was 90.
The cause was complications of hypertension, his daughter Lee Monroe said. He moved to the nursing home after taking a fall in December.
From 1975 to 1984, Mr. Monroe was the producer and moderator of “Meet the Press,” the long-running Sunday morning news program built around interviews with national and international figures. He was its fourth producer and moderator, succeeding Lawrence E. Spivak, after serving as a panelist himself.
On camera Mr. Monroe was serious and direct. In 1976, soon after becoming the permanent moderator, he grilled Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama, who had once championed segregation and was running for president. “Have you personally changed your views about segregation?” Mr. Monroe asked.
When Mr. Wallace did not respond directly, Mr. Monroe interrupted him and repeated the question twice more. Mr. Wallace went on to say that race relations were better in the South than in other parts of the country.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter used a “Meet the Press” interview with Mr. Monroe to announce that the United States would boycott the Olympics in Moscow that year to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Mr. Monroe was previously Washington editor of the “Today” show; before that he was NBC’s Washington bureau chief. He was succeeded on “Meet the Press” by the co-hosts Marvin Kalb and Roger Mudd and later returned to “Today” to present a broadcast equivalent of newspapers’ letters-to-the-editor columns. People who wrote compelling letters were interviewed in their homes or places of work.
After retiring from NBC in 1986, Mr. Monroe was editor of The Washington Journalism Review and worked for the Defense Department as ombudsman for Stars and Stripes, the military newspaper. His last job was editing The Early Bird, a compendium of newspaper stories the Pentagon sent to bases around the world.
William Blanc Monroe Jr. was born in New Orleans on July 17, 1920, and graduated from Tulane University with a degree in philosophy and a Phi Beta Kappa key in 1942. He worked for United Press while in college and served in the Army Air Forces in the Mediterranean during World War II.
After the war he worked as a newsman on local radio and a local newspaper in New Orleans before becoming news director of WDSU’s AM, FM and television stations in New Orleans.
As part of the job he began writing editorials and delivering them himself, many of which called for calm during the early days of the civil rights movement. Some editorials provoked death threats.
In 1959, WDSU-TV won a George Foster Peabody Award for work done under Mr. Monroe’s direction. He also won a Peabody in 1973 for his news reporting on the “Today” show.
Early in his career, Mr. Monroe fought for greater press access to courtrooms and legislative chambers. In 1972, he testified before Congress to criticize the fairness doctrine of the Federal Communications Commission. Saying he was speaking for himself and not NBC, he argued that instead of being licensed and regulated by the F.C.C., broadcasters should be accorded the same unfettered First Amendment rights as newspapers.
He testified that the regulatory system led broadcasters to fear that Congress or the F.C.C. would discipline them for political reasons. The result, he said, was that they felt “boldness equals trouble with the government, blandness equals peace.”
In addition to his daughter Lee, Mr. Monroe is survived by three other daughters, Arthe Monroe Phillips, Catherine Monroe and Maria Monroe Poole; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
JOHN STRAUSS, COMPOSER OF ‘CAR 54’ THEME
By MARGALIT FOX
Published: February 17, 2011
There’s a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn’s broken out in fights.
There’s a traffic jam in Harlem
That’s backed up to Jackson Heights.
There’s a scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev’s due at Idlewild.
Car 54, where are you?
Ask almost anyone over 50, and the song pours buoyantly forth, evoking one of television’s best-loved comedies.
The lyrics, by Nat Hiken, the show’s creator, capture New York in all its frenzied geography. But they would never have been as singable — or as enduringly etched in public memory — had they not been set to John Strauss’s jaunty march-time tune.
Mr. Strauss, an Emmy-winning composer and music editor who wrote the theme music for “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “The Phil Silvers Show” (familiarly known as “Sergeant Bilko”), died on Monday in Los Angeles. He was 90 and a longtime Los Angeles resident.
The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his son, Larry, said.
Mr. Strauss received an Emmy for sound editing in 1978 for his work on the TV movie “The Amazing Howard Hughes,” and a Grammy in 1984 for producing the soundtrack album of the film “Amadeus.”
But it was for “Car 54” that he remained best known. Broadcast on NBC from 1961 to 1963, the show opens with its stars, Fred Gwynne and Joe E. Ross, blithely cruising the city in their squad car (they can be seen playing checkers on the dashboard as they drive), oblivious of the catastrophes erupting throughout the city.
Melodically, the opening bars of Mr. Strauss’s theme song recall the start of the second movement of Mozart’s G major Piano Trio (K. 564). As the song ends, the title question hangs in the air in plaintive treble.
John Leonard Strauss was born in New York on April 28, 1920, and began piano lessons as a boy. After Army service in France and North Africa in World War II, he studied composition with Paul Hindemith at Yale.
“The Accused,” a one-woman opera by Mr. Strauss with a libretto by Sheppard Kerman, was broadcast in 1961 on “Camera Three” on CBS. Centering on the Salem witch trials, the opera was conducted by Julius Rudel and sung by the soprano Patricia Neway.
Mr. Strauss’s marriage to the actress Charlotte Rae ended in divorce. His partner afterward, Lionel Friedman, died in 2003. (Mr. Hiken died in 1968.)
Besides his son, Larry, Mr. Strauss is survived by three grandchildren.
His film credits, as music editor, include “Take the Money and Run,” “Bananas,” “Hair,” “The Blues Brothers,” “Zoot Suit” and “Ragtime.”
Mr. Strauss was the music coordinator on “Amadeus,” in which he also appeared briefly on screen as a conductor, complete with powdered wig.