IN REMEMBRANCE: 7-31-2011

FRANK BENDER, RECOMPOSER OF FACES OF THE DEAD

By

Published: July 30, 2011

 

Frank Bender, a forensic sculptor whose work — haunting, three-dimensional faces in clay — helped identify the forgotten dead and apprehend the fugitive living, died on Thursday at his home in Philadelphia. He was 70.

July 31, 2011

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Frank Bender, a forensic sculptor, with a bust he constructed in the 1980s of a homicide victim, Rosella Marie Atkinson.

Frank Bender

A photograph of Ms. Atkinson.

The cause was pleural mesothelioma, a rare cancer that attacks the outer lining of the lungs, his daughter Vanessa said.

An elfin man whose bald head, fierce gaze and Vandyke made him look like a pocket Mephistopheles, Mr. Bender was among the best known of the country’s handful of forensic sculptors — an unusual craft that stands at the nexus of art, crime, science and intuition.

Mr. Bender was almost entirely self-taught, for he never anticipated a career in forensic sculpture. Who, after all, envisions a life in which skulls, sent by hopeful law enforcement agencies, arrive periodically in the mail? (Usually the skulls had been denuded and cleaned, though not always, and luncheon visitors to Mr. Bender’s home-cum-studio occasionally arrived to find one bubbling away in a pot on the stove.)

A former professional photographer, Mr. Bender found his calling by chance in the late 1970s, on a trip to the Philadelphia morgue. After that he was consulted by police departments across the country and abroad, and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Of the 40 or so heads he sculptured over the years, most were designed to identify murder victims for whom DNA, dental records and fingerprints had come up empty.

In these cases, Mr. Bender endeavored to turn back time, using victims’ skulls to render their faces as they might have looked in life. A “recomposer of the decomposed” is what he called himself — quite cheerily — on his answering machine.

For fugitives, Mr. Bender coaxed time forward, using photographs and other information to sculpture malefactors as they might look 10 or 20 years on. It was in one such case that he scored his most spectacular success: a role in capturing one of the most notorious murderers in America.

A conjurer in clay, Mr. Bender was, he often said, as much psychologist as sculptor, divining — or so it seemed — features that skulls alone could not tell him: hair color, characteristic expressions or precise skin color, which he painted onto the finished sculpture.

His methods could yield striking likenesses. In the 1980s, for instance, the Philadelphia police asked him to help identify the remains of a woman found murdered in a down-at-the-heels area.

“She was wearing a Ship ’n Shore blouse — a nicely pleated blouse, not a blouse someone her age would wear in that neighborhood,” Mr. Bender told The Toronto Star in 2001. “To me, it told me she was looking for a way out, she was looking for a better life, so I had her looking up for hope.”

A few years later, a local woman identified the bust as her niece, Rosella Marie Atkinson, 18, who had disappeared in 1987. Rosella, she said, held her head up in just that way. In 2005, the killer confessed and was sent to prison.

It was not the money that spurred Mr. Bender: he charged about $1,700 for a sculptured head, and typically made only a few a year. Between assignments, he worked as a fine-art painter and sculptor and held various jobs, including working on a tugboat.

What drove him, those who knew him say, was a constitutional pugnacity.

“He’s a fighter for justice,” Ted Botha, the author of a book about Mr. Bender, said in an interview shortly before Mr. Bender’s death. “He’s almost like a little Captain America or something.”

Mr. Botha’s book, “The Girl With the Crooked Nose,” chronicles Mr. Bender’s work in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where he was asked to reconstruct the faces of women killed in a series of murders. Of the eight heads he made there, three led to identifications, Mr. Botha said.

It is impossible to gauge precisely Mr. Bender’s career success rate, where “success” means identifying a victim or catching a fugitive. Mr. Bender — who, as associates attest, was a larger-than-life character with no small awareness of his own news value — sometimes put the figure at 85 percent.

The correct figure, his associates say, is probably closer to 40 percent. “Not even he knows, because nobody actually tells him,” Mr. Botha said. “The police departments don’t always come back to him afterwards; that’s one of the kind of bittersweet things about what he does.”

Associated Press

A photograph of John List, a murder suspect;

John Bender

Mr. Bender’s bust of Mr. List.

Francis Augustus Bender Jr. was born in Philadelphia on June 16, 1941, and grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood. After serving in the Navy, he embarked on a photography career.

In the 1970s, Mr. Bender took night classes in painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. The academy offered no anatomy classes at night, so in 1977 he took it upon himself to visit the morgue.

There, he saw the body of a woman, shot in the head and unrecognizable.

“I know what she looks like,” Mr. Bender was surprised to hear himself say.

“Do you know anything about forensics?” a medical examiner asked him.

“I don’t even know what the word means,” he said.

Galvanized, Mr. Bender set to work, producing a bust of a woman with a long nose and cleft chin. After a photograph of it appeared in newspapers, she was identified as Anna Duval, a Phoenix woman who had flown East to recoup money from a swindler and wound up dead. Her killer was later identified as a mob hit man, already imprisoned for other crimes.

Mr. Bender’s gift for waking the dead impressed the authorities, and more cases followed. At first he layered clay onto the skulls, consulting tissue-thickness charts to determine its depth at crucial points on the face.

Later on — for prosecutors were loath to see potential evidence trapped for eternity inside a sculpture — he used the skulls to make molds, from which he cast plaster heads.

His greatest triumph came in 1989, in the case of John Emil List. In 1971, Mr. List, a seemingly mild-mannered accountant, murdered his mother, wife and three children in their Westfield, N.J., home. Then he vanished.

Eighteen years later, the television show “America’s Most Wanted” commissioned a bust from Mr. Bender for a segment on Mr. List. Working from an old photograph, he created a balding, jowly figure.

In a stroke of inspiration — or perhaps luck — Mr. Bender added glasses with thick black rims, the kind he felt a strait-laced man like Mr. List would wear.

On May 21, 1989, a woman in Virginia watching the broadcast thought she recognized her neighbor, a balding, jowly accountant with thick black glasses named Robert Clark. On June 1, Mr. Clark was arrested. Fingerprints confirmed his identity as John List. Convicted and sentenced to five life terms, he died in 2008.

Mr. Bender’s wife, the former Janice Lynn Proctor, died of cancer last year. Besides his daughter Vanessa, he is survived by another daughter, Lisa Brawner; a sister, Sara Thurston; and three grandchildren.

With William Fleisher and Richard Walter, Mr. Bender founded the Vidocq Society in 1990. Based in Philadelphia, the group comprises forensic scientists, law enforcement officers and other professionals who convene to investigate unsolved murders.

Mr. Bender was also a subject of “The Murder Room,” a book about the society by Michael Capuzzo. A documentary film about Mr. Bender, “The Recomposer of the Decomposed,” is scheduled to be released next year.

Interviewers often asked Mr. Bender whether his life among the dead gave him nightmares. Yes, he replied, but not in the way you think. For years, he explained, his dreams had been peopled by the dead, and by sinister men.

The sinister men invariably attacked him, Mr. Bender said, and whenever they did, the unnamed dead rose up in his defense.

SOURCE

**********************************************************************

DAN PEEK, CO-FOUNDER OF THE ROCK BAND ‘AMERICA’

By

Published: July 26, 2011

 

Dan Peek, an original member of the rock band America who later forsook the group for a life in Christian music, died on Sunday at his home in Farmington, Mo. He was 60.

July 27, 2011

Associated Press

America in 1976. From left, Dewey Bunnell, Dan Peek and Gerry Beckley. Mr. Peek later turned to recording Christian music.

Mr. Peek died in his sleep, his wife, Catherine, said. The cause is not yet known.

Formed in the late 1960s, America was known for its lush, melodic folk-rock sound and the tight vocal harmonies supplied by its members, Mr. Peek, Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell.

Mr. Peek, who sang lead and backup vocals, also played guitar, bass, keyboards and harmonica.

The band’s best-known songs during his tenure include its two biggest hits, “A Horse with No Name” and “Ventura Highway,” both written by Mr. Bunnell; “Sister Golden Hair,” by Mr. Beckley; and “Lonely People,” by Mr. Peek. Mr. Peek also wrote “Woman Tonight” and “Don’t Cross the River” for the band.

After leaving America in 1977, Mr. Peek recorded Christian pop, including the successful solo album “All Things Are Possible,” released in 1979. In recent years, he lived in somewhat reclusive semi-retirement while continuing to write songs.

Daniel Milton Peek was born in Panama City, Fla., on Nov. 1, 1950. His father was an Air Force officer, and Dan spent his childhood all over the United States, and in Greenland, Japan and Pakistan.

When he was a teenager, a new posting took the family to England. It was there, in a London high school, that he met the young Mr. Beckley and Mr. Bunnell, also children of American military fathers.

The three began singing together in various permutations, under various names. They dissolved briefly when Mr. Peek returned to the United States to attend Old Dominion University, but joined forces again when he came back to London a year later. They called themselves, nostalgically, America.

“We wanted to set ourselves apart and not be seen as English guys trying to do American music, but instead accentuate that we were an American band,” Mr. Peek told The Jerusalem Post last year.

The group’s self-titled debut album was released in Britain in 1971 and in the United States by Warner Brothers the next year.

The band won a Grammy Award in 1973 as best new artist. A string of successful albums followed, including “Homecoming,” “Holiday,” “Hearts” and “Hideaway.” Many were produced by George Martin, who produced many of the Beatles’ records.

As Mr. Peek later recalled, those early years passed in a blur of airplanes and limousines, wealth, drugs and alcohol.

“Sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll; it was the whole cornucopia of fleshly material,” he said in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network show “The 700 Club.” “I tried everything. I tasted every possible thing. I had a spiritual compass, but I abandoned it completely.”

In 1977, distraught at the turn his life had taken, Mr. Peek became a born-again Christian. He renounced drugs and alcohol and left the band. He signed with Lamb & Lion Records, a label founded by Pat Boone, for which he recorded “All Things Are Possible.” His other albums of religious music include “Electro Voice,” “Cross Over” and “Caribbean Christmas.” (Mr. Peek and his wife lived in the Cayman Islands for many years.)

Mr. Peek is survived by his wife, the former Catherine Maberry, whom he married in 1973 (he met her, too, during his high school days in London); his parents, Milton and Gerri; and five siblings, Tom, Deborah, Rebecca, David and Angela.

Since Mr. Peek’s departure America has been principally a duo comprising Mr. Beckley and Mr. Bunnell, and it continues to tour.

“We’ve had innumerable requests to re-form, but the ball’s in their court,” Mr. Peek said in The Jerusalem Post interview last year. “I would probably do it.”

SOURCE

Dan Peek and America.

I first heard the melodious and sublime sounds of America with the classic Horse With No Name, and my other favourite America song, Ventura Highway. The enigmatic and cryptic lyrics made me wonder who was this horse with no name? What did she represent? Why was she in the desert, and why after nine days, did the rider let her go?

America, the group, were very underrated and many people did not have the joy of knowing their music, but of the groups of the 1970s they stood out.

Mr. Dan Peek, he will be missed.

Rest in peace, Mr. Peek.

Rest in peace.

A Horse With No Name

On the first part of the journey,
I was looking at all the life.
There were plants and birds. and rocks and things,
There was sand and hills and rings.
The first thing I met, was a fly with a buzz,
And the sky, with no clouds.
The heat was hot, and the ground was dry,
But the air was full of sound.

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert you can remember your name,
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.
La, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la

After two days, in the desert sun,
My skin began to turn red.
After three days, in the desert fun,
I was looking at a river bed.
And the story it told, of a river that flowed,
Made me sad to think it was dead.

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert you can remember your name,
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.
La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la

After nine days, I let the horse run free,
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea.
There were plants and birds, and rocks and things,
There was sand and hills and rings.
The ocean is a desert, with its life underground,
And a perfect disguise above.
Under the cities lies, a heart made of ground,
But the humans will give no love.

You see I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,
It felt good to be out of the rain.
In the desert you can remember your name,
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.

La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la
La la, la, la la la la, la la la, la, la

******************************************************************

BUTCH LEWS, FLASHY PROMOTOR FOR BOXING’S SPINKS BROTHERS

By

Published: July 24, 2011

 

Butch Lewis, the flamboyant boxing promoter and manager best known for getting Michael Spinks a $13.5 million payday for what became 91 seconds in the ring with Mike Tyson, died Saturday at his home in Bethany Beach, Del. He was 65.

July 25, 2011

Paul Hawthorne/Getty Images

Butch Lewis

His death was announced by Terrie Williams, a representative of his family, who said it was from natural causes.

A shrewd and tenacious figure with a gift for showmanship, Lewis went from the life of a street hustler and used-car salesman in Philadelphia to the pinnacle of dealmaking in the boxing world of the late 1970s and the 1980s.

He made his reputation mostly for representing Leon Spinks and his brother, Michael, who had both won gold medals at the 1976 Olympics.

Lewis’s most lucrative moment came on the night of June 27, 1988, when Michael Spinks challenged Tyson for the undisputed heavyweight championship at Convention Hall in Atlantic City.

Spinks was a quiet sort. Lewis, his manager and promoter, was anything but. He preened on fight nights in a tuxedo, a bow tie and no shirt, and he favored showy rings and bracelets.

Michael Spinks had won the light-heavyweight championship and later defeated Larry Holmes for the International Boxing Federation heavyweight championship.

Through arcane maneuvering that got Spinks out of a proposed HBO heavyweight title unification series, Lewis negotiated Spinks his largest possible purse for facing Tyson. Spinks was knocked out at 1 minute 31 seconds of the first round and then retired.

A month after that fight, Spinks told of his gratitude to Lewis, saying that he had been reluctant to fight professionally after winning his Olympic championship but that Lewis “called me over and over.”

“He’d call and say, ‘You about ready to go pro?’ ” Spinks told The New York Times. “I’d say, ‘No, not yet.’ It took six months before I said, ‘Come on, I’m ready.’ ”

Ronald Everett Lewis was born in Woodbury, N.J., on June 26, 1946, and grew up in Philadelphia. When he got out of high school, he once told The Times, he hustled essentially worthless rings he bought from a friend who worked at a jewelry store. The friend would appraise the rings at $1,500 for skeptical would-be buyers, and they would be “happy to give me $50 for a ring that’s worth $1.25.”

Lewis’s father soon put him to work as a salesman at his used-car dealership. His father had been one of the original stockholders in a syndicate that backed Joe Frazier, an eventual heavyweight champion, and Butch soon began traveling with Frazier.

“I’d be in on meetings with he and Ali and the promoters,” Lewis said. “I got to see how the wheels turned in the fight business. And the more I saw of it, the more I liked it.”

Lewis met Muhammad Ali through Frazier and became a co-promoter of Ali’s heavyweight championship fight with Richard Dunn in Munich in 1976. That resulted in Lewis’s going to work for the promoter Bob Arum, who made him a vice president of his firm, Top Rank. Lewis signed Leon and Michael Spinks while with Arum.

Lewis guided Leon Spinks to his victory over Ali for the heavyweight title in 1978 and left Arum that year to promote on his own.

He later formed Butch Lewis Productions and branched out into entertainment. In June 2010, IMG Worldwide joined with Lewis’s firm in a management company primarily representing minority entertainers and celebrities.

Lewis is survived by his sons, Ronald Lewis, Brandon Lewis and Kevin Mosley; his daughter, Sita Lewis; his brother, John; his sisters, Gail Brison and Sheree Lewis; six grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

SOURCE

*******************************************************************

MICHAEL CACOYANNIS, DIRECTOR OF ‘ZORBA THE GREEK’

By

Published: July 25, 2011

 

Michael Cacoyannis, a Greek filmmaker whose art-house films and adaptations of Euripides for stage and screen were critically acclaimed, but who was best known as the director of the 1964 Hollywood hit “Zorba the Greek,” died on Monday in Athens. He was 90.

July 26, 2011

International Pictures, via Photofest

Michael Cacoyannis, right, with Anthony Quinn on the set of “Zorba the Greek” (1964), which became an instant classic.

His death was confirmed by the Michael Cacoyannis Foundation, an institution for the performing arts he founded in 2003.

Mr. Cacoyannis’s early work brought a new level of respect to Greek filmmaking in the 1950s, when postwar European cinema was dominated by the Italians and French. It also gave exposure to some of Greece’s finest performers. His 1955 film, “Stella,” which won the Golden Globe as best foreign film, featured Melina Mercouri in her first movie role. Irene Papas would appear in many of his productions.

But “Zorba,” his eighth film, created a cultural phenomenon that transcended filmmaking.

Anthony Quinn’s barefooted, dancing, woman-loving Zorba became a symbol of Greek vitality that boosted Greek tourism for decades. For better and worse, it also stamped the Greeks as people with a knack for living for the moment, a characterization that has haunted them during the country’s national debt crisis.

The film won three Academy Awards. But although nominated for best director and best film, Mr. Cacoyannis and “Zorba” lost out to George Cukor’s adaptation of “My Fair Lady.”

Mr. Cacoyannis discovered theater while he was a student in London, where his well-off family sent him to study law before the start of World War II. He received a law degree, but never practiced. Instead, he enrolled in acting classes and appeared in stage roles before going to Greece in 1953 to make films.

His first four films were well received on the international art-house circuit: “Windfall in Athens” (1954), “Stella” (1955), “A Girl in Black” (1956) and “A Matter of Dignity” (1958). “Electra” (1961), which made Ms. Papas a star, was called one of the 10 best films of the year by Bosley Crowther, the film critic of The New York Times.

A devotion to classical Greek drama prompted Mr. Cacoyannis to film and stage a number of plays by Euripides and Aristophanes, beginning in 1963 with a stage production in New York of “The Trojan Women,” Euripides’ antiwar play. During tryouts Mr. Cacoyannis was said to have despaired at some of the candidates as he tried to convey to them the depth of the tragedy.

“Imagine that your president has just been assassinated, and his son is being dragged off to be killed,” he suggested. The cast in place, rehearsals began on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was shot. The production ran for 600 performances before closing in May 1965.

Mihalis Kakogiannis was born on June 11, 1922, in Limassol, Cyprus. (He later adopted a phonetically simpler spelling of his last name.) He was one four children. His father, Panayotis, a lawyer and member of the island’s legislative and executive councils, was knighted by the British government in 1936.

After his first stay in London, from 1939 to 1953, he returned there from 1967 to 1974, when Greece was under a military-backed dictatorship.

The popular success of “Zorba” was never repeated. Mr. Cacoyannis’s later filmmaking efforts received lukewarm reviews. A 1971 film version of “The Trojan Women,” with Katharine Hepburn, Vanessa Redgrave and Ms. Papas, was widely panned. But he remained active as a director of plays and opera in New York and in Europe. Among his many operatic productions were Puccini’s “Bohème” in New York (1972), Mozart’s “Clemenza di Tito” at Aix-en-Provence, France (1988), and Cherubini’s “Medea” in Athens (1995).

Mr. Cacoyannis is survived by a sister, Giannoula.

He told interviewers late in his life that bringing classical Greek drama to the English-speaking stage and screen was among his most satisfying work, and always a source of inspiration.

“I believe all the Greek plays are very up to date,” he said. “They go straight to the roots.”

SOURCE

The lusty, life-loving, and robust Zorba was a character that to this day still stays with me. Thanks to director Michael Cacoyannis, I still have the image of Zorba at the end of the movie trying to instill a zest for life into the young Briton writer(played by Alan Bates) who came to stay at the Greek island of Crete. After all he had been through, Zorba could still put on a smile, laugh at life’s trials, tribulations, and absurdities, as well as revel in its gifts. The thanks for that goes not only to the late Anthony Quinn ‘s performance, but, especially to Mr. Cacoyannis in his direction of the movie.

Yes, Mr. Cacoyannis is primarily known for Zorba, and over the years it has irked him that Zorba is all that comes to mind when his name is mentioned. But, it is a wonderful movie, and still stands the test of time.

Thanks for the memories, Mr. Cacoyannis. To honor you, I will listen to my LP soundtrack of Zorba.

Rest in peace, Mr. Cacoyannis.

Rest in peace.

Dance!

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s