PATRICE O’NEAL, BOISTEROUS COMEDIAN
By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK
Published: November 29, 2011
Patrice O’Neal, a stand-up comedian who boisterously took on controversial topics like race, AIDS and his own struggle with diabetes, died on Tuesday. He was 41 and lived in New Jersey.
He died in a hospital in the New York City area from complications of a stroke he suffered on Oct. 19, his agent, Matt Frost, said.
“See, I’ve got to lose weight now to stay alive, and that’s not enough motivation for me,” Mr. O’Neal said in one of his television specials on Comedy Central.
At 6-foot-4 and about 300 pounds, Mr. O’Neal commanded the stage with not only his bulk but also his penchant for flashy clothing and chains, and his confrontational style. He was loud and unpredictable, frequently veering away from prepared material with a curse-laden segue.
Mr. O’Neal’s reputation for brash honesty led many to call him a comic’s comic. He could alienate audiences and celebrities alike, both of whom he mocked relentlessly.
He did not spare himself: his size and his diabetes were often incorporated into his act.
Mr. O’Neal had a career most comedians would envy. He had stand-up specials on HBO as well as Comedy Central and appeared on television comedies like Mitchell Hurwitz’s lauded “Arrested Development,” NBC’s version of “The Office” and Dave Chappelle’s hit Comedy Central sketch series, “Chappelle’s Show.” He also performed regularly on the “Opie & Anthony” satellite radio show.
Mr. O’Neal appeared in a handful of movies, including the Spike Lee drama “The 25th Hour” (2002), released a stand-up album and DVD, “Elephant in the Room” (2011), and was co-host of the short-lived Comedy Central show “Shorties Watchin’ Shorties,” which featured the voices of comedians like Dane Cook, Denis Leary and Greg Giraldo riffing as animated babies.
His last widely viewed performance was at the Comedy Central roast of the actor Charlie Sheen in September. “I respect Charlie Sheen, I do,” Mr. O’Neal said, then added, “Not his body of work.”
During his set he likened Mike Tyson to Muhammad Ali, not because they were boxers but because both became acceptable to white people. And he advised Steve-O, a recovering drug addict and a star of MTV’s “Jackass,” to relapse.
Patrice Lumumba Malcolm O’Neal (he was named after the Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba, and his last name has often been spelled Oneal) was born on Dec. 7, 1969, in Boston. He began performing at open mikes there, and by the late 1990s he was working clubs in Los Angeles and New York.
He landed a guest appearance on the MTV comedy “Apt. 2F” in 1997 and worked briefly as a writer for World Wrestling Entertainment before he had his first stand-up special on Comedy Central and was seen on the short-lived sketch series “The Colin Quinn Show.”
Mr. O’Neal is survived by his wife, Vondecarlo; a stepdaughter, Aymilyon; a sister, Zinder; and his mother, Georgia.
BARRY LLEWELLYN, A FOUNDER OF THE HEPTONES
By ROB KENNER
Published: November 29, 2011
Barry Llewellyn, a founding member of the popular Jamaican harmony trio the Heptones, died on Nov. 23 in St. Andrew, Jamaica. He was 63 and lived in Brooklyn.
The cause was pneumonia, said his wife, Monica.
Founded by Mr. Llewellyn and his schoolmate Earl Morgan, the Heptones rose from singing on the streets of Trenchtown to take their place alongside the Wailers and the Maytals as one of the island’s most important vocal groups. As Jamaican popular music shifted from the hard-driving ska beat to a dreamier sound known as rock steady, the Heptones were among the most consistent hit makers in reggae, with romantic records like “Sweet Talking” and “Party Time.”
Barrington Llewellyn was born in Kingston, Jamaica, on Dec. 24, 1947, began singing around the age of 14, and formed the Heptones with Mr. Morgan shortly afterward. Inspired by American R&B groups like the Drifters and the Impressions, the Heptones progressed from lighthearted love songs to weightier themes on records like “Equal Rights” and “Sufferers Time.” During a prolific five-year run with Clement S. Dodd’s Studio One label, they created a deep catalog of hits that has been re-recorded over and over by successive generations of musicians.
They went on to work with the visionary producer Lee (Scratch) Perry at the height of his powers, and released the classic album “Night Food” on Chris Blackwell’s Island Records label in 1976.
Although Leroy Sibbles wrote and sang lead on most of the group’s songs, he credited Mr. Llewellyn — also known to friends and fans as Barry Heptones — for his creative influence. “He was more than a member of the group,” Mr. Sibbles said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “Barry had more talent than the other guys who were singing with us. He was more musical. He added more inspiration.”
Usually responsible for singing harmonies, Mr. Llewellyn took the lead on songs like “Nine Pounds of Steel” and “Take Me Darling” as well as the Heptones’ biggest international hit, “Book of Rules,” which he adapted from “Bag of Tools,” a poem by R. L. Sharpe. The song was included in two movie soundtracks.
Mr. Llewellyn was not prone to boast about the song’s success. “He was a very humble person,” Ms. Llewellyn said. “He would just do what he had to do to make others happy.”
Though he lived in Brooklyn, he was in Jamaica working to establish a learning center to help young people in his native Kingston. “The youth need that father figure,” Ms. Llewellyn said. “That’s what he was really focusing on.” He also recently recorded an album of his own music titled “On the Road Again,” which has yet to be released.
When Mr. Sibbles left the group to pursue a solo career in 1978, Mr. Llewellyn and Mr. Morgan recruited another lead singer, Naggo Morris, and continued to record, but with diminished success. The original Heptones lineup reunited in 1995. Mr. Sibbles said that he and Mr. Llewellyn toured Europe together for the past five years. “We actually did a tour about three months before his passing,” he said. “The last date was in Germany, and he was still singing as strong as ever. We never foresaw a problem with him.”
In addition to his wife, he is survived by several children and grandchildren, as well as four brothers and four sisters.
LANA PETERS, STALIN’S DAUGHTER
Born Svetlana Stalina, Stalin’s daughter changed her name twice and lived in several countries after her famous defection.
Published: November 28, 2011
Her three successive names were signposts on a twisted, bewildering road that took her from Stalin’s Kremlin, where she was the “little princess,” to the West in a celebrated defection, then back to the Soviet Union in a puzzling homecoming, and finally to decades of obscurity, wandering and poverty.
At her birth, on Feb. 28, 1926, she was named Svetlana Stalina, the only daughter and last surviving child of the brutal Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. After he died in 1953, she took her mother’s last name, Alliluyeva. In 1970, after her defection and an American marriage, she became and remained Lana Peters.
Ms. Peters died of colon cancer on Nov. 22 in Richland County, Wis., the county’s corporation counsel, Benjamin Southwick, said on Monday. She was 85.
Her death, like the last years of her life, occurred away from public view. There were hints of it online and in Richland Center, the Wisconsin town in which she lived, though a local funeral home said to be handling the burial would not confirm the death. A county official in Wisconsin thought she might have died several months ago. Phone calls seeking information from a surviving daughter, Olga Peters, who now goes by the name Chrese Evans, were rebuffed, as were efforts to speak to her in person in Portland, Ore., where she lives and works.
Ms. Peters’s initial prominence came only from being Stalin’s daughter, a distinction that fed public curiosity about her life across three continents and many decades. She said she hated her past and felt like a slave to extraordinary circumstances. Yet she drew on that past, and the infamous Stalin name, in writing two best-selling autobiographies.
Long after fleeing her homeland, she seemed to be still searching for something — sampling religions, from Hinduism to Christian Science, falling in love and constantly moving. Her defection took her from India, through Europe, to the United States. After moving back to Moscow in 1984, and from there to Soviet Georgia, friends told of her going again to America, then to England, then to France, then back to America, then to England again, and on and on. All the while she faded from the public eye.
Ms. Peters was said to have lived in a cabin with no electricity in northern Wisconsin; another time, in a Roman Catholic convent in Switzerland. In 1992, she was reported to be living in a shabby part of West London in a home for elderly people with emotional problems.
“You can’t regret your fate,” Ms. Peters once said, “although I do regret my mother didn’t marry a carpenter.”
Her life was worthy of a Russian novel. It began with a loving relationship with Stalin, who had taken the name, meaning “man of steel,” as a young man. (He was born Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili.) Millions died under his brutally repressive rule, but at home he called his daughter “little sparrow,” cuddled and kissed her, showered her with presents, and entertained her with American movies.
She became a celebrity in her country, compared to Shirley Temple in the United States. Thousands of babies were named Svetlana. So was a perfume.
At 18, she was setting the table in a Kremlin dining room when Churchill happened upon her. They had a spirited conversation.
But all was not perfect even then. The darkest moment of her childhood came when her mother, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, Stalin’s second wife, committed suicide in 1932. Svetlana, who was 6, was told that her mother had died of appendicitis. She did not learn the truth for a decade.
In her teenage years, her father was consumed by the war with Germany and grew distant and sometimes abusive. One of her brothers, Yakov, was captured by the Nazis, who offered to exchange him for a German general. Stalin refused, and Yakov was killed.
In her memoirs she told of how Stalin had sent her first love, a Jewish filmmaker, to Siberia for 10 years. She wanted to study literature at Moscow University, but Stalin demanded that she study history. She did. After graduation, again following her father’s wishes, she became a teacher, teaching Soviet literature and the English language. She then worked as a literary translator.
A year after her father broke up her first romance, she told him she wanted to marry another Jewish man, Grigory Morozov, a fellow student. Stalin slapped her and refused to meet him. This time, however, she had her way. She married Mr. Morozov in 1945. They had one child, Iosif, before divorcing in 1947.
The New York Times
Ms. Peters made her home in the Northeast, where she gave several interviews. She married and changed her name in 1970.
Times Topic:Joseph Stalin
Her second marriage, in 1949, was more to Stalin’s liking. The groom, Yuri Zhdanov, was the son of Stalin’s right-hand man, Andrei Zhdanov. The couple had a daughter, Yekaterina, the next year. But they, too, divorced soon afterward.
Her world grew darker in her father’s last years. Nikita S. Khrushchev, Stalin’s successor as Soviet leader, wrote in his memoirs about the New Year’s party in 1952 when Stalin grabbed Svetlana by the hair and forced her to dance.
After Stalin died in 1953, his legacy was challenged, and the new leaders were eager to put his more egregious policies behind them. Svetlana lost many of her privileges. In the 1960s, when she fell in love with Brijesh Singh, an Indian Communist who was visiting Moscow, Soviet officials refused to let her marry him. After he became ill and died, they only reluctantly gave her permission, in early 1967, to take his ashes home to India.
Once in India, Ms. Alliluyeva, as she was known now, evaded Soviet agents in the K.G.B. and showed up at the United States Embassy in New Delhi seeking political asylum. The world watched in amazement as Stalin’s daughter, granted protection, became the most high-profile Soviet exile since the ballet virtuoso Rudolf Nureyev defected in 1961. The United States quickly dispatched a C.I.A. officer to help her travel through Italy to neutral Switzerland, but American officials worried that accepting her into the United States could damage its improving relations with Moscow. Finally, President Lyndon B. Johnson, on humanitarian grounds, agreed to admit her but asked that there be as little fanfare as possible.
Unknown to Washington at the time, the K.G.B. was discussing plans to assassinate Ms. Alliluyeva, according to former agency officials who were quoted by The Washington Times in 1992. But, they said, the K.G.B. backed off for fear an assassination would be traced back to it too easily.
Her arrival in New York, in April 1967, was more triumphant than low-key. Reporters and photographers were waiting at the airport, and she held a news conference in which she denounced the Soviet regime. Her autobiography, “Twenty Letters to a Friend,” was published later that year, bringing her more than $2.5 million. In 1969 she recounted her journey from the Soviet Union in a second memoir, “Only One Year.”
Settling in Princeton, N.J., Ms. Alliluyeva made a public show of burning her Soviet passport, saying she would never return to the Soviet Union. She denounced her father as “a moral and spiritual monster,” called the Soviet system “profoundly corrupt” and likened the K.G.B. to the Gestapo.
Writing in Esquire magazine, Garry Wills and Ovid Demaris — under the headline “How the Daughter of Stalin Denounced Communism and Embraced God, America and Apple Pie” — said the Svetlana Alliluyeva saga added up to “the Reader’s Digest ultimate story.”
As the Kremlin feared, Ms. Alliluyeva became a weapon in the cold war. In 1968, she denounced the trial of four Soviet dissidents as “a mockery of justice.” On Voice of America radio, Soviet citizens heard her declare that life in the United States was “free, gay and full of bright colors.”
In interviews, however, she acknowledged loneliness. She missed her son, Iosif, who was 22 when she left Russia, and her daughter, Yekaterina, who was then 17. But she seemed to find new vibrancy in 1970, when she married William Wesley Peters. Mr. Peters had been chief apprentice to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and, for a time, the husband of Wright’s adopted daughter.
Wright’s widow, Olgivanna Wright, encouraged the Peters-Alliluyeva marriage, even though the adopted daughter was Mrs. Wright’s biological daughter from a previous marriage. That daughter was also named Svetlana, and Mrs. Wright saw mystical meaning in the match.
The couple lived with Mrs. Wright and others at Taliesin West, the architect’s famous desert compound in Scottsdale, Ariz. There, Ms. Peters began chafing at the strict communal lifestyle enforced by Mrs. Wright, finding her as authoritarian as her father. Mr. Peters, meanwhile, objected to his wife’s buying a house in a nearby resort area, declaring he didn’t want “a two-bit suburban life.”
Within two years, they separated. Ms. Peters was granted custody of their 8-month-old daughter, Olga. They divorced in 1973.
Information about the next few years is sketchier. Ms. Peters became a United States citizen in 1978 and later told The Trenton Times that she had registered as a Republican and donated $500 to the conservative magazine National Review, saying it was her favorite publication.
She and Olga moved to California, living there in several places before uprooting themselves again in 1982, this time for England so that Olga could enroll in an English boarding school. She also began to speak more favorably of her father, Time magazine reported, and perhaps felt she had betrayed him. “My father would have shot me for what I have done,” she said in 1983.
At the same time, Stalin was being partly rehabilitated in the Soviet Union, and Soviet officials, after blocking Ms. Peters’s attempts to communicate with her children in Russia, relaxed their grip. Iosif, then 38 and practicing as a physician, began calling regularly. He said he would try to come to England to see her.
“For this desperate woman, seeing Iosif appeared to herald a new beginning,” Time said.
Abruptly, however, Iosif was refused permission to travel. So in November 1984, Ms. Peters and 13-year-old Olga — who was distraught because she had not been consulted about the move — went to Moscow and asked to be taken back. Lana Peters now denounced the West. She had not known “one single day” of freedom in the West, she told reporters. She was quoted as saying that she had been a pet of the C.I.A. Any conservative views she had expressed in the United States, if they still existed, went unexpressed. When an ABC correspondent in Moscow tried to question her a few days later, she exploded in anger, exclaiming: “You are savages! You are uncivilized people! Goodbye to you all.”
Ms. Peters and Olga were given Soviet citizenship, but soon their lives worsened. The son and daughter who lived in Russia began shunning her and Olga. Defying the official atheism of the state, Olga insisted on wearing a crucifix. They moved to Tbilisi, Georgia, but it was no better than Moscow.
In April 1986, they returned to the United States, with no opposition by the Soviet authorities. Settling at first in Wisconsin, Ms. Peters disavowed the anti-Western things she had said upon her arrival in Moscow, saying she had been mistranslated, particularly the statement about being a pet of the C.I.A. Olga returned to school in England.
Ms. Peters said she was now impoverished. She had given much of her book profits to charity, she said, and was saddled with debt and failed investments. An odd, formless odyssey began. Friends said she appeared unable to live anywhere for more than two years.
Mr. Peters died in 1991. Ms. Peters’s son, Iosif, died in November 2008.
Besides her daughter Olga, now Ms. Evans, Ms. Peters is survived by her daughter Yekaterina Zhdanov, a scientist who goes by Katya and is living on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Eastern Siberia studying a volcano, according to The Associated Press. Reached later on Monday by e-mail, Ms. Evans told The A.P. that her mother had died in a nursing home in Richland Center, where she had lived for three years. “Please respect my privacy during this sad time,” the wire agency quoted her as saying.
Ms. Peters was said to enjoy sewing and reading, mainly nonfiction, choosing not to own a television set. In an interview with The Wisconsin State Journal in 2010, she was asked if her father had loved her. She thought he did, she said, because she had red hair and freckles, like his mother.
But she could not forgive his cruelty to her. “He broke my life,” she said. “I want to explain to you. He broke my life.”
And he left a shadow from which she could never emerge. “Wherever I go,” she said, “here, or Switzerland, or India, or wherever. Australia. Some island. I will always be a political prisoner of my father’s name.”
JUDY LEWIS, SECRET DAUGHTER OF HOLLYWOOD
By PAUL VITELLO
Published: November 30, 2011
Her mother was Loretta Young. Her father was Clark Gable.
Yet Judy Lewis spent her first 19 months in hideaways and orphanages, and the rest of her early life untangling a web of lies spun by a young mother hungry for stardom but unwilling to end her unwed pregnancy.
Loretta Young’s deception was contrived to protect her budding movie career and the box-office power of the matinee idol Gable, who was married to someone else when they conceived their child in snowed-in Washington State. They were on location, shooting the 1935 film “The Call of the Wild,” fictional lovers in front of the camera and actual lovers outside its range.
Ms. Lewis, a former actress who died on Friday at the age of 76, was 31 before she discerned the scope of the falsehoods that cast her, a daughter of Hollywood royalty, into what she later described as a Cinderella-like childhood. Confronted by Ms. Lewis, Young finally made a tearful confession in 1966 at her sprawling home in Palm Springs, Calif.
Young was 22 and unmarried when she and Gable, 34 and married to Maria Langham, had their brief affair. She spent most of her pregnancy in Europe to avoid Hollywood gossip. Ms. Lewis was born on Nov. 6, 1935, in a rented house in Venice, Calif. Soon she was turned over to a series of caretakers, including St. Elizabeth’s Infants Hospital in San Francisco, so that Young could return to stardom.
When Ms. Lewis was 19 months old, her mother brought her back home and announced through the gossip columnist Louella Parsons that she had adopted the child.
Ms. Lewis grew up in Los Angeles, cushioned in the luxury of her mother’s movie-star lifestyle even as she endured what she later described as an outsider’s isolation within her family and the teasing of children at school.
They teased her about her ears: they stuck out like Dumbo’s. Or, as Hollywood rumors had it, they stuck out like Clark Gable’s. Ms. Lewis’s mother dressed her in bonnets to hide them. When Ms. Lewis was 7 her ears were surgically altered to make them less prominent.
Until Ms. Lewis, as an adult, confronted her years later, Young did not acknowledge that Ms. Lewis was her biological daughter, or that Gable was Ms. Lewis’s father. When Young married and had two children with Tom Lewis, a radio producer, Judy took his name but remained the family’s “adopted” daughter.
And though conceding the story privately to her daughter — and later to the rest of her family — Young remained mum publicly all her life, agreeing to acknowledge the facts only in her authorized biography, “Forever Young,” and only on the condition that it be published after her death. She died in 2000.
But Ms. Lewis revealed the story of her parentage in her own memoir, “Uncommon Knowledge,” in 1994. She described feeling a powerful sense of alienation as a child. “It was very difficult for me as a little girl not to be accepted or acknowledged by my mother, who, to this day, will not publicly acknowledge that I am her biological child,” she said in an interview that year.
After Ms. Lewis released the memoir, her mother refused to speak to her for three years.
The lightning bolt that gave Ms. Lewis the first hint about her parentage came during an identity crisis before her wedding day. Two weeks before her marriage in 1958, Ms. Lewis told her fiancé, Joseph Tinney, that she did not understand her confusing relationship with her mother and that she did not know who her father was. “I can’t marry you,” she said she told him. “I don’t know anything about myself.”
Mr. Tinney could offer little guidance about her mother, she wrote, but about her father’s identity he was clear.
“It’s common knowledge, Judy,” he said. “Your father is Clark Gable.”
She had no inkling, she wrote.
In interviews after her book was published, Ms. Lewis was philosophical about the secrecy in which she grew up. If Young and Gable had acknowledged her in 1935, she said, “both of them would have lost their careers.”
Much of Ms. Lewis’s account was painful to recall, she said. She quoted Young as saying, “And why shouldn’t I be unhappy?,” explaining her decision to give birth. “Wouldn’t you be if you were a movie star and the father of your child was a movie star and you couldn’t have an abortion because it was a mortal sin?”
Young was a Roman Catholic.
After graduating from Marymount, a girls’ Catholic school, Ms. Lewis left Los Angeles to pursue acting in New York. She was a regular on one soap opera, “The Secret Storm,” from 1964 to 1971, and had featured parts on numerous others. She appeared in several Broadway plays, produced television shows, and in her mid-40s decided to return to school. She earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University in Los Angeles, and became a licensed family and child counselor in 1992.
Ms. Lewis, who was a clinical psychologist specializing in foster care and marriage therapy, died of lymphoma at her home in Gladwyne, Pa., her daughter, Maria Tinney Dagit, said.
Besides her daughter, Ms. Lewis is survived by two grandsons and her half-brothers, Christopher and Peter Lewis. Her marriage to Mr. Tinney ended in divorce.
In a 2001 interview on CNN with Larry King, Ms. Lewis recalled speaking to her mother about her early life.
“I was also asking her about being adopted,” she said, “as adopted children do. They say, ‘Where are my … ‘’ ”
Mr. King interjected, “ ‘Who’s my mother?’ ”
“Yes,” Ms. Lewis said. “ ‘Who’s my mother? Who’s my father?’ And she would answer it very easily by saying, ‘I couldn’t love you any more than if you were my own child,’ which, of course, didn’t answer the question, but it said, ‘Don’t ask the question.’ ”
But at that point Ms. Lewis was wistful about her past. “Call of the Wild,” she said, was one of her favorite movies. The love scenes between her parents, she said, “show the love they feel for each other.”
Mr. King asked if she ever fantasized about the life she might have had if her parents had married and brought her up.
“I would have liked them to have,” she replied. “But that is just my dream, you know. Life is very strange. Doesn’t give us what we want.”
FROM THE ARCHIVES
(Dec. 1, 1987)
(Dec. 1, 1917)
(Dec. 8, 1992)
(Dec. 9, 1971)
(Dec. 9, 1965)
(Dec. 13, 1961)
(Dec. 13 , 1934)
(Dec. 14, 1985)
(Dec. 15, 1966)
(Dec. 20, 1996)
(Dec. 21, 1940)
(Dec. 21, 1945)
(Dec. 30, 1979)
(Dec. 31, 1972)
(Dec. 31, 1999)
FROM THE MAGAZINE