Monthly Archives: January 2012


Black Marriage Day, in celebration of the Black family,  will be celebrated their upcoming convention on March 24, 2012, from 12:00 noon to 5:00pm.

For more on this event, continue reading below.


Black Marriage Day (, is dedicated to celebrating the institution of marriage within our community. Instituted by Nisa Muhammad of Wedded Bliss Inc in 2001 (, Black Marriage Day is now celebrated in over 300 cities and neighborhoods around the country.  Marriage belongs to the community, not solely to the couple. In communities where marriages are healthy and successful property values are higher, there are better schools, lower crime rates and the people are healthier. In communities where the divorce rate is higher than the marriage rate and marriages fail to happen, lower property values, poorer schools, crime, health concerns, and many other risk factors abound. Communities have a responsibility to help change the culture of marriage by encouraging organizational collaborations between community groups and institutions of faith, celebrations that increase the value of marriage and courses that provide services to strengthen marriages.

This is our sixth year honoring Black Marriages in Richmond by providing education and resources.  We celebrate and support the development and growth of healthy families with workshops and classes that are free to the public.   This year we are partnering with JAPMEG, INC resulting in a concert featuring Kindred and the Family Soul.  Please visit our registration page and let us know if you intend to join us so that presenters can prepare an appropriate number of handouts.  

There are also vending spaces available for businesses that serve our families. There will not be any food vendors allowed;  however if you have a service that strengthens families, please inquire with us. 
 If you won’t be joining us or are out of state, it is not difficult to celebrate marriages where you are. Go for ideas.

This day of workshops is open to African-Americans of all faiths and ages. Often we as a community do not take advantage of tools made available to us when it comes to our relationships because we don’t want anyone “in our business”. Don’t pass up this opportunity to educate, yourself, your mate, and your children. Come out and receive good information and relationship skills.
If you would like information on vending or information email us at or sign up for our mailing list.  Please see the links page for partners and information on curriculum.

We look forward to seeing you!


Wedded Bliss Foundation

1155 F Street NW Suite 1050

Washington, DC 20004

Phone: 202-559-8569   Fax:  202-559-8669

Via Happily Natural Day

2910 Matisse Lane

Richmond, VA23224

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Published: January 27, 2012

Robert Hegyes, who played Juan Epstein, the Sweathog voted Most Likely to Take a Life, on the 1970s sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter,” died on Thursday in Edison, N.J. He was 60.

ABC, via Photofest

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, left, John Travolta, Robert Hegyes, Ron Palillo and Gabriel Kaplan on “Welcome Back, Kotter.”

The cause was cardiac arrest, a spokesman for John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Edison, where Mr. Hegyes was pronounced dead, told Reuters.

Broadcast on ABC from 1975 to 1979, “Welcome Back, Kotter” starred Gabe Kaplan as Gabe Kotter, who returns to teach at his gritty alma mater, the fictional James Buchanan High in Brooklyn. The theme song, written and sung by John Sebastian, was a No. 1 hit in 1976.

Besides Mr. Hegyes (pronounced Hedges), the Bensonhurst irregulars in Kotter’s care, collectively known as the Sweathogs, included John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino, Ron Palillo as Arnold Horshack and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs as Freddie Washington. Of the four, only Mr. Travolta went on to become a bankable movie star.

Epstein, half Jewish and half Puerto Rican, was known for his insouciant slouch, shirt open to the navel and an often immense Afro, capacious even by ’70s standards. As portrayed by Mr. Hegyes, the character was equal parts “West Side Story” tough and Sergeant Bilko trickster. (Mr. Hegyes said he modeled Epstein on Chico Marx.)

Absence-excuse notes were among Epstein’s specialties, though the fact that they were invariably signed “Epstein’s Mother” tended to tip his hand.

In the 1980s Mr. Hegyes had a recurring role as Detective Manny Esposito on the CBS crime drama “Cagney & Lacey.”

The son of a Hungarian-American father and an Italian-American mother, Robert Hegyes was born in 1951 in Perth Amboy, N.J. He earned a bachelor’s degree in speech, theater and dance from Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) in Glassboro, N.J., before moving to New York to start his acting career.

Mr. Hegyes had been cast in “Don’t Call Back,” a short-lived Broadway drama starring Arlene Francis and directed by Len Cariou, when he auditioned for “Welcome Back, Kotter.” He originally read for the role of the monosyllabic Barbarino but was ultimately hired to play Epstein.

Mr. Hegyes, who lived most recently in Metuchen, N.J., was married and divorced several times. Information on survivors could not be confirmed.

In later years he acted in regional theater and had guest roles on shows including “CHiPs,” “L.A. Heat” and “Diagnosis Murder.”

With fitting symmetry, Mr. Hegyes also taught for several years at Venice High School in California. As he told interviewers afterward, he had a reputation for accepting no absence excuses of any kind.





Published: January 25, 2012

Nicol Williamson, a Scottish-born actor whose large, renegade talent made him a controversial Hamlet, an eccentric Macbeth, an angry, high-strung Vanya and, on the screen, a cocaine-sniffing Sherlock Holmes — and whose querulous temperament could make his antics as commanding as his performances — died on Dec. 16 in Amsterdam, where he had lived for more than 20 years. He was 75.

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

Nicol Williamson in “Jack,” in 1996.

Orion Pictures

Mr. Williamson in “Excalibur,” John Boorman’s 1981 film.

Universal Pictures

Mr. Williamson as Sherlock Holmes in “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution” (1976).

The cause was esophageal cancer, his son, Luke, said Wednesday on the Web site “He didn’t want any fuss made over his passing,” Luke Williamson said in an e-mail, explaining the delay in reporting his father’s death. “He was not interested in publicity.”

Mr. Williamson was rarely described as dull, sometimes as uncooperative, more often as unpredictable or tempestuous.

“You don’t know if he’s going to be nice to you or punch you in the mouth,” a fellow cast member in the doomed, 1976 Broadway musical “Rex” said. A young actress who shared the stage with him in 1965 and who spoke to The New York Times said of him: “Drinking, fighting and wenching — God, he’s fabulous!”

Stories of Mr. Williamson’s mischievous, self-indulgent or destructive misbehavior are legion. He once stormed off the stage in the middle of a “Hamlet” in Boston, throwing a wine pitcher and goblet at the back wall before returning a few minutes later (to applause) and apologizing to the audience.

In 1965, during a tryout in Philadelphia for “Inadmissible Evidence,” the John Osborne play about a self-destructive young lawyer, he argued with the producer, David Merrick, and reportedly slugged him. Mr. Williamson went on to make a widely praised Broadway debut in the production.

And during the Broadway run of Paul Rudnick’s 1991 comedy, “I Hate Hamlet,” in which he played the ghost of John Barrymore, he criticized the play in interviews, audibly offered coaching to his fellow actors onstage, and finally, during a staged swordfight, ignored the choreography and smacked the actor Evan Handler with the flat blade of the sword, prompting Mr. Handler to leave the stage and resign.

Tall, rangy and red-haired, Mr. Williamson was not classically handsome, but critics often remarked on his vibrant or fiery presence. He “burns with incandescence and carries with him the smell of smoldering cordite,” Time magazine said of his Hamlet in the 1969 Broadway production directed by Tony Richardson. “If he were not lit by inner fire, he would be singularly unprepossessing.”

In that role Mr. Williamson stripped the Prince of Denmark of his royal demeanor, if not his arrogance, and played him as a wise, seething would-be thug, complete with unusual line readings and a Midlands accent. In England he was hailed as the Hamlet of his generation, and Prime Minister Harold Wilson recommended him to President Richard M. Nixon, who invited Mr. Williamson to perform at the White House. (A “nightmare,” Mr. Williamson said of the experience.)

American reviews of “Hamlet” were mixed. Time’s was a rave; so was Newsweek’s. But Walter Kerr, in The Times, dismissed the production and Mr. Williamson’s performance as misguided. Charles Marowitz, writing from London in The Village Voice, said Mr. Williamson’s Hamlet was “neither the courtier nor the scholar, the soldier nor the glass of fashion, but a whining, neurotically suppressed, superannuated post-grad spoiling for a fight and obviously not up to licking even the shortest kid on the block.”

Mr. Williamson played Macbeth more than once, perhaps because his aggrieved Scottish temperament seemed so suitable for that tormented Scottish general and king. The first time, in London, he was directed by Trevor Nunn, and the performance was acclaimed. Later, in a Broadway production he directed himself, the eccentricities he brought to the role overwhelmed the production.

By contrast, when he played Uncle Vanya in a starry 1973 production directed by Mike Nichols (the cast included George C. Scott, Julie Christie and Barnard Hughes), his contrary-to-tradition interpretation of Vanya as tightly wound and explosive rather than ruminative and despairing was received not always with approval but with curiosity and the genuine consideration of a new idea.

“He looks ratty and frantic, a man barely in control of himself,” Clive Barnes wrote in The Times. “His arms flail the air, quixotically; his eyes have a manic gleam. His final climactic act of aggression, when he tries, unsuccessfully of course, to shoot his tormentor, is presented as an uncoordinated gush of pain.”

In the movies Mr. Williamson also played Hamlet and Macbeth (a television movie). He was better known for his Merlin in “Excalibur,” John Boorman’s 1981 treatment of the Arthurian legend, and his Sherlock Holmes, whom he played as driven to the brink of madness by drug addiction in the 1976 adventure film “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution.” Directed by Herbert Ross, it also starred Robert Duvall as Watson and Alan Arkin as Sigmund Freud.

Mr. Williamson was born in Hamilton, Scotland, on Sept. 14, 1936, and grew up mostly in Birmingham, England, where, he once told The Globe and Mail of Toronto, “As a boy I always felt superior to others.” After serving in the British Army, he left home to become an actor in 1960, joining the Dundee Repertory Company and later the Royal Court in London, where he began garnering acclaim, and the Royal Shakespeare Company.

His career-making role was Bill Maitland in “Inadmissible Evidence,” a grueling part in a grueling play about a middle-aged lawyer whose life is in tatters. It opened at the Royal Court in 1964 and on Broadway in 1965, where the play had a lukewarm reception but Mr. Williamson a welcoming one; he was nominated for a Tony Award. He reprised the role Off Broadway in 1981.

Mr. Williamson also appeared on Broadway as a replacement for George C. Scott in the Neil Simon comedy “Plaza Suite” and as a replacement for Jeremy Irons in Tom Stoppard’s drama “The Real Thing.” In 1996 he had a one-man show, “Jack: A Night on the Town With John Barrymore.” In the movies his credits include Sir Edward More, the devastated philanderer in the 1969 adaptation of Nabokov’s “Laughter in the Dark”; Little John, a sidekick to an aging Robin Hood (Sean Connery) in “Robin and Marian” (1976); and a bullying boyfriend to Jill Clayburgh in the 1982 drama “I’m Dancing as Fast as I Can.”

Mr. Williamson’s marriage to Jill Townsend, an actress, ended in divorce.

“I think the only valuable thing you can do as an actor is to make people recognize in themselves what is also there in you, and what you see in them,” he said in 1969. “Then they’ll hate you because they don’t want you to do that to them. That’s why I’m hated a lot of the time. They don’t want you to show these things in you because it makes them uncomfortable. It makes them frightened. But I think you must show these things in order to be true to yourself.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: January 27, 2012

Because of an editing error, an obituary on Thursday about the actor Nicol Williamson misstated his marital status. He and the actress Jill Townsend were divorced; she was not his wife at the time of his death.





Published: January 26, 2012

James Farentino, a tall, dark and dashing actor who in his nearly 100 roles on stage, screen and television often defied the stereotype of the leading man, even though he fit the picture, died on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 73.


James Farentino

CBS Photo Archive

Mr. Farentino, far right, in a 1966 TV adaptation of “Death of a Salesman,” with George Segal, far left, and Lee J. Cobb, center.

The cause was heart failure after a long illness, Bob Palmer, a spokesman for Mr. Farentino, said. Mr. Farentino, who died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, lived in Los Angeles.

As a Navy officer in the 1980 science-fiction film “The Final Countdown,” Mr. Farentino stood beside Kirk Douglas and Martin Sheen on the deck of a modern aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Nimitz, as it passed through a time warp to Pearl Harbor, hours before the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941. They had to decide whether to use the full power of their supercarrier to destroy the Japanese fleet or allow history to take its course.

In the 1972 television movie “The Family Rico,” opposite Ben Gazzara and Sal Mineo, the wavy-haired Mr. Farentino played one of three brothers who wanted out of a Mafia family. He was the Argentine dictator Juan Perón in the four-hour 1981 television movie “Evita Perón,” with Faye Dunaway in the title role.

“Farentino can play in anybody’s league as an actor,” Cecil Smith of The Los Angeles Times wrote in 1971. “Since he first drew attention opposite Bette Davis on Broadway in ‘Night of the Iguana,’ this fiery young star has cut a handsome swath through movies and television.”

Not always so handsome. In 1982, for the television comedy “Something So Right,” about a boy who is constantly getting in trouble, Mr. Farentino played Arnie, the balding, dumpy, waddling regular guy who mentors him.

Accolades came his way. In Mr. Farentino won a Golden Globe as the most promising newcomer in an otherwise forgettable 1966 film, “The Pad (and How to Use It).” He was nominated for an Emmy in 1978 for his portrayal of St. Peter in the television mini-series “Jesus of Nazareth.”

A prominent role early in his career was as Happy Loman in the 1966 television version of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman.” (Lee J. Cobb played Willy Loman and George Segal was Willy’s other son, Biff.) Nine years later, Mr. Farentino had a turn as Biff in a Broadway production starring George C. Scott as Willy.

“This is not a one-man play,” Clive Barnes wrote in The New York Times. “Willy’s son Biff is crucial to Mr. Miller’s vision, and here it is wonderfully given by James Farentino, who stands toe to toe to Mr. Scott, like a gladiator. His picture of corrupted glory and tarnished innocence gives Mr. Scott his perfect counterpart.”

James Farentino was born in Brooklyn on Feb. 24, 1938. He dropped out of high school and was working at odd jobs when he began studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. In 1961 he was cast as one of Bette Davis’s Mexican beach boys in “The Night of the Iguana” on Broadway.

He moved to Hollywood, signed a contract with Universal and wound up being suspended 10 times for refusing to accept roles. That may have been an indication of later tumult in his life. In 1994 Mr. Farentino pleaded no contest to stalking his former girlfriend, Tina Sinatra, a daughter of Frank Sinatra. He was placed on six months’ probation.

Mr. Farentino’s marriages to the actresses Elizabeth Ashley, Michele Lee and Deborah Mullowney (now known as Debrah Farentino) ended in divorce. He is survived by his fourth wife, Stella, and their son, Saverio, and by his son, David, with Ms. Lee.

In his later career Mr. Farentino had recurring roles on “Dynasty,” “Melrose Place” and “ER,” on which he played George Clooney’s estranged father.

But the incident involving Ms. Sinatra took its toll on his career, Mr. Farentino told The Los Angeles Times in 2003. Admitting that his behavior had been “appalling,” he said, “The roles started to get smaller and smaller with less value.”





Published: January 25, 2012

Dick Tufeld, who possessed one of Hollywood’s most often-heard disembodied voices, especially from the 1950s through the 1970s, announcing or narrating television shows like “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” and commercials for products like Mr. Bubble bubble bath and Gallo wine, but who was best known for his electronic intonations as the robot in the loopy science-fiction series “Lost in Space,” died on Sunday at his home in the Studio City section of Los Angeles. He was 85.

The cause was congestive heart failure, his daughter Lynn said.

Mr. Tufeld’s broadcasting career began in the 1940s in radio and reached into the contemporary age of television on “The Simpsons.”

His voice, with its midrange, goes-down-easy, slightly excited, static-free hum, first became recognizable narrating “Space Patrol,” a live radio show for children (it was also a television program) that began in 1950 and ran until the mid-1950s, with Mr. Tufeld introducing the shows’ weekly missions made “in the name of interplanetary justice.” In the 1950s and ’60s he could be heard on episodes of “Annie Oakley,” “Zorro,” “Peyton Place,” “Surfside 6” and “Bewitched.” He worked on variety shows starring Red Skelton and Judy Garland and cartoon shows featuring Bugs Bunny and Garfield. He narrated “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” and the trailer for the Disney film “Mary Poppins.” He did ads for Zenith televisions: “A giant 25-inch picture” with “redder reds, brighter greens and more brilliant blues!”

Later he worked on game shows, including “The Joker’s Wild” (“A jackpot of fun and surprises!”), the comedy series “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” and the 1978 animated version of “Fantastic Four.”

But most television aficionados of a certain age will remember Mr. Tufeld for his roles in adventure series of the 1960s produced by his friend Irwin Allen: “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” about the crew of a submarine, which starred Richard Basehart and David Hedison; “The Time Tunnel,” about scientists who find themselves present at historic events; and “Lost in Space,” a futuristic — it was set in 1997 — reimagination of “Swiss Family Robinson.” In “Lost in Space” a clean-cut, space-traveling clan (the Robinsons), along with a pilot and a talking robot (physically, a hulking ancestor of R2D2 from “Star Wars,” played by Bob May but voiced by Mr. Tufeld), is sent careening around the galaxy by the machinations of a conniving villain, who is somehow marooned on the spacecraft himself. Alighting on various planets, they have campy, semi-threatening adventures.

The cast included Mark Goddard as the pilot, Maj. Don West; Jonathan Harris as the villain, Dr. Zachary Smith; and Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Marta Kristen, Angela Cartwright and Billy Mumy as the Robinsons. Billy was the family’s youngest child, Will, the focus of one of the robot’s most frequent and most famous declarations: “Danger, Will Robinson!”

The show, which ran from 1965 to 1968, had its fanatical adherents. It was resurrected for a 1998 movie that starred Gary Oldman, William Hurt and Matt LeBlanc. Several original cast members appeared in the film, but Mr. Tufeld was the only one to reprise his role.

“It was no big deal, since 30 years have passed and no one ever saw my face,” he said at the time. “It’s not like the robot needs Botox.”

Richard Norton Tufeld was born in Los Angeles, on Dec. 11, 1926, and grew up in Pasadena, Calif. His parents were immigrants — his father, who ran a successful furniture business, from Russia, and his mother from Canada. He graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where he studied speech. His wife of 55 years, Adrienne Blumberg, died in 2004.

Mr. Tufeld is survived by two daughters, Lynn Tufeld and Melissa Tufeld-Gerber; two sons, Bruce and Craig; a brother, Howard, known as Bud; and six grandchildren.

A sports fanatic (one of his early gigs was as the play-by-play announcer for the Hollywood Stars, a minor league baseball team) and a jazz fanatic, Mr. Tufeld had what his children describe as myriad interests.

“But what he really loved was speaking,” his daughter Lynn said. “He really did. In kindergarten — it would be abuse now, but the teacher once taped his mouth shut to keep him quiet.”





Published: January 24, 2012

John Levy, a bassist and pioneering talent manager whose roster included some of the biggest names in jazz, notably Nancy Wilson, Joe Williams, Cannonball Adderley and Wes Montgomery, died on Friday at his home in Altadena, Calif. He was 99.

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

John Levy, left, with the pianist Billy Taylor in 1998.

His death was confirmed by his wife and business partner, Devra Hall Levy.

Widely credited as the first African-American personal manager in jazz, Mr. Levy entered that profession by happenstance: he was a member of the original George Shearing Quintet in the late 1940s, and by virtue of his diligent practicality, he gradually found himself entrusted with most of the group’s business decisions. He established his management company, John Levy Enterprises, in 1951; Shearing, the British pianist then still riding the momentum of an international hit, “September in the Rain,” became his first client.

He would go on to represent singers like Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln and Shirley Horn; pace-setting bandleaders like Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Freddie Hubbard and Herbie Hancock; and crossover stars like Roberta Flack and Les McCann.

Self-taught as a businessman, Mr. Levy cultivated bonds of trust with his clients, preferring a handshake to a formal contract. At a time when jazz musicians were often at the mercy of inequitable deals with club owners, record labels and publishing houses, he earned a reputation for clear-eyed tenacity.

In dealing with artists it didn’t hurt that Mr. Levy was an accomplished jazz musician himself. In the handful of years before he became a full-time manager, he had accompanied Billie Holiday at Carnegie Hall; worked with the tenor saxophonists Don Byas and Lucky Thompson; and recorded in a trio with the pianist Lennie Tristano and the guitarist Billy Bauer. He anchored Shearing’s modern but accessible quintet. And he was on one of the first recordings by the pianist Erroll Garner.

John Levy was born on April 11, 1912, in New Orleans. His father, John, was a railroad engine stoker; his mother, Laura, a midwife and nurse. Mr. Levy said he was largely reared by his grandparents. When he was 5 his family moved to Chicago, taking an apartment above the Royal Gardens, a dance hall that featured New Orleans jazz. He became a bassist in his teens after dabbling in piano and violin; the bassist Milt Hinton, though only a few years older, was a mentor.

Mr. Levy found his foothold in the Chicago jazz scene while working a day job at the post office, running a small-time numbers racket and starting a family with his first wife, Gladys. He bought a cheap plywood bass, painted white, that would serve him through most of his musical career. Through the black musicians’ union he landed a gig with the violinist Stuff Smith, who ended up bringing him to New York.

The Stuff Smith Trio, also featuring the pianist Jimmy Jones, held a steady engagement at the Onyx Club on 52nd Street, beginning in 1944; from time to time the tenor saxophonist Ben Webster would join as a special guest.

Mr. Levy had no problem finding subsequent work, especially once he formed a working partnership with the drummer Denzil Best, his band mate in the Shearing Quintet. The two hired themselves out as a rhythm section.

Mr. Levy’s first three marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife; his son, Michael; his daughters Pamela McRae, Samara Levy and Jole Levy; 15 grandchildren, and many great-grandchildren. His second wife, Gail Fisher, was among the first black actresses to have a prominent role in a primetime dramatic series, “Mannix.” She died in 2000.

In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts recognized Levy as a Jazz Master, the nation’s highest jazz honor.





Published: January 24, 2012

Bill Mardo, a sportswriter for the Communist Party newspaper The Daily Worker who fought major league baseball’s color barrier in the 1940s when the mainstream American news media was largely silent on the subject, died Friday in Manhattan. He was 88.

Mr. Mardo in 1999.

The cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease, his companion, Ruth Ost, said.

In the years before the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson as the first black player in modern organized baseball, Mr. Mardo was a leading voice in a campaign by The Daily Worker against racism in the game, a battle it had begun in 1936 when Lester Rodney became its first sports editor.

Mr. Mardo, who joined The Daily Worker in 1942, oversaw its sports coverage, together with Nat Low, during World War II, when Mr. Rodney was in the Army. Mr. Mardo had a deferment, having lost vision in one eye from a childhood virus.

The Daily Worker asked fans to write to the New York City baseball teams urging them to sign Negro league players at a time when the major leagues had lost much of their talent to military service. A milestone in baseball history and the civil rights movement arrived in October 1945 when Robinson signed a contract with the Dodgers’ organization, having reached an agreement with Branch Rickey, the Dodger general manager, two months earlier.

Mr. Mardo covered Robinson’s first spring training, with the Dodgers’ Montreal Royals farm team in 1946, and wrote of the hostility toward him in parts of segregated Florida.

As Robinson was concluding a brilliant 1946 season, Mr. Mardo wrote that racism would be smashed by the arrival of black players, which, he said, “in one fell swoop does as much to arm and educate the American people against this monstrous lie as do all the pamphlets in the world.”

After Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers in 1947, Mr. Rodney and Mr. Mardo called on the owners of the other 15 teams in the majors to sign black players.

Rickey had not acknowledged being pressured by The Daily Worker. But in recounting the campaign to shatter baseball’s color bar, Arnold Rampersad wrote in “Jackie Robinson: A Biography” (1997) that “the most vigorous efforts came from the Communist press, including picketing, petitions and unrelenting pressure for about 10 years in The Daily Worker, notably from Lester Rodney and Bill Mardo.”

Mr. Mardo was born William Bloom in Manhattan on Oct. 24, 1923. His interest in left-wing politics arose when he read a copy of The Daily Worker as a teenager, and he became a member of the Communist Party. He changed his name to Mardo as a tribute to his sisters Marion and Doris when he began his career in journalism.

Apart from reporting on baseball, Mr. Mardo wrote a boxing column for The Daily Worker, “In This Corner.” He left the newspaper to work as a Washington reporter for the Soviet news agency Tass in the early 1950s. He later worked in direct-mail advertising.

His marriage in the 1950s ended in divorce, and he had no children.

In April 1997, Mr. Mardo and Mr. Rodney (who died in 2009) spoke at a symposium at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus marking the 50th anniversary of Robinson’s debut with the Dodgers.

Mr. Mardo noted that Rickey had not signed blacks when he ran the St. Louis Cardinals for more than two decades and suggested it was not idealism but pressure from black sportswriters, trade unions and the Communist Party that persuaded him to sign Robinson.

“Where were you looking all those years, Mr. Rickey?” Mr. Mardo said. “Istanbul? The South Seas?”

But on April 10, 1947, when the Dodgers announced they were bringing up Robinson from Montreal, Mr. Mardo, sitting in the Ebbets Field press box, could only exult.

“There’s time tomorrow to remember that the good fight goes on,” he wrote for the next day’s Daily Worker. “But, for today, let’s just sit back and feel easy and warm. As that fellow in the press box said, ‘Robinson’s a Dodger’ — and it’s a great day, isn’t it?”


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About the Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme

Rejecting any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either     in full or in part, the General Assembly       adopted a resolution (A/RES/60/7) by consensus condemning “without     reserve” all manifestations of religious intolerance, incitement,     harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic     origin or religious belief, whenever they occur.

The resolution  declared that the United Nations would designate 27 January — the     anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp — as an     annual International Day of Commemoration       to honour the victims of the Holocaust, and urged Member States to     develop educational programmes to instill the memory of the tragedy in     future generations to prevent genocide from occurring again. It     requested the United Nations Secretary-General to establish an outreach     programme on the “Holocaust and the United Nations”, as well as institute     measures to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and     education, in order to help prevent future acts of genocide.

The Holocaust was a turning point in history, which prompted the world     to say “never again”. The significance of resolution A/RES/60/7 is     that it calls for a remembrance of past crimes with an eye towards     preventing them in the future.

The 2012 observance of the  International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust  will focus on the theme “Children and the Holocaust”. The United Nations will remember the one-and-a-half million  Jewish children who perished in the Holocaust, together with the thousands of  Roma and Sinti children, the disabled and others, who suffered and died at the  hands of the Nazis and their collaborators. Some children managed to survive in  hiding, others fled to safe havens before it was too late, while many others  suffered medical experiments or were sent to the gas chambers immediately upon  arriving at the death camps. Highlighting the impact of mass violence on  children, this theme has important implications for the 21st century.


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Bulletin at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

Ancient Astronomers Were No Fools

January 25, 2012                                                                | A study of historical star catalogs has turned up a surprising result: long-gone stargazers knew that the stellar magnitudes they observed needed correcting — but the correction is for an atmospheric effect scientists didn’t quantify until the 1700s. > read more

Tim Puckett’s Award-Winning Ambition

January 26, 2012                                                                | Tim Puckett has been studying comets and finding supernovae with his home-built telescope in the mountains of northern Georgia since the 1990s. Now the American Astronomical Society has recognized his dedication with the 2012 Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award. > read more

Opportunity Takes a Bow, Gets Some Rest

January 25, 2012                                                                | It’s been eight years since NASA dropped twin rovers onto the Martian surface. Spirit succumbed to the planet’s harsh conditions in 2010, but Opportunity continues to amaze mission scientists with its longevity and scientific productivity. > read more

Time Committee Procrastinates

January 27, 2012                                                                | An international committee formed to settle the protocol for civilian time once and for all recently announced an important decision — they’re going to put off the decision for another three years. > read more

Sky & Telescope March 2012

January 17, 2012                                                                | Sky & Telescope‘s March 2012 issue is now available to digital subscribers. > read more


Asteroid 433 Eros


A Rare Flyby of Asteroid Eros

January 13, 2012                                                                | The grandaddy of near-Earth asteroids brightens to magnitude 8.6 as it flies by Earth in late January and early February. > read more

Jupiter: Big, Bright, and Beautiful

September 23, 2011                                                                | The “King of Planets,” which will dominate the evening sky from late 2011 through early 2012, is a captivating sight no matter how you look at it. > read more

New Supernova in Leo

January 9, 2012                                                                | Along with the usual galaxies, dark matter, and exoplanets, the American Astronomical Society’s January meeting is abuzz with the discovery of a supernova by a team of amateurs. Astronomers are rushing to observe the explosion before it fades. > read more

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

Early evening view

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

January 27, 2012                                                                  | Venus blazes high at dusk. The bright Moon passes Jupiter, then shines over Orion. And Mars and Saturn rise ever earlier in the night. > read more


Norman Edmund

Edmund Optics

Norman Edmund, Optics Entrepreneur

January 24, 2012                                                                | His company got its start with the military surplus  optics that flooded the marketplace right after World War II. Ever since,  Edmund Scientific (now Edmund Optics) has inspired generations of budding astronomers. > read more

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A Political Obituary of Etta James

James’ personal and artistic journey has a lot to teach us about the shifting politics of race, class and feminist politics over the course of the last half century. Kenyon Farrow explores the late icon’s history.

Quietly Radical Mission at Sundance: Supporting Native Filmmakers

Jamilah King looks at Sundance’s NativeLabs, which has supported 70 indigenous filmmakers in telling their own stories.

Also: Film Reveals “The Invisible War” on Women in Our Military

The Real Goal of Ariz.’s Book Banning Thought Police: Harass Latinos

Rinku Sen says the real goal of Arizona’s new law is to put Mexican Americans on the defensive about their place in the state.

Bryant Terry’s ‘Inspired Vegan’ Shows Healthy Food Isn’t Just for White Folks The revolution begins at people’s kitchen tables.

Chinese New Year 101: Welcome to the Year of the Dragon [Infographic] Around the world, Asian communities celebrated Lunar New Year on Monday. Here’s what the holiday is all about.

Groups Want NYPD Chief’s Job Over Anti-Muslim Propaganda in Trainings Propaganda included a film that said the goal of “much of Muslim leadership here in America” is to “infiltrate and dominate” the United States.

Viola Davis Tells Charlize Theron She Doesn’t Know What She’s Talking AboutDuring Newsweek’s Oscar roundtable, Viola Davis tried to speak about the difficulties of being a black actress in Hollywood—but a well-intentioned reply from Theron was just another example of the problem.

Latinos See Strong Presence in 2012 Oscar Nominees List Latinos, the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States, are seeing themselves in several Oscar categories.

Obama’s Big Shift: Let’s Truly Investigate the Banking Sector’s Crimes President Obama said he’s eager to debate equal opportunity in last night’s State of the Union. But he also offered a huge policy change he’s avoided for four years: investigate the banks’ housing boom crimes.

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Georgia Judge Orders Obama to Appear at ‘Birther’ Hearing

by  Leah Nelson  on January 24, 2012

A Georgia administrative law judge has left in place a subpoena directing President Obama to appear at a hearing on Thursday regarding a “birther” complaint challenging the president’s eligibility for office.

Deputy Chief Judge Michael Malihi issued his decision Friday, writing that the president’s legal team “failed to enlighten the court with any legal authority” to back up its argument that no U.S. president should be compelled to attend a court hearing. They also failed to prove that attending the hearing would be “unreasonable and oppressive” and that the president’s testimony would be “irrelevant, immaterial or cumulative,” he wrote.

Orly Taitz, who filed one of the complaints and has for years led the farcical battle to prove that the president is constitutionally unqualified for office, called Malihi’s decision a “major victory.”

“This is the beginning of Watergate2 or ObamaForgeryGate,” she predicted on her website.

Things did not go so well last time Taitz,  known as the “birther queen,”  tried to take her crusade to the Peach State. In 2009, a federal judge for the Middle District of Georgia fined her $20,000 after she ignored his warnings against filing frivolous lawsuits, slamming her for wasting time and resources and writing that her case and legal strategy “borders on delusional.”

Malihi, whose bailiwick as administrative law judge includes ballot disputes and citizens’ complaints against state agencies, has rarely made the papers since his appointment in 1995 by then-Gov. Zell Miller. However, the little information available suggests a record of broadly interpreting the public’s right to contest state decisions. In 2001, he created small waves by ruling that citizens could challenge a state-issued water-use permit without proving that they would be directly affected by it. And in 2006, he annoyed developers and politicians by ruling in favor of an environmental group that sought to put a marina project on hold because, it said, the state had failed to fully explore its environmental impact.

Court watchers interviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution predicted that the president will not show up in Georgia on Thursday despite Malihi’s ruling. In that case, the administrative law judge will have the option of referring the issue to the county superior court, which would decide whether the president should be held in contempt.




These people who will not evolve and accept that President Obama is a U.S. citizen are all operating on Extinction Level Event mentalities.

Give it a rest. The man is a natural-born citizen:

Amendment XIV

Section 1.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

President Obama’s citizenship has been settled, but, these psychotic vipers just will not let it go.

Deputy Chief Judge Michael Malihi, who is an administrative judge, has no legal powers to make President Obama appear in the court, be it a hearing, grand jury, or petit jury.

“Orly Taitz, who filed one of the complaints and has for years led the farcical battle to prove that the president is constitutionally unqualified for office, called Malihi’s decision a “major victory.”


If anything, Malihi’s decision is the sign of extreme mental instability.

Anyone who still follows the birther brigade is beyond stupid. They are also in need of some serious electroconvulsive therapy.



The ‘birther’ trial has begun. Here is an update on the trial:

Birther Farce Proceeds in  Georgia, Minus President and Basis in Reality

And another update:

Surprising No One, Georgia Judge Concludes the President is a Citizen


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Senate Bill 968, Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA) which was up for vote has been withdrawn from the Senate floor consideration.

Here is a response from Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson. She was not a co-sponsor of the bill, but, she did work in the interests of those who contacted her to vote against the passing of PIPA:

Dear Friend:
Thank you for contacting me regarding S. 968, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (the PROTECT IP Act, or PIPA).  The parallel, but not identical, legislation in the House of Representatives is H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA).  I welcome your thoughts and comments.
I did not cosponsor this legislation.  By letter, e-mail, and telephone call, thousands of constituents like you have highlighted the potential pitfalls in the bill.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was a strong supporter of PIPA, has withdrawn the bill from Senate floor consideration. I agree with this decision. Although there are legitimate issues to be addressed regarding so-called internet piracy, I believe that several provisions of the current legislation need to be clarified or revised.
Protecting intellectual property is more challenging than ever before.  For example, high speed broadband enables access to the entire catalog of movies, music, books, television, and technology.  These protections should not censor free speech, nor should they hinder innovation.
Online promotion of counterfeit goods by foreign entities is also a growing concern.  Assessing how to protect copyright, patent, and intellectual property rights — and doing so without infringing on consumers’ legitimate interests — requires dealing with a complex series of problems.
Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind should this bill or related legislation be reported to the floor for action by the full Senate.  I appreciate hearing from you, and I hope that you will not hesitate to contact me on any issue that is important to you.
Kay Bailey Hutchison
United States Senator
284 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
202-224-5922 (tel)
202-224-0776 (fax)
And this recent response, e-mailed to me by Senator Cornyn, on January 26,2012:
Dear Ms. “Ann”:
Thank you for contacting me about the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 (S. 968).  I share your concerns regarding this legislation, and I appreciate having the benefit of your comments on this important issue.
The PROTECT IP Act of 2011 was introduced in the Senate on May 26, 2011, in an effort to counter the increasing number of websites, often foreign, dedicated to selling counterfeit pharmaceuticals, pirated copies of movies, music and other stolen property.  While I appreciate the intent of this legislation, and believe that Congress should exercise its constitutional authority to protect Americans’ property rights online, I have concerns that certain provisions of the PROTECT IP Act could lead to unintended consequences, including breaches in cybersecurity, damage to the integrity of the Internet, burdensome litigation, and dilution of First Amendment rights.
In response, on January 13, 2012, I along with several of my colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote to Majority Leader Harry Reid expressing our concern that the PROTECT IP Act was moving too quickly.  We argued that it was necessary to hear from experts and build consensus before moving forward with this legislation.  On January 20, 2012, Majority Leader Reid complied with our request and announced the indefinite postponement of scheduled votes on the PROTECT IP Act.
I appreciate having the opportunity to represent Texans in the United States Senate and you may be certain that I will oppose any legislation that will censor the Internet or otherwise infringe upon an individual’s First Amendment rights.  Thank you for taking the time to contact me.
United States Senator
517 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-2934
Fax: (202) 228-2856
(Post revised January 26, 2012)

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via Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Etta James in the studio in Chicago with the Chess Records founder Phil Chess, left, and the producer Ralph Bass in 1960. More Photos »

Published: January 20, 2012

Etta James, whose powerful, versatile and emotionally direct voice could enliven the raunchiest blues as well as the subtlest love songs, most indelibly in her signature hit, “At Last,” died on Friday morning in Riverside, Calif. She was 73.


Her manager, Lupe De Leon, said that the cause was complications of leukemia. Ms. James, who died at Riverside Community Hospital, had been undergoing treatment for some time for a number of conditions, including leukemia and dementia. She also lived in Riverside.

Ms. James was not easy to pigeonhole. She is most often referred to as a rhythm and blues singer, and that is how she made her name in the 1950s with records like “Good Rockin’ Daddy.” She is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

She was also comfortable, and convincing, singing pop standards, as she did in 1961 with “At Last,” which was written in 1941 and originally recorded by Glenn Miller’s orchestra. And among her four Grammy Awards (including a lifetime-achievement honor in 2003) was one for best jazz vocal performance, which she won in 1995 for the album “Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday.”

Regardless of how she was categorized, she was admired. Expressing a common sentiment, Jon Pareles of The New York Times wrote in 1990 that she had “one of the great voices in American popular music, with a huge range, a multiplicity of tones and vast reserves of volume.”

For all her accomplishments, Ms. James had an up-and-down career, partly because of changing audience tastes but largely because of drug problems. She developed a heroin habit in the 1960s; after she overcame it in the 1970s, she began using cocaine. She candidly described her struggles with addiction and her many trips to rehab in her autobiography, “Rage to Survive,” written with David Ritz (1995).

Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in Los Angeles on Jan. 25, 1938. Her mother, Dorothy Hawkins, was 14 at the time; her father was long gone, and Ms. James never knew for sure who he was, although she recalled her mother telling her that he was the celebrated pool player Rudolf Wanderone, better known as Minnesota Fats. She was reared by foster parents and moved to San Francisco with her mother when she was 12.

She began singing at the St. Paul Baptist Church in Los Angeles at 5 and turned to secular music as a teenager, forming a vocal group with two friends. She was 15 when she made her first record, “Roll With Me Henry,” which set her own lyrics to the tune of Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ recent hit “Work With Me Annie.” When some disc jockeys complained that the title was too suggestive, it was changed to “The Wallflower,” although the record itself was not.

“The Wallflower” rose to No. 2 on the rhythm-and-blues charts in 1954. As was often the case in those days with records by black performers, a toned-down version was soon recorded by a white singer and found a wider audience: Georgia Gibbs’s version, with the title and lyric changed to “Dance With Me, Henry,” was a No. 1 pop hit in 1955. (Its success was not entirely bad news for Ms. James. She shared the songwriting royalties with Mr. Ballard and the bandleader and talent scout Johnny Otis, who had arranged for her recording session. Mr. Otis died on Tuesday.)

In 1960 Ms. James was signed by Chess Records, the Chicago label that was home to Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and other leading lights of black music. She quickly had a string of hits, including “All I Could Do Was Cry,” “Trust in Me” and “At Last,” which established her as Chess’s first major female star.

She remained with Chess well into the 1970s, reappearing on the charts after a long absence in 1967 with the funky and high-spirited “Tell Mama.” In the late ’70s and early ’80s she was an opening act for the Rolling Stones.

After decades of touring, recording for various labels and drifting in and out of the public eye, Ms. James found herself in the news in 2009 after Beyoncé Knowles recorded a version of “At Last” closely modeled on hers. (Ms. Knowles played Ms. James in the 2008 movie “Cadillac Records,” a fictionalized account of the rise and fall of Chess.) Ms. Knowles also performed “At Last” at an inaugural ball for President Obama in Washington.

When the movie was released, Ms. James had kind words for Ms. Knowles’s portrayal. But in February 2009, referring specifically to the Washington performance, she told an audience, “I can’t stand Beyoncé,” and threatened to “whip” the younger singer for doing “At Last.” She later said she had been joking, but she did add that she wished she had been invited to sing the song herself for the new president.

Ms. James’s survivors include her husband of 42 years, Artis Mills; two sons, Donto and Sametto James; and four grandchildren.

Though her life had its share of troubles to the end — her husband and sons were locked in a long-running battle over control of her estate, which was resolved in her husband’s favor only weeks before her death — Ms. James said she wanted her music to transcend unhappiness rather than reflect it.

“A lot of people think the blues is depressing,” she told The Los Angeles Times in 1992, “but that’s not the blues I’m singing. When I’m singing blues, I’m singing life. People that can’t stand to listen to the blues, they’ve got to be phonies.”




People gathered around a statue of Joe Paterno on the Penn State campus after hearing of his death on Sunday.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

People gathered around a statue of Joe Paterno on the Penn State campus after hearing of his death on Sunday. More Photos »


Published: January 22, 2012

Joe Paterno, who won more games than any other major college football coach, and who became the face of Pennsylvania State University and a symbol of integrity in collegiate athletics only to be fired during the 2011 season amid a child sexual-abuse scandal that reverberated throughout the nation, died on Sunday in State College, Pa. He was 85.



Associated Press

Joe Paterno as an associate coach at Penn State in 1965.                            More Photos »

His family announced his death in a statement released on Sunday morning. The cause was lung cancer, according to Mount Nittany Medical Center, where he had been treated. Paterno lived in State College.

“He died as he lived,” the family statement said. “He fought hard until the end, stayed positive, thought only of others and constantly reminded everyone of how blessed his life had been. His ambitions were far-reaching, but he never believed he had to leave this Happy Valley to achieve them. He was a man devoted to his family, his university, his players and his community.”

During his 46 years as head coach, as he paced the sidelines in his thick tinted glasses, indifferent to fashion in his white athletic socks and rolled-up baggy khaki pants, Paterno seemed as much a part of the Penn State landscape as Mount Nittany, overlooking the central Pennsylvania campus known as Happy Valley.

When Penn State defeated Illinois, 10-7, on Oct. 29, 2011, the victory was Paterno’s 409th, surpassing Eddie Robinson of Grambling for most career victories among Division I coaches. Penn State’s president at the time, Graham B. Spanier, presented Paterno with a commemorative plaque in a postgame ceremony shown on the huge scoreboard at Beaver Stadium.

It would be Paterno’s last game. Within days his former defensive coordinator, Jerry Sandusky, was indicted and arrested on multiple charges of sexually abusing young boys extending back to his time on Paterno’s staff. On Nov. 9, Paterno and Spanier were fired by the university’s board of trustees because of their failure to go to the police after they were told of an accusation against Sandusky in 2002.

Paterno’s abrupt firing at age 84 was something that could hardly have been imagined, although he had stubbornly clung to the spotlight at an age when most head coaches, whatever their renown, had retired.

He had held himself to an exceedingly high standard with what he called his “grand experiment”: fielding outstanding teams with disciplined players whose graduation rates far exceeded that at most football powers. His football program had never been tainted by a recruiting scandal. His statue stood outside Beaver Stadium alongside the legend “Educator, Coach, Humanitarian.”

Former players who succeeded in professional life far beyond the football field had told of their debt to him.

“Look how many go to medical school or law school,” said Bill Lenkaitis, a dentist in Foxborough, Mass., who played for Paterno in the 1960s and became a longtime center for the New England Patriots. “Look how many become heads of corporations.”

Many a Pennsylvania home was stocked with Paterno knickknacks: Cup of Joe coffee mugs, Stand-up Joe life-size cutouts, JoePa golf balls bearing his likeness.

Paterno and his wife, Sue, were major benefactors of Penn State, and during his nearly half-century as head coach, donors gave hundreds of millions of dollars to the university, helping to shape it into a major research institution, seemingly an outgrowth of his having made Penn State a national brand name through its football teams.

Paterno was a five-time national coach of the year. He had five unbeaten and untied teams, and he coached Penn State to the No. 1 ranking in 1982 and 1986. He took his Nittany Lions to 37 bowl games, winning 24 of them, and turned out dozens of first-team all-Americans.

On Saturday afternoons at Beaver Stadium, crowds exceeding 100,000 cheered on Nittany Lions players recruited by Paterno largely from Pennsylvania and nearby states. Many went on to stellar professional careers, among them the running backs Franco Harris, Lydell Mitchell and John Cappelletti, who won the Heisman Trophy, and the linebacker Jack Ham.




Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Johnny Otis Orchestra, in striped jackets, with its bandleader, foreground, in California in the 1950s.


Published: January 19, 2012

Johnny Otis, the musician, bandleader, songwriter, impresario, disc jockey and talent scout who was often called “the godfather of rhythm and blues,” died on Tuesday at his home in Altadena, Calif. He was 90.

James J. Kriegsmann, via Billy Vera Collection

Johnny Otis, center, with Mel Walker and Esther Phillips.

Jack Vartoogian

Johnny Otis at the Chicago Blues Festival in 1993.

His death was confirmed by his manager, Terry Gould.

Leading a band in the late 1940s that combined the high musical standards of big band jazz with the raw urgency of gospel music and the blues, Mr. Otis played an important role in creating a new sound for a new audience of young urban blacks. Within a few years it would form the foundation of rock ’n’ roll.

With a keen ear for talent, he helped steer a long list of performers to stardom, among them Etta James, Jackie Wilson, Esther Phillips and Big Mama Thornton — whose hit recording of “Hound Dog,” made in 1952, four years before Elvis Presley’s, was produced by Mr. Otis and featured him on drums.

At Mr. Otis’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, Ms. James referred to him as her “guru.” (He received similar honors from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation and the Blues Foundation.)

Mr. Otis was also a political activist, a preacher, an artist, an author and even, late in life, an organic farmer. But it was in music that he left his most lasting mark.

Despite being a mover and shaker in the world of black music, Mr. Otis was not black, which as far as he was concerned was simply an accident of birth. He was immersed in African-American culture from an early age and said he considered himself “black by persuasion.”

“Genetically, I’m pure Greek,” he told The San Jose Mercury News in 1994. “Psychologically, environmentally, culturally, by choice, I’m a member of the black community.”

As a musician (he played piano and vibraphone in addition to drums) Mr. Otis can be heard on Johnny Ace’s “Pledging My Love,” Charles Brown’s “Drifting Blues” and other seminal rhythm and blues records, as well as on jazz recordings by Lester Young and Illinois Jacquet. As a bandleader and occasional vocalist, he had a string of rhythm and blues hits in the early 1950s and a Top 10 pop hit in 1958 with his composition “Willie and the Hand Jive,” later covered by Eric Clapton and others. His many other compositions included “Every Beat of My Heart,” a Top 10 hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips in 1961.

As a disc jockey (he was on the radio for decades starting in the 1950s and had his own Los Angeles television show from 1954 to 1961) he helped bring black vernacular music into the American mainstream.

Johnny Otis was born John Alexander Veliotes (some sources give his first name as Ioannis) on Dec. 28, 1921, in Vallejo, Calif., the son of Greek immigrants who ran a grocery. He grew up in a predominantly black area of Berkeley. Mr. Otis began his career as a drummer in 1939. In 1945 he formed a 16-piece band and recorded his first hit, “Harlem Nocturne.”

As big bands fell out of fashion, Mr. Otis stripped the ensemble down to just a few horns and a rhythm section and stepped to the forefront of the emerging rhythm and blues scene. In 1948 he and a partner opened a nightclub, the Barrelhouse, in the Watts section of Los Angeles.

From 1950 to 1952 Mr. Otis had 15 singles on Billboard’s rhythm and blues Top 40, including “Double Crossing Blues,” which was No. 1 for nine weeks. On the strength of that success he crisscrossed the country with his California Rhythm and Blues Caravan, featuring singers like Ms. Phillips, billed as Little Esther — whom he had discovered at a talent contest at his nightclub — and Hank Ballard, who a decade later would record the original version of “The Twist,” the song that ushered in a national dance craze.

Around this time Mr. Otis became a D.J. on the Los Angeles-area radio station KFOX. He was an immediate success, and soon had his own local television show as well. He had a weekly program on the Pacifica Radio Network in California from the 1970s until 2005.

Hundreds of Mr. Otis’s radio and television shows are archived at Indiana University. In addition, he is the subject of a coming documentary film, “Every Beat of My Heart: The Johnny Otis Story,” directed by Bruce Schmiechen, and a biography, “Midnight at the Barrelhouse,” by George Lipsitz, published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2010.

While he never stopped making music as long as his health allowed, Mr. Otis focused much of his attention in the 1960s on politics and the civil rights movement. He ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the California State Assembly and served on the staff of Mervyn M. Dymally, a Democratic assemblyman who later became a United States representative and California’s first black lieutenant governor.

Mr. Otis’s first book, “Listen to the Lambs” (1968), was largely a reflection on the political and social significance of the 1965 Watts riots.

In the mid-1970s Mr. Otis branched out further when he was ordained as a minister and opened the nondenominational Landmark Community Church in Los Angeles. While he acknowledged that some people attended just “to see what Reverend Hand Jive was talking about,” he took his position seriously and in his decade as pastor was involved in charitable work including feeding the homeless.

In the early 1990s he moved to Sebastopol, an agricultural town in northern California, and became an organic farmer, a career detour that he said was motivated by his concern for the environment. For several years he made and sold his own brand of apple juice in a store he opened to sell the produce he grew with his son Nick. The store doubled as a nightclub where Mr. Otis and his band performed.

Later that decade he published three more books: “Upside Your Head!: Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue” (1993), a memoir of his musical life; “Colors and Chords” (1995), a collection of his paintings, sculptures, wood carvings and cartoons (his interest in art had begun when he started sketching cartoons on his tour bus in the 1950s to amuse his band); and “Red Beans & Rice and Other Rock ’n’ Roll Recipes” (1997), a cookbook.

Mr. Otis continued to record and perform into the 21st century. His bands often included family members: his son John Jr., known as Shuggie, is a celebrated guitarist who played with him for many years, and Nick was his longtime drummer. Two grandsons, Lucky and Eric Otis, also played guitar with him.

In addition to his sons, he is survived by his wife of 70 years, the former Phyllis Walker; two daughters, Janice Johnson and Laura Johnson; nine grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild.

Long after he was a force on the rhythm and blues charts, Mr. Otis was a familiar presence at blues and even jazz festivals. What people wanted to call his music, he said, was of no concern to him.

“Society wants to categorize everything, but to me it’s all African-American music,” he told The San Francisco Chronicle in 1993. “The music isn’t just the notes, it’s the culture — the way Grandma cooked, the way Grandpa told stories, the way the kids walked and talked.”

Peter Keepnews contributed reporting.





Published: January 17, 2012

Jimmy Castor, a singer, instrumentalist and songwriter whose mastery of genres from doo-wop to Latin soul to funk, and instruments including saxophone and bongos earned him the title Everything Man, died on Monday in Henderson, Nev. He was 71.

Gilles Petard/Redferns

Jimmy Castor

The cause was heart failure, his son Jimmy Jr. said.

Mr. Castor grew up in Harlem and Washington Heights with the legendary rock ’n’ roll singer Frankie Lymon. Possessing a pure, high voice like Mr. Lymon’s, Mr. Castor often filled in for him when Mr. Lymon couldn’t make a performance with his group, the Teenagers.

Mr. Castor soon started his own group, Jimmy and the Juniors, and wrote the first song it recorded, “I Promise to Remember.” Mr. Lymon and the Teenagers made it a Top 10 rhythm-and-blues hit for themselves in the summer of 1956.

By the 1960s, Mr. Castor, an African-American, had gained recognition for his version of the Latin soul sound that emerged as Puerto Ricans joined blacks in Upper Manhattan. In 1966 he had a hit on Smash Records, “Hey Leroy, Your Mama’s Callin’ You.” The melody was calypso-inflected, the groove was Latin and the liner notes were bilingual.

With another band, the Jimmy Castor Bunch, he moved on to funk, combining a big beat with spirited storytelling on records like “Troglodyte (Cave Man)” on RCA, which hit No. 6 on the pop charts in 1972 and sold a million copies. Another hit was “The Bertha Butt Boogie” in late 1974.

Mr. Castor’s greatest influence may have come with the advent of hip-hop music and culture, when disc jockeys began using snippets of his earlier funk hits. In the 1983 movie “Flashdance” a sample of “It’s Just Begun,” the title track of his first album, was used in the break-dance “battle” scene. His work has been sampled numerous times by hip-hop artists like Kanye West, Ice Cube and Mos Def.

Richard Colon, who is professionally known as Crazy Legs and who is president of the Rock Steady Crew, a premier break-dance group that used Mr. Castor’s songs, said of Mr. Castor in an interview on Tuesday, “People have been impacted by him and don’t even know it.”

James Walter Castor was born on Jan. 23, 1940, in Manhattan. (His son said that for years he had let others assume he was far younger than he was, by as much as seven years.) After his song “I Promise to Remember” became a hit for Mr. Lymon, Mr. Castor used his windfall to move his family to a better apartment. He graduated from the High School of Music and Art, attended the City College of New York for two years majoring in accounting and minoring in music, and started another band.

While melding Latin and African-American forms in songs like “Southern Fried Frijoles,” he played bar mitzvahs for Harlem’s still-large Jewish population.

Mr. Castor made 16 albums, some for major labels like RCA and Atlantic and some for smaller labels, including several of his own. But he began having trouble finding work in the 1980s. He lived in New Jersey before moving to Nevada in 1996.

In addition to his son Jimmy Jr., Mr. Castor is survived by his wife, Sandi; another son, Jason; two daughters, April Vargas and Sheli Castor; and eight grandchildren.


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Last year I posted on the couple whose landmark case broke the back of racist anti-miscegenation laws.

That couple was Mr. and Mrs. Richard and Mildred Loving.

Read about their story  here.

The Loving’s story was first broadcast March 31, 1996 in a made-for-TV presentation entitled Mr. and Mrs. Loving, starring Timothy Hutton and Lela Rochon, presented by Hallmark Home Entertainment.

But never before has a documentary been done of this shy and retiring couple’s life.

At the time the Lovings married on June 2, 1958, sixteen states, including Virginia, still prohibited interracial marriage. Richard Perry Loving, a White man, and his wife, Mildred Jeter Loving, a woman of Black American and Rappahannock (Native-American) descent, lived in Virginia. Nine years before in 1958, the Lovings traveled to Washington, D.C. and married. They returned to Virginia expecting to make a life there, but, five weeks after they were married, while they were sleeping, the police burst in on them at 2:00 a.m. and arrested them for breaking the state’s anti-miscegenation laws. During their time in jail, Mildred and Richard were housed on separate floors.

On January 6, 1959, after pleading guilty to the charge against them, they were sentenced to one year in jail. The sentence was suspended for 25 years “on the condition that the Lovings leave the State and not return to Virginia together for 25 years.”

They left Virginia and moved to Washington, D.C. After facing housing discrimination in Washington, D.C., and missing not living close to their families, Mildred wrote a letter to then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy  forwarded the letter to the American Civil Liberties Union and attorney Bernard S. Cohen took their case.

Bernard Cohen teamed up with another lawyer, Philip Hirschkop, to work on the case with him.  They took the case all the way to the United States Supreme Court. As his lawyers were leaving for Washington to argue the couple’s case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, they asked Richard if he had any message for the Justices. He told them”  “Tell the Court I love my wife.”

On June 12, 1967, the court unanimously declared Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924 unconstitutional thereby ending all race-based marriage bans in the United States. Almost to the date, the Lovings received a wedding present from the U.S. Supreme Court that would go down in history.

The last two states that were holdouts repealed their laws well after 1967:  South Carolina in 1998 and Alabama in 2000.


Grey:            No laws passed

Green:          Repealed before 1887

Yellow:         Repealed from 1948 to 1967

Red:              Overturned on June 12, 1967


While Richard and Mildred were fighting their history-making battle, Loving vs. Virginia, LIFE magazine photographer Grey Villet traveled to Virginia to cover the case. His photos give us a more intimate look into the lives of this courageous and loving couple, their family, their dedication to each other, their daily life routine in Virginia and the state they loved.

Director Nancy Buirski, during the filming of her documentary, “The Loving Story,” discovered Villet’s photos and included them in her film.


Estate of Grey Villet: Mildred Loving and her daughter, Peggy.

The Loving Story is set to debut on February 14 on HBO.

The Villet photos will be on view at the International Center of Photography in New York City from January 20 through May 6, 2012.

Richard and Mildred Loving.


Two people who considered themselves ordinary, who did the most extraordinary, and in their actions made a lasting and profound effect on the most sacred of vows that a citizen can make.


Estate of Grey Villet: Richard and Mildred Loving in the spring of 1965.

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ESA / Alfred Vidal-Madjar (Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, France)

Bulletin at a Glance

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

An Evaporating Exoplanet?

January 20, 2012                                                                | Brief, variable dips in the light from a low-mass star have left astronomers wondering what strange object could be periodically blocking the starlight. Their hypothesis? A closely-orbiting planet is disintegrating before their eyes. > read more

Vast New Trove of Variable Stars

January 20, 2012                                                                | Newly online: light curves for 198 million stars. The latest great mass of variable-star data comes from the Catalina Sky Survey — which is actually looking for asteroids. > read more

Sky & Telescope March 2012

January 17, 2012                                                                | Sky & Telescope‘s March 2012 issue is now available to digital subscribers. > read more


Asteroid 433 Eros


A Rare Flyby of Asteroid Eros

January 13, 2012                                                                | The grandaddy of near-Earth asteroids brightens to magnitude 8.6 as it flies by Earth in late January and early February. > read more

New Supernova in Leo

January 9, 2012                                                                | Along with the usual galaxies, dark matter, and exoplanets, the American Astronomical Society’s January meeting is abuzz with the discovery of a supernova by a team of amateurs. Astronomers are rushing to observe the explosion before it fades. > read more

Tour January’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

December 30, 2011                                                                  | With every New Year, millions of us resolve to do something, anything, different or better in the coming year. So let’s resolve to get outside and enjoy the night sky more. Venus, Jupiter, and a host of winter stars await you. > read more

Jupiter: Big, Bright, and Beautiful

September 23, 2011                                                                | The “King of Planets,” which will dominate the evening sky from late 2011 through early 2012, is a captivating sight no matter how you look at it. > read more

Meteor Showers in 2012

December 25, 2011                                                                  | Sky & Telescope predicts that 2012’s best meteor shower should be the Quadrantids in January, but this will also be a good year for the Perseids in August and the Geminids in December. > read more

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

Evening twilight

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

January 20, 2012                                                                  | Jupiter is shrinking, Mars is growing, Orion stands high, and the waxing crescent Moon will soon pass Venus. > read more


Globe at Night in 2011

Globe at Night

Make the Effort for “Globe at Night”

January 19, 2012                                                                | This week marks the kickoff for a worldwide campaign to measure the darkness of night skies everywhere. It’s a fun, easy, and worthwhile activity for you and your family. > read more

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