IN REMEMBRANCE: 7-29-2012

THELMA GLASS, ORGANIZER OF MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA BUS BOYCOTTS

By

Published: July 27, 2012

  • Thelma Glass, the last surviving member of a black women’s group that in 1955 organized a yearlong bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala., after the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white man, died on Tuesday. She was 96.

David Campbell/Alabama State University

Thelma Glass in 2003.

Her great-niece Marcia Young confirmed that Ms. Glass died in Montgomery.

Ms. Glass, a professor of geography at Alabama State University, was the secretary of the Women’s Political Council, which leapt to action within hours of Ms. Parks’s arrest on Dec. 1, 1955. The women’s group, realizing that three-quarters of the bus riders in Montgomery were black, called on blacks to boycott the buses to put pressure on the city, the state and the bus company to stop forcing them to ride in the back and surrender their seats to white passengers.

The group urged people to walk or car-pool instead of taking the bus, and Ms. Glass was among those who drove others to work and helped pass out fliers to alert the community to the boycott.

By Monday, Dec. 5, the buses were empty.

“When the first bus came by with nobody on it, I couldn’t believe it,” Ms. Glass told The Montgomery Advertiser in 2005. As bus after bus rumbled past without a soul on board, she grew more and more delighted. “It’s a feeling of such happiness and accomplishment that you just can’t quite explain,” she said.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped lead the boycott, and thousands participated. For the transit system, it was a swift kick in the pocketbook. Whites retaliated, sometimes with violence, sometimes with arrests and fines for offenses like conspiring to interfere with a business. Dr. King was jailed. The civil rights movement was energized.

“We didn’t have time to sit still and be scared,” Ms. Glass said.

In November 1956 the Supreme Court ruled that Alabama’s laws allowing segregation on the buses were unconstitutional. In December, the boycott ended.

Thelma McWilliams was born in Mobile, Ala., on May 16, 1916. Her father was a hotel cook and her mother a homemaker who sometimes helped her husband. Education was a high priority, and Ms. McWilliams graduated as valedictorian from Dunbar High School in Mobile at age 15. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Alabama State University and a master’s from Columbia, both in geography. She taught geography at Alabama State for 40 years, and an auditorium there is named for her.

In 1942 she married Arthur Glass, who also taught at Alabama State. Mr. Glass died in 1983.

On July 20, just a few days before her death, Professor Glass attended a black tie gala at the university, clad in an elegant gown.

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SHERMAN HEMSLEY, STAR OF ‘THE JEFFERSONS’

By MEL WATKINS

Published: July 24, 2012

Sherman Hemsley, the bantamweight comic actor who portrayed the scrappy, nouveau riche George Jefferson on the hit CBS sitcom “The Jeffersons,” died on Tuesday at his home in El Paso. He was 74.

CBS, via Photofest

Carroll O’Connor, left, as Archie Bunker and Sherman Hemsley as George Jefferson on “All in the Family.”

Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Sherman Hemsley in 2004.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Todd Frank. He did not specify a cause.

The Jeffersons were introduced as Archie Bunker’s Queens neighbors on “All in the Family” in 1971. George was conceived as a black version of Archie, as distrustful of white people as Archie was of black people (and almost everyone else). Although George’s wife, Louise, was frequently seen, George himself was mentioned but did not appear on camera until 1973: he was said to be unwilling to set foot in a white family’s house. (In reality, Mr. Hemsley was unavailable until then. Mel Stewart was seen as George’s brother, Henry, until Mr. Hemsley joined the cast.)

The character of George Jefferson proved so popular that a spinoff series was developed. “The Jeffersons” made its debut in January 1975; in the opening episode, George, the owner of a successful dry-cleaning business; his wife, whom he called Weezy (played by Isabel Sanford, who was 20 years Mr. Hemsley’s senior); and their son, Lionel (Mike Evans), leave Queens and, in the words of the show’s memorable theme song, are “movin’ on up” to Manhattan’s fashionable Upper East Side — to “a deluxe apartment in the sky.” The show was an immediate success, finishing fourth in the 1975 Nielsen ratings.

High-strung and irrepressible, George Jefferson quickly became one of America’s most popular television characters, a high-energy, combative black man who backed down to no one — something that had rarely been seen on television. At the same time, however, he was vain, snobbish and bigoted (“honky” was one of his favorite epithets directed at whites), and flaunted his self-regard like a badge. Each week, his wife or their irreverent maid, Florence (played by Marla Gibbs), would step up to scuttle his wrongheaded schemes or deflate his delusions of grandeur.

Florence: It just occurred to me why your hair keeps falling out.

George: Why?

Florence: You ain’t got nothing up there for it to root in!

“The Jeffersons” was a hit until it left the air in 1985. And the reclusive Mr. Hemsley, who tended to avoid the Hollywood spotlight, established himself as one of television’s most popular stars, if also one of the least accessible.

Sherman Alexander Hemsley was born in Philadelphia on Feb. 1, 1938. He dropped out of Edward W. Bok Technical High School in the 10th grade to join the Air Force and was stationed in Asia after the Korean War. He returned to Philadelphia after his discharge and, while working at the post office, attended Philadelphia’s Academy of Dramatic Arts in the evening.

In 1967, encouraged by the actor and director Robert Hooks, Mr. Hemsley moved to New York to pursue an acting career. He joined the Negro Ensemble Company, studied with the renowned actor and director Lloyd Richards (later dean of the Yale School of Drama) and performed with Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Corps. He also appeared in Off Broadway productions. In one — a double bill of “Old Judge Mose Is Dead” and “Moon on a Rainbow Shawl” (1969) — he drew praise from The New York Times, which called him “an actor whose instinct for the comic line and the comic gesture, even the comic lift of an eyelash, is wholly natural and just about perfect.”

Mr. Hemsley’s big break came a year later when he was cast in the Broadway musical “Purlie.” When Norman Lear was looking for an actor to play Archie Bunker’s neighbor, he remembered seeing Mr. Hemsley in that show.

“The cocky energy of the guy was totally in sync with the offstage image we had created of George,” Mr. Lear later said.

Mr. Lear traced Mr. Hemsley to San Francisco, where he was appearing onstage in the musical “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” and offered him the role of George Jefferson.

A year after “The Jeffersons” left the air, Mr. Hemsley returned to television in “Amen,” a sitcom set in a black Baptist church in Philadelphia. He starred as Deacon Ernest Frye, a character every bit as caustic and blustery as George Jefferson. In the opening episode, he tells an overweight pastor: “God gave each of us a temple. You have torn yours down and put up a Pizza Hut.” The show ran on NBC from 1986 to 1991.

The popularity of reruns of “The Jeffersons” on Nick at Nite and TV Land in the 1990s spurred a renewed interest in the show’s stars. In the ’90s and early 2000s Mr. Hemsley, Ms. Sanford (who died in 2004) and Ms. Gibbs were frequent guests on prime-time shows. Mr. Hemsley in particular seemed to show up on almost every sitcom with a primarily black cast, among them “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” “The Wayans Brothers” and “The Hughleys,” on which he and Ms. Gibbs both had recurring roles. He also starred as a con man in the short-lived UPN comedy “Goode Behavior” in the 1996-97 season. His most recent appearance was on the Tyler Perry sitcom “House of Payne” in 2011 — as George Jefferson.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

At the height of his popularity on “The Jeffersons,” rumors surfaced that Mr. Hemsley was a temperamental loner, as arrogant and difficult as the character he played. The actors he worked with tended to disagree. “I’m here to tell you it’s a lie,” Clifton Davis, his co-star on “Amen,” said of the rumors. “He’s very shy, and he’s not on an ego trip.”

Mr. Hemsley laughed at the suggestion that his personality was in any way similar to George Jefferson’s. “I’m nothing like him,” he said in 1996. “I don’t slam doors in people’s faces, and I’m not a bigot. I’m just an old hippie. You know — peace and love.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 26, 2012

An obituary on Wednesday about the actor Sherman Hemsley misspelled the given name of the founder of the Urban Arts Corps, with which he performed early in his career. She was Vinnette Carroll, not Vinette. The obituary also described incorrectly the occupation of George Jefferson, the character Mr. Hemsley played on the television shows “All in the Family” and “The Jeffersons.” He owned a dry-cleaning business, not a cleaning business.

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SALLY RIDE, TRAILBLAZING ASTRONAUT WHO SHATTERED SPACE CEILING

NASA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sally Ride communicating with ground controllers during the six-day space mission of the Challenger in 1983. More Photos »

By

Published: July 23, 2012

Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, died on Monday at her home in San Diego. She was 61.

Associated Press

Dr. Ride with fellow crew members at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida before an October 1984 flight aboard the Challenger.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, her company, Sally Ride Science, announced on its Web site.

Dr. Ride, a physicist who was accepted into the space program in 1978 after she answered a newspaper ad for astronauts, flew on the shuttle Challenger on June 18, 1983, and on a second mission in 1984. At 32, she was also the youngest American in space.

She later became the only person to sit on both panels investigating the catastrophic shuttle accidents that killed all astronauts on board — the Challenger explosion in 1986 and the Columbia crash in 2003.

Dr. Ride was finishing studies at Stanford University — she had degrees in physics and astrophysics (and also English) — and looking for a job when she saw NASA’s advertisement. She looked at the qualifications and said, “I’m one of those people,” she told The New York Times in 1982.

She applied, and made the cut.

“The women’s movement had already paved the way, I think, for my coming,” she said.

By the time she began studying laser physics at Stanford, women had already broken through into the physics department, once a boys’ club. And when she applied to the space program, NASA had already made a commitment to admit women.

But there were still rough spots. Speaking to reporters before the first shuttle flight, Dr. Ride — chosen in part because she was known for keeping her cool under stress — politely endured a barrage of questions focused on her sex: Would spaceflight affect her reproductive organs? Did she plan to have children? Would she wear a bra or makeup in space? Did she cry on the job? How would she deal with menstruation in space?

The CBS News reporter Diane Sawyer asked her to demonstrate a newly installed privacy curtain around the shuttle’s toilet. On “The Tonight Show,” Johnny Carson joked that the shuttle flight would be delayed because Dr. Ride had to find a purse to match her shoes.

At a NASA news conference, Dr. Ride said: “It’s too bad this is such a big deal. It’s too bad our society isn’t further along.”

The Soviets had already sent two women into space. When one came aboard a space station, a male cosmonaut welcomed her by saying the kitchen and an apron were all ready for her.

In her early days at NASA, Dr. Ride trained in parachute jumping, water survival, weightlessness and the huge G-forces of a rocket launch. She learned to fly a jet plane. She also switched from physics to engineering and helped in the development of a robotic arm for the space shuttle. The Challenger commander, Robert L. Crippen, chose her for the 1983 mission in part because of her expertise with the device. She was part of a crew of five that spent about six days in space, during which she used the arm to deploy and retrieve a satellite.

At Cape Canaveral, many in the crowd of 250,000 that watched the launching wore T-shirts that said, “Ride, Sally Ride” — from the lyrics of the song “Mustang Sally.”

The next day, Gloria Steinem, editor of Ms. magazine at the time, said, “Millions of little girls are going to sit by their television sets and see they can be astronauts, heroes, explorers and scientists.”

When the shuttle landed, Dr. Ride told reporters, “I’m sure it was the most fun that I’ll ever have in my life.”

Her next mission, in 1984, lasted about eight days. She was on the roster for another shuttle flight before the Challenger blew up on Jan. 28, 1986, 73 seconds after taking off from Cape Canaveral. But the program was immediately suspended, and she retired the next year.

As a member of the panel appointed by President Ronald Reagan to investigate the accident, Ms. Ride gained a reputation for asking tough questions. The panel learned from testimony and other evidence that there had been signs of trouble on earlier Challenger flights, but that they had been dismissed as not critical. Dr. Ride told a colleague it was difficult not to be angered by the findings.

One witness was Roger Boisjoly, an engineer who had worked for the company that made the shuttle’s rocket boosters and who had been shunned by colleagues for revealing that he had warned his bosses and NASA that the boosters’ seals, called O-rings, could fail in cold weather. The Challenger had taken off on a cold morning.

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After his testimony, Dr. Ride, who was known to be reserved and reticent, publicly hugged him. She was the only panelist to offer him support. Mr. Boisjoly, who died in January, said her gesture had helped sustain him during a troubled time.

In 2003, after sitting on a shuttle-disaster panel for the second time, Dr. Ride said in an interview with The Times that part of the problem at NASA was that people had forgotten some of the lessons learned from the Challenger accident. The panel had months earlier expressed its conviction that the disintegration of the shuttle Columbia over Texas was triggered when a chunk of foam insulation fell off the external fuel tank and gashed the leading edge of the wing.

But she also said: “I flew the shuttle twice. It got me home twice. I like the shuttle.”

In 1987, Dr. Ride led a study team that wrote a report advising NASA on the future direction of the space program. The team recommended an outpost on the Moon, though not a “race to Mars.” But Mars should still be the “ultimate objective,” the group said. In the report, Dr. Ride wrote that a lunar outpost would combine “adventure, science, technology and perhaps the seeds of enterprise.” She also noted darkly that the United States had “lost leadership” to the Soviet Union in a number of aspects of space exploration.

The same year, Dr. Ride retired from NASA and became a science fellow at the Center for International Security and Arms Control at Stanford. In 1989, she became a professor of physics and director of the California Space Institute at the University of California, San Diego.

She also developed a passion for trying to interest young people, especially girls, in science, math and technology. She wrote six science books for children, including one that explained how to make a sandwich in space. (She advised eating it fast, before it floated away.)

In 2001 she started a company, Sally Ride Science, to “make science and engineering cool again,” as she put it, by providing science-oriented school programs, materials and teacher training.

Dr. Ride was known for guarding her privacy. She rejected most offers for product endorsements, memoirs and movies, and her reticence lasted to the end. At her request, NASA kept her illness secret.

In 1983, writing in The Washington Post, Susan Okie, a journalist and longtime friend, described Dr. Ride as elusive and enigmatic, protective of her emotions.

“During college and graduate school,” Dr. Okie wrote, “I had to interrogate her to find out what was happening in her personal life.”

Dr. Okie quoted Dr. Ride’s younger sister, the Rev. Karen Scott, a Presbyterian minister, as saying, “ ‘Closeness’ is not a word that is often used to describe relationships in our family.” Dr. Ride always needed to be in control, her mother told Dr. Okie.

In a statement on Monday afternoon, President Obama said Dr. Ride had been “a national hero and a powerful role model.”

“She inspired generations of young girls to reach for the stars and later fought tirelessly to help them get there by advocating for a greater focus on science and math in our schools,” he said. “Sally’s life showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.”

Sally Kristen Ride was born on May 26, 1951, in Encino, part of Los Angeles. Her father was a political science professor at Santa Monica College, and her mother worked as a volunteer counselor at women’s correctional facility. Both parents were elders in the Presbyterian Church.

From an early age, Dr. Ride gravitated toward math and science. She was strong-willed and athletic, and became so obsessed with playing football in the street that her parents pushed her into tennis lessons because it was a safer sport. She was soon playing in tournaments.

Dr. Ride attended Westlake School for Girls, a prep school in Los Angeles. Dr. Okie was her schoolmate, and wrote that she and Dr. Ride, both on scholarship, felt out of place among the actors’ daughters and “Bel Air belles” at the school. Dr. Ride did not have to work hard for good grades, called herself an underachiever and refused to feign interest if she was bored in class. But it was at Westlake that Dr. Ride found a mentor and friend in Elizabeth Mommaerts, a science teacher whom she described as “logic personified.” A great enthusiast for research, Dr. Mommaerts invited her favorite students, Dr. Ride among them, to her home to sample French food and wine and to hear stories about her life in Europe.

(Later, in graduate school, Dr. Ride was devastated to learn that Dr. Mommaerts had committed suicide. When she was chosen to be an astronaut, the one person she wanted most to call was Dr. Mommaerts, she told Dr. Okie. “And I can’t,” she said.)

After graduating from high school in 1968, Dr. Ride attended Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania but quit after three semesters. She was homesick for California and was considering a career in tennis. She practiced for several hours a day, and also began taking physics courses at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1970, she enrolled at Stanford as a junior. She played tennis for Stanford, became the team’s No. 1 women’s singles player and was nationally ranked. She taught at summer tennis camps, and at one of them she met Billie Jean King, who urged her to quit college and become a professional tennis player. She did not take that advice.

Years later, when a child asked her what made her decide to be a scientist instead of a tennis player, she laughed and said, “A bad forehand.”

She received bachelor’s degrees in physics and English in 1973 (her specialty was Shakespeare), a master’s degree in physics in 1975 and a Ph.D. in astrophysics in 1978, all from Stanford. Her graduate work involved X-ray astronomy and free-electron lasers.

In 2003, Dr. Ride told The Times that stereotypes still persisted about girls and science and math — for example the idea that girls had less ability or interest in those subjects, or would be unpopular if they excelled in them. She thought peer pressure, especially in middle school, began driving girls away from the sciences, so she continued to set up science programs all over the country meant to appeal to girls — science festivals, science camps, science clubs — to help them find mentors, role models and one another.

“It’s no secret that I’ve been reluctant to use my name for things,” she said. “I haven’t written my memoirs or let the television movie be made about my life. But this is something I’m very willing to put my name behind.”

Dr. Ride married a fellow astronaut, Steven Hawley, in 1982. They decorated their master bedroom with a large photograph of astronauts on the moon. They divorced in 1987. Dr. Ride is survived by her partner of 27 years, Tam O’Shaughnessy; her mother, Joyce; and her sister, Ms. Scott, who is known as Bear. (Dr. O’Shaughnessy is chief operating officer of Dr. Ride’s company.)

Dr. Ride told interviewers that what drove her was not the desire to become famous or to make history as the first woman in space. All she wanted to do was fly, she said, to soar into space, float around weightless inside the shuttle, look out at the heavens and gaze back at Earth. In photographs of her afloat in the spaceship, she was grinning, as if she had at long last reached the place she was meant to be.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: July 25, 2012

Because of an editing error, an obituary on Tuesday about Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space, referred incorrectly to the death of Roger Boisjoly, an engineer who testified about the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger before a panel that included Dr. Ride. Mr. Boisjoly died in January of this year, not in February. The obituary also misstated the name and the location of the Southern California high school Dr. Ride attended. It was Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles, not Westlake High School in Beverly Hills.

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SIMON WARD, STAR OF ‘YOUNG WINSTON’

By

Published: July 23, 2012

  • Simon Ward, a car dealer’s son who gave moviegoers an enduring image of Winston Churchill as a callow aristocrat, playing the British bulldog in Richard Attenborough’s 1972 film, “Young Winston,” died on Saturday in London. He was 70.

Columbia Pictures

Simon Ward in “Young Winston,” the 1972 movie directed by Richard Attenborough.

His death was announced by his family. No cause was given, though Mr. Ward had been receiving medical treatment since May 2011, when illness forced him to drop out of rehearsals for a London stage production of Shaw’s “Pygmalion.”

Mr. Ward’s piercing good looks and archetypical Englishness made him Hollywood’s go-to British actor for a time, the Hugh Grant of the early ’70s. Following the success of “Young Winston,” in which the previously little-known Mr. Ward played opposite Anthony Hopkins and Anne Bancroft, he was cast in leading roles in “Hitler: The Last Ten Days” (1973), with Alec Guinness, and “The Three Musketeers” (1973), as the dashing but doomed Duke of Buckingham, opposite Charlton Heston, Oliver Reed and Faye Dunaway.

In 1975, he starred with Mr. Hopkins again in “All Creatures Great and Small,” a television movie based on the writing of the veterinarian James Herriot. Recently, he played Bishop Stephen Gardiner in the BBC historical fiction series The Tudors (seen in the United States on Showtime).

A mixture of earnest ingenuousness and wry, self-deprecating humor characterized Mr. Ward’s remarks in the dozens of interviews he gave over the years, and “Young Winston” was far and away the movie he was asked about the most. In a 2002 interview, he described the fine line he tried to walk in preparing for the role:

“I did an awful lot of research for the part,” he said, “and they used to run old newsreels in the mornings after I’d been in makeup. It was always of ‘old Winston,’ obviously, but I think I learned an awful lot from them, which helped. We didn’t want an imitation, and I didn’t want to be thought of as thinking I was him. Neither did I want to be regarded as an expert. But when I was doing the publicity tour for the film, that’s what naturally happened. Everybody seemed to want to talk about Dresden.”

Before being cast to play his country’s greatest modern leader — during Churchill’s daring adventures in the Boer War and in the Sudan, and before he became a politician — Mr. Ward had been cast in only two films, both of them horror movies. He played an unethical pharmacist in one and a serial killer in the other. But he described the experience as great training, especially for the opportunity to work with the British horror star Peter Cushing, who gave the young, self-described self-serious actor excellent advice about the trade:

“Our first scene was rather argumentative — we were coming in rather smartly with lines, shouting at each other,” Mr. Ward said. During a break, he recalled, Mr. Cushing came over and said in a kindly whisper. “ ‘Now you do know, dear boy, that at the end of every line, leave a very tiny gap so they can get the scissors in.’ ” If not for that, he said, “I wouldn’t have known anything about them having to cut and splice the film.”

Simon Ward was born on Oct. 19, 1941, to a working-class family in Beckenham, Kent. His father sold cars at a local dealership. He joined the National Youth Theater at 13 and later trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he met and shared a room with Mr. Hopkins, who became a friend. His big break came in 1967, when he had the lead role in Joe Orton’s play “Loot.”

He is survived by his wife, Alexandra, and their three daughters: Claudia Ward, the actress Sophie Ward and Kitty McIntyre, who is married to the British comedian Michael McIntyre.

In interviews, Mr. Ward made frequent references to his lifelong lack of ambition. “I’ve never desperately wanted anything — neither fame nor riches,” he said. A drama teacher, he said, once told him he needed to decide what he really wanted as an actor, because “until you do, you will always be a bloody awful actor.” And, Mr. Ward added, “There’s a terrible truth in that.”

Friends said he was bitterly disappointed at having to drop out of “Pygmalion” last year, because it was one the first times in his career that instead of playing a typical aristocrat, he was to play a typical (if caricatured) working-class man. He was cast as Eliza Doolittle’s father, Alfred.

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LUPE ONTIVEROS, MEXICAN-AMERICAN CHARACTER ACTRESS

By

Published: July 27, 2012

  • Lupe Ontiveros, a Mexican-American character actress who struggled through Hollywood typecasting to play memorable roles in television and film and become a model of perseverance for Latino actors, died on Thursday in Whittier, Calif. She was 69.

ABC, via Photofest

Lupe Ontiveros on “Desperate Housewives” in 2004.

A son, Nicholas Ontiveros, said the cause was liver cancer.

Ms. Ontiveros worked steadily throughout a career of more than 35 years in roles as disparate as a murderous fan in “Selena” and a domineering mother in “Real Women Have Curves,” which brought her a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002. She was nominated for an Emmy as Eva Longoria’s suspicious mother-in-law in the ABC series “Desperate Housewives.”

In “Selena,” released in 1997, Ms. Ontiveros was so credible as the killer of the popular Tejano music star Selena Quintanilla, played by Jennifer Lopez, that for years the singer’s fans would hiss at her when she walked into a public place.

“There were people who would stop her and say things,” the actor Edward James Olmos said. “She’d explain she felt the same way they did.”

As an actor, Mr. Olmos said, “she had this incredible ability to make you believe.”

Ms. Ontiveros’s signature role became that of the Hispanic maid, which she figured she had played more than 150 times in television and films, like James L. Brooks’s “As Good as It Gets” and Steven Spielberg’s “Goonies.”

That she was repeatedly cast in the role mostly reflected Hollywood stereotyping and the lack of variety in roles offered to Latino actors, she said.

“They don’t know we’re very much a part of this country and that we make up every part of this country,” she told The New York Times in 2002. “When I go in there and speak perfect English, I don’t get the part.”

Putting on a Spanish accent was part of acting for Ms. Ontiveros, who was born Guadalupe Moreno to Mexican immigrants on Sept. 17, 1942, in El Paso. Her parents owned two restaurants and a tortilla factory in El Paso, gave their only child dance and piano lessons, and sent her to Texas Woman’s University, where she majored in psychology and social work.

Ms. Ontiveros was working as a social worker when her artistic leanings led her to pursue acting in the 1970s.

Along with Mr. Olmos, she was a cast member of “Zoot Suit,” which in 1979 was the first Mexican-American production to come to Broadway. In 1985, she became a founder of the Latino Theater Company in Los Angeles.

Ms. Ontiveros pined for roles that would showcase her talents, she said in interviews. She wished to play a judge, or perhaps Hispanic heroines like the 17th-century Mexican poet and nun Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, or the union organizer Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers. But more often than not she was offered the maid.

Ms. Ontiveros, who stood 4 feet 11 inches, infused many of her parts with humor and held her own next to stars like Jack Nicholson, as she did in a scene in “As Good as It Gets,” in which Mr. Nicholson’s obsessive-compulsive misanthrope Melvin tells her off and slams the door in her face, leaving her stunned.

Only Ms. Ontiveros’s ambition and dedication kept her going, said Alex Nogales, another friend, who heads the National Hispanic Media Coalition and sent young Latino actors to her for advice. She was also an advocate for the hearing-impaired — a constituency that includes two of her three sons — and persuaded the producers of “Maya & Miguel,” an animated PBS series in which she voiced the grandmother, to incorporate American Sign Language in one episode.

“She never stopped trying,” Mr. Nogales said. “In a way we feel we failed her by not banging those doors down. In our community she was an icon.”

With characteristic saltiness, Ms. Ontiveros once said, “I’ve made chicken salad” out of chicken manure. But she did not regret playing so many maids, she said, because it allowed for steady work and for portraying working people with dignity. She narrated the 2005 documentary “Maid in America.”

“I’m proud to represent those hands that labor in this country,” she told The Times.

“I’ve given every maid I’ve portrayed soul and heart.”

Ms. Ontiveros, who lived in Pico Rivera, Calif., is survived by her husband, Elias Ontiveros Jr.; her sons Nicholas, Alejandro and Elias, and two granddaughters.

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CHAD EVERETT, DASHING DR. GANNON OF ‘MEDICAL CENTER’

By

Published: July 25, 2012

  • Chad Everett, the lean, handsome actor who mended broken hearts as well as broken bones as Dr. Joe Gannon on the television drama “Medical Center” in the 1970s, died on Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 75.

CBS, via Photofest

Chad Everett on the case in “Medical Center.”

The cause was lung cancer, his daughter Kate Thorp said.

Tall and chisel-cheeked with crystal-blue eyes, Mr. Everett acted in more than three dozen television series and films, including having leading roles in two other prime-time series in the 1980s and ’90s, “The Rousters” and “McKenna.”

But he was best known as the soft-spoken surgeon who soothes the worries of his patients, their families and his colleagues in “Medical Center,” set in a fictitious teaching hospital in Los Angeles. It was broadcast on CBS from 1969 to 1976.

“Understatement is apparently a highly salable commodity on TV,” The Washington Post wrote in a 1975 article about male stars. “Chad Everett, a big-city type, seldom stoops to histrionics as he lethargically makes his rounds on ‘Medical Center.’ ”

In a 1969 episode, O. J. Simpson played a bedeviled college football star who Dr. Gannon suspects suffers from serious mental problems. The doctor persists in his efforts to determine the cause of the player’s erratic behavior.

“Mr. Everett was effective as the surgeon, neither drooling in excessive compassion nor being argumentatively tough,” the critic Jack Gould wrote of the episode in The New York Times.

Mr. Everett was far less reserved in other roles. In the 1983 NBC series “The Rousters,” set in a carnival that travels around the West, he played a rough-and-tumble bouncer and peacekeeper. His character had a difficult time convincing strangers that he was called Wyatt Earp (named for his great-grandfather, the famous gunfighter). That year Mr. Everett also appeared in the ABC mini-series “Malibu,” as a fading tennis professional.

In “McKenna,” on ABC in the 1994-95 season, he played Jack McKenna, who runs an outdoor tour business for often troublesome customers.

“He did his own stunts — horseback riding, river rafting ” Mr. Everett’s daughter said. “At one point they were rafting with a live bobcat on the raft.”

In 2006, Mr. Everett portrayed a closeted gay police officer in an episode of “Cold Case” on CBS.

His movie career included small roles in the 1998 remake of “Psycho” and David Lynch’s “Mulholland Dr.” (2001). He had a leading role in “Airplane II: The Sequel” (1982), playing a dotty engineer who builds the first commercial space shuttle to the moon, a spacecraft so flimsy its terrified passengers are doomed.

Raymon Lee Cramton was born in South Bend, Ind., on June 11, 1937, to Ted and Virdeen Hopper Cramton. (He changed his professional name, his sister said, because he was tired of explaining, “Raymon, no ‘D’, Cramton, no ‘P’.”) The family later moved to Dearborn, Mich., where his father worked as an auto parts salesman.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Everett attended Wayne State University, where he began acting in stage productions. He then went to Hollywood, where, after securing several small roles, he signed a contract with MGM.

Mr. Everett married Shelby Grant, an actress, in 1966; she died last year. Besides his daughter Kate, he is survived by another daughter, Shannon Everett; his sister, Deannie Elliott; and six grandchildren.

In 1982, six years after his run on “Medical Center,” Mr. Everett told United Press International that he was glad to have moved on to new roles. “As I travel around the country,” he said, “people are beginning to think of me as an actor rather than as Gannon.”

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