JANE COOKE WRIGHT, PIONEERING ONCOLOGIST
By BRUCE WEBER
Published: March 2, 2013
Dr. Jane C. Wright, a pioneering oncologist who helped elevatechemotherapy from a last resort for cancer patients to an often viable treatment option, died on Feb. 19 at her home in Guttenberg, N.J. She was 93.
Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College
Dr. Jane C. Wright was the only woman among seven physicians who founded the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Her death was confirmed by her daughter Jane Jones, who said her mother had dementia.
Dr. Wright descended from a distinguished medical family that defied racial barriers in a profession long dominated by white men. Her father, Dr. Louis T. Wright, was among the first black graduates of Harvard Medical School and was reported to be the first black doctor appointed to the staff of a New York City hospital. His father was an early graduate of what became the Meharry Medical College, the first medical school in the South for African-Americans, founded in Nashville in 1876.
Dr. Jane Wright began her career as a researcher working alongside her father at a cancer center he established at Harlem Hospital in New York.
Together, they and others studied the effects of a variety of drugs on tumors, experimented with chemotherapeutic agents on leukemia in mice and eventually treated patients, with some success, with new anticancer drugs, including triethylene melamine.
After her father died in 1952, Dr. Wright took over as director of the center, which was known as the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation. In 1955, she joined the faculty of the New York University Medical Center as director of cancer research, where her work focused on correlating the responses of tissue cultures to anticancer drugs with the responses of patients.
In 1964, working as part of a team at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine, Dr. Wright developed a nonsurgical method, using a catheter system, to deliver heavy doses of anticancer drugs to previously hard-to-reach tumor areas in the kidneys, spleen and elsewhere.
That same year, Dr. Wright was the only woman among seven physicians who, recognizing the unique needs of doctors caring for cancer patients, founded the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO. She was also appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke, led by the heart surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey. Its recommendations emphasized better communication among doctors, hospitals and research institutions and resulted in a national network of treatment centers.
In 1967, Dr. Wright became head of the chemotherapy department and associate dean at New York Medical College. News reports at the time said it was the first time a black woman had held so high a post at an American medical school.
“Not only was her work scientific, but it was visionary for the whole science of oncology,” Dr. Sandra Swain, the current president of ASCO, said in a telephone interview. “She was part of the group that first realized we needed a separate organization to deal with the providers who care for cancer patients. But beyond that, it’s amazing to me that a black woman, in her day and age, was able to do what she did.”
Jane Cooke Wright was born in Manhattan on Nov. 30, 1919. Her mother, the former Corinne Cooke, was a substitute teacher in the New York City schools.
Ms. Wright attended the Ethical Culture school in Manhattan and the Fieldston School in the Bronx (now collectively known Ethical Culture Fieldston School) and graduated from Smith College, where she studied art before turning to medicine. She received a full scholarship to New York Medical College, earning her medical degree in 1945. Before beginning research with her father, she worked as a doctor in city schools.
Dr. Wright married David D. Jones, a lawyer, in 1947; he died in 1976. In addition to their daughter Jane, she is survived by another daughter, Alison Jones; and a sister, Dr. Barbara Wright Pierce.
As both a student and a doctor, Dr. Wright said in interviews, she was always aware that as a black woman she was an unusual presence in medical institutions. But she never felt she was a victim of racial prejudice, she said.
“I know I’m a member of two minority groups,” she said in an interview with The New York Post in 1967, “but I don’t think of myself that way. Sure, a woman has to try twice as hard. But — racial prejudice? I’ve met very little of it.”
She added, “It could be I met it — and wasn’t intelligent enough to recognize it.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 3, 2013
An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to an organization that Dr. Wright helped start. It is the American Society of Clinical Oncology, not the American Society of Clinical Oncologists.
I wrote a previous post on Dr. Wright chronicling her outstanding work in the field of cancer oncology. That post can be read here.
She was a titan in her research and leaves a prominent and lasting legacy in her contributions to the field of medicine.
May she rest in peace.
DAMON HARRIS, WHO SANG WITH THE TEMPTATIONS
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: February 26, 2013
BALTIMORE (AP) — Damon Harris, who sang with the Temptations on many of their hits of the 1970s, died here on Feb. 18. He was 62.
The cause was prostate cancer, said Chuck Woodson, his cousin and a family spokesman.
Mr. Harris was a decade younger than anyone else in the Temptations when he joined in 1971, replacing Eddie Kendricks. He was the lead singer on“Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” the group’s last No. 1 single, and was also heard on “Superstar (Remember How You Got Where You Are),” “Masterpiece” and other hits. He left in 1975.
Mr. Harris’s given name was Otis, but he used Damon as a stage name after joining the Temptations to avoid confusion with the group’s leader, Otis Williams.
He was born in Baltimore in 1950 and led a Temptations tribute group before joining the Temptations. Later in his career he recorded as a solo artist.
Mr. Woodson said that in his final years Mr. Harris established a cancer foundation and became an advocate for prostate cancer screening.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: March 1, 2013
A picture in some copies on Wednesday with the obituary of Damon Harris, who sang with the Temptations on many of their hits of the 1970s, was published in error. The picture was of another member of the Temptations, who could not be identified by Getty Images, which supplied the photograph; the picture was not of Mr. Harris.
RICHARD STREET, TEMPTATIONS SINGER
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: March 1, 2013
Damon Harris, Who Sang With the Temptations, Dies at 62(February 26, 2013)
Richard Street, a member of the Temptations for more than 20 years, died Wednesday in Las Vegas. He was 70.
His death, after a short illness, was confirmed by his wife, Cindy.
In his youth, Mr. Street sang with the Temptations members Otis Williams and Melvin Franklin, but he did not join the group until the early 1970s. He later moved from Detroit to Los Angeles with other Motown acts and stayed with the group until the mid-1990s.
He sang on Temptations songs like “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “Masterpiece”and “Superstar.”
Mr. Street was born Oct. 5, 1942, in Detroit. Besides his wife, survivors include four children.
Damon Harris, another former member of the Temptations, died last week.
C. EVERETT KOOP, FORCEFUL SURGEON GENERAL
Dr. C. Everett Koop, in his office, was 66 when President Ronald Reagan appointed him surgeon general in 1981.
Published: February 25, 2013
Dr. C. Everett Koop, who was widely regarded as the most influential surgeon general in American history and played a crucial role in changing public attitudes about smoking, died on Monday at his home in Hanover, N.H. He was 96.
His death was confirmed by Susan A. Wills, an assistant at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College, which has an institute named after Dr. Koop.
Dr. Koop had never served in public office when President Ronald Reagan appointed him surgeon general of the United States in 1981. By the time he stepped down in 1989, he had become a household name, a rare distinction for a public health administrator.
Dr. Koop issued emphatic warnings about the dangers of smoking, he almost single-handedly pushed the government into taking a more aggressive stand againstAIDS, and despite his moral opposition to abortion, he refused to use his office as a pulpit from which to preach against it.
These stands led many liberals who had opposed his nomination to praise him, and many conservatives who had supported his appointment to vilify him. Conservative politicians representing tobacco-growing states were among his harshest critics, and many Americans, for moral or religious reasons, were upset by his public programs to fight AIDS and felt betrayed by his relative silence on abortion.
As much as anyone, it was Dr. Koop who took the lead in trying to wean Americans off smoking, and he did so in imposing fashion. At a sturdy 6-foot-1, with his bushy gray biblical beard, Dr. Koop would appear before television cameras in the gold-braided dark-blue uniform of a vice admiral — the surgeon general’s official uniform, which he revived — and sternly warn of the terrible consequences of smoking.
“Smoking kills 300,000 Americans a year,” he said in one talk. “Smokers are 10 times more likely to develop lung cancer than nonsmokers, two times more likely to develop heart disease. Smoking a pack a day takes six years off a person’s life.”
When Dr. Koop took office, 33 percent of Americans smoked; when he left, the percentage had dropped to 26. By 1987, 40 states had restricted smoking in public places, 33 had prohibited it on public conveyances and 17 had banned it in offices and other work sites. More than 800 local antismoking ordinances had been passed, and the federal government had restricted smoking in 6,800 federal buildings. Antismoking campaigns by private groups like the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association had accelerated.
Dr. Koop also played a major role in educating Americans about AIDS. Though he believed that the nation had been slow in facing the crisis, he extolled its efforts once it did, particularly in identifying H.I.V., the virus that causes the disease, and in developing a blood test to detect it.
Where he failed, in his own view, was to interest either Reagan or his successor as president, George Bush, in making health care available to more Americans.
Dr. Koop was completing a successful career as a pioneer in pediatric surgery when he was nominated for surgeon general, having caught the attention of conservatives with a series of seminars, films and books in collaboration with the theologian Francis Schaeffer that expressed anti-abortion views.
At his confirmation hearings, Senate liberals mounted a fierce fight against him. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said Dr. Koop, in denying a right to abortion, adhered to a “cruel, outdated and patronizing stereotype of women.” Women’s rights organizations, public health groups, medical associations and others lobbied against his appointment. An editorial in The New York Times called him “Dr. Unqualified.”
But after months of testimony and delay, he was confirmed by a vote of 68 to 24, garnering more support than many had expected. Some senators who had been hesitant to support him said he had convinced them of his integrity.
Dr. Koop himself said he had taken a principled approach to the nomination. As he and his wife, Elizabeth, had driven to Washington for the confirmation hearings, he recalled telling her, “If I ever have to say anything I don’t believe or feel shouldn’t be said, we’ll go home.”
An Only Child in Brooklyn
Charles Everett Koop was born on Oct. 14, 1916, in Brooklyn, and grew up in a three-story brick house in South Brooklyn surrounded by relatives; his paternal grandparents lived on the third floor, and his maternal grandparents as well as uncles, aunts and cousins lived on the same street. He was the only child of John Everett Koop, a banker and descendant of 17th-century Dutch settlers of New York, and the former Helen Apel.
Dr. Koop traced his interest in medicine to watching his family’s doctors at work as a child. To develop the manual dexterity of a surgeon, he practiced tying knots and cutting pictures out of magazines with each hand. At 14 he sneaked into an operating theater at Columbia University’s medical college. At home he operated on rabbits, rats and stray cats in the basement after his mother had administered anesthesia. By his account, not one of the animals died.
While attending high school at the private Flatbush School, he worked as a summer volunteer in hospitals near his family’s vacation home in Port Washington, on Long Island. He attended Dartmouth College and, after graduating, entered Cornell University Medical College in Manhattan and married Elizabeth Flanagan of New Britain, Conn., a Vassar student.
Paul Hosefros/The New York Times
Dr. Koop appearing before Congress in 1989 in the uniform of his office.
Dr. Koop completed his residency at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital, where he acquired a reputation for boldness. Afterward, his surgery professor, Dr. I. S. Ravdin, offered him a job as surgeon in chief of Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, a rare offer for someone so young.
Dr. Koop held that position until the Reagan administration recruited him 35 years later. By then he had become renowned in medicine as an innovator in surgery on infants.
He and his colleagues performed thousands of operations to correct birth defects in premature babies or other newborns; 475 operations alone were on those withesophageal atresia, a condition, previously fatal, in which the esophagus and the stomach are not connected.
In one case, after cutting open the side of a baby’s chest to find an entire section of the esophagus missing, he built, on the spot, a new link out of tissue from the baby’s colon. It became standard procedure for repairing such a defect. He also did groundbreaking work in separating conjoinedtwins.
Faith and Principle
His experience in correcting birth defects compelled him to thrust himself into the middle of a controversy in the early 1980s over the rights of infants with congenital defects to receive medical care. In two cases involving infants, identified as Baby Doe and Baby Jane Doe, those who favored government intervention to save a disabled child were pitted against liberals, libertarians and medical groups who argued that parents had the right to withhold treatment from a child who was severely impaired.
Though courts sided with the parents, Dr. Koop spoke out against the parents’ decisions in both cases, saying that the medical and legal establishments had a duty to protect citizens against neglect and discrimination, no matter their age, and that a government’s authority to override the rights of parents had been established in truancy law and in child abuse and immunization laws. (Baby Doe died while the case was being appealed to the United States Supreme Court; Baby Jane Doe survived, though a delay in treatment was believed to have contributed to her severe retardation.)
Dr. Koop often said that his Presbyterian faith had helped him and his wife cope with the death of his 19-year-old son, David, who was killed in 1968 when a cliff gave way while he was climbing in New Hampshire. Dr. Koop and his wife wrote about the loss of a child in “Sometimes Mountains Move,” published in 1974.
Dr. Koop’s religion was also central to his opposition to abortion, which he considered a violation of divine principle. But once in public office, he said, he found it necessary to declare — to the disappointment of the White House — that evidence did not support the contention that abortions were essentially unsafe. In taking that position, he later said, he was being naïve. He had failed to realize that the Reagan administration expected him to oppose abortion zealously, he wrote in his 1991 autobiography, “Koop: The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor.” And in an interview for this obituary in 1996, he said he had declined to speak out on abortion because he thought his job was to deal with factual health issues like the hazards of smoking, not to express opinions on moral issues.
Abortion presented little health hazard to women, he said, so it was a moral and religious matter, not a health issue.
Taking On Big Tobacco
Dr. Koop said he had begun campaigning against smoking after studying the research into its link to cancer, heart disease, stroke and other diseases. He was “dumbfounded,” he said, “and then plainly furious at the tobacco industry for attempting to obfuscate and trivialize this extraordinarily important public information.”
In taking on the tobacco lobby, he was also taking on powerful politicians from tobacco-growing states. After Dr. Koop accused the industry of directing advertising at children and threatening human lives, Gov. Jim Hunt of North Carolina, a Democrat, called for his impeachment, and Senator Jesse Helms, Republican of North Carolina, tried in vain to have Congress investigate him.
Dr. Koop came to believe that the Reagan administration itself offered only lukewarm support for the antismoking public-education campaign “A Smoke-Free Society by the Year 2000.” Feeling stymied, he said, he asked himself, “What if I called on America itself?” So he embarked on a national speaking tour in 1984, often wearing the uniform of his office. The uniform, he said, was intended to help restore his diminishing authority as the surgeon general and director of the Public Health Service.
In 1986, a surgeon general’s report expanded the alarm about smoking, stating that secondhand smoke had also been conclusively proved to cause cancer. Over the next year, federal, state and local governments and private businesses began to restrict smoking in public and quasi-public places like restaurants, airports and workplaces. (In 2004 he joined with three other former surgeons general to offer a plan to cut cigarette smoking in part with a $2-a-pack tax increase.)
AIDS had just been discovered when Dr. Koop was awaiting confirmation in 1981. But within weeks, with 108 cases reported in the United States and 43 deaths, “I knew we were in big trouble,” he said. He realized later, he said, that the Reagan administration had been slow to address the disease because the election had brought to power people who were antithetical to homosexuals, then thought to be its only victims.
As the epidemic worsened, reaching drug addicts infected with contaminated needles and hemophiliacs who had received a contaminated blood-clotting factor, Reagan, in 1986, asked Dr. Koop to prepare a special report. Dr. Koop proceeded cautiously, knowing the report would be unpopular with many in the administration, with conservatives in Congress and with church groups opposed to homosexuality. He wrote 17 drafts.
A Public Profile
With its release, he was attacked as advocating that third graders be taught about sodomy and that 8-year-olds be given condoms. What the report said was that the best protection against AIDS was abstinence and monogamy, but that for those who practiced neither, condoms were a necessary precaution.
White House aides tried to get him to delete the reference to condoms, but he refused to alter the report or make it more morally judgmental. He prevailed, and the government eventually printed more than 20 million copies of the report.
Dr. Koop later wrote that “political meddlers in the White House” had complicated his work on the disease, and that “at least a dozen times I pleaded with my critics in the White House to let me have a meeting with President Reagan” on AIDS in the mid-1980s. Too many people, he said, “placed conservative ideology far above saving human lives.”
He added: “Our first public health priority, to stop the further transmission of the AIDS virus, became needlessly mired in the homosexual politics of the early 1980s. We lost a great deal of precious time because of this, and I suspect we lost some lives as well.”
Dr. Koop had no success in pushing the Reagan administration to take action on delivering health care to Americans who could not afford it. He announced his resignation after Mr. Bush was elected president in 1988 and did not name him secretary of health and human services, as Dr. Koop had hoped.
Dr. Koop’s first wife died in 2007; he is survived by their three children, Allen, Norman and Elizabeth Thompson; eight grandchildren; and his second wife, Cora Hogue, whom he married in 2010.
In 1992 Dr. Koop founded the Koop Foundation in Hanover, N.H., to help strengthen humanitarian values among doctors. In 1995, nearing his 80th birthday, he became chief executive of a Time-Warner division, Time Life Medical, to produce videos for sale in pharmacies. Dr. Koop appeared in the videos, each tailored to patients with a newly diagnosed disease, to explain the ailment, alternative treatments and anticipated outcomes.
In 1997 he founded DrKoop.com, a popular medical information Web site whose critics said blurred the line between objective information and advertising and promotional content. The site was valued at more than $1 billion before it went bankrupt in the collapse of the Internet bubble.
Dr. Koop also came under criticism in 1999 when a panel of scientists he led investigated claims that certain chemicals used to make plastics more flexible — in hospital tubes and some children’s toys, for example — were dangerous. The panel determined that they were safe, a finding disputed by Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition of health workers, advocacy groups and environmentalists.
Dr. Koop maintained a public profile well into his later years. In January 2010, he appeared in an advertisement opposing the Democratic health care proposal then being negotiated in Congress, saying it threatened to ration health care for older people, an assertion that drew criticism as misleading.
When he stepped down as surgeon general, however, Dr. Koop had won over many of his original detractors.
“The skeptics and cynics, this page included, were wrong to fear that Surgeon General C. Everett Koop would use his office only as a pulpit for his anti-abortion views,” an editorialin The Times said in 1989, as he was leaving office. “Throughout he has put medical integrity above personal value judgments and has been, indeed, the nation’s First Doctor.”
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
DALE ROBERTSON, ACTOR
Published: February 27, 2013
Dale Robertson, who parlayed his Oklahoma drawl and a way with horses into a long career as a popular, strong-minded star of westerns on television and in the movies, died on Wednesday in San Diego. He was 89.
The cause was complications of lung cancer and pneumonia, his wife, Susan, said. He had been hospitalized near his home in San Diego.
Mr. Robertson was a skilled rider at 10 and training polo ponies by the time he was a teenager. He often said that the only reason he acted professionally was to save money to start his own horse farm in Oklahoma, which he eventually did.
In between, he appeared in more than 60 films and 430 television episodes. In the movies he was a ruggedly handsome counterpart to leading ladies like Betty Grable, Mitzi Gaynor and Jeanne Crain. On television he had starring roles in popular westerns like “Tales of Wells Fargo,” which appeared from 1957 to 1961; “Iron Horse,”from 1966 to 1968; and “Death Valley Days,” which he hosted from 1968 to 1972.
In 1981 he played an oil wildcatter in early episodes of “Dynasty.” The next year he had a recurring role in another glitzy nighttime soap opera, “Dallas,” and later in the decade he starred in the short-lived “J. J. Starbuck.”
Mr. Robertson refused to call himself an actor. Rather, he said, he was a personality with a distinctive style, not unlike that of the actor he most admired, John Wayne.
“An actor can change himself to fit a part, whereas a personality has to change the part to fit himself,” he said in an interview in 1988. He added, “The personality has to say it his own way.”
Acting or not, he failed to impress some critics, who found his performances understated to the point of woodenness. But others saw him as an embodiment of the stoic frontier virtues that made westerns one of America’s most popular genres for decades.
He was born Dayle Lymoine Robertson in Harrah, Okla., about 30 miles east of Oklahoma City, on July 14, 1923, to Melvin and Varval Robertson. He starred in sports in high school, boxed professionally as a young man and attended the Oklahoma Military Academy. In World War II, he served in the Army in Africa and Europe and was wounded twice, earning bronze and silver stars.
Before being sent overseas, Mr. Robertson, then stationed in California, wanted to give a portrait of himself to his mother. He and some buddies went to Hollywood and picked a photographer at random. The photographer liked his picture of Mr. Robertson so much, he blew it up and put in his window. Talent agents started calling.
Mr. Robertson’s first movie role, an uncredited one, was in “The Boy With Green Hair” (1948). His first significant role was that of Jesse James in “Fighting Man of the Plains” (1949). He figured that about 70 percent of his films were westerns and said he did his own stunts.
Among the other westerns he starred in were “Devils Canyon” and “City of Bad Men,” both in 1953; “Sitting Bull” (1954); “Dakota Incident” (1956); and “Hell Canyon Outlaws,” which was released in 1957.
That was the year he gravitated to television, liking its faster pace of production. He developed, owned and starred in the “Wells Fargo” series, playing Jim Hardie, a troubleshooter for the stagecoach company. To make the character distinctive, he had the otherwise right-handed Hardie draw his gun and shoot left-handed.
“Wells Fargo” was originally shown in black and white and in half-hour episodes. In 1961, however, the producers wanted to turn it into a full-hour show, broadcast it in color and expand the ensemble of characters. Mr. Robertson refused, and sold the show to them.
In “Iron Horse,” he played a man who runs a railroad that he had won in a poker game. In “Death Valley Days,” he followed Ronald Reagan and Robert Taylor as host. In “J. J. Starbuck,” Mr. Robertson was a bereaved billionaire who finds meaning in life by solving complex criminal cases and charging no fee.
Mr. Robertson was married four times. In addition to his wife, the former Susan Robbins, whom he married in 1980, he is survived by his daughters, Rochelle Robertson and Rebel Lee, and a granddaughter.
Mr. Robertson never made any bones about his desire to get out of show business one day. He said movies had gotten too sexy for his tastes. He said he got tired of having to hold his stomach in. Mostly, he wanted a ranch. He bought one in Yukon, Okla., about 20 miles west of Oklahoma City.
Mr. Robertson never lost his disdain for Eastern actors, who he thought just played at being cowboys. He said you could spot them by the way they walked around a horse. As for himself, he heeded advice given to him by Will Rogers Jr., son of the Oklahoma humorist.
“Don’t ever take a dramatic lesson,” Mr. Rogers told Mr. Robertson. “They will try to put your voice in a dinner jacket, and people like their hominy and grits in everyday clothes.”
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
VAN CLIBURN, PIANIST AND COLD WAR ENVOY
Van Cliburn won the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow in 1958. More Photos »
Van Cliburn, the American pianist whose first-place award at the 1958 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow made him an overnight sensation and propelled him to a phenomenally successful and lucrative career, though a short-lived one, died on Wednesday at his home in Fort Worth. He was 78.
Courtesy of the Van Cliburn Foundation, via Associated Press
Van Cliburn was the first musician to receive a New York ticker-tape parade, in 1958. More Photos »
His publicist, Mary Lou Falcone, confirmed the death, saying that Mr. Cliburn had been treated for bone cancer.
Hailing from Texas, Mr. Cliburn was a tall, lanky 23-year-old when he clinched the gold medal in the inaugural year of the Tchaikovsky competition. The feat, in Moscow, was viewed as an American triumph over the Soviet Union at the height of the cold war. He became a cultural celebrity of pop-star dimensions and brought overdue attention to the musical assets of his native land.
When Mr. Cliburn returned to New York he received a ticker-tape parade in Lower Manhattan, the first musician to be so honored, cheered by 100,000 people lining Broadway. In a ceremony at City Hall, Mayor Robert F. Wagner proclaimed that “with his two hands, Van Cliburn struck a chord which has resounded around the world, raising our prestige with artists and music lovers everywhere.”
Even before his Moscow victory the Juilliard-trained Mr. Cliburn was a notable up-and-coming pianist. He won the Leventritt Foundation award in 1954, which earned him debuts with five major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic under Dimitri Mitropoulos. For that performance, at Carnegie Hall in November 1954, he performed the work that would become his signature piece, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, garnering enthusiastic reviews and a contract with Columbia Artists.
At the time, Mr. Cliburn was part of an exceptional American generation of pianists in promising stages of their own careers, among them Leon Fleisher, Byron Janis and Gary Graffman. And the Tchaikovsky competition came at a time when American morale had been shaken in 1957 by the Soviet Union’s launching of Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite.
The impact of Mr. Cliburn’s victory was enhanced by a series of vivid articles written for The New York Times by Max Frankel, then a foreign correspondent based in Moscow and later an executive editor of the paper. The reports of Mr. Cliburn’s progress — prevailing during the early rounds, making it to the finals and becoming the darling of the Russian people, who embraced him in the streets and flooded him with fan mail and flowers — created intense anticipation as he entered the finals.
In his 1999 memoir, “The Times of My Life and My Life With The Times,” Mr. Frankel recalled his coverage of Mr. Cliburn’s triumph in Moscow: “The Soviet public celebrated Cliburn not only for his artistry but for his nationality; affection for him was a safe expression of affection for America.”
Mr. Frankel said he had “posed the obvious question of whether the Soviet authorities would let an American beat out the finest Russian contestants.”
“We now know that Khrushchev” — Nikita S. Khrushchev, the Soviet premier — “personally approved Cliburn’s victory,” he wrote, “making Van a hero at home and a symbol of a new maturity in relations between the two societies.”
Mr. Cliburn was at first oblivious to the political ramifications of the prize.
“Oh, I never thought about all that,” Mr. Cliburn recalled in 2008 during an interviewwith The Times. “I was just so involved with the sweet and friendly people who were so passionate about music.” The Russians, he added, “reminded me of Texans.”
The interview was conducted in conjunction with 50th-anniversary celebrations of the Moscow competition. The festivities, sponsored by the Van Cliburn Foundation, included a gala dinner at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth for 1,000 guests, among them the Russian culture minister and the Russian ambassador to the United States, who led a long round of toasts.
Mr. Cliburn was a naturally gifted pianist whose enormous hands had an uncommonly wide span. He developed a commanding technique, cultivated an exceptionally warm tone and manifested deep musical sensitivity. At its best his playing had a surging Romantic fervor, but one leavened by an unsentimental restraint that seemed peculiarly American. The towering Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter, a juror for the competition, described Mr. Cliburn as a genius — a word, he added, “I do not use lightly about performers.”
Drawbacks of Early Success
But if the Tchaikovsky competition represented Mr. Cliburn’s breakthrough, it also turned out to be his undoing. Relying inordinately on his keen musical instincts, he was not an especially probing artist, and his growth was stalled by his early success. Audiences everywhere wanted to hear him in his prizewinning pieces, the Tchaikovsky First Concerto and the Rachmaninoff Third. Every American town with a community concert series wanted him to come play a recital.
Time Life Pictures – Getty Images
After he won in Moscow, Time called Van Cliburn “the Texan who conquered Russia.” More Photos »
Steve J. Sherman
TEACHER In 1988 with his mother, Rildia Bee O’Bryan Cliburn, with whom he studied. More Photos »
“When I won the Tchaikovsky I was only 23, and everyone talked about that,” Mr. Cliburn said in 2008. “But I felt like I had been at this thing for 20 years already. It was thrilling to be wanted. But it was pressure, too.”
His subsequent explorations of wider repertory grew increasingly insecure. During the 1960s he played less and less. By 1978 he had retired from the stage; he returned in 1989, but performed rarely. Ultimately, his promise and potential were never fulfilled, but his great talent was apparent early on.
Harvey Lavan Cliburn Jr. was born in Shreveport, La., on July 12, 1934. His mother, Rildia Bee O’Bryan, a pianist who had studied in New York with Arthur Friedheim, a longtime student of Liszt, had hoped to have a career in music, but her mother forbade it. Instead she married Harvey Lavan Cliburn, a purchasing agent for an oil company, a laconic man of moderate income.
An only child, Van started studying with his mother when he was 3. By 4 he was playing in student recitals. When he was 6 the family moved to Kilgore, Tex. (population 10,500). Although Van’s father had hoped his son would become a medical missionary, he realized that the boy was destined for music, so he added a practice studio to the garage.
As a plump 13-year-old Mr. Cliburn won a statewide competition to perform with the Houston Symphony and he played the Tchaikovsky concerto. Thinking her son should study with a more well-connected and advanced teacher, Mr. Cliburn’s mother took him to New York, where he attended master classes at Juilliard and was offered a scholarship to the school’s preparatory division. But Van adamantly refused to study with anyone but his mother, so they returned to Kilgore.
He spoke with affecting respect for his mother’s excellence as a teacher and attributed the lyrical elegance of his playing to her. “My mother had a gorgeous singing voice,” he said. “She always told me that the first instrument is the human voice. When you are playing the piano, it is not digital. You must find a singing sound — the ‘eye of the sound,’ she called it.”
By 16 he had shot up to 6 feet 4 inches. Excruciatingly self-conscious, he was excused from athletics out of fear that he might injure his hands. He later recalled his adolescence outside the family as “a living hell.”
On graduation at 17 he finally accepted a scholarship from Juilliard and moved to New York. Studying with the Russian-born piano pedagogue Rosina Lhevinne, he entered the diploma rather than the degree program to spare himself from having to take 60 semester hours of academic credits. Even his close friends said he displayed little intellectual curiosity outside of music.
Winning the Leventritt award in 1954 was a major achievement. Though held annually, the competition had not given a prize in three years because the judges had not deemed any contestant worthy. But this panel, which included Rudolf Serkin, George Szell and Leonard Bernstein, was united in its assessment of Mr. Cliburn.
That same year he graduated from Juilliard and was to have begun graduate-level studies. But performing commitments as a result of the Leventritt kept him on tour.
In 1957 he was inducted into the Army but released after two days because he was found to be prone to nosebleeds. By this point, despite his success, his career was stagnating and he was $7,000 in debt. His managers at Columbia Artists wanted him to undertake a European tour. But Ms. Lhevinne encouraged him instead to enter the first Tchaikovsky competition.
A $1,000 grant from the Martha Baird Rockefeller Aid to Music program made the journey to the Soviet Union possible. The contestants’ Moscow expenses were paid by the Soviet government.
A Darling of the Russians
The Russian people warmed to Mr. Cliburn from the preliminary rounds. There was something endearing about the contrast between his gawky boyishness and his complete absorption while performing. At the piano he bent far back from the keys, staring into space, his head tilted in a kind of pained ecstasy. During rapid-fire passages he would lean in close, almost scowling at his fingers. On the night of the final round, when Mr. Cliburn performed the Tchaikovsky First Concerto, a solo work by Dmitry Kabalevsky (written as a test piece for the competition) and the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, the audience broke into chants of “First prize! First prize!” Emil Gilels, one of the judges, went backstage to embrace him.
James Hill for The New York Times
MUSICAL ENVOY In Moscow in 2011 to serve as the honorary chairman of the International Tchaikovsky Competition. More Photos »
Sergey Ponomarev/Associated Press
PERFORMER In Moscow in 2004 playing at a memorial concert. More Photos »
The jury agreed with the public, and Moscow celebrated. At a Kremlin reception, Mr. Cliburn was bearhugged by Khrushchev. “Why are you so tall?” Khrushchev asked. “Because I am from Texas,” Mr. Cliburn answered.
His prize consisted of 25,000 rubles (about $2,500), though he was permitted to take only half of that out of the country. Immediately, concert offers for enormous fees engulfed him.
His income for the 1958-59 concert season topped $150,000. His postcompetition concert at Carnegie Hall on May 19, 1958, with Kiril Kondrashin and the Symphony of the Air, repeating the program from the final round, was broadcast over WQXR. He signed a contract with RCA Victor, and his recording of the Tchaikovsky First Concerto sold over a million copies within a year.
Reviewing that recording in The Times in 1958, the critic Harold C. Schonberg wrote, “Cliburn stands revealed as a pianist whose potentialities have fused into a combination of uncommon virtuosity and musicianship.” Yet Mr. Schonberg had reservations even then: “If there is one thing lacking in this performance it is the final touch of flexibility that can come only with years of public experience.”
An idolatrous biography, “The Van Cliburn Legend,” written by the pianist and composer Abram Chasins, with Villa Stiles, was published in 1959. Mr. Chasins used Mr. Cliburn’s Moscow victory as a club to attack the American cultural system for neglecting its own.
Nothing could diminish Mr. Cliburn’s popularity in the late 1950s. He earned a then-stunning $5,000 for a pair of concerts at the Hollywood Bowl, and played with the Moscow State Symphony at Madison Square Garden for an audience of over 16,000.
Yet as early as 1959 his attempts to broaden his repertory were not well received. That year, for a New York Philharmonic benefit concert at Carnegie Hall conducted by Bernstein, Mr. Cliburn played the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25, the Schumann Concerto and the Prokofiev Third Concerto. Howard Taubman, reviewing the program in The Times, called the Mozart performance “almost a total disappointment.” Only the Prokofiev was successful, he wrote, praising the brashness, exuberance and crispness of the playing.
Reviewing a 1961 performance of Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto by Mr. Cliburn with the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy, Mr. Schonberg wrote, “It was the playing of an old-young man, but without the spirit of youth or the mellowness of age.” Mr. Cliburn performed the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto yet again, with the Philadelphia Orchestra, for the inaugural week of Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) in 1962.
Despite the criticism, Mr. Cliburn tried to expand his repertory, playing concertos by MacDowell and Prokofiev and solo works by Samuel Barber (the demanding Piano Sonata), Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven and Liszt. But the artistic growth and maturity that were expected of him never fully came. Even as a personality, Mr. Cliburn began to seem out of step. In the late 1950s this baby-faced, teetotaling, churchgoing, wholesome Texan had fit the times. But to young Americans of the late 1960s he seemed a strained, stiff representative of the demonized establishment.
A New Competition
Many subsequent pianists tried to emulate Mr. Cliburn’s path to success through international competition victories. But a significant number of critics and teachers took to castigating the premise and value of competitions as an encouragement of faceless virtuosity, superficial brilliance and inoffensive interpretations. Nevertheless, in 1962, some arts patrons and business leaders in the Fort Worth area, to honor their hometown hero, inaugurated the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. It remains the most lucrative and visible of these contests.
Courtesy of Van Cliburn Foundation, via Associated Press
BEARHUG Mr. Cliburn with Nikita S. Khrushchev after winning the competition in Moscow in 1958. More Photos »
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
Van Cliburn last year with the 100-year-old Steinway concert grand that he grew up playing. More Photos »
In 1978, at 44, Mr. Cliburn, now a wealthy man, announced his withdrawal from concertizing. He moved with his mother into a magnificent home in the Fort Worth area, where he hosted frequent late-night dinner parties.
As a young man Mr. Cliburn was briefly linked romantically with a soprano classmate from Juilliard. But even then he was discreet in his homosexuality. That discretion was relaxed considerably in 1966 when, at 32, he met Thomas E. Zaremba, who was 19.
The details of their romantic relationship exploded into public view in 1996, when Mr. Zaremba filed a palimony suit against Mr. Cliburn seeking “multiple millions,” according to The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Mr. Zaremba, who had moved to Michigan and become a funeral director, claimed that during his 17-year relationship with Mr. Cliburn he had served as a business associate and promoter and that he had helped care for Mr. Cliburn’s mother, who died in 1994 at 97. The suit was eventually dismissed.
Mr. Cliburn returned to the concert stage in 1987, but his following performances were infrequent. The stress involved was almost palpable on May 21, 1998, when, to inaugurate a concert hall in Fort Worth, Mr. Cliburn played the Rachmaninoff Second Concerto with the Fort Worth Symphony, suffered a memory lapse in the final movement and collapsed onstage. He was given oxygen by a medical team backstage and taken to a hospital.
“It was a massive panic attack,” a friend, John Ardoin, who was a critic at The Dallas Morning News, said at the time. “It was sheer exhaustion and nervousness. Van had given a solo recital two days earlier, a really first-class performance, a black-tie affair with all of the cultural and political officialdom of Texas in attendance, and he was overwhelmed by it all.”
His last public appearance was in September, when he spoke at a concert, at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Van Cliburn Foundation. He is survived by Thomas L. Smith, with whom he shared his home for many years.
Mr. Cliburn leaves a lasting if not extensive discography. One recording in particular, his performance of the Rachmaninoff Third Concerto recorded live at Carnegie Hall on the night of his post-Tchaikovsky competition concert, was praised by Mr. Schonberg, the critic, for its technical strength, musical poise, and “manly lyricism unmarred by eccentricity.”
Mr. Schonberg then added, prophetically, “No matter what Cliburn eventually goes on to do this will be one of the great spots of his career; and if for some reason he fails to fulfill his potentialities, he will always have this to look back upon.”
BONNIE FRANKLIN, ‘ONE DAY AT A TIME’ ACTRESS
Bonnie Franklin, left, with Valerie Bertinelli in a 1979 episode of ‘One Day at a Time.”
Published: March 1, 2013
Bonnie Franklin, whose portrayal of a pert but determined Ann Romano on the television show “One Day at a Time” in the 1970s and ’80s spun laughter out of the tribulations of a divorced woman juggling parenting, career, love life and feminist convictions, died on Friday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 69.
The cause was complications of pancreatic cancer, family members said. They had announced the diagnosis in September.
Ms. Franklin also acted on the stage and in movies and for years sang and danced in a nightclub act. But she was most widely known in the role of Ann Romano, one of the first independent women to be portrayed on TV wrestling with issues like sexual harassment, rape and menopause. Ms. Franklin — green-eyed, red-haired, button-nosed and 5-foot-3 — brought a buoyant comic touch to the part.
Some saw the show as helping feminism enter the mainstream.
“I know it’s just a television show, and I don’t think that I am changing the way the world is structured,” Ms. Franklin told The Washington Post in 1980, but she allowed that “sometimes we strike chords that do make people think a bit.”
“One Day at a Time” ran from December 1975 to May 1984, and its ratings ranked in the top 20 in eight of those seasons and in the top 10 in four. Ms. Franklin was nominated for an Emmy Award and twice for a Golden Globe.
The show’s topicality fell squarely in the tradition of its developer, Norman Lear, who had gained renown for introducing political and social commentary to situation comedy with “All in the Family” and other shows. Its co-creator was Whitney Blake, a former sitcom star who, as a single mother, had reared the future actress Meredith Baxter.
Like Archie and Edith Bunker in “All in the Family,” Ann and her daughters, Julie and Barbara Cooper (Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli), used comedy in the service of grappling with serious and thorny real-world matters.
As a divorced mother who had reverted to her maiden name and relocated to Indianapolis, Ann fought her deadbeat ex-husband for child support, for example. Or she dealt with a daughter deciding whether to remain a virgin.
Some story lines continued for up to four weeks, as when Julie, to Ann’s consternation, dated a man more than twice her age. In one plot twist Ann’s fiancé is killed by a drunken driver. Later she marries her son-in-law’s divorced father.
Comic relief came from the frequent visits of the building superintendent, Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington). But Ms. Franklin was said to have pushed the producers toward greater realism, urging them to take on issues like teenage pregnancy and avoid letting the show lapse into comic shtick.
In her 2009 memoir, “High on Arrival,” Ms. Phillips, who had come to the show after gaining notice in the 1973 George Lucas film “American Graffiti,” said that Ms. Franklin did not want “One Day at a Time” to be “sitcom fluff.”
“She wanted it to deal honestly with the struggles and truths of raising two teenagers as a single mother,” Ms. Phillips wrote.
By the time the show ended in 1984, Ann’s daughters had grown and married; Ann herself had remarried and become a grandmother.
In interviews. Ms. Franklin said she had refused to do anything that might diminish her character’s integrity. In particular, she said, it was important for Ann not to rely on a man to make decisions. But each year she found herself fighting the same fights.
“And I’m not working with insensitive men,” she told The Boston Globe in 1981. “But the men who produce and write the show still don’t believe me when I present them with the women’s point of view.
“After seven years,” she continued, “I just want to say, ‘C’mon guys, I’m an intelligent person, why don’t you just trust me?’ I’m so tired of fighting. But you can’t give up.”
Bonnie Gail Franklin was born in Santa Monica, Calif., on Jan. 6, 1944, one of five children. Her father was an investment banker while her mother pushed her children toward the performing arts. The family later moved to Beverly Hills, where Ms. Franklin graduated from Beverly Hills High School.
An excellent tap dancer by 9, she performed on “The Colgate Comedy Hour” in 1953. The next year, she played Susan Cratchit on “A Christmas Carol” on the CBS variety show “Shower of Stars.” In 1956 she had uncredited roles in Alfred Hitchcock’s “Wrong Man” and the comedy “The Kettles in the Ozarks.” She turned down an offer to be a Mouseketeer on Disney’s “Mickey Mouse Club” television show.
After attending Smith College in Massachusetts, Ms. Franklin transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles, where she graduated with a major in English in 1966. Her marriage to Ronald Sossi, a playwright, ended in divorce in 1970.
She had her breakthrough as a performer the same year, when she was nominated for a Tony for her 10-minute song-and-dance performance on Broadway as a chorus gypsy in“Applause,” which starred Lauren Bacall.
Ms. Franklin also acted in episodes of other television shows as well as in regional theater and movies, mainly ones made for television, notably playing Margaret Sanger, the women’s rights and birth-control advocate, in “Portrait of a Rebel: The Remarkable Mrs. Sanger,” a 1980 movie on CBS. On the Sanger set, she met the movie’s executive producer, Marvin Minoff. They were married for 29 years before his death in 2009.
Ms. Franklin is survived by her mother, Claire Franklin, and her stepchildren Jed and Julie Minoff.
Twenty-four years after her Sanger portrayal, Ms. Franklin spoke to hundreds of thousands of women at an abortion rights march in Washington.
MARY ELLEN MOORE-RICHARD, AMERICAN INDIAN MEMOIRIST
Published: March 3, 2013
Mary Ellen Moore-Richard, who was a member of the American Indian Movement during its militant actions of the 1970s and who, under the name Mary Crow Dog, later wrote a well-received memoir,“Lakota Woman,” died on Feb. 14 in Crystal Lake, Nev. She was 58.
Ulf Andersen/Getty Images
Mary Ellen Moore-Richard joined the American Indian Movement, a sometimes violent civil rights group that led well-publicized protests.
Her death was announced by Rooks Funeral Chapel in Mission, S.D.
Ms. Moore-Richard grew up poor on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota in the late 1950s and ’60s. She was known throughout her life by several names, including Mary Brave Bird and Mary Crow Dog, a reflection of her complex family life and racial identity. Her father, Bill Moore, who was of mostly white descent, left when she was a baby, and she was sometimes mocked and called iyeska — half-breed — as a child.
“Always I waited for the summer, for the prairie sun, the Badlands sun, to tan me and make me into a real skin,” she wrote in “Lakota Woman,” which was written with the journalist and author Richard Erdoes and published in 1990. In 1994, Jane Fonda Films produced a television movie for TNT based on the book.
Ms. Moore-Richard wrote that her stepfather had taught her to drink when she was 10.
“The little settlements we lived in — He Dog, Upper Cut Meat, Parmelee, St. Francis, Belvidere — were places without hope where bodies and souls were being destroyed bit by bit,” she wrote. “Schools left many of us almost illiterate. We were not taught any skills. The land was leased to white ranchers. Jobs were almost nonexistent on the reservation, and outside the res, whites did not hire Indians if they could help it.”
She attended the St. Francis Boarding School on the reservation and, like generations of American Indians, was instructed to practice Christianity and not to speak her native Sioux language. As a teenager, she published a newspaper describing abuse and misconduct at the school, and the school, run by Roman Catholic priests and nuns, punished her for doing so, she said. Some of her school experiences are described in a chapter of her book called “Civilize Them With a Stick.”
By her late teens, Ms. Moore-Richard had joined the American Indian Movement, also known as AIM, a sometimes violent civil rights group that led well-publicized protests, including one in which demonstrators occupied the offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington in 1972.
Ms. Moore-Richard, who married one of the group’s leaders, Leonard Crow Dog, gave birth to their first child during AIM’s violent two-month occupation of the town of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which began in February 1973.
Violence on the reservation continued long after the occupation; her close friend and fellow AIM member Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was found dead in 1976.
“The police said that she had died of exposure, but there was a .38-caliber slug in her head,” Ms. Moore-Richard wrote in 1990.
In 2004, an AIM member, Arlo Looking Cloud, was convicted of killing Ms. Aquash. Prosecutors said AIM members believed that Ms. Aquash had been spying on AIM for the F.B.I.
In 1993, Ms. Moore-Richard and Mr. Erdoes wrote a sequel to their first book, called“Ohitika Woman.”
Mary Ellen Moore-Richard was born in Pine Ridge on Sept. 26, 1954. Survivors include four sons, Robert He Crow, Francisco Olguin, Henry Crow Dog and Leonard Crow Dog Jr.; two daughters, Jennifer Crow Dog and Summer Rose Olguin; her mother, Emily Smith; two brothers, Robert Joe Moore and Michael Smith; and two sisters, Kathleen Moore and Barbara Moore.
Ms. Moore-Richard was a regular presence on the set of the TNT film in 1994. In an interview at the time with The Los Angeles Times, she said AIM should be more appreciated by American Indians.
“Before AIM came, people didn’t have their long hair, people didn’t have their Indian pride,” she said. “Everybody was assimilated. These people still put AIM people down, but now they are having sun dances. Before, nobody did it because everybody was Catholic and nobody knew about the Indian ways until the AIM people came. Now they are a lot better off, but they still don’t recognize the movement.”