SHEILA GUYSE, SINGER AND STAR IN ‘RACE MOVIES’
JAN. 15, 2014
The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her daughter Sheila Crystal Devin said.
For several years, Ms. Guyse (rhymes with “nice”) was compared to stars like Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne and Ruby Dee, black actresses who broke through racial barriers. But by the late 1950s she was out of show business, a result of some combination of health problems, a religious conversion and family obligations.
She left behind a handful of films. The best is probably “Sepia Cinderella” (1947), in which she played a girl-next-door who is initially overlooked by the musician she loves, played by the singer Billy Daniels. She also appeared in Broadway musicals and in nightclubs. Her only album, “This Is Sheila,” a collection of standards released by MGM Records in 1958, a decade after her heyday, was supposed to be a comeback. That November, Jet magazine put her on its cover.
“Sheila Guyse, a glamorous, high-octane performer under supper club spotlights,” the article said, “is a singer who has had to overcome serious illness, marriage failures, financial pressures and professional disappointments in her long campaign to create a career in show business.”
The article quoted Ms. Guyse as saying, “I was discouraged and depressed for a while, but now life looks a lot better to me,” and mentioned a five-year recording contract. But the comeback never happened.
Ms. Guyse, who had surgery for bleeding ulcers in the mid-1950s, continued to have health problems. Ms. Devin, her daughter, recalled once finding her collapsed in her bedroom, bleeding from the mouth.
In addition, Ms. Guyse’s husband did not want her to have a career, Ms. Devin said.
Ms. Guyse’s first two marriages had ended in divorce, and she was a struggling single mother when she met Joseph Jackson, a New York sanitation worker so enthralled by her that he would sometimes follow her in his garbage truck. After they married, in the late 1950s, Ms. Guyse stopped performing and became increasingly involved with a Jehovah’s Witness hall in Queens.
“It wasn’t easy to be a glamorous movie star with people following you for your autograph and now you’re home making pancakes,” Ms. Devin said. “She did it, but I don’t think it was easy.”
Etta Drucille Guyse was born on July 14, 1925, in Forest, Miss. She took Sheila as a stage name. She followed her father, Wilbert, to New York when she was a teenager and, her daughter said, lived for a time in a Harlem rooming house with Billie Holiday.
After winning an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater, Ms. Guyse had a small role on Broadway in the musical “Memphis Bound!” and appeared in a series of all-black films, beginning with a small role in “Boy! What a Girl!” (1947), which starred the vaudeville performer Tim Moore. She moved on to starring roles in “Sepia Cinderella” and “Miracle in Harlem” (1948), in which she played a woman wrongly accused of murder.
She also appeared in the Broadway musicals “Finian’s Rainbow” (1947) and “Lost in the Stars” (1949).
In addition to Ms. Devin, who has worked as a model and actress under the name Sheila Anderson, Ms. Guyse is survived by another daughter, Deidre Devin, from her marriage to Mr. Jackson; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. A son, Michael Jackson, died a few years ago. Joseph Jackson died in 2012.
Ms. Guyse moved back to Mississippi in the 1980s and to Hawaii about five years ago.
Her first marriage, to Ms. Devin’s father, a tailor named Shelby Irving Miller, was very brief. Her second, to Kenneth Davis, whom she had met while both performed in “Finian’s Rainbow,” lasted eight years. Mr. Davis, who was white, became a dancer with American Ballet Theater. In 1952, a photograph of the couple appeared on a cover of Jet with the headline “Negro Women With White Husbands.”
“I don’t go about looking for difficulties,” Ms. Guyse said in the article. “It took me a long time to decide to marry Ken, but I’m glad I did. We’ve been very happy. Intelligence and understanding are needed to make a marriage like ours succeed. It takes more than love. You have to have a mind of your own and be able to ignore what the world is saying and thinking about you.”
RUSSELL JOHNSON, THE PROFESSOR ON ‘GILLIGAN’S ISLAND’
By BRUCE WEBER
JAN. 16, 2014
His agent, Michael Eisenstadt, confirmed the death.
“Gilligan’s Island,” which was seen on CBS from 1964 to 1967 and still lives on in reruns, starred Bob Denver as Gilligan, the witless first mate of the S.S. Minnow, a small touring boat that runs aground on an uncharted island after a storm.
Besides Gilligan and the Professor, five others were on board: the Skipper (Alan Hale Jr.); Ginger, a va-va-voom movie star (Tina Louise); the snobbish wealthy couple Thurston Howell III (Jim Backus) and his wife, known as Lovey (Natalie Schafer); and Mary Ann, the prototypical girl next door (Dawn Wells).
In the show’s first season, Mr. Johnson and Ms. Wells were left out of the opening credits and their characters were ignored in the theme song, which named the other castaways but dismissed the two of them with the phrase “and the rest.” The snub was rectified for the second season, at the same time that the show went from black and white to color.
The Professor was a good-looking but nerdy academic, an exaggerated stereotype of the man of capacious intelligence with little or no social awareness. Occasionally approached romantically by Ginger (and guest stars, including Zsa Zsa Gabor), he remained chaste and unaffected.
But he was pretty much the only character on the show who possessed anything resembling actual knowledge, and he was forever inventing methods to increase the castaways’ chance of rescue. Still, among the show’s many lapses of logic was the fact — often noted by Mr. Johnson in interviews — that although the Professor could build a shortwave radio out of a coconut shell, he couldn’t figure out how to patch a hole in a boat hull.
Avid fans — very avid — are probably the only ones to remember that the character’s name was actually Dr. Roy Hinkley, or that his academic résumé was explicitly spelled out.
“Professor, what exactly are your degrees?” Mr. Howell asked once.
“Well,” the Professor replied, “I have a B.A. from U.S.C., a B.S. from U.C.L.A., an M.A. from S.M.U. and a Ph.D. from T.C.U.”
Mr. Howell clucked in return: “Well, I don’t know much about your education, but it sounds like a marvelous recipe for alphabet soup.”
Russell David Johnson was born on Nov. 10, 1924, near Wilkes-Barre, Pa., the oldest of six children. His father died when Russell was not yet 10, and his mother sent him and two brothers to Girard College, then a school for poor orphan boys, in Philadelphia, where he finished high school. He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II, receiving a Purple Heart, and after his discharge studied on the G.I. Bill at the Actors’ Laboratory in Hollywood.
His first film role was in a 1952 drama about fraternity hazing, “For Men Only,” in which he played a sadistic fraternity leader; that led to a contract with Universal-International, which led to roles in a series of movies, mostly westerns (including “Law and Order,” in which he played Ronald Reagan’s no-good brother) and science fiction films, including “It Came From Outer Space.”
Later in the decade he began appearing frequently on television, often in western shows in the role of the black hat, even though he was a poor horseman. (When he played a marshal in the series “Black Saddle,” he suggested to the producer — “semi-seriously,” he said in an interview in 2004 — that the character be seen walking his horse into town and that he chase down the bad guys on foot.)
He also appeared in two episodes of “The Twilight Zone” involving time travel. In one, he tries to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln; in the other, about a time machine that accidentally rescues a 19th-century murderer from a hanging, he plays the inventor, a professor.
Mr. Johnson’s survivors include his wife, Connie; a daughter, Kim; a stepson, Court Dane; and a grandson.
Ms. Louise and Ms. Wells are the only surviving “Gilligan’s Island” cast members.
After “Gilligan’s Island,” Mr. Johnson made a career guest-starring in other series, including the dramas “Mannix,” “Cannon” and “Lou Grant” and the comedies “Bosom Buddies” and “The Jeffersons,” usually as an upright character with smarts.
He also reprised the Professor role in the 1970s and 1980s in the cartoon series “The New Adventures of Gilligan” and “Gilligan’s Planet” and in three made-for-television “Gilligan” movies.
“ ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Wagon Train,’ ‘The Dakotas,’ you name a western, I did it,” he said of his career before “Gilligan.” He added: “I was always the bad guy in westerns. I played more bad guys than you can shake a stick at until I played the Professor. Then I couldn’t get a job being a bad guy.”
Russell Johnson was more than just the Professor. He starred in many other series, including one very chilling and frightening episode of Thriller entitled “The Hungry Glass“.
There are only two original members of the “Gilligan” cast still alive, and that is Mary Ann (Dawn Wells) and Ginger (Tina Louise).
It was always great watching the tale of seven stranded cast-a-ways, who never failed to bring a smile on my face. The Professor and his McGuyver-like inventions never failed to bring a laugh to me. Even when he could not find a way to repair their boat to leave the island, but, then again if he did such a thing, there could not have been a “Gilligan’s Island”.
Now, the Professor has left us, but, not without leaving us happy and fond memories of a unique and enduring TV series.
Rest in peace, Mr. Johnson.
Rest in peace.
CHRYSSA, ARTIST WHO SAW NEON’S POTENTIAL AS A MEDIUM
By MARGALIT FOX
JAN. 18, 2014
Her death, which was reported in the Greek press, was not widely publicized outside the country. Perhaps fittingly for an artist whose work centered on enigma, the place of her death could not be confirmed; the Greek news media reported that she was buried in Athens.
Chryssa, who used only her first name professionally, had lived variously in New York and Athens over the years.
A builder of large-scale assemblages in a wide range of materials — bronze, aluminum, plaster, wood, canvas, paint, found objects and, in the case of neon, light itself — Chryssa, whose work prefigured Minimalism and Pop Art, was considered a significant presence on the American art scene in the ’60s and ’70s.
Exhibited widely in the United States in those years, her art is in the collections of major museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington.
Reviewing an exhibition of Chryssa’s neon sculptures at the Pace Gallery in Manhattan in 1968, The New York Times called one work, “Study for the Gates No. 15,” “a pure, lyrical form,” adding, “It transcends ‘neon-ness’ to become a sculpture of light devoid of pop or Broadway associations.”
New York, where Chryssa first lived in the mid-1950s, furnished the literal spark for her work.
She had long been fascinated with written communication and her early work, haunting and deliberately obscure, focused on writing — in particular on fragmentary bits of text — as a medium of art.
Some of her first constructions were made of newspapers (in the New York of the period there were a great many to choose from), employing them as a sculptural medium. Others incorporated pieces of old advertising signs. Still others assumed the form of outsize letters and numbers, training the viewer’s eye on features of typographical anatomy, writ large.
Her first major piece, “Cycladic Books,” made not long after her arrival in New York, was a series of plaster panels covered with barely discernible markings, like clay tablets inscribed with an unreadable script from the ancient past.
But in a midcentury urban epiphany, Chryssa realized that neon tubing — which had been the exclusive province of sign makers — could provide the marriage of text, color and illumination she craved.
“I saw Times Square with its light and letters,” she said afterward, “and I realized it was as beautiful and difficult to do as Japanese calligraphy.”
She began incorporating neon into her work in the early ’60s and over time surmounted the fiendish technical difficulties the medium entailed.
One of her first major neon constructions, “Times Square Sky,” was completed in 1962. An assemblage of large cursive letters cast in metal, it was topped with the word “air,” written — airily — in pale blue neon.
In 1966, Chryssa completed “The Gates to Times Square,” a brightly lighted sculpture considered to be among her masterworks. Built of cast stainless steel, plexiglass and neon tubing, it takes the form of an immense cube, 10 feet on each side, through which visitors can walk.
Inside, after passing through an entrance in the form of a large capital A, visitors are met with a counterpoint of symbols, text and colors.
The work is now in the collection of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.
Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali was born in Athens on Dec. 31, 1933. She grew up amid the Nazi occupation of Greece, a time when members of the Greek underground communicated with one another by writing furtive messages on the walls of buildings.
A 1968 article about Chryssa in The New York Herald Tribune suggested that this was the wellspring of her obsession with fragmentary text.
Moving to the United States, she attended the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco (now the San Francisco Art Institute) before settling in New York.
Her first solo exhibition in New York, featuring alphabetical and numerical constructions, was held at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1961. Reviewing the exhibition in The Times, Stuart Preston commended her “clear, classical, daylight sense of order.”
That year, Chryssa’s paintings, reliefs and sculptures were featured in a solo exhibition at the Guggenheim. In later years her work was seen at the Leo Castelli Gallery in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and elsewhere.
Chryssa, who became an American citizen, moved back to Athens in the early 1990s but later returned to New York. Information on survivors was not available.
Some critics expressed discomfort that Chryssa’s artwork, with its layers of atomized text, could not easily be interpreted. But that, she replied, was precisely the point.
As she told The Herald Tribune in 1968, “I have always felt that when things are spelled out they mean less, and when fragmented they mean more.”
ROY CAMPBELL JR., AVANT-GARDE JAZZ TRUMPETER
By NATE CHINEN
JAN. 18, 2014
The cause was hypertensive atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, said his sister, Valerie Campbell Morris, his only immediate survivor.
Mr. Campbell was a proud heir to the legacy of 1960s free jazz, as established by trailblazers like the saxophonist Albert Ayler, the pianist Cecil Taylor and the trumpeter Don Cherry, one of Mr. Campbell’s idols. Combining a pugnacious sound with an open-minded approach, Mr. Campbell worked with an array of colleagues in that lineage. He was a fixture at the Vision Festival in New York, an annual festival of avant-gardism, and recorded his most recent album, “Akhenaten Suite” (Aum Fidelity), in concert there in 2007.
As a composer and bandleader he favored strong rhythm and folkloric texture, putting those elements together in Tazz, an energetic quartet featuring piano, bass and drums, and Pyramid Trio, with the bassist William Parker and a succession of drummers. “Ethnic Stew and Brew,” a Pyramid Trio album released on Delmark in 2001, was one of Mr. Campbell’s most critically acclaimed.
For more than 20 years, off and on, he also stood front and center in Other Dimensions in Music, a ruggedly spontaneous band with Daniel Carter on reeds and flute (and sometimes trumpet), Mr. Parker on bass and Rashid Bakr on drums. He held a similar role as a member of the Nu Band, and in ensembles led by Mr. Parker, the pianist Matthew Shipp and the guitarist Marc Ribot.
Roy Sinclair Campbell Jr. was born in Los Angeles on Sept. 29, 1952, and raised from the age of 2 in the Bronx. His mother, Erna Arene Forte Campbell, worked at P.S. 21 in the Bronx; his father was a Wall Street communications specialist and a trumpeter himself. Roy Jr. began his musical training on piano and also learned flute and violin.
The trumpet became his focus during his senior year in high school, and from then on he moved quickly. Through the nonprofit music-outreach organization Jazzmobile, he studied with Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham and Howard McGhee, assertive trumpeters from different points on the bebop spectrum. He majored in trumpet at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where he also studied theory and composition with the esteemed multireedist Yusef Lateef, who died last month at 93.
Mr. Campbell formed his first band, Spectrum, at 20, and began playing widely as a sideman, notably with Ensemble Muntu, a fixture on New York’s 1970s loft-jazz scene. He released his debut album, “New Kingdom” (Delmark), in 1992, around the time he ended a two-year stint in the Netherlands; its opening track was “I Remember Lee,” a pledge of allegiance to Morgan. (On his following album, Mr. Campbell would include a waltz titled “Booker’s Lament,” after another influence, the trumpeter Booker Little.)
Beyond his affinities with hard bop and free jazz, Mr. Campbell worked in a range of styles including funk, hip-hop and reggae. And he was an encouraging mentor to younger trumpeters, both informally and in his capacity as a founder of the stylistically broad Festival of New Trumpet Music, which he established with Dave Douglas in 2003.
ARNOLD R. PINKNEY, WHO STEERED 1984 JESSE JACKSON RUN
JAN. 18, 2014
The crowd’s ecstatic response to Mr. Jackson, a prominent civil rights activist who had never held elective office, underlined one of the strengths of his effort to be considered a credible challenger for the Democratic nomination and potentially the first black president of the United States.
Another strength was a team of professionals doing the groundwork of mobilizing voters, led by Mr. Jackson’s campaign manager, Arnold R. Pinkney, who died on Monday in Cleveland at 83.
Though his efforts fell short in votes, Mr. Pinkney was instrumental in rallying minorities, the poor and the disenfranchised to Mr. Jackson’s cause. Mr. Jackson, defying expectations, emerged from a crowded field to finish third in the race for the nomination behind former Vice President Walter F. Mondale and Senator Gary Hart.
In managing the Jackson campaign, Mr. Pinkney likened his goal to one an earlier generation of political aides had set in persuading voters to see Dwight D. Eisenhower as not only the victorious Army commander of World War II but also a potential president who could manage the government in peacetime.
“Somebody sold him as a politician,” Mr. Pinkney told The Los Angeles Times. “Our job is to make that transition for Jackson.”
Mr. Pinkney brought to the campaign a seasoned understanding of both political success and failure. In 1967 he worked to elect Carl Stokes the first black mayor of a large American city, Cleveland (a job Mr. Pinkney himself later sought twice). The next year he managed the successful campaign of Mr. Stokes’s brother, Louis, to become the first black member of Congress from Ohio. Mr. Pinkney helped run many campaigns of both black and white politicians, including President Jimmy Carter’s unsuccessful re-election bid in 1980.
It was hearing the speech of a white politician on the radio in 1948 when he was a teenager that sparked Mr. Pinkney’s devotion to politics, prompting him to discard his parents’ affection for Republicans in favor of Democrats.
In the speech, Hubert H. Humphrey, then the young mayor of Minneapolis and a rising star in national politics, was imploring delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to endorse equal rights for blacks. Mr. Humphrey — who went on to become a United States senator of Minnesota and Lyndon B. Johnson’s vice president — delivered the call with such vigor that Southern segregationists stalked out of the hall, and the party.
Twenty-four years later, Mr. Pinkney was Mr. Humphrey’s deputy campaign manager in a race to win the Democratic presidential nomination for the second time and unseat the man who had defeated Mr. Humphrey four years earlier, Richard M. Nixon.
The relationship between Mr. Humphrey and Mr. Pinkney deepened as they traveled from primary to primary, and after Mr. Humphrey, then a senator again, lost the California primary, he publicly promised that if his campaign revived and he won the general election, he would bring Mr. Pinkney into his administration.
“It was the greatest moment of my life,” Mr. Pinkney told The Plain Dealer in Cleveland in 1997, notwithstanding that Mr. Humphrey went on to lose the nomination to Senator George S. McGovern.
Last week, Mr. Jackson said of Mr. Pinkney, “With his passing, a huge part of history goes with him.”
He was born in Youngstown, Ohio, on Jan. 6, 1931. His father died three months before he finished high school, so he worked in steel mills to help his family make ends meet.
He took the advice and attended what is now Case Western Reserve University School of Law, but he dropped out for financial reasons. He then became one of the first black agents hired by the Prudential Insurance Company of America and later opened a successful insurance agency. As a civil rights activist, he led a membership drive for the N.A.A.C.P. and joined the picketing of a Cleveland supermarket that had refused to hire blacks.
He began his political career by helping out on local campaigns for judges, then volunteered for Carl Stokes’s mayoral campaign. Louis Stokes tapped him to be his paid campaign manager in 1968. Mr. Pinkney was later president of the Cleveland Board of Education and twice sought the city’s mayoralty, losing in a three-man race in 1971 and again in 1975. After the second defeat, he moved to Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb.
Mr. Jackson said he had chosen Mr. Pinkney to run his 1984 campaign because he was a “voice of pragmatism” and because of his experience with national campaigns. When he took over, Mr. Pinkney set about righting a campaign that was in disarray: Field offices had not been set up, phones were not being answered, and Mr. Jackson was often showing up late for appearances.
But he also had to contend with problems outside his control. The Jackson forces were buoyed when Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the black separatist Nation of Islam, announced his support. But then a recording surfaced in which Mr. Farrakhan made remarks widely interpreted as anti-Semitic. Amid a storm of outrage, Mr. Pinkney helped draft a statement calling Mr. Farrakhan’s words “reprehensible.”
Another challenge came when Mr. Jackson made diplomatic forays to Latin America, meeting with Nicaragua’s leftist leaders and leftist rebels in El Salvador to try to steer them toward peace and winning the release of more than 20 political prisoners in Cuba. Mr. Pinkney worried that with the race for the nomination nearing its end, Mr. Jackson was absent, squandering a chance to attract maximum attention on domestic issues at a crucial time. In his absence, The Washington Post said, Mr. Pinkney would “look after his interests.”
Mr. Jackson unsuccessfully sought the nomination again in 1988, with Gerald F. Austin as his campaign manager.
Mr. Pinkney’s death was announced by his family. His survivors include his wife, Betty, and their daughter, Traci.
Mr. Pinkney liked to say the changes in America that led to Barack Obama’s election as president in 2008 began with Carl Stokes’s victory in Cleveland four decades earlier. On the night of Mr. Obama’s victory, Mr. Pinkney told a crowd of celebrators that blacks could no longer justifiably refuse to fight in foreign wars for a country that treated them as second-class citizens.
“This wipes all that out,” he said. “No one can accuse the country of that again. It’s a magnificent night.”