IN REMEMBRANCE: JUNE 29, 2014

MESHACH TAYLOR, ACTOR ON TV’S ‘DESIGNING WOMEN’

Meshach Taylor in Los Angeles in 1989. Credit Nick Ut/Associated Press
Meshach Taylor, the actor best known for playing the only male character on the popular television show “Designing Women,” died on Saturday at his home outside Los Angeles. He was 67.

The cause was colorectal cancer, his agent, Dede Binder, said.

Mr. Taylor played Anthony Bouvier, an ex-convict who became a partner at a design firm in Atlanta with four women on the CBS sitcom that ran from 1986 to 1993. He was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1989 for his role on the show.

In a career that spanned more than three decades, he appeared in films and onstage, including roles in the 1987 film “Mannequin” and on the television shows “Dave’s World” and “Buffalo Bill.” He recently appeared in two episodes of the television drama “Criminal Minds.”

In 1998, Mr. Taylor played Lumiere in “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway. Earlier, he performed at the Goodman Theater in Chicago, where in 1985 he played Jim, the runaway slave, in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

He is survived by his wife, Bianca Ferguson, four children and four grandchildren.

SOURCE

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BOBBY WOMACK, ROYALTY OF THE SOUL ERA

Bobby Womack performing in Amsterdam in 1976. Credit Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

Bobby Womack, who spanned the American soul music era, touring as a gospel singer in the 1950s, playing guitar in Sam Cooke’s backup band in the early ’60s, writing hit songs recorded by Wilson Pickett and the Rolling Stones and composing music that broke onto the pop charts, has died, a spokeswoman for his record label said on Friday night. He was 70.

Sonya Kolowrat, Mr. Womack’s publicist at XL Recordings, said further details about the death were not immediately available.

Mr. Womack, nicknamed the Preacher for his authoritative, church-trained voice and the way he introduced songs with long discourses on life, never had the million-record success of contemporaries like Pickett, Marvin Gaye, Al Green and Otis Redding. His sandpaper vocal style made him more popular in England, where audiences revere what they consider authentic traditional American music, than in the United States.

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But the pop stars of his time considered Mr. Womack royalty. His admirers included Keith Richards, Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder, all of whom acknowledged their debt with guest performances on albums he made in his later years.

Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones inducted Mr. Womack into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. Credit Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters

Mr. Womack’s 2012 album, “The Bravest Man in the Universe,” is an avant-garde collaboration with a new generation of musicians. It combines old and new material by Mr. Womack, which the British producer Richard Russell and the alternative rock songwriter Damon Albarn mixed with programmed beats, old gospel recordings, samplings of Cooke and other sounds, some played backward or sped up.

The album earned favorable reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. Rolling Stone ranked it No. 36 on its list of the 50 best albums of the year.

“I don’t understand a lot of the things they were doing,” Mr. Womack said of his collaborators in an interview with The Guardian. “I would never have dreamed of doing stuff like that, but I wanted to relate to the people today.”

Mr. Womack had his first major hit in 1964. He was under contract with Cooke’s SAR label when he wrote the song, “It’s All Over Now,” and recorded it with his group, the Valentinos, which consisted of him and four of his brothers. The song was slowly rising on the R&B charts when Cooke told him that a British band called the Rolling Stones had liked it so much that they planned to record it, too.

The song became the Stones’ first No. 1 single in Britain and their first international hit, while the Valentinos’ version sank.

“I was very upset about it,” Mr. Womack said in an interview. “It was like, ‘They stole my song.’ ”

Later, he said, as Cooke had predicted he would: “I stopped being upset when we got our first royalty check. That changed everything.”

Many of his songs were recorded by others, often with greater success than his own renditions. Janis Joplin included “Trust Me” on her album “Pearl,” the J. Geils Band recorded “Lookin’ for a Love,” which reached the Top 40 in 1972, and Pickett recorded “I’m a Midnight Mover” and 16 other Womack songs.

In 1971 Mr. Womack played guitar on, and helped produce, Sly Stone’s most ambitious album, “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” now considered a soul classic.

Bobby Womack Credit Echoes/Redferns

Bobby Dwayne Womack was born on March 4, 1944, in Cleveland. His father, Friendly, was a steelworker and part-time Baptist minister. His mother, Naomi, played the organ for the church choir. Under their father’s direction, Bobby and his brothers Cecil, Curtis, Friendly Jr. and Harry formed a gospel group, the Womack Brothers, which began touring in 1953.

Sam Cooke, who spent the early ’50s as lead singer of a gospel quintet, the Soul Stirrers, first heard the brothers sing on a visit to Cleveland, when Mr. Womack was about 7. A decade later, Cooke invited the brothers to join him in Los Angeles, where he had his own record company and was a successful secular pop balladeer.

The Womacks were raised to believe that hell awaited gospel singers who sang pop music, Bobby told interviewers, and at first they resisted Cooke’s summons. They made several gospel records for SAR before changing their name to the Valentinos and recording their first secular songs, a decision that caused a lasting rift with their father, until shortly before his death in 1981.

By 17, Mr. Womack was the lead singer of the new group, the youngest guitarist in Cooke’s touring band, and an emerging hit songwriter. His song “Lookin’ for a Love,” a remake of a gospel composition, became a modest hit for the Valentinos on the R&B chart in 1961 (a decade before the J. Geils version). Royalties from “It’s All Over Now” alone reportedly made him financially secure for most of his life.

Then, when he was 20, Mr. Womack’s career hit a wall. The Dec. 11, 1964, shooting death of Cooke, during a dispute with a Los Angeles motel owner, left Mr. Womack without a mentor or a record label. By most accounts, his decision to marry Cooke’s widow, Barbara Campbell, just a few months after the shooting, made him something of a pariah in the music world.

Unable to land a new record contract, Mr. Womack left the Valentinos and settled into backup work for contemporaries like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Joe Tex, Joplin and a young, little-known Jimi Hendrix. His solo career began to revive in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Two albums he recorded for United Artists in the 1970s are considered soul classics: “Communication” (1971), which yielded the hit “That’s the Way I Feel About ‘Cha,” and “Understanding” (1972), which included “Woman’s Gotta Have It.”

In 1981 he released two of his most critically acclaimed albums, “The Poet” and its sequel, “The Poet II,” which featured several duets with the soul singer Patti LaBelle. He joined the Rolling Stones to sing a duet with Mick Jagger on “Harlem Shuffle,” on the Stones’ 1986 album, “Dirty Work.”

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In 2009 Mr. Womack was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His marriage to Ms. Campbell, as well as two subsequent marriages, ended in divorce. His survivors include a daughter, GinaRe.

Although hip-hop stars frequently sampled the soul music of his era, Mr. Womack refused most requests by others to use his recordings in their work, he told a British interviewer in 2004. Despite his well-publicized marital problems and struggles with drugs and alcohol, he said, he remained a gospel singer at heart.

“Me being from the old school, I would not say ‘bitch’ on a record,” he said. “I couldn’t face my mother if I did.”

Correction: June 28, 2014
An earlier version of this obituary referred incorrectly to Mr. Womack’s sons Truth and Vincent. Truth Womack died in 1978, and Vincent Womack died in 1986; they do not survive him. The earlier version also rendered incorrectly one word in the title of a Sly Stone album that Mr. Womack helped produce. The title is “There’s a Riot Goin’ On,” not “There’s a Riot Going On.”SOURCE

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JOHN HARNEY, MISSIONARY WHO SPREAD THE ‘GOSPEL OF TEA’

John Harney, founder of Harney & Sons, a specialty tea company, in an undated photograph. Credit Harney & Sons

John Harney, the founder of Harney & Sons, a specialty tea company that helped restore the American palate for high-quality teas, died on June 17 at his home in Salisbury, Conn. He was 83.

The cause was apparently a heart attack, his son Michael, vice president of the family-owned company, said.

Mr. Harney was part of an informal community of American entrepreneurs and food pioneers who barnstormed the country in the 1980s and ’90s to acquaint restaurant managers, their luncheon patrons and the public — one afternoon-tea demonstration at a time — with the dying art of tea appreciation.

He conducted demonstrations for the waiters and waitresses at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York and for the book club at the public library in Rye, N.Y., introducing the nuances of aroma, body, complexity and aftertaste in loose teas from China, Africa and India to people whose experience with tea had often been limited to what came in store-bought tea bags.

“John became a missionary of tea,” said Peter F. Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the USA, a trade group.

An inveterate and jovial campaigner — he was involved in community affairs and politics, and helped secure the Republican nomination for a neighbor, James L. Buckley, in his unsuccessful campaign for the United States Senate in Connecticut in 1980 — Mr. Harney described his tea-promoting efforts, in a 2001 CNN interview, as part entrepreneurial and part inspirational:

“All we wanted to do was get out there and convert — sort of like St. John with his gospel of tea. That’s what I consider myself.”

Though far from re-establishing tea as the No. 1 beverage in America (status it lost as a tragic side effect, by tea lovers’ accounts, of the 1773 tea-tax protest that ignited the Revolutionary War), efforts by Mr. Harney and his like are credited with quadrupling tea consumption in the United States in the last two decades.

Harney & Sons, which began with a selection of six varieties in 1983, expanded its catalog to over 300 blends, many of them now standard fare at luxury hotels, including the Waldorf-Astoria and Ritz-Carlton in New York and the Dorchester in London.

The Historic Royal Palaces, which operates sites in Britain like Kensington Palace and the Tower of London, stocks its gift shops with a proprietary line of teas blended by Harney & Sons.

John David Harney was born on Aug. 26, 1930, in Lakewood, Ohio, to William and Hildegard Harney. His father, an engineer who moved frequently to find work in airplane factories, left his children with relatives after their mother died in the early 1940s, when John was 12. As a teenager he lived with an aunt and uncle who ran a country inn in Vermont.

He served in the Marine Corps from 1948 to 1952, then graduated from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. By 1960, he had moved to Salisbury to become part owner and innkeeper of the White Hart Inn, a two-century-old restaurant and hotel.

It was at the White Hart that Mr. Harney, a committed coffee drinker, was converted to the gospel of tea. His St. John was Stanley Mason, an Englishman who had settled in northwest Connecticut after 50 years in the London tea trade. In retirement, Mr. Mason had started a small company to blend and package premium teas, and he persuaded Mr. Harney to add some to his menu.

Mr. Harney’s guests liked the teas so much that he bought Mr. Mason’s company, hired Mr. Mason as his consultant and began a 10-year apprenticeship in the tea trade. In 1983, two years after Mr. Mason died, Mr. Harney sold his share in the inn and established Harney & Sons with family help and a handful of employees.

The company now reports about $30 million in annual sales and employs 150 people. It imports about a million pounds of tea each year, which it sells in the United States and abroad in a wide variety of styles and packages at prices ranging from $2 to $500 a pound. It moved its packaging operations to Millerton, N.Y., in 2000.

Besides his son Michael, Mr. Harney is survived by his wife, Elyse; three other sons, John Jr., Keith and Paul; a daughter, Elyse; a sister, Susan Rooney; a brother, Jerry; and 10 grandchildren.

Mr. Harney remained modest about his expertise. But he held to two absolute rules in making a good cup of tea, whether using a camomile from Egypt or a Darjeeling from India, a tangy black Lapsang souchong or a soft jasmine blossom pouchong.

First, to use “furiously boiling water,” he told The New York Times in 1983, defining furiously (with a thermometer he always carried in his pocket) as exactly 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

Second, to make sure it is properly steeped: “Five minutes,” he said. “No more, no less.”

SOURCE

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ELI WALLACH, MULTIFACETED ACTOR ON STAGE AND SCREEN

 

Eli Wallach Dies at 98 Credit Ed Ou/The New York Times

 

Eli Wallach, who was one of his generation’s most prominent and prolific character actors in film, onstage and on television for more than 60 years, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Katherine.

A self-styled journeyman actor, the versatile Mr. Wallach appeared in scores of roles, often with his wife, Anne Jackson. No matter the part, he always seemed at ease and in control, whether playing a Mexican bandit in the 1960 western “The Magnificent Seven,” a bumbling clerk in Ionesco’s allegorical play “Rhinoceros,” a henpecked French general in Jean Anouilh’s “Waltz of the Toreadors,” Clark Gable’s sidekick in “The Misfits” or a Mafia don in “The Godfather: Part III.”

Despite his many years of film work, some of it critically acclaimed, Mr. Wallach was never nominated for an Academy Award. But in November 2010, less than a month before his 95th birthday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded him an honorary Oscar, saluting him as “the quintessential chameleon, effortlessly inhabiting a wide range of characters, while putting his inimitable stamp on every role.”

 

 

At Home With Eli Wallach

In 2010, A. O. Scott visited his uncle, who has acted in more than 90 movies, in his apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Credit By Gabe Johnson on Publish Date February 28, 2011

Credit Ed Ou for The New York Times

 

His first love was the stage. Mr. Wallach and Ms. Jackson became one of the best-known acting couples in the American theater. But films, even less than stellar ones, helped pay the bills. “For actors, movies are a means to an end,” Mr. Wallach said in an interview with The New York Times in 1973. “I go and get on a horse in Spain for 10 weeks, and I have enough cushion to come back and do a play.”

Mr. Wallach, who as a boy was one of the few Jewish children in his mostly Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, made both his stage and screen breakthroughs playing Italians. In 1951, six years after his Broadway debut in a play called “Skydrift,” he was cast opposite Maureen Stapleton in Tennessee Williams’s “The Rose Tattoo,” playing Alvaro Mangiacavallo, a truck driver who woos and wins Serafina Delle Rose, a Sicilian widow living on the Gulf Coast. Both Ms. Stapleton and Mr. Wallach won Tony Awards for their work in the play.

The first movie in which Mr. Wallach acted was also written by Williams: “Baby Doll” (1956), the playwright’s screen adaptation of his “27 Wagons Full of Cotton.” Mr. Wallach played Silva Vacarro, a Sicilian émigré and the owner of a cotton gin that he believes has been torched. Karl Malden and Carroll Baker also starred.

Mr. Wallach never stayed away from the theater for long. After “The Rose Tattoo” he appeared in another Williams play, “Camino Real” (1953), wandering a fantasy world as a young man named Kilroy. He also played opposite Julie Harris in Anouilh’s “Mademoiselle Colombe” (1954), about a young woman who chooses a life in the theater over life with her dour husband, and in 1958 he appeared with Joan Plowright in “The Chairs,” Eugène Ionesco’s farcical portrait of an elderly couple’s garrulous farewell to life.

In another Ionesco allegory, a 1961 production of “Rhinoceros,” Mr. Wallach gave a low-key performance as a nondescript clerk in a city where people are being transformed into rhinoceroses. The cast also included Ms. Jackson and Zero Mostel.

By the time “Rhinoceros” came along, Ms. Jackson and Mr. Wallach had been married for 13 years. They met in 1946 in an Equity Library Theater production of Williams’s “This Property Is Condemned” and were married two years later.

In addition to his wife and his daughter Katherine, he is survived by another daughter, Roberta Wallach; a son, Peter; a sister, Shirley Auerbach; and three grandchildren.

Eli Wallach was born in Red Hook, Brooklyn, on Dec. 7, 1915, the son of Abraham Wallach, who owned a candy store in the neighborhood, and the former Bertha Schorr. He graduated from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn and attended the University of Texas at Austin (“because the tuition was $30 a year,” he once said), where he also learned to ride horses — a skill he would put to good use in westerns. After graduation he returned to New York and earned a master’s degree in education at City College, with the intention of becoming a teacher like his brother and two sisters.

Instead, he studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse until World War II put him in the Army. He served five years in the Medical Corps, rising to captain. After the war he became a founding member of the Actors Studio and studied method acting with Lee Strasberg. Ahead lay his Broadway debut in “Skydrift,” which had a one-week run in 1945, and his fateful meeting with an actress named Anne Jackson.

The Wallachs went on to become stalwarts of the American stage, evoking memories of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, thanks to their work in comedies like “The Typists” and “The Tiger,” a 1963 double bill by Murray Schisgal, and a revival of Anouilh’s “Waltz of the Toreadors” (1973).

In a joint interview in The Hartford Courant in 2000, Mr. Wallach and Ms. Jackson said they had sought out opportunities to work together. “But we’re not the couple we play onstage,” Ms. Jackson said. “For us, it’s fun to separate the two.”

The couple appeared in a revival of “The Diary of Anne Frank” in 1978, in a production that also featured their daughters Roberta as Anne Frank and Katherine as her onstage sister. In 1984, they presided over a chaotic Moscow household in a Russian comedy, Viktor Rozov’s “Nest of the Wood Grouse,” directed by Joseph Papp at the Public Theater. Four years later, they returned to the Public as a flamboyant acting couple in a revival of Hy Kraft’s “Cafe Crown,” a portrait of the Yiddish theater scene in its heyday.

In 1993, they presented a theatrical reminiscence, “In Persons.” The next year, they played a biblical husband and wife in a revival of Clifford Odets’s “Flowering Peach” by the National Actors Theater, and in 2000 they were a pair of retired comedians in Anne Meara’s Off Broadway play “Down the Garden Paths.”

In between appearances with Ms. Jackson, Mr. Wallach played, among other roles, an aging gay barber in Charles Dyer’s “Staircase” (1968), a political dissident consigned to an asylum in Tom Stoppard’s “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” (1979), an aged but mentally spry furniture dealer in a 1992 revival of Arthur Miller’s play “The Price” and a Jewish widower in Jeff Baron’s “Visiting Mr. Green” (1997).

Mr. Wallach’s many television credits included a 1971 production of Odets’s “Paradise Lost” on public television; “Skokie,” a 1981 CBS movie about a march planned by neo-Nazis in a Chicago suburb, in which he played a lawyer representing Holocaust survivors; a 1982 NBC dramatization of Norman Mailer’s “Executioner’s Song,” in which he appeared with Tommy Lee Jones; and frequent roles on “Studio One,” “Playhouse 90” and “General Electric Theater.”

And then there were films, dozens of them. In addition to his parts in “Baby Doll” and “The Magnificent Seven,” he played the mechanic pal of Clark Gable’s aging cowboy in “The Misfits” (1961), the story of a wild-horse roundup in Nevada, written by Miller and directed by John Huston, with a cast that also included Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift.

Mr. Wallach was also a lawless jungle tyrant subdued by the title character (Peter O’Toole) in “Lord Jim” (1965); a rapacious Mexican pitted against Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef in Sergio Leone’s so-called spaghetti western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966); a psychiatrist assigned to evaluate the sanity of a call girl (Barbra Streisand) on trial for killing a client in “Nuts” (1987); and Don Altobello, a Mafia boss who succumbs to a poisoned dessert, in “The Godfather: Part III” (1990).

He continued his film work well into his 90s. He was a disillusioned screenwriter in “The Holiday” (2006). In “Tickling Leo” (2009), he played the guilt-ridden patriarch of a Jewish family still haunted by the Holocaust. In Roman Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer” (2010), Mr. Wallach played a mysterious old man living on fog-shrouded Martha’s Vineyard. And in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010), which marked the return of Michael Douglas as the greed-stoked investor Gordon Gekko, Mr. Wallach hovered at the edge of the action like Poe’s sinister raven.

More often than not, his film roles required him to play mustachioed characters who were lawless, evil or just plain nasty, which puzzled and challenged him. “Actually I lead a dual life,” he once said. “In the theater, I’m the little man, or the irritated man, the misunderstood man,” whereas in films “I do seem to keep getting cast as the bad guys.” His villain roles, he said, tended to be “more complex” than some of his stage roles.

Even so, the theater remained his home base, and he said that he could never imagine leaving it. “What else am I going to do?” he asked in an interview with The Times in 1997. “I love to act.”

Correction: June 26, 2014
An obituary in some editions on Wednesday about the actor Eli Wallach misstated the year of a television production of Clifford Odets’s “Paradise Lost” in which he appeared. It was 1971, not 1974.

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