IN REMEMBRANCE: 9-28-2014

J. CALIFORNIA COOPER, AWARD-WINNING WRITER

J. California Cooper in 1987. Credit Ellen Banner

A spokesman for Random House, her publisher, confirmed her death. She had had several heart attacks in recent years.

Ms. Cooper won an American Book Award in 1989 for the second of her six story collections, “Homemade Love.” Her short story “Funny Valentines,” about a woman in a troubled marriage who repairs an old rift with a cousin when she moves back home, was turned into a 1999 television movie starring Alfre Woodard and Loretta Devine.

Writing in a vernacular first-person style, Ms. Cooper set her stories in an indeterminate rural past permeated with violence and the ghost of slavery. The African-American women she depicts endure abandonment, betrayal, rape and social invisibility, but they survive.

“Some Soul to Keep” (1987), her third collection, includes over-the-back-fence tales. One story tells of two women who become close friends after one woman’s husband dies and the other’s leaves. They learn that long-lived rumors of their dislike for each other had been fabricated by their husbands. Another story is about a blind girl who is raped by her minister, gives birth to his son and raises him alone because, she explains, he makes her forget she is blind.

Ms. Cooper’s 1991 novel, “Family,” one of five she wrote, is narrated by the ghost of a slave woman who committed suicide before the Civil War and who follows the lives of her descendants as they mingle and procreate in a new interracial world, marveling at how “from one woman all these different colors and nationalities could come into being.”

Ms. Cooper was clear about the religious values that informed her stories. “I’m a Christian,” she told The Washington Post in 2000. “That’s all I am. If it came down to Christianity and writing, I’d let the writing go. God is bigger than a book.”

In an interview on NPR in 2006, she said, “What I’m basically trying to do is help somebody make some right choices.”

Alice Walker, in the foreword to Ms. Cooper’s 1984 collection of stories, “A Piece of Mine,” wrote: “In its strong folk flavor, Cooper’s work reminds us of Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston. Like theirs, her style is deceptively simple and direct, and the vale of tears in which some of her characters reside is never so deep that a rich chuckle at a foolish person’s foolishness cannot be heard.”

Joan Cooper (the middle name California was her own invention) was born in Berkeley, Calif., to Maxine Rosemary and Joseph C. Cooper. She lived most of her life in Oakland. Through the years she declined to give her exact date of birth to interviewers. Her daughter, Paris Williams, told The Associated Press that her mother was 82 when she died.

Ms. Cooper attended technical high school and several universities, including the University of California, Berkeley. While raising her daughter, she variously worked as a secretary, manicurist and teamster while writing in her spare time.

Ms. Cooper was a recipient of the James Baldwin Writing Award and the Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association. No information on survivors besides her daughter was available.

Ms. Cooper’s first goal was to become a playwright. She had written more than a dozen by the early 1980s (she wound up writing 17) when Ms. Walker, who came to see one of her plays, suggested she try her hand at writing short stories — “because it was easier to get paid,” Ms. Williams told The A.P., quoting Ms. Walker’s advice to her mother.

Ms. Cooper had never shared that story in the few interviews she gave. In 1994, she told The Los Angeles Sentinel that she considered the details of her own life her own. She had never courted fame, she added, and would evade it if it ever “started catching up with me.”

“I love God,” she added, “and I know he said love people. And I do. Just at a distance.”

SOURCE

J. California Cooper.

A powerful author and a legendary storyteller of pain anguish, travails, and triumph.

Her stories are timeless and universal in the human drama of life in this world.

She was one of a kind and she will be missed.

Rest in peace, Ms. Cooper.

Rest in peace.

**************************************************

JAMES A. TRAFICANT JR., WHO WAS EXPELLED FROM CONGRESS AFTER BRIBERY CONVICTION

James Traficant in 2002. Credit Dennis Cook/Associated Press

His death was confirmed by Heidi Hanni, a spokeswoman for the Traficant family.

Mr. Traficant was known for his colorful personality and wardrobe, his legislative theatrics and his wild mop of hair. So it was only something of a surprise when the hair turned out to be fake, a fact that was made clear when he had to remove his toupee during booking after his arrest on bribery and racketeering charges.

The charges stemmed from accusations that he solicited bribes from business executives in exchange for government favors. Mr. Traficant served as his own lawyer at trial and was convicted in April 2002.

Three months later, the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct recommended that Mr. Traficant be expelled from Congress. He became only the second House member to be ousted for unethical conduct since the Civil War.

He was released from prison in 2009 after serving seven years of an eight-year sentence. He tried to revive his congressional career the next year, running as an independent, but won only 16 percent of the vote in his old district in Ohio.

Mr. Traficant, first elected to the House in 1984, was known for his loose tongue, combative nature and hostility to government bureaucracy and regulation. Voters appreciated him because he was aggressive in seeking federal money for projects like bridges, roads and community centers in a district that was at the heart of the hard-hit industrial Midwest.

He peppered his speeches on the House floor with “Star Trek” references and ended hundreds with the order “Beam me up.”

James Anthony Traficant Jr. was born on May 8, 1941, in Youngstown, Ohio, to James A. Traficant, a truck driver, and Agnes T. Traficant. He played football at the University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated with a degree in education in 1963. He worked as a drug counselor for 10 years before he was elected sheriff of Mahoning County in 1980.

He became a local celebrity in 1983 when he was acquitted on a federal corruption charge in another case in which he acted as his own lawyer, even though he had no law degree. Prosecutors had accused him of accepting bribes from organized crime figures while he was the sheriff, but he argued that he was conducting a sting operation at the time.

Survivors include his wife, Patricia, and their two daughters, Robin and Elizabeth.

In Washington, Mr. Traficant was an anti-establishment eccentric in the buttoned-up capital, and the behavior that was derided on Capitol Hill made him a favorite among his mostly blue-collar voters at home. He opposed free-trade agreements, pushed for “Buy American” requirements in spending bills and raged against foreign aid.

“He was always rooting for the underdog, and was willing to spend his time and energy trying to help people that nobody else would listen to,” Representative Tim Ryan, Democrat of Ohio, told The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “There wasn’t a guy who had more charisma, or more of an ability to make someone feel special and part of the fun that was going on.”

Mr. Traficant frequently used one-minute addresses on the House floor, a tradition that allows members to discuss any topic. His were pugnacious, sometimes crude, and included rants against the North American Free Trade Agreement and, a favorite, government regulations.

“Mr. Speaker,” he said in one 1998 speech, “the Lord’s Prayer is 66 words, the Gettysburg Address is 286 words, the Declaration of Independence is 1,322 words. U.S. regulations on the sale of cabbage — that is right, cabbage — is 27,000 words. Regulatory red tape in America costs taxpayers $400 billion every year, over $4,000 each year, every year, year in, year out, for every family.”

“Beam me up.”

SOURCE

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DON KEEFER, ACTOR WHO HAD BAD THROUGHTS ON ‘TWILIGHT ZONE’

Don Keefer, left, in a famed “The Twilight Zone” episode in 1961 with John Larch and Jeanne Bates. Credit CBS

But Mr. Keefer, who was 98 when he died on Sept. 7 in Sherman Oaks, Calif., may be best remembered for his role in a classic 1961 episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

The episode, “It’s a Good Life,” is set in fictional Peaksville, Ohio, a small town that has been paralyzed by the strange powers of an otherwise unremarkable 6-year-old boy named Anthony, played by Billy Mumy. Anthony is able to transform people and animals that bother him into objects, or make them disappear, simply by concentrating. What sets him off more than anything are people who think “bad thoughts” about him.

Anthony’s tortured family and most of their terrified town have become practiced in humoring Anthony, but one neighbor, Dan Hollis, played by Mr. Keefer, reaches his breaking point. Given a Perry Como record at his birthday party, hosted by Anthony’s parents, Hollis is urged not to play it, for fear it could anger Anthony. Hollis agrees but is frustrated and begins drinking. The alcohol soon overcomes him.

“You monster, you,” he says, staring at Anthony. “You dirty little monster! You murderer! You think about me. Go ahead, Anthony. You think bad thoughts about me, and maybe some man in this room, some man with guts, somebody who’s so sick to death of living in this kind of place and willing to take a chance, will sneak up behind you and lay something heavy across your skull and end this once and for all.”

No one does, and Anthony, as always, has his way.

“You’re a bad man,” Anthony says. “You’re a very bad man, and you keep thinking bad thoughts about me.”

With that, he points at Hollis and turns him into a jack-in-the-box, his cone-capped head bobbing on a spring.

Everyone is aghast but too afraid to challenge the boy. Anthony’s anguished father urges his son to do with the jack-in-the-box what he does with many of his creations — think it away to the cornfield outside.

Donald Hood Keefer was born on Aug. 18, 1916, in Highspire, Penn., the youngest of three sons of a butcher and a homemaker. He graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1939 and performed excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays at the New York World’s Fair that same year.

In the Broadway staging of “Death of a Salesman,” directed by Elia Kazan, Mr. Keefer played Bernard, the studious son of Willy’s neighbor Charley, in a cast that included Lee J. Cobb (as Willy), Mildred Dunnock (Linda), Arthur Kennedy (Biff) and Cameron Mitchell (Happy).

Before then he had supporting roles on Broadway in “Junior Miss” and “Othello.” He studied method acting as an early member of the Actors Studio in Manhattan.

In 1951 he appeared in a film version of “Death of a Salesman,” his first movie role. He went on to appear in “Hellcats of the Navy” (1957), which starred Ronald Reagan and Nancy Davis, the future first lady; “The Russians Are Coming the Russians Are Coming” (1966) and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), among other films.

He also appeared in numerous other television series, including “Gunsmoke,” “The Munsters,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Barnaby Jones” and “The Waltons.”

His survivors include his son Donald, who confirmed his death; two other sons, John and Thomas; and two grandchildren. His wife, the actress Catherine McLeod, whom he married in 1950, died in 1997.

Correction: September 27, 2014
An earlier version of this article misidentified the year in which an episode of “The Twilight Zone” featuring Mr. Keefer, “It’s a Good Life,” first aired. It was 1961, not 1959.SOURCE

‘It’s A Good Life.’

Always one of my favourite Twilight Zone episodes.

I originally posted on that episode and the series The Twilight Zone  here.

Thank you Mr. Keefer for the joy you gave us all in your performances.

Rest in peace.

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