IN REMEMBRANCE: 12-21-2014

ERNIE TERRELL, HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION; LOST GRUDGE MATCH TO ALI

Ernie Terrell, left, with Muhammad Ali, signing for a Feb. 6, 1967, bout. Terrell added tension by refusing to address Ali by his Muslim name. Credit Neil Boenzi/The New York Times

His sister Lovie Mickens confirmed the death. She said he had dementia.

At 6 feet 6 inches, Terrell was unusually tall for the era in which he fought and was lanky, generally fighting at less than 220 pounds. A solid puncher, he had an 82-inch reach that gave him an especially effective jab. (By comparison, Ali had a 78-inch reach, Joe Louis’s was 76, Rocky Marciano’s was 68 and Mike Tyson’s was 71.)

In 55 bouts, Terrell had 21 knockouts and a professional record of 46-9, including victories over the heavyweight contenders George Chuvalo, Cleveland Williams and Zora Folley as well as Bob Foster, later the light-heavyweight champion. But his most memorable bout was the loss to Ali on Feb. 6, 1967.

Terrell, right, in a 1966 bout with Doug Jones in Houston. Credit United Press International

Ali, then known as Clay, had taken the heavyweight crown from Sonny Liston in February 1964. But later that year, the World Boxing Association, one of many sanctioning agencies within the sport, stripped him of the crown, saying Clay had violated association rules in scheduling the bout. (Many W.B.A. officials were also offended by Clay’s self-promoting antics before the fight.)

To fill the vacant top spot, the association set up a bout between two contenders, Terrell and Eddie Machen. Terrell won a unanimous 15-round decision on March 5, 1965, to claim the title. He successfully defended it twice, against Chuvalo and Doug Jones.

By then, Clay was calling himself Muhammad Ali and insisting that his opponents show him respect by eschewing the use of what he called his slave name and addressing him by his Muslim name. Terrell refused. (He was not the only one. Facing Ali after his second victory over Liston, Floyd Patterson also used the name Clay and was trounced.)

Partly because Ali was such a controversial figure, many newspapers were uncertain about which name to use. During a contentious news conference in New York several weeks before their bout, Ali called Terrell an Uncle Tom. The headline over a New York Times article about the episode said, “Muhammad Ali Slaps at Terrell After Name-Calling Exchange at Garden”; the first sentence of the article, however, began: “In a tense and ugly moment overlooking Eighth Avenue yesterday, Cassius Clay called Ernie Terrell an ‘Uncle Tom.’ ”

In the days before the fight, which took place in the Houston Astrodome, Ali continued to goad his opponent, imagining the first round in a poem he recited for reporters:

Terrell who caught hell at the opening bell

Tried to retreat so he wouldn’t be beat

But Ali scuffled and shuffled and fired the punch home

And Ernie shot up through the roof of the Dome

The news quickly flashed all around town

The referee can’t count 10 till Ernie comes down

The referee is frantic

Terrell’s over the Atlantic

Who would’ve thought when they came to the fight

They’d see the launching of a colored satellite?

In the end, the bout was no contest. Terrell lasted all 15 rounds, but he was staggering, blinded by blood streaming from his eyes, when the bell sounded. During the fight, Ali had taunted him mercilessly.

“What’s my name?” Ali would shout, throwing a punch. “What’s my name?”

Ernest Terrell, one of 10 children, was born on April 4, 1939, in Inverness, Miss., in the west-central part of the state, where his parents, Lovick and Annie Terrell, were sharecroppers. Ernie grew up in nearby Belzoni and in his teens moved to Chicago, where his father worked in a factory and where Ernie graduated from high school. He was the Chicago Golden Gloves light-heavyweight champion in 1957 and, after turning professional, won his first eight bouts in less than a year.

Terrell was also a gifted singer with a sweet pop tenor. While still in high school he formed a singing group, Ernie Terrell and His Heavyweights, with several of his brothers and sisters. One of his sisters was Jean Terrell, who in 1970 replaced Diana Ross as the lead vocalist in the Supremes. The group recorded a handful of Terrell’s own compositions.

In 1974 Terrell married Maxine Sibley, who survives him. In addition to his sister Lovie, he is survived by his sisters Jean and Geniver Hines; four brothers, Jimmie, J. C., Julius and Lenon; a stepson, David Anderson; and a stepdaughter, Deborah Anderson. During his years of illness, he was cared for by a grandniece, Sherice Sanders.

After his boxing career ended in the early 1970s, Terrell was a fight promoter in Chicago. He later ran a janitorial services company there that had a contract with the city.

He was inducted into the World Boxing Hall of Fame in 2004.

SOURCE

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VIRNA LISI, ITALIAN ACTRESS LURED TO HOLLYWOOD

Virna Lisi and Jack Lemmon in the 1965 film “How to Murder Your Wife.” The role helped established Ms. Lisi in Hollywood. Credit United Artists, via Everett Collection

Ms. Lisi had recently been told that she had an incurable illness, her family said in a statement to the Italian news media. The statement did not indicate where she died.

When Ms. Lisi arrived in Hollywood in 1964, movie studios were searching for the next Marilyn Monroe, and she was one of several attractive European actresses who would capture the public’s imagination.

Ms. Lisi, like her contemporaries Gina Lollobrigida, Ursula Andress and Sophia Loren, proved that she could do much more than look beautiful on the screen.

After her early years playing temptresses, she had a late-career revival that culminated in her wicked portrayal of Catherine de Medici in “Queen Margot” in 1994. She received both the César, France’s version of the Academy Award, and the Cannes Film Festival best-actress award for her performance before going on to win an Italian film critics’ award, the Silver Ribbon.

In her first Hollywood role, in 1965, she played opposite Jack Lemmon in “How to Murder Your Wife,” and her arrival in America was celebrated in a multipage spread in Life magazine.

“I’ve never seen that kind of woman before — like Jean Harlow and Madeleine Carroll put together or Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly,” the magazine quoted one normally “blasé Hollywood photographer” as saying.

“In her native country, her cool and classy face is well known from 24 films and from years of smiling in toothpaste ads on TV,” the magazine reported. But when she landed the role in “Murder,” Life said, she spoke only three English phrases: “Is necessary? Is possible? Poor Virna!”

The Life profile, a glowing one otherwise, might have underestimated Ms. Lisi’s linguistic prowess: besides Italian, she was fluent in French and Spanish.

She would go on to star alongside Tony Curtis in “Not With My Wife, You Don’t” and Frank Sinatra in “Assault on a Queen.” At the same time, she continued to make films in Europe. She played the lead role in “The Birds, the Bees and the Italians,” for which she shared the top prize, the Palme d’Or, at the Cannes film festival in 1966.

In a 1965 profile in The New York Sunday News, Ms. Lisi described how she had briefly retired from acting after marrying Franco Pesci, an Italian builder and architect. The two were married for 53 years, until his death in 2013. She is survived by a son, Corrado Pesci, and three grandchildren.

Ms. Lisi in Rome in 2010. Credit Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

“My husband was not very happy about my career,” she told The News. “Like most Italians, Franco is a very jealous man — thank God! After we married he tried hard to take me away from all this movie business.” Eventually, she said, he relented.

Born in Ancona, Italy, on Nov. 8, 1936, Ms, Lisi landed her first film role before her 18th birthday. But by 1968, she had tired of being cast in roles revolving around her looks.

She turned down the part ultimately played by Jane Fonda in Roger Vadim’s “Barbarella” (1968) and returned to Europe.

“I take these things very coolly,” she once said when asked if success would change her. “I don’t believe in letting any kind of praise go to one’s head. In a career, as in life, we can be way up one day and down the next. It doesn’t pay to permit such things to affect one’s outlook.”

SOURCE

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MANDY RICE-DAVIES, FIGURE IN PROFUMO SCANDAL

Mandy Rice-Davies leaving court after testifying on her relationship with Lord Astor in 1963. Credit Associated Press

Her publicist said in a statement confirming the death that Ms. Rice-Davies had endured a “short battle with cancer.” The statement did not say where she died.

In later years Ms. Rice-Davies became a businesswoman and a writer and was known by her married name, Marilyn Foreman. But Britons more widely remember her for making headlines in what was called the Profumo affair — revelations that a government minister, John Profumo, had shared a mistress, Christine Keeler, with a Soviet defense attaché, Yevgeny Ivanov.

The scandal raised questions about national security and rocked the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan.

Ms. Rice-Davies shared lodgings with Ms. Keeler but never met Mr. Profumo, who died in 2006.

In March 1963, Mr. Profumo went before Parliament to deny any “impropriety whatever” with Ms. Keeler. But he resigned three months later as details of the relationship emerged, forcing him to admit that he had lied to Parliament.

Details of the scandal were revealed in court hearings at the trial of Stephen Ward, an osteopath, who had introduced Mr. Profumo and Ms. Keeler at a party at the Berkshire country home of the aristocrat Lord Astor. Mr. Ward took a drug overdose just before he was found guilty on two counts of living off immoral earnings and died a few days later.

His story was the basis of a musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, titled simply “Stephen Ward,” that opened in London late last year and closed after only a few months. At the time, Ms. Rice-Davies appeared in publicity photographs with Mr. Lloyd Webber and Charlotte Blackledge, who played her in the show. (The Profumo affair was also the basis of a 1989 film, “Scandal,” in which Bridget Fonda played Ms. Rice-Davies and Joanne Whalley-Kilmer played Ms. Keeler.)

In court hearings in 1963, the public learned of what seemed to be lurid activities involving aristocrats, government officials, diplomats, spies and call girls.

As the hearings unfolded, Ms. Rice-Davies gained renown for a pithy response to being told that Lord Astor had denied he had slept with her.

“Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?” she said, according to one account. (Others quoted her as saying, “He would, wouldn’t he?” or, “Well, he would, wouldn’t he?”)

The remark was seen as a sign of a new lack of deference in 1960s Britain, as the country struggled for greater prosperity and the class system that had shielded the upper crust from scrutiny came under assault from newly assertive ordinary people.

“It was an age of deference,” Ms. Rice-Davies said in a BBC interview this year. “People still doffed their caps.”

Ms. Rice-Davies stuck to her account of the relationship with Lord Astor despite subsequent denials by his family. She also insisted that her role had not been that of a prostitute, and that Mr. Ward had not been a pimp.

“The only reason I still want to talk about it is that I have to fight the misconception that I was a prostitute,” she said at one point, according to the news agency The Press Association. “I don’t want that to be passed on to my grandchildren. There is still a stigma.”

She also said that the era’s renown for unbridled licentiousness was exaggerated. “In those days, there were good girls and there were bad girls,” she told The Associated Press last year. “Good girls didn’t have any sex at all, and bad girls had a bit.”

Born in Llanelli, Wales, on Oct. 21, 1944, Ms. Rice-Davies spent part of her early years in the English Midlands and dropped out of high school to work in a department store in Birmingham. At 16 she left home against her parents’ wishes and wound up working in London as a nightclub dancer.

“My biggest fear was living a drab, boring life,” she wrote in an article this year in the newspaper The Mail on Sunday. “Well, I certainly didn’t end up doing that.”

As a dancer at Murray’s Cabaret Club, she added, “I met a showgirl called Christine Keeler. It was dislike at first sight.”

As the scandal ebbed, she wrote, “I was offered a job singing at a club in Germany, and I accepted with alacrity even though the only place I’d ever sung before was in the church choir.”

Ms. Rice-Davies performed in cabarets in Germany and Spain and later spent time in Israel, where, with her first husband, Rafael Shaul, an Israeli, she founded a string of nightclubs and restaurants in her name.

After a divorce and a brief second marriage, she returned to Britain in 1980, embarking on a career as an actor and writer. In 1988 she married Ken Foreman, a British businessman, who survives her. They had homes in Britain, Florida and the Caribbean. “My life has been one long descent into respectability,” she was widely reported as saying.

Besides her husband, she is survived by a daughter, Dana.

“Mandy was enormously well read and intelligent,” Mr. Lloyd Webber said in a statement on Friday. “I will always remember discussing with her over dinner subjects as varied as Thomas Cromwell’s dissolution of the monasteries and the influence of the artist Stanley Spencer on Lucian Freud. With a different throw of the dice, Mandy might have been head of the Royal Academy, or even running the country.”

SOURCE

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BOB LANIER, FORMER MAYOR OF HOUSTON

  • Bob Lanier, former Houston mayor, arrives for the memorial service for Ken Lay at First United Methodist Church of Houston. Lanier died at the age of 89 on Dec. 20, 2014. Photo: Steve Ueckert, Chronicle
    Photo By Steve Ueckert/Chronicle
    Bob Lanier, former Houston mayor, arrives for the memorial service for Ken Lay at First United Methodist Church of Houston. Lanier died at the age of 89 on Dec. 20, 2014.

Bob Lanier, a 6-foot-4 cowboy boot-wearing, sports-crazy political sharpshooter who rose from modest beginnings in blue-collar Baytown to become one of Houston’s biggest developers and most influential mayors, died Saturday. He was 89.

In January 1992, Lanier began a six-year tenure as mayor that, in its successes, was hailed as a model for reducing crime and revitalizing the inner city.

At various times, for various reasons, Lanier was likened to Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The commonality was that Lanier, the son of a Methodist minister turned oilfield roustabout, invariably was measured against America’s greatest movers and shakers.

“I’d put him with (Chicago Mayor Richard) Daley and (New York City Mayor Fiorello) La Guardia as one of the great mayors in 20th century history,” University of Houston political science guru Richard Murray once said. “He has the ability to get things done.”

To former state Sen. Jon Lindsay, who entered public life as a county judge in 1975, Lanier was the most powerful person on the Houston scene in the century’s closing decades. To county Commissioner Steve Radack, he was “authoritarian with a smile.” For former city councilman and current Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, Lanier simply was “the 800-pound gorilla.”

The news of his death Saturday prompted remembrances of his fierce intelligence and confident swagger.

Mayor Annise Parker said Lanier “left a lasting mark” on Houston.

“Never one to shy away from a tough battle, he used his strength and popularity to push through affirmative action protections, rebuild the city’s wastewater system, improve neighborhoods and add hundreds of officers to the police force,” Parker said in a statement.

Lanier’s wife, Elyse, whom he married in 1984, said in a statement that his decades of public service “brought a smile to his face and a twinkle to his eye these last few years.”

“Bob wanted me to pass on a final goodbye and a hearty, ‘Thank you for making a guy like me look good!’ ” she wrote.

Ben Hall recalled Lanier selecting him to be Houston’s city attorney, in part, to help close divides with the African-American community after a contentious race for City Hall’s top job against state Rep. Sylvester Turner. Hall, who is black, said Lanier didn’t stop there, often reminding his staff in private meetings that “he would be the mayor for anybody and everybody in the city, not simply the people who elected him.”

“The thing I’ll remember most was his tendency to put his hole-ridden boots on the table while talking to you,” Hall said. “I said to myself, ‘That is one man with great confidence,’ such that I had to watch the bottom of his boots at the same time we were discussing these serious policy decisions. I just thought it was fitting for the country boy who became the intellectual that he was.”

Poverty was a goad

Lanier — the city of Houston’s 50th mayor — spent his earliest years in a Baytown house without indoor plumbing, and such poverty was a goad.

“He was a brilliant kid bored with a life of poverty,” said Dave Walden, who served as Lanier’s chief of staff. “He had a raging thirst for knowledge about any arcane subject one might come up with, from transportation theory to religion.”

Lanier once told his wife that his life’s passions were politics, sports and business. As an undergraduate at the University of New Mexico, he boxed in club matches. He remained a lifelong boxing fan, zipping around the country to attend championship matches, where he would elbow-jab companions, feign punches and grunt with the action.

Lanier was an avid golfer, an accomplished tennis player and a noisy Astros fan. His passion for basketball was so intense that he’d sometimes write letters to team members on the eve of championship games.

Lanier tried his hand at sportswriting, but jettisoned that modest-paying career in favor of the more lucrative field of law. With a degree from the University of Texas, Lanier became a lawyer with the prestigious Houston firm Baker & Botts.

In the decades leading to his ascendancy to the mayor’s office, he built giant subdivisions and apartment complexes, controlled a major savings and loan and served as chairman of the Texas Highway Commission and Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority.

“He found politics a lot more fascinating than making money,” Walden said. “He’s not a greedy person. Once he made enough to live in comfort and style, he got bored with making any more.”

Boxing was a metaphor for Lanier’s life, inside and outside the ring. He liked to tell the story of his days in the U.S. Navy, when, assigned to supervise a group of veteran cooks, he challenged the burliest of them to a boxing match. Lanier held his own — and gained the respect of his underlings.

“That’s just the way he operates,” Walden once said. “You pick a fight with the biggest fellow and then no one will mess with you.”

Lanier’s political fights were high-profile and often bitter. He tangled with former Mayor Kathy Whitmire and former city controller George Greanias. “He is ruthless,” Greanias later complained, “and he is totally committed to power and winning.”

Lanier and Whitmire were like two speeding locomotives headed in opposite directions on the same track.

As mayor, Whitmire was a strong proponent of a $1 billion, 20-mile monorail line that would have linked downtown with the Galleria, Texas Medical Center and Post Oak Boulevard business area.

As Metro chairman, Lanier was instrumental in engineering his board’s 8-1 rejection of the plan in November 1989. In response, Whitmire dumped Lanier as chairman.

No time to waste

He returned in 1991 to defeat Whitmire and Turner in the mayor’s race. “The rail war provided the personal impetus to run, but he wanted to be mayor for a whole series of reasons,” UH’s Murray said. “He saw an opportunity to rebuild part of society. With all the power he had, he didn’t have to waste much time getting these things done.”

Lanier stacked the Metro board with his appointees, and began the process of allocating more than two-thirds of the agency’s $650 million nest egg to Houston, Harris County and other cities.
Much of the money went to putting 655 police officers on the street, leading to a 21.7 percent drop in crime during his first two years in office. Over his entire tenure as mayor, crime dropped 31.4 percent.

Then, Lanier and Metro successfully campaigned for federal approval to spend $500 million in federal funds on the Better Bus System to beef up roads and traffic signals. He directed tens of millions of dollars to upgrade neighborhoods and parks.

Rail advocates blasted Lanier for his policies, arguing that in the 21st century great cities would require rail. “Mr. Lanier chose to take the easy way out,” Houston developer Howard Horne lamented as Lanier ended his tenure as mayor. “This city will pay a high price in the lack of mobility for many years to come.”

Lanier argued for a pragmatic approach in which rail would be utilized when needed. “It’s not a basic tool,” he said. “Use it when it works, don’t use it when it doesn’t. Don’t make it an ideological dispute.”

Political statesman

Lanier often contended that keeping the middle class in the city — or luring it back — was vital to Houston’s health. He pushed for downtown redevelopment, including renovation of the Rice Hotel as lofts and expansion of the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The most ironic crisis for Lanier, the sports enthusiast, came in 1994 when Houston Oilers’ owner Bud Adams threatened to move the team unless the city built him a new downtown domed stadium. Lanier attempted to block the move by asking Congress to change anti-trust laws applying to sports teams. When that effort failed, Lanier told Adams to “hit the road.”

Lanier retained his personal interest in athletics, playing tennis and golf.

Despite his health challenges — in September 1998, he underwent triple bypass surgery — Lanier insisted on remaining active. He hosted fundraisers and appeared in television advertisements for charities, always with his wife at his side to care for him and protect his image. Mark Jones of Rice University said Lanier, unlike many other living Houston mayors, remained an intellectual and financial force after leaving office.

“In contrast with Kathy Whitmire, Lee Brown and Bill White, Lanier has remained more actively involved in Houston politics, fundraising and, primarily, public policy,” Jones said. “He held the position of an elder statesmen following his departure from office and that was a position he held right up until his passing.”

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