IN REMEMBRANCE: 3-29-2015

SASHIMANI DEVI, LAST OF INDIA’S JAGANNATH TEMPLE DANCERS

Her death was confirmed by Devadutta Samantasinghar, a retired official in the Department of Culture for the state of Odisha, formerly known as Orissa. He has researched the temple’s traditions.

Like most devadasis, or “maharis,” as the dancers in Odisha are known, Sashimani came from a poor family and was initiated into temple service when she was 7 or 8, she said. After she reached puberty, she was considered a “living wife” of Lord Jagannath, the god whose timber image is worshiped at the temple. She was not expected to marry.

At the time, she was one of about 25 women assigned to care for Jagannath and other images of deities at the temple, according to state records. She conducted ritual baths, rubbed the statues with lotion and performed private songs and dances at bedtime, standing at the threshold of the inner sanctum, where the deities were installed.

Sashimani Devi, the last ritual dancer at Jagannath Temple in India. Credit Ranjan Ganguly

But public opinion had turned against the practice, which in many cases exposed young women from lower-caste families to sexual exploitation. When the temple authorities tried to recruit a new generation of dancers in the 1990s, there were no volunteers.

Sashimani remained proud of her status, however, though she complained that the temple authorities had reduced her role in the rituals and paid her a miserly pension. Asked by an interviewer about the god Jagannath, she replied: “He is my husband and I am his wife. There is no dispute about it.”

She was the last to perform a dance that had been practiced in the temple for 5,000 years, Mr. Samantasinghar said.

“The tradition is over; she was the last to dance,” he said in a telephone interview. “There was a time, an era, which is gone — over — with her.”

The status of India’s temple dancers was at its height from the 13th to the 15th centuries, a period when kings depended heavily on the worship of local deities in their temples, said Lucinda E. Ramberg, an assistant professor of anthropology at Cornell University. She wrote a book about modern-day devadasis.

Temple dancers frequently had sexual relationships with wealthy temple patrons, leading British observers to regard them as prostitutes, Professor Ramberg said. Under British rule, laws criminalizing the dedication of devadasis began proliferating in the 1930s, and elite temples like Jagannath began to turn away from the practice. Still, “thousands and thousands” of devadasis are dedicated to this day at smaller temples throughout India, Professor Ramberg said.

A procession at Jagannath Temple during an annual rite in 2010. Credit Noah Seelam/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Sashimani’s father died when she was a child, and her mother, who had also been a temple dancer, “left her at the age of 8 with another devadasi to groom her and take care of her,” Mr. Samantasinghar said. He said he did not know where the child’s mother had gone.

Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, an anthropologist and author of “Wives of the God-King: The Rituals of the Devadasis of Puri,” said that the devadasis at Jagannath Temple were never pressed into prostitution, but that they had traditionally had sexual relationships with the king of Orissa and the temple priests.

A turning point for the practice came in the late 1960s, she said, when the state government took over administration of the temple from the king of Orissa and ordered the temple priests to stop referring to devadasis as “the living goddess.” By the 1980s, the temple dances were nearing extinction, and only a handful of dancers remained, each one frailer than the last.

Ileana Citaristi, an Italian-born scholar of traditional dance in Odisha, sought out Sashimani in 1994 while organizing a government-sponsored conference on traditional dance.

When she found Sashimani, the only surviving dancer, she had been taken in by a local family and received a pension from the temple of 700 rupees a month, or about $12, Ms. Citaristi said. In past centuries, the devadasis had drawn income from land allotted to them by the temple, but temple lands had long since been confiscated, leaving the surviving women destitute, she said.

Ms. Citaristi brought Sashimani with her to the conference, where she performed for the first time in 30 years. “We could have a glimpse of how the dance must have been when it was meant to be for Jagannath and not for the public,” she wrote later.

Afterward, Ms. Citaristi watched as participants bent reverently to touch the feet of Sashimani, then 72. Sashimani was so elated by the attention that for three days she refused to wipe off the vermilion mark she had put on her forehead and the dark kohl she had used to line her eyes.

“It was a sort of revelation for all of us, and also for herself,” Ms. Citaristi recalled, “because up until that moment nobody had gone to her.”

STEVEN SMITH, A ‘MARCO POLO’ OF AMERICAN  TEA

Steven Smith in 2005. He helped found the successful tea companies Stash and Tazo. Credit Motoya Nakamura/The Oregonian

The cause was liver cancer, his company, Steven Smith Teamaker, said.

What Starbucks did for coffee, craft brewers did for beer and artisanal vintners did for wine, Mr. Smith did for the Tao of tea, returning from his worldwide travels with novel varieties to blend.

“Merlin meets Marco Polo” was how the brand strategist Steve Sandstrom described him.

Mr. Smith had abandoned a fledgling ginger-beer business (after his first batch exploded in his closet) when he and partners founded the Stash and Tazo tea companies. Their products were a hit, based on a deceptively simple formula: “Pour hot water over dried leaves, flowers, roots, barks, and enjoy.”

Soon he delivered an arch New Age sales pitch that drew a cult following, gussied up the recipe by reconnoitering plantations in Asia and Africa for ambrosial blends and even persuaded the Food and Drug Administration to certify, as one of Tazo’s exotic ingredients, “the mumbled chantings of a certified tea shaman.”

Steven Smith visiting a Mercy Corps project in Darjeeling, India, in 2007. Credit Tiffany Talbott

Business was so good that Mr. Smith and his partners later sold Stash to Yamamotoyama, one of Japan’s oldest tea companies, and Tazo to Starbucks.

“Steven Smith was one of those principally responsible for America’s present-day tea renaissance,” James Norwood Pratt, the author of “The Ultimate Tea Lover’s Treasury,” said in an interview. “He was the finest creator of tea blends I’ve known.”

Mr. Smith explained his methods to The Kitchn, a web magazine. “I like imagining what a tea will taste like and smell like,” he said, “and then writing the ingredients down on a piece of paper and then blending the ingredients to see if the flavors can meet the expectations of my imagination.”

To taste samples and to perfect blends, he instructed his disciples to first smell the aroma, then inspect the color and “then you slurp, noisily, letting it up to the back of the roof of your mouth.”

Americans drink about four times as much tea as they did 20 years ago, Mr. Pratt said — a trend driven by health concerns about too much caffeine, changing demographics (more young people who are less attracted to coffee; more tea-drinking Asian-Americans) and inspired marketing. The wholesale value of tea sold in the United States since 1990 has increased more than fivefold, to well over $10 billion.

While Smith remains the most common surname in America, the biggest names in tea — Lipton, Twinings, Tetley — have been mostly British and their origins pre-20th century. Bigelow (formulated in the 1940s in a New York brownstone) and Steven Smith’s brands are among the exceptions.

While Americans still drink more coffee, they import and consume more tea today than the British. (The United States is the second-largest importer after Russia, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A., a trade group.)

Steven Dean Smith was born in Portland on May 29, 1949, to Daniel Smith and the former Verla Slick. The grandmother responsible for introducing him to tea on rainy days also lived in Oregon. After dropping out of Portland State University, he joined the Navy during the Vietnam War.

Returning home, he managed a health food store, capitalizing on the growing counterculture fervor for organic living. He and a partner, Steve Lee, then processed tons of local mint for sale to Lipton and Celestial Seasonings. With the profits, they developed Stash into a specialty tea company. They sold it to Yamamotoyama in 1993.

Joined by other partners, they invested the proceeds in Tazo. A deadpan Steve Sandoz, creative director at an advertising agency that promoted the brand, told the newspaper The Oregonian that the name was derived from “the whirling mating dance of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt and a cheery salutation used by druids and fifth-century residents of Easter Island.”

According to the company, a Gypsy tea-leaf reader said tazo meant “river of life” in Romany.

As chief taster they hired Tony Tellin, a 21-year-old former fire hydrant maker from Iowa who happened to be bicycling by Tazo’s loading dock one day and who, as it turned out, had an uncanny palate for pekoe.

The company thrived. It also teamed up with Mercy Corps, a nonprofit organization, to improve living conditions for tea workers in Darjeeling and Assam in India. The partners sold Tazo to Starbucks in 1999.

Mr. Smith retired, temporarily, in 2006. Bound by a noncompete agreement with Starbucks, he moved to France for a year with his wife, Kim DeMent, whom he married in 1996 in a ceremony performed by a Hindu priest and a Buddhist Rinpoche, or lama, and their son, Jack. They wanted “to learn how to eat long lunches and properly wear a scarf,” Mr. Smith said.

His wife and son survive him, along with a daughter, Carrie Smith-Prei; his sisters, Dana Barron, Lori Carroll and Wendy Wersch; and two grandchildren.

Returning to Portland, the Smiths founded Steven Smith Teamaker in 2010, setting up the company in a former blacksmith shop. They began inventing blends from rooibos and cassia bark, spiking them with black pepper, cardamom and other bouquets and experimenting with tiny batches of high-end medicinal and herbal varieties and matcha lattes.

Grown in the Himalayan foothills and handpicked, the tea in No. 47 Bungalow blend is billed as light yet complex, “with the aroma and flavor of fruits, nuts and flowers complemented by rich, toasty, buttery notes.”

The instructions suggest, “Raise your cup gently with both hands as a quiet salute before drinking.” To brew the perfect cup of Bungalow, Mr. Smith advised bringing freshly drawn filtered water to a boil, pouring it over one sachet of tea (about a teaspoon) and allowing it to steep — three minutes for green and white teas, five minutes for black and herbal infusion teas.

A four-ounce box of Bungalow sells by mail for $20 (plus shipping). Each box bears a number, which, when entered on the company’s website, whimsically details the contents’ provenance.

“The most uncommon name in tea,” the brand boasts, “since 1949” — the year Mr. Smith was born.

Correction: March 27, 2015
An obituary on Thursday about the tea company founder Steven Smith misstated his mother’s given name. She was the former Verla Slick, not Berla.

SOURCE

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GREGORY WALCOTT, ACTOR IN ‘PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE’

Gregory Walcott in 1961 in the TV show “87th Precinct.” Credit Gerald Smith/NBCU Photo Bank, via Getty Images

His death was confirmed by his son, Todd Mattox, who said Mr. Walcott had been in poor health for some time.

When Mr. Walcott, a tall, ruggedly handsome Southerner, was offered the key role of a pilot in “Plan 9 From Outer Space,” the idiosyncratic director Edward D. Wood Jr.’s low-budget 1959 oddity about aliens who bring the dead back to life, he had already been in the hit Henry Fonda Navy comedy “Mister Roberts” (1955) and other movies. He said in a 1998 interview that the “Plan 9” script “made no sense” but that he took the job because one of the producers was a friend of his.

“I thought maybe my name could give the show some credibility,” he said.

The film seemed destined to be no more than a footnote in Mr. Walcott’s busy career. He was a regular on the 1961-62 police series “87th Precinct” and had guest roles on “Bonanza,” “Maverick” and virtually every other TV western. He acted alongside Mr. Eastwood on “Rawhide” and in “The Eiger Sanction” (1975), “Every Which Way but Loose” (1978) and other movies. Often cast as an authority figure, he played lawmen in Steven Spielberg’s “The Sugarland Express” (1974) and Martin Ritt’s “Norma Rae” (1979).

But “Plan 9 From Outer Space” slowly developed a following for its cheap effects, its stilted dialogue and a ragtag cast that included the one-name TV personalities Vampira and Criswell as well as Bela Lugosi, in footage shot shortly before his death in 1956. To Mr. Walcott’s embarrassment, “Plan 9” became a staple at bad-film festivals and the movie with which he was most often associated.

He was born Bernard Wasdon Mattox on Jan. 13, 1928, in Wendell, N.C. After graduating from high school and serving in the Army for two years, he hitchhiked to Hollywood and before long had given himself a new name and was landing small film roles.

In addition to his son, Mr. Walcott is survived by two daughters, Pamela Graves and Jina Virtue, and six grandchildren. His wife of 55 years, the former Barbara May Watkins, died in 2010.

Mr. Walcott came to accept his bad-film fame with good humor. His last screen role was a cameo in Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood” (1994), about the making of “Plan 9” and its eccentric auteur. Mr. Mattox, his son, said that when a bar called Plan 9 Alehouse opened near his home in Escondido, Calif., last year, he gave the owners, with Mr. Walcott’s blessing, a copy of his “Plan 9” script to use as wallpaper in the men’s room.

“I didn’t want to be remembered for that,” Mr. Walcott told The Los Angeles Times in 2000. “But it’s better to be remembered for something than for nothing, don’t you think?”

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EVA BURROWS, SALVATION ARMY’S ‘PEOPLE’S GENERAL’

Eva Burrows at an International Youth Congress in an undated photo. Credit The Salvation Army

Her death, after a brief illness, was confirmed by Maj. John P. Murray, communications secretary for the Salvation Army’s international headquarters in London. In 1986, at 56, General Burrows became the organization’s youngest commander.

To many people, the Salvation Army evokes bell-ringing and red kettles for contributions at Christmas and vans that provide disaster relief. But during her seven-year tenure, General Burrows rekindled the 150-year-old organization’s original goal of evangelism, while insisting, “We don’t use social services as a bait to fish for converts.”

She liked to recount the story of the skeptics who demanded: “The Salvation Army? What are you saving us from?” To which she would reply, “The Salvation Army seeks by God’s grace to save people from the mess they make of their lives.”

Eva Burrows, the 13th general of the Salvation Army, with Pope John Paul II in Edinburgh during his 1982 visit to Britain. Credit Associated Press

Her affinity for everyday individuals earned her the sobriquet “the people’s general.”

Evangeline Evelyn Burrows was born in Tighes Hill, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, on Sept. 15, 1929. Her parents, Robert and Ella Burrows, were both Salvation Army majors.

She seemed destined for her job. Her parents named her after Evangeline Booth, daughter of the Salvation Army’s founder and the first woman chosen to be its international commander, serving from 1934 to 1939. And when her father, an evangelical preacher, rushed home from a Sunday service the morning she was born, he lifted his baby daughter and declared, “I dedicate this child to the glory of God and the salvation of the world.”

The eighth of nine children, General Burrows is survived by one sister, Margaret Southwell.

She grew up poor — “We shared the life of poverty of the people around us,” she said in a 1996 interview for the television show “Australian Biography” — and steeped in the teachings of a denomination rooted in the Methodist tradition.

She recalled playing the tambourine when she was 5 or 6 and rebelling — “flying my wings and wanting to be myself” — in high school, and she became the first in her family to attend a university, Queensland, majoring in English and history. She returned to the fold after she attended an evangelical service for young people and was invited to come forward to what is called the mercy seat. She knelt, asked God to forgive her rebelliousness and vowed to submit to his will.

“It was like being at an altar when you bring your gift to the altar,” she said in the television interview. “I brought myself, and from that time on there was no question in my mind that my life was to be devoted to God, and within the orbit of the Salvation Army. That’s, I suppose, what you mean by conviction.”

She considered the Salvation Army a vocation rather than a career and her commitment so unshakable that she decided not to marry.

She attended the Salvation Army’s William Booth Memorial Training College in London, and she was commissioned an officer in 1951. She trained teachers in what is now Zimbabwe, earned a master’s degree in education from Sydney University, ran social service programs for women in Britain and served as territorial commander in Sri Lanka, Scotland and Southern Australia before the army’s high council elected her its 13th general.

She was an outspoken critic of apartheid in South Africa, and she revamped the organization’s global leadership structure, imposed strict financial controls after a fraud scandal and conferred regularly with heads of state. She was so admired that her five-year term was extended by two years. During that time, she engineered the Salvation Army’s return to Russia, Czechoslovakia, East Germany and Hungary, where it had been banned under Communist rule.

Even after she retired in 1993, she continued working with homeless youth and leading Bible studies in Melbourne. She also served on the board of the International Bible Society.

General Burrows prided herself on her vitality, her vision and her ability to galvanize what were then an estimated 1.5 million adherents of the Salvation Army and 17,000 active officers in 90 nations.

“One of the big factors of leadership is to exude inspiration so that people want to follow,” she said in the television interview. “It’s a terrible thing when a leader looks behind and there’s no one coming.”

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