the whispers

Jan 6, 2016

By Carter Higgins

Nicholas Caldwell, co-founding member of one of our all-time favorite groups, The Whispers, has died at age 71 after a long battle with heart disease.

Caldwell was not only a mainstay in the group for its half century of hitmaking, he also wrote and produced many songs for The Whispers and for other artists, including Phil Perry. He fought a courageous battle against the dreaded disease, and, once it became public last July, fans of the group became prayer warriors, supporting the artist and his fight in a truly heartwarming way.

Nick caldwellCaldwell often considered himself a changed man for his development as a husband and a man of faith over the past two decades. He recounted his wilder younger days in an episode of TV One’s Unsung, and, with his wife beside him, talked of his conversion into a man who could be admired as much for how he lived his life as for his music.

Formed in LA in the early 60s, the Whispers have certainly taken a “slow and steady” career course in which they have quietly become one of the most successful modern soul groups. Consisting of twin brothers Walter and Wallace (Scotty) Scott, Nicholas Caldwell, Marcus Hutson and Leaveil Degree (who replaced departing member Gordy Harmon in 1973), the Whispers first recorded for local LA label Dore Records, hitting the pop and R&B charts with “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong” in 1970. They continued to be a mid level charting act throughout the ’70s on the Don Cornelius/Dick Griffey “Soul Train” label but gained momentum toward the end of the decade when Griffey, who was their manager, created his own SOLAR label and worked with the group on their SOLAR debut album Headlights, which scored a moderate hit with “Olivia.”

Here’s the famous video below:

After so many years, the Whispers seemed destined to remain a a middling act that would never achieve real large scale international attention. Then in 1980, Griffey teamed them with upcoming writer/producer Leon Sylvers, and the result was “And the Beat Goes On,” one of the most infectious songs of the disco era and the single that thrust the Whispers to the top tier of soul artists. “And the Beat Goes On” was included on the excellent Whispers album along with two other instant classics, the Caldwell-penned ballad “Lady” and “A Song For Donny,” a touching tribute to Donny Hathaway sung to the tune of Hathaway’s “This Christmas” (with lyrics by Whispers labelmate Carrie Lucas).

The 80s brought a string of monster soul chart success for the Whispers, with additional hits “It’s A Love Thing,” “Keep On Lovin Me” and “Tonight,” though crossover success was more limited. The group appeared to lose steam in the second half of the decade, but a hot dance tune written by then-unknown Deele member Babyface brought the Whispers back, as the excellent “Rock Steady” shot to the top of Pop, Soul and Dance charts. The group left Solar for Capitol in 1990 and continued to record soul hits through the mid-90s, garnering success with “Innocent,” “My Heart Your Heart” and “Is It Good To You.” Sadly, they lost group member Marcus Hutson in 2000.

After leaving Capitol, the group recorded a solid, but underappreciated 1997 album of Babyface covers. Songbook Vol. 1: The Songs of Babyface, for Interscope Records. It was nearly a decade before the issuance of their next album, the self-released For Your Ears Only, a surprise hit that topped the CDBaby independent CD charts for several weeks. In 2009, the Whispers issued their first Gospel album, Thankful, collaborating with Unified Tribe’s Magic Mendez as well as Fred Hammond, among others. The first song, “For Thou Art With Me,” hit radio in Summer 2009. The disc was a moderate hit, and the group followed later with a live album.

The Whispers continue to perform both alone and in multi-artist shows around the world, and fifty years after joining together they remained a model for consistency and unity in song. Caldwell’s death adds a sad chapter to an amazing group story.

Nicholas Caldwell was truly an incredible man, a dear friend and a one-of-a-kind artist. He will be terribly missed.

Take a look down memory lane with the video below:


Pat Harrington Jr. was a salesman pushing 30 when his big break finally came.

And big it was: A chance encounter with comedian Jonathan Winters in a New York bar got him not a tryout, not a bit role, but the most coveted stand-up gig a young comic could hope for: an appearance on “The Tonight Show” with Jack Paar.

Harrington walked out on that big network stage a complete unknown in 1959 and never held a job outside of performing again.

Though he still looked like a salesman — the Los Angeles Times described him at the time as “belonging to the gray-flannel-suit variety” — Harrington painstakingly built a series of ad-libbing roles on “The Tonight Show” and “The Steve Allen Show” into a six-decade career that included scores of credits for character parts. “That’s extraordinary in Hollywood,” said his agent, Phil Brock.

A decade and a half after his first TV break, Harrington was cast as building superintendent Dwayne F. Schneider on the television sitcom “One Day at a Time.” The role brought him fame and an Emmy and enshrined him in popular memory as the ever-present handyman in T-shirt and vest.

Harrington died in Los Angeles late Wednesday, said his son, Michael Harrington of Los Angeles. He was 86 and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and complications from a fall.

His television appearances read like a history of the medium: “The Steve Allen Show,” “Make Room for Daddy,” “The Jackie Gleason Show,” “Marcus Welby, M.D.,” “The Partridge Family,” “Love American Style” — all the way up to “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

But it was his performance as Schneider that sealed his image in the public’s mind as the obnoxious super with a heart. “One Day at a Time” was a topical Norman Lear effort that ran for nine seasons beginning in 1975. It struck a national nerve with its touching/comic treatment of a divorced woman and her struggles raising two daughters at a time when single mothers were rare on TV.

Harrington’s Schneider was an exasperating but loving hang-about, constantly in the family’s apartment, perennially with a pack of cigarettes jammed in the sleeve of his T-shirt, the lone male in an all-female home.

The character might have been drawn along more limited comic lines but for the way Harrington played it, said Brock.

“He dug deep … and did his homework,” Brock said. Harrington’s dedication to humanizing Schneider meant that the super’s role deepened as the series progressed, he said.

Schneider steadily gained heart and dimension and became ever more central to the lives of main character Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) and her daughters, played by Valerie Bertinelli and Mackenzie Phillips, Brock said. It was typical of Harrington, who “could be funny, but he also brought meaning to his roles,” he said.

The part won Harrington an Emmy in 1984 for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy series.

Daniel Patrick Harrington Jr. was born in New York on Aug. 13, 1929, the son of actor Daniel Patrick and Anne Francis Harrington.

His father, known as Pat Harrington Sr., was a well-known vaudevillian and cafe singer. He was determined that his son not endure the hardship of stage life and saw to it that Pat Harrington Jr. got a master’s degree in political philosophy from Fordham University and a straight job as a network time salesman for NBC, Michael Harrington said.

But the young Harrington had inherited his father’s comic bent. Plus, his son said, he’d grown up a “black Irish” kid in the ethnic maelstrom of Hell’s Kitchen, where a penchant for imitation and improvisation came with the territory.

He did an impression of an Italian character in a bar one night in front of Jonathan Winters, who, according to family lore, grabbed Harrington by the lapels and brought him on “The Tonight Show,” his son said.

Later, when he sought acting roles, Pat Harrington took himself back to school, seeking every kind of formal training he could. Stand-up was fun. But “when you’re acting, you gotta know what you’re doing, this is work,” he explained to a Times reporter at the time.

Harrington had four children with his first wife, Marge Harrington. They divorced in 1985, and he married Sally Cleaver, who survives him.

Some of his working years were lean, his son said. But for the most part, Harrington always worked.

It helped that his improv skills never left him, Brock said. Many of his lines in “One Day at a Time” were his own, thought up on the spot.

But collegiality was the other reason Harrington worked so long, Brock said. Though Harrington’s humor had an “Irish bite,” he “was a gentleman’s gentleman.… Actors wanted to be on set with him.”

Michael Harrington called his father a “dyed-in-the-wool liberal Democrat who loved the underdog” and said he’d been struck that the family was receiving many tributes from “guys on the crew.”

Harrington is also survived by sons Patrick Harrington III of Tucson and Terry Harrington of Los Angeles, and by daughter Tresa Harrington of Los Angeles.




January 9, 2016 8:46 AM

Picture taken in the 1950's shows Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the twin sister of the last shah of Iran, who was widely regarded as a talented diplomat and headed the Iranian delegation to the UN General Assembly for more than a decade
Picture taken in the 1950’s shows Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the twin sister of the last shah of Iran, who was widely regarded as a talented diplomat and headed the Iranian delegation to the UN General Assembly for more than a decade (AFP Photo/)

New York (AFP) – Princess Ashraf Pahlavi, the twin sister of Iran’s last shah, who has died at the age of 96, was a trailblazer for women’s rights who lived an opulent life that was never far from controversy.

Born in Tehran, she was considered a powerful force behind her brother and a sometimes fierce critic of him in private, playing an important role in domestic and international politics.

An official with the office of the shah’s son, her nephew Reza Pahlavi, told AFP in a statement the princess died in Monte Carlo on Thursday, noting that she had long suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Iranian media confirmed the death, with several outlets posting unflattering accounts of her private life alongside details of official posts she held under her brother’s rule.

The Islamic revolution of 1979 that toppled Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi transformed Iran and meant the princess never returned, a fact she had reflected on in her final days, her nephew said.

“She was thinking about Iran till the very last moments of her life, and she passed away with hopes for her homeland’s liberation,” wrote Reza Pahlavi in a Facebook tribute.

“May her soul find joy and the memory of her kind image last forever,” he said, noting her efforts for women’s rights, social welfare and campaigns for literacy in Iran and abroad.

“With a heart full of affection for her country, she made outstanding efforts,” added Pahlavi, who lives near Washington.

Three-times married, the princess is survived by a son, Prince Shahram, five grandchildren and several great grandchildren.

From exile she supported cultural, literary and artistic heritage projects that aimed to restore what she saw as their near desecration by Iran’s revolutionary rulers.

In the royal era, the princess was regarded as a talented diplomat, leading Iran’s delegation to the United Nations General Assembly for more than a decade.

On Saturday, IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, said she headed the country’s human rights committee, was chief of the Women’s Organisation of Iran and its representative to the UN human rights commission.

– Privilege, and tragedy –

The princess basked in her privilege and wealth, often pictured at the gaming tables of European casinos, but experienced family tragedy and survived an assassination attempt.

Shahriar Shafiq, her son from a second marriage was gunned down in front of the princess’s home in Paris in 1979, an assassination blamed on the new regime in Tehran.

Two years earlier, she walked away unhurt after her lady-in-waiting was killed and her driver wounded when gunmen fired on her Rolls-Royce as she left a casino in Cannes.

In “Faces in a Mirror: Memoirs from Exile”, she revealed an unhappy childhood, saying she was overlooked. Instead, she said her sister, Princess Shams, was more cherished by her parents and her brother was coveted, as he was destined for the throne.

In the book, published in 1980, she described herself as a rebel with a quick temper.

Vatan-e-Emrooz, a conservative daily in Iran, noted Saturday that the princess died exactly 80 years to the day after her father, Shah Reza Pahlavi, banned women in Muslim Iran from wearing the veil.

In a sign of the religious and political change, the wearing of at least a headscarf and loose clothing by women to cover their bodies was made mandatory after the revolution.

Princess Ashraf was considered a powerful spokeswoman and ally for her brother, leading to her forever being loathed by Iran’s religious rulers.

“In the Pahlavi era, there was no woman as influential in foreign and domestic policy as Ashraf. She played a major role in the coup,” Fars News Agency reported Saturday, referring to the 1953 overthrow of the country’s democratically elected nationalist Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.

The agency, affiliated with Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guards, said the US- and British-orchestrated coup that brought the princess’s brother to power led to Ashraf’s “interference” in international affairs.

“She went on numerous foreign trips on behalf of her brother and negotiated with governments hostile to Iran,” it said.

Stephen Kinzer, author of “All the Shah’s Men”, a book about the revolution, said of the princess: “Ashraf’s tongue-lashings of her brother were legendary, including one in the presence of foreign diplomats where she demanded that he prove he was a man or be revealed to all as a mouse.”





André Courrèges in the 1990s

André Courrèges in the 1990s

André Courrèges, who has died aged 92, was one of the most influential fashion designers of the 20th century; in the mid-1960s he changed the way women dressed, and did so almost overnight.

Courrèges’s “new look” swept the world in 1964 almost as dramatically as had that of Dior in 1947, but, unlike Dior, whose clothes evoked the opulence of a bygone age, Courrèges’s highly distinctive designs owed virtually nothing to tradition, instead they embraced the “Space Age”.

Often credited with inventing the miniskirt (although Mary Quant and John Bates have also been cited as its creator), Courrèges’s other innovations include the graphic A-line shift, the ribbed bodysuit, the short white go-go boot, the skinny-legged hip-hugger, and the trouser suit. He brought Modernism to clothing design and both fashionistas and women on the high street were dazzled by his futuristic vision. He was immediately touted as the designer for “tomorrow”.

André Courrèges was born on March 9 1923 in Pau in France’s Basque country. As a young man he was fascinated by everything to do with art, design and fashion and wished to become a painter, but his parents insisted on a more practical training and so he began his studies as a civil engineer. Bridges, however, could not sustain his interest for long and he switched midstream to architecture and textile design, finding work designing boots, shoes and men’s suits for a local tailor.

André Courrèges at his atelier in Paris

His career was temporarily halted by the war during which he served as a pilot in the French Air Force. He eventually arrived in Paris in 1945. There he worked briefly for a designer named Jeanne Lafaurie, but soon realised he needed to study under one of the great masters of couture. He waited until 1950 for a position to open up with Cristóbal Balenciaga, and remained with the Spanish maestro for 11 years, absorbing all he could about cut, quality and construction. These years taught him to be a serious, committed perfectionist, and he emerged not just a designer but a brilliant tailor.

In 1961 Courrèges opened his own salon at 48 Avenue Kleber, where his assistant was another ex-Balenciaga student, Coqueline Barrière, whom he married six years later. It was she who became responsible for his distinctive fashion shows, where in place of the sedate mannequins of the 1950s catwalk, a dozen bright, buzzing girls popped in and out of the room to the sound of jazz and musique concrète – the perfect complement to his fresh, young look. From his cramped white premises, reverberating with progressive jazz, he sprang into the future, using his “ascetic scissors” to deliver designs that were enchanting yet simple.

In 1963 he first introduced the trouser suit and with it the revolutionary notion that trousers could be worn by women as widely as they were by men. His trousers, however, were not based on men’s, but were stovepipe slim, slit to fit over the foot, and came to the top of the hip bone. Nor were they to be worn with the shirt tucked in. They came with slit-blacked tops that showed a sliver of midriff and a bra-less back.

André Courrèges at his atelier in Paris in the 1960s

André Courrèges at his atelier in Paris in the 1960s  Photo: AP

For grand occasions he gave them tops in sequins or in sheer organdy appliquéd with his own particular flowers – flat-petalled daisies. He accessorised them with chin-tied baby bonnets, slit-eyed opaque white sunglasses (later adorned with gigantic false eyelashes), short boots and wrist-length white kid gloves.

The miniskirt was introduced because Courrèges wished to put women into what he described as a “total-freedom suit”, a sort of ribbed-knit body stocking. But because not all women have perfect bottoms, and because he wished to introduce an element of fluidity, he topped these suits with a gaberdine hipster miniskirt. His battle cry was “elongate the legs” and over several seasons his skirts became shorter and shorter.

Courrèges had broken the fashion plate. All his clothes were designed for the modern woman’s modern life. They were meant to allow complete ease of movement – to run, sit down, get in and out of cars with comfort.

It was in 1964 that he reigned over the fashion world with his “Space Age” collection, and the following year after his miniskirt collection of 1965 he was copied worldwide. Women’s Wear Daily called him the “Le Corbusier of Paris Couture” and his clothes were embraced by Lee Radziwill, Margaret Trudeau, the Baroness de Rothschild and Princess Ira von Fürstenberg.

He was furious at what he considered plagiarism by others, however, and retired from public life for a period, devoting himself to his couture clients. In future, he decided, no one could profit by stealing his designs because he himself would have ready-to-wear lines available all over the world. While preparing to move from premises that were too small, he showed only a smallish collection to his regular clientele.

Courrèges with models wearing some of his futuristic designs

Courrèges with models wearing some of his futuristic designs

In 1967, having already bared the leg, arm and midriff, Courrèges began to experiment with transparency, making minidresses and jumpsuits in see-through organza ornamented with judiciously placed vinyl or sequinned flowers and circles. One pair of pants was shown with no top at all, just a pair of “flower power” patches.

His fame and his power in the fashion industry endured throughout the 1960s, but in the 1970s when fashion became floppy and folksy, Courrèges went out of style. He did, however, branch out into perfumes, creating several fragrances, including Eau de Courrèges, Empreinte and Courrèges pour homme.

The fashion house he had set up changed ownership several times and in 1983 Japanese investors moved in with a 65 per cent stake. In 1985 he stopped producing a couture collection altogether. But in the early 1990s, with a 1960s revival in full swing, and renewed backing from a French venture capital company, Courrèges began taking his futuristic fashions forward into the 21st century. His company was eventually sold to Jacques Bungert and Frédéric Torloting, two advertising executives, in 2011. “When the feeling of a brand is respected,” Bungert said, “it can be reborn without losing its integrity.”

One of Courrèges outfits being modelled in 1970

One of Courrèges outfits being modelled in 1970  Photo: AFP

A tall, thin, angular man, Courrèges had none of the egomania generally associated with the world in which he moved. On the contrary, he was shy, quiet and diffident, a man who saw himself as an artist rather than a businessman. When his career as a couturier was interrupted he quite happily took up sculpting and painting. “If my subject happens to be a woman, maybe I’d make her a dress,” he once noted. “But sometimes a dress isn’t able to communicate all the emotions that I wish to convey. So I try to express my ideas through other mediums.”

Fit and athletic – in his youth he had been a keen rugby player, mountaineer and pelota enthusiast – he continued to be the epitome of stylish youthfulness, wearing his customary uniform of sugar-pink cord trousers, polo shirt, sweater and trainers well into old age.

He is survived by his wife and their daughter.



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