GIL HILL, FORMER DETROIT CITY COUNCIL AND ACTOR IN ‘BEVERLY HILLS COP’
Mark Hicks, The Detroit News 9:35 p.m. EST March 2, 2016
Gil Hill, a former Detroit City Council president whose role as a frustrated police inspector to Eddie Murphy’s street-smart character in “Beverly Hills Cop” films made him a movie star, has died.
The former longtime city official passed away Monday at DMC Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit, spokeswoman Bree Glenn said.
A cause of death and other details were not released. He was 84, according to public records. Hill had been in critical condition at the hospital late last month.
“Gil had been recently hospitalized and was on the road to recovery,” family spokesman Chris Jackson said. “We are relieved that his passing was peaceful and painless.”
For decades, long before his big screen appearances, Hill was a civic leader.
“Gil Hill spent more than 40 years serving our city in the Detroit Police Department and as a member of the Detroit City Council,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said. “He never stopped believing in our city, and dedicated his life to making our city a better place for all. Our condolences go out to his family.”
In his 30 years on the Detroit Police Department, Hill held various leadership posts, including head of the homicide division.
“As a rookie deputy I developed a professional relationship with Gil,” said Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, a former Detroit police chief and county sheriff. “Our friendship grew as I continued my career in law enforcement and he was always encouraging and supportive of my development.
Hill was elected to the City Council in 1989 and became its president by securing the largest number of votes in the 1997 election.
He left a lasting impact on the city, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said.
“We’ve lost a true supporter of the city and its people. I deeply valued Gil’s friendship, guidance, his law enforcement prowess and his affinity for the city he adopted and never left following his military experience,” Napoleon said. “He epitomized public service because there was never a barometer in his eyes as to how people should be treated. He treated everyone the same — with respect and concern. My condolences to his family, loved ones and friends — he will truly be missed.”
Among his achievements during his tenure: drafting an ordinance, the Fare Reduction and Elimination Initiative, which allowed senior citizens to ride city buses free and students to travel at a reduced rate; and creating a task force to help the auto industry deal with a personnel shortage driven by retirements.
In 2000, Hill led a partnership between the council and then-Mayor Dennis Archer to create the Commercial Strip Revitalization Project, which helped link federal funds with community groups to spur business development in neighborhoods.
“There were a lot of issues which we jointly worked on that he championed and thought were invaluable in terms of creating an opportunity for the citizens of the city of Detroit to benefit from,” Archer said. “He worked very hard, at least in my view, to demonstrate his love and affection for our citizens.”
As a councilman, Hill supported casino gambling in the city and helped broker deals for new baseball and football stadiums downtown.
Hill, who in addition to his council duties sat on the board of the city’s Policeman and Fireman Retirement System, also was known for regular visits to neighborhood churches and fielding phone calls from residents.
“He was a person who had a deep commitment to the people of the city,” former council member Sheila Cockrel said. “He had an understanding for the average Detroiter’s experience. He was fair. He was a quiet kind of leader in that he really allowed all of the voices on council to be heard.”
In 2001, shortly before narrowly losing to Kwame Kilpatrick in the mayor’s race, Hill described to The News his personal approach.
“The only thing that’s saved me through the years is the fact that I’ve been grounded,” he said.
In 2003, Hill lost to former Detroit NAACP executive JoAnn Watson in an election to fill an empty seat on the City Council.
“Gil Hill was an honest and good man who cared deeply for the city of Detroit, and spent most of his life working to improve it,” said Agustin Arbulu, director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. “In turn, the city of Detroit loved him.”
A Birmingham, Alabama, native, Hill attended Cardoza High School in Washington, D.C., and in 1953 moved to Detroit, where he later joined the police academy.
Though Hill enjoyed a long career in public service and had a daily radio talk show, his most prominent role may have been the cursing, finger-pointing Detroit police Inspector Douglas Todd, the boss whom Murphy’s character, Axel Foley, in the “Beverly Hills Cop” series was perpetually exasperating.
“He was clearly a very charismatic, interesting and authentic Detroit presence,” Cockrel said Monday. “I think he’ll be remembered for that.”
Despite the fame he gained through the silver-screen appearances, Hill remained humble, said Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, a longtime friend. “To be able to have that role and after that filming to go back to who he was, you would’ve never known he had that prestigious role and access to Hollywood.”
He was married and had three children as well as grandchildren, according to The News’ archives.
A public viewing will be 12-8 p.m. March 10 and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 11 at Swanson Funeral Home, 14751 W. McNichols, Detroit. Family hour will be at 11 a.m. March 12, followed by a funeral service at noon at St. Philips Lutheran Church, 2884 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit. Interment will be at Trinity Cemetery in Detroit.
Even after leaving public office, Hill “chose to stay right here in the city of Detroit,” Ellis said. “He was somebody who was a part of the people.”
In 1994, Hill told The News he was cast in the first “Beverly Hills Cop” movie after a location scout team visited him a decade earlier at the police department homicide section. “(Director Martin) Brest just told me, ‘There’s a part in this movie that fits you perfectly,’ ” Hill said. “And I just said, `Sure, pal.’ ”
Hill had the first script reading in his own office then again at the St. Regis Hotel; he learned about gaining the part about two weeks later, The News reported.
In all three films he was in, Hill briefly appears before a special case sends Murphy’s character from his Detroit base to California. Todd, who was killed off early in the third film, often would erupt with expletives due to Foley’s rule-bending investigative methods.
“I’ll be honest with you. If I had received a break like that in my 20s or 30s, I’d have been gone. No question about it, I’d have been gone,” Hill told The News. “Acting certainly has its rewards, and not just monetary. It’s your ego, your esteem. It’s just fabulous. The only thing I’d have worried about is to be sure I had the will to learn the craft.
“Actors work hard. It’s a tremendously difficult profession. But if you become proficient and you have a little star quality about you, then you can live like a king.”
Author Pat Conroy at a benefit reading for actor Frank Muller in 2002 in New York City. Jeffrey Vock/Getty Images hide caption
Pat Conroy, the beloved author of The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline and The Prince of Tides, has died. Conroy — who announced last month that he had pancreatic cancer — died Friday night at his home among his family in Beaufort, S.C. He was 70 years old.
Pat Conroy was a master storyteller, blending the raw material of his difficult family life with the landscape of coastal South Carolina. In 1986, Conroy told me that the reason he wrote was to explain his own life to himself.
“Writing has been not therapeutic for me, but it has been essential,” he said in an interview for Morning Edition. “I have written about my mother, my father, my family … and if I get it on paper, I have named the demon.”
Conroy’s best known work is The Prince of Tides, a novel about a troubled South Carolina native recounting his story to a New York psychiatrist.
The prologue begins: “My wound is geography.”
I was born and raised on a Carolina sea island and I carried the sunshine of the low country, inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders. As a boy I was happy above the channels, navigating a small boat between the sandbars with their quiet nation of oysters exposed on the brown flats at the low watermark.
Nan Talese was Pat Conroy’s editor for the past 35 years, beginning with The Prince of Tides — a span that saw Conroy’s book sales rise to a total of 20 million copies worldwide.
She recalled the first thing he said to her when they met. “He said, ‘I will tell you, if there are ten words for something, I will use all ten. Your job is to take them out.'”
Talese said Conroy touched people with his language and his honesty.
“His incredible sense of empathy with people. … I think that his books influenced a lot of people because he was so open and honest. And it really struck their hearts.”
Pat Conroy was born in 1945 in Atlanta. He was a self-described “military brat.” His family moved every year until they settled in Beaufort when he was 12.
In his 1976 book The Great Santini, Conroy wrote about his relationship with his abusive father, a Marine aviator. In the 1979 film version of the story, the father is played by Robert Duvall. In one scene, he addresses his four young children after a move, as if they are soldiers under his command.
After high school, Pat Conroy’s father sent his oldest son to The Citadel, Charleston’s storied military academy, where Pat began to write fiction. Conroy said his natural storytelling ability was never affected by literary theory.
“I missed all the classes in the art of fiction,” Conroy said in 1986. “We didn’t have any. I’m great on military science. But I missed all the classes on ‘Is this a great technique for fiction?’ I never learned any of that stuff.”
His education as a writer came elsewhere.
“I came from a family of great storytellers,” he said. “That is something about the South I think has been preserved. The yarn, the story, and the ability to tell one well, is a beloved trait in several of my uncles and aunts. And a great story changes the world for you — changes the way you look at life.”
Pat Conroy said he looked for stories that told something about the world that he didn’t know before.
And he said he faced challenges along the way. “The one thing I’ve had is a very painful life filled with utter moments of great joy. Things happen to me for reasons I cannot figure out. And things have continued to happen to me all my life, and happen to my family all my life, and now happen to my friends. … What I hope is that I don’t die before I can tell all the stories I still haven’t told.”
Conroy was telling those stories until the end. Before he died he finished a short novel called Aquarius, set in the Vietnam era, and dedicated to his “friends who become teachers.”
Collins, a longtime columnist for The Boston Globe and an analyst for CBS, NBC, ESPN and the Tennis Channel, was best known not only for his commentary during NBC’s Breakfast at Wimbledon broadcast live on weekend mornings but also for his lively pants and bow ties, sometimes yellow, sometimes purple, always vibrant.
In his remembrance of Collins, NPR’s Only A Game host Bill Littlefield wrote:
“He was almost as well-known for his sartorial splendor — more specifically for the gaudy pants that became a kind of trademark. In our conversation during the 2002 French Open, I mentioned to Bud that one of the players, Jeff Grant, had noted Bud’s trousers.
” ‘I think he had some kind of green and pink pastel with some flowers,’ Grant told me. ‘Vintage Bud.’
“I asked Bud for comment, and he responded, ‘I can categorically state that I have been paid by no one to wear anything. And no one would pay me to wear anything, and most people are surprised when I even pay for those creations.’ ”
The pants were his “trademark and a symbol of the gusto he brought to his reporting,” NPR’s Tom Goldman reports.
“Collins wrote several tennis encyclopedia, and coached tennis at Brandeis University where one of his players was future activist Abbie Hoffman,” Tom says. “But it was his years of tennis columns and commentary that defined his career.”
“In newspaper columns and as a TV commentator, Mr. Collins provided the sport with its most authoritative voice, and he also wrote a tennis encyclopedia and a history of the game, all while remaining one of the most congenial people anyone met courtside or in the press box.”
“Few people have had the historical significance, the lasting impact and the unqualified love for tennis as Bud Collins,” tennis legend Billie Jean King tweeted. “He was an outstanding journalist, an entertaining broadcaster and as our historian he never let us forget or take for granted the rich history of our sport. I will miss him and I will always cherish our memories of our journeys together.”
The New York Timeswrote that “while he focused on tennis, he mused about anything that caught his eye” and covered combat in the Vietnam War. The paper adds:
“Mr. Collins was much the showman. He often quoted his imaginary Uncle Studley’s reflections on tennis. Steffi Graf was ‘Fraulein Forehand,’ Bjorn Borg was ‘the Angelic Assassin’ and the hard-serving Venus and Serena Williams were ‘Sisters Sledgehammer.’ He considered himself the representative of the everyday player, or the hacker, as he put it.”
Collins’ role as a tennis commentator had been limited in recent years as his health failed, but last year he attended the U.S. Open in New York, where the media center was dedicated and named in his honor.
“Mrs. Reagan will be buried at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, next to her husband, Ronald Wilson Reagan, who died on June 5, 2004,” Drake wrote in a statement.
“Prior to the funeral service, there will be an opportunity for members of the public to pay their respects at the Library.”
“It is a very sad day,” former Ronald Reagan Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein told NBC News. “Every time she was in the room, he was better, and every time he was in the room she was better. She brought a sense of class and dignity and elegance that everybody admired.”
Her step-son Michael Reagan posted on Facebook: “She is once again with the man she loved. God Bless.”
“We remain grateful for Nancy Reagan’s life, thankful for her guidance, and prayerful that she and her beloved husband are together again,” President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama said in a statement.
Barbara Bush, another influential former first lady, said in a statement: “Nancy Reagan was totally devoted to President Reagan, and we take comfort that they will be reunited once more. George and I send our prayers and condolences to her family.”
Reagan was also a Girl Scout and named honorary president of the Girl Scouts as first lady. The Girl Scouts of America said in a statement that Reagan would be remembered for her “courage, confidence and character.”
In lieu of flowers, Mrs. Reagan asked that contributions be made to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Foundation at www.reaganlibrary.com, Drake said.
Nancy Reagan was born in New York City and when she was six her mother, Edith, a stage actress, married Dr. Loyal Davis, a neurosurgeon. The doctor adopted Nancy and she grew up in Chicago. She later attended Smith College in Massachusetts, where she majored in theater.
She needed to talk to him because her name had been wrongly included on a published list of suspected communist sympathizers. They discussed it over dinner, and she later wrote that she realized on that first blind date “he was everything that I wanted.”
They wed on March 4, 1952. Daughter Patti was born in October of that year and son Ron followed in 1958. Reagan already had a daughter, Maureen, and an adopted son, Michael, from his marriage to actress Jane Wyman.
Their marriage lasted 52 years, until Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004.
While Ronald Reagan was governor of California from 1967 to 1975, Nancy Reagan worked with numerous charitable groups, and spent hours visiting veterans, the elderly, and the emotionally and physically handicapped.
“The movies were custard compared to politics,” Mrs. Reagan once said.
When her husband became president of the United States, First Lady Reagan continued her interest in these groups continued, and arguably became best known for her “Just Say No” program fighting against drug abuse among youth.
When Ronald was shot in 1981 by a would-be assassin, Nancy rushed to his side immediately, and later endured his nearly decade-long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
In recent years she broke with fellow Republicans in backing stem cell research as a way to possibly find a cure for Alzheimer’s.
In announcing his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1994, Reagan wrote, “I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience.”
Ten years later, as his body lay in state in the U.S. Capitol, Mrs. Reagan caressed and gently kissed the flag-draped casket.
“Nancy and Ronald Reagan were one of the great love stories of the American presidency,” said Craig Shirley, Ronald Reagan biographer and presidential historian. “During the 1980 campaign, Governor Reagan was asked if Nancy Reagan would have a cause if he won and he joked, ‘Probably me, mostly.'”
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