IN REMEMBRANCE: 3-27-2016

PHIFE DAWG: RAPPER WHO WITH A TRIBE CALLED QUEST BROUGHT A SOPHISTICATED AND SOCIALLY AWARE SENSIBILITY TO HIP-HOP

A Tribe Called Quest produced five albums from 1990 to 1998, becoming one of hip-hop’s most popular groups

 

Malik Taylor, the rap artist known as Phife Dawg, who has died of complications from diabetes, was a founding member of the pioneering group A Tribe Called Quest, who helped bring new elements of social awareness and musical sophistication to the hip-hop form.

Taylor joined Q-Tip (born Jonathan Davis), a childhood friend from Queens, to form the band in the late 1980s. They were the group’s complementary and competitive MCs, or principal onstage presences, and were supported by the group’s two other original members, DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Jarobi White.

Taylor, who was sometimes known as the “Five-Foot Assassin” for his diminutive size, provided a high-pitched, keening vocal contrast to the smoother style of Q-Tip. A Tribe Called Quest produced five albums from 1990 to 1998, becoming one of hip-hop’s most popular groups. The quartet’s top-selling hit singles included “Can I Kick It?”, “Check the Rhime”, “Jazz (We’ve Got)”, “Award Tour” and “Bonita Applebum”.

Tribe, were fans often called the group, was considered a seminal influence on such later stars such as Kanye West. Among other things, Tribe introduced a sense of playfulness, irony and social awareness to the music, in contrast to much of the violent and misogynistic posturing then popular in hip-hop.

“A Tribe Called Quest is not talking about your average gangsta,” Taylor said in 1994. “That’s just not what we do.” The group’s lyrics, written largely by Q-Tip and Taylor, addressed such sensitive topics as date rape, religious faith, human rights, police harassment and use of the N-word by African American youths. Taylor touched on several weighty subjects in just a few lines of “We Can Get Down,” from the 1993 album “Midnight Marauders,” which many considered the group’s finest effort: “We rap about what we see, meaning reality / From people bustin’ caps and like Mandela being free / Not every MC be with the negativity / We have a slew of rappers pushin’ positivity.”

The relationship between Taylor and Q-Tip turned fractious and helped contribute to the group’s break-up in 1998. Both embarked on solo careers, but the charismatic Q-Tip found much greater success; Taylor took a snarling swipe at him in his 2000 single “Flawless”.

Malik Taylor was bornin 1970, in Queens and was close friends with Q-Tip from the age of two. By their mid-teens, the two were rhyming together and formed an early version of A Tribe Called Quest. Their first album, People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, appeared in 1990, followed by The Low End Theory in 1991 and Midnight Marauders (which went platinum) in 1993. Two other albums, Beats, Rhymes and Life and The Love Movement, appeared in 1996 and 1998.

In addition to socially conscious lyrics, A Tribe Called Quest were known for their innovative musical approach, including the layering of rhythms and wide-ranging sampling from jazz and other genres. Snippets from Cannonball Adderley, Little Feat, Grover Washington Jnr, the Average White Band and other sources can be heard. “We were all being labelled as bohemian rap, jazz fusion and all kinds of things,” Taylor said in 2001, “but it’s not that we were trying to be different from everyone else; we were just trying to be ourselves.”

In the 1990s, A Tribe Called Quest became linked with a group of culturally aware East Coast hip-hop artists including De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, Monie Love and Queen Latifah. The loose collective known as the Native Tongues extended the aesthetic and intellectual boundaries of the genre.

Taylor moved to Atlanta in 1994 and later to California. He struggled with diabetes for more than 20 years and received a kidney transplant from his wife in 2008. A Tribe Called Quest had occasional reunions, most recently on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show in November 2015. The group re-released their debut album last year, with some tracks remixed by Pharrell Williams, Cee Lo Green and J Cole.

Michael Rapaport’s 2011 documentary, Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, delved into the bitter split between the two lead performers; Taylor was said to be in tears watching the premiere.

Malik Isaac Taylor (Phife Dawg), rapper: born New York 20 November 1970; died Oakley, California 22 March 2016.

SOURCE

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EARL HAMNER, JR., CREATOR OF ‘THE WALTONS’

Earl Hamner Jr. and son Scott Hamner attend the 40th-anniversary reunion of The Waltons in Los Angeles in 2012. Tibrina Hobson/WireImage

 

Earl Hamner Jr., who created the popular television series The Waltons, has died at 92. His son Scott announced on Facebook that Hamner had been suffering from cancer, and died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Thursday.

The Waltons was based on Hamner’s novel, Spencer’s Mountain, which was in turn inspired by Hamner’s childhood in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia during the Great Depression.

The cast of the TV show The Waltons, created by Earl Hamner Jr.

The cast of the TV show The Waltons, created by Earl Hamner Jr. CBS Photo Archive/CBS via Getty Images

 

The television show ran for nine seasons on CBS, and featured Richard Thomas as John Boy Walton, an aspiring writer who represented Hamner. John Boy was surrounded by his parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters and the larger community of Walton’s Mountain, people living good lives under trying economic conditions.

The show often ended with one of the family members drifting off to sleep with the words, “Good night, John Boy,” and an off-camera narration by Hamner himself.

Scott Hamner says of his father’s final moments:

“He was surrounded by family, and we were playing his favorite music, John Denver’s Rocky Mountain Collection. Dad took his last breath halfway through Rocky Mountain High.”

SOURCE

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DAVID SMYRL, MR. HANDFORD ON ‘SESAME STREET’

David Smyrl, the Emmy-winning actor best known for his role as Mr. Handford, the retired firefighter who ran Hooper’s Store on “Sesame Street,” has died. He was 80.

Smyrl was diagnosed with lung cancer in January, said his wife, Cheryl. He died Tuesday at Lankenau Medical Center outside Philadelphia.

David Smryl as Mr. Handford on “Sesame Street.” Sesame Workshop

“He was funny,” Cheryl Smyrl said. “I could say so many good things about him. He was loved by so many people. He was a mentor to a lot of children. He was a family man, loyal, true and faithful.”

A north Philadelphia native born on Sept. 12, 1935, Smyrl performed as a poet in Greenwich Village in the 1960s, his wife said. His television career also began in New York in the 1970s, on the show “Express Yourself.”

Smyrl moved to California to work on the sitcom “Benson” in the 1970s, where he earned him a People’s Choice Award. He also worked as a writer and actor on “The Cosby Show,” playing contractor Sam Lucas.

From 1990 to 1998, Smyrl played the smiling, singing store-owner on “Sesame Street.” He succeeded Leonard Jackson, who played a grumpier Handford.

Smyrl had won the job by acting out a script where he had returned from fighting a fire, worn out, and talked of retiring and buying a little store, according to a 1997 story in the Record-Journal, a Connecticut newspaper.

“You get to act stupid,” Smyrl told the newspaper. “It’s fun! I get to do fun things like dance with Gloria Estefan.”

He enjoyed the role, because he loved children, Cheryl Smyrl said.

 Cheryl and David Smyrl met in 1975 and were friends for many years before they married in April 1992. Smyrl is also survived by his stepson, Pancho Scott.
A funeral is scheduled for Monday.

SOURCE

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GARRY SHANDLING: THE FAKE-HOST WITH THE MOST

The stand-up comic was a brilliant ‘Tonight Show’ substitute — and created one of TV’s greatest egomaniacal talk-show hosts ever

By March 24, 2016

Garry Shandling; Appreciation; obit
Garry Shandling, star of ‘The Larry Sanders Show’ and ‘It’s Garry Shandling’s Show.’ The comedian passed away from a heart attack at age 66. HBO/Photofest

R.I.P. to the one of the all-time comedy greats, Garry Shandling, who died suddenly of a heart attack today. Shandling created one of the most unforgettable monsters in TV history on The Larry Sanders Show, the legendary Nineties cult sitcom where he played a late-night talk-show host with an all-devouring ego and not a glimmer of compassion. Talk about ahead of its time: It pioneered the whole whiplash-fast “room full of bitter adults abusing each other at the same time” bile of sitcoms like Veep or Arrested Development. Larry was a creature of the Hollywood smarm factory, surrounded by a nonstop toxic atmosphere: the whole ass-kissing, back-stabbing, ego-fluffing backstage menagerie.

Everybody on The Larry Sanders Show was a demented egomaniac; Larry was merely the most insufferable. Everybody hated him, though nobody hated Larry quite as much as Larry did. “I have a real problem,” he ranted in one episode. “Twenty people could say they liked me, Artie, and I’m telling you I’d still be thinking 17 of them are lying, two of them probably have severe emotional problems and one of them is probably confusing me with Larry King.”

Just watch him on the set with guest Robin Williams. During the ad break, they sit there uncomfortably, as Robin asks Larry if he should keep going with the jokes about his kid’s penis. Jeffrey Tambor, as sidekick Hank, does what he can to make things worse by asking for an autograph. (“That’s Mork with a K, right?”) It’s basic human vanity at its most naked and frail. Shandling made this character hilariously loathsome, but also vulnerable, because there’s a little (or a lot) of Larry Sanders in everyone.

Part of what gave The Larry Sanders Show its bite is that Garry Shandling was very much a product of this smarm factory he was satirizing. He got his start in the 1970s as a writer on classic Me-Decade sitcoms like Welcome Back, Kotter (the “Horshack vs. Carvelli” boxing-match episode where the sweathogs learn a valuable lesson about courage) and Sanford and Son. He cowrote the fan-fave “Committee Man” episode where Fred G. Sanford is chosen to represent the businessmen of Watts on the mayor’s community relations committee. (“Do you frequent the library?” “No, but I once had a freaky time in the back of a bookmobile.”)

Shandling really made his name when he moved on to stand-up and became one of Johnny Carson’s favorite comics, regularly standing in as guest host on The Tonight Show. His Eighties sitcom It’s Garry Shandling’s Show was perhaps too Eighties for the Eighties, with Shandling not just playing himself but routinely addressing the camera about what a terrible sitcom this was. The theme song went, “This is the theme to Garry’s show / Garry called me up and asked if I would write his theme song.” In one episode he invited the studio audience to make themselves at home in his apartment while he’s away. (He’s stepping out to take a Cub Scout to a baseball game, where a foul ball in the face ruins the kid’s life.) When he returns he discovers the audience threw a party, trashed his place and stole his money. How did this sitcom manage to last four seasons? It was the Reagan era. And it was on Showtime.

But he really displayed his genius with The Larry Sanders Show, which became a word-of-mouth cult phenomenon on HBO in 1992, and has just kept getting more influential since then. Larry Sanders didn’t look like other shows at the time — single camera, no laugh track. (Seinfeld looked like Happy Days in comparison.) The show-within-the-show was a scrupulously accurate reproduction of a painful after-hours schoozefest. The actual talk-show guests would show up playing themselves, whether that meant Gene Siskel and John Ritter getting into a backstage brawl or fighting with William Shatner on speakerphone.

What a crew: Rip Torn’s producer Artie, Jeffrey Tambor’s sidekick Hank, the then-barely-known Janeane Garofalo as the booker Paula. So many up and comers — Bob Odenkirk, Jeremy Piven, Sarah Silverman, Dave Chappelle — passed through for high-visibility appearances, while future legends like Judd Apatow honed their chops behind the scenes.

The Hollywood windbag playing an exaggerated version of himself has always been a TV staple, from Jack Benny and George Burns to Larry David and Louis C.K. Shandling brought loathsomeness to the character, yet also vulnerability, because there’s a little (or a lot) of Larry in everyone. Larry wasn’t merely a demented egomaniac — he was the kind who was so good at it, he built himself a private world where everybody was a demented egomaniac, so he never had to come in contact with any normals ever, which meant in a sense that he’d found himself a home. The cultural context of Larry Sanders, which ran through 1998, was the Nineties late-night wars of Jay Leno vs. David Letterman vs. Arsenio Hall (vs. eventually Chevy Chase and Magic Johnson and Jon Stewart … there were lots of them). There was an unbelievably sacrosanct bubble of cultural hot air around the idea of the late-night chat-show host as some kind of cultural spokesman. Shandling took care of that.

In 1996 he appeared on the MTV Movie Awards, the year it was co-hosted by Janeane Garofalo, who became a star on The Larry Sanders Show. She introduced him simply with the words from an old song: “How do you thank someone for taking you from crayons to perfume? It isn’t easy, but I’ll try.” It was a genuinely poignant moment. And then Shandling came out and punctured it by presenting the award for Best Sandwich in a Movie. He announced, “I’m a little nervous because I had sex with the turkey club when it auditioned for The Larry Sanders Show.” Garry Shandling, ladies and gentleman. Goodbye to one of the true masters.

SOURCE

GARY SHANDLING: AN APPRECIATION IN CLIPS

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KEN HOWARD, COACH ON BELOVED BUT DOOMED ‘WHITE SHADOW’

March 24, 2016

By Justin Moyer

He was a tall white man from Long Island nicknamed “the white shadow” who grew up playing basketball with African American players — and then starred in “The White Shadow,” a once beloved, but often overlooked show about a former NBA player who coaches a mostly minority team in South Central Los Angeles. The show was to have a hard edge and no gimmicks.

“It’ll just be good,” Ken Howard told the Post in 1979. “No murders, gang fights or car chases. It can be colorful, true to life, and still have action. The basketball games will be our car chases. We can deal with some difficult social issues. Sports is a terrific metaphor that’s hardly been touched on TV. It’s an open-ended premise. Your only limitation is your imagination.”

Now, Howard is gone. His death was announced in a statement from the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the union which he served as president starting in 2009. He was 71; though Howard had battled kidney problems in the past, no cause of death was given.

“Ken was an inspirational leader, and it is an incredible loss for SAG-AFTRA, for his family and for everyone who knew him,” SAG-AFTRA acting President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement, as the Los Angeles Times reported. “He was a light that never dimmed and was completely devoted to the membership. He led us through tumultuous times and set our union on a steady course of excellence. We will be forever in his debt.”

George Clooney, who said Howard gave him a ride early in his career when the future superstar didn’t have a car, also offered a tribute to People.

“Today his obituary read that he was six foot six, but he was so much taller than that,” Clooney said.

Howard was born in California in 1944, as the Associated Press noted, and grew up in Long Island. His early life as “the white shadow” helped him prep for “The White Shadow” — as did a stint at the Yale School of Drama cut short for Broadway, where he won a Tony playing a gym coach in “Child’s Play” (1970).

“I grew up playing for Manhasset High on Long Island on a team with six black guys,” Howard said. “I loved that outrageous, creative style of city ball. ‘Logic is the death of art,’ they taught me at Yale. Maybe in basketball, too.”

Though “The White Shadow” aired from 1978-1981 — an era of television more remembered for “The Love Boat” than for social drama — it didn’t pull punches. Sure, the show had a funky theme song and the Harlem Globetrotters guest-starred, but it wasn’t afraid to get heavy. Steven Bochco, later of “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A. Law,” even wrote an episode: “Pregnant Pause,” in which a player gets a girl pregnant and, when she initially says she doesn’t want an abortion, must decide whether to give up basketball.

“Quit basketball?” Howard’s character — Coach Ken Reeves, with whom he shared a first name — incredulously intoned. “Which we both know is your ticket out of here?”

The director of the show’s pilot won an Emmy, and it was nominated for Outstanding Drama Series — just some of the praise heaped upon it in some quarters.

“It has whites and blacks confronting each other in sometimes hostile situations and, unlike such programs as ‘Diff’rent Strokes,’ doesn’t gloss over the conflict with sentimental and unrealistic solutions,” the Globe and Mail wrote in 1979. “Certainly not the type of show that normally survives in the ratings.”

With the story of a white man saving — at least in some sense — black teens came unavoidable questions of authenticity. Was “The White Shadow” merely exploiting young men of color to tell a white man’s story? “The danger of Reeves patronizing his young inner-city kids, or of the show exploiting them for stereotypical racial jocks is a constant problem,” The Post noted at the time. The paper even asked a lauded Hoyas coach not known for shrinking from racial controversy to weigh in.

“I’ve only watched the show twice, “ said Georgetown University Coach John Thompson. “I’m a little jittery and undecided about it and I think a lot of other blacks are, too. It’s good entertainment but I’ll reserve judgment on whether it’s good social education or not.”

Howard said the show was at least, to mix a sports metaphor, swinging for the fences.

“Of course, we’re aware of the problem,” said Howard. “Reeves represents what we aspire to be, not what we are.”

 

“We actors are so thrilled with the amazing success of cable television and the advent of new media,” he said during his acceptance speech, “and can barely wait to renegotiate.”

As SAG president, Howard was known as a moderate. He narrowly won re-election in 2015 as actors fretted about how video streaming affected their royalties.

“This election is critical to your future as a performer and as a union member,” he said during his campaign. “There are those who want to lead our union who are making lots of empty promises … promises squarely at odds with the divisive positions they have taken for years. Worse, they want you to believe their hollow rhetoric is the same as actual results.” He added: “At this moment in our union’s history — a time of profound change — it is more crucial than ever to elect leaders who deliver tangible results, not just empty promises.”

During his Emmy speech in 2009, Howard also thanked Jeannie Epper, the “Wonder Woman” stuntwoman who donated a kidney to him in 2000 after he had battled health problems for nearly a decade.

“It’s very humbling when someone gives you a part of themselves to keep you alive,” he said during later said. “Thankful doesn’t seem to quite make it.”

 

SOURCE

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JOE GARAGIOLA, LEGENDARY BASEBALL ANNOUNCER

MARCH 23, 2016, ESPN

Joe Garagiola’s nine-year baseball career was a modest one. His 57 years in broadcasting that followed made him one of the most popular figures in the sports world and beyond.

The man Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall called “one of the biggest personalities this game has ever seen” died Wednesday. He was 90.

The Diamondbacks announced Garagiola’s death before their exhibition game against San Francisco, and there were murmurs of shock and sadness at the ballpark. He had been in ill health in recent years.

Growing up in the Hill neighborhood of St. Louis not far from future Hall of Famer Yogi Berra, Garagiola went on to hit .257 during nine years in the majors. His highlight came early, getting a four-hit game in the 1946 World Series and helping the hometown Cardinals win the championship as a 20-year-old rookie.

“Not only was I not the best catcher in the major leagues, I wasn’t even the best catcher on my street,” Garagiola once remarked.

But it was after he stopped playing that his fortunes took off. He thrived as a glib baseball broadcaster and fixture on the “Today” show, leading to a nearly 30-year association with NBC.

Editor’s Picks

Joe Garagiola Sr. was part of growing up a baseball fan for many

Joe Garagiola Sr., who died Wednesday at age 90, brought fun to baseball broadcasting.

Garagiola was the play-by-play voice of baseball for NBC for nearly 30 years, beginning in 1961. He worked alongside Curt Gowdy, Tony Kubek and Bob Costas on the network’s “Game of the Week.”

After leaving NBC in 1988, Garagiola became the commentator for the California Angels and Diamondbacks until retiring from broadcasting in 2013.

He was awarded the Ford Frick Award, presented annually to a broadcaster for “major contributions to baseball,” by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991.

“He had a genuine impact on the craft,” Costas said. “He was among the first to bring a humorous, story-telling style to the booth.”

Garagiola’s son, Joe Jr., is a former general manager of the Diamondbacks and a current executive with Major League Baseball.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of this amazing man,” his family said in a statement, “who was not just beloved to those of us in his family, but to generations of baseball fans who he impacted during his eight decades in the game.”

“Joe loved the game and passed that love onto family, his friends, his teammates, his listeners and everyone he came across as a player and broadcaster. His impact on the game, both on and off the field, will forever be felt.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred said, “All of us at Major League Baseball are deeply saddened by the loss of Joe Garagiola.

“Joe began [an] illustrious career as a baseball player, but it wasn’t long before everyone knew that this unique individual would combine his multi-talented media skills and wonderful personality to make a mark off the field as well.”

Manfred also praised Garagiola for being a leader in baseball’s fight against smokeless tobacco.

The Cardinals signed Garagiola after rejecting Berra at a 1943 tryout. The two remained lifelong friends, with Berra often the good-natured subject of Garagiola’s wit. Berra died last Sept. 15.

When both men entered retirement communities a few years ago, Garagiola recalled a phone conversation with Berra.

“I said, ‘How’s it going, Yog?'” Garagiola said, “and he said, ‘It’s all right, but geez, they’ve got a lot of old people here.'”

Garagiola played for the Cardinals, New York Giants, Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs. He broke in with the Cardinals, joining a powerful team led by the great Stan Musial. Garagiola got four hits in Game 4 of the 1946 Series against Boston and batted .316 overall as St. Louis beat the Red Sox in seven games.

Garagiola broke into broadcasting in 1955 as a radio and television analyst for the Cardinals. He spent 27 years at NBC and was paired with Tony Kubek as the lead broadcast team from 1976-82 and then with Vin Scully from 1984-88. He was 62 when he left on Nov. 1, 1988, when his contract expired. He broadcast Angels home games on TV in 1990.

He didn’t limit his talents to sportscasting.

Garagiola was a co-host of the “Today” show from 1969-1973, working with Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs, and again from 1990-1992, working with Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric.

“Today” host Matt Lauer tweeted that Garagiola was “part of the soul of our show.”

When Garagiola stepped down from hosting in 1992, he continued as a “Today” correspondent at large, doing sports and human interest stories. Garagiola also stepped in on occasion to host “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson,” including a 1968 show featuring guests John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Garagiola’s work as a commentator for the Westminster dog show helped inspire Fred Willard’s daffy character Buck Laughlin in the mockumentary “Best in Show.”

“One of the world’s good guys,” said his longtime Westminster broadcasting partner, David Frei. “He loved the game, of course, but he loved life. That’s why he was so well-loved everywhere he went, including the dog show.”

Garagiola is survived by his wife of 66 years, Audrie; sons Joe Jr. and Steve; daughter Gina; and eight grandchildren.

The funeral will be held at an unspecified date in his hometown of St. Louis. A memorial service also will be held in Phoenix.

Garagiola Delivered As A Rookie

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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