BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA: THE MYTH OF THE STRONG BLACK WOMAN

“Black women are the mules of the world.”

–  from Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

One of the most enduring and devastating stereotypes ever perpetuated about Black American women is the Myth of the Strong Black Woman.

Considered as less than human, as less than woman, Black women in America have had to shoulder this burden for centuries.

Pile up all that you may on her, and stand there expecting Black women to take on the weight of the world.

Yes, Black women have had to have strength to face insurmountable odds:  race-based American slavery; the destruction of Reconstruction; Jane Crow segregation which was worse than slavery; the tumultuous Civil Rights era.

But, should the Myth of the Strong Black Woman be something that Black women should aspire to?

The belief in all Black women as so strong that they should have their womanhood and humanity suffocated by others creates a prison for them.

And how can such a myth that is based on people denying Black women the right to their humanity not cause more harm than good?

I say that the Myth of the Strong Black Woman has done more harm than good.

The myth has denied Black women the right to release their tears of sorrow and frustration, without having to be castigated as weak for showing that side of their humanity.

Much of black women’s depression/obesity/diabetes/heart problems/stress/hypertension is caused from the infamous Strong Black Woman Myth, and that hateful myth is killing Black women. Hell…It has killed many Black women. That so many have taken it for granted that Black women will be their crutch to prop them up has sapped and withered the lives of so many Black women. That Black women are expected to do, and do, and do, until they are all give out–while those who have used them up stand over their exhausted and torn apart bodies and souls.

What was once a form of empowerment against the effects of racism and sexism, has become a fun house mirror  for Black women; a carnival of horrors that denies Black women the most simplest of basic humanity.

These suprahuman women have been denied the “luxuries” of failure, nervous breakdowns, leisured existences, or anything else that would suggest that they are complex, multidimensional characters. They must swallow their pain, gird their loins against trouble. . . .and persist in spite of adversity.”

-Trudier Harris, Saints, Sinners, Saviours: Strong Black Women in African American Literature

The myth of the Strong Black Woman causes those about her to look at her as less deserving of comfort, less deserving of empathy; less deserving of protection; less deserving of support; less deserving of respect.

It forces on Black women the mantle of unassailable, unshakeable, and naturally strong. It denies them the right to have normal feelings and reactions to the world around them. The Myth of the Strong Black Woman denies Black women their fears, their pains, their need for solace.

Because of the Myth of the Strong Black Woman, so many see her as a workhorse to be used up, as someone who never needs help, but is always prevailed upon to help others no matter how bad her health, financial, and mental being may be. That she needs no one, can do it all by herself and never needs the input of anyone in her corner.

That she must always have the back of everyone else, when no one has her back.

Being strong all the time is a burden and doesn’t leave us much room for being human.”

– Julia Boyd

Time to deconstruct and eradicate the Myth of the Strong Black Woman.

Black women have given so much for others, yet have so little to show for it.

Time to do away with the Myth of the Strong Black Woman.

Time to let Black women to just simply. . . . be. . . . Human.

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THE LOS ANGELES RIOTS AND THE RODNEY KING INCIDENT: APRIL 29, 1992 – MAY 4, 1992

Today is the 20TH Anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots.

On March 3, 1991, video tape recorded by George Holliday, showing Rodney King, a Black American, being repeatedly beaten by a group of LAPD officers, was broadcast on the evening news. A year later, on April 29, 1992, all officers were acquitted when the jury could not reach a verdict. The result sparked outrage about police brutality, racism, and economic inequality in South Central Los Angeles and South East Los Angeles where large groups of Black Americans took to the streets, many shouting “Black justice!” and “No justice, no peace!” The protests became what is now known as the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

The 1992 Los Angeles Riots or South Central Riots, also known as the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest occurred on April 29, 1992, when a jury acquitted three White and one Latino Los Angeles Police Department officers accused in the videotaped beating of Black motorist Rodney King following a high-speed pursuit. Thousands of people in the Los Angeles area rioted over the six days following the verdict.

Looting, vandalism, assault, arson and physical attacks (some of which ended in murder) occurred. Property damages was estimated to be roughly $1 billion. In aftermath, 54 people died during the riots and thousands more were injured.

The most well-known attack that occurred was that of Reginald Denny. At the intersection of Florence and Normandie, a group of angry Black citizens attacked Denny and beat him until Bobby Green Jr., a Black American citizen, intervened and saved him. Green saw the assault live on television, and rushed to the scene to rescue Denny and then drove him to the hospital using Denny’s own truck.

Bobby Green ran to the scene to join three others in rescuing the dazed and bloody Reginald Denny.

Bobby Green ran to the scene to join three others in rescuing  the dazed and bloody Reginald Denny.

Denny survived the attack and now lives in Arizona.

Later, despite threats and insults from the community, he went on to testify against Denny’s attackers. He and his family have since moved to a suburb east of Los Angeles and he did not respond to messages for comment. On the 10th anniversary of the riot, he told the Los Angeles Times: “I can tell my kids that color is on the outside, not the inside. To me, I turned justice around and showed them that all black people ain’t the same as you think.”  [SOURCE]

Another person who was attacked at the same intersection was Fidel Lopez. He was pulled from his truck and robbed of nearly $2,000. Damian Williams smashed his forehead open with a car stereo while another rioter attempted to slice his ear off. After Lopez lost consciousness, the crowd spray painted his chest, torso and genitals black.

Rev. Bennie Newton, a Black American minister who ran an inner-city ministry for troubled youth, placed himself between Lopez and his attackers. He helped Lopez get medical attention by taking him to the hospital. Lopez survived the attack, undergoing extensive surgery to reattach his partially severed ear, and months of recovery. Sadly, only a little over a year later, Rev. Newton would die from leukemia. Fidel Lopez honored and remembered him by paying his last respects to the minister who saved his life by attending his funeral.

Today, twenty years later, has America and her citizens changed all that much?

Henry Watson, one, of the men involved in the attack on Reginald Denny states that South Los Angeles has not changed that much:

“In this part of town, high school dropout rates are higher than for the city as a whole, and only 8 percent of the area’s residents have college degrees, compared with 30 percent for all residents of Los Angeles, according to American Community Survey estimates from 2006 to 2010.

More than three times as many households in the area reported yearly incomes of less than $20,000 during the same period than homes with yearly incomes of more than $100,000. That’s in stark contrast to the city as a whole, where there were more households with incomes above $100,000 than those with incomes of less than $20,000.

Manuel Pastor, professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at University of Southern California, said economic distress caused by the departure of manufacturing industries and high unemployment and widespread distrust of the police department set the stage for the outrage following the King verdict.

“It’s a question of if you throw a match and there’s no tinder there will be no fire. If there’s a lot of tinder you need a match. And there was lots of tinder,” Pastor said. “There was lots of economic frustration, there was racial tension in the air.”

SOURCE

For another take on what is happening twenty years later, here is this video:

Some things in Los Angeles have changed, some things have not.

So, the question that is put to the rest of America is:

What has changed in your life where racism is concerned?

What has changed in your family, your place of worship, your school, your neighborhood———yourself?

Can we all get along?

Is it even possible for Americans—Black, Asian, Native American, Latino, Middle Eastern, White— to drop the facade and give up on the virus that is racism?

Or is this nation content to obliterate itself from within?

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 4-29-2012

ENOCH WILLIAMS, 5-TERM NEW YORK CITY COUNCILMAN

By

Published: April 28, 2012

 Enoch H. Williams, a former New York City councilman who used his leadership positions to pass a law banning smoking in most public spaces and to help stop the Giuliani administration from selling city-owned hospitals, but who also came under fire from gay rights groups, died on Tuesday at his home in Heathrow, Fla. He was 84.

Dith Pran/The New York Times

Enoch H. Williams was on the City Council from 1978 to ’97.

His wife, Marian, confirmed the death.

Mr. Williams was a moderate Democrat who represented the largely minority Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, East Flatbush and Crown Heights for five terms, from 1978 to 1997. As chairman of the Council’s Health Committee during his last term, he was a principal force behind the law that in 1994 banned smoking in restaurants, offices and many outdoor locations.

The same year, when Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani proposed selling city hospitals to private companies, Mr. Williams was a leader in taking the administration to court. In its lawsuit, the Council argued that the mayor had overstepped his authority in proposing the sale of hospitals in Coney Island and other neighborhoods. The Court of Appeals, New York State’s highest court, agreed.

Mr. Williams, who had opposed a series of gay rights bill in the 1980s, drew protests from gay activists after being quoted by The New York Post as saying that the city had helped spread AIDS by “condoning homosexuality.” Despite Mr. Williams’s insistence that he had been misquoted, activists interrupted a Council meeting with demands for his resignation and shouts of “Help me! I’m dying” and “You are killing us!”

He countered that as the representative of minority communities, he felt compelled to question whether gay groups were getting more federal and state resources than black and Hispanic agencies that served populations in which AIDS had become rampant.

“I fully recognize that gay and lesbian civil rights do not cause AIDS,” he told a news conference. “Ignorance causes AIDS.”

Mr. Williams was also publicly criticized for opposing a public health program that had been set up to inhibit the spread of AIDS by distributing clean needles to drug users. He said he worried that free needles would encourage drug use.

Enoch Hill Williams was born in Wilmington, N.C., on June 21, 1927. His father died when he was very young, and his mother took him to live in Harlem. He served in the Army during World War II and the Korean War. He received a bachelor’s degree in business management from Long Island University and studied urban renewal at New York University and the New School. He then ran a coin laundry business and a church housing program.

Mr. Williams held the rank of major general in the New York Guard, the part of the state militia responsible for military jobs within the state. He was the first black person to command one of the four active units of the state militia.

Mr. Williams was for many years the civilian director of the selective service system in New York City. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention three times and in 2008 was one of 27 presidential electors in Florida.

His first marriage ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons, Kamau Bandele Kokayi and Robert Williams; his daughter, Chareese Adamson; his stepson, Derrick Johnson; his stepdaughter, Yolonda Johnson; 17 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

SOURCE

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ALEX CASSIE, WHO AIDED ‘GREAT ESCAPE’ FROM NAZIS

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The supposedly escape-proof Stalag Luft III prisoner-of-war camp in eastern Germany.

By

Published: April 21, 2012

It was on the moonless night of March 24 and 25, 1944, that 76 Allied prisoners of war, most of them British, clambered down a 30-foot shaft and crawled through a 340-foot-long tunnel below the supposedly escape-proof Stalag Luft III camp in eastern Germany — the daring breakout that was celebrated in the classic 1963 movie “The Great Escape.”

Flight Lt. Alex Cassie

In their pockets, the escapees carried what looked like officially stamped documents, identification cards, business cards and even letters written in German from purported wives and sweethearts, all of which were intended to make it possible for them to befuddle a hapless guard or police officer stopping them on their way to freedom.

Flight Lt. Alex Cassie, a British bomber pilot, was one of a half-dozen artists who had been forging those documents for months, playing a central role in the larger conspiracy to free hundreds of the nearly 1,000 airmen in the camp. They called their unit Dean and Dawson, after a well-known London travel agency.

Having meticulously falsified hundreds of documents, Lieutenant Cassie was placed among the top 50 on the list of those who would sneak into the tunnel that night. But knowing that he was claustrophobic, and not wanting to impede the others, he chose to stay in the barracks.

Lieutenant Cassie, an amateur artist since childhood and a psychologist after his military service, died at a nursing home in Surrey, England, on April 5, his son, Adrian, said. He was 95.

His decision to stay behind on that fateful day troubled him for the rest of his life. For while the breakout is hailed as one of Britain’s momentous acts of heroic resolve in World War II, it did not end as hoped. Of the 76 escapees, 73 were soon recaptured, and 50 of those were executed on orders from Hitler.

“All five of my hut mates had been shot,” Mr. Cassie told the British newspaper The Sun in 2001. “Often I’ve asked myself, ‘Why didn’t I go?’ I can’t shake off the vague feeling of guilt, that why should I have been the lucky one?”

For anyone else aware of his deeds, he was a hero.

While other prisoners were digging three tunnels (code-named Tom, Dick and Harry) under the six compounds at the camp, shoring them up with boards from their bunks, Lieutenant Cassie and his fellow forgers were at work in tiny rooms.

“One of Dean and Dawson’s occupational hazards was that they had to sit by a window so they could get enough light for their finicking work,” Paul Brickhill, a prisoner at the camp, wrote in his 1950 book, “The Great Escape,” which became the basis of the movie. Fellow prisoners standing outside would signal if a guard approached.

A guard “nearly caught them a couple of times,” the book continues, “but they were just able to cover the work before he reached the window.”

To produce their forgeries, Mr. Cassie told The Sun, “we got the best of the paper from the flyleaves of books which arrived at the camp” through the Red Cross. “The rest — ink, photography, timetables, etc. — was bribed from the Germans. It was amazing what a few cigarettes could do.” They got hold of a typewriter with a German typeface. Lieutenant Cassie used cold tea to age documents. He etched official-looking stamps from boot heels.

In the movie, starring Steve McQueen and James Garner, Donald Pleasence played a forger based in part on Lieutenant Cassie. “As a piece of cinematic entertainment, it ranks very highly, but it isn’t a particularly accurate historical record,” Mr. Cassie told the Scottish newspaper The Aberdeen Press and Journal in 2000, which pointed out that there was no jaunty, baseball-throwing, McQueen-like American leading the breakout.

Of the forgers, Lieutenant Cassie was “the most distinctive, in appearance anyway,” Mr. Brickhill wrote in his book, with a “great thatch of long ginger hair that fell over his eyes like a Skye terrier and little tufts of ginger beard sticking out of isolated spots around his jaw.”

Lieutenant Cassie had been the pilot of a Royal Air Force bomber, flying missions over Germany and France, when his plane was shot down after it attacked a submarine in the Bay of Biscay in September 1942. He and his crew were picked up by a French fishing boat and turned over to the German authorities.

The lieutenant was immediately taken to Stalag Luft III. He remained there until January 1945, when, with the Soviets advancing from the east, the Germans emptied the P.O.W. camps and forced thousands of prisoners to march west. They were liberated by the British in April.

Alexander Cassie, known as Sandy, was born in Cape Province, South Africa, on Dec. 22, 1916, the only child of George and Jessie Cassie, who had emigrated from Scotland. After high school, he went to Scotland and began studying psychology at the University of Aberdeen.

“I always had a pencil in my hand and had always been a competent artist and used to do covers for the university rag magazine,” he told The Aberdeen Press and Journal. In 1940, two years after graduating, he joined the R.A.F. Mr. Cassie’s wife of 56 years, the former Jean Stone, died in 2005. Besides his son, he is survived by a daughter, Rosalyn Postance, and four grandchildren.

In 2004, 17 of the prisoners who had been involved in the great escape, Mr. Cassie among them, reunited at the Imperial War Museum in London. Archaeologists had excavated one of the tunnels at Stalag Luft III, the British newspaper The Telegraph reported, adding, “Artifacts recovered include a rubber stamp carved from the heel of an airman’s boot and used to forge documents for escapers.”

SOURCE

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LEROY T. WALKER, U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE’S FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT

By

Published: April 24, 2012

LeRoy T. Walker, a leading American track and field coach who was the first African-American to coach a United States men’s Olympic track team and to serve as the president of the United States Olympic Committee, died Monday in Durham, N.C. He was 93.

Associated Press

Mr. Walker was the first African-American president of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

His death was announced by North Carolina Central University, where he gained coaching renown and was later the chancellor.

When he marched into Atlanta’s Olympic Stadium as U.S.O.C. president at the head of the 645-member American delegation to the 1996 Summer Games, Mr. Walker achieved a celebrated homecoming in an America far removed from his boyhood.

He was born in a segregated Atlanta, the youngest of 13 children. He was the only member of his family to attend college, receiving a bachelor’s degree from a historically black college, Benedict College of Columbia, S.C. He was thwarted in his hopes of becoming a physician because medical school spots for blacks were severely limited and his family was poor.

Nonetheless, he received a master’s degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from New York University in physical education and allied fields.

As the head track and field coach at the historically black North Carolina Central in Durham, known as North Carolina College when he arrived there in 1945, Mr. Walker developed Olympic medalists and numerous national champions and all-Americans. (He was the chancellor of the college from 1983 to 1986.)

The best known of those athletes, Lee Calhoun, won gold medals in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1956 Melbourne and 1960 Rome Games, and Larry Black, Julius Sang and Robert Ouko won gold in relay events at the 1972 Munich Games.

When Mr. Walker was named the Olympic men’s track and field coach in 1974, in anticipation of the 1976 Montreal Games, he looked back on an era in which black coaches received limited exposure.

“We didn’t get to the major track meets and we were living in a separate world,” he said. “In 1956, when Lee Calhoun won a gold medal, they thought of Calhoun as a great athlete but not necessarily of LeRoy Walker helping to produce a Calhoun.”

Mr. Walker coached his 1976 American squad, featuring the hurdler Edwin Moses and the decathlete Bruce Jenner, to gold medals in six events at Montreal.

He was treasurer of the United States Olympic Committee from 1988 to 1992 and a senior executive who helped lead preparations for the 1996 Atlanta Games, with a six-figure salary, a post he gave up when he was named the unpaid president of the U.S.O.C. in October 1992.

Beyond his technical knowledge of track, Mr. Walker was respected for his insistence on discipline and his motivational skills. He was known as Doc or Dr. Walker.

“Not that other coaches didn’t have Ph.D.’s, but Dr. Walker’s title had become a handle over the years,” Vince Matthews, the 1972 Olympic 400-meter champion, once said. “He looked more like a business executive than a track coach, with glasses and distinguished streaks of gray in his dark hair.”

“I like to think of the Doc tag as something in terms of closeness,” Mr. Walker said, “not something different from everybody else.”

LeRoy Tashreau Walker was born on June 14, 1918, the son of a railroad firefighter. When his father died, his mother, Mary, sent him to live in Harlem with a brother who owned a window-cleaning business and restaurants, and who became his surrogate father. Returning to the South, he played football and basketball and sprinted at Benedict College, graduating in 1940. He received his master’s degree from Columbia the next year.

Mr. Walker was named the football and basketball coach at North Carolina College in 1945 and developed a track team as a means of conditioning his athletes. He received a doctorate in biomechanics from N.Y.U. in 1957 while continuing to coach.

He was president of the Athletics Congress (now USA Track & Field), the national governing body, from 1984 to 1988. He advised or coached Olympic teams from Ethiopia, Kenya, Israel, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago; helped organize an American-Pan African meet; and took an American track squad to China.

Mr. Walker is survived by his son, LeRoy Jr.; his daughter, Carolyn Walker Hoppe; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Katherine, died in 1978.

Before he drew national attention, Mr. Walker often faced dispiriting times in the South, especially when he took his teams on the road. “We would go down into rural Alabama, and I’d have to drive 200 miles before I could find somebody who would serve us,” he told Ebony magazine.

When he was named the president of the U.S.O.C., he told The New York Times that he marveled at the road he had taken as “a guy born in Atlanta, where segregation was rampant.”

He added, “It sounds Hollywoodish, yet there it is.”

SOURCE

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JOHN A. HOYT, CHAMPION OF ANIMALS, WHO GUIDED HUMANE SOCIETY TO PROMINENCE

By

Published: April 22, 2012   

John A. Hoyt, who made the Humane Society of the United States the largest anticruelty organization in the country during an era when changing cultural attitudes were greatly expanding the number of animal protection groups, died on April 15 in Fredericksburg, Va. He was 80.

The Humane Society of the United States

John A. Hoyt

The cause was progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disorder, said his daughter Peggy Hoyt.

Mr. Hoyt, who was president and chief executive of the Humane Society from 1970 to 1996, was best known for expanding its traditional stewardship over dogs and cats to include laboratory animals, livestock, wild horses, whales, endangered fish and rodeo bulls.

The society’s expanded agenda reflected both cultural sensitivity and public relations savvy in a period when environmentalism and the animal liberation and natural food movements were emerging, said Bernard Unti, a historian of the Humane Society. The new movements were expanding public consciousness, but also competing for contributions.

“It was a rapidly changing landscape,” Mr. Unti said, “and John made sure that the society blossomed while continuing to be itself.”

Mr. Hoyt also established the Humane Society as one of Washington’s most sophisticated lobbying operations. He began campaigns to save porpoises and baby seals. He worked against fur trapping, sport hunting, roadside zoos, cockfighting and bullfighting, and fought to end unnecessarily painful lab experiments on rats, mice and chimpanzees.

The suffering of livestock became a major focus of Humane Society lobbying in the mid-1970s, soon after Mr. Hoyt met Temple Grandin, the animal behaviorist, who was then developing a stress-reducing corral for young cattle being slaughtered for veal.

The Humane Society financed research for a prototype of her famous double-rail restrainer system. “That system is in use in half the slaughterhouses in the country, and it probably would not have existed if not for John Hoyt,” she said in an interview Friday. “He took the practical approach — ‘If we’re gonna eat meat, well, let’s make sure the animals don’t suffer needlessly.’ ”

Mr. Hoyt was also an early proponent of laws against organized dogfighting. Lobbying efforts by the Humane Society beginning in the 1980s were instrumental in persuading 40 states to adopt laws making deliberate animal cruelty a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Those laws were considered instrumental in the passage of the 2007 Virginia law under which Michael Vick, the N.F.L. quarterback, was prosecuted for dogfighting.

By its own accounting, the Humane Society grew to over 5 million members during Mr. Hoyt’s tenure from 100,000. Its annual budget, which was under $1 million when he became president in 1970, had grown to about $50 million by the time he retired.

When confrontational animal rights organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals emerged in the 1980s — criticizing organizations like the Humane Society for being too focused on fund-raising and for not recognizing the inherent equal rights of humans and animals — Mr. Hoyt vigorously defended his group’s approach, which he described as “pragmatic idealism.”

He dismissed staff members he considered too sympathetic to the animal liberation movement, and in a speech at the society’s 1988 annual conference refused to accept “censure for our willingness to accept compromise” or for the society’s “organizational growth and financial success.”

John Arthur Hoyt was born March 30, 1932, in Marietta, Ohio, one of six children of Claremont and Margaret Hoyt. His father was an itinerant Baptist minister. Mr. Hoyt was ordained a Baptist minister, too, after graduating in 1957 from what is now Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester.

He was serving as senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Fort Wayne, Ind., when he was recruited as president of the Humane Society by a friend who was a board member and an executive in the American Bible Society.

At the time, he told his family it was “like leaving one church for another.”

Mr. Hoyt’s survivors include his wife, Gertrude, and four daughters. Besides Peggy, they are Karen Willcox, Anne Williams and Julie Dorman. He is also survived by a brother, David, and four sisters, Carolyn Harman, Josephine Bero, Mary Griffes and Margaret Nasemann.

The Humane Society was established in 1954 as a result of a schism within the American Humane Association, which was established in 1877 as a loose national federation, based in Denver, of animal rescue groups. While the leaders of the Humane Association were committed to remaining decentralized, the dissidents who founded the Humane Society believed that the cause required a national focus, federal legislation and a headquarters in Washington.

During his tenure, Mr. Hoyt commuted to the society’s L Street townhouse headquarters from a small farm in Fredericksburg, where he lived with his family and the many dogs, cats, horses and other animals that he and his daughters brought home on a regular basis, Peggy Hoyt said.

Though he had no training in animal welfare when he began the job, Mr. Hoyt told interviewers that he had always loved animals, mainly because of the influence of his grandmother, a vegetarian who lived to be 106. “My grandmother had 40 pet sheep,” he once said, “and each one had a name.”

SOURCE

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SKYWATCH: ASTEROID MINING, NATIONAL ASTRONOMY DAY, AND MORE

News
Catching an asteroid

Planetary Resources

Bulletin at a Glance

News
Observing
This Week’s Sky at a Glance
Community

Asteroid Mining for Fun and Profit

April 24, 2012 | A cadre of space entrepreneurs has hatched a plan to identify thousands of small near-Earth asteroids — and then to exploit the mineral wealth that many of these space rocks are certain to contain. > read more

“Coronal Cells” in Sun’s Atmosphere

April 25, 2012 | Astronomers have discovered an unexpected new feature on the Sun, leading to further insights about the solar magnetic field. > read more

New Eye for Giant Russian Telescope

April 23, 2012 | From 1975 until 1993, Russians astronomers could boast about having the world’s largest optical telescope. Now they’re hoping to extend the 6-meter scope’s cosmic reach by completely refurbishing its original primary mirror. > read more

Observing

Saturn and Spica

Sky & Telescope diagram

Tour May’s Sky by Eye and Ear!

April 15, 2012 | Follow the giant arc of bright planets that leads eastward from the just-set Sun: Venus low in the west, Mars midway up in the south, and Saturn over in the east. Then look overhead for the Big Dipper — the “Swiss Army knife” of the night sky. > read more

Nova Erupts in Sagittarius

April 22, 2012 | Observers have reported a “new star,” now visible in the predawn sky, that can be seen in small telescopes or good binoculars. > read more

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

Moon under Mars and Regulus

This Week’s Sky at a Glance

April 27, 2012 | Venus is at its peak. A much fainter star is creeping down toward it day be day. Elsewhere in the evening sky, the Mars-Regulus and Saturn-Spica pairs appear similar in separation and brightness. > read more

Community

Young stargazer

J. Kelly Beatty

Celebrate Astronomy Day!

April 28, 2012 | April 28th is Astronomy Day, when hundreds of astronomy clubs, observatories, museums, colleges, and planetariums worldwide host special family-oriented events and festivities that showcase the wonder and excitement of the night sky. > read more

Come to NEAF April 28-29

April 20, 2012 | Make plans to attend the largest annual astronomy trade show in America: the Northeast Astronomy Forum & Telescope Show. > read more

The World Celebrates Astronomy

April 1, 2012 | People are coming together this April for Global Astronomy Month 2012, a planetwide celebration of astronomy designed to bring people together through star parties, music and artistic performances, online observing events, and much more. > read more

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HATEWATCH: COULTER: GOP SUPPORTS ARMING BLACKS TO DEFEND AGAINST DEMS

Coulter: GOP Supports Arming Blacks to Defend Against Dems

by  Leah Nelson  on April 20, 2012

In Superman comics, Bizzaro World is a cube-shaped planet on which all normal rules of reality are reversed and everything is the opposite of the way it is on Planet Earth.

It is also the only place imaginable where Ann Coulter’s assertion that “For more than a hundred years, Republicans have aggressively supported arming blacks, so they could defend themselves against Democrats” could possibly be uttered with a straight face.

That’s not all Coulter had to say. Writing about the Trayvon Martin case in an article posted Wednesday on Townhall.com, she declared that if it were indeed true that George Zimmerman killed Martin because he was black, then “every black person in America should get a gun and join the National Rifle Association, America’s oldest and most august civil rights organization.”

“Gun control laws were originally promulgated by Democrats to keep guns out the hands of blacks,” she wrote, noting that “the KKK was an outgrowth of the Democratic Party” and that the Anti-Klan Act of 1871 was passed under a Republican president.

We’ve heard this line before: Republicans, who are constantly getting accused of racism, are the “party of Lincoln.” Democrats, who were secessionists and KKK members, are the real racists.

What gives?

Coulter, like others who make this argument, aren’t 100% wrong. It’s just that they’ve conveniently forgotten a rather large chunk of 20th century history in which the two parties rapidly switched places on a matters of race and states’ rights, with the Democrats taking a sharp left and the Republicans skidding decisively to the right. Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond, two of the most stridently conservative politicians of the late 20th century, began their careers as Democrats. Thurmond left the party briefly in 1948 to run for president as the segregationist States’ Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat) candidate, and permanently in 1964 in protest of the Civil Rights Act – which was, as Coulter seems to have forgotten, passed at the strong urging of President Lyndon B. Johnson, a southern Democrat. Helms, who in 1983 famously attempted to filibuster the establishment of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday, stuck with the Democrats a little longer than Thurmond but became a Republican in 1970, shortly before his first run for Congress.

But those itty bitty details don’t matter to Coulter, who, in reference to a book by militant black activist Robert F. Williams, titled her Townhall article “Negroes with Guns” and spent several paragraphs lauding his bravery.

A controversial figure within the early civil rights movement, Williams was a military veteran and NRA fan who in the late 1950s founded the Black Armed Guard to fight the Klan. He was suspended from the NAACP after saying that blacks should “meet violence with violence,” and is considered a major influence on later militant movements like the Black Panther Party. During a period of self-exile from the United States in the 1960s, Williams reportedly met with Communist leaders Mao Tse-tung and Ho Chi Minh.

Coulter, who is not a known fan of communism or militant liberation ideology, somehow forgot to mention these facts in her little screed.

She is not the first gun rights advocate with a selective memory for history. Second Amendment hardliners have for decades argued that, had it not been for gun control laws promulgated by the Nazis, the Holocaust would never have happened. This theory was popularized by the late Aaron Zelman of the far-right Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, who claimed that the 1968 Gun Control Act was explicitly based on Hitler’s gun laws.

In fact, Hitler liberalized gun control laws for everyone but those he considered enemies, so while it’s convenient to recast him as a gun control fanatic, it’s also patently disingenuous. That hasn’t stopped gun rights advocates like NRA leader Wayne LaPierre – who has also described federal agents as “jack-booted government thugs” and accused President Obama of having secret plans to strip away Americans’ guns – from embracing it. “If every family on this planet owned a good-quality rifle, genocide would be on the path to extinction,” he once wrote.

With help from hardliners like Coulter (who in March compared critics of George Zimmerman to a Klan lynch mob), LaPierre and his organization have also been the main force behind the “Stand Your Ground” law being used to justify Martin’s killing. Just yesterday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, appointed a 17-member task force to review the law, which police cited as their reason for not arresting Zimmerman immediately after he shot and killed Martin in late February. Zimmerman, who on April 11 was charged with second-degree murder, is reportedly claiming self-defense under the Stand Your Ground law.

According to an analysis by the Tampa Bay Times, Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been invoked at least 130 times since 2005. In the majority of those cases, the person who used it did not face a trial. Of those, 50 were never charged with a crime, nine were granted immunity by a judge, nine were dismissed, and 10 pleaded guilty to lesser charges. Twenty-eight cases made it to trial, resulting in 19 guilty verdicts. The other cases were still pending.

Zimmerman’s bond hearing was set for Friday, and in light of menacing talk from groups like the New Black Panther Party (which last month offered a $10,000 reward for Zimmerman’s capture, “dead or alive”), his lawyers have expressed concern for his safety should he be set free.

By Ann Coulter’s logic, there’s no reason to think he won’t be a-okay – as long has he’s still got a gun to defend himself against people retaliating for his previous efforts, that is.

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GEORGE ZIMMERMAN RELEASED FROM JAIL ON $150,000 BOND

Neighborhood watch shooter George Zimmerman released from jail on bond in Trayvon Martin case

View Photo Gallery: A Timeline Trayvon Martin’s killing by George Zimmerman: A timeline of the case: The fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in a gated Florida community by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman on Feb. 26 has sparked protests around the country. President Obama even weighed in on the case, in which Zimmerman now faces a charge of second-degree murder. Here are key moments in the case as it evolved from a neighborhood killing to a nationwide debate.  (Click  here)

By Associated Press, Published: April 22 | Updated: Monday, April 23, 2:34 AMAP

SANFORD, Fla. — George Zimmerman was released around midnight Sunday from a county jail on $150,000 bail as he awaits his second-degree murder trial for fatally shooting Trayvon Martin.The neighborhood watch volunteer was wearing  a brown jacket and blue jeans and carrying a paper bag. He met a man in a white vehicle and drove away. His ultimate destination is being kept secret for his safety and it could be outside Florida.

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A judge says George Zimmerman can be released on $150,000 bail as he awaits trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

A judge says George Zimmerman can be released on $150,000 bail as he awaits trial for the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

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The attorney for George Zimmerman says his client is happy with a $150,000 bail and that he will be released to be with his family. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

The attorney for George Zimmerman says his client is happy with a $150,000 bail and that he will be released to be with his family. Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the Feb. 26 shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Circuit Judge Kenneth Lester said at a hearing Friday he cannot have any guns and must observe a 7 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew. Zimmerman also surrendered his passport.Zimmerman had to put up 10 percent, or $15,000, to make bail. His father had indicated he might take out a second mortgage.Zimmerman worked at a mortgage risk-management company at the time of the shooting and his wife is in nursing school. A website was set up to collect donations for Zimmerman’s defense fund. It is unclear how much has been raised.Bail is not unheard of in second-degree murder cases, and legal experts had predicted it would be granted for Zimmerman because of his ties to the community, because he turned himself in after he was charged last week, and because he has never been convicted of a serious crime.

Prosecutors had asked for $1 million bail, citing two previous scrapes Zimmerman had with the law, neither of which resulted in charges. In 2005, he had to take anger management courses after he was accused of attacking an undercover officer who was trying to arrest Zimmerman’s friend. In another incident, a girlfriend accused him of attacking her.

Zimmerman, 28, fatally shot Martin, 17, Feb. 26 inside the gated community where Zimmerman lived during an altercation. Martin was unarmed and was walking back to the home of his father’s fiancée when Zimmerman saw him, called 911 and began following him. A fight broke out — investigators say it is unknown who started it.

Zimmerman says Martin, who was visiting from Miami, attacked him and he shot in self-defense, citing Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which gives broad legal protection to anyone who says they used deadly force because they feared death or great bodily harm.

Zimmerman was not charged for over six weeks, sparking national protests led by Martin’s parents, civil rights groups and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Martin was black; Zimmerman’s father is white and his mother is from Peru.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 4-22-2012

DICK CLARK, TV EMPEROR OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL AND ICON OF NEW  YEAR’S EVE

Associated Press

Dick Clark on “American Bandstand” in 1957. He began hosting what was then a local show after the regular host was fired. More Photos »

By

Published: April 18, 2012

Dick Clark, the perpetually youthful-looking television host whose long-running daytime song-and-dance fest, “American Bandstand,” did as much as anyone or anything to advance the influence of teenagers and rock ’n’ roll on American culture, died on Wednesday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 82.

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Dick Clark polished a new sign that changed a portion of Philadelphia’s Market Street to American Bandstand Boulevard in 1981.

A spokesman, Paul Shefrin, said Mr. Clark had a heart attack at Saint John’s Health Center on Wednesday morning after entering the hospital the night before for an outpatient procedure.

Mr. Clark had a stroke in December 2004, shortly before he was to appear on the annual televised New Year’s Eve party he had produced every year since 1972, and hosted for most of that time. He returned a year later, and although he spoke haltingly, he continued to make brief appearances on the show, including the one this past New Year’s Eve.

With the boyish good looks of a bound-for-success junior executive and a ubiquitous on-camera presence, Mr. Clark was among the most recognizable faces in the world, even if what he was most famous for — spinning records and jabbering with teenagers — was on the insubstantial side. In addition to “American Bandstand” and “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve,” he hosted innumerable awards shows, comedy specials, series based on TV outtakes and the game show “$10,000 Pyramid” (which lasted long enough to see the stakes ratcheted up to $100,000). He also made guest appearances on dramatic and comedy series, usually playing himself.

But he was as much a businessman as a television personality. “I get enormous pleasure and excitement sitting in on conferences with accountants, tax experts and lawyers,” he said in an interview with The New York Times in 1961. He was especially deft at packaging entertainment products for television.

Starting in the 1960s, Mr. Clark built an entertainment empire on the shoulders of “Bandstand,” producing other music shows like “Where the Action Is” and “It’s Happening.” He eventually expanded into game shows, awards shows, comedy specials and series, talk shows, children’s programming, reality programming, and movies. His umbrella company, Dick Clark Productions, has produced thousands of hours of television; it also has a licensing arm and has owned or operated restaurants and theaters like the Dick Clark American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Mo.

But none of it would have been possible without “American Bandstand,” a show that earned immediate popularity, had remarkable longevity and became a cultural touchstone for the baby-boomer generation. It helped give rise to the Top 40 radio format and helped make rock ’n’ roll a palatable product for visual media — not just television but also the movies. It was influential enough that ABC broadcast a 40th-anniversary special in 1992, three years after the show went off the air, and a 50th-anniversary special 10 years later. Mr. Clark, who had long since been popularly known as “the world’s oldest teenager,” was the host of both, of course.

Philadelphia Roots

“American Bandstand” was broadcast nationally, originally from Philadelphia, from 1957 to 1989, and the list of well-known performers who were seen on it, many of them lip-syncing their recently recorded hits, spanned generations: from Ritchie Valens to Luther Vandross; from the Monkees to Madonna; from Little Anthony and the Imperials to Los Lobos; from Dusty Springfield to Buffalo Springfield to Rick Springfield. Mr. Clark was around for it all.

“It meant everything to do Dick’s show,” Paul Anka said in telephone interview on Wednesday. “This was a time when there was no youth culture — he created it. And the impact of the show on people was enormous. You knew that once you went down to Philadelphia to see Dick and you went on the show, your song went from nowhere to the Top 10.”

“American Bandstand’s” influence waned somewhat after it changed from a weekday to a weekly format, appearing on Saturday afternoons, in 1963 and moved its base of operations to Los Angeles the next year. And as the psychedelic era took hold in the late 1960s and rock ’n’ roll fragmented into subgenres, the show could no longer command a central role on the pop music scene.

Indeed, the show was criticized for sanitizing rock ’n’ roll, taking the edge off a sexualized and rebellious music. But it was also, in important ways, on the leading edge of the culture. Mr. Clark and his producer, Tony Mammarella, began integrating the dance floor on “American Bandstand” early on; much of the music, after all, was being made by black performers.

“I can remember, a vivid recollection, the first time ever in my life I talked to a black teenager on national television; it was in what we called the rate-a-record portion of ‘Bandstand,’ ” Mr. Clark recalled. “It was the first time in a hundred years I got sweaty palms.”

He was fearful, he said, of a backlash from Southern television affiliates, but that didn’t happen. From that day on, he said, more blacks began appearing on the show. And as time went on, the show’s willingness to bridge a racial divide that went almost entirely unacknowledged by network programming was starkly apparent, “providing American television broadcasting with the most visible ongoing image of ethnic diversity until the 1970s,” according to an essay about the program on the Web site of the Chicago-based Museum of Broadcast Communications.

“We didn’t do it because we were do-gooders, or liberals,” Mr. Clark said. “It was just a thing we thought we ought to do. It was naïve.”

The right man at the right time, Mr. Clark was a radio personality in Philadelphia in 1956 when he stepped into the role of host of what was then a local television show called “Bandstand” after the regular host was fired. By the following October, the show was being broadcast on ABC nationwide with a new name, “American Bandstand,” and for the next several years it was seen every weekday afternoon by as many as 20 million viewers, most of them not yet out of high school, eager to watch a few dozen of their peers dance chastely to the latest recordings of pop hits, showing off new steps like the twist, the pony and the Watusi, and rating the new records in brief interviews.

“It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” became a national catchphrase.

Handsome and glib, Dick Clark was their music-savvy older brother, and from that position of authority he presided over a grass-roots revolution in American culture in the late 1950s and early ’60s. “American Bandstand” was the first show to make use of the new technology, television, to spread the gospel of rock ’n’ roll. In its early years it introduced a national audience to teen idols like Fabian and Connie Francis, first-generation rockers like Bill Haley and Jerry Lee Lewis, and singing groups like the Everly Brothers. Even more, it helped persuade broadcasters and advertisers of the power of teenagers to steer popular taste.

“At that moment in time, the world realized that kids might rule the world,” Mr. Clark said. “They had their own music, their own fashion, their own money.”

By early 1958, “American Bandstand” was so big a hit that network executives installed a new show in a concert format in its Saturday night lineup, calling it “The Dick Clark Show.” In June, ABC sent it on the road to broadcast from a number of cities. In October, when “The Dick Clark Show” originated from Atlanta, both black and white teenagers were in the audience — amounting to one of the first racially integrated rock concerts — and with National Guard troops present, it weathered threats from the Ku Klux Klan. The nighttime show lasted only until 1960.

Opportunities Abound

In spite of his success, Mr. Clark, who never hid his desire for wealth, had not been getting rich as a network employee. But he had been investing, shrewdly and voluminously, in the businesses that “American Bandstand” supported — talent management, music publishing, record distribution and merchandising, among others — and his bank account ballooned.

His finances were dealt a blow, and his clean-cut image was tarnished, however, when Congress convened hearings into payola, the record company practice of bribing disc jockeys to play their records on the air. In late 1959, with the hearings pending, ABC insisted that Mr. Clark divest himself of all his record-related businesses, which he did. He was called to testify before the House Special Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight in April 1960, and though he denied ever taking money to play records, he acknowledged a number of actions that exposed what many in Congress considered a too-cozy relationship between the music industry and D.J.s, Mr. Clark in particular.

For an investment of $125 in one record company, for example, Mr. Clark received $31,700 in salary and stock profits over two years. He admitted that some songs and records may have been given to his publishing and distribution companies because of his affiliation with “American Bandstand.” He also acknowledged accepting a ring and a fur stole from a record manufacturer.

Mr. Clark, who was never charged with a crime, said that having to comply with the network’s divestiture request cost him millions.

“I never took any money to play records,” Mr. Clark said in his 1999 Archive of American Television interview. “I made money other ways. Horizontally, vertically, every which way you can think of, I made money from that show.”

Over half a century, Mr. Clark made millions as a producer or executive producer, shepherding projects onto the airwaves that even he acknowledged were more diverting than ennobling: awards shows like the Golden Globes, the Academy of Country Music Awards and the American Music Awards; omnibus shows like “TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes,” featuring collections of clips; and television-movie biographies and dramas that targeted devotees of camp, kitsch or B-list celebrities.

He excelled in signing up top acts for his shows, and had to be especially creative on his New Year’s Eve show. Top acts often had lucrative bookings that night, so Mr. Clark worked around that by taping the dance party portion of the show at a Los Angeles studio in August.

“You would go out there and see all these people in their New Year’s Eve outfits getting a smoke outside in 100-degree heat,” said Ted Harbert, then an ABC program executive and now chairman of NBC Broadcasting. “That’s how he got the stars to turn up on a New Year’s Eve show. He taped them in August. It was genius.”

Mr. Clark wasn’t high-minded about his work. “I’ve always dealt with light, frivolous things that didn’t really count; I’m not ashamed of that,” he said during a 1999 interview for the Archive of American Television. “There’s no redeeming cultural value whatsoever to ‘Bloopers,’ but it’s been on for 20 years.” He added: “It’s a piece of fluff. I’ve been a fluffmeister for a long time.”

Richard Wagstaff Clark was born on Nov. 30, 1929, in Bronxville, N.Y., and grew up nearby in Mount Vernon, the second son of Richard A. and Julia Clark. His father was a salesman who commuted to New York City until he was hired to manage a radio station in Utica, N.Y. The older brother, Bradley, was killed in World War II, and young Dick, who had greatly admired “Brad,” a high school athlete, was devastated and depressed afterward, his father once said in an interview.

An Early Love of Radio

As a boy Dick listened often to the radio, and at 13 he went to see a live radio broadcast starring Jimmy Durante and Garry Moore. From then on, he wanted to be in broadcasting. His first job, at 17, was in the mailroom of his father’s station. He often said he learned the most important lesson of his career from listening to Arthur Godfrey.

“I emulated him,” Mr. Clark said. “I loved him, I adored him, because he had the ability to communicate to one person who was listening or watching. Most people would say, in a stentorian voice, ‘Good evening, everyone.’ Everyone? Godfrey knew there was only one person listening at a time.”

Mr. Clark studied business administration at Syracuse University, where he was a disc jockey on the student radio station. After graduating he worked briefly as an announcer for his father’s station before getting a job in television, at WKTV in Utica, as a news announcer.

In 1952 WFIL in Philadelphia gave him his own radio show, “Dick Clark’s Caravan of Music,” an easy-listening afternoon program. A few months later, the station’s television affiliate began an afternoon show called “Bandstand,” with Bob Horn and Lee Stewart. At first it showed films of musical performances for studio audiences, Mr. Clark recalled, but it evolved into a dance show when teenagers, bored with the films, started dancing to the music. As the show grew in popularity, the station changed the name of Mr. Clark’s radio show to “Bandstand” as well, even though his playlist remained uncontroversial fare for a relatively small middle-aged afternoon audience.

It was in the summer of 1956 that Mr. Horn, by then the show’s sole host, was fired and the station turned to young Dick Clark.

“I was 26 years old, looked the part, knew the music, was very comfortable on television,” Mr. Clark recalled. “ ‘They said, ‘Do you want it?’ And I said, ‘Oh, man, do I want it!’ ”

Mr. Clark’s first two marriages ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Kari Wigton; three children, Richard, Duane and Cindy; and three grandchildren.

He won five Emmy Awards, including a Daytime Emmy lifetime achievement award in 1994, and in 1993 was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He owed his success, he said, to knowing the mind of the broad audience.

“My greatest asset in life,” he said, “was I never lost touch with hot dogs, hamburgers, going to the fair and hanging out at the mall.”

Bill Carter and Ben Sisario contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 21, 2012

An obituary on Thursday about the television host and producer Dick Clark, using information from a spokesman, misstated the number of grandchildren who survive him. It is three, not two. The obituary also misstated Mr. Clark’s role in the first New Year’s Eve telecast he produced. He was the producer only, not the producer and host. And it misstated, in some editions, the year of that telecast. It was 1972, not 1973.

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JONATHAN FRID, GHOULISH ‘DARK SHADOWS’ STAR

By

Published: April 20, 2012

Jonathan Frid, a Shakespearean actor who found unexpected — and by his own account unwanted — celebrity as the vampire Barnabas Collins on the sanguinary soap opera “Dark Shadows,” died last Friday, April 13, in Hamilton, Ontario. He was 87.

ABC, via Photofest

Jonathan Frid, a brooding, lovelorn, eternally 175-year-old representative of the undead, in ABC’s “Dark Shadows.”

He died from complications of a fall, said Kathryn Leigh Scott, who played several characters on the show. Mr. Frid, who lived in Ancaster, Ontario, leaves no immediate survivors.

Mr. Frid, along with several castmates, makes a cameo appearance in Tim Burton’s feature film “Dark Shadows,” to be released on May 11. Johnny Depp stars as Barnabas.

Though the befanged Mr. Frid was the acknowledged public face of “Dark Shadows” — his likeness was on comic books, board games, trading cards and many other artifacts — Barnabas did not make his first appearance until more than 200 episodes into the run. The character was conceived as a short-term addition to the cast, and early on the threat of the stake loomed large.

Broadcast on weekday afternoons on ABC, “Dark Shadows” began in 1966 as a conventional soap opera (with Gothic overtones), centering on the Collins family and their creaky manse in Maine.

The next year, with ratings slipping, the show’s executive producer, Dan Curtis, chose to inject an element of the supernatural. Enter Barnabas, a brooding, lovelorn, eternally 175-year-old representative of the undead. Today TV vampires are legion, but such a character was an unusual contrivance then.

The ratings shot up, and not only among the traditional soap-opera demographic of stay-at-home women. With its breathtakingly low-rent production values and equally breathtakingly purple dialogue, “Dark Shadows” induced a generation of high school and college students to cut class to revel in its unintended high camp. The producers shelved the stake.

Swirling cape, haunted eyes and fierce eyebrows notwithstanding, Barnabas, as portrayed by Mr. Frid, was no regulation-issue vampire. An 18th-century man — he had been entombed in the Collins family crypt — he struggled to comes to terms with the 20th-century world.

He was a vulnerable vampire, who pined for his lost love, Josette. (She had leaped to her death in 1795.) He was racked with guilt over his thirst for blood, and Mr. Frid played him as a man in the grip of a compulsion he devoutly wished to shake.

Mr. Frid starred in almost 600 episodes, from April 18, 1967, to April 2, 1971, when the show went off the air. (It remains perennially undead on DVD.)

Mr. Frid received nearly 6,000 fan letters a week. “I wish you’d bite ME on the neck,” read one, from a woman in Illinois.

Others contained snapshots of the letter-writers’ necks — and everything on down — laid bare.

All this, Mr. Frid said in 1968, was exquisitely ironic in that “the other vampires we’ve had on the show were much more voluptuous biters than I am.”

It was also an exquisitely unimagined career path for a stage actor trained at the Yale School of Drama and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Mr. Frid, as he made plain in interviews, was as conflicted about his calling as Barnabas was about his own.

The son of a prosperous construction executive, John Herbert Frid was born in Hamilton on Dec. 2, 1924; he changed his given name to Jonathan early in his stage career.

After service in the Royal Canadian Navy in World War II, Mr. Frid received a bachelor’s degree from McMaster University in Hamilton; he later moved to London, where he studied at the Royal Academy and appeared in repertory theater. In 1957, he earned a master’s degree in directing from Yale.

Mr. Frid spent his early career acting in North American regional theater, appearing at the Williamstown Theater Festival in Massachusetts and the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Conn. On Broadway, he played Richard Scroop, Archbishop of York, in “Henry IV, Part 2” in 1960.

Long after “Dark Shadows” ended, Barnabas remained an albatross. Mr. Frid reprised the role in the 1970 feature film “House of Dark Shadows”; the few other screen roles that came his way also tended toward the ghoulish. He starred opposite Shelley Winters in the 1973 TV movie “The Devil’s Daughter,” about Satanism; the next year he played a horror writer in “Seizure,” Oliver Stone’s first feature.

Returning to the stage, Mr. Frid played Jonathan Brewster — a role originated by Boris Karloff — in a 1986 Broadway revival of the macabre comedy “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

As critical as he was of “Dark Shadows,” Mr. Frid was equally critical of his performance in it.

“I’d get this long-lost look on my face,” he told The Hamilton Spectator in 2000. “ ‘Where is my love? Where is my love?,’ it seemed to say. Actually, it was me thinking: ‘Where the hell is the teleprompter? And what’s my next line?’ ”

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

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LEVON HELM, DRUMMER AND GRAVEL-THROATED SINGER FOR THE BAND

Elliott Landy

From left, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson and Robbie Robertson of the Band in Woodstock, N.Y. More Photos »

By

Published: April 19, 2012

Levon Helm, who helped to forge a deep-rooted American music as the drummer and singer for the Band, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 71 and lived in Woodstock, N.Y.

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John Storey/Associated Press

The Band at its farewell concert, “The Last Waltz,” at the Winterland Auditorium in San Francisco in November 1976.

His death, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, was from complications of cancer, a spokeswoman for Vanguard Records said. He had recorded several albums for the label.

In Mr. Helm’s drumming, muscle, swing, economy and finesse were inseparably merged. His voice held the bluesy, weathered and resilient essence of his Arkansas upbringing in the Mississippi Delta.

Mr. Helm was the American linchpin of the otherwise Canadian group that became Bob Dylan’s backup band and then the Band. Its own songs, largely written by the Band’s guitarist, Jaime Robbie Robertson, and pianist, Richard Manuel, spring from roadhouse, church, backwoods, river and farm; they are rock-ribbed with history and tradition yet hauntingly surreal.

After the Band broke up in 1976, Mr. Helm continued to perform at every opportunity, working with a partly reunited Band and leading his own groups. He also acted in films, notably “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1980). In the 2000s he became a roots-music patriarch, turning his barn in Woodstock — which had been a recording studio since 1975 — into the home of down-home, eclectic concerts called Midnight Rambles, which led to tours and Grammy-winning albums.

Mr. Helm gave his drums a muffled, bottom-heavy sound that placed them in the foundation of the arrangements, and his tom-toms were tuned so that their pitch would bend downward as the tone faded. Mr. Helm didn’t call attention to himself. Three bass-drum thumps at the start of one of the Band’s anthems, “The Weight,” were all that he needed to establish the song’s gravity.

His playing served the song. In “The Shape I’m In,” he juxtaposed Memphis soul, New Orleans rumba and military tattoo. But while it was tersely responsive to the music, the drumming also had an improvisational feel.

In the Band, lead vocals changed from song to song and sometimes within songs, and harmonies were elaborately communal. But particularly when lyrics turned to myths and tall tales of the American South — like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Ophelia” and “Rag Mama Rag” — the lead went to Mr. Helm, with his Arkansas twang and a voice that could sound desperate, ornery and amused at the same time.

In a 1984 interview with Modern Drummer magazine, Mr. Helm described the “right ingredients” for his work in music and film as “life and breath, heart and soul.”

Mark Lavon Helm was born on May 26, 1940, in Elaine, Ark., the son of a cotton farmer with land near Turkey Scratch, Ark. In his 1993 autobiography, “This Wheel’s on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band,“ written with Stephen Davis, Mr. Helm said he was part Chickasaw Indian through his paternal grandmother. He grew up hearing live bluegrass, Delta blues, country and the beginnings of rock ’n’ roll; Memphis was just across the river.

His father gave him a guitar when he was 9, and he soon started performing: in a duo with his sister Linda and in a high school rock ‘n’ roll band, the Jungle Bush Beaters. He also played drums in the Marvell High School band.

Mr. Helm was in 11th grade when the Arkansas-born rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins hired him as a drummer. He traveled with Mr. Hawkins to Canada, where the shows paid better, and Mr. Hawkins settled there and formed a band. Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks played six nights a week in Ontario and had a number of hit singles, like “Mary Lou.” They performed on Dick Clark’s TV show “American Bandstand.”

By 1961 Mr. Hawkins had assembled the lineup that would become the Band: Mr. Helm, Mr. Robertson, Mr. Manuel, Rick Danko on bass and Garth Hudson on organ. “He knew what musicians had the fire,” Mr. Helm said of Mr. Hawkins. The others had trouble pronouncing Lavon, so Mr. Helm began calling himself Levon.

In 1963, weary of Mr. Hawkins’s discipline, the five Hawks started their own bar-band career as Levon and the Hawks. The blues singer John Hammond Jr. heard them in Toronto and brought Mr. Robertson, Mr. Hudson and Mr. Helm into the studio in 1964 to back him on the album “So Many Roads.”

Bob Dylan had famously brought an electric band to the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, and after its members had made other commitments, he hired Mr. Robertson and Mr. Helm for a summer tour.

At their first rehearsals, Mr. Helm recalled, his reaction to Mr. Dylan was, “I couldn’t believe how many words this guy had in his music, or how he remembered them all.” Before playing their first show, at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium in Queens, Mr. Dylan told the band, “Just keep playing, no matter how weird it gets.”

They polarized the audience — those wanting to hear only Dylan’s folk music booed — and while a subsequent concert at the Hollywood Bowl was better received, another band member, the keyboardist Al Kooper, chose to leave. At that point Mr. Helm told Albert Grossman, Mr. Dylan’s manager, “Take us all, or don’t take anybody.” The Hawks became Mr. Dylan’s band.

They backed Mr. Dylan on a studio single, “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?,” and toured with him through the fall, still getting booed. Mr. Helm quit the band late in 1965. “I wasn’t made to be booed,“ he wrote.

Mr. Dylan’s motorcycle accident in 1966 ended his touring with the Hawks. While he recuperated in Woodstock the Hawks, who were on retainer, rented a big pink house in a neighboring town, West Saugerties, for $125 a month. For most of 1967 the Hawks, with Mr. Manuel playing drums, worked five days a week on music: writing songs with and without Mr. Dylan, playing them at his home and at the house they called Big Pink, and recording them on a two-track tape recorder in the basement. Songs sent to Mr. Dylan’s publisher were soon bootlegged.

In the winter of 1967, the band summoned Mr. Helm to rejoin them. With Mr. Manuel on drums, Mr. Helm picked up mandolin, though he would soon return to drums.

Mr. Grossman got the Hawks their own recording contract with Capitol in February 1968, initially as the Crackers, a name Capitol didn’t like. There was no band name on the LP label or front cover of “Music From Big Pink,” the group’s debut album, which simply had a painting by Mr. Dylan as its cover. (The songs had been written at Big Pink but recorded in professional studios.) The LP label listed all the musicians’ names, while inside the double-fold cover the musicians were listed under the words “The Band.” “The name of the group is just our Christian names,” Mr. Robertson insisted in an interview. But the band became the Band.

Released on July 1, 1968, a year after the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” “Music From Big Pink” was “rebelling against the rebellion,” Mr. Helm wrote. There were no elaborate studio confections, no psychedelic jams, no gimmicks; the music was stately and homespun, with a deliberately old-time tone behind the enigmatic lyrics. Sales were modest, but the album’s influence was huge, leading musicians like Eric Clapton and the Grateful Dead back toward concision. The Band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.

Adding to its mystique, the Band didn’t tour until 1969 because Mr. Danko broke his neck in an auto accident. It made its concert debut as the Band at Winterland in San Francisco in April 1969.

By then, the Band was well into recording its second album, simply titled “The Band,” which would include the group’s only Top 30 single, “Up on Cripple Creek.” The album was universally hailed, and the Band played a summer of huge pop festivals, backing Mr. Dylan at the Isle of Wight and performing in August at Woodstock. In 1970, Mr. Helm and the songwriter Libby Titus had a daughter, Amy Helm, now a member of the band Ollabelle; she survives him, along with his wife since 1981, the former Sandra Dodd, and two grandchildren.

The Band would never match its two initial masterpieces. By the time the group started recording its 1970 album, “Stage Fright,” members were drinking heavily and using heroin, and there were disputes over songwriting credits and publishing royalties, of which Mr. Robertson had by far the greatest share. The collaborative spirit of the first two albums was disappearing. But the Band’s career had momentum; it produced several more studio albums, toured internationally, and a live album, “Rock of Ages,” reached the Top 10 in 1972. In 1973, the Band, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers were the triple bill for the Watkins Glen festival, which drew 600,000 people to upstate New York — larger than Woodstock. In 1974, the Band made an album with Mr. Dylan, “Planet Waves,” and toured with him. “The Basement Tapes,” a collection of songs with and without Mr. Dylan from the Big Pink era, was released in 1975.

In September 1976, Mr. Robertson decided to declare the end of the Band’s touring career with a grand finale: “The Last Waltz,” an all-star concert at Winterland on Thanksgiving 1976. Recorded for an album, it was also filmed by Martin Scorsese and released under the same title. Mr. Helm hated the film, believing that it glorified Mr. Robertson and slighted the rest of the Band. After “The Last Waltz,” the original Band lineup returned to the studio for one last album, the desultory “Islands,” which completed its Capitol contract.

Mr. Helm had already embarked on a solo career. He also branched out into acting, playing Loretta Lynn’s father in “Coal Miner’s Daughter” as well as roles in “The Right Stuff” and in a television movie with Jane Fonda, “The Dollmaker.”

But Mr. Helm wanted above all to be a working musician. In the early 1980s he toured with his fellow Band members, minus Mr. Robertson. They were on the road in 1986 when Mr. Manuel committed suicide at 42. But Mr. Helm, Mr. Danko and Mr. Hudson continued to work together as the Band, with additional musicians and songwriters, releasing three albums during the 1990s. Mr. Danko died in 1999 at 55. Meanwhile, Mr. Helm’s barn studio became a hub for musicians from Woodstock and beyond, often with Mr. Helm and Mr. Hudson sitting in. Mr. Helm, a heavy smoker, contracted throat cancer in the late 1990s, and for months he could not speak above a whisper. A tumor was removed from his vocal cords, and he underwent 28 radiation treatments. Medical bills threatened him with the loss of his home. Partly to raise money, he began hosting the Midnight Rambles at his barn in 2004. More house parties than concerts, they featured unannounced guest stars and a band of his own that delved into Americana as well as the Band catalog.

His voice strengthened, and the core of his Midnight Ramble bands became a touring and recording group; it performed in 2009 at the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival on its site in Bethel, N.Y., although Mr. Helm was unable to sing that night. Mr. Helm’s 2007 and 2009 studio albums, “Dirt Farmer” and “Electric Dirt,” won Grammy Awards, as did his 2011 “Ramble at the Ryman,” recorded live in Nashville and broadcast on PBS.

Nearly to the end, Mr. Helm spent his life on the bandstand. “If it doesn’t come from your heart,” he wrote, “music just doesn’t work.”

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