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Sunday, June 08, 2008

Passings; Obituary Catch-Up

I'm late in mentioning the loss of most of the below individuals, but prompted by the sad news of the death of Jim McKay. The world is a bit less better off because some fine people have left their earthly existence, and they will be missed.

Jim McKay, veteran sports broadcaster died on Saturday at the age of 86. His family said he death was due to natural causes. AFP:

    McKay was the amiable face of "ABC's Wide World of Sports," the most successful sports program in US television history, and hosted coverage of 12 Olympic games.

    His poised minute-by-minute reporting from the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which members of the Israeli team were taken hostage and murdered, won him accolades and awards, including two Emmys and the George Polk Award.

    He was inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 1988.


    McKay rose to fame at ABC sports, winning awards for both his on-air broadcasting and his writing, and hosted major horse racing events, college football, the Indianapolis 500 auto race and the British Open golf championship.

    His introduction to the popular "Wide World of Sports" program, with the phrase "the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat," entered pop culture.

McKay covered the tragedy of 1972's Munich, Germany Olympic coverage. The Guardian:

    ...his Olympics coverage made him one of the world's most recognized sports personalities, especially his reports on the Black September attack on the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Games, which led to the deaths of 11 Israelis, one German policeman and five of the eight attackers.

    When it became apparent all the hostages had been killed, McKay, looking haggard, addressed the camera and memorably announced, "They're all gone." He said later it was the most difficult thing he had ever done on television.

    McKay had gone for a morning swim when he heard gunshots had been fired in the Olympic Village, so he threw his clothes on over his swimsuit and ran to the ABC studio, where he stayed on the air for 16 hours to describe the attacks.

    McKay received two of his 13 U.S. television Emmy awards for his coverage of the 1972 Olympics, as well as the year's George Polk Memorial Award, given to one journalist whose work represents the best reporting of the year.

Sports broadcasting will not see the likes of Jim McKay again. Ever.
- - - - -

Comedian and director Dick Martin died at the age of 86. AP via NPR:

    Dick Martin, the zany half of the comedy team whose "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In" took television by storm in the 1960s, making stars of Goldie Hawn and Lily Tomlin and creating such national catch-phrases as "Sock it to me!" has died. He was 86.

    Martin, who went on to become one of television's busiest directors after splitting with Dan Rowan in the late 1970s, died Saturday night of respiratory complications at a hospital in Santa Monica, family spokesman Barry Greenberg said.


    Martin moved onto the game-show circuit, but quickly tired of it. After he complained about the lack of challenges in his career, fellow comic Bob Newhart's agent suggested he take up directing.

    He was reluctant at first, but after observing on "The Bob Newhart Show," he decided to try. He would recall later that it was "like being thrown into the deep end of the swimming pool and being told to sink or swim."

    Soon he was one of the industry's busiest TV directors, working on numerous episodes of "Newhart" as well as such shows as "In the Heat of the Night," "Archie Bunker's Place" and "Family Ties."

    Born into a middle-class family in Battle Creek, Mich., Martin had worked in a Ford auto assembly plant after high school.

Martin's full filmograpy here.
- - - - -

Veteran film director
Sidney Pollack died at the age of 73. AP:

    Pollack, diagnosed with cancer about nine months ago, died Monday afternoon, surrounded by family, at his home in Los Angeles, said publicist Leslee Dart. He was 73.

    In a tireless career spanning nearly five decades, Pollack distinguished himself as a true professional: a director, a producer and an actor. His greatest successes as a director — 1982's "Tootsie" and 1985's "Out of Africa" — came years ago, but he showed no signs of slowing down.


    Hollywood mourned the loss of the well-liked, prolific filmmaker. He had worked with seemingly every A-list star in the business, from Robert Mitchum to Al Pacino. But Pollack collaborated with Robert Redford more than any other — seven films, including "Out of Africa," 1973's "The Way We Were," 1975's "Three Days of the Condor" and 1979's "The Electric Horseman."


    "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" — the 1969 film about Depression-era marathon dancers — received nine Oscar nominations, including one for Pollack's direction.

"They Shoot Horses, Don't They" is a masterpiece.

Pollack's full filmography is here.
- - - - -

Fashion designer Yves St. Laurent
died at the age of 71. AP:

    Yves Saint Laurent, one of the most influential and enduring designers of the 20th century, empowered women by reinventing pants as a sleek, elegant staple of the female wardrobe.

    Saint Laurent, 71, died Sunday night at his Paris home after a yearlong battle with brain cancer, said Pierre Berge, Saint Laurent's close friend and business partner for four decades.

    "Chanel gave women freedom," and Saint Laurent "gave them power," Berge said on France-Info radio. He called Saint Laurent a "true creator" who went beyond the aesthetic to make a social statement.

    "In this sense, he was a libertarian, an anarchist and he threw bombs at the legs of society," he said. "That's how he transformed society and that's how he transformed women."


    Saint Laurent once said he felt "fashion was not only supposed to make women beautiful, but to reassure them, to give them confidence, to allow them to come to terms with themselves."

He made it acceptable for women wearing pants not only to be fashionable, but the norm. The Moment, NYT Blog:

    I think it’s so hard for anybody to understand now how revolutionary his ideas were. The idea of wearing pants to the office! And the stories are legion.

St. Laurent also pioneered that fashionable clothing could be purchased "off-the-rack". Lasting Tribute:

    His ability to operate across the full spectrum of fashion styles was central to the stroke of genius that was Rive Gauche, the boutique that made versions of haute couture creations available off the rack for the first time.

- - - - -

Beloved comedian and actor Harvey Korman
departed from us at the age of 81. AP:

    Harvey Korman, the tall, versatile comedian who won four Emmys for his outrageously funny contributions to "The Carol Burnett Show" and played a conniving politician to hilarious effect in "Blazing Saddles," died Thursday. He was 81.

    Korman died at UCLA Medical Center after suffering complications from the rupture of an abdominal aortic aneurysm four months ago, his family said. He had undergone several major operations.

    "He was a brilliant comedian and a brilliant father," daughter Kate Korman said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "He had a very good sense of humor in real life. "


    His most memorable film role was as the outlandish Hedley Lamarr (who was endlessly exasperated when people called him Hedy) in Mel Brooks' 1974 Western satire, "Blazing Saddles."

    "A world without Harvey Korman — it's a more serious world," Brooks told the AP on Thursday. "It was very dangerous for me to work with him because if our eyes met we'd crash to floor in comic ecstasy. It was comedy heaven to make Harvey Korman laugh."


    Korman's other films included two "Pink Panther" moves, "Trail of the Pink Panther" in 1982 and "Curse of the Pink Panther" in 1983; "Gypsy," "Huckleberry Finn" (as the King), "Herbie Goes Bananas" and "Bud and Lou" (as legendary straightman Bud Abbott to Buddy Hackett's Lou Costello).

    In television, Korman guest-starred in dozens of series including "The Donna Reed Show," "Dr. Kildare," "Perry Mason," "The Wild Wild West," "The Muppet Show," "The Love Boat" and "Burke's Law."

Korman's full filmography here.

Two sets of dialogue from Mel Brooks' "History of The World: Part One" - among many - leave me rolling with laughter.

First, the exchange between County DeMonet (Harvey Korman) and the King (Mel Brooks), with can also be viewed near the 6 minute 30 second mark of this video clip, where the subject at hand is trying to find a double - someone who looks like the king - to take the king's place because the French people are revolting. DeMonet spots the piss boy, who is a dead ringer for the King:

Count DeMonet: Your majesty! You look like the piss boy!
King Louis: ... and you look like a bucket of shit!

And the "Don't be saucy with me, Bearnaise", clip:


I had his name down to add, but published the above before double-checking my notes and I apologize for failing to include him in the first publishing. The sad news of the death of music legend (and I am pretty reserved in my using that word, "legend"), the late, great, one-of-a-kind, Bo Diddley. BBC:

    Some of music's biggest stars have honoured US rock 'n' roll pioneer Bo Diddley who has died at the age of 79.


    Without him, there wouldn't be any music - the history of music would not have developed as it has.

    You wouldn't have the Rolling Stones and you wouldn't have had all the beat groups in the 1960s and you wouldn't have had the Stooges.

    Conversely, logically, you wouldn't have had punk and the Sex Pistols and a lot of other stuff.

    His music and that Bo Diddley beat, that kind of shaven-haircut, two-bits beat that he had is kind of the bedrock of most rock 'n' roll.


    He took a very childlike, simple beat and beefed it up massively and changed the face of modern music very simply.

    But it was a very brilliant idea.


    My dad worked with him in the 60s, he did a gig with him when he toured in England.

    He said he was really a gentle man and quite a funny bloke and, apparently, he had the biggest hands he'd ever seen on a human being.

    He was an incredible musician.

    As human beings, I think we need something that that's primal to keep us going.

    I think musicians will inevitably gravitate towards the source of the river - the mountain top - and that's where Bo Diddley was.

Oh yes, Bo Diddley sat on the Mountain Top of Music. And what he created ran downhill for other musicians to adopt and adapt. Diddley was an original, an innovator, an creator. What he created for us, and what he bequeathed to us in music is legendary.

May they all rest in Peace. They will all be missed.

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