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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, October 12, 2019

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Ginger Baker, rock drummer with CreamCiaran Carson, Irish poet, translator, and flutistCarlos Celdran, Philippine cultural activist and performance artistFrancis S. Currey, one of three living WWII Medal of Honor recipientsRobert Forster, Oscar-nominated film and TV character actorJill Freedman, NYC street photographerJohn Giorno, poet and artistRobert Goelet, NYC civic leader, naturalist, and philanthropistMasaichi Kaneda, Japanese baseball starAlexie Leonov, Soviet cosmonaut who first walked in spaceSamuel Mayerson, lawyer who prosecuted Patty HearstKaren Pendleton, former MouseketeerStephen C. Swid, businessman and investorRip Taylor, TV comedian

Art and Literature

Ciaran Carson (70) Irish poet whose poetry and prose captured the heritage of Northern Ireland, especially his native Belfast. Also a translator and flutist, Carson was perhaps best known as a poet, and his most acclaimed collection may have been Belfast Confetti (1989). He died of lung cancer in Belfast, Ireland, three days short of his 71st birthday. on October 6, 2019.

Jill Freedman (79) hard-living photographer who immersed herself for months at a time in the lives of street cops, firefighters, circus performers, and other groups she felt were misunderstood. Lots of people dream of running away and joining the circus, but Freedman actually did it and created a body of images that captured the solitude and weirdness of the American road. In seven books and numerous gallery exhibitions and journalism assignments, she specialized in finding people on the rough margins of American life, rendering them as noble but not necessarily heroic. Even when her subjects were freakish or odd, Freedman never traded in oddity for its own sake. Viewers might laugh with the characters but not at them. A chain smoker who liked to drink—she noted that the Lion’s Head bar in Greenwich Village closed at 5 a.m.—Freedman found her stride in New York when the city was still mostly seedy, living her life and work as if she were auditioning for a role in one of her photos. She died of cancer in New York City on October 9, 2019.

John Giorno (82) poet who turned to art and mass media to shake poetry loose from the page and embed it more deeply in the fabric of everyday life. Giorno played an important role early in his life as a muse and lover of other artists, among them Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol, who created his 1963 film Sleep by focusing a movie camera on Giorno’s sleeping body for more than five hours. But Giorno’s lasting contribution to art came through his experiments in the circulation and political potential of poetry, which he felt had been unjustly overshadowed by other genres of expression. In 2002 he founded Giorno Poetry Systems, a nonprofit foundation, to promote his work and that of his peers. And in 2006 he started Dial-a-Poem, a mass-communication system for cutting-edge poets and political oratory. Millions of people dialed in, hearing verse recited by poets like Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, Peter Schjeldahl, and Ron Padgett, later joined by dozens of other poets and groups like the Black Panthers. Giorno died of a heart attack in New York City on October 11, 2019.

Business and Science

Alexei Leonov (85) Soviet cosmonaut who became the first human to walk in space 54 years ago—and nearly didn’t make it back into his space capsule. Leonov—described by the Russian Space Agency as Cosmonaut No. 11—was an icon both in his country and in the US. He was such a legend that the late science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke named a Soviet spaceship after him in his 2010 sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Leonov staked his place in space history on March 18, 1965, when he exited his Voskhod 2 space capsule secured by a tether. But his spacesuit inflated so much in the vacuum of space that he could not get back into the spacecraft and had to open a valve to vent oxygen from his suit to be able to fit through the hatch. Leonov’s 12-minute spacewalk preceded the first US spacewalk, by Ed White, by less than three months. He died in Moscow, Russia on October 11, 2019.

Stephen C. Swid (78) investor and businessman whose varied career included deals for furniture and carpeting companies, an independent film distributor, and the “21” Club, but became best known for transforming Sesac, once an obscure licensing organization, into an influential force in the music industry. After starting his career as a Wall Street analyst and money manager in the ‘60s, Swid teamed with a partner to take over a series of businesses that put them on the map as aggressive young investors. In 1985 they paid $21 million for the “21” Club, a watering hole for the city’s power-broker elite. By 1986 Swid had split from his partner and was looking for new deals when he learned that CBS Inc. was selling its music publishing division, CBS Songs, which controlled the copyrights to about 250,000 songs, including classics like “Over the Rainbow” and “New York, New York.” Joining with two music executives, Swid led the purchase of CBS Songs for $125 million. The three formed a new company, SBK Entertainment World, and in early 1989, little more than two years after the CBS deal closed, they sold it to the conglomerate Thorn-EMI for $337 million. It was the highest price that had ever been paid for a music publisher. Swid died of frontal temporal lobe degeneration in New York City on October 6, 2019.


Samuel Mayerson (97) prosecutor who took newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst to court for shooting up a southern California sporting goods store in 1974—then successfully argued for probation, not prison, for the kidnap victim turned terrorist. Mayerson later had a decades-long career as a judge. Although best known for the Hearst case, he also prosecuted and, later as judge, presided over hundreds of criminal cases during a legal career that spanned more than 60 years. A legal expert known for having little patience for attorneys who entered his courtroom unprepared, Mayerson was widely praised and well liked for his fairness. He died in Rancho Palos Verde, California on October 7, 2019.

News and Entertainment

Ginger Baker (80) volatile drummer for Cream and other bands who wielded blues power and jazz finesse and helped to shatter boundaries of time, tempo, and style in popular music. With blazing eyes, orange-red hair, and a temperament to match, the London native ranked with The Who’s Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin’s John Bonham as the embodiment of musical and personal fury. Using twin bass drums, Baker fashioned a pounding style that inspired and intimidated countless musicians. Rolling Stone magazine once ranked him the third-greatest rock drummer of all time, behind Moon and Bonham. Baker had contempt for Moon and others he dismissed as “bashers” without style or background. Baker and his many admirers saw him as a rounded, sophisticated musician—an arranger, composer, and student of the craft, absorbing sounds from around the world. He died in England on October 6, 2019.

Carlos Celdran (46) Philippine cultural activist and performance artist who received national attention for his dramatic protest against the Roman Catholic Church’s stance on reproductive health. In 2010 Celdran interrupted a Mass at the Manila Cathedral, dressed as José Rizal, an author considered a national hero after being executed by the Spanish in 1896 for leading a peaceful revolt against the colonial government. Celdran carried a large sign that read “DAMASO”—a reference to Father Damaso, a character from one of Rizal’s novels who symbolized corruption in the church. In attendance were leaders of the church, whom he criticized for their role in blocking the passage of a reproductive health bill that would have helped the country’s poorest women to gain access to contraceptives. Celdran died in Spain, where he had been living in exile, on October 8, 2019.

Robert Forster (78) handsome character actor who got a career resurgence and an Oscar nomination for playing bail bondsman Max Cherry in Jackie Brown (1997). Forster quite literally stumbled into acting when in college, intending to be a lawyer, he followed a fellow female student he was trying to talk to into an auditorium where Bye Bye Birdie auditions were being held. He was cast in that show, that fellow student became his first wife (with whom he had three daughters), and it started him on a new trajectory as an actor. Forster soon made his film debut in the 1967 John Huston film Reflections in a Golden Eye, which starred Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. He later starred in Haskell Wexler’s documentary-style Chicago classic Medium Cool and the TV detective series Banyon. He worked consistently throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s in mostly forgettable B-movies—ultimately appearing in over 100 films. It was Quentin Tarantino’s film Jackie Brown that put him back on the map. He most recently appeared on TV as Tim Allen’s father on Last Man Standing. Forster died of brain cancer in Los Angeles, California on October 11, 2019.

Karen Pendleton (73) child performer who charmed young baby boomers in the ‘50s as one of the original Mouseketeers on Walt Disney’s TV series The Mickey Mouse Club. Pendleton was 9 when the show made its debut in October 1955, shortly after Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California. A tiny girl with long, curly blonde hair, Karen could dance adeptly thanks to lessons she had been taking since she was 3. She joined Annette Funicello, Sharon Baird, Cubby O’Brien, Darlene Gillespie, and the other Mouseketeers—all of whom went by just one name and wore mouse ears—on a show that featured singing and dancing, educational segments, and episodic serials. Funicello, the Mouseketeer who had the most prominent entertainment career, died in 2013. In 1983 Pendleton was a passenger in a car accident that injured her spinal cord and left her paralyzed from the waist down. She died of a heart attack in Fresno, California on October 6, 2019.

Rip Taylor (88) mustachioed comedian with a fondness for throwing confetti who became a TV game show mainstay in the ‘70s. Taylor did not have a direct line into show business. He was born in Washington, DC and first worked as a congressional page before serving in the Army during the Korean War, where he started performing standup. His ascent began with spots on The Ed Sullivan Show, where he was known as the “crying comedian.” But the moniker predated his TV stints and went back to his time performing in the Catskills. In his over 50 years in entertainment, Taylor made over 2,000 guest star appearances on shows like The Monkees, The Merv Griffin Show, The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman, Hollywood Squares, and The Gong Show. He died in Beverly Hills, California on October 6, 2019.

Politics and Military

Francis S. Currey (94) US World War II veteran who received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Battle of the Bulge. Currey was a “true American hero” who knocked out an enemy tank, drove back enemy troops, and rescued five American soldiers who had been pinned down under fire in the Belgian town of Malmedy on December 21, 1944. He was one of three living WWII Medal of Honor recipients. The town of Malmedy in the Ardennes region of Belgium is remembered for one of the most notorious war crimes against American prisoners in WWII. More than 80 unresisting GIs were shot to death on the town’s outskirts by members of a German SS armored division soon after their surrender on the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, a surprise counterattack by the Germans, bringing huge Allied casualties. Four days after what became known as the Malmedy massacre, Currey, a lanky 19-year-old Army private in the 30th Infantry Division, carried out an extraordinary feat to repulse an onslaught by the First SS Panzer Division a few miles from where its members had committed the massacre. He died in Selkirk, New York, near Albany, on October 8, 2019.

Society and Religion

Robert Goelet (96) civic leader, naturalist, and philanthropist whose marriage merged two families that date to 17th-century New Amsterdam and made the couple stewards of Gardiners Island, a sanctuary off the tip of Long Island. The scion of a real estate dynasty, Goelet was 52 when he married Alexandra Gardiner Creel in 1976. Under a trust from her aunt, she held Gardiners Island jointly with her uncle Robert David Lion Gardiner, and when he died in 2004, the Goelets took full possession of it—all 3,300 acres, 40 times the size of Central Park, complete with 27 miles of coastline, lush white pine and oak forests, colonial buildings, a 200-year-old windmill, a family cemetery, and more ospreys than people. The couple maintained the island as a bird sanctuary while restoring its colonial buildings and natural habitat. Goelet died in New York City on October 8, 2019.


Masaichi Kaneda (86) Japanese baseball great who started each of the thousands of innings he pitched during his illustrious career in Japan the same way: He walked to the mound, dropped his glove, grabbed the rosin bag, tossed it a few times, dropped it, then picked up his glove. Then he walked to second base, where he threw the first of eight warm-up pitches to the catcher. After each throw he moved a few steps closer to the mound, until by the eighth pitch he was standing on it. Kaneda was among the best at his craft—the winningest pitcher in the history of Japanese professional baseball, the only one in Japan to win 400 games. In the American major leagues, only two pitchers have won more: Cy Young, with 511, and Walter Johnson, with 417. Kaneda was the all-time leader in Japan in strikeouts, with 4,490, and innings pitched, with 5,526. He won 20 or more games in 14 consecutive seasons and pitched two no-hitters, including a perfect game. He died in Tokyo, Japan of acute cholangitis, an inflammation of the bile duct tract, on October 6, 2019.

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