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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, November 7, 2020

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Lady Elizabeth Anson, British party plannerRobert Sam Anson, magazine writerLen Barry, former lead singer of DovellsCandido Camero, Cuban conga drummerNorm Crosby, comic master of malapropismNancy Darsch, Ohio State women's basketball coachTracey Davis, author and daughter of Sammy Davis Jr. and May BrittRobert Fisk, British journalistHenry Haller, longest-tenured White House chefEddie Hassell, TV and film actorFred Hills, book editorNaomi Long Madgett, poet and publisherNikki McKibbin, early 'American Idol' contestantTom Metzger, racist ideologueGeoffrey Palmer, British actor, with Judi Dench in 'As Time Goes By'Aileen Passloff, dancer, choreographer, and teacherEdward J. Perkins, first US black ambassador to South AfricaGigi Proietti, Italian actorElsa Raven, 'Everywoman' character actressE. S. Reddy, helped tp end South African apartheidJonathan Sacks, British chief rabbiFernando Solanas, Argentine filmmakerKen Spears, cocreator of 'Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!'Billy Tubbs, Oklahoma basketball coachBaron Wolman, 'Rolling Stone' magazine's first photographerNatan Zach, Israeli poet

Art and Literature

Tracey Davis (59) author and daughter of Rat Pack entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. (died 1990) and actress May Britt. Tracey Davis wrote about her experiences as the daughter of one of the greatest entertainers ever, whose career kept them apart during her childhood years, in her 1996 book, Sammy Davis Jr.: My Father. The book was about her effort to reconnect with her father later as an adult. It was cowritten with Dolores A. Barclay, a former editor at the Associated Press. Davis wrote a second book, Sammy Davis Jr.: A Personal Journey with My Father, in 2014, about his experiences encountering racism throughout his career. MGM announced plans last month to develop a Sammy Davis Jr. biopic based on Davis’s first book. Tracey Davis died in Franklin, Tennessee on November 2, 2020.

Fred Hills (85) book editor, a former editor in chief at McGraw Hill and later senior editor at Simon & Schuster. Hills was a great admirer of novelist Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita. He worked with the author on a half-dozen books and on the screenplay for Lolita, cutting Nabokov’s script, with its running time of nine hours, down to two. In the twilight of Nabokov’s career, Hills traveled to Zermatt, Switzerland, and between editing sessions on the author's last completed novel, Look at the Harlequins! (1974), the two went butterfly hunting together in the foothills of the Matterhorn. During his 40 years in publishing, Hills brought to market both commercial hits and literary prize-winners and edited more than 50 best-sellers. His stable of authors encompassed an assortment from many genres—Heinrich Böll and Jane Fonda, Justin Kaplan and William Saroyan, Raymond Carver and James MacGregor Burns, Sumner Redstone and Joan Kennedy, Phil Donahue and David Halberstam. Hills died of prostate cancer in Bronxville, New York on November 7, 2020.

Naomi Long Madgett (97) was 17 when her first book of poetry was published and just 26 when her work appeared in an anthology coedited by Langston Hughes, an early mentor, that covered 200 years of black poetry. Madgett’s poems—which invited comparisons to Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson—addressed social justice, romantic love, women’s histories, religious devotion, and the craft of poetry itself. Yet she was almost as well known as a publisher and editor of poetry, an accidental career that began in her Detroit basement when she couldn’t find the right press for her fourth book and decided to put it out herself. Lotus Press, her imprint, presented, often for the first time, the work of black writers like Herbert Woodward Martin, Dolores Kendrick, James A. Emmanuel, and Toi Derricotte. Despite its literary prestige, Lotus Press stayed in Madgett’s basement, and for decades she ran it mostly by herself. Madgett, who had been the poet laureate of Detroit since 2001, died in West Bloomfield, Michigan on November 5, 2020.

Natan Zach (89) Israeli poet who helped to revolutionize Hebrew poetry by spurning the formality of his more established contemporaries in favor of plain-spoken verse. Zach embraced a leftist perspective on the perennial tensions between Israel and the Palestinians, even voicing support for the flotilla of six vessels that in May 2010 tried to penetrate an Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. He took an elitist view toward the culture of right-wing Israeli Jews who traced their roots to predominantly Muslim countries. Zach died of Alzheimer's disease in Ramat Gan, Israel, outside Tel Aviv, on November 6, 2020.

Business and Science

Henry Haller (97) longest-tenured executive chef in White House history. Haller’s entree to the White House came in late 1965, after the executive chef hired by the Kennedys had quit, finding it beneath his dignity to prepare food like the spare ribs, spoon bread, and mashed garbanzo beans requested by the subsequent White House occupants, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson. Haller, a pragmatic and versatile Swiss-born chef, had impressed Johnson by preparing meals for him at the Ambassador Hotel during the president’s trips to Manhattan as a senator. From 1966 until his retirement in ‘87, Haller whipped up comfort food for their families, oversaw 250 state dinners, and endured several tempest-in-a-fondue-pot controversies. Haller, who lived in the Washington suburb of Gaithersburg, Maryland, died on November 7, 2020.


Aileen Passloff (89) whose career as a dancer, choreographer, and teacher spanned ballet, modern dance, and postmodern dance. Passloff, a former member of the Judson Dance Theater, the experimental ‘60s collective that led to post-modern dance, was cochair of the dance and drama department at Bard College in upstate New York from 1969–90. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer in 2015 but died of heart failure in New York City on November 3, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Robert Sam Anson (75) magazine writer who explored the mean streets of Los Angeles, the jungles of Southeast Asia, and the psyches of prominent American men. Anson wrote mostly for Vanity Fair, where he was a contributing editor for more than 20 years, but also for Esquire, Life, The Atlantic, and New Times, a short-lived crusading magazine of the left in the mid-‘70s. His byline promised vigorous writing, vivid scene-setting, and insight into complicated, sometimes difficult men, of whom he was one. Anson died of dementia in Rexford, New York on November 2, 2020.

Len Barry (78) lead singer of the Dovells on their danceable early-‘60s hits “Bristol Stomp” and “You Can’t Sit Down” and later a solo artist whose career peaked with his love song “1-2-3.” The Dovells were a doo-wop group whose members had all sung lead at various times. When the group auditioned for Cameo-Parkway Records in Philadelphia in late 1960, Barry sang lead on “No, No, No,” a song he had written. They got the deal. “Bristol Stomp”—about teenagers dancing a new step in Bristol, Pennsylvania—rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1961. The group performed the song in the 1962 film Don’t Knock the Twist. After several modest hits (including “Bristol Twistin’ Annie” and “The Jitterbug”), the Dovells returned to the Top 10 in 1963 with the infectious “You Can’t Sit Down,” which peaked at No. 3. Later that year Barry left the group in a dispute over its direction. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania of myelodysplasia, a bone marrow disease, on November 5, 2020.

Cándido Camero (99) conga drummer who brought Afro-Cuban influences to American ensembles in the middle of the 20th century. Camero brought a new dimension to both Latin music and jazz. He played multiple conga drums simultaneously, something new at the time, and introduced other innovations as he performed with top names like Dizzy Gillespie and Stan Kenton. Camero died in New York City on November 7, 2020.

Norm Crosby (93) comedian known as the master of the malaprop because he spoke from his diagram and related many funny antidotes, often to a standing ovulation. Crosby started telling jokes in the late ‘50s, when comedians often relied on one type of gag for their acts: Don Rickles was the insult comic, Henny Youngman was the king of the one-liners. As a young comedian in New England, Crosby experimented with those forms and more. He appeared on the TV shows of Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, and Merv Griffin and on comedy series like The Love Boat. From 1978–81 he hosted The Comedy Shop, a syndicated showcase for young stand-up comedians, and essentially played himself on the ‘88–89 Showtime sitcom The Boys, about a club that closely resembled the Friars Club, where he often took part in roasts. Crosby died of heart failure in Los Angeles, California on November 7, 2020.

Robert Fisk (74) veteran British journalist, one of the best-known Middle East correspondents who spent his career reporting from the troubled region and won accolades for challenging mainstream narratives. Fisk’s reporting often sparked controversy. The London Independent, where he had worked since 1989, described him as the most celebrated journalist of his era. He also wrote several books, including Pity the Nation: Lebanon at War and The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East. He died in Dublin, Ireland on November 1, 2020.

Eddie Hassell (30) actor known for his roles on the NBC show Surface and in the 2010 film The Kids Are All Right. Hassell was killed in a shooting in the Dallas suburb of Grand Prairie, Texas. Police responded to a report of a shooting and found Hassell suffering from gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The shooting appeared to be connected to a carjacking. The motive remained under investigation, but a car was taken from the scene of the shooting. No arrests have been made, but police said the car has since been recovered. Hassell was shot to death on November 1, 2020.

Nikki McKibbin (42) singer from Texa best known for her third-place finish in the first season of American Idol. McKibbin appeared on the talent show in 2002 when it started and became an instant hit. Then a 23-year-old from Grand Prairie, Texas, she impressed the judges with soulful performances of songs by Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, and a stirring cover of Alanna Myles’ song “Black Velvet.” McKibbin finished third on the show that year, behind Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson, who won the competition. Gracious in defeat, McKibbin tearfully hugged her fellow contestants when she was voted out in 2002. She died of a brain aneurysm in Arlington, Texas on November 1, 2020.

Geoffrey Palmer (93) British character actor whose career peaked during the long run of As Time Goes By, the romantic BBC sitcom in which he and Judi Dench played lovers reunited after 38 years apart. Palmer worked in films and theater but was best known for his work on TV, including comedies like The Fall & Rise of Reginald Perrin, Butterflies, and several episodes of Doctor Who. His hangdog expression and grumpy demeanor also made a memorable appearance in a 1979 episode of the sitcom Fawlty Towers, in which he played a guest who finds it difficult to get his breakfast order while Basil Fawlty (John Cleese), the hapless proprietor of a run-down hotel, is hiding a corpse. With over 67 episodes between 1992–2005, As Time Goes By became popular in Britain (and on PBS stations in the US) largely because of the chemistry between Palmer and Dench. Palmer died in Buckinghamshire, England, near London, on November 5, 2020.

Gigi Proietti (80) actor who personified the sometimes rough humor of his fellow Romans and was best known as the star of a long-running TV series playing a small-town police chief. Proietti began his acting career on Rome’s experimental theater scene but quickly took center stage in a renowned one-man show—a mix of jokes, traditional songs, and touching sketches called A Me Gli Occhi, Please (All Eyes on Me, Please). The show drew some 500,000 spectators during its run in a Rome circus tent from 1976–78. Proietti became a TV star in variety shows, comedies, and dramas, mostly on Italy’s national broadcaster. He played the chief in the Carabiniere, Italy’s paramilitary police force, on the hugely popular series Il Maresciallo Rocca, a mix of comedy and drama that ran intermittently for five seasons from 1995–2006 and continues to be seen in reruns. Proietti died of heart failure in Rome, Italy on his 80th birthday, November 2, 2020.

Elsa Raven (91) character actress best remembered for a small but crucial role in the hit time-travel comedy Back to the Future, in which she established a pivotal plot point by lobbying to preserve the local clock tower. Raven had dozens of film and TV credits and appeared on New York and regional stages. She built a steady career of Everywoman roles. The film and TV characters she played sometimes didn’t even have names. She was just “Maid” or “Prenatal Nurse” or “Mom” (as in the Season 6 Seinfeld episode “The Mom & Pop Store”). None of those performances made a bigger impression than her role as “Clocktower Lady” in Back to the Future, the top-grossing movie of 1985. Early in the film, Raven's character interrupts the young lovers played by Michael J. Fox and Claudia Wells in mid-kiss, urging them to “save the clock tower.” The mayor, she tells them, holding out a donation can, wants to replace the clock, which hadn't run in 30 years. Raven died in Los Angeles, California on November 2, 2020.

Fernando Solanas (84) when Argentina’s Senate debated a law legalizing abortion in 2018, Solanas, then a senator, argued fervently in favor of it in part by declaring that sexual pleasure was a “fundamental human right.” The bill was rejected, but Solanas’ speech and its unusual argument quickly went viral in a nation bitterly divided by the issue. He was a consistent voice on the left, often speaking out in favor of human and environmental rights, whether in politics or in his other life as an influential filmmaker whose movies and documentaries marked a new era in Latin American cinema. He died of Covid-19 in Paris, France on November 6, 2020.

Ken Spears (82) helped to create Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, the animated series starring a gang of mystery-solving teenagers and a hungry dog that became one of the most lucrative franchises in the history of animation. Joe Ruby, Scooby-Doo’s cocreator and Spears’s longtime business partner, died in August. Spears was just out of the Navy when a friend’s father, William Hanna, offered him a job in the editing studio of his new company, Hanna-Barbera. There he met Ruby, also newly sprung from the Navy, and the two began writing gags and scripts. They soon caught the attention of Fred Silverman, then head of daytime programming at CBS, who charged them with creating a cartoon series that would be a blend of I Love a Mystery, a radio show popular in the ‘40s about three friends looking for adventure; the 1948 comedy-horror movie Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein; and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, the sitcom that ran from ‘59–63 about a teenager looking for love and his slacker beatnik sidekick. Working with artist Iwao Takamoto, Spears and Ruby created a half-hour comedy mystery with a quartet of teenagers and a goofy Great Dane with a gruff bark. After 15 or so drafts, they realized that the dog was the star. Spears and Ruby started their own company, Ruby-Spears Productions, in 1977. Over the next 20 years they rolled out numerous animated shows, including Alvin & the Chipmunks, a reboot of the 1961–62 series The Alvin Show. Spears died of Lewy body dementia in Brea, California on November 6, 2020.

Baron Wolman (83) Rolling Stone magazine’s first photographer. One of Wolman’s gifts as a photographer at the heart of the rock scene during the Woodstock era was his ability to gain the trust of his subjects. That skill led to enduring images of Jerry Garcia and the rest of the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and countless others. Wolman’s best-known images are of stars away from the stage, although he also took performance shots. His first rock concert assignment was The Who at the Cow Palace near San Francisco in 1967. He was new to the scene and wasn’t prepared for Pete Townshend’s guitar-smashing. Wolman died in Santa Fe, New Mexico of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, on November 2, 2020.

Politics and Military

Tom Metzger (82) racist ideologue who became one of the most influential figures in the US white supremacist movement and mentored a violent generation of neo-Nazis from his home in Fallbrook, California. Even though Metzger had largely faded from the spotlight in recent years, he continued until a few months ago to spread his messaging online, through social media and radio shows on his website. He died in Hemet, California on November 4, 2020.

Edward J. Perkins (92) when Perkins was a student at a segregated school in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, his history teacher taught the class about the brutal racial oppression in South Africa. It was even worse, the students were told, than what they as black people were experiencing in the American South. The teacher urged her students to donate what little change they had to the African National Congress in support of its struggle against white minority rule. Perkins recalled that lesson often when he became the US’s first black ambassador to South Africa, serving during the last bitter 10 years of the system that had come to be called apartheid. The ambassador met with black and white South Africans and even held integrated receptions. He stayed in South Africa until 1989, by which time cracks were beginning to show in that country’s repressive regime. Perkins died of a stroke in Washington, DC on November 7, 2020.

E. S. Reddy (96) Indian-born acolyte of Gandhi who spearheaded efforts at the United Nations to end apartheid in South Africa. From 1963–84, Reddy oversaw the UN’s efforts against apartheid first as principal secretary of the Special Committee Against Apartheid, then as director of the Center Against Apartheid. He campaigned for boycotts and other economic sanctions against the white South African government, which segregated and oppressed black people and subordinated the country’s large population of Indian immigrants. He also lobbied relentlessly for the release of Nelson Mandela, the imprisoned antiapartheid leader who was finally freed in 1990, then elected South Africa’s first black head of state in ’94. Reddy died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on November 1, 2020.

Society and Religion

Lady Elizabeth Anson (79) party planner to rock stars and royals and a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. Anson was born at Windsor, but unlike her royal relatives, she had to make a living and went to work at 19. In spite of severe shyness, she became a professional hostess, organizing over-the-top events for, as she put it, “the very rich, the very idle, the very busy, and the ones who simply haven’t a clue what to do.” Anson felt that the secret to a successful party, along with easy access to the bathroom and to the bar, was to seat the boring people together. To her mind, they would never know the difference. She died in London, England on November 1, 2020.

Jonathan Sacks (72) former chief rabbi in the United Kingdom who reached beyond the Jewish community with his regular broadcasts on radio. Sacks was chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, leader of British Jews, for 22 years, stepping down in 2013. For many people in the UK, he was best known for his regular broadcasts on the “Thought of the Day” segments on BBC Radio 4's Today program, the network’s flagship morning news program. He died of cancer in London, England on November 7, 2020.


Nancy Darsch (68) guided the Ohio State women’s basketball team to the 1993 title game and later coached in the WNBA. Darsch started her college coaching career as an assistant at Tennessee under Pat Summitt. She led the Buckeyes for 12 years, from 1985–97, compiling a 234-125 record and making seven appearances in the NCAA Tournament. Ohio State went 28-4 during the 1992–93 season and lost to Texas Tech 84-82 in the NCAA championship game. Darsch suffered from Parkinson’s disease and died in her hometown of Plymouth, Massachusetts on November 2, 2020.

Billy Tubbs (85) coach with the high-octane system known as Billy Ball who brought Oklahoma basketball to prominence in the ‘80s. Tubbs took over a struggling Oklahoma program in 1980. The Sooners reached the NCAA Tournament just once—for most of those years, only the Big 8 champion went to the tournament—over the 32 seasons before Tubbs’s arrival and held a combined winning percentage of .471 from 1950–80. His fast-paced offenses and full-court pressure defenses led to lots of scoring, excitement, and wins. His 1987–88 team was upset by Kansas in the NCAA title game. Tubbs had a 333-132 record in 14 seasons at Oklahoma and was four times Big Eight Coach of the Year. In three seasons the Sooners averaged more than 100 points per game. Tubbs coached at Texas Christian University from 1995–2002 and got the previously struggling program to the NCAA Tournament in ’98. He had two coaching stints at his alma mater, Lamar, and was athletic director there from 2002–11. Overall, Tubbs had a 609-317 (.658) record as a Division I head coach. He died of leukemia in Norman, Oklahoma on November 1, 2020.

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