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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, February 13, 2021

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Mary Wilson, longest-reigning original Supreme, center, with Florence Ballard and Diana RossJoe Allen, restaurateurS. Prestley Blake, cofounder of Friendly restaurant chainCharles Boyer, Disneyland artistJean-Claude Carrière, French author, playwright, and screenwriterBilly Conigliaro, first draft pick in Boston Red Sox historyChick Corea, jazz pianistPeter G. Davis, classical music criticLarry Flynt, founder of 'Hustler' magazine empirePedro Gomez, ESPN's baseball reporterMilford Graves, jazz drummerShlomo Hillel, Israeli operative in post-WWII IraqTm Konchalski, high school basketball scoutKaren Lewis, head of Chicago teachers' unionRobert Maraj, father of rapperr Nicki MinajJ. Hillis Miller, literary criticRupert Neve, British engineer who developed Neve recording consolesEd Pearl, owner of Ash Grove folk and blues clubRev. Frederick K. C. Price, televangelist, and his Crenshaw Christian CenterJames Ridgeway, investigative reporterLeslie Robertson, structural engineer of the World Trade CenterPat Russell, former LA City Council presidentEunice Sato, first woman and only Asian-American to be mayor of Long Beach, Calif.Marty Schottenheimer, NFL coachIsadore Singer, mathematicianLynn Stalmaster, legendary Hollywood casting directorS. Clay Wilson, underground cartoonistRon Wright, first member of US Congress to die of Covid-19

Art and Literature

Charles Boyer (86) much-decorated Disneyland artist, recipient of some of the park’s highest and most unique distinctions. Boyer, who signed on as a portrait sketch artist in 1960, stayed with Disneyland for 39 years. He was made a Disney Legend in 2005, the equivalent of membership in the company’s Hall of Fame, with a window on Main Street in his name. Not bad for someone who put himself through Chouinard Art Institute as a janitor on a “working scholarship,” or for an artist who was color-blind. He became Disneyland’s first full-time artist and eventually was elevated to Disneyland’s master illustrator. Boyer died on February 8, 2021.

J. Hillis Miller (92) literary critic who, by applying the difficult analytic method known as deconstruction to a broad range of British and American prose and poetry, helped to revolutionize the study of literature. Although his career spanned nearly 70 years at three universities, Miller was most closely associated with the so-called Yale School, a band of scholars in the ‘70s and ’80s that included Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida, Geoffrey H. Hartman, and, for a time, Harold Bloom. Scattered across the English, French, and comparative literatåure departments at Yale, they were united by their interest in deconstruction, the theory that words and texts have meaning only in relation to other words and texts—an idea first propounded by de Man and Derrida, who brought the approach with them from Europe. Miller, son of a part-time Baptist preacher from Virginia, became their American prophet and proselytizer. He died in Sedgewick, Maine on February 7, 2021.

Leslie Robertson (92) structural engineer of the World Trade Center, whose work came under intense scrutiny after the complex was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Robertson designed the structural systems of several notable skyscrapers, including the Shanghai World Financial Center, a 101-story tower with a vast trapezoidal opening at its peak, and I. M. Pei’s Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong, a cascade of interlocking pyramids. His projects included bridges, theaters, and museums, and he helped to install sculptures by Richard Serra, some weighing as much as 20 tons. But the project that came to define his career was the World Trade Center. He was in his early 30s when he and his partner, John Skilling, were chosen to design the structural system for what were to be, at the time, at 110 stories, the world’s tallest buildings. Robertson was in his 70s when the towers were destroyed. He died of blood cancer in San Mateo, California on February 11, 2021.

S. Clay Wilson (79) most rollicking of the underground cartoonists who first achieved notoriety as contributors to Zap Comix in the late ‘60s. Violent and obscene, Wilson’s stories—full of corny puns and unsavory, anatomically distorted characters like the Checkered Demon, Captain Pissgums and his Pervert Pirates, the Hog-Riding Fools, and Ruby the Dyke—are all but indescribable. Interviewed in the early ‘90s for the Comics Journal by underground-comics aficionado Bob Levin, Wilson called comics “a great visual art form.” He died in San Francisco, California on February 7, 2021. His health had deteriorated since a traumatic brain injury more than 12 years ago.


Business and Science

Joe Allen (87) parlayed a pub on the edge of Manhattan’s theater district into a restaurant empire that at its height stretched as far as Paris. Allen founded and ran not just one successful New York restaurant but two: Joe Allen and Orso, next to each other on West 46th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues. The street later got its own name: Restaurant Row. But when Allen opened Joe Allen in 1965, the neighborhood, close to a then-seedy Times Square, was anything but a prime location. West 46th Street’s proximity to New York’s theater district made it workable, and Allen, concluding that actors, directors, writers, and theater patrons would always want to eat, created a pub aimed at attracting the theater crowd. There was nothing quite like the restaurant in the mid-'60s, and it took off. Allen died in Hampton, New Hampshire, where he'd been living after the pandemic forced his restaurants to close temporarily, on February 7, 2021.

S. Prestley Blake (106) built a Massachusetts ice cream shop with his brother into the Friendly’s restaurant chain, sold it for a huge profit in the ‘70s, and decades later helped to engineer a takeover threat to protest what he saw as mismanagement. Blake and his younger brother, Curtis, who died in 2019 at 102, founded the first Friendly Ice Cream in the summer of 1935 in Springfield, Massachusetts, with a $547 loan from their parents. The US was in the throes of the Depression, but the brothers thought they could attract customers by charging a nickel (the equivalent of about 95 cents today) for two scoops of ice cream—half the price their competitors charged. The shop was an instant success, with a line out the door on opening night, and profits started rolling in—enough for the brothers to buy a used Model A Ford, which they could easily share, because one of them was always at the shop. Blake died of respiratory failure in Stuart, Florida on February 11, 2021.

Larry Flynt (78) turned his raunchy Hustler magazine into a $400 million empire of similar publications, strip clubs, and “adult” shops while fighting numerous First Amendment court battles and flaying politicians with stunts such as a Donald Trump assassination Christmas card. Flynt was shot in a 1978 assassination attempt and left paralyzed from the waist down but refused to slow down, building a flamboyant reputation along with a fortune estimated at $100 million. He tooled around in a gold-plated wheelchair with a velvet-lined seat. Having outlived most of his doctors, he died in Los Angeles, California on February 10, 2021.

Rupert Neve (94) when the Seattle grunge band Nirvana recorded their breakthrough album, Nevermind, at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, California in 1991, they used a massive mixing console created by British engineer Rupert Neve. The Neve 8028 console and others he made had by then become studio staples, hailed by many as the most superior consoles of their kind in manipulating and combining instrumental and vocal signals. They were responsible in great part for the audio quality of albums by groups like Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, the Grateful Dead, and Pink Floyd. In 2011, long after forming Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl, Nirvana’s drummer and later leader of Foo Fighters, bought the console as Sound City was closing, took it to his garage, and used it to record the band’s album, Wasting Light. Neve’s innovative equipment has been used to record pop, rock, jazz, and rap—genres distinct from his preferred one: English cathedral music with its organs and choirs. Neve died of pneumonia and heart failure in San Marcos, Texas on February 12, 2012.

Isadore Singer (96) unified large areas of mathematics and physics in becoming one of the most important mathematicians of his era. Singer created a bridge between two seemingly unrelated areas of mathematics, then used it to build a further bridge, into theoretical physics. The achievement was the foundation for a blossoming of mathematical physics unseen since the time of Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, when calculus first provided tools to understand how objects moved and changed. Singer’s work with British mathematician Michael Atiyah allowed for the development of critical areas of physics, like gauge theory and string theory, that have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the most basic structure of the universe. He died in Boxborough, Massachusetts on February 11, 2021.


Education

Karen Lewis (67) teachers' union leader in Chicago who battled Rahm Emanuel when he was mayor and in 2012 led the city’s public-school teachers in their first strike in 25 years. Lewis’s death was announced by the Chicago Teachers Union. She had been under treatment for glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain cancer that forced her to retire as head of the union in June 2018 after undergoing brain surgery. The cancer was first diagnosed in 2014 and had forced her to abandon the idea, endorsed by many, of running for mayor of Chicago the next year. She had hoped to unseat Emanuel, a Democrat and former chief of staff to President Barack Obama. Emanuel was reelected. Lewis died in Chicago, Illinois on February 7, 2021.


News and Entertainment

Jean-Claude Carrière (89) author, playwright, and screenwriter who collaborated with director Luis Buñuel (died 1983) on a string of important films and later worked on scores of other movies, among them Philip Kaufman’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). Carrière had barely started in the movie business when he met Buñuel, the Spanish-born director, in 1963 (although he had already won a short-subject Oscar for a 1962 comedy he made with Pierre Étaix, Happy Anniversary). Carrière’s first project with Buñuel was Diary of a Chambermaid (1964), for which the two adapted the Octave Mirbeau novel of the same title. Carrière continued to work with Buñuel for the rest of the director’s career, including on his last feature, That Obscure Object of Desire, in 1977. Carrière died in Paris, France on February 8, 2021.

Chick Corea (79) jazz pianist with a staggering 23 Grammy Awards who pushed the boundaries of the genre and worked alongside Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. A prolific artist with dozens of albums, Corea in 1968 replaced Hancock in Davis’s group, playing on the landmark albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. He formed his own group, Circle, then founded Return to Forever. He worked on many other projects, including duos with Hancock and vibraphonist Gary Burton. Corea recorded and performed classical music, standards, solo originals, Latin jazz, and tributes to great jazz pianists. He died of a rare form of cancer in Tampa, Florida on February 9, 2021.

Peter G. Davis (84) for over 30 years Davis held sway as one of America’s leading classical music critics with witty prose and an encyclopedic memory of countless performances and performers. First as a critic at the New York Times and later at New York magazine, he wrote opinionated reviews of all forms of classical music, although his great love was opera and the voice. Davis presided over the field during boon years in New York in the ‘60s and ’70s, when performances were plentiful and tickets relatively cheap, and when the ups and downs of a performer’s career provided fodder for cocktail parties and after-concert dinners, not to mention the notebooks of writers like Davis, who often delivered five or more reviews a week. He died on February 13, 2021.

Milford Graves (79) by the time he took up the jazz drum kit, in his early 20s, Graves had spent years playing timbales in Afro-Latin groups. But on the kit he was confronted with the new challenge of using foot pedals and his hands. Rather than learn the standard jazz technique, he drew from what he already knew. The resulting style was unlike anything heard before in jazz. Graves mixed polyrhythms constantly, sometimes carrying a different cadence in each limb. The rhythms would diverge, then vaporize. He removed the bottom skins from his drums, deepening and dilating their sound, and often used his elbows to dampen the head of a drum as he struck it, making its pitch malleable and introducing a new range of possibilities. But Graves wasn’t a drummer exclusively, or even first. He was also a botanist, acupuncturist, martial artist, impresario, college professor, visual artist, and student of the human heartbeat. And in almost every arena, he was an inventor. Graves died in South Jamaica, Queens, New York, on February 12, 2021.

Robert Maraj (64) father of rapper Nicki Minaj, whose parents moved to the US from Trinidad before she joined them in the US two years later. Minaj had spoken previously about crack cocaine use and domestic violence at her childhood home in Jamaica, Queens, including an episode in which her father tried to burn down her house. Maraj was walking in the roadway near the intersection of Roslyn Road and Raff Avenue in Mineola, New York at around 6:15 p.m. when he was hit by a north-bound vehicle that left the scene. He was transported to a hospital in critical condition, where he was pronounced dead, on February 13, 2021.

Ed Pearl (88) owned the landmark folk and blues hot spot the Ash Grove in the ‘60s before briefly relocating it to the Santa Monica Pier. The East Los Angeles native brought raw blues and even rawer Appalachian folk music to the heart of LA when the Ash Grove was housed on Melrose Avenue in what is now West Hollywood. The venue became a training ground for artists such as Ry Cooder, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt. The club also housed a record store and a music school. Pearl believed part of the club’s appeal was that it showcased a variety of regional and ethnic music, from gospel to jazz, Jewish to Latino, and presented it with respect. He had been living at an assisted living facility with Alzheimer’s disease for about a year. He died in Los Angeles, California from Covid-19 and pneumonia on February 7, 2021.

James Ridgeway (84) investigative reporter who exposed corporate dirty tricks, the secrets of environmental polluters, and the horrors of solitary confinement in the US prison systems. In a career that spanned 60 years, Ridgeway wrote for the New Republic as a staff member and as a contributor for the New York Times, The Nation, the New York Review of Books, Ramparts, Hard Times, and Mother Jones. He was the Washington correspondent of the Village Voice for 30 years. He wrote, cowrote, or edited 20 books on national or foreign affairs and wrote, produced, and directed several documentaries. His targets were legion: Detroit automakers concealing unsafe car designs, the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, universities profiteering from government weapons research, unanswered questions on the September 11 attacks, the shabbiness of the sex industry, and 1992 presidential candidates who were caught on film preening when they thought nobody was watching. Ridgeway died in Washington, DC on February 13, 2021.

Lynn Stalmaster (93) Hollywood legend whose name was synonymous with casting for more than 60 years. Stalmaster’s accomplishments are too numerous to list, but among them: He was the first casting director to receive an honorary Oscar in 2016; was the first casting director to receive a solo title card in a film’s credits, for The Thomas Crown Affair (1968); cast about 400 films and TV shows from 1955–2017; and helped to launch the careers of countless actors who became major stars. Just a few of those to receive key early career boosts from Stalmaster: Dustin Hoffman, whom he pushed for in The Graduate (1968; credited as a “casting consultant”); John Travolta, whom he submitted for The Last Detail (1973; the role went to Randy Quaid, who earned an Oscar nomination for it) and Welcome Back, Kotter (the TV show that made Travolta a household name in 1975); Christopher Reeve, whom Stalmaster saw in a play with Katharine Hepburn, cast in a small role in the submarine drama Gray Lady Down, then pushed for the star-making lead in Superman (1978). Stalmaster died of heart failure in Los Angeles, California on February 12, 2021.

Mary Wilson (76) longest-reigning original Supreme. Wilson, Diana Ross, and Florence Ballard (died 1976) made up the first successful configuration of the Supremes. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967, and Wilson stayed with the group until it was officially disbanded by Motown in ’77. The group’s first No. 1, million-selling song, “Where Did Our Love Go,” was released June 17, 1964. Touring at the time, Wilson said there was a moment when she realized they had a hit song. It was the first of five consecutive No. 1s, with “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” Stop! In the Name of Love,” and “Back in My Arms Again” following in quick succession. The Supremes also recorded the hits “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Up the Ladder to the Roof,” and “Love Child.” After the Supremes’ disbandment, Wilson released the best-selling book Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme in 1986. She released her second book, Supreme Faith: Someday We’ll Be Together, in 1990. Her last book, Supreme Glamour, was written with Mark Bego and was released in 2019. Wilson also competed on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars that year. She died in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 8, 2021.


Politics and Military

Shlomo Hillel (97) Baghdad-born Israeli operative who in the late ‘40s and early ’50s used bribes, fake visas, and a network of smugglers to move more than 120,000 Jews from Iraq to Israel. Hillel was just 23 when the Haganah, a paramilitary organization in what was then British-controlled Palestine, sent him undercover to Iraq. Jews had lived there for centuries, mostly in harmony with their neighbors, but growing Arab nationalism and anti-Zionist sentiment, including a 1941 pogrom in which several hundred Jews were killed, were making their situation precarious. Hillel, disguised as an Arab, was there to lay the groundwork for migration, teaching Hebrew and rousing pro-Zionist sentiment. He also helped to smuggle small numbers of Jews to Israel in trucks traveling between Baghdad and Haifa, a major port in Palestine. Hillel died in Ra’anana, Israel on February 8, 2021.

Pat Russell (97) former Los Angeles City Council president, a community activist who became the first woman elected to the post. Russell represented the 6th District for 18 years, until 1987. It was one of the city’s most diverse, with voters spread roughly equally among the largely white and affluent Westchester and Playa del Rey, the middle-class bedroom community of Mar Vista and counterculture hub of Venice, and the majority-black Crenshaw. Her slice of LA was a microcosm of the issues facing modern American cities—racism, noise, development, traffic congestion, and tensions over how to use a dwindling supply of land—yet she balanced her constituents’ interests with skill, observers said. She was remembered as a rarity: a politician who was more or less apolitical, disdaining self-promotion in favor of behind-the-scenes consensus building. Russell died of cancer on February 11, 2021.

Eunice Sato (99) first woman and only Asian-American to be mayor of Long Beach, California. Sato was elected to the City Council in 1975 as the 7th District representative and was mayor for two years beginning in 1980. During her tenure, she helped to revitalize the city’s downtown. Sato died on February 12, 2021 of cardiopulmonary arrest in Bixby Knolls, California. She was four months away from her 100th birthday and one day from getting her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Ron Wright (67) US congressman (R-Texas). Two weeks ago Wright and his wife, Susan, were admitted to Baylor hospital in Dallas because of Covid-19 symptoms. Wright announced January 21 that he had tested positive. He had been in quarantine since January 15. The quarantine began two days after the House voted to impeach then-President Donald Trump a second time. Wright voted against the impeachment, as did all but 10 Republicans, none from Texas. While congressional leaders have taken steps to stop Covid-19's spread, several lawmakers have still contracted the coronavirus. To date three other Texas Republicans have tested positive: Reps. Kevin Brady, Louie Gohmert, and Kay Granger. All three recovered after reporting mild symptoms. Rep.-elect Luke Letlow of Louisiana, a Republican, died from complications of the virus just days before being sworn in. A former Tarrant County tax assessor, Wright, who was reelected in November 2020, had also been battling cancer. He was the first member of Congress to die of Covid-19, in Dallas, Texas on February 7, 2021.


Society and Religion

Rev. Frederick K. C. Price (89) televangelist who founded the Crenshaw Christian Center, a south Los Angeles megachurch with a 10,000-seat sanctuary. Opened in 1989 on the former site of Pepperdine University, Price’s South Vermont Avenue church was topped by a massive aluminum sphere known as the FaithDome, 320 feet in diameter and 63 feet high. At the time newspapers proclaimed it the largest geodesic church structure in the world, and it remains a landmark visible to air travelers arriving at LA International Airport. Price founded the Crenshaw Christian Center in Inglewood in 1973, and his popularity was boosted by his appearance on TV and radio, including on a show called Ever-Increasing Faith. He was a preacher in the charismatic tradition, with a belief in miraculous healing. He also preached what some described as the “prosperity gospel,” or the idea that God rewards faith with abundance, material and otherwise. He got the idea for the FaithDome after walking into the geodesic dome that used to house the Spruce Goose seaplane in Long Beach. Price had been in the hospital suffering from the coronavirus for the last five weeks. He died from Covid-19 in Torrance, California on February 12, 2021.


Sports

Billy Conigliaro (73) first draft pick in Red Sox history, who started out in the Boston outfield with his star-crossed brother Tony (died 1990) and later spent years taking care of him after a heart attack. Although he wound up winning a World Series ring with the Oakland As in 1973, Billy Conigliaro was always a part of New England lore, forever connected by his local roots and the tragic events surrounding his older brother. Billy was chosen fifth overall out of high school in 1965 in Major League Baseball's inaugural amateur draft. He made his big-league debut as a pinch-runner in April 1969, the same month his brother returned after almost two years from a beaning that had derailed his All-Star career. Billy's best season was 1970, when he played 114 games and batted .271 with 18 home runs and 58 runs batted in. The next season he hit 26 doubles and 11 home runs in 101 games. Overall, Billy played 247 games for the Red Sox through 1971. He died in Beverly, Massachusetts on February 10, 2021.

Pedro Gomez (58) mainstay of ESPN’s coverage of Major League Baseball for much of the past 20 years who went from the newspaper sports section to millions of TV screens. Gomez joined ESPN in April 2003 after spending 18 years as a baseball beat writer and columnist, including for the Miami Herald in his native south Florida, San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, and Arizona Republic. During his career he covered 25 World Series and 22 All-Star Games. Gomez also chronicled some of the more sordid episodes of the national pastime. In 2007, there was Barry Bonds surpassing Hank Aaron’s home run record under a cloud of suspicion over steroid use. There was also the case of the Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman deflecting a foul ball during Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, which the then-Florida Marlins won. Gomez died in Phoenix, Arizona on February 7, 2021.

Tom Konchalski (74) for more than 40 years Konchalski was a fixture in gyms, summer camps, and tournaments from Maine to West Virginia, a high school basketball scout whose newsletter was required reading for college coaches craving insights about potential recruits. He showed foresight about future NBA players like Kyrie Irving, Bernard King, and Kenny Anderson, but his focus was primarily on creating opportunities for high school players at all levels of college basketball, whether at Division I, II, or III schools, or in Canada. Konchalski’s long career made him the subject of a short ESPN documentary in 2013 and earned him a nomination last December from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in the contributor category. Honorees will be announced in April. Konchalski died of prostate cancer in the Bronx, New York on February 8, 2021.

Marty Schottenheimer (77) whose NFL coaching career was as remarkable as it was bewildering. There were 200 regular-season wins, the eighth most in NFL history. There were a mystifying number of playoff losses, some so epic they had nicknames: “The Drive” and “The Fumble.” Always there was “Martyball,” the conservative, smash-mouth approach that featured a strong running game and hard-nosed defense. Schottenheimer coached Cleveland, Kansas City, Washington, and San Diego and went 200-126-1 in 21 seasons. He considered himself a teacher and called the NFL “a people business.” He was a master at getting his players’ attention. Schottenheimer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2014 and moved to a hospice on January 30. He died in Charlotte, North Carolina on February 8, 2021.


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