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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, September 22, 2018

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Jon Burge, former Chicago police commanderStephen Jeffreys, British playwrightMarceline Loridan-Ivens, French filmmaker and writerBig Jay McNeely, early rock saxophonistAnnette Michelson, scholar and critic of cinema studiesArthur Mitchell, founding director of Dance Theater of HarlemRobert Venturi, postmodern architect

Art and Literature

Marceline Loridan-Ivens (90) French filmmaker and writer who explored the long-term anguish of surviving Nazi death camps and challenged her compatriots about their attitudes toward Jews. One of Loridan-Ivens' last books, But You Did Not Come Back, explored not only the past and her experience of the Birkenau camp but also France’s enduring reluctance to confront its more negative views of Jews. She died of heart disease in Paris, France on September 18, 2018.

Annette Michelson (95) cofounder of the arts journal October whose essays on film helped to establish cinema studies as a discipline and influenced generations of students, critics, and scholars. Michelson was a New Yorker who steeped herself in the intellectual ferment of Paris in the ‘50s and early ’60s before returning to teach at New York University and write articles for Artforum and, beginning in 1976, for October. She wrote much-admired essays on Soviet filmmakers Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein (the journal October was named in part for his late ‘20s silent movie, October: Ten Days That Shook the World) and championed avant-garde and experimental films at a time when they were not receiving much critical attention. Michelson, who had dementia, died in New York City on September 17, 2018.

Robert Venturi (93) Philadelphia architect who rejected austere modern design and instead ushered in postmodern complexity with the dictum “Less is a bore.” Venturi remained active well into his 80s at Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates, the architectural firm he founded in the ‘60s; it’s now known as VSBA Architects + Planners. Unlike the spare aesthetic of modernists like Mies van der Rohe (whose credo was “Less is more”), Venturi’s work celebrated complexity and even inconsistency in design. He encouraged architects and consumers to enjoy “messy vitality” in architecture—whether whimsical, sarcastic, humorous, or honky-tonk. He died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 18, 2018.


Law

Jon Burge (70) former Chicago police commander accused of torturing suspects in his South Side police district. Burge was never prosecuted for the alleged crimes. He led a “midnight crew” of rogue detectives accused of torturing more than 100 suspects, mostly black men, from 1972–91 to secure confessions. His alleged victims were shocked with cattle prods, smothered with typewriter covers, and had guns shoved in their mouths. Burge was fired in 1993 and sentenced to prison in 2011 for lying in a civil case about his actions. It was too late to charge him criminally on the torture charges. In 2015 the city of Chicago agreed to pay $5.5 million in reparations to 57 Burge victims. The price tag for all Burge-related cases has been estimated at about $132 million. The allegations against Burge and his men even helped to shape Illinois’s debate over the death penalty. Then-Gov. George Ryan released four condemned men from death row in 2003 after Burge was said to have extracted confessions from them using torture. The allegations eventually led to a moratorium on executions in Illinois; the state officially abolished the death penalty in 2011. Burge died of cancer in Hillsborough County, Florida on September 19, 2018.


News and Entertainment

Stephen Jeffreys (68) British playwright who looked to the past for some of his best-known works, notably The Libertine, about a hedonistic 17th-century earl, a vehicle for both John Malkovich and Johnny Depp. Among Jeffreys’ works were a play, Lost Land, about ethnic tension in Hungary during World War I; an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times made to be performed by four actors; and the screenplay for the 2013 film Diana, starring Naomi Watts as the Princess of Wales. For The Libertine, an eyebrow-raising work that had its premiere in 1994 at the University of Warwick in England, then moved to the Royal Court Theater in London, Jeffreys drew on the life of John Wilmot, second Earl of Rochester, who was himself a writer and known for his pleasure-seeking ways. Jeffreys died of a brain tumor in London, England on September 17, 2018.

Big Jay McNeely (91) musician whose wailing tenor saxophone and outrageous stage antics helped to define the sound of early rock-’n’-roll. Hailed as the King of the Honkers, McNeely was at the forefront of a group of post-bop saxophonists who, in the late ‘40s, abandoned jazz for the gutbucket pleasures of rhythm and blues. In the process he played a pivotal role in establishing the saxophone—before the electric guitar supplanted it—as the featured instrument among soloists at the dawn of rock-’n’-roll. Best known for his acrobatics and daring in performance, McNeely whipped up crowds by reeling off rapid sequences of screaming notes while lying on his back and kicking his legs in the air. At other times he would jump down off the stage and blow his horn while strutting his way through the audience. McNeely died of advanced prostate cancer in Moreno Valley, California on September 16, 2018.

Arthur Mitchell (84) dancer with the New York City Ballet in the ‘50s and ’60s and founding director of the groundbreaking Dance Theater of Harlem. The first black ballet dancer to achieve international stardom, Mitchell was one of the most popular dancers with NYC Ballet, where he danced from 1956–68 and displayed a dazzling presence, superlative artistry, and powerful sense of self. That charisma served him well as director of Dance Theater of Harlem, the nation’s first major black classical company, as it navigated its way through severe financial problems in recent decades and complex aesthetic questions about the relationship of black contemporary dancers to an 18th-century European art form. Mitchell died of heart failure in New York City on September 19, 2018.


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