Cyd Charisse

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CYD CHARISSE

1921 to 2008


Pure glamour and romantic escapism

If you once sat enthralled by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals, the name Cyd Charisse evokes Technicolor images of pure glamour and romantic escapism, images that have long since passed into film history.  Shown above with Fred Astaire in MGM’s The Band Wagon (1953), Charisse – who was to movie dance partners as rhythm is to blues – died of complications from a heart attack in Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 17. She was 86.

You won’t see her like today.

In contemporary musicals like Mamma Mia (2008) and Hairspray (2007), actors still break into song and dance, but it’s not the same as watching icons of the genre like Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon. Not that Charisse ever broke into song – unless her voice was dubbed. She could not sing a note, and her acting was at best “on cue,” according to one critic.

The epitome of dance

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Timothy John Russert Jr.

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TIMOTHY JOHN RUSSERT JR.

May 7, 1950 to June 13, 2008

by Katharine Blossom Lowrie 

Meet the Best

My sister called from Arizona that fatal Friday afternoon. “Tim Russert died,” she exclaimed, the shock in her voice reverberating through the phone. “I’m in my car and just heard it on NPR. You were the only one I could think of to call.”  (Photo: Reuters)

My sister is an educator, and I am a journalist, professions that have something in common, mainly the ability to communicate. Other than that, our lives couldn’t have taken more divergent paths – except for one overwhelming passion: politics. Fortunately, we are on the identical side of the political fence. But even if we were not paired up in terms of party affiliation, watching Meet The Press would have been de-rigueur on Sunday mornings for both of us. That was one of the splendors of Russert’s talent: to serve as an impartial witness to the facts and let us judge for ourselves. Whether Democrat or Republican, you got an unbiased view of the day’s hottest issues – from the host, at any rate.  (Oh, maybe a hint of a lean toward the Dems at times.)

Never mean, petty or disparaging

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Tony Snow and Clay Felker

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TONY SNOW & CLAY FELKER

July, 2008

 By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

A grief that transcends politics

felker-life-2.jpgTwo partings in July: Tony Snow (above) and Clay Felker (left).  Of different generations, the two had little in common, other than journalism and cancer. Tony Snow, former press secretary to George W. Bush, died of colon cancer on July 12. He was 53.

Felker, the visionary editor whose New York magazine spawned New Journalism in the 1960s, died in his sleep on July 1, according to his wife, author Gail Sheehy.  He was 82 and had suffered from throat cancer for some time.

With the death of Tim Russert in June, one mourns the loss of this distinguished cluster of journalists, a grief that transcends politics. For those of us who go about our daily lives attached to a morphine drip of news – whether TV, newspapers, Internet or radio – such passings affect us deeply. Even with Felker, whose New Journalism heyday had long since been eclipsed by the New Media, his impact on reporting and writing hoists him into the legendary category.

An incestuous family, loners who thrive best in packs of our peers

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Sydney Pollack

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SYDNEY POLLACK

July 1, 1934 to May 26, 2008

by Katharine Blossom Lowrie

He seemed taller in person

with-hoffman.jpgI met Sydney Pollack back when I covered Hollywood as a freelancer for the LA Times Calendar section in the early 1980s. He seemed taller in person, distinguished, with a wide, welcoming grin. The event was a Columbia Pictures screening of Tootsie, the 1982 comedy starring Dustin Hoffman, whose character transforms from down-and-out actor Michael Dorsey into actress Dorothy Michaels to boost his sagging career.  Pollack, who directed the movie, plays a featured role as Dorsey’s agent (shown above with Hoffman in a still from the film).   With Tootsie heavy with pre-release Oscar buzz, my intention was to snag a future interview with Hoffman.  Since I knew him from our days as drama students, I wasn’t too worried about approaching him at the screening.  But Hoffman was in absentia, off filming in New York.

After the screening, although I was among those who congratulated Pollack for his directorial efforts and splendid comic turn at acting, I didn’t feel right about mentioning my long-ago relationship with Hoffman or requesting an interview with Pollack.

Not a single unnecessary word is spoken

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Corporal Joseph C. McCarthy, USMC

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CORPORAL JOSEPH C. MCCARTHY

March 21, 1983 to Sept. 6, 2004

[EDITOR’S NOTE: On this Memorial Day 2008, a U.S. Marine is remembered for his sweet heart and belief in future generations, a belief his family gives voice to through a foundation bearing their fallen hero’s name.]

“Hearts and minds, gents”

Lance Cpl. Joseph C. McCarthy, 21, would kneel down and clown around with Iraqi children, dispensing fistfuls of candy (which he always carried), even in dangerous situations. “Hearts and minds, gents,” he would quip, leveling a frisky grin at fellow Marines concerned for his safety.  McCarthy’s sweet-dispensing ways won him the nickname “Willie Wonka.”

Joe’s mother, Rhonda McCarthy of St. John’s, AZ, said her son believed Iraqi children “were going to change the world.”  On Easter Sunday in 2004, she said, he handed out candy to youngsters at a military checkpoint west of Fallujah while strangers, who could have been insurgents, looked on. “He did it because he loved kids,” Rhonda McCarthy said. “Joe was the peacemaker that day, and they were all laughing and joking within minutes.”

Couldn’t wait to…get in the corps

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