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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The Dave Clark Five – Minus Two

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(Shown from L-R: Rick Huxley, Lenny Davidson, Denis Payton,
Mike Smith and Dave Clark)

DENIS PAYTON

1943 to 2006

MIKE SMITH

1943 to 2008

R&R Hall of Fame Too Late for Two of the DC5

Back in the mid-60s, the first thing I noticed about the Dave Clark Five was how damn good-looking they were. And such gentlemen! Unlike most groups who wore rebelliousness and bad behavior like a badge of honor, the “DC5,” as they were dubbed in fan shorthand, were well mannered, bright, funny, respectful and fun. In their trademark blazers, coordinated slacks and black boots, Dave Clark, Mike Smith, Denis Payton, Rick Huxley and Lenny Davidson were the complete package: good looks, talent and class. Thrilled to act as one of their publicists from 1965-70, I saw them as British knights in shining armor come to conquer America.

Influenced by everyone from Elvis Presley to Little Richard to Ray Charles, the DC5 became rock royalty, part of “The British Invasion” that included the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Unlike the latter two bands, however, the Dave Clark Five were endlessly passed over for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, an oversight protested by music professionals and fans, particularly after they stalled in the 2006 and 2007 semifinals. Eligible since 1989 (25 years after their first US recording), the DC5 were finally inducted in a moving ceremony on March 10, 2008, at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. Longtime admirer Tom Hanks did the honors.

Two were missing

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Arthur C. Clarke

Arthur Clarke and 2001 cover

ARTHUR C. CLARKE

Dec 16th, 1917 to Mar 19th, 2008

by Bill Jordan

He never grew up, and never stopped growing

British born, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, 90, was the kind of person most of us aspire to be and led the kind of rich life most of us would aspire to lead. He was laid to rest in Sri Lanka, attended by his many friends and adopted family.  The entire island observed a minute of silence as friends paid their respects. The event was not broadcast, had no officiant, and was completely secular according to Arthur Clarke’s will. A plaque on his grave will read: “Here lies Arthur C. Clarke. He never grew up, and never stopped growing.”

Most well known for his science-fiction novels, Arthur Clarke was as much a man of science as fiction. He is considered one of the fathers of modern science fiction alongside Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov. He wrote more than 30 novels and 13 short-story collections. Many of his works are considered the finest in any genre.

His visionary masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Gary Gygax

Gary Gygax

GARY GYGAX

July 27, 1928 to March 4, 2008

By Bill Jordan

Hundreds of millions know his name

A legendary character, whose name will forever ring out in hearty toasts in the festive mead halls of the imagination, joins other demigods in having his image raised into a constellation to inspire future generations. The hand he played in shaping modern culture was as powerful as it was invisible. Most who were not part of a particular subculture will not recognize his name without his creation also being mentioned. Who, for example, knows Charles Darrow—The creator of Monopoly? Who knows Richard Knerr and Arthur “Spud” Melin—The inventors of the Hula Hoop? Who knows all the other creators of cultural phenomenon? Well hundreds of millions know the name Gary Gygax—The creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s hard to write a tribute to a man who I only saw through the lens of his brainchild. Like legions of others, I was part of that lost generation that spent not hours, but tens and hundreds and probably thousands of hours role-playing. How not to sound like a gushing fan-boy? How not to reduce a man of parts to a single vision? Get the vision out of the way first. Though this is not a passing for the game, it is a moment to mark its importance to many people since it would never have come to be without Gary Gygax.

Make of yourself a hero like Aragorn or Frodo

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Heath Andrew Ledger

Heath Ledger

HEATH ANDREW LEDGER

April 4, 1979 to January 22, 2008

By Katharine Blossom Lowrie

heath-and-jake-in-brokeback.jpgHe had a somewhat lumpy face, a bit of a goofy smile and an undistinguished nose.  Yet, something transformative happened when he spoke in that rich baritone, when those young/old brown eyes communicated his complex inner life–a connection happened. No, Heath Ledger was never about surface or superficiality. He came from a deeper place. That depth, which crystallized with restrained brilliance in his Oscar-nominated role as the laconic, gay cowboy Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain (2005), was not plumbed without great peril to his psyche.  (Jake Gyllenhaal, shown in still at left, costars as Jack Twist, Del Mar’s love interest in the film.)

He fought to keep the private man private

Unlike many of today’s publicity-hungry young stars, Heath Ledger detested notoriety and fought to keep the private man private. Even friends encountered no trespassing signs, many say, and interviewers found him fidgety and walled off. Esteemed in the industry, innately likable on screen, the blond, 6’1″ Australian-born actor, who sought to play against his sex-symbol image, had his demons. Appeasing them with drugs, partying and alcohol spelled his end. Still, the startling details that dribbled out following the shocking news that he had died of an overdose at age 28 in his SoHo loft on January 22nd didn’t seem to fit. The combination of sedatives and painkillers with long generic names that made his heart forget to beat, his lungs forget to breathe, his brain forget to function, seemed no more Heath Ledger than his parting from his wife, nixing rehab and running around with notorious party-girls Lindsay Lohan and Mary Kate Olsen.

His absence is experienced on a different level

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