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Archive for the category “obituary”

Stephenie McMillan Passed Away

I didn’t know her by name but when I read what she did I realized just how important she has been to the lives of all of us who love the Harry Potter movies.  She was the set decorator on all eight movies.  She is the one that made Harry’s world magical.  Ms. McMillan described what she did as a set decorator:

In an interview with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts last year, McMillan detailed her work flow — she’d read the script, make a list of all the different buildings and special props, guesstimate a budget and start her scavenger hunt.

(Click on the quote to take you to the LATimes obituary article.

Here is another quote from an article describing how she perceives what she does:

Set decorators are in charge of what is in the set from curtains, colouring and furniture to props used by actors and every detail within. Stephenie says that it doesn’t matter to her if you don’t see every detail or if it’s too dark to notice one of her intractably designed pieces in a set. The practise of designing and creating an atmosphere that is real and comfortable for all is more important than if it is seen by anybody. Stephenie’s main concern is the feeling of space and even if something isn’t seen it still adds feeling to the set.

Click on the above quote to take you to a very interesting article with photos of her work.

Her work on the films was and is inspirational.  Her work captured the spirit of the world that JK Rowling wrote about in concrete form – from the teacups used in Divination class to the wonderful chaos of the Weasley’s home to Dumbledore’s office and Snape’s Potions Class … all the details were put in place by Ms. McMillen and we thank you.

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My white knight on a steed

This is the way I will always remember Davy.  It was quite a shock to find out he was gone this morning (thank you CW for letting me know – even if it was a shock).  Every generation has its heartthrobs. The same elation that Bieber produces in 10 and 11 year olds now was felt by the 10 and 11 year olds of my generation towards Davy and a little piece of our hearts still jumps with joy and squeals with glee when we see him perform.

I remember I so very, very much wanted a hat like he wore in the above picture. Never did get it.   Of course, being ten and fickle, I soon moved my attentions onto Mickey – ’cause you know, a guy who can make you laugh is a keeper.  And then as a mature 11 year old, or was I 12, my crush on Mike Nesmith blossomed.  Hey, Mike was a serious musician and had a subversive sense of humor.  Sorry Peter but you were always outside my taste range.

Ahh, but Davy and his little Davy dance… that’s my ‘tween years right there in a velvet shirt and a tassel necklace dancing his little Davy dance …. take a look …

Michael Nesmith was quite eloquent in his good-bye for now to Davy – all the lovely people

… and you talk about anything …

Gerry Rafferty passed away today.  I really didn’t know what he looked like and  I only knew him for a few of his songs – I never listened to an album.  But the songs that I remember of his are haunting and smart and evocative of times and places that live within us and out in the cold, night air.  I was truly saddened to hear of his passing.  Baker Street is capable of instantly stopping me in my tracks.  The sax solo hushes everything else and the man’s voice and lyrics say it all..

Right Down the Line” in its own way and for a myriad of reasons gets to me every time  – a near perfect love song.  Unfortunately the lyrics of “Stuck in the Middle With You” now carry a certain poignancy after reading this article about his Leaving Las Vegas-styled decline: The Lonely Road from Baker Street…

Yes I’m stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
It’s so hard to keep this smile from my face,
Losing control, yeah, I’m all over the place,
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

Well you started out with nothing,
And you’re proud that you’re a self made man,
And your friends, they all come crawlin,
Slap you on the back and say,
Please…. Please…..

Trying to make some sense of it all,
But I can see that it makes no sense at all,
Is it cool to go to sleep on the floor,
‘Cause I don’t think that I can take anymore
Clowns to the left of me, Jokers to the right,
Here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

This obituary from the Wall Street Journal made me feel a wee bit better about his passing – he at least had his daughter by his side.  gerry-rafferty-scottish-singer-dies-at-63/

Farewell Mr. Rafferty and thank you.  I hope you have found your way home.

Robert Culp

Robert Culp passed away today at 79.  Robert Culp was the recipient of the only fan letter I ever mailed.  Yes I did mail Disney about the movie Bullwhip Griffin after seeing it as a kid and they sent me all the info I asked for about Roddy McDowall (wish I had kept that stuff) and yes, I was a card-carrying member of the Leonard Nimoy fan club – but I never sent him any fan mail.  I actually wrote Robert Culp.  He was cool.

Here’s a video from the Greatest American Hero and an interview with him about his character:

Llorando de cara a la pared…

I heard the sad news this week that Lhasa de Sela had passed away on the first day of the New Year.  Lhasa’s music, particularly the one in the video featured below, helped get me through some rough times many years ago and still resonates.  She was only 37 and had lived an uncommon life:

Lhasa’s unusual childhood was marked by long periods of nomadic wandering through Mexico and the U.S., with her parents and sisters in the school bus which was their home.  During this period the children improvised, both theatrically and musically, performing for their parents on a nightly basis.  Lhasa grew up in a world imbued with artistic discovery, far from conventional culture.

There’s a gypsy quality to her style and I was pleased when I read this about her traveling with her 3 sisters’ one ring traveling circus in France Pocheros.  Her website is here and you can read more about her music and life.  Lhasa de Sela.  I love this quote from her bio that describes her music:  “These are songs inspired by a warm country but written in a cold one, with a Brontë-like romanticism, a wry and literate sense of humor, and moments of startling emotional rawness.  When they heard it, people from North America and Europe sighed and said “Ah, Mexico…”, and Mexicans said, “What strange music! Where is she from?”

I’m not a fan of overwrought emotionality and her music was emotional and soul-catching without the self-pitying cloyingness that can sometimes attach itself to sentiment.  If you wish to listen to the music straight please go here to the MySpace page and listen to De Cara a la Pared or El Desierto in particular. She sings in Spanish, English and French – Rising and Fool’s Gold are good examples of her English work.

Here’s the YouTube performance of De Cara a la Pared – I don’t think the audio is as good here as it is on the MySpace page tho’

Suffice it to say, I was very sad to hear of her passing.  Her music meant and still means a great deal to me.  The combination of her music and what I’ve read of her life presents in my mind’s eye an image akin to a Cornell box full of snippets of images from children’s books, gypsy beads, spider webs and twigs and bright colored cloth … hmm rather than describing it perhaps I should build one.  I guess that’s what it means to be an artist – the impact of your  work carries on after your physical manifestation passes.

By the way, Lhasa passed from breast cancer.  Perhaps scheduling an exam would be also be a good way to remember her.

I leave you with one more quote from her website:

An old friend of Lhasa’s, Jules Beckman, offered these words:”We have always heard something ancestral coming through her.  She has always spoken from the threshold between the worlds, outside of time.  She has always sung of human tragedy and triumph, estrangement and seeking with a Witness’s wisdom.  She has placed her life at the feet of the Unseen.”

Save it… for de end…

I loved  Dom DeLuise.  He passed away yesterday, May 4, 2009.  The first I ever saw of Dom was his bit as the magician, Dominick the Great.  It was wonderful.  I loved the skits he would do with Ruth Buzzi as his assistant, Shakundula (or Shagundula, not sure how to spell it).  I went looking for a picture of them together but couldn’t find it.  If you should find a photo or video of them together drop me a comment and let me know please.  I think I probably saw them perform on the old Hollywood Palace show on ABC.  Dom would perform as a bumbling magician with a thick Italian accent and when the audience applauded he would say “Save it for de end.”  So here is the applause we’ve been saving up for you sir.  Thank you Mr. DeLuise for making us laugh, one of the greatest gifts anyone can give.  Here is a clip of  him and another childhood idol of mine, Dean Martin – what can I say I have thing for Italians I guess (but then who doesn’t):

You know I just realized why I found Fabio’s accent from Top Chef so endearing – it was Dom DeLuise’s accent as Dominick the Great!  You don’t have to watch the whole thing below – but it will give you a sense of the accent similarity.

Bob May, Robot and other ramblings…

Bob May passed away this week.  Who was Bob May?  Well, to those of my generation, he was “Robot.”  Robot was young Will’s faithful companion.  Robot kept a watchful eye over Dr. Smith’s machinations.  And Robot’s frenzied arm waving warned of “Danger, danger Will Robinson!”  Robot was one of my favorites – I have a photograph of myself and Robot from one of Mr. Ackerman’s sci-fi conventions which I treasure and I have a little toy model of Robot that waves his arms around and warns “Danger, danger Will Robinson.”  My brother has one too –  Robot made an impression on both our lives.  While the voice of Robot was played by Dick Tufeld, Bob May was the man in the suit who waved the arms around and extended his bubble head and rolled dutifully behind Will and Dr. Smith. I think Mr. May and Mr. Tufeld were equally responsible for giving Robot his unique charm.  Here’s a link to an article about Bob May: Lost in Space.

I looked and looked for a suitable clip of Robot from Lost in Space and could find nothing that I liked or that featured Robot properly.  So if you’re interested in strolling down memory lane here is a link where you can watch a full episode:  Lost in Space  

Warning!  Warning! – I found it difficult to watch the whole episode of Lost in Space.  This may be something best left to memory.  Although it does stand up better than Abbott and Costello’s Jack and the Beanstalk – I had such great memories of that movie as a child and when I watched as an adult, blech, it was horrible.  Please note I am not besmirching Abbott and Costello – they produced some very, very funny films that will still make me laugh but uh… not Jack and the Beanstalk…..  Edmundo, Susana, my brother and myself used to sit and laugh ourselves silly with watching Abbot and Costello.  Hmm, I wonder where Edmundo and Susana are now… Ooops…  Sorry I seemed to have rambled myself away from the subject matter at hand… I’m going to just go away now mumbling to myself before I start reminiscing about how great the Three Stooges were …. nyuk, nyuk, nyuk …. (walks quietly away into the sunset with arm around Robot….)

The Night I Held Hands with Uncle Forry

Okay, technically I think it was mid to late afternoon but yes, he held my hand for a little bit while we sat in the back of a meeting room in a Baltimore hotel watching “The Body Snatchers.”   (I think it was a Fanex – but I’m a bit hazy as to the year – probably around 1996?) That same hand that held mine briefly had shaken the hand of Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi and Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov.  I joked with a friend that I should have taken the opportunity to kiss his hand and a la Curly, from the Three Stooges and gnaw off his Scarab Ring (an original prop from Karloff’s The Mummy).  It was an honor to sit next to Forrest J. Ackerman.

 I also had the privilege of touring the Ackermansion many years ago when his collection was intact – I cannot begin to describe the amount of literary and cinematic history he had squirrelled away in every corner of his house.  Amazing.

I found out today that he had passed away.  If you don’t know who Forrest J. Ackerman was – please read this article:  Forrest Ackerman

He is the reason that “fandom” in its many forms from Dr. Who to Harry Potter to Firefly exists today.  Uncle Forry is the reason Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante and Stephen King are who they are.  We all owe him a deep debt of gratitude.  Thank goodness that  Amazing Stories popped off the news stand and told him “Take me home little boy.” 

We all will miss you Mr. Ackerman.

Is the truth really out there?

I’ve just been thinking lately about the power of the internet and how easily fantasy can become fact by a simple posting that is picked up and repeated.  Makes you wonder what is true and what isn’t.  Now a big lie won’t work because if you print something ridiculous about someone like Brad Pitt, the facts are going to be checked and someone (probably Brad Pitt’s publicist) is going to refute the ridiculous statement.  But if you post a lie, intentionally or not, about someone small, someone who does not have the machinery to refute, then you are able to change history by misrepresentation.  The internet is a lazy animal.  It will pick up one story and repeat it ad infinitum.  I have written in previous posts about the Kastner obituary that painted him in an unfavorable light.  That was one article in the Toronto Star.  His wife, Jenny, and several of Mr. Kastner’s friends, left comments at the bottom of that article, denying the statements made in the article.  That Toronto Star article has been copied and reproduced all over the internet and has become the definitive “history” on Mr. Kastner’s passing.   Try it – Google Kastner obituary and see how many places that version of the obituary comes up.  Kind of scary isn’t it.   Now frankly, I have no way of knowing what the truth is in this case.  But its kind of sad that this one version of  a man’s life has been pasted throughout the internet as gospel.   Wonder what other stories that we’ve taken as truth because we read  it in a half dozen places on the internet are actually just one man’s opinion.

A Celebration of Life

In case you didn’t read the comments to the Peter Kastner entry of September 28th, here is a comment and an invitation from Mrs. Kastner: 

We are having a celebration of Peter’s life On Saturday, October 11 at 7 pm at the Winchevsky Centre in Toronto (585 Cranbrook, a couple of blocks north of Lawrence, off – and close to – Bathurst). Musicians (including Peter on video) will sing his songs, we’ll play some of his videos and remember him. We will have something potluck to eat, to stave off hunger at that hour. Please come if you can.

I’m way too far away to attend but I’ll be there in spirit.

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