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 Post subject: Obit noir
PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2011 1:02 am 
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The dramatic conclusion to a bizarrely fawning obit of Kissinger beneficiary Lawrence Eagleburger in the NYT:

Quote:
Mr. Eagleburger occasionally, if grumpily, returned to the White House during the George W. Bush administration, usually for updates on the Iraq war.

Minutes before going into one such session, he ran into a reporter on the driveway just outside the West Wing. They chatted for a while about the administration’s national security policies while Mr. Eagleburger lit a cigarette.

“They won’t let you smoke down in the Sit Room anymore,” he explained, clear annoyance in his voice as he took a last drag.

“Well,” he said, “I better go see if they finally figured out the damn war.” He tossed his cigarette, still smoldering, into the White House bushes and, cane in hand, marched inside.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2011 12:21 pm 
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Another attempt at a snazzy punch line in an obit, this one about one of the founders of the UPC bar code:
Quote:
And today, in Washington, somewhere in the bowels of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, lies a 37-year-old, bar-coded package of Juicy Fruit gum. Part of the museum’s permanent collection, it is an unassailable, if by now unchewable, piece of the national past.

NYT, of course.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:02 am 
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This week's flourish:
Quote:
Late in life, Mr. Roselli enjoyed something of a renaissance. He sang regularly in Atlantic City, commanding, Mr. Evanier said, $100,000 a night or more. And even now, he said, in many a New York Italian restaurant, Mr. Roselli beams down from a framed photograph on the wall as his voice wells up from the jukebox.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Wed Jul 27, 2011 6:57 pm 
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The Times' Margalit Fox is bubbling to the top as the main culprit. Here's her latest spell-binding wind-up:

Quote:
Mr. Aldredge’s theatrical calling very nearly did not happen. In the late 1940s, then a prelaw student at the University of Dayton, he visited New York. Ambling through the theater district, he came upon two rough-hewn men in the alley behind the Ethel Barrymore Theater.

The young Mr. Aldredge had little interest in theater, but wanted to see the inside of a grand Broadway house. He asked the stagehands — for stagehands they must surely be — for a peek.

“Buy a ticket,” one replied, and he did, for $1.80.

From his seat, Mr. Aldredge watched as the “stagehands” — Karl Malden and Marlon Brando — walked out under the lights to play “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and after that he was never completely the same.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 10:23 pm 
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This is my favorite thread in quite a while. It makes me want to go look up that ridiculous but oddly entertaining zillion-inch obit on the inventor of the Bundt pan. Oddly, I can't remember his name (and no, it wasn't Bundt).


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Sat Jul 30, 2011 10:24 pm 
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I think this thread should be put on a "sticky," or whatever you call that.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2011 10:59 am 
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The latest from the sly Ms. Fox, the obit of Emanuel Litvinoff, a poet who famously dissed T.S. Eliot at a reading in 1951. Here's Fox's dramatic conclusion:

Quote:
By the time it was Mr. Litvinoff’s turn to read, he said afterward, he was keenly aware that the target of the corrosive lines he was about to utter was sitting in the audience.

(snip)
Quote:
When Mr. Litvinoff finished, as was widely reported, pandemonium ensued. The poet Stephen Spender stood up and denounced him for insulting Eliot, prompting others in the crowd to cry “Hear, hear” in assent.

There was, however, a dissenting voice. Amid the tumult, a man in the back of the room was heard to mutter: “It’s a good poem. It’s a very good poem.”

The speaker was Thomas Stearns Eliot.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2011 6:36 pm 
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Sly Fox indeed. More! More!


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2011 12:24 am 
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Curiously, Ms. Fox has been silent for weeks now. Long overdue vacation? Put on probation after her editors spotted this thread? Promoted to the Middle East bureau?

As a place-holder, we have this recent interview with Margalit, explaining her devotion to the craft. In it, she reveals her favorite obit assignment, which just so happens to end with a flourish.

So while she's away, let's enjoy another snazzy finish from the Best of Obit Noir. Here's her wind-up to the life story of the king of the New York coffee cup, Leslie Buck:
Quote:
Today, Solo no longer carries the Anthora as a stock item, making it only on request. Other companies still turn out versions of the cup, though not in the quantities of its 20th-century heyday.

But given the tenacious traditionalism of many locals (“Avenue of the Americas,” anyone?), it is safe to assume that the Anthora and its heirs will endure, at least for a while, in the city’s steadfast precincts. For some time to come, on any given day, somewhere a New Yorker will be cradling the cup, with its crisp design and snug white lid, the stuff of life inside.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Wed Nov 23, 2011 10:17 pm 
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Ms. Fox returned after a long layoff. The other day, she slipped a fast one past her editors:
Quote:
René A. Morel, a world-renowned surgeon whose clients had names like Perlman, Zukerman and Ma and whose patients had names like Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati, died on Wednesday in Wayne, N.J. He was 79.

Quote:
For these instruments, every bump and jostle, every change in temperature or humidity, is occasion for protest. Wood shrinks and swells and strains against itself. Cracks can appear. Their sonorous voices can be reduced to growls and grumbles.

Enter Mr. Morel.

Quote:
But his work also encompassed far less invasive, though no less crucial, adjustments. These involved the ear as much as the hand and, as Mr. Perlman described the process, typically went like this:

A player would enter the shop, instrument in hand. Mr. Morel would ask how it was sounding, and the player demonstrated.

“Aha; very interesting,” Mr. Morel would say. Then, with a slender tool, he might reach inside the instrument and, almost imperceptibly, move one of its vital internal organs — the soundpost, the wooden dowel that fits between the top and the back and transmits vibrations from one to the other.

The player played some more, and the process was repeated until the sound was sublime. Mr. Morel, a nonplayer himself, had a failsafe way of knowing precisely when that was.

“He would put up his sleeve and say, ‘You see the goose bumps,’ ” Mr. Perlman recalled. “He said as long as he didn’t get the goose bumps, it was not properly adjusted.”

Quote:
He is also survived by a generation of string players, now at loose ends.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2011 12:08 am 
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Location: Albuquerque, N.M. USA
Here's a sampling of names from an obit of comic artist Jerry Robinson that is full of interesting names:
Sherrill David Robinson
Jens Robinson
Bob Kane
Cesar Romero
Heath Ledger
Bill Finger
Michael Uslan
N.C. Wyeth
N.C. Christopher
Gro Bagn
Francisco Laurenzo Pons


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:39 pm 
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The latest punchline from Ms. Fox, all swept up in the quaintness of the Amato Opera, whose founder died at 91:
Quote:
Reviewers often called the Amato’s theater “intimate,” but the word scarcely did justice to its confines. The stage was just 18 feet wide, with negligible wings. Singers sometimes had to exit through the theater’s back door, then re-enter by running through the parking lot, around the corner, through the front door, down the aisle and onto the stage.

The parking-lot sprint entailed rubbing elbows with the neighborhood’s skid-row denizens. As one singer later recalled, he once made the dash costumed in tie and tails. Several men, thinking fortune had sent them a millionaire at last, touched him for money on his way through.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Thu Dec 15, 2011 4:44 pm 
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And her beginnings can be pretty awful, too. Subject ...... meet verb:
Quote:
Christopher Logue, an English poet acclaimed for his multivolume modernization of the “Iliad” — a literary endeavor noteworthy for lasting four times as long as the Trojan War itself; even more noteworthy for its use of evocative anachronisms like Uzis, helicopters and aircraft carriers to conjure the world of Homer’s Bronze Age warriors; and still more noteworthy for having been accomplished without his knowing a word of Greek — died on Dec. 2 at his home in London.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Fri Dec 16, 2011 8:11 am 
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Location: Bethesda, Md.
The Times office is full of smart people. Why don't they say something?


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Mon Dec 26, 2011 11:30 am 
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When she doesn't have a killer ending, she seems to overcompensate with another deadly opening:
Quote:
Robert Easton, a character actor turned accent coach to the stars, who transformed Drew Barrymore into Amy Fisher, Ben Kingsley into Meyer Lansky and Gregory Peck first into Josef Mengele and later into Abraham Lincoln, among other feats of articulatory alchemy, died on Dec. 16 at his home in Los Angeles. He was 81.

And this ham-handed clunker:
Quote:
Doe Avedon, a bookish beauty reluctantly transformed into a high-fashion model at the hands of a visionary photographer, Richard Avedon — a story that inspired the 1957 musical “Funny Face,” about a bookish beauty (Audrey Hepburn) reluctantly transformed into a high-fashion model at the hands of a visionary photographer (Fred Astaire) — died on Sunday in Los Angeles. She was 86.

The rest of the obit is essentially a string of apocryphal stories.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2012 9:45 am 
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Far-fetched but amusing kicker to the Post's obit on Mike McGrady, recalling his faux bodice-ripper-by-committee:

Quote:
“Naked Came the Stranger” was reissued in 2004 and is still in print. Mr. McGrady and the other writers had nothing to do with a hardcore 1975 film with the same title. They did, however, see the movie at a Times Square theater.

During one vivid scene, Aronson told the Charlotte Observer, someone shouted, “Author, Author!”

“Seventeen of us stood up.”


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:38 pm 
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An elegant obit of comedian Tom Davis (Franken & Davis) from the New York Times.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2012 1:33 pm 
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Here, finally, is Margalit Fox's magnum opus. The inventor of the bar code has died!!
First, the mandatory three-paragraph lede:
Quote:
It was born on a beach six decades ago, the product of a pressing need, an intellectual spark and the sweep of a young man’s fingers through the sand.

The result adorns almost every product of contemporary life, including groceries, wayward luggage and, if you are a traditionalist, the newspaper you are holding.

The man on the beach that day was a mechanical-engineer-in-training named N. Joseph Woodland. With that transformative stroke of his fingers — yielding a set of literal lines in the sand — Mr. Woodland, who died on Sunday at 91, conceived the modern bar code.

And finally the bookending three-paragraph finale for the ages:
Quote:
Today, bar codes sort the world, encapsulating the particulars of modern material culture — the wide and the narrow of things — in banded black and white.

In retail establishments worldwide they are scanned at the rate of more than five billion a day. They keep track of books in libraries, patients in hospitals and nearly anything else, animate or in-, that will serve as an affixable surface.

All because a bright young man, his mind ablaze with dots and dashes, one day raked his fingers through the sand.


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2012 5:46 pm 
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Quote:
It was born on a beach six decades ago, the product of a pressing need, an intellectual spark and the sweep of a young man’s fingers through the sand.


*** The reader might be forgiven for thinking, if only for a moment, that Fox was writing about the deceased in the lede. ***


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 Post subject: Re: Obit noir
PostPosted: Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:21 am 
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Margalit Fox, with quiet pride, is back in top form, and she's just giddy over the death of the designer of the mid-century telephone, fascinated by the fact that someone had to arrange the touch-tone pads in a certain order (rectangular!).

Now a superstar and thus free from editing, she warms up with an opening ramble:
Quote:
A generation ago, when the poetry of PEnnsylvania and BUtterfield was about to give way to telephone numbers in unpoetic strings, a critical question arose: Would people be able to remember all seven digits long enough to dial them?

And when, not long afterward, the dial gave way to push buttons, new questions arose: round buttons, or square? How big should they be? Most crucially, how should they be arrayed? In a circle? A rectangle? An arc?

For decades after World War II, these questions were studied by a group of social scientists and engineers in New Jersey led by one man, a Bell Labs industrial psychologist named John E. Karlin.

By all accounts a modest man despite his variegated accomplishments (he had a doctorate in mathematical psychology, was trained in electrical engineering and had been a professional violinist), Mr. Karlin, who died on Jan. 28, at 94, was virtually unknown to the general public.


** "variegated" **

Quote:
In 2013, the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the touch-tone phone, the answers to those questions remain palpable at the press of a button. The rectangular design of the keypad, the shape of its buttons and the position of the numbers — with “1-2-3” on the top row instead of the bottom, as on a calculator — all sprang from empirical research conducted or overseen by Mr. Karlin.


Imagine that!

And then, in classic obit noir style, there's the flowery apocryphal story as punchline:
Quote:
Mr. Karlin’s experimental research, reported in the popular press, showed that they could. As a result, PEnnsylvania and BUtterfield — the stuff of song and story — began to slip away. By the 1960s, those exchanges, along with DRexel, FLeetwood, SWinburne and scores of others just as evocative, had all but disappeared.

This did not please traditionalists, and thanks to the papers they knew the culprit’s name.

“One day I was at a cocktail party and I saw some people over in the corner,” Mr. Karlin recalled in a 2003 lecture. “They were obviously looking at me and talking about me. Finally a lady from this group came over and said, ‘Are you the John Karlin who is responsible for all-number dialing?’ ”

Mr. Karlin drew himself up with quiet pride.

“Yes, I am,” he replied.

“How does it feel,” his inquisitor asked, “to be the most hated man in America?”


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