"She was one of Australia's greatest female rock voices, who shocked audiences across the globe with her risque image and lyrics. Former Divinyls singer Chrissy Amphlett has died aged 53 after a long battle with breast cancer. Amphlett died at home in New York surrounded by friends and family, including her husband Charley Drayton."
"She was once celebrated as 'the Shirley Temple of the animal world.' She was so popular that she became the subject of a custody battle between two competing zoos. When she suffered a broken arm, rapt New Yorkers followed every twist and turn of her convalescence. Her name was Pattycake, and she was the first gorilla born in New York City. She died on Sunday at the Bronx Zoo at 40 years old." —Raise a banana to Pattycake, the sweetheart of the Bronx Zoo and the first native New Yorker of her species. She'll be replaced by somebody with a graduate degree and a part-time blogging job looking [...]
More sad news in hip-hop today as we learn that Boogie Down Productions' Ramona "Ms. Melodie" Parker died of as-yet-unknown causes Tuesday night. Born and raised in Flatbush, Brooklyn, Melodie married BDP founder KRS-One in 1988, and had one of the biggest records of the '80s—maybe the very biggest, as you can see, above, in the video to the terrific single, "Live Onstage," from her debut solo album, Diva. (Which, it should be noted, predated Annie Lennox's album of the same name by three years.) She and KRS-One divorced in 1992, and there are conflicting reports as to her age. She was in her 40s when she [...]
"Within her context, there was never a singing star who shone as brightly as Whitney Houston. The run was shorter than almost every one of her competitors, but diva greatness is not a marathon, but rather, a shining example of the possibility of the human being. There will probably never be another Aretha—certainly, the Beyonce BORG and the militias of teenybopper chart-toppers seem to indicate the end of her era—but it's probable that the never-to-be-famous next Aretha is singing in some church, somewhere. She exists but she simply will never be. Whitney, on the other hand, stretches what we can reasonably comprehend—how could we ever expect to see another [...]
"She mooed, out of the blue; she was definitely her own cow." —Aggie the cow has passed on.
My fondest childhood memories involve staying home sick from school and getting to watch TV on the couch. There were always four "I Love Lucy" episodes in a row at midday, which made me extremely happy. It's a show that is so commonplace in the firmament that we tend to forget just how influential and innovative it actually was. Anyway, trailblazing writer Madelyn Pugh Davis, who had a hand in every episode, has died. She was 90.
"Margaret Thatcher, the most dominant British prime minister since Winston Churchill in 1940 and a global champion of the late 20th century free market economic revival, has died." There's plenty of reaction here, including this, (which refers to this):
Tramp the dirt down.
— George Galloway (@georgegalloway) April 8, 2013
Margaret Thatcher has died. Whatever people thought of her the changes she made were never reversed. Very sad day. Sympathy to her family
— Alun Cairns (@AlunCairns) April 8, 2013
which is pretty much right about the changes.
And, of course, there will always be this:
I think [...]
The magical Helen Gurley Brown, that hilarious mercenary, has, according to Hearst, passed away. "In everything that Brown has written or edited, she has promoted the message that sex is great, and that one should get as much of it as possible. (Ditto for money.) Just about everyone knows this, and has always known it, but in Brown’s youth few women would admit it, even to themselves," wrote Judith Thurman in the New Yorker a few years ago.
Also passing yesterday: the legendary Kitty Wells, known as The Queen of Country Music.
"Planting the vegetables when the moon was in different constellations, she discovered, resulted in their growing into different forms and sizes. Over years of research she concluded that root crops (including onions and leeks, which are not technically root crops) do best if sown when the moon is passing through constellations associated with the earth element; leafy crops do best when the moon is associated with water signs; flowering plants do best associated with air signs, and fruits did better with fire signs." —German gardener Maria Thun, who put the "biodynamics" theory of cosmic, occultist philosopher Rudolph Steiner to test in her garden and wrote a popular [...]
"A woman thought to be the world's last known surviving service member of World War I has died aged 110. Florence Green, from King's Lynn, Norfolk, served as a mess steward at RAF bases in Marham and Narborough." If you missed it last May, make some time for Even Fleischer's amazing piece on Green and Claude Choules, who were then the last two veterans of the Great War. And now there are none.
A million years ago these friends told me about a saying they'd taken on, that came from a heated dinner party conversation. They were having an argument about Armenia or Iraq or something, or Palestine, who knows, and it was getting unreasonably heated due to the way these kinds of conversations go, and finally at one point a woman banged on the table and screamed, in an accent that I always do as "really fake French": BUT WHAT ABOUT ZE KURDS??? This is an argument stopper akin to invoking Hitler. What about the Kurds? Let us not discuss provisional governments or the rights of women or whatever, when don't [...]
Out of nowhere, or Monaco, comes the sad news that Barbara Piasecka Johnson, who was the maid to and then third wife of J. Seward Johnson I (born 1895!), has now died, far too young at the age of 76.
Ms. Johnson was busy until late out-surviving the six children of her husband from his first two marriages. Upon his death, in 1983, the Johnson and Johnson heir left all his money—$402,824,971.59—to her instead of them. They sued; the courts gave them 12% of their dad's inheritance (they all had trust funds anyway! It was just spite!) and everyone moved on happily ever after, rich as fourteen Bush [...]
"New York’s legendary 'Queen of Soul Food' Sylvia Woods, whose iconic restaurant drew dignitaries and ordinary folk from all over the world to Harlem to taste her fried chicken, died Thursday at 86."
Apart from the various ways her artistic genius displayed itself, Nora Ephron was brilliant with people and brilliant with New York City. One small way: she was always terribly kind to kiddo reporters, reasonable in a former New York Post reporter, and as a family member to yet more reporters. No matter how stupid the story, you could email her and she'd write back—Oh hello, I'm in Greece (or Italy or on a boat or en route to Los Angeles or just plain "traveling") but let me think about this marvelous idea and get back to you just as soon as I can, and she did. And here is something [...]
"It was clear to everyone on the sea otter exhibit team that Toola, not me, was really in charge. When she wanted to work on something in a training session, she’d give me a ‘look’ or vocalize and I’d immediately cave in and do whatever she wanted. Now that she’s passed, we’re in need of another ‘head trainer’ to run the place.” —Monterey Bay Aquarium associate curator of mammals Christine DeAngelo remembers Toola, the 16-year-old sea otter who passed away Saturday from the infirmities of age. Toola was found in 2001 on Pismo Beach suffering from neurological disorders. She received twice daily anti-convulsant medication at the aquarium [...]
Etta James, one of the greatest singers of all time, has passed away from complications from leukemia at the age of 73. She is justifiably best known for "At Last," a song any performer would make a deal with the devil to have in her repertoire, but her talents ranged from blues to gospel to R&B to standards to really anything she was interested in performing. Some favorites follow.
"I had a guru who left the mortal world in December. He gave me a meditation on the spirit, it was a female spirit, very beautiful but it made me think about that; how this body is just a material body, like an outer shell. It will deteriorate and die, but we can leave something behind in our music or art." —Poly Styrene, born Marianne Joan Elliott-Said, has died at the age of 53. Oh, let's play one more!