And Now She's Dead

Ruby Dee, 1922-2014

"Ruby Dee, an actress known as much for her civil rights activism as for her powerful stage and movie roles in productions including A Raisin in the Sun, has died." She was 91 years old.


Mavis Gallant, 1922-2014

"Mavis Gallant, the internationally celebrated Canadian short story writer who lived and worked for most of her life in Paris, has died, according to her publisher. She was 91."


Pandora, Circa 1988-2014

My boa constrictor who I've had since '88 passed away this yr. She was over 25 yrs old. & very sweet. For a snake. RIP Pandora. I miss u.

— Slash (@Slash) January 21, 2014

I did not wake up this morning and expect to be moved by a tweet from Slash over his dead snake, and yet here we are. Live every day like it's your last, we only have so much time with each other.


Marian McPartland, 1918-2013

"Marian McPartland, who gave the world an intimate, insider's perspective on one of the most elusive topics in music — jazz improvisation — died of natural causes Tuesday night at her home in Long Island, N.Y. She was 95. For more than 40 years, she hosted Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz, an NPR program pairing conversation and duet performances that reached an audience of millions, connecting with jazz fans and the curious alike. She interviewed practically every major jazz musician of the post-WWII era. McPartland's soft English accent wasn't the only thing that made her a good radio personality. She was an accomplished jazz pianist herself, which was readily [...]


Chrissy Amphlett, 1959-2013

"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."


Beloved Bronx Zoo Gorilla Dead At 40

"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 [...]


Ms. Melodie, ???-2012

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 [...]


Maya Angelou, 1928-2014

"Oh my God, I’ve lived a very simple life! You can say, Oh yes, at thirteen this happened to me and at fourteen… But those are facts. But the facts can obscure the truth, what it really felt like. Every human being has paid the earth to grow up. Most people don’t grow up. It’s too damn difficult. What happens is most people get older." —Maya Angelou has died. She was 86.


Maggie Estep, 1963-2014

"Maggie Estep, a novelist and spoken-word poet who helped popularize slam poetry on MTV, HBO and PBS in the 1990s, died on Wednesday in Albany. She was 50."


Editta Sherman, 1912-2013

Photographer and longtime Carnegie Hall resident Editta Sherman died on Friday. Just after turning 100 she chatted with Sean Manning about such topics as nearly trysting with Tyrone Power, selling old clothes to Tilda Swinton, and dancing ballet for Andy Warhol. Sherman was 101.


The Woman Behind Lever House

"Almost invisibly in her own day, Natalie de Blois, of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, helped guide the design of three of the most important corporate landmarks of the 1950s and ‘60s — the headquarters of Lever Brothers, Pepsi-Cola and Union Carbide — whose suave steel-and-glass facades still exude the cool confidence of postwar Park Avenue…. Debates can always be had about the provenance of almost any significant architectural project, particularly one coming out of an office as large and collaborative as Skidmore (where my father was a partner until his death in 1973). No one person can ever wholly claim credit. But there is little doubt that Ms. de Blois, [...]


Margaret Thatcher, 1925-2013

"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

and this:

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 [...]


Helen Gurley Brown, 1922 – 2012

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.


Kitty Wells, 1919-2012

Also passing yesterday: the legendary Kitty Wells, known as The Queen of Country Music.


Sue Townsend, 1946-2014

"The author Sue Townsend, whose most popular character Adrian Mole defined a generation, has died at the age of 68. She was best known for the fictional diaries of Adrian Mole, who began confiding his deepest desires and ambitions in the Seceret Diary of Adrian Mole 13 3/4 in 1982. His teenage years were recounted in the Growing Pains of Adrian Mole and further novels dealt with married life and middle age. Townsend died on Thursday evening after a stroke." This is also good.


Shirley Temple Black, 1928-2014

"Shirley Temple Black, who as the most popular child movie star of all time lifted a filmgoing nation’s spirits during the Depression and then grew up to be a diplomat, has died. [...]


Marcia Wallace, 1942-2013

Marcia Wallace, from "The Bob Newhart Show" and the voice of Edna Krabappel on "The Simpsons," died this weekend. She was 70. Let's remember her for her "Hah!"s.


Nuts At Half Staff For Chock Singer

"Page Morton Black, the cabaret singer whose sprightly rendition of [the Chock Full o’Nuts jingle] in radio and television ads was indelibly engraved on New Yorkers’ brains at midcentury, died on Sunday at her home in the Premium Point enclave of New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 97." —I am NOT from midcentury, although some days it feels as if I am, and I can assure you that even those of us who grew up in this area as late as the nineteen hundred and eighties still have this song stamped indelibly on their brains. I imagine 30 years from now people will be feeling a twinge of nostalgia [...]


Top Ten American Hero Barbara Johnson Goes To Her Next Big Reward

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 [...]


Sylvia Woods, 1926-2012

"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."