Review of the Year 2009: Obituaries
Wednesday 23 December 2009
John Hughes defined the 1980s teenager in a series of hugely successful and influential comedy films, including The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink, whose young stars became members of the group known as the "Brat Pack". Those early films captured the exquisite pains of teenhood, growing in popularity to achieve cult status. Hughes put their success down to his empathy and respect for teenagers: "I don't discount anything they have to say just because they're only 16." The films became touchstones and reference points for a generation that knowingly enjoyed their combination of cheesiness and truth.
Sir Clement Freud
He was very hurt that he could not get himself taken seriously as a politician; he hated being regarded as a media clown by parliamentary colleagues. Freud was a serious spokesman for the Liberals on education, and was one of the first to champion the cause of youngsters with Down's syndrome ... Only on one occasion did I see him almost lose his temper. It was during the Falklands War, when a Tory MP who had never worn the Queen's uniform accused him of being wet and lily-livered. Freud snapped back: "I don't think that you worked directly and personally under Field Marshal, Viscount Montgomery of Alamein during the Second World War. I did."
J G Ballard had many readers in many lands. For them, everything he published was news. But after Stephen Spielberg based a good though not incandescent film on his autobiographical novel, Empire of the Sun, Ballard became newsworthy over large parts of the world that his words had never reached directly. He became a sage and prophet, whose visions of the cost of living in the modern world were an integral part of our understanding of the shape of things to come. At least one English dictionary has accepted "Ballardian" as a term descriptive of the landscape of the late-20th century: a landscape which surreally embodies the psychopathologies of modern humanity.
When Julia Smith and Tony Holland, the creators of EastEnders, were planning the BBC television serial that was to bring the rough and tough world of London's East End into millions of viewers' living rooms, they wrote of its central character, the downtrodden mother Pauline Fowler: "Jolly. Rounded. Someone you can get your arms round. She doesn't trust skinny people." It marked a turning point in the career of the actress Wendy Richard, who was best known for dolly-bird roles such as the busty sales assistant Miss Brahms in Are You Being Served? In her early forties, she was ready for a change. "I'm sick of glamour," she told Tony Holland. "I want to play my age. It's about time."
Days after Goody's diagnosis [of advanced stages of cancer] Jack Tweed proposed to his girlfriend and the couple were married two weeks later. Goody wore a wedding dress given to her as a gift by the Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed, which contained a concealed pouch for her medication. She had Kate Jackson, a member of the Living TV crew who had filmed her throughout her illness, as her bridesmaid. Tweed was given dispensation to break his parole conditions and spend his wedding night with his wife. The couple signed a deal with the magazine OK! worth £700,000 for the rights to the photos. Sales of the publication duly soared: the public appetite for Goody-watching remained undimmed, even in her final weeks.
The unique selling point of Floyd on Fish was that when Floyd, who had no script and no television experience, spoke directly to the long-suffering cameraman, "the famous Clive" North, and ordered him, for example, to "get a close-up" of whatever Floyd was preparing, David Pritchard left in both the close-up and the banter with the cameraman. He also retained the footage of Floyd sipping the glass of red wine he was never without. In The Independent in 2007, Floyd said that the slugs of red wine afforded him a few seconds time to work out his next ad-lib, there being no script. This, fundamentally, was the basis of Floyd's successful run of 26 TV shows over 20 years.
Edward Moore Kennedy was the youngest of the four sons of the ferociously ambitious Joseph Patrick Kennedy, the founding father of a dynasty whose luck was not the equal of their fortune. After the deaths of his three brothers he tried to pick up the family standard, but in spite of genuine political gifts and a spark of idealism that was never quite extinguished, either by his family's arrogance or by a streak of self-indulgence in his character, he was, by his own and his family's elevated standards, a failure. He served with distinction in the United States senate for almost half a century But he never achieved the goal his father set for one son after another, to be elected president of the United States.
Sir Bobby Robson
With his rumpled features and crooked smile, he could look crushed and weary, but when Bobby Robson began holding forth on his beloved game, those rheumy eyes would sparkle and his overwhelming enthusiasm would captivate all but the most cynical of listeners. Almost always, despite the endearing malapropisms with which his conversation was scattered, his homespun philosophy would offer an oasis of sanity in the self-obsessed world of modern football.
Danny La Rue
When Danny La Rue started his career as a female impersonator, drag acts were an area of show business traditionally regarded as seedy and suspect, but he successfully elevated his performance to an art form. The transformation of something seen as coarse and vulgar was achieved by adding an element of sophistication and glittering spectacle, with La Rue dressing in the most expensive and elegant costumes, and sending drag up rather than playing it straight. "Wotcha, mates!" he growled in a very unladylike voice as he took to the stage, making clear from the outset that what the audience saw was definitely not a woman.
He was called up in October 1916, and joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry (DCLI). After six months' training, he was assigned to a Lewis machine-gun team. Patch arrived in France in 1917 and on his 19th birthday was in the trenches at Passchendaele. Two weeks later, the DCLI moved to Pilckem Ridge ... The DCLI got as far as the second line, where the Germans came running at Patch's machine gun, one of whom had his bayonet aimed at Patch's chest. Patch fired at the German's shoulder, but he continued. Patch did not want to kill him, so with his revolver he shot him in the ankle and brought him down. Throughout his time in action, Patch never fired his gun to kill the enemy, solely to wound.
Most actors are fortunate to get one signature role, one part for which they are fêted or idolised. Patrick Swayze found two. His career may have been short on the critical approbation that he craved, but his most memorable and successful performances, first in the nostalgic musical drama Dirty Dancing, then in the Oscar-winning Ghost, made him a superstar, and gave America one of its few leading men who were unafraid to play vulnerable. However, he remained ambivalent about his screen persona as a sex symbol. "It's good for the career," he said, "but it's not good for the head... I want to make a mark as an actor. I'd like to think that my career isn't about things like swinging my ass in Dirty Dancing."
He developed a curmudgeonly persona, in which he appeared to revel. He was a guest on the late-night sports show Under the Moon in 1998 when the presenter, Danny Kelly, remarked that his beloved snooker had never been the same since the players stopped snorting cocaine. Vine walked out of the studio, snapping: "I don't have to listen to this shit." He deplored what he saw as a trend for the BBC to sideline professional presenters and journalists in favour of so-called celebrities. He publicly criticised an edition of Ski Sunday because its coverage of competitive skiing was curtailed to make room for a feature in which the chef Heston Blumenthal was being taught how to ski.
The poet U A Fanthorpe was a national treasure. Her great appeal was that despite her genteel background (16 years teaching at Cheltenham Ladies' College) she was that rare bird in Britain, someone for whom class didn't much matter. In fact, she was more comfortable with life's minor characters. She said that she left teaching because, having been promoted to head of department, "Power had an effect on me I didn't like". She was in the vanguard of a new wave in poetry (although such terminology sounds incongruous for poets who came to the art so late) – mature poets who began to publish in middle age after a career outside the usual poets' parish relief of editing jobs, residencies, scraps of patronage.
The most infamous manager of the rock and pop era, Allen Klein looked after the affairs of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles in the Sixties and early Seventies. A notoriously brash character and tough negotiator, Klein invented the role of business manager ... His tenure with the Beatles did help to sort out the financial mess of their ill-fated Apple venture and steady the ship after the death of Brian Epstein in 1967, but the tensions it created also contributed to the break-up of the group. Klein was incredibly litigious. "Nobody sues a failure, they only sue a success," he stated.
Gately was Boyzone's undisputed pin-up and, for many people, its sole redeeming feature. However, he also hid his homosexuality for the first five years of the group's career. "It was so stressful," he said in 2001. "You had to think of completely hiding your sexuality. All those questions that you had to dodge. 'Who's your favourite girl?', 'Which girls do you fancy?'– so I can't express what a weight it was off my shoulders," he said of his eventual outing by The Sun in 1999. After admitting he was "gay and in love" with Eloy De Jong, of the Dutch-English boy band Caught in the Act, in 1999, Gately expected a backlash but was pleasantly surprised by the rapturous reception Boyzone enjoyed at a live appearance in Hyde Park for Capital Radio's Party in the Park.
While The Cramps frontman Lux Interior often disputed the fact that he and his wife and partner in crime, Poison Ivy, invented the psychobilly genre, the American group certainly blended garage rock, trash culture and horror movie references in a unique way. When they crawled out of the CBGB's in the second half of the Seventies, they looked and sounded scuzzier and sleazier than The Ramones – and no one knew what to make of them. They distilled rock'n'roll to its essence and had a bigger cultural impact in Europe than in the US, certainly at the beginning of their career, though they became a cult in their own country, too.
Henry Allingham, engineer, 113; Cory Aquino, politician, 76; Ron Asheton, guitarist, 60; Professor Nick Atkin, historian, 49; Brian Barron, journalist, 69; Gene Barry, actor, 80; Pina Bausch, dancer and choreographer, 68; Hildegard Behrens, soprano, 72; Lord Blaker, politician, 86; Terry Bly, footballer, 73; Professor Norman Borlaug, plant scientist, 95; Maria Boulding, nun and theologian, 80; Felix Bowness, actor, 87; Paul Burke, actor, 83; Gordon Burn, writer, 61; Ian Carr, trumpeter, 75; Ricardo Cassin, mountaineer, 100; Liam Clancy, folk musician, 74; Jeff Clyne, jazz bassist, 72; John Craxton, artist, 87; Sir John Crofton, physician, 97; Walter Cronkite, broadcaster, 92; Vic Crowe, footballer and manager, 76; Merce Cunningham, dancer and choreographer, 90; Iain Cuthbertson, actor, 79; Alicia de Larrocha, pianist, 86; Dave Dee, singer, 65; Peter Denyer, actor, 62; Willy DeVille, musician, 55; Johnny Dixon, footballer, 85; Sir Edward Downes, conductor, 85; Dominick Dunne, writer, 83; Farrah Fawcett, actress, 62; Barry Flanagan, sculptor, 68; Professor Michael Freeman, French scholar, 67; Bill Frindall, cricket statistician, 69; Norman Glass, civil servant, 63; George Godber, medical officer, 100; Edward Goldsmith, environmentalist, 80; Ian Greaves, footballer and manager, 76; Ellie Greenwich, singer and songwriter, 68; Reg Gutteridge, boxing correspondent and commentator, 84; Bob Hains, journalist, 57; Eric Hammon, trade unionist, 79; Tony Hart, artist and broadcaster, 83; Sir Henry Hodge, lawyer, 65; John Holmes, rugby league player, 57; Hugh Hopper, bassist, 64; Dr Charles Houston, physician and mountaineer, 96; Tomaz Humar, mountaineer, 40; Mick Imlah, poet, 52; Jeanne-Claude, artist, 74; Dic Jones, farmer and poet, 75; Maggie Jones, actress, 75; Fred Kahn, hymn writer, 80; Jan Kaplicky, architect, 71; Sir Ludovic Kennedy, writer and broadcaster, 89; Troy Kennedy Martin, writer, 78; Ali Akbar Khan, sarod player, 87; Jack Kramer, tennis player, 88; Irving Kristol, columnist and political writer, 89; Malcolm Laycock, broadcaster, 70; Claude Lévi-Strauss, anthropologist, 100; Professor Sir Hugh Lloyd-Jones, classicist, 87; Keith Macklin, broadcaster and journalist, 77; Al Martino, singer, 82; John Martyn, singer, songwriter and guitarist, 60; Frank McCourt, writer, 78; Patrick McGoohan, actor, 80; Robert McNamara, politician and businessman, 93; Karl Malden, actor, 95; Troy Kennedy Martin, writer, 78; Geoffrey Moorhouse, writer, 77; Professor Jerry Morris, physician, 99; Ricardo Montalban, actor, 79; Cec Mountford, rugby league player and coach, 90; Christopher Nolan, author, 43; Renato Pagliari, singer, 69; Norman Painting, actor, 85; Les Paul, guitarist and engineer, 94; David Pears, philosopher, 87; Irving Penn, photographer, 92; Monica Pidgeon, architectural editor, 95; Steve Race, broadcaster, 88; Natasha Richardson, actress, 45; Oral Roberts, preacher, 91; Anthony Rota, bookseller, 77; William Safire, journalist and author, 79; Professor Edwin Salpeter, astrophysicist, 84; Paul Samuelson, economist, 94; Budd Schulberg, writer, 95; Mike Seeger, folk singer, 75; Michael Shea, press secretary to the Queen, 71; David Shepherd, cricket umpire and player, 68; Elisabeth Soderström, singer, 82; Mercedes Sosa, singer, 74; Sir Graham Stanton, New Testament scholar, 69; Mollie Sugden, actress, 86; Professor Simon Thirgood, ecologist and conservationist, 46; Bobby Thomson, footballer, 65; Professor Pat Thompson, historian, 89; Richard Todd, actor, 90; Geoffrey Tozer, pianist, 54; Mary Travers, singer, 72; Lady Tumin, campaigner, 73; Edward Upward, writer, 105; Ian Wallace, bass baritone, 90; Gordon Waller, singer, 64; Professor Sir Alan Walters, economist, 82; Keith Waterhouse, writer, 80; Steven Wells, journalist and author, 49; Professor Eric Wilkes, physician, 89; Joseph Wiseman, actor, 91; Edward Woodward, actor, 79; Andrew Wyeth, artist, 91; Yang Xianyi, translator, 94
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