Posts tagged: Forrest Ackerman

The New York Times Obituary Page

I enjoy reading the obituaries in the New York Times. I check them almost every day. It is amazing to me some of the interesting things people have done and the lives they have lived. Reading the New York Times obits is like taking a history lesson. Some of the people I have heard of and some I have not.  The stories below are from recent obituaries in the Times. Go to the New York Times website for the complete obituary.

Dennis Yost, lead singer for a group called the Classics IV died December 7th. I didn’t recognize the name, maybe you don’t either, but I bet that if I told you he sang the song “Spooky” in the late 1960’s and early ’70’s, the tune would pop into your head. He also sang “Stormy” and “Traces of Love.” I remember parts of all three songs.

Elmer Valentine died December 3rd. In 1964 he started a famous rock and roll club called Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood. I have heard of the club, but not of him. All kinds of famous groups from the sixties played there. The “go-go girl” in a cage suspended from the ceiling was started at his club, by accident. One of his grade school teachers said that he would go to the electric chair someday. That fits right in with my previous post “Can Kindergarten Scar You For Life.” Jim Morrison and The Doors were the house band for a while. Interestingly enough, the next obit in the Times is for Jim Morrison’s father.

George S. Morrison died on November 17th. He was a Navy Admiral and the father of Jim Morrison of The Doors.  He commanded United States naval forces during the GuIf of Tonkin incident off the coast of Vietnam. This event led to Congress giving President Lyndon Baines Johnson the power to escalate the war without actually asking for a declaration of war from Congress. I think it is interesting that both father and son are mentioned on the same day on the same obituary page. Jim Morrison died in 1971.

Henry Molaison died on December 4th.  He had a brain operaton in 1953 when he was 28 to correct a seizure disorder. After the operation, he was no longer able to form new memories. Every time he did something it seemed like he was doing it for the first time. He could only remember something for about 20 seconds. Doctors and scientists who studied him paved the way for later studies of memory disorders. His brain was preserved for future study.

Nina Foch died on December 5th. She was an actress who played the pharoah’s daughter in the 1956 movie, “The Ten Commandments.” She was also in Spartucus, Scaramouche, An American in Paris and many other movies. At one time, she was married to James Lipton of “Inside The Actors Studio” on Bravo.

Beverly Garland died December 5th. She played Fred McMurray’s second wife on “My Three Sons.” That was a show my family always watched when I was growing up in the 1960’s. She also played Bing Crosby’s wife on “The Bing Crosby Show.”

Sunny von Bulow died on December 6th. She was in a coma for almost 28 years. Her second husband, Claus von Bulow, was tried and convicted and then tried again and acquitted of her murder. Her first husband, Prince von Auersperg, whom she divorced, was in a car accident in 1983. The crash put him in a coma until he died in 1992. That is an interesting coincidence.

Forrest Ackerman, who is known as the “biggest fan” of science fiction and horror stories, died on December 4th. He thought of the term “sci-fi” while driving in his car and a radio announcer said “hi-fi.”  At one time his science fiction collection had 40,000 books. Robert Englund, who played Freddy Krueger, called him the Hugh Hefner of horror.

Dorothy Sterling died December 1st. In 1954 she wrote the childrens book “Freedom Train” about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. She used the New York Public Library to research “Freedom Train” and other books she wrote about black history.

Paul Benedict died December 1st. He played Harry Bentley on the television show The Jeffersons.

Dorothea Rabkin died on November 25th. She collected American folk art, including whirlygigs, figural sculptures, quilts, baskets and dolls. She collected them with her husband by searching flea markets and secondhand stores. “Uncle Sam Riding a Bicycle” is one of their most famous whirlygigs. Some of their collection is exhibited at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City.

Odetta died December 2. She was a well known folk music artist who sang blues and ballads that influenced Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and others. In 1963 she marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and sang for President John F. Kennedy.

Oliver Selfridge died recently in Boston. He graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he was only 19 years old. He was well known in the field of artificial intelligence in computers.

Bill Drake died recently in Los Angeles. He transformed radio programming in the 1960’s by changing the way “disc jockeys” worked. He created a format that played more records, had less commercials and had “Boss Jock” DJ’s that talked less.

Doris Dungey died recently in Columbus, Ohio. She blogged about the collapse of the mortgage industry under the name Tanta. The blog was called “Calculated Risk” and was started in 2005 by Bill McBride. He thought that the housing market was peaking and he posted information about that. Tanta commented on the blog and corrected some of his work. Eventually, she was made a partner in the blog.

Richard Fortman died recently in Springfield, Illinois. He was an international authority on the game of Checkers. At one time, he was one of the top players in the world. He could play 100 games at a time.

Cecil Underwood died recently in Charleston, West Virginia. He was a high school teacher who was the youngest Governor of West Virginia and the oldest. He was elected in 1956 and 1996.

William Gibson died recently in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. He was a playwright who wrote “The Miracle Worker.” It is the story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. The 1962 film starred Patty Duke as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan.

Betty James died recently in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She came up with the name “Slinky” for the toy that her husband invented. When her husband left for Bolivia in 1960, Betty took over the company and ran it for many years. Over 300 million Slinkys have been sold. It is the official state toy of Pennsylvania.

There you have it. These are a few of the obits appearing in the New York Times recently. Of course, not everyone gets to have their obituary in the Times. I know I haven’t done anything yet to make the Times when I kick the bucket. What about you?

I would love to hear your comments about this post.

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