RIP – ANDREW GELLER


EXPIRED: 12/25/11 – Andrew Geller, 86, knew what American’s wanted: easy to build and easy to maintain versions of the American Dream.

As an post-World-War-Two architect, Geller planned and developed uninhibited, sculptural beach houses in the coastal regions of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut during the 1950s and 60s. He is credited as the inventor of the A-frame, a weekend getaway house that was marketed towards bachelors, and  for designing a series of off-the-shelf homes, sold for between $12,000 and $18,000 at Macy’s.

On the flip side, he was highly sought after as an architect for his one-of-a-kind houses whose distinctive shapes earned them nicknames like the Box Kite, the Milk Carton and the Grasshopper.

But his biggest claim to fame is the residential development he built on Long Island. He called it Leisurama.

The New York Times said Geller “helped bring modernism to the masses.”

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RIP – SIMMS TABACK


 

EXPIRED: 12/25/11  – Simms Taback, 79, was born in the Bronx, graduated from Cooper Union and started his illustrating career at CBS Records and The New York Times.

He founded the New York Graphic Artists Guild and supplemented that ‘starving artist income’ by teaching art at the School of Visual Arts.

Later Taback wrote and illustrated over 40 children’s books, including Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, I Miss You Every Day and This Is The House That Jack Built.

Perhaps he chose to focus on children’s books because of guilt over the damage he inadvertently caused to children over the decades. You see, back in 1977 Taback designed the child-enticing, riddle-encrusted, first box for McDonald’s Happy Meals.

That piece of art is ridiculously – shamefully – now sitting in the Smithsonian.

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RIP – CHEETAH


EXPIRED: 12/24/11  – Cheetah, 80, was “discovered” by an animal trainer on a trip to Liberia in 1932. The chimpanzee ended up in Hollywood with a 30 year film career, mostly in Tarzan movies, playing himself, stealing scenes from Olympic-medal-winner-turned-actor Johnny Weissmuller, who played the Apeman.

Cheetah died of kidney failure on Christmas Eve at The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbour, Florida, where he lived for over 60 years. In his final days he enjoyed spending time finger painting – his art has sold at auction for upwards of $2,000 apiece.

Despite his fondness for booze and cigars, vices he had to give up upon retirement, Cheetah was not a temperamental actor. Still, he wasn’t above hurling poop (his own) at anyone who caused him grief.

Captive chimps typically live about 35 years. Cheetah, at 80, holds the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest non-human primate. He even outlived both Tarzan co-stars, Weissmuller and actress Maureen O’Sullivan, who played Jane. O’Sullivan referred to Cheetah as ‘that bastard.” Despite his fondness for booze and cigars, vices he had to give up upon retirement, Cheetah was not a temperamental actor. Still, he wasn’t above hurling poop (his own) at anyone who caused him grief. Supposedly, his aim was pretty good. I’m assuming O’Sullivan was probably a regular target.

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RIP – LYNN SAMUELS


EXPIRED: 12/24/11 – Lynn Samuels, 69, was a New Yorker who sounded like a New Yorker. Her accent – and opinions – were thick. And she voiced them to anyone who would listen in her Greenwich Village laundromat. With her gift of gab, where better to have a career than on the radio talking to other opinionated New Yorkers for over 30 years.

I remember her from her late night talk show on WBAI, beginning in 1979 when NY was still a little gritty and dangerous. She was sassy, confrontational, had a crazy laugh and leftist views. In the 80s, when NYC started becoming more capitalistic, BAI closed its doors and Samuels was out of work. She was subsequently hired at WABC where she was fired three times and rehired twice. The last firing, in 2002, was allegedly due to budget cuts, but I’m sure Samuels was on the short list.

From 2003 to 2011, she hosted The Lynn Samuels Show on the Sirius Satellite Radio channel SIRIUS Left. Earlier this year she was cut to a weekend talk show on Sirius XM Stars. To supplement her income she went full circle and took a part-time job at her local laundromat.

For years she hosted a show on Christmas Eve that was very different than her usual passionate discussions of politics and socio-economic issues plaguing her beloved city. She had listeners call in to sing Christmas Carols. New Yorkers loved it.

This year she never showed up for her Christmas Eve program.

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RIP – SEAN BONNIWELL


EXPIRED: 12/20/11 – Sean Bonniwell, 71, was the godfather of punk. No disrespect to Iggy Pop or the Ramones, but Bonniwell was doing it first.

Bonniwell was 15 when he first heard the song “Only You” by the Platters and knew he needed to be a rock star. After a couple of false starts, he finally formed a solid group, The Ragamuffins, in 1965. The next year they changed their name to The Music Machine and released their debut album, ‘(Turn On) The Music Machine.‘  The album is highly regarded as one of the most played, but least known, garage-punk predecessors.

The Music Machine only had two hits. “The People in Me” peaked at #66. But “Talk Talk” reached #15 on the charts and was considered to be raw, angry and superbly anti-establishment. It was a perfect song for the times. Accompanied by a Farfisa organ, a staccato backbeat and fuzzy guitars, Bonniwell and his band wore all–black clothing, died their moptop hair black and sported a single black glove on their right hand. And they menaced with the lyrics:

Here’s my situation
 / And how it really stands
/ I’m out of circulation
/ I’ve all but washed my hands
/ My social life’s a dud
/ My name is really mud
/ I’m up to here in lies
/ I guess I’m down to size. / Talk Talk!”

Despite the success, by 1967 every band member except Bonniwell were fired. The band was renamed The Bonniwell Music Machine, who released a second album with little success. A 3rd album was recorded in 1969, but never released.

To get out of his record contract, Bonniwell sold the rights to the band’s name and released ‘Close,’ a softer solo album, which fared no better.

By 1970, Bonniwell quit the music business and – despite earning some royalties by Alice Cooper’s 1980 version of “Talk Talk” on his ‘Flush The Fashion‘ LP– kept a low profile until 2000, when he released an autobiography entitled Beyond The Garage. While it too gained little interest, The Larksmen, a young garage band, were intrigued. In 2006 The Larksmen invited Bonniwell to play on their self-titled debut and do a handful of shows around Los Angeles.

It’s sad that someone who influenced so many of the 70’s and 80’s garage bands saw such limited success. It’s sadder still that lung cancer took this guy away before his influence was rightfully acknowledged.

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SEE THEM SING ‘TALK TALK”

RIP – JEREMY DOYLE


EXPIRED: 12/19/11 –  Jeremy Doyle, 28, became a paraplegic at the age of 4 when he was run over by a car.  That didn’t stop him though. At 24, Doyle played in Australia’s National Wheelchair Basketball League. A year later, he joined the Australia men’s national wheelchair basketball team, making his debut at the 2009 Paralympic World Cup. There, and at the 2010 Wheelchair Basketball World Championship, Doyle helped his team win gold medals. He was chosen to represent Australia at the 2012 Summer Paralympics and was training for that event.

Doyle had been diagnosed with bladder cancer in 2010 and beaten it but a scan in August of 2010 showed it had spread. By that time he had met the girl of his dreams, Melanie Carr. The two of them had met online in April and in person in May. They spent the summer planning their future together when doctors told him the terminal had returned with a vengeance. They gave him three to 12 months to live.

On December 2nd they became man and wife. They barely had two weeks together before Melanie became a widow.

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RIP – CESARIA EVORA


EXPIRED: 12/17/11 – Cesaria Evora, 70, was 10 years old when she was given to an orphanage in the Cape Verde Islands, off of West Africa. At 16, she started singing in a tavern popular with sailors. She was also rowed out to anchored ships to sing for those who couldn’t make it to land.

There was no pay – just free drinks. And she drank – cognac – lots of it.  Known as the “Barefoot Diva” because she always performed without shoes, she sang “morna,” the traditional music of the region. She mostly sang in the version of creole spoken there, but even those who couldn’t understand the lyrics were moved by her voice.

In 1988 she recorded “La Diva Aux Pieds Nus” (“Barefoot Diva”), which launched  her international career. Then in 1995, her album “Cesaria” brought her first Grammy nomination, and an international tour.

But it was in 2003, 54 years after she started singing in local bars for booze, that she won a Grammy in World Music category for her album “Voz D’Amor.”

This past September she retired due to health problems. Retirement didn’t last long.

 

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