RIP – JAMES RIZZI


EXPIRED: 12/26/11  – James Rizzi, 61, was one of the most fun pop artists of all time. You couldn’t help but smile at his playful paintings and childlike 3D sculptures.

Born in Brooklyn, Rizzi studied at the University of Florida. But in 1974 he returned to NYC and took a studio in SoHo – back before it became a shopping mall and could actually house struggling artists. And struggling he was. At age 24 Rizzi was a renegade street artist.

Known for his bright, cartoon-like drawings he gained fans quickly. In 1981 he was commissioned by Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth to create the album cover for their first release as Tom Tom Club. It was so popular, they also asked him to create the video for their first single Genius of Love.

In 1996 Lufthansa commissioned him to decorate a jet with pastel stars, birds and travelers. In 2011, he created the BamBoo, an electric-powered concept car with an inflatable roof for automaker Rinspeed. Needless to say, Rizzi was loved around the world, especially in Germany, where a school in Duisburg was named for him.

He died in his sleep in the same studio he has been living and working in for decades.

READ THE OBIT OR WATCH THE GENIUS OF LOVE VIDEO

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RIP – SID MELTON


EXPIRED: 11/02/11 – Sid Melton, 94, was an American actor best known as 1/2 of a pair of incompetent brother carpenters on the surreal 60s sitcom, Green Acres. He played Alf Monroe, but his bother, Ralph, was actually his sister, but no-one noticed.  Or cared.

It was bizarre.

Melton was a Brooklynite who, during WW2, would entertain American soldiers with jokes and songs and skits. After the war he got roles in movies like On the Town, The Geisha Boy, The Tunnel of Love,  Lost Continent and Radar Secret Service, which earned him the nickname “Monkey Boy” by the host of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Melton also guested in The Golden Girls, Superman, I Dream of Jeannie, The Dick van Dyke Show and Make Room for Daddy.

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RIP – CARL GORDON


EXPIRED: 07/22/10 – Carl Gordon, 78, never knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. So he waited until he grew up to make that decision.

Born in Goochland, Virginia, and was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Gordon didn’t see much of a future for himself. So he enlisted in the Air Force and served in the Korean War as an aircraft mechanic. When he got out her went to Brooklyn College for a spell but it wasn’t for him and he ended up falling back onto menial labor factory and warehouse jobs.

Then, fed up with where his life had taken him, he looked back at two failed marriages and many failed jobs. It was all an act, he must have thought.

And that was it — it was just an act.

At age 37, Gordon entered acting school: Gene Frankel’s Theatre and Film Workshop in New York City to be precise. Eventually he started getting callbacks.

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RIP – RICHARD LAMOTTA


EXPIRED: 05/11/10 – Richard LaMotta, 67, cousin of boxing legend Jake LaMotta, liked to dunk cookies in milk. Who’d a thunk you could make a career out of it?

In 1981, Brooklyn-born LaMotta invented the Chipwich Ice Cream Sandwich – basically 3 ounces of vanilla ice cream wedged between 2 chocolate chip cookies – and began a guerilla marketing campaign, in which he trained and enlisted 100 students wearing khacki pants, work shirts and hard hats to push street carts around New York City to try to see the product.

He was asking a dollar each – a pretty hefty price at the time – and they sold 25,000 in just a few hours. Within weeks they were up to 40,000 a day.

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RIP – LENA HORNE


EXPIRED: 05/09/10 – Lena Horne, 92, always said she would retire when she dropped dead and she did so on Mother’s Day 2010, 76 long years after she started performing at Harlem’s Cotton Club. I think she deserves the rest.

Born in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, Horne was a mixture of African, European, and Native American descent.  Hollywood loved her voice, but not her skin color. So they gave her a contract to sing in the movies – off screen.

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RIP – PETER STEELE


EXPIRED: 04/14/10 – Peter Steele, 48, was an imposing figure. Picture this: You’re in a Brooklyn Park. You drop an empty Starbucks cup on the ground. A Parks Department Truck quickly pulls up and out steps 6’7″ Peter Steele holding a stick with a nail on the end. He jabs the litter at your feet, scrapes it into a nearby trash can, looks you in the eye and says, “Have a Nice Day.” That was Peter Steele in his old job with the New York City Parks Department before touring the world as the frontman of the goth-metal act Type O Negative.

He was born Petrus Ratajczyk and before joining Type O Negative, which was originally called Repulsion and SubZero, he played for the metal group Fallout and the thrash band Carnivore.

While quite original, some of the band’s best loved songs were covers of non-metal hits, like Seals & Crofts “Summer Breeze” and Neil Young’s “Cinnamon Girl.”

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RIP – CHILLY B


EXPIRED: 02/23/10 – Robert “Chilly B” Crafton, 47, was the co-founder of the pioneering Brooklyn electro-rap group Newcleus, formed in 1977.

He sang, rapped, and played bass and keyboards in Newcleus, best-known for the massive 1984 vocoder opus “Jam on It,” as well as similarly spacey joints “Jam on Revenge (The Wikki-Wikki Song)” and “Computer Age“. In recent years he was involved in independent production, including working on a new Newcleus album, and touring with the reunited band.

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