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.
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.”
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.
EXPIRED: 10/12/11 – Vic Miles, 79, was born to a mixe race family in Philadelphia in 1931. His Black/Puerto Rican/Jewish heritage was the source of a lot of harassment from neighborhood school kids so it was imperative that Miles, who’s real last name is Levy, learned to either talk himself out of a scuffle or become very street smart. Miles did both.
His communication style and street attitude got him a gig as a news director and disc jockey for radio station WHOA in Puerto Rico from 1956 to 1966, and a reporter and anchor with KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh from 1966-1971.
From there he took a job at WCBS-TV in New York City, where he was a street beat reporter and the first American black news anchor from ’71 til ”95 when Jerry Nachman cleaned house of the old reporters and brought in fresh young faces who didn’t want to get dirty.
That’s what Miles did best. He got dirty. He wasn’t afraid to go where the news was and report in an honest fashion. For him it wasn’t about entertainment. It was news.
EXPIRED: 07/27/11 – Hideki Irabu, 42, was a high-speed pitcher who could throw a 98 mph fastball. In 1997, his contract was bought by the San Diego padres and he was brought over from the major leagues in japan and eventually traded before playing any games to the Yankees w/ a $12.8 million, 4-year contract. Slightly overweight, George Steinbrenner once called him a “fat pussy toad.” He later drank to excess and, after a career lull, bar fights, drunk driving violations and a separation from his wife, he hung himself.
EXPIRED: 07/13/11 – Jerry Ragovoy, 80, founder of NYCs Hit Factory, originally wanted to write Broadway musicals but life took him in another direction. “Time Is on My Side,” a song written for a jazz trombonist, became a huge hit for the Rolling Stones. He also wrote songs later covered by Janis Joplin including “Piece of My Heart,” “Cry Baby,” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder).”
EXPIRED: 06/03/11 – Ida, 25, was born in Buffalo & moved to NYC when she was 2. She found a great 1 bedroom rent-free apt w/ outdoor space, a pool & views of Central Park which she shared w/ her significant-other of 24 years, Gus. Should you think she died too young, she beat out her wilder cousins who usually don’t see the other side of 18.