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: 12/24/11 – 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.

RIP Vic.



EXPIRED: 09/10/11 – Cliff Robertson, 88, struggled since the day he was born. His parents divorced when he was one year old, and his mother died a year later. His grandmother raised him when his father dropped out of the picture. It was tough.

His early career was also tough. After years studying at the Actors Studio in NYC, he made it to Broadway and then to Hollywood. But the movies he was cast in were embarrassments like “Autumn Leaves,” “Gidget” and “Sunday in New York.” Then he started to make war pictures like “PT 109” in which he played a pre-presidential JFK, and his star began to shine a bit more.

After a stint as the villain Shame on the TV show “Batman,” Robertson won an Oscar for the movie “Charly,” in which he played the title character, a mentally challenged bakery worker who becomes crazy intelligent with the help of experimental drugs. His life changes dramatically until the drugs wear off.

He was in high demand back then – with hits like “Three Days of the Condor” and many TV appearances – until he outed his boss. In 1977, Robertson, called out David Begelman, the president of Columbia Pictures, for forging his name to a $10,000 studio check. Eventually Begelman was accused of embezzling more than $60,000 from Columbia. But in three years he was running MGM, and Robertson was basically blacklisted.

In 1983, he returned to TV on “Falcon Crest” in the 1983-84 season but is probably best known to younger readers as Spiderman’s uncle in the recent “Spider-Man” trilogy.

After failing to get the backing for a sequel to “Charly,” Robertson had few options left and retired to upstate New York. He died the day after his 88th birthday.


EXPIRED: 09/08/11 – Mary Fickett, 83, lived her life like a soap opera. Actually, she lived it ON a soap opera!

On “The Edge of Night” she played Sally Smith starting in 1961. Then she returned to the same program as someone else entirely, as Dr. Katherine Lovell in 1967.

She also played Ruth Parker Brent on “All My Children” for 26 years from 1970-1996. When contract negotiations broke down, the show let Fickett go and hired Lee Meriwether to play the part.  Three years later, “All My Children” fired Meriwether and rehired Fickett as the original Ruth.

But after just a year, Fickett quit and retired in  2000. When “All My Children” wanted to bring the character of Ruth back two years later,  Fickett refused and the role returned to Meriwether.

Fickett moved in with her daughter in Virginia but remained in poor health til her death. ABC plans to dedicate the September 21st episode of “All My Children” to Fickett. Two days later, the series will end its network run.


EXPIRED: 09/05/11 –  Salvatore Licitra, 43, was to be the “new Pavarotti.”  Born in Bern, Switzerland, he grew up in Milan and started working as a graphic artist for Italian Vogue. When he was 19 he started singing classes and eventually enrolled at Carlo Bergonzi’s voice academy in Busseto, Italy.

He made his debut in Un ballo in maschera in Parma in 1998, and buoyed by positive audience reception, he auditioned for Riccardo Muti at La Scala. A year later he debuted at La Scala in La forza del destino as Alvaro, followed by roles in Tosca and Madama Butterfly and Forza. Milan honoured him with the Honorary Citizenship Medal, and Sony offered him an exclusive recording contract.

In 2002, he appeared at NYC’s Metropolitan Opera substituting for Luciano Pavarotti, then 66, who had cancelled his performance in Tosca just two hours before curtain time. There Licitra was dubbed the New Pavarotti.

On August 27th, 2011, Licitra was riding his Vespa through Modica, the famed “chocolate” city in the hills of Ragusa,Sicily. His girlfriend was on the back of the seat holding tight. Looking for parking space, he slammed into a wall. His girlfriend was wearing a helmet and was unharmed. He was not. Licitra went into a coma for nine days and was pronounced clinically dead on September 5th. His body lies in state in the Catania’s opera house, the Teatro Massimo Bellini.

By the way, although most Italians ignore the law, it’s illegal to ride without a helmet. This is a good reason to obey the law.




EXPIRED: 08/21/11 – Budd Hopkins, 80, was an artist living in NYC for 58 years. His work hangs in the Whitney, the Guggenheim, and the MOMA. But he’s even more famous for claiming to see a UFO in 1964, and spending the rest of his life studying other witness’s stories of missing time, inexplicable gaps in one’s memory, associated with UFO encounters. By the late 1980s, he was one of the most prominent ufologists, and an expert in alien abductions.