Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The passings parade

Earlier today, as my father and I were enjoying our nosh at The Colonel’s he asked me if I had heard the news about New York Yankees president/owner George “The Boss” Steinbrenner being called back inside the dugout at the age of 80. I told him I had not, seeing as how I hadn’t been online since last night—and thought to myself how sad it was for Bombers fans to lose two icons in the span of mere days; Yankees’ public address announcer Bob Sheppard has also had his last bat at the age of 99.

While I am sorry for the Steinbrenner family’s loss, I’d be untruthful if I tried to hide my revulsion for the man, because to me he represents everything I find repugnant about the game of baseball today. Steinbrenner’s philosophy seemed to be that he could buy championships simply by writing a big honkin’ check—and I just have a problem with that kind of management style, regardless of whether or not it works (in Steinbrenner’s case, it certainly did on many occasions). (Besides, what Steinbrenner did to former Yankee Dave Winfield already qualifies him as un dickhead formidable.) I had read a review on a recently-published bio of Steinbrenner in an issue of ESPN magazine while waiting in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago and the author mentioned that George had been suffering from senile dementia for quite some time (my father, who’s not quite as nice a guy as I tend to be, cracked that Steinbrenner had been that way for years, about the first time he fired Billy Martin)—but that a large part of what made George the tool he ultimately became was because he never received the attention and approval he craved from the senior Steinbrenner, aka his pop. I’m being sincere here—I really felt for the guy. So even though I’ve never been and never will be a Yankees fan (I should be the subject of the musical Damn Yankees!) I’m relieved to know that George is joining the angels in the outfield. (Once again—optimistic ol’ me.)

The one thing that keeps running through my mind at this time is that Steinbrenner could almost have been considered a semi-regular on the television sitcom Seinfeld—though I suppose his name should be put in quotes, as he was actually imitated physically by an actor named Lee Bear and vocally by series co-creator Larry David. The “Steinbrenner” of Seinfeld served as sort of a whipping boy for the (in some circles) reviled team; portrayed as a clueless despot with the attention span of a five-year-old…and yet, oddly enough, this relentless lampooning of the man served to make him a tad more endearing—to me, anyway.

My esteemed blogging colleague and frequent TDOY commenter hobbyfan has written a couple of nice tributes to “Big Stein” and Sheppard over at his neck of the blogosphere, The Land of Whatever—so you’ll be all the richer for having perused them.

Harvey Pekar—the curmudgeonly comic-book creator of American Splendor and dedicated 78rpm jazz aficionado—has also trundled off this mortal coil at the age of 70. I will readily confess that most of what I know about Pekar has been culled from the 2003 film biography of his life (also titled American Splendor, and featuring TDOY actress fave Hope Davis) and his appearances on David Letterman’s show—the first time I saw Harvey on Dave’s program I said in my best Jackie Gleason-impression: “You…are a mental case!” But there have been some first-rate reflections written about this one-of-a-kind individual; tributes from the likes of Mark Evanier, John Glenn Taylor at Easily Mused, Mercurie at A Shroud of Thoughts, Scott M. at Seduction of the Indifferent, Chuck Wells at The Comic Book Catacombs and Bob & Dusty’s Whirl-a-Go-Go.

I have to admit, I’ve been sorely remiss at recognizing those individuals from the world of show business who have gone on to their greater reward within the past few weeks—so consider this post a catch-up.

Ilene Woods, the actress-singer who achieved immortality on film as the voice of Cinderella in the classic Walt Disney 1950 animated feature film passed away June 3rd at the age of 81. Woods also worked quite a bit on radio plying her performing talents as a regular on the likes of The Breakfast Club, The Philco Hour and The Sealtest Village Store (when Jack Carson and Eve Arden were running the jernt) and as a guest star on programs headlined by Jack Benny, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.

Independent film producer Elliott Kastner also called it a wrap on June 3rd at the age of 80—he oversaw such TDOY faves as Harper (1966), Where Eagles Dare (1969), Farewell, My Lovely (1975), 92 in the Shade (1975) and Breakheart Pass (1975), Actor Ronald Gans has also taken his last bow at the age of 78; he did a lot of voice work in his lengthy career on children’s shows like Welcome to Pooh Corner, Dumbo’s Circus, Transformers and Captain Planet and the Planeteers. But he also had a physical presence guesting on TV shows like Lost in Space, It Takes a Thief and Quincy, M.E.—and in cult films like The Gay Deceivers (1969), The Student Nurses (1970) and Coffy (1973).

Several recognizable names from the music world have spun their last platters—Grammy-winning gospel singer Walter Hawkins (61), R&B singer-songwriter-producer Harvey Fuqua (80, he founded the doo-wop group The Moonglows), reggae great Sugar Minott (54) and Tuli Kupferberg (86), the founder of the underground rock band The Fugs. (I liked Glenn Kenny’s piece on Kupferberg at Some Came Running.)

To all the individuals named above—R.I.P. You shall be missed.

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1 comment:

Amanda said...

RIP all you fabulous performers