Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Actress Wendie Jo Sperber, 46

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

(11-30) 20:17 PST Los Angeles (AP) --

Actress and cancer care activist Wendie Jo Sperber, who starred opposite Tom Hanks on TV's "Bosom Buddies," has died. She was in her 40s, but discrepancies arose over her exact age.

Sperber died at home Tuesday after an eight-year battle with breast cancer, publicist Jo-Ann Geffen said Wednesday.

A Los Angeles native, Sperber appeared in dozens of television shows and movies, including all three "Back to the Future" films.

Her publicist first said that Sperber was 46, but later said she was 43 based on an Internet resource. The Associated Press reported in September that Sperber was 47.

Sperber also had roles in Steven Spielberg's "1941," Robert Zemeckis'"I Wanna Hold Your Hand," and Neal Israel's "Moving Violations" and "Bachelor Party." Her television credits include "Murphy Brown,""Private Benjamin,""Will & Grace" and "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter."

After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, the actress became an advocate for cancer care. In 2001, Sperber founded the weSPARK Cancer Support Center, which provides free emotional support, information and social activities for individuals and families affected by cancer.

Sperber helped unveil and promote the breast cancer stamp with the U.S. Postal Service in 1998, Geffen said. In 1999, Sperber was named Woman of the Year by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women.

"The memory of Wendie Jo is that of a walking inspiration," Hanks said in a statement. "She met the challenges of her illness with love, cheer, joy and altruism. We are going to miss her as surely as we are all better for knowing her."

Sperber is survived by a 19-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter, her parents Charlene and Burt, sisters Ellice and Michelle and brother Richard.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Football legend George Best, 59

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Former Manchester United and Northern Ireland soccer great George Best -- hailed as the world's first football superstar -- has died aged 59.

Best, who had been in hospital since the beginning of October, had an alcohol problem for much of his adult life and underwent a liver transplant in 2002 after years of heavy drinking.

He was put on a life support machine at London's Cromwell Hospital last week after he picked up a lung infection. He then suffered multiple organ failure.

"My father has passed away," Best's tearful son Calum told reporters on the hospital steps on Friday. "Not only have I lost my dad but we've all lost a wonderful man."

Best died at 1255 GMT, according to a hospital statement.

The former Northern Ireland international is regarded by many as the greatest player ever to come from the British Isles.

Beloved by millions of soccer fans, especially during the 1960s, Best played in 1968 for Manchester United when it won the European Cup, the first British club to achieve that goal. That same season, he was named European Footballer of the Year.

Best scored 180 goals in 465 appearances over 12 years for Manchester United. He also played in the North American Soccer League, scoring 54 goals in 139 games for the Los Angeles Aztecs, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and San Jose Earthquakes.

With his good looks, agility on the pitch and an engaging personality, he was adored by millions in the 1960s and held in great affection in subsequent decades despite his descent into alcoholism, allegations of violence and a tortured personal life.

He once quipped: "I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered."

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, attending a summit in Malta, described Best as "probably the most naturally gifted footballer of his generation and one of the best footballers our country has produced."

A statement from Manchester United read: "George Best was one of the greatest footballers of all time.

"Naturally athletic, tough, confident and blessed with genius, his career was one of the brightest stars of its generation. His gifts were legendary.

"For the goals, the audacious dribbles and all the wonderful memories, Manchester United and its legions of fans worldwide will always be grateful. We feel a deep sense of loss but his spirit and his talent will live on forever."

The Irish Football Association led the mourning in Best's native Northern Ireland, for whom he made 37 appearances and scored nine goals.

IFA chief executive Howard Wells said: "This is a sad day for football. George was a complete one-off with a natural talent rarely seen since."

Most of Friday's British newspapers led with tributes to the player, who at the height of his fame in the 1960s, he was dubbed the "fifth Beatle."

Pat Morita, 'Karate Kid's' Mr. Miyagi, 73

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in "The Karate Kid" earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.

Morita died Thursday at his home in Las Vegas of natural causes, said his wife of 12 years, Evelyn. She said in a statement that her husband, who first rose to fame with a role on "Happy Days," had "dedicated his entire life to acting and comedy."

In 1984, he appeared in the role that would define his career and spawn countless affectionate imitations. As Kesuke Miyagi, the mentor to Ralph Macchio's "Daniel-san," he taught karate while trying to catch flies with chopsticks and offering such advice as "wax on, wax off" to guide Daniel through chores to improve his skills.

Morita said in a 1986 interview with The Associated Press he was billed as Noriyuki "Pat" Morita in the film because producer Jerry Weintraub wanted him to sound more ethnic. He said he used the billing because it was "the only name my parents gave me."

He lost the 1984 best supporting actor award to Haing S. Ngor, who appeared in "The Killing Fields."

For years, Morita played small and sometimes demeaning roles in such films as "Thoroughly Modern Millie" and TV series such as "The Odd Couple" and "Green Acres." His first breakthrough came with "Happy Days," and he followed with his own brief series, "Mr. T and Tina."

"The Karate Kid," led to three sequels, the last of which, 1994's "The Next Karate Kid," paired him with a young Hilary Swank.

Morita was prolific outside of the "Karate Kid" series as well, appearing in "Honeymoon in Vegas," "Spy Hard," "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" and "The Center of the World." He also provided the voice for a character in the Disney movie "Mulan" in 1998.

Born in northern California on June 28, 1932, the son of migrant fruit pickers, Morita spent most of his early years in the hospital with spinal tuberculosis. He later recovered only to be sent to a Japanese-American internment camp in Arizona during World War II.

"One day I was an invalid," he recalled in a 1989 AP interview. "The next day I was public enemy No. 1 being escorted to an internment camp by an FBI agent wearing a piece."

After the war, Morita's family tried to repair their finances by operating a Sacramento restaurant. It was there that Morita first tried his comedy on patrons.

Because prospects for a Japanese-American standup comic seemed poor, Morita found steady work in computers at Aerojet General. But at age 30 he entered show business full time.

"Only in America could you get away with the kind of comedy I did," he commented. "If I tried it in Japan before the war, it would have been considered blasphemy, and I would have ended in leg irons. "

Morita was to be buried at Palm Green Valley Mortuary and Cemetery.

He is survived by his wife and three daughters from a previous marriage.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Michael Piller, 'Star Trek' Producer, 57

LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- Michael Piller, "Star Trek" veteran and co-creator/executive producer of USA Network's hit series "The Dead Zone," died early Tuesday at his Los Angeles home after a long battle with cancer. He was 57.

Before co-creating "The Dead Zone" with his son Shawn, Piller was head writer on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," leading the show to a best drama Emmy nomination in 1994, the first for a syndicated series.

He went on to co-create the following two "Trek" installments, "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager." Both series ran for seven seasons.

In 1998, Piller wrote and co-produced "Star Trek: Insurrection," the ninth installment in Paramount Pictures' successful Star Trek feature franchise.

Piller began his career in broadcasting, working for TV stations in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Chicago.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Little Rascals' "Porky" Gordon Lee, 71

Fri Oct 21, 8:42 PM ET

Gordon Lee, the chubby child actor who played Spanky McFarland's little brother Porky in the "Little Rascals" comedies, has died. He was 71.

Lee died Sunday in a Minneapolis nursing home after battling lung and brain cancer, said Janice McClain, his partner of 13 years.

Lee played one of the younger members in the "Our Gang" shorts in the 1930s, appearing in more than 40 of them from 1935 to 1939. The comedies, produced by Hal Roach, became known as "The Little Rascals" when shown on TV in the 1950s.

Among the films Lee appeared in were "Bored of Education," which won the Oscar for best one-reel short subject in 1937; "Our Gang Follies of 1936"; "The Awful Tooth"; and "Roamin' Holiday."

In a 1998 interview with the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, the Texas-born Lee said he was 2 years old when his mother sent his picture to studio executives who were seeking an actor to play McFarland's brother.

"We were on the next train to L.A. and I had a contract within a few days," Lee said. "Fat kid got lucky."

"My memories are not about making movies. We played with our toys and the adults played with theirs (the cameras)," he said.

He and Billie "Buckwheat" Thomas teamed up against older boys Spanky and Alfalfa in many of the comedies. The Porky character is credited with originating the catchphrase "otay."

In the interview, Lee recalled a warm friendship with his black costar when they were kids and praised their interracial relationship on screen, saying, "Buckwheat played an absolute equal part in the Gang."

Lee told friends his career ended when a growth spurt made him thinner. "They wanted Porky to be a chunky fellow, so they looked for someone else," McClain said.

He was born Eugene Lee in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1933. His adoptive parents began calling him Gordon after Gordon Douglas, who directed many of the films Lee appeared in. He kept the first name as an adult.

Lee was a schoolteacher, living in Colorado for a time. He moved to Minnesota after he retired to be closer to his only son, Douglas, said a friend, Tracy Tolzmann. In recent years, Lee sold autographed photos of himself as Porky, Tolzmann and McClain said.

"Before that he felt like he was forgotten," McClain said. "It really made him feel good about himself."

Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks, 92

By BREE FOWLER, Associated Press Writer

Nearly 50 years ago, Rosa Parks made a simple decision that sparked a revolution. When a white man demanded she give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, the then 42-year-old seamstress said no.

At the time, she couldn't have known it would secure her a revered place in American history. But her one small act of defiance galvanized a generation of activists, including a young Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and earned her the title "mother of the civil rights movement."

Mrs. Parks died Monday evening at her home of natural causes, with close friends by her side, said Gregory Reed, an attorney who represented her for the past 15 years. She was 92.

Monique Reynolds, 37, a native of Montgomery, Ala., called Mrs. Parks an inspiration who had lived to see the changes brought about by the civil rights movement.

"Martin Luther King never saw this, Malcolm X never saw this," said Reynolds, who now lives in Detroit. "She was able to see this and enjoy it."

In 1955, Jim Crow laws in place since the post-Civil War Reconstruction required separation of the races in buses, restaurants and public accommodations throughout the South, while legally sanctioned racial discrimination kept blacks out of many jobs and neighborhoods in the North.

Mrs. Parks, an active member of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was riding on a city bus Dec. 1, 1955, when a white man demanded her seat.

She refused, despite rules requiring blacks to yield their seats to whites. Two black Montgomery women had been arrested earlier that year on the same charge, but Mrs. Parks was jailed. She also was fined $14.

U.S. Rep John Conyers, in whose office Mrs. Parks worked for more than 20 years, remembered the civil rights leader as someone whose impact on the world was immeasurable, but who never sought the limelight.

"Everybody wanted to explain Rosa Parks and wanted to teach Rosa Parks, but Rosa Parks wasn't very interested in that," he said. "She wanted them to understand the government and to understand their rights and the Constitution that people are still trying to perfect today."

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said he felt a personal tie to the civil rights icon: "She stood up by sitting down. I'm only standing here because of her."

Speaking in 1992, Mrs. Parks said history too often maintains "that my feet were hurting and I didn't know why I refused to stand up when they told me. But the real reason of my not standing up was I felt that I had a right to be treated as any other passenger. We had endured that kind of treatment for too long."

Her arrest triggered a 381-day boycott of the bus system organized by a then little-known Baptist minister, the Rev. King, who later earned the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.

"At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this," she said 30 years later. "It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in."

The Montgomery bus boycott, which came one year after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark declaration that separate schools for blacks and whites were "inherently unequal," marked the start of the modern civil rights movement.

The movement culminated in the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act, which banned racial discrimination in public accommodations.

After taking her public stand for civil rights, Mrs. Parks had trouble finding work in Alabama. Amid threats and harassment, she and her husband, Raymond, moved to Detroit in 1957. She worked as an aide in Conyers' Detroit office from 1965 until retiring Sept. 30, 1988. Raymond Parks died in 1977.

Mrs. Parks said upon retiring from her job with Conyers that she wanted to devote more time to the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. The institute, incorporated in 1987, is devoted to developing leadership among Detroit's young people and initiating them into the struggle for civil rights.

"Rosa Parks: My Story," was published in February 1992. In 1994 she brought out "Quiet Strength: The Faith, the Hope and the Heart of a Woman Who Changed a Nation," and in 1996 a collection of letters called "Dear Mrs. Parks: A Dialogue With Today's Youth."

She was among the civil rights leaders who addressed the Million Man March in October 1995.

In 1996, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to civilians making outstanding contributions to American life. In 1999, she was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation's highest civilian honor.

Mrs. Parks received dozens of other awards, ranging from induction into the Alabama Academy of Honor to an NAACP Image Award for her 1999 appearance on CBS' "Touched by an Angel."

She was born Rosa Louise McCauley on Feb. 4, 1913, in Tuskegee, Ala. Family illness interrupted her high school education, but after she married Raymond Parks in 1932, he encouraged her and she earned a diploma in 1934. He also inspired her to become involved in the NAACP.

Mrs. Parks was a beloved aunt to 13 nieces and nephews.

"She wasn't the mother of the civil rights movement to me," Susan McCauley, one of her nieces, said last year. "She was the woman I wanted to become."

Her later years were not without difficult moments. In 1994, her home was invaded by a 28-year-old man who beat her and took $53. She was treated at a hospital and released. The man, Joseph Skipper, pleaded guilty, blaming the crime on his drug problem.

Mrs. Parks rarely was seen in public after 2001, when she canceled a meeting with President Bush. In court papers filed in September 2004 in connection with her lawsuit over the rap group OutKast's song "Rosa Parks," her lawyers said she had dementia.

After losing the OutKast lawsuit, Reed, her attorney, said Mrs. Parks "has once again suffered the pains of exploitation." A later suit against OutKast's record company was settled out of court.

In 2002, her landlord threatened to evict her from her high-rise apartment in downtown Detroit after her caregivers missed rental payments. Riverfront Associates decided in October 2004 to let her live there rent-free permanently.

Looking back in 1988, Mrs. Parks said she worried that black young people took legal equality for granted.

Older blacks, she said "have tried to shield young people from what we have suffered. And in so doing, we seem to have a more complacent attitude.

"We must double and redouble our efforts to try to say to our youth, to try to give them an inspiration, an incentive and the will to study our heritage and to know what it means to be black in America today."

At a celebration in her honor that same year, she said: "I am leaving this legacy to all of you ... to bring peace, justice, equality, love and a fulfillment of what our lives should be. Without vision, the people will perish, and without courage and inspiration, dreams will die — the dream of freedom and peace."
___

Associated Press Writer JoAnne Viviano contributed to this report from Detroit.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Comic Louis Nye, 92

- By JOHN ROGERS, Associated Press Writer
Monday, October 10, 2005

(10-10) 18:48 PDT Los Angeles (AP) --

Comedian Louis Nye, who created a national catchphrase belting out "Hi, ho, Steverino!" as one of the players on Steve Allen's groundbreaking 1950s TV show, has died. He was 92.

Nye died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles after a long battle with lung cancer, his son, Peter Nye, told The Associated Press on Monday.

Nye had worked regularly in nightclubs and on television until only a couple of years ago, his son said. He had a recurring role from 2000 to 2002 in the HBO comedy "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as the father of Jeff Garlin's character.

When he joined Allen's show in 1956 he was already well established as one the era's hippest comics, appearing regularly on radio, in clubs and on early TV shows.

"He has a great business card from that time that lists something like 15 accents that he could do," his son recalled with a chuckle.

On "The Steve Allen Show," which ran until 1961 under various names, he quickly endeared himself to audiences as Gordon Hathaway, the effete, country-club snob who would welcome Allen's arrival with the "Hi, ho, Steverino!" salutation.

"I'm not sure if he improvised that or if it was given to him and he just ran with it as a catchphrase," Nye's son said.

Other regulars on the landmark show included comedians Don Knotts, Tom Poston and Bill Dana.

After the show's run ended, Nye appeared often on TV game shows, in films and as a regular on "The Ann Sothern Show." He was often cast as the second banana, never the lead.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Eugene Beals, inventor of turkey pop-up timer, 86

- Michael Taylor, Chronicle Staff Writer
Sunday, October 9, 2005

It was an idea that simply popped up one day, nearly half a century ago, as the state's turkey farmers were trying to figure out how to make the perennial Thanksgiving bird a bit less tough and a bit more popular.

The California Turkey Producers Advisory Board, a state advisory council, realized the holiday turkeys were being overcooked -- emerging from the oven dry and tasteless.

Something had to be done. After days of mulling the problem over in their meeting room, the five board members came up with a priceless invention that is still in vogue today -- the pop-up turkey timer.

A large share of credit for the invention, which over the past 40-plus years has kept billions of the big birds from being overcooked, went to board member Eugene Beals, who died on Sept. 30 at his home on Thetis Island, British Columbia.

Mr. Beals, described the other day as "the genius behind" the pop-up timer, was 86 and was still keeping busy, building a wood smoker, playing cards and fishing.

He was born and raised in Quincy, Ill., served in World War II as a medic at Letterman Army hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco, then lived for a while in Modesto and Colorado before moving to Fresno, where he eventually gravitated to the promotion end of the state's huge agricultural business. By the 1950s, he was manager of the state's turkey advisory board, which was dissolved by the industry in the early 1980s, according to the state Department of Food and Agriculture.

Leo Pearlstein, an 85-year-old Los Angeles public relations man who specializes in promoting the food industry and was one of the original five members of the turkey board, recalled how the pop-up timer came about:

"We were always getting complaints that the turkeys were overcooked. Dry turkeys. People would bitch about it," he said. "They were cooking the turkeys using recipes based on old, tough turkeys."

Pearlstein had retained a couple of "capable home economists, and they decided you didn't have to cook a turkey" for so long that it ended up as a dry, desiccated rock of a bird.

So the board guys "had a brainstorming session and Beals was there. He was very progressive, modern, and he said, 'Why don't we find some sort of gadget, something to stick in (the turkey) and tell when the turkey is done.' "

The would-be inventors failed in their bid to get the state government to pony up some research money, Pearlstein said, so they formed their own inventors' club.

Trying to solve the turkey cooking problem went on for days and days. Then one day, Pearlstein said, board member Goldy Kleaver looked at the ceiling sprinklers and realized they were triggered by flames melting something inside.

"Why can't we use that principle in the turkey?" Kleaver asked his fellow board members.

According to Pearlstein, that is how the pop-up timer was born.

It was Beals who ran with the idea, working with another board member to find and test the alloys that would "melt at a certain temperature,'' Pearlstein said.

The group spent almost a year testing what temperatures were best suited for the cooking of turkeys.

"We cooked up a hell of a lot of turkeys," Pearlstein said. "I gave them to my neighbors. Beals was sort of running the whole thing, he was really the spark plug.

"We finally got a prototype built, and it worked," Pearlstein said. But they found that "food editors were skeptical; everybody was skeptical."

The inventors' team, which they called Dun-Rite Co., struggled for three or four years. In 1973, according to Mr. Beals' widow, Nan Beals, the team sold its company to the giant Minnesota firm, 3M, in return for 3M stock. About 15 years ago, 3M sold Dun-Rite to Volk Enterprises of Georgia.

Even though Volk has since made a pop-up timer with more sophisticated technology, Volk President Tony Volk credits the Dun-Rite group with "the idea and the first working invention of a pop-up gauge for poultry." Since the gauge took hold in the industry, Volk said, it has been placed "in more than 2 billion turkey products."

In the mid-1970s, Mr. Beals and his wife opened up a gourmet shop, Bon Appetit, in Fresno. The couple moved to British Columbia in the 1980s.

Mr. Beals is survived by his wife, Nan Beals of Thetis Island, B.C.; a sister, Virginia Hermann of Campbell (Santa Clara County); three sons, Steve Beals of San Mateo, Michael Beals of Sechelt, B.C., and Bill Beals of Portland, Ore.; four daughters, Darcy Maglio of Henderson, Nev., Deborah Lewis of Fresno, Tracy Lustyan of Rancho Palos Verdes (Los Angeles County); Jeannie Stevens of Fresno; 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Actor Nipsey Russell, 80

Monday, October 3, 2005

(10-03) 20:29 PDT New York (AP) --

Nipsey Russell, who played the Tin Man alongside Diana Ross and Michael Jackson in "The Wiz" as part of a decades-long career in stage, television and film, has died. He was 80.

The actor, who had been suffering from cancer, died Sunday afternoon at Lenox Hill Hospital, said his longtime manager Joseph Rapp.

Born in Atlanta, Russell launched his television career as Officer Anderson in the 1961 television series "Car 54, Where are You?" He also appeared in the 1994 film version.

He became a fixture on popular television game and talk shows, where he was welcomed for his poetic delivery that earned him the moniker the "poet laureate of television." He also took his signature four-line poetry on the road for readings and performances.

Russell also appeared in the films "Nemo" in 1984, "Wildcats" in 1986 and "Posse" in 1993.

He settled in New York after graduating from the University of Cincinnati and serving as an Army captain in Europe during World War II, Rapp said.

Russell never married. "He always said, 'I have trouble living with myself, how could I live with anyone else,'" Rapp said. "But he was a wonderful guy, very quiet, never bragged.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Civil rights champion Constance Baker Motley, 84

Justice pivotal force in landmark cases, worked tirelessly for cause

NEW YORK (AP) -- When she was 15, Constance Baker Motley was turned away from a public beach because she was black. It was only then -- even though her mother was active in the NAACP -- that the teenager really became interested in civil rights.

She went to law school and found herself fighting racism in landmark segregation cases including Brown v. Board of Education, the Central High School case in Arkansas and the case that let James Meredith enroll at the University of Mississippi.

Motley also broke barriers herself: She was the first black woman appointed to the federal bench, as well the first one elected to the New York state Senate.

Motley, who would have celebrated her 40th anniversary on the bench next year, died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at NYU Downtown Hospital, said her son, Joel Motley III. She was 84.

"She is a person of a kind and stature the likes of which they're not making anymore," said Chief Judge Michael Mukasey in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, where Motley served.
A self-made star

From 1961 to 1964, Motley won nine of 10 civil rights cases she argued before the Supreme Court.

"Judge Motley had the strength of a self-made star," federal Judge Kimba Wood said. "As she grew, she was unfailingly optimistic and positive -- she never let herself be diverted from her goal of achieving civil rights, even though, as she developed as a lawyer, she faced almost constant condescension from our profession due to her being an African-American woman."

Motley, who spent two decades with the NCAAP's Legal Defense and Educational Fund, started out there in 1945 as a law clerk to Thurgood Marshall, then its chief counsel and later a Supreme Court justice. In 1950, she prepared the draft complaint for what would become Brown v. Board of Education.
Never doubted the cause

In her autobiography, "Equal Justice Under Law," Motley said defeat never entered her mind. "We all believed that our time had come and that we had to go forward."

The Supreme Court ruled in her and her colleagues' favor in 1954 in a decision credited with toppling public school segregation in America while touching off resistance across the country and leading to some of the racial clashes of the 1960s.

In the early 1960s, she personally argued the Meredith case as well as the suit that resulted in the enrollment of two black students at the University of Georgia.

"Mrs. Motley's style could be deceptive, often allowing a witness to get away with one lie after another without challenging him," one of the students, journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, wrote in her 1992 book, "In My Place." But she would "suddenly threw a curve ball with so much skill and power that she would knock them off their chair."
Won pivotal cases

Motley also argued the 1957 case in Little Rock, Arkansas, that led President Eisenhower to call in federal troops to protect nine black students at Central High.

Also in the early 1960s, she successfully argued for 1,000 schoolchildren to be reinstated in Birmingham, Alabama, after the local school board expelled them for demonstrating. She represented "Freedom Riders" who rode buses to test the Supreme Court's 1960 ruling prohibiting segregation in interstate transportation. During this time, she represented King as well, defending his right to march in Birmingham and Albany, Georgia.

Motley and the Legal Defense and Education Fund, committed to a careful strategy of dismantling segregation through the courts, were amazed by the emergence of more militant tactics such as lunch-counter sit-ins, but she came to believe that litigation was not the only road to equality.

Recalling a 1963 visit to The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in jail, she remarked, "It was then I realized that we did indeed have a new civil rights leader -- a man willing to die for our freedom."

Motley was born in New Haven, Connecticut, the ninth of 12 children. Her mother, Rachel Baker, was a founder of the New Haven chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Her father, Willoughby Alva Baker, worked as a chef for student organizations at Yale University.

It was the beach incident that solidified the course her life would take.

Though her parents could not afford to send her to college, a local philanthropist, Clarence W. Blakeslee, offered to pay for her education after hearing her speak at a community meeting.

Motley earned a degree in economics in 1943 from New York University, and three years later, got her law degree from Columbia Law School.
Many 'firsts'

In the late 1950s, Motley took an interest in politics and by 1964 had left the NAACP to become the first black woman to serve in the New York Senate.

In 1965, she became the first woman president of the borough of Manhattan, where she worked to promote integration in public schools.

The following year, President Johnson nominated her to the federal bench in Manhattan. She was confirmed nine months later, though her appointment was opposed by conservative federal judges and Southern politicians.

Over the next four decades, Motley handled a number of civil rights cases, including her decision in 1978 allowing a female reporter to be admitted to the New York Yankees' locker room.

Motley is survived by her husband and son, three sisters and brother.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled", 69

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Author M. Scott Peck, who wrote the best-seller "The Road Less Traveled" and other books, died Sunday. He was 69.

Peck died at his home in Connecticut, longtime friend and Los Angeles publicist Michael Levine said. He had suffered from pancreatic and liver duct cancer.

Born in New York City, Peck received his bachelor's degree from Harvard College in 1958 and his doctorate from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 1963. He served in the U.S. Army between 1963 and 1972.

Peck spent more than 10 years in the private practice of psychiatry and had his first book "The Road Less Traveled" published in 1978. The self-help book that begins "Life is difficult" has sold more than 6 million copies in North America and been translated into 20 languages. By the mid-1990s, the book had made 258 appearances on The New York Times best-seller list.

Other books he wrote included "People of the Lie: The Hope For Healing Human Evil," "Meditations From the Road," and "Further Along the Road Less Traveled."

Peck was the recipient of the 1984 Kaleidscope Award for Peacemaking and the 1994 Temple International Peace Prize. He also received The Learning, Faith and Freedom Medal from Georgetown University in 1996.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Thomas Ross Bond, Butch of 'Little Rascals', 79

LOS ANGELES, California (AP) --

Thomas Ross Bond, who played Butch the bully in the "Our Gang" and "The Little Rascals" movies of the 1930s, died Saturday of complications from heart disease. He was 79.

Bond died at Northridge Hospital, said his manager, Frank Marks.

Bond played a member of the Gang named Tommy. After his first year he was dropped from the cast but returned later in the role of Butch, the archenemy of Alfalfa.

Bond appeared in dozens of "Our Gang" and "Little Rascals" features before outgrowing the role.

Born September 16, 1926, in Dallas, Bond got his start at age 5 when a talent scout for Hal Roach studios approached him as he was leaving a movie theater with his mother.

In the 1940s, Bond played Jimmy Olsen in two Superman movies and appeared as Joey Pepper in several installments of the "Five Little Peppers" serial.

In 1951, Bond quit acting and went into television directing and production work before retiring in 1991.

Don Adams of 'Get Smart', 82

- By BOB THOMAS, Associated Press Writer
Monday, September 26, 2005

(09-26) 17:12 PDT Los Angeles (AP) --

Don Adams, the wry-voiced comedian who starred as the fumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in the 1960s TV spoof of James Bond movies, "Get Smart," has died. He was 82.

Adams died of a lung infection late Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, his friend and former agent Bruce Tufeld said Monday, adding that the actor broke his hip a year ago and had been in ill health since.

As the inept Agent 86 of the super-secret federal agency CONTROL, Adams captured TV viewers with his antics in combatting the evil agents of KAOS. When his explanations failed to convince the villains or his boss, he tried another tack:

"Would you believe ... ?"

It became a national catchphrase.

Smart was also prone to spilling things on the desk or person of his boss — the Chief (actor Edward Platt). Smart's apologetic "Sorry about that, chief" also entered the American lexicon.

The spy gadgets, which aped those of the Bond movies, were a popular feature, especially the pre-cellphone telephone in a shoe.

Smart's beautiful partner, Agent 99, played by Barbara Feldon, was as brainy as he was dense, and a plot romance led to marriage and the birth of twins later in the series.

"He had this prodigious energy, so as an actor working with him it was like being plugged into an electric current," Feldon said from New York. "He would start and a scene would just take off and you were there for the ride. It was great fun acting with him."

Adams was very intelligent, she said, a quality that suited the satiric show that had comedy geniuses Mel Brooks and Buck Henry behind it.

"He wrote poetry, he had an interest in history ... He had that other side to him that does not come through Maxwell Smart," she said. "Don in person was anything but bumbling."

Adams had an "amazing memory" that allowed him to take an unusual approach to filming, Feldon said.

Instead of learning his lines ahead of time he would have a script assistant read his part to him just once or twice. He invariably got it right but that didn't stop people from placing bets on it, she recounted.

Adams, who had been under contract to NBC, was lukewarm about doing a spy spoof. When he learned that Brooks and Henry had written the pilot script, he accepted immediately. "Get Smart" debuted on NBC in September 1965 and scored No. 12 among the season's most-watched series and No. 22 in its second season.

"Get Smart" twice won the Emmy for best comedy series with three Emmys for Adams as comedy actor.

After four seasons on NBC, CBS picked up the show but the ratings fell off as the jokes became repetitive and it was canceled in 1970 after just one year. The show lived on in syndication and a cartoon series. In 1995 the Fox network revived the series with Smart as chief and 99 as a congresswoman. It lasted seven episodes.

Adams never had another showcase to display his comic talent.

"It was a special show that became a cult classic of sorts, and I made a lot of money for it," he remarked of "Get Smart" in a 1995 interview. "But it also hindered me career-wise because I was typed. The character was so strong, particularly because of that distinctive voice, that nobody could picture me in any other type of role."

He was born Donald James Yarmy in New York City on April 13, 1923, Tufeld said, although some sources say 1926 or '27. The actor's father was a Hungarian Jew who ran a few small restaurants in the Bronx.

In a 1959 interview Adams said he never cared about being funny as a kid: "Sometimes I wonder how I got into comedy at all. I did movie star impressions as a kid in high school. Somehow they just got out of hand."

In 1941, he dropped out of school to join the Marines. In Guadalcanal he survived the deadly blackwater fever and was returned to the States to become a drill instructor, acquiring the clipped delivery that served him well as a comedian.

After the war he worked in New York as a commercial artist by day, doing standup comedy in clubs at night, taking the surname of his first wife, Adelaide Adams. His following grew, and soon he was appearing on the Ed Sullivan and late-night TV shows. Bill Dana, who had helped him develop comedy routines, cast him as his sidekick on Dana's show. That led to the NBC contract and "Get Smart."

Adams, who married and divorced three times and had seven children, served as the voice for the popular cartoon series, "Inspector Gadget" as well as the voice of Tennessee Tuxedo. In 1980, he appeared as Maxwell Smart in a feature film, "The Nude Bomb," about a madman whose bomb destroyed people's clothing.

Adams' survivors include six of his children; a sister; and grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Tufeld said funeral arrangements were incomplete.