Category Archives: Obituaries

The First Time I Met Pete Seeger…..

The first time I met Pete Seeger, I was far too young to remember it. I was, more than likely, an infant. Pete was an old friend of my parents’, having probably met my father in the 1950s or early 1960s. when they were both fighting fascism and oppression in their own ways, both at home and abroad. When weren’t they, really? In those days Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Paul Robeson Jr., and many others were frequent visitors at our home and while I am proud to know this now, I’ll confess that this was not of primary concern to a small child.

One thing I do remember about Pete is that he was great with kids. Or at least he was with me. Picnics with Pete on the banks of the Hudson became a somewhat regular occurrence* and on one particular night in 1983 at dinner in the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Pete indulged a 12 year-old’s whimsy far more than he needed to.

I had recently learned to make wine glasses “whistle” by wetting a finger and running at around the rim of the glass. To my joy, I was seated next to Pete and at some point in the evening, I started getting bored (dinners in Cuba start late and can go very late) and so I started playing with my wine (water) glass. Pete claimed had never seen this (I suspect he was fibbing) and he and I proceeded to have some fun with the other tables in the dining room by making our glasses whistle and, when people would look around, pretending we were also looking for the source of the whistling. I’ve always thought that one of the true measures of an adult is how they relate to children.

My house was always full of music, despite no one in my family being able to play a lick. Classical and folk were the predominant styles and so many of Pete’s songs have been part of my life since I was a small child. Granted, I was an odd kid. I mean, how many 10 year-old do you know who know the words to “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and “Which Side Are You On?” Much of the credit for that should be given to Pete.

The last 2 times I saw Pete were at memorial services. The first was for Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame) in 2009 and the second in 2005 at my mother’s service. Alas, the weather too bad for him to make it to my father’s memorial in 2007. One of the many drawbacks to the aging process is having friends, loved ones, and those we admire pass on. It’s a part of life, but one I have not yet come to grips with.

Pete was one of the bravest, kindest, and most principled people to ever walk the earth. He was one of a kind for so many reasons and I dare say we shan’t see the likes of him again any time soon.

He also had a beautiful falsetto!

*Possible inflation of frequency due to the passage of time.

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R.I.P. Peter O’Toole – An All Time Great

I first experienced the genius of Peter OToole when I was 13. I was in Pittsburgh, visiting family for Thanksgiving and had a horrendous tooth problem. As abscess or something. All I know was, I was in an immense amount of pain and it being a holiday, getting into a dentist was not likely, so my family took me to see My Favorite Year, I guess in the hopes that a comedy would take my mind off the pain. I don’t think it did much good, but I loved the film anyway and my admiration for O’Toole was born.

He was a striking man. After seeing David Lean’s 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia, in which O’Toole gained stardom (and his first of eight Academy Award nominations), Noël Coward famously remarked to O’Toole: “If you’d been any prettier, it would have been Florence of Arabia.” It was those eyes…

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Nelson Mandela Dies At 95

Well, we all knew this was coming, but that doesn’t make it any less gut-wrenching. He had been in and out of the hospital for months with numerous infections, but after the life he led and all of the adversities he overcame, I bet I’m not the only one who had a little secret part of his brain where the idea of an immortal Nelson Mandela took root.

The 1986 Anti-Apartheid march in New York City was the first real political event that my father and I attended together and it was a galvanizing moment not just for myself, but for tens of thousands of others. I had just graduated high school, bound for a liberal arts school in Massachusetts and in the mid-late 1980′s, you were hard-pressed to find a campus without a home-made shanty, without divestment protests and without Nelson Mandela’s face adoring dorm rooms across campus.

Also in the 80s, Ska was making one of its regular comebacks dubbed (pun intended) the 2 Tone sound, it was rife with political and integrationist feelings, hence the black and white imagery. One of the songs that helped raise the profile of Mandela and the Anti-Apartheid movement was “Free Nelson Mandela,” by The Special AKA:

 

Mandela was one for the ages. An inspiration for countless millions, even billions and someone who achieved the rarest of heights: Worldwide recognition for all the right reasons. We will never see the likes of him again.

 

 

RIP Adam Yauch: Some Personal Memories

I am sure I can’t add anything to all the professional obituaries of Adam Yauch, so I thought I’d add something a little more personal. Back in the early to mid-1980s, there were two musical movements happening in New York City that were important and influential to me and my friends (among many many others, of course). One, the Two Tone ska revival was destined to remain a subculture, albeit one that we embraced heartily. The second was Hip Hop.

As soon as we heard Rapper’s Delight, we were hooked and in those relatively early days of the genre, as some clubs slowly morphed from the discotheque model to a more hip hop-centered experience, it wasn’t unusual to see blacks, whites and Latinos all in the same club.

Not to digress too much into the economic and cultural makeup of New York in the early to mid-1980s, but it was certainly a different time and I found myself in a complicated social world that somehow merged my left-wing, hippy/socialist summer camp (Thoreau-in-Vermont) with the private school I attended (The United Nations International School, aka UNIS) and the NYC ska and hip hop communities. NYC was (and is) a large place, but if you were in certain high schools and of a certain mindset, your orbits were large, inclusive and on the surface or to an outsider, contradictory. Didn’t seem that way to us, though. Continue reading

The Bingham Show

It’s been a little over three weeks since Bingham Ray passed away and I have read countless tributes, obits and stories, almost all of them touching and heartfelt. In my head, The Bingham Show has been running a regular time slot since his passing and maybe I should have written more, sooner, but I just couldn’t. Of course the idea that it will get better over time is silly and I ought to have known better. Anyone who has lost someone close to them knows that it doesn’t get better with time, it just gets…different.

Bingham was one of the first and kindest and most inclusive mentors I had in the business and one of my closest friends, too. He was quick to understand where Eugene Hernandez and I were going with indieWIRE, always had time for the new kids in school and unlike some other people in the business (you might have a guess or two), Bingham didn’t seem to take himself overly seriously. That didn’t hold true for film, of course. For Bingham, film was serious business but it was the business of wonderment…of the joy, sadness, horror and happiness that a good film can bring.

Moose, Scott and Bingham at the Siasconset Casino on Nantucket

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