Saturday, 6 August 2011

Grease actress Annette Charles dies at 63

Annette Charles and John Travolta in Grease  
Cha Cha was famously 'the best dancer at St Bernadette's'

Actress Annette Charles, who played Cha Cha DiGregorio, in the hit film Grease, has died at the age of 63.
The actress, who also starred in TV series Gunsmoke and The Bionic Woman, was suffering from cancer.
As Cha Cha, she memorably stole the limelight dancing the hand jive with Danny (John Travolta) at the school dance competition.
She continued acting into the late eighties, but latterly moved into teaching near her home in California.
According to reports, she had only recently been diagnosed with cancer - and died from complications linked to the disease.
A family member told US website TMZ: "Annette had recently started having difficulty breathing and when she went to the doctor she learned that she had a cancerous tumour in one of her lungs."
She died in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Her death comes two months after Jeff Conaway, who played Kenickie in the hit 1978 musical, passed away.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Police Academy actor Bubba Smith dies

Bubba Smith in 2006  
Smith also appeared in such TV series as Good Times, Charlie's Angels and Half Nelson
Bubba Smith, the American football star who found fame on screen playing Hightower in the Police Academy movies, has died at the age of 66.
The 6ft 7in (2m) star won the 1971 Super Bowl with the Baltimore Colts and moved into acting in the late 70s.
He played the softly-spoken Moses Hightower in six Police Academy films.
Smith was found dead at his home in Los Angeles. The cause of death has not been confirmed, but police have said it did not appear to be suspicious.
He began his acting career with small roles in TV shows such as Wonder Woman, Taxi and Charlie's Angels before joining the recruits in the first Police Academy movie in 1984.
Hightower became a regular character in the comedy franchise, known for his gentle nature and physical strength, which saw him lifting cars or wrestling alligators in the pursuit of bad guys.
Born Charles Aaron Smith, he made his name on the field as a fearsome defensive player for Michigan State University.
He moved into the NFL with the Baltimore Colts in 1967 and played for the Oakland Raiders and the Houston Oilers, before retiring from the sport in 1976.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Audrey Besterman

Audrey Besterman 
Audrey Besterman was known for her creative intelligence, medical knowledge and artistic versatility
Audrey Besterman, who has died aged 90, was a medical artist and scientific illustrator. Between 1955 and 2005, her work was published in more than 100 books and periodicals. Audrey became much sought after for her creative intelligence, medical knowledge and artistic versatility.
The third daughter of a physician, Charles Brehmer Heald, and Edith, a GP's daughter, Audrey had medicine in her genes. She was born in Kimpton, Hertfordshire. On leaving school, she enrolled in 1937 at the Byam Shaw School of Art. She enlisted in 1939 as an ambulance driver and described this period, when she had to deal with some gruesome calls during the blitz, as one in which she really grew up.
In 1944, she married a young medical student, Edwin Besterman. After their divorce, in 1955, she became a single mother with two boys to bring up – my brother, Harvey, and me. Combining her training in medicine and art, she hit on the idea of becoming a medical illustrator – work that she could do from home. A nine-month apprenticeship at Guy's hospital, in London, set her up.
She illustrated more than a dozen books for Faber & Faber and 72 monthly supplements to the Nursing Times, entitled Systems of Life. Her most exquisite work includes her pen and ink wash studies of early hominin bone: she worked from the object, which entailed access to unique material.
In 1961, she married Harold Nottman, with whom she enjoyed a long and happy partnership, acquiring a stepson, Bruce, in the process. Audrey had a particular talent for friendship, often sustained across generations and great distances with the easy flowing care of an inexhaustible blue fountain pen and an elegant, cursive script. There are many people who remember her affection, warmth and wisdom.
Harvey died in 1997 and Harold in 2008. Audrey is survived by Tristram and four grandchildren.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Richard Pearson

Richard Pearson, left, with Anna Massey in ITV’s The Bank Manager’s Wife
Richard Pearson, left, with Avril Elgar in ITV's The Bank Manager's Wife, 1982.
It was the destiny of the actor Richard Pearson, who has died aged 93, to be remembered for his role in one of the most famous theatrical failures of modern times: what you might call a flop d'estime. In 1958, he was the original Stanley in Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party. After a short, highly successful provincial tour, the play was critically slaughtered when it opened at the Lyric Hammersmith in London in May 1958. In all, Pearson enjoyed a fruitful career spanning around 70 years, often playing harassed establishment figures, but it was Stanley that he always listed as one of his favourite parts. He reprised the role in an ITV production in 1960.
With his high-pitched voice and crestfallen features, Pearson conveyed Stanley's baffled vulnerability. As Harold Hobson, the play's sole critical champion in 1958, wrote in the Sunday Times: "Pearson's Stanley, excellent throughout, is very moving in [his] hurt wonder when given the child's drum as a birthday present."

The Birthday Party 
Richard Pearson, right, as Stanley, in the first production of Pinter’s The Birthday Party, at the Lyric Hammersmith, 1958
I once asked Pinter if the character of Stanley, a reclusive seaside lodger victimised by the invasive figures of Goldberg and McCann, had become more aggressive in later revivals. Pinter assured me that Pearson had got it right from the start, and had caught the element of cruelty in Stanley's goading of his voracious landlady, Meg, and hinted at his later resistance to his tormentors. Only with time did the political implications of Pinter's play become fully clear.
Born in Monmouth, south-east Wales, Pearson was educated in Worcester and Monmouth and made his first appearance on stage at the old Collins Music Hall in Islington, north London, in 1937. But, like many actors, he found his career interrupted by the second world war. He served in the army, in the 52nd Lowland Division, was mentioned in dispatches and reached the rank of lieutenant colonel.
On being demobbed in 1946, he quickly found work in the small London theatres, such as the Embassy in Swiss Cottage and the Q by Kew Bridge, that were the prototype of the modern fringe. In 1949, he married the actor Pat Dickson, whom he had met the previous year when they both auditioned successfully for a production of This Is Where We Came In.
With his solid physique and faintly plaintive air, Pearson soon graduated to the kind of drawing-room comedies that were staple West End fare in the mid-1950s: plays such as Arthur Macrae's Both Ends Meet, Gerald Savory's A Likely Tale and William Douglas Home's The Iron Duchess. After The Birthday Party, however, his career took a more decisive turn.
His capacity for conveying either outraged dignity or the frailty lurking within seemingly secure figures found its outlet in a number of very good productions. He played Maggie Smith's increasingly jealous husband in Peter Shaffer's The Public Eye in 1962 and was an empurpled cardinal in Edward Albee's Tiny Alice at the Aldwych in 1970.
He moved on to play William Cecil, opposite Eileen Atkins's Queen Elizabeth I, in Robert Bolt's Vivat! Vivat Regina! at Chichester – where he had a particularly strong period in the 1970s – and in the West End. He was then totally at home as the bonhomous but mountingly indignant Mr Hardcastle in a revival of Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer at the Young Vic in 1972.
He was later reunited with Smith in the West End, in a 1987 production of Shaffer's Lettice and Lovage, where he was a wonderfully bemused solicitor, and again in 1993 in Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Pearson was the kind of actor on which the British theatre has always relied: utterly dependable and totally distinctive. His particular forte, with his slightly fluting voice, was for revealing the chink in the armour of middle-class respectability. Inevitably his capacity for bourgeois fluster led to a long career in television, where he made his first appearance in 1947.
He entered films three years later, with appearances in The Girl Is Mine (1950) and The Woman in Question (1950). He went on to appear in Anthony Asquith's The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), Albert Finney's Charlie Bubbles (1967), John Schlesinger's Sunday Blood Sunday (1971) and Roman Polanski's Pirates (1986).
He subsequently had success in several popular TV series including The Wind in the Willows (1984-88), as the voice of Mole; One Foot in the Grave (1992), as Victor Meldrew's absent-minded brother; My Good Friend (1995-96), as George Cole's fellow pensioner; and Men Behaving Badly (1995), as Gary's father. He could always be counted on to play doctors, accountants, politicians, policemen and churchmen: anyone, in short, who seemed to embody professional solidity. Pearson always managed to invest these characters with an inner life and a look of wounded dignity.
He is survived by Pat, their sons Simon and Patrick, who is also an actor, and two grandchildren, Katie and Anna.

• Richard de Pearsall Pearson, actor, born 1 August 1918; died 2 August 2011

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

John Hoyland

John Hoyland obituary View larger picture
John Hoyland showed in London's Situation exhibition, which kickstarted the 60s art scene, and his career took off from there. 
A painter and printmaker of prodigious creative energy and imagination, John Hoyland, who has died aged 76 of complications following heart surgery in 2008, was widely recognised as one of the greatest abstract artists of his time. From the beginning of his career, he unwaveringly championed the centrality of abstraction to the living history of modernist art. "Non-figurative imagery possessed for me," he wrote, "the potential for the most advanced depth of feeling and meaning."
For Hoyland, it was necessary for paintings to be self-sufficient machines, constructed to convey a powerful charge of visual, mental and emotional energy without recourse to any historically established figurative imagery. The expressive force of his paintings derives from the intensity and conviction of their engagement with colour, scale and abstract form, rather than with any direct expression of personal feeling. Hoyland understood the force of Braque's wonderful maxim: "Sensation, revelation!"
Hoyland was born in Sheffield to a working-class family. He was educated from the age of 11 in the junior art department at Sheffield College of Art, progressing to the senior school four years later. It was there that he met his first great friend in art, Brian Fielding, and began his passionate critical-creative engagement with painting.
The work in his finals show at the Royal Academy Schools, London, in 1960, was ordered off the walls by the then president of the Royal Academy, although Hoyland was still awarded his diploma. Within months, he was exhibiting with some of the best British artists of the day in Situation, a show of "large abstract paintings" organised by the artists themselves with a little help from the critic Lawrence Alloway. Situation kickstarted the 60s art scene, and London quickly became one of the most exciting art capitals in the world.
Hoyland was the youngest artist in the show, and his career followed a spectacular trajectory over the course of the decade. After showing in the follow-up exhibition, New London Situation, in 1961, he was taken on by Marlborough, at that time the most prestigious commercial gallery in London. When a critic described his paintings as "exquisite and refined", Hoyland was shocked: "Painting should be a seismograph of the person, and if I'm being 'exquisite', I'm being false. That's why I ditched all that optical hard-edge painting." It was by no means the last time Hoyland would attain a mastery of means, only to change direction deliberately and reinvent his manner and style.
In March 1964, Hoyland was featured in Bryan Robertson's New Generation showcase of young painters at Whitechapel Art Gallery, joining a brilliant galaxy of rising stars including Patrick Caulfield (who became a lifelong friend), David Hockney, Paul Huxley, Alan Jones and Bridget Riley. Not long after, he embarked on an astonishing series of huge acrylic canvases of high-key deep greens, reds, violets and oranges deployed in radiant fields, stark blocks and shimmering columns of ultra-vibrant colour. It was an achievement in scale and energy, sharpness of definition, originality and expressive power unmatched by any of his contemporaries, and unparalleled in modern British art. Visiting the studio in late 1965, Robertson immediately proposed a full-scale exhibition at the Whitechapel.
His one-man exhibition at that gallery in the spring of 1967 was a defining moment in the history of British abstract painting. It consolidated Hoyland's reputation, and established him without question as one of the two or three best abstract painters of his generation anywhere in the world.
Hoyland went to live and work in the United States in the late 1960s, and he was welcomed into the company of New York artists and critics including Clement Greenberg, Robert Motherwell, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman and Kenneth Noland. Although he counted the younger "cooler" painters such as Noland, Larry Poons and Jules Olitski among his friends there, it was always the brave and visionary older generation painters with whom he felt most sympathy.
Newman especially struck a deep chord: "The image we produce," Newman had written, "is the self-evident one of revelation, real and concrete, that can be understood by anyone who will look at it without the nostalgic glasses of history."
Hoyland never felt particularly happy in the competitive hothouse of east coast painting. Encountering in a New York gallery the work of Hans Hofmann and recognising its European roots was a crucial epiphany. Acknowledging that he belonged essentially within the tradition of British and northern European colouristic expressionism, in 1973 Hoyland returned to England. Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Emil Nolde and Nicolas de Staël had all been deeply admired by Hoyland from early in his artistic life. His painting from this time until the mid-1980s was to be characterised by high colour, architectonic structures loosely based in geometric forms, and a richly textured, painterly surface.
For a talk at the Tate in the 80s, Hoyland wrote a wonderfully undiscriminating and inclusive list of the subjects, experiences and objects that fired his imagination: "Shields, masks, tools, artefacts, mirrors, Avebury Circle, swimming underwater, snorkelling, views from planes, volcanoes, mountains, waterfalls, rocks, graffiti, stains, damp walls, cracked pavements, puddles, the cosmos inside the human body, food, drink, being drunk, sex, music, dancing, relentless rhythm, the Caribbean, the tropical light, the northern light, the oceanic light. Primitive art, peasant art, Indian art, Japanese and Chinese art, musical instruments, drums, jazz, the spectacle of sport, the colour of sport, magic realism, Borges, the metaphysical, dawn, sunsets, fish eyes, trees, flowers, seas, atolls. The Book of Imaginary Beings, the Dictionary of Angels, heraldry, North American Indian blankets, Rio de Janeiro, Montego Bay!"
To which might be added: Zen poetry, classical, modern and contemporary painting and sculpture, domestic pottery, driving cars, humming birds, gulls and reptiles, eclipses of the sun and moon. At any time, Hoyland might be reading and absorbing the writings of Miró, the poetry of Frank O'Hara, the novels of Gabriel García Márquez, and Japanese and Chinese poetry. All of these things fed a voracious appetite for sensory, intellectual and emotional experience in a life of sharp sight and heightened receptivity, free of preconception and cliche.
Some critics found the uninhibited exuberance of Hoyland's later painting, its superabundance of effects and its technical extremism, overwhelming. But those who loved this work were exhilarated by its spectacular diversity of visual effect, and by its impulse towards fantasy released by a heroic ambition that took him again and again to the extreme of what painting might achieve. Hoyland was always a maker of evocative images, with a disposition to the grandly visionary-poetic which has been rare in English painting since that of his greatest heroes, Turner and Constable.
Hoyland was a critically generous and able advocate of British abstract art (he counted Anthony Caro among his closest friends, and acknowledged the great sculptor's enduring influence on him). He was a constant supporter of succeeding generations of younger abstract artists, who found in him an eloquent mentor and friend. In 1979, he selected the Hayward Annual, an exhibition that remains a landmark in the history of British abstract painting. In 1988, he curated an important exhibition at the Tate Gallery of late paintings by Hofmann. He was elected Royal Academician in 1991. In 2006, Tate St Ives held the exhibition John Hoyland: The Trajectory of a Fallen Angel, bringing together paintings from 1966 to 2003.
Hoyland was a man of acerbic wit, and a wickedly cruel mimic, but behind a carefully crafted persona there was enormous generosity of spirit and true kindness. A lover of pubs and restaurants, he was a man without side, utterly un-snobbish, and ever aware of his working-class beginnings. He was an inveterate traveller, visiting South America (with Caro), Australia (with Caulfield), and latterly Spain, Italy, Jamaica and Bali with his longterm companion, Beverley Heath, whom he married with great joy in 2008. Wherever he went, he relentlessly gathered ideas and impressions, in photographs and sketchbooks, as sources for imagery. Nothing was lost and nowhere was alien to this most complete of artists.
He is survived by Beverley; his son, Jeremy, from his first marriage, to Airi; and his mother, Kathleen.

John Hoyland, painter, printmaker and teacher, born 12 October 1934; died 31 July 2011

Monday, 1 August 2011

Cecil Lush

Cecil Lush
Cecil Lush's published memoirs, which drew on his war service, were used by the Imperial War Museum
Cecil Lush, who has died of pneumonia aged 92, established his own architectural practice in London in 1949. In 1956 he was joined by Alfred Lester in founding Lush & Lester, which over the next 25 years was responsible for many award-winning projects in the capital. These included Nansen Village students' accommodation in Woodside Park; the residential development of Vane Close, Mulberry Close and Vane Mews in Hampstead; One Gardiners Corner in the City; Inter-City House in Whitechapel; and the Russian Trade Delegation building in Highgate. As architects for the Burton fashion group, Lush & Lester oversaw more than 100 Evans and Burton shops. They also built synagogues in Brondesbury, Mill Hill and Newbury Park, and houses throughout the UK.
For 27 years until his retirement in 1989, Cecil was architect to King Alfred school in Hampstead, which my brother Peter and I attended, with key buildings designed including the science and arts block and gymnasium. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1968.
Cecil was born in London and went to Christ's College school in Finchley. He was articled to Welch and Lander in 1935, who were influenced by Le Corbusier, and whose clients included London Underground and the London county council. At the outbreak of the second world war, Cecil was one of the first Jewish men to enlist in the Royal Engineers. Following distinguished service in France, including the exodus from Dunkirk, and in Burma and India, ascending to the rank of major, Cecil returned to London and studied for his architecture degree from 1946 at Regent Street Polytechnic (now part of the University of Westminster) before establishing his own practice. In 1952 he married Dolly Weisbort, a child psychotherapist at the Tavistock Clinic.
After retirement, Cecil retained a keen interest in architecture. He was pleased that although neither of his sons inherited his talent for draughtsmanship, we both became involved in social housing and regeneration. He was interested in cinema and opera, and wrote and had privately published Family Memories 1808-2002; this featured his war service and has been used by the Imperial War Museum and local museums in north London.
Cecil suffered a devastating stroke in 2005 but recovered sufficiently to enjoy visits from his family and many friends. He is survived by Peter and Ian, and three grandchildren. Dolly died in 2010.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Rev John Stott

John Stott
John Stott in 2006. He has been described as 'a renaissance man with a reformation theology'.

Though the name of the Rev John Stott, who has died at the age of 90, rarely appeared in the UK national press, in April 2005 Time Magazine placed him among the world's top 100 major influencers. A comment piece in the New York Times six months earlier had expressed surprise that he was ignored by the press, since he was a more authentic advocate for evangelical Christianity than more colourful figures such as Jerry Falwell.
Stott, radical in his conservatism, could not be pigeonholed. He was deeply committed to the need for social, economic and political justice and passionately concerned about climate change and ecological ethics. He regarded the Bible as his supreme authority and related its teaching to all areas of knowledge and experience. He insisted that Christians should engage in "double listening" – to the word of God, and to the world around them – and apply their biblical faith to all the pressing issues of contemporary culture. He himself researched, preached and wrote on a wide range of matters – from global debt to global warming, from the duties of the state to medical ethics and euthanasia. This was the kind of evangelicalism he embodied.
Stott was born in London, the fourth child and only son of Sir Arnold Stott and his wife, Lily. His father, a Harley Street physician, hoped he would enter the diplomatic service, and his peace-seeking spirit could have equipped him well for this. But at the age of 17, while at Rugby school, Warwickshire, his plans took a different turn. One February afternoon, he came to view the Christian gospel as compelling, and shortly afterwards resolved to be ordained into the church.
From school, having been excused national service as a conscientious objector – though he later came to accept the validity of the idea of a just war – Stott went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he gained a double first in French and German. He then trained for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. In 1945 he became a curate at All Souls, Langham Place, in central London. This was the church where, as a child, he had terrorised the girls in Sunday school with his toy guns and daggers.
Stott has been described as "a renaissance man with a reformation theology". He had a sharp inter-disciplinary mind, and always worked to bring his thinking under the scrutiny of the Bible. It was, he believed, possible to understand the world only in the light of the Bible's teaching about God and humankind.
While the US evangelist Billy Graham, a long-time friend, was drawing tens of thousands to sports stadiums, Stott's mission field was the university campus. He conducted week-long events at universities in many countries, presenting a case for a Christian worldview, and drawing even the most cynical students into the pages of the New Testament.
In 1950, while only 29, he became rector of All Souls, a crown appointment. When released by the Church of England for wider ministry in 1970, he moved into a mews flat above the rectory garage. This modest two-roomed home became his base until 2007. Much of his substantial writing – a total of 50 books translated into 65 languages – was completed in a remote cottage on the Welsh coast which he bought in 1954. It was at that stage derelict, and for many years had no mains electricity. Stott's books included the million-selling Basic Christianity (1958), Christ the Controversialist (1970) and The Cross of Christ (1986). His final book, A Radical Disciple, "to say goodbye to his readers", was published last year.
Stott was behind the shaping of The Lausanne Covenant (1974), a significant statement of international co-operation in the cause of world evangilisation. He founded several evangelical initiatives in Britain, including the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (1982) of which the sociologist and broadcaster Elaine Storkey later became director, succeeded by Mark Greene. Through his work with the university Christian Unions in the UK and overseas, he engaged with many of the sharpest up-and-coming Christian thinkers while they were still students.
His influence in the church has spread to more than 100 countries through his founding of Langham Partnership International. In the US, it operates under the name of John Stott Ministries. This threefold initiative, now under the direction of the theologian and author the Rev Chris Wright, works to strengthen the church in the developing world by training preachers, funding doctoral scholarships for the most able theological thinkers, and providing basic, low-cost libraries for pastors. Stott's own considerable royalties from his writing went towards the production and distribution of theological books in developing countries.
Stott was appointed CBE in 2006. He had served as chaplain to the Queen (1959-91) and then as extra chaplain until he died. His six doctorates included one from Lambeth Palace.
From childhood, Stott was taught by his father to love the natural world. He became an expert self-taught ornithologist, sighting and photographing some 2,500 bird species.
Urbane and gracious as both visionary and strategist, Stott left the Langham Partnership as perhaps his major legacy. His influence will doubtless attract much further attention.

• John Robert Walmsley Stott, clergyman and theologian, born 27 April 1921; died 27 July 2011