Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Flick Colby

Choreographer behind Pan's People, the dance troupe loved by Top of the Pops fans

Flick Colby View larger picture
Flick Colby confected slinky and often extravagant routines for Top of the Pops with Pan's People.
When 15 million viewers tuned into Top of the Pops each week during the show's 1970s heyday, the appeal extended beyond the hitmakers on the screen to those who were not appearing, since an absent act's single was interpreted by the show's all-female dance troupe, Pan's People. Their silky routines were choreographed by one of their dancers, Flick Colby, who has died aged 65 of bronchial pneumonia, after suffering from cancer.
Colby, an American with long blonde hair and a megawatt smile, confected slinky, semi-risque and often extravagant Top of the Pops routines for Pan's People for eight years. She continued to work on the show with subsequent troupes, choreographing moves to suit a range of musical styles such as glam rock, folk, soul, disco and punk.
Her routines were often balletically graceful, but Pan's People became best known for their minimal attire – hotpants, pastel-coloured leotards, bare midriffs – and a penchant for fancy dress. For Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers' Monster Mash, they sported Halloween costumes to play characters including a mummy, an alien, King Kong (complete with Empire State Building prop) and a sexy bat. The troupe performed Typically Tropical's single Barbados against a snowy backdrop, wearing bikinis beneath their fur coats. "They weren't Broadway-standard routines," Colby said. "We were definitely doing watercolours, not oil paintings."
Sometimes the song title would immediately suggest the routine, for example Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree, Crocodile Rock or Paperback Writer, which revolved around book carousels, the dancers holding pulp novels in their hands as they sashayed around the stage. Colby often seized upon a few words from a song and expanding them into a themed piece. A line in Gilbert O'Sullivan's song Get Down ("You're a bad dog, baby") led to Pan's People sharing the stage with a line of bemused canines.
"When you have six hours to create a dance routine you had to make it work," Colby explained in an interview, "so I suppose I should apologise for the routines which didn't make sense." One of the dancers, Cherry Gillespie, remembered: "If the record we'd been rehearsing all week went down in the charts, we couldn't do it, so a whole new creation had to take place. I thought Flick would have a heart attack. We used to call it Frisbee Day because she would throw the singles around."
Colby's father, Thomas Colby, was a professor of German at Hamilton College in Clinton, Oneida county, in the centre of New York state. She grew up in New York and Massachusetts, trained as a ballet dancer and performed in musicals before moving to London in 1966 with her first husband. Top of the Pops had launched two years earlier, and already featured a popular dancing troupe, the Go-Jos. Another music series, The Beat Room, used an ensemble known as the Beat Girls. Uneager to go through the treadmill of auditions, Colby decided to form her own troupe. She joined up with three of the Beat Girls (Ruth Pearson, Babs Lord and Dee Dee Wilde) and brought on board Louise Clarke and Andi Rutherford (later replaced by Gillespie).
Colby considered calling the group Dionysus's Darlings but then came up with the snappier Pan's People. They picked up work on television programmes in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium. Their debut on Top of the Pops came in April 1968, when they were called in at short notice and required to perform as a three-piece (Colby, Wilde and Pearson). They were back within a month, this time as a six-piece, dancing to Elvis Presley's US Male. They struggled to make ends meet, subsisting on a diet of chips and mayonnaise, but became a permanent weekly fixture on Top of the Pops in 1969.
Two years later, Colby decided to concentrate on choreographing rather than dancing. In 1974, Pan's People branched out, recording a single, You Can Really Rock and Roll Me. They had guest slots on primetime programmes including The Two Ronnies and The Benny Hill Show. Colby also choreographed for the stage, including the rock musical Catch My Soul, starring PP Arnold and PJ Proby.
After several lineup changes, Pan's People were replaced on Top of the Pops in 1976 by a mixed-sex troupe, Ruby Flipper, allowing Colby to develop more physically challenging routines involving lifts. Ruby Flipper, in turn, were replaced by another all-female lineup, Legs & Co, masterminded by Pearson and Colby. Legs & Co, who also performed in the film The Stud (1978), were replaced in 1981 by a much larger troupe, Zoo, with Colby as its dance director.
Colby also co-wrote an instructional guide, Let's Go Dancing (1979), with Elizabeth Romain. She married George Bahlke, a professor of English at Hamilton College, where her father had taught. After returning to Clinton, she ran a gift shop called Paddywacks. "I was always interested in retail," she said. "It's a bit like showbiz in that you put on a performance to sell something."
George died earlier this year. Colby is survived by a brother and a sister.

Flick (Felicity Isabelle) Colby, dancer and choreographer, born 23 March 1946; died 26 May 2011

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bill Hunter

Australian actor known for his roles in Strictly Ballroom and Muriel's Wedding
    Bill Hunter at Bill Heslop, the father of the bride, with Toni Collette in the title role in Muriel's Wedding, 1994.
    For many Australians, the screen persona of the character actor Bill Hunter, who has died of cancer aged 71, was the archetypal "ocker", an uncultivated Australian working man who enjoys beer, "barbies", Aussie rules football and V8 supercars. According to Phillip Noyce, who directed the oft-bearded actor in three movies and a TV miniseries: "Bill was the absolute essence of the Anglo-Irish Australian male of the 20th century. Seemingly gruff and impenetrable, he could convey the tenderness beneath the exterior." He was seen and appreciated by millions in three of Australia's biggest hit films – Baz Luhrmann's Strictly Ballroom (1992), PJ Hogan's Muriel's Wedding (1994) and Stephan Elliott's The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) – all revealing Hunter at the peak of his powers. He was born in Melbourne, but was brought up in rural Victoria, in Australia's south-east. His father was a struggling country pub owner who eventually went broke, forcing young Bill to leave school at 13 and become a drover, guiding cattle herds across the state. An excellent swimmer, Hunter was at one point considered for Australia's Olympic squad, but a bout of meningitis ended his competitive swimming career. However, he got the job of swimming double for Gregory Peck and Anthony Perkins in the nuclear disaster movie On the Beach (1959), most of which was shot in Victoria. (He later appeared as the Australian prime minister in the television remake in 2000.) The experience of watching the Hollywood stars perform gave him the idea that "any mug can do that". Therefore, while still in his 20s, Hunter moved to London and studied at Rada, which led to his joining the newly founded repertory company at the Nottingham Playhouse under John Neville's artistic direction in 1963. Before returning to Australia, he appeared in two episodes of Doctor Who (1966), with William Hartnell in the title role. Back home, Hunter began a long career in TV in which he specialised in playing hard men, usually policemen or criminals with a nice line in "Strine" (Australian slang). Among his early film roles was a sadistic officer in Mad Dog Morgan (1976), starring Dennis Hopper as the notorious 19th-century Australian outlaw; and the lead in Noyce's Backroads (1977), an aimless drifter who links up with an Aborigine in a car trip across New South Wales. Hunter, given his first chance to display nuance in his performances, played a decent bloke coming to terms with his prejudices. It was Noyce's belief in Hunter as more than just a heavy that led to Newsfront (1978), among the films of the Australian film renaissance. Set in post-second world war Sydney, it starred Hunter, managing to make an obsessive, driven man sympathetic, as a fiercely proud newsreel cameraman who takes all sorts of risks to get his stories, only to find his trade gradually being replaced by television. Equally sympathetic was his role in Peter Weir's Gallipoli (1981). Sporting a neat moustache, Hunter played Major Barton, reluctantly and painfully having to send his young troops into an unwinnable battle. In Death of a Soldier (1986), Hunter, as a hard-nosed detective, determined to nail a GI for the murder of several women, conveyed the tensions between the local police and the US army represented by James Coburn. In Strictly Ballroom, Hunter wore an ill-fitting blond toupee to play the machiavellian president of the Australian Ballroom Dancing Federation, who is against any innovation ("There are no new steps"). Until then, he hadn't had much chance to reveal his flair for comedy. His role as the corrupt politician and philandering father of the bride in Muriel's Wedding consolidated this. In contrast to these pompous bullies, delivered with comic relish, there was a refreshing reversal of type in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, in which he portrayed a sensitive, warm-hearted nonconformist mechanic, who latches on to a quartet of outrageous drag queens touring the Australian outback. The grey-bearded Hunter, wearing a headband, played it beautifully straight amid the wildly camp goings-on, especially in the scenes when he forms a close relationship with Bernadette (Terence Stamp). Hunter had appeared with Stamp in Stephen Frears's The Hit (1984). Despite his great success, Hunter was declared bankrupt in 1996 after running up debts of more than A$440,000. He continued to be in demand on TV and film, one of his last appearances being in Luhrmann's epic Australia (2008) – it would have been unthinkable if Hunter, who defined a certain kind of "Ozness", had not been included in the huge cast. Hunter's final film was the yet-to-be-released horseracing drama The Cup (2011) in which he played the horse trainer Bart Cummings. In one of his last interviews, Hunter modestly summed up his approach to acting: "As long as the director told me where to stand and what to say, I was happy. Anyone who says there is any more to it than that is full of shit." Hunter's 1992 marriage to the former TV presenter Rhoda Roberts ended in divorce. • William John Bourke Hunter, actor, born 27 February 1940; died 21 May 2011

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Kathy Kirby

Variety show star of the 1960s whose hits included Dance On and Secret Love
    (FILE PHOTO) Singer Kathy Kirby Dies At 72
    Kirby in 1964. Her Saturday evening primetime TV show drew audiences of more than 20 million. 
    During the mid-1960s, the singer Kathy Kirby, who has died aged 72 after a short illness, was almost ever-present on television variety shows. Her powerful vocal style was heard on the million-selling hits Dance On and Secret Love, and her blonde hair and hourglass figure drew comparisons to Marilyn Monroe. She was born Kathleen O'Rourke in Ilford, Essex, the eldest of three children of Irish parents. Her mother, Eileen, brought up the family alone after their father left home when the children were very young. Kirby showed a taste for show business from an early age, winning a toddlers' talent contest at three years old. After leaving a local convent school with three O-levels, and dyeing her natural red hair blonde, she regularly attended the Ilford Palais de Danse. There, dressed in a tight black dress and black evening gloves, she saw Bert Ambrose and his Orchestra and persuaded the veteran bandleader to allow her to sing. Ambrose was so impressed with the teenager's performance that he signed Kirby to a management contract and found her work with his own and other bands. He secured for her a recording deal with Pye Records and, despite the 40-year age gap, the couple became lovers. (Ambrose's estranged wife was living in America at the time.) Her first records were unexceptional but in 1962, she switched to Decca Records and the following year made her first hit single, Dance On, which reached No 11. Kirby's next hit was a stunning recording of Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster's well-known standard Secret Love, which had memorably been sung by Doris Day in the 1950s. Kirby's recording reached No 4 in 1963. Two more Top 20 hits – Let Me Go Lover and You're the One – followed in quick succession. She was voted top British female singer of 1963 by readers of the New Musical Express. Alongside another new ballad singer, Vince Hill, Kirby became a featured performer on Stars and Garters, a TV variety series set in a studio designer's idea of a typical working-class pub. Her album of songs from the show was a No 11 hit in 1964. She appeared on the pop shows Thank Your Lucky Stars and Ready, Steady, Go! and was eventually given her own Saturday evening primetime programme on BBC television. The Kathy Kirby Show drew audiences of more than 20 million. She appeared at the Royal Variety Performance in 1964 and, the following year, represented the UK at the Eurovision song contest. Singing I Belong, she was the runner-up to France Gall, the Luxembourg representative. On the stage, Kirby was in demand for tours with such artists as Cliff Richard, Arthur Askey and Tom Jones and she starred in seaside summer shows at Blackpool and Brighton. She also toured Australia and South Africa, and achieved the ultimate light entertainment accolade by appearing at the top of the bill at the London Palladium. While she was regularly claimed to be the highest-paid female singer in Britain, behind the scenes things were beginning to fall apart. Her alleged affair with Bruce Forsyth caused Ambrose to break out into fits of jealousy. Kirby also realised that Ambrose, a compulsive gambler, had lost almost all her money. He died in 1971. Although there was a steady stream of singles and some television cameos on such programmes as The Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club, Kirby's popularity waned in the late 1970s. Her live shows were infrequent and came to an end in 1983 with a cabaret appearance in Blackpool. Kirby was later married for several years to Fred Pye, a writer and former policeman. After the marriage ended, she became almost a recluse in her west London apartment. A biography of Kirby, entitled Secrets, Loves and Lip Gloss, written by the actor James Harman, was published in 2005. Harman became Kirby's manager, setting up a website and successfully encouraging record companies to reissue some of her 1960s singles and albums. The subsequent revival of interest reinforced Kirby's reputation as something of a gay icon. Various attempts have been made to stage musicals based on her life. The career of the main character in the musical Come Dancing, written by Ray Davies, has some similarities to Kirby's. Kirby is survived by her sister Pat, her brother, Douglas, and several nephews and nieces. • Kathy Kirby (Kathleen O'Rourke), singer, born 20 October 1938; died 19 May 2011

Macho Man Randy Savage dies in Florida car crash

Charismatic wrestler, who to rose to fame in WWF in 1980s, was known for gaudy costumes and husky voice
    Macho Man Randy Savage
    Macho Man Randy Savage in Los Angeles in 2003. The WWF wrestler has died in a car crash in Florida.
    The American wrestling legend Randy Savage, known to his fans as "Macho Man", has died in a car crash aged 58. The former champion – whose legal name was Randy Poffo – was known for his husky voice, gaudy costumes and "oooh, yeah!" catch phrase. Once a minor league baseball player, Savage rose to fame as Macho Man in the 1980s in the World Wrestling Federation, now known as the WWE. He was considered a charismatic and athletic performer in the choreographed world of professional wrestling and he held numerous championships. Under contract with the World Wrestling Federation from 1985 to 1993, he competed against fellow stars including Hulk Hogan, Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat and Jake "The Snake" Roberts. His entrance music was Pomp and Circumstance and his signature accessories were sunglasses, bandannas and colourful cowboy hats. His father Angelo Poffo and brother "Leaping" Lanny Poffo also wrestled professionally. He was "an iconic figure," said hall of fame professional wrestler Dusty "The American Dream" Rhodes. The wrestler's jeep collided with a tree after it crossed the carriageway near to his home in Seminole, Florida, US police said. Savage died of his injuries at a nearby hospital. His wife, a passenger in the vehicle, was treated for minor injuries. Media quoted his brother as saying the retired showman had suffered a heart attack at the wheel, though police in Florida would not comment until a postmortem had been performed. The crash was not alcohol-related, authorities said. A statement on the WWE website read: "WWE is saddened to learn of the passing of one of the greatest Superstars of his time. Our sincerest condolences go out to his family and friends."

Friday, 20 May 2011

Edward Hardwicke

Actor best known as a valiant Dr Watson in Granada's Sherlock Holmes series
    'The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes'   TV   Drama
    Edward Hardwicke, right, as Watson with Jeremy Brett as Holmes in a 1992 episode of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
    For eight years from 1986, Edward Hardwicke, who has died aged 78, was the face of Dr Watson on television, proving a valiant and reliable foil to the dashing, neurasthenic Holmes of Jeremy Brett in the Granada series The Return of Sherlock Holmes, followed by the Casebook and the Memoirs, as well as stand-alone versions of The Sign of Four (1987) and The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988). The role was a perfect fit for an actor who had played important supporting roles for a similar length of time in Laurence Olivier's National theatre company at the Old Vic, but it also demonstrated his lightness of touch as well as his sturdiness. His Watson was not an amiable old pudding-faced duffer in the style of Nigel Bruce in the series of films and radio series opposite Basil Rathbone in the 1940s; instead, he was much more the intelligent, likeable army doctor whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had first created. He painted this portrait in broader brush strokes when he and Brett appeared in a stage spin-off in 1988, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, at Wyndham's theatre in the West End; this Watson, said one critic, was so stalwartly genuine that not even Holmes's hawk-like gaze could spot a hint of falsity in it. Hardwicke brought a similar resoluteness to the role of Conan Doyle himself when he played him in Nick Willing's strange movie Photographing Fairies (1997), telling Toby Stephens's professional debunker of photographic forgeries about his own supernatural experiences. His authenticity as an actor was innate, since he was the only child of theatrical royalty, the actors Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Helena Pickard. (The couple divorced when Edward was 16.) Cedric, whose range and fame were much wider and deeper than Edward's, was once told by George Bernard Shaw that he was the playwright's fifth favourite actor – the first four being the Marx Brothers. Edward, who would grow to be almost a physical replica of his father – sturdily built, balding, of average height – made his debut aged seven at the Malvern festival. He went to Hollywood with his parents aged 10 and appeared in Victor Fleming's film A Guy Named Joe (1943) alongside Spencer Tracy. He was educated at Stowe school, Buckinghamshire, trained at Rada in London, and did his national service as a pilot officer in the RAF with Ronnie Corbett, who became a lifelong friend. Other important friendships were formed early on with Albert Finney, Anthony Hopkins and Peter O'Toole. Hardwicke shared a flat with O'Toole during his first major employment, at the Bristol Old Vic between 1954 and 1957. After seasons in Oxford and Nottingham, and a couple of West End appearances, he joined Olivier's National in 1964, appearing in Peter Shaffer's The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Congreve's Love for Love (beautifully directed by Olivier), Othello with Olivier and Frank Finlay, Ibsen's The Master Builder and as Praed in Shaw's Mrs Warren's Profession with Coral Browne. These were golden years at the Old Vic, Olivier's recruits including Brett, Michael Gambon, Edward Petherbridge, Derek Jacobi and Christopher Timothy, as well as the more established Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely and Finney. Hardwicke pressed his claims particularly as Camille Chandebise in the 1966 all-star Feydeau farce A Flea in Her Ear, in which Camille's speech impairment is exacerbated whenever the weather changes. Hardwicke returned to the Bristol Old Vic to play Astrov alongside O'Toole in Uncle Vanya in 1973, and to the West End in 1975, to the Haymarket theatre, in Frederick Lonsdale's stylish comedy On Approval, with former NT colleagues Geraldine McEwan and Edward Woodward. The producer of On Approval, Duncan Weldon, said that Hardwicke was unassuming, rather shy, and a pleasure to work with: "He wasn't really like an actor at all! And of course, in those days, an actor still gave you nine months instead of the nine weeks you might be lucky enough to get today." Television work became steadier after Hardwicke appeared in the 1970s prison-camp drama Colditz, playing a character based on the war hero Pat Reid, and he ticked off appearances in many major series down the years, including Lovejoy, Peak Practice, the Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Holby City and Shameless. He even appeared in a 1974 sitcom, My Old Man, playing the son-in-law of Clive Dunn's frisky old rascal Sam Cobbett. After Watson, a somewhat sporadic movie career picked up again when Hardwicke played Anthony Hopkins's watchful brother in Richard Attenborough's Shadowlands (1993); Lord Stanley in Richard Loncraine's Richard III (1995), starring Ian McKellen and a host of great names, including Maggie Smith and Nigel Hawthorne; and the Earl of Arundel in Shekhar Kapur's beautiful Elizabeth (1998). More recently he joined another great cast in Loncraine's television film, scripted by Hugh Whitemore, The Gathering Storm (2002), and popped up, too, in Richard Curtis's Love, Actually (2003), and as kindly old Mr Brownlow in Roman Polanski's Oliver Twist (2005). His last stage appearance was in Christopher Morahan's enthralling Chichester festival theatre revival of Terence Rattigan's The Winslow Boy in 2001; he played the arthritic Arthur Winslow, the role played by his father in Anthony Asquith's superb 1948 film. Hardwicke's godfather was Ralph Richardson, a connection that led to him founding, five years ago, with his cousin Michael Woods, the Ralph and Meriel Richardson Foundation for indigent actors. In recent years, having given up a smallholding in Normandy, he lived in Chichester, West Sussex, where he enjoyed walking his dogs and spending Sunday lunchtimes with friends. He is survived by his second wife, Prim Cotton, whom he married in 1995; and by two daughters from his first marriage, to the actor Anne Iddon, which ended in divorce. • Edward Cedric Hardwicke, actor, born 7 August 1932; died 16 May 2011

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Garret FitzGerald, former Irish PM, dies at 85

FitzGerald served two terms in office as taoiseach and under his leadership he co-signed the Anglo-Irish agreement with Thatcher
    Garret FitzGerald death
    Garret FitzGerald has died at the age of 85. 
    Garret FitzGerald, the man credited with liberalising Ireland and helping start the peace process, has died aged 85. FitzGerald had been Irish prime minister twice during the 1980s. In 1985, during his second term, he co-signed the Anglo-Irish agreement with Margaret Thatcher. One of his protegés, the former minister Ivan Yeats, said there would not have been a visit by the Queen to Ireland this week without the accord and FitzGerald's contribution to improving Anglo-Irish relations. In a statement, the former taoiseach's family paid tribute to his medical staff in Dublin. "They would like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff at the Mater private hospital for the wonderful care he received during his illness. "He was a much loved and adored father, grandfather and great-grandfather and will be sadly missed by his extended family. Details of funeral arrangements will be announced later." FitzGerald was born in 1926, and both of his parents had been involved in Sinn Féin during the Irish war of independence. His father, Desmond, later served as minister for external affairs in Ireland's first government. In later life, FitzGerald often spoke of his desire to bring together the southern Catholic tradition of his father with the northern Protestantism of his mother, Mabel. He met his wife Joan at University College Dublin. The couple had three children. FitzGerald worked for Irish airline Aer Lingus before becoming an economic consultant and academic, and then a politician. He was elected to the Seanad (senate) in 1965 and the Dáil in 1969, where he quickly made his mark, particularly during debates on the arms crisis. He became taoiseach during the 1980s when Ireland was mired in recession but his most lasting achievement was to persuade Thatcher to establish the Anglo-Irish agreement in 1985. It gave Dublin some say over Northern Irish affairs and was meant to bolster northern nationalist confidence in constitutional politics. The former Fine Gael leader also launched a social reform programme in Ireland aimed at secularising the Republic to make it more attractive to Protestants in the north. FitzGerald had to face stern opposition from the Catholic church on reforms concerning divorce, contraception and abortion.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Joseph Wershba

Joseph Wershba 
Wershba joined CBS News in 1944 as a radio news writer
US news pioneer Joseph Wershba, one of the inspirations for the film Good Night and Good Luck, has died aged 90.
Wershba, whose work helped to end Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch-hunt for US communists in the 1950s, died of complications from pneumonia, CBS said.
Robert Downey Jr played Wershba in Good Night and Good Luck, which was nominated for six Oscars in 2006.
"Joe Wershba was a wonderful man who was a pioneer of broadcast journalism," said Jeff Fager, chairman of CBS News.
Wershba, a news reporter and producer for the network, led a 1954 report on Mr McCarthy for Edward R Murrow's TV news show, See It Now.
The report helped discredit McCarthy, who had falsely accused various celebrities and entertainers of links to communism, including playwright Arthur Miller and film star Charlie Chaplin.
His accusations ruined many careers.
Wershba also worked on 1953's The Milo Radulovich Story, about a reserve officer discharged by the US Air Force because it believed his family had communist sympathies.
His appeal was denied despite the Air Force providing no evidence.
Following the CBS investigation, Radulovich was reinstated.
Wershba is survived by his wife Shirley, a son and daughter and two grand-daughters.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Pam Gems

One of Britain's leading female playwrights, known for Piaf, Queen Christina and Stanley
    Pam Gems
    Pam Gems was often a lone female voice in a predominantly male theatre world. 
    In her best-known work, Piaf, the playwright Pam Gems, who has died aged 85, developed a new form somewhere between the musical and a play with music to tell the story of the celebrated French singer. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1978, Piaf transferred to the West End and Broadway, bringing Gems mainstream success. Jamie Lloyd's revival at the Donmar in London in 2008 gave new life to Piaf with an astonishing lead performance by Elena Roger. Gems's long association with the RSC included Queen Christina (1977), in which she explored a filmic style of writing and the sadness of childlessness through the life of the Swedish monarch, who was raised as a boy. Camille, produced by the RSC in 1984, echoed Piaf's storyline of a woman seeking sexual and economic independence, with Gems rescuing Alexandre Dumas's story from romantic mythology and serving it up as a desperate tale of the high price women pay for love. Her RSC productions included The Danton Affair (1986) and The Blue Angel (1991), a version of the story made famous by Josef von Sternberg's classic film starring Marlene Dietrich. The worldwide success of Piaf heralded a series of plays in which Gems reconsidered the lives of iconic women. At their least convincing, these were no more than biopics for the stage that provided star turns for star actors. This was the case with Marlene (1996), which took the form of a concert given by Dietrich in Paris. At their very best – such as Piaf, Camille, Queen Christina and Pasionaria (1985) – they debunked myths and put women's experiences centre-stage in a way that was unusual in the 1980s and remains rare today. Her plays were big, untidy and sometimes clumsy, but always filled with a wonderful emotional generosity and intelligence. She was born Pamela Price in Bransgore, Hampshire, and had her first play – a tale of goblins and elves – staged when she was eight by her fellow pupils at primary school. She won a place at Brockenhurst grammar school and studied psychology at Manchester University, marrying the architect Keith Gems after she had taken her degree. It was not until 1970, when she moved to London with Keith and their four children, that she began writing in earnest. She had at that point been writing for 20 years with almost no success, so "decided that I might as well fail doing something I enjoy". The London fringe in the early 1970s was a place of many possibilities for new writers, new forms and new ways of looking at the world. It was there that Gems, a large, straight-talking woman with a wicked laugh, whose horror of any kind of pretension had its roots in her working-class upbringing, found her voice in the burgeoning feminist theatre movement. It was a voice that was salty, earthy, raunchy and never boring, and which had a youthful dash even when Gems herself was far from young. She was fond of telling the story of her first encounter with the director Howard Davies, who directed Piaf for the RSC. He found it difficult to believe that such a rude play could have been written by a middle-aged mother of four. Gems's early plays reflected the changing roles of women, and were typified by Go West, Young Woman, produced by the newly formed Women's Company at the Roundhouse in London in 1974, which looked at the experience of the early American female pioneers who began in crinoline and ended up in buckskin. Writing about women's lives was a deliberate decision: "It's not that I don't feel that I can write about men, but when you see the great uncharted waters, the notion of dealing with 2,000 years of men's history just isn't very tempting. When I came to the theatre in the early 70s, I realised that there was no authentic work about women: they were occasionally celebrated but never convincingly explored." Her first commercial success was Dusa, Fish, Stas and Vi, which premiered at the Edinburgh festival in 1976 and transferred to the West End. It was one of the first plays to examine what it felt like to be a young woman living through times when the influence of the women's movement and the availability of the pill offered liberation from traditional roles as housewife and mother but threw up other issues of self-fulfilment. The play, which was included in the National theatre's list of 100 plays of the 20th century, was all the more remarkable because it was written by a woman who was a wife and mother and whose own writing career had been forged from hastily scribbled scenes written between serving up the children's tea and doing the washing up. Gems had a thrifty housewife's attitude to her work, never throwing anything away and often recycling it: one of her final plays, Mrs Pat, about the relationship between the actor Mrs Patrick Campbell and George Bernard Shaw, was produced by the Theatre Royal in York in 2006, more than 15 years after she had first started writing it. Produced at the Playhouse theatre in Newcastle in 1985, Pasionaria drew parallels between the contemporary miners' strike and the uprising of the Asturian miners in northern Spain in 1934, just before the Spanish civil war. A big and big-hearted play, it proved Gems's belief that "all theatre is political in a profound way. It can, without resort to the vote or the gun, alter climate, change opinion, laugh prejudice out of the door, soften hearts, awaken perception." Stanley, based on the life of the painter Stanley Spencer, was staged at the National theatre in 1996, with Antony Sher in the lead. After that production, Gems never again achieved a major success with an original new play. She had also tried her hand at novels and may well have written a partial self-portrait in Mrs Frampton, about an overweight, middle-aged woman who becomes virtually invisible. She proved herself an adept translator of other playwrights' work and created outstanding versions of Lorca's Yerma, Ibsen's Lady from the Sea and Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, directed by Jonathan Miller at the Crucible in Sheffield in 2007. She never stopped writing new plays. At the Drill Hall in London in 2009 there was a rehearsed reading of Winterlove, about the relationship between Elisabeth of Austria and Ludwig II of Bavaria. Like the characters in Go West, Young Woman, Gems was undoubtedly a pioneer, storming theatre's main stages at a time when Agatha Christie was still the most frequently performed female playwright in Britain. Often a lone voice in a predominantly male theatre world, she showed the way for subsequent generations of female playwrights, proving that it is possible to be popular and pungent at the same time. She is survived by Keith and her children, Jonathan, Sara, David and Elizabeth. Iris Pamela Gems, playwright, born 1 August 1925; died 13 May 2011

Monday, 16 May 2011

Kenyan Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru dies after fall

• 24-year-old believed to have jumped from balcony, police say
• Wanjiru won in Beijing in 2008 in Olympic record time
    Sammy Wanjiru 
    Sammy Wanjiru broke the Olympic marathon record when he won gold in 2008. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
    The Olympic marathon champion Sammy Wanjiru has been killed in a fall from a balcony at his home in Kenya following a domestic dispute, police said on Monday. Wanjiru, 24, died late on Sunday night in the town of Nyahururu in the Rift Valley, allegedly after his wife caught him with another woman. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Wanjiru became the first Kenyan to win a gold medal in the marathon, finishing in an Olympic-record 2hr 6min 32sec. His death has stunned fellow athletes. Local media reported that relatives found Wanjiru lying on the concrete floor bleeding through the mouth and ears. Police said he suffered internal injuries and was confirmed dead by doctors at a nearby hospital. Eric Kiraithe, Kenya's national police spokesman, told the Associated Press: "The fact of the matter is that Wanjiru committed suicide." The police commissioner Mathew Iteere also said initial reports indicated Wanjiru killed himself, though a local official offered a different account. Jasper Ombati, the regional police chief, told AP: "Wanjiru came home with another woman friend at around 11.30pm and then when his wife came home and found them she inquired who the lady was. They got into an argument. His wife locked them in the bedroom and ran off. "He then jumped from the bedroom balcony. He is not here to tell us what he was thinking when he jumped. We do not suspect foul play. In our estimation we think he wanted to stop his wife from leaving the compound." Ombati said Wanjiru's wife, Tereza Njeri, and his female companion are assisting police in investigating the death. The athlete had a history of domestic problems. Last December he was charged in court with threatening to kill Njeri and illegal possession of an AK-47 assault rifle. Njeri later withdrew her accusation of attempted murder against him in court, saying the couple had reconciled. But Wanjiru was due to appear in court on 23 May on the charge of illegal possession of a firearm. He also suffered minor injuries from a car crash in January when he swerved to avoid an oncoming truck, hit a pot hole and rolled his car. It was reported that some Kenyans believe Wanjiru found it hard to handle the sudden financial rewards that came with his success. He was the youngest runner to win four major marathons. In addition to the Olympics, he won in London in 2009 and Chicago in 2009 and 2010, running the fastest ever time recorded in a marathon in America. He moved to Japan at the age of 15 and won major cross country events while also competing in track competitions. Moving to Europe to advance his promising career, Wanjiru won the Rotterdam Half Marathon in 2005 in a world record time. He twice improved on that record before stepping up to the full marathon in 2007, back in Japan, winning the Fukuoka marathon. The following year he finished second in the London marathon, and then claimed the ultimate prize of Olympic gold in Beijing. A big crowd gathered around Wanjiru's house on Monday morning. The Ethiopian marathon veteran Haile Gebrselassie, a two-time Olympic champion and world record holder, said on his Twitter feed that he was "totally shocked" by the news. "My thoughts are with his family and all his friends and colleagues," Gebrselassie said. "Of course one wonders if we as an athletics family could have avoided this tragedy." The American marathon runner Ryan Hall posted on Twitter: "Incredibly sad news about Sammy. I am shocked and saddened." Britain's Mo Farah, who trained with Wanjiru in Kenya, added: "So sad to hear about Sammy Wanjiru. He was a legend and still so young."

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Derek Boogaard of the New York Rangers passes away at 28

Mike Russo of the Star Tribune reports that the Boogaard family will donate his brain to the Boston University researchers who study brain disease in athletes.

Boogaard was receiving counseling in the NHL/PA Behavorial Health/Substance Abuse Program at the time of his death.)

Terribly tragic news in the hockey world tonight as New York Rangers forward Derek Boogaard has passed away at the age of 28.

Boogaard was found dead inside his apartment in Minneapolis by family members. No cause of death is known at the moment, but an autopsy will be performed.
From the Rangers:
"Derek was an extremely kind and caring individual," said New York Rangers President and General Manager Glen Sather.  "He was a very thoughtful person, who will be dearly missed by all those who knew him.  We extend our deepest sympathies to his family, friends and teammates during this difficult time."
Late Friday, the NHLPA released a statement on Boogaard's passing:
"The NHLPA is deeply saddened by the sudden passing of Derek Boogaard. Derek was a well-liked and respected member of the NHLPA, and his passing is a great loss to the entire hockey community.  Our sincere condolences to Derek's many friends and family during this difficult time."
Boogaard played 277 NHL games between the Minnesota Wild and Rangers. He last played on Dec. 9 and missed the rest of his first season in New York with a concussion he suffered after a fight with Ottawa's Matt Carkner. Known as "The Boogey Man" for being one of the league's toughest fighters, Boogaard dropped the gloves 61 times during his six-year NHL career.

The highlight of Boogaard's first year with the Rangers was this goal against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 30 to snap a 234-game goal drought:

The Minnesota Star Tribune's Michael Russo reached out to Boogaard's former Wild teammate Niklas Backstrom upon hearing the news:
"I don't know how to describe it," said goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who sat six feet away from Boogaard in the Wild locker room for four years. "It's really hard. Unreal guy. Great friend and an awesome teammate. Just a really big teddy bear. Outside the rink, he didn't want bad for anyone."
According to the New York Daily News, the Minneapolis medical examiner did not suspect foul play and an investigation is currently underway. The autopsy results will not be known for a few weeks.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Lionel Rose

Australian boxer and the first Aborigine to win a world title
    Lionel Rose 
    Lionel Rose after his world championship win in 1968. 
    The boxer Lionel Rose, who has died aged 62 after a long illness, was the first Aboriginal Australian to win a world title. He never forgot the welcome he received when he returned to Melbourne after defeating the Japanese champion Fighting Harada in Tokyo to win the undisputed world bantamweight title in February 1968. An estimated 250,000 people lined the streets to honour their new 19-year-old champion. Scarcely believing the crowds that had gathered, Rose recalled: "I got the shock of my life, and that's a memory that will never disappear from my mind. There had only been 10 there to see us off." Seemingly, the whole country now had a hero who had sprung from the poverty typically faced by the Aboriginal population, which had long suffered discrimination and had not been allowed to vote in the whole of Australia until the 1960s. Another leading Aboriginal athlete, the 2000 Sydney Olympics 400m champion, Cathy Freeman, said after his death that Rose had "created a path for indigenous athletes to walk proudly", while the Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, spoke of him as "an Australian champion in every sense of the word and an inspiration to us all". The oldest of nine children, Rose was born and raised in the Aborigine settlement of Jackson's Track, close to the small town of Warragul, Victoria. His father, Roy, had been a fighter eking out a living on the tent-show circuit, similar to the fairground boxing booths that once prospered in Britain, taking on all-comers at big agricultural shows. Roy Rose was determined that his son should learn to fight. In those early days, the boy would have rags tied round his hands to serve as makeshift gloves, while the ring would be an area marked out by chicken wire tied between trees. He had his first gloves at 10 years old, and just five years later had shown such aptitude for the sport that he was Australia's amateur flyweight champion. Roy Rose died shortly before his son won that title. Rose turned professional in 1964 after being passed over by the selectors for Australia's boxing team for the Tokyo Olympic Games. His progress to the summit of the sport was as rapid as it was remarkable. Two defences of his World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association belts in 1968 saw Rose honoured as Australian of the Year and appointed MBE. While preparing for the second of those contests, in California, Rose met Elvis Presley, who sneaked into his gym to watch the young champion train. The astonished Rose said: "I told him I was in awe of him, and he said he was in awe of me!" Rose always loved music and was able to sing and play the guitar. An appearance on a television variety progamme in 1969 led a prominent Australian songwriter and producer to urge Rose to make records. He recorded an album, while a single, I Thank You, topped the Australian country charts for some 32 weeks. In March 1969, Rose had his toughest title defence to date when he faced the outstanding Liverpudlian Alan Rudkin. The judges made Rose the winner by majority decision, earning him the dubious reward of a fight in the US against the formidable Mexican Rubén Olivares. Rose was knocked out in the fifth round, and his days as a world champion were over. Two years later, no longer able to make bantamweight, Rose failed in an attempt to win the world lightweight title against Yoshiaki Numata of Japan, losing a points decision before announcing his retirement from boxing. After an ill-fated comeback, he retired for good in 1976 with 42 wins and 11 defeats. His popularity never lessened but, like many fighters, he had problems away from the ring. He tried to work as a musician, and owned a cafe, but suffered prolonged periods of alcoholism. In 1991, a television miniseries based on his life and a biography appeared, both entitled Rose Against the Odds. In 2005 he was honoured with a postage stamp bearing an image of his gloves. Rose suffered a stroke in 2007 that affected his mobility and speech, and had been in poor health for several months before his death. He is survived by a son, Michael, from his marriage to Jenny, which ended in divorce.   • Lionel Edmund Rose, boxer, born 21 June 1948; died 8 May 2011

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

David Cairns

Labour MP who quit as a minister rather than back Brown
    David Cairns
    David Cairns trained as a Catholic priest. 
    David Cairns, who has died aged 44 from acute pancreatitis, was the Labour MP for Inverclyde, who lost his ministerial job at the Scotland Office in 2008 after declining to express confidence in Gordon Brown's leadership. Cairns had been named in the media as a minister who was prepared to resign if Brown continued as leader. Offered the opportunity to recant publicly, he declined to do so and left the government instead, correctly predicting that the party's refusal to acknowledge the electorate's doubts about Brown's leadership would end in disaster. As Cairns pointed out, his record was of complete loyalty to the Labour party – "I am not some sectarian figure who is weaving around, dripping poison". However, having been in the forefront of a Scottish byelection campaign which Labour lost badly, Glasgow East, he knew that he must not ignore the messages from the doorsteps. No other minister followed his lead, though many shared his point of view, and the last real chance of a leadership coup petered out. Loss of ministerial office was a sore blow to Cairns, who was widely admired both as an able minister and an articulate advocate of Labour's cause, particularly in Scotland. But it was a principled decision by a principled politician. It was a matter of mutual pride to Cairns and many of his constituents that, when elected in 2001, he became the first Greenock-born MP to represent his home town, the old industrial core of the Inverclyde constituency. From a working-class background, he attended Notre Dame high school in Greenock before training for the Catholic priesthood. His education continued at the Gregorian University in Rome and the Franciscan Study Centre in Canterbury before Cairns emerged as an ordained priest in 1991. After three years of pastoral work, he became director of the Christian Socialist Movement and also of the federal body representing Labour's affiliated societies. As his direction moved towards political activism, Cairns became a parliamentary researcher in 1997 for Siobhain McDonagh, MP for Mitcham and Morden, and also a councillor in the London borough of Merton. His opportunity to enter the Commons arose when the MP for the Greenock constituency, Norman Godman, announced his intention to retire. Cairns's local credentials and passionate social commitment carried him through the selection process. However, the fact that he was still an ordained Catholic priest remained an impediment to him taking his seat when elected. McDonagh had already tried unsuccessfully to have the Clerical Disqualification Act of 1801 repealed via a private member's bill. Cairns's impending election as an MP added urgency to the need for reform and a repeal act was rushed through in 2001. After a stint at the Department of Work and Pensions as a parliamentary private secretary, Cairns was appointed in 2005 to the Scotland Office, which had been left with few powers and even less money following the devolution settlement. For a time, he also had responsibilities within the Northern Ireland Office added to his portfolio. Cairns invoked Richard Tawney, the Fabian economist and reformer, as his political hero, and this informed the causes he embraced. He was a persistent critic of the devolved administration in Edinburgh, whoever was running it, on account of its penchant for universal "free" benefits, whether higher education or prescription charges. As he pointed out, this did nothing for the poor of his constituency, who got these things free anyway, but acted as an expensive subsidy to the voters in Morningside. Cairns was an unusual MP, both through his hinterland and in the range of causes he supported. Both before he became a minister and subsequently, he was chairman of Labour Friends of Israel. The Jewish Leadership Council described him as "an exemplary public servant and staunch friend of Israel and the Jewish community". He was also chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and Aids. Cairns is survived by his partner, Dermot Kehoe, his father, John, and brother, Billy. • David Cairns, politician, born 7 August 1966; died 9 May 2011

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Cyclist Wouter Weylandt dies after Giro d'Italia crash

Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt Weylandt won a stage of last year's Giro d'Italia 
Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt has died after crashing during Monday's third stage of the Giro d'Italia.
The Leopard-Trek rider fell at high speed during a descent about 25km (15.5 miles) from the finish of the stage from Reggio Emilia to Rapallo.
The 26-year-old lay motionless and bloodied as paramedics tried to revive him using CPR and cardiac massage.
"Despite immediate treatment there was nothing we could do," doctor Giovanni Tredici told Italian television.
"He died from a fracture to the front of his skull. We arrived at the scene 30 seconds after the crash. We tried for 40 minutes to resuscitate him."
Leopard Trek spokesman Tim Vanderjeugd said: "I can confirm the death of Wouter Weylandt.
"He was taken to hospital but had already died at the scene."
An autopsy will be carried out to determine the cause of death.
Isle of Man cyclist Mark Cavendish said on Twitter: "Things like this shouldn't happen. Absolutely sick to the stomach. My thoughts are with his family. RIP Wouter Weylandt."

Wouter Weylandt facts

  • Born: 27/09/84, Ghent
  • First professional victory: GP Briek Schotte, 2005
  • September 2008: Wins 17th stage of the Vuelta a Espana from Zamora to Valladolid
  • May 2010: Wins third stage of Giro d'Italia from Amsterdam to Middelburg in Holland.
  • 2011: Joins Leopard-Trek from Quick Step
  • 9 May: Dies, aged 26, after crash on third stage of Giro d'Italia
Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong said on Twitter: "I'm shocked and saddened. May he rest in peace."
Reigning Tour de France champion Alberto Contador said: "It's a terrible story and a dark day for the cycling family.
"I want to give all my condolences to the family of Wouter and all his friends and send a message of encouragement and support to the Leopard team and the whole cycling family."
Race director Angelo Zomegnan said he had taken every possible security measure prior to the tragedy but that they would now be beefed up.
"Since the crash, we've gone to great lengths to ensure the security measures already in place are being checked and reinforced by specialist teams," said Zomegnan.
"No race in the world invests so heavily in ensuring we can come to the rescue of crash victims."
Weylandt, whose girlfriend is pregnant, moved to the Leopard-Trek team at the start of the season after turning professional with Quick Step in 2005.
Leopard-Trek general manager Brian Nygaard said: "Today, our team-mate and friend Wouter Weylandt passed away after a crash on the third stage of the Giro d'Italia.
"The team is left in a state of shock and sadness and we send all our thoughts and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Wouter.
"This is a difficult day for cycling and for our team, and we should all seek support and strength in the people close to us."
The Quick Step team said their "hearts go out to Wouter's family, friends and the colleagues of Team Leopard, in this sad, sad time".
"For all of us, Wouter was a friend before he was a colleague. We remember him as an honest man, always available with a smile on his face and forever generous towards the next guy," read a Quick Step statement.
"Wouter leaves us with a terrible sense of loss and unbearable grief. We want to remember him with arms held high, crazy with joy after a victory, like the one at Middelburg last year.
"This is the image of him that all of us will carry in our hearts forever."
The International Cycling Union added in a statement: "The UCI has heard of Wouter Weylandt's death with great sadness and president Pat McQuaid's thoughts and prayers go to the rider's family and friends, but also to the riders, who will overcame the shock to start to race again tomorrow."
Australian Stuart O'Grady and the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, were among his team-mates at Leopard-Trek.
The podium celebration at the end of Monday's stage was cancelled by organisers.
Weylandt was the first rider killed in a crash in one of cycling's three main tours since Italian rider Fabio Casartelli in the 1995 Tour de France.
He is the fourth cyclist to die during the Giro and the first in 25 years. Orfeo Ponsin died in 1952, Juan Manuel Santisteban in 1976 and Emilio Ravasio in 1986.

Monday, 9 May 2011

John Walker of The Walker Brothers dies aged 67

The Walker Brothers, left to right: John, Gary and Scott Engel at Finsbury Park Astoria in London on the start of a Pop tour on 31/03/67 The US-born Walker Brothers shot to fame in the UK in the 1960s
John Walker, one of the founders of 1960s group The Walker Brothers, has died at the age of 67.
His spokeswoman said Mr Walker died on Saturday at his Los Angeles home after a six-month battle with liver cancer.
The band was formed when three unrelated US musicians - Scott Engel, John Maus and Gary Leeds - adopted the Walker Brothers name in 1964.
Their biggest hits included the songs Make It Easy On Yourself and The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Any More).
The group's fame flourished after travelling to the UK in the 1960s and they continued to score huge commercial success in the 1970s.

The official John Walker website said it was with "deepest sadness" that it had to report John Walker passed away in his LA home on 7 May 2011.
"He was a beloved husband, brother, father, grandfather, friend, and artiste," it said.
Playing tribute to his former band member in a statement on his website, Gary Walker said it was a "very sad day for John's family, myself and all of our many fans".
"John was the founder member of the group and lead singer in the early days. He was also a fantastic guitarist which a lot of people didn't realise.
"He was a compassionate song-writer and a gentleman with lots of style.
"The three of us had the most incredible adventure together, all the time not realising that we were part of pop history in the making. His music will live on, and therefore so will John."

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Arthur Laurents

Playwright and screenwriter who wrote the book for West Side Story

Golf great Seve Ballesteros dies at 54

Seve Ballesteros lifts the Claret Jug The popular Spaniard won the Open three times 
Seve Ballesteros, one of golf's most gifted and charismatic players, has died after a long battle with cancer.
The 54-year-old passed away surrounded by his family at his home in Pedrena, northern Spain, in the early hours of Saturday morning.
Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008 after losing consciousness at Madrid Airport.
The five-time major winner had four operations to remove the tumour as well as undergoing chemotherapy.
In a statement, the Ballesteros family expressed gratitude for the "support and gestures of love" it had received and asked for "respect and privacy at such a painful time."
Archive - Seve career retrospective
Ballesteros, who claimed 87 titles over his career, won the Open in 1979, 1984 and 1988 and became the first European to win the Augusta Masters in 1980, repeating the feat in 1983.
He also enjoyed a successful Ryder Cup career as both player and captain - playing in eight Ryder Cups and winning 20 points from 37 matches before guiding Europe to victory over the United States at Valderrama in 1997.
But it was his daring and flamboyant style that made Ballesteros special, transforming the image of golf and bringing a whole new audience to the sport.
Ggolf correspondent Iain Carter said: "No golfer did more to popularise the game in Europe than Seve Ballesteros.
"He played a fearless, exciting and charismatic brand of the game. It thrilled sport fans all over the world."
"It's a sad day," world number one Lee Westwood said on Twitter. "Lost an inspiration, genius, role-model, hero and friend. Seve made European golf what it is today. RIP Seve."
Ballesteros' fellow Spaniard Sergio Garcia added: "He was a game-changer. To come from where he did and do what he did was amazing."
The European Tour will mark the loss of one of its most iconic talents with a minute's silence ahead of Saturday's third round of the Spanish Open.
The flags at Real Club de Golf El Prat will be flown at half-mast, while the players will wear black ribbons.
Tennis star Rafael Nadal described Ballesteros as a "reference point" for Spanish athletes.
"He's one of the greats of this country without a doubt," he said.
golf commentator Peter Alliss added: "He was a fighter - feisty, skilful, cheeky and loveable.

"He had hair as black as raven's wing, a wonderful set of teeth and a lovely smile. When Seve was in a good mood the world was happy. I will always remember that smile.
"He had a very sad end but I will remember all the good things."
Ballesteros sprang to prominence as a 19-year-old, finishing second to Johnny Miller at the 1976 Open and becoming the youngest winner of the Claret Jug three years later.
His final round of 70 featured an astonishing recovery shot from a car park to set up a birdie at the 16th hole.
He became the youngest winner of the Masters at the age of 23 in 1980 and made his Ryder Cup debut later that year.
Ballesteros topped golf's world rankings for 61 weeks between 1986 and 1989 and won the World Match Play Championship five times, equalling Gary Player's record.

With his game starting to decline because of back problems, Ballesteros won the last of his record 50 European Tour titles in 1995.
And although he continued playing intermittently until 2007, he was generally a pale imitation of his former self and rarely featured on leaderboards.
Ballesteros appeared in public for the first time following the surgery in May 2009 when he went to watch his local football team Racing Santander and was given a standing ovation.
In December 2009 he appeared on television to receive the BBC's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Sports Personality of the Year event from his former Ryder Cup partner - and now captain - Jose Maria Olazabal.
He had called his battle against the tumour the "hardest challenge of my life."

Friday, 6 May 2011

Dorothy Williams

Dorothy Williams 
South African police arrested teacher Dorothy Williams in the school playground – in front of her pupils
In September 1963, while teaching at Pauw Gedenk primary school in her home town of Wellington, South Africa, Dorothy Adams, who has died aged 83, was arrested under the "90-day law". Her former pupil Cudore Snell later wrote to her: "You were arrested like a criminal while we children watched you on the playground as you were put into the police van."
While in detention, Dorothy heard a fellow political prisoner whistling. She whistled back the tune of Dvorák's New World Symphony. The prisoner later mentioned this in his Jail Diary, published in 1966. His name was Albie Sachs. Many years later, in London, Dorothy was to take the stage with him after a performance at the Young Vic of David Edgar's adapation of Sachs's memoir.
Following her release in November 1963, Dorothy refused to testify against fellow members of the Cape Coloured Teachers League of South Africa and so was arrested and charged again. In August 1964 she was given a five-year banning order confining her to Wellington, which made it virtually impossible for her to earn a living. The Special Branch continued to track her movements after the ban expired, so she decided to leave South Africa. Quakers assisted in her quest, securing her a work permit, and for most of the next 20 years Dorothy worked for the Quakers in London. She was granted British citizenship in 1976. In 1986 she married my father, Frank Williams, a peace campaigner who worked at Friends House.
In 1989, based at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, Dorothy started work on a three-year project with Sachs, researching a new constitution for South Africa. Political change meant that she could return home in 1991 after 22 years in exile. In 1994, minority white rule ended. Working at the University of the Western Cape for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she continued her contribution towards peace in the new country.
In 1999 Dorothy and Frank moved back to Wellington, the first mixed-race couple to live on the street that once marked the divide between white and non-white Wellingtonians. Frank died in 2006, and Dorothy moved into a nursing home the following year. She is survived by her sister, Florence.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Last combat veteran of the first world war dies at 110

British-born Claude Choules had a 41-year military career and published his first book at the age of 108
    Claude Choules, last WWI veteran, has died
    Claude Choules at his Perth retirement home before his death.
    Claude Stanley Choules, the last known combat veteran of the first world war, died on Thursday at a nursing home in Perth, Western Australia his family have said. He was 110. "We all loved him," his 84-year-old daughter Daphne Edinger said. "It's going to be sad to think of him not being here any longer, but that's the way things go." Beloved for his wry sense of humour and humble nature, the British-born Choules nicknamed "Chuckles" by his comrades in the Australian navy never liked to fuss over his achievements, which included a 41-year military career and the publication of his first book at the age of 108. He usually told the curious that the secret to a long life was simply to "keep breathing." Sometimes, he chalked up his longevity to cod liver oil. But his children say in his heart, he believed it was the love of his family that kept him going for so many years. "His family was the most important thing in his life," his other daughter, Anne Pow, said in a March 2010 interview. "It was a good way to grow up, you know. Very reassuring." Choules was born on 3 March, 1901, in Pershore, Worcestershire, one of seven children. As a child, he was told his mother had died – a lie meant to cover a more painful truth. She left when he was five to pursue an acting career. The abandonment affected him profoundly, Pow said, and he grew up determined to create a happy home for his own children. In his autobiography, The Last of the Last, he remembered the day the first motor car drove through town, an event that brought all the villagers outside to watch. He remembered when a packet of cigarettes cost one penny. He remembered learning to surf off the coast of South Africa, and how strange he found it that black locals were forced to use a separate beach from whites. He was drawn to the water at an early age, fishing and swimming at the local brook. Later in life, he would regularly swim in the warm waters off the West Australian state coast, only stopping when he turned 100. The first world war was raging when Choules began training with the Royal Navy, just one month after he turned 14. In 1917, he joined the battleship HMS Revenge, from which he watched the 1918 surrender of the German high seas fleet, the main battle fleet of the German navy during the war. "There was no sign of fight left in the Germans as they came out of the mist at about 10am," Choules wrote in his autobiography. The German flag, he recalled, was hauled down at sunset. "So ended the most momentous day in the annals of naval warfare," he wrote. "A fleet of ships surrendered without firing a shot." Choules and another Briton, Florence Green, became the war's last known surviving service members after the death of American Frank Buckles in February, according to the Order of the First World War, a US-based group that tracks veterans. Choules was the last known surviving combatant of the war. Green, who turned 110 in February, served as a waitress in the Women's Royal Air Force. Choules met his wife Ethel Wildgoose in 1926 on the first day of his six-week boat trip from England to Australia, where he had been dispatched to serve as a naval instructor at Flinders naval depot in Victoria state. Ten months later, they were married. They would spend the next 76 years together, until her death in 2003 at the age of 98. Pow recalls that even in their final days together, they could often be spotted sitting side-by-side, holding hands. "I think it was love at first sight," Choules wrote in his autobiography. "Certainly on my part, anyway." He later joined the Royal Australian Navy and settled permanently in Australia. "I was nobody," he told Australian radio in November 2009 of his years in the UK. "But I was somebody here." He and Ethel had three children, Daphne, Anne and Adrian, now in their 70s and 80s. During the second world war, he was the acting torpedo officer in Fremantle, Western Australia, and chief demolition officer for the western side of the Australian continent. Choules disposed of the first mine to wash ashore in Australia during the war. In his 80s, he took a creative writing course at the urging of his children and decided to record his memoirs for his family. The memoirs formed the basis of his autobiography, which was finally published three decades later in 2009. He would cite the book as one of his greatest achievements. In recent years, he grew blind and nearly deaf, but his children say he retained his cheerful spirit and positive outlook on life. "I had a pretty poor start," he said in November 2009. "But I had a good finish."

Monday, 2 May 2011

British boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper dies aged 76

Henry Cooper floors Cassius Clay in 1963 Cooper famously floored Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, in 1963 

Heavyweight boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper has died at the age of 76 at his son's house in Oxted, Surrey.
The former British, Commonwealth and European champion fought 55 times and is revered for his 1963 knockdown of Muhammad Ali - then Cassius Clay.
In a statement, Ali said he would miss his "old friend", calling him "a great fighter and a gentleman".
London-born Cooper, who won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award twice, was knighted in 2000.
Alongside Frank Bruno, Tommy Farr and Lennox Lewis, Cooper is considered one of the great British heavyweights.
After an amateur career that included an appearance as an 18-year-old in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Henry and his twin brother George, who died last year, both turned professional at 20 in 1954.
He went on to enjoy a hugely successful professional career, but never won a world title and retired, aged 36, in 1971 after losing to Joe Bugner, a year after becoming the first person to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year on two occasions (1967 and 1970).
Cooper, who is the only British boxer to have won three Lonsdale belts outright, is best remembered for his
He floored the American in the fourth round with 'Enry's 'Ammer - his trademark left hook - but Ali eventually won the 1963 non-title fight at Wembley.

Ali later said on British television that Cooper "hit me so hard that my ancestors in Africa felt it".
Responding to the news of Cooper's death, Muhammad Ali said he was "at a loss for words" over the death of his friend.
"Henry always had a smile for me; a warm and embracing smile", he said. "It was always a pleasure being in Henry's company. I will miss my old friend. He was a great fighter and a gentleman."
Ali triumphed again when they boxed three years later but Cooper remained a favourite with the British public.
Cooper famously floored Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, in 1963 Following his retirement he pursued a successful career in television as a pundit and was also a published author. He was a popular captain on the BBC quiz show A Question of Sport.
Britain's world heavyweight champion David Haye used his Twitter feed to pay tribute to Cooper, who would have celebrated his 77th birthday on Tuesday.
"One of Britain's greatest sports man Sir Henry Cooper passed away today. A true warrior and great human being. Rest in Peace," Haye wrote.
Ireland's former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan told the BBC: "He was a lovely fella, and I was a personal friend of him and his wife.
"It really is tragic news for the world of boxing. What a great man he was."

Obituary: Osama Bin Laden

Click to play

Osama Bin Laden came to the world's attention on 11 September 2001, when the attacks on the United States left more than 3,000 people dead and hundreds more injured.
In a matter of three years, the Saudi-born dissident had emerged from obscurity to become one of the most hated and feared men in the world.
Osama Bin Laden was born in 1957, apparently the 17th of 52 children of Mohamed Bin Laden, a multimillionaire builder responsible for 80% of Saudi Arabia's roads.
His father's death in a helicopter crash in 1968 brought the young man a fortune running into many millions of dollars, though considerably less than the widely published estimate of $250m.
Mujahideen While studying civil engineering at King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden came into contact with teachers and students of the more conservative brand of Islam.
Through theological debate and study, he came to embrace fundamentalist Islam as a bulwark against what he saw as the decadence of the West.
The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 changed Bin Laden's life forever. He took up the anti-communist cause with a will, moving to Afghanistan where, for a decade, he fought an ultimately victorious campaign with the mujahideen.
Intelligence experts believe that the US Central Intelligence Agency played an active role in arming and training the mujahideen, including Bin Laden. The end of the war saw a sea change in his views.
Lucrative investments His hatred of Moscow shifted to Washington after 300,000 US troops, women among them, were based in Saudi Arabia, home of two of Islam's holiest places, during the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. Bin Laden vowed to avenge what he saw as blasphemy.

Rubble left by the Nairobi embassy bombing of 1998 Bin Laden was the chief suspect behind the Nairobi embassy bomb
Along with many of his mujahideen comrades, he brought his mix of fighting skills and Islamic zeal to many anti-US factions within the Middle East.
American pressure ended brief sojourns in Saudi Arabia - which removed his citizenship in 1994 - and then Sudan, and Bin Laden moved back to Afghanistan in January 1996.
The country, in a state of anarchy, was home to a diverse range of Islamic groups, including the fundamentalist Taliban militia, which captured the capital, Kabul, nine months later.
Though geographically limited, Bin Laden's wealth, increasing all the time through lucrative worldwide investments, enabled him to finance and control a continuously shifting series of transnational militant alliances through his al-Qaeda network.
Sometimes he worked as a broker, organising logistics and providing financial support. At other times, he would run his own violent campaigns.
In February 1998, he issued a fatwa - or religious edict - on behalf of the World Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders, stating that killing Americans and their allies was a Muslim duty.
'Most wanted' Six months later, two bombs rocked the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Some 224 people died and nearly 5,000 were wounded. He was indicted as chief suspect, along with 16 of his colleagues.

Smoke billows from the Twin Towers in Manhattan after the 11 September 2001 attacks The 9/11 attacks targeted New York's financial district
Almost overnight, Bin Laden became a major thorn in the side of America. A byword for fundamentalist Islamic resistance to Washington, he soon appeared on the FBI's "most wanted" list, with a reward of up to $25m (£15m) on his head.
The US fired 75 sea-launched cruise missiles into six training camps in eastern Afghanistan in a failed attempt to kill him. They missed their target by just one hour.
As well as the African bombings, Bin Laden was implicated in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, a 1995 car bomb in the Saudi capital Riyadh and a truck bomb in a Saudi barracks, which killed 19 US soldiers.
"I always kill Americans because they kill us," he said. "When we attack Americans, we don't harm other people."
In the case of the bombs in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, his words rang hollow. The vast majority of the dead and injured were African, not American.
The arrogance of wealth saw Bin Laden make the government of Kazakhstan a multi-million dollar offer to buy his own tactical nuclear weapon.
It comes as no surprise, then, that both the US and Israel are believed to have sent assassination squads after him.
Cult status Then came the events of 11 September 2001. Two hijacked aircraft smashed into, and destroyed, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York.

Bin Laden exhorting all Muslims to go to war against America in October 2001 Bin Laden exhorted all Muslims to wage war against America
Another aircraft ploughed into the Pentagon in Washington and a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Altogether more than 3,000 people died in the attacks, which led to the US-led operation against the Taliban.
Allied forces moved into Afghanistan late in 2001. At the time, it was believed that Bin Laden might have been killed during the battle for the Tora Bora cave complex.
In reality, he had slipped across the border into Pakistan, a country in which he achieved the sort of cult status usually reserved for pop stars or film actors.
In February 2003, an audio tape, purporting to be of Bin Laden, was delivered to the al-Jazeera television company.
Of the impending US-led invasion of Iraq, the voice said: "This crusaders' war concerns, first and foremost, all Muslims, regardless of whether the Iraqi socialist party or Saddam remain in power.
"All Muslims, especially those in Iraq, should launch a holy war."
The US conceded that the voice was probably Bin Laden's.
Careful timing The last known sighting of Bin Laden by anyone other than his very close entourage remains in late 2001 as he prepared to flee from his Tora Bora stronghold.
In Pakistan, he was given hospitality and shelter by some local Pashtun tribesmen loyal to the Taliban and opposed to their own government then led by President Pervez Musharraf.

Osama Bin Laden in a television grab Bin Laden has carefully timed his media appearances
The hunt for Bin Laden took a dramatic turn with the arrest in Pakistan, in 2003, of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
The head of al-Qaeda's operations and the suspected mastermind of the Twin Towers attack, it seemed as though the net had begun to close in on Bin Laden himself.
A major offensive to capture Bin Laden was launched by the Pakistani army along the Afghan border in May-July 2004.
But a year later, Mr Musharraf admitted the trail had gone cold.
Though al-Qaeda has been prolific in issuing audio messages, often on the internet and featuring the network's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, videos of Bin Laden himself have been rare.
His appearances have been carefully timed and aimed, analysts say, at influencing Western public opinion by driving a wedge between citizens and their leaders.
One such video was issued in 2004 - the same year as the Madrid bombings - and days before the US election.
A second surfaced as the sixth anniversary of the 11 September attacks approached, timed to quell rumours that he had been dead for some time.
To his supporters, Bin Laden was a fighter for freedom against the US and Israel, not, as he was to many in the West, a terrorist with the blood of thousands of people on his hands.