Hugh Downs, 99, the genial, versatile broadcaster who became one of television’s most familiar and welcome faces with more than 15,000 hours on news, game and talk shows, died of natural causes at his home in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Wednesday.
Guinness World Records recognized Downs as having logged more hours in front of the camera than any television personality until Regis Philbin passed him in 2004.
He worked on NBC’s “Today” and “Tonight” shows, the game show “Concentration,” co-hosted the ABC magazine show “20/20” with Barbara Walters and the PBS series “Over Easy” and “Live From Lincoln Center.”
Carl Reiner, 98, the ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” died Monday night at his home in Beverly Hills, California.
One of show business’s best liked men, the tall, bald Reiner was a welcome face on the small and silver screens, in Caesar’s 1950s troupe, as the snarling, toupee-wearing Alan Brady of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and in such films as “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming” and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
In recent years, he was part of the roguish gang in the “Ocean’s Eleven” movies starring George Clooney and appeared in documentaries including “Broadway: Beyond the Golden Age” and “If You’re Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast.”
Films Reiner directed included “Oh, God!” starring George Burns and John Denver; “All of Me,” with Martin and Lily Tomlin; and the 1970 comedy “Where’s Poppa?” He was especially proud of his books, including “Enter Laughing,” an autobiographical novel later adapted into a film and Broadway show; and “My Anecdotal Life,” a memoir published in 2003. He recounted his childhood and creative journey in the 2013 book, “I Remember Me.”
Johnny Mandel, 94, the Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer, arranger and musician who worked on albums by Frank Sinatra, Natalie Cole and many others and whose songwriting credits included “The Shadow of Your Smile” and the theme from the film and TV show “M*A*S*H,” died Monday of a cardiac ailment at his home in Ojai, California.
Mandel was among the last of the great songwriters to emerge in the pre-rock ‘n’ roll era, his career dating back to the 1940s, and he enjoyed a long and diverse career. He played trombone and trumpet with such big band and jazz artists as Jimmy Dorsey and Count Basie and spent two years in the 1950s arranging music for Sid Caesar’s landmark TV sketch program “Your Show of Shows.” He collaborated on songs with Johnny Mercer, Paul Williams and the husband and wife team Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Artists recording his material ranged from Marvin Gaye to Stan Getz to Barbra Streisand.
Hachalu Hundessa, 34, a prominent Ethiopian singer, songwriter and activist whose protest music galvanized members of the country’s largest ethnic group — the Oromo — was shot dead in the capital, Addis Ababa, late Monday night, sparking protests in a nation taking stuttering steps toward establishing a multiparty democracy.
The killing drew condemnation from Ethiopian officials and citizens both inside and outside the country, with many remembering how his songs encouraged the country’s ethnic Oromo group to fight against repression. Even though they are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromos have long complained of economic and political marginalization.
“Hachalu was the soundtrack of the Oromo revolution, a lyrical genius and an activist who embodied the hopes and aspirations of the Oromo public,” said Awol Allo, a senior law lecturer at Keele University in England who has written extensively about Hundessa’s music.
Rudolfo Anaya, 82, a writer who helped launch the 1970s Chicano Literature Movement with his novel “Bless Me, Ultima,” a book celebrated by Latinos, died Sunday at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, after suffering from a long illness. Literary critics say his World War II-era novel about a young Mexican American boy’s relationship with an older curandera, or healer, influenced a generation of Latino writers because of its imagery and cultural references that were rare at the time of its 1972 publication.
Mr. Anaya used his fame to start a creative-writing program at the University of New Mexico and opened up a retreat in Jemez Spring, New Mexico, for aspiring Latino writers.
Milton Glaser, 91, a graphic designer who changed the vocabulary of American visual culture in the 1960s and ’70s with his brightly colored, extroverted posters, magazines, book covers and record sleeves, notably his 1967 poster of Bob Dylan with psychedelic hair and his “I (HEART) NY” logo, died June 26, his 91st birthday, in New York. The cause was a stroke.
Glaser brought wit, whimsy, narrative and skilled drawing to commercial art at a time when advertising was dominated by the severe strictures of modernism on one hand and the cozy realism of magazines like The Saturday Evening Post on the other.
“I (HEART) NY,” his logo for a 1977 campaign to promote tourism in New York state, sketched on the back of an envelope with red crayon during a taxi ride, became an instantly recognized symbol of New York City, as recognizable as the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty.
Thomas E. Blanton Jr., 82, the last of three one-time Ku Klux Klansmen convicted in a 1963 Alabama church bombing that killed four Black girls, died of natural causes at the Donaldson Correctional Facility near Birmingham on June 26.
In May 2001, he was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison for the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Sen. Doug Jones, who prosecuted Blanton, said the fact Blanton remained free for almost 40 years after the bombing “speaks to a broader systemic failure to hold him and his accomplices accountable.”
The church bombing, exposing the depths of hatred by white supremacists as Birmingham integrated its public schools, was a tipping point of the civil rights movement. Moderates could no longer remain silent, and the fight to topple segregation laws gained new momentum.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, 92, Harvard psychiatry professor who became a leading proponent of legalizing marijuana after his research found it was less toxic or addictive than alcohol or tobacco, died June 25 at home in Newton, Massachusetts.
Anders Ericsson, 72, cognitive psychologist who demystified how expertise is acquired, suggesting that anyone can become a grand chess master, a concert violinist or an Olympic athlete with the proper training and the will, died of a blood clot June 17 at home in Tallahassee, Florida.
One of his best-known studies involved violinists at the Academy of Music in Berlin in which he discovered that what separated the violinists’ skill levels was not natural-born talent but the hours of practice they had logged since childhood. The elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice. The same study was conducted with pianists, with similar results. Published in 1993 in Psychological Review, the paper later formed the basis for the so-called 10,000-hour rule described in Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers,” which holds that it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a skill or field.
John J. Mooney, 90, an inventor of the catalytic converter, the small and ubiquitous device that makes the engines that power everything from cars to lawn mowers less polluting and more fuel efficient, died of complications from a stroke June 16 at home in Wyckoff, New Jersey.
After earning a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees, he went on to receive 17 patents during his 43-year career with Englehard in Iselin, New Jersey (now the Catalyst Division of the German chemical manufacturer BASF). Among them was the three-way catalytic converter, which has been described by the Society of Automotive Engineers as among the 10 most important innovations in the history of the automobile. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that tailpipe emissions from the newest passenger cars, SUVs, trucks and buses generate about 99% less smog-producing exhaust and soot than those from the 1970 models did.