Leslie E. Robertson, 92, structural engineer of the World Trade Center whose work came under intense scrutiny after the complex was destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, died Thursday at home in San Mateo, California. He was in his early 30s and something of an upstart when he and his partner were chosen to design the structural system for what were then, at 110 stories, the tallest buildings ever built.
Larry Flynt, 78, notorious pornographer and self-proclaimed champion of First Amendment freedoms who built his sprawling business interests on the hard-core raunch and grotesque parody of Hustler magazine, died Wednesday at home in Los Angeles.
Repeatedly sued, prosecuted, jailed for contempt, gagged for obscene outbursts in court and, in 1978, shot and paralyzed by a would-be assassin, Flynt always thrived on controversy. After the shooting, he used a wheelchair, gold-plated and velvet-lined to his specifications. His checkered life spawned several books, including an autobiography, and a movie, “The People vs. Larry Flynt,” directed by Milos Forman, co-produced by Oliver Stone and starring Woody Harrelson in the title role.
Chick Corea, 79, an architect of the jazz-rock fusion boom in the 1970s who spent more than a half century as one of the foremost pianists in jazz and amassed 23 Grammy s in his career, died Tuesday at home in Tampa, Florida. The cause was cancer.
Corea’s best-known band was Return to Forever, a collective with a rotating membership that nudged the genre of fusion into greater contact with Brazilian, Spanish and other global influences. It also provided Corea with a palette on which to experiment with a growing arsenal of new technologies.
A number of his compositions, including “Spain,” “500 Miles High” and “Tones for Joan’s Bones,” have become jazz standards, all defined by his dreamy but brightly illuminated harmonies and his ear-grabbing melodies. He gigged and recorded with some of the leading names in straight-ahead and Latin jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz, Mongo Santamaria and Sarah Vaughan. But it was playing in Miles Davis’ ensembles that set Corea on the path that would most define his role in jazz. He played the electric piano on Davis’ “In a Silent Way” (1969) and “Bitches Brew” (1970), the albums that sounded the opening bell for the fusion era.
Mary Wilson, 76, a founding member of the Supremes, the trailblazing vocal group that had a dozen No. 1 singles on the pop charts in the 1960s and was a key to the success of Motown Records, died Monday at her home in Henderson, Nevada. The cause of death was not available.
Formed in Detroit as the Primettes in 1959, the Supremes, whose other two original members were Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, made their mark with hits like “Baby Love” and “Stop! In the Name of Love” whose smooth blend of R&B and pop helped define the Motown sound. She was the only original member still with the Supremes when the group broke up in 1977. But in the meantime, the Supremes opened the doors for other Motown acts. The Supremes were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Joe Allen, 87, who parlayed a modest pub bearing his name on the edge of Manhattan’s theater district into a restaurant empire that at its height stretched as far as Paris, died Feb. 7 at an assisted living facility in Hampton, New Hampshire. When he opened Joe Allen in 1965, the neighborhood was close to a then-squalid Times Square, but his two restaurants Joe Allen and Orso, next to each other on West 46th Street, would help it become known as Restaurant Row while attracting a star-studded list of Broadway regulars, including Al Pacino, Stephen Sondheim, John Guare and Elaine Stritch, with whom Allen was romantically involved for a time.
George Shultz, 100, who presided with a steady hand over the beginning of the end of the Cold War as President Ronald Reagan’s often-embattled secretary of state, died Feb. 6 at his home in Stanford, California.
He carried a weighty résumé into the Reagan White House, with stints as secretary of labor, budget director and secretary of the treasury under President Richard Nixon. He had emerged from the wars of Watergate with his reputation unscathed, having shown a respect for the rule of law all too rare in that era. At the helm of the treasury, he had drawn Nixon’s wrath for resisting the president’s demands to use the IRS as a weapon against his political enemies.
As secretary of state for six and a half years, Shultz was widely regarded as a voice of reason in the Reagan administration as it tore itself asunder over the conduct of U.S. foreign policy. He fought “a battle royal” in his quest to get out the facts, as he later testified to Congress during the Iran-Contra affair. Estranged from the White House, Shultz threatened to resign three times.
MaMaria Guarnaschelli, 79, an indomitable cookbook editor who forged a new canon of kitchen classics and brought her exacting tastes — both literary and culinary — to undertakings including a massive update of the time-honored tome “Joy of Cooking,” died Feb. 6 in Manhasset, New York. The cause was complications of heart disease.
Guarnaschelli was widely recognized as one of the most influential forces in the world of cookbook publishing, cultivating writers whose cooking guides became mainstays of American kitchens. Her reputation grew along with their success..” She earned the devoted loyalty of many of her writers, who over the years included Jeff Smith of the “Frugal Gourmet” franchise and Rose Levy Beranbaum, author of “The Cake Bible” (1988) and other baking classics.
Leon Spinks, 67, who won Olympic gold and then shocked the boxing world by beating Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight title in only his eighth pro fight, died Feb. 5 in the Las Vegas area. He had been battling prostate and other cancers.
Spinks beat Ali by decision in a 12-round fight in 1978 to win the title. He was unranked at the time, and picked as an opponent because Ali was looking for an easy fight. “It was one of the most unbelievable things when Ali agreed to fight him because you look at the fights he had up to then and he was not only not a top contender but shouldn’t have been a contender at all,’’ promoter Bob Arum said.
Emil Freireich, 93, a physician-scientist who helped engineer effective treatments for childhood leukemia at a time the disease was considered a death sentence, an advance that magnified the promise of chemotherapy and was credited with saving tens of thousands of lives, died Feb. 1 in Houston. He had COVID-19.
James E. Gunn, 97, became so emboldened when his first two stories were published that he went on to make science fiction his career. He edited 10 anthologies of science fiction and wrote about 30 books, including his last novel, “Transformation,” in 2017, and some 100 short stories, including one he submitted shortly before he died in Lawrence, Kansas, on Dec. 23. His death was not widely reported.