RIP, Sir Terry Pratchett

Giants once walked amongst us, and few were more funny and insightful than the author Terry Pratchett, who died today at age 66 (much, much too young) from Alzheimer’s disease.

Truth be told, ol’ ‘Grain preferred reading Pratchett over Douglas Adams (similarly satirical), heresy as that might be.

If you are a fan, please feel free to reminisce in the comments, and if Pratchett was not on your reading list, get thee to the library—get thee hence!—and find a new favorite author. I highly recommend Good Omens (which he wrote with Neil Gaiman), which is probably the funniest Apocalypse story ever told.

RIP Leonard Nimoy

He was 83, and so much more than Spock. Thank you for inspiring so many of us nerds, generations of us.

RIP Leslie Gore

Well, it was her party and she could cry if she wanted to. Lesley Gore will always be associated with that novelty song. (And the much lesser known follow-up, Judy’s Turn To Cry, in which she wins Johnny back from that tramp.) All of this campy music actually hides the life of a pretty good song writer and a long-time out lesbian.

Holy Catnip, Batman! Did you know she was on Batman?! She played one of Catwoman’s minions, Pussycat, who knew?

I think she lived a pretty full life, just being herself and tonight in Heaven there will be one of the best sock-hops in all of Eternity.

RIP, Joe Cocker

Giants walked amongst us…

There is no doubt in my mind that Cocker was one of the greats, I think he’s Janice Joplin revisited and sort of represented what she would have become if she had not burned out so long ago. There’s something about people who are so moved by the music that their whole body performs, and they become the instrument itself.

I first became a Cocker fan listening to the Woodstock album, which my sister Ninegrain played nonstop—she was the hippie wannabe kid, but we were born too late and missed it. Whenever his raspy version of the Beatles’ With a Little Help From My Friends played, I would become electrified. When I learned later that he was a Brit, he fascinated me even more. How does a Brit sing the Blues even better than an American? I mean, we invented the Blues!

On the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon front, Mike’s Blog Round Up, the feature at Crooks and Liars where I can sometimes be found (this week, by the way) is named for Mike Finnigan, who is/was Joe Cocker’s keyboardist on the organ. When Mike began touring full-time with Joe Cocker he left MBRU; I was his last guest blogger. So that’s two degrees, right?

Joe Cocker will be missed, but I bet he’s filling a stadium in Heaven right now.

It’s In The Stars

Nancy Reagan glamor couch

Nancy Reagan is having a bad week. First she loses Oscar De La Renta the designer (and the only straight man to put clothes on her), and now she has lost her astrologer, San Francisco heiress and socialite Joan Quigley.

In his 1988 memoir, For The Record, Donald T. Regan, a former chief of staff for St. Ronnie, revealed what he called the administration’s “most closely guarded secret.” Quigley was kept on a $3,000 month retainer and conversed with Nancy up to three times daily, and had set the time for summit meetings, presidential debates, State of the Union addresses, etc. Without an O.K. from Quigley, Regan said, Air Force One did not take off.

Needless to say, Regan was Nancy’s arch nemesis.

Once again, we turn to The Clothes Have No Emperor, by Paul Slansky (Buy this book, you will love it; oh and the author is a Scissorhead and has given me permission to excerpt it as long as there is a link to buy it.)

“5/8/88
Donald Regan’s memoir, For the Record, exposes Nancy Reagan’s secret obsession with astrology, which led her to consult a stargazing “friend,” San Francisco heiress Joan Quigley, before approving her husband’s schedule. “Feb 20-26 be careful,” Quigley would warn. “March 19-25 no public exposure … April 21-28 stay home.” Among the other highlights:
*Nancy’s comment about Raisa Gorbachev after an evening in which she held forth on Marxist-Leninist theory (“Who does that dame think she is?”)
*Her efforts to keep abortion out of Presidential speeches (“I don’t give a damn about those right-to-lifers!”)
*Her insistence that Casey be fired as he lay dying of cancer (“He’s dragging Ronnie down!”)
*The President’s reaction when fire broke out in his study (“He continued reading … until guards asked if he wouldn’t like to move while they put out the fire. He hadn’t wanted to bother anybody.”)

Actually sounds like the Regan book might be fun, too.

RIP, Ben Bradlee

The legendary editor of the Washington Post has died.

Our condolances go out to his family, and to Sally Quinn who is a sometimes target here. When she writes her story—and you know she will—it will be a worthy read.

Fashion Week Continues!

With fashionably cut black clothes, we regret to report that Oscar De La Renta has died at the age of 82. Fashionistas will miss him.

“America has lost a brilliant, enduring talent and a true gentleman,” [Nancy] Reagan, one of the first ladies the designer dressed, said in a statement. “Oscar was a fashion legend but he was also my friend for nearly 50 years.”

Reagan called de la Renta a “kind, gracious individual with a generous spirit who brought beauty and elegance to everything he touched.”

Yes, De La Renta was one of the designers who “loaned” Nancy Reagan his clothes at $0 cost, and she took ’em:

“Press secretary Sheila Tate says that Nancy Reagan “has derived no personal benefit” from her acceptance of thousands of dollars worth of clothing from American designers, explaining that the First Lady’s sole motive is to help the national fashion industry. So, getting fabulous clothes for free should not be considered a “personal benefit.”


Excerpt From: Paul Slansky. “The Clothes Have No Emperor.” (Buy it, you’ll love it!)

And who knows how much of a benefit De La Renta got when Nancy wore that little Wilma Flintstone number to the inaugural ball?

nancy-reagan-just-say-no

The uproar over Gowngate and the White House china service is believed to have created the need to rehab the former first lady and ultimately gave birth to The War on Drugs.

Mr. De La Renta was a talented designer, and will be missed.

RIP, Jan Hooks

Jan Hooks was one of the really great comics of our time.

It’s not just that she was funny, but she was funny in a collaborative way; there was a generosity to her work (as there usually is from people who come from improv: you have to give the next comic something to work with) and I think she always loved her characters, which I am convinced is what separates artists from the rest of us.

The New Yorker has a tribute up with some highlights linked, including what I think is the definitive Hooks:

It would be easy to overplay that scene and make the tour guide seem demented or worse. And by the end of it when she thanks the tourists, you almost suspect that the guide means it. It’s that kind of sweetness that Jan Hooks always brings to her characters that takes a throw-away, one-joke setup and makes it art.

Hooks will be missed.

RIP, Joan Rivers

Another comedy legend has gone to the two-drink minimum in the sky following a surgery. And yeah, her last years were not her finest, but she remained true to herself until the very end.

It is not an overstatement to say that if there had been no Joan Rivers, there would be nowhere near the number of fearless female comics as there are today. Rivers busted that glass ceiling in such a way that it could never, ever be put back together again.

I hope when she arrived at the Pearly Gates, God said to her, “Can we talk?”