exordia

"By writing or reading obituaries, we can discover ways to make our time on earth more worthwhile, more productive, more meaningful to others."
Alana Baranick, "Life on the Death Beat"


"'I always read the obituaries in The Times,' I explained to her. 'They make me bloody glad to be alive.'"
John Mortimer, "Rumpole's Return"

Juanita Boisseau

The last surviving dancer from the Cotton Club -- via the Daily Mail.

Mark "Bam Bam" McConnell

Drummer -- via loudwire.com.

Kathi Kamen Goldmark

Author, columnist, publishing consultant, radio and music producer, songwriter, and musician -- via the San Francisco Chronicle.


William Hanley

Writer for stage and television -- via Playbill.


Steve Rhea

Former drummer for Big Star -- via bizjournals.com.

Steeve Hurdle

Guitarist -- via loudwire.com.

Holly Henson

Stand-up comic and theater director -- via the Pioneer Press

Lise London aka Elizabth Ricol

Activist, freedom fighter and writer -- via the Independent.

Pierre Magnan

Writer -- via the Telegraph.

Cassandra Jardine

Journalist -- via the Telegraph.

Kaneto Shindo

Film director and screenwriter -- via asiaone.com. One of Japan's great film figures, he started as an assistant to Mizoguchi, then collaborated with Yoshimura. On his own, he made such great movies as "Children of Hiroshima," "The Naked Island," "Onibaba," "Kuroneko," and "Postcard."





Howie Richmond

Music publisher -- via the New York Times. He helped make hits of many big-band tunes, "Music! Music!Music!," "The Thing," "Goodnight, Irene," and many others, representing artists such as Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Kurt Weill, Shel Silverstein, Bill Evans, the Who, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd. He also founded the Songwriters Hall of Fame. A beautifully written obit by one of the best in the biz, Margalit Fox.


Zita Kabatova

Actress -- via tyden.cz.

Alexey Vanin

Actor -- via gazeta.ru. He was in one of my favorite recent Russian films, "Okraina (Outskirts)."

Claudia Laffranchi

Writer, reporter, director, producer and film festival host -- via mediabistro.com.

Mindy Stover

Actress -- via the Sacramento Press.

Jerry Krantz

Owner of the great Denver jazz dive El Chapultepec -- via the Denver Post.



The first thing Jerry Krantz ever said to me was, “Get the hell out of my bar!”

I was 18; my friends and I were wandering around what was then the bad part of Denver, looking for trouble. Back then, everything northeast of 18th Street consisted of dive bars, flophouses, pawn shops and empty storefronts. Hoboes still hung out in the rail yards, and camped in the brush along the Platte. The age of LoDo redevelopment was decades away.

We heard the sound of jazz coming out of the scruffy-looking, neon-bracketed entryway at 1962 Market Street and walked in. El Chapultepec was and still is an L-shaped, low-ceilinged womblike structure with an elaborate bar, flanked by a rank of banquettes on each side. The floors are tiled chessboard black and white, and the space between the booths and the bar is narrow (were there ever enough seats? The floor was always packed with standees, the barmaids wrassling their way back and forth to the booths with drinks). At the end of one arm of the L is the world’s tiniest performing area, which somehow accommodates a piano and a few chairs.

For the first time in my life, I saw and heard people making spontaneous music. We had been “exposed” to jazz in school, but this was a condescending, boring exercise that inspired nobody.

This was exciting, though. We pushed our way into the back of the crowd. Jerry, however, had a psychic sense of how old someone was, and of course we hadn’t the guile to try to dress older, or the balls to dispute him. We got the hell out of his bar and, like many other overflow patrons, stood out on the sidewalk, listening.

El Chapultepec is housed in a building more than 100 years old. Its unsavory early history includes duty as a sometime haven for a “floating brothel” named the Silver Dollar Hotel – presumably the cost of a good time back then.

On July 4, 1933, Tony Romano opened Tony’s Restaurant there. Jerry married Tony’s daughter Alice and started working there in 1958; he took over the place in 1968 and after a time began offering free nightly jazz there. It’s been much the same since, and now Jerry’s daughter Angela runs the place.

Jerry passed away Tuesday morning, and most of the copy about him emphasizes his crustiness, and he was indeed one tough customer. However, he loved jazz and wanted us to love it, too. When we came back to hear the music the next time, he gruffly told us we could sit in the back room and listen, where underagers were welcome.

There were rickety wooden booths there, next to the noisy kitchen, and we spent many, many nights there eating Jerry’s greasy Mexican food, sipping Cokes and dodging out of the way of the pool cues (improbably, a billiard table was crammed into the center of the tiny space, necessitating that diners sometimes lean back or crowd over to accommodate the stroke of players on some long carom shots).

And we listened. Once again, stories tell of how “everyone” in jazz stopped in to the Pec to perform, including Sinatra, Bennett, and my hero, Artie Shaw. I never ran into a one of them. Instead, I heard the locals, the regulars, those without a big name or following who simply, night after night, explored the music and made fascinating, beautiful improvisations. This taught me more about jazz and the strangely disciplined indiscipline of art made off the top of the head than anything else has.

Now I’m a graybeard who writes about a lot of things, including jazz. Hopefully, I have sent some customers and potential fans his way. You could do much worse than to spend a night standing in the crowd on the parquet floor, listening to the music. Thanks, Jerry.








Arthel Lane "Doc" Watson

One of the greatest guitarists, singers and songwriters in the American country, folk and bluegrass musicians . . .   and a sweet human being -- via the New York Times.












Carrie Smith

Singer -- via the New York Times.


Gulumbu Yunupingu

Artist and healer -- via the Australian.

Henry Denker

Novelist, playwright, screenwriter -- via the New York Times.

Hal Jackson

Pioneering African American radio host, talk-show host, sportscaster, TV host, emcee, historian and station owner -- via the New York Daily News.






Anthony J. Confessore aka C.C. Banana

Music fan and character extraordinaire -- via loudwire.com.

Paul Fussell

Literary historian, cultural critic and harrowingly honest debunker of the glories of war -- via the New York Times.

George F. Blackburn aka Led Zeppelin II

Rock aficionado -- via the Chicago Tribune.

Al Gordon

Comedy writer for radio and TV -- via the New York Times.


Robert Nix

Drummer, most notably with the Atlanta Rhythm Section -- via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Eddie Blazonczyk

Grammy-winning polka master -- via the Chicago Tribune.

Eugene Polley

Engineer and inventor -- via the L.A. Times. Created the remote control.



John Claus von Dohlen Jr

Penned his own obit, and did quite well -- via the Victoria Advocate.

John "Jack" D. Mooney

Restaurateur -- via the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Samuel J Porcello

Principal scientist for Nabisco; "Mr. Oreo" -- via the New York Daily News.


Paul Comeau

Chef and cultural leader -- via the Halifax Herald News.

Crawford Greenewalt Jr.

Archaeologist; excavator of Sardis -- via the New York Times. In a way, he was an obituarist for an ancient society and metropolis. His discovery and analysis of the skeleton of the stone-wielding soldier in the city's walls gave us a portrait of a soul from 2,700 years ago --




Frank Parr

Cricket player and jazz trombonist -- via the Guardian. Check the expression on his face -- sheer bliss. Lovely.




Alan Oakley

The man who designed the Raleigh Chopper bicycle -- via the Telegraph.

Archie Peck

Croquet champion -- via the New York Times.



Thad Tillotson

Former MLB pitcher -- via Bill Schenley and alt.obituaries.com.