Lou Reed: He Walked on the Wild Side

At his best, Lou Reed was to rock music what Jean Genet was to literature – a chronicler of an unsavory, lubricious underworld who compelled us to see beauty and grace in the dissipated and disturbing. As leader of the Velvet Underground, the Brooklyn native, who died on Oct. 27 at age 71, helped provide the soundtrack for the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, artist Andy Warhol’s avant-garde multimedia scene in the late 1960s, performing songs on then-taboo topics ranging from drug use …

Bea Kozera: Jack Kerouac’s Lost Lover

If you’ve read Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On The Road, you probably remember the heart-rending section in which protagonist Sal Paradise, who’s waiting to catch a bus from Bakersfield to Los Angeles, suddenly spies “the cutest little Mexican girl in slacks coming across my sight.” Suddenly lovestruck, Sal rushes to jump instead onto the bus that the woman is boarding, and spends five minutes trying to find the courage to offer her his raincoat to use as a pillow. Sal …

Dennis Farina: He Didn’t Just Play a Detective on TV

Some actors are pretty good at playing hard-boiled, streetwise police detectives. Dennis Farina, who died on July 22 at age 69 in Scottsdale, Ariz., actually was a hard-boiled, streetwise police detective who also turned out to be a pretty good actor. The Chicago native, an 18-year veteran of his city’s police force who took up acting as a second career, was best known for his stint from 2004 to 2006 on the long-running NBC police procedural Law & Order. See also: TV …

How Professional Dog Walking Got Its Start

In 1964, then New York Times reporter and later book author Gay Talese wrote a short profile of a man who had embarked on what seemed like a unique, exotic profession. Jim Buck walked other people’s dogs – 30 or 4o of them a day – while their owners were at work. Talese marveled at how Buck – a slender 145 pounds at six feet in height – managed a 150-pound Great Dane, a pair of Labrador Retrievers, and several other dogs all …

The Oilman Who Helped Bring Us ‘Masterpiece Theatre’

In the 1970s, author and social commentator Tom Wolfe joked that the first letter in PBS stood for petroleum, because oil money underwrote so much public broadcast programming. Wolfe had a point. One of the network’s most acclaimed shows, Masterpiece (originally Masterpiece Theatre), got its start in 1971 thanks to a $490,000 grant from Mobil Oil. That largess was the doing of Mobil chairman Rawleigh Warner Jr., who died on June 26 at age 92 in Hobe Sound, Fla. The public probably …

Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland: 5 Facts About ‘Little Boy Blue’

If I had a million dollars I’d give you every, a-every dime Just to hear you call me, “Bobby,” one more time. That’s what Bobby “Blue” Bland sang in his trademark 1958 single, “Little Boy Blue,” which unveiled his trademark vocal style: a restrained, silky-smooth crooner’s delivery, punctuated at the right moment by a high-pitched, pleading squall. It fused the earthy raw power of rural blues singers such as Robert Johnson with the jazz-inflected urbanity of Nat King Cole. And …