obituaries

The Oilman Who Helped Bring Us ‘Masterpiece Theatre’

Posted on 07/2/2013 by | Who's News | Comments

LegacyIn 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’

Posted on 06/25/2013 by | Who's News | Comments

LegacyIf 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 …

Slim Whitman: The Haunting High Tenor of Country

Posted on 06/19/2013 by | Who's News | Comments

LegacyWere you a late-night television-watching insomniac in the early 1980s? If so, you undoubtedly remember all those commercials that peddled “Not Sold in Any Store!” record albums and cassette tapes by a singer you’d never heard of whose most distinguishing features were a pencil-thin mustache, outlandishly flared sideburns and a towering lacquered widow’s peak. He  warbled country ballads in a mellifluous high voice, occasionally breaking into a full-throttle yodel that put Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music to shame. …

The Behind-the-Scenes King of Comedy

Posted on 06/17/2013 by | Who's News | Comments

LegacyBernard “Bernie” Sahlins, co-founder of Chicago’s Second City theatrical troupe, wasn’t a comedian himself. But thanks to him, we’ve all had a lot of laughs over the past few decades. Without Sahlins, who died on June 16 at age 90 in Chicago, George Wendt — best known for his role as Norm Peterson in the iconic 1980s-early 1990s sitcom Cheers — might have abandoned comedy and perhaps even become an accountant. As Wendt recently recalled, after he and other Second City newbies in the …

Bob Thompson: He Made Music to Sip Martinis By

Posted on 06/10/2013 by | Who's News | Comments

LegacyTo embrace the swinging bachelor lifestyle touted in Playboy magazine in the late 1950s and early ’60s, you needed a few accessories to set a properly free-spirited, licentious ambiance. They included a cocktail shaker, a turtleneck to wear inside your button-down shirt and the just-invented Lutron dimmer switch to turn the lights down low. You also needed some records that would show off the utter aural magnificence of your top-of-the-line hi-fi, and that’s where arranger, composer and bandleader Bob Thompson came …

Esther Williams: Who Says Mermaids Aren’t Real?

Posted on 06/6/2013 by | Who's News | Comments

LegacyYou don’t have to watch a recent controversial cable TV documentary about mermaids to see convincing visual evidence that the mythical creatures might actually exist. Just rent a few of Esther Williams’ classic Hollywood aquatic musicals — Bathing Beauty, Neptune’s Daughter and Million-Dollar Mermaid, to name a few — in which the teenage national swimming champion turned glamorous actress thrilled 1940s and 1950s moviegoers with her graceful underwater maneuvers and lithe, shapely figure. But for fate, Williams, who died on June …