Archive for February, 2009

Θωμάς Μώλος – ζωγράφος, γλύπτης, μακετίστας και γραφίστας

Φτωχότερη η εικαστική οικογένεια

Εφυγε χτες το βράδυ από τη ζωή, σε ηλικία 88 χρόνων, ο ζωγράφος, γλύπτης, μακετίστας και γραφίστας, Θωμάς Μώλος. Αυτοδίδακτος δημιουργός, με πενηντάχρονη πορεία στο χώρο των εικαστικών τεχνών, διακρίθηκε για την αγωνιστικότητά του, τη σεμνότητα και το ήθος του. Γεννημένος το 1921 στα Μέγαρα Αττικής, μεγάλωσε με τα ιδανικά της Εθνικής Αντίστασης και δεν υποχώρησε ποτέ από τις αξίες και τα πιστεύω του. Πάντα στο πλάι του Κόμματος. Στη ζωγραφική δημιουργία του «ξεδιπλώνεται» η ανθρώπινη ιστορία. Τα ιδανικά της Αντίστασης, οι μαύρες μέρες της εξορίας, αλλά και ερεθίσματα από την πρόσφατη ιστορία (παιδιά Παλαιστίνης, πόλεμος στο Ιράκ κ.ά.).

Από την πλούσια δραστηριότητα που ανέπτυξε στο χώρο της γλυπτικής, σημειώνουμε τις τοποθετήσεις γλυπτών σε δημόσιους χώρους (Μνημεία Εθνικής Αντίστασης σε πολλές περιοχές). Ξεχωριστή ήταν η προσφορά του στην επιμέλεια των εξωφύλλων του περιοδικού «Εθνική Αντίσταση», την εικονογράφηση βιβλίων και τη φιλοτέχνηση μεταλλίων συλλόγων και δήμων. [Ριζοσπάστης, 25/02/2009]

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February 25, 2009 at 4:20 am Leave a comment

Christopher Nolan. Writer with cerebral palsy who won the Whitbread with Under the Eye of the Clock

Christopher Nolan in 1988

Christopher Nolan in 1988. Photograph: News (UK)/Rex Features

Cerebral palsy meant that the Irish writer Christopher Nolan, who has died aged 43, could neither speak nor control his hands. His parents and elder sister, however, helped him – when he was 11 – with an ingenious typing system, and the words bubbling in his mind were uncorked. He soon had enough material for a first book, Dam-Burst of Dreams (1981). At the age of 15 he was highly praised by the Tennyson scholar Christopher Ricks and the Milton scholar John Carey, who called the book “a jubilant, lawless debut” in which Nolan had “plummeted into language like an avalanche, as if it were his one escape route from death – which, of course, it was”.

Nolan gave the rest of his life to writing. In Under the Eye of the Clock (1987) he described his own life; another 10 years’ effort brought a substantial saga, The Banyan Tree (1999), drawing on some of his family’s history as small-time farmers. His father Joseph partly worked as a psychiatric nurse and on the land in Mullingar, County Westmeath, where Nolan was born.

He had been awkwardly positioned in the womb; efforts to adjust this caused a loss of vital oxygen. Although his brain was damaged, Nolan would not remain the perpetual infant that one doctor dismayingly predicted. As Nolan later wrote, he composed poems in his mind at three. He thought his father at heart a storyteller and wrote of farm life that “everything emanates from the kindly kitchen” run by his mother Bernadette, who realised in 1971 that they needed to move into Dublin for his sake.

After attending the Central Remedial Clinic school, he went to Mount Temple comprehensive. Other pupils, assuming he could not understand them, sneered, and one boy let the air out of his wheelchair’s tyres. The teacher asked Nolan to indicate the suspect by a nod. She then improvised a classroom trial; when the jury could not agree, the miscreant settled matters by getting a pump – and a friendship was born. Nolan’s charm was “accept me for what I am and I’ll accept you for what you’re accepted as”. He took part in as much school life as possible, even appearing in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

One teacher’s poetry reading was a particular inspiration; so was a priest as steeped in PG Wodehouse as he was in holy writ. Nolan was aware that centuries had seen “crass crippled men dashed, branded and treated as dross in a world offended by their appearance”; kept out of sight, such people had been denied everything which his family insisted he should share with them: a list of these included feeling “the cold nervous heartbeat of a damp frog”.

After considerable struggle, partly eased by newly available Lioresal tablets which temporarily relax the neck muscles, he could use a pointer strapped to his forehead – his “unicorn”. While this tapped at a typewriter, his mother held his head. As he put it, he now “gimleted his words into white sheets of life”, which was “a glorious bountiful nightmare”. He particularly enjoyed Gerard Manley Hopkins’s adjectival compounds and sprung rhythm. Typing may have been slow, but the coining of such phrases as “sugarstick fate”, “frescoed fear” and “hollyberried imaginings” appear in a Hopkins-like cascade.

After local publicity, his story was picked up by the BBC and the Sunday Times. Lord Snowdon photographed him, and Edna Healey, a judge for a literary contest organised by the Spastics Society (which in 1994 became Scope: for People with Cerebral Palsy), said on the Radio 4 news that his poetry “was the highspot of my year”.

Dam-Burst of Dreams followed. It included poems, letters, notebook entries, stories, a short play and an autobiographical fragment related in the third person as Joseph Meehan. His mother commented that they are, “meant to give aural pleasure. I discovered that truth each time he begged me to read over and over again the sentence which he had just typed, while he sat, head averted, listening intently to the sounds and effects of his words”. When the first copy arrived, his splayed fingers dropped it on the kitchen floor.

Considerable publicity was gratifying and fatiguing. One American journalist insinuated that he had a ghost writer. Disgusted, brooding, Nolan asked his father, while out, to take him inside a church. In front of a lifesize crucifix, he swung his left arm in a two-fingered gesture. He felt better for that – and then, on a much-needed holiday at Great Skellig, forgave the journalist (and his Maker).

He began studying at Trinity College, Dublin. Much as he enjoyed immersion in Shakespeare, EM Forster, DH Lawrence and Christopher Marlowe, he needed time for his own work, and left to work on Under the Eye of the Clock. An exultant advance upon his first book, it won the 1987 Whitbread prize and is a classic autobiography. He had to keep in his head a vocabulary that makes the rest of us glad that we can reach for a dictionary.

Its success (which included a stage version in 1988) brought the family a new, bayside home in Dublin. After meeting Nolan in 1980, Phil Odor, from Edinburgh University, had developed a typing program for early home computers. That helped others, but a typewriter suited Nolan’s creative rhythm. It took a decade to produce the 150,000 words of The Banyan Tree. Although it seemed more muted than his earlier work, this farming saga’s strength has now become apparent; rich in adjectives, it should not be taken at a clip but savoured for such detail as a second twin’s “adder-like” birth.

At work on a new novel, a continual letter-writer, he died suddenly. His tremendous legacy of hope inspired stadium rockers U2’s Miracle Drug (2004). Another song, however, encapsulates his great humour: although aware that his own legs would collapse under him, he relished Nancy Sinatra’s version of These Boots are Made for Walkin’.

He is survived by his parents and sister.

• Christopher Nolan, writer, born 6 September 1965; died 20 February 2009

February 23, 2009 at 10:55 am Leave a comment

Snooks Eaglin, R&B Singer and Guitarist, Dies at 72

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The R&B singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin, who counted platinum-selling rockers among his fans, died here Wednesday. He was 72.

Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Snooks Eaglin in 2001.

The cause was a heart attack he suffered after falling ill and being hospitalized last week, said John Blancher, a family friend. Mr. Eaglin learned he had prostate cancer last year.

Musicians including Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Robert Plant and Bonnie Raitt would seek out Mr. Eaglin to watch him perform, Mr. Blancher said. But New Orleans musicians knew him best.

“He played with a certain finger style that was highly unusual,” said the pianist Allan Toussaint, who was 13 when he formed a band with Mr. Eaglin. “He was unlimited on the guitar. Folks would assume, ‘I can do this or I can do that,’ but Snooks wouldn’t. There was nothing he couldn’t do. It was extraordinary.”

Mr. Eaglin was scheduled to perform this year at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, where he was a popular draw. Quint Davis, the event’s producer, said his death leaves a hole in the festival and also in the city’s music scene.

“His death is like losing a Dizzy Gillespie, a Professor Longhair, a Johnny Adams or a Gatemouth Brown,” Mr. Davis said. “He’s one of those unique giants of New Orleans music.”

Mr. Eaglin was known for picking strings with his thumb nail. He played and recorded with New Orleans musicians including Professor Longhair, the Wild Magnolias and others. Blind from the time he was a young child, Mr. Eaglin was a self-taught musician who learned to play the guitar by listening to the radio. Playing the guitar with his thumb nail allowed him to perform very fast, Mr. Davis said.

One of Mr. Eaglin’s best-known songs was “Funky Malaguena,” a Latin song that he played with an unconventional funk and blues spin, Mr. Davis said.

Mr. Eaglin is part of 50 years’ worth of New Orleans recordings, from early folk to R&B and jazz, Mr. Davis said. “He played a six-string, a 12-string,” he said. “He could play anything with strings on it.”

The jazz bassist Peter Badie, who played with Mr. Eaglin in the 1960s at clubs on Rampart Street, said that “a lot of cats tried to copy him, the way he attacked the strings, but they couldn’t.”

  • Mr. Eaglin’s survivors include his wife of more than 30 years, Dorothea Eaglin, and a daughter.

February 20, 2009 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

Snooks Eaglin

Singer and guitarist considered a giant of New Orleans music

The New Orleans singer and guitarist Snooks Eaglin, who has died aged 73, was a star in his home town’s musical firmament for more than 50 years. He played and recorded with fellow locals Ellis Marsalis, James Booker, the pianist and producer Allen Toussaint and the Wild Magnolias, and was sought out by visiting rock eminences including Paul McCartney, Robert Plant, Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt.

“His death,” said Quint Davis, producer of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival, “is like losing a Professor Longhair, a Johnny Adams or a Gatemouth Brown. He’s one of those giants of New Orleans music.”

Eaglin burst on to the international folk scene in the early 1960s with a handful of astonishing albums, drawn from tape recordings made by the folklorist Harry Oster and issued on folk “documentary” labels like Folkways, Folk-Lyric and Heritage. They revealed him as a kind of human jukebox, dispensing blues, country music, gospel songs, hits from the recent R&B charts, jazz standards and even exotica, all played in rich, orchestral arrangements for six- or 12-string guitar and sung in a husky voice seamed with emotion.

The British blues band leader Alexis Korner described him as “a young man with virtually unlimited musical possibilities … he approaches music through melody rather than harmony, [resulting] in a complete freedom of movement, and in a sense of dynamics too often lacking in current blues and jazz guitarists.” Korner coupled him with Wes Montgomery as the two most exciting jazz guitarists to have been heard since the 1940s.

These first recordings appeared to some listeners to locate Eaglin as a young African-American committed to fine old acoustic music rather than the noisy vulgarity of R&B. Since his early teens he had played in a band, the Flamingos, with Toussaint, and at 17 contributed the guitar part to Jock-O-Mo, a local hit by the singer-pianist Sugar Boy Crawford. In the 1960s, as European blues enthusiasts were marvelling at his unplugged music, he made a series of forceful R&B singles accompanied by members of Fats Domino’s orchestra. He would return to funky band music in the late 1970s and 80s.

Blinded by glaucoma in early childhood, Eaglin listened intently to music on the radio and developed a remarkable command of the guitar. “He played with a certain finger style that was highly unusual,” said Toussaint. “He was unlimited on the guitar. It was extraordinary.”

He spent some time at the Louisiana School for the Blind in Baton Rouge, but dropped out to work in music full-time. After his spell with the Flamingos he worked under the billing “Lil’ Ray Charles”, and when Oster first encountered him he was singing on the streets of the French Quarter.

His nickname was derived from the mischievous character Baby Snooks, from a 1940s radio show. Although albums such as New Orleans Street Singer attracted attention outside New Orleans, they did little for his job opportunities in the city. He played for a few years in the house band at the Playboy club, but by the late 1960s, he had practically retired. When the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage festival began in 1970, however, he was drawn back into playing, and a couple of LPs for Sonet in 1971 and 1977 refreshed his reputation in the larger world.

In the 1980s and 90s, he made five albums for the New Orleans label Black Top – one of them recorded in concert in Japan – on which he was backed by many of New Orleans’ leading session musicians. These revealed him as an even more extensively talented player than his early recordings had implied. He continued to vary his material, interspersing blues and R&B songs with Dan Penn’s elegiac Nine Pound Steel, the pop-mambo of Perfidia and the funk of the Isley Brothers’ It’s Your Thing.

“The reason I cover so much ground,” he said in a 1989 interview, “is that when you play music, you have to keep moving. If you don’t, you’re like the amateur musicians who play the same thing every night, which is a drag. That’s not the point of music.” He was said to know 2,500 songs.

Though reclusive and at times eccentric, Eaglin was always ready to perform at the festival, and was one of the annual event’s major draws. “More celebrities came to see Snooks than anyone,” says John Blancher, manager of the venue Mid-City Lanes Rock n’Bowl. “His reputation was as big as anyone’s in New Orleans. And he wouldn’t travel, so if you wanted to see Snooks you had to come to Rock n’Bowl.”

Blancher recalls that at the 2000 festival, Bonnie Raitt came to hear Eaglin, who called out from the stage, “Listen to this, Bonnie! You gonna learn something tonight, girl!” In 2008, Eaglin was diagnosed with prostate cancer, and he made his last public appearance, at the Mid-City Lanes, in July.

He is survived by his wife Dorothea, whom he met at a Mardi Gras engagement in 1958, his daughter, stepson and two stepdaughters.

• Fird (Snooks) Eaglin, singer and guitarist, born 21 January 1936; died 18 February 2009

February 20, 2009 at 10:22 am Leave a comment

Dana Vavrova: Czech film star who esteemed in Germany and Austria

The Czech child star Dana Vavrova became one of the most popular actresses on German and Austrian television. The price of her success was a lifelong battle against her Czech accent, German TV viewers being no more enamoured of foreign accents in native roles than anyone else. With iron discipline and unusual humility she took elocution lessons until the final weeks of her terminal illness.In her teens she also took intensive drama tuition, for she soon realised that luck in the film and television world is fickle and transitory. And to give her a chance of converting teenage talent into adult stardom, she needed training and constant coaching. The films crews that worked with her came to admire her unfailing professionalism in the studio and on location.

She first attracted notice at 14 when she played the part of a Jewish teenager rescued from certain death in the Warsaw ghetto by Catholic nuns and hidden in their orphanage. Millions of viewers were moved by her performance, and she won two of Germany’s most coveted film awards, the Adolf Grimme and Golden Camera prizes.

One of her first adult roles was a small part in Milos Forman’s hugely successful Amadeus. Her first big hit came in the popular Herbstmilch (Autumn Milk) produced by Josef Vilsmeier in l988. She went on to marry Vilsmeier and had three children by him. She also starred in his chief productions, including Stalingrad, Comedian Harmonists and Schlafes Bruder (The Brother of Sleep).

Under his direction the range of her roles widened from the grandes dames of previous ages to earthy peasants and bitchy prima donnas of the latter decades of the 20th century and the early years of the 21st. And with each new part she managed to widen her popularity. Her last role as a refugee in Die Gustloff added a haunting quality to the glamour of her established stardom.

She is survived by Vilsmeier and their three daughters.

  • Dana Vavrova, television actress, was born on August 9, 1967. She died of cancer on February 6, 2009, aged 41

February 20, 2009 at 10:09 am Leave a comment

Charles H. Schneer: Film producer who worked with Ray Harryhausen

February 20, 2009 at 10:05 am Leave a comment

Dilys Laye: actress known for comic roles in the Carry On films

(Harry Gillard / Adder Productions / Kobal Collection)

Laye with Kenneth Williams in a scene from Carry on Spying (1964).

She never tired of relating Carry On anecdotes

Dilys Laye was one of Britain’s most experienced comedy actresses, best known for her appearances in the Carry On films. But she was equally adept in straight roles, notably with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and she was a seasoned musical star, having appeared in the original Broadway production of Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend, opposite Julie Andrews.

Although she made only four Carry On films — Carry on Cruising (1962), Spying (1964), Doctor (1967) and Camping (1969), the series made her an international star and she never tired of talking with fans about the films. In Carry on Doctor, she played the diminutive hospital patient Mavis Winkle, the unlikely love interest of towering 6ft 6in Bernard Bresslaw and two years later she was reunited with him, again playing his girlfriend, this time as permanently car-sick Anthea Meeks. Laye clearly enjoyed working on the series, despite the low pay and often grotty locations — Carry on Camping was filmed in the middle of winter in a snowy field. She said of her years at Pinewood Studios: “The Carry On team were an elite. It was like being at school and we belonged there.” She remained great friends with all the cast, notably Sid James who taught her to play poker on the set of Carry on Camping.

Born Dilys Lay (she added an “e” when she became an actress) in London in 1934, she was the daughter of Edward Lay and his wife Margaret (née Hewitt). Educated at St Dominic’s Convent, Harrow-on-the-Hill, northwest London, she trained for the stage at the Aida Foster School and made her first appearance as a child in 1948 as Moritz in The Burning Bush at the New Lindsey Theatre. The following year she appeared in Trottie True in Brian Desmond Hurst’s music-hall film starring Jean Kent.

Her gift for comedy was noticed during the early 1950s when she began appearing in a series of then hugely popular intimate West End revues, including High Spirits, For Amusement Only and Intimacy at 8.30 in which she starred alongside such performers as Ian Carmichael and Cyril Ritchard.

She made her Broadway debut in 1954 as Dulcie in The Boy Friend after which she returned to Britain to play in both West End and provincial theatre comedies and musicals.

In 1957 she played Mrs Herbert in the film Doctor at Large, opposite Dirk Bogarde and James Roberston Justice. In the 1960s she had established herself as a leading comedy actress on television, appearing regularly in series such as the BBC’s Comedy Playhouse. In 1967 she had a small role in Charlie Chaplin’s romantic comedy film A Countess from Hong Kong.

For much of her career the theatre remained her first love and she showed her versatility as an actress when she joined the RSC in the 1970s playing roles such as Maria in Twelfth Night and the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet. She frequently played leading roles in musical comedy and in recent years had topped the bill in touring productions of Sweeney Todd, The Pirates of Penzance, Fiddler on the Roof and 42nd Street. Trevor Nunn cast her as Mrs Pearce in the 2007 Drury Lane revival of My Fair Lady.

She also won critical acclaim for roles such as Mrs Bransom in Terry Hands’s production of Night Must Fall (Theatr Clwyd), Mrs Medlock in the RSC production of The Secret Garden, and Charlotta in The Cherry Orchard (Salisbury Playhouse). At the Haymarket Theatre, Leicester, she recently played the Queen and Coral Browne in Alan Bennett’s Guy Burgess-inspired drama Single Spies. In 1981 she wrote and appeared in the ITV sitcom Chintz, which also starred Michele Dotrice.

Laye almost never stopped working and had been seen on television in recent years in Midsomer Murders, Holby City and EastEnders, in which she played Maxine Palmer.

She numbered among her hobbies driving, crochet and knitting.

Her husband, Alan Downer, died in 1995. She is survived by her son, the theatrical agent Andrew Downer.

  • Dilys Laye, actress, was born on March 11, 1934. She died of cancer on February 13, 2009, aged 74

February 20, 2009 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

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