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Showing posts from March, 2021

Nicola Pagett - An Obituary

Nicola Pagett – Actress Born June 15, 1945; died March 3, 2021    Nicola Pagett, who has died of a brain tumour aged 75, was an actress whose refined presence lent itself to numerous aristocratic roles over a distinguished high profile thirty year stage and television career . She first came to prominence in Upstairs Downstairs, Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins’ cross class early twentieth century set TV drama that ran from 1971 to 1975. Pagett played Elizabeth Bellamy, the rebellious daughter of Lady Marjorie Bellamy and her Conservative MP husband Richard. During her time in the show, Elizabeth flirted with socialism, became a suffragette, and married a sexless poet before being dispatched to America following Pagett’s departure after two series’.    Pagett went on to play the title role of Anna Karenina in a ten-part BBC adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s novel that saw her make Tolstoy’s free spirited heroine her own.  “There's nothing remotely ethereal or delicate about me,”  Pagett told

Yaphet Kotto - An Obituary

Yaphet Kotto – actor   Born November 15, 1939; died March 15, 2021    Yaphet Kotto, who has died aged 81, was an actor whose commanding presence came to prominence when he played dictator Dr Kananga, the nemesis of James Bond in Live and Let Die (1973). As the film’s chief villain, Kotto’s character disguises himself as New York drug lord Mr Big. If some scenes looked straight out of the blaxploitation handbook, any badass attitude was upended during Kananga’s final tussle with Roger Moore’s Bond, when his body inflated like a balloon  after he swallowed a gas pellet  and exploded.   Kotto later made a more heroic appearance as doomed engineer Parker in Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott. By that time he had been Emmy nominated as best supporting actor for his portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin opposite Peter Finch and Charles Bronson in TV film, Raid on Entebbe (1976).   Latterly, Kotto became best known for his long-term tenure in Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1999), as

John Russell - An Obituary

John Russell – Guitarist Born December 19, 1954; died January 18, 2021   John Russell, who has died aged 66, was a pioneering guitarist, who dedicated himself to free improvisation, both in his own playing, and in organising platforms for his peers, live and on record. Russell’s own music, played primarily on an acoustic guitar, was a concentrated, spacious and always exploratory experience, both solo and in numerous collaborations over the last half-century. These ranged from veteran saxophonist Evan  Parker to former Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore, taking in the likes of sax player Lol Coxhill, trumpeter Henry Lowther and vocalist Maggie Nicols en route.   In 1981, Russell founded Quaqua, a large pool of improvising musicians, put together in different combinations and contexts.  A decade later, Russell began Mopomoso, which went on to become the longest running concert series for primarily improvised music.         The name for Mopomoso came from taking the first two letters o

Margaret Mitchell - Passage

Walls are everywhere in Margaret Mitchell’s collection of photographs of her extended family in Stirling, an ancient limbo of sorts that exists more or less equidistant from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Doors and windows too. Together, they look out on other worlds beyond while at the same time hemming in those who occupy them.    Drawn from two series’ of images taken more than two decades apart, the story these pictures tell of Mitchell’s nieces and nephews as both children and adults with their own broods is a deeply personal family portrait. In its everyday evocation of still lives getting by in spite of everything, it also highlights the social and economic barriers that exist, and which continue to worsen to a dangerously damaging degree.     The first part of the book, Family, dates from 1994, when Mitchell’s sister Andrea and her three children, Steven, Kellie and Chick, were living in a flat in The Raploch, an area of high socio-economic deprivation. The second part, In This Place,

Lawrence Ferlinghetti - An Obituary

Lawrence Ferlinghetti – Poet, publisher, bookseller, painter, activist   Born March 24, 1919; died February 22, 2021      Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who has died aged 101, was an American literary revolutionary, who opened out the world of books to all. As a poet, his work possessed a pared-back directness and Zen simplicity. Ferlinghetti wrote for the tongue as much as the page, and delivered his words in energetic singsong tones that paved the way for spoken word scenes to come. His 1958 collection, Coney Island of the Mind, sold more than a million copies. He once said that ‘art should be accessible to all people, not just a handful of highly educated intellectuals’.   As a bookseller, Ferlinghetti’s shop, City Lights, adopted a similarly egalitarian, open-all-hours approach that made it the nexus of San Francisco’s underground Beat scene in search of late night literary fixes. City Lights was the first shop to sell cheap paperback editions of quality literature in much the same way Jim

Johnny Rogan - An Obituary

Johnny Rogan – Music biographer Born February 14, 1953; died January 21, 2021   Johnny Rogan, who has died aged 67, was a prodigious and prolific biographer of rock and pop icons, who wrote a plethora of exhaustive tomes on subjects ranging from The Byrds to Van Morrison, Wham! and The Smiths. Rogan’s studies often ran to hundreds of pages, leaving no stone unturned in their forensic and sometimes unflattering portraits of his subjects. While the rabbit holes Rogan jumped down came from his unadulterated passion for music, his extensive portraits of the procession of mavericks that fascinated him were the polar opposite of PR driven cut and paste hagiographies.   Nowhere was this more evident than in Morrissey & Marr: The Severed Alliance (1992), Rogan’s unflinching account of the demise of The Smiths. This prompted a slighted Morrissey to declare his disdain for the book in typically melodramatic fashion. “Personally,” he spat, “I hope Johnny Rogan ends his days very soon in an M3

Gerry Cottle - An Obituary

Gerry Cottle – Circus impresario Born April 7, 1945; died January 13, 2021    Gerry Cottle, who has died aged 75 after contracting COVID-19, was an irrepressible showman, whose decision as a teenager to run away and join the circus became a marker for his entire life. From his beginnings as a suburban kid in a humdrum town, he went on to own the biggest travelling circus in the UK.    At his 1970s peak, Cottle also provided the Big Top venue for BBC TV’s 1970s Saturday night variety show, Seaside Special, which he also hosted. As with his entire career, he did this without pretentions, retaining the enthusiasm that first inspired his life-long move into circus.    Cottle was quick as well to move with the times, always one publicity stunt ahead of the rest. Prior to pioneering the UK’s first animal free circus, he won a case against Edinburgh Council regarding the use of wild animals on city land. In the end, only a duck that quacked in time with a trombone remained in his show, before

Nick Godfrey – Precious Recordings of London

When legendary radio DJ John Peel sadly passed away in 2004, one of his many legacies was the welter of more than 4,000 radio sessions recorded exclusively for his late night radio show. Many more were recorded for Peel’s fellow BBC Radio 1 DJs, including Janice Long. While some of the artists behind the sessions went on to mainstream success, often the most interesting ones showcased were those who never crossed over, but whose work makes up what are arguably far more valuable artistic statements of their time.   One of the conduits for that was Alan McGee’s Creation label, about to be immortalised in Creation Stories, the McGee-based biopic that premiered at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival. As with Peel, Creation similarly left behind a significant catalogue that went way beyond the hits.    While Creation wasn’t based in Scotland, many of its acts were from here, with Glasgow born McGee arguably copping his moves from Postcard, Fast Product and other indie labels that seized the m

William Link - An Obituary

William Link – TV and film writer and producer Born December 15, 1933; died December 27, 2020     William Link, who has died aged 87, was the co-creator of one of the most iconic characters to ever shuffle on to a television screen. With Columbo, Link and long-term collaborator Richard Levinson found that the shabby Los Angeles police lieutenant famously brought to life by actor Peter Falk had a mass appeal that made him a people’s hero.    Link and Levinson based their cigar-chomping blue-collar detective partly on Porfiry Petrovitch, the chief investigator in Dostoyevsky’s novel, Crime and Punishment, partly on G.K. Chesterton’s Father Brown. Dressed in a dirty raincoat and in a seemingly permanent befuddled state, Columbo was a deceptively shrewd figure.    Despite being patronised by the high-flying felons he brought to book in a show that subverted the murder mystery genre by revealing the killer at the top of the show, Columbo’s forensic tenacity paid off. With a casual “Just one

Charlotte Cornwell - An Obituary

Charlotte Cornwell – Actress   Born April 26, 1949; died January 16, 2021      Charlotte Cornwell, who has died aged 71, was an actress of fearlessness and class, who combined tenures with the Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre with a TV career that tapped into a more contemporary grit. Beyond acting, as a political activist and champion of justice, she was, as fellow actor Ian McKellen described her in a tribute on Twitter, ‘indomitable’.   Cornwell found fame in Rock Follies (1976), Howard Schuman‘s Fringe theatre styled musical drama that charted the fortunes of girl group, The Little Ladies.  Cornwell played Anna, the most strident and driven of the group, which also featured Julie Covington as the punky Dee and Rula Lenska as the aristocratic Q.    With a soundtrack of songs scored by Andy Mackay of Roxy Music performed by the programme’s three lead actresses, the show broke TV’s largely naturalistic mode. This helped it win three BAFTAS, while its soundtrack album top