Jack Riley played Elliot Carlin, the neurotic patient on The Bob Newhart Show. Irving Fields played piano and wrote such lounge music as "Managua, Nicaragua," as well as recording Jewish comedy songs. Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis was a Shoah survivor who went on to found Hineni, a major center for bringing people back to their Jewish heritage. John McLaughlin hosted a political talk show. Joe Sutter was the chief designer of the Boeing 747. Doris McLemore was the last fluent speaker of the Wichita language. Fred Hellerman had been the last surviving original member of The Weavers.
Bigger news, of course, is the death of Gene Wilder. Most of the news stories highlighted his performance as Willy Wonka, but I think his best work was for Mel Brooks, in The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein. He had a distinctive comic style, which I sometimes found a bit too manic for my tastes, but was often genuinely funny. I am, by the way, rather peeved about people saying that now he is reunited with Gilda Radner. He had been married twice before her and, more significantly, remarried after her death. Karen Boyer was with him for the last 20-something years, including caring for him after he was stricken with Alzheimer’s. It is pretty offensive to ignore that.
In the world of politics, Islam Karimov was the "president" (really dictator) of Uzbekistan. I have a particular fascination with Central Asia, with Samarkand and Bukhara high on the list of places I want to visit, so it will be interesting to see what happens there now that he is dead.
Finally, Phyllis Schlafly was a conservative activist. One is not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but I will make an exception in her case to point out her hypocrisy in opposing women’s rights while working as lawyer herself. The thing I think is most memorable about her is her fictional debate with Joanie Caucus in the Doonesbury comic strip. I consider that a reason not to wear salmon. (Aside from, of course, the fact that I look terrible in salmon.) Anyway, she was pretty much opposed to everything I believe in, so I wish her politics vanished with her. But I have little hope of that.
A Political Mini-Rant: I am mildly annoyed to see t-shirts and such that advertise the Democratic candidate as Hillary, vs. Clinton (or, preferably, using her full name). It seems to me disrespectful to call a woman by her first name, while a male candidate is referred to by his surname. I do realize that part of the advertising is to distinguish her from Bill, but that sort of distinction wasn’t really used in the case of the younger Bush.
Cirque du Soleil – Kurios: I went to see the current Cirque du Soleil show at Tyson’s Corner with a couple of friends on Friday night. Kurios has a definite steampunk aesthetic in its design of sets and costumes, with the usual exquisite attention to details that Cirque is known for. That makes it more than just the incredible acrobatics, though the circus skills are decidedly impressive. For example, the guy who balances on a board stacked on balls and cylinders, including a bit on a moving swing, was very impressive. And the trampoline group was breathtaking. More surprisingly, the contortionists were showy without being creepy. The only act I didn’t particularly care for was a mime act in which a woman from the audience was pulled on stage to sit on a sofa while the mime acted out various animals. All in all it was an excellent show. I did wish I had realized how close the tent was to the metro station, as I could have saved myself $25 in parking.
Jelly’s Last Jam: Saturday I saw Jelly’s Last Jam at Signature Theatre. It was rather different from what I was expecting. I assumed it would be more or less a jukebox musical, highlighting Jelly Roll Morton’s songs. While it did have several of his songs, the show was much darker, focused on his own ambiguity about race, with his claims to have been a Creole and not an African-American, leading to his racist behavior towards people who should have been his friends and supporters. That gave the show a lot more depth and I thought it was well worth seeing. I also want to note the performance of Mark Meadows in the title role. He is known as a jazz musician and, while he had not acted previously, I thought he was convincingly expressive. I was also impressed by Felicia Boswell as Anita. I was less impressed with my seat, which was in the nightclub section on the floor, making it awkward to see some of the action.
My Birthday: I made it to 58. I didn’t really do anything to celebrate my birthday. Well, I did go to knitting group, avoid housework for the day (after being fairly productive at home on Saturday), and eat chocolate lava cake for dessert.