Saturday, July 30, 2011

This week in death, July 30

Let's start with Hazel Toepfer (no relation). Last Sunday at coffee hour, someone told me she'd seen this obituary and wondered if there was any connection. Alas, no, for she sounds fascinating. In fact, I aspire to BE Hazel Toepfer...except I think it's too late for me to join the Navy. I can still join the Peace Corps after I retire, though.

I thought the obituary for James T. Molloy, the last Doorkeeper for the House of Representatives, was a fascinating study of "how'd you get THAT job?"
As a young man, Mr. Molloy worked at grain elevators and for the Buffalo Fire Department to pay his way through Canisius College, from which he graduated in 1958. He joined a local Democratic club and became a protégé of Joseph Crangle, chairman of the Erie County Democratic Party. In 1969, Mr. Crangle helped him get a job as chief disbursing officer in the House of Representatives. He had been the House’s chief finance officer for two years when he was elected doorkeeper.
“I had an uncle who had a saloon on Seneca Street that was a focal base for politics — Fuzzy Molloy, of all names,” he told The Buffalo News. “I had another uncle who was the Democratic chairman in Lackawanna. So politics was kind of a family business with us.”
Good old Uncle Fuzzy.

It is also worth noting that the position was eliminated in 1994 as a cost-cutting measure. Understandable, I think, though he did much more than the title suggests.

The New Kobbe's Opera BookI only saw the obituary for George Lascelles, the Earl of Harewood, this week in the NY Times, but I like the opening they reference from an earlier one in The Guardian better: "George Lascelles, the seventh Earl of Harewood, who has died aged 88, was unusual for a member of the royal family in deserving a substantial obituary on account of what he did rather than who he was." Namely, as a promoter of opera in England, including founding Opera magazine and editing and revising Kobbe's Complete Opera Book.

Finally, I was intrigued by this obituary for Polly Platt who is praised "for her ability to spot things that would translate well to the screen." Things like, say, Matt Groening's underground comic Life in Hell, which eventually became The Simpsons.

I'm pleased that her marriage to Peter Bogdanovich is duly noted but incidental except as it relates to her own skills and contributions, such as bringing the novel The Last Picture Show to his attention. The obit writer duly notes the irony of that decision. Indeed, I don't see how one could resist. But the fact that Bogdanovich is noted as "Ms. Platt's second husband" seems different from the obituaries in which a woman is noted because she was married to a Great Man. At any rate, she deserves an obit in the Times for her own contributions and gifts; that's certainly how I read it.

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