Saturday, March 17, 2012

This week in death

It's been another big week in death, obit fans. No big names, but some truly big characters left this world this week.

Let's start with Lord Revelstoke, shall we? Born James Baring and later the 6th Lord Revelstoke, he was a daredevil flyer, owned a recording studio used by (among others) the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, and Jimi Hendrix, and a consultant to the Oxford Refugee Council.  Other than that, he led a rather ordinary life.

loved the crazy tale of Raymond Scott, "a self-professed Ferrari-owning connoisseur of vintage champagne, beautiful girls and Cuban cigars, [who] sparked a literary sensation in 2008 when he claimed to have unearthed an unknown 1623 First Folio of the collected plays of Shakespeare." By a remarkable coincidence, a strangely similar 1623 First Folio had been stolen 10 years earlier from Durham University, 10 miles from his mother's house. He claimed it had been given to him by the friend of his true love, a dancer he had met in Cuba. So that seems like a reasonable alibi, then. Can't think why that didn't cut the mustard.

Then there's Mira Hamermesh, a documentarian whose own life was just as harrowing as the ones she documented.  Born in Poland in 1923, she fled ahead of the Nazis and got to Palestine.  Both her parents stayed in Poland and died.  She went on to make films about the untouchable caste in India and women living under apartheid in South Africa. As the Telegraph puts in, "her documentaries had explored virtually every regime of oppression except for the Holocaust." Finally, in 1991, she created a film about trying to find her mother's grave in Warsaw, called Loving the Dead.

In baseball news, umpire Harry Wendelstedt died last Friday.  As the head of the Al Somers Umpire School, he is responsible for every bad call made by an umpire.  Seems reasonable, doesn't it?

I was sad to hear about the death of Donald Smith, champion of Cabaret, as the Times puts it.  He created the Mabel Mercer Foundation to promote cabaret singing as an art form, "partly Mr. Smith’s response to obituaries and tributes that misleadingly described Ms. Mercer as a jazz singer." Ah, those obits, meddling in people's lives. Good work, sir, and here's hoping your good work continues.

Last but certainly not least, the tea world lost a giant this week in the death of Noble Fleming, official tea taster for Lipton for almost 50 years. "For decades, starting as a teenage apprentice, Mr. Fleming traveled to tea estates of 1,000 acres or more — primarily in India, Sri Lanka and East Africa — searching for varieties with specific tastes in the way an oenologist knows a chateau wine." I raise my Darjeeling to you, sir.

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