Category Archives: OBITUARY

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Maya Angelou 1928 – 2014 From poetry to brothels…

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Love Liberates

“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.'” — Dr. Maya Angelou
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NEW YORK (AP) — Maya Angelou was gratified, but not surprised by her extraordinary fortune.

“I’m not modest,” she told The Associated Press in 2013. “I have no modesty. Modesty is a learned behavior. But I do pray for humility, because humility comes from the inside out.”

Her story awed millions. The young single mother who performed at strip clubs to earn a living later danced and sang on stages around the world. A black woman born poor wrote and recited the most popular presidential inaugural poem in history. A childhood victim of rape, shamed into silence, eventually told her story through one of the most widely read memoirs of the past few decades.

Angelou, a Renaissance woman and cultural pioneer, has died, Wake Forest University said in a statement Wednesday. She was 86. Angelou had served as a professor of American studies at the school since 1982. Angelou had been set to appear this week at the Major League Baseball Beacon Awards Luncheon, but canceled in recent days citing an unspecified illness.

Tall and regal, with a deep, majestic voice, she was unforgettable whether encountered through sight, sound or the printed word. She was an actress, singer and dancer in the 1950s and 1960s and broke through as an author in 1970 with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which became standard (and occasionally censored) reading and made Angelou one of the first black women to enjoy mainstream success. “Caged Bird” was the start of a multipart autobiography that continued through the decades and captured a life of hopeless obscurity and triumphant, kaleidoscopic fame.

The world was watching in 1993 when she read her cautiously hopeful “On the Pulse of the Morning” at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. Her confident performance openly delighted Clinton and made publishing history by making a poem a best-seller, if not a critical favorite. For President George W. Bush, she read another poem, “Amazing Peace,” at the 2005 Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the White House. Presidents honored her in return with a National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor. In 2013, she received an honorary National Book Award.

She called herself a poet, in love with the “sound of language,” ”the music in language,” as she explained to The Associated Press in 2013. But she lived so many lives. She was a wonder to Toni Morrison, who marveled at Angelou’s freedom from inhibition, her willingness to celebrate her own achievements. She was a mentor to Oprah Winfrey, whom she befriended when Winfrey was still a local television reporter, and often appeared on her friend’s talk show program. She mastered several languages and published not just poetry, but advice books, cookbooks and children’s stories. She wrote music, plays and screenplays, received an Emmy nomination for her acting in “Roots,” and never lost her passion for dance, the art she considered closest to poetry.

“The line of the dancer: If you watch (Mikhail) Baryshnikov and you see that line, that’s what the poet tries for. The poet tries for the line, the balance,” she told The Associated Press in 2008, shortly before her 80th birthday.

Her very name as an adult was a reinvention. Angelou was born Marguerite Johnson in St. Louis and raised in Stamps, Ark., and San Francisco, moving back and forth between her parents and her grandmother. She was smart and fresh to the point of danger, packed off by her family to California after sassing a white store clerk in Arkansas. Other times, she didn’t speak at all: At age 7, she was raped by her mother’s boyfriend and didn’t talk for years. She learned by reading, and listening. She thought that having turned him in was the reason he had been killed. Feeling she had caused his death by speaking, she did not speak again for years.

“I loved the poetry that was sung in the black church: ‘Go down Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,'” she told the AP. “It just seemed to me the most wonderful way of talking. And ‘Deep River.’ Ooh! Even now it can catch me. And then I started reading, really reading, at about 7 1/2, because a woman in my town took me to the library, a black school library. … And I read every book, even if I didn’t understand it.”

dancerAt age 9, she was writing poetry. By 17, she was a single mother. In her early 20s, she danced at a strip joint, ran a brothel, was married, and then divorced. But by her mid-20s, she was performing at the Purple Onion in San Francisco, where she shared billing with another future star, Phyllis Diller. She also spent a few days with Billie Holiday, who was kind enough to sing a lullaby to Angelou’s son, Guy, surly enough to heckle her off the stage and astute enough to tell her: “You’re going to be famous. But it won’t be for singing.”

After renaming herself Maya Angelou for the stage (“Maya” was a childhood nickname, “Angelou” a variation of her husband’s name), she toured in “Porgy and Bess” and Jean Genet’s “The Blacks” and danced with Alvin Ailey. She worked as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Council, and lived for years in Egypt and Ghana, where she met Nelson Mandela, a longtime friend; and Malcolm X, to whom she remained close until his assassination, in 1965. Three years later, she was helping King organize the Poor People’s March in Memphis, Tenn., where the civil rights leader was slain on Angelou’s 40th birthday.

“Every year, on that day, Coretta and I would send each other flowers,” Angelou said of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006.

Angelou was little known outside the theatrical community until “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” which might not have happened if James Baldwin hadn’t persuaded Angelou, still grieving over King’s death, to attend a party at Jules Feiffer’s house. Feiffer was so taken by Angelou that he mentioned her to Random House editor Bob Loomis, who persuaded her to write a book by daring her into it, saying that it was “nearly impossible to write autobiography as literature.”

“Well, maybe I will try it,” Angelou responded. “I don’t know how it will turn out. But I can try.”

Angelou’s musical style was clear in a passage about boxing great Joe Louis’s defeat in 1936 against German fighter Max Schmeling:

“My race groaned,” she wrote. “It was our people falling. It was another lynching, yet another Black man hanging on a tree. One more woman ambushed and raped. A Black boy whipped and maimed. It was hounds on the trail of a man running through slimy swamps. … If Joe lost we were back in slavery and beyond help.”

Angelou’s memoir was occasionally attacked, for seemingly opposite reasons. In a 1999 essay in Harper’s, author Francine Prose criticized “Caged Bird” as “manipulative” melodrama. Meanwhile, Angelou’s passages about her rape and teen pregnancy have made it a perennial on the American Library Association’s list of works that draw complaints from parents and educators.

“‘I thought that it was a mild book. There’s no profanity,” Angelou told the AP. “It speaks about surviving, and it really doesn’t make ogres of many people. I was shocked to find there were people who really wanted it banned, and I still believe people who are against the book have never read the book.”

Angelou appeared on several TV programs, notably the groundbreaking 1977 miniseries “Roots.” She was nominated for a Tony Award in 1973 for her appearance in the play “Look Away.” She directed the film “Down in the Delta,” about a drug-wrecked woman who returns to the home of her ancestors in the Mississippi Delta. She won three Grammys for her spoken-word albums and in 2013 received an honorary National Book Award for her contributions to the literary community.

Back in the 1960s, Malcolm X had written to Angelou and praised her for her ability to communicate so directly, with her “feet firmly rooted on the ground.” In 2002, Angelou communicated in an unexpected way when she launched a line of greeting cards with industry giant Hallmark. Angelou admitted she was cool to the idea at first. Then she went to Loomis, her editor at Random House.

“I said, ‘I’m thinking about doing something with Hallmark,'” she recalled. “And he said, ‘You’re the people’s poet. You don’t want to trivialize yourself.’ So I said ‘OK’ and I hung up. And then I thought about it. And I thought, if I’m the people’s poet, then I ought to be in the people’s hands — and I hope in their hearts. So I thought, ‘Hmm, I’ll do it.'”

In North Carolina, she lived in an 18-room house and taught American Studies at Wake Forest University. She was also a member of the Board of Trustees for Bennett College, a private school for black women in Greensboro, N.C. Angelou hosted a weekly satellite radio show for XM’s “Oprah & Friends” channel.

She remained close enough to the Clintons that in 2008 she supported Hillary Rodham Clinton’s candidacy over the ultimately successful run of the country’s first black president, Barack Obama. But a few days before Obama’s inauguration, she was clearly overjoyed. She told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette she would be watching it on television “somewhere between crying and praying and being grateful and laughing when I see faces I know.”

Active on the lecture circuit, she gave commencement speeches and addressed academic and corporate events across the country. Angelou received dozens of honorary degrees, and several elementary schools were named for her. As she approached her 80th birthday, she decided to study at the Missouri-based Unity Church, which advocates healing through prayer.

“I was in Miami and my son (Guy Johnson, her only child) was having his 10th operation on his spine. I felt really done in by the work I was doing, people who had expected things of me,” said Angelou, who then recalled a Unity church service she attended in Miami.

“The preacher came out — a young black man, mostly a white church — and he came out and said, ‘I have only one question to ask, and that is, “Why have you decided to limit God?'” And I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I’ve been doing.’ So then he asked me to speak, and I got up and said, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you.’ And I said it about 50 times, until the audience began saying it with me, ‘Thank you, THANK YOU!'”


My Maya Angelou moment
By Ruthie DiTucci

While growing up in New York City, I always attended public school. My favorite teacher, Mrs. White arranged to have Maya Angelou meet the members of our small school’s poetry club. I was a member.

Maya asked each of us direct questions.. she came to me and asked me for the name of my favorite poet (probably assuming I would say her name). I immediately replied, “Edna St. Vincent Millay”.

And she asked me why Edna St. Vincent Millay was my favorite poet and she was not. Everyone laughed.

I explained that I found her writing much too familiar and that when she described tears flowing down her cheeks I could taste them on my own tongue.

I told her I found her poetry spoke way too much of pain and hardship and did not at all inspire me… in fact… I told her… it reminded me of the very environment I was living in whereas Edna St. Vincent’s work inspired me to dream about the future and escaping the horrid surroundings Angela Mayou described so vividly.

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Gabriel García Márquez, Nobel Prize-Winning Author, leaves his legacy behind to comfort the world…

Yesterday we lost Gabriel García Márquez.

BOGOTÁ, Colombia—The Nobel Prize-winning author Gabriel García Márquez popularized magical realism in Latin American literature by writing fantastical novels that drew on the folk tales and ghost stories he had heard as a child on Colombia’s poor, sun-baked Caribbean coast.

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Mr. García Márquez, who died in his Mexico City home at age 87 on Thursday after being hospitalized for infections, was best known for his 1967 masterpiece, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which recounted the travails of the abundant and obsessive Buendía clan.

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Translated into dozens of languages and selling 30 million copies, the book is considered literature’s exemplar of magical realism, generating countless imitations and inspiring a generation of writers in Latin America and beyond.

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Gabriel_Garcia_MarquezThough Mr. García Márquez didn’t invent the technique, he became the leading exponent of the style, which balances dreamlike, fantastical vignettes with sharply focused realism, all of it solemnly delivered through an eccentric cast of whimsical characters.

Readers of his books have delighted in stories populated with tin-pot dictators, cows that invade a palace, women that levitate, self-obsessed characters that don’t age and brokenhearted suitors.

The news triggered an outpouring of grief from Colombians, who venerate Mr. García Márquez and see his literature as reflecting the soul of their country. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos tweeted: “One-thousand years of solitude and sadness for the death of the greatest Colombian of all time!”

In a career spanning more than 60 years, Mr. García Márquez wrote some of the Spanish language’s most revered books, many of which became best sellers in the U.S.

They included “Autumn of the Patriarch,” about a Caribbean tyrant; “Chronicle of a Death Foretold,” which painstakingly narrates a small-town murder; “Love in the Time of Cholera,” about two lovers who wait half a century to reunite, and “The General in his Labyrinth,” detailing independence hero Simón Bolívar’s inglorious last days.

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Mr. García Márquez was also an accomplished journalist, whose lyrical, deeply reported stories first caught the eye of readers in Colombia’s chilly mountain capital, Bogotá, in the early 1950s.

He later became renowned not only for his profiles of presidents and despots but for the real-life close ties he cultivated with leaders ranging from Fidel Castro to Bill Clinton to François Mitterrand.

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Mr. García Márquez found a certain thrill in hobnobbing with the powerful, noted his friends. “I still can’t get used to the idea that my friends become presidents, nor have I yet overcome my susceptibility to being impressed by government palaces,” he once wrote in an article, as recounted in Gerald Martin’s 2009 biography, “Gabriel García Márquez: A Life.”

Proudly leftist and anti-imperialist, he used his fame to try to lobby for Latin American unity and an end to U.S. meddling in the region.

Mr. García Márquez’s friendship with Mr. Castro, though, caused him trouble. Other Latin American writers, among them the Cuban exile Guillermo Cabrera Infante, criticized him for cultivating warm ties with a dictator.

“Castro’s courtesan,” the Peruvian author, Mario Vargas Llosa, took to calling Mr. García Márquez.

Coincidentally, Cheo Feliciano passed away yesterday as well. It was just too sad a day to prepare both obituaries.

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Cheo Feliciano remembered by Fania Records’ Michael Rucker



Cheo_Feliciano-4-220120317044704AP: Puerto Rican salsa legend Cheo Feliciano died in a car accident early Thursday, prompting the governor of the U.S. territory to declare three days of mourning.  Feliciano, a member of the Fania All Stars, was one of the most recognized salsa singers, with hits including “Una en un millón,” ”Mi promesa,” and “Contigo aprendi.”

cheo_fania2The 78-year-old Feliciano was alone in his Jaguar when he hit a light post before dawn in the northern suburb of Cupey. Police officer Jorge Hernandez Pena, who is overseeing investigation of the crash, said in a phone interview that Feliciano was not wearing his seatbelt.

He said it is unclear what led to the crash, adding that officials did not find any drugs or alcohol in the car.

His wife of 56 years, Socorro “Coco” Prieto Leon, told reporters that Feliciano had been at a casino Wednesday night.

“He was the only man in my life,” Prieto said as she cried. “I thank everyone for the love they had for him.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla declared three days of mourning, saying, “Today, Puerto Rico lost one of its greatest voices.”

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez issued a statement calling Feliciano a treasure to Puerto Ricans and to many New Yorkers.

“His music embodied the rhythm of Puerto Ricans living in New York City and his lyrics helped tell our collective story,” she said.

The music community also mourned.

“Cheo, my friend, I’m in so much pain. You will always be one of my heroes,” tweeted New York salsa musician Willie Colon.

Cheo Feliciano was born in the southern coastal city of Ponce and formed his first band when he was about 8, playing instruments made from cans, according to a February 2000 interview he gave online music site descarga.com.

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Feliciano’s father struggled to find work as a carpenter, and his family moved to New York when Feliciano was a teenager.

Shortly after arriving, Feliciano joined a local band as a percussionist and became friends with music giants including Tito Puente.

On Oct. 5, 1957, Feliciano married Prieto, a Puerto Rican dancer, and that night, gave his first concert as a singer with the Joe Cuba band.

A decade later, he left the band and then collaborated with Eddie Palmieri on his album, “Champagne,” but succumbed to heroin addiction shortly afterward and withdrew from the spotlight for nearly three years.

He returned to his native Puerto Rico for rehab, became a staunch anti-drug spokesman and joined the Fania All Stars in 1972. That same year, he released “Cheo,” a solo album that is considered one of his best.

In the mid-1980s, he launched his own production company called Coche Records and produced five albums.

To celebrate his 50 years as a musician, he performed in New York’s Madison Square Garden in 2008, singing alongside Palmieri and others including Papo Lucca and Ismael Miranda.

Feliciano had been hospitalized last year for pneumonia and was fighting cancer.

He is survived by his wife and several children. Prieto said he will be buried in his hometown of Ponce.

Singer and guitarist Jose Feliciano also was among the dozens of musicians lamenting his death. His New York publicist, Judy Katz, noted that some media were incorrectly reporting that the guitarist had died.

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Fania posted the following on Cheo’s Fania page…

cheo_fania2Cheo Feliciano, considered one of the most powerful voices of salsa, was characterized by his excellence and his ability to interpret various musical styles.

His first steps onto the music scene were at the Juan Morel Campos School in his native Puerto Rico, where he learned solfeggio and basic music technique.

At the age of 17 he went to New York, a city that struck his fancy, and the place where many of his compatriots had received their training. Faced with the decision of either seeking academic training or remaining self-taught, he decided the best school would be the inner workings of this difficult and complex world, rubbing elbows with the great Latin artists of the 50s: Tito Puente, Ismael Rivera, Tito Rodríguez, Joe Cuba, Arsenio Rodríguez, and Mon Rivera, among others.

His humility, one of his most notable features, allowed him to absorb the experience and wisdom of these maestros. They were not only his mentors, but powerful influences in what would be his future professional career.

He was a solo vocalist and musician for many orchestras, known for his stage presence and sensitivity, which he demonstrated in his notable performances with the orchestras of Eddie Palmieri, Ismael Rivera, Joe Cuba, and others.

During one of the most outstanding stages of his career, he joined the cast of Fania Records, where he was resoundingly successful with countless albums that took him around the world as a distinguished member of the ultra-famous Fania All Stars.

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Mickey Rooney gone at 93

rooney_8th_wifeLOS ANGELES (AP) — Mickey Rooney’s approach to life was simple: “Let’s put on a show!” He spent nine decades doing it, on the big screen, on television, on stage and in his extravagant personal life.

A superstar in his youth, Rooney was Hollywood’s top box-office draw in the late 1930s to early 1940s. He epitomized the “show” part of show business, even if the business end sometimes failed him amid money troubles and a seesaw of career tailspins and revivals.

Pint-sized, precocious, impish, irrepressible — perhaps hardy is the most-suitable adjective for Rooney, a perennial comeback artist whose early blockbuster success as the vexing but wholesome Andy Hardy and as Judy Garland’s musical comrade in arms was bookended 70 years later with roles in “Night at the Museum” and “The Muppets.”

Rooney died Sunday at age 93 surrounded by family at his North Hollywood home, police said. The Los Angeles County Coroner’s office said Rooney died a natural death.

There were no further details immediately available on the cause of death, but Rooney did attend Vanity Fair’s Oscar party last month, where he posed for photos with other veteran stars and seemed fine.

He was also shooting a movie at the time of his death, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde,” with Margaret O’Brien.

He was nominated for four Academy Awards over a four-decade span and received two special Oscars for film achievements, won an Emmy for his TV movie “Bill” and had a Tony nomination for his Broadway smash “Sugar Babies.”

“I loved working with Mickey on ‘Sugar Babies.’ He was very professional, his stories were priceless and I love them all … each and every one. We laughed all the time,” Carol Channing said.

pb-110302-mickey-rooney-cr-01.photoblog900A passionate plea before a congressional committee as he detailed elder abuse he suffered at the hands of his eight wife’s son Christopher Aber.


His first marriage — to the glamorous, and taller, Ava Gardner — lasted only a year. But a fond recollection from Rooney years later — “I’m 5 feet 3, but I was 6 feet 4 when I married Ava” — summed up the man’s passion and capacity for life.  He was married to Ava Gardner from 1942 to 1943. His second wife was B. J. Baker – they were married from 1944 to 1948.  His third wife was Martha Vickers – they were married from 1949 to 1951.   His fourth wife was Elaine Devry – they were married from 1952 to 1958. His fifth wife was Carolyn Mitchell – married from 1958–1966. His sixth wife was Marge Lane – married from 1966 to 1967. His seventh wife was Carolyn Hockett – they were married from 1969 to 1975. His eighth wife was Jan Chamberlin. He was still married to her from 1978 until 2014.  Rooney was married eight times. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was often the subject of comedians’ jokes for his alleged inability to stay married. At the time of his death, he was married to Jan Chamberlin, although they were then separated. He had a total of nine children, as well as 19 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

In 1942, he married future Hollywood starlet Ava Gardner, but the two were divorced well before she became a star in her own right. While stationed in the military in Alabama in 1944, Rooney met and married local beauty-queen Betty Jane Phillips. This marriage ended in divorce after he returned from Europe at the end of World War II. His subsequent marriages to Martha Vickers (1949) and Elaine Mahnken (1952) were also short-lived and ended in divorce. In 1958, Rooney married Barbara Ann Thomason (stage name Carolyn Mitchell), but tragedy struck when she was murdered in 1966. Falling into deep depression, he married Barbara’s friend, Marge Lane, who helped him take care of his young children. The marriage lasted only 100 days. He was married to Carolyn Hockett from 1969 to 1974, but financial instability ended the relationship. Finally, in 1978, Rooney married Jan Chamberlin, his 8th wife. They both were outspoken advocates for veterans and animal rights.  and Rooney was an outspoken advocate for veterans and senior rights. 

After the deaths of his wife Barbara Ann Thomason and his mother, problems with alcohol and drugs, and various financial problems that included a bankruptcy,[27] Rooney had a religious experience with a busboy in a casino coffee shop.In 1975, Rooney was an active member of the Church of Religious Science, a New Thought group founded by Ernest Holmes.

Rooney’s oldest child, Mickey Rooney, Jr., is a born-again Christian, and has an evangelical ministry in Hemet, California.  He and several of Rooney’s other eight children have worked at various times in show business. One of them, actor Tim Rooney, died in 2006, aged 59.

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Rooney, Chamberlin, Aber

On September 23, 2010, Rooney celebrated his 90th birthday at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency in the Upper East Side of New York City. Among the people who were attending the party were: Donald Trump, Regis Philbin, Nathan Lane and Tony Bennett.  In December 2010 he was honored as Turner Classic Movies Star of the Month.

On February 16, 2011, Rooney was granted a temporary restraining order against Christopher Aber, one of Jan Rooney’s two sons from a previous marriage. On March 2, 2011 Rooney appeared before a special U.S. Senate committee that was considering legislation to curb elder abuse. Rooney stated that he was financially abused by unnamed family members.

On March 27, 2011, all of Rooney’s finances were permanently handed over to lawyers over the claim of missing money.

In April 2011, the temporary restraining order that Rooney was previously granted was replaced by a confidential settlement between Rooney and his stepson.    Christopher Aber and Jan Rooney have denied all the allegations.

Rooney had alleged in court papers that his stepson, Christopher Aber, 52, of Westlake Village and Aber’s wife, Christina Aber, 42, had been physically and emotionally abusing him for several years by depriving him of food and medications, prohibiting him from leaving his house and taking control over his finances. Christopher Aber is one of two sons of Rooney’s wife, Jan Chamberlin. Rooney and his wife, who is not a party to the restraining order, were not in court.

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Christopher Aber, son of Mickey Rooney’s 8th wife Jan Chamberlin, was deemed responsible for the removal of over $2.8 Million from Mickey Rooney’s bank accounts. Christopher Aber and his wife Christina Aber were both court ordered not to go anywhere near Mickey Rooney.

Attorney Michael R. Augustine, who was appointed temporary conservator of Rooney’s estate on Feb. 14, filed documents for a hearing stating that he had met with Rooney twice over the previous two weeks and observed that the actor was wearing the same clothes both times and had no money or identification cards in his wallet.

Rooney “believed that Christopher Aber had coerced him into signing documents which resulted in financial detriment,” Augustine wrote. Rooney “believes that his assets have been depleted by Christopher Aber and he is fearful that because [he] is gaining steps to regain control over his assets, Christopher Aber will do him bodily harm.”

Augustine also wrote that he had determined that three bank accounts once containing more than $400,000 of the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor’s earnings now have a total balance of $1,200. “Mr. Rooney has no knowledge as to how these funds were spent and specifically stated to me that none of those funds were paid to him,” Augustine added. The stepson robbed Rooney over $2.8+ million dollars.

Mickey Rooney’s stepson was ordered to turn over all of the actor’s ID cards.  Christopher Aber, 52, was also ordered to continue to abide by a temporary restraining order issued 10 days ago. Rooney, 90, has alleged that his stepson has been physically and emotionally abusing him for several years. Christopher Abers who had helped himself to Rooney’s bank accounts asked the judge to amend the restraining order to allow him to pick up his mother at the curb for doctor appointments and social events. But judge Goetz refused, saying Chamberlin would have to make her own arrangements to meet him at the entrance of their gated community.

Judge Reva G. Goetz extended the restraining order when an evidentiary hearing heard Rooney testify.  Rooney’s attorney, Augustine became the permanent conservator of Rooney’s estate.

Attorney John O’Meara, who said he was hired Wednesday to represent the Abers, asked the judge to amend the restraining order to allow Christopher Aber to pick up his mother at the curb for doctor appointments and social events. But Goetz refused, saying Chamberlin will have to make her own arrangements to meet him at the entrance of their gated community.  Rooney and Aber reached a confidential settlement.

In May 2013, Rooney sold his house of many years, separated from his wife Jan Rooney and split the proceeds.  Rooney died surrounded by his family at his home in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California  on April 6, 2014, at the age of 93.

Rooney began as a toddler in his parents’ vaudeville act in the 1920s. He was barely six when he first appeared on screen, playing a midget in the 1926 silent comedy short “Not to Be Trusted,” and he was still at it more than 80 years later, working incessantly as he racked up about 250 screen credits in a career unrivaled for length and variety.

“I always say, ‘Don’t retire — inspire,'” Rooney said in an interview with The Associated Press in March 2008. “There’s a lot to be done.”

This from a man who did more than just about anyone in Hollywood and outlasted pretty much everyone from old Hollywood.

Rooney was among the last survivors of the studio era, which his career predated, most notably with the lead in a series of “Mickey McGuire” kid comedy shorts from the late 1920s to early ’30s that were meant to rival Hal Roach’s “Our Gang” flicks.

After signing with MGM in 1934, Rooney landed his first big role playing Clark Gable’s character as a boy in “Manhattan Melodrama.” A year later, still only in his mid-teens, Rooney was doing Shakespeare, playing an exuberant Puck in Max Reinhardt’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which also featured James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland.

Rooney soon was earning $300 a week with featured roles in such films as “Riff Raff,” ”Little Lord Fauntleroy,” ”Captains Courageous” and “The Devil Is a Sissy.”

Then came Andy Hardy in the 1937 comedy “A Family Affair,” a role he would reprise in 15 more feature films over the next two decades. Centered on a kindly small-town judge (Lionel Barrymore) who delivers character-building homilies to troublesome son Andy, it was pure corn, but it turned out to be golden corn for MGM, becoming a runaway success with audiences.

“I knew ‘A Family Affair’ was a B picture, but that didn’t stop me from putting my all in it,” Rooney recalled.

Studio boss Louis B. Mayer saw “A Family Affair” as a template for a series of movies about a model American home. Cast changes followed, most notably with Lewis Stone replacing Barrymore in the sequels, but Rooney stayed on, his role built up until he became the focus of the films, which included “The Courtship of Andy Hardy,” ”Andy Hardy’s Double Life” and “Love Finds Andy Hardy,” the latter featuring fellow child star Garland.

He played a delinquent humbled by Spencer Tracy as Father Flanagan in 1938’s “Boys Town” and Mark Twain’s timeless scamp in 1939’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

Rooney’s peppy, all-American charm was never better matched than when he appeared opposite Garland in such films as “Babes on Broadway” and “Strike up the Band,” musicals built around that “Let’s put on a show” theme.

One of them, 1939’s “Babes in Arms,” earned Rooney a best-actor Oscar nomination, a year after he received a special Oscar shared with Deanna Durbin for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and as juvenile players setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”

He earned another best-actor nomination for 1943’s “The Human Comedy,” adapted from William Saroyan’s sentimental tale about small-town life during World War II. The performance was among Rooney’s finest.

“Mickey Rooney, to me, is the closest thing to a genius I ever worked with,” ”Human Comedy” director Clarence Brown once said.

Brown also directed Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in 1944’s horse-racing hit “National Velvet,” but by then, Rooney was becoming a cautionary tale for early fame. He earned a reputation for drunken escapades and quickie romances and was unlucky in both money and love. In 1942 he married for the first time, to Gardner, the statuesque MGM beauty. He was 21, she was 19.

They divorced a year later. Rooney joined the Army, spending most of his World War II service entertaining troops.

When he returned to Hollywood, disillusionment awaited him. His savings had been stolen by a manager and his career was in a nose dive. He made two films at MGM, then his contract was dropped.

“I began to realize how few friends everyone has,” he wrote in one of autobiographies. “All those Hollywood friends I had in 1938, 1939, 1940 and 1941, when I was the toast of the world, weren’t friends at all.”

His movie career never regained its prewar eminence. “The Bold and the Brave,” 1956 World War II drama, brought him an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor. But mostly, he played second leads in such films as “Off Limits” with Bob Hope, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” with William Holden, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight” with Anthony Quinn.

In the early 1960s, he had a wild turn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” as Audrey Hepburn’s bucktoothed Japanese neighbor, and he was among the fortune seekers in the all-star comedy “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World.”

Rooney’s starring roles came in low-budget films such as “Drive a Crooked Road,” ”The Atomic Kid,” ”Platinum High School,” ”The Twinkle in God’s Eye” and “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini.”

But no one ever could count Rooney out. He earned a fourth Oscar nomination, as supporting actor, for 1979’s “Black Stallion,” the same year he starred with Ann Miller in the Broadway revue “Sugar Babies,” which brought him a Tony nomination and millions of dollars during his years with the show.

“I’ve been coming back like a rubber ball for years,” Rooney wisecracked at the time.

In 1981 came his Emmy-winning performance as a disturbed man in “Bill.” He found success with voice roles for animated films such as “The Fox and the Hound,” ”The Care Bears Movie” and the blockbuster “Finding Nemo.”

“He was undoubtedly the most talented actor that ever lived. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Singing, dancing, performing … all with great expertise,” Margaret O’Brien said. “I was currently doing a film with him, “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr Hyde.” I simply can’t believe it. He seemed fine through the filming and was as great as ever.”

Over the years, Rooney also made hundreds of appearances on TV talk and game shows, dramas and variety programs. He starred in three short-lived series: “The Mickey Rooney Show” (1954); “Mickey” (1964); and “One of the Boys” (1982). A co-star from “One of the Boys,” Dana Carvey, later parodied Rooney on “Saturday Night Live,” mocking him as a hopeless egomaniac who couldn’t stop boasting he once was “the number one star … IN THE WO-O-ORLD!”

A lifelong storyteller, Rooney wrote two memoirs: “i.e., an Autobiography” published in 1965, and “Life Is Too Short,” 1991. He also produced a novel about a child movie star, “The Search for Sonny Skies,” in 1994.

In the autobiographies, Rooney gave two versions of his debut in show business. First he told of being 1½ and climbing into the orchestra pit of the burlesque theater where his parents were appearing. He sat on a kettle drum and pretended to be playing his whistle, vastly amusing the audience.

The second autobiography told a different story: He was hiding under the scenery when he sneezed. Dragged out by an actor, the toddler was ordered to play his harmonica. He did, and the crowd loved it.

Whatever the introduction, Joe Yule Jr., born in 1920, was the star of his parents’ act by the age of 2, singing “Sweet Rosie O’Grady” in a tiny tuxedo. His father was a baggy-pants comic, Joe Yule, his mother a dancer, Nell Carter. Yule was a boozing Scotsman with a wandering eye, and the couple soon parted.

While his mother danced in the chorus, young Joe was wowing audiences with his heartfelt rendition of “Pal o’ My Cradle Days.” During a tour to California, the boy made his film debut in 1926’s “Not to Be Trusted.”

The Mickey McGuire short comedies that followed gave him a new stage name, later appended, at his mother’s suggestion, to the last name Rooney, after vaudeville dancer Pat Rooney.

After splitting with Gardner, Rooney married Betty Jane Rase, Miss Birmingham of 1944, whom he had met during military training in Alabama. They had two sons and divorced after four years. (Their son Timothy died in September 2006 at age 59 after a battle with a muscle disease called dermatomyositis.)

His third and fourth marriages were to actress Martha Vickers (one son) and model Elaine Mahnken.

The fifth Mrs. Rooney, model Barbara Thomason, gave birth to four children. While the couple were estranged in 1966, she was found shot to death in her Brentwood home; beside her was the body of her alleged lover, a Yugoslavian actor. It was an apparent murder and suicide.

A year later, Rooney began a three-month marriage to Margaret Lane. She was followed by a secretary, Caroline Hockett — another divorce after five years and one daughter.

In 1978, Rooney, 57, married for the eighth — and apparently last — time. His bride was singer Janice Darlene Chamberlain, 39. Their marriage lasted longer than the first seven combined.

After a lifetime of carrying on, he became a devoted Christian and member of the Church of Religious Science. He settled in suburban Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles west of Los Angeles. In 2011, Rooney was in the news again when he testified before Congress about abuse of the elderly, alleging that he was left powerless by a family member who took and misused his money.

“I felt trapped, scared, used and frustrated,” Rooney told a special Senate committee considering legislation to curb abuses of senior citizens. “But above all, when a man feels helpless, it’s terrible.”

That year Rooney took his stepson Christopher Aber and others to court on allegations that they tricked him into thinking he was on the brink of poverty while defrauding him out of millions and bullying him into continuing to work. At the time, Aber declined comment on the suit except to say, “this lawsuit is not from Mickey Rooney — it’s from his conservators who are stealing from him.” The New York Times reported that the suit was settled last year.
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Biographical material in this story was written by former AP reporter David Germain and late AP reporter Bob Thomas. National Writer Hillel Italie in New York, and writers Lynn Elber and Sue Manning in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

frankieFEATURE

FRANKIE KNUCKLES Chicago DJ & Father of HOUSE MUSIC: DEAD at 59

frankie_knuckles
Frankie Knuckles, the Chicago house legend, has died aged 59.

Knuckles died on Monday, revealed his longtime business partner, Frederick Dunson. According to the Chicago Tribune, more details would be confirmed today, with Dunson writing in an email that Knuckles “died unexpectedly this afternoon at home”.

Most famous for tracks such as 1987’s Your Love and 1991’s The Whistle Song, he was inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2004, 25 August was declared Frankie Knuckles Day in Chicago with help from then-senator Barack Obama.

Born in the Bronx in 1955, he became a DJ in the early 1970s with his friend Larry Levan. An integral artist in the development of house music, Knuckles went onto not only pioneer the genre, but mix records by artists such as Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson and Depeche Mode.

Only last weekend, on 29 March, the DJ played at London’s Ministry of Sound, two days before his death in Chicago.

Tributes have been pouring in for the producer on social media this morning.

Fred-PhelpsFEATURE

Yes, FRED is DEAD – He gets no funeral

 

THE Reverend Fred Phelps Sr., the fiery founder of a small Kansas church who drew international condemnation for outrageous and hate-filled protests that blamed almost everything, including the deaths of AIDS victims and US soldiers, on America’s tolerance for gay people, has died. He was 84.

Daughter Margie Phelps said that Phelps, whose actions drew international condemnation, died on Wednesday. She didn’t provide the cause of death or the condition that recently put him in hospice care.

Throughout his life, Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, a small congregation made up almost entirely of his extended family, tested the boundaries of free speech, violating accepted societal standards for decency in their unapologetic assault on gays and lesbians. In the process, some believe he even helped the cause of gay rights by serving as such a provocative symbol of intolerance.

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Phelps believed any misfortune, most infamously the deaths of American soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, was God’s punishment for society’s tolerance of homosexuality. He and his followers carried forward their message bluntly, holding held signs at funerals and public events that used ugly slurs and read “Thank God for dead soldiers.’’ God, he preached, had nothing but anger and bile for the moral miscreants of his creation.

“Can you preach the Bible without preaching the hatred of God?’’ Phelps asked in a 2006 interview. “The answer is absolutely not. And these preachers that muddle that and use that deliberately, ambiguously to prey on the follies and the fallacious notions of their people, that’s a great sin.’’

For those who didn’t like the message or the tactics, Phelps and his family had only disdain. “They need to drink a frosty mug of shut-the-hell-up and avert their eyes,’’ his daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, once told a group of Kansas politicians.

Fred Phelps Sr.

The activities of Phelps’ church, unaffiliated with any larger denomination, inspired a federal law and laws in more than 40 states limiting protests and picketing at funerals. He and a daughter were even barred from entering Britain for inciting hatred.

But in a major free-speech ruling in 2011, the US Supreme Court held that the church and its members were protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment and could not be sued for monetary damages for inflicting pain on grieving families.

Yet despite that legal victory, some gay rights advocates believe all the attention Phelps generated served to advance their cause.

imagesSue Hyde, a staff member at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said plenty of churches and ministers preach a message that attacks gay people. But Phelps and his family had “taken this out on the streets,’’ forcing people to confront their own views and rousing a protective instinct in parents and friends of gays and lesbians.

“It’s actually a wonderful recruiting tool for a pro-equality, prosocial acceptance movement,’’ she said. “To the Phelps family, that is not particularly important or relevant. They are not there to save us. They are there to advise us that we are doomed.’’

Once seen as the church’s unchallengeable patriarch, Phelps’ public visibility waned as he grew older and he became less active in the church’s pickets, with daughters Shirley Phelps-Roper and Margie Phelps — an attorney who argued the church’s case before the US Supreme Court — most often speaking for Westboro. In the fall of 2013, even they were replaced by a church member not related to Phelps by blood as Westboro’s chief spokesman.

In Phelps’ later years, the protests themselves were largely ignored or led to counter demonstrations that easily shouted down Westboro’s message. A motorcycle group known as the Patriot Guard arose to shield mourners at military funerals from Westboro’s notorious signs. At the University of Missouri in 2014, hundreds of students gathered to surround the handful of church members who travelled to the campus after football player Michael Sam came out as gay.

Phelps’ final weeks were shrouded in mystery. A long-estranged son, Nate Phelps, said his father had been voted out of the congregation in the summer of 2013 “after some sort of falling out,’’ but the church refused to discuss the matter. Westboro’s spokesman would only obliquely acknowledge this month that Phelps had been moved into a care facility because of health problems.

Fred Waldron Phelps was born in Meridian, Mississippi, on November 13, 1929. He was raised a Methodist and once said he was “happy as a duck’’ growing up. He was an Eagle Scout, ran track and graduated from high school at age 16.

Selected to attend the US Military Academy, Phelps never made it to West Point. He once said he went to a Methodist revival meeting and felt the calling to preach. Ordained a Baptist minister in 1947, he met his wife after he delivered a sermon in Arizona, and they were married in 1952.

Phelps was a missionary and pastor in the western United States and Canada before settling in Topeka in 1955 and founding his church. He earned his law degree from Washburn University in Topeka in 1964, focused on civil rights issues.

But in 1979, the Kansas Supreme Court stripped him of his license to practice in state courts, concluding he’d made false statements in court documents and “showed little regard’’ for professional ethics. He called the court corrupt and insisted he saw its action as a badge of honour. He later agreed to stop practising in federal court, too.

Westboro remained a small church throughout his life, with less than 100 members, most related to the patriarch or one of his 13 children by blood or marriage. Its website says people are free to visit weekly services to get more information, though the congregation can vote at any time to remove a member who they decide is no longer a recipient of God’s grace.

The church’s building in central Topeka is surrounded by a wooden fence, and family members are neighbours, their yards enclosed by the same style of fence in a manner that suggests a sealed-off compound.

Phelps proved himself to be a miserable individual with an absolutely rotten core. He hated everyone and everything just because he enjoyed the attention received by his controversial bigotry. When a bigoted, hateful person dies, there is no reason to be respectful as though they deserved a positive mention.

Many, in fact, will live peacefully now because of this man’s passing. His hypocrisy made it clear that he was Godless. There is no God that is so full of hate and vile anger. These are not positive attributes to aspire to, on the contrary. I felt a sigh of relief when I read that he had passed away.