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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Ironic Irony of Icons Inexplicably Taking Their Leave Almost Simultaneously...




Has Anyone But Me Noticed That In Less Than a Month’s Time, Several Icons Have Taken Their Final Bow?


Maybe I’m living too long on this planet, although I seriously doubt it. Maybe all we baby-boomers are just beginning to realize our own mortality. Maybe. Maybe not. All I know is that during the month of April alone so many of the faces, personalities, talents and teachers who I came to know in childhood and who would remain so alive inside my conscience have suddenly vacated this building we call Life.

Although it’s never been my intent to turn my blog into an obituary column, there are some things, some people and some exits that I can not simply ignore. Such is the power, the presence, the influence and effect these figures have played in my life, and often times, in many of our lives.


First there was Gil Noble, who passed at age 80.

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Chances are, if you’re not from the NYC area, or haven’t lived here in the last 40 years, you may have never heard of him. Should that be the case, I’ll feel sad for you, because Gil Noble was The Truth.


More than just a journalist, Gil Noble embodied a one man master class in Black History and thus, in a Larger Sense, American History. He was all those things we’d ever want a teacher to be: Inspired and inspiring. Articulate and attractive. Sturdy and serious. He possessed a sharp wit, and a spirit full of gravitas. Whether the subject of the day dealt with the metaphysics of Jazz or with Negro-leagues in baseball, basketball or sports history in general, Gil would lay it all down in a way we could understand and empathize. He brought you to the forefront. No need to imagine, because Gil Noble had a way of taking you there. No matter if his show was based upon community-related issues or political races, educational matters or vital lessons our schools and classrooms never taught us, he was known to truly tell it LIKE IT IS. And he enlightened us just as much as he instructed us.

It’s too bad that his program was only shown throughout the tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) area, because if it had been nationally syndicated, his reach would have been at least as extensive, and his effect just as seismic as that of Mike Wallace. Gil‘s iconic show, “Like It Is,” would appear every Sunday at noon to feed us knowledge, give us a sense of strength, pride and purpose, or to simply remind us that, no matter our personal struggles, we were not alone. “Like It Is” premiered at a time of cultural awakening. Its debut, back in 1968, coincided with the height of the Black Awareness/Black Power movement. Its marathon run ended just last year, after Mr. Noble suffered a debilitating stroke. That's well over 40 years of journalistic excellence! This is a television landmark equally and every bit impressive as 60 Minutes or Meet The Press. Gil Noble was a maverick. His exposés on slavery in the American south, African relief efforts, and drug addiction in the inner city were disturbing and yet necessary viewing. His documentaries on the lives of Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Nelson Mandela are now legendary. His extensive interviews with Adam Clayton Powell, Fannie Lou Hamer, Sarah Vaughn, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Lena Horne are all now classics. The archives from those years are many and so rich with essential historical content that Mr. Noble wanted them maintained and made available for future generations. Having been a student of his, I truly hope his final wish is granted.


Thank you, Gil Noble, for having the courage and the conviction to tell our stories. Thank you for shedding a light upon so many of our unsung heroes. Thank you for the years of lessons and for the grace and wisdom in which you presented them. And most of all: THANK YOU FOR LOVING US SO MUCH!

Peace out, Gil Noble. Because of you, my sense of history is a bit sharper and my nature has been all the more inquisitive.

* * * * *


And speaking of sharp and inquisitive, this month, the world of journalism also lost Mike Wallace…


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This cat was Epic. He too was one of those stoic figures that seemed to always be around, and he almost made us believe that he would always be, regardless of that grand equalizer called Time.

His career was as varied and long as it was long-ranging and prolific, and through the decades his reputation would become harder and more dogmatic. 60 Minutes gave us the essential Mike Wallace. He was or could be a bit of a journalistic bully. He was tough, tenacious, and, if you were guilty or hiding something from him, even terrifying in his approach. But you knew one thing for certain: Mike Wallace was going to get to the truth of the story, or unmask a liar, or tear down some high-minded celeb in his own inimitable Perry Mason-style of interviewing. He was blunt, and at times he was merciless. He could embarrass, belittle or bedazzle. The man was a beast at probing, investigating, biting down and not ceasing until he drew blood or something tangible that resembled the truth.


He lived a long life, and passed at 93. He was definitely one of a kind. He didn’t suffer fools gladly. People like him, who command our attention, always leave behind such lasting impressions.

* * * * * *

Leaving a lasting impression… that’s something any self-respecting vampire might do, right?

Well, we can no longer ask that question of Jonathan Frid…


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Okay. I admit it. I was a huge fan of this supernatural stuff. From the moment I first tuned in, “Dark Shadows” had me hooked. Each week day, I’d dash home from school like a li'l madman just to watch this gothic phenom unfold. There was nothing else on TV quite like it. It featured ghosts and vampires, witches, warlocks and werewolves. Oh my! It was… or could be very, verrrrry, vurrrrrr scurry. When you’re too young to recognize tongue-in-cheek references or too naïve to spot grand camp when it’s played out before your eyes, you can just sit back and let this ghoulish world enchant and enrapture you in its utter wickedness. Jonathan Frid projected a kind of edgy hypnotic presence full of grace and subtle danger. As the vampire, Barnabas Collins, his mesmerizing portrayal could leave you spellbound. He was dramatic, menancing, at times sympathetic, and yet just creepy enough to keep you fascinated and have you anxiously tuning in for the next day’s feast of blood, drama and mayhem.

Jonathan Frid was immortal. Or so his character would lead us to believe. No one had ever successfully driven a stake through the heart of Barnabas Collins, and so he was doomed to live forever. Ironically, the actor who played him died, on Friday the 13th, at the age of 87.


Johnny Depp who takes over the role of Barnabas Collins…
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… in Tim Burton’s upcoming film based on the Dark Shadows series said it best:

“Jonathan Frid was the reason I used to run home from school to watch ‘Dark Shadows,’” Depp said in a statement. “When I had the honor to finally meet him, as he so generously passed the torch of Barnabas to me, he was as elegant and magical as I had always imagined.

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My deepest condolences to his family and friends. The world has lost a true original.”

Peace-out BC! Maybe we’ll see you again… in the less-creepy after-life.

* * * * *



Finally, there’s Dick Clark…

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I can’t honestly remember a time when I didn’t know of Dick Clark’s existence. Can you? He was the man, the dude, the grand poobah of the popular music scene. Some referred to him as "The World's Oldest Teenager" but he was more like America's Number One DJ. He was there all throughout our kidhood, teen years, young adulthood and beyond. We all knew him. American Bandstand bridged both the generational gap, and, more importantly, it help to smooth the lines of this country’s racial divide. Dick Clark knew instinctively that music was something that united us and he showed us that we’d more in common than the sum of our differences. On Saturdays afternoons, whether black, white, brown, yellow or red, we invited him into our homes. Along with his eternally young exterior, he brought new music into our living-rooms, playrooms and bedrooms. He came equipped w/ a stack of albums under his arms. And he was never short on variety: whether it was rock and roll, r& b, soul, folk, pop, disco, new wave, punk, and dance music. He introduced us to so many future icons and legends that along the way he became one himself.

If this had been his only claim to fame, that alone would have been enough. But he also entertained by bringing in game shows “The 10,000 Pyramid” which later became the “$25,000 Pyramid.” He made us chuckle with Bloopers and Practical Jokes. He gave us another forum in which to reward and celebrate our musical icons with the American Music Awards… and then he would help us all to bring in the dawning of another year with Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.”


Now he’s gone. And New Year’s Eve in Times Square will never be quite the same.

He lived to be 82 years old. I think he did the most with his time here. He was very successful, wealthy, well-liked, and yes, iconic. We’ll not see his like again.

And so, we bid goodbye to these men; figures, prototypes, icons who stood tall and loomed large through the passage of time… at least so, in my mind.


Each of them, in their own distinctive way, helped to engage us, entertain, define or educate us in ways that ensure they will never be forgotten.


One Love.

16 comments:

Mizrepresent said...

You are so right. So many icons have passed away. Many i remember, a few i don't. But you got me with "Dark Shadows" and Barnabis Collins. This was also a childhood favorite of mines. Remember Angelic, that was one bad witch. I seen the trailers for the new movie... looks like a comedy (i'll probably pass.) I'm with you on Dick Clark as well...can't remember a weekend or New Years without him.

Val said...

As you know, Lin, I grew up in New York so not only do I know who Gil Noble was I grew up watching him on channel 7.

And it is too bad that he was not well known outside of the NY Metro because he was truly a pioneer in broadcasting.

TOY COUTURE said...

"Although it’s never been my intent to turn my blog into an obituary column.."

LOL...Great Post

WynnSong said...

Great Tributes Lin.....and yes...I too ran home to watch Dark Shadows every day......

These men will be missed but their legacy lives on....

Moanerplicity said...

@ Toy Couture:

re the obit comment: I meant it. But lately it seems these iconic people in my life just keep making their transition.


One.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Val:

Yes. It's so good to have a true New Yorker up in here who KNOWS how powerful a sway Gil Noble held around these parts. Yesterday, in his old time spot, they showed excerpts from his recent funeral, where people like Bill Cosby, Susan Taylor & Danny Glover spoke fondly of him, his contributions, & his importance. He WILL be missed.


One.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Wynn:

Somehow I don't think it was only you, me & Johnny Depp who rushed home from school to peep Dark Shadows. I'm thinking maybe a whole generation of kids did.


One.

Curious said...

Yeah, I think it's just you and your kind, unfortunately I fall right in that category, who feel this way.

Remember back in the day when the your grandmother would turn to the obit page and shout in disbelief at how the woman down the street's third cousin's hairdresser had just passed and that she had always thought that he might have been a little light on his feet. Then you would think or say to yourself, "Who?"... Well now it's our turn.

Just two things, I was surprised by Jonathan Frid died because I thought he was dead already. The other thing is I remember when Guy Lombardi, or was it Lombardo, passed and people said New Year's would never be the same. The descendants of those same people will probably say the same things when Ryan Seacrest goes his way. It's the circle of life Simba.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Curious:

lol. Your point is well-taken.

re Mr. Frid: Maybe it's human nature that when people disappear from our vision long enough, we begin to think they're dead... so dead, we bury them inside of these mental graves marked The Ghosts of Our Memories. Meanwhile, sometimes those same people are still very much alive & still kickin' in some other part of the world. Then the news arrives that they've actually just DIED... & we're left thinking, like WTH? Was that all just deja vu or what?

So many of my behaviors, discoveries, comments & opinions have become the very same ones echoed a generation (or two) BEFORE I reached this place of observation. Each day we get older, in many ways, we tend to become versions of the people our ancestors were. It's a little disconcerting & other times just plain eerie when the words that come out of my mouth so closely resemble those once uttered by my father, mother or grandmother.

The 'circle of life,' indeed.


But it's kinda comforting to know I'm NOT alone.


One.



p.s. It was Guy Lombardo.

thegayte-keeper said...

I know death is the circle of life, but I don't get it.

Anna Renee said...

Breaths by Sweet Honey in the Rock

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSxjSherzaQ

Listen more often to things than to beings

Listen more often to things than to beings

' Tis the ancestor's breath when the fire's voice is heard

' Tis the ancestor's breath in the voice of the water




Those who have died have never never left

The dead are not under the earth

They are in the rustling trees, they are in the groaning woods

They are in the crying grass, they are in the moaning rocks

The dead are not under the earth



So listen more often to things than to beings

Listen more often to things than to beings

' Tis the ancestor's breath when the fire's voice is heard

' Tis the ancestor's breath in the voice of the water



Those who have died have never never left

The dead have a pact with the living

They are in the woman's breast, they are in the waiting child

They are with us in the home, they are with us in the ground

The dead have a pact with the living



So listen more often to things than to beings

Listen more often to things than to beings

' Tis the ancestor's breath when the fire's voice is heard

' Tis the ancestor's breath in the voice of the water



Listen more often to things than to beings

Listen more often to things than to beings

' Tis the ancestor's breath when the fire's voice is heard

' Tis the ancestor's breath in the voice of the water


One.


BTW, I watched Barnabas because my mother watched. She was a fiend for it, that I realized at a young age. I didnt know what I was looking at but I still remember it clearly. I came home from elementary and at 3.30pm, Dark Shadows.

Moanerplicity said...

@ the gayte-keeper:

I don't think it matters whether or not we get. Sooner or later it will GET us.


One.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Anna May:

I'm a fan of Sweet Honey & The Rock. Seen them 3 times in concert during the late 80s-early-90s, & dig them madly. I don't, however, recall this song but I find its perfectly spirit-based lyrics
very deep & comforting.

Thanks for sharing it here.


I sometimes think of the ancestors as being like birds flying around and above me. Many times we don't always see or pay much attention to birds. But other times see them clearly & we hear their songs so vividly, it's as if they are speaking directly TO us.

Feel me?


One Love.

AnnaRenee said...

Yes, Brother Lin, I feel you. If we are spirit beings, then death really cant be the end. Our ancestors spirits are all around us.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Miz: THIS IS THE REMIX! lol.

Yes, I definitely remember Angelique. She was mad evil & you just couldn't kill her evil azz! No matter what you did, she just kept coming back as some different character or another evil version of herself.

Yep the new film is definitely a spoof of the original Dark Shadows. And D.S. w/out the genuine horror factor ain't REALLY D.S.! So, I'ma pass as well.

My sentiments exactly on Dick Clark.

RIP, DC.


One.

Moanerplicity said...

@ Anna May:

Yes. Exactly!Methinks we both agree with how things work in the Spirit world.


It's very comforting to know that we are never truly left alone in the physical world after our ancestors make their transition into the Spiritual World.


One.