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Dead Folks 2006 (Part 6)

Dead Folks 2006 (Part 6)

A look back at the notable names and personalities who called it quits last year.

January 26, 2006 


Jim Capaldi (2nd from left) with Traffic. (click for larger version)


Robert Moog

We could have a discussion about Attack-Decay-Sustain-Release envelopes, waveforms, voltage-controlled oscillators, and other stuff that fellows with PhDs in engineering physics like to talk about. After all, Robert Moog (rhymes with “vogue”), creator of the Moog Synthesizer, had several degrees in physics and electrical engineering, and he certainly knew his stuff. But let’s avoid getting bogged down in technical details and consider the larger story instead, which begins just after the Bolshevik Revolution.

In 1919, mad Russian physicist Lev Sergeivich Termen, aka Leon Theremin, created a musical instrument that generated between two antennas a radio signal, the frequency and amplitude of which a “player” could control by hand, sort of like playing a violin without touching it. An ever-deluded Vladimir Lenin sent Theremin on a global tour with this minor novelty, primarily to show off the amazing avant garde technology that the new worker’s paradise was ostensibly making available to greedy, behind-the-curve capitalists. One of those capitalist outfits was RCA, who purchased manufacturing licenses for the bizarre instrument in the late 1920s. Two decades later the Theremin’s spooky sound was de rigueur in radio and film scores for mysteries, crime dramas, and—most prominently—science fiction thrillers and horror movies (see: The Day the Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet.)

Enter Robert Moog, a teenager light years ahead of his schoolmates and neighborhood chums, who in the early 1950s began making and selling Theremin kits as a hobby. For about 50 bucks, Moog’s astonishingly elegant sets allowed anyone with rudimentary skills in electronics to construct their very own instrument. Moog and his father sold about 1,000 kits in 1960. Building a Theremin, however, was a snap compared to playing the thing. Moog was already looking down the road for something even more elegant.

Enter Raymond Scott, a wigged-out composer, swing-band leader, electronics wizard, and studio engineer who may have been from another planet (some of those wild scores heard in Warner Bros. cartoons and “The Ren & Stimpy Show” are Scott originals). Moog and his father popped into Scott’s mammoth “lab” one afternoon and observed, among other wonders, a Moog theremin set that had been reconfigured by Scott into a type of keyboard instrument he called the Clavivox. “I have seen the future,” mused Moog, “and it is the keyboard interface.”

What followed was the creation of the Moog Synthesizer in various forms, but at a fraction of the cost of the big non-interface synthesizers made by universities and electronics companies during the early 1960s. Integrated circuits changed all that, and pretty soon Mellotrons, Arps, and Rolands were competing with Moog’s devastatingly efficient Series 900.

Nonetheless, it was with one of the 900 Series modular systems that the world got switched on to electronic music. In 1968, pianist Walter Carlos (later Wendy Carlos, thanks to gender reassignment therapy) released an album of Bach compositions played on the Moog. Switched-On Bach, one of the best-selling classical recordings of all time, went platinum. Pretty soon everybody was switching on. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and sundry other pop bands dabbled, but by 1970, artists such as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, Stevie Wonder, and just about every member of Genesis were getting very serious. Then came the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange (another Walter/Wendy Carlos effort), and Tangerine Dream, and Kraftwerk, and so on to digital synthesizers and computer sequencers, which the Moog synthesizer definitely is not. To get that space age, bachelor-pad sound that Stereolab is known for, you must use an analog device. Just ask Brian Eno.

This makes Robert Moog essentially the father of electronic music as it is made, purchased, and listened to today, even if he was not a composer or player; “I just make tools for others,” he often stated. He’s wrong about that, but physicists do tend to be reductionists at heart. Moog was actually a major catalyst in a quantum shift in modern culture and science. The story in which he had a key role has a parallel narrative, such that the relationship of these cosmic counterparts matches in strangeness the interplay of subatomic particles. Just as Moog and Raymond Scott and other guys in lab coats and crew cuts tinkered with waves and oscillations, so earlier did Edward Teller, Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, and colleagues manipulate previously unknown/unseen objects and energies to render forth nuclear energy.

The men in both narratives had an affinity for the new and improved, fully understanding the inevitable evolutions of the Kitchen of Tomorrow and the Car of the Future. They listened to swing, but it was the electric, atomic-age swing of the Les Paul guitar. They were squares, nerds, and horn-rimmed geeks that the girls secretly dug (recall Marilyn Monroe’s fascination with Albert Einstein). Their relationship with the enemy had its own curious waveform. Had it not been for the Soviets, Theremin might not have brought electronic music to our side of the globe. But then, without the Soviets, atomic weapon research would not have continued at its frantic pace. Without so many tests in the desert, there might not have been so many giant creatures emanating from Hollywood, but the electronic music team supplied the soundtracks just the same. There might not have been a space “race” either, in which case the space-age sounds of lounge music masters, minus the urgency, may have developed at a slower, less vulgar pace.

Either way, the research teams in both narratives were all about electrons; Raymond Scott’s most famous and instantly recognizable composition is “Powerhouse.” The business of energy entails positive and negative charges, and the two stories are charged with comparable symmetries. These mid-century brainiac physicists instigated a fascination with two things, one that we think we can’t live without and another that we can’t live with: Hi-Fis and Hydrogen Bombs. The space-age bachelor pad becomes the Home of Tomorrow, with a Philco or RCA Victor Hi-Fi in the den and a fallout shelter just south of the patio. The makers of The Bomb worked on the Manhattan Project, the key instruments of which were Uranium 238 and various synthetic elements; Robert Moog and Raymond Scott started their projects in basements in Manhattan, the end result of which was a synthetic instrument.

Polarities evolve from those symmetries. The atom bomb was a fission device; the H-bomb is a fusion device. The bachelor pad becomes a home only after the owner finds his counterpart. Robert Moog’s invention, a thoroughly modern device built for the future, reached the world only after it was used to make a best-selling record of classical compositions from the distant past. The performer on that album was a man who later became a woman.

The H-bomb geniuses and the electronics wizards invented things with properties and behaviors that modern physicists now say might not be correctly understood, if they exist at all. But until we learn for certain, let’s relish the fact that the very first nuclear events in the universe can be observed today in the form of radio signals. The term “radioactivity,” as the synthesizer band Kraftwerk pointed out decades ago, is a cosmic bit of double entendre. –David Pelfrey

Johnnie Johnson

Chuck Berry has for decades performed with no interest in whoever’s backing him on live dates. Berry simply shows up with his guitar and plays with whatever junkies have been corralled by the promoter into being his backup band for the evening. In his defense, though, Berry’s probably aware that he’ll never replicate his luck in hooking up with Johnnie Johnson. Johnson didn’t need Berry when the guitarist joined up with his Sir John Trio in 1953, but the pianist immediately saw that Berry’s tunes were future hits. Johnson’s arrangements became a vital part of developing what became Berry’s biggest songs. Johnson’s own part in rock history was revived when he joined the all-star Berry band assembled for Taylor Hackford’s concert film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll. Johnson would go on to perform well into the ’90s. He put on much better shows than Berry, of course. —J.R.T.

Danny Sugerman

He was the manager of The Doors, but that was after Jim Morrison’s death. Still, Danny Sugerman built himself a nice career as the ultimate Doors fan. He began answering their mail when he was just 14 and would go on to chronicle the band’s exploits in plenty of books. His own autobiography, Wonderland Avenue, would turn out to be the most interesting. At least Sugerman lived long enough to see The Doors reunite—which, in the band’s current incarnation, has probably hastened the death of many Doors fans. He was survived by wife Fawn Hall, who enjoyed some ’80s notoriety for her role in shredding documents as Oliver North’s secretary during the days of the Iran-Contra scandal. –J.R. Taylor


Johnnie Johnson (click for larger version)


R.L. Burnside

February 2 marks a decade since a capacity crowd crammed into The Nick during a snowstorm to see the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and 69-year-old opening act R.L. Burnside. Spencer obviously dug how Burnside, a Mississippi hill-country blues man and erstwhile sharecropper, was the real deal. The next morning, the Blues Explosion headed to Holly Springs, Mississippi, to back Burnside for what became the A Ass Pocket of Whiskey album (reportedly recorded in a mere four hours). Though it received mixed reviews, the album became the best selling of Burnside’s career and paid for a new roof on his home. He had been recording since the late ’60s, and it must have had him scratching his head to see young, indie-rocker types suddenly turning up at his shows. He recorded a few more albums on the Fat Possum label, including the 1998 album Come On In. His 2001 album Wish I Was in Heaven Sitting Down was aptly named for a man who preferred to remain seated onstage. He died in Memphis. —Paul Brantley

Harold Leventhal

Anyone interested in booking prominent folk music stars 40 years ago usually rang up Harold Leventhal. He was the man responsible for Bob Dylan’s first major concert appearance in 1963 at Town Hall in New York City. Leventhal handled folk stars such as Dylan, Joan Baez, the Weavers, Woody Guthrie, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, as well as pop and rock acts such as Harry Belafonte, Johnny Cash, the Mamas and Papas, and Neil Young. He also produced the Arlo Guthrie film Alice’s Restaurant. —Ed Reynolds

Jothan Callins

A student of Amos Gordon at Jackson Olin High School, Callins went on to a career as an educator when not playing trumpet and keyboards with Stevie Wonder, The Lionel Hampton Orchestra, B.B. King, Max Roach, and many other jazz greats, most notably Sun Ra, for whom he also served a stint as music director. In 1978, Mr. Callins became the first jazz Artist in Residence for the Birmingham Public School System and helped found the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame. (He was later inducted there, as well.) He led his own Sounds of Togetherness, with which he toured internationally, founded The Birmingham Youth Jazz Ensemble, and authored more than 500 compositions. Explaining jazz improvisation to schoolchildren, Callins once put it this way: “Everybody gets to play. It’s like being at church and having testimony time. We all get a chance to say our piece.” –Bart Grooms

Ibrahim Ferrer

As a member of The Buena Vista Social Club, Cuban-born Ferrer became an international star and was featured in Wim Wenders’ documentary of the same title. –B.G.

Jim Capaldi

Drummer and lyricist for Traffic; he co-wrote most of their songs with Steve Winwood. –B.G.

Jimmy Smith

He radically redefined jazz organ in the mid-’50s, making it a bona fide solo instrument and influencing every jazz and rock player who came after him. Eschewing the tremolo typical of the organ sound of his day, Smith used the newly introduced (1955) Hammond B-3 and played lines based on the ideas of his favorite sax players (Coleman Hawkins, Don Byas), not keyboard men. He made numerous recordings, especially for Blue Note. Miles Davis, on first hearing Smith: “Man, this cat is the eighth wonder of the world!” –B.G.

Vassar Clements

Fiddler extraordinaire who played with Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys and Jim and Jesse McReynolds, then later sat in with the likes of Paul McCartney, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Johnny Cash, The Grateful Dead, Hank Williams, Jr., even Woody Herman; he can be heard on more than 2,000 albums. He combined the bluegrass of his background with jazz and seemed to fit in anywhere, even alongside Jerry Garcia and David Grisman in the hippie bluegrass quintet Old and in the Way. ––B.G.

Shirley Horn

One of jazz’s most sensual vocalists, Horn was both a protegée of and an influence on Miles Davis. Horn was also an accomplished pianist whose playing and singing meshed elegantly on her trademark ultra-slow ballads. Close Enough for Love (1989) is a fine first place to hear the woman who influenced Diana Krall and many others. –B.G.

Spencer Dryden

You’d imagine that the members of Jefferson Airplane are doing well. Some of them are still along for the ride playing as members of Starship, while fringe figures such as Jorma Kaukonen remain respected guitar masters who run their own pleasant rural empires. Property values in San Francisco stayed on the rise, too. Yes, it’s good to be a former member of Jefferson Airplane—unless you were Spencer Dryden, the veteran Airplane drummer who was living in a miserable place that hardly counted as a shack.

Not privy to publishing rights or particularly adult decisions, Dryden was a classic hippie casualty whose induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame couldn’t even rate him a cup of coffee. To be fair, the band had originally lost interest in the guy after he began carrying around a gun in the aftermath of Altamont. Not too coincidentally, Dryden had joined the Airplane as a replacement for original drummer Skip Spence, who would go on to cultish fame as another legendary acid-rock nutcase. At least Dryden benefitted from a 2004 fundraiser that was meant to help him with hip-replacement surgeries and other medical problems. It was still a bizarre end to a weird life—which included an idyllic Hollywood childhood under the auspices of his uncle, Charlie Chaplin. Most telling quote regarding Dryden, courtesy of an ex-wife: “He was so quirky, and he never intentionally hurt anyone.” —J.R.T.

Willie Hutch


Spencer Dryden (click for larger version)

He stepped in to finish up “I’ll Be There” for the Jackson Five, and that pretty much guaranteed Willie Hutch any number of production jobs during the ’70s heyday of Motown. He was a natural purveyor of chart hits, too, having already made the adjustment from backwoods Texas soul to writing songs for The Fifth Dimension. However, Hutch would really make his pop-culture breakthrough with his film scores for The Mack and Foxy Brown—both of which were grandly intrusive experiments in funk and soul. (In the tradition of Curtis Mayfield’s work on Superfly, “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” continues to matter far more than any scene from The Mack.) Hutch was always welcome in the studio during the ’80s and ’90s, as well, and was still releasing strong work right up until 2002. Hutch also stayed around long enough to hear his “I Choose You” backing up the action in this year’s critically acclaimed pimp epic Hustle & Flow. –J.R.T.

Hasil Adkins

Wearing wraparound sunglasses and beaming a toothless grin as he danced in the audience to his own opening act (Southern Culture on the Skids), Hasil Adkins was clearly enjoying himself as he waited to go on stage. Minutes later Adkins was on stage alone with an acoustic guitar, singing in a captivating yet disturbing tenor that occasionally broke into a bad, but hypnotic, falsetto. He broke a string and smashed his guitar against the wall behind him without even bothering to turn around, then calmly asked to borrow someone else’s instrument. After the show, a roadie acquaintance told me that Adkins’ lunch routine was a pint of vodka and five cans of chicken noodle soup eaten straight from the can. He also consumed two gallons of coffee daily.

Adkins was the consummate hillbilly singer, the original madman who inspired The Cramps and other warped devotees of Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis to concoct a musical genre called “psychobilly.”

He claimed to have written more than 7,000 songs (with titles like “Boo Boo the Cat” and “Chocolate Milk Honeymoon”), and in 1970 he began mailing out thousands of tapes in an effort to secure a record deal. U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia gave one of Adkins’ tapes to President Nixon; the President responded to Adkins on White House stationery: “I am very pleased by your thoughtfulness in bringing these particular selections to my attention.” Adkins was found dead at his crudely constructed West Virginia shack at age 67 of as yet undetermined reasons. Foul play was ruled out. —E.R.

Baker Knight

Knight wrote hits for Ricky Nelson (“Lonesome Town”) and Elvis Presley (“The Wonder of You”) as well for Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Perry Como, among others. Knight was born in Birmingham, spending much of his 72-year life here. In 1956, he had a strong regional following with his band Baker Knight and the Knightmares. Ricky Nelson recorded 22 of Knight’s songs. —E.R.

Bobby Short

Singer/pianist whom The New Yorker called “one of the last examples (and indubitably the best) of the supper club singer or ‘troubadour;’” he worked at the Café Carlyle on Manhattan’s Upper East Side from 1968 to 2005. –B.G.


Bobby Short (click for larger version)


Little Milton Campbell

Blues singer, guitarist and songwriter (“The Blues Is Alright,” “Your Wife Is Cheating on Us”). –B.G.

Paul Peña

Folk/blues singer; he wrote “Jet Airliner,” which was a hit for the Steve Miller Band, and was the central figure in the remarkable documentary Genghis Blues. –B.G.

Chet Helms

Chet Helms produced the first psychedelic light shows at the Fillmore West in San Francisco and staged free concerts in Golden Gate Park (when not fighting with promoter Bill Graham over whether to charge admission). “Chet was a hippie,” Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart said. “We were all hippies. He hated to charge for the music.” The story goes that he traveled to Austin, Texas, where he convinced Janis Joplin to hitchhike back to the West Coast with him. Helms was managing Big Brother and the Holding Company at the time and brought Joplin in to propel the band to stardom. Helms died at 63 of Hepatitis C complications. —E.R.

Jimmy Martin

A 1950s member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, Martin was an ornery man with a high, lonesome whine and a distinctive, fast-strumming rhythm guitar style. He’s probably best known for giving Mother Maybelle a run for her money as the show-stopper on the immortal 1970 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken?, a record that forced rednecks to forgive hippies for long hair and compelled hippies to forgive rednecks for not liking loud music. The two polar-opposite cultures admitted that they were really quite fond of each other, despite what Merle Haggard sang.

The Grand Ole Opry was too terrified of his reputation as an unpredictable drunk to invite Martin to join. He never got over the rejection; he often drove to the backstage of the Opry in a limo he owned (the license plate read KING JIM) on Saturday nights to drunkenly demand that he be allowed to perform. Martin died of bladder cancer and congestive heart failure at age 77. —E.R.

Dead Folks 2006 (Part 8)

January 26, 2006

Politics/World Affairs

Joe T. Smitherman (click for larger version)




Simon Wiesenthal

There are militant Jews, and then there are insanely militant Jews—the latter of which were probably best represented by the NYC group that loved to dismiss Simon Wiesenthal as “Weaselthal” for using legal channels to pursue former Nazis. (They didn’t like his support of Kurt Waldheim, either.) To normal human beings, though, Wiesenthal was a dashing figure as the Holocaust survivor who understood the importance of ensuring that no German monsters got to enjoy their forced retirement. His work in the aftermath of the Nuremberg trials facilitated the capturing of many notorious creeps, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center continued to extradite Nazis while also stopping the pensions of former SS officers. He was also father to a slew of ’70s paperback thrillers that drew upon his pursuits. The covers for a lot of these depicted the White House with a swastika in the background. —J.R. Taylor

Joe T. Smitherman

For years my mother refused to vote for Joe Smitherman, mayor of Selma from 1964 to 2000, because his quick-draw tongue flippantly and all too frequently tossed off racial slurs. (Smitherman can be seen in a 1960s Civil Rights documentary referring to “Martin Luther Coon.”) Nevertheless, our family continued to buy washing machines from his appliance store on Broad Street. He was quite a charmer, a good-looking guy who sort of resembled Johnny Carson.

Smitherman finally accepted that segregation had been declared illegal in Selma—except for the churches and country club. Despite his loose tongue around the neighborhood, as a city councilor he broke ties with white opinion and supported paving the dirt roads on which most of Selma’s black residents lived. He was re-elected every four years for 36 years by wooing black voters. It was never lost on Joe T. Smitherman that Selma’s black population was increasingly outnumbering the whites.

The town’s (whites only) public swimming pool that Mayor Smitherman closed to prevent blacks from swimming with whites became a symbol of Selma’s stubbornness and stupidity. There the pool sat unused for years, filthy and creeping with algae, the water a dismal blend of green and brown slime. Smitherman’s closing of the pool, however, launched a minor boom in the swimming pool industry in Selma. White residents combined resources to construct neighborhood “members only” pools. The one in our neighborhood was less than a hundred feet from Smitherman’s back door. He lived two blocks from our house (as kids we’d yell “Citizens’ arrest!” every time Joe T. ran the stop sign on our corner), and his home was often the target of Civil Rights marches during the mid-1960s. As my parents scowled, my siblings and I would cheer wildly whenever our house appeared on NBC’s “Huntley-Brinkley Report.”

Several years ago, I was in Joe Smitherman’s office, where a Confederate battle flag flanked his desk. He bragged about Selma’s then-recently appointed first black police chief, told me that the city had a couple of Jewish mayors in its history, and then pointed to a photo of himself sporting bright red wax lips once made at Selma’s now-defunct American Candy Company factory. Laughing, he quipped, “I look like a damn New Orleans queer, don’t I?” —Ed Reynolds

James Stockdale

It’s a shame that Admiral James Stockdale, who was Ross Perot’s 1992 running mate, is remembered for opening the vice-presidential debate by asking, “Who am I? Why am I here?” These words were seized upon by the media as possible evidence of senility (Phil Hartman parodied Stockdale on “Saturday Night Live” with Dana Carvey as Perot), but they in fact reflected Stockdale’s deep philosophical bent. His study of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus helped Stockdale endure repeated torture at the hands of the North Vietnamese throughout his seven and a half years of captivity as a P.O.W. His stoicism was resolute: He mutilated his face to foil his captors’ efforts to have him appear on camera for propaganda purposes and slit his wrists to demonstrate that he’d rather die than give in to their demands. These acts of defiance earned him several decorations and brought about better treatment of P.O.W.s by the North Vietnamese. —Paul Brantley

Rosemary Kennedy

Need further proof of how the Kennedy Empire has fallen? Consider that there was a time when Rosemary Kennedy was regarded as the most embarrassing member of the clan. As the retarded sister of JFK and RFK, Rosemary was hidden away after patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy decided that she was best dealt with by administering a lobotomy. The adoring media obligingly ignored Rosemary’s existence for decades. She lived to a ripe old age, too, most likely because she was blissfully unaware of how her brother Teddy had ruined the family name. —J.R.T.

Shirley Chisholm

Emilio Estevez once mistook a poster of Angela Davis for Shirley Chisholm. That’s okay, though. A guy from Mötley Crüe thought it was a poster of Clarence Williams, III. At least Emilio’s mistake was the result of a good leftist upbringing where Shirley Chisholm was an important feminist icon. She made history as the first black female ever elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968. She promised fireworks and quickly rebelled once the Brooklyn gal found herself being shuffled off to the Agricultural Committee.

Chisholm would go on to co-found the National Organization of Women, which today might very well have less members than the total number of women who’ve ever posed for Playboy. Chisholm’s run for the 1972 presidency was pure showmanship, but she paved the way for genuinely legitimate contenders such as Barbara Jordan. —J.R.T.




Shirley Chisholm





Domino Harvey

The amazing movie star Laurence Harvey left a bizarre legacy, what with sickly sophisticated turns in films such as Walk on the Wild Side and A Dandy in Aspic—not to mention a creepy turn as a “Columbo” villain. Still, Domino Harvey almost topped all of her father’s incredible excesses. She initially took over the international scene as a stunning model, which seemed natural enough for the offspring of Harvey and model Paulene Stone. Then, however, Domino had to become a genuine character by ditching her glamorous world to become a bona fide bounty hunter. She tossed in the added allure of being a lesbian, although that fact was pretty much ignored when director Tony Scott made the big-screen adaptation of her life. Keira Knightley made for a nice Domino in Domino, but the film itself was a hyper-stylized mess—with its storyline further complicated when Domino died of a drug overdose before the 2005 production was even released. —J.R.T.

Ray Holmes


Domino Harvey (click for larger version)

In an incident that was reportedly caught on film, British Royal Air Force pilot Ray Holmes saved Buckingham Palace from almost certain destruction in 1940. The Hurricane fighter plane he was flying had run out of ammunition, so Holmes rammed into a German bomber, slicing off the tail as it headed towards the Palace. Holmes parachuted to safety. —E.R.

Philip Klass

With an exacting, detail-obsessed mind and the skeptical outlook of an unwavering empiricist, it was inevitable that electrical engineer and aviation expert Philip Klass would occasionally irritate his peers. He didn’t merely know everything about aviation technology; he usually knew it first. During the 1950s, he wrote the very first articles on secret inertial guidance technology, infrared missile guidance and detection, and microelectronics. Klass’s book, Secret Sentries in Space (1971), was the first to deal with spy satellite technology. He coined the term “avionics” and in the process created his 34-year position as senior avionics editor of Aviation Week and Space Technology.

But if his colleagues were sometimes miffed, his opponents were constantly infuriated. That’s because a sideline of his research led to Klass becoming the foremost debunker of UFO reports. Klass always offered an unassailable rationale for his investigations: “My sole objective is to either find a credible, prosaic explanation for a UFO report, or, if that isn’t possible, then to write the most important story of my life—about a visitor from another planet—and win a Pulitzer Prize.”

What galled the UFOlogists, “abduction” victims, and conspiracy theorists is that Klass consistently found a credible explanation. Apparently, a lot of amazing things take place in the atmosphere (plasma formations, radar temperature inversions), but the truth about such phenomena is here on Earth, not “out there.” Throw in a few elaborate hoaxes and pretty soon the X-files are rudely supplanted by the ABCs of basic scientific inquiry. That’s no fun.

His research was made public at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), which Klass helped establish in the mid 1970s, and at SUN (Skeptics UFO Newsletter), a bimonthly publication that Klass operated himself. This information in turn formed the basis of what are generally considered to be the best books on the subject: UFOs Identified, UFOs Explained, and The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup.

That last title placed him on the enemies list of major UFOlogists, many of whom describe Klass as a “disinformer” probably working for the government. The book had turned the tables on one of the world’s most durable conspiracy theories. According to Klass, it wasn’t the U.S. government that was involved in a coverup at Roswell and Area 51. It was the pseudo-scientists and tourist attractions who were “lining their pockets” by maintaining a popular myth. —David Pelfrey

John DeLorean

Let’s note that he was acquitted—but John DeLorean still became a major ’70s icon while being videotaped by the FBI discussing how cocaine was going to be the savior of his automobile empire. It wasn’t just excess that he represented with his car line, although those stainless steel cars with the elevating doors would certainly go down in history as a pre-yuppie status symbol. DeLorean the Man was even more of a spectacle with his three-piece suits and aging good looks worthy of a model in a J.C. Penney layout. He would later be usurped by Moammar Gaddafi in the annals of stylish creepiness.


John DeLorean (click for larger version)

In his defense, DeLorean had created the Pontiac GTO, and his jet-set ways allowed him to raise money from the likes of Sammy Davis, Jr. (There would be a Pontiac GTO named “The Judge,” in tribute to Davis’ routine from “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In.”) DeLorean even had the hot wife who was ready to ditch him once the going got tough. Anyway, DeLorean’s alleged big drug deal never happened, but he still staved off bankruptcy until 1999—and certainly was far from the flophouse when he suffered a fatal stroke in early 2005. —J.R.T

Also Dead . . .

Ed Masry, partner of Erin Brockovich, played by Albert Finney in the film; Eddie Bunker, Mr. Blue in Reservoir Dogs, and real-life criminal; screenwriter Ernest Lehman; Henry Corden, voice of Fred Flintstone; Elmer “Len” Dresslar, voice of the Jolly Green Giant; Thurl Ravenscroft, voice of Tony the Tiger; Musicians Chris LeDoux, Chris Whitley, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Luther Vandross, Justin Hinds, Laurel Aitken, Paul “Wine” Jones, Son Seals, Lucky Thompson, Percy Heath, Tyrone Davis, Link Wray, and Martin Denny; Senator Howell Heflin; O.J. lawyer Johnnie Cochran; architect Philip Johnson; Actors Barbara Bel-Geddes, Mason Adams, and Sir John Mills; Authors John Fowles, M. Scott Peck, Saul Bellow, Hunter S. Thompson, and Shelby Foote; Myron Floren, Lawrence Welk’s “Happy Norwegian”; Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist; Gen. William Westmoreland; feminist Andrea Dworkin; Eugene McCarthy; anchorman Peter Jennings; Prince Ranier; TV host Ralph Edwards (“This is Your Life”) &


The Black & White Gift Guide 2005

The Black & White Gift Guide 2005

By Christina Crowe Paul, Brantley David Pelfrey, Christina Crowe, Paul Brantley, David Pelfrey, Ed Reynolds

December 15, 2005

Each Christmas season Black & White‘s elite shopping team gets a big kick out of finding unique items, a few bargains, and the latest top gear. For example, not only have we found some very good ice cream, we tracked down the perfect scoop. We figure that the best of everything is good enough for you, our readers. We also like toys, gadgets, and pretty much any device that launches marshmallows across the room. Largely speaking, then, we’ve already done all the heavy lifting this year. You merely have to write the check and wrap the box.

Food, For Goodness Sake

For the foodies on your gift list, or for those who just love tasty treats, here are a few ideas for something different.

O&H Danish Bakery’s kringles are the perfect pastries to have on hand for a big breakfast on Christmas morning. This Wisconsin-based bakery, run by the Oleson family, turns out the thin, flaky, frosted rings filled with flavors such as pecan, raspberry, almond, cherry, and even turtle. At $8.85 or $9.85 per 1-pound, 8-ounce pastry, they’re a steal. The company also makes decadent tortes, coffee cakes, and other Danish delights. Order online at www.ohdanishbakery.com or call, 800-709-4009.

For the cooks you know—amateur, aspiring, or otherwise—several new cookbooks would make great additions to their kitchen libraries. Francophile and author of A Year in Provence Peter Mayle and renowned baker Gerard Auzet have teamed up to publish Confessions of a French Baker: Breadmaking Secrets, Tips, and Recipes (Knopf; $16.95/hardcover, www.randomhouse.com), a guide to baking the delectable (but seemingly impossible to replicate) French breads known the world over. Auzet includes recipes and tips for making traditional baguettes, boules, and batards, as simply as is possible—but the process is still time-consuming and precise. Inspired by the famous American chef of all things French is Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. This is the printed result of blogger Julie Powell’s online chronicle of her attempts to cook every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Reading the book is like peeking into the diary of a woman obsessed with finishing something she started—a process that includes slaughtering lobsters and murdering mussels, often late into the night. ($23.95/hardcover; Little, Brown; www.twbookmark.com). For a little Asian flair, sushi chef extraordinaire Nobuyuki Matsuhisa offers his second title, Nobu Now (Clarkson Potter; $45/hardcover; www.randomhouse.com/crown/clarksonpotter), featuring recipes that range from haute cuisine—like king crab white soufflé with octopus carpaccio—to his take on old favorites, like fish and chips made with sea eel. The book includes recipes for poultry and meat dishes, as well as desserts. These are accented by beautiful full-color, full-page photographs that also make the book a great addition to any coffee-table collection. And finally, what’s being touted as “Italy’s Joy of Cooking,” The Silver Spoon, published by Phaidon Press ($39.95/hardcover; www.phaidon.com), is the book Italian home cooks have considered their bible for the past 50 years. Translated into English for the first time, Il cucchiaio d’argento contains more than 2,000 recipes and 200 full-color photographs covering everything from sauces and antipasti to desserts.

One recipe that surely must appear in the Italian food bible for pizzelles, the thin, round, crispy cookies baked in an iron that resembles a waffle maker. These addictive delights are found in virtually every Italian home at Christmas, and many Americans have made this tradition their own. Buy a holiday cookie–making friend the chrome Prima Pizzelle Baker from VillaWare, and start them on a new annual tradition ($54.99 plus shipping at www.villaware.jardendirect.com).


Graeter’s Ice Cream

With 135 years’ experience, Graeter’s Ice Cream churns out rich, handmade delights in traditional flavors such as butter pecan and chocolate chip, holiday flavors like peppermint and pumpkin, and variations like their best seller, black raspberry chip. (Graeter’s “chips” are enormous hunks of real dark chocolate.) The closest Graeter’s parlor to Birmingham is in Louisville, Kentucky, but you can order the ice cream online at www.graeters.com, or by calling 800-721-3323. The cost is $70 for six pints or $110 for a dozen pints (plus shipping); if you’re ordering for yourself (or for someone with whom you share a freezer), go for a dozen; you’ll be glad you did.

For a fun twist in ice cream tastes, send a friend a batch of mochi ice creams. These Asian ice creams, a variation of Japanese mochi pastries made of rice paste and eaten to celebrate winter holidays and the New Year, are made of bite-sized balls of ice cream covered in the chewy rice dough, in

flavors such as mocha, green tea, mango, and red bean. Order them online in 16-, 36-, or 48-flavor packs from Hawaii-based Bubbies Ice Cream (http://bubbiesicecream.gourmetfoodmall.com) for $43, $59, or $68 (plus shipping), respectively.

Batteries Required

Remote-control toys mesmerize everyone, regardless of age. From the Ancient Mariner comes a variety of remote control boats. The New York City Fireboat is a radio-controlled, electric-powered replica of the city’s Dicky Fireboat that squirts water from onboard cannons just like they do in the real world. The Fireboat is 23 inches long and 14 inches tall ($132; www.seagifts.com) . . . The Sea Tiger Submarine is a radio-controlled submarine that can dive to 24 inches, resurfacing upon command. Should the batteries fail, the sub will automatically return to the surface. Have hours of fun by the pool on Christmas morning, regardless of the temperature ($50; www.seagifts.com) . . . The Remote- Control Shark is the perfect complement to your armada of toy boats. This two-foot rubber-skinned shark has a tail that flips left and right to propel it through the water. It can swim down to three feet below the surface ($40; www.iwantoneofthose.com).
Tools and Tech Treats

Many of this year’s tech gifts involve ways to amp up your iPod or other portable MP3 player, cell phone, or PDA. But without battery power, each is rendered useless. That’s where the solar iPod charger comes in. This 6-ounce, 4-inch-long device has three wings that fan out to catch sunlight, then transfer it to your music player via an included cable (works with iPod Mini and third- and fourth-generation iPods; an adapter kit for mobile phones is sold separately for $20). It’s waterproof and portable ($99; www.redenvelope.com or 877-733-3683).



Oakley RAZRWire (click for larger version)

Another great way to make the most of your personal music player is with the digital sound bag, a boring name for what is essentially the modern-day version of the boom box. This simple, elegant messenger bag (in royal blue, white, or bright orange) is outfitted with a pair of speakers. Just slip the player into the bag’s inside pocket, plug in the speakers, and hit play to access all your digital tunes and share them with the rest of the neighborhood ($70; www.redenvelope.com or 877-733-3683).

Of course, you’ll need the songs uploaded to your player before you can enjoy either of these gadgets, so why not buy a Napster 15-song download card for $14.85 (www.napster.com/shop.htm or at stores like Best Buy, Target, and Rite Aid) or an iTunes gift card or certificate, available in a range of amounts starting at $15 (www.apple.com/itunes/give).

For your more aquatic friends, a unique way to listen to digital tunes comes in the form of the SwiMP3, a goggle attachment with 128MB of memory that can play up to four hours’ worth of tunes through cheek pads that send sound waves through your skull bones (really) and into your inner ears ($199; www.finisinc.com).

Another device that takes a hands-free approach to technology is the Oakley RAZRWire, a tiny, titanium Motorola headset with both a microphone and speaker attached to the frame of Oakley shades that allows you to take calls discreetly. The sunglasses and phone attachment are available in platinum, pewter, or mercury ($295; http://oakley.com or 800-431-1439).

The Slingbox, which resembles a big silver candy bar, connects to a cable or satellite box and transmits whatever’s on TV at home to your laptop or PC (Wi-Fi required), all for $250 with no monthly fees. Buy at www.slingmedia.com or in electronics stores such as Best Buy and Circuit City.



Sometimes the coolest gadgets stem from the simplest of ideas. The WordLock is one such invention—born of an engineer’s frustration with trying to remember the combinations to three locks on his home swimming pool, the WordLock is a padlock that uses letters instead of numbers. Choose a (memorable) five-letter word, and change it as many times as you like. The inventor won a contest and production deal at Staples, where you can buy the lock for just $6, or order it online at www.wordlock.com.

If you’re looking to splurge a bit, the latest GPS (global positioning system) digital navigation systems are pretty nifty now that they’ve had a few years to improve. For just under $700, Garmin offers the StreetPilot 340c Portable GPS Navigation system, which finds your location by tracking up to 12 satellites simultaneously. It features a full-color, 3.5-inch diagonal touch-screen interface with automatic route calculation that’ll tell you turn-by-turn directions along the way. With FM traffic alerts, 2- or 3-D map perspectives, and up to eight hours of battery life, it’s going to be tough for this gift’s recipient to explain ever being late or lost. Check it out at www.garmin.com, and buy it locally at Circuit City and other electronics stores. For those who are very confident of their driving skills, or simply not distracted by what is essentially a mini entertainment system running on their dashboard, Pioneer’s In-Dash DVD Multimedia AV Navigation system is the perfect gift. The 6.5-inch, touch-panel, full-color screen mounts in the dash and offers detailed maps, as well as the ability to play CDs and DVDs. For a little extra, the system will deliver detailed traffic information for major cities in conjunction with the XM NavTraffic service and an optional XM Radio tuner ($1,999; www.pioneerelectronics or locally at electronics stores).

For an unique way to get around town that’s also GPS compatible, test drive a Segway. Our very own retailer here in Birmingham is offering a holiday special where buying a Segway Human Transporter (HT) will get you a free, handheld Garmin eTrex Legend GPS, complete with a custom mount and maps preloaded (worth $400). In addition to the original i180 model, Segway now comes in a Cross-Terrain (XT) model, with all-terrain tires; a Golf Terrain (GT) model, with extended-range batteries, a golf bag carrier rack, and enhanced-traction tires; and the p133 model, designed to navigate in congested pedestrian environments and be taken on a train or subway. The weight limits on these range from 210 to 260 pounds, so try to go easy on the eggnog and cookies. Prices range from $4,495 to around $5,300. Visit the local dealer in downtown Birmingham at 1516 20th Street South, 939-5574.


Manly Stocking (click for larger version)

The Tradesman’s Christmas Stocking, from Duluth Trading Company, is a hearty alternative to the embroidered, bedazzled standard socks out there: made of Duluth’s “near bulletproof Fire Hose” cotton canvas material, it features leather trim, two outside pockets for tucking in tools, and a loop for hanging a hammer or screwdriver you may need for quick toy assembly on Christmas morning. Hang it by the red suspender loops, and there will be no mistaking this “stocking” on the mantle ($19.50 plus shipping; www.DuluthTrading.com or 800-505-8888).