At 96, Lawrence Ferlinghetti Isn’t Done Yet


“Sixty years ago, Ferlinghetti … was the principal publisher of an iconoclastic band of writers and poets known as the Beat Generation. Today, he’s still co-owner of City Lights, one of the most celebrated independent book stores in America. These are quieter days for the internationally acclaimed poet and painter. His eyes are going, but his mind and humor are sharp. And while he may have slowed down some, he’s still publishing three books this year.” (includes audio)

What John Waters Told Graduating Art Students

john waters

“Today may be the last day of your juvenile delinquency, but it should also be the first day of your new adult disobedience. … Think about it: I didn’t change. Society did. Who would’ve ever thought a top college like RISD would’ve invited a filthy elder to set an example to its students?”

Legendary Conductor Manager Ronald Wilford, 87


“By managing many of the leading maestros of his era — over the years his clients included Herbert von Karajan, James Levine, Claudio Abbado, Seiji Ozawa, Riccardo Muti, Kurt Masur and Colin Davis — Mr. Wilford was able to wield enormous influence in many of the world’s top concert halls and opera houses, often simultaneously, for decades.”

Much Maligned And Under Pressure, Library Of Congress Chief Retires


“In a 2013 audit, the library’s inspector general warned that millions of items, some from as far back as the 1980s, remained piled in overflowing buildings and warehouses, virtually lost to the world. In addition, just a small fraction of its 24 million books are available to read online, 200 years after Thomas Jefferson laid the foundation for a vast national library by selling Congress his personal collection of books after the War of 1812.”

Why Ornette Coleman Mattered


“To working musicians whose sense of form and craft were deeply ingrained—and whose personal artistry and place in the profession were built on improvising on the harmonies of songs—Coleman, for all his lyrical inventiveness and rhythmic drive, was a threat. Jazz could suddenly dispense with their techniques—and when Coleman became an instant succès de scandale, battle lines and generational lines were drawn.”

Remember Christopher Lee, Horror Icon


“Lee had a reputation for being proud and humorless, and he certainly wasn’t easy. But everyone I’ve met who knew him well adored him, insisting that once you got past the prickliness, he was kind, loyal, and immensely endearing —one of the true good guys.”

Actor Christopher Lee, 93


“Mr. Lee was 35 when his breakthrough film, Terence Fisher’s British horror movie “The Curse of Frankenstein,” was released in 1957. He played the creature. But it was a year later, when he played the title role in Fisher’s “Dracula,” that his cinematic identity became forever associated with Bram Stoker’s noble, ravenous vampire, who in Mr. Lee’s characterization exuded a certain lascivious sex appeal.”

Jazz Great Ornette Coleman, 85


“Mr. Coleman widened the options in jazz and helped change its course. Partly through his example in the late 1950s and early ’60s, jazz became less beholden to the rules of harmony and rhythm, and gained more distance from the American songbook repertoire. His own music, then and later, became a new form of highly informed folk song: deceptively simple melodies for small groups with an intuitive, collective language, and a strategy for playing without preconceived chord sequences.”

Former Orchestra Exec Director Sentenced To Nine Years


When Stephen Jay Carlton, director of the Peninsula Symphony in California was hired in 2009 “at an annual salary of $75,000 plus full medical benefits, the balance sheet for the Symphony at the fiscal year ending June 2009 showed about $500,000 in endowment funds with close to $10,000 in the checking account. On Sept. 20, 2013, when the alleged fraud began to unravel, there was $1,400 in endowment funds and $0 in the checking account.”

Ludvik Vaculik, Influential Czech Writer And Dissident, Dies At 88


“Mr. Vaculik was a key figure in the Czechoslovak underground publishing world in the 1970s and ’80s, helping to give voice to other dissident writers in the country who were banned by the government. He himself was censored for more than two decades, but still managed to write a series of influential articles, books and novels” – as well as the famous Prague Spring manifesto Two Thousand Words.

CBC Fires TV Host Over Secret Art Deals


“The Star found Solomon had been brokering the sale of paintings and masks owned by a flamboyant Toronto-area art collector to rich and famous buyers. Solomon, in at least one case, took commissions in excess of $300,000 for several pieces of art and did not disclose to the buyer that he was being paid fees for introducing buyer and seller.”

The Alain De Botton Problem (We Don’t Like Our Philosophers To Be Entrepreneurial)


“De Botton’s growing cultural presence, especially his recent forays into museum curation with his Art as Therapy project, has inflamed long-standing antipathy toward him from critics, both in the U.K. and in the U.S. Critics on the right attack him for diluting the purity of his sources, while those on the left accuse him of fashioning meaning where there is only historical contingency and politics. Ultimately, though, de Botton’s varied initiatives are best seen as a mostly salutary, if wildly ambitious and sometimes misfiring, effort to ennoble modern urban life.”

Hermann Zapf, 96, Designer Whose Fonts You See Everywhere


“In the world of type design – an exacting, arcane craft that is underappreciated for its impact on how people communicate and receive communication – Mr. Zapf was a giant.” Among the more than 200 typefaces he created (in several alphabets) are Palatino, Optima, Melior, and the befuddling, beloved Dingbats.

Recalling The Impact Of America’s Longest-Serving Theatre Director

Jac Alder, executive producer and director at Theatre Three has led the theater for 50 years -- something of a record for regional theaters. Shot at Theatre Three in Dallas on April 4, 2011. (Sonya N. Hebert/The Dallas Morning News)

“Actor, stage director, set designer, architect, coach, mentor, educator, community-builder, inspirational visionary, teller of amazing tales and the longest-serving continuous executive producer/director of a professional theatre in the United States. Jac Alder oversaw at least 378 main stage shows during his 54-year tenure.”

Actor Richard Johnson, 87

Richard Johnson in the film Khartoum, 1966.

“[He] was an MGM contract star and an associate artist at the Royal Shakespeare Company from its inception in 1960. In a career of astonishing range and variety, he was a handsome leading man … an action hero in wartime movies, a character actor, a producer, writer, lecturer and hotelier. He also turned down the role of James Bond in the first film of the series. And yet he was not associated with any one role in particular.”

Louise Bourgeois Peels A Tangerine

louise bourgeois

“For ‘peeling’ a tangerine isn’t the lesson at hand. ‘You have to understand that in a tangerine there are two important points,’ she says. These points guide the human figure that she proceeds to draw on the tangerine, and that brings to mind some of her drawings of bald, large-breasted figures.”

Ruth Feldman, The Famous Quiz Show Kid, Dead at 80


“The question was reasonably obscure — What was the last opera in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle? — but Ruthie Duskin knew the answer. ‘The Dusk of the Gods,’ she intoned into the microphone. A fellow panelist leapt to correct her. ‘It’s Gott-dam … Gott-dam,’ he stammered, as the producers of the live radio broadcast winced. ‘He means the German name, Götterdämmerung,’ Ruthie interrupted. ‘But in English, it’s what I said.’ She was 7 years old.”

Ronnie Gilbert Of The Weavers Has Died At 88


“‘We sang songs of hope in that strange time after World War II, when already the world was preparing for Cold War,’ Ms. Gilbert recalled in ‘The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time,’ a 1982 documentary about the group. ‘We still had the feeling that if we could sing loud enough and strong enough and hopefully enough, it would make a difference.'”

Günther Schneider-Siemssen, 88, Met Opera’s Favorite Set Designer


“And while he embraced a variety of visual styles over the course of his career, he became best known in the United States for the unapologetically traditional sets he designed for a memorable run of operas at the Met directed by Otto Schenk, particularly from the Wagner canon. The productions, which flew in the face of the modern reinterpretations that were in vogue, proved popular with operagoers.”

Dudley Williams, 76, Alvin Ailey Dancer For Four Decades

dudley williams

“Mr. Williams was dancing with the Martha Graham Dance Company when he was recruited by the choreographer Alvin Ailey as a last-minute replacement for an Ailey troupe member in 1963. He performed with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater until 2005, continued to dance with Paradigm, a trio of older dancers he formed with Carmen de Lavallade and Gus Solomons Jr., and taught at the Ailey School, on West 55th Street in Manhattan, until he died.”

Nico Castel, 83, ‘The Henry Higgins Of The Metropolitan Opera’

nico castel

“A highly regarded operatic tenor, Mr. Castel was himself a mainstay of the Met’s stable, appearing in nearly 800 performances with the company from the 1970s onward. A well-traveled polyglot, he also had a parallel career as the company’s staff diction coach, a post he held for some three decades before his retirement in 2009.”

SF Chronicle Art Critic Kenneth Baker Retires (Perhaps A Few Years Too Late, He Writes)

San Francisco Chronicle Art Critic Kenneth Baker.
Jim Merithew/San Francisco Chronicle

Being a newspaper critic has changed. “When Chronicle managers began telling us critics and columnists that we had to cultivate “our brand”—our own, not just the company’s—I knew my days in the industry were numbered. The reactionary libertarianism ascendant in recent years has been driven in part by the newly minted mythology of nearby Silicon Valley, of which San Francisco has lately become a bedroom community.