Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hunter S Thompson

Gonzo Posted by Hello

Well, I just found out minutes ago that Hunter S Thompson is dead. This is terrible news for me because he was a god to me. I am sad and torn and will deal with this the way I deal with everything - writing to you about it.

Really, no one can be surprised by news of Hunter's death. Hunter lived a long a very crazy life... you know that. What is a freakish surprise to me is the news is it was a suicide. What the fuck is that about, Hunter? It seems a cowardly way to go for such a brave and fearless man. For the last month I have been reading his last tome 'Kingdom of Fear'. I was on the web writing about Hunter on Blogcritics this afternoon (before I knew about his death). It was just today... about 6 hours ago I typed this very line "Hunter Thompson is the greatest living American writer".

Lemme tell you about my attachment and love of HST. If you have a working browser (like Mozilla) you have seen a black fist that says 'Gonzo' on the left under the links. That was an homage to Hunter for my site. In college, I had vanity plates on my Honda that said 'Lono'. This is a Hunter Thompson reference as well. Hunter is one of the reasons I moved to Colorado, seriously. I wanted to meet him, and knew eventually I would make my way to Woody Creek Tavern for an unpleasent drunken exchange with the man. In fact, if you could see that Atlas we used to drive to Colorado about 9 years ago... there is only one pen mark on the Colorado page. I circled Woody Creek to show my wife where Hunter lived, and where we would subsequently be stalking.

I am pleased to say I did get to finally see him in person. A year or two after we moved here he did a speaking engagement at the Fox Theatre in Boulder. It was a classic Hunter experience, and I was able to ask him a question personally. I'd have to say I am somewhere in the 'denial' stage still about this news. I keep refreshing my google news search engine every few minutes hoping to see the word 'hoax' somewhere. It hasn't happened yet. There will be a million pages and writings dedicated to Hunter over the coming weeks and months. However, there is only one good internet site dedicated to Hunter for years, it is Christine's 'Great Thompson Hunt' and that is where you should go for pictures and articles and news.

You see my sig file and e mail address? They are the name 'Lono'. I own that name in almost every domain over the years (ATT, Us West, MSN, Hotmail, & Mindspring). This is all a reference to one of Hunter's greatest books 'The Curse of Lono'. I am sure I will have more to say about this, much much more. For now, at 11 pm Colorado time, the news has only been public for about an hour. The details are chillingly few: Hunter Thompson found dead of apparent self inflicted gunshot wounds, found by his son Juan.

You all know about Roy if you are here often enough. This is what Roy wrote to the group this evening about this news: This is sad and a loss I put equal to the death of John Lennon. So perhaps you can see why Roy and I are so close. In fact, I just remember Hunter is the REASON I met Roy. Roy had one of the good doctor's books at his desk at work and it caught my eye. Knowing anyone who reads Hunter is good people, we struck up a conversation. If it weren't for that book, I probably wouldn't know or subsequently care about my very good friend Roy.

PT 2, written about an hour (and three drinks) later

The last piece I wrote about Hunter was ironically titled 'Hunter S Thompson, still alive' That was back in August. I knew one day Hunter would be gone and we'd all sit and talk about how great he was. I didn't want to wait until he was dead for people to appreciate him... so I reached out. Hunter was like Jerry Garcia, you just know neither was ever going to live out a full life to old age. I miss them both so much.

I also want to say this. We all knew Hunter could go any day. What I expected was a headline like this "Gonzo journalist shot by police after consuming hundreds of hits of LSD and attempting to paint murals on Aspen police cars" or something cool and strange like that. I guess I wanted an Easy Rider type ending... a martyr who fought to the end.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Arthur Miller

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Arthur Miller, the playwright who explored the underbelly of the American Dream through the pie-in-the-sky eyes of Willy Loman in "Death of a Salesman," has died. He was 89.

Miller died Thursday night of heart failure surrounded by family members and his girlfriend at his home in Roxbury, Conn., his assistant, Julia Bolus, said today. The Pulitzer Prize winner reportedly had been struggling with ill health in recent months. A friend told Newsday on Jan. 11 that Miller had been suffering from "a touch of pneumonia and chemo treatments for some form of cancer."

Miller's cannon of theatrical masterpieces includes "The Crucible" and "A View From the Bridge," but he'll also be remembered for standing up to the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the McCarthy era, and for lighting up gossip pages with his five-year marriage to Marilyn Monroe.

No less controversial as an octogenarian, Miller acknowledged last year that he was dating 34-year-old painter Agnes Barley, who was 55 years his junior. The couple had been living together on the same 340-acre farm in Connecticut that he bought in 1956, after marrying Monroe.

"A bit of his legacy gets amplified by the pizzazz with which he lived his life," said entertainment critic Dean Richards. "But it's his warts-and-all study of who we are that will be remembered best years from now.

"Miller is, without a doubt, one of the top five most important playwrights of the 20th century."

The Man Who Had All the Luck

The man who created Willy Loman had barely read a play until he attended the University of Michigan. He had been to the theater only twice as a child. Still, he went on to become one of the most influential dramatists in modern history.

Born in New York City's Harlem neighborhood on Oct. 17, 1915, Arthur Asher Miller had more interest in sports than school, once claiming he "never read a book weightier than Tom Swift" until he picked up "The Brothers Karamazov" just after graduating high school.

Miller was soon bent on studying drama in Michigan, where he had found a professor he admired, but his high school grades were awful, and his family had no money to spare. Instead, the young man ended up working in New York's garment industry for his father.

"He particularly loathed the vulgarity and aggressiveness of buyers who treated his father and salesmen with arrogant contempt," wrote author Benjamin Nelson in "Arthur Miller: Portrait of a Playwright." "And he became acutely aware of the meaning of self-respect."

With encouragement from his mother, a public school teacher, he saved for college and in 1934, he was admitted to school in Michigan on a probationary basis, working for the university as a dishwasher in his spare time and later as a night editor of the Michigan Daily, the student newspaper.

At Michigan, he met Mary Slattery, whom he would marry in 1940. The couple had two children, Jane and Robert. A football injury kept him from serving in World War II, and in the early 1940s, he wrote radio dramas while working as a truck driver and steamfitter in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

Willy Loman, Tragic Everyman

In 1944, his first play, "The Man Who Had All the Luck," opened to horrible reviews, and a year later, his novel "Focus," about anti-Semitism, failed to garner much attention. But two years later, he had a Broadway hit with "All My Sons," a tragedy about a desperate manufacturer who saves his business by selling faulty machine parts to the military.

Miller was soon hailed for finding Shakespearean tragedy in the lives of everyday Americans. His follow-up, "Death of a Salesman," brought worldwide acclaim and a Pulitzer. The tragic Willy Loman instantly became one of modern theater's best-known characters, the epitome of disillusionment with the American Dream.

Cast off by the company he once so animatedly revered, Loman is crushed by middle age and the fear of being a failure in his son's eyes, finally killing himself so that his family can collect the insurance money.

"Willy," his wife says, speaking over his grave, "I made the last payment on the house today. Today, dear. And there'll be nobody home." Translated into a dozen languages and performed all over the world, "Death of a Salesman" was the birth of Miller as an international celebrity. But success didn't cool his criticism of contemporary society. His next play, "The Crucible," set in Salem during the 17th-century witch hunts, was immediately seen as foreboding commentary on McCarthyism. Soon the playwright was targeted in the anti-communist hysteria that swept through America.

Miller was called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the mid-1950s, and indicted on the charge of contempt of Congress for not revealing the names of his left-wing friends. He was later cleared of the charges, but his personal life was in turmoil and his creative output diminished.

In June 1956, he divorced Slattery after 16 years of marriage. Two weeks later, he began his five-year turbulent marriage to Monroe. About the only work of note he finished in this period was the screenplay for "The Misfits," which was based on a short story he had written in Reno while awaiting his divorce.

In 1961, a month before the film's release, the celebrity romance was over. In 1962, Monroe died of a drug overdose.

New Writings and Revivals

Miller's career was back on track in 1964, when he returned to Broadway with "Incident at Vichy," a tale of Nazi-occupied France. A year later, he became politically active again, when he was elected president of P.E.N., the international writers association. Once more, he was thrown into the center of controversy when, as a protest of U.S. foreign policy, he refused to attend a White House event. "The occasion is so darkened for me by the Vietnam tragedy that I could not join it with a clear conscience," he wrote to President Lyndon B. Johnson, who asked him to attend the signing of the Arts and Humanities Act.

A year after his split with Monroe, Miller was married for a third time, this time to Austrian-born photographer Inge Morath. The couple had met while she was documenting the filming of "The Misfits." They had two children together, and remained married for 40 years, until her death in 2002.

Miller's output was sporadic through the 1970s and 1980s, yet his work received constant attention. A TV version of "Death of a Salesman" with Dustin Hoffman earned 10 Emmy nominations. In 1996, Hollywood remade "The Crucible" with Daniel Day-Lewis and Winona Ryder, which earned him an Oscar nomination for screenwriting. While preparing for the film, Day-Lewis met Miller's daughter Rebecca. They married in 1996.

Though Miller's later plays hardly received the acclaim he enjoyed early in his career, in 1991, critics warmly received "The Ride Down Mount Morgan" and "The Last Yankee" and with this success, he became more active in reviving some of his earlier works to the stage.

Even in recent years, Miller remained committed to writing, and his work grew increasingly personal. His 2004 play, "Finish the Picture," tells the story of a difficult drug-addled Hollywood actress named Kitty who is set on manic self-destruction.

Critics immediately interpreted Kitty to be a Monroe stand-in, and the play to be a chronicle of the filming of "The Misfits," a work that began as an act of love, but spiraled into a legendary disaster.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

Max Schmeling

Max Schmelling
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German boxing legend Max Schmeling, one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time, has died at age 99.

The former world champion, one of Germany's biggest sports idols, died Wednesday at his home in Hollenstedt, according to his foundation in Hamburg. No cause of death was given.

Schmeling's extraordinary career will be remembered for his two legendary fights with American great Joe Louis, which produced a lasting bond between the two boxers despite the politically charged atmosphere surrounding the bouts.

Born Sept. 28, 1905, of humble origins in a small town in the state of Brandenburg, Schmeling first got interested in boxing after seeing a film about the sport.

He became the first German and European heavyweight world champion when he beat Jack Sharkey in New York on June 12, 1930, after the American was disqualified for a fourth-round low blow.

But it was his fights against Louis that set off a propaganda war between the Nazi regime and the United States on the eve of World War II.

Schmeling lost his title to Sharkey two years later on a disputed decision, but came back to knock out the previously unbeaten Louis in the 12th round on June 19, 1936, which the Nazi regime trumpeted as a sign of "Aryan supremacy."

Schmeling came into the fight as a 10-1 underdog, and his victory is considered one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.

But, in a rematch at Yankee Stadium on June 22, 1938, Louis knocked Schmeling out in the first round to retain the world title.

Schmeling, originally popular in the United States, was viewed as a symbol of the Nazis and the growing antipathy between the countries when the rematch took place.

The fight was portrayed as the battle of evil against good, with the Nazis looking to project Schmeling as an Aryan Superman.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt invited Louis to the White House to exhort the black boxer to beat Schmeling.

Louis, then the champion, sent the German challenger to the canvas four times and knocked him out in 2 minutes, 4 seconds.

"Looking back, I'm almost happy I lost that fight," Schmeling said in 1975. "Just imagine if I would have come back to Germany with a victory. I had nothing to do with the Nazis, but they would have given me a medal. After the war I might have been considered a war criminal."

After the loss, the Nazis distanced themselves from Schmeling. In 1940, he was drafted into the military as a parachutist. A year later, he was severely injured and hospitalized for months.

Despite the portrayal of him in the United States as a tool of the Nazis, Schmeling had run-ins with the regime even before the first fight with Louis.

Although he had lunched with Hitler and had long discussions with his propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Schmeling angered the Nazi bosses in 1935 by refusing to join the Nazi party, fire his Jewish American manager, Joe Jacobs, and divorce his Czech-born wife, Anny Ondra, a film star.

During the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Schmeling extracted a promise from Hitler that all U.S. athletes would be protected.

He hid two Jewish boys in his Berlin apartment during Pogrom Night in 1938, when the Nazis burned books in a central square and rampaged through the city, setting synagogues on fire.

Reportedly, Schmeling also used his influence to save Jewish friends from concentration camps.

After the war, Schmeling was nearly destitute and fought five more times for the money. He retired after a 10-round loss to Walter Neusel in 1948 at age 43 with a record of 56-10-4 with 39 knockouts.

Schmeling used the money from the bouts to buy the license to the Coca-Cola franchise in Germany and grew wealthy in the postwar era. He also marketed his name, retaining his huge popularity with his countrymen despite his problems with the Nazis.

Schmeling remained married to Anny Ondra for 54 years until she died in 1987. The two, who met on the set of a film Schmeling appeared in, married in 1932.

"I had a happy marriage and a nice wife. I accomplished everything you can. What more can you want?" Schmeling said in 1985.

Over the years, Schmeling treasured his friendship with Louis and quietly gave the down-and-out American gifts of money. He also paid for Louis' funeral in 1981.

In his final years, Schmeling spent three or four hours a day watching television in his home. He attributed his long life to his happy marriage. The couple had no children.

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