News, notes and follow-ups

Category: arts world

Bill Blackbeard: He was 'ahead of his time' in recognizing comic strips as American art

Bill Blackbeard When readers take the time to respond to an obituary, they often have a personal connection to the subject. Sometimes they end up writing an appreciation that is so heartfelt, I wish I could have read it before I wrote the story. So it is with the e-mail sent by Ray Polson of Los Olivos who reflected on the life of Bill Blackbeard, a newspaper scholar who died at 84:

I knew Bill Blackbeard well, as we were both in the newspaper comic field from the late '60s thru the '90s.  At the time, I was the largest dealer in newspaper comics in the U.S, a rather large title for a field that nobody cared about.  I met Bill at Bond St. Books in Hollywood through my then-partner, Steve Edrington.  Bill had just established the San Francisco Academy of Comic Art on Ulloa St. in S.F.  Bill had the MOST knowledge of comic strips ... and most forms of American period art on paper from the '20s thru the '60s of anyone that I had ever met.

Bill and I had many dealings, including my first large newspaper buy through my last, when he was preparing to move to Santa Cruz. He was way ahead of his time, recognizing comic strips as contemporary American art. People laughed at us at the time but in the end, Bill proved the critics wrong and paved the way for the field of newspaper art being collected and revered as what it really was and is -- fine artwork that was included in the price of a newspaper.

Not only did Bill love strips, he really loved his favorite strips: Popeye, Alley Oop, Polly and Her Pals, and the Yellow Kid, not to forget Krazy Kat. Nobody knew more about comics strips than he did. He was the "expert's expert" in the world of newspaper comics.
The world of comic collecting, which includes newspaper comic artwork, should take off its hat and say goodbye to the man who prided himself as being the guru of the newspaper strip and a true representative of his last last name. RIP Uncle Bill.


Bill Blackbeard dies at 84; scholar of newspaper comics

-- Valerie J. Nelson

Photo: Bill Blackbeard, who grew up in Newport Beach, is shown in 1970 in the archives of his San Francisco Academy of Comic Art. Credit: Associated Press


Elizabeth Taylor: donations and memorial

Publicists for Elizabeth Taylor, who died Wednesday at 79, said a memorial service will be announced later, after a private family funeral this week.

Her family has requested that instead of flowers contributions can be made to the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation, c/o Derrick Lee, Reback Lee & Co., Inc., 12400 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1275, Los Angeles, CA 90025, or online at

Personal messages can be posted on a Facebook tribute page.

--Elaine Woo


John Warhola, Andy Warhol's older brother, dies at 85

Warhola John Warhola, the older brother who helped raise Pop Art icon Andy Warhol and later helped establish the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, has died. He was 85.

Warhola died Christmas Eve after battling pneumonia in a Pittsburgh hospital, said his son, Donald.

John Warhola was one of three founding members of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and was the group's vice president for 20 years. The foundation established the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.

After their father died in 1942, John Warhola was tasked with raising his younger brother, Andy, and making sure he attended college. Andy Warhol died at 58 in 1987 after complications from gall bladder surgery.

 -- Associated Press

Photo: John Warhola, left, and his brother Paul, right, with Andy's great nephew Matthew Warhola, in Pittsburgh in 2002. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Jennifer Jones

Jennifer-jones Jennifer Jones was an Academy Award-winning actress who in her life married two legendary men — producer David O. Selznick and industrialist and art collector Norton Simon. She died one year ago at age 90.

Jones starred in more than two dozen films, playing opposite such A-list actors as William Holden, Joseph Cotten and Gregory Peck. She won an Oscar for best actress for her performance in the 1943 film "The Song of Bernadette."

Her acting talent may have gone undiscovered if not for Selznick. He groomed her for stardom, pulled strings to get her roles and eventually married her  after she divorced her first husband, actor Robert Walker, with whom she had two sons.

Starting in the mid-1960s, Jones went through a bleak period. Her film career was on the wane and, in 1965, Selznick died. Two years later, she attempted suicide.

Her life took a turn for the better, however, around the time she met art collector Simon at a reception in Los Angeles in 1971 when she was 52. By then, she had retreated from Hollywood and taken up work with mental-health and charity organizations while raising her daughter by Selznick.

Jones, originally not an art connoisseur, became enamored of it when she married Simon. At his death in 1993, Simon named her president of Pasadena's Norton Simon Museum, where she oversaw a $3-million renovation of the museum's interior and gardens that was completed in 1999.

Jones herself was surprised at the many turns her life had taken.

"Actually," she told the Washington Post in 1977, "every time I stop to think about it, I'm really amazed. I think I've had an extraordinary life. And lots of times I can hardly believe it's me."

For more on the actress, read Jennifer Jones' obituary by former Times staff writer Claudia Luther, and view a photo gallery of her life.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Jennifer Jones in 1949, the year she married David O. Selznick. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Roy Edward Disney


Roy Edward Disney, the nephew of Walt Disney, was so committed to his uncle's creative spirit that he mounted revolts that led to the unseating of two of the company's chief executives who he felt were leading the company astray. He died one year ago at age 79.

As chairman of Disney animation, Disney helped guide the studio to a new golden age of animation with an unprecedented string of artistic and box-office successes that included "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin" and "The Lion King."

But it was a long road to those successes. After 20 years of working on nature films for the studio, he quit in 1977 when he was denied a larger role in the company after the death of his uncle Walt and his father, Roy O. Disney. He remained on its board as a director but was largely a figurehead.

Disney went on to partner with lawyer Stanley Gold and became a successful financier through Shamrock Holdings, where he built up wealth to ease his reliance on his inherited Disney stock.

When he had accumulated enough money and influence independent of Disney, he made his move against the company that had increasingly frustrated him. He quit the Disney board in 1984, causing a stock turmoil that led the unseating of the company's management. Using his influence, Disney was able to bring in a whole new management team led by Michael Eisner.

The victory was short-lived. Tensions began building between Disney and Eisner when the company's president and chief operating officer, Frank Wells, died in 1994, leaving Eisner solely in control of the company. In 2003, Disney called for Eisner's resignation, saying the company had come to be perceived as "rapacious, soul-less and always looking for the 'quick buck' rather than long-term value." Eisner resigned in 2005.

Disney initially fought the hiring of Eisner's successor, Robert A. Iger, but relented when Iger made peace, offering Disney an office at the company's Burbank studios, a consultancy and the title "director emeritus."

Despite wealth estimated at $600 million, Disney remained shy and outwardly unpretentious, according to people who knew him. He also was involved in several philanthropic activities, including serving on the board of trustees of the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, where he helped carry out the dream of Walt and his father to build and sustain a top arts college in Southern California.

For much more on his turbulent career, creative passion and the sometimes tense drama within his family, read Roy Edward Disney's obituary by The Times. Also, view a photo gallery of his life.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Roy Disney, in the Shamrock Center in Burbank on December 1, 2003. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times

One year ago: Thomas Hoving


Thomas Hoving was a controversial figure in the art world who pioneered the transformation of stuffy art institutions into popular destinations for the masses. He died one year ago at age 78.

Hoving's most influential role was as director of New York's Metropolitan Museum, which he led during a tumultuous period from 1967 to 1977. He oversaw the opening of new galleries for Islamic art, the remodeling of its Egyptian wing and expanding showcases for American, African and oceanic art.

Hoving prided himself on trampling on museum conventions and blowing cobwebs out of the Fifth Avenue institution. For that, he was admired as a visionary but sometimes reviled as a huckster, willing to sell out to big donors or cheapen the experience of art with flashy tactics.

In the 1980s, he began editing Connoisseur magazine and emerged as a muckraking critic of the J. Paul Getty Museum's collecting of antiquities. His accusations that some items in the museum had been smuggled out of their homelands turned out to be true, and in the last few years the Getty has returned dozens of objects to their countries of origin.

Hoving, an author of several books, wrote an irreverent account of his years at the Met in "Making the Mummies Dance."

For more on the man who popularized art museums, read Thomas Hoving's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Thomas Hoving in 1967. Credit: Associated Press

Elaine Kaufman, whose Manhattan restaurant was haven to literary and entertainment figures, dies at 81


Restaurateur Elaine Kaufman, whose Manhattan establishment, Elaine's, has long been known as a haven for show business and literary notables, has died in New York City. She was 81.

A statement issued by the restaurant's representative said Kaufman died Friday at a Manhattan hospital. She suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and pulmonary hypertension.

More later at

-- Associated Press

Photo: Elaine Kaufman at her restaurant in 2004. Credit: Joe Tabacca / For The Times

One year ago: Avery Clayton


Avery Clayton grew up paying little attention to the bits of African American history his librarian mother, Mayme Clayton, enjoyed collecting.

It wasn't until later that he realized the significance of what she had amassed.

"Her part was to assemble the collection. I really believe my part is to bring it to the world," Avery Clayton said, explaining his intention to establish the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum in Culver City.

The collection features rare books, manuscripts, photographs, films and other documents and artifacts. Some of the items were displayed at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino in an exhibit called "Central Avenue and Beyond: The Harlem Renaissance in Los Angeles,"  which opened last year.

"Most African American history is hidden," Avery Clayton, who co-curated the exhibit, told The Times in 2007. "What's exciting about this is that we're going to bring it back and show that black culture is rich and varied."

Clayton, a 62-year-old retired art teacher, died suddenly on Thanksgiving Day, one year ago. Read the complete Times obituary, and to learn more about the Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum, visit its website,

-- Claire Noland


Photo: Avery Clayton in 2009 at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, where the exhibit "Central Avenue and Beyond: The Harlem Renaissance in Los Angeles" was on display from October 2009 to February 2010. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times

Margaret Burroughs, a founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History, dies at 93


Margaret Burroughs, an artist who co-founded one of the oldest African American history museums in the country, has died. She was 93.

Burroughs died Sunday in her sleep at her Chicago home, said Raymond Ward, a spokesman for the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago.

President Obama said in a statement that Burroughs was "widely admired for her contributions to American culture as an esteemed artist, historian, educator and mentor."

Burroughs founded the museum with her husband and others on Chicago's South Side in 1961.

The museum has artwork, exhibits on civil rights and a display on Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington. It was named after Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, widely regarded as Chicago's first permanent resident.

Read more at the Chicago Tribune: "Margaret Burroughs: Co-founder of DuSable Museum and prominent artist."

-- Associated Press

Photo: Margaret Burroughs in Chicago in February. Credit: Heather Charles / Chicago Tribune

One year ago: Charis Wilson

Charis Wilson was a writer and model who for 10 years worked closely with Edward Weston, the famed art photographer and her husband. She died one year ago at age 95.

A free spirit who took up with Weston when she was 20 and he was 48, Charis (pronounced CARE-ess) Wilson posed for a number of his photographs, many of them nudes, but her involvement with his career went far beyond modeling. Wilson edited articles on photography by Weston and traveled extensively with him for his work.

One of these trips involved the making of the book "California and the West" (1940), which features nearly 100 photos of Western landscapes captured by Weston and described by Wilson.

The 28-year age difference between Wilson and Weston gave their romance "a Bohemian, May to December quality," photography dealer and historian Stephen White said in a 2007 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "Charis brought an essence of youth, when Weston was starting to wear out."

Their love dulled after a decade, however, and Wilson left Weston in 1945, divorcing a year later. She remarried and had children with Noel Harris, a labor activist who lived in Eureka, Calif. That marriage also ended in divorce.

Wilson wrote to Weston throughout her life despite their separation. At his request, she brought her children to see him just a few years before his death. She published a memoir in 1998 entitled "Through Another Lens: My Years With Edward Weston."

For more on the work Wilson and Weston produced, read Charis Wilson's obituary by former Times staff writer Mary Rourke.

-- Michael Farr

One year ago: Jeanne-Claude


Jeanne-Claude was a flame-red-haired artist whose works of art with her husband Christo garnered worldwide attention in the 1960s and '70s for their massive size and scope. Jeanne-Claude, who like her husband only used a first name, died one year ago at age 74.

Among their epic installations was "Running Fence," installed in 1976, which consisted of 2,050 white fabric panels extending across 24 1/2 miles in Sonoma and Marin counties.

Another was "The Umbrellas," a bi-continental project made up of 1,760 gigantic, custom-made yellow umbrellas along an 18-mile stretch of Interstate 5 through the Tejon Pass and 1,340 blue umbrellas in Ibaraki, Japan.

The husband-and-wife team preferred temporary installations that were taken down after a couple of weeks. Like a rainbow, Jeanne-Claude once reasoned, a beautiful thing becomes just normal if it's there all the time.

For decades, Jeanne-Claude did not actually receive credit for her contributions to the art. It wasn't until the 1990s that the couple began putting both their names on their work. Still, she frequently made clear in interviews that she was not an artist when they first met.

"I became an artist out of love for Christo," she said. "If he had been a dentist, then I would have become one too."

For more on the artistic couple, read Jeanne-Claude's obituary that appeared in The Times. Also, see a photo gallery of their work.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Jeanne-Claude and Christo speak in 2008 at a gallery displaying their "Over The River" project in Denver. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Frances L. Brody

Brody Frances L. Brody was an art aficionado with a fierce intellect and pointed opinions whose private art collection fetched more than $224 million at an auction in May. She died one year ago at age 93.

Brody, along with her husband, Sidney, played a major role in the launch of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, which opened in 1965. For many years, she was a force on the UCLA Art Council, which she helped found and served as president.

The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Gardens in San Marino, where Brody was a guiding patron and board member for 20 years, received a portion of the proceeds from her posthumous art auction.

Brody and her husband lived in a modernist masterpiece in Holmby Hills designed by architect A. Quincy Jones and decorator William Haines that became a gathering spot for a dazzling cross-section of the city's elite, from old Los Angeles families such as the Chandlers to Hollywood icons Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.

"Francie was one of those originals -- really smart, inquisitive," said longtime friend Robert C. Ritchie, the Huntington Library's director of research. "As a collector, she knew what she liked and knew what she didn't like and ... you knew where she stood. It was never unpleasant, just 'Here's what I think.' "

For more on the storied Los Angeles art patron and her husband, read Frances L. Brody's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Frances L. Brody


The $106.5-million Picasso and the Bel-Air house where it hung

Private art collection may bring more than $150 million


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...

Profiles of military personnel killed in Iraq
and Afghanistan.


Lives in Pictures »

Search Paid Obituaries »

First Name
Last Name
Powered by ©

Yesterday's Obituaries