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Category: One year ago

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

One year ago: Gene Barry

Gene-barry Gene Barry was an actor who made a career of playing dapper and debonair lead characters on television in the mid- to-late 20th century. He died one year ago at age 90.

Barry was a versatile performer who delivered a Tony-nominated performance in the hit 1980s Broadway musical "La Cage aux Folles," in which he portrayed a gay impresario of a drag nightclub named Georges. He considered the role the best of his career.

The impeccably dressed Barry, a suave and sophisticated magnet for beautiful women, wasn't interested in joining his era's crowded ranks of TV cowboys. Instead, he preferred "a guy who looked good in clothes," he told the Associated Press in 1989.

"He has the remarkable knack of wearing a tuxedo well. He is at home in it, secure in it," producer Aaron Spelling once told TV Guide.

Among Barry's other roles were a James Bond-ish character named Amos Burke in "Amos Burke: Secret Agent" (previously "Burke's Law"), a publishing tycoon in the 1968-71 NBC adventure series "The Name of the Game" and the lead character in "The War of the Worlds" (1953).

His acting career was in decline by the 1980s, but it regained traction with his performance in "La Cage aux Folles" in 1983. His final screen role was in Steven Spielberg's 2005 "War of the Worlds," in which Barry and Ann Robinson, his co-star in the 1953 movie, played the grandparents.

For more on the dashing actor, read Gene Barry's obituary by The Times' Dennis McLellan.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Gene Barry in 1951. Credit: Paramount Pictures

One year ago: Aaron Schroeder

Schroeder Aaron Schroeder was a songwriter, independent music publisher and record producer who co-wrote 17 songs for Elvis Presley. He died one year ago at age 83.

Schroeder co-wrote five No. 1 songs for Presley, including "Stuck on You," "Good Luck Charm," "A Big Hunk o' Love," "I Got Stung" and "It's Now or Never."

In addition to Presley, he also wrote songs for artists such as Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, Barry White, Johnny Duncan and Tony Bennett.

Schroeder went into the music publishing business in the 1960s. He launched Musicor Records, which had its biggest success with Gene Pitney. Schroeder produced his early hits, including "Only Love Can Break a Heart" and "Town Without Pity."

Schroeder sold Musicor records in 1965 so he could spend more time working one-on-one with artists.

"He was dedicated to helping young writers succeed," said his wife, Amy. "We'd be their publishers and support them. Aaron groomed them and spent a lot of time teaching them the art and the craft of writing."

As a hobby, Schroeder collected cast iron and tin mechanical and still banks and toys, managing to amass one of the world's largest collections of such things by the end of his life.

For more, read Aaron Schroeder's obituary by The Times' Dennis McLellan.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Aaron Schroeder

One year ago: Steve Meltzer

Meltzer Steve Meltzer's job was a labor of love. For more than a decade, he ran the Santa Monica Puppetry Center.

"I wanted to do what I am now doing when I was 4," Meltzer told L.A. Weekly in 2008. "Paul Winchell was a huge TV star back then, and my idol. I knew his partner, Jerry Mahoney, was not a living person, but Paul acted as though he was, and he made me believe it.

"I do this . . . for the sheer joy that I have with the audience as we laugh . . . and sing . . . and believe together."

Meltzer died a year ago at age 56.

When the Bob Baker Marionette Theater near downtown Los Angeles sought historic-cultural landmark status, Meltzer staged a march of the marionettes before the Los Angeles City Council.

 "He went to bat for us" and won, Baker told The Times. "He was always trying to help people, and he loved to perform."

 Meltzer's news obituary appeared in The Times on Dec. 7, 2009.

--Keith Thursby

 Photo: Steve Meltzer in 2000.

One year ago: Harry Hurt

Harry Harry Hurt was an expert on motorcycle crashes.

Hurt, a professor of safety science at USC during the 1970s, was the chief investigator for the Hurt Report, a groundbreaking study that, among other things, found that speed was not a factor in most crashes.

"I don't think [Hurt's] contributions to motorcycle safety can be overstated," said Art Friedman, former editor of Motorcyclist magazine, who in 1990 wrote a column naming Hurt as motorcyclist of the decade.

Hurt rode motorcycles for years and never had a crash, said his wife, Joan.

Hurt died a year ago at age 81. His obituary appeared in The Times on Dec. 2, 2009.

-- Keith Thursby

Photo: Harry Hurt in 1978. Credit: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times


One year ago: Bob Keane


Bob Keane was the founder of West Coast independent label Del-Fi Records and is best known for discovering and recording rock legend Ritchie Valens. He died one year ago at age 87.

Keane, a clarinet player who led his own 18-piece orchestra when he was a teenager, discovered Valens in 1958 when the singer and guitar player was 17. Keane invited Valens to record demos and helped smooth  some of his rough edges. Then he took Valens' music mainstream.

"The key in those days was to get the [radio] jocks," Keane said. "We took care of them, made friends with them. I took Ritchie out on hops for free. That way, the jocks could charge a head charge and made some dough, then they'd turn around and play our records."

The result was several Billboard chart songs, including "Come On, Let's Go," peaking at No. 42,"Donna” at No. 2 and “La Bamba” at No. 22.

Valens was killed in a plane crash in Iowa in 1959 that also took the lives of Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.

Keane later had success in the '60s with the Bobby Fuller Four, which recorded "I Fought the Law" and other songs for Keane's Mustang Records.

He served in the Army Air Forces during World War II and afterward ran his own TV variety show on Channel 2 in Los Angeles.

For more on his life and career, read Bob Keane's obituary by The Times.

--Michael Farr

Photo: Bob Keane, at right with Ritchie Valens, is credited with discovering and nurturing the young Latino musical sensation. Credit: Del-Fi Records

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

One year ago: Abe Pollin


Abe Pollin was a powerhouse in the Washington sports world who helped bring a professional sports title to the city for the first time in 36 years with the Bullets' NBA championship in 1978. He died one year ago at age 85.

Pollin's company, Washington Sports & Entertainment, owned not only the Bullets, later to become the Wizards, but the Capitals of the NHL and the Mystics of the WNBA.

The company was eventually acquired by longtime AOL executive Ted Leonsis, who merged it in June with Lincoln Holdings to create Monumental Sports Entertainment.

In the changing world of professional sports, Pollin stood out for decades as an owner who tried to run his teams like a family business. He bemoaned the runaway salaries of free agency and said it would have been difficult for him to keep the Wizards if it weren't for the NBA's salary cap. He was the NBA's longest-tenured owner.

Pollin renamed his NBA team in 1997 because of the violent connotation of the word "bullets," particularly in a city associated with crime.

For more, read Abe Pollin's full obituary that appeared in The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Abe Pollin holds up the NBA championship trophy as the Washington Bullets return to Dulles International Airport after defeating the Seattle SuperSonics in 1978. Credit: Associated Press

One year ago: Hoyt S. Pardee



Hoyt Pardee might sound like a familiar name. Maybe he built the home you live in. Or at least the construction company he and his brothers took over from their father might have raised that roof. The company, known as Pardee Construction and now Pardee Homes, has built thousands of homes in Southern California. One of the first belonged to Will Rogers.


The family business was sold to Weyerhaeuser Co. in 1969, and Hoyt Pardee later founded Pardee Tree Nursery in Oceanside.

Read more in the obituary of Hoyt S. Pardee written by Times staff writer Valerie J. Nelson.

-- Claire Noland




Photo: The Pardee brothers, George Jr., Hoyt and J. Douglas (left to right), at one of their housing tracts in Del Mar Highlands.

One year ago: Herb Farmer

FarmerWhen Herb Farmer came from Buffalo to Los Angeles to enroll at USC, he ensured his role at the school by bringing along his camera.

"When Herb arrived here . . . he was a pretty big man on campus because he had a camera and the school didn't," Doug Wellman, the film school's director of facilities and operations, said in 2008.

"It became the official camera of USC cinema. And as Herb taught here and was a student here, he modified this camera. He added the 400-foot magazine. He added a motor drive. He added a variety of lenses . . . and he constantly improved it. And that is exactly what Herb has done for this entire school."

Farmer, who filmed USC football games from the roof of the Coliseum press box, went on to oversee the school's film archives and serve as a professor and associate dean of the School of Cinematic Arts. He died a year ago at age 89.

"It's been a wonderful life working with students here," he said at a 2008 campus celebration of his years at the university. "I'm grateful for the time that I've been able to put into it. And I'd do it again if I had to or could."

Farmer's news obituary appeared in The Times on Nov. 27, 2009.

 -- Keith Thursby

 Photo: Herb Farmer preparing to film a USC game in 1942. Credit: USC School of Cinematic Arts

One year ago: Rena 'Rusty' Kanokogi

KanokogiRena "Rusty" Kanokogi had to pose as a man to compete in a sport she loved. By her perseverance, however, she successfully got women's judo into the Olympics and became the coach of the U.S. team. Kanokogi died one year ago at age 74.

Brooklyn-born Kanokogi learned judo from someone in her neighborhood, but her attempts to compete in the city's judo clubs were met with resistance. Although she won the 1959 New York State YMCA judo championships, she was forced to hand over her medal when she revealed her gender.

She persevered, however, and traveled to Japan where she became the first woman at the main dojo with men. She later returned to the United States and slowly drummed up support for women in the sport.

"It was everything piece by piece," she said of organizing the 1980 world championships in New York. "I didn't care if I slept or ate. It was do or die."

Men's judo became an Olympic sport in the 1964 Games, and Kanokogi threatened legal action if women's judo was not treated equally.

Her efforts were rewarded when women's judo joined the Olympics in 1988 with Kanokogi as U.S. coach. And last year, the Brooklyn YMCA awarded her the gold medal she was forced to give up in 1959.

Kanokogi in 2008 received the Emperor's Award of the Rising Sun, bestowed on foreigners who have had a positive influence on Japanese society.

For more on the woman who fought for women's judo, read Rena Kanokogi's obituary by The Times.

-- Michael Farr

Photo: Rena Kanokogi displays the gold medal for the 1959 New York State YMCA Judo Championships that was stripped from her when it was discovered she was a woman competing against men. It was returned in 2009. Credit: Associated Press

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


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