Category: Obituary

Eiko Ishioka, designer for 'Spider-Man' and Cirque, dies at 73

January 26, 2012 | 12:24 pm



Eiko Ishioka, the celebrated Japanese designer whose fantastical and dreamlike creations spanned the fields of graphic arts, costume design and more, has died at 73. She died Saturday from pancreatic cancer in Tokyo.

Ishioka became famous for her strange, otherworldly designs that drew from various cultures. In the U.S., she was best-known for her costume design, creating the colorful outfits for Broadway's "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," Cirque du Soleil's "Varekai" and the 1992 movie "Bram Stoker's Dracula," directed by Francis Ford Coppola, for which she won an Oscar.

In 2003, Ishioka spoke to The Times about her work on "Varekai." As a designer, "my perspective comes not just from knowledge of what happens behind the scenes or backstage but also from the perspective of the audience," she said. "That dual perspective led me to the idea: 'Why don't I design costumes that look dangerous but are actually safe?'"

Ishioka also designed the costumes and sets for the 1988 Broadway production of "M. Butterfly" by David Henry Hwang. More recently, she designed the outlandish costumes for singer Grace Jones for her 2009 "Hurricane" tour.

Producers of Broadway's "Spider-Man" announced that they will dedicate Thursday's performance to Ishioka.

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Singer Etta James dies at 73 [Audio]

January 20, 2012 | 10:08 am


Etta James, the singer whose diverse repertoire included rhythm and blues music and jazz, has died at 73. James died Friday morning at a hospital in Riverside, surrounded by her family.

The singer had been in failing health for a number of years. Her doctor had recently announced that James had chronic leukemia.

Throughout her career, James was most closely associated with R&B music. But she was not an easy singer to classify, taking significant detours into pop and jazz as well. Her hit singles include "The Wallflower," known as "Roll With Me Henry," "At Last" and "I'd Rather Go Blind."

PHOTOS: Etta James, 1938-2012

James' personal life was difficult. She battled weight problems and multiple forms of substance abuse. In 2002, she had gastric bypass surgery to deal with her weight.

Recently, the singer's two sons had been in a court battle with their stepfather over her estate.

Among her four Grammy wins was one for best jazz vocal performance in 1995 for the album "Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday." Listen here to her rendition of "The Man I Love."


Etta James update: Judge rules to release funds

Jazz vocalist Gretchen Parlato sings without borders

-- David Ng

Photo: Etta James in 2004 at the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. Credit: Los Angeles Times

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in theater and comedy

December 30, 2011 |  9:39 am


The theater world saw the deaths of a number of major talents in 2011, including legendary writer and director Arthur Laurents, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lanford Wilson and Czech dramatist and politician Vaclav Havel. In the world of comedy, stand-up star Patrice O'Neal died in November at the age of 41.

PHOTOS: Notable Deaths of 2011: theater and comedy

In L.A., the theater world lost one of its biggest personalities, Gil Cates, the founder and producing director of the Geffen Playhouse. Cates, who died in November at 77, wore many hats during his long career. He was a film and stage director, a producer of the Oscars telecast and served as a professor and dean of UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.

Cates made the Geffen Playhouse one of Southern California's top theater companies. The Geffen continues to draw top playwrighting and acting talent and has developed plays that have later traveled to Broadway.


2011 year in review: Top arts and culture stories

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in art and architecture

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in classical music and jazz

-- David Ng

Photo: Arthur Laurents in 1977. Credit: Los Angeles Times

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in classical music and jazz

December 29, 2011 | 10:32 am


From operatic to symphonic composers, from jazz musicians to virtuoso soloists, the classical-music and jazz worlds lost a number of greats in 2011.

PHOTOS: Notable Deaths of 2011: Classical Music and Jazz

In L.A., the biggest loss came in April when composer Daniel Catán died unexpectedly at 62. The Mexican-born composer, who lived with his family in South Pasadena, debuted his last opera, "Il Postino," last season at L.A. Opera.

Other names that should be familiar to local music fans are composer Peter Lieberson, singer Salvatore Licitra and jazz drummer Paul Motian.


2011 year in review: Notable deaths in art and architecture

2011 year in review: Top arts and culture stories

2011 year in review: Best in art

— David Ng

Photo: Composer Daniel Catán in 2007. Credit: Pacific Symphony.

2011 year in review: Notable deaths in art and architecture

December 28, 2011 | 11:00 am


A number of notable artists and architects died in 2011. They included some local legends and undisputed international greats.

PHOTOS: Notable Deaths of 2011: Arts and Architecture

Two major losses this year were the American artist Cy Twombly, who died in July at 83, and the British portraitist Lucian Freud, who died the same month at 88. Twombly was regarded by many as one of the giants of 20th century modern art. His works combined painting and text into unclassifiable forms.

Freud's legacy was his highly textural nude portraits that startled the art world and became highly coveted among collectors. The artist was the son of the pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud.


2011 year in review: Best in art

2011 year in review: Best in architecture

2011 year in review: Top arts and culture stories

-- David Ng

Photo: Artist Cy Twombly. Credit: Christophe Ena / Associated Press

Jazz musician Sam Rivers dies at 88

December 27, 2011 |  2:49 pm

Jazz musician Sam Rivers dies at 88

Sam Rivers, a saxophonist and composer who helped define the avant-garde jazz scene in the '60s and '70s, died Monday. He was 88. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Rivers' daughter confirmed that the cause of death was pneumonia. 

Born in Oklahoma in 1923 and raised in Chicago and Little Rock, Ark., Rivers became a fixture of the Orlando, Fla., jazz scene for more than two decades. His legacy is defined by both his pioneering spirit in the post-bop jazz scene and a style that married unfettered creativity with a strong foundation of technical ability on whatever instrument he touched. 

Rivers' resume was expansive, including working as a sideman with masters like Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and T-Bone Walker in the '50s and '60s and commanding his own big band the Rivbea Orchestra in Orlando and several talented, tight-knit groups. Though tenor sax was his primary instrument, he also recorded on flute and clarinet.

Living in New York in the 1970s, Rivers' makeshift loft venue, Studio Rivbea (where he lived with his late wife, Beatrice), became the hub of the postwar avant-garde jazz scene in Lower Manhattan.

He headed to sunnier shores in the early 1990s, relocating to Orlando where, according to the Sentinel, he was invited by a number of notable musicians working at the Walt Disney Co. to take part in a booming jazz scene. There, he developed a devoted, multigenerational following and up until this past September, Rivers held weekly open auditions for his well-loved Rivbea Orchestra at Orlando's musicians' union hall.

See below for video of the Sam Rivers Trio performing in Germany in 1979.

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Monster Mash: Gil Cates dies at 77; Occupy L.A. protestors create new art

November 2, 2011 |  7:50 am

  Gil Cates, the founder and producing director of the Geffen Playhouse, died on Monday at age 77

Will be missed: Gil Cates, the founder and producing director of the Geffen Playhouse, died on Monday at age 77. (Los Angeles Times)

Street art: Protesters at Occupy L.A. have created art on two large wooden fences that the city has built to protect a historic fountain and memorial near City Hall. (Los Angeles Times)

Eagerly anticipated: A preview of the exhibition "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan" at the National Gallery in London will be broadcast to cinemas in Britain. (Guardian)

Revolutionary: Eddie Redmayne will play the role of Marius in the film version of the musical "Les Miserables," which is expected to be released Dec. 7, 2012. (Deadline)

Grass roots: A look at how art has propelled the Occupy Wall Street movement. (CNN)

Profiteers: Police are cracking down on ticket scalpers at Moscow's newly renovated Bolshoi Theatre. (Wall Street Journal)

Delayed: Edward Albee's new play, "Laying an Egg," has been postponed at New York's Signature Theatre. (Playbill)

Back for more: The New York artist who gave birth in a gallery has returned to her installation along with her baby. (Associated Press via Washington Post)

Disturbed: Documents detailing the 1875 institutionalization of Mary Todd Lincoln are now part of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. (ABC 7 News)

Evicted: Police in New York have cracked down on two military veterans who have each operated food carts in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art despite city orders to stop. (New York Times)

Expanding: The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is unveiling a new wing that nearly doubles the size of the institution. (Associated Press via Boston Globe)

New leader: Christopher Hampson has been named as the Scottish Ballet's new artistic director. (BBC News)

Stepping down: Two members of the Tokyo String Quartet, including its founding violist, plan to retire from the group at the end of next season. (New York Times)

Macabre: A mock corpse of Chinese artist Ai WeiWei in an art gallery has caused a commotion in a small German town. (Reuters)

Indie rocker: New York's Museum of Modern Art has commissioned a new work from Antony Hegarty, lead singer of the band Antony and the Johnsons. (New York Times)

Also in the L.A. Times: Theater critic Charles McNulty writes about the legacy of Gil Cates, and theater professionals remember Cates.

-- David Ng

Photo: Gil Cates at the Geffen Playhouse in 2008. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Theater world remembers Gil Cates

November 1, 2011 |  6:21 pm


Gil Cates, who died Monday at the age of 77, wore many hats during his long career in Hollywood. Cates served as the lead producer of the Academy Awards telecast for a record 14 times. He directed movies and produced for television. But the man's prime passion was live theater, and the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood, which he founded in 1994, was one of his most prized legacies.

During his tenure at the Geffen, Cates worked with some of the top playwrights, actors and directors in the country. He was actively involved in all aspects of the Geffen and even directed a number of productions, ranging from musicals to traditional plays.

Cates also founded the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, where he served as dean from 1990 to 1998.

Some of the people who worked with Cates shared their thoughts about his life and career with The Times.

Annette Bening (actress): Gil Cates was one of the most enthusiastic, active, involved men I have ever known in show business... As much as he loved showbiz, our rambling conversations inevitably turned to family. The only time I ever heard him brag was about his kids, his grandkids, and his remarkable wife, Judy.  My heart goes out to them. A big presence in our community is gone, but Gil's inspiring love of work and community, evidenced especially at UCLA and the Geffen theater, lives on.

Donald Margulies (playwright): He was a total mensch. I consider him a good friend and someone I always looked forward to having dinner with in L.A. He was a beacon of sanity in the craziness of Hollywood. A completely unpretentious man. Really a champion of writers and artists.

Michael Ritchie (artistic director, Center Theatre Group): He was not only one of my favorite people in L.A., he was one of my favorite people in the world.  He was the first person to call me to welcome me to L.A. It mattered the world to me for one of my peers to make that gesture. We had regular contact, had regular lunches... We shared some of the same perspectives. The Geffen is one of my favorite theaters to go to in the country.

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Shifra Goldman, key advocate for Latino art, dead at 85

September 13, 2011 |  7:16 pm

Shifra Goldman in 1995
Shifra Goldman, an art historian who from the 1960s forward was an outspoken advocate of Latino art and artists, has died. The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants had suffered from Alzheimer’s disease leading up to her death on Sunday at 85.

“To say that Tamayo is not as good as Picasso, that’s Eurocentrism,” the longtime Santa Ana College professor told The Times in 1994, when she curated a survey show on 20th Century Mexican art at the Bowers Museum. “We have to combat the stereotypical notions that all art south of the Rio Grande is somehow exotic or folkloric, colorful and strident.”

In 1995, the University of Chicago Press published a collection of 20 years of Goldman’s essays, “Dimensions of the Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin America and the United States.”

A full obituary will appear soon.


A wider sense of history: the pioneering work of Shifra Goldman

Q&A with Shifra M. Goldman

Getting at heart of Mexican art

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Shifra Goldman in 1995. Credit: Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times

Salvatore Licitra, the unexpected tenor, dies at 43

September 5, 2011 |  2:41 pm

Salvatore Licitra

Salvatore Licitra’s singing career began just over a decade ago in Parma, Italy, and ended Monday in a Sicilian hospital, where he died at 43 of injuries from a Vespa accident 10 days ago. His brief career contained highs and lows more dramatic than his tragic operatic roles.

At the age of 30, Licitra was running a graphic arts business in Milan, taking voice lessons on the side.  Two years later, he was handpicked by Riccardo Muti to sing at the opening night of La Scala in a new production of “Il Trovatore.”  The following year, he was flown across the Atlantic on the Concorde to make his Metropolitan Opera debut at the last minute in "Tosca," replacing Luciano Pavarotti, the most famous Italian tenor since Caruso.

Licitra's performance as Cavaradossi that night was not note-perfect (although he held the Act II “Vittoria!” longer, clearer and stronger than any tenor I had ever witnessed — or have heard since), but it heralded a possible successor to Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo and Jose Carreras, who by then were retiring the taxing, heroic roles that had made them household names.

This “fourth tenor” label was a burden to the singer, but Licitra’s woes though, involved more than high expectations. The singer and his record label rushed out unrefined recordings, Licitra did not take care of his voice in the years after his meteoric success, and his career began a downward trajectory. 

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