Monday, December 27, 2010

They Made a Difference

We make it a point to try to look forward, not back, at year’s end.

We all know too well what transpired in the last 12 months. What’s
going to happen next is news.

Unfortunately, that puts us in the prediction business, which is
often a slippery slope. As Casey Stengal once said, “"Never make
predictions, especially about the future.”

So rather than put ourselves in the company of people who plan the
future --- or the lack of same --- using the Mayan calendar, we’ll
take this opportunity to simply salute some of those who passed from
the scene in 2010.

It’s a highly personal list containing some who were famous, others
who lived in anonymity. To all of them, we wish a fond farewell.

Lena Horne: A true American icon, she was not only a great singer but
a tireless advocate for civil rights. She was the first black
performer ever to sign a long-term contract with a major studio but
never got a leading role because at the time movies had to be
re-edited before they could play in states where theaters could not
show films with black actors.

John Shepherd-Baron: The next time you use a ATM, thank Mr.
Shepherd-Barron. He came up with the idea while soaking in the
bathtub in the early 1960's. The first ATM was installed in Barlclays
Bank north of London.

John Wooden: Perhaps the greatest coach in the history of collegiate
sports, he was much more than that. While winning 10 Division I NCAA
basketball championships at UCLA in 12 years and 88 straight
victories, he inspired his players to pursue success in life as well
as on the basketball court.

Fred Morrison: Fred became rich by giving the world the Frisbee, the
flying disk that was a favorite of adults, children and dogs
throughout the world.

Don Meredith: A star quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, he was a
part of the original broadcasting team that brought us, for better or
worse, Monday Night Football. He was folksy and light hearted, a
refreshing change from the fawning hero-worship school of
broadcasting. He was also the perfect foil for Howard Cossell, who
called game as though he was doing a reading of “MacBeth.”

Robert Culp: Just because “I Spy” with co-star Bill Cosby was great

Peter Graves: Just because “Mission:Impossible” was great television.

Darryl Gates: The most revered and detested chief in LAPD history. He
instituted the SWAT team and the DARE anti-drug program, but failed
to keep pace with a city that underwent dramatic changes.

Art Clokey: A pioneer in the popularization of stop motion clay
animation, he invented Gumby.

Vernon Baker: Received the United States military's highest
decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his actions in World War II. He
was awarded the medal for his actions near Viareggio, Italy, when he
and his platoon killed 26 enemy soldiers and destroyed six machine
gun nests, two observer posts and four dugouts. But because he was
black, he waited until 1997 to receive his honor which was presented
to him by President Clinton.

Leslie Nielsen: Surely he can’t be gone. He is, and don’t called him

Merlin Olson: The Los Angeles Rams star brought class to the highly
unclassy position of defensive tackle.

Prince Chunk: A a domestic shorthair cat, who at one time was alleged
to weigh forty-four pounds.

Otto: A male dachshund-terrier cross who at 20 years and 8 months,
held the Guinness World Record as the world's oldest dog.

Donald Edward Goerke: An American business executive and food
developer, he invented SpaghettiOs.

David Wolper: The television and film producer was responsible for
such as “Roots”, “The Thorn Birds,” “North & South”, “L.A.
Confidential” and “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” But perhaps
his most spectacular production was the opening and closing
ceremonies of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

J.D. Salinger: Reclusive and enigmatic, he wrote “The Catcher in the
Rye,” in 1951, the ultimate tale of adolescent angst and loss if
innocence, which still sells 250,000 copies a year.

William "Bill" Otto Binder: He ran the landmark Phillipe’s restaurant
in downtown Los Angeles for decades. When the original eatery was
forced out of their Aliso Street location by the construction of the
101 Freeway, Binder moved it to its Alameda Street address location
and kept it successful.

Blake Edwards. The producer and director brought us the “Pink
Panther,” “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Days of Wine and Roses.”

Paul Conrad: The Los Angeles Times political cartoonist won three
Pulitzer Prizes. More important, he was a friend.

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