Rest in peace, sweet prince….
Educate and excite, inform and infuriate.
Harvey Pekar, above, the renowned comics writer whose life’s own banalities formed his narratives, died from prostate cancer, Monday, at the age of 70.
A mainstay and elder of the underground comics movement, Pekar was an oft and early collaborator with artist Robert Crumb. Yet the Ohio native worked as a Veterans Administration hospital file clerk most, if not all, of his adult life.
I met Pekar at our WBAI studios on Wall St. in 2006, when he was promoting his latest American Splendor book, Ego & Hubris: The Michael Malice Story, right, with its namesake subject, the contrary blogger and founder of Overheard in New York.
The late Harvey Pekar, and Michael Malice, are the guests today on this rebroadcasted edition of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, July 16th, at 2 pm ET.
You can hear their ideas by tuning in at 2 pm ET. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our live stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.
The New York Times reports the death of svengali, impressario, and iconoclast Malcolm McLaren, above, today, at the age of 64.
His companion of many years, Young Kim, confirmed that Mr. McLaren died on Thursday, and said that he died of mesothelioma at a hospital in Switzerland.
McLaren is best known, and will be most remembered, for assembling and managing the sneering punk prototypes, the Sex Pistols. Fearsome and outrageous, especially in an era that had just come through yacht rock and disco, the quartet’s sole, 1977 studio album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols, right, remains one of the most influential rock albums ever. (This fact later led McLaren, with typical, consumate bombast, to declare himself “the inventor of punk.”)
I didn’t know about any of that, however, until much, much later. I didn’t know who McLaren even was until one afternoon in 1982, when driving down Commercial Ave. in Freeport, listening to my ’75 Impala’s radio, I heard the opening wails of his agglomeration with New York’s World’s Famous Supreme Team, “Buffalo Gals.”
A dazzling ensemble, above, from late designer Alexander McQueen’s crowning collection, shown ten days ago in Paris.
McQueen hanged himself in his London apartment on February 11. Friends said he’d been painfully desperate after the death of his mother just over a week earlier.
Reviewing the pieces, The New York Times solemnly bowed to the artist, his star so suddenly and sadly dimmed: “At this point, not much more can be said about the brilliance of McQueen’s work.” Remember him well.
I got the news, oddly enough, from Janet Jackson.
Odder still was that her words had been the very ones with which others had eulogized Michael, her brother, merely eight months earlier. I’m guessing that memory was heavy in her heart Thursday afternoon.
“Today we lost a True Genius, Alexander McQueen,” Janet, shown right at the opening of MCQueen’s L.A. store in 2008, posted on Twitter. “He possessed a unique creativity that will never b recaptured.”
Lee Alexander McQueen was allegedly found Thursday morning in his $1M apartment by workers, hanged by his own hand at the age of 40. Police carried his body from the home, right, before it was taken away by private ambulance, according to The Daily Mail.
Reportedly, McQueen had been despondent over the recent death of his mother, Joyce, and, reading from the bottom, up, had apparently posted these tweets a mere eight days before his death:
Widely credited with kicking British fashion into the 21st century a decade early—McQueen sold his company in 1991; 51% of it was folded into Gucci for £13.6 million in 2000—he remained the very Oxford definition of l’enfant terrible. He had a startling, savage talent and his couture, right, always teetered daringly on knife edges of chaos and assault. As he, himself, once said in an interview,
When you see a woman wearing McQueen, there’s a certain hardness to the clothes that makes her look powerful. It kind of fends people off. You have to have a lot of balls to talk to a woman wearing my clothes.
Yet, as an immensely skilled tailor in the tradition of Savile Row, where he’d once worked, he could also fashion stunningly classic, rich lines, as demonstrated in this crimson dress, worn by singer Mary J. Blige, below.
Though not a household name, on the level of Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren, McQueen’s talent was so big that his every show was an event. His death has devastated the fashion world, and close friends. Model Kate Moss—McQueen stands between her and model Naomi Campbell, atop this post—whom McQueen publicly supported during her drug problems, is said to be inconsolable.
Finally, so brightly did McQueen’s light burn in his life that, with his tragic death, lovers of his clothing are buying everything in sight, even as analysts report that, the brand “is likely to be abandoned by Gucci Group.” The king is dead. Long live the king.
“He couldn’t deal with it anymore.”—Troy Takaki
In January, I spoke with historian Dr. Ronald T. Takaki about his book, A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, for my WBAI radio show, NONFICTION. Specifically, we talked about the new Obama administration, and especially the president’s inaugural address, which he’d given mere hours earlier.
Almost exactly four months later, on May 26, Takaki, 70, ended his own life. He was, as his son said, above, seeking a way out of the pain and debilitation of multiple sclerosis., having suffered with the degenerative neurological condition for 20 years..
Had I known that I would never talk to Ron Takaki again, would I have spoken to him longer, more penetratingly, or differently, in some other way? Certainly. But, more, I’m honored that I had the chance to speak with him.
I’d heard him talk in-person once before, at an otherwise middling race conference hosted by Michigan State University, about a dozen years earlier. He gave an explanation of the term “master narrative”—the history of the U.S. popularly held to be true by most people, and that our powerful institutions overwhelmingly support and reinforce.
For the most part, the master narrative is the story of white people, their victories, conquests, and supposed brilliance. Other people are attached to that tale, from time to time, like appliqués to a jacket. But the amazing race dominates the conversation.
Then, after explaining this concept, Takaki told his own version of the nation’s history. What I remember most is how, as he traveled through time in his story, different groups would appear, act, diminish, then reappear and repeat, over and over. It was almost like watching a master weaver, but one whose fabric was temporal and societal, not material.
With his sad and unfortunate death, our nation lost an irreplaceable educator and innovator. (Deeper, still, was his family’s loss of a husband, father, and grandfather.)
Thankfully, still, we have his ideas, in the form of his many books, and we also have his voice: Ronald Takaki is a guest today, on this encore presentation of my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, November 27, at 2 pm ET.
He’s preceded by blues vocalist Shemekia Copeland, right, and director Joe Stevens, co-creator of the 2008, sound-systems-on-BMX-bikes short, Made in Queens.
You can hear their ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, dig into our archives for up to 90 days after broadcast.
Michael Jackson was, of course, one of my cultural heroes, but notoriously a punching bag, seemingly incapable of ever fighting back against those who taunted and tormented him.
George Carlin, right, was another one of my esteemed art warriors, but 180 degrees away from Jackson in temperment, ripping new holes into targets at will. (Carlin died in June 2008; Jackson passed almost exactly a year later, in June 2009.)
So, when I heard that Carlin had once recorded a short statement about why Jackson was the greatest entertainer ever, “bar none,” needless to say, I was expecting a harsh, satirical assassination, given his notoriously acidic tongue and ribald takes on human folly.
Instead, the results, though scarcely a minute in length, and profane–audio NSFW, kiddies–are also profound. Carlin not only defends and hails Jackson, but he takes carefully considered aim at sacred American heroes, like Elvis and Sinatra, to make his point.
In honor of the recent, posthumous release of Carlin’s autobiography, Last Words, co-authored with Tony Hendra, above, I give you the Man…and the Man in the Mirror.
Sideshow Collectibles brings it, again, with this astounding, 12″, fully poseable Michael Jackson, from his legendary, 1983 “Thriller” video.
• Hot Toys’ slim version TrueType body with over 32 points of articulation
• 2 interchangeable heads – Michael Jackson head and MJ Zombie head
• 2 costumes (original red jacket and pants & zombie suit)
• 2 pairs of white socks with black shoes
• Five (5) sets of interchangeable hands and one (1) additional posing right hand
• 12-inches figure stand with the classic Thriller title and Michael Jackson nameplate
The accessories enable you to alternately create either the cute, moviegoing Michael Jackson, above right, or the zombie MJ, above top, with only one purchase.
I’ll make a bet, watch my words: Some brilliant, self-taught white kid living in Minnesota, or Kansas, is going to get one of these, a video camera that shoots still frames, and recreate the entire zombie dance sequence from “Thriller” using this, as an animation project. Me, I wanna get two of them and make ‘em fight each other. Hot Toys’ Michael Jackson “Thriller” 12-inch Figure, out 1st Qtr 2010, $189.99.
That, above, is the final resting place of chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer, arguably the greatest person to ever play the game.
It’s on panopticist, an intriguing blog run by Vanity Fair contributing editor Andrew Hearst. As well as being a man of letters, Hearst is the son of chess royalty. His dad, Eliot, grew up in New York City, and
was one of the top players in the United States in the 1950s and early 1960s, eventually earning the title of Life Senior Master. Both he and Fischer spent time at the Marshall Chess Club, which is still located on West 10th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, as it was back then.
Hearst the Younger admits he’d always fantasized about going to Iceland and introducing himself to Fischer, who lived there during the last years of his life.
Fischer is buried in Selfoss, a small town about 40 miles from Reyjavik. I have an Internet pal in Reykjavik named Halldor, and he passed along these photos of Bobby’s grave. They were taken by an American friend of his named Judith Gans, a singer and Icelandic music expert.
Game over, man.
After Anthony Williams’, aka D.J. Roc Raida’s, funeral today in Harlem, D.J. Premier gave out T-shirts with this balletic image, above, of the late, great master of steel wheels.
May he rest in peace.