Tag Archives: New York Times

Why I Treasure Obituaries: The Insights They Offer

From the New York Times obituary for Bruce Surtees, Oscar-Nominated Cinematographer (and frequent Clint Eastwood collaborator).

Mr. Surtees, who lived in Carmel, was also the cinematographer for “White Dog,” Samuel Fuller’s controversial film about a dog trained to attack black people. Made in 1982, it was not officially released — on DVD — until 2008 because of the studio’s fears that it was inflammatory. (The film, which stars Kristy McNichol, Paul Winfield and Burl Ives, is ardently anti-racist.)

And yeah, I am not going to lie–I am utterly fascinated in a pop culture sense that McNichol and Ives made a film together.

Errol Morris: Umbrella Man

There are few cultural obsessions that annoy me more than the public’s fascination with finding out the so-called truth about the JFK Assassination. Was the event a tragedy? You bet. But a sure fire way to get me to flip a channel is to be a documentary about the event. There’s only one person that could get me to watch a JFK Assassination-related documentary: Errol Morris. Damn you, New York Times, you sucked me in with this OpDoc.

Here’s hoping Morris dedicates himself to a larger related project on the subject. In the interim, I could watch Tink Thompson tell stories all day long. The man can work a camera.


Frank Sinatra: Photographer?

So, in the New York Times obituary for the late fighter Joe Frazier, I learned a few things. The obituary was far too focused on Muhammad Ali. In 1971, he “became the first black man since Reconstruction to address the South Carolina Legislature”. And at the March 8, 1971, match between him and Ali, entertainer Frank Sinatra was tasked by LIFE magazine to photograph the fight.

In looking to see if I could find the photos in the LIFE archive at Google Books, I found something even better. A former LIFE photographer castigating his former employer for running Sinatra’s photographs. Here’s a snapshot of that letter (please be sure to visit the whole letters page, as it makes for a great time capsule and fun read).

Letter panning Sinatra's photography

Almost Missed: Christopher Hitchens on His Mortality

Thanks to a tweet by Reuters Bureau Chief in India, Paul de Bendern, I was made aware of a new New York Times article about writer Christopher Hitchens. As I noted when I first wrote about his  announcement that he was battling esophageal cancer, while intellectually I have not agreed with Hitchens since about 2001, I still respect him. I sometimes find it odd that I respect him, considering I believe in a God, and he does not. But what the hey, fortunately as I get older I seem to be getting more open-minded.

Anyways, you should go read the piece. Consider this excerpt.

But in most other respects Mr. Hitchens is undiminished, preferring to see himself as living with cancer, not dying from it. He still holds forth in dazzlingly clever and erudite paragraphs, pausing only to catch a breath or let a punch line resonate, and though he says his legendary productivity has fallen off a little since his illness, he still writes faster than most people talk. Last week he stayed up until 1 in the morning to finish an article for Vanity Fair, working on a laptop on his bedside table.

Stephen Battaglio on David Susskind Biography

David Susskind: A Televised Life

Very rarely a great interview opportunity lands in my comments section. Such was the case when Stephen Battaglio, author of David Susskind: A Televised Life, posted a comment in a recent Susskind post of mine. From there, I contacted Battaglio and he agreed to do an email interview about  the book (here’s its official description): “David Susskind was the first TV producer to become a TV star. His freewheeling discussion program, Open End, later known as The David Susskind Show, brought the turbulent issues of the 1960s and the wild and often wacky social trends of the 1970s into the nation’s living rooms at a time when viewing choices were scant. Susskind grilled everyone from a Mafia hit man to transsexuals to a famously hilarious Mel Brooks. His legendary interview with Nikita Khrushchev at the height of the Cold War inflamed both the political and media establishments and would have made his name if nothing else did … David Susskind: A Televised Life is as much a chronicle of a glamorous time in the entertainment industry as it is a biography of one of its most colorful, important and influential players.” My thanks to Battaglio for an immensely enjoyable and insightful discussion about Susskind.

Tim O’Shea: This book grew out of a piece you wrote for the NY Times back in 2001, what motivated you to grow it into a book?

Stephen Battaglio: I had wanted to write a book about the history of television. When I researched the story about Susskind, I realized that he was a great vehicle to tell the story of the medium in its early years. What I didn’t realize until I researched the book, was that his personal story was so dramatic. I think it will surprise readers who thought they knew him.

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