Category Archives: obituaries

1966 ➤ The interview that made John Lennon US public enemy number one

Evening Standard,Maureen Cleave, Lennon, interview, More popular than Jesus, How does a Beatle live?

First published in the London Evening Standard, March 4, 1966

Maureen Cleave, 1964, Evening Standard❚ MAUREEN CLEAVE [left] died this week aged 87. She was a long-time colleague and friend who was refreshing to know and a perfectionist at work. She was the author of this landmark piece of journalism in 1966 in which Beatle John Lennon said ironically: “We’re more popular than Jesus now.” Bang in the middle of the Swinging 60s, at the height of Beatlemania, the most successful pop group in history became possibly the most hated. In America’s Bible Belt, outrage sent fans out to burn The Beatles’ records and radio stations round the world banned their music. The Fab Four never played live concerts again.

Maureen had written the first significant critique of the band in the London Evening Standard in February 1963, headlined “Why The Beatles create all that frenzy”. What she identified was the band’s unique stage presence while acknowledging the Liverpudlian scallywags as fresh young jokers in the Max Miller cheeky-chappie mould. This kick-started her career as probably the most clear-sighted interviewer of her generation and her survey in 1966, “How does a Beatle live?” still makes a riveting read as John Lennon guides her through his 22-room home deep in the Surrey banker-cum-oligarch belt…

➢ Read on at Shapers of the 80s:
1966, More popular than Jesus – Maureen Cleave’s full Lennon interview from the Evening Standard in 1966

Beatles, bonfires,More popular than Jesus, 1966

Christian outrage in 1966: public bonfires were organised in Alabama, Texas and Florida to burn The Beatles’ records

➢ If ever a journalist had a quote taken out of context and rehashed evermore, it was Maureen Cleave – The Times obituary, Nov 2021

➢ Once the Beatles had become the most famous entertainers in the world, Cleave witnessed at first hand the destructive force of modern celebrity – Daily Telegraph obituary, Nov 2021

➢ Journalist who was close to the Beatles and known as one of Fleet Street’s most exacting interviewers – Guardian obituary, Nov 2021

MAUREEN FILMED MEETING
BOB DYLAN IN 1965…

…DISCUSSED HERE IN 2000…

Maureen Cleave elaborates on 1965’s interview with Bob Dylan (above), filmed by D A Pennebaker for his documentary Don’t Look Back. The discussion below is extracted from The Bridge, Number 6, Spring 2000 (courtesy of @bob_notes). Click on image to enlarge…

Maureen Cleave, Bob Dylan, Don't Look Back, interview, DA Pennebaker, Matt Tempest, TheBridge

…AND AGAIN IN 2011

Blogger Stephen McCarthy explored this filmed interview with Bob Dylan in the light of his conversion to Christianity in 1978. We see Maureen Cleave ask Dylan: “Do you ever read the Bible?” because she hears echoes of its ideas in so many Dylan songs. Yet Dylan seemed uneager to follow that line of questioning.

McCarthy writes: “Remember now, this was prior to the recording of songs like Highway 61 Revisited which begins with the lines, “Oh God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son’. Abe says, ‘Man, you must be puttin’ me on’” … Granted there were allusions to The Bible in earlier songs, such as Gates of Eden etc, but in my opinion, it was fairly perceptive of Maureen Cleave to have discerned the religious thread that could be found woven into many of Dylan’s earliest songs. And it also begs the question, did she somehow instinctively suspect that times they were a-changin’ for Bob Dylan in some sort of spiritual sense?”

MAUREEN RECALLS JOHN AND PAUL IN 2013

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➤ Fond farewells to Joe Allen who revolutionised London’s restaurant scene

Joe Allen, obituaries,Covent Garden, New York City, Orso, restaurants, tributes, theatreland,

Joe Allen at his regular spot at Joe Allen NYC, opened in 1965, before his block was christened Restaurant Row. (Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

❚ JOE ALLEN, THE RESTAURATEUR who splashed bazzazz across theatreland, has died aged 87. His photograph confirms the memory of him being a double for Humphrey Bogart, who as Rick also sat alone at his own table in the film Casablanca – though Lauren Bacall always denied any similarity! He pioneered his empire in 1965 with two outlets in New York City on a strip of West 46th Street that would become known as Restaurant Row. Then in 1972 he took the Joe Allen brand to Paris and in 1977 to London, opening both Joe Allen’s in a former orchid warehouse, as well as Orso’s Italian brasserie, during the revival of Covent Garden which had idled since 1974 when the vegetable market moved out.

Immediately lunchtimes became social hubs for publishers from Bloomsbury and newspaper hacks from Fleet Street, both a short walk away. By night both places were packed with stars coming on from their West End shows and I only ever managed to sit on star table No 1 once which was in 1984 when I met Hollywood’s legendary Dorian Gray, the actor Hurd Hatfield, visiting from his home in Ireland, who told a very bawdy joke (sorry, unrepeatable)! On Saturday nights Andrew Neil, editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994, held court round a large table at Orso with his top team awaiting a courier bringing first-edition proofs for the next day’s paper.

Joe Allen’s personal style was laconic, his restaurants unpretentious and clublike, from red brick walls to an inexpensive hamburger-led menu, and waiting staff who were invariably resting actors. Most famously the walls were lined with theatre posters – of productions that had flopped. Notable patrons have included A-listers such as Al Pacino, Stephen Sondheim, Elaine Stritch, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery and Sir Ian McKellen, while the restaurants maintained a strict no-photograph policy to protect the privacy of its high-profile guests.

Though Joe himself was very visible during the first year in London, often sitting at the table beside the kitchen, in fact the day-to-day operation was run by the baker Richard Polo as a partner, who died in 2019.

❏ Joseph Campbell Allen, born 20 Feb 1933, died 7 Feb 2021.

Joe Allen, Covent Garden, New York City, Orso, restaurants, tributes, theatreland,

Informality the keynote: Joe Allen’s restaurant on West 46th Street. (Photo: Robert Stolarik/The New York Times)


➢ Less about the food than about the atmosphere – Obituary by Joyce Purnick in the NY Times: “West 46th Street’s proximity to New York’s theater district made it viable, and Mr Allen, concluding that actors, directors, writers and theater patrons would always want to eat, created a relaxed pub aimed at attracting the theater crowd. There was nothing quite like the restaurant in the mid-1960s, and it took off.”

➢ Remembering Joe Allen, who fed Broadway in untheatrical style – by Peter Khoury in the NY Times: “Even before Joe opened Joe Allen, he was a partner in an Upper East Side restaurant called Allen’s. If you watch the 1965 Jack Lemmon comedy How to Murder Your Wife, you’ll see a few shots of a handsome, dark-haired bartender there. That’s Joe.”

➢ A magnet for actors, journalists and royalty – Obituary in The Times of London: “Allen kept a flat in Chelsea, visiting London several times a year. Business meetings occupied his mornings. At night he perched at the end of the bar quietly draining a case of his favourite American imported beers and observing more than conversing with a studied determination not to “inflict myself on the customers”. If he sat at a table it was always the worst one in the house.”

Joe Allen, Covent Garden, New York City, Orso, restaurants, theatreland,

Poster wall of flop shows at Joe Allen’s: at centre, “Got Tu Go Disco” a short-lived musical from 1979. (Photo: Sara Krulwich)

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2021 ➢ Famous last words from Frau Blücher and Nurse Diesel

Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Nurse Diesel, Young Frankenstein, comedy, films,

Cloris Leachman as Young Frankenstein’s housekeeper: Frau Blücher’s name itself struck a note of terror

❚ EVERY MEL BROOKS FAN knows the face of Cloris Leachman from her outrageous characters, the Transylvanian housekeeper Frau Blücher and dominatrix nurse Charlotte Diesel, so vividly associated with the director’s wild film parodies Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety in the mid-Seventies. Mere mention of stern Frau Blücher’s name caused whinnying horses to rear in fear, and only slowly does Dr “Fronkensteen” Junior work out who she is. “So you and Victor were. . . ?” he asks. “Yes, yes,” she replies. “He vas my… boyfriend.” Later in the Hitchcockian spoof set in an Institute for the Very, Very Nervous, the demented psycho who pronounced her name “Nursh Deezhel” did finally admit: “Perhaps I’ve been a bit too harsh.”

“Cloris’s genius is that she never plays comedy for laughs. She’s deadly serious” – director Mel Brooks

Leachman the actress died this week aged 94 and her dazzling career also embraced an Oscar-winning supporting role in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, numerous TV residencies from Lassie and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Phyllis to The Beverly Hillbillies, plus cameos in so many TV hits that between 1972 and 2011 she was nominated for 22 Primetime Emmys and won eight. Her twilight years saw her portraying off-beat grandmothers in television and film and competing with celebrities less than half her age on Dancing With the Stars.

Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Nurse Diesel, High Anxiety, comedy, films,

Cloris Leachman as the very strict Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety: viewed with Hitchcockian inspiration from beneath a glass coffee table

➢ The Last Picture Show made Leachman a star – Robert Berkvist in the New York Times: “But she may be best remembered for drawing laughs on Mary Tyler Moore, Phyllis and Malcolm in the Middle.”

➢ Star of film and TV who relished the roles of grandmas and grotesques – Ronald Bergan in The Guardian: “She played Mary Tyler Moore’s manipulative landlady Phyllis Lindstrom for which she was best known.”

➢ Winning the Oscar seemed to liberate Cloris Leachman – Obituary in The Times: “I’m at a point where I’m free to go out and have a little fun with my career,” she said in her acceptance speech.

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➤ The day Harry Evans answered his interview question for me

Harry Evans, Sunday Times, newspapers, tributes

Harry Evans “on the stone”: pictured by Sally Soames in the days of hot metal production at The Sunday Times

❚ SIR HAROLD EVANS, who has died aged 92 and known to all as Harry, was not only a legendary crusader for investigative journalism but, along with Ben Bradlee of the Washington Post, one of the two greatest newspaper editors of modern times. Crucially he embodied the editor as a lightning rod through which a savvy team can channel their expertise.

I have personal reasons to be grateful to him after seeking a job interview when badly needing a change of direction in 1978. At his office at The Sunday Times in Gray’s Inn Road Harry was armed with a checklist of newspaper know-how on his clipboard which I seemed to be ticking copiously as an all-rounder used to multi-tasking on a variety of projects in print. (Most people in this business tended to do one thing only: Columnist, or Reporter, or Commissioning editor, or Designer etc.) So eventually he asked: “What exactly is it that you do?” – “A bit of everything,” said I. – “Ah,” he replied, “you do what I do.” – “Do I?” (deeply flattered). – “Yes, you’ve got the impresario skills – able to execute every stage from bright idea through to printed page.” Well that put a spring in my step and from there on, my career flew!

books, journalismVisual flair was an ingredient as important to Harry as the words themselves – wisdom he spelt out in five definitive manuals published in the 1970s under the series title of Editing and Design. Here he shared with the rest of Fleet Street how his dramatic impresario skills were key to defining the rigour and astuteness which quality journalism demanded in each of its presentational crafts: Newsman’s English, Newspaper Text, News Headlines, Pictures on a Page, and Newspaper Design.

Easily the best account of journalism’s cut-and-thrust is his 1983 book Good Times Bad Times which nails the pitiless manners and mores of British newspaper execs and the proprietors they serve. Written in anger after his falling-out with Rupert Murdoch, it also reads like a racy thriller.

➢ Tony Allen-Mills in The Sunday Times on the man
who changed the way we tell the news

➢ Columnist Hunter Davies on “the best journalist
I ever came across”

➢ Observer editorial on the formidable career and
legacy of Sir Harold Evans – plus Donald Trelford’s
personal tribute to his “rival without peer”

➢ The master craftsman – obituary in the Financial Times
by Lionel Barber, its editor for 15 years

➢ The most admired newspaper editor of his generation –
obituary by Godfrey Hodgson in the Guardian

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
2012, Sir Harold’s memories of Fleet Street:
cut and thrust, or be cut dead

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➤ Farewell Kansai the fashion genius who breathed the same colours as Bowie

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie,

Yamamoto’s second-best-ever tear-away garment, 1973: A white kimono-inspired floor-length cape, emblazoned with Japanese kanji letters spelling out “David Bowie” phonetically, but also translating to “One who spits out words in a fiery manner”. Bowie was the first Western artist to use a hikinuki quick costume-change by dramatically ripping off the cape to reveal his leotard beneath. (Photography Asahi Shimbun)

The Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto – known for styling David Bowie and creating some of Ziggy Stardust’s most flamboyant outfits – died last week of leukaemia aged 76. He went on to be a huge influence on a generation of younger talents from Jean Paul Gaultier to Hedi Slimane and also worked with Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Here are extracts from some tributes…

➢ Yamamoto obituary in The Times of London, 28 July 2020:

When Kansai Yamamoto first saw David Bowie descending to the stage on a disco ball, he felt a physical sensation that was like a “chemical reaction”. It was 1973. Because a friend had pleaded with him to stop what he was doing in Tokyo and come to New York, the Japanese designer had taken a 13-hour flight and then rushed from JFK airport to a front-row seat at Radio City Music Hall. When Yamamoto saw Bowie wearing one of his colourful outfits, he thought the long journey had been worth it.

He said: “He was wearing all black and then all of a sudden that disappeared and he was wearing full colour. It was very dramatic and the audience all rose to their feet, so there was a standing ovation right at the beginning. I found David’s aesthetic and interest in transcending gender boundaries shockingly beautiful. It felt like the beginning of a new age.” Yamamoto would go on to play a full part in ushering in this new age… / Continued at Times Online

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie

LEFT – A fitting for Bowie in Japan, 1973: The elaborate clash of prints on his asymmetric knitted leotard are derived from the tattoo patterns of yakuza (organised crime syndicates). Kansai Yamamoto himself sports a matching mock turtleneck. Plus doughnut rings for wrists and ankles. (Photography Tajima Kazunal) . . . RIGHT – Space Samurai for Bowie, 1973: The metallic-looking suit in padded satin evokes the split-skirt hakama worn by Japanese samurai as armour. Designed by Kansai Yamamoto for the Aladdin Sane tour. (Bowie Archive)

➢ From the fashion section of The New York Times, 27 July 2020:

Kansai Yamamoto, the unapologetically flamboyant fashion designer whose love of color, unfettered imagination and exploration of genderless dressing caught the eye of David Bowie and helped define the look of his alter ego, Ziggy Stardust, died on July 21 in Japan.

Kansai, as Mr Yamamoto was generally known, was not as well known as some of his more high-profile Japanese fashion contemporaries, including Yohji Yamamoto, Issey Miyake and Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons. But it was Kansai who led the way for a generation of Japanese design talents to make their mark on the Western industry.

In 1971, he was among the first Japanese designers to show in London — a full decade before Ms Kawakubo and the other Mr Yamamoto. His signature aesthetic of sculptural shapes, clashing textures and prints, and eye-popping color combinations attracted industry attention.

Kansai’s debut collection was splashed across the cover of Harpers & Queen magazine with the tagline “Explosion from Tokyo” and his growing profile led to collaborations with the decade’s most important musician showmen, including Elton John and Stevie Wonder in addition to Mr Bowie, with whom he formed a longstanding creative relationship.

“Color is like the oxygen we are both breathing in the same space,” Kansai once said of his work with Mr Bowie… / Continued at NYT online

“When David wore my women’s clothes, people
were very surprised. My clothes were designed
to be worn by women. When I think of it,
it was a bizarre thing for him to do”
– Kansai Yamamoto

➢ From the fashion section of The Guardian, 27 July 2020:

Kansai Yamamoto was known for his singular aesthetic of bold, avant-garde designs, clashing colours and patterns that often incorporated elements from Japanese culture. His long-standing artistic partnership with Bowie would go on to inspire many younger fashion designers, including Jean Paul Gaultier, Hedi Slimane and Raf Simons, and became a major reference for modern gender-defying fashion.

Bowie was attracted to Yamamoto’s ability to design excessive, sculptural pieces which seemed unconstrained by the confines of gender. In turn, Yamamoto was impressed by Bowie’s ability to put this aesthetic in mainstream popular culture. It also helped that Bowie was slim enough to wear sample size. He said: “My clothes were normally made for professional models – this was the first time they had been used for an artist or singer”… / Continued at Guardian online

Fashion, Japan, designer, stage costumes, Kansai Yamamoto, David Bowie,

Yamamoto’s favourite creation for Bowie, 1973: The sculptural Tokyo Pop black vinyl jumpsuit with sequinned stripes and bowed legs is the best tear-away garment ever made. It was inspired by hikinuki, the quick-change technique for kabuki actors to be suddenly revealed wearing a different outfit – in Bowie’s case his flame-red skimpy Woodland Creatures jumpsuit on the Aladdin Sane tour. (Photography Masayoshi Sukita)

“Why was Andy Warhol obsessed with canned food?
Every artist has his own thing going on.
I often use Japanese motifs and sometimes wonder
if I’m choosing them because I’m Japanese”
– Kansai Yamamoto

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