Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.
Monday, 6 June 2016
Muhammad Ali (1942-2016) aged 74. A giant has indeed departed. The newspaper coverage and special supplements over the weekend testified to that. An interesting comment likened him to Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley in that he too was a game-changer who changed American life and attitudes. Presley though meekly went into the army when told to do so and was never quite the same again (at least he was sent to Germany in those days, not Vietnam). Fascinating to read of Ali's refusal to be drafted and his wit, grace, style and looks certainly made him unforgettable. His courage in later years is astonishing too. Boxing is a sport I would not have been interested in then or now, but Muhammad Ali certainly was The Greatest. He has been in our life since the early 1960s.
Sir Peter Shaffer ( 1926-2016), aged 90. Another stage titan departs at a venerable age. Playwright Peter Shaffer was a giant of postwar British theatre, producing a string of dramatic – and cinematic – triumphs, bringing ritual, magic and music back to the theatre. His hits were not only popular with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, but highly regarded too winning Oscars and theatre awards. After FIVE FINGER EXERCISE came THE ROYAL HUNT OF THE SUN (which I saw at The Old Vic in 1966 when I was 20 - I can still visualise that stunning scene where the conquistadores climb the Andes to reach the Inca kingdom, and Robert Stephens' stunning performance as Atahualpa - Christopher Plummer was equally effective if different in the 1969 film)), THE PUBLIC EYE and THE PRIVATE EAR double bill, EQUUS - also stunningly theatrical - and AMADEUS, as well as other writing and scripts. (.It was his twin brother Anthony who wrote SLEUTH). We also saw his hit play LETTUCE AND LOVAGE, with Maggie Smith. Hits don't get any bigger.
Carla Lane (1928-2016), aged 87. Another titan of British entertainment departs - television scriptwriter Carla Lane wrote that series THE LIVER BIRDS which we loved, as well as BUTTERFLIES and BREAD, which also celebrated Liverpool. She was also a very powerful advocate for animal rights and accomplished more than most. She was one of the most highly paid scriptwriters of her generation, and returned her OBE in disgust at how animals are treated. A nice story is how she saved a wasp from being hoovered up and emptied the hoover on the floor to rescue the dusty insect. Much of her work focused on women's lives: frustrated housewives, working-class matriarchs, and those single girls sharing a flat in Liverpool and coping with dating and life's ups and downs.
Bill MacIlwraith (1928-2016), aged 88. British dramatist and screen-writer who wrote one hit play THE ANNIVERSARY which I saw on stage in 1966. Bette Davis played the monstrous mother in the 1968 Hammer film version. He also scripted that amusing series TWO'S COMPANY about an American writer and her British butler (Elaine Stritch and Donald Sinden) and he also scripted several episodes of the 60s British series THE HUMAN JUNGLE with Herber Lom at the Harley Street psychiatrist. We liked that at the time too.