Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Page Morton Black, Chock Full o'Nuts Theme Singer

Page Morton Black, Who Sang Heavenly Jingle, Dies at 97

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For Gothamites of a certain vintage, it was as much a part of life as BUtterfield, ALgonquin and Horn & Hardart — a jaunty little waltz, its lyrics connoting warmth, fiscal security and celestial reward:
Page Morton Black, a cabaret singer, and William Black, the founder of the Chock Full o’Nuts company, in the early 1960s.

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Chock Full o’Nuts is that heavenly coffee,
Heavenly coffee, heavenly coffee.
Chock Full o’Nuts is that heavenly coffee,
Better coffee a millionaire’s money can’t buy.
Page Morton Black, the cabaret singer whose sprightly rendition of that song in radio and television ads was indelibly engraved on New Yorkers’ brains at midcentury, died on Sunday at her home in the Premium Point enclave of New Rochelle, N.Y. She was 97.
Her death was announced by the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, of which Mrs. Black, a noted philanthropist, was a past chairwoman.
Mrs. Black, the widow of William Black, the founder of the Chock Full o’Nuts company, curtailed her singing career after their marriage. But her voice lived on in the jingle, which was broadcast for more than 20 years. Upon frequent and nostalgic request, she continued singing it at public events long afterward.
The daughter of pianists, Page Morton was born in the Chicago area on Oct. 27, 1915. As a girl, walking to piano lessons in that city, she was enthralled by the nightclubs she passed and vowed one day to appear in them.
As a young woman she moved to New York, where she played and sang in clubs and hotels, including the Pierre, the Vanderbilt and the Sherry-Netherland.
Some years later, in the late 1950s or early ’60s, Mr. Black, who needed a new singer for his jingle, heard Page Morton at a Greenwich Village nightclub. She got both the jingle and Mr. Black, becoming his third wife in 1962.
Mr. Black had begun Chock Full o’Nuts in New York City in 1926 as a chain of nut shops, later converting them into lunch counters. By the mid-1950s he was selling its packaged coffee at stores in the Northeast, primarily in New York. (It is now a national brand.)
Not long afterward, the jingle — a reworked version of an existing love song, “That Heavenly Feeling,” by Bernie Wayne and Bill Silbert — made its debut. The original singer was Mr. Black’s second wife, Geanne Martin.
The jingle’s original last line, “Better coffee Rockefeller’s money can’t buy,” was changed in 1957, after John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his family complained.
It was the rewritten version, with Page Black’s voice and image, that became ubiquitous on the airwaves in the New York region in the 1960s and ’70s.
Mr. Black died in 1983. Mrs. Black’s survivors include three stepdaughters.
Chock Full o’Nuts, now owned by Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, has revived the jingle, in a new arrangement, for its contemporary ads. The lyrics have been adjusted for inflation, with “billionaire” replacing “millionaire” in the last line.

Marv Rotblatt, Pitcher Celebrated Through Softball Marathon

Marv Rotblatt, 1927-2013

Former White Sox pitcher served in Army, played in minors, sold insurance and gained following at a Minnesota college softball marathon

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Chicago White Sox pitcher Marvin Rotblatt, a star at the University of Illinois, pitches at Comiskey Park in 1951. He died July 16. (July 28, 2013)

A star left-handed pitcher at the University of Illinois in the 1940s, Marv Rotblatt had a modest major league career with the Chicago White Sox in the late 1940s and early 1950s before settling into a long career selling insurance.
But despite the brevity of his time in the majors, Mr. Rotblatt left an interesting mark.
At 5 feet 6 inches tall — he exaggerated his height an inch or two above that in official baseball documents — he was one of the shortest pitchers to play in the majors. He was a Jewish ballplayer at a time when there were few in Major League Baseball.
Mr. Rotblatt also is thought to be the first major league pitcher ever brought in from a bullpen in a golf cart. He appeared on the Groucho Marx quiz show "You Bet Your Life" and is the namesake of a long-running intramural softball event at a small college in Minnesota.
"He had a lot of interesting things happen to him for a not very storied major league career," said his son Steven.
A Skokie resident, Mr. Rotblatt, 85, died of kidney failure Tuesday, July 16, at Evanston Hospital, his son said.
He was born Marvin Joseph Rotblatt in Chicago to immigrant parents. His father, a lamp-maker, had come to the U.S. from Poland, while his mother was Bohemian. Mr. Rotblatt grew up in Albany Park and was a star pitcher at Von Steuben High School.
He then gained fame at the University of Illinois, where he won 25 games before turning pro after he graduated in June 1948.
Mr. Rotblatt was not known for his speed. His fastball maxed out at a relatively leisurely 82 mph, his son said. However, he threw a "wicked curve," his son said, and a great change-up.
In July 1948, the White Sox signed Mr. Rotblatt as an amateur free agent. He had been at a Brooklyn Dodgers tryout camp at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn when he ran across the team's legendary general manager Branch Rickey, who was fascinated by Mr. Rotblatt's change-up.
"Mr. Rickey said to me, 'Son, how do you grip the ball?'" Mr. Rotblatt told the Tribune in 1987.
After sharing his secret with Rickey, Mr. Rotblatt became suspicious that Brooklyn's pitchers began teaching Mr. Rotblatt's grip. "It's possible I had something to do with it," he told the Tribune.
Mr. Rotblatt made his major league debut almost immediately after signing with the White Sox but was ineffective in seven games. He then honed his craft in the minor leagues, posting strong performance for the minor-league, Class B-level Waterloo, Iowa, White Hawks in 1948 and with the Memphis Chicks in the Double-A Southern Association in 1950. Mr. Rotblatt returned briefly to the majors in 1950, and pitched well for the Sox in 1951, throwing in 26 games and delivering a 3.40 ERA. In July 1951, the Sox sent Mr. Rotblatt back down to Memphis, Tenn., where he pitched well.
Mr. Rotblatt is believed to be the first major league pitcher to have been brought onto the field from the bullpen on a golf cart. Frank Lane, then the Sox general manager, came up with the idea of using a golf cart to carry pitchers from the bullpen.
"It just so happened that my dad was in the bullpen the first day they tried that," his son said.
Another highlight of Mr. Rotblatt's career was appearing on Marx's TV quiz show "You Bet Your Life." The program requested a local Chicago sports figure, and none of the better-known ballplayers wanted to appear on it. The category Mr. Rotblatt was asked about was sports nicknames, and he did well, his son said. Although Mr. Rotblatt recognized a slew of obscure monikers, he was tripped up on an obvious one — football legend Red Grange's nickname, the Galloping Ghost.
In August 1951, during the Korean War, Mr. Rotblatt had to put his baseball career on hold when he was drafted into the Army. He never went to Korea, however, instead serving in Texas and playing pickup baseball with other enlisted major leaguers, his son said.
After his Army service ended, Mr. Rotblatt suffered arm troubles and never again pitched in the majors. However, he remained in professional baseball long afterward, hurling from 1954 through 1957 for minor league teams affiliated with the White Sox, the Milwaukee Braves, the Washington Senators and the Detroit Tigers. He also pitched in 1955 for a team in Monterrey, Mexico.
"He just wouldn't give it up," his son said. "He kept going down in (levels) in the minors, but he played anywhere that would take him."
Even after his minor league career ended in 1957, Mr. Rotblatt continued to play ball in less formal settings, including for semipro baseball teams in Chicago for the next several years, his son said.

Marv Rotblatt, 1927-2013

Former White Sox pitcher served in Army, played in minors, sold insurance and gained following at a Minnesota college softball marathon

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In the late 1950s, Mr. Rotblatt settled down and embarked on a career selling insurance for New England Life. He spent 39 years with the company, retiring in the 1990s, his son said.
In 1964, students at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., began putting Mr. Rotblatt's name on an intramural softball league, it was said, after a student had one of Mr. Rotblatt's old baseball cards.
Three years later — and every year since — students have played a marathon softball game named after Mr. Rotblatt that runs from sunrise until sunset. The rules of the game require players to use just one hand to hit and field, often carrying a beer in the other.
Mr. Rotblatt began attending the annual event shortly after it began and loved it.
"He initially thought it was a joke and that it was not real, that they put the name of an obscure ballplayer on their game. But once he found out it was the real thing, he was never anything but flattered," his son said. "He went almost every year."
One year, Mr. Rotblatt brought three bats up to the plate and swung them around in "a vaudeville thing," his son said. He then returned to the plate with one bat, pointed to the outfield in true Babe Ruth fashion and slugged a home run.
"It worked out that he was the perfect person (to be celebrated)," his son said. "He reveled in this kind of attention."
Mr. Rotblatt mostly lived in the Chicago area after his major league career, although he moved out to Las Vegas for a time in the 1990s. After experiencing some health problems, he returned to Skokie in 2000, his son said.
In 1960, Mr. Rotblatt married his wife, Lois, whom he had met while playing in Arkansas in the minors. They divorced in the 1970s. She died last year.
Mr. Rotblatt is survived by another son, Richard; and three grandchildren.

Alex Colville, Canadian Artist

Alex Colville, 92; captured Canadian life in paintings

Alex Colville in front of “Dog and Groom, 1991.”
Alex Colville in front of “Dog and Groom, 1991.”

NEW YORK — Alex Colville, a celebrated Canadian painter who revealed emotional and cultural tension in his spare and precise depictions of moments that might otherwise seem mundane — a middle-aged kiss through the window of a Honda Civic, a summer ferry ride, a surveyor taking the measure of marshlands meeting the sea — died July 16 at his home in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. He was 92.
His death was confirmed by his son Graham.
Mr. Colville, who worked as an artist for the Canadian military during World War II, received international attention early in his career, including several gallery exhibitions in Manhattan in the 1950s and in Europe in the 1960s and 1970s. His works are in many major collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art and the Pompidou Center in Paris.
But at a time when the art world was tilting toward abstraction and internationalism, Mr. Colville was also something of an outsider, dedicated to figurative painting and to his native Canada, where he was revered by many as “painter laureate.” In 1965, he was commissioned by the government to design commemorative coins for Canada’s centennial. In his final decades, he collected a series of honors; most notably, he was named a Companion of the Order of Canada, a lifetime achievement award.

In 2004 art historian Martin Kemp called Mr. Colville “the best Canadian artist of his time.” Comparing Mr. Colville to the English Romantic painter John Constable, he wrote, “He is a local painter in the sense that Constable was local, creating art that has to draw nourishment from scenes known intimately in order to find a wider truth.”
Mr. Colville was inspired by a range of figurative painters, including Edward Hopper and George Tooker, as well as Giotto. Throughout his career he pursued a synthesis of compositional exactness and psychological complexity.
Among Mr. Colville’s most noted works is “Horse and Train,” from 1954. The painting, which is on display at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, in Ontario, shows a dark horse galloping down railroad tracks, away from the viewer and into the path of an oncoming train. Mr. Colville has said the painting was inspired by a couplet written by the South African poet Roy Campbell: “Against a regiment I oppose a brain,/And a dark horse against an armoured train.”
Kemp, a professor at Oxford at the time, wrote about Mr. Colville in the journal Nature, focusing on his painstaking and mathematical process for accurately representing figures and landscapes in perspective. For his 2001 work “The Surveyor,” Mr. Colville spent 14 months making nearly 30 drawings and geometrical studies.
“Colville’s art is underpinned by his quest for order from apparent disorder,” Kemp wrote. “He searches, like Piero della Francesca in the Renaissance or Georges Seurat in the late 19th century, for what we can find beneath and within the surface of appearances if we probe intensively enough.”
David Alexander Colville was born in Toronto in 1920. His family moved to Nova Scotia in 1929. He received a bachelor’s in fine arts at Mount Alison University in New Brunswick in 1942 and enlisted the same year in the Canadian Army. He traveled to Europe as a military artist in 1944.
He was on the faculty at Mount Alison from 1946 until 1963, when he retired to paint full time. He continued to teach, holding visiting positions at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and in Germany.
In later years, he moved with his wife, the former Rhoda Wright, to Wolfville, her childhood home. Rhoda Colville was often the model for female figures in her husband’s paintings.
“My mother was his muse,” Graham Colville said. “She was also a partner, very equal.”
The Colvilles had been married for 70 years when Rhoda Colville died in December.
In addition to his son Graham, Mr. Colville leaves another son, Charles; a daughter, Ann Kitz; eight grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. Another son, John, died last year.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Mariam Farhat, "Mother of Martyrs"

Mariam Farhat, Known as ‘Mother of Martyrs,’ Dies at 64

Shawn Baldwin for The New York Times

Mariam Farahat in front of a poster showing three of her sons who died in attacks on Israel.

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Mariam Farhat, a Palestinian lawmaker known as the “mother of martyrs” after three of her sons died in attacks against Israel, one of which was a suicide mission that she encouraged in a homemade video, died on Sunday in Gaza City. She was 64.

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Hatem Moussa/Associated Press
Masked Hamas militants with the flagged-draped body of Mariam Farhat.
Ms. Farhat, who was also known as Umm Nidal, had liver and bowel diseases, according to the Web site of the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Hamas movement, which announced her death.
A photograph on the site showed what was said to be Ms. Farhat’s body, wrapped in a Hamas flag, with an automatic weapon lying across it. Thousands of people, including top Hamas officials, attended her funeral on Sunday. The Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, spoke at a service in her honor, according to al-Qassam.
Ms. Farhat was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006. Four years earlier, her 17-year-old son, Mohammad, was shot to death after he stormed an Israeli settlement with an automatic rifle and explosives, killing five students. Shortly before the attack, Ms. Farhat made a video in which she appeared with Mohammad to show support for what he was about to do.
“I wish I had 100 boys like Mohammad,” she once said. “I’d sacrifice them for the sake of God.”
Two more of Ms. Farhat’s sons, Nidal and Rawad, were later killed in clashes with Israel.
“I brought them up to be martyrs,” she said in an interview with National Geographic Television several years ago, “to become martyrs for the name of Allah.”
Nidal Farhat helped make Hamas rockets that were used to bomb Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. When he died, he left behind a 4-year-old son, Imad. Ms. Farhat told The New York Times in 2004 that she had assured Imad that he would be reunited with his father.
“You will be a martyr one day,” Ms. Farhat said she had told Imad, “and then you will go and see your dad.”
Ms. Farhat was born in Gaza City in 1949. She had at least three other sons, one of whom, Wesam, served time in an Israeli prison. She was involved with Hamas well before her sons grew up.
The al-Qassam Web site said she had provided shelter and protection for prominent Hamas military leaders, including Emad Akel, who was killed in 1993 by Israeli forces.
Ms. Farhat had not been active in politics before she was elected to the legislative council, where she was one of six women among the party’s 74 representatives in 2006. She was popular among young women in Hamas, though she said that not all of them should try to emulate her.
“It is not only sacrificing sons,” she said in 2006. “There are different kinds of sacrifice — by money, by education. Everybody, according to their ability, should sacrifice.”


Maryam Mohammad Yousif Farhat (Arabic: مريم محمد يوسف فرحات‎), or Mariam Farahat (c. 1948 – 17 March 2013), popularly known as Umm Nidal (Arabic: أم نضال‎), "the mother of Nidal", was one of  the Hamas'  candidates elected in the Palestinian legislative election, 2006. Three of her six sons performed Hamas suicide attacks against Israel. The word "Nidal" in the Arabic language is a secular term, meaning "struggle", "effort" or "work".

Farhat attracted public attention after being filmed advising her 17-year old son, Muhammad Farhat, for his March 2002 operation against Israeli settlers. After entering the Gaza Strip former settlement of Atzmona, opening fire on the Israeli students and throwing hand grenades at the school where they were studying, killing five students and wounding 23 others, he was shot dead. Upon hearing of her son's death, she proclaimed "Allahu Akbar!" and gave out boxes of halva and chocolates. Her eldest son, Nidal, was killed in February 2003 by bombs planted by Israeli intelligence. A third son, Rawad, died in 2005 in an Israeli airstrike on his car carrying a Qassam rocket.

Farhat died on March 17,  2013, from multiple organ failure, in Gaza. Her funeral was attended by 4000 Palestinians and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. 

John Casablancas, Modeling Visionary

John Casablancas, Modeling Visionary, Dies at 70

Gary Settle/The New York Times
John Casablancas in his office with Joan Severance, center, and Gunilla Bergström in 1978.
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John Casablancas, the modeling agent whose shrewd and sometimes scandalous packaging of beautiful women ushered in the era of supermodels, died on Saturday in Rio de Janeiro. He was 70.

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The cause was cancer, said Lorraine Caggiano, his executive assistant. Mr. Casablancas, who lived in Miami, was being treated in Brazil.
Head-turningly handsome, Mr. Casablancas courted scandal in his own life as well, accused of having sexual relations with teenage models and pursuing a playboy’s life of excess. For 30 years, through the Elite Model Management agency, which he founded in Paris in 1972, he shaped the careers of models who became household names, among them Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Carol Alt, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Andie MacDowell, Kim Alexis, Paulina Porizkova, Iman, Heidi Klum and Gisele Bündchen.
By the end of its first decade, Elite had become a serious and brash competitor to the well-established New York agencies, like Ford and Wilhelmina, setting off a series of raids, defections and gossipy lawsuits that forever changed the modeling industry and were voraciously covered in the tabloids as the “Model Wars.”
Mr. Casablancas was at the center of it all, unabashedly mixing business with his pleasure. Where Jerry and Eileen Ford, who founded Ford Models in 1946, had brought an almost puritanical sense of ethics to the modeling business, introducing modern accounting practices and standardized pay and working hours, Mr. Casablancas planted the flag of a provocateur, encouraging his young charges to enjoy a lifestyle of champagne and wild parties, and sometimes more. He also made the most successful ones very rich.
“I had the understanding of a guy who loved beautiful women, and above all who liked the sensuality of it all,” Mr. Casablancas said in a 2010 video interview with the blogModelinia. “All of the other agents were either women or gay guys. They had their own approach, which in certain instances was probably superior to mine, but I had something I thought was unique. I looked at my models as women.”
He was largely responsible for glamorizing the business and turning models into idols, their egos expanding in direct proportion to their earnings potential. In 1990, at the height of the supermodel moment, Ms. Evangelista, then married to Gérald Marie, the president of Elite in Paris, made a comment to Vogue that came to define the vainglorious world of modeling that Mr. Casablancas had created: “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.”
Mr. Casablancas demanded top dollar for his models, developing them as celebrities and media personalities, the stars of music videos and presenters on MTV. In 1988, to make Ms. Crawford a recognizable face beyond fashion, he encouraged her to pose for Playboy magazine. The ensuing publicity led to a job as host of the MTV show “House of Style” and then to a Pepsi commercial. In 1995 she topped the Forbes list of highest-paid models, earning $6.5 million.
The success of Elite, with more than $100 million in annual model bookings during the years it was run by Mr. Casablancas, represented a turning point in modeling, for better and worse. As Wilhelmina Cooper, one of his rivals, said of the typical top model in 1978, “She is now picking or choosing who she wants to work for, instead of just taking what her agency tells her to.”
Mr. Ford, who accused Elite of poaching models and sued the company in the late 1970s, described Mr. Casablancas’s methods at the time as “sleazy.”
Beyond his feuds with other agencies, Mr. Casablancas was frequently criticized for having sexual relationships with young models. His public affair with Stephanie Seymour in 1983, when he was 41 and she was 15, ended his second marriage, to Jeanette Christjansen, a former model and the 1965 Miss Denmark.
Mr. Casablancas scoffed at the criticism, but his reputation was severely tarnished in 1999 as a result of a BBC One undercover exposé that showed Elite’s agents in Europe, including Mr. Marie, boasting of drug use and sexual conquests with young models. Though he was not implicated in the scandal, Mr. Casablancas resigned from the agency the next year.
John Casablancas was born on Dec. 12, 1942, in Manhattan, the third of three children of Fernando and Antonia Casablancas, a Spanish couple who, after fleeing the country’s civil war, grew wealthy from operating a family textile-machinery business with factories around the world. At age 8 he was sent to the Le Rosey boarding school in Switzerland, along with many children of the international jet set, and began a somewhat wayward life for the next two decades.
After attending several European universities without graduating, and taking jobs in finance, public relations and real estate, he accepted a position offered by a family friend to become the marketing manager of a Coca-Cola factory in Brazil. Still in his early 20s, he invited his French girlfriend, Marie-Christine, to join him, and married her at her father’s insistence.
When the couple returned to Paris a few years later, he took a job with her brother in public relations for an architecture firm, but their marriage was soon on the rocks. Mr. Casablancas was living in a tiny hotel in 1967 when he met Ms. Christjansen, who was 19 and on a modeling assignment for the photographer Gunnar Larsen.
“I thought he was the best-looking man I’d ever laid eyes on,” Ms. Christjansen told New York magazine in 1988.
After the affair began, Mr. Casablancas had a daughter, Cecile, with his wife.
Ms. Christjansen’s unhappiness with her agency inspired him to start a business, Elysée 3, representing photographers and models. After a rough start, he created a new company with Alain Kittler, a classmate at Le Rosey, to focus only on those they regarded as the best models. They named it Elite.
Mr. Casablancas said he had seen an opportunity for models with personality and sex appeal to command wider attention in magazines and on runways.
“I introduced women with shape, short hair, brunettes, brown eyes,” he said in the Modelinia interview. “Fashion is not about a Disney-like type of catalogish model. Fashion is about really exciting girls that have something to say, that express something.”
Shortly after opening a New York office in 1977, Elite was sued for $10 million by Ford and Wilhelmina, but the cases were unsuccessful and resulted only in more publicity for Mr. Casablancas. He married Ms. Christjansen in 1978 and had a son, Julian, with her while the agency continued to thrive.
Elite was the dominant name in global modeling well into the 1990s, until a series of problems, including the BBC One documentary and a class-action lawsuit that accused several agencies of price fixing, led it to seek bankruptcy protection in 2004.
Its assets were most recently acquired by Pacific Global Management Group in 2011.
In 2000, Mr. Casablancas announced that he was selling his Manhattan home and moving to Rio de Janeiro, where he had married Aline Wermelinger in 1993. His marriage to Ms. Christjansen had ended in the late 1970s after their son’s birth. Ms. Wermelinger was then 17, having met Mr. Casablancas the previous year when she participated in Elite’s Look of the Year contest. She and their three children — John Jr., Fernando Augusto and Nina — survive him, as do his children with his previous wives. Cecile Casablancas is a jewelry designer, and Julian Casablancas is the lead singer of the rock band the Strokes. He is also survived by a brother, Fernando.
After leaving Elite, Mr. Casablancas created a modeling school, a model-scouting organization called Star System, and what he called a “cybermodel agency,” Illusion 2K, which briefly promoted a computer-animated model named Webbie Tookay. Her greatest attribute, Mr. Casablancas said, was that she would never complain.
“One of my biggest regrets is that I created the supermodel,” he told the London newspaper The Telegraph in 2000. “They can be impossible. Elite single-handedly brought modeling rates to a peak no one could have imagined, but the girls never thanked me for it. I’ve had enough.”