Thursday, July 28, 2016

A00642 - Dennis Green, Pioneering Coach of the Vikings and the Cardinals

Dennis Green in 1999, when he coached the Vikings. Green lasted 10 seasons with Minnesota, making the playoffs eight times with a regular season record of 97-62. CreditVincent Laforet/The New York Times
Dennis Green, a pioneering head coach who led the Vikings to a consistent run of excellence in the 1990s, died on Thursday. He was 67.
The cause was cardiac arrest, his family announced in a statement posted on the Arizona Cardinals’ website. Green was the head coach of the Cardinals for three years before being fired after the 2006 season. The statement did not say where he died.
When he took over as coach of the Vikings in 1992, Green was only the second black head coach in the modern era of the National Football League; Art Shell had become head coach of the Raiders in 1989. Though he was a consistent winner in Minnesota, Green was let down by his teams’ postseason performances and never made it to a Super Bowl as head coach.
Green was born on Feb. 17, 1949, into a working-class family in Harrisburg, Pa., the youngest of five boys. “We didn’t live in the projects,” he once told The Minneapolis Star Tribune, “but we lived where people who had just moved from the projects lived.”
His father, Penrose, a postal worker, died of a ruptured appendix when Dennis was 11, and his mother, Anna, a beautician, died of cancer when he was 13. Thereafter, he was raised by his grandparents.
He played football at Iowa for three seasons, 1968-70, as a halfback, and graduated in 1971 with a degree in finance. After briefly playing for the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, Green started his coaching career as an assistant at Dayton in 1973, earning $6,000 a year before moving his way up the ladder to jobs at Iowa and Stanford.
When Bill Walsh, Stanford’s head coach, was hired by the San Francisco 49ers, he gave Green a first taste of the N.F.L., bringing him along as a special teams coach in 1979.
Green landed his first head coaching job at Northwestern, whose teams were perennial losers, in 1981. He coached there for four years without ever winning more than three games in a season. Still, he was named Big Ten coach of the year in 1982 for engineering upsets of Minnesota and Michigan State.
“That’s where I learned to take my ego completely out of it,” Green said. “You weren’t going to a bowl game every year, and you weren’t going to win as many games as you liked. But you could graduate kids and leave every game with 100 percent pride.”
He had more success as the head coach at Stanford, where he turned around a struggling program in three years, culminating in a bowl appearance. When he took over there, he was one of only four black head coaches at the 104 top-division colleges.
That success landed him his first N.F.L. head coaching job, at Minnesota, replacing Jerry Burns.
“I am a product of the civil rights movement and came along at a time when doors were opening,” Green said.

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But he played down his distinction as one of the few black head coaches in the N.F.L.
“I don’t think anybody considers me a black coach,” he told The Star Tribune. “I don’t think a player is concerned what my race is. I think he wants someone who will teach him something.”
He took over a Vikings team in a state of malaise, still reeling from trading away five players and eight draft picks for running back Herschel Walker. Green shipped Walker out and brought in a staff that included the future head coach Tony Dungy as defensive coordinator.
In a league with little job security for coaches, Green lasted 10 seasons in Minnesota, making the playoffs eight times and posting a stellar regular-season record of 97-62. He was coach of the year twice, including in his first season. His teams struggled to make a mark in the postseason, though, going just 4-8 in the playoffs.
His crowning achievement was a 15-1 season in 1998. The team’s potent offense, led by quarterback Randall Cunningham and the rookie receiver Randy Moss, scored 556 points, a league record at the time. That team, too, disappointed in the playoffs, losing the N.F.C. championship game at home to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime after leading by 20-7.
When the Vikings slumped to 5-10 with one game left to play in 2001, Green was fired.
After working as a television analyst, Green got another chance in 2004, with the Cardinals. He never managed to get that team on track, completing three seasons without a winning record.
While at Arizona he was reunited with the star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who was drafted by the Cardinals in 2004. Fitzgerald, a son of a Minneapolis sportswriter, had been a ball boy for Green’s Vikings.
“My whole football career is predicated on what he did for me,” Fitzgerald said on Friday. “He hired me as a ball boy for the Vikings and then he drafted me in the N.F.L. So he’s directly responsible for everything I’ve done in my life.”
Green finished his career with three seasons as a head coach in the fledgling United Football League.
He is survived by his second wife, Marie, and their two teenage children, Zachary and Vanessa; and two children from a previous marriage, Patti andJeremy. He lived in San Diego.
For all his successes in college and the pros, the normally soft-spoken Green is also remembered for a colorful postgame rant when coaching the Cardinals in 2006. After his team blew a lead in a Monday night game to a strong Bears team, Green, visibly agitated, let loose with a tirade that included the oft-repeated line “The Bears are who we thought they were.”
It ended with the emphatic line “And we let them off the hook!” He then stalked out of the news conference.
Green had a sense of humor about the episode, allowing video of it to be used in a beer commercial.

A00641 - Youree Dell Harris, Television's Psychic Miss Cleo

The self-described psychic known as Miss Cleo in an undated photo. CreditQ100, via Associated Press
Youree Dell Harris, whose Jamaican-accented character Miss Cleo was the face (and voice) of ubiquitous psychic hotline commercials in the late 1990s before the company was fined by the federal government, died on Tuesday in Palm Beach, Fla. She was 53.
The cause was cancer, William J. Cone Jr., a lawyer for Ms. Harris, said in a statement.
TMZ, which originally reported her death, said she had died in a hospice center.
Ms. Harris first entered the pop culture zeitgeist in the late ’90s, arriving with a humble set of tools built for late-night TV audiences: a deck of tarot cards, a skeptical facial expression and an oft-uttered catchphrase — “Call me now!”
As a vividly colored background swirled or candles burned, Miss Cleo sat and provided counsel to often-sheepish callers. Many of the commercials followed a cheating-lover theme:
“Who asked you to go out of town, the stupid young one or the married one?” she asked a caller in one commercial.
“The married one,” the caller answered.
“That’s what me thought,” Miss Cleo said with a knowing nod.
Miss Cleo: 'Call Me Now' Video by Hassan Hartley
The commercials made her a star of the Psychic Readers Network. The Miss Cleo character also inspired spoofs on late-night TV and gave Ms. Harris other business opportunities, including a book, “Keepin’ It Real: A Practical Guide for Spiritual Living.” She voiced a character in a 2002 video game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
But her fame also led to questions about her past. In 2002, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an investigation that revealed she had a list of aliases and a longer list of former colleagues on the local theater scene who said they had been cheated out of money and questioned her Jamaican background.

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“She had no Jamaican accent — she was born and raised in L.A.,” a former cast mate told the paper. (A copy of a birth certificate posted by BuzzFeed in 2013 showed that Ms. Harris was indeed born in Los Angeles on Aug. 12, 1962.) Information on her survivors was not immediately available.
In 2002, the Psychic Readers Network and Access Resource Services were the subject of a federal lawsuit that ordered the companies to forgive $500 million in customer fees. The networks agreed to stop selling their services over the phone, and, according to the Federal Trade Commission, the companies agreed to pay a $5 million fine.
Though the commercials eventually faded, Miss Cleo remained an object of cultural curiosity. In 2006, she came out as a lesbian in an interview with The Advocate, but also took the opportunity to address her lasting popularity.
“People give me mad love, sweetheart,” she said. “They’ll say: ‘Do you see anything? Where do we find you? When are you coming back? We miss you.’ I get a lot of love.”
Tony Shaff, who worked as a psychic reader on Ms. Cleo’s hotline for about six weeks in 2001 and interviewed her for “Hotline,” his 2014 documentary about telephone relationships between strangers, said that although she was not charged with a crime, she was hurt that her reputation had been harmed by the lawsuit.
In an interview for “Hotline,” Miss Cleo’s Jamaican accent remained as she broke into tears. “Those people are not the bad guys, even if they weren’t great psychics,” she said of herself and other hotline workers, who she said made between 12 and 24 cents a minute.
Mr. Shaff, 38, said that Miss Cleo knew that he was not a true psychic during his time with the network, but would not comment on whether he thought she was one.
“I think a lot of people just view psychics in general as swindlers,” Mr. Shaff said, “but she did not view herself as that.”

A00640 - Mohamed Khan, Egyptian Filmmaker


Mohamed Khan in 2013.CreditAmira Mortada/El Shorouk Newspaper, via Associated Press

Mohamed Khan, one of Egypt’s leading directors, whose films focused on social ills and often featured feminist protagonists, died on Tuesday in Cairo. He was 73.
His death was confirmed by Ashraf Zaki, the head of Egypt’s actors’ union. The state-run news service Ahram Online said the cause was an unspecified sudden health crisis.
While Mr. Khan was not prominent beyond the Middle East, his neorealist films were both popular and critically acclaimed in the region. Three of them, “Streetplayer” in 1984, “The Wife of an Important Man” in 1987, and “Dreams of Hind and Camilla” in 1989, were included by the Dubai International Film Festival in 2013 in its list of the 100 Best Arab Films in the book “Cinema of Passion.”
Mohamed Hamed Hassan Khan was born in Cairo on Oct. 26, 1942, to a Pakistani father and an Egyptian mother. He was an early film fan, watching outdoor movies from his bedroom window, but planned on studying architectural engineering in London, where a friend introduced him to the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School).
“My real school was being in London in the ’60s and experiencing all the cultural changes — whether in music, fashion or, obviously, in films,” Mr. Khan told the Middle Eastern cultural website this year.
He worked as an assistant director in Lebanon and London. He returned to Egypt in 1977, where he made his directorial debut the next year with “Sunstroke.”
In 1983, he gained fame with “Streetplayer,” about a disillusioned soccer player; followed by “The Wife of an Important Man,” about a repressive policeman; and his 2001 “Days of Sadat,” a dramatization about the former Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat.


Yasmin Raeis in Mohamed Khan’s “Factory Girl.”

Among his most recent films were “Factory Girl” in 2013, one of several in which the protagonist was a feminist — in this case, a poor textile worker who sought to challenge Egypt’s rigid class structure by seizing control of her own fate — and “Before the Summer Crowds” in 2016, which also satirized the country’s society through the relationship of four neighbors visiting a beach resort.
“I don’t think I am qualified enough as a social examiner of any class of Egyptian society,” he told, a Middle Eastern website. “I would rather be considered just an observer, not a judge.”
One reason he considered himself only an observer was that under a law in effect until 2004, he was not an Egyptian citizen because he was the son of an Egyptian woman married to a foreigner. Mr. Khan was granted Egyptian citizenship in 2014.
He collaborated with his wife, the screenwriter Wessam Soliman, on three of his two dozen films. She survives him along with their daughter, Nadine, who is also a film director, and their son, Hassan.


Mohamed Hamed Hassan Khan (Egyptian Arabicمحمد حامد حسن خان‎‎ ; b. October 26, 1942, Cairo, Egypt – d. July 26, 2016, Cairo, Egypt) was an Egyptian-British film director, screenwriter, and actor. He was a well-known member of the "1980s generation" in Egyptian cinema, along with directors such as Khairy Beshara, Daoud Abdel Sayed, Atef El-Tayeb and Yousry Nasrallah. His main aesthetic credo, in line with directors from his generation, was a reinvigorated realism seeking direct documentation of everyday life in Cairo, beyond the walls of the studio.
Khan was born on October 26, 1942 in Cairo, Egypt. After completing his high school education in Egypt, he went on to study at the London School of Film Technique (now known as The London International Film School) between 1962 and 1963. While in London, Khan directed several 8mm films. In 1963, he returned to Egypt and worked in the script department of the General Egyptian Film Organization. Between 1964 and 1966, Khan worked as an assistant director in Lebanon. He then moved again in England, where he wrote his book "An Introduction to the Egyptian Cinema" published by Informatics in 1969. He edited another Book entitled “Outline of Czechoslovakian Cinema”, which was also published by Informatics in 1971.
His 1983 film The Street Player was entered into the 13th Moscow International Film Festival.  According to a book issued by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina in December 2007, Khan's Ahlam Hind we Kamilia (1988) is one of the 100 landmarks in the history of the Egyptian cinema. 
He had one daughter, Nadine, a film director, and one son, Hassan. He was married to Wessam Soliman,  an Egyptian scenarist who wrote three of his movies: Banat Wust el-Balad (Downtown Girls), Fi-Sha'et Masr el-Guedida (In a Heliopolis Apartment), and Fatat el-Masna' (The Factory Girl).

A00639 - James Alan McPherson, First Black Writer to Win Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

James Alan McPherson explored race and community in his work, becoming the first black author to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
James Alan McPherson, who overcame segregation and the narrow prism of a legal education to become the first black writer to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, died on Wednesday in Iowa City. He was 72.
His death was announced by the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he was a professor emeritus. The cause was complications of pneumonia, it said.
As a young boy growing up in the South, Mr. McPherson was an avid comic book reader until he discovered what he called the colored branch of the Carnegie Public Library in Savannah.
“At first the words, without pictures, were a mystery,” he wrote in a memoir, “Going Up to Atlanta.” “But then, suddenly, they all began to march across the page. They gave up their secret meanings, spoke of other worlds, made me know that pain was a part of other peoples’ lives. After a while, I could read faster and faster and faster. After a while, I no longer believed in the world in which I lived.”
While still in law school, he won a contest sponsored by The Atlantic Monthly magazine for a semi-autobiographical short story called “Gold Coast” about the relationship between a black aspiring writer supporting himself as a janitor and his older white supervisor.
The story was included in “Hue and Cry,” his first short story collection, in 1969, which Laurence Lafore praised in The New York Times Book Review as “superlatively moving and haunting.” The Atlantic hired him as a contributing editor, and Publishers Weekly described him as both “extremely talented” and “very different.”
In 1978, his next anthology, “Elbow Room,” won the Pulitzer for fiction (blacks had won before in other categories, including poetry) and was lauded by Robie Macauley, a former editor of The Kenyon Review, in The New York Times Book Review for its “fine control of language and story, a depth in his characters, humane values.”
As in “Hue and Cry,” Mr. Macauley wrote, the author established his viewpoint as a writer and a black man, but not as a black writer.
“He was able to look beneath skin color and clichés of attitude into the hearts of his characters,” the reviewer concluded, “a fairly rare ability in American fiction where even the most telling kind of perception seldom seems able to pass an invisible color line.”
Suketu Mehta, whose memoir “Maximum City” was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 and who was mentored by Mr. McPherson, said that his essays “belong to the humanist tradition of American letters: an anger at the economic and racial injustices of the country, coupled with a constant appreciation for the way community forms out of unlikely alliances, such as between poor Southern blacks and Southern whites.”
In 1981, Mr. McPherson was among the first 21 “exceptionally talented individuals” who received what became known as “genius awards” from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in spite of an unusually judgmental letter from his mentor, the novelist Ralph Ellison. After Mr. McPherson had given up his tenured professorship at the University of Virginia and ended his marriage to a white woman, Mr. Ellison described him as “talented,” but disapproved of his “current restlessness.”
Henry Louis Gates Jr., the literary critic and historian, called Mr. McPherson one of the “literary heirs” of Mr. Ellison, who died in 1994.
James Alan McPherson Jr. was born in Savannah, Ga., on Sept. 16, 1943. His father became the first black master electrician in the state, but only after frustrating delays blamed on racial discrimination drove him to alcoholism and gambling debts that resulted in a period in jail. His mother, the former Mabel Small, worked as a maid. James helped support the family by delivering newspapers.
He married the former Sarah Lynn Charlton. Their marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by their daughter, Rachel McPherson; a son, Benjamin; a sister, Mary McPherson; and a brother, Richard.
He attended segregated schools, and, after working summers as a railroad dining car waiter, earned a bachelor’s degree from Morris Brown College, a historically black institution in Atlanta, in 1965.
He graduated from Harvard Law School, but decided against a legal career — instead, enrolling in the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, where he received a master of fine arts degree. Still, he would invoke the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment and infuse his literature with the principles of diversity propounded by Albion W. Tourgée in his brief in 1896 against segregated railroad cars in Plessy v. Ferguson.
“What he was proposing in 1896, I think, was that each United States citizen would attempt to approximate the ideals of the nation, be on at least conversant terms with all its diversity, carry the mainstream of the culture inside himself,” Mr. McPherson wrote in The Atlantic in 1978. “As an American, by trying to wear these clothes he would be a synthesis of high and low, black and white, city and country, provincial and universal. If he could live with these contradictions, he would be simply a representative American.”
“I believe that if one can experience diversity, touch a variety of its people, laugh at its craziness, distill wisdom from its tragedies, and attempt to synthesize all this inside oneself without going crazy,” Mr. McPherson wrote, “one will have earned the right to call oneself ‘citizen of the United States.’”

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A00638 - Nate Thurmond. Hall of Fame Basketball Center

Nate Thurmond, left, in 1973 against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Thurmond was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1985. CreditAssociated Press
Nate Thurmond, the Hall of Fame center for the Golden State Warriors who became one of the National Basketball Association’s most dominant defensive players and rebounders while battling some of the leading big men in league history, died on Saturday in San Francisco. He was 74.
The cause was leukemia, his wife, Marci, said.
Thurmond, who was named one of the N.B.A.’s 50 greatest players in 1996 when it celebrated its 50th anniversary, played mostly for the Warriors in the 1960s and ’70s. He averaged 15 points a game, displaying a fine outside shooting touch, along with 15 rebounds. He played 11 seasons for the San Francisco and Golden State Warriors and his final three seasons with the Chicago Bulls and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He was a seven-time All-Star and was selected for the N.B.A.’s first or second all-defensive team five times.
He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 1985.
Thurmond, at 6 feet 11 inches, vied with the likes of Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Willis Reed and Wilt Chamberlain, his onetime teammate.
“The toughest center for me to play against is Nate Thurmond,” Abdul-Jabbar once remarked.
“He played with unbelievable intensity and was simply a man among boys on most nights, especially on the defensive end,” Jerry West, the Hall of Fame guard for the Los Angeles Lakers and a member of the Warriors’ executive board, said in a statement posted on Saturday on the team’s website.
LeBron James, Thurmond’s fellow Akron, Ohio, native, wrote on Twitter: “Knowing u played in the same rec league as me growing up gave me hope of making it out! Thanks!”
Thurmond became the first player to record an official quadruple-double when he made his debut with the Bulls, scoring 22 points along with 14 rebounds, 13 assists and 12 blocks against the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 18, 1974.
In November 1965, he hauled down 42 rebounds against the Detroit Pistons, the best single-game rebounding effort of his career. He had set an N.B.A. one-quarter rebounding record with 18 against the Baltimore Bullets that February.
Nate Thurmond spoke about cancer awareness before the Golden State Warriors, his former team, played in 2002. CreditPaul Sakuma/Associated Press
The Warriors retired Thurmond’s No. 42, and the Cavaliers also retired the No. 42 jersey he wore with them.
He persevered through operations on both of his knees, and he was often overshadowed by the other brilliant centers of his time.
“I’m just not a tricky basketball player,” he once told Sport magazine. “Being flashy takes unnecessary effort. Once I got cute and tore up a leg muscle that kept me off the court for four weeks. I suppose I could make a reputation for myself by dunking the ball and other stuff. But what would it get me?”
Nathaniel Thurmond was born on July 25, 1941, and played high school basketball in Akron. He spent three seasons playing for Bowling Green, averaging 17.8 points and 17 rebounds over his college career, and he received all-American mention as a senior.
Thurmond was selected by the Warriors as the third overall pick in the 1963N.B.A. draft and was named to the league’s all-rookie team in his first season, when he played at power forward, alongside Chamberlain. He emerged as a star after Chamberlain was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers during the 1964-65 season.
Thurmond’s Warriors went to the N.B.A. finals twice, losing to the Boston Celtics in 1964 and to the 76ers in 1967, when the Warriors were also led by the scoring of Rick Barry.
Thurmond was traded to the Bulls before the 1974-75 season and was dealt by them to the Cavaliers early in the next season. He helped take the Cavaliers to a berth in the 1976 Eastern Conference finals, in what became known as their “miracle” season, but they were ousted by the Celtics.
Thurmond retired after the 1976-77 season with 14,437 points and 14,464 rebounds.
In addition to his wife, Thurmond is survived by a son, Adam, from a previous relationship.
Thurmond was a longtime community relations ambassador for the Warriors and had owned a barbecue restaurant in San Francisco, where he lived.
“Night in and night out you can depend on him doing his job,” his Warriors teammate Walt Hazzard was quoted by as having said. “His statistics aren’t overwhelming, but his presence on the court is unbelievable. As for blocking shots, I’ve seen guys get offensive rebounds and then go back 15 feet to make sure they can get a shot off. They know Nate is there.”
During the Cavaliers’ 1976 playoff series against the Celtics, Thurmond told The New York Times: “I’m not near the player on offense that I once was, I can’t jump as high. But on defense, I’ve still got a lot left. My instincts and my experience help make up for my age.
“And,” he added, “blocking shots still turns me on. I wish they were counting blocked shots in my big years. They started keeping track of them too late for me.”
Thurmond was capable of ruining many an evening for the big man he was facing.
“It’s double demoralizing to a guy if you score on him at one end and shove him out at the other end,” he said. “I could look in a guy’s eyes and know he’s demoralized.”