Friday, April 28, 2017

A00711 - Linda Hopkins, Tony Award Winning Actress and Singer

Linda Hopkins as Bessie Smith in the Broadway show “Me and Bessie” in the mid-'70s. Creditvia Photofest
Linda Hopkins, whose soaring, gospel-rooted voice was heard on Broadway in the 1970s in “Inner City” and the one-woman show “Me and Bessie,” and in the 1980s in the long-running revue “Black and Blue,” died on Monday in Milwaukee. She was 92.
The death was confirmed by her great-niece Hazel Lindsey.
Ms. Hopkins had been performing gospel, blues and rhythm and blues for more than 40 years when she took the stage in “Inner City,” a musical based on a book of urban Mother Goose tales by Eve Merriam. The show had a short run, but Ms. Hopkins’s rendition of “Deep in the Night” and other songs made a lasting impression.
“So far as I’m concerned,” the critic Walter Kerr wrote in The New York Times, “they can throw away the rest of ‘Inner City’ and just let a lady named Linda Hopkins stand there all night, tapping one foot slightly, opening her composed mouth to let miraculous sounds come out of it, reaching out her arms to the balcony as though to complete its curve and make the world come full circle, shaking her head very slightly in deep private worry as she stalks to the portals, done with a song. She is magnificent.”
In 1972, Ms. Hopkins received the Tony Award for best performance by a featured actress in a musical.
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With Will Holt, she conceived and wrote “Me and Bessie,” a tribute to the great blues singer Bessie Smith, whose songs she had been performing for years. With spare accompaniment, she held the stage for an entire evening, performing more than 20 of Smith’s songs and summoning the events of her life.
The show, which opened at the Ambassador Theater in October 1975, ran for 453 performances. It was the longest-running one-woman show in Broadway history up to that time.
Ms. Hopkins returned to Broadway in 1989 in “Black and Blue,” joining with the blues singers Ruth Brown and Carrie Smith to evoke the glory years of the Harlem nightspot the Cotton Club in the 1920s and ’30s. She was nominated for a Tony for best performance by an actress in a leading role in a musical, but she lost to Ms. Brown, her co-star.
Ms. Hopkins, center, was honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2005. With her are the actresses Judy Pace, left, and Nichelle Nichols.CreditDamian Dovarganes/Associated Press
Ms. Hopkins was born Melinda Helen Matthews on Dec. 14, 1924, in New Orleans. Her father, Fred, who died just before her birth, was a deacon at St. Mark’s Baptist Church, and her mother, the former Hazel Smith, was a housemaid.
Standing on a Coca-Cola crate, Helen, as she was known, began singing with the church choir at 3 and quickly became a star attraction. At 11, she impudently called the great gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and invited her to perform at a fund-raiser for the children’s choir.
Ms. Jackson, unaware that she was speaking to a young girl, agreed. On the day of the fund-raiser, she was rewarded when Helen gave a full-throated rendition of “God Shall Wipe Your Tears Away,” one of Ms. Jackson’s best-known songs.
Impressed, Ms. Jackson arranged for Helen to join the Southern Harps, an all-women gospel group in New Orleans. Singing first tenor, Helen performed with the group for 11 years and recorded several songs with them for King Records in 1947.
After moving to Oakland, Calif., in 1950, she directed choirs at Bay Area churches. One day, acting on a tip, she turned up to audition for a singing competition at a popular nightclub. “I auditioned, but the contest never came off because when Slim Jenkins heard me, he hired me,” Ms. Hopkins told The New York Times in 1976, referring to the man who ran the club.
By then, she had expanded her range to include the blues, after experiencing a kind of epiphany some years earlier when she heard Bessie Smith perform at the Palace Theater in New Orleans.
“She wasn’t a big star no more — this was a year or two before she died — but when I heard ‘Empty Bed Blues’ and watched those fringes moving as she swayed on that stage,” she told Leonard Feather, the jazz critic for The Los Angeles Times, in 1975, “I sat right up in my seat and said to myself, that’s it.”
Eight years later, Mr. Feather produced Ms. Hopkins’s album “How Blue Can You Get?”
Little Esther Phillips, a teenage vocalist with the Johnny Otis Orchestra who was preparing to start a solo career, heard Ms. Hopkins’s nightclub act and did her two favors. She recommended that she join Mr. Otis as her replacement, and she came up with the stage name Linda Hopkins.
Ms. Hopkins made several blues recordings with Mr. Otis on the Savoy label before interpreting Bessie Smith songs in “The Jazz Train,” a historical revue staged in the United States and Europe. Throughout the 1950s, she recorded R&B songs for several labels; “Shake a Hand,” a duet with Jackie Wilson on Brunswick, was a hit.
She made her Broadway debut in 1970 in “Purlie,” with Cleavon Little and Melba Moore, and made the most of her brief moment onstage in the first act. Her showstopping performance of “Walk Him Up the Stairs,” a gospel solo with choir, paved the way for her Broadway career.
She appeared in several films, including “The Education of Sonny Carson” (1974) and the Clint Eastwood film “Honkytonk Man” (1982), in which she sang “When the Blues Come Around This Evening.” On television, she was seen in “Roots: The Next Generation” (1979).
Ms. Hopkins, who leaves no other immediate survivors, maintained a busy career, often appearing at Sweetwater’s in Manhattan, until a stroke sidelined her at 82. The voice stayed strong.
“I only sing songs where you can give vent to your feelings,” she told The Times in 1976. “When you’re singing an anthem or hymns, you might cry or something, but that’s all you’re going to do. But when you’re singing a gospel, giving that gospel beat, Christians can get up and dance, because there’s dancing in heaven.”

A00710 - Carme Chacon, Spain's First Female Defense Minister

Carme Chacón, Spain’s first female defense minister, reviewing Spanish troops in 2008 while she was pregnant. CreditBernat Armangue/Associated Press
Carme Chacón, Spain’s first female defense minister and a leading Socialist politician, was found dead on Sunday at her home in Madrid. She was 46.
The Spanish Socialist Party confirmed her death, saying emergency services had discovered her body. An autopsy was to be performed. Ms. Chacón was known to have had a congenital heart condition.
Until she narrowly lost a contest to lead the Socialist Party in 2012, Ms. Chacón was talked about as one day becoming Spain’s first female prime minister.
She is most widely remembered as having become a symbol of Spain’s progress toward gender equality when she was named defense minister in what was the first female-dominated cabinet in Spanish politics, under Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero.
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Ms. Chacón had earlier been housing minister under Mr. Zapatero, during his first term, but she took on the defense portfolio in April 2008 after he won a second term.
That appointment ruffled feathers in Spain’s traditionally macho society; what was more, Ms. Chacón had no previous experience with either the defense industry or the military.
But her appointment was in line with Mr. Zapatero’s commitment to guarantee balanced political representation and to push through sexual equality laws. Nine of the 17 members of his cabinet were women, and in 2005, Spain legalized gay marriage, despite conservative opposition and fierce lobbying by the Roman Catholic Church.
Ms. Chacón in 2011. CreditJavier Lizon/European Press Agency
Ms. Chacón, who was 37 when she became defense minister, largely silenced her critics by showing a determination to modernize the military and by visiting Spanish troops stationed in Afghanistan and in other conflict zones shortly after her appointment, even though she was seven months pregnant.
Pictures of her wearing stylish maternity clothes while reviewing troops made the front pages of Spanish newspapers.
When Ms. Chacón went on maternity leave, her defense duties were temporarily taken over by Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, who was the interior minister.
In November 2011, the Socialists suffered a crushing defeat in the general election, in the midst of the euro debt crisis and record unemployment. Ms. Chacón then vied to succeed Mr. Zapatero as Socialist leader. But she lost to Mr. Rubalcaba by 22 votes in the party leadership election in 2012.
After her defeat, Ms. Chacón retreated from the front lines of Spanish politics and eventually joined a Spanish law firm, although she stayed on as a senior party official and last year played an active part in an internal party revolt against Pedro Sánchez, who succeeded Mr. Rubalcaba, forcing his ouster as Socialist leader.
Ms. Chacón started her political career as a town hall official in Esplugues de Llobregat, in Catalonia, where she was born on March 13, 1971. She was first elected as a lawmaker in the Spanish Parliament in 2000.
Besides her work as a lawyer, she was a visiting professor of politics at Miami Dade College.
Ms. Chacón discussed her heart condition in an interview in 2015, acknowledging that doctors had advised her as a child to lead a quiet life.
Her health problems “make me think that every day is a gift,” she told the newspaper La Vanguardia.
Her marriage to Miguel Barroso ended in divorce last year. She is survived by a son, Miquel.

A00709 - Florence Finch, Unsung Hero of World War II

Florence Finch in an undated photograph. She enlisted with the Coast Guard after working for the Philippine resistance and aiding the Americans in World War II.CreditUnited States Coast Guard, via Associated Press
Florence Finch was an atypical hometown hero. For nearly 50 years after World War II, virtually no one outside of her family knew that she was a highly decorated Coast Guard veteran and a former prisoner of war whose exploits had been buried in time.
“Women don’t tell war stories like men do,” her daughter, Betty Murphy, of Ithaca, N.Y., said the other day.
And even on those rare occasions when she recalled her heroics in the Philippines — supplying fuel to the Filipino underground, sabotaging supplies destined for the Japanese occupiers, smuggling food to starving American prisoners and surviving torture after she was captured — Mrs. Finch did so with the utmost modesty.
“I feel very humble,” she once said, “because my activities in the war effort were trivial compared with those of the people who gave their lives for their country.”
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It was perhaps reflective of that modesty that when she died on Dec. 8 at 101 in an Ithaca nursing home, the news did not travel widely. Newspapers in central New York carried a brief obituary, but her death went unreported virtually everywhere else.
It was only after the announcement by the Coast Guard on Thursday that she would be buried with full military honors on Saturday at Pleasant Grove Cemetery in Cayuga Heights, N.Y., that word of her death spread nationwide.
Indeed, the almost five-month delay in her memorial owed something to Mrs. Finch’s solicitous nature. Near death, she had made it clear that she did not want her funeral to disrupt her relatives’ Christmas holidays or to make mourners travel during a dark and icy Southern Tier winter. (Besides, she relished the annual resurgence wrought by spring.)
Mrs. Finch, shown in a photograph taken last year, was a highly decorated Coast Guard veteran, but few people knew about her World War II heroism.CreditUnited States Coast Guard, via Associated Press
So it was put off. The funeral is to be held in Ithaca, with the military honors coming afterward, a ceremony befitting this Philippine-born daughter of an American father and Filipino mother — one who, in 1947, received the Medal of Freedom (the forerunner of today’s Presidential Medal of Freedom), the nation’s highest award to a civilian.
When the Japanese occupied the Philippines from 1942 to 1945, Mrs. Finch posed as a Filipino, but she became a United States citizen after the war. “Because she was over 18, she could have chosen to be American or Filipino,” Ms. Murphy said. “When the Japanese landed, she chose to be mum, but in her heart she had chosen to be an American.”
Mrs. Finch was born Loring May Ebersole on Oct. 11, 1915, in Santiago, on Luzon Island in the northern Philippines. (It is unclear how her first name became Florence.) Her father, Charles, had fought in the Philippines for the Army during the Spanish-American War and remained there after it was over. Her mother was the former Maria Hermosa.
Betty, as Mrs. Finch was known all her life, graduated from high school and was hired as a stenographer at Army Intelligence headquarters in Manila under Maj. E. C. Engelhart. While working there, she met Charles E. Smith, a Navy chief electrician’s mate. They married in August 1941, a few months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7.
When the war did begin, Mr. Smith reported to his PT boat. He died on Feb. 8, 1942, trying to resupply American and Filipino troops trapped on Corregidor Island and the Bataan Peninsula.
Five weeks earlier, Manila had fallen to the Japanese.
Mrs. Finch (then Mrs. Smith) convinced the occupying forces that she was Filipino and, armed with superior penmanship, wangled a job writing gas rationing vouchers for the now Japanese-run Philippine Liquid Fuel Distributing Union.
Unbeknown to her employer, however, she was actually collaborating with the Philippine resistance movement. Her job enabled her to divert precious fuel supplies to the underground and help sabotage shipments to the Japanese. After she learned of her husband’s death, her efforts became even more vigorous. (She was honored by the Philippine government in 2011.)
Meanwhile, Major Englehart (he became a lieutenant colonel) managed to get word to her that he had been captured and that he and fellow war prisoners were being maltreated. She helped smuggle food, medicine, soap and clothing to them in a prison until she was caught.
Confined to a two-by-four-foot cell, she was interrogated and then tortured, enduring repeated shocks from electrical clamps on her fingers. She never talked. She was tried and sentenced to three years’ hard labor at the Women’s Correctional Institution in Mandaluong, just outside Manila.
When she was finally freed by American troops on Feb. 10, 1945, she weighed 80 pounds.
Rather than remain in her native country, she moved to Buffalo, where her father’s sister lived. She joined the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve, or the SPARs (a contraction of the Coast Guard motto “Semper Paratus” — Always Ready”). She enlisted, she said, to avenge her husband.
When her superiors learned of her wartime exploits, she was awarded the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Ribbon; the Coast Guard described her as the first woman to receive the decoration. The Medal of Freedom was bestowed for meritorious service.
After the war ended, she was discharged as a seaman second class in 1946 and enrolled in secretarial school in New York City, where she met and married an Army veteran, Robert Finch. A chemist, he was hired by Agway, the agricultural products supplier, and moved the family to Ithaca.
Mr. Finch died in 1968. In addition to her daughter, Betty, Mrs. Finch is survived by a son, Bob; a sister, Olive Keats; six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
As Mrs. Finch was rearing her children and working as a secretary at Cornell University, her neighbors never suspected that they were in the presence of a war hero.
In the early 1990s, though, she was rediscovered by the military after she completed a government questionnaire that she had received in conjunction with plans to erect the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Washington. The Coast Guard named its new Group Honolulu Headquarters building on Sand Island in Hawaii in her honor in 1995.
Ms. Murphy decided to alert the news media about the building dedication, noting that her mother would be in attendance.
“It was the first anyone knew,” Mrs. Murphy said. “I figured it was time. And when she came home and people met her at the bus station, she was flabbergasted.”
In 2015, the Coast Guard’s official blog said of Mrs. Finch, “Of the thousands of women who have served with honor in the United States Coast Guard, one stands out for her bravery and devotion to duty.”
Her wartime legacy will be publicly honored again on Saturday by a military honor guard. But privately her heroism endured without medals, plaques or flags.
“It had not defined her,” Ms. Murphy said, “but it defined how she lived her life.”