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Dwayne Hickman

Dwayne Hickman

January 1, 1935 - January 9, 2022

Dwayne Hickman was an actor who starred in the title role of the classic sitcom “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.”

Hickman got his start as a child actor and became well-known in his late teens, when he co-starred as Chuck MacDonald in the 1950s sitcom “The Bob Cummings Show.” By the time he played a lovelorn teenager in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” Hickman was in his mid-20s, but he helped make the sitcom a hit. With Bob Denver (1935–2005) as Dobie’s beatnik best friend, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” was one of the first sitcoms for focus on the lives of teens and the counterculture.

Hickman went on to appear in movies including “Cat Ballou,” “Ski Party,” “How to Stuff a Wild Bikini,” and “A Night at the Roxbury.” His later TV appearances included “The Mod Squad,” “Murder, She Wrote,” and “Clueless.” Hickman also directed episodes of such TV shows as “Designing Women” and “Sister, Sister,” and he worked in production and as a TV executive.

“Even though I have played many different characters and led many different lives, when people hear the name Dwayne Hickman, only one thing comes to mind. So, rather than fight it, I have decided to just go with it and enjoy it because it seems no matter where I go or what I do, for the rest of my life I’ll be … Forever Dobie.” —from Hickman’s autobiography, “Forever Dobie”


Remembering Dwayne Hickman

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Peter Bogdanovich

Peter Bogdanovich

July 30, 1939 - January 6, 2022

Peter Bogdanovich was an iconic film director known for “The Last Picture Show,” “Paper Moon,” and “Mask.” Died Thursday, January 6, 2021 at his home in Los Angeles of complications of Parkinson’s disease at the age of 82.

Within one decade, the ’70s, he was transformed from one of the most celebrated of filmmakers, notably for “The Last Picture Show,” into one of the most ostracized.

Peter Bogdanovich built a reputation as a film journalist in the 1960s with many of his stories published in Esquire magazine. He was hired by B-movie legend Roger Corman and worked with him on his films including “Wild Angels.” He directed and co-wrote the critically acclaimed Oscar-nominated “The Last Picture Show” in 1971. Based on a Larry McMurtry novel, the coming-of-age drama starred Jeff Bridges and Cybil Shepard as young adults and the choices they have to make in a small Texas town. The movie established Bogdanovich as one of the maverick young directors of the 1970s along with Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. They made their own artistic choices with their films instead of the studios. His next two films were critical and box office hits, “What’s Up Doc?” starring Barabara Streisand and Ryan O’Neal and “Paper Moon” with O’Neal and his daughter Tatum. Bogdanovich’s career then took a downturn, though he had success with the 1985 film “Mask.” He also acted, most notably playing a psychotherapist on “The Sopranos.”  

Notable Quote: “Movies used to be something powerful. …It’s been a bit ruined now. I don’t know if we can get it back — I think we can. But it’s lost its innocence. The interesting stuff has moved to TV, and movies have become more like, ‘What can I blow up next?’ There’s a terrible cancer at the heart of that.” – Los Angeles Times in 2015 

Peter Bogdanovich, who parlayed his ardor for Golden Age cinema into the direction of acclaimed films like “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon,” only to have his professional reputation tarnished in one of Hollywood’s most conspicuous falls from grace, died early Thursday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 82.

His daughter Antonia Bogdanovich confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.

Originally trained as a stage actor (he was also a producer, a screenwriter, a film historian, a programmer and a critic, as well as a theater and television director), Mr. Bogdanovich was long recognizable by his soulful basset-hound face, outsize horn-rimmed glasses and trademark neckerchief.

As a filmmaker, he was hailed for his ability to coax nuanced performances from actors, and for the bittersweet luminosity of movies that conjured a bygone past — bygone in American cinema, bygone in America itself.

Reviewing “The Last Picture Show” — only Mr. Bogdanovich’s second film and widely considered his foremost — on its release in 1971, Newsweek’s critic called it “a masterpiece,” adding, “It is the most impressive work by a young American director since ‘Citizen Kane.’”

Before the end of the ’70s, however, Mr. Bogdanovich had been transformed from one of the most celebrated directors in Hollywood into one of the most ostracized. His career would be marred for years to come by critical and box-office failures, personal bankruptcies, the raking of his romantic life through the press and, as it all unspooled, an orgy of film-industry schadenfreude.

“It isn’t true that Hollywood is a bitter place, divided by hatred, greed and jealousy,” the director Billy Wilder once observed. “All it takes to bring the community together is a flop by Peter Bogdanovich.”

What was more, Mr. Bogdanovich’s life and work would be affected by violent, almost unimaginable personal loss.

Yet in a business that rarely grants second acts, he enjoyed a professional renaissance, both behind the camera and in front of it, in the 21st century. To television viewers of the period, he was probably best known for his recurring role on the HBO drama “The Sopranos.” He portrayed Dr. Elliot Kupferberg, the psychiatrist who treats Tony Soprano’s psychiatrist, played by Lorraine Bracco.

Mr. Bogdanovich’s film career had seemed almost foreordained, for he was nothing short of a cinematic prodigy. “I was born,” he liked to say. “And then I liked movies.”

As a writer and critic, a calling he pursued in the 1960s, he was the author of influential monographs on Hollywood directors before he was out of his 20s.

As a director, he blazed to fame in the early ’70s as the auteur of three critically acclaimed films: “The Last Picture Show,” based on Larry McMurtry’s novel of small-town Texas life; “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972), a contemporary twist on 1930s screwball comedies, starring Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal; and “Paper Moon” (1973), starring Mr. O’Neal and his daughter, Tatum, about a Depression-era confidence man.

Mr. Bogdanovich’s life, it turned out, was bracketed by loss. For as he would discover, he had been born to a family defined by absence.

The son of Borislav and Herma Robinson Bogdanovich, Peter Bogdanovich was born on July 30, 1939, in upstate Kingston, N.Y., and reared on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. His parents were recent immigrants to the United States — his father a Serbian painter, his mother a member of a well-to-do Austrian Jewish family.

The Bogdanovich home, Mr. Bogdanovich recalled long afterward, was pervaded by melancholy. His father was silent and withdrawn. Throughout Peter’s boyhood, their rare moments of camaraderie came when the elder Mr. Bogdanovich took his son to silent films at the Museum of Modern Art.

When Peter was about 8, he learned the source of the family sorrow: He had had an older brother, who died as a baby after a pot of boiling soup was accidentally spilled on him.

By this time Peter was irretrievably in love with motion pictures — sound and silent alike. From the age of 12 to about 30 he kept a file of index cards, one per picture, evaluating every movie he saw. In the end, he had amassed some five thousand cards.

Pictures from the heyday of Hollywood’s studio system — by directors like John Ford, Howard Hawks, George Cukor and Alfred Hitchcock, starring actors like John Wayne, Cary Grant and James Stewart — beckoned to him above all.

“I just wanted to be like those people on the screen,” Mr. Bogdanovich told The Los Angeles Times in 1972. “I wanted to look like Bill Holden, because I wanted to be a real American boy and do all those wonderful things. And with a name like Bogdanovich there wasn’t much of a chance.”

As a teenager, Peter studied with the famed acting teacher Stella Adler. Leaving the Collegiate School, a Manhattan prep school, “a failed algebra examination shy of a high school diploma,” as The New York Times wrote in 1971, he played small roles in summer stock, Off Broadway and on television.

At 20, he directed an Off Broadway revival of Clifford Odets’s drama “The Big Knife.” (The cast included a young Carroll O’Connor.) Around this time, he began writing on film for publications like Esquire, The Saturday Evening Post and the French magazine Cahiers du Cinéma. He helped program Golden Age pictures for the New Yorker Theater, a Manhattan revival house, and for MoMA.

For MoMA, Mr. Bogdanovich wrote his series of monographs on great directors, including Ford, Hawks, Hitchcock and Orson Welles. It was a mission undertaken, he cheerfully confessed, so that he could meet and interview his idols.

Those sessions, he said, were his de facto film-school education. (Mr. Bogdanovich would spend the rest of his career, interviewers often carped, dropping his teachers’ names. “Jack” flicked out conversationally denoted Mr. Ford. “Hitch” and “Orson” were self-explanatory.)

He would become most closely involved with Welles, recording scores of hours of oral history before Welles’s death in 1985. The seminal book that resulted, “This Is Orson Welles” (1992), edited by Jonathan Rosenbaum and with Mr. Bogdanovich and Welles as co-authors, is “the closest we’ll ever come to a Welles autobiography,” The Orlando Sentinel said in 2002.

Though Mr. Bogdanovich repeatedly disavowed the connection, critics liked to point out affinities between Welles’s career and his own: Both men began as directorial wunderkinds. (“Citizen Kane,” released in 1941, was Welles’s first full-length feature.) Both were later expelled from the Eden of A-list directors. (In the 1970s, a down-and-out Welles lived for a time in Mr. Bogdanovich’s mansion in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles.)

Mr. Bogdanovich struck out for Hollywood in 1964, accompanied by his wife, Polly Platt, a production designer he had married two years before. He was hired as a second-unit director and rewriter by the producer Roger Corman, whose movies — among them “Attack of the Crab Monsters” (1957) and “Teenage Cave Man” (1958) — strove for maximal shock value at minimal expense.

For Mr. Corman, Mr. Bogdanovich directed his first feature, “Targets,” released in 1968. Inspired by the Charles Whitman Texas tower shootings of 1966, it was nominally a thriller about a troubled young man who embarks on a killing spree.

But it was really a paean to, and an elegy for, the Hollywood films that Mr. Bogdanovich cherished. An aging, elegant Boris Karloff plays an aging, elegant version of himself. Scenes of Tim O’Kelly, who played the young man, scaling heights from which to shoot random strangers — a gas storage tank, a drive-in theater screen — are vivid homages to James Cagney’s last stand, high up in a gas plant, in “White Heat,” Raoul Walsh’s celebrated 1949 film.

For its stylish direction and brisk screenplay, by Mr. Bogdanovich and Ms. Platt, “Targets” drew wide critical praise. His triumph led him to be hired to direct “The Last Picture Show” for Columbia Pictures.

That film, with screenplay by Mr. Bogdanovich and Mr. McMurtry, centers on life and love in a down-at-the-heels town in the early 1950s. Shot in stark black and white in Mr. McMurtry’s hometown, Archer City, Texas, the movie, designed by Ms. Platt, portrays a world of boarded-up storefronts and blowing dust.

The cast featured relative unknowns, among them Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms and Cybill Shepherd, a 19-year-old model whom Mr. Bogdanovich had discovered staring seductively at him from the cover of Glamour magazine while he waited in a supermarket checkout line.

It also included veterans like Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson, who at midcentury had been a member of Ford’s stock company.

“The Last Picture Show,” too, is a valentine to old Hollywood. At the town’s fading movie house, Vincente Minnelli’s 1950 comedy, “Father of the Bride,” is playing. When the theater is forced to close, the last picture shown there is Hawks’s “Red River” (1948), starring the indomitable John Wayne.

Nominated for eight Oscars, including best picture, “The Last Picture Show” won two, for the performances of Ms. Leachman and Mr. Johnson.

The film catapulted Mr. Bogdanovich to the first rank of Hollywood directors. It also upended his personal life. He left Ms. Platt and their two young children for Ms. Shepherd, embarking on an eight-year relationship that furnished ceaseless grist for Hollywood gossip columns.

His professional success continued with “What’s Up, Doc?,” a reworking of Hawks’s 1938 comedy, “Bringing Up Baby,” and again with “Paper Moon.”

Set in dust-blown 1930s Kansas, “Paper Moon” brought an Oscar to 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal for her performance as a scrappy girl who may or may not be the con man’s daughter. (Despite her divorce from Mr. Bogdanovich, Ms. Platt designed this film and “What’s Up, Doc?”)

But after the wild success of the early 1970s came a string of creative debacles. Two vehicles Mr. Bogdanovich conceived to star Ms. Shepherd incurred critical vitriol: “Daisy Miller,” his 1974 adaptation of Henry James’s 1870s novella, and the musical “At Long Last Love” (1975), also starring Burt Reynolds.

“Produced for $15 million, this ‘musical’ was Cole Porter sung by the tone deaf, danced by the afflicted,” The Chicago Tribune wrote in 1990. “Critics compared leading man Burt Reynolds to a wounded buffalo and Shepherd to an orphan trying to play Noël Coward. The picture, which lost $6 million, was Bogdanovich’s ‘Heaven’s Gate.’”

His next film, “Nickelodeon” (1976), an overt homage to early cinema starring Mr. O’Neal and Mr. Reynolds, was also critically derided. But there was far worse to come.

In the late 1970s, after his romance with Ms. Shepherd had ended, Mr. Bogdanovich met the Playboy model Dorothy Stratten at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion. They fell in love, and Ms. Stratten, who was married, left her husband to move in with him.

Mr. Bogdanovich gave her a small role in his caper “They All Laughed,” starring Audrey Hepburn and Ben Gazzara. But in August 1980, before it was released, her estranged husband, Paul Snider, shot her to death before taking his own life. (The murder of Ms. Stratten, 20 at her death, would be the subject of a 1983 feature film, “Star 80,” directed by Bob Fosse and starring Mariel Hemingway.)

Afterward, Mr. Bogdanovich was reported to have watched “They All Laughed” — which preserves Ms. Stratten’s last film performance — over and over, as if communing with a ghost.

Released in 1981, the film was a critical and box-office failure. Dissatisfied with its promotion, Mr. Bogdanovich bought the rights and tried to distribute it himself. It proved a disastrous decision, costing him some $5 million.

In 1985, with “$21.37 in the bank and $25.79 in his pocket,” according to court papers, he declared bankruptcy, a move that further marginalized him in Hollywood. In the years that followed, he became, by his own account, addicted to prescription drugs.

“I made an enormous number of mistakes,” Mr. Bogdanovich said in a 2004 interview. “You don’t do rational things when somebody blows up an atom bomb at your feet.”

One thing he did that he said he came to regret was to write a biography of Ms. Stratten, “The Killing of the Unicorn,” which was equal parts adoration and accusation. Published in 1984, it contended that Mr. Hefner, in commodifying her, had been partly responsible for her death.

Mr. Hefner retaliated with a bombshell of his own: He publicly accused Mr. Bogdanovich of having seduced Ms. Stratten’s younger half sister, Louise, shortly after the murder, when Louise was 13, below the age of consent.

Mr. Bogdanovich denied the accusation. But it was a matter of record that he paid for Louise’s education; arranged for her to have corrective surgery on her jaw — an act, his detractors said, that was intended to make her look more like her dead sister — and, in 1988, when Louise was 20, married her, causing a frenzy of tabloid opprobrium.

Louise Stratten, billed as L.B. Stratten, appeared in several films and TV movies directed by Mr. Bogdanovich. They divorced in 2001.

“She was like a contact with Dorothy, as far as I was concerned,” Mr. Bogdanovich, speaking of the marriage, told The New York Times the next year. “There was garbage talk that I made Louise have facial surgery — to look like Dorothy. ‘Vertigo’ stuff.”

Mr. Bogdanovich seemed to return to directorial form in 1985 with “Mask,” a well-received picture starring Cher as the mother of a boy with a facial deformity.

But he alienated the Hollywood establishment once more by filing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the studio, Universal Pictures, and the producer, Martin Starger, for cutting two scenes and substituting music by Bob Seger for the Bruce Springsteen soundtrack that Mr. Bogdanovich favored. (The suit was later withdrawn.)

Several critical failures followed, including “Illegally Yours” (1988), a romantic comedy starring Rob Lowe; “Texasville” (1990), a sequel to “The Last Picture Show”; and “The Thing Called Love” (1993), a comedy-drama about country music.

In the late 1990s, after declaring bankruptcy again, the down-and-out Mr. Bogdanovich lived for a time in the guesthouse of the young director Quentin Tarantino.

From the mid-’90s through the first years of the 21st century, Mr. Bogdanovich resorted to directing for television. His credits include the TV movies “Prowler” (1995) and “Naked City: A Killer Christmas” (1998) and an episode of “The Wonderful World of Disney.”

But the medium, he said, taught him economy and speed. He returned to the big screen in 2001 with “The Cat’s Meow,” his first feature in nearly a decade. Made for just $6 million, it was shot in only 24 days.

That film, too, is a paean to old Hollywood. It tells the story — based on a long-suppressed incident that for years ran through the industry in whispers — of a fatal shooting in 1924 aboard the yacht of the newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

“The Cat’s Meow” — starring Edward Herrmann as Hearst; Kirsten Dunst as his mistress, the silent-film star Marion Davies; and Eddie Izzard as her lover Charlie Chaplin — earned mostly favorable notices.

Mr. Bogdanovich’s luster was also restored with his publication of two acclaimed books: “Who the Devil Made It” (1997), a collection of his interviews with eminent directors, and “Who the Hell’s in It” (2004), about great actors and actresses.

Later features he directed include “She’s Funny That Way” (2014) and “The Great Buster,” a documentary about Buster Keaton, in 2018.

In addition to his daughter Antonia, he is survived by another daughter, Alexandra (both from his marriage to Ms. Platt); a sister, Anna Bogdanovich; and three grandchildren.

Among Mr. Bogdanovich’s other films as a director are “Saint Jack” (1979), starring Mr. Gazzara as an American who aims to open a bordello in Singapore; “Noises Off …” (1992), an adaptation of a play by Michael Frayn; and the documentary “Directed by John Ford” (1971).

In a 2002 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Bogdanovich offered a cleareyed appraisal of his career.

“I’m not bitter,” he said. “I asked for it. Success is very hard. Nobody prepares you for it. You think you’re infallible. You pretend you know more than you do. Pride goeth before the fall.”

But when it came to one of his detractors, at least, Mr. Bogdanovich appeared to have the last laugh. His later-life acting roles included two appearances, in 2005 and 2007, on the NBC series “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

In both episodes, Mr. Bogdanovich, always a wicked mimic, played to the hilt a sybaritic, smoking-jacket-clad, thinly veiled incarnation of Hugh Hefner.

Maia Coleman contributed reporting. Margalit Fox is a former senior writer on the obituaries desk at The Times. She was previously an editor at the Book Review. She has written the send-offs of some of the best-known cultural figures of our era, including Betty Friedan, Maya Angelou and Seamus Heaney.

Remembering Peter Bogdanovich

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Jay Jaffe

Jay Jaffe

August 24, 1947 - January 3, 2022

Jay Jaffe was the consummate leadoff hitter at USC. He’d get deep into counts so his teammates could get a look at what the pitcher was throwing. He’d put the ball in play with two strikes. He was a stolen-base threat. Most of all, he was a tough out.

Yet Jaffe was called upon second throughout his nearly 50-year career as a criminal defense attorney. Prosecutors gave opening and closing arguments first, and Jaffe would follow, explaining why his client was innocent, or at the very least deserving of reasonable doubt.

Maybe that’s why it meant so much to Jaffe to bat leadoff every year at the Trojans alumni game, never missing one from 1970 to 2018. He’d arrive at Dedeaux Field hours early, take a reverent stroll through the Hall of Fame room above the clubhouse and soak in the scene before proudly slipping on his jersey.

Then he’d step into the left-handed batter’s box to open the game. Even well into his 60s and fending off devastating illnesses, Jaffe could foul off pitches and poke a line drive against a current Trojan throwing 90 mph. Six times during his 20s and 30s, the 5-foot-9, 170-pound Jaffe homered during alumni games.

Numbers of greater significance came later. Three times Jaffe was diagnosed with lymphoma beginning in 1998, and three times he beat it into remission. Parkinson’s disease struck in 2009, and he continued to work and to suit up for the alumni game every year one was held until he died Jan. 3, 2022, at 74. A tough out, indeed.

Jaffe was quick with a quip and met adversity with unflinching optimism. He brought those qualities with him to USC as a walk-on from Fairfax High in 1965 and became the starting center fielder by his junior year. And they were cemented by legendary Trojans coach Rod Dedeaux, Jaffe becoming an embodiment of his teachings and incomparable winning touch.

How is someone best remembered? Yes, Jaffe was an unlikely hero of the 1968 College World Series, making a spectacular game-saving catch in center field to vault USC into the championship game. But his impact throughout life was profound to those who knew him well, and they invariably choke back tears when talking about him.

Jaffe often said he didn’t have acquaintances, only best friends, and he collected them like base hits throughout his life.

As for Jaffe’s USC uniform, he’s wearing it still. Although Denise Jaffe, his wife of 51 years, didn’t tell anyone, he was buried in Cardinal and Gold, with No. 16 on his back.

She drew the line, however, at burying him under the batter’s box at Dedeaux Field, even though he’d joked that was where he wanted to be laid to rest, saying: “The plaque can read: ‘Jay Jaffe, born August 24, 1947, died 0 for 4.’”

Insightful sayings were a Dedeaux specialty during his 45-year stint as USC coach that included a record 11 College World Series championships. One particularly resonated with Jaffe, and he repeated it at key junctures in his life.

If a game was played in frigid weather, if a field was pocked with potholes, if an umpire’s strike zone went haywire, Dedeaux would respond with the same words: It’s just the way we like it.

Any adversity gave USC an advantage, Dedeaux reasoned, because while the opposing team was complaining, the Trojans were stating for the record that it was just the way they liked it.

Jaffe trotted out the phrase throughout his life, and it became especially applicable when he was first diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and began chemotherapy.

His voluminous list of friends reached out, from Jim Tunney, his principal at Fairfax High and legendary NFL referee; to Dan Bane, a USC teammate who became chief executive of Trader Joe’s; to Lewis Leader, a childhood pal and lifelong journalist; to George Grande, a fellow Trojans walk-on who became one of the first anchors at ESPN, a broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds and the master of ceremonies at 31 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Cooperstown, N.Y.

“You knew he was pushing himself to be as strong as he could,” Grande said. “He was the one suffering, but there was always a warmth, a feeling of calmness when I spoke to him. He inspired that in everyone he was around.”

Jaffe employed the phrase in less dire times as well, wrote former USC player Bob Leach in his book about Dedeaux titled “Never Make the Same Mistake Once.” Jaffe took the bar exam in the early 1970s, and a man seated next to him coughed and sneezed incessantly. When the exam was completed, the man turned to Jaffe and others seated around him and apologized for being ill and disrupting everyone’s concentration.

Jaffe didn’t miss a beat. “No worries,” he replied, “It’s just the way we like it.”

Jaffe grew up in Baldwin Hills and learned to play baseball at the Westside Jewish Community Center on Olympic Boulevard. He was the best player from Day 1. When tryouts rolled around at John Burroughs Junior High, a boy named Mike Levinson was taken aback when he jogged out to shortstop because nobody else did.

“Guys said that’s Jay Jaffe’s position,” Levinson said. “He wasn’t there. He didn’t have to try out. I asked the coach why I couldn’t play shortstop. He said Jay Jaffe is the best athlete in the school and where he wants to play, he plays.”

Levinson moved over to second base, and, although he didn’t play baseball beyond high school, he soon became another of Jaffe’s best friends for life.

“I always wondered what it must be like to be him,” Levinson said.

The last time they saw each other, Jaffe was in the hospital close to death. Levinson had enjoyed Jaffe’s jokes for so long he decided he’d reciprocate with a story that drew a laugh from his ailing friend. He told Jaffe he’d taken his grandchildren to Disneyland and heard a cast member say that he’d just made the baseball team at Long Beach State.

“I turned and told him I was a Trojan, that I was on the 1968 team that won the College World Series,” Levinson said. “I reached out, shook his hand and said, ‘Hi, my name is Jay Jaffe.’ ”

Jaffe met Denise in junior high as well. They dated until he graduated from USC and then married in 1970 when Denise turned 20, eventually having a daughter, Kasey, and son, Michael.

“I was crazy about him from the day I met him,” Denise said. “I had a brain tumor when I was 17, and he was so loving, so positive and kind with me.”

Jaffe attended Fairfax High, where everyone marveled that Tunney was at his desk by 7:30 every Monday morning even though the previous day he’d served as the referee at an NFL game somewhere across the country.

Tunney, 93, remembers Jaffe well. His daughter has Parkinson’s disease, and he tapped into his former student for inspiration and encouragement.

“We knew Jay would do something great, that much was obvious,” Tunney said. “But how he fought through [lymphoma] and Parkinson’s is a tremendous credit to his character.”

And sense of humor. Jaffe was diagnosed with lymphoma in 1998, 2002 and 2004, then with Parkinson’s in 2009, yet he liked to say the most devastating news he ever received came Jan. 27, 2001.

“That was the day the alumni game was rained out.”

USC led North Carolina State 1-0 late in the 1968 College World Series semifinals. With two out and a runner on base, Clem Huffman drove a ball to deep right-center field off USC’s Bob Vaughn. Jaffe, a right-handed fielder, got a great jump.

“As soon as he hit it, I cursed because I didn’t think anybody was going to get to it,” Vaughn said. “I turn and see Jay running full tilt, and he makes a running shoestring catch in the gap.”

The Trojans won 2-0 behind Vaughn’s complete game, then defeated Southern Illinois 4-3 for the title when Pat Kuehner hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth, launching USC to an unprecedented string of seven College World Series championships in 11 years.

The N.C. State student newspaper looked back at the game in 2007 — at the time it was the Wolfpack’s only College World Series appearance in 101 years of playing baseball — and Jaffe read it online. He did some digging, discovered Huffman owned a print shop in Charlotte and emailed him, saying he was the unnamed USC center fielder in the article who robbed Huffman of a certain triple. Huffman responded and the two men reminisced, nearly 40 years after the game.

Wouldn’t you know it, Jaffe had made another best friend.

Vaughn joined the email thread, telling Huffman he was the guy who threw the pitch. A friendly banter ensued, and the men continued to correspond for years. When Jaffe was honored with the inaugural Spirit of Troy Award in 2016, Huffman flew to L.A. for the banquet and stood and spoke. Jaffe didn’t know he was coming.

“For 39 years I hated Jay Jaffe, but I’ve come to know him personally and we’ve developed a great friendship from afar,” Huffman told the crowd.

Huffman wasn’t the only adversary charmed by Jaffe. As a criminal defense lawyer, Jaffe argued numerous cases in front of Santa Monica Superior Court judge Richard Neidorf.

“Jay was liked by all, and for a lawyer that’s really something,” Neidorf said. “To do a good job and remain professional and cordial, not many can do that. He also loved unusual cases, loved to research the law and history of the law.”

Jaffe was counsel in several high-profile cases, including representing defendant Stewart Woodman in the infamous 1985 Ninja murders in which Woodman and his brother Neil were accused of killing their parents outside a Brentwood condominium.

The first persuasive argument Neidorf heard from Jaffe came much earlier. They were students at Southwestern Law School who hadn’t met when the class was asked to critique a recent state Supreme Court ruling.

“The professor read all the critiques and said two were outstanding, mine and Jaffe’s, and had us read ours aloud,” Neidorf said. “As we are walking out the door, Jay puts his arm around me and says, ‘How does it feel to have the second-best paper in the class?’ We were great friends from that day on.”

Jaffe and Hall of Fame pitcher and Trojans alum Randy Johnson in 2016 were honored by USC, Johnson receiving a lifetime achievement award. Jaffe was the recipient of the Spirit of Troy Award, and the following year it was renamed the Jay Jaffe Spirit of Troy Award. Johnson’s heartfelt acceptance speech at the banquet lasted seven minutes. Jaffe’s, rife with one-liners and anecdotes that had the crowd of about 400 of his limitless best friends roaring, lasted 26 minutes.

Four times he apologized for speaking so long, and four times he kept going despite his body showing the signs of seven years of battling Parkinson’s. That year, Jaffe at age 68 played in his 46th consecutive alumni game, working an eight-pitch walk and lining out to second, forever that tough out. He’d appear in two more before his disease-ravaged body couldn’t bear it.

“There were years he could barely muster the strength, and he’d rally, put on the uni and show up,” said Grande, whose locker was next to Jaffe’s for four years at USC. “Jay was getting those four at-bats for all of us who played with, before and after him. He knew how much that meant to us, how much the experience of playing for Rod meant to us.

“By playing in those alumni games, Jay was telling us that he was in our corner for life.”

Jaffe’s funeral was a celebration of his myriad friendships. One after another, those best friends stood and told stories that elicited laughter and knowing looks.

“Jay’s was one of the few funerals I’ve been to where people who talked about him were telling the truth,” Neidorf said. “Instead of almost gagging on their words, spewing a pack of lies, everything they said about him was true. It was refreshing.”

At the USC alumni game a few weeks ago, Jaffe’s No. 16 was chalked into the left-handed batter’s box and he was honored with a moment of silence. His lifelong friend Shelly Andrens, who preceded him as the USC center fielder before playing several years in the minor leagues, recounted who Jaffe was and what he meant to USC.

Andrens has his own favorite Jaffe story, and it resonates even without Jaffe’s trademark humor. Jaffe was in a Rancho Mirage care facility a few months before he passed when he called Andrens and asked him to visit.

“Mickey Mantle was my absolute favorite baseball player, and Jay knew that,” Andrens said. “I drove to where he was, and he gave me a baseball signed by Mantle. I have no idea how he acquired it, but it remains the finest gift I’ve ever received.

“He thought about making me feel good while he was suffering. That was Jay Jaffe.”

Remembering Jay Jaffe

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Stewart Weitzman

Stewart Weitzman

April 25, 1935 - December 29, 2021

Stewart was born April 25, 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, and after a life well lived, passed away December 29, 2021 in Bend, at the age of 86.

Stewart was raised in Southern California by his parents, Louis and Fanny Weitzman. This is where his lifelong love of education, hard work, and cars started. In 1953 he was accepted to Stanford University and graduated with a degree in political science in 1957. At Stanford, he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity. After college, he served in the Marine Corps for two years, being honorably discharged as a First Lieutenant (later promoted to Captain in the reserves).

He met Verle Pilling through mutual friends in San Francisco in 1959 and their 62-year romance began at that time. They were married on January 23, 1960 in Palo Alto, California. They later moved to Portland, where they raised their two sons, Marcus and Todd.

Stewart worked in several sales-related jobs in the early 1960s, primarily in the pharmaceutical industry, before starting to pursue his MBA at Portland State in 1967. While in the MBA program, his entrepreneurial spirit was born as he started his first company, Pacemaker Corporation, a manufacturer of preventive dental products including fluoride gels. Pacemaker grew rapidly, and after developing several products that earned U.S. patents, the company was sold in 1978.

After consulting and working for several startups, he founded Weitech in Sisters, in 1989. Weitech was a manufacturer of electronic pest control products. At this time, he and Verle moved full-time to Black Butte Ranch. Stewart served as the chairman of the BBR homeowners’ board and as the president of the Sisters Area Chamber of Commerce. Weitech experienced rapid growth, and his son Todd soon joined the company. Weitech was sold in 2002 and Stewart retired.

Stewart and Verle enjoyed soaking up the sunshine in Indian Wells, California, during the winters. Stewart also enjoyed reading, classical music, travel, politics, car magazines, golfing, tennis, playing Shanghai, and was always scanning the classifieds for a new business opportunity. He was a decisive leader, a very generous man, and those who knew him appreciated his witty sense of humor. After 24 years living at Black Butte Ranch, he and Verle moved to Touchmark in Bend, where they have happily lived for the past nine years.

Stewart had struggled with Parkinson’s Disease for the past several years, but ultimately succumbed to colon cancer. Preceded in death by his parents Louis Weitzman and Fanny Weitzman, and his brother Morrel Weitzman. Survived by his wife of 61 years, Verle; brother Ronald (Morley) of Carmel, California; son Marcus (Chelley) of Mesa, Arizona; son Todd (Diane) of Sisters; and five grandchildren, Joshua, Christopher, Sarah (Matt), Abigail (Jared), and Becky (James).

Remembering Stewart Weitzman

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Michael Richard Clifton

Michael Richard Clifton

October 13, 1952 - December 28, 2021

An astronaut who flew into space without telling NASA that he had Parkinson's disease has died aged 69.

Michael “Rich” Clifford, flew on three space shuttle missions, having chosen to become an astronaut in 1990 with NASA.

According to, he joined the corps three years after being assigned by the U.S. Army to NASA's Johnson Space Centre in Houston, where he was serving as a space shuttle vehicle integration engineer at the time of his selection.

His death was confirmed on Tuesday by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), of which he was a life member.

His first flight took place on December 2, 1992, which was a classified mission on the Discovery space shuttle for the Department of Defense.

It was a week-long flight, which conducted medical studies on the effects of microgravity on cells from bone tissue, muscles and blood.

His second flight took place on April 9, 1994, where he became one of the crew operating the Space Radar Laborator.

It was this mission where he flow with his Parkinson's a secret.

However, he wanted to fly once more, and informed NASA's medical staff and his commander ahead of his third mission, in March 1996.

He was monitored throughout his training, but as his symptoms never interfered with his preparations for the tasks he was given the green light to fly.

He returned to Earth on March 31, 1996, and resigned from the astronaut corps and NASA in January 1997,

The California native spent, in total, 27 days, 18 hours and 24 minutes in space while completing 443 orbits of Earth.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Elizabeth (née Brunson), and their two sons, Richard and Brandon.


Remembering Michael Richard Clifton

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Jonathan Spence

Jonathan Spence

August 11, 1936 - December 25, 2021

Jonathan Spence ’65 Ph.D., Sterling Professor Emeritus of History, whose scholarship shaped the field of China studies for half a century, died Dec. 25 at home in West Haven, Connecticut of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 85.

President Peter Salovey, noting the community’s loss, called him “unsurpassed as scholar and teacher,” and Richard C. Levin, president of Yale from 1993 to 2013, spoke of him as “a towering figure, a scholar of unique insight and imagination.”

Spence transformed and popularized the study of China in the United States and across the world. Galvanized at first by the idea of China in the 17th century, he went on to write 14 books that spanned the entirety of modern Chinese history, among them “The Search for Modern China” (1990).

His gift was to blend scrupulous archival research with literary flair to create narratives that illuminate the vibrancy of human lives in a foreign land. When he started writing in the 1960s, the American eye was not on China. With a novelist’s aptitude for character, detail, and pace, he brought the sweep of a distant civilization to life. His narrative gift made him what Peter Perdue, professor emeritus of history, called a “master craftsman” who “created a new amalgam of biography, documentary, literature, and drama.”

Born in England in 1936, Jonathan Dermot Spence was one of four children of a family immersed in art, literature, and publishing. He had his secondary schooling at Winchester, where he won the history prize. He did military service for two years in Germany and then went up to Clare College Cambridge, where he coedited the highly regarded literary magazine Granta.

Spence always said he was a “convert” to Chinese history. It was as an exchange student on a Mellon Fellowship at Yale that — after years of focusing on European history — he became mesmerized by a course on China taught by Mary Wright, who had been a student of John Fairbank at Harvard and who had recently arrived at Yale, with her husband Arthur, from Stanford. Wright became Spence’s mentor and introduced him to the distinguished bibliographer and historian Fang Chao-ying, whose support helped him gain access to papers in Taiwan from the Qing dynasty.

“Ts’ao Yin and the K’ang-Hsi Emperor: Bondservant and Master,” Spence’s Yale dissertation and first book, written with the assistance of special access to archival materials in Taiwan, created a nuanced portrait of Ts’ao Yin, the servant, spy, and bondservant to the Manchu emperor. Ts’ao Yin served as a lens for viewing the whole of Chinese society during the dynasty, animated brilliantly by Spence.

This early work, published in 1966, had all the hallmarks of what would follow: fascinating characters, rich use of detail, and an intriguing tale told with a storyteller’s art. In many other books to come, Spence succeeds, as Mark Elliott, a professor of Chinese and Inner Asian history at Harvard and former Spence student, has said, in “demystifying China and the Chinese past, and making it intelligible, relevant and meaningful to people.”

Generations of readers have wept while reading the poignant fate of Woman Wang in “The Death of Woman Wang” (1978) and become caught up in following the dramatic story of the Jesuit priest who set out from Italy to bring Christian faith and Western thought to Ming dynasty China in “The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci” (1984). They have wondered over the fate of the Chinese widower from Canton and the way that his fate illuminated the differences between China and the West in “The Question of Hu” and sympathized with Zhang Dai who spent the second part of his life obsessively recording the texture of the vanished Ming dynasty of his youth in “Return to Dragon Mountain: Memories of a Late Ming.” In all of these books, while telling mesmerizing stories of particular people in particular circumstances experiencing complex and extraordinary events, Spence manages not only to convey a sense of China and its civilization, but also of our place as humans in the world.

Spence’s best-known work, “The Search for Modern China,” developed from the lectures in his celebrated Chinese history course at Yale, begins with the Ming dynasty and covers four centuries. It has been the cornerstone of college-level teaching of Chinese history since its publication. The term “textbook,” however, would give the wrong impression of a masterpiece in which Spence makes the search for China a quest for depicting a complex culture packed with upheaval and personalities.

For generations of students, the “Modern China” course, simply known among undergraduates as “Spence,” was considered a rite of passage for Yalies who heard from one another that it would open their eyes to a fascinating country and civilization and give them a new global perspective. So popular was it that students had to be admitted in cohorts: senior majors in Chinese, Japanese, history, and East Asian studies on day one; junior majors in the same on day two; and everyone else, as far as the room would hold, on day three. Ultimately the university gave up trying to find a classroom and the course was moved to Battell Chapel, which holds 850.

As Janet Chen, now professor of history at Princeton University, describes, “With a single sheet of hand scribbled notes, Spence could hold an auditorium of undergraduates spellbound” with lectures that were as engaging and illuminating as short stories. Another student remarked, he could “catch the essence,” as Spence sometimes himself described it, of people and of historical moments so they “lit up like lightning bugs in a jar.”

Some legendary lecturers achieve greatness through their theatricality. This was not Spence. Slowly, patiently, and in a quiet voice, he fashioned his lectures with narratives as rich as those in fiction, always embedding a larger point about the culture and society of China within them. Students would sit rapt, and then leave the lectures and excitedly discuss them over lunch in the colleges.

It would be hard to overestimate the influence of “Modern China”: from it, students who are now out in the world have gained a deeper understanding of China that has served them as journalists, politicians, ambassadors, teachers, poets, actors, entrepreneurs, and simply as knowledgeable citizens.

As one of the most influential professors of Chinese history in the world, Spence also attracted a distinguished cohort of graduate students who are now contributing to scholarship and carrying on his legacy throughout the academy — from Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia to the University of Chicago, Cornell, Dartmouth, Cambridge, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and many other colleges and universities. Immediately after he died the internet flared with remembrances of him from Chinese scholars and students at distinguished Chinese universities, including Tsinghua and Beida, where Yale has shared a Ph.D. exchange program for graduate students.

For his pathbreaking work, Spence received many accolades. He was a MacArthur Fellow and the recipient of eight honorary degrees, including those from his alma mater, Cambridge, and, in the same year, from Oxford. He was appointed to the C.M.G. (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George) on the Queen of England’s Birthday Honours List. He served a term as the president of the American Historical Association. In 2010 he was asked to give the Jefferson Lecture, the most prestigious honor the U.S. federal government bestows for achievement in the humanities. At Yale, undergraduates chose him for the coveted DeVane Medal for scholarship and teaching.

A popular figure in a university he loved, Spence was admired not only for his exemplary scholarship, teaching, and dedication to students, but also for his warmth, humility, and integrity. For years he had an office in Timothy Dwight College, where he was a faithful fellow. He regularly attended Yale College faculty meetings, an astute and interested observer of university politics and people. He and his wife Annping Chin, a senior lecturer in history who retired in 2018, entertained many from China and all over the world at superb dinners in their West Haven home, where they also created a beautiful garden.

In addition to his wife, Spence is survived by a brother, Nicholas; two sons from his first marriage, to Helen Alexander, Colin and Ian; a stepdaughter, Mei Chin; a stepson, Yar Woo; a grandson; and two step-granddaughters. 


Remembering Jonathan Spence

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Joseph Matthew Serpa

Joseph Matthew Serpa

January 1, 1944 - December 24, 2021

Serpa, Joseph M., 77, of West Warwick, passed away peacefully on Friday, December 24, 2021 after a long struggle with Parkinson's Disease. 

He was the devoted husband of State Representative Patricia A. (Petrarca) Serpa for 36 years. Born in Providence, he was the son of the late Joseph and Dorothy (Silva) Serpa. He was the cherished son-in-law of Constance and the late Adolph Petrarca.

Joseph graduated from Hope High School in 1962 and went on to serve in the Providence Fire Department for thirty-two years, retiring in 1999 as the Dispatch Lieutenant at the Bureau of Operational Control. He was never boastful but Joe was extremely proud of his Fox Point roots and for having been awarded the PFD Badge #1 in 1996 for his dignified and professional service to the residents of Providence.

Joseph enjoyed golf, the casino, music, and old movies. He cheerfully planned and organized annual golf vacations for large groups of fellow firefighters for more than twenty years.

In addition to his wife, he was the much-loved stepdad of Domenic DiMasi and was affectionately called “Papa Joe” by grandson Gabriele DiMasi. He also leaves his sisters and brothers-in-law Lester and Linda Petrarca and Joanne and Robert Diggins. He leaves several nieces and a nephew. We have all lost a good man.

Remembering Joseph Matthew Serpa

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Herve Champagne, Jr.

Herve Champagne, Jr.

June 22, 1934 - December 24, 2021

Herve Urbain Champagne, Jr., age 87, passed away the morning of December 24, 2021 after a battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Herve was born on June 22, 1934 in West Warwick, RI to Herve and Bernadette (Pelletier) Champagne. After graduating from La Salle Academy in 1951 he served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Bryant University in 1959. 

Herve retired from his position as Chief of Field Audit for the State of Rhode Island Division of Taxation in 1996 after 28 years of service. He also served on the Supervisory Committee, and later the Board of Directors, of the Rhode Island Credit Union for 30 years, until the time of his death.

From 1971 to 1976, Herve also turned his favorite dessert into a business as the owner of Dairy Jim, an ice cream shop on McElroy Street in West Warwick. The shop included several trucks that traveled routes throughout Kent County, often with one or more of Herve’s children on board.

An avid golfer, Herve also enjoyed trips to Foxwoods Casino, weekly lunches with his best friend Roy LaCroix, meals at his beloved Twin Oaks, and visits from his children and grandchildren.

Herve was well-loved not only by his family and friends but also by the staff at the Green House Homes at the Saint Elizabeth Community, where he spent the final months of his life. He was well known for his jovial, joking manner and the occasional serenade to the staff who cared for him.

Herve is survived by younger brother Robert Champagne and sister-in-law Pauline Champagne of Coventry, son Thomas Champagne of Asheville, North Carolina; daughter Suzanne Champagne of North Kingstown; son David Champagne of Coventry; son Marc Champagne and daughter-in-law Shiela Champagne of West Hartford, Connecticut; and daughter Mary Champagne and son-in-law Geoffrey Gessner of Baltimore, Maryland. He was also the proud Pépère to grandchildren Evan Chaffey and his wife Val Wilkins; Steven, Jessica, and Austin Gibree; Luc and Mathieu Champagne, and Everett and Ah’leah Companie.

Inurnment with military honors in RI Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Exeter.

Remembering Herve Champagne, Jr.

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Joan Didion

Joan Didion

December 5, 1934 - December 23, 2021

The writing of Joan Didion, who has died 87, was mantra-like, mannered, even “set in its own modulations” (that was Martin Amis’s snipe). It was also unique and remarkable. Even the shape of her books was uncommon, the sentences spaced on pages as tall and narrow as king-sized cigarette packets.

She had practiced that incantatory style since her mother had presented her, aged five, with a notebook and a suggestion that she calm her anxious self by writing. Her family had long been settled in California, then chiefly an agricultural state, a location that mattered to Didion’s story, and to her story-telling.

She was born in Sacramento, the daughter of Eduene (nee Jerrett) and Frank Didion, a finance officer with the US army, poker player, and, after the second world war, a real estate dealer. Joan was an army brat on her father’s stations, and her juvenile fantasies set out in that notebook were doomy – death in the desert, suicide in the surf.

The only printed influence on her work she ever cited was Ernest Hemingway, as she had typed out his prose in order to master the keyboard and his syntax: the exact placement of words was the basis of her style as it had been of his. “Grammar is a piano I play by ear,” she claimed. Studying English literature at the University of California, Berkeley, taught her to audit meaning, dissect language and triangulate evidence, and modified her original ambition, acting, into writing as performance.

Didion won Vogue’s Prix de Paris contest in 1956, and was rewarded with a copywriter’s job, dogsbodying with proximity to glamour, in New York, rising to associate features editor over eight years at Condé Nast. She said later that she had been in love with the city’s promise, excited by meeting whoever was in town — models, millionaires, magnates — but had remained an exiled westerner not at home in New York. With a portable typewriter perched on a chair in her almost empty apartment, she wrote a novel about the Californian rivers she so missed.

Those waterways are the real lead in her first novel, Run River (1963). John Gregory Dunne, a staffer on Time magazine and also a self-declared outsider, edited it. They married in 1964, and moved to Los Angeles temporarily, sure that his older brother, the producer Dominick Dunne, would be their entree to screenwriting. That scenario did not quite play out, and both had to turn to magazine journalism for an income.

Didion categorized some of her essays, with their first-person viewpoint and fiction-like fine detail, as “Personals”, but in fact they were about the world as seen by a social and political conservative from the last American generation to identify with adults. A tiny, unnerved and unnerving figure behind vast dark glasses, she was derisive of lax language and dismissive of unformed thought on both the left and right. She did not care to negotiate interviews with stars via their press agents.

She believed she could pass unnoticed anywhere: among the residue of the Hollywood studios and the creatives of the new music business; in arid valley towns and LA’s dustier districts; around the coagulating hippy counterculture in San Francisco. Her descriptions of her crippling social anxiety, her inability to make a phone call to get an assignment under way, did not accord with others’ memories of her taking laps of the room at swelegant parties.

Didion’s first book of collected journalism, Slouching Towards Bethlehem, published in 1968, the year in which she had a breakdown, established her reputation for cool and very slowly became a cult: as the writer Caitlin Flanagan remembered, Didion “had fans – not the way writers have fans, but the way musicians and actors have fans – and almost all of them were female”. That coolness was confirmed by her second novel, Play It As It Lays (1970), with its zomboid leading woman on Hollywood’s perimeter, so chilled a fiction that Didion’s editor, Henry Robbins, called her to ask if she was all right.

Possibly not, but she was getting by. The next year the couple had their first script onscreen, The Panic in Needle Park, and then their 1972 adaptation of Play It As It Lays flopped. Didion’s literary identity became clearer than that of her husband, with whom she shared preoccupations and phrasing, which added edge to their joint 1976 refettling of A Star Is Born to Barbra Streisand’s specifications.

Didion continued the essays, more personal yet, collected in 1979 as The White Album, and developed an idea she had had when trapped by paratyphoid in a hotel room during a Colombian film festival into A Book of Common Prayer (1977), her first fictional engagement with the role and image of the US in Central and Latin America.

At that point all the elements were in play that recurred in her fact and fiction. There was her concentration on the Americas – she had visited Europe and Israel, but disclaimed interest in them – and on the Hispanic influx into the US, which, as a Californian, she was aware of very early. Her books of reportage, El Salvador (1982) - “One morning at the breakfast table I was reading the newspaper and it just didn’t make sense,” she wrote of US press coverage of Salvador’s internal war, and immediately flew there to inspect the body dumps – and Miami (1987), were descriptions of equal and opposite cultural misunderstandings.

She felt that the US political process had become self-contained, exclusive of the electorate and, from the presidency of Ronald Reagan onwards, of reality itself – as depicted in the essays anthologised in After Henry (1992) and Political Fictions (2001) and her occasional 21st century pieces. This perception also fed into her best and most successful novel, Democracy (1984), which could be read as a romance, or – as was also true of her 1996 novel The Last Thing He Wanted – as an exploration of private connections to public power. The political could not have been made more personal.

The greater constant in Didion’s work, though, was the intersection of public and private mood with place – Hawaii febrile in tropical rain, Los Angeles fractious as the Santa Ana winds blew through. Readers came to know the homes she had passed through – the Malibu beach premises on the edge of the fire season burn zone, the “house in a part of Hollywood that had once been expensive and was now described as a ‘senseless killing neighbourhood’”, the Manhattan apartment with the Cy Twombly artwork, plus a travel itinerary of grand hotels.

They became even more familiar with the older California that she kept recalling all the way up to her memoir Where I Was From (2003), in which she finally admitted that her apprehension of her native state had been a misapprehension, an “enchantment under which I lived my life”. It was not the place she had thought it, and it never had been, all the way back to the settlers’ wagon trains and their encounters with rattlesnakes.

By then, she seemed to feel that reality was dispelling all enchantments from her life. The lives of Didion and Dunne had been mostly funded by their remunerative rewrites for the screen, although their joint “implied promise of quality” had been delivered in the adaption of Dunne’s novel True Confessions (1981), and rather less so in a prolonged project, Up Close and Personal, filmed in 1996 as a vehicle for Robert Redford.

They supported each other in public over their career compromises, but there had been fights and near-splits in the marriage. They once holidayed in the Royal Hawaian hotel “in lieu of filing for divorce”, and Dunne left to live alone in Vegas for a while when it was his turn for a breakdown. But it had survived, stronger than a mutual defence pact. Dunne died of a heart attack at their dinner table in Manhattan in 2003, a sudden exit that Didion described in The Year of Magical Thinking (2005), her book of grief and disbelief. It was critically admired for its honesty and clarity, and adapted for the stage.

Didion delayed Dunne’s funeral until their daughter Quintana had recovered from the pneumonia and septic shock that had put her into hospital intensive care. But her recovery was brief and Quintana died just before the book’s publication. Didion and Dunne had adopted the baby on the day of her birth in 1966, and called her after a Mexican state. She became a familiar player in their pieces, often quoted, described as an insouciant user of hotel room service when accompanying her mother on book tours.

In Blue Nights (2011), Didion suggested quite another story of Quintana as a Hollywood child who feared abandonment, was suicidal, diagnosed as manic depressive, and in adulthood had had difficult encounters with her birth family. However, the true subject of Blue Nights was Didion, alone and a long way from California; there could be no going back to places so changed. Her last works, South and West (2017) and Let Me Tell You What I Mean (2021) collected her “field notes” and early writing.

Veronica Horwell

The Guardian 


Remembering Joan Didion

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Dr. David Patrick Liebel

Dr. David Patrick Liebel

November 9, 1950 - December 21, 2021

Missed by everyone who knew him.

Remembering Dr. David Patrick Liebel

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Updated: August 16, 2017