Philip Roth, one of the most prolific and celebrated writers of his generation, died Tuesday. He was 85, and a close friend, Judith Thurman, said the cause of death was congestive heart failure.
Between his first collection of stories, Goodbye, Columbus (1959), and his final novel, 2010's Nemesis, Roth won two National Book Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker International Prize, and three PEN/Faulkner Awards, among other honors. He is best known for his 1969 novel Portnoy's Complaint, and his literary explorations of life as an American, a Jew, and a man, and sex and lust. Many of his protagonists were thinly veiled versions of himself — Nathan Zuckerman, Alexander Portnoy, David Kepesh — and his work played with and blurred the lines between truth and fiction. "Making fake biography, false history, concocting a half-imaginary existence out of the actual drama of my life is my life," Roth told Hermione Lee in a 1984 interview in The Paris Review. "There has to be some pleasure in this life, and that's it."
Roth was born and raised in the Weequahic neighborhood of Newark, New Jersey, the setting for many of his novels. He was the younger of two sons of Herman Roth, a manager at Metropolitan Life, and Bess Roth née Finkel. He was married twice, the second marriage ending in 1994. Roth retired from writing in 2010 but didn't tell anyone for two years.
"In just a matter of months I'll depart old age to enter deep old age — easing ever deeper daily into the redoubtable Valley of the Shadow," Roth told The New York Times in January. "Right now it is astonishing to find myself still here at the end of each day. ... It's something like playing a game, day in and day out, a high-stakes game that for now, even against the odds, I just keep winning. We will see how long my luck holds out." Peter Weber
Carl Kasell, the longtime NPR morning newscaster who found a second career at the NPR comedic news quiz Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!, died on Tuesday. He was 84, and his wife, Mary Ann Foster, gave the cause as complications of Alzheimer's disease, which Kassel discovered he had in 2012.
Kasell was born in Goldsboro, North Carolina, in 1934, and he was interested in radio from a young age. His drama teacher at Goldsboro High School, future TV star Andy Griffith, urged him to pursue theater, but Kasell worked part time at a radio station during high school, then helped start the college station at the University of North Carolina. After he returned from World War II, Kasell dropped disc-jockeying for the world of news radio at WAVA-FM in Arlington, Virginia, where he gave Katie Couric her first broadcasting job. He started part-time at NPR in 1975, joined full-time in 1977, and he read the news on All Things Considered and Morning Edition until he retired in 2009.
In 1998, Kasell started his improbable second career in comedy, joining the fledgling NPR call-in news quiz Wait Wait as judge and scorekeeper — and since the show had no budget, it's prize: Kasell's voice on the winning callers' answering machines. Here's one example, and you can find more at NPR.
"Carl has always been the heart of this show," Wait Wait host Peter Sagal told The New York Times. At first, "we needed him because he was NPR in the same way that Walter Cronkite was TV news," he said, but then "we found out that Carl is very hysterically funny." Frequent guest Paula Poundstone posted an homage for Kasell on Tuesday.
A tribute to Carl Kasell. pic.twitter.com/wuXvHiYLmP
— Paula Poundstone (@paulapoundstone) April 18, 2018
Kasell shared a Peabody Award with Morning Edition in 1999 and was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2010. He is survived by his wife, Foster, a son and stepson, one sister, and four grandchildren. Peter Weber
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino in existence, died on Monday, Kenya's Ol Pejeta Conservancy announced early Tuesday. He was 45 and "being treated for age-related complications that led to degenerative changes in muscles and bones combined with extensive skin wounds," the conservancy said. "He was unable to stand up and was suffering a great deal. The veterinary team from the Dvůr Králové Zoo, Ol Pejeta, and Kenya Wildlife Service made the decision to euthanize him."
It is with great sadness that Ol Pejeta Conservancy and the Dvůr Králové Zoo announce that Sudan, the world’s last male northern white rhino, age 45, died at Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya on March 19th, 2018 (yesterday). #SudanForever #TheLoneBachelorGone #Only2Left pic.twitter.com/1ncvmjZTy1
— Ol Pejeta (@OlPejeta) March 20, 2018
There are now only two northern white rhinos left in the world: Sudan's daughters, Najin and Fatu. The only hope for keeping the subspecies going now involves creating new in vitro fertilization techniques using eggs from Najin and Fatu, stored northern white rhino sperm, and surrogate female southern white rhinos, the conservancy said. Sudan "was a great ambassador for his species and will be remembered for the work he did to raise awareness globally of the plight facing not only rhinos, but also the many thousands of other species facing extinction as a result of unsustainable human activity," Ol Pejeta CEO Richard Vinge said. "One day, his demise will hopefully be seen as a seminal moment for conservationists worldwide."
On a happier note, the small Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in India's Assam state reported Monday that its population of one-horned rhinos has risen to 102 from 93 during its last census in 2012. "Our efforts at conserving the rhino have paid off," forestry officer Pradipta Baruah told The Associated Press. All five rhino species in the world are under threat from poachers; rhino horns are sold on the black market, especially in countries where the horn is believed to increase male potency. Peter Weber
Actor David Ogden Stiers, most famous for starring in the last six seasons of MASH, died Saturday at his home in Newport, Oregon, a town on the central Oregon Coast. He was 75, and his agent said the cause of death was bladder cancer. Stiers stepped in to play Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III, a snobby Bostonian with serious surgical skills and wit, in 1977, when MASH star Alan Alda's previous foil, Maj. Frank Burns (Larry Linville), left the show.
David Ogden Stiers. I remember how you skateboarded to work every day down busy LA streets. How, once you glided into Stage 9, you were Winchester to your core. How gentle you were, how kind, except when devising the most vicious practical jokes. We love you, David. Goodbye.
— Alan Alda (@alanalda) March 4, 2018
Stiers was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1942, then moved with his family to Eugene, Oregon. He started his acting career as a stage actor in Santa Clara, California, then moved to New York, making his Broadway debut in 1973. He was in several films, including voicing the clock Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast (1991), the villain Jumba Jookiba in Lilo & Stitch (2002), and the announcer in George Lucas' first feature film, THX 1138 (1971). Stiers also served as resident conductor of the Newport Symphony Orchestra. He never married, and he came out as gay in 2009. "I wish to spend my life's twilight being just who I am," he said at the time. You can watch him in action as Maj. Winchester below. Peter Weber
Vic Damone, a singer of the popular American songbook who admired and was admired by Frank Sinatra, died on Sunday at age 89. His daughter Victoria Damone said the cause of death was complications from a respiratory illness. Damone's career started taking off when he tied for first place in the radio show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hunt, but his first break was trapping Perry Como in an elevator while he was an usher at New York's Paramount Theater; after an impromptu guerrilla audition, Como referred the 14-year-old Damone to a local bandleader, his family said in a statement.
Damone was born Vito Farinola in Brooklyn in 1928, the son of immigrants from Bari, Italy. (Damone was his mother's maiden name.) He dropped out of high school after his father was injured at his job as an electrician. He went on to sell millions of records, scoring hits including "Again," "My Heart Cries for You," "On the Street Where You Live," and the title song of the 1957 Cary Grant classic An Affair to Remember.
Damone was originally cast as the wedding coroner in The Godfather, ultimately losing the role to Al Martino. He performed into his 70s, retiring to Palm Beach, Florida, due to illness. Damone married his first wife, Italian across Pier Angeli, in 1954, after her mother refused to let her marry James Dean, The Associated Press reports. After their divorce in 1959, he went on to marry four other women, including actress-singer Dihann Carroll from 1987 to 1996. His fifth wife, fashion designer Rena Rowan, died in 2016. Damone is survived by two sisters, three daughters, and six grandchildren. Peter Weber
John Mahoney, a prolific actor best known for playing the curmudgeonly father Martin Crane on Frasier from 1993 to 2004, died in Chicago on Sunday, his manager, Paul Martino, said Monday. He was 77 and had been in hospice care. Mahoney, who moved to the U.S. from his native England at age 19, quit his job as a medical magazine editor and started acting full-time in his late 30s at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, after meeting cofounder John Malkovich in 1977.
Along with his stage career, which he resumed after Frasier ended, Mahoney's film credits include Moonstruck, The American President, In the Line of Fire, Tin Men, Barton Fink, Reality Bites, The Russia House, and Say Anything, where he played the disapproving father of John Cusack's love interest.
He also had guest spots on Cheers, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and a recurring role as Betty White's love interest on Hot in Cleveland. Mahoney's awards include a Tony in 1986 for The House of Blue Leaves on Broadway and a SAG Award for playing Martin Crane on Frasier, a role that also earned him two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations. Peter Weber
Thomas S. Monson, 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Tuesday night at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90 and had been in poor health. Monson was president, "prophet, seer, and revelator" of the Mormon church for nearly a decade, but he had been one of the church's 12 apostles since 1963, at age 36, after 14 years as a bishop. When he joined the top ranks of the LDS church 53 years ago, there were 2.1 million Mormons and 12 temples around the world; by the time he died, the religion had expanded to 15.9 million members and 157 temples, Utah's Deseret News notes.
Monson will be succeeded by Russell M. Nelson, who is 93 but was ordained an apostle in 1984. When Monson had been ordained 20 years earlier, he "joined a quorum with a handful of men who knew or were raised by Latter-day Saint pioneers who crossed the plains in 1847," the Deseret News says. "They could speak from experience about the church before the Manifesto that ended polygamy in 1890. ... He was the final prophet to have served in the Twelve with church leaders who had known men who knew the first, Joseph Smith." Monson was also the last living person who was present in June 1978 when the Mormon leaders received a revelation allowing black people and other minorities to become full members of the church, a move Monson supported.
Monson's presidency also covered some significant tumult and famous firsts for the Mormon church, including a push against same-sex marriage, a fight over ordaining women, severance of the LDS relationship with the Boy Scouts, a move toward openness on doctrine and history, the first Mormon presidential nominee, and a modernization of the LDS public communications system. You can read more about Monson's life at the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune. Peter Weber
Heather Menzies-Urich, a TV and movie actress whose best-known role was Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 movie The Sound of Music, died Sunday night in Frankford, Ontario, in her native Canada, her son Ryan Urich said Monday. She was 68 and had recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Menzies-Urich landed the role of the third-oldest von Trapp child at age 14, and she went on to act in the movies Hawaii, Piranha, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, as well as the TV shows Dragnet, Bonanza, The Bob Newhart Show, and a starring role in Logan's Run.
— The Sound of Music (@SoundofMusic) December 25, 2017
Menzies-Urich, whose family moved from Canada to California when she was a teenager, met her husband, Robert Urich, while filming a commercial for Libby's Corned Beef Hash in the mid-1970s, Variety reports. After he died from cancer in 2002, Menzies-Urich started the Robert Urich Foundation for cancer research and support. She is survived by three children, several grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Peter Weber