Sid Caesar, creator of “Your Show of Shows,” dead at 91

Sid CaesarSid Caesar, 1922 to 2014


by Roger Friedman

Sid Caesar has died in Los Angeles at age 91. The creator of “Your Show of Shows” had been in fragile health for some time. If you don’t know his name ( and I’m sure you do) , Sid Caesar is where all contemporary comedy began. He launched Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Woody Allen with “Your Show of Shows.” There was even a movie made about him, sort of– “My Favorite Year,” written by one of his other disciples, Norman Steinberg. With Imogene Coca, Sid Caesar created an unparalleled legacy. In recent times, Brooks, Reiner and friends like Lainie Kazan, Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna had been going to Caesar’s house on Sundays to entertain him as he convalesced.

You can’t get more concise than this:

You certainly did, sir.




Novelist Elmore Leonard passes at age 87

Elmore LeonardFrom the

Elmore Leonard, Who Refined the Crime Thriller, Dies at 87

Elmore Leonard, the prolific crime novelist whose louche characters, deadpan dialogue and immaculate prose style in novels like “Get Shorty,” “Freaky Deaky” and “Glitz” established him as a modern master of American genre writing, died on Tuesday at his home in Bloomfield Township, Mich. He was 87.

His death was announced on his Web site.

To his admiring peers, Mr. Leonard did more than merely validate the popular crime thriller; he stripped the form of its worn-out affectations, reinventing it for a new generation and elevating it to a higher literary shelf.

Reviewing “Riding the Rap” for The New York Times Book Review in 1995, Martin Amis cited Mr. Leonard’s “gifts — of ear and eye, of timing and phrasing — that even the most indolent and snobbish masters of the mainstream must vigorously covet.” As the American chapter of PEN noted, when honoring Mr. Leonard with a lifetime achievement award in 2009, his books “are not only classics of the crime genre, but some of the best writing of the last half-century.”

And that is the absolute truth.  Elmore Leonard not only wrote about crime, but he wrote some significant western novels as well, some of which were turned into various movies such as Hombre and Valdez Is Coming.

Mr Leonard’s list of novels is here.

My favorites?  His earlier works:

Fifty-Two Pickup. New York : Delacorte Press, 1974.

Swag. New York : Delacorte Press, 1976.
Unknown Man No. 89. New York : Delacorte Press, 1977.
The Hunted. New York : Dell, 1977.

The Switch. New York : Bantam Books, 1978.

And City Primeval.

Elmore Leonard was the King of Dialogue with sparse, true writing.  Any and every current or budding writer should absolutely purchase Leonard’s “Ten Rules of Writing.”  Simply mandatory.  Please, I implore, click on the link directly above.

Mr. Leonard is survived by five children from his first marriage, Jane Jones, Katy Dudley and Peter, Christopher and William Leonard; 13 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.

Elmore John Leonard Jr. was born in New Orleans on Oct. 11, 1925. Nine years later his father, an executive with General Motors, moved the family to Detroit. After graduating from high school in 1943, he did a two-year stretch in the Navy. Picking up his schooling at the University of Detroit, he graduated in 1950 and became a copywriter for a Detroit advertising agency.

His first crime novel, “The Big Bounce,” set in Michigan, was published in 1969 and kicked off a series of hard-boiled crime narratives — “Fifty-Two Pickup,” “Swag,” “Unknown Man No. 89”and the raw genre masterpiece “City Primeval: High Noon in Detroit” among them — that to some of his die-hard fans define the essence of urban noir.

I would highly recommend all of the above books for anyone wanting to introduce themselves to Leonard’s excellent writing.  They are my absolute favorites.

But in terms of urban noir, I would also recommend two other American novelists: James Ellroy and the little-known and oddball Eugene Izzi.

You won’t go wrong with any of these three crime writers, as well as cop writers Joseph Wambaugh and Gerald Petievich — subjects for another later post.

Goodbye, Dutch.

You will be missed.




George Duke: passes at the age of 67

George DukePeople may not remember George Duke, but I certainly do — as a former player for Frank Zappa, a genius I admired for years and, who himself, passed away in 1993 at the age of 52 due to prostate cancer.

George Duke passed away on Monday, August 5th, at the age of 67, in Los Angeles, from chronic lymphocytic leukemia.  Keyboards and trombone were his brilliant forte.

I remember him for his jazz-fusion background with Zappa and also with French violinist Jean Luc-Ponty.

He played here with Frank Zappa’s various iterations:

As sideman

With Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention

God bless you sir.  You are preceded by likewise brilliant musicians.  Imagine what you and Dave Brubeck could do.  Oh?  You’ve just now met him?

The music you can make now, sir.  It staggers.


Here, the fabulous Brothers of Invention, George Duke and Jean Luc-Ponty:

Now you have just a whiff of the brilliance of this wonderful musician.



Actor James Gandolfini: dead at age 51

From the

James Gandolfini dead at 51: ‘Sopranos’ star suffers massive heart attack in Italy

‘Everyone is in tears,’ a source close to the Emmy Award-winning actor tells the Daily News.

James Gandolfini, the New Jersey-bred actor who delighted audiences as mob boss Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos” has died following a massive heart attack in Italy, a source told the Daily News.

Deaths tend to come in threes.

Who will be the third?