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Vincent Bugliosi

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Categories: Law, Writers/Editors

Vincent Bugliosi, the former Los Angeles attorney who prosecuted cult leader Charles Manson before becoming a bestselling true crime author, died on June 6 of cancer. He was 80.

The Minnesota native earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Miami and a law degree from UCLA. In the 1960s, the ambitious young lawyer joined the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, where he built a reputation as a top-notch prosecutor, securing convictions in 105 of 106 felony jury trials, including 21 murder cases.

Out of all his cases, Bugliosi was best known for prosecuting Charles Manson and four other defendants in the 1969 Tate-LaBianca murders, a trial he later wrote about in the book “Helter Skelter.”

Actress Sharon Tate was married to director Roman Polanski and eight months pregnant on Aug. 9, 1969 when she and four others — coffee heiress Abigail Folger, director Voytek Frykowski, celebrity hairdresser Jay Sebring and Stephen Parent — were killed inside a house she sublet from producer/songwriter Terry Melcher. Polanski was out of the country at the time of the slayings. The following night, the mutilated bodies of grocers Rosemary and Leno LaBianca were discovered bearing the same grisly crime signature.

With the help of a jailhouse tip, police linked the murders to Manson and his “family” of followers. They were arrested two months later and put on trial in 1970. The high-profile case, which involved dozens of witnesses, lasted more than nine months and cost the county a then-record $1 million. In the end, however, Bugliosi convinced the juries that Manson was a murderous cult leader who had masterminded the slayings. Manson’s followers Susan Atkins, Charles “Tex” Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel and Leslie Van Houten were convicted of perpetrating the crimes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever known anybody to be as hard a worker as Vince,” Stephen R. Kay, a former Los Angeles County deputy district attorney who worked with Bugliosi on the Manson trial, told The Los Angeles TImes. “He would go home after the trial every day, take a nap for an hour, get up and work until 3 or 4 a.m., sleep for a couple more hours and go back to work. And he always appeared fresh, never tired.”

Manson and his followers were originally sentenced to death for the murders, but those sentences were commuted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in 1972, the Los Angeles Times reported. Atkins died in prison in 2009 while the others remain behind bars to this day.

“The execution of a condemned man is a terrible thing, but murder is an even more terrible thing,” Bugliosi told the Los Angeles Times in 2009. “They deserved to die, these people, and I asked for the death penalty and I would do so again…I’m disappointed, of course, particularly with respect to Manson.”

Although Bugliosi would spend the 1970s in private practice, writing books became his second career. “Helter Skelter,” which he co-wrote with Curt Gentry, was the first of his many bestsellers all of which he penned longhand on yellow legal pads. “Helter Skelter” spawned two TV movies, Variety reported, as did the books “And the Sea Will Tell” and “Till Death Us Do Part.” “Reclaiming History,” Bugliosi’s 1,600-page take on the Kennedy assassination and the book he considered his magnum opus, served as the basis for the 2013 film “Parkland.”

More recently, Bugliosi caused a stir with the 2008 book “The Prosecution of George W. Bush For Murder,” not just because of its controversial content, but because most print and TV media outlets refused to discuss it, The New York Times reported. The book, which laid out a legal case for holding President Bush “criminally responsible” for the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq, hit the bestseller list despite the blackout.

His son, Vincent Bugliosi Jr., told The Associated Press that his father simply had “an unflagging dedication to justice.”

Bugliosi is survived by Gail, his wife of 59 years, his son Vincent and his daughter Wendy.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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B.B. King

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Categories: Musicians

Legendary blues musician B.B. King died on May 14 in Las Vegas. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

Born Riley B. King in Berclair, Mississippi, and raised by his grandmother, the future “King of the Blues” purchased his first guitar for $15 when he was just 12 years old. He dropped out of school in the 10th grade, and spent much of his early years picking cotton and working as a tractor driver.

While he began singing in a gospel choir at church, the blues took root in King during his teen years. The blues is considered by many to be the only truly indigenous American music, and over time, King would become its foremost ambassador.

After a short stint in the Army during World War II, King returned home to work as a farmer. But a tractor accident prompted him to give up that life, and start another in Memphis. There, King officially launched his musical career in the late 1940s.

He honed his vibrato style of playing, worked steady gigs at a string of clubs, got his first real break on Sonny Boy Williamson’s “King Biscuit Time” radio show and hosted a 10-minute program on WDIA as “the Beale Street Blues Boy,” a name he eventually shortened to Blues Boy and then B.B. King. Over the next seven decades, King produced dozens of albums for various labels and released a string of hits (“The Thrill Is Gone,” “3 O’Clock Blues,” “You Know I Love You,” “Woke Up This Morning,” “Every Day I Have The Blues,” “Sweet Little Angel”) that helped to define the genre’s post-war sound, Variety reported.

Although he originally played to all-black audiences, King’s distinctive voice soon won him fans the world over. Between the release of his landmark album “Live at the Regal” in 1965 — which would later be declared a recording worthy of preservation by the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry — and the charting of his 1969 LP “Live and Well,” King became a true star. And by the late 1960s, he was making appearances on the “Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Tonight Show.”


Playing on a Gibson ES-355 guitar he lovingly named Lucille, King would weave a musical tapestry of heartfelt soul and pain that masterfully fused elements of blues and jazz. These passionate sounds would not only enrapture audiences but influence many other artists, including Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Jimi Hendrix.

“When I’m singing, I don’t want you to just hear the melody,” King told the AP in 2006. “I want you to relive the story, because most of the songs have pretty good storytelling.”

King won the first of his 15 Grammy Awards in 1951 and joined the Grammy Hall of Fame 47 years later. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the R&B Music Hall of Fame in 2014. Rolling Stone magazine also ranked him at No. 3 in its 2003 list of the 100 greatest guitarist of all time.


In the 1990s, King launched a chain of blues clubs bearing his name in cities across the U.S. The venues featured live bands and a full menu of Southern-inspired comfort food, as well as frequent performances by the man himself. A Delta blues museum in Indianola, Mississippi, that aims to “preserve and share the legacy and values of B.B. King,” also bears his name.

When he wasn’t making music, King loved to fly. He was a licensed pilot and until he turned 70, would fly himself to many of his gigs. The indefatigable performer was known for appearing in 250 to 300 concerts a year well into his 70s. Only declining health made him cut back his workload to about 100 shows annually, and those were not as well-received as his earlier shows. King officially launched a “farewell” world tour in 2006, yet remained active until almost the very end, appearing on television programs and in music festivals.

King’s life was chronicled in the 2012 documentary, “The Life Of Riley,” which was narrated by Morgan Freeman and included appearances and contributions from Aaron Neville, Bono, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Willis, Carlos Santana, George Benson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Ringo Starr, Slash and Susan Tedeschi. He also told his own tale in the autobiography, “Blues All Around Me.”

“B.B. King taps into something universal,” Clapton told The Los Angeles Times in 2005. “He can’t be confined to any one genre. That’s why I’ve called him a ‘global musician.’”

A smart dresser, King preferred to appear on stage wearing a suit or tuxedo, patent leather shoes and diamond rings. Yet unlike other musical artists, he eschewed drugs and alcohol. He did, however, enjoy gambling, the Telegraph reported, and would hit the casinos in Las Vegas whenever he could.

King was married twice, though both unions ended in divorce, reportedly due to the demands of his touring schedule. He was the father to 15 children and a grandfather dozens of times over.


–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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Rudy Perz

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Categories: Business, Tags: ,

Fifty years ago, Rudolph R. Perz, the creative director of the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago, was under pressure to come up with a new lovable new mascot for the Pillsbury account.

Sitting at his kitchen table and staring at a Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can, Perz wracked his brain for an idea. Suddenly, he imagined a doughy white character jumping out of the can.

Perz described him to Martin Nodell, an artist at the agency, who sketched the little spokesman. The joyful dough boy had big blue eyes, a chef’s hat, a sassy bandana, and blushed when he was kissed.

His name was Poppin’ Fresh.

Once the character was fully baked… err, formed… Poppin’ Fresh became one of the food company’s best known mascots, an ever-helpful and very ticklish character known as the Pillsbury Doughboy.

“The one image I have of my dad was of him tapping the can of refrigerated dough against the kitchen table,” Perz’s daughter Martha Nora said in a biography posted on the Donnellan Family Funeral Home website. “That’s how his mind worked for everything. The wheels were always turning and your never were sure what idea he would come up with. There was always a twinkle in his eye and he loved the element of surprise.”

Although Perz originally intended the Pillsbury Doughboy to be animated, he changed his mind after seeing a stop motion clay technique on television. Designer Milt Schaffer then brought the baking icon to life at a cost of $16,000, The Washington Post reported. The Pillsbury Doughboy has been created using CGI technology since 1992. Veteran cartoon voice actor Paul Frees served as the Pillsbury Doughboy’s voice until his death in 1986. Since then, the character’s voice has been provided by Jeff Bergman and JoBe Cerny.

The Pillsbury Doughboy appeared in more than 600 commercials from 1965 to 2004, and returned to the small screen in 2009, 2011 and 2014. He hawked dozens of freshly baked biscuits and cinnamon rolls, breads and cookies, and charmed viewers with his signature giggle (a sweet “Hoo Hoo” or “Hee Hee” that emitted whenever someone playfully poked his middle).

Yet the Pillsbury Doughboy was more than just an advertising spokesman. He was beloved by millions who grew up in the 20th century. According to General Mills, parent company of Pillsbury, the Doughboy received 200 fan letters a week and hundreds of requests for autographed photos. During the 1970s, “Pillsbury Playthings” — doll-versions of the Doughboy and his “family” — were some of the fastest selling toys in the U.S.

The 8.75-inch tall Pillsbury Doughboy was also mentioned or featured on numerous TV programs, appeared in several comic strip panels, flew over New York City as a balloon float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, parodied on Mad TV, helped sell car insurance and credit cards and even “died” in an early Internet joke from “a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly.”

As for the mastermind behind him, Perz was born in 1925. The Glenview, Ill., resident and advertising copywriter was married to the late Lois Wagberg Perz, and had three children and six grandchildren.

Next month, Perz was to have been honored for his doughy creation at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. The exhibit, “A Salute To Advertising’s Greatest Icons,” will also feature Tony the Tiger, the Jolly Green Giant, Morris the cat, Mr. Clean and Ronald McDonald.

Perz died on April 1. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.


–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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Misao Okawa

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Categories: Extraordinary People, Tags: , ,

Misao Okawa, a Japanese woman who was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest person, died on Wednesday of heart failure. She was 117.

She went so peacefully, as if she had just fallen asleep,” Tomohiro Okada, an official at the Osaka nursing home where Okawa lived, told The Associated Press. “We miss her a lot.”

Okawa was born in a kimono shop on March 5, 1898. That was the year the U.S. annexed the Hawaiian islands, the first car sold in America and a new soft drink called Pepsi-Cola launched.

Okawa married Yukio Okawa in 1919 and they remained together until his death in 1931. She never remarried. Okawa bore three children, two of whom are still alive in their 90s, and had four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

When asked for the secret of her longevity, Okawa once said it was to “watch out for one’s health.” She also credited a healthy appetite — she loved eating mackerel sushi — and getting plenty of sleep.

The Japanese supercentenarian was recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest person in 2013 when Jiroemon Kimura, also from Japan, died at the age of 116 years and 54 days. Okawa was also the fifth oldest verified person ever recorded and the last living Japanese person to have been born in the 1800s.

On her final birthday, an Osaka government official brought Okawa a bouquet of flowers and wished her many happy returns. When he asked how she felt about the past 117 years, Okawa replied: “It seemed rather short.”

The world’s oldest person is now Gertrude Weaver, of Arkansas, who will turn 117 on July 4.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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Camille Muffat

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Categories: Sports

Olympic gold medalist Camille Muffat was killed on March 9 in a helicopter crash while filming a reality TV show in Argentina. She was 25.

The versatile French swimmer first hit the pool when she was just 7 years old. By the time she was 12, Muffat was training under Fabrice Pellerin, head coach of Olympic Nice Natation, a top training facility for champion swimmers.

Although she became accomplished at the breaststroke, Muffat’s speciality was the front crawl, which she used to win a gold medal in the women’s 400 freestyle — and set a new Olympic record in the process — at the 2012 London Olympics. Muffat also took home the silver medal in the women’s 200 meter freestyle, and a bronze medal as a member of the women’s 4×200 freestyle relay.

Muffat was the former world record holder in the 400 and 800 SCM freestyle, Swim Swam reported. In 2012, she was named the French Sportswoman of the Year.

Muffat retired from the sport in 2014, citing “personal reasons.”

When asked about life outside of the pool, Muffat told Le Monde that she enjoyed playing with her Persian cat Lulu and English bulldog Brioche, going shopping, doing puzzles and spending time with her friends and family.

At the time of her death, Muffat was a cast member on the French reality TV show “Dropped,” in which two teams of celebrities are left in separate remote locations and challenged to be the first to return to civilization.

During filming on Monday, Muffat was killed when the helicopter she was on collided in mid-air with another in La Rioja province, BBC reported. Olympic boxer Alexis Vastine, a bronze medal winner for France at the 2008 Games in Beijing, champion sailor Florence Arthaud, who won the Route du Rhum in 1990, five members of the show’s production staff and two Argentine pilots also perished in the crash.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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