Categotry Archives: Writers/Editors

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Gary David Goldberg

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Categories: Hollywood, Writers/Editors

Gary David Goldberg Gary David Goldberg, the Emmy-winning creator of “Family Ties,” died on June 23 of brain cancer. He was 68.

Born in Brooklyn, Goldberg was raised in a home with a close, extended family that was headed by a strong matriarch, his grandmother. He was a huge sports fan and a wanderer who had a bit of trouble figuring out what he wanted to be when he grew up.

Goldberg’s collegiate career, which he described as “prolonged and checkered,” involved attending numerous schools, including Brandeis University and San Diego State University. He only decided to become a scriptwriter at the urging of one of his professors.

Goldberg was working as a waiter at the Village Gate club in Greenwich Village in 1969 when he met his wife and the love his life, Dr. Diana Meehan. They were a couple of hippies — a product of their time — and spent the early part of their marriage traveling around the world, then running a day care center in Berkeley, Calif. Their relationship would later serve as the backdrop of one of the most popular TV shows of all time.

Goldberg broke into show business in the mid-1970s, penning scripts for “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Lou Grant,” “The Tony Randall Show” and “The Last Resort.” He won his first Emmy Award in 1977 for his work on the CBS drama “Lou Grant,” a spin-off of the successful series “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

In 1981, Goldberg formed his own production company, UBU Productions. He would eventually produce nine TV shows, including the CBS program “Brooklyn Bridge,” a semi-autobiographical series about his childhood.

UBU Productions’ first endeavor, however, was “Family Ties,” a half-hour comedy about two left-wing parents raising three children, including a son who was very conservative. By its third season, “Family Ties” had become part of NBC’s much-touted and wildly popular “Must-See TV” Thursday night lineup. The show, which ran for seven seasons, earned Goldberg a second Emmy and transformed a very young actor by the name of Michael J. Fox into a star.

Goldberg later reunited with Fox for “Spin City,” another popular comedy that aired for six seasons on ABC. Interestingly, Fox once told Goldberg that if he hadn’t been cast in “Family Ties,” he would have given up acting entirely and returned home to Canada. Instead Fox found fame and fortune on the big and small screens. Actress Tracy Pollan, who played Fox’s girlfriend Ellen on “Family Ties,” later became his wife.

Goldberg received numerous honors for his work in Hollywood, including a Golden Globe, a Peabody, two Writers Guild Awards, five Humanitas Awards, the Producers Guild Award and the Valentine Davis Award. He was also a member of the Broadcasting Magazine Hall of Fame.

Even if TV audiences didn’t know his name, they certainly recognized Goldberg’s labrador retriever, who appeared in the closing credits of each show with the memorable tagline “Sit, Ubu, sit.” The tagline later served as the title of Goldberg’s 2008 autobiography. The book also featured the hilarious subtitle: “How I went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the same woman, the same dog and a lot less hair.”

But TV wasn’t Goldberg’s only medium. He also wrote and directed the films “Dad,” “Bye Bye Love” and “Must Love Dogs,” and published several blog items for The Huffington Post.

Goldberg is survived by his wife and two daughters, Shana Goldberg-Meehan, the Emmy-winning writer and producer of “Friends”; and Cailin Goldberg-Meehan, a freelance writer and contributor to The Huffington Post.

–This obituary previously appeared in The Huffington Post

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Richard Ben Cramer

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Categories: Media, Writers/Editors

rbcramer Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Richard Ben Cramer died Jan. 7 of complications from lung cancer. He was 62.

Born in Rochester, N.Y., Cramer studied at Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. After working as a political reporter for The Baltimore Sun, Cramer joined The Inquirer in Philadelphia. During his seven years at the paper, he rose from transportation reporter to acclaimed foreign correspondent. In 1979, he won the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for his masterful coverage of the Middle East.

According to The New York Times, Cramer also wrote for numerous magazines, including Esquire, Rolling Stone, Sports Illustrated and Time. However, he was best known for writing the 1992 book, “What It Takes: The Way to the White House,” which focused on the 1988 presidential campaign. Although it didn’t sell well and was critically panned, the tome was eventually viewed as one of the greatest books about electoral politics, The Inquirer reported.

“It’s insufficient to say that Cramer’s 1,047-page tour de force on the 1988 presidential race is the best book ever written about a campaign. It is that. But what makes it so valuable, so rewarding, just so much damn fun is that it illustrates why politics and journalism is so much damn fun,” Jonathan Martin of Politico wrote.

Cramer also penned books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Bob Dole, Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio. In the last years of his life, Cramer was reportedly working on a book about the New York Yankees and Alex Rodriguez; however, his publisher sued him in December 2012 for failing to complete the project.

–This obituary previously appeared in The Huffington Post

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Nora Ephron

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Categories: Hollywood, Writers/Editors

Nora EphronAcclaimed filmmaker and essayist Nora Ephron, who almost singlehandedly defined the romantic comedy genre of the 1980s and 1990s, died on June 26 of pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukemia. She was 71.

Born in New York and raised in Beverly Hills, Ephron was the daughter of screenwriters Henry and Phoebe Ephron, who wrote “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Desk Set.” Though life at home was often difficult — her father was in and out of mental hospitals and her mother was an alcoholic — writing became the family business. Nora and her sisters, Delia and Amy, all grew up to become screenwriters while her sister Hallie became a journalist and novelist.

After graduating from Wellesley College and working briefly as an intern in the Kennedy White House, Ephron moved back to New York City. There she toiled in the mail room at Newsweek, launched a satirical newspaper and became a reporter for the New York Post. Over the next four decades, Ephron would pen essays for numerous publications — including Esquire, The New York Times Magazine and The Huffington Post — and develop a reputation as one of America’s best known humorists.

Ephron began working on screenplays in the 1970s after penning a rewrite of William Goldman’s script for “All the President’s Men.” Although her version was not used in the final film, the experience gave her the opportunity to begin writing for the big screen. Concerned that Hollywood wasn’t ready for films by or about women, however, Ephron decided to try her hand at directing as well. Her directorial debut was “This Is My Life,” co-written with her sister Delia, and starring Julie Kavner as a single mom who wants to become a stand-up comedian.

Ephron’s stories featured strong female characters, realistic heroes and a charming blend of humor and romance. Her tales of happily ever after were often scorned by critics, but they found a devoted audience of female moviegoers who were always eager to see the latest Ephron “chick flick.”

In 2008, “When Harry Met Sally…,” which Ephron wrote, was ranked #6 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the romantic comedy genre. “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail,” both penned and directed by Ephron and starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, became blockbusters at the box office, prompting studio execs to begin greenlighting more movies for and by women.

Hollywood also honored her creative achievements with three Academy Award nominations for screenwriting (“Silkwood,” “When Harry Met Sally…” and “Sleepless In Seattle”). Ephron’s most recent film, “Julie & Julia,” based on the life of Julia Child and a New York-based blogger who aimed to emulate her, garnered Ephron more than a dozen award nominations and earned Meryl Streep a Golden Globe for best performance by an actress.

When she wasn’t toiling on a script or a directing a film, Ephron also wrote several plays and essay collections, including “I Feel Bad About My Neck,” which topped The New York Times bestseller list. In her final years, she continued to publish essays on a variety of subjects, from aging and feminism to politics and food.

“You do get to a certain point in life where you have to realistically, I think, understand that the days are getting shorter, and you can’t put things off thinking you’ll get to them someday,” Ephron told NPR in 2010. “If you really want to do them, you better do them. There are simply too many people getting sick, and sooner or later you will. So I’m very much a believer in knowing what it is that you love doing so you can do a great deal of it.”

Ephron wed three times. Her first marriage to novelist Dan Greenburg ended in divorce. Her second marriage to investigative journalist Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame also ended in divorce after she learned he had cheated on her with a mutual friend. That experience inspired her to write the 1983 novel “Heartburn,” which was later adapted into a feature film starring Streep and Jack Nicholson.

Ephron is survived by her third husband, novelist/screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi, with whom she was married for more than two decades, and two sons, Jacob and Max. As she noted in her six-word biography that was published in “Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous and Obscure” edited by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser: “Secret to Life, Marry an Italian.”

In her 2010 collection “I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections,” Ephron dedicated an entire chapter to the things she’ll miss after she dies. The top 5 were: “My kids, Nick, Spring, Fall, Waffles.”

(Photo by Charles Eshelman/Getty Images for AOL. Used with permission.)

 

–This obituary previously appeared in The Huffington Post

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Christopher Hitchens

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Categories: Writers/Editors

Christopher Hitchens Journalist Christopher Hitchens died on Dec. 15 of pneumonia, a complication of esophageal cancer. He was 62.

Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England in 1949. His father, Ernest, a commander in the British Royal Navy, and his mother, Yvonne, a bookkeeper, scrimped and saved so that he could attend the independent Leys School in Cambridge, and later Balliol College, Oxford. They were determined that he would receive a top-notch education and join the upper class.

During his time at university, Hitchens studied philosophy, politics and economics, but the more he learned, the angrier he became. Hitchens’ disgust with racism and opposition to the Vietnam War led him to the political left. He would eventually join the International Socialists, a faction of the anti-Stalinist left, and participate in political protests against the war.

Attending college in the 1960s introduced Hitchens to a more hedonistic way of life as well. Although he eschewed drugs, Hitchens became both a heavy smoker and hard drinker. He claimed such practices supported his writing efforts. “Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that — or enhances and prolongs and deepens and sometimes intensifies argument and conversation — is worth it to me. So I was knowingly taking a risk,” he said.

Writing was also the perfect outlet for him to enrage and enlighten. The British monarchy, Henry Kissinger and the Roman Catholic Church were just a few of his favorite targets in the 1970s. Despite being a bon vivant, Hitchens resolved to spend time at least once a year in “a country less fortunate than [his] own.” As such, the early part of his career was dedicated to wandering the globe, reporting on the world’s trouble spots and shining a light on those he considered cruel or evil.

After immigrating to the U.S. in 1981, Hitchens began writing for The Nation magazine. He would later edit and contribute articles to numerous publications, including Vanity Fair, the Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Harper’s, The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. His surprising advocacy for the war in Iraq, which was prompted by his growing conviction that radical elements in the Islamic world posed a danger to the West, gained Hitchens a wider readership, and in September 2005 he was named one of the “Top 100 Public Intellectuals” by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.

Hitchens penned two dozens books — including “Letters To A Young Contrarian,” “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything” and “Hitch-22: A Memoir” — and frequently made television and radio appearances. He also taught as a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Pittsburgh and the New School of Social Research.

As a cultural pundit, Hitchens loved picking fights. He offered unsparing insight on a wide range of subjects, from politics to religion to his own his mortality, but was perhaps best known for his criticism of Mother Teresa, both in his 1994 documentary “Hell’s Angel,” and in Vanity Fair.

“[Mother Teresa] was not a friend of the poor,” Hitchens said. “She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”

His negative portrayal of a woman many considered to be a saint prompted hundreds of readers to cancel their magazine subscriptions. And yet, after word of his death was reported, India’s Missionaries of Charity order said it would pray for Hitchens’ soul, despite his aggressive campaign against its Nobel prize-winning founder.

In 2008, amidst a nationwide discussion of “enhanced interrogation techniques, Hitchens decided to subject himself to a waterboarding treatment to see if it was truly a form of torture. He lasted for 16 seconds.

“It’s annoying to me now to read every time it’s discussed in the press — or in Congress — that it simulates the feeling of drowning,” he said. “It doesn’t simulate the feeling of drowning. You are being drowned, slowly.”

Ever the contrarian, Hitchens adopted the U.S., warts and all, and took an oath of citizenship in 2007 on his 58th birthday. The ceremony was conducted by former President George W. Bush’s homeland security chief, Michael Chertoff.

An outspoken atheist — or as he preferred to be called, an antitheist — Hitchens rallied many to a belief in rational thinking by describing organized religion as the main source of hatred and tyranny in the world. In the final years of his life, he debated both religious and political figures about the nature of faith and the existence of God.

“Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals,” Hitchens said. “It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something, that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.”

Even after being diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus in 2010, Hitchens refused to turn to a deity or organized religion for comfort. He made it clear that if anyone ever claimed he had converted at the end of his life, it would be either a lie propagated by the religious community or an effect of the cancer and treatment that made him no longer himself.

“The entity making such a remark might be a raving, terrified person whose cancer has spread to the brain. I can’t guarantee that such an entity wouldn’t make such a ridiculous remark, but no one recognizable as myself would ever make such a remark,” he said.

“There will never be another like Christopher. A man of ferocious intellect, who was as vibrant on the page as he was at the bar,” said Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. “Those who read him felt they knew him, and those who knew him were profoundly fortunate souls.”

Hitchens is survived by his wife, the writer Carol Blue, and three children.

Listen to an excerpt from “Hitch 22” by Christopher Hitchens

–This obituary previously appeared in The Huffington Post

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Isaac Bonewits

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Categories: Writers/Editors

ibonewits.jpgPhillip Emmons Isaac Bonewits, an author, educator and archdruid emeritus of Ar nDraiocht Fein: A Druid Fellowship, died on Aug. 12 of colon cancer. He was 60.

Born in Royal Oak, Mich., Bonewits was only 13 years old when he first became interested in the occult. Although he briefly considered becoming a priest, and even entered a Catholic high-school seminary, he decided against that path and began studying magic, parapsychology and the structure of rituals.

Bonewits joined the Reformed Druids of North America while attending the University of California, Berkeley, where he would earn a bachelor’s degree in magic and thaumaturgy in 1970. That degree, which was signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, led to a publishing contract and the release of his first book, “Real Magic: An Introductory Treatise on the Basic Principles of Yellow Magic.”

Over the next four decades, Bonewits became one of North America’s leading experts on ancient and modern druidism, witchcraft and the rapidly growing Earth religions movement. He was a 3rd Degree Druid within the United Ancient Order of Druids, a retired High Priest in both the Gardnerian and the New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn traditions of Wicca and an initiate of Santeria and the “Caliphate Line” of the Ordo Templi Orientis. Despite all these achievements, Bonewits said he was not a pagan spiritual leader, but merely one of the Neopagan movement’s better-known “unindicted co-conspirators.”

Bonewits edited the neopagan journal, Gnostica, and founded the Aquarian Anti-Defamation League, a civil liberties organization for members of minority belief systems. He published several books (“Bonewits’s Essential Guide to Druidism,” “Neopagan Rites” and “Real Energy: Systems, Spirits, and Substances to Heal, Change and Grow,”) and released two albums (“Be Pagan Once Again” and “Avalon Is Rising.”) In August 2010, he donated all of his scholarly papers to the University of California, Santa Barbara, for inclusion in the American Religions Collection.

When not focused on his religious and occultist path, Bonewits made a living as a computer consultant, technical writer and professional speaker. He married six times, the last to tarot expert and Wiccan priestess, Phaedra Bonewits, with whom he also co-founded the Real Magic School, an online school of neopagan and general occult studies. Bonewits also fathered one son, Arthur Lipp-Bonewits.

In 1983, Bonewits launched Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF), an international fellowship devoted to creating a public tradition of neopagan druidry. Druids are polytheistic nature worshippers who practice in a solitary fashion or in congregations known as groves. The organization, which was founded with the goal of “researching and expanding sound modern scholarship about the ancient Celts and other Indo-European peoples, in order to reconstruct what the Old Religions of Europe really were,” currently has more than 1,100 members. ADF plans to hold a special service to celebrate Bonewits’s life and achievements on Aug. 19 during Summerland, an ADF unity festival and pagan spiritual retreat in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

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