Nation & World

Final chapters: Adam West, Anita Pallenberg, Charles P. Thacker, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo

Adam West starred as the eponymous comic book hero in the TV show “Batman” from 1966 to 1968. He died Friday, June 9, at age 88.
Adam West starred as the eponymous comic book hero in the TV show “Batman” from 1966 to 1968. He died Friday, June 9, at age 88. Associated Press

Adam West was a classically handsome baritone actor who turned a comic-book superhero into live-action Pop Art in the 1960s television series “Batman.” He died June 9 in Los Angeles. He was 88. The cause was leukemia, according to Molly Schoneveld, a spokeswoman, who confirmed the death. “Batman” lasted only 2 1/2 seasons, from January 1966 to March 1968. But the show was such a phenomenon that West appeared in costume on the cover of Life magazine, the highest tribute to national popularity at the time. After “Batman” ended, West struggled to find meaningful acting jobs because he was so closely identified with his superhero role, but he continued to work in both movies and TV, often playing roles that spoofed his Batman character.

Anita Pallenberg was a model and actress who was sometimes called the muse of the Rolling Stones and had affairs with three of the band’s key members, including a decade-long, drug-fueled relationship with Keith Richards. She died June 13 at a hospital in Chichester, England. Richards confirmed the death through a spokesperson. She was believed to be 75. The cause was not known, although she reportedly had hepatitis and other ailments. The alluring Pallenberg, who met the Stones by sneaking backstage at a concert in 1965 and offering the band hashish, may have been the ultimate ’60s rock-and-roll “it girl.” She quickly became the lover of one of the band’s guitarists, Brian Jones, then left him for Richards, with whom she had three children. Richards later wrote that on the day he realized Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and Pallenberg were having an affair, he composed the opening lyrics to one of the Stones’ greatest songs, “Gimme Shelter.”

Charles P. Thacker was an electrical engineer who played an early, central role in some of the most important ideas in personal computing and computer networking. He died June 12 at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 74. His daughter Christine Thacker said the cause was complications of esophageal cancer. In the 1970s, Thacker was part of a group that designed the first modern personal computer, the Alto, working out of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, known as PARC. Thacker and his colleagues built into the computer what is known as a graphical user interface, the technology that Apple and Microsoft would borrow from in creating their Macintosh and Windows operating systems. While at PARC, he also helped invent Ethernet, a combination of hardware and software for linking computers. Like personal computers, Ethernet-based local-area networks have become ubiquitous.

John Avildsen was the director of “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid,” two dark-horse, underdog favorites that went on to become Hollywood franchises. He died June 16 in Los Angeles from pancreatic cancer. “My hope as a filmmaker is to make people feel a little differently about something when they leave the theater,” Avildsen told the Los Angeles Times in 1971. Among other Oscar nominations for “Rocky” were two for Sylvester Stallone, best actor and best screenplay; plus best actress, Talia Shire; best supporting actor, Burgess Meredith and Burt Young; and best song, “Gonna Fly Now.” Avildsen directed other major stars: Burt Reynolds in “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings” (1975); George C. Scott and Marlon Brando in “The Formula” (1980); Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in “Neighbors” (1981); and Morgan Freeman in “Lean on Me” (1989). He had been hired to direct “Saturday Night Fever” after his success with “Rocky,” but was let go amid differences over his desire to make the story more upbeat than the producers had in mind. “It’s better not to be doing something you don’t want to do,” Avildsen told the Los Angeles Times after he departed from the project.

Andimba Toivo ya Toivo was a Namibian independence leader whose struggle against his country’s South African rulers landed him for 16 years in the infamous Robben Island prison, where with his steadfastness he earned the admiration of Nelson Mandela, a fellow inmate. He died June 9 of a suspected heart attack. He was 92. To ya Toivo and his supporters, South African rule became particularly intolerable after the country instituted its apartheid system of racial segregation in 1948. He had helped found the independence movement known as the South West Africa People’s Organization, known as SWAPO, which challenged South African rule through protest and guerrilla warfare. In 1968, after being convicted of violating a South African terrorism law, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. Ya Toivo was released in 1984 and spent the following years in exile. After Namibia gained independence in 1990, SWAPO became the country’s ruling party, with ya Toivo serving as secretary general.

Helmut Kohl was the German chancellor who reunified Germany after 45 years of Cold War division and promoted grand visions of European integration. He died June 16 at his home in Ludwigshafen, Germany. He was 87. At 6 feet 4 inches and weighing well over 300 pounds in his leadership years, Kohl was a physically imposing man who pursued his and his country’s political interests as Germany’s chancellor with persistent, even stubborn, determination. He was politician most of his adult life and served as chancellor of the German Federal Republic for 16 years, from 1982 to 1998, longer than any German leader since Bismarck. He ruled his Christian Democratic party as if it were a personal domain, but he ended his political career in disgrace over an opaque party fundraising scandal.

A.R. Gurney was a Pulitzer Prize-nominated playwright whose work offered a window into the inner lives of the upper-crust white Anglo-Saxon Protestants he grew up among. He died June 13 at his home in Manhattan, N.Y., according to his agent, Jonathan Lomma. He was 86. Among his more well-known works are “The Dining Room,” for which he was named a Pulitzer finalist for drama in 1985, “Love Letters,” which earned a Pulitzer finalist nod in 1990, and “The Cocktail Hour.” He was a prolific writer, producing almost 50 plays during his career along with a number of musicals and three novels.

Jack Trout was an influential marketing strategist whose ideas have been used by countless corporate campaigns and the federal government. He died June 4 at his home in Old Greenwich, Conn. He was 82. The cause was intestinal cancer, said a daughter, Joanne Trout. Trout and his longtime business partner, Al Ries, advanced simple but widely influential marketing ideas in a series of books that sold millions of copies around the globe. In 1969, Trout coined the term “positioning.” Under the principle of positioning, companies develop a lasting identity by being connected to simple idea or story. Over the years, Trout helped devise marketing strategies for such companies as Apple, AT&T, IBM, Procter & Gamble and Southwest Airlines as well as the State Department and Democratic Party.

Sam Panopoulos was a Canadian man widely credited with inventing the pineapple-topped pizza. He died June 8 in a hospital in London, Onatario, according to an obituary by his family. He was 83. Panopoulos was born in Greece and emigrated to Canada in 1954. He told numerous news media that he made his first “Hawaiian” pizza in 1962 at the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, after wondering if canned pineapple might make a tasty topping. Some have disputed his claim, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau this year issued a light-hearted tweet of support, referring to the dish as “a delicious southwestern Ontario creation.”

Rosalie Sorrels was a singer and storyteller who delivered her songs with a throbbing intensity that came straight from the folk tradition . She died June 11 in Reno, Nev., at the home of her daughter Holly Marizu. She was 83.Sorrels first came to widespread attention at the 1966 Newport Folk Festival. She also performed before massive audiences at Woodstock in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1972, although she once estimated she never made more than $20,000 in a year. Sorrels developed a storytelling approach, surrounding her songs with tales of her childhood, her parents and grandparents, and the early settlers of the West. She later broadened her scope to include social issues like prison reform, suicide prevention and women’s rights.

Nigel Grainge was the founder of Ensign Records, which was home to some of the most adventuresome musical acts in the late 1970s and ‘80s. He died June 11 in Santa Monica, Calif., of complications from surgery, his family said. He was 70. In a career that spanned decades, Grainge signed groups such as the Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy, the Waterboys, 10cc and the Steve Miller Band. His instincts and willingness to embrace risk paid dividends. He signed Sinead O’Connor based on one ragged performance, signed Thin Lizzy after listening to one demo tape and agreed to meet with Bob Geldof of the Boomtown Rats based on a hunch and an unusually light calendar. O’Connor rewarded him with hits such as “Nothing Compares 2 You” and Thin Lizzy with the radio favorite “The Boys are Back in Town.” The Boomtown Rats had a run of hit songs, including “I Hate Mondays.”

Compiled from news service reports by Kyle Brown, kbrown1@kcstar.com

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