Tom Wolfe, the white-suited wizard of “New Journalism” who exuberantly chronicled American culture from the Merry Pranksters (“The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test”) through the space race (“The Right Stuff”) before turning his satiric wit to such novels as “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and “A Man in Full,” died of an infection May 14. He was 88. An acolyte of French novelist Emile Zola and other authors of “realistic” fiction, the stylishly-attired Wolfe was an American maverick who insisted that the only way to tell a great story was to go out and report it. Along with Gay Talese, Truman Capote and Nora Ephron, he helped demonstrate that journalism could offer the kinds of literary pleasure found in books. His hyperbolic, stylized writing work was a gleeful fusillade of exclamation points, italics and improbable words. An ingenious phrase maker, he helped brand such expressions as “radical chic” for rich liberals’ fascination with revolutionaries; and the “Me” generation, defining the self-absorbed baby boomers of the 1970s.
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Margot Kidder, who with a raspy voice and snappy delivery brought Lois Lane to life in the hit 1978 film “Superman” and three sequels, died May 13 at her home in Livingston, Mont. She was 69. Her death was confirmed by her manager, who did not specify a cause. Kidder appeared in more than 130 films and television shows beginning in the late 1960s and by the mid-1970s, when she took a break from acting after her daughter was born, she was already working steadily. But “Superman,” her return to moviemaking, rocketed her to a new level of fame. Christopher Reeve starred in the title role. The year after the original “Superman” was released, she starred in another box-office smash, “The Amityville Horror,” in which she and James Brolin played a couple doing battle with a possessed house.
Reggie Lucas, the Grammy-winning musician who played with Miles Davis in the 1970s and produced the bulk of Madonna’s debut album, died May 19 from complications with his heart. He was 65. After playing with Davis in the ’70s, Lucas began a musical partnership with percussionist James Mtume. Together they wrote hits like Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway’s “The Closer I Get to You” – later covered by Beyonce and Luther Vandross – and Stephanie Mills’ “Never Knew Love Like This Before,” which won the duo the Grammy for best R&B song. Lucas went on to produce the majority of Madonna’s 1983 self-titled debut album, which sold more than 5 million units and included the hits “Borderline” and “Lucky Star.”
Leah Napolin, who with very little experience adapted an Isaac Bashevis Singer story into the play “Yentl,” earning a Broadway run that became a resonant symbol for the second-wave feminist movement in the mid-1970s, died May 13 at her home in Sea Cliff, N.Y., on Long Island. She was 83. The cause was breast cancer. Napolin was essentially a playwriting novice when her friend Robert Kalfin, founder of the Chelsea Theater Center, asked her to take a crack at writing a stage adaptation of a Singer short story that had caught his eye called “Yentl the Yeshiva Boy.” It involved a young Jewish woman who disguises herself as a man so she can be allowed to study the Talmud and enrolls in a yeshiva. Barbra Streisand used the same source material for her film musical in 1983.
Ernest Medina, an Army captain who was charged with overall responsibility for the My Lai Massacre, when soldiers under his command in Vietnam slaughtered hundreds of civilians, but who was later acquitted at a court-martial, died May 8. He was 81. Medina was the commanding officer of Charlie Company, in the Americal Division’s 11th Infantry Brigade, when the unit was tasked with securing a Vietnamese hamlet in 1968. Medina had been lauded by his superiors for his energetic leadership style, but his company was still green. He had received intelligence reports that a battalion of Viet Cong guerrillas occupied a community known as My Lai 4. He had been given permission to “destroy the village.” The destruction that ensued formed one of the darkest chapters in U.S. military history.
Fulvia Visconti Ferragamo had a decadeslong career bridging the creative and corporate management sides of her father’s luxury business, Salvatore Ferragamo. She served as vice president and creative director of men’s and women’s silk accessories until she died in Milan on April 25 at 67. Family members said the cause was cancer. When she joined the business at age 20, she gravitated toward accessories: the lively printed silk scarves and ties that would become part of the 91-year-old Italian fashion house’s visual identity. Salvatore Ferragamo died in 1960.
Joseph Campanella, a versatile actor whose television career began in the 1950s on anthology series and continued for decades on shows like “Mannix,” “The Bold Ones” and “One Day at a Time,” died May 16 at his home in the Sherman Oaks neighborhood of Los Angeles. He was 93. His wife, Jill Campanella, said the cause was complications of Parkinson’s disease. For many years, Campanella appeared to work to the point of ubiquity. Tall and lean, with wavy hair, he played doctors, lawyers, criminals, cops and judges, including one named Judge Joseph Camp on the TV show “The Practice” from 1998 to 2001.
Richard Pipes, the author of a monumental, sharply polemical series of historical works on Russia, the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik regime, and a top adviser to the Reagan administration on Soviet and Eastern European policy, died May 17 at a nursing home near his home in Cambridge, Mass. He was 94. Pipes, who spent his entire academic career at Harvard, took his place in the front rank of Russian historians with the publication of “Russia Under the Old Regime” in 1974. But he achieved much wider renown as a public intellectual deeply skeptical about the American policy of détente with the Soviet Union.
Lucian Pintilie, a leading Romanian stage and film director who clashed with the communist authorities in his home country and was forced from it for a time as a result, died May 16 in Bucharest. He was 84. Pintilie was a provocateur by the standards of Communist Romania, incurring the wrath of Nicolae Ceausescu, the country’s leader from the mid-1960s until his overthrow and execution in 1989. Eventually Pintilie left the country, working in France, the United States and elsewhere until after the fall of communism.
Adam Parfrey, who breached the boundaries of kooky but tolerable popular culture by publishing Joseph Goebbels’ only novel, screeds by the Unabomber and Charles Manson, and books on taboo topics like cannibals, Satanists, necrophiliacs and pedophiles, died May 10 at a nursing facility in Seattle after a series of strokes. He was 61. Much of Parfrey’s catalog was fodder for a modest but loyal following of conspiracists, cultists and paranoiacs. Parfrey could also claim credit for a number of breakout books, several of which inspired television shows and films with their own cult followings, including the director Tim Burton’s “Ed Wood.”