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In passing

Sun., Sept. 18, 2005

Sisai Ibssa, 60; fought for Oromo people

Washington Sisai Ibssa, who championed the cause of nationalism for the Oromo people of the Horn of Africa, died Aug. 20 of a heart attack at his home in Washington. He was 60.

Ibssa worked as a cab driver in Washington for 25 years while building political organizations and pursuing scholarly research on the plight of people in his native land. An activist since the early 1970s, he advocated national liberation for the Oromo people, who number 30 million in Ethiopia.

Born in the countryside of central Oromia, Ibssa was the youngest of 14 children. As a boy, he took responsibility for herding 120 head of cattle and goats before beginning his formal education.

He arrived in the United States in 1967 and received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Federal City College, a predecessor of the University of the District of Columbia, in 1972, and a master’s degree in political science from UDC in 1974.

As a university student, his political fervor was stoked by involvement in the civil rights movement. He joined the Ethiopian student movement in 1968, eventually siding with those who supported Eritreans’ quest for national self-determination.

In 1974, Ibssa founded the first Oromo organization in North America, known then as the Tokkummaa Oromo Organization in North America and later as the Union of Oromo Students in North America.

Sid Luft, 89; staged comeback for Garland

Los Angeles Sid Luft, Judy Garland’s third husband, who produced her Oscar-nominated 1954 film “A Star Is Born” and staged her triumphant comeback in concerts in the 1950s, has died. He was 89.

Luft died Thursday at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica of natural causes, said John Kimble, a longtime friend and business partner.

The New York City-born Luft moved to Los Angeles in the late 1930s and launched Custom Motors, a custom car company on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

He had worked briefly as a talent agent and produced the B-movies “Kilroy Was Here” and “French Leave” when he first met Garland in 1950.

“When we got married in the early ‘50s, Judy was still very beautiful,” Luft told the London Daily Telegraph in 2001. “She was only 5-foot tall – just a shrimp of a girl, really – but she had a very sensuous body and, up close, her skin was like porcelain, pure white. I was crazy about her. She had incredibly kissable lips.”

Honey Bruce Friedman, 78; married to Lenny

Honey Bruce Friedman, a onetime nightclub singer and stripper best known as the former wife of legendary comedian Lenny Bruce, has died. She was 78.

Friedman died Monday in a Honolulu hospital after a long illness, said publicist Jeff Abraham.

Friedman was working as a stripper under the name Honey Harlowe (a.k.a. Hot Honey Harlowe) when she first met Bruce, then a fledgling comic, in a Baltimore hotel coffee shop.

He was, she later wrote, “the most handsome man I’d seen in my life.” They were married in 1951.

At first, according to Gerald Nachman’s book “Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s,” Bruce tried to reform Honey and turn her into a respectable singer, dubbed “The Singing Southern Belle, Honey Michelle.” The couple did an act together, in which they both sang and teamed up on movie parodies such as one on “The Bride of Frankenstein,” in which the monster picked Honey up in a pizza parlor.

Bruce, who became known as a First Amendment martyr for his legal problems over onstage language, later referred to his wife in his act as the “beautiful mama with the long red hair.”


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