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In Passing

SUNDAY, SEPT. 13, 2009

Larry Gelbart, comedy writer

Beverly Hills, Calif. – Larry Gelbart, 81, a celebrated writer and producer whose socially innovative TV series “M*A*S*H” helped demonstrate that the half-hour comedy could win huge ratings while addressing contemporary issues such as war and gender relations, died Friday at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif.

He had cancer.

Gelbart’s career spanned nearly every entertainment medium for the last six decades. After starting in radio comedy as a teenager, he entered television during its formative years and joined a renowned stable of comedy writers – including Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and Neil Simon – who worked for Sid Caesar on “Your Show of Shows” or “Caesar’s Hour.”

Gelbart wrote or co-wrote the Academy Award-nominated screenplays for the comedy films “Tootsie,” starring Dustin Hoffman as a cross-dressing actor, and “Oh, God!,” with George Burns as the Almighty. With Burt Shevelove, Gelbart shared a Tony Award for writing the book of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

Gertrude Baines, world’s oldest

Los Angeles – Gertrude Baines, a former maid who was born before the discovery of penicillin and was the world’s oldest person, died Friday in Los Angeles. She was 115.

She died peacefully in her sleep at Western Convalescent Hospital.

The Shellman, Ga., native was born April 6, 1894, when the U.S. flag had 44 stars and Grover Cleveland was president.

Her image – cinnamon lips turned up in a gentle smile and thinning hair tucked under a bright red bonnet – was broadcast nationally in November when Baines, then the oldest person of African descent and the third-oldest person worldwide, cast her vote for Barack Obama as president.

Acclaim escalated two months later, on Jan. 2, when 115-year-old Maria de Jesus of Portugal died and Baines was handed the title of oldest living person by the Gerontology Research Group, which verifies claims of extreme old age.

Danny Pang, tainted financier

Santa Ana, Calif. – Danny Pang, an Orange County financier who was the subject of a fraud investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, has died.

The Orange County coroner’s office said the 42-year-old Pang died Saturday at a hospital, one day after being taken from his Newport Beach home by paramedics. An autopsy is scheduled for today to determine the cause of death.

Pang pleaded not guilty in July to federal charges of evading currency reporting laws. In a separate case, Pang was accused of cheating investors and running his company like a Ponzi scheme.

Frank Batten Sr., publisher

Norfolk, Va. – Frank Batten Sr., a Virginia publishing magnate and philanthropist who launched the Weather Channel, which improbably found huge cable television audiences among skywatchers and travelers, died Thursday in Norfolk. He was 82.

His company, Norfolk-based Landmark Media Enterprises, said he had been in failing health but did not release a cause of death.

Army Archerd, Hollywood writer

Los Angeles – Army Archerd, whose breezy column for the entertainment trade publication Daily Variety kept tabs on various Hollywood doings for more than a half-century, has died. He was 87.

Archerd’s wife, Selma, said he died Tuesday at UCLA Medical Center of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lungs strongly tied to asbestos exposure. She said the cancer was the result of his time spent in shipyards while serving in the Navy during World War II.

Over the years, Archerd won praise from the Hollywood establishment for always checking the accuracy of his news tips before printing them. He had an extensive phone directory of much-guarded private numbers that he would use to call movie stars and studio bosses directly to ferret out which rumors were true and which were not. His biggest scoop came in 1985 when he was first to report that veteran leading man Rock Hudson had AIDS.

Willy Ronis, photographer

Paris – Willy Ronis, the last of France’s postwar greats of photography who captured the essence of Paris in black and white scenes of everyday life, died Saturday. He was 99.

Ronis died at a Paris hospital where he had been admitted days earlier.

Lovers, nudes and scenes from Paris streets were the mainstay of Ronis’ photographs, which reflect the so-called humanist school of photography.

Ronis, along with friend Robert Doisneau and photojournalist Henri Cartier-Bresson, were among France’s great photographers who emerged after World War II.


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