In Passing: Norton, McCarthy, Gage

SUNDAY, OCT. 10, 2010

William W. Norton, screenwriter

Santa Barbara, Calif. – William W. Norton, a successful screenwriter whose post-Hollywood life took a turn as dramatic as the fast-paced action movies he once wrote when he became a gunrunner for rebels in Northern Ireland, died Oct. 2 in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 85.

The cause of death was a heart aneurysm.

Norton was best known for writing “The Scalphunters, ” a comedy-western directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Burt Lancaster and Ossie Davis. He went on to write several movies for actor Burt Reynolds, including “Sam Whiskey,” “White Lightning” and “Gator.”

In 1985, Norton, an ex-Communist, retired from show business and rededicated himself to the leftist ideals of his youth. He began aiding rebel groups in Central America by procuring guns for them. Later, he and his wife, Eleanor, moved to Ireland, where they became involved with an offshoot of the Irish Republican Army.

Their activities eventually led to their arrest, imprisonment and several years of exile.

“He really was like one of his movie characters, an outlaw on the run,” said his son, television director Bill L. Norton.

Karen McCarthy, congresswoman

Kansas City, Mo. – Former U.S. Rep. Karen McCarthy, who represented the Kansas City area for more than a decade but left amid allegations that she misused her staff and campaign funds for personal gain, died Tuesday. She was 63.

McCarthy died at a nursing home in northeast Kansas. She had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

McCarthy, who was among a dozen Democrats dubbed the “lucky 13” when they won amid the 1994 GOP landslide that switched control of Congress, announced in late 2003 that she would not seek a sixth term. Among the allegations were that she misused campaign funds for trips to the Grammy Awards.

Chicago – Albertina Walker’s singing once stopped the filming of a movie because so many actors were moved to tears by the “Queen of Gospel.” At home in Chicago, she babied her beloved French poodles, wore rhinestone sunglasses and was a fixture at the city’s gospel music festival.

The Grammy-winning singer died Friday at age 81 of respiratory failure at RML Specialty Hospital in Chicago, said her granddaughter, Tina Nance. Walker, a protégée of Mahalia Jackson, formed her own gospel group, the Caravans, as a young woman. Later, she played the role of mentor to many young singers.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush said in a statement that Walker was a voice for the civil rights movement whose music was “a healing balm to those who struggled for justice.”

Leona Gage, stripped of Miss USA title

Los Angeles – Leona Gage, who in 1957 was named Miss USA but had the title stripped the next day when pageant officials learned she was married and a mother of two, has died in Los Angeles, her son said Saturday. She was 71.

Gage died of heart failure Tuesday after spending several weeks at a Sherman Oaks hospital.

Born Mary Leona Gage in Texas, she appeared as Miss Maryland USA in the competition in Long Beach, Calif. Gage also lied about her age – telling pageant officials she was 21 when she was 18. She told reporters after winning that she didn’t even have a boyfriend.

Just a day later her story was exposed. She had already been married twice, both times at age 14 – the first was quickly annulled – and had her second child at 16, all forbidden for the resume of a pageant contestant.

Gage took advantage of the attention that came with the lost tiara and made many television appearances, including a highly rated appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”


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