Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Witness to the Execution

Nick Gozik [above] turns 90-years old tomorrow. He spent the morning of his 25th birthday as a witness to the execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik.

Tomorrow marks the 65th anniversary of the execution of Pvt. Eddie Slovik, who became the first U.S. service member executed for desertion since the Civil War. Although 48 other American soldiers were given similar varying sentences during World War II, Slovik's was the only one carried out.

Also 65 years ago tomorrow, Nick Gozik celebrated his 25th birthday. Gozik, now a 90-year old man living in Western Pennsylvania, spent his birthday as a witness to Slovik's execution. When Gozik celebrates tomorrow with his family, he will be thinking of Slovik and remember a courtyard in a castle-like villa at the edge of the town of Sainte-Marie-Aux-Mines in the Vosges Mountains in France. It was there that Slovik was executed - a botched one at that - by a firing squad.

Today, Gozik remembers Slovik not as a coward but as one of the bravest men he ever saw. "I've seen a lot of people in the service who didn't want to die, but he knew he was going to die," Gozik recently told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He knew what to expect, and he was going to abide by it. He paid the price of several thousand people deserting during the war. Believe me when I tell you, to me, he was the bravest soldier I ever met."

Gozik and Slovik had very different paths to that French courtyard. Gozik joined the Army National Guard shortly after his 19th birthday - two years prior to U.S. entry into the war. Slovik was drafted well-into the conflict. When the United States did enter World War II, Gozik and his fellow Guardsmen ended up on active duty.

Gozik served with the Army's 28th Infantry Division in an artillery unit that made its way through Europe, ending up in eastern France, where he survived the Battle of the Bulge. On January 30, 1945, certainly, the war was still raging, but Gozik and his unit were taking a breather. Unexpectedly, however, he and a few others were told to report to battalion headquarters the next morning. They were not told why.

After reporting the next morning, they were taken by Jeep to what Gozik described as a castle-like villa at the end of town with iron gates, a bridge and a stone wall surrounding it. Strangely, a Catholic priest was waiting for them. Without a word, after Gozik and the other got out of the Jeep, the priest began to say Mass. After the impromptu service, Gozik and the other men entered a courtyard. "They had put up a large pole in the center of this area close to the stone wall," Gozik recalled. The murmurs began: somebody was being executed today.

Gozik recalled the shock that quickly ran through his mind as that reality sank in. While he and the others were supposed to stand at attention, Gozik recalled that nobody did. Instead, they watched as Pvt. Eddie Slovik - wearing his uniform stripped of its insignia, as mandated by the Army Code of Conduct for those to be executed for desertion - emerged from a small shed.

Slovik was flanked by two soldiers. His head was bare and he had a blanket draped over his shoulders. Gozik recalled that Slovik was a, "little fellow. He was going to be 25 years old in February. And that day was my birthday — January 31st. I was 25 years old." It was 18 days before Slovik's 25th.

Slovik was strapped to the post — his feet, legs, waist and under his arms — so that when he died, he wouldn't slump to the ground. Suddenly a Catholic priest — the same man who had celebrated Mass around the Jeep with Gozik and his comrades — went to Slovik's side. Gozik thought he made out the words of "Hail Mary." He is sure, though, that he accurately heard the end of their exchange: "'Eddie,'" the priest said, "'when you get up there, say a prayer for me.' Eddie said he would."

A satiny black hood, made by a local woman who had no idea what it was to be used for, was pulled over Slovik's head.

Twelve more soldiers marched in — the firing squad. They were supposed to be the best sharpshooters d from various units in the 28th. Either they weren't the best, or the 28th had a lot of poor shots.

They stood at attention as a general read the charges against Slovik. The declaration lasted five minutes. Slovik then issued a final statement that Gozik would only understand years later. The soldiers then loaded their riffles. Eleven had live ammunition, one had blanks. The general then said — "Ready, aim, fire!"

"When they fired, [although] you expected the bang to go shook us — 12 rounds," Gozik remembered. "It just shattered the stillness of the day."

While loud, it wasn't successful. Although Slovik slumped a bit as he was hit, the shooters had not accomplished their job. A physician checked Slovik's vital signs. He was still alive. "I heard the doctor say, 'What's the matter with you guys? Can't you shoot straight?' " Gozik remembered.

So, the twelve shooters reloaded as Slovik began moaning and breathing heavily. The second fusillade finally ended Slovik's life.

Gozik and the other witnesses were ordered to march out before Slovik's body was removed. Gozik went back to his unit and told his comrades what he had seen. He wrote home about it.

But he never heard mention of it from his superiors. There was no article in Stars and Stripes.

While the death stuck with him, and he didn't feel it was right, Gozik at the time didn't know the details of Slovik's crimes and wasn't terribly curious. He'd seen men get shot before - and he still had the task of trying to get out alive himself.

In fact, even after the war, Gozik never knew the details of Slovik's crimes. It was only years later - when he came across William Bradford Huie's book The Execution of Private Slovik- that he learned the story.

Gozik learned that Slovik - like himself - had been born into a Polish-American family; in Slovik's case it was in Detroit. At 12-years old, Slovik was arrested after he and some friends broke into a foundry to steal some brass. It was only the first arrest. In fact, between 1932 and 1937, Slovik was caught for several incidents of petty theft, breaking and entering, and disturbing the peace. In October 1937, he was sent to prison, only to be paroled in September 1938. He wasn't free long. After stealing and crashing a car with two friends while drunk, Slovik found himself back prison by January 1939 - the same month that Nick Gozik enlisted in the National Guard.

While Gozik ended up in the middle of a war, Slovik sat in prison. In April 1942, Slovik was paroled once more, and obtained a job at Montella Plumbing and Heating in Dearborn, Michigan. There he met the woman who would become his wife, Antoinette Wisniewski, while she was working as a bookkeeper for James Montella.

At the beginning of the war, once paroled, Slovik's criminal record made him classified as unfit for duty in the U.S. military [4-F]. As the war dragged on, however, that status changed. While he had been deemed unsuitable for the military at first, by late-1943 more soldiers were needed. "They were scraping the bottom of the barrel," Nick Gozik remembered. "They needed cannon fodder. He didn't belong there. He didn't belong there. It was sad."

After Slovik was reclassified as fit for duty [1-A], he was subsequently drafted by the Army. He arrived at Camp Wolters in Texas for basic military training on January 24, 1944. By August, he was dispatched to join the fighting in France. Arriving on August 20th, he was one of 12 reinforcements assigned to Company G of the 109th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 28th Infantry Division - Gozik's division.

While en route to his assigned unit, Slovik and a friend - Pvt. John Tankey - took cover during an artillery attack and became separated from their replacement detachment. The next morning, the two found a Canadian military police unit and remained with them for the next six weeks. Tankey wrote to their regiment to explain their absence before he and Slovik reported back for duty on October 7, 1944. The U.S. Army's rapid advance through France had caused many replacement soldiers to have trouble finding their assigned units, so no charges were filed against them.

That was when Slovik made a fatal error. The following day, on October 8th, Slovik informed his company commander - Captain Ralph Grotte - that he was "too scared" to serve in a rifle company and asked to be reassigned to a rear area unit. He told Grotte that he would run away if he were assigned to a rifle unit, and asked his captain if that would constitute desertion. Grotte confirmed that it would and refused Slovik's request for reassignment, sending him to a rifle platoon.

The fatal error Slovik made was thinking that - if he deserted - he would be sentenced to jail. Since he was quite familiar with being incarcerated, he figured that was preferable to ending up getting shot. Of course, at the time, he couldn't know that that would be his fate.

So, the next day - October 9th - Slovik deserted from his infantry unit. His friend - Tankey - caught up with him. Tankey was not as convinced as Slovik that he would only be looking at jail time. Tankey vainly attempted to persuade him to stay, but Slovik's only comment was that his "mind was made up".

With that, Slovik walked several miles to the rear and approached an enlisted cook at a head-quarters detachment, presenting him with a note in which he stated his intention to "run away" if he were sent into combat. The cook summoned his company commander and an MP, who read the note. The MP - who, like Tankey thought Slovik didn't realize the potential consequences of his actions - urged Slovik to destroy the note before he was taken into custody. Slovik refused.

He was brought before Lieutenant Colonel Ross Henbest, who again offered him the opportunity to tear up the note, return to his unit and face no further charges. After Slovik again refused, Henbest ordered Slovik to write another note on the back of the first one stating that he fully understood the legal consequences of deliberately incriminating himself with the note, and that it would be used as evidence against him in a court martial.

Slovik was taken into custody and confined to the division stockade. The divisional judge advocate, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Sommer, again offered Slovik an opportunity to rejoin his unit and have the charges against him suspended. Sommer even offered to transfer Slovik to a different infantry regiment where no one would know of his past and he could start with a "clean slate". Slovik, still convinced that he would face only jail time, declined these offers, saying, "I've made up my mind. I'll take my court martial."

The 28th Division was scheduled to begin an attack in the Hurtgen Forest. The coming attack was common knowledge among soldiers like Gozik. Casualty rates were expected to be very high, as the prolonged combat in the area had been unusually grueling. While America continued to have serious advantages over the Germans in armor and air support, the terrain and weather reduced that advantage considerably.

Here, it is important that we not operate under the facts as we now know them - namely, that the war would end in a few short months in Europe. In fact, in October 1944 it was thought that the war could in fact linger on indefinitely [although by that point there was no doubt that the Allies would win]. When considering the Slovik case, too, it is important to note that the rates of desertion and other crimes within the armed forces had begun to rise.

So, it was in that context that Slovik was charged with 'desertion to avoid hazardous duty' and tried by court martial on November 11, 1944. The prosecutor, Captain John Green, presented witnesses to whom Slovik had stated his intention to "run away." The defense counsel, Captain Edward Woods, announced that Slovik had elected not to testify. The nine officers of the court found Slovik guilty and sentenced him to death. The sentence was reviewed and approved by the division commander, Major General Norman Cota.

Perhaps realizing that he had made an incorrect assumption, on December 9th, Slovik wrote a letter to the Supreme Allied commander, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, pleading for clemency. However, desertion had become a systemic problem in France, and the surprise German offensive through the Ardennes had begun with severe U.S. casualties, pocketing several battalions and straining the morale of the infantry to the greatest extent yet seen during the war. It was in that context that Eisenhower confirmed the execution order on December 23rd, noting that it was necessary to discourage further desertions.

Needless to say, the sentence came as a shock to Slovik. It is understandable why Slovik had expected a dishonorable discharge and a jail term, as he had seen that same punishment meted out to other deserters from his division while he was confined to the stockade. Indeed, almost 40,000 U.S. service members evaded combat during World War II. Most were tried by lesser courts-martial, but 2,864 cases were heard by general courts-martial and received sentences from 20-years to death.

After reading about Slovik years later, Gozik finally made sense out of Slovik's last statement. Slovik's last words were "They're not shooting me for deserting the United States Army - thousands of guys have done that. They're shooting me for that brass I stole when I was 12 years old."

Today, Gozik calls the execution a blatant injustice. "If he died as a deterrent to eliminate the possibility of further deserters, it really didn't make a difference," Gozik said. "It was just awful as far as I'm concerned."

Slovik was buried in a section of a French cemetery reserved for 96 American soldiers executed in the European Theater. All but Slovik had been hanged for violent crimes — the murder or rape of civilians. For years, a Michigan politician named Bernard Calka - himself a World War II veteran - had tried to get Slovik's remains returned to the United States. In 1987 Calka finally succeeded, convincing President Ronald Reagan to order Slovik's remains be returned. Calka raised $8,000 to pay for their transfer from France to Detroit's Woodmere Cemetery, where Slovik was reburied next to his wife, Antoinette.

For years, Gozik wanted to pay his respects to Slovik. Finally, in November 2010, Gozik decided it was time to go to Detroit.

While there, he wanted to meet with Slovik's sister. "I just wanted to tell her what a brave man her brother was, and whatever happened to him, he did not deserve it," Gozik said. "I wanted to put her mind at ease that there was no justification." Slovik's sister declined to meet. The memories were still too painful.

So, on the day after Veterans Day 2010, Gozik and many of his family members went to Slovik's grave. With the help of a daughter, he placed a small American flag at the grave.

"It was the end of my journey for Eddie," Gozik said. "I did what I wanted to do, but I'm sorry it took that many years."

copyright 2011 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Surly Bonds of Earth - 25 Years Later

The crew of the Space Shuttle Challenger, from their official November 15, 1985 photograph. In the back row from left to right: Ellison S. Onizuka, Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis, and Judy Resnik. In the front row from left to right: Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, and Ron McNair.

"We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of Earth' to 'touch the face of God.'"

President Ronald Reagan
Address to the Nation after the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
January 28, 1986

copyright 2011 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

With A Voice Like Ella's Ringing Out

Legendary performer Ella Fitzgerald and her personal assistant, Georgiana Henry, await their booking on gambling charges in a Houston police station [above], October 7, 1955.

I had intended this post for Monday's Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday. Unfortunately, I spent the week in deep negotiations with my publisher over the next book. Apparently, the tentative title - The Romanov's: No, I Don't Give A Shit, Either - was going to be a deal-breaker. So, with that out of the way, January 22nd will have to do.

The story is one that seems anachronistic when you consider our President or the fact that we have a national holiday celebrating the life and legacy of King. Back in October 1955, though, King was unknown and President Obama was six years away from even being born. In Houston, Texas, in 1955, you can bet that the idea of an African American [of course, that term would not have been the one used] President of the United States would have so shocked the consciousness of the inhabitants that you would have had a better chance of convincing them that aliens from Mars had landed on Interstate 45.

Try, then, to read this story in the context of the times and allow yourself to be amazed at how life in America has changed so much in 55 years that we might as well be talking about 550 years.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the photo that leads off this post. It is the look of shame, devastation, humiliation and anger. It is a picture of two women - one of whom may have been the greatest female vocalist of the 20th [or any other, for that matter] century. A woman who, later in life, would be rightly celebrated for all of her greatness.

None of that, of course, is apparent in the above photo. It was taken by news photographers who were tipped off by the Houston Police Department that there was going to be a bust at the Houston Music Hall. The night was October 7, 1955. The event at the Music Hall was part of jazz impresario Norman Granz' 'Jazz at the Philharmonic' tour, which included other jazz legends like Dizzie Gillespie, Buddy Rich, Oscar Peterson, Gene Krupa and Lester Young. Saxophonist Jean-Baptiste Illinois Jacquet, a tenor saxophonist from Houston - also on the bill - was the prime mover in bringing the show to Houston and making sure the concert (which featured both black and white musicians) would be integrated.

Two shows were scheduled that night. The raid that landed Fitzgerald and Henry in front of photographers took place before the end of the first concert. Fitzgerald, along with Illinois Jacquet, Granz and Fitzgerald's personal assistant Georgiana Henry were arrested. The charge? Shooting dice in Fitzgerald's dressing room at the Music Hall.

As the Houston Chronicle quaintly recounted in its October 8, 1955 edition:

Vice squad officers said three of the five -- Dizzie Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet and Georgiana Henry -- were actually crooning to the bones when police walked into Ella Fitzgerald's dressing room back-stage at the Music Hall.

Miss Fitzgerald and show producer Norman Granz were "just present" in the back-stage dressing room while the jazz show was going on in the Music Hall, the officers said.

However, all were taken to the police station and charged. They posted $10 bonds.

If there was any doubt that the raid was planned as a warning against future attempts at integrated shows, the group didn't stay at the police station for long. In fact, they made it back in time for the second show, leaving audiences unaware of what had taken place. Making a statement against integration was one thing. Causing the owner of the Music Hall to lose the bookings from the second show was something else.

That the concert happened at all was a small miracle. Granz wanted to run the show - which traveled throughout the North - in at least one Southern city. Illinois Jacquet insisted that his hometown be that city. He felt that this was a rare - perhaps once-in-a-lifetime - opportunity to demonstrate the possibilities of integration in his hometown.

According to an article in Houston History Magazine, the story was detailed in Dizzy Gillespie’s now out-of-print autobiography, To Be, or not … to Bop. According to the jazz legend, Granz told him that when he rented the Music Hall, he added a non-segregation clause to the contract. Upon arriving at the venue, Granz removed the signs denoting the 'white' versus 'black' restrooms, and refused to pre-sell tickets in case patrons attempted to section off parts of the venue for whites only.

In the build-up to the show, it was not as though Granz and Illinois Jacquet were interested in stealthily coming in and out of town with nary an attempt at publicity. Indeed, Illinois Jacquet took on the role of spokesman, visiting Texas Southern University, local high schools and Houston radio stations to promote the event. Both Granz and Illinois Jacquet had every intention for the show to become the first major concert in Houston with a desegregated audience.

But how did these two men figure to generate an audience - at least of whites - to desegregate the concert? That was where Ella came in. Granz and Illinois Jacquet knew that - in addition to Gillespie and the others - a line-up featuring Ella Fitzgerald would bring out the white audience. "A lot of people never saw Ella, or they may have seen Ella but not a lot of the musicians," Granz recalled later. "I got to the concert hall early, and somebody came up and wanted to change tickets because they were sitting next to a black. And I said, ‘No, you can have your money back, but we’re not going to change your seat.’" Unfortunately [for him], the customer took his money back.

Fearing problems because of the forced integration, Granz hired eight Houston Police Department officers as guards. Although no crowd disturbances or violence occurred that evening, for Ella Fitzgerald, her personal assistant Henry, Gillespie, and Illinois Jacquet, trouble was planned by Houston’s vice squad, headed by an asshole named Sergeant W.A. Scotton. It was Scotton who planned and operated the sting mission to arrest the performers.

After the first concert, five plains-clothes officers and Scotton obtained backstage access and burst into Fitzgerald’s dressing room with guns drawn and pointed at the inhabitants. In one corner of the room, Jacquet and Gillespie played craps, while Fitzgerald and Henry drank coffee and had a piece of pie in between sets.

Granz recalled the incident in Gillespie’s book stating that he heard the commotion, and when he came in, he saw Scotton headed to the bathroom, and immediately suspected the cop's intention was to plant drugs. With amazing boldness - not to mention bravery - Granz said to Scotton, "I’m watching you." With that, the cop turned around, walked toward Granz and jabbed his drawn revolver at the musician's stomach. With almost a trace of a smile, the Scotton said, "I oughta kill you, now." For a frightening second Fitzgerald, Henry and the others thought the officer was going to do it. Perhaps it was only an attempt to scare Granz and the others. Or, perhaps, Scotton caught himself before crossing a line he had not set out to venture beyond. Whatever the reason, Scotton withdrew the gun from Granz' stomach and joined the other members of the vice squad om making their arrests of Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet, Fitzgerald, Henry, and Granz for gambling.

While cuffed and being led out, Granz called out to the manager of the Music Hall that the second set would have to be cancelled. With the thought of the lost revenue - not to mention the fact that a cancelled show would likely cause the crowd to react unfavorably in an already tense situation, the manager begged Scotton to stop. Instead, the vice squad commander said - out of earshot of the arrested performers - that he would bring the group to the police station, book them, and make them pay a fine. But he would return them before the second show.

Of course, that had been the plan all along. As had been the notification to the Houston press of the pending arrests. For, when the group arrived at the station, they were greeted by reporters and photographers.

To further their humiliation, the performers were forced to sit on benches awaiting processing while photographers shuttered away with their cameras. The look on Fitzgerald's face above says it all. The degradation, humiliation and sheer powerlessness. It was a reinforcement to her - and others - that no matter how famous, successful or wealthy someone like Ella became, she was still African American. While her treatment was certainly more humane than would have been the case had she not been a celebrity, nonetheless it was a reminder that her America had a place for her, and expected her to stay there.

But she wouldn't stay there. That, in fact, is what we celebrate when we remember Martin Luther King, Jr. Although the most celebrated of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement, King was by no means a singular force. As powerful as his oratory and leadership skills were, without the tens of thousands of others - African American and white - forcibly integrating the country, it would never have happened. It is the legacy of those tens of thousands that we also celebrate.

And it is a celebration for us all.

copyright 2011 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Who The Hell is Ke$ha?

Every year I stay up late to watch Dick Clark's ball drop. Maybe I was distracted by Ke$ha's declaration to Ryan Seacrest that her 2011 resolution was "not to be a douchebag", but I never saw the ball drop last night. I think that means she's a douchebag.

Happy New Year. Being naturally morbid, every New Year's Day I think to myself - who has just celebrated their last New Year's Day? That is, which celebrities out there don't realize it yet but they will die sometime during this next year? Of course, it doesn't just have to be celebrities: often I'll wonder, 'Is this it? Is this the last year for me?' I told you: morbid.

So, on this first day of another year that no doubt holds something bad in store, here's a look back on all of those who rung in the New Year 2010 - most not knowing it was their last New Year.

While his public career died over 50 years ago, author J.D. Salinger died on January 27, 2010 at the age of 91. That's a pretty good run, 91 years. Since he hasn't had to work in 50 of those years, I'd say that's a damned good run, indeed.

One of the oldest Klansmen in the country died, too. A United States Senator by hobby, racist Sen. Robert Byrd [D, W Va.] died on June 28, 2010 at the ancient age of 92. Yes, Salinger was also ancient - but no one's seen him since the 1950s. Byrd refused to go away. I'm not sure if he was buried in his Klan gear, although it would have been fitting [well, if not, I'm sure they could've taken it to a tailor to get it properly fitted].

Also in politics, one convicted and one convicted-overturned politician no longer have to worry about raising campaign cash. Former Sen. Ted Stevens [R, Alaska] died in a plane crash - the second of his life - on August 9, 2010 at the age of 86. Stevens - as I've written about before - was convicted in 2008 only to have it overturned the next year. Unfortunately for him, that was too late, because he'd already lost his 2008 reelection campaign. The old fashioned convicted pol - former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski [D, Ill.] - died two days later, on August 11, 2010 at the age of 82.

From the history/government department, President Kennedy's speechwriter and great Camelot propagandist Theodore Sorensen died on October 31, 2010 at the age of 82. Someone who declared himself 'in charge' - but who was not President - also died. Alexander Haig - who served his country with distinction as a military officer, presidential aide, and [to a lesser extent than in the previous roles] Secretary of State - died on February 20, 2010 at the age of 85. Just recently, diplomat Richard Holbrooke died, on December 13, 2010, at the age of 69. The woman who had the great misfortune to dedicate the best years of her life to a scoundrel like former Sen. John Edwards [D, N.C.] also lost her life; Elizabeth Edwards died on December 7, 2010 at the age of 61.

Participants in America's Civil Rights movement continue to disappear as those tumultuous years fade further into the past. Former head of the NAACP, Benjamin Hooks, died April 15, 2010 at the age of 85. [EDITOR"S NOTE: I'm definitely noting the pattern of dying in the mid-80s. If our average span of life in this country reaches 85, then those of us working today have about as much chance of seeing money left for our Social Security as we do seeing any of the people in this post appearing on Dancing with the Stars...although I think I just hit on a new TV show: Dancing with the Dead Stars!]. Another great Civil Rights leader, Dorothy Height - who led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years (1957-1997) - died on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98. One of the nine African American students who helped integrate Arkansas public schools in 1957, Jefferson Thomas, died September 5, 2010 at the age of 67. Finally, Ronald Walters - a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement who organized the sit-ins at drug store counters in Wichita, Kansas and Greensboro, North Carolina - died on September 10, 2010 at the age of 72.

Hollywood - as usual - provided the most noted deaths. From behind the camera, director and screenwriter Blake Edwards - whose works ranged from The Pink Panther to Days of Wine and Roses - died on December 15, 2010 at the age of 88. Director Arthur Penn - whose films included Bonnie and Clyde and The Miracle Worker - died on September 28, 2010; ironically, also at the age of 88. Another noteworthy death was that of producer Dino De Laurentiis [Serpico, Three Days of the Condor], who died on November 10, 2010 at the age of 91.

From in front of the camera, actor Tony Curtis [and his toupee], died on September 29, 2010 at the age of 85. Father of actress Jamie Lee Curtis, the Some Like it Hot star's real name was Bernard Schwartz. Good choice on the name-change, Tony. A sister of one of the great anti-Semites of our day died, when actress Lynn Redgrave died on May 2, 2010 at the age of 67. While her career took a hit when sister Vanessa rallied to the Palestinian Liberation Organization's cause in the 1970s and 1980s, Lynn still managed to maintain her career and her sanity. The movie Airplane! lost two of its central characters as Peter Graves died on March 14, 2010 at the age of 83; while Leslie Nielson died on November 28, 2010 at the age of 84.

From the world of music came the death of a legend: the incomparable Lena Horne died on May 9, 2010 at the age of 92. Teddy Pendergrass - whose career was largely destroyed after a horrific car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed - died early in the year on January 13, 2010 at the age of 58. The man who tried to turn Frank Sinatra into Fabian, producer Mitch Miller, died on July 31, 2010 at the age of 99. Since there is no category for Dead Food Producers, we'll slot Jimmy Dean here under music. The singer of "Big Bad John" died on June 13, 2010 at the age of 81.

Television - a medium that was popular from roughly 1950-2000 - also lost some from its family. Art Linkletter, the long-time host of Kids Say the Darndest Things, died on May 26, 2010 at the age of 97. The second Trapper John M.D., Pernell Roberts, died on January 24, 2010 at the age of 81. The white half of the dynamic interracial television paring in I Spy, Robert Culp, died on March 24, 2010 at the age of 79. In addition to his role with Bill Cosby on that show, Culp was a genius as Ray Romano's father-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond. Finally, nearly exactly 174 years after his death at The Alamo, Davy Crockett died again , this time with the passing of actor Fess Parker, who portrayed the legend in the miniseries Davy Crockett in 1955 [alongside co-star Buddy Ebsen for your trivia buffs]. Parker died on March 18, 2010 at the age of 85.

In sports, a number of legends passed. The man almost universally considered the greatest coach in the history of basketball, John Wooden, died on June 4, 2010 at the age of 99. Two baseball Hall of Famers died: manager Sparky Anderson - who captured World Series titles in both the National [Cincinnati Reds] and American Leagues [Detroit Tigers] - died on November 4, 2010 at the age of 76; and pitcher Bob Feller died on December 15, 2010 at the age of 92. A man who should be in the Hall of Fame, iconic Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, died on July 13, 2010 at the age of 80. While from the world of football, Hall of Famer George Blanda - whose unbelievable career lasted from 1949 to 1975 - died on September 27, 2010 at the age of 83.

Undoubtedly, I've missed folks. It was a long year, remember. And, as 2011 begins, we know that next year - assuming I'm not one of them - I'll be writing a blog post about those who are here today celebrating New Year's, unaware in most cases that it will be their last.

copyright 2011 by EBBP Redux. If you are reading this on a blog or website other than EBBP Redux or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.