Morbid Curiosity: A Final Farewell to Those Who Died in June 2011

This June we lost The Big Man, a big man on the court, men who delivered people both to and from death, men who portrayed daredevils, men who worked and played with words, and many more. Once again, Art Attack provides a gaze through our crystal ball, providing a glimpse at some of the recent notable deaths.

Clarence "The Big Man" Clemons and Jackass star Ryan Dunn were two of the biggest passings in the entertainment industry last month. Clemons, master saxophonist of the E Street Band, served faithfully as Bruce's right hand man over the past four decades in addition to compiling a lengthy list of performance credits.He died on June 18 from complications on a stroke he suffered a few days before. In his lengthy eulogy for his longtime collaborator, Springsteen declared "Clarence doesn't leave the E Street Band when he dies. He leaves when we die."

Dunn, meanwhile, was a whirlwind daredevil who rode in a rocket-propelled shopping cart, jumped a bike into a cactus patch, and many, many more ridiculous stunts. Like this time when he was blown out of a chair, Memorex-style - by an airplane.

Gene Colan wasn't a daredevil, but the acclaimed comic artist drew Matt Murdock (that'd be Daredevil's alias for all you non-nerds) many times. A member of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, Colan had worked on numerous titles, including Daredevil, Batman, Howard The Duck, The Tomb Of Dracula, Tales To Astonish, Iron Man, Captain America, and Dr. Strange. Perhaps most visible among his work is the creation of the character Blade - yes, Colan was responsible for Wesley Snipes' most memorable role.

Norma Lyon was an artist of an entirely different sort - one after Paula Deen's own heart. Lyon's chosen medium was sculpture, and to accomplish her masterpieces, she wrestled an astonishing amount of butter - likely enough to clog the arteries of small countries. For 46 years, she created butter sculptures for the Iowa State Fair, in addition to other commissioned works. Her life-sized renditions included numerous cows, Garth Brooks, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, renditions of American Gothic and The Last Supper, and more. Of course that includes Butter Obama.

In a bit of almost too-real-to-be-true instance, Indian journalist Jyotirmoy Dey was gunned down by motorcycle-borne sharpshooters on June 11. Dey was an expert on the Mumbai underworld, conducting done numerous reports on underworld dons Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan, and having written two books on the matter: Zero Dial: The Dangerous World of Informers and Khallas.

We also mourn the passing of Peter Falk one of TV's most famous detectives. For many, his portrayal of the gruff Columbo was a staple of their television diet. Falk died at his home on June 23 at the ripe old age of 83. His credit list is lengthy, but in our hearts, he'll forever be reading a very special bedtime story.

The man who put the Phi Slamma Jamma to bed died on June 27. Ok, maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but Lorenzo Charles is forever etched in the minds of Houstonians after his dunk won the game - and the NCAA Championship - for North Carolina State.

Black Panther Party leader Geronimo Ji Jaga passed on June 3 from a heart attack. Ji Jaga was wrongfully imprisoned for twenty-seven years after being falsely convicted of the murder of Caroline Olsen. His defense attorney - Johnnie Cochran - figured a quick dismissal given that Ji Jaga was 350 miles away on the night of the murder and had proof, but some intervention by the FBI resulted in a different outcome.

The list of Leonard B. Stern's film credits reaches arm-length proportions. Be it his role as a writer, director or producer, the New York City native wore numerous hats in the television industry. Sure, Stern wrote for the popular shows Get Smart and The Honeymooners, among a litany of others - but some might be surprised that he was also co-creator of Mad Libs. Stern died on June 7 of heart failure.

The infamous Dr. Death, Jack Kevorkian passed away on June 3 after years of kidney problems. A pathologist, Kevorkian was a staunch supporter of terminal patient's "right to die" by physician-assisted suicide. He claimed to have assisted in the deaths of 130 patients, and in 1999 began serving a 10 to 25-year sentence for second degree murder. Kevorkian was released in 2007 after serving 8 years, on the condition that he not offer suicide advice to any other person.

Which brings us to someone responsible for saving the lives of hundreds: Mietek Pemper. It was Pemper who was the chief architect of Oskar Schindler's famous list, one that saved the lives of approximately 1200 Jews from the Holocaust. Previously, Pemper had also persuaded Schindler to switch his manufacturing from enamelware to anti-tank grenades, saving his factory from closure and thus also saving Schindler's workers.

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Marc Brubaker
Contact: Marc Brubaker