TIME Theater

The Night the Lights Went Out on Broadway: Eli Wallach and A Short History of the Ultimate Actor’s Honor

Eli Wallach
Eli Wallach rehearsing on May 17,1971, in New York, New York. Santi Visalli—Getty Images

The actor will receive the Great White Way remembrance on June 27

Tonight, June 27, in honor of his long career in film and theater, Eli Wallach will receive Broadway’s equivalent of a flag at half mast. At a quarter to eight, for one minute, the marquee lights of New York’s Broadway theaters will dim to acknowledge his death earlier in the week. As noted by the Broadway League, the theater-industry organization that makes these decisions, Wallach was in more than two dozen Broadway shows, beginning with a 1940s production of Skydrift and including such notable titles as Major Barbara and Rhinoceros.

Though the dimming of the lights sounds like one of those things that must be as old as theater itself — or at least as old as light bulbs — it’s actually a tradition that began during Wallach’s lifetime.

Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the Broadway League, told Playbill in 2010 that nobody knows how the tradition got started, but it’s pretty easy to guess. After all, the first person to be honored in that way was in a show when she died, so the people running the lights were her current co-workers, not her distant admirers. The first person to receive the honor, according to the New York Post, was Gertrude Lawrence, an actress who was killed by viral hepatitis while starring in The King and I. The New York Times reported that she went into the hospital right after a matinee in August; by the first week of September, she had fallen into a coma. She died on a Saturday and the Tuesday performance of The King and I was cancelled in her honor; as the Times described it, “house lights in all Broadway legitimate theaters giving performances tonight will be dimmed for one minute at 8:30 P.M.” In addition, London theaters would dim their house lights — that’s inside the theater, not outside — at 7:30, which was their curtain time.

As Playbill confirms, the tradition, which started in the early 1950s, got off to a slow start, with only three such ceremonies in the first 25 years. The second on their list was the one to take it from inside the house to outside on the marquee. When Oscar Hammerstein II died in 1960, Broadway went all out: the Times reported that “miles of neon lights and thousands of bulbs from Forty-second to Fifty-third Street and in the side streets between Eighth Avenue and the Avenue of the Americas were turned off”; street lamps were dark too and thousands of people gathered to hear two musicians play taps. But, though that ceremony was elaborate, it’s not quite so clear-cut as to say it was the second-ever dimming, period. It was the first time since World War II that all of the outside Broadway lights were dimmed — in 1942, the Army tested whether the city could go dark in the case of air raid — but it was neither the first time that inside lights were dimmed (that was Lawrence) or that just a few marquees were dimmed.

These days, dimming happens much more frequently. This year, so far, the Broadway League has announced dimming of the lights in honor of Ruby Dee, Nicholas Martin, Mitch Leigh and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

But quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality. As the tributes get more frequent, they seem to have gotten less precise; the light-dimmers have recently been criticized for failing to mark the minute named by the Broadway League. When James Gandolfini received the honor in 2013, the New York Post noted that not every theater participated or participated at the right time. Without that coordination, the gesture doesn’t have much of a visual effect. You can see for yourself, around 0:33 in the below video:

Still, the difficulty of coordinating such a tribute is nothing new. When Eli Wallach was a teenager growing up in New York City, for example, long before Broadway stars could hope to be honored with dim marquees, he might have even seen an example first hand: in 1931, to mark the memory of Thomas Edison, the entire nation participated in a ritual dimming of the lights, to celebrate his contribution to electricity. Broadway was joined by the Statue of Liberty and the White House in turning off the lights during a special radio broadcast at 9:59 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. But, despite the grand gesture, not everything went off without a hitch. “In New York,” the New York Times wrote on Oct. 22, 1931, “the tribute, though spontaneous, was intermittent despite the city’s efforts to synchronize the tribute.”

TIME Research

Step Away From the Remote: Too Much TV Increases Risk For Early Death

Watching TV for too long means sitting for too long

New research reports that adults who watch three or more hours of TV a day may double their risk of premature death.

The new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association studied 13,284 young and healthy Spanish university graduates and assessed risk of early death from three sedentary behaviors: TV watching, computer time and driving time. They didn’t find any associations with computer time and driving, but they report that the risk for death was two times higher for participants who watched three or more hours at a time, even when the study authors accounted for other factors related to early death.

The findings are still considered preliminary, though this is not the first time researchers have found seriously worrisome effects from watching too much TV (for instance, it can go along with eating too much junk).

The reality is that there’s nothing coming out of the TV that’s going to kill you, but sitting in front of the TV for hours on end means you are not basically not moving at all. We already know that sitting for prolonged periods is really bad for your health, and TV is one of the most common ways to forget about exercise.

The American Heart Association says it recommends people get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week.

TIME Sudan

Sudanese Woman Cleared of Death Sentence Arrested Again

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Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag, a 27-year-old Christian Sudanese woman sentenced to hang for apostasy, sits in her cell a day after she gave birth to a baby girl at a women's prison in Khartoum's twin city of Omdurman AFP/Getty Images

A Sudanese woman was arrested once again a day after a court overturned her death sentence issued on charges of apostasy, her lawyer told Bloomberg News.

A Sudanese court sentenced Meriam Yehia Ibrahim to die after she refused to renounce her Christian faith. Ibrahim has said she was raised Christian by her Ethiopian mother, and she married a Christian man. Ibrahim, 27, gained national attention after she was arrested, beaten and forced to give birth in a jail cell.

A day after her release, Ibrahim was taken into custody by members of Sudan’s national intelligence and security services as she tried to board a flight leaving Sudan.

Ibrahim’s husband and two children were taken into custody as well.

“There is no legal basis for this, it is an arbitrary arrest,” her lawyer, Elshareef Ali, said.

[Bloomberg]

TIME Accident

Florida Man Killed in ‘Horrifying’ Wood Chipper Accident

Cleanup of the scene lasted well into the night

Authorities in Florida say a tree service worker died on Monday after he accidentally fell into a wood chipper.

“You hear about this stuff in the movies, but then all of the sudden it happens right outside your door step,” Joseph Horta, a nearby resident, told CBS Miami. “All the sudden I hear all these sirens and I look outside and I see some piles of blood. It was horrifying.”

The victim, whose name is being withheld until his family is notified, fell into the teeth of the machine and his body was pulled completely through. Cleanup on the street reportedly lasted well into the evening.

“This isn’t something you see every day,” Davie Police Capt. Dale Engle said. “It’s not something you can just go home and forget about.”

There were 11 wood chipper deaths between 2000 and 2013, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

[CBS Miami]

TIME States

Georgia Toddler Dies in Hot Car

The father of the 22-month-old was supposed to take him to day care on Wednesday, but went straight to work instead, leaving the child strapped in the hot car

An Atlanta-area toddler died Wednesday after being left in a car for hours, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The death comes amid a statewide campaign led by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal to prevent child deaths in hot cars over the blazing summers.

The body was found Wednesday afternoon after the child’s father realized the 22-month-old had been strapped in a car seat all day. The dad was supposed to take the child to day care on Wednesday morning, but went directly to work instead. The high in Cobb County, the suburb where the child died, was 100 degrees.

The father stopped at a shopping-center parking lot to seek help, but the child did not survive. Authorities are reportedly questioning the father.

In late May, Deal launched the “Look Again” campaign, a partnership with early-education officials to warn adults that in “minutes the inside of your car can become a death trap for a child.”

[Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

TIME Health Care

Most Americans Are Totally Fine With Euthanasia

7 in 10 Americans say they support physicians legally ending patients' lives painlessly, though fewer support "physician assisted suicide."

Seven out of 10 Americans support euthanasia, according to a new Gallup poll, continuing a consistent trend showing that Americans are generally in favor of laws that allow doctors to end patients’ lives in a painless manner.

The poll results come just days after the death of famed radio host Casey Kasem, whose family publicly quarreled over his end-of-life care. Gallup notes that the poll was conducted before Kasem’s death, which came following a battle with dementia.

Though a majority of Americans support euthanasia, frequent churchgoers are less likely to support it. Only about 48% of weekly church attendees say they approve of doctors “ending a patient’s life by some painless means,” compared to 74% of those who go nearly weekly and 82% of those who go less often.

Americans are also less likely to support euthanasia when it’s presented as “physician assisted suicide:” only about 58% of those surveyed supported the procedure when it was phrased in such a way.

Gallup surveyed 1,028 American adults between May 8 and May 11 for the poll. There is a margin of error of four percentage points.

TIME News

Little Boy Finds Mummified Body in Empty House Because Horror Movies Are Real

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Mummy Getty Images

Yes, this is real life

A curious 12-year-old boy ventured into a semi-hidden abandoned house in Dayton, Ohio Sunday. He then found a mummified corpse hanging by a rope in the closet.

This isn’t a viral marketing stunt for the next season of American Horror Story. The movie-trope occurred in real life, and the body of resident Edward Bruton is thought to have been hanging there since 2009. Being stored in the closet may have helped prevent the body from decomposing too heavily.

While the coroner suspects suicide, no official cause of death has been determined.

[CNN]

TIME Accident

Hoarder Dies When House Collapses From All Her Stuff

First floor collapsed into the basement

A Connecticut woman who police described as an apparent hoarder was found dead Saturday after the first floor of her house collapsed under the weight of all her clutter.

Police went to Beverly Mitchell’s home in Cheshire, Conn., on Friday after a mail carrier said she hadn’t picked up her mail in almost two weeks. They found that the first floor had collapsed into the basement because of the weight of all the clutter in the house, the Cheshire Citizen reports.

“The contents of that room caved in on top of her,” Sgt. Kevin O’Donnell said, adding that local police had to call in backup and equipment from Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security in order to continue the search. Mitchell’s body was finally found with the help of cadaver dogs on Saturday, but searchers had to cut into the side of the house in order to get in.

“She was a hoarder,” O’Donnell told the Citizen. “This was an accidental death caused by disrepair.”

O’Donnell said police saw stacks of clutter that reached the ceiling in some places.

[Cheshire Citizen]

TIME Television

Game of Thrones: Why You Can’t Stop Thinking About Oberyn Martell

Pedro Pascal as Oberyn Martell
Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) shares a moment with Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). Macall B. Polay / HBO

It's not just because of that one scene. Well, it's a little because of that one scene

NOTE: Spoilers from Season 4 of Game of Thrones below.

Last week’s Game of Thrones spent all of its time at the Wall, and though I tried as best I could to focus on the stunning visuals of the episode, my mind was still stuck in King’s Landing. Hell, it’s still stuck in King’s Landing. All because George R.R. Martin, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had built up Oberyn Martell as the hero that Westeros (and Tyrion Lannister) needed, only to have his head popped like a grape instead of allowing him to exact his revenge.

More so than with any previous death, even those of Ned and Robb Stark, fans were indignant: Was Martin simply being cruel? Was cruelty itself the point?

There’s no one thing that you can point to that would explain why Oberyn’s death was so affecting, so perhaps it’s best start with the most obvious one, alluded to above: he was a hero — one that that show very much seemed to need. With the most prominent members of the Stark family all murdered, Jon Snow practically a world away on the Wall and Daenerys in no particular hurry to cross the Narrow Sea, Oberyn was a rare, apparently untainted beacon of hope in the show’s most prominent location.

More than that, he had belief in himself. Oberyn very clearly saw himself as the protagonist not only of his own story but of a much larger one as well — one that involved Kings Landing and the Lannisters and revenge and justice. Ned Stark may have fought for honor, but we never quite knew why, other than that honor was what he believed in. But for most of us, we can’t really identify with some vague concept of honor, can’t root for honor — especially in a world that so clearly believes there’s no place for it.

Revenge, on the other hand, now that we can most certainly understand. Robb Stark fought for vengeance, but not at all costs and not with nearly the same magnetism that Oberyn did. We heard of Robb’s triumphs but rarely saw them, and before his murder we began to realize that he had too much of his father in him to ever exact the kind of revenge that the Game of Thrones universe demands: ruthless and entirely unadulterated.

From the moment we met Oberyn in a King’s Landing brothel, commanding the room effortlessly and declaring his hatred of the Lannisters with his tongue and his blade, it was clear he wouldn’t suffer the same difficulties that befell Robb Stark. Just as importantly, he was fun. Oberyn seemed to love (and live) life to the fullest without ever losing sight of why he came to King’s Landing in the first place. Ned Stark was never fun. Robb Stark gained confidence but never had that — for lack of a better term — swagger that Oberyn exuded whenever he appeared on screen.

In his final days, Oberyn somehow managed to both come to the rescue of the show’s most popular character while simultaneously making huge progress in his quest for vengeance. The prospect of squaring off in single combat against the Mountain — a man that struck fear in the hearts of virtually everyone in Westeros — did not scare Oberyn; it excited him. From the moment he stepped into the arena with the Mountain, Oberyn displayed the same sort of flashy confidence that had made him so enticing in earlier episodes when the only weapon he’d used was his words.

I’d have to guess that when most of us— on the rare occasion that we might do so — imagine ourselves in life-or-death combat, we don’t think of ourselves as the hulking, nearly 8-foot, 420-lb giant. We would think of ourselves as the other guy, with whatever skills that person might possess. and for Oberyn, those skills were manifold. They helped him put Westeros’ most feared warrior on his back, just one blow away from death. But the moment Oberyn looked at Ellaria and they smiled at each other, he signed his death warrant. After all, the quickest way to know something terrible is about to happen to a popular Game of Thrones character is when they’re happy.

Oberyn certainly was. He was one step closer to exacting his revenge. The Mountain was never meant to be the end — he was only one more step in Oberyn’s plan for vengeance against the Lannisters. That’s a big part of the reason his death felt like such a gut-punch. For a few moments there, we were all Oberyn Martell. There was so much more of his story — a story that seemed like a triumphant one — that was left to be told. Now it never will.

TIME Infectious Disease

Saudi Arabia Revises MERS Death Toll Up 48%

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A Saudi man walks towards the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, 370 kms East of the Saudi capital Riyadh, on June 16, 2013. FAYEZ NURELDINE—AFP/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia confirmed Tuesday an additional 113 cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), dramatically raising the kingdom’s caseload to a total of 688.

Reuters reports that Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry released the revised figures after officials conducted a deeper review of the nation’s medical records. In addition to the heavier caseload, officials raised the virus’ death toll by 48% from 190 to 282 known deaths.

“While the review has resulted in a higher total number of previously unreported cases,” read a statement from Tariq Madani, head of the ministry’s scientific advisory board, “we still see a decline in the number of new cases reported over the past few weeks.”

Saudi Arabia dismissed its Deputy Health Minister Doctor Ziad Memish on Tuesday, without elaborating on the reasons for his dismissal, Reuters reports. The sacking comes only six weeks after Health Minister Abdullah al-Rabeeah was fired amid rising MERS infection rates.

[Reuters]

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