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Milestones Oct. 16, 2006

4 minute read
Melissa August, Harriet Barovick, Ellin Martens and Jeninne Lee-St.John

PLEADED GUILTY. Melson Bacos, 21, U.S. Navy medic; to kidnapping and conspiracy in the murder of Iraqi civilian Hashim Ibrahim Awad; at Camp Pendleton, Calif. As part of a plea deal–murder and other charges against him were dropped–Bacos testified that he tried to intervene, then watched as two Marines fired 10 rounds into Awad’s head after abducting him from his home in the Iraqi town of Hamdania. One of seven Marines charged in the crime, Bacos was first to go to a court-martial.

DIED. Tamara Dobson, 59, Amazonian model-actress who created one of the blaxploitation genre’s most memorable women–the Corvette-driving, martial-arts-loving title character in the film Cleopatra Jones; of complications from pneumonia and multiple sclerosis; in Baltimore, Md. With her flashy style–huge Afro, big hats, leather-trimmed fur coats–Cleopatra was, in the words of the drug traffickers she battled, “10 miles of bad road.” Before her career ebbed in the ’80s, the 6-ft. 2-in. Dobson went on to appear in other films of the genre, notably the women-in-prison film Chained Heat, as well as on TV (Buck Rogers in the 25th Century).

DIED. Helen Chenoweth-Hage, 68, former three-term G.O.P. Congresswoman from Idaho whose libertarian views endeared her to antigovernment militia leaders; in a car accident; near Tonopah, Nev. During her tenure in the House, she was one of its most colorful personalities, mocking the Endangered Species Act by serving canned salmon at “endangered salmon bakes” and, while denouncing slavery, labeling the South’s position during the Civil War a “states’ rights issue.”

DIED. Gary Comer, 78, philanthropist and entrepreneur who founded the mail-order giant Lands’ End; in Chicago. With an emphasis on sturdy products (famously sold as “Guaranteed. Period”) and a clever, anecdote-filled “magalog,” the world-class sailor turned a small sailboat- hardware business into a $1.9 billion clothing company before selling it in 2002. Downplaying his savvy, he said, “I picked things I liked, and over the years people interested in the same things gathered around.”

DIED. Friedrich Karl Flick, 79,

billionaire German industrialist; in Carinthia, Austria. Flick–whose father was jailed by the Allied War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg for using slave labor in munitions and other factories–became famous for an early-1980s scandal over huge donations made to German political parties by managers at the family’s conglomerate. The Flick Affair, as it became known, forever linked his name with the issue of shady influences in politics.

DIED. Isabel Bigley, 80, Bronx-born stage and TV actress best known for creating the role of Sarah Brown, the prim missionary who falls in love with gambler Sky Masterson and sings of her passion in the signature tune If I Were a Bell (“If I were a bell, I’d be ringing … if I were a lamp, I’d light”), in the 1950 Broadway hit Guys and Dolls; in Los Angeles. Undeterred by a rehearsal during which fiery composer Frank Loesser, underwhelmed by her rendition of Bell, slapped her in the face, Bigley won a Tony Award for the part.

DIED. Buck O’Neil, 94, star first baseman for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues who later became Major League Baseball’s first black coach; in Kansas City, Mo. “Since I was a pup,” he wrote in his memoir I Was Right on Time, “I’ve been following that bouncing ball.” A Florida kid who grew up watching Babe Ruth during spring training, O’Neil joined the Monarchs in 1938 after their first baseman broke a leg–a move that led to his friendship with teammate Satchel Paige. O’Neil later became a Chicago Cubs scout–he signed Hall of Famers like Lou Brock–then, in 1962, a barrier-breaking coach. But he never forgot his sporting roots, and wrote,”The Lord has kept me on this earth to bear witness to the days and glories and men (and women) of the Negro leagues.”

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