Amiri Baraka: The Village Voice Years

Photo by James Hamilton
Baraka in the Voice, 1980.
Amiri Baraka, the poet, playwright, and activist, died last week at the age of 79. Befitting a man with such a long, complicated and controversial career, not even his obituaries could agree. The New York Times calls him "polarizing," while the Jerusalem Post opted, among other qualifiers, for "hateful." The Anti-Defamation League, which once said his work had "a long history of hostility to Judaism and Jewish concerns," didn't weigh in on his passing. And the Washington Post noted: "Perhaps no writer of the 1960s and '70s was more radical or polarizing than the former LeRoi Jones, and no one did more to extend the political debates of the civil rights era to the world of the arts."

For Eugene B. Redmond, the famous East St. Louis poet and academic, Baraka's death was the end of a 53-year friendship. On a recent afternoon, Redmond's mind was on everything Baraka gave up to become a leader of the Black Arts Movement, black power's cultural and artistic twin.

"LeRoi Jones was poised to become the first black playwright or screenwriter that would've gone onto just unlimited success," Redmond says, using Baraka's former name (he was born Everett Leroy Jones in Newark in 1934). But instead, "He gave it all up and went into the movement. He went from a larger white bohemian world into the black world."

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Former Voice Editor Don Forst Dies; Joined This Paper to Work With Its "Homosexuals" and "Trotskyites"

Don Forst in 2011 at the University at Albany journalism program's graduation. At right is program director Nancy Roberts
Donald "Don" Forst, the former editor of the Village Voice, who also helmed New York Newsday and the Boston Herald during his 50-year career as a journalist, has died at the age of 81. The New York Times obituary didn't cite a cause of death, but Peter Nessen, the friend who confirmed Forst's death to the paper, said Forst was undergoing treatment for colon cancer.

Forst wrote and edited at 14 papers over the course of his career, and was editor of the Voice from 1997 to 2005. He joined the paper after New York Newsday was shut down by its parent company and he ended a brief stint as the metropolitan editor at the Daily News. At the time, the NYT called Forst the "oddest choice" to edit the Voice, given his long run at more right-leaning outfits, as well as the fact that he was a 64-year-old white guy picked to helm a staff of "famously cantankerous writers, a youngish rainbow coalition of color and sexual preference," as the paper put it.

Forst, too, acknowledged that he was a strange fit, giving the NYT this unforgettable quote:

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Gowanus Dolphin Finally Dies; Here's the Heart-Wrenching Video

Categories: Brooklyn, Obits

Caution, this video courtesy of the New York Post is not for the faint of heart.

Yesterday, Greg Howard reported on an injured dolphin that was trapped in the filthy waters of Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, attracting crowds of spectators to the vicinity of the Union Street Bridge in the maritime industrial neighborhood just west of Park Slope.

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Marvin Miller: One of the Most Important Men in Sports


Marvin Miller, who died early yesterday of cancer at age 95, was more than what Red Barber once called him: "along with Babe Ruth and Jackie Robinson, one of the three most important men in baseball history." He was, for almost four decades, one of the most important men in all of sports

He was the man most responsible for hammering the old players union (essentially a company union maintained by the owners for their own benefit) into the most successful union in America. But he also had an enormous influence on all of sports. Just two quick examples:

DeMaurice Smith, the toughest leader the NFL players union ever had, was an admirer of Miller and spent several hours at Marvin's Upper East Side apartment discussing the strategy which helped the NFLPA finally kick the owners' butts in the 2011 lockout.

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Joe Girardi's Dad Dies As Yanks Look To Clinch ALDS

Categories: Obits, Sports
Yankee skipper Joe Girardi
Sad news to report on the Yankees front: Jerry Girardi, the father of Yankees skipper Joe Girardi, died today.

Meanwhile, the Yankees face the Baltimore Orioles tonight in the Bronx in a game that could seal up the American League Division Series and propel the Bombers to the ALCS.

Girardi reportedly still plans to be in the dugout during tonight's game following a press conference he's holding right now.

The elder Girardi had been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

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Steve Sabol Defined The Way We Look At Sports

Steve Sabol: 1942-2012

I first met Steve Sabol - actually, I talked on the phone with him - early in 1985. I was at the old Voice office at 842 Broadway, sitting in the cubicle that belonged to the sports editor, who was almost never there. The voice at the other end said his name was Steve and that wanted to talk football.

He was coming up to New York from his office in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, the next day, he said, to meet his sister Blair. Blair Sabol was one of the wittiest writers the Voice had - later I would hear her described as "the Abby Hoffman of fashion." Would I like to go to lunch with them, he asked?

Well, yeah, I guess so, though I didn't understand why some businessman from Mt. Laurel whose sister wrote for the Voice wanted to take me to lunch. For some reason I didn't make the connection that his name was Steve, that Blair's last name was Sabol, and this meant I was talking to Steve Sabol, the head of NFL Films.

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Dr. Drew Officially Is The Grim Reaper; Another "Celebrity Rehab"-er Bites The Dust

Categories: Obits
In what can only (and extremely sarcastically) be described as a staggering loss for humanity, "Celebrity Rehab" alum Joey Kovar has reportedly died from a drug overdose outside of Chicago.

This puts the tally of dead Celebrity Rehab "stars" at three.

If you're unfamiliar with "Celebrity Rehab," it's a reality show where former "Love Line" host Dr. Drew Pinsky exploits the addictions of washed up celebrities to get ratings. Considering those on the show are all drug addicts -- and ego-maniacal ex-celebs -- it makes for some entertaining, mindless television.

Simply put: it's like watching one train wreck after another -- and it's awesome.

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Homophobic Cereal Arsonist Michael Leisner Drops Dead Watching Sons Play Tennis

Gay-bashing gone wrong: Michael Leisner nearly setting himself on fire while protesting gay marriage by burning a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, the "treat" of homosexuals.
Remember a few weeks ago when a Minnesota man nearly lit himself on fire while protesting gay marriage by burning a box of Honey Nut Cheerios in front of the General Mills factory? Regardless, he's dead.

Michael Leisner suffered a "massive heart attack" on Saturday while sitting in his car waiting for his two sons to finish playing tennis. He died on the spot, according to local media reports.

Leisner achieved Youtube (ahem) fame a few weeks ago when he posted a video of himself lighting the Cheerios on fire with a blowtorch.  

"One out of every eight boxes of cereal in this country is Cheerios. This is really the treat now for the homosexuals," Leisner said in the video uploaded to YouTube.

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Former Penn State Coach Joe Paterno, 85, Dies

Thumbnail image for Joe_Paterno_Sideline_PSU-Illinois_2006-thumb-200x250.jpg
After mistaken reports of his death last night Joe Paterno died this morning, the AP reported. Paterno was 85, and had been suffering from lung cancer. With 409 wins, Paterno had the most career victories among Division I coaches, according to the New York Times obituary, but was fired this past November when the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal hit the campus.

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George Steinbrenner's Other Championship Team: The Fixers

Here's another name to toss into the hopper as we ponder the memory of the late George Steinbrenner III. One of those missing from this morning's massive obits is Patrick Cunningham, the former Bronx Democratic chief who played as big a role as Reggie Jackson in making Steinbrenner's career on River Avenue such an enormous success over the decades.

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