Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Singing Cowboy: Monte Hale dies at 89

My Friends

 by Monte Hale


I've met a lot of people,

as I've traveled through life's race.


And everywhere I've been,

I try to catalogue in proper place.


It took three books to do it --

People I've known, acquaintances and friends.


Each one I put in proper place

as it appeals to me.


And the one that's marked "friends",

is the smallest of the three.


My friend book is that little bitty thin one,

because friends are so very rare.


I count it a happy privilege,

to put your name in there.

-from the official Monte Hale Website, http://montehale.com/aboutmonte.html

There is a special place in my heart (and I hope in heaven too) for singing cowboys.  On Sunday, Horse Opera star, Monte Hale died at age 89.

Funeral services were pending today for Monte Hale, a singing cowboy of the 1940s.  Hale, 89, died Sunday at his Studio City home following a lengthy  illness, according to Ydhira DeLeon at the Autry National Center. Hale's Walk of Fame star -- unveiled in 2004 -- is in front of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, next to one of his friend and fellow Republic Pictures singing cowboy, the late Gene Autry. http://www.contracostatimes.com/california/ci_12030179

It's not every cowboy hero who can say, after the demise of the B-westerns, that he went on to appear in movies with such actors as Marlon Brando, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. Monte Hale, the last survivor of the screen's singing cowboys, could say that. He even taught James Dean the little rope trick with which Dean played around in a pivotal scene in GIANT.

But Hale would probably not say that. He does not even own up to having been a singing cowboy, and it is true that the songs diminished almost to the vanishing point as his 19 starring movies rolled on at Republic Pictures between 1946 and 1950. Still, it was his guitar-picking and singing that started him on the road to stardom, and gave him the distinction of being Republic's first B-western star to appear in color pictures, a year before even Roy Rogers began showing up in Trucolor productions. In fact, the first color appearance of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans came when they were guest stars in Monte's third movie. Eddie Dean had been there first (little PRC started him in the first of five Cinecolor productions in 1945 before relegating him to the more traditional black and white, compared with seven for Monte between 1946 and 1948).

Studio publicity noted that Hale was born on June 8, 1921, in San Angelo, Texas.  In reality, he was born in Ada, Oklahoma and his birth year is probably 1919.  Regardless, his accent was certainly right for westerns.  But Hale had no idea of becoming a star, and has confessed to feeling awkward in front of a camera. Adrian Booth, the lovely leading lady in his first seven pictures, has said it was during personal appearances when Monte could meet people face to face that his real winning personality would emerge.

From an article by Paul Dellinger on BWesterns.com for the full article, visit http://www.b-westerns.com/mhale1.htm

Monday, March 30, 2009

Flash Bogash: Roller Derby Hall of Famer dies at 92

With Roller Derby on the rise again, and the economy in a slump again, it's nice to recall some of the stories of American pluck during the Great Depression.  Here is the obituary from the LA Times of Roller Derby pioneer, Bill Bogash, who recently died at age 92: 

Bill Bogash, a pioneer Roller Derby star who launched his legendary career on skates as a teenager during the Great Depression when he teamed up with his mother, has died. He was 92.  Bogash, a resident of Yucca Valley, died of respiratory failure March 20 at Hi-Desert Medical Center in nearby Joshua Tree, said his wife, Georgia.

"Billy Bogash was truly one of the greatest stars on the banked track," wrote Gary Powers, executive director and curator of the National Roller Derby Hall of Fame in New York City, on the hall’s website. "He shaped and guided the sport like few other skaters and was instrumental in helping make Roller Derby the sensation it became during the late '40s and '50s, when the banked-track sport was the talk of the nation."  Dubbed "Mr. Roller Derby" by his fellow skaters, Bogash launched his 23-year skating career in 1935 when he was 18.

The impetus came when Bogash and his mother, Josephine, attended the first Transcontinental Roller Derby race at the Chicago Coliseum in August of that year.  Roughly patterned after six-day bicycle races and Depression-era dance marathons and walkathons, the Transcontinental Roller Derby was the brainchild of Leo Seltzer. He was the former owner of a chain of Oregon movie theaters who staged commercial walkathons before tapping into the popularity of roller-skating.  The Transcontinental Roller Derby simulated a race from one end of the country to the other: Each two-person team -- consisting of one male and one female -- skated laps around the track and covered about 100 miles a day over a period of six weeks.  A large map of the United States on the wall kept track of the distance the skaters traveled each day.  Bogash's mother, a diabetic who started roller-skating after her doctor told her she should exercise, tried out for the Roller Derby and was offered a job. But she told Derby officials that she wouldn't go on the road unless they also took her son.

Josephine and Billy Bogash made their team debut that September, at the second Transcontinental Roller Derby race, held in Kansas City.

Bill Bogash, who was born in Chicago on Nov. 22, 1916, was an ice skater when he started "but not much of a roller skater," former Roller Derby skater Mary Youpel told The Times this week.

"He became one of the very best skaters we ever had," said Youpel, who joined the Roller Derby in Chicago in 1936 and skated until 1958.  Youpel, who spelled her name Youpelle during her skating days, said Bogash "used his ice-skating skills to become a great skater. He skated low, with long strides; he was a very graceful skater, really."  Recalling those early years, Youpel said the Roller Derby skaters traveled by bus and lived in the buildings they skated in. And Ma Bogash, as she was billed, "was kind of the mature person for the whole Derby, so she looked after the girls."  "You stayed in your quarters at night, and she told you what to do and what not to do," Youpel said. "She was the mother hen, I guess you'd call her."  Youpel said both Ma and Bill were "wonderful."

 "All of us girls would go to Ma if we had a problem, and Bill was a very quiet kind of guy, but a very jovial guy," she said. "He always had a joke or something to say and got along with everybody. Even on the track, if things would go wrong, he was there to try to calm it down."  Roller Derby soon evolved from a marathon-style event with two-person teams into a competition involving two teams of five men and five women each. The men and women alternated time on the track, and reworked rules brought more crowd-pleasing physical contact among the skaters.

When Roller Derby was televised in the late 1940s, Youpel said, "it became a big deal because now people that couldn't go to the games could see it at home, and we drew a lot of fans that way."  In 1952, Ma Bogash became the first female skater inducted into the Roller Derby Hall of Fame. Bill Bogash was inducted a year later.

"Ma" Bogash

"He was called 'Flash' Bogash; he was very fast and very agile," recalled Nellie Wilson, who skated in the Roller Derby from 1952 to 1964 under the name Nellie Montague.  As chronicled on the hall of fame website, Bill Bogash led numerous teams around the nation during the 1940s and coached the New York Chiefs to the first Roller Derby world championship at Madison Square Garden in New York in 1949.  Bogash later led the Los Angeles Braves when the Derby moved west from New York in 1954 and continued skating with the Braves over the next several years. He also was the player representative for all skaters in negotiations with Derby management.

 "If there was a problem with management, you went to Bill," Wilson said.  After hanging up his skates in 1958, Bogash spent 24 years running Sanborn House, a Los Angeles restaurant that he had bought a few years earlier.  In 1971, Bogash helped launch the Roller Derby Has Beens, a group of former skaters who met for annual reunions.  "To us, he's Mr. Roller Derby; he's been around so long and involved so long," Wilson said. "Last year, when he came to the reunion, all the skaters stood up and applauded when he came through the door."  Bogash, who was married three times, is survived by his wife of 50 years, Georgia; his sons, Billy Jr. and Scott; his daughter, Sharon Guccione; three grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.  A celebration of Bogash's life is pending.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Post Mortem Bump: Will your work finally be appreciated when you're gone?

March 25, 2009

Andy Warhol's 'Undertaker'
Mr. Warhol's work has certainly appreciated in value since his death

We are all familiar with the idea that artists such as writers, painters and composers only get their due once they've passed on.  True or not, this is a familiar theme in our culture.  
Perhaps it gives struggling artists some comfort to think of all the throngs of admirers praising their work and immortalizing their name at some point in the future.  
For if the truly great are never really appreciated in life, that must be proof of just how great we are when no one sees any value in our work today.  "Laugh if you must, and send me letter after letter of rejection, but you'll miss me when I'm gone!"

The idea does seem plausible.  After an artist has died, the supply of their work becomes fixed, or shrinks, while the demand could conceivably increase as the world finally catches up with it's pioneers and visionaries.  We can all name artists whose stature in the arts has grown as their physical remains diminish; Beethoven,  Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sid Vicious, Arthur Rimbaud...

Jean-Michel Basquiat Untitled (Skull) 1982

But is there really a post mortem bump?  A death effect on the value of art?  If so, does it last, and does an artist who dies unknown have much of a chance at fame after death?
My uncle ran a used bookstore, The Antiquarium, in Omaha, Nebraska, for many years, and I remember overhearing call after call from folks who assumed that the old book they found in their attic was valuable simply because of its age.  Not so, my uncle would tell them.  Unless there is a demand for the work of the author, it's just an old book.  The store was comprised of many floors, filled with books, and I had never heard of many of the authors.  I suspect that no one else will hear of many of them either, and these are people who were actually published. 
Cleary we do not all have a good chance at being a household name, and while Warhol's tired old saw about the 15 minutes of fame becomes more plausible every new TV season, I don't think I'll remember Omarosa or Jade Goody ten years from now. 
But enough of the anecdotal, how about some cold hard research? 
In a study published on ArtEconomics.com, Researchers tracked 560 painters, collecting information on nearly 266,000 auction sales in the years 1959-2003.  They found the existence of only a temporary "death effect".  The effect was further limited to “star painters”.  The market value of lesser known, or “average painters” did not increase as a result of their demise.  http://www.arteconomics.com/publications/death-effect.html    
In a question and answer piece on the site artbusiness.com, the death effect is explored further Here is an excerpt:
Q: I bought six paintings from a local artist over a twenty year period during his career. He's pretty old now and I'm thinking about selling. Should I wait until after he dies? Will that make any difference pricewise?
 A:  The answer in this case is that the artist's death will have little impact on the value of your art. Many people believe that prices skyrocket when artists die, but that's a myth perpetrated primarily by dealers who say anything to make sales.
An artist's death significantly impacts his price structure only when he's relatively famous, his work is expensive, he's in demand and collectible, and most importantly, he dies unexpectedly. As evidenced in the months immediately following the deaths of Warhol and Basquiat, for example, their markets went temporarily insane before gradually settling back to normal. Dealers and collectors were caught off guard, everyone scrambled for the art, a sort of buying panic set in, and prices spiked in the upward direction. When an artist dies of old age, however, all market changes have taken place slowly, sensibly, and in an orderly fashion. Death comes as no surprise to anyone and consequently, prices remain relatively steady.
In some instances, an artist's prices can actually drop on the occasion of his death. For example, an executor or family may mismanage the estate by dumping all the art on the market at once and temporarily depress prices. Another reason for a decline in prices is when collectors patronize an artist more for his personality, media image, flamboyance, social contacts, or sales skills than for the quality of his art. With the artist's number one promoter gone (namely himself), art values fall flat.

Untitled, Martin Ramirez, Auburn, California, c. 1954
But do not despair, gentle reader.  The post mortem bump can occur for even the most humble of artists.  Here in an excerpt from CBS News, is the story of Martin Ramirez:  
Ramirez was 30 when he left his small ranch in Mexico to seek work in the promised land of America. He hoped to send money back home to his wife and four children, and for a time found work on the railroads in California. But in 1931, destitute and disoriented, he was picked up by police and committed to a psychiatric asylum, where he was diagnosed as catatonic schizophrenic.
Few outsiders ever saw Ramirez, who would spend the rest of his life in mental hospitals. For much of the 32 years he spent in mental institutions, Ramirez lived in silence.
As a student in the 1950s, painter Wayne Thiebaud was allowed to visit him.
"I was surprised because they told us that he was mute and didn't speak," he said. "This would be the kind of thing he'd pull out of his shirt. And it had a picture that I recognized of what I thought was a shoe. And, I asked him, 'Hey, Zapata?' He said - and the first words he spoke all day was - 'Si.' So, I said, 'Do you have other ones like this? Mismo ese?' And, he says, 'Si.'"
For Thiebaud, today a world-renowned artist, Ramirez's work was a revelation.
"What you look for, I think, if you're interested in painting and drawing, are those things which captivate you in some way, which sort of knock you off your feet for a minute," he said. "You don't quite know what's going on. And along that line, his work has this very riveting kind of attention."

Intense and obsessive, Ramirez returned again and again to the same themes. Gun-toting caballeros - he drew more than 80 of them. Trains emerging from tunnels.
"He loved transportation, whether it was a horse, or a truck, or a car or a train. He was rather enamored of that," Thiebaud said.
Self-taught, he used traditional tools like crayons, but in his own way.
"He'd melt down the crayon into wax and he'd apply the wax with a wooden matchstick," Anderson said. "So his stylus, his paintbrush became the wooden matchstick and that's how you get this very rugged line in all of these drawings."

The conditions were anything but ideal for an artist.
"It was not uncommon to have a fight on the ward, that we had to break up, between these more violent patients. So I think Martin was fearful," said James Durfee who supervised the tuberculosis ward at Dewitt State Hospital, where Ramirez was mixed in with 85 other men of all ages.
Ramirez sought refuge by going under tables. Durfee crouched under a table to demonstrate Ramirez's technique. "I saw him do this for hours," Durfee said.
"He used a tongue blade for a ruler. We gave him many rulers. But he used a tongue depressor for a ruler. And a wooden matchstick."

How many drawings Ramirez did isn't really clear. In the early years, the hospital sent many of his works back to his family in Mexico. But when Ramirez's relatives learned he had been in a ward with tuberculosis patients they were afraid the drawings were contaminated so they burned them.
Ramirez's work might not have survived at all if it hadn't been for a professor at Sacramento State College, Tarmo Pasto, who was researching mental illness and creativity. Thiebaud was Pasto's student.

"And he's I think the first one to take him seriously," Thiebaud said.
On visits to Dewitt, Pasto encouraged Ramirez to keep drawing and began to collect his work. Soon Ramirez's pictures were being exhibited in local museums and today at auction can fetch as much as $160,000.
"I think he had no idea he was making art," Thiebaud said. "He just wanted to make these powerful images, which for him was a little kind of world. And those little worlds in painting and drawing are kind of human miracles."
"This piece of a train and a tunnel is built up from lots of different kinds of paper - candy wrapper bow, greeting card, found paper and pages from a book. The title of that book - you're just gonna die - is 'The Man Who Wouldn't Talk,'" Anderson said. "All of a sudden we all just got shivers because you felt like Ramirez was just rising from the grave saying, 'See, you know, I had a voice. I'm declaring that for you. I made a choice not to talk.'"

Drawing by Martin Ramirez

But here the story takes a miraculous turn.

After the Ramirez show opened in New York, Brooke Anderson received an e-mail from a woman who claimed she had "a collection of Martin's drawings."
"I was a little skeptical, as she likes to remind me now," Anderson said.
But the woman, a relative of Max Duneivitz, who'd worked at Dewitt Hospital, e-mailed photographs. The family had nearly thrown the pictures out. They'd barely survived.
"Kept in a pile in a garage in Northern California, on top of a refrigerator, sandwiched between the refrigerator and a sleeping bag," Anderson said. "And I believe at points the owner's cats would sleep on top of the bag."
When Anderson went to California to see them, she couldn't believe her eyes. She was told she had 55 drawings, but it turned out to be more like 140.
"Well, by the time I got to the last one, I think I started crying," Anderson said.
With one discovery, the 300 known works of Martin Ramirez had grown to 440. The new pictures were all drawn in the last years of his life, and some are epic in scale.
There are more of the familiar cowboys, but now blasting trumpets.
"I mean you can hear it," Anderson said. "Because he's just exploded this instrument into this exaggerated form, and it's spectacular."
The American Folk Art Museum is now cataloging the new pictures which will be exhibited next year.   For much of the 32 years he spent in mental institutions, Martin Ramirez lived in silence. But he did speak through his drawings. And as more of his work emerges, we are only just beginning to understand what he was trying to say.
for the full article, visit 

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Pyre: Fight for open air cremation continues in the UK

Funeral Pyres on the Ganges, Varanasi   ©2007 Lou Montrose

Here is an update to my previous post 'The Pyre'.  Members of England's Hindu minority continue to seek permission to hold open air cremations according to the dictates of their religion.  Here is an excerpt from the Times article by Andrew Norfolk:

Government lawyers will tell a High Court judge next week that allowing an elderly man’s last wish would be abhorrent to the majority of the British population. The man likely to cause such offence is a Hindu aged 70 who wants to follow the dictates of his religion by having a natural cremation on a funeral pyre.  There may be some justification for the Government’s squeamish belief that its citizens would find the traditional funeral rites of a faith with 900 million worldwide adherents “extremely disturbing”.

The National Council for Hindu Priests, in common with most British Hindu organisations, supports the man’s claim, viewing it as “the single most significant campaign to promote Hindu religious freedom in British history”.

Davender Kumar Ghai, the devout Hindu at the centre of the case, fits no one’s idea of a radical minority-rights activist.  He has lived in Britain since 1958, is the founding president of the Anglo-Asian Friendship Society and the holder of a Unesco Peace Gold Medal and an Amnesty International lifetime achievement award.

The Burning of the House of Lords and the House of Commons (1835)  by J.M.W. Turner

Mr Ghai, from Newcastle-upon- Tyne, is in poor health and his final wish is to die in the knowledge that his son will be allowed to set ablaze an open-air pyre that will consume his body but, he believes, liberate his soul.  “I have lived my entire life by the Hindu scriptures. I now yearn to die by them and I do not believe that natural cremation grounds — as long as they were discreet, designated sites far from urban and residential areas — would offend public decency.  “My loyalty is to Britain’s values of fairness, tolerance and freedom. If I cannot die as a true Hindu, it will mean those values have died too.”  He is challenging Newcastle City Council’s refusal to allow a designated site for open-air cremations. If the judicial review is successful, such sites could spring up around the country.


Three years ago, in a secluded field in Northumberland, The Times witnessed the lighting of Britain’s first open-air funeral pyre since the Home Office authorised one for a Nepalese princess at Woking in 1934.  The mother and sister of an Indian man who died aged 31 were among a small group of mourners, led by Mr Ghai, who watched as his body, covered in a white cloth, was placed on the wooden pyre.  A Brahmin priest led chanting as flowers were thrown into the consecrated fire. Incense burnt, water from the Ganges was sprinkled and an earthenware pot smashed to symbolise the soul’s release and rebirth.  The ceremony was held in secret because Newcastle City Council had ruled that it was outlawed by the 1902 Cremation Act. 

 for the full article, visit


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Jeanne Trend-Hill: Cemetery Photographer

“People ask me why I find cemeteries so fascinating. To me they are filled with interesting monuments and amazing history..." 

".. Sadly many of the older graves are crumbling and burial space is being reclaimed by local authorities or nature. "

".. I like to take photographs and help to preserve a little of our history and heritage for future generations to see." 

The photos and text on this post are from Jeanne's website.  For more photos and information on her work to preserve monuments, visit 

Monday, March 16, 2009

Kenji Yoshida: Painter dies at 84

La Vie 2003-2004

obituary from The Guardian (UK)

The works of Kenji Yoshida, who has died aged 84 of cancer, could reduce viewers to a reverent silence or even tears. Those who came to know and love his paintings never lost their devotion. Yet in spite of some limited recognition, mainly in the western world, he remained largely ignored by critics, museums and galleries of modern art and art historians. Not obviously Japanese enough for western perceptions, not international enough for contemporary Japanese critics, he was unclassifiable and hence little mentioned.

Yoshida was born in Ikeda, near Osaka, and trained as an art teacher. Much of his early life remained obscure to even his closest friends, but he often quoted his mentor Furukido Masaru saying: "Do not go to war, live", and it was no accident that almost all his mature paintings (after 1978) were titled simply Life.

Nevertheless, he was conscripted in 1943 and, trained as a naval airman, was earmarked to be a kamikaze pilot. The defeat of Japan saved him, and in later life, when pressed, he said it had been his intention to crash his plane into the sea to avoid killing anyone else. Nearly 60 years later, his meeting with a British prisoner of war of the Japanese in Norwich cathedral was an unforgettable moment of forgiveness. Yoshida's magnetic personality - largely unhampered by verbal coherence in any language, including his own - achieved this without any obvious effort.

La Vie 2003-2004

After the war he continued to teach and to paint, but little is known of his style at that time. Then, in 1964, he left for Paris, a magnet for Japanese artists since the 1890s. He began to study graphic art techniques with the Hackney-born sometime surrealist, abstract impressionist and printmaker Stanley Hayter at his influential Atelier 17 studio.

Yoshida lived in Paris for the rest of his life, rarely returning to Japan. His abstract colour etchings from 1964 show Hayter's influence, but they already had an inner incandescence, which gained him modest sales, many of them with Atelier du Nord, a group of young mainly Scandinavian artists based in Paris, through which he got a bursary from the Norwegian government.

La Vie 2003-2004

A groping towards larger, clearer forms is first seen in a distinguished group of serigraphs (1972-76) in which unmuddied colours signal an already individual sensibility. Meanwhile he had been painting on paper much of the time, first in a recognisably abstract expressionist style on a small scale, but after 1984 he devoted himself almost entirely to ever-bigger works in oil on canvas, usually incorporating gold, silver or platinum leaf in the Japanese tradition. Their themes became increasingly cosmic and mystical, often seeming to be portraits of the created universe itself.

To accommodate his need for a sense of movement, he expanded into huge multi-panel compositions. Of these, perhaps the greatest, was his 12-panel "chapel", the outside inscribed with Chinese Buddhist sutras in Yoshida's own pungent calligraphy. This was shown in Christ Church cathedral, Dublin (2000), Norwich cathedral (2002) and Canterbury cathedral (2003); stretchedout to a continuous composition, it was shown last year in the Unesco Hall in Paris, his only solo showing in the city of his adoption.

He never had a solo exhibition in Japan: his major exposures were at the British Museum (1993), thus becoming the first living artist to have a retrospective there; the National Museum of Modern Art, Mexico City (1997); and the Ch√Ęteau de Blois (2006).

Yoshida's paintings were his obsession, but they did not stop a vigorous bohemian social life and much travel, where his charm and integrity always made him friends. His personality was as unclassifiable as his work. His last visit to his homeland was for a few days, just before his death.  His ashes will be interred with those of his wife Hiroko, who died in 1986, in the beautiful tomb he designed for them both in Montparnasse. His daughters Kiyoko and Yoko survive him.

written by  Lawrence Smith for The Guardian,   Monday 16 March 2009


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Requiem For A Garbageman

Excerpts from From the New York Times article- 

Stephen Dixon became a New York City garbage man at an age when many such workers begin thinking about leaving the job. He was 41, a decade and a half older than most of the department’s newest hires, whose youth eased the strain of lifting tons of trash each day.  Still, over two decades Mr. Dixon was a hard worker who kept up with, and even surpassed, men half his age. At the end, though, he walked with a limp and spoke of getting his knees fixed after he retired later this year, once he passed his 20th anniversary with the Sanitation Department and qualified for a full pension.  “That’s all he did was work,” said his wife, Dianne Dixon. “He did what the job required.”

On Thursday morning, Mr. Dixon collapsed as he walked alongside the garbage truck on his Queens route. He was taken to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in the Rockaways, but could not be revived. Doctors said he had apparently suffered a heart attack.

Mr. Dixon was not the Sanitation Department’s biggest worker, or its strongest. Still, he developed a reputation at Garage 14 in the Rockaways, for a pleasant manner and for working a little faster than others.  “He treated people with a lot of respect, and worked hard, and loved his family,” said Kathy Dawkins, a department spokesperson.

Mr. Dixon was born in Panama and moved to New York with a brother and an uncle when he was 9, his wife said. He studied auto mechanics at Woodrow Wilson High School, and spent three years in Germany with the Army. He worked as a mechanic for most of two decades — “He loved cars,” his wife said — but they had four small daughters and needed a more secure income.  “He just wanted security,” Ms. Dixon said. “Whenever he did someone’s car, they’d say they’d pay him and they didn’t always pay.”  So Mr. Dixon joined the Sanitation Department in October 1989. He started in Manhattan, and was eventually transferred to Garage 14, closer to his home in Springfield Gardens, Queens.  Over the years he gained enough seniority to work the most sought-after shift — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. — and had reached an annual salary of $58,000.

On an average day, a two-person garbage truck team in New York hauls 8 to 13 tons of trash, sometimes more, said Harry Nespoli, president of the Uniformed Sanitationmen’s Association, the workers’ union.  Though the trucks used by some other cities have hydraulic lifts, New York City trucks are manually filled because it is faster in the city’s narrow streets.  This year would have been the Dixons’ 40th anniversary, and they lived for 37 of those years in a small two-story home near Kennedy Airport. They paid off the mortgage in December and planned to move to Florida, Ms. Dixon said, where the weather would be better on his aching joints.

On Friday, purple and black bunting hung outside Garage 14, and the Sanitation Department’s chaplain, the Rev. Peter Colapietro of Holy Cross Church on West 42nd Street in Manhattan, stopped by at 7 a.m. to say a prayer with the workers.

Article by CARA BUCKLEY and ANN FARMER  for the full article, visit


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Je me souveins: Obit TV

The cost of printed obituaries is skyrocketing, newspapers in major markets are being abandoned, and obituaries are even being prepared for both newspapers and broadcast television. So, how can we keep our death news and revitalize TV? Montreal entrepreneur Gerald Dominique has an idea, the obituary channel. Germany already has a death oriented television channel, and if Dominique's plan works out, Canada may be next.

There are certainly many options for listing obituaries local funeral home sites, as well as national and worldwide sites like Tributes.com , Legacy.comMaking Everlasting Memories, andIn Loving Memory, but the real draw for obituaries is a local and immediate one. We want to know who in our own community has passed away, and when the services will be held- no matter which funeral home is serving the family. The old joke of years past of reading the obituaries in the paper to see if we are still alive may no longer make sense to a new generation who will turn on the TV to see if they are still on the right side of the ground (do you realize how hard it is to convince someone born after 1980 that TV wasn't always in color and we used to get up to turn the channel to one of the other two choices?).

Here is an excerpt from an article on CTV:
MONTREAL — A Quebec entrepreneur is planning to bring obituaries out of the back pages of newspapers to a new home on the small screen.  Gerald Dominique hopes "Je me souviens" -- a niche network dedicated to broadcasting digital obituaries -- will be ready to begin broadcasting by the summer.  The French-language speciality channel will charge a fee to broadcast obituaries, prayers, hospitalization notices and messages of thanks.  The Quebec entrepreneur obtained a licence in February from the CRTC and has designs on expanding the channel to the rest of the country, under the moniker "Remember the Name."  "The goal of this channel is to tell stories," Dominique said in an interview with The Canadian Press.  "How many stories are lost all over the world each year -- great stories about people's lives -- those are the stories we hope to tell."

Dominique said he'd often hear about people passing away but that the information would be fragmented or cursory.  "There is always the exchange of information (among friends and family) , but it never makes it into the paper which offers only one dimension of the story and it costs a fortune," Dominique said.  "I felt the need to do more."

Dominique said the TV obits will include sound, music, photos, video, text and testimonials and will cost about the same as a newspaper obit.  Eventually, there will also be obits and memorials for more famous personalities, including political figures and celebrities.  Dominique estimates there are about 56,000 deaths yearly in Quebec, and even a fraction of those stories could provide the revenue he needs.

Obituary television is relatively new.

Etos TV, one of the world's first television networks devoted to death, launched last year inGermany with quite a bit of fanfare.  That network shows pictures and video clips of the deceased for a fee and broadcasts documentaries on related topics. It is backed by an association that represents German funeral directors.

Dominique, 44, who describes himself as a self-educated entrepreneur, is firming up plans for the launch.  He doesn't have the same type of financial backing yet as the Germans do, and Dominique acknowledges he will need some assistance.

"Certainly I'd like to have some help -- I'm not sure what kind -- but I would need some help," Dominique said. "But if the planets align, I should be on the air in July."

for the full article, visit CTV News at  


Gerald Dominique

From The Montreal Gazette:

Dominique, who works as a web designer and consultant, noted the idea of putting obituaries on television came after he attended several funerals over the years that left him longing for more. With his channel, Dominique wants to give family and friends an opportunity to broadcast more information about their deceased loved ones — for an undisclosed amount of money.

David Foot, a University of Toronto economics professor and author of Boom, Bust and Echo, noted baby boomers, who are the largest demographic group in Canada, have a big influence on the funeral services market. "The baby boomers are dealing with their aging parents. So this is targeting the boomers for their parents funerals and their parents' friends funerals," he said.  Foot also noted that people in their 70s and 80s are also likely to watch a channel such as that because they watch more television the older they get.  "What I don't know is the psychological impact of something like this. Are people going to find it morbid or respectful?"

 Nathalie Samson, secretary general of the Quebec Corporation of Funeral Directors, shares the same concern.  "It would have to be done in a very tasteful way," she said. "But it could be a good idea because we see more and more tribute videos and photographs at funeral homes and on YouTube," Samson pointed out.  Trends regarding the funeral industry in Canada show families are seeking personalized and meaningful ceremonies that celebrate the life of the deceased, she noted. Her association, as well as the Quebec Cooperative of Funeral Homes, have not been contacted by Dominique about the TV obituary project.

 Dominique said he talked to a few funeral home owners who "really liked the idea".  "I think there is definitely a market for this. Funeral homes and related services don't have anywhere to advertise," he said, noting that it represents a market of $320 million a year in Quebec.  Viewers who tune into Je me souviens would also see documentaries on the life of popular or important individuals.

"My goal is that no death goes unnoticed," Dominique said.

For this full article, visit the Montreal Gazette at 


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