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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Four Tops Levi Stubbs, Mr. Blackwell, Rudy Ray Moore, Dee Dee Warwick Clark Dark's Celebrity Round-Up

Clark Dark hear wearing mourning clothes again as I sadly report the passing of three very well known celebrities.

The rich, raw baritone voice of the front man, lead singer for the R&B group The Four Tops has been silenced by death. Levi Stubbs, age 72, died on Friday, October 17, 2008. The reported cause of his death is complications from cancer he'd been fighting since 1995 and a stroke he suffered in 2000. Stubbs is remembered by the surviving members of the group as a humble man. Unlike other lead singers at the Motown recording company Stubbs never wished to distinguish himself from his high school friends. They'd been singing together since 1954. Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Lawrence Payton, Abdul "Duke" Fakir and Levi Stubbs were The Four Tops. The group disbanded upon the death of Payton in 1997. Benson also predeceased Stubbs in 2005.
When Levi Stubbs sang "Still Water" with the lyric "my love for you how it runs so deep and true" you can hear the sincerity and believe he means every word of it. Another great artisit will be sadly missed.

Dee Dee Warwick, age 63, the sister of Dionne Warwick, passed away on Saturday, October 18, 2008 in a New Jersey nursing home. It is reported her sister was at her side when she died.
Dee Dee Warwick followed her sister's lead in choosing a musical career. During the 1960s she had mild success with the Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff tune "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" which was later covered by several groups including Diana Ross and The Supremes along with The Temptations. She most recently sang on the music track of the Tyler Perry film "Daddy's Little Girls". Warwick can be heard as the featured voice on the title cut from her sister Dionne's gospel album recorded earlier this year. The album is "Why We Sing" is available as well as recordings of her music from her years with Mercury and the ATCO labels. Her vocal talent will remain with us always.

Another comic entertainer passed away. This time it's news of the death of Rudy Ray Moore. He was age 81 when he died of complications from diabetes on Sunday October 19, 2008. Moore was a stand-up comedian who was known for an explicit comic style similar to the late Redd Foxx and the late Richard Pryor. He was last seen in the film role of character Dolomite in a the John Cafiero directed "Big Money Hustlas". Moore was previously featured on Big Daddy Kane's1990 release "A Taste of Chocolate";later in 1994 he was heard on 2LiveCrew's "Back At Your Ass For the Nine-4" As recently as 2008 Moore recorded the song "I Live For The Funk" in collaboration with his associate BlowFly who was there when Moore developed the character Petey Wheatstraw more than 30 years ago. Wheatstraw is a character who is offered the opportunity by the devil to return to earth after his death if he will marry the ugliest woman n earth, the devil's daughter. The Rudy Ray Moore comic stylings have been captured on video and audio to bring more laughs to another generation.

Last in this report but not least is Richard Blackwell who succumbed to death at age 86. This is a guy I find fascinating because he made a name for himself and a living by reviewing and critiquing--some say with unnecessary harshness, the fashion sense and appearance of myriad celebrities for more than forty years.He enjoyed modest success as a designer during the 1960s and into the early 1980s when the trend toward more casual dress saw a decline in the demand for designs from The House Of Blackwell. Blackwell had the distinction of having designed gowns for such popular actresses of the era as Yvonne DeCarlo,( of the tee vee show The Munsters), Jayne Mansfield, (late mother of CSI actress Maritska Hargitay), Dorothy Lamour, the female in the Bob Hope Bing Crosby road pictures), Jane Russell (it's rumored millionaire Howard Hughes designed lingerie for her), and fashion icon California first lady and former actress Nancy Reagan. Early in his career Blackwell wrote an article titled "10 Best and Worst Dressed" people for a magazine, and the rest is history. He developed the franchise from it. He's best remembered for his "Worst Dressed" list; he managed to sustain a successful career as a fashion journalist. He was syndicated in tabloid publications. His original articles were featured in newspapers and lifestyle magazines. Even his "Fabulous Fashion Independents" highlighted celebrities who in previous years were on his "Ten Worst Dressed" list. This conveys the idea Mr. Blackwell may have been more fair in his critiques than the media would have us believe. This aspect of Blackwell was not equally publicized.
Many celebrities who made the last of worst dressed were initially angered but then they realized the public relations value of being on the famous list. Several wrote letters of thanks to Mr. Blackwell. Mr.Blackwell's innovative list lives on today in the copycat format of lists or style watch-type articles in hard copy tabloid newspapers like the British Sun Newspaper or on the Internet at celebrity gossip news site like TMZ.here's what Blackwell said in 2007 of Jessica Simpson then number eight on the worst list: "Forget the Cowboys. In prom queen screams, can it get any worse? She's a global fashion curse!" Blackwell said this about Madonna (Mrs. Guy Ritchie) when she was number 4 on the list in 2000: "From ghetto glam to rhinestone cowgirl to Mrs. Guy Ritchie. Any way you label it, she's still just kitschy, kitschy, kitschy!"

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