1929 – 2014
Famed Irish-American baseball player and author Jim Brosnan passed away June 28 in Park Ridge, Illinois over complications from an infection. He was 84. Born in Cincinnati on Black Thursday, October 29, 1929, the day the market crashed, Jim was raised by an Irish father and German mother. He was an accomplished reader and musician in his youth and loved baseball, signing a contract with the Chicago Cubs on his 17th birthday.
Brosnan shot to fame as a pitcher in the major leagues playing for the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago White Sox. He had a lifetime 3.54 run average and once struck out Willie Mays three times in a single game. Jim was just as prolific off the field as he was on it. Donning a pipe and eyeglasses he was commonly known as “The Professor” for his intellectual style and love of writing. Brosnan’s breakout book was the The Long Season. Released in 1960, it quickly became a best-seller for the frank style in which it touched on such taboo topics as race, sex, and the politics of baseball. It was listed by Sports Illustrated in 2002 as one of the top 20 sports books ever written. He retired from baseball in 1963 at age 34, becoming a TV and radio broadcaster while also publishing book reviews and writing for Boys Life, Sports Illustrated, and The New York Times. He is survived by a brother, three children, and four grandchildren. – M.S.
1954 – 2014
Gerry Conlon, one of the members of the “Guildford Four,” passed away in Belfast on June 21st following a long bout with cancer at the age of 60. Conlon made headlines in 1975 when he was convicted along with Paul Hill, Carole Richardson, and Paddy Armstrong for the bombing of two pubs in Guildford that resulted in the death of seven people and multiple other casualties. Although Conlon and the others denied any role in the bombings and the evidence used against them was tenuous, they were sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1989, after fifteen years in prison, all four were set free following a campaign to have the convictions thrown out. It was later revealed that crucial evidence which showed none of the four could have been present at the bombings was ignored at the trial. A number of Conlon’s relatives including his father Giuseppe, known as the Maguire Seven, were also imprisoned for the bombings but were later exonerated in 1991. Conlon’s father, however, died in prison in 1980.
Conlon became a symbol of British injustice, with his family saying after his death that “it forced the world’s closed eyes to be open to injustice. It forced unimaginable wickedness to be acknowledged. We believe it changed the course of history.”
Conlon was born in West Belfast in 1954 and later relocated to London at age 20 to seek employment. Following his prison sentence, Conlon wrote a memoir that was later turned into the Academy Award nominated film In the Name of the Father that starred Daniel Day-Lewis. Adjustment to civilian life proved difficult for Conlon as he was constantly haunted by his time spent in prison, telling RTÉ this past March that “at the least drop of a hat, memories come flooding back.” A sense of healing was restored to Conlon and the other members of the ‘Guildford Four’ when Tony Blair publicly apologized for the incident in 2005, saying “I am very sorry that they were subject to such an ordeal of social injustice.” Conlon is survived by his partner, a daughter, and two sisters. – M.S.
Dermot Healy, one of Ireland’s great contemporary men of letters, passed away June 29. Healy’s sudden death at the early age of 66 came as a shock to many, but his artistic output will live on for many years to come.
Healy was a poet, playwright, memoirist and fiction writer whose work was praised for its originality, depth of feeling, and psychological insight. The Irish Times described his writing as “vivid and dreamlike with a generous helping of nightmare, Healy understood how the human mind ebbs and flows, invariably at the mercy that comes and can only be held at bay with liquor.” His style was unique and his work has been compared with the likes of Samuel Beckett, Flann O’Brien, and Ernest Hemingway; Seamus Heaney deemed him “the heir of Patrick Kavanaugh.”
Healy was born in Finnea, County Westmeath in 1947. His father was a policeman who worked near the border of Northern Ireland and as a result his childhood was one of constant upheaval. In his widely acclaimed memoir The Bend for Home (1996) he would write eloquently of his turbulent early life, telling The Guardian in 2011 that “it was a leap from a village to a town, from a familiar world to an alien one.” School life proved just as tumultuous, as Healy was expelled from school at age 15, later returning to study at University College Dublin only to drop out at the end of his first year. From there, Healy worked as a security guard at Heathrow airport and then spent fifteen years in London working odd jobs, but always keeping up his writing. He released his first book of short stories, Banished Misfortune, in 1982 and traveled between Belfast and Sligo before finally settling down permanently in Ballyconnell, Co. Sligo.
It was in Sligo where some of his best works were completed including The Bend for Home and A Goat’s Song (1994). Patrick McCabe called The Bend for Home “probably the finest memoir written in Ireland in the last 50 years” and Anne Enright commented that A Goat’s Song was “one of the big Irish novels…a wrangle, an existential tussle, one of those books that makes its own language.” Healy was also a noted poet and playwright; his last completed work was the poetry collection A Fool’s Errand in 2011 that had taken over 12 years to write and his plays included “The Long Swim” and “On Broken Wings.” Throughout his career he received the Hennessy, the Tom Gallon and the Encore literary prizes. He is survived by his wife Helen and two children.
When news of his death broke, tributes came from across the literary and political worlds in Ireland. President Michael D. Higgins said of Dermot that he was a “prolific and most original poet, novelist, and playwright,” adding he “had received the recognition and tributes which his work long deserved.” Minister of Arts Jimmy Deenihan released a touching tribute to the legacy of Healy remarking he was a “wonderful” talent and that he will be “remembered alongside the greatest Irish writers of any age.” – M.S.
1937 – 2014
Nancy Malone was a model, actress, director, and Emmy-award-winning producer who had been in the limelight since a photographer snapped her picture on a lark when she was still just seven-year-old Ann Moloney from Queens Village, Long Island (it was supposed to be her brother’s photo shoot). Four years later, she was on the cover of Life magazine’s tenth anniversary issue as the “Typical Amer-ican Girl.” She debuted on Broadway six years after that, at the age of 17, in the title role of 1952’s “Time Out for Ginger.” A representative of Malone’s confirmed her death from complications of leukemia in early May. She was 79.
Born on March 19th, 1935, Malone took acting seriously from an early age and throughout her 20s and 30s appeared in numerous live soaps, TV shows, and plays, sometimes simultaneously. After her early roles in shows like “The Guiding Light” and “The Naked City,” Malone moved to Los Angeles in 1965 and would go on to appear in acclaimed shows like “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Fugitive,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Bonanza,” “The Rockford Files,” and “The Twilight Zone.” But by the early 1970s, Malone was becoming disenchanted with the position of aging female actors, telling an interviewer for the book Women Who Run the Show, “I’d seen actresses getting to the age of 45, having nowhere to go except Bloomingdale’s or regional theater.” Moreover, she wanted to change the very roles being offered to actresses and turned away from acting to take positions behind the camera, first as a producer and later as a director, serving as the vice president of television at 20th Century Fox for three years in the mid-1970s.
Still, though a pioneer in the industry herself, Malone acknowledged that she was by no means representative and that even among women in the TV and film business there was still much growth that could be accomplished. So in 1973 she co-founded Women in Film, a group designed to provide a space to promote networking possibilities for female film producers, directors, and executives.
“The guys were helping each other,” Malone told Mollie Gregory for Women Who Run the Show. “We all saw how the guys went into the men’s room and came out with a deal. How do we find a way to move up without using the men’s room?”
As a producer she had several early hits that challenged the image of women in film, including 1975’s “Winner Take All,” a TV movie for NBC about a woman (played by Shirley Jones) with a gambling addiction, and “Like Mom, Like Me,” a 1978 TV film that gave a frank image of divorce. More unusual for the times than an actress-turned-producer however, was an actress-turned-director. But Malone shrugged off the stigma and quickly rose to critical acclaim behind the camera.
Her directorial debut was a joint venture with Linda Hope, daughter of Bob Hope, called “Those Were Times: Dear.” It was a low-budget PBS drama about Alzheimer’s but when it aired in 1985 it led to numerous other offers, including the popular British soap “Dynasty.” Producers were so impressed that they asked her back for a total of 15 episodes. She stayed in the director’s chair until the early years of the millennium, working on shows as varied as “Cagney & Lacey,” “Melrose Place,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Dawson’s Creek,” and “Beverly Hills, 90210.”
In 1993 however, she returned to her executive roots, again partnering with Linda Hope, to produce “Bob Hope: The First 90 Years,” garnering her an Emmy.
“With her unfailing good taste and a heart of Irish gold, I loved working and playing with her,” actress Tyne Daly, who was directed by Malone in “Cagney & Lacey,” told People magazine. “If there is a heaven, Nancy has arrived by limousine, and the first word out of her mouth was her personal favorite code word for the ‘innkeeper’ – ‘NURSE!’” – A.F.