Photo: This 1929 Cadillac hearse, exported to Argentina, is listed on EBay at Buy It Now for $35,000.
Queen of the Dead – dateline January 9, 2012
• Illustrators are right up there with starlets and socialites on the “people I am unhealthily obsessed with” list. The great Ronald Searle, 91, died on December 30. The British artist—with his cutely Satanic little beard—drew for The New Yorker and TV Guide, the British Life and Punch, did a series of St. Trinian’s girls’ school books which became a movie series; he did movie posters and title sequences—his swirly, detailed drawings are instantly recognizable (the Times compared him to Hogarth and the Telegraph to Bosch: “the humorist illustrator was a man of much darker vision who could find sharp things to say about global poverty, paedophilia or the war on terror”). Searle was a POW in Singapore during World War II, and later said, “it gave me my measuring stick for the rest of my life . . . all the people we loved and knew and grew up with simply became fertiliser for the nearest bamboo.”
• Another sad heads-up: it looks like the 131-year-old Eastman Kodak Co. may be filing for bankruptcy, “should it fail to sell a trove of 1,100 digital-imaging patents.” Kodak is $222 million in the red, which is more than I can loan them. The Wall Street Journal blames this on Kodak’s failure to keep up with Nikon, Sony and Canon in the digital field, and zillions of dollars of pension-fund payouts to 131 years worth of retirees. They coined the named Kodak (with the slogan “You press the button, we do the rest”) in 1888, and the Brownie camera of 1900 provided most of the older snapshots in all our family photo albums (remember photo albums? Digital camera and e-mail have put paid to those).
• Screenwriter Frederica Sagor Maas died on January 5 in La Mesa, Calif., at the age of 111. A New York native, she began working as an editor at Universal in 1918, and by 1925 was writing screenplays. Her credits include both silents (The Goose Woman, Flesh and the Devil, The Model from Paris, and Clara Bow’s It, The Plastic Age, Red Hair and Hula) and talkies (The Farmer’s Daughter, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim). She and her husband, producer Ernest Maas, were blacklisted in the late 1940s, and Sagor took jobs typing and editing. Her memoirs, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim: A Writer in Early Hollywood, were published in 1999. “I’m alive and thriving and, well, you SOBs are all below, because I’ve lived to 99,” she wrote. “And I quit the business at 50.”
• You are going to think I am a Montana militia member if I tell you I miss old-fashioned light bulbs, aren’t you? On January 1, legislation went into effect banning the import or production of the classic incandescent bulbs, leaving us with those new mercury-filled swirly ones, which are not flattering to a lady’s complexion, not at my time of life. Just when I need those forgiving frosted-pink 60-watt bulbs, the government enforces Prohibition—I am going to have to frequent light-bulb speakeasies in Hell’s Kitchen cellars and Harlem walk-ups. Smuggling old light bulbs in my skirt like a hip flask is going to do nothing for my girlish silhouette, I can tell you.