A customized 1973 Oldsmobile hearse, listed on EBay at Buy It Now for $13,500.
Queen of the Dead – dateline July 23, 2012
• I adored Celeste Holm (who died on July 15, at 95) as an actress—she was warm and sharp and witty in All About Eve, Gentleman’s Agreement, High Society—often, she was the best part of her films, even in small supporting parts. But . . . when she died, I heard from several friends and acquaintances who had worked with her or knew her, and not a single one of them had a nice word to say about her. The same word cropped up a lot, but it was not “nice,” and “copper-bottom” was frequently attached to it. So I implore readers to post lovely stories about what a sweet, good-natured woman Celeste Holm was—let’s hear ’em!
• Among the many children’s series I grew up reading were the Encyclopedia Brown and Danny Dunn books (also a huge fan of the dark Moomin Valleys). Donald J. Sobol, 87, author of the Encyclopedia Browns, died on July 16. I only read the first few—he started writing them in 1965 and was still at it as recently as last year—but I recall them fondly. Ency and his pal Sally Kimball, the wonderfully named bully Bugs Meany (really, with a name like that, what choice did he have?). I pretty much aged out of them by the end of the 1960s (though I do have a complete set of Laura Lee Hope’s Moving Picture Girls series of the 1910s, kind of a crime-solving Gish sisters deal).
• John Campbell Arbuthnott, 16th Viscount of Arbuthnott, KT, CBE, DSC, JP (BVD, BPOE, NOKD), died at 87, on July 14. In addition to having a fabulous title, he served with the Royal Navy in World War II and apparently did a helluva lot for conservancy and for farmers in later life. He also served on a number of boards, the names of which fascinate me like shiny objects in front of a squirrel: The Red Deer Commission, The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, the Royal Commission on Historic Manuscripts (oooh, I want to join that one!), and The Worshipful Company of Farmers. That “KT” in his name means that he belonged to The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, too.I hope he at least got a funny hat for each one.
• Yet more dreadful news for us writers (and readers): The University of Missouri Press seems to be closing shop. I am a university press author myself (Kentucky), and couldn’t be happier with them: they publish books that major houses will not take on, and they are a huge step above self-publishing or vanity presses (Kentucky, for instance, gets me reviewed in major media here and abroad, has great distribution and promotion, and I actually make enough money to fund my next book). But “Half a dozen universities have closed or suspended their presses over the past three years,” says the New York Times. “ . . . they are usually money-losing operations. The presses at the University of Chicago, Oxford and Cambridge are the only ones widely believed to be profitable.” In a “we’re only sending the dog to a farm!” move, the University of Missouri insists the press is only being “reinvented,” and will be run by “four paid professionals and five graduate student interns.” I’m glad I had a good 20-some years of publishing before e-books and self-publishing came along.