Here's my annual New Year take on some of those who left us these last twelve months. As I always say, it's not intended to be a comprehensive list, because, as the late Diana Mosley used to drawl to me with aristocratic ennui, "People die non-stop" - which is very true. Partly for that reason, this year we introduced a regular obituary feature on the new audio Mark Steyn Show: Some of those eulogies have been collated into three Last Call specials. This holiday season I also hosted two audio collages saluting those who departed the scene in film and song, where you may find some of those not mentioned below. Otherwise, here come some of the passings I noted, sometimes for newsworthy reasons, sometimes for more personal ones, with more at the links - from various viceroys to not so strong strongmen, marchionesses to mononymous Mexicans, soldiers' sweethearts to socialist princesses:
MIKE ADAMS, not so happy warrior
He "seemed like" a happy warrior, but who knows? It's a miserable, unrelenting, stressful life, as the friends fall away and the colleagues, who were socially distant years before Covid, turn openly hostile. There are teachers who agree with Mike Adams at UNCW and other universities - not a lot, but some - and there are others who don't agree but retain a certain queasiness about the tightening bounds of acceptable opinion ...and they all keep their heads down. So the burthen borne by a man with his head up, such as Adams, is a lonely one, and it can drag you down... If you're doing the heavy lifting on an otherwise abandoned front of the culture war, what you mostly hear, as Mike Adams did, is the silent majority's silence - month in, month out.
The 7th Marquess of BATH, the loins of Longleat
The Baths are not your typical marquessate. As we neared the estate, my daughter noticed that the road was lined with billboards of huge lions – the lions of Longleat. The house has beautiful grounds landscaped in the eighteenth century by England's greatest gardener, Capability Brown, but it also has a safari park. It's said that when they applied for planning permission from the county, the council assumed that by "wild animals" the Baths meant wild deer, and were astounded when the lions started arriving. Surviving as a marquess in post-war Britain required a deal of wit and ingenuity. The seventh bearer of the title was a painter and writer and musician whose artistic endeavors earned him less fame than his ponytail and eccentric garb and the prodigious number of mistresses installed in estate cottages all over Longleat. He called them his "wifelets".
ORSON BEAN, record-breaking "Tonight Show" guest
He had bicycled to the restaurant from his home, which I would have found remarkable had he been twenty years younger. I had had a rather dispiriting time in California, in which everything that could go wrong did go wrong. And it was just sheer pleasure to redeem a rotten day with a man who was boundlessly good company and whose enthusiasms roamed far and wide. We had mutual friends-of-friends, as it were: He was a fixture on TV's "To Tell the Truth" with Kitty Carlisle, with whom I used to introduce the "Lost Musicals" series in London; he had been Tony-nominated for Subways Are for Sleeping, by Jule Styne and Comden & Green; and I had visited the Bond-villain-lair-like pad of Wilhelm Reich, the Austrian psychoanalyst of whom Orson had once been a devotee. I mainly recalled Dr Reich's philosophy as being something to do with harnessing the power of the orgasm as an alternative energy source, but Orson, who wrote a book on the subject, said there was more to it than that. It was like a great leisurely unhurried edition of a golden-age "Tonight Show" - the perfect end to an imperfect day
STEVE BING, lockdown victim
Steve Bing was a wannabe screenwriter (he wrote Kangaroo Jack) whose writing was mostly appreciated by Hollywood when it was on a large check with at least six zeroes on the end. He inherited 600 million bucks from his grandfather, and he used it to fund films like the animated feature Polar Express and Democrat politicians like the Clintons. To the public he was best known as the sometime squeeze of Miss Elizabeth Hurley. He threw himself out of the window of his 27th floor apartment in Century City because he was severely depressed by the "lack of human contact during quarantine". Wealthy beyond the dreams of almost anyone, friend of movie stars and presidents, but dead from the lockdown blues at the age of 55.
CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD, fearless crime reporter
She was not especially deferential to red robes: The last time I attended a trial with her, she repeatedly bellowed from the back that the judge should speak up, and, when the crowd proved too large for the public benches, demanded we be allowed to move forward and sit in unused counsel's chairs and the jury seats. She won that one.
Christie presented herself as a kind of Xtreme Sports version of The Front Page - originally written, of course, by two hard-boiled Chicago reporters. Among the enervated and antiseptic Windy City media of more recent times, Blatch and I found ourselves in a downtown courtroom covering the outrageous trial of our old boss Conrad Black. During one short recess, she was on her cellphone reading to some long-distance chum some observation of mine. As I passed by, she said, "Don't you just want to give him the world's best b***job for writing a sentence like that?" She appreciated a well-turned phrase, although not, as a practical matter, to the extent suggested. But she had learned her trade in a smoke-filled newsroom with a well-stocked beer fridge, and she thought coarse vulgar newshounds preferable to pompous high priests of a ludicrously self-regarding closed guild.
FRANK BOUGH, besweatered bondage aficionado
Frank Bough was a constant presence on British television for three decades, a genial avuncular fellow in an apparently endless supply of V-neck sweaters who was a master of live television. He hosted the BBC's flagship sports show "Grandstand", and its cozy teatime news magazine "Nationwide", and he launched the BBC's live breakfast show.
And then one day Britain woke up and there in the morning papers was Frank hanging upside down in a dungeon being whipped by his dominatrix while off his face on cocaine...
TIM BROOKE-TAYLOR, oldie but Goodie
I often feel double-barreled names can become a bit of a polysyllabic pile-up, but Tim's was unusually mellifluous - Tim Brooke-Taylor. At the age of five-and-a-half, he was expelled from primary school – and, having got his rebellious youth out of the system, sailed on to Winchester, and then Cambridge, where he was a star of the Footlights Club, whose other luminaries at the time included half of Monty Python – John Cleese and Graham Chapman. There were also two fellows called Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden, with whom he formed The Goodies.
Speaking of my own schooldays, there was a song we always used to sing after away rugger matches that we won. It went "Oh, Sir Jasper, do not touch me," repeated twice, and then "as she lay beneath the lily white sheets with nothing on but socks". With a very slight modification, the Goodies managed to turn that into a Yuletide hit, and with only a very slight cleaning up - "Father Christmas, Do Not Touch Me..."
Tim also spent half-a-century on the BBC's parody quiz show "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue", in which one was obliged to engage in parlour games such as singing the words of one song to the tune of another. You can hear him singing the lyrics of the lugubrious 1987 rock hit by the Smiths, "Girlfriend in a Coma", to that endearing tune of 1929, "Tiptoe Through the Tulips" here (toward the end), but here he is giving "Wuthering Heights" the full Kate Bush:
EDD BYRNES, up-and-combing star
Between the hair care and the hip talk, Edd Byrnes wound up with a hit record - in which Connie Stevens did most of the work:
HERMAN CAIN, immigration innovator
Once upon a time there was a businessman with no political experience who decided to run for the highest office in America with a bold and distinctive plan for the southern border:
It will be a twenty foot wall, barbed wire, electrified on the top, and on this side of the fence, I'll have that moat that President Obama talked about. And I would put those alligators in that moat!
On balance, I think we should have gone for the moat with alligators. On Thursday, that engaging and spirited man, Herman Cain, became the first American presidential candidate to die of Covid-19.
JACK CHARLTON, honorary Irishman
The duplicate transmission of the Ireland/Italy quarter-final is the most explicit recognition that, for purposes of football coverage, the south has been reincorporated into the United Kingdom. "We've all got our fingers crossed here," said Bob Wilson on BBC1, taking it for granted that Jack Charlton's lads were now an official home side. On ITV, Alan Parry struggled to maintain even-handedness: "Zenga has let in just three goals in his last 19 matches: a rather frightening statistic," he reckoned, adding belatedly, "...if you're Irish," which for the moment we all were. This is confirmation of the theory expounded by Brenda Fricker on returning from Hollywood to find her Academy Award being hailed as a great night for British film: "When you're drunk at the airport, you're Irish," she said. "When you win an Oscar, suddenly you're British."
RENÉE CLAUDE, chanteuse
I last saw Renée Claude a couple of years back at one of those tribute galas for Quebec musical personalities I used to enjoy going to before they closed the border – a soirée hommage, as they say. Mme Claude was gracious and charming and as beautiful as ever. She was a powerhouse hit maker in francophone pop, and a peerless interpreter of song. Almost all the singers who followed in her wake loved Renée Claude. Last year, when it became known that she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, twelve francophone stars who adored her decided to re-make a 1970s hit of hers as a tribute. They were all there: Ginette Reno, Diane Dufresne, Isabelle Boulay, Marie Denise Pelletier, Laurence Jalbert and Céline Dion:
FREDDY COLE, the king's brother
Freddy was the younger brother of Nat "King" Cole. Like Nat, he sang and played the piano – but, unlike Nat, he had to do it in the enormous shadow cast by his big bro, and that's not easy. I loved Freddy's voice, and economical piano, and was always happy to swing by if he chanced to be playing any town I happened to be visiting. Freddy Cole's record is the reason this song endures:
NICK CORDERO, ill-starred showman
In March the Covid came a-callin'. Nick Cordero was young, but he couldn't shake it off... March turned to April ...and they amputated his leg. And a Broadway showman who'd tap-danced at the Tonys to a Sue Stroman routine knew he'd never be doing that again. And April turned to May ...and they put him on a pacemaker, and you know you can't do eight shows a week on that. And May turned to June ... over ninety days trying to wriggle free of this thing...
JOHN CROSBIE, camel-gag viceroy
The Governor General can only speak, as I believe John Buchan was first to formulate, in "governor-generalities". The Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland, John Crosbie, took this advice so seriously that, when my old boss Conrad Black booked him to appear on a panel in Toronto a year or so back with Nigel Farage and me and expected him to give us his thoughts on foreign policy and the economic outlook, Mr Crosbie, as Her Majesty's viceroy, confined himself to twenty minutes of "Newfie" jokes concluding with one that ended "Look at the two assholes on that camel." Thus did he maintain the solemn and dignified non-partisan nature of the Queen's commission.
JOYCE DAVIDSON, Queen-disparager for a day
Joyce Davidson's real big break was not winning a beauty contest in Hamilton but insulting the Queen. She was just another CBC host until, down in New York, she chanced to be interviewed by Dave Garroway on NBC's Today Show about Her Majesty's six-week Royal tour of every Canadian province in 1959. And Miss Davidson replied that quote "like most Canadians I am indifferent to the visit of the Queen". The uproar back home was such that within days Joyce Davidson had quit the CBC and decided to pursue opportunities in America.
STEVE dePYSSLER, centenarian serviceman
Eight decades ago, before there was a formal United States Air Force, Steve dePyssler signed on as a private and became the only American known to have served in the following four wars: the Second World War, Korea, the First Indochina War, Vietnam. And then, after four decades of active service, Colonel dePyssler then gave the Air Force he loved another four decades of service, in the Retirees Office at Lousiana's Barksdale AFB.
Even after turning one hundred years old last year, he continued coming to work at Barksdale, determined to stick to his goal of providing meaningful help to at least one veteran every day – even though by then all the veterans were decades younger than him – as was the Air Force. The USAF is 73 years old. A 101-year-old colonel unsurprisingly confused some of the younger lads. He claimed to have held twenty other ranks en route to his final eminence, and people said the air force doesn't have twenty ranks. And then he'd explain that in World War Two there were six grades that no longer exist, and he held three of them.
MANU DIBANGO, Cameroon hitmaker
The biggest record ever to come out of Cameroon is by a songwriter saxophonist from Deewala named Manu Dibango. Number Thirty-Five on America's Billboard Hot One Hundred in 1973 – "Soul Makossa":
The Marchioness of DUFFERIN and AVA, mistress of Clandeboye
Lindy Guinness was the relict of the fifth Marquess of Dufferin, a mostly gay swinger whose appetites, in the early days of Aids, wound up extinguishing his marquessate. Lady Dufferin was also the daughter of one of my dad's dearest friends, Lady Isabel Throckmorton, and thus an occasional presence in my own childhood. In her long widowhood, she became an innovative châtelaine of one of the great estates of Ireland - and I had planned in March of this year to film part of a Steyn Show special there. Then lockdown descended, and now, with the death of the last Marchioness, the moment can never come again.
SAEB EREKAT, the peace negotiator who never negotiated any peace
For almost as long as I can remember, Saeb Erekat was, with his female counterpart Hanan Ashrawi, the acceptable face of the Palestine Liberation Organization. On the ground in the West Bank and Gaza, Yasser Arafat would be knee-deep in rent boys and the hardcore types of quote-unquote nationalists would be roaring about driving every last Jew into the sea, but there on CNN and the BBC would be the urbane bespoke Erekat smoothing over all the unpleasantness, the very model of a modern major house-trained peace negotiator. There was no peace, of course, and the act gets harder to keep up when it's all total bollocks.
Sir HAROLD EVANS, Palmerstonian surrogate
Evans followed his much younger and rather glamorous wife – Tina Brown of Tatler and Vanity Fair and The New Yorker – to the United States and become head of Random House, and chairman of The Week, but he never, I think, quite mattered in the great central thruway of affairs the way he had in his Sunday Times days. When I would give a talk in New York, Harry Evans would occasionally come along and, even better, ask good questions. I remember John Stossel asking me something at one such event and my responding with something to do with Lord Palmerston and the Don Pacifico affair. Harry then got to his feet and began with, "I rise in defence of Lord Palmerston..."
ROBERT FISK, foreign-affairs "expert"
Back in February, Fisk wrote a column headlined "Please Release My Friend Daniel Pearl". It followed a familiar line: please release Daniel, then you'll be able to tell your story, get your message out. Taking him hostage is "an own goal of the worst kind", as it ensures he won't be able to get your message out, the message being - Fisky presumed – "the suffering of tens of thousands of Afghan refugees", "the plight of Pakistan's millions of poor", etc. Somehow the apologists keep missing the point: the story did get out; Pearl's severed head is the message. That's why they filmed the decapitation, released it on video, circulated it through the bazaars and madrasas and distributed it worldwide via the Internet.
The message got out very effectively.
GEORGE FLOYD, the knee heard round the world
There are three strikes and then some against Minneapolis law enforcement. First, if you kill a guy for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill, you're doing it wrong. Whatever that is, it's not policing.
RUTH BADER GINSBURG, an American judge in jabots
On a sartorial note, I should add that I appreciate Sandra Day O'Connor and RBG, as the first lady justices of the Supreme Court, choosing to wear jabots. It is the nearest thing to proper judicial garb on the shockingly underdressed bench of America's alleged high court. Elena Kagan, of course, has abandoned the tradition, so whether it survives Madam Justice Ginsburg's passing is doubtful.
What I loathe, however, is the very idea of a "Supreme Court nomination battle". When judges become that important, you've lost the plot constitutionally. There's no point throwing off one guy in ermine to prostrate yourself before nine guys in basic black...
VALÉRY GISCARD D'ESTAING, acme of Gallic hauteur
For his part, the architect of the constitution - the former French president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing - was happy to pile on: why, even if the French and the Dutch had been boorish enough to want to vote no to the constitution, they would have been incapable of so doing, as the whole thing was designed to be way above their pretty little heads. "It is not possible for anyone to understand the full text," declared M Giscard. During his labors on the constitution, he'd told me he saw himself as "Europe's Jefferson." By referendum night he'd apparently become Europe's Jefferson Airplane, boasting about the impenetrability of his hallucinogenic lyrics. .The point is that his ingrate subjects had no need to read beyond the opening sentence: "We the people agree to leave it to you the people who know better than the people."
JULIETTE GRÉCO, attitudinal undresser
Lover of Sacha Distel and Miles Davis, Quincy Jones and Albert Camus, she was tortured by the Gestapo and inspired Paul McCartney's Franglais ballad "Michelle". Here's a song I always loved to see her do, by Gaby Verlor and Robert Nyel: "Déshabillez-moi", which means "Undress me."
It's not much musically, it's all in the attitude – "Déshabillez-moi. mais pas tout de suite/Pas trop vite"... Undress me, But not instantly, not too quickly... She was forty when she first sang it, and she sang it through her fifties, sixties, seventies, early eighties, late eighties... You've got to be very secure to pull that off, so to speak – and she was. Déshabillez-moi ... mais pas trop vite, prendre un demi-siècle ou plus:
The Hon DESMOND GUINNESS, scion of the beerage
The war years were tough on little Desmond Guinness. Aside from the murder of his grandfather, his own governess was said to be an MI5 agent keeping tabs on him. His mummy was jailed and he only saw her in visiting hours – because she was the wife of the British Fascist leader. That wasn't the fellow who sired Desmond, by the way: Mummy's first husband was Bryan Guinness, her second was Sir Oswald Mosley. As I often put it, she's the only person on the planet able to say that Churchill came to her first wedding and Hitler to her second.
BUCK HENRY, screenwriting survivor
In an industry of twelve-year-olds, Buck Henry somehow remained a Hollywood player until just shy of ninety. If you were the proverbial blonde so dumb she slept with the writer, you'd have made a good choice with him.
DICK HINCH, outgoing incoming Speaker
On the morning after election night, one of the few pieces of good news in my state of New Hampshire was that Governor Sununu had been re-elected, and that the GOP had taken the Executive Council, the State House, the State Senate, a fantastic sweep. As you just heard, Dick Hinch of Merrimack was named the new Republican Speaker of the House, and a couple of days later he held a celebration of the new GOP majority at the McIntyre Ski Area in Manchester. And he was attacked afterwards by the Democrats for insufficient masks and social distancing. He was the new Republican Speaker for just a week; he's now dead.
ROY HORN, in the eye of the tiger
Siegfried and Roy were born, respectively, in Bavaria and Lower Saxony, and both loved magic. But the wildlife side of the act came from Roy – his mother's friend's husband had started the Bremen Zoo, which gave a ten-year-old boy a rare opportunity to befriend wild animals. He met Siegfried on a cruise ship, they started a double act, and an impresario brought them to Las Vegas in 1967. They were kings of the strip for almost four decades – until the night Montecore the tiger brought the curtain down.
ZIZI JEANMAIRE, entrechat extraordinaire
In the mid-Fifties, she had a brief moment of Hollywood celebrity when she was brought over here for Hans Christian Andersen and Anything Goes. But that's not what she'll be remembered for. Here she is in her signature role of Carmen -and stick around for her entrechat sixes:
MICHAEL JEFFERY, action-man viceroy
I didn't really start thinking about the big differences between Canada and Australia until my fourth or fifth day Down Under, when, at a conference in Queensland, the Governor-General strolled over to say hello... What struck me was the startling character of the viceregal personage. He was (a) white; (b) male; and (c) a retired major-general of the SAS - ie, special forces.
What happened? A freak computer virus?
KAMALA, America's second most famous Kamala
Professional wrestling is all about the persona, and James Harris went through several generic ring characters – Superfly, Sugar Bear, the Mississippi Mauler – before he hit the one that stuck: Kamala the Ugandan Giant - with his bare feet, war paint, leopard-print loin cloth, African mask, a spear and sword. Kamala was supposedly a ferocious but simple-minded Ugandan who was discovered while working as a bodyguard for Idi Amin. He couldn't speak any English – which is odd, because to get a job with Idi in Kampala you'd certainly have had to speak it.
HERBERT KRETZMER, Les Miz man
Herbie gave me his thoughts on the relationship of words to music: "It's a question," he said, "of finding what Johnny Mercer called the sound of the music. You're trying to capture something as elusive as a sound ...which suggests a word ...from which, eventually, a complete lyric emerges." A lot of songwriters think that's making far too much of a meal of it: Just rattle it off and get on to the next one. But, if that's your standard, bits and bobs of lyrics can niggle away at you...
EDDIE LARGE, Light Entertainment heavy
"When they turned on the radio," said Eddie, "the first thing they heard was 'comedy legend dies'. I told them, as soon as they heard the word 'legend' they should have known it wasn't me."
Dame VERA LYNN, Forces' Sweetheart
I recall a rather depressing lunch presided over by Princess Margaret, at which I sat next to Dame Vera and her husband (and former clarinetist) Harry. But I was impressed by the way she sent back the avocado vinaigrette with the splendid dismissal "This foreign food disgrees with me." And I was rather touched to find that, despite her advance from Forces' Sweetheart to national icon, she still had a pronounced Cockney in her speaking voice.
Not when she sang, though.
TERRENCE McNALLY, cause celeb
"If a play isn't worth dying for, maybe it isn't worth writing"- Terrence McNally.
By the time Corpus Christi actually opened, the defense had somehow managed to reverse itself: if a play isn't worth writing, surely it isn't worth dying for. In the spring, the Manhattan Theatre Club had announced a new McNally work about a "gay Jesus-like figure." The Catholic League and other religious groups protested, the theater received a couple of death threats, and a few nervous corporate sponsors decided it might be wise to withdraw. At which point, the MTC cancelled the production. Now they were faced with protests from far more powerful figures, ones who knew how to get op-ed pieces on artistic freedom into the respectable newspapers—actors, directors, playwrights...
JOHNNY MANDEL, M*A*S*H music man
Many years ago I checked in to the Plaza Hotel in New York and, on my way out to an Ascap event just across Central Park, in the elevator down from my room, they were playing the theme from M*A*S*H. And when I got to Ascap the first person I chanced to see was Johnny Mandel, so I mentioned it to him. "Yeah," he said. "I'm pretty big in elevators."
HRH Princess MARIA TERESA of Bourbon-Palma, la princesa roja
Princess Maria Teresa has the distinction of being the first member of a reigning royal family to die of Covid-19. She was a cousin of the present King of Spain, but believed that her own branch of the family should have inherited the throne. She was known as "the red princess" - a lifelong socialist. A socialist princess was sufficiently rare for Maria Teresa to attract the courtly attentions of Yasser Arafat, Hugo Chavez and other charmers.
RAJENDRA K PACHAURI, warmographic novelist who got CO-tooed
In the interests of saving the planet, IPCC honcho Rajendra Pachauri demands the introduction of punitive aviation taxes and hotel electricity allowances to deter the masses from travelling, while he flies 300,000 miles a year on official 'business' and research for his recent warmographic novel in which a climate activist travels the world bedding big-breasted women who are amazed by his sustainable growth. (Seriously: "He removed his clothes and began to feel Sajni's body, caressing her voluptuous breasts." But don't worry; every sex scene is peer-reviewed.)
REGIS PHILBIN, man about town
Among Regis Philbin's many great achievements is a unique one: As you'll know if you heard our Presidents Day music special, he's the only man in history to put Donald Trump on his Christmas album.
BUCKY PIZZARELLI, seven strings and smiling
"Okay," I said. "He's played with Sinatra."
She was more impressed by that. "Who else?"
"He'll probably do 'Sing Sing Sing'."
"Yeah, right," she scoffed. "You can't do 'Sing Sing Sing' on the guitar."
POLLYCARPUS PRIYANTO, pilot and poisoner
In 2004 the BIN wanted the activist – Munir Said Thalib – dead. So how to bring it about? Pollycarpus, a pilot with Garuda Airlines, grabbed a seat on Munir's flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Singapore. He boards first, takes his business-class seat, and waits for Munir, a great hero to many Indonesians, to get on. And Pollycarpus winds up offering his business-class seat to Munir. The flight lands at Singapore, and Pollycarpus gets off the plane and flies back to Jakarta. The Garuda Airlines flight takes off for Amsterdam and shortly thereafter Munir starts vomiting...
JEAN RASPAIL, the west's prophet without honor
Jean Raspail was a courtly civilized man, a genuine intellectual, who won almost every garland the French state can bestow – the Grand prix du roman and the Grand prix de littérature from the Académie française – but the enduring clarity of Le Camp des saints moved him into a controversial character, even though, as he explained, his life's work was all of a piece:
You said I'm an explorer. I spent thirty years traveling among endangered peoples and civilizations, especially in Tierra del Fuego. I know very well what an endangered civilization is. I fought against it. A disappearing civilization has to defend itself before it disappears...
Flight Lieutenant JERRY RAWLINGS, not so strongman
It is said that in North America and in Europe Chinese Coronavirus deaths are being over-counted, and that may well be the case. In other parts of the world, such as Africa, it may be that they're being under-counted – I say that only because the extraordinary number of dead African celebrities and powerful politicians seems a little out of whack with the general population. The latest leader to succumb to Chairman Xi's gift to the world is Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings, the strongman of Ghana for much of the last forty years.
Rabbi Lord SACKS, man of moral clarity
No matter how many Christians Mohamed Muhammad Mohamot slaughters, we look the other way and worry about "Islamophobia". So the social-justice Pope issued a characteristically anodyne and generalized objection to "brutal terrorist attacks". It took a Jew, the former Chief Rabbi of the Commonwealth Lord Sacks, to get to the heart of the matter, addressing the House of Lords on the persecution of Christians. He quoted Martin Luther King:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Those "friends" are still silent.
REED SCOWEN, anglo and separatist
Mr Scowen is not a "Westmount Rhodesian" or an "angryphone", but a genial bilingual public official who's served his province at home and abroad... Between the soup and entrée, he delivered a lovely evocative paean to his backyard and the lie of its land—the Townships and the Beauce and the old bootlegging country of the North-East Kingdom of Vermont and New Hampshire's Indian Stream Republic. And sometime between the entrée and dessert, he casually mentioned that he thought it would be better for all concerned if Quebec and Canada went their separate ways.
Sir ROGER SCRUTON, backstabbed Tory
My anger has yet to subside: Nine months ago the greatest conservative thinker of our time was fired by a so-called "conservative" government for, as Andrew Roberts puts it, a thought-crime he didn't commit. Those of us who have been on the receiving end of campaigns to "de-normalize" one will recognize the toll on Scruton of last year's assault in his plaintive query to Douglas Murray when it was all (supposedly) over: "So do you think I still have a career?" Thus the attempted vaporization of half-a-century's work, and not merely by the left but by Brokenshire and Mercer and Osborne and all the other tuppenny-ha'penny twerps of a pseudo-conservative party. God rot them all.
PETER SUTCLIFFE, the Yorkshire Ripper
In January 1981 Yorkshire police stopped a man driving with a 24-year-old prostitute and fake number plates on his car. Claiming he was quote "bursting for a pee", he was allowed into a gentlemen's toilet where he discarded two knives, a hammer and a rope. The peelers had their man.
SUZANNE TREMBLAY, not so loyal Loyal Opposition
The incompetence or disingenuousness (according to taste) of Québécois nationalism reached its finest embodiment in Mme Tremblay, in whom the urge to nationhood was never so petty. She attacked Céline Dion for pursuing pop stardom in Los Angeles and Las Vegas rather than in Trois-Rivières and Shawinigan, she accused Joyce Napier of being an illegitimate Radio-Canada correspondent because she didn't have a proper francophone name. She derided Jean Charest, the Premier of Quebec, as being inauthentic because his baptismal certificate said "John Charest". In fact, his mother had taken him to the Irish priest and, being Irish and a little lubricated, he had heard her say "Jean" but written it down as John.
BARRY TUCKWELL, peerless horn player
I have a particular fondness for an LP he made of Jerome Kern tunes, and not all of them the ones you'd expect. On the one occasion we met he was delighted that I'd even heard of the album and we burbled away merrily about the selections.. Barry Tuckwell's art did not "turn its back on beauty" - and enhanced not just the great works but obscure trifles, too.
RON TUDOR, Aussie hitmaker
Australia didn't know it needed a twisting version of the Hokey Cokey, until Ron Tudor decided to satisfy that need.
CHARLES WEBB, novelist of The Graduate
He received $20,000 for the movie rights plus a ten-grand bonus, which isn't a lot for a film that grossed $105 million - which, adjusted for inflation, comes to three-quarters of a billion. So to make ends meet he and Fred ran a nudist camp in New Jersey, and later worked at K-Mart.
WALTER WILLIAMS, guest-host without peer
Walter preferred to guest-host on quiet news days, so he could give in effect a trenchant and often hilarious free-market seminar uninterrupted by political pipsqueaks and their transient concerns. One day, Bill Clinton decided to start bombing Yugoslavia, and Rush's chief of staff, our late friend Kit Carson, said into Walter's earpiece that, all things considered, the launch of a new war really was something you had to mention on air. So Walter announced that Nato was now at war with Yugoslavia and remarked, "Aw, there's always something crazy going on in the Balkans" – and then went right back to what he wanted to talk about.
Dame BARBARA WINDSOR, national treasure chest
Barbara Windsor survived the Carry Ons to become one of those "national treasures", indestructible by anything short of a paedo conviction (Rolf Harris). She's a beloved "Cockney sparrow" - or "Cockney sparrer" - and, given the East End's demographic transformation, may yet prove the last of the breed. Off-camera she seems to have led a livelier life than the somewhat numbingly repetitive plots of the Carry Ons. She was married for many years to Ronnie Knight, an "associate" of the leading London gangsters of the day, the Kray twins. Babs had a one-night stand with one of the Krays - I forget which, but presumably the one who wasn't gay - and tended to defend the order they brought to the rougher parts of the metropolis, plus their general charm. "Very gentlemanly, fabulous looking guys," she reckoned - unlike their victims. "They were two of the nastiest people that ever was on the earth, the two that they killed." So there. At the time she offered that judgment she'd just been appointed Sky TV's new "fairy godmother": "If there's something you want, write to Babs and she'll arrange it." And, if not herself, well, she has friends who can arrange almost anything...
Sir PEREGRINE WORSTHORNE, contrarian and snob
Peregrine Worsthorne was my sometime colleague at the Telegraph papers, and I rather liked him as both a columnist and as a drawling dandy of a media figure and I would have liked it had he liked me. But he regarded me as a ghastly colonial oik whose writing was "quite alien to the English ear". I'd take that from a seventeenth marquess, but Sir Peregrine was genetically speaking a Belgian, just like me but in his case his dad had changed his sinister foreign moniker and renamed himself after a village in Lancashire, and when you have as preposterously High Tory a handle as "Peregrine Worsthorne" one is obliged, I suppose, to live up to it.
ELIZABETH WURTZEL, one-hit wonder
Elizabeth Wurtzel was almost a parody of contemporary solipsistic shallowness. I met her a quarter-century ago when I was hosting a BBC show and she had a huge bestseller called Prozac Nation. This was her editor's title; Ms Wurtzel had called her memoir I Hate Myself and I Want to Die. Reading it, I hated myself and wanted to die: as one author to another, I felt that vicious pang of envy for a writer who has tapped perfectly into the zeitgeist.
JOACHIM YHOMBI-OPANGO, yet another not so strongman
Joachim Yhombi-Opango is the first former head of state to be killed by Covid-19. He was a Congolese strongman and a great survivor of Congolese politics, which is more than you can say for his predecessor, who got assassinated.
YOSHIO, mononymous Mexican
Yoshio is a Japanese name. But, in this case, it's appended to a Mexican. America has Madonna, Scotland has Lulu, England has Sting, Ireland has Dana, France has Dalida, and Mexico has Yoshio. His mother was Mexican, his father was a maker of so-called Japanese peanuts, which are nothing to do with Japan, but were invented by Yoshio's dad after emigrating to Mexico – you take a peanut and coat it in toasted wheat flour and soy sauce. Very popular in Mexico – but Yoshio decided peanut vending was not for him. So instead he did "My Way" his way:
...and we remember too the almost two million others dead from the Chinese Coronavirus.
~There were more who took their leave in these last days some of whom we may get to in the first days of 2020. But Mark Steyn Club members should feel free to add their comments on the departed of these last twelve months...
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