Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse dies aged 85
David “Dave” Prowse, the actor best known for playing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy, has died at the age of 85, his agent has said.
Agent Thomas Bowington said: It’s with great regret and heart-wrenching sadness for us and million of fans around the world, to announce that our client Dave Prowse MBE has passed away at the age of 85
Jason Joiner, an events producer who worked with Prowse, announced the death on a Facebook page dedicated to the actor, adding: “Dave was dedicated to meeting the fans for decades and lots of fans’ first ever guest they met was Dave in the early days of Comic Cons and collators’ events. Dave was larger than life and he will be so very much missed. Our love and thoughts go out to his family.”
Prowse was a former bodybuilder who had a series of roles as monsters and villains before being invited by George Lucas to audition for the roles of Vader and Chewbacca. He chose Vader and when asked why, replied: “Everyone remembers the villain.”
Born in Bristol in 1935, Prowse was, according to IMDB, raised by his mother and never knew his father. He developed a passion for bodybuilding and weight training in his early teens and competed in Mr Universe competitions, where he became friends with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. He also shredded phone books under the stage-name Jack the Ripper.
He won the British heavyweight weightlifting championship three times and was selected to represent England at the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia.
Prowse’s first film was 1967’s Casino Royale, where he played Frankenstein’s Monster. Although the casting was based on Prowse’s stature, he developed a strong interest in acting and decided to pursue it further. His CV included roles in A Clockwork Orange and many Hammer Horror films, and he was the personal trainer who prepared Christopher Reeve for the role of Superman in 1978.
Prowse was in the Vader suit for much of the Sith Lord’s screen time and reputedly even got to speak his lines on set, though his west country tones were dubbed over with those of American actor James Earl Jones in post-production, and many of the fight scenes featured British Olympic fencer Bob Anderson.
To add insult to injury, when Vader’s face was finally shown to audiences as he lay dying in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, producer George Lucas chose to cast the British stage actor Sebastian Shaw instead.
Prowse and Lucas later fell out, leading to Prowse being banned from official Star Wars activities in 2010
Despite the fame he won as Vader, Prowse said he was most proud of his role as the Green Cross Man in a long-running British road safety campaign, for which he was awarded and MBE in 2000.
In a column for the Guardian in 2014, Prowse wrote: “Many people will know me for being the ultimate screen villain, Star Wars’ Darth Vader. But being a “goodie goodie” and heading up the Green Cross Code campaign, helping to save thousands of lives has always been the ultimate honour.”
Reference: Guardian staff
Jerry Rawlings, Ghanaian strong man who came to power in a coup but introduced democracy – obituary
Jerry Rawlings, who has died, reportedly of Covid-19, aged 73, was a flamboyant air force flight-lieutenant who seized power in Ghana in a bloody coup in 1979 and, after a brief flirtation with democracy, mounted another coup at the end of 1981 – after which he held on for two decades, initially as a dictator, later as elected president, before eventually stepping down voluntarily in 2001.
Ghana was, in the mid-to-late 1970s, in a desperate state. Inflation was out of control and the country’s black market was becoming more important than its official economy. Rawlings subscribed to the popular view that the country’s plight was caused, not so much by mismanagement, but by corruption, and decided to take action.
His first coup attempt, in May 1979, ended in failure when he and six other junior officers were arrested, charged with mutiny, sentenced to death and jailed. On June 4, however, Rawlings was sprung from jail by a group of soldiers and immediately made his way to a local radio station where he announced he was forming an Armed Forces Revolutionary Council (AFRC) to oust the government of president General Frederick Akuffo and to hold power until democratic elections could be held.
From there, Rawlings and his supporters went directly to the president’s palace and assumed control. One of the new leader’s first actions was a symbolic one: he blew up the site of the central black market in Accra.
Rawlings and the AFRC ruled for 112 days and oversaw the execution by firing squad of eight military officers as well as three former heads of state: Akwasi Afrifa, Ignatius Kutu Acheampong, and Akuffo, as mobs in Accra bayed “Let the blood flow”. This was followed later by a wider “house-cleaning exercise” involving the killings and abduction of more than 300 Ghanaians.
In a later interview with the Daily Telegraph, Rawlings suggested that Ghanaians had become so angry after years of corrupt and inept rule that without a few killings the country would have exploded: “When you keep people in a state of subjugation and humiliation for so long, when they blow up they want your blood. That is the point to which my country was driven.”
Elections were held as promised and in September, after handing over power to a civilian politician, Dr Hilla Limann, Rawlings returned to his military duties.
But with the country crippled by a huge foreign debt and an annual inflation rate of more than 140 per cent, public discontent began to spill over into unrest and Rawlings reemerged into the political spotlight. As a result Limann’s government forced him to resign his commission and, fearing that he was plotting another coup (as indeed he was), kept him under close surveillance.
The coup, bloodless this time, came on the last day of 1981, and this time there was no talk of democracy. Rawlings abolished the constitution, dissolved parliament, declared opposition parties illegal, and installed himself as president.
Initially, he displayed leftist leanings part-inspired by a close relationship with Colonel Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, and his first years in power were tarnished by violence and intimidation as old scores were settled.
By 1983, however, Ghana was still in the economic doldrums, close to bankruptcy, and was struggling with additional problems of drought and criticism from human-rights groups.
As a result Rawlings executed a spectacular U-turn which saw him turn his back on Marxism, embrace the philosophy of free markets and implement a programme of reform which saw much of the state-controlled economy transferred to the private sector.
As harsh austerity measures began to bite Rawlings faced moves to depose him, and had to put down coups attempts each year between 1983 and 1987. His government jailed opposition leaders and at least one person convicted of plotting a coup was executed, bringing condemnation from human rights organisations.
But his reforms won Ghana substantial financial support from the West and by the end of the 1980s the country was being held up by the World Bank and the IMF as a shining example to the rest of Africa. In an eight-year period Ghana’s economy grew by an annual average of 5 per cent and gradually stability and security returned.
Charismatic and very handsome in his younger days, Rawlings had a rhetorical elan and an instinctive understanding of the popular will which, with economic success, won him huge public support. It was said that comparisons with the Messiah were not uncommon.
Having instituted a constitutional assembly to draft a new constitution, he lifted the ban on party politics in 1992 and, later that year, staged a presidential election, judged “free and fair” by international observers, from which he emerged the winner with 58 per cent of the poplar vote . Four years later he won a second term.
When Bill Clinton toured Africa as US president in 1999 to hail an “African renaissance”, he chose Accra as his first port of call, and Ghana as one of three countries, along with South Africa and Uganda, that pointed to a brighter future for the continent.
Barred by the constitution from a third term as elected president, Rawlings stepped down from the presidency in 2001 and was succeed by the opposition leader John Agyekum Kufuor, who had defeated Rawlings’s vice-president John Atta Mills in the presidential elections.
It was Ghana’s first peaceful and democratic change of government since the former colony of the Gold Coast won independence from Britain in 1957. Today, Ghana is considered one of Africa’s most stable democracies.
Jerry Rawlings was born Jerry Rawlings John in the Ghanaian capital Accra on June 22 1947 (the Ghanaian Air Force later switched his surname and middle name in an administrative error which stuck).
His father, James Ramsay John, was a Scottish pharmacist who had moved in the 1930s to the Gold Coast where he became a pillar of the expatriate community. He was married and Jerry was the result of a six-year clandestine relationship with Victoria Atbotui, a local woman of the Ewe tribe. John refused to acknowledge their son, his only child, right up until his death in 1982.
Jerry was educated at St Joseph’s Catholic Primary School ( he could recite his Latin catechism into old age) and Achimota Secondary School in Accra, where he excelled as a polo player. In 1967, at the age of 20, he joined the Ghanaian Air Force as a flying cadet. He was quickly selected for officer-cadet training at the Military Academy in Teshie. Two years later, he was awarded the trophy for the best student in flying and airmanship. He was commissioned as a Pilot Officer in 1969, and promoted to Flight-Lieutenant in 1978.
Rawlings remained an influential figure in Ghanaian politics after stepping down and took a number of international diplomatic posts, including as the African Union’s representative in Somalia.
Throughout his years in power, Rawlings cultivated the image of being not only a man of the people, but also a family man. In 1977 he married Nana Konadu Agyeman, with whom he had three daughters and a son.
Jerry Rawlings, born June 22 1947, died November 12 2020
Death of peace negotiator Erekat is a great loss for the Palestinian cause
Saeb Erekat was a fundamentally good person in a place full of hopelessness.
His death after contracting coronavirus is a personal family tragedy, of course, but the loss is much broader: the Palestinian cause has also lost one of its most energetic and dedicated public servants.
Of all the protagonists of the "two-state solution", the prominent peace negotiator was the most vocal and the most respected.
For decades he has been familiar to Middle East watchers.
In moments of violent inflection across the Holy Land, he would appear on the TV screens in interviews calling for dialogue and compromise.
Behind the scenes, though, he was the key Palestinian diplomat. Educated in California and in the UK, he became the chief negotiator and a central architect of the Oslo Peace accords.
Over that time, he made personal bonds with Israeli diplomats on the other side.
Moderate Israelis respected him and will miss his diplomatic presence.
Whenever we met, he would talk with passion about his home in Jericho and his large family. His children and grandchildren seemed to be at the heart of what motivated him: fairness, equality and peace for them.
I wonder if he was well enough in these last few days to learn that Donald Trump had lost the US election?
That would have provided him with some hope. He felt that under Mr Trump, hardline Israelis were emboldened and much damage was done in the region.
He worried that as his moderate Palestinian voice was silenced, a harder line vision would emerge.
I last spoke to him two months ago.
"Look, I was 12 years old when the occupation came to my hometown Jericho," he told me.
"I am speaking to you from the house I was born in in 1955... I am standing up with an empty chest facing Israel. I am standing tall with international law; the rule of law."
For a life and an admirable role in a region full of potential jeopardy, coronavirus seems such a cruel pointless twist.
'Buddha would be green': Dalai Lama calls for urgent climate action
The Dalai Lama has appealed to world leaders to take urgent action against climate change, warning of ecological destruction affecting the lives of billions and ruining the planet, including his birth country, Tibet.
As a call to action he has brought out a new book declaring that if Buddha returned to this world, “Buddha would be green”.
In an interview for Channel 4 News and the Guardian, the Buddhist spiritual leader spoke from the Indian city of Dharamsala, where he has been exiled for six decades. He warned that “global warming may reach such a level that rivers will dry” and that “eventually Tibet will become like Afghanistan”, with terrible consequences for at least a billion people dependent on water from the plateau “at the roof of the world”.
The 85-year-old Nobel peace laureate is considered by his followers to be the earthly manifestation of an enlightened one who has chosen rebirth in order to help liberate all living beings from suffering through compassion.
Lhamo Thondup, as he was named at birth, was discovered as the latest incarnation of the Dalai Lama when he was just two years old. He uses Zoom to communicate with people around the globe these days, unable to travel or invite visitors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
He insists, as he announced in 2011, that he is retired from politics and his leadership of the struggles for Tibetan freedom from China, and that ecology is now the thing that is “very, very important” to him.
In the week the Cop26 UN climate conference was to have been held in Glasgow, he says has high expectations of world leaders, and wants them to act on the Paris climate agreement.
“The United Nations should take a more active role in this field,” he says. Asked whether world leaders are failing, he says: “The big nations should pay more attention to ecology. I hope you see those big nations who spent a lot of money for weapons or war turn their resources to the preservation of the climate.”
The Dalai Lama says that if he joined a political party now, “I would like to join the Green party. Their idea is very good.”
The Dalai Lama has been known to put his foot in it with inadvertent enthusiasm, such as when he said it was possible he could be succeeded by a woman, but that she should be “very, very attractive”. He later made clear that he had meant no offence and said he was deeply sorry that people had been hurt by his words.
His suggestion for how to make world leaders see sense on climate change may also raise eyebrows, but again seems to be the product of a lively 85-year-old sense of humour. The Dalai Lama chuckles as he suggests we should lock them all in a room and “pipe carbon dioxide into it until they realise what climate change really means”. He explains that “people who have a certain luxury sort of style of life in a room without proper oxygen” would realise “it is very difficult”.
The Dalai Lama says he is in favour of large-scale tree planting to help tackle climate change. He also believes meat consumption worldwide should fall dramatically, but explains that since his own decision to go vegetarian in 1965, health problems have led doctors to advise him to resume eating a little meat.
He says his greatest personal contribution to fighting climate change is education and promoting the concept of compassion. The Dalai Lama is most passionate when talking about his idea of oneness among 7 billion people. “We see too much emphasis on my nation, my religion, their religion. That really is causing all these problems due to different religions and different nations are fighting. So now we really need oneness.” He even says he can now live as one with China, which he claims is “the biggest Buddhist population now”.
Nearing the end of this life, the Dalai Lama has not publicly explained how his reincarnation should be sought, or whether a 15th Dalai Lama should be found at all. He jokes that in his next life “I may be born on the Moon or Mars. Then I will starve.”
In the past he has raised the idea of being the last in the line of Dalai Lamas, perhaps to prevent China naming a politically cooperative successor. For now, he says he wants to leave that decision to others. “As long as I live I should be useful to help other people. Then after that, not my business. These are the concerns of other people.”
His advice for the rest of us living through the coronavirus pandemic is similarly practical, crediting an unnamed Indian scholar with the idea that “If there’s a way to overcome [coronavirus], then no need to worry. If there is no way to overcome, then it’s no use to worry too much either.”
Ken Hensley, songwriter with 70s rock band Uriah Heep, dies aged 75
Ken Hensley, the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist best known for his work with 70s rock band Uriah Heep, has died aged 75. His press representative said he had died “peacefully following a very short illness”.
His Uriah Heep bandmate Mick Box said he was in “deep shock … Ken wrote some amazing songs in his tenure with the band, and they will remain a musical legacy that will be in people’s hearts forever.” His brother Trevor wrote on Facebook: “His beautiful wife Monica was at his side and comforted Ken in his last few minutes with us. We are all devastated by this tragic and incredibly unexpected loss.”
As well as playing guitar and keyboards with the band – and helping popularise the latter instrument as part of an emerging harder rock sound – Hensley penned and sang lead vocals for one of the band’s key tracks, the stirring folk-rock song Lady in Black. He also wrote Easy Livin’, which was a hit across Europe in 1972, as well as a large number of the band’s other songs.
Born in London in 1945 and raised in Stevenage, Hensley came of age amid the British blues-rock explosion of the 1960s, playing in his early band the Gods with Mick Taylor, who would go on to join the Rolling Stones and John Mayall’s band; Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake & Palmer also passed through their ranks.
In 1969, Hensley joined Spice, who soon renamed themselves Uriah Heep. He spent a decade with the band, recording 13 albums with them that straddled prog, blues, heavy metal and more, before leaving in 1980. Their biggest chart hit came with Return to Fantasy, which reached No 7 in the UK album chart in 1975.
After he left, the 80s featured spells with hard rock bands he had influenced, including WASP, Blackfoot and Cinderella. As well as occasional one-off live reunions with Uriah Heep, he sporadically released solo material, including the ambitious Blood on the Highway (2007), an autobiographical rock opera featuring the Alicante Symphony Orchestra, hard rock vocalist Glenn Hughes, and more.
He had recently finished a new album, My Book of Answers, due for release in February.
Hensley is survived by Trevor and two other siblings Mark and Dawn, as well as his wife Monica.
Reference: Guardian: Ben Beaumont-Thomas
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