Mossbacks to Remember

A salute to people who shaped our corner of the world before they left us in 2002.

WAYNE CODY, 66. Dubbed the Mound of Sound, the fat, bearded TV personality was the celebrity in Seattle in the 1980s. He was so ubiquitous that even an ad campaign built around his diet asked us to "Watch Wayne Disappear." In anticipation of the importance of the software industry, Cody pioneered the use of computer predictions in his sportscasts, proclaiming, "I don't like it; reverse it!" if he didn't care for the computer's call. Today, local sportscasters are generally corporate clones or radio loudmouths, and Cody's hammy showmanship is refreshing in retrospect.

RICHARD DANGEL, 60. As a member of the seminal Northwest rock band the Wailers, Dangel played the guitar solo in the early version of the anthemic "Louie Louie," the song that launched a zillion garage bands and influenced a generation (or two or three) of musicians. The song is arguably the region's greatest contribution to rock and roll, and a micro history of regional rock can be traced by comparing the various renditions, from the Wailers on. The version by the Sonics audibly anticipates grunge by two decades.

ALBERT CANWELL, 95. An unrepentant Red-hunter, former state legislator Canwell will live in infamy as Washington state's Joseph McCarthy. His investigation of "communists" at the University of Washington destroyed lives and careers and is a shameful episode in our history.

DR. LAURA CAMERON FRASER, 70. Ordained in Seattle in 1977, she was the Pacific Northwest's first female Episcopal priest. She later left the church to pursue her own New Age spiritual path, which included studying the channeled teachings of an entity named "Jonah." Tall, impressive, sometimes almost painfully honest and naive in her spiritual quest, she also embodied the restlessness some mainstream Christians feel when their sects stray far from religion's mystical elements.

RICHARD HOLMES, 73. The "death with dignity" advocate in Portland who challenged U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's outrageous interference with Oregon's enlightened assisted-suicide law.

GROVER KRANTZ, 70. The Washington State University anthropologist was the country's leading expert on Sasquatch and one of the few scientists who believed the creature might exist. Krantz, who long wished for a Bigfoot body to study, willed his own skeleton to the Smithsonian.

RAY L. WALLACE, 84. The Centralia man whose family says he started the Bigfoot craze when he faked the creature's 16-inch-long footprints in Northern California in 1958. Undoubtedly, the real Sasquatch is having the last laugh.

KEITH MCCAW, 49. The McCaw family earned a multibillion-dollar fortune, notably building McCaw Communications into a cornerstone of the cellular-phone revolution. A publicity-shy man (a high-school nickname was "the Invisible Man"), McCaw enjoyed the trappings of wealth, including the hot tub at his Seattle waterfront estate where his body was found.

DARRELL OLDHAM, 64. Co-founder of Seattle Weekly, co-founder of the national Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, Seattle Times exec, and mentor to many in Seattle's publishing community, Oldham is sorely missed. He had the rare opportunity to establish and define a new industry that now includes over 100 newspapers.

JACK OLSEN, 77. The tough-as-nails "dean of true-crime authors" (as he was dubbed by the Washington Post), Olsen was the nationally acclaimed author of more than 30 books. The Northwest provided a rich field for subjects close to home. They included Spokane serial rapist Fred Coe, featured in Son; Bellevue serial killer George Russell, whose life was detailed in Charmer; and Keith Hunter Jesperson, Oregon's so-called Happy Face Killer in I: The Creation of a Serial Killer.

PEG PHILLIPS, 84. The Woodinville character actress famed for her portrayal of the shopkeeper in the locally filmed TV series Northern Exposure, a show that helped give the Northwest a high "quirky" quotient during the '90s.

JACK ROBERTS, 64. The TV pitchman drilled his way into local consciousness with goofy appliance commercials that included what might as well be his epitaph: "I won't be undersold!"

SCOTT SHUGER, 50. Slate columnist Shuger established the "Today's Papers" column as a must-read summary of the morning headlines.

GEN. CHARLES "COBURN" SMITH JR., 95. Gen. Smith commanded Allied army HQs for both Generals Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mark Clark during World War II in Sicily, Italy, and North Africa. After retiring from the military, he worked as an administrator at the Lakeside School. When I learned that such a distinguished soldier was working at my school, I buttonholed him for an interview for the student paper. He answered every question honestly and directly, showing me—an opinionated teenage anti-Vietnam war activist—that being an officer and gentleman were not mutually exclusive.

BARBARA BERJER, 82. Seattle-born and bred, my aunt Barbara left the provinces for New York and appeared in major Broadway plays, including co-starring in Dylan with Sir Alec Guinness. She also appeared on various TV series and was best known for her five decades of work in such soap operas as Guiding Light, As the World Turns, and Another World. She appeared in the pioneering soap From These Roots, which Tennessee Williams once claimed as a great influence on his work. When I was 12, she gave me a subscription to the Sunday New York Times for Christmas. If it weren't for that, I might not be writing this column.

kberger@seattleweekly.com

 
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