They come in threes.

Not Alan Rickman? Nooooooo, I loved him so. The perfect foil to Bruce Willis’ macho bad boy in “Die Hard.” The perfect villain in a million British costume dramas. He was always in on the joke, but never gave it away, which made his lip-curling sneer so wonderful. I haven’t seen more than 20 minutes of a Harry Potter movie, but I’ll treasure him in many, many others.

Sixty-nine is young these days. Probably a smoker. Bowie was a smoker. The sooner this habit enters the ashtray of history, the better.

And the third? You probably didn’t know him, but I did: Brian Bedford, Canadian stage actor extraordinaire. He was part of the company at Stratford, and played every role you can think of, always spectacularly. Another argument for the importance of the arts, right here:

Mr. Bedford was born on Feb. 16, 1935, in the mill town of Morley, near Leeds and Bradford, in Yorkshire — “a pretty awful place,” he told The New York Post in 1971, comparing it to Lawrence, Mass., another city that played a grim role in his family history. “Only much dirtier. Chimneys belching smoke night and day.”

His father, Arthur, was a postal worker; his mother, the former Eleanor O’Donnell, was a factory weaver. Two of his three older brothers died of tuberculosis. Sometime after Brian left home and began his acting career, his father took his own life.

“Suicide runs in the family,” Mr. Bedford said in a Times interview in 1971. “My father’s brother also committed suicide. He got a girl into trouble when he was 22, and in order to save face for both families, he emigrated to America, took a boat to Boston, went to a tiny place — Lawrence, Mass. — booked into a hotel and shot himself in the mouth.”

The austerity of his upbringing fostered a lively fantasy life. “I used to spend all my time pretending to be a radio,” Mr. Bedford said. He attended a Roman Catholic school in Bradford but left at 15, working in a warehouse by day and performing in amateur theater at night. At 18, he auditioned for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

And it’s the arts that certain elements of the education-reform movement would like to push aside in favor of more things that dollar up on the hoof, so to speak. Job skills, you know, not poetry and drama and other fag stuff. Fuck that noise; if it weren’t for the dream of escaping these grimy tank towns to play music or act or just to enjoy these things in an audience, a lot of kids like Brian Bedford would have ended up living and dying in places like Morley.

So with the death of these three artists, let’s look toward the tail end of the week. I have a big project to start writing, and so I will. Before I do, though, I leave you with the best SOTU analysis I have yet read. It’s pants-wettingly funny. Enjoy.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events |

31 responses to “They come in threes.”

  1. Deborah said on January 14, 2016 at 10:51 am

    “Bumpit of bigotry” too funny.

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  2. Jolene said on January 14, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Bumpit of bigotry is great, but I also liked the line about how her clothes illustrate the importance of the biblical injunction on mixing fabrics.

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  3. alex said on January 14, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Well, ya gotta wonder about Kim Davis. Is that her best effort at presentability or a deliberate show of disrespect?

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  4. Suzanne said on January 14, 2016 at 12:39 pm

    RIP Alan Rickman. The comments on the NY Times article today will make you cry. A class act, Mr Rickman.

    Unlike Mr Cruz who apparently “forgot” a half million dollar loan that he got from Goldman Sachs for his senate campaign. Such an outsider, that one.

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  5. Scout said on January 14, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    First Bowie and now Alan Rickman. Shit.

    Awesomely Luvvie is … awesome. Thanks for the pick-me-up. Her Kim Davis roast is one for the ages. Apparently Ms. Davis thought she was invited to an ugly Christmas sweater party instead of the SOTU, and being a bigot to boot, deserves every inch of the scorn being heaped upon her.

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  6. Sherri said on January 14, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Very sad to think I’ll never see another new Alan Rickman performance. His voice made me melt.

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  7. ROGirl said on January 14, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    The mullet of shame.

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  8. Dorothy said on January 14, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Ahhh but he wasn’t always the villain. Sense and Sensibility and Truly, Madly, Deeply really made me love him so very much!

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  9. Dexter said on January 14, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    Just seeing Kim Davis made me retch, but when Miss Edith was shown, and graphics told us she was from South Carolina, I thought “of course she is”, because I used to spend a lot of time in a few places like Chicago and Charleston (week-at-a-time vacations in Low Country) and we’d drive past Black churches and notice the ladies dressed a little similarly to Miss Edith but I never saw the glorified appearance to the degree Miss Edith showed.
    Before I noticed the screen graphics, I thought for sure she was an African queen perhaps, or some very high exalted leader somewhere. Well, she stole the show. Fucking Kim Davis reminded me of a lingering image that has horrified me in nightmares since 1968…that giant rattlesnake behind glass at a museum in Raleigh, NC. That goddam snake was an unhappy monstrous reptile, with not Bette Davis eyes…Kim Davis eyes. (give me a Sam Kinison scream!)

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  10. beb said on January 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Make of it what you will, but when it comes to questionable style sense Kim Davis’ husband wins it hands down. He showed up at media pressers during her imprisonment dressed in bib overalls, hopefully a T-shirt and a big straw hat. I think he was auditioning for the role of Jethro Bodeen. Seriously, no one dresses like that.

    Bowie and Rickman is kind of like Jimmi Hendricks, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin all dying at age 27. Will there be more famous actors dying at 69?

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  11. Jakash said on January 14, 2016 at 1:50 pm


    I was strolling — well, I guess that’s scrolling — down your Twitter path and saw you re-tweeted with endorsement Hank Stuever’s New Year’s Eve post “Everyone on TV doing a good job of saying TWENTY-SIXTEEN. You ‘two thousand’ rubes better get with it in the next 27 minutes.”

    As one of the chastened rubes, I wonder if there are any others here at nn.c. I submit that when it was 2000 through 2009, it made just as much sense to say “two-thousand eight” as “twenty oh eight”, since it was the same number of syllables. Plus, what’s the fun of being around for the turn of the millennium if one doesn’t say “two thousand” a lot?

    At this point, I suppose it does make sense to say “twenty-sixteen”, efficiency-wise and since we obviously always said “nineteen-whatever” and “fourteen ninety-two”, e.g., but I’ve only had about 6 years to warm up to the idea. ; ) Anyway, as another person responding to his tweet noted, all the rubes will probably come on board at least by 2020, since “twenty-twenty” is fun to say…

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  12. Brandon said on January 14, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Two-thousand-sixteen vs. twenty-sixteen: Only an extra syllable in the former.

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  13. nancy said on January 14, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    I don’t care how many syllables, it’s time to make this change. The worst thing about 2000 was how many people felt the need to add “the year” before it. The longer you keep saying “two thousand”-plus-number, the more you sound like the old geezer character in community theater: ::creaky voice:: “Yes, I reckon it was in nineteen-and-two, by cracky.”

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  14. Jolene said on January 14, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Many interviews with Alan Rickman online. Here he is chatting with Charlie Rose. Tons more in the others featured on this page, both longer and shorter.

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  15. Brandon said on January 14, 2016 at 2:37 pm

    Chacun à son gout. Back then, they’d say “nineteen hundred and …”, especially in formal language. E.g.,

    Apparently, people also said “nineteen-nought…”.

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  16. Jakash said on January 14, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    “like the old geezer character in community theater”? Let me count the ways…

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  17. Dorothy said on January 14, 2016 at 2:53 pm

    I’ve been on that Twenty Sixteen bandwagon for several years now. I’ve tweeted The Today show about it, asking them to smack Matt Lauer upside the head for continuing to say Two Thousand Sixteen. I haven’t noticed if he finally got with the program yet.

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  18. alex said on January 14, 2016 at 3:14 pm

    It’s time to just fucking say ’16.

    Rembember Expo ’67? the blizzard of ’78? The flood of ’82?

    I think most of us know what century we’re living in, except perhaps for those who watch Fox News or dress like Kim Davis, in which case saying twenty isn’t going to change their mind about it anyway.

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  19. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 14, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    I didn’t know Brian Bedford, but I saw him in four Stratford productions (maybe five? it’s been too long). Wonderful actor in Shakespeare . . . who left us himself 400 years ago this April — let the celebrations begin early, forsooth!

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  20. adrianne said on January 14, 2016 at 4:01 pm

    Thanks for the extended citation for the importance of the arts in Brian Bedford’s life. I imagine he’s not alone among working-class joes. (a touch of Billy Elliott there, I think). I really enjoyed him in everything he was in at Stratford. Lance’s favorite was him as Salieri in “Amadeus.”

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  21. jcburns said on January 14, 2016 at 4:31 pm

    Two twenty ought odd thousand and fifteen plus one score and seven and…I’m sorry, what was the question again?

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  22. ROGir; said on January 14, 2016 at 5:36 pm

    I don’t want to die, but I visited my 92 year old mother in a nursing home last Saturday and she didn’t know who I was. She thought I was nice, but she didn’t know why I came to see her. When you go out at age 69 you are still in control of your faculties.

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  23. marianne19 said on January 14, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    If you haven’t seen Alan Rickman with Juliet Stevenson in “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” try to find it.

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  24. Deborah said on January 14, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Well Trump is 69 so… Oh shoot I broke my New Year’s resolution again. Gotta remember “respect”.

    I threw my back out, talk about feeling old. I have no idea how I did it but it’s not getting better. I bought one of those wrap around things that the basketball guy advertises on TV. I’ve never had this back ache before.

    Also, today I realized that I have read “Housekeeping” by Marilynne Robinson before, many years ago. It was Little Bird who brought this to my attention today, we were in the car on our way to Abiquiu which is about an hour away, so a lot of time for conversation about all kinds of things. Somehow it came up and she also reminded me that I recommended that she read it when she was about 14. Anyway she still had my old copy and now I’m going to reread it. I do remember liking it a lot back then but I didn’t remember the author or the name of it at all. Also LB said they made a movie of it which I vaguely, barely remember with Lily Tomlin playing one of the main characters. I’m excited to reread the book now since I have recently read “Lila” and ” Gilead” by Robinson.

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  25. Dave said on January 14, 2016 at 11:32 pm

    ROGirl, my mother is 88 and barely knows us although she sometimes has a brief moment of lucid understanding. I have found it much harder than watching my father decline. He did, at least, know us.

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  26. Bill said on January 14, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    My brother died at age 69 in June this year 18 month after a diagnosis of liver cancer. A non-drinker, non-smoker, he suffered greatly in the last few weeks. I, and expect he, would have preferred a quicker, less painful death. If he did not recognize family members but was pain-free it would have been preferred by his wife and family. To me it’s a choice between a quick pain-free death even if being totally out of it. I know it’s difficult if family feels that they are not recognized, but quick and painless seem better.

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  27. beb said on January 15, 2016 at 12:17 am

    The day Bowie died blogger Kevin Drum (Mother Jones) posted a column about his father choosing to take his life when his cancer got too bad, and how Kevin, also with bone cancer is thinking about doing that when he gets too ill. Which, in California is something that can be legally done. It seems a weird synchronicity, Bowie dying of cancer and Drum talking about the realistic outcome of his cancer.

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  28. Peggy said on January 15, 2016 at 12:31 am

    Best line of the SOTU commentary: human tofu Kim Davis.

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  29. Peggy said on January 15, 2016 at 12:32 am

    Sorry. Didn’t read far enough. Mullet of Malice wins over Human Tofu.

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  30. Dexter said on January 15, 2016 at 3:00 am

    “Nineteen zero and nine”. That’s how they say it in west Texas, I kindly reckon.
    I just love the Coen’s masterpiece, ‘No Country for Old Men’. This is Barry Corbin’s scene at 2:20 in this clip:

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  31. Jolene said on January 15, 2016 at 4:00 am

    beb, not that it matters a great deal, but I think Kevin Drum was writing about his father-in-law, not his father. I was very sorry to read about Kevin’s circumstances. He’s one of my favorite political writers–always very understated, but exactly on target.

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