Tag Archives: obit

Al Hayden, saying goodbye.


I received word on Facebook, which was later confirmed, that my friend Al Hayden took his own life this week. Words simply fail me. It was an emotionally devastating moment to come home from Cold Wars, wondering why Al had missed a convention local to him, to discover he was in the process of deciding to end it all.

I admit I blinked back tears when I got word from Scott Muldoon late Tuesday night.  Facebook Instant Messenger is not the best medium to convey the news that a mutual friend had passed on, especially by suicide, but what can you do, it’s the modern age.  Maybe the modern age is what did Al in, I don’t know.  His health hadn’t been very good in the last three years.  He seemed depressed.  I know his father had passed on, and his finances were, erm, in disarray more often then not.  Maybe he had taken a good hard look at his future prospects and decided to check out.  Who can say?  I think Al would have preferred to have lived in simpler times.  His abundant imagination was more at home in a world of Big Steam Powered robots and zeppelins than in the modern world.

Al playing Sergeant Slaughter in Bun Bun Land in 2004 (wearing the Pith Helmet)

I know that the advent of Obamacare hit Al pretty hard, he posted many snarky comments on Facebook about losing medical coverage and  how expensive it had all gotten for him.  Maybe he was simply out of options.  We’ll never really know.  I have no idea if he left a note.

What I do know is that the world is a much poorer place without Al Hayden in it.  We live in a world where everyone is on edge, trying to one-up the next guy, to get over on them, to show off and have the last word at someone else’s expense.  That wasn’t Al Hayden.  He was content to smile, nod and let  you make a fool of yourself.  He was a kind, funny and sensitive man.  Not to mention incredibly talented, endlessly patient, wickedly humorous and bitingly sardonic.  I’ll miss him.  I can hardly recall putting on a game in the early 00s without Al participating in it somehow, if it was a PA convention.  Victorian Racing Contraptions, Psychotic Bunny-Murdering Galactic police, Cowboys and Zombies, Big Stompy Steam Robots.. Al was usually “all in” and suggesting ways to make the game better.   Al was a kindred spirit, a great collaborator and a close friend.

Al, I’ll never understand why you choose to do what you did this week. I really wish I had been around more for you,man, I really do. Go with God and may He bless you and keep you in His hand.

Old Warriors Pass.


Take off your hat.  TAKE OFF YOUR DAMNED HAT and show some respect.

This week witnessed the passing of two legendary wrestling “heels”, namely William James Myers and Oreal Perras.  I’m sure you won’t recognize these names.  They harken back to another era, when the WWF was an entertainment empire that flirted with almost being respectable.. when wrestlers would appear in sitcoms, MTV videos, and low budget movies.  This was the 1980s Wrestling Entertainment explosion, and it was very much a big thing– commanding the television sets on Friday nights and filling arenas to capacity. I was never a huge fan of any of it– I wrestled in high school and had that snobbish holier than thou attitude about it.  Still, it was damned entertaining– with scripted feuds, special effects and exaggerated choreography.  I always respected the skill on display– if you could launch yourself from a turnbuckle every night and land without a concussion, make no mistake– you had skill.

So back to Myers and Perras.  You might have known them as George “The Animal” Steele and Ivan Koloff.  Both of these guys were professional bad guys (or “heels”) in the glory days of the WWF


George Steele


Ivan Koloff

Both of these men had a long career in the world of WWF Heels.  George Steele actually drifted into the sport sideways, after getting a master’s degree at Central Michigan University(!).  He drifted into wrestling (from coaching at the college level) in the Detroit area for sensible reasons.. to make a couple of extra bucks.  Originally he fought using a mask and calling himself The Student (left).  Eventually he was discovered by Bruno SanMartino who recruited him into the big leagues of wrestling entertainment.  George Steele developed his “incoherent brain damaged” brute persona mainly at Vince McMahon’s urging.  With his bald head, heavy features and literally inches of fur covering his lower body (the man was hairy!), George must have come off as the Missing Link.  The irony was that he was quite well spoken, very well educated (in science no less), and took pride in delivering well articulated promotional bits.  This irked McMahon, who interrupted his taping one night and told him “he looked like an animal, he should act like one!”  Steele, as a joke, drooled and gibbered into the camera shouting “ook ook ACK!”and scampering around like a mutant monstrosity.  McMahon, of course, loved it, and thus, George The Animal Steele was born.  He earned everlasting respect for playing another wrestler, Tor Johnson, as he appeared in the Ed Wood films in Tim Burton’s ED WOOD.

Ivan Koloff debuted in 1961 as “Red Mcnulty”, an allegedly Irish wrestler from Dublin who sported a beard and an eyepatch (left).   He wrestled primarily in the Canadian organizations until 1969, when he started for the World Wide Wrestling Federation, managed by Captain Lou Albano.  Koloff’s specialty appears to have been training and developing teams of thematic “heels”.. creating long lasting team called “THE RUSSIANS” with Vladimir Petrov and Nikita Koloff (his “nephew”), and often teaming with “The Iron Sheik”.    Since Russians were perennial bad guys in the Cold War era, the heel teams became quite popular and were around for a long time in wrestling’s glory days.

Wrestling isn’t all just crazy choreography and overblown ham acting at the microphone.  There’s a dark side to the “sport”.  I will always remember an interview Rowdy Roddy Piper (who died two years ago, at 61). gave about the drug abuse, constant pain and loneliness of professional wrestling.  You can see a little of it here:

Piper had broken most of the bones in his body (including his back) on multiple occasions. He played through the pain in situations that were downright dangerous. At age 49, he was back in the sport that he frankly detested, because he didn’t have a way of making a living– like so many of his colleagues, the sport had used him in the heyday, chewed him up and spat him out. In the last ten years, we have witnessed a startling amount of early deaths, murders and suicides by current and past wrestlers. I remember watching the entire interview with Roddy Piper on Sports Extra.. and my heart went out to the man. Pro wrestlers are like prostitutes. They use up their bodies and health for the vicarious pleasure of strangers until they can’t any more, and then they (usually) die.

I have to hand it to both Steele and Koloff– they had long and amazing careers in the WWF and successor organizations, and both of them managed to do something that wrestlers rarely do, life past 70.

RIP, George and Ivan. I hope the pain has finally gone away.

C.J. Henderson, a late farewell


C.J. Hudson, RIP December 26, 1951 – July 4, 2014

I just was on the BALTICON website and noticed C.J. passed away last Summer.  I won’t let me being late to the party dissuade me from saying a few nice things about this man.

“C.J. doing what he liked to do,
shamelessly huckstering books
at a convention.

C. J. Henderson might not be a name to conjure with for SF, Noir and Horror fans, but if you are a regular attendee of East Coast Science Fiction conventions, chances are you have met C. J. Henderson, and if you’ve met him, you’ve chatted with him.   C.J. was a fixture in the dealer’s room, author panels, and autograph lines of most East Coast Cons that I attended from the early 2000s onward.  I admit, I am a spotty SF Con attendee at best, and my focus is usually on the book dealer’s room.  C.J. was usually to be found there, willing to go that extra mile to sell something, anything.. and engage in polite palaver along the way.  I could tell his health was not great at the last Balticon I attended, but I had no idea how serious it was.

I don’t know much about C.J.’s personal life, other than my observations about him being a genuinely nice guy that I liked to talk to about once a year at Balticon.  I do know he wrote the kind of stuff I like to read.   Pulp Stories.  Science Fiction stories.  Occult Detectives.   Horror in all formats, including comic books.  Weird Fantasy.  He was an acknowledged master of revisiting (but NOT rebooting) established pulp heroes of yesteryear and breathing new life into them.   He wrote stories featuring the Spider (Master of Men!), Green Lantern, and other pulp stalwarts.  He was fascinated with Kolchak, the Night Stalker TV show, and wrote several novels with Kolchak as a main character.  He had his own occult detective, Teddy London.  He wrote Werewolf Stories and Steampunk Stories and Vampire Stories and pretty much anything you can conjure up in the genre fiction field.  And yet,  I don’t think he got the notice or acclaim he deserved in his lifetime.

If you have a Kindle device, try him out for a piddly .99 cents.   I think you’ll be glad you did.

Sincere (and late) condolences to C.J.’s wife Grace and daughter Eric.   My deepest sympathies.

Gameopolis Podcast: Farewell to Jeff. Sad tidings


Obit.
As I’ve stated on this blog in the annual podcast review (twice), one of my favorite, if not top favorite gaming podcasts is GAMEOPOLIS.  I have always enjoyed the candor, the humor and the witty observations made by both podcasters, Mark and Jeff, both of whom are from an age where many of their favorites were favorites of mine from a bygone era– Titan, Car Wars, Battletech, etc.

I don’t subscribe to any podcasts via Itunes, mostly because I don’t listen to them on a regular basis.  So I have missed some of the shorter podcasts here and there, like Gameopolis’ “car casts”.  They just looked like filler.  Unfortunately my cherry-picking listening habits created a situation where I totally missed something vitally important about this show.

Back in July of 2013, Jeff made a short “message from Jeff” announcement that was carried in the feed.  I didn’t download it, I figured it was an announcement about a delay or something like that.  Sadly, it was terrible news.  Jeff has been battling cancer for the last three years, and it had clearly taken a turn for the worst.  The doctors had exhausted their options and Jeff did not have a lot of time left.

July 2013: http://traffic.libsyn.com/gameopolis/Message_from_Jeff_July2013.mp3″

As I said above, I blithely didn’t realize the impact of that message, as I don’t subscribe.

Today, I was wondering if Gameopolis had done at least a smaller “session report” podcast after its last full length episode in the past month. It had, but on top of that was a short “Message from Mark”. This time it clicked. Uh oh.. message from Jeff, Message from Mark.. I had better download and listen. In what must have been a very emotionally draining Message from Mark episode (October 2013), Mark revealed that Jeff had passed away, a victim of cancer.

October: http://traffic.libsyn.com/gameopolis/Message_from_Mark_2013-10-28.mp3″

I’m glad they warned me at the beginning to not listen when I was driving. It’s odd how you connect with someone over the years. I’ve never met Mark or Jeff, never even communicated with them beyond a few encouraging emails now and then, letting them (Jeff, mostly) know that I was listening and really enjoying their show. And yet, Jeff’s departure leaves a little hole in the world.. a sadness that will heal in time, I’m sure, but right now it’s a very sad day indeed. So with prayers for Jeff’s friends and family, we say goodbye to a gentle soul, a great podcaster, and geek extraordinaire, Jeff. Funny. I didn’t even know his last name, and I’m all choked up now.

Mark is putting the show on hiatus while he considers his next moves. I hope to see him back in the world of podcasting in some fashion, even thought it will not be the same without Jeff.. that doesn’t mean it can’t be very good or even better, but it won’t be the same. Good luck to Mark, and my sincere sympathy and condolences to Jeff’s friends and family, even if they are getting it late.

Donald Featherstone: an Appreciation


Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

Cover of a a very ancient WARGAMES NEWLSETTER, dating back to the early 60s.

The word is being passed slowly from across the Atlantic that Donald Featherstone passed away yesterday. For all my non Geek friends, Don was a pioneer in the area of tabletop miniature game design (mostly of the historical flavor), or “wargames”. Don wrote dozens of books and articles on the subject– dating back to before I was born.  He published a very influential newsletter called, simply, WARGAMER’S NEWSLETTER which had its heyday back in the early 1960s.  I’ve owned and read many of Don’s books, but not all of them– there were so many on all sorts of historical subjects.  My personal favorites were his books on  Solitaire Wargaming, Naval Wargaming and Skirmish Games.   I’ve designed a lot of one-off miniatures games in the course of my adult life; virtually everything, including the silly stuff, has a soupçon of Featherstone’s influence in it somewhere.   The man to man Napoleonic game I’m working on right now, for instance, has equal dashes of Bruce Quarrie’s Napoleonic Wargaming for Fun and Don’s Skirmish Wargaming in it.  When you’re going to steal, steal from the best.

Don in an article from the early 90s.

I only met Don one time, during the mid 2000s at a HMGS convention– Cold Wars, I think. He was very frail but his mind was sharp and gleeful. I had drinks with Don and Bob Leibl and Cleo Hanlon. He was amused that people were always assuming he had already passed and used the phrase “rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated” at least once.  We didn’t really discuss wargaming or “the hobby” all that much.  As I recall, he was more interested in discussing football (not the American version) and some American television programs.  It was an odd tete a tete.

A reissue cover of a Featherstone title

If you haven’t read a Featherstone book, you really should.  They are mostly in the process of being republished in perfect bound trade copies by John Curry’s History of Wargaming Project.  Pricey but worth it– these are almost impossible to find unless you are a really dedicated deep diver at flea markets, boot sales and used book stores.  I couldn’t have picked up Skirmish Wargaming and Naval Wargaming without the History of Wargaming Project.  Thanks, John Curry.  It’s amazing and amusing about how much of our modern miniatures hobby can be traced back to Don Featherstone in England and Jack Scruby in America.  Everything.. including your latest hipster big-shoulderpad SF games, Fantasy games, D&D, etc.. everything… owes more than   a little to these men and the hobby they created with their tireless work and creativity.    Don Featherstone, for such a diminutive, soft-spoken fellow, wielded tremendous influence over the hobby back in its founding and  growth years.

A charming man, a great hobbyist and writer… I’ll miss Donald Featherstone.  In his honor, the OFM (on the Miniatures Page) is suggesting we run games that “don’t take themselves too seriously”.  What can I say?  I’m all in on this one.

Links:

1000D6 Tribute: Remembering artist Tobias Wong using dice.


Canadian artist and designer Tobias Wong died last year at the young age of 35, or more specifically, 13,138 days. In tribute, his friend Frederick McSwain created this immense portrait of Wong entitled Die using 13,138 dice as part of the BrokenOff BrokenOff exhibition at Gallery R’Pure in New York City.

Wong 1

Tobias Wong

Wong 2

Tobias Wong, from DIE exhibit

Wong 3

Tobias Wong tribute, from DIE exhibit

Dice as art medium, DIE exhibit, tribute to T. Wong

Dice as art medium, DIE exhibit, tribute to T. Wong

Images: Colossal Art and Design
McSwain: http://frederickmcswain.com/
On Tobias Wong: “The Mysteries of Tobias Wong” New York Times 6/27/10.

“DIE” Frederick McSwain Installation Time Lapse on VIMEO

RIP Charles S. Roberts


Charles Roberts

Charles Roberts, RIP

As noted in the Baltimore Sun, Charles Roberts passed away recently:

Charles Roberts RIP, Baltimore Sun

If you’re wondering who that might have been, remember the Charles Roberts awards that were awarded at Origins, and now at The WBC convention in Lancaster? That Charles Roberts. The creator of the modern wargame as we know it. The designer of Stalingrad, Tactics, Chancellorsville and many other hobby boxed games that were influential in the creation of a modern hobby gaming industry. The Avalon Hill Boardgaming company was also Charles Roberts’ creation, until he was forced to sell it to the Dott family of Baltimore. We owe much to Charles Roberts, even if he wasn’t active in the hobby as we know it for several years. RIP, Mr. Roberts!