Luis Posada Carriles, the anti-Castro militant and former CIA operative who made headlines for decades for his failed attempts to topple the Cuban dictator, died May 23 in Miramar, Fla. He was 90.
Posada spent nearly 60 years on a quixotic and often bloody mission to bring down Fidel Castro by any means possible. He was accused of using bombs and bullets in a crusade that took the lives of innocents but never did manage to snare that Cuban leader, who died at 90 in 2016.
Posada hopped from country to country, finding refuge in jungles, arming rebels, surviving stints in prison and living on the run off the largess of Cuban exile supporters, then dying a free man at a home for aging military veterans.
"My old tired heart has made enough rounds," Posada said in a jailhouse interview with the Miami Herald in Panama in 2003. "I'm going to eat my steak, drink my wine and struggle for my country. That will be my life's end."
But others saw it differently.
"He was an international terrorist of the first order," said Peter Kornbluh, the director of the Cuba Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, who spent decades collecting declassified documents on Posada's ventures.
Patricia Morison, an actress who combined ravishing beauty with cool sophistication, was promoted as the "Fire and Ice Girl" when she landed in Hollywood in the late 1930s. She appeared opposite some of the most popular stars of the era — from Spencer Tracy to "Tarzan" actor Johnny Weissmuller — but her career stalled from typecasting as a well-coiffed vamp.
Morison, who died May 20 at age 103, did not emerge to public recognition until returning to her Broadway roots in 1948 to perform in Cole Porter's "Kiss Me, Kate," which became one of the most popular stage musicals of all time.
She had won the leading role only after big names of opera and stage, from Jarmila Novotná to Mary Martin, had turned down what they assumed would be a hard-sell musical adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew."
"Kiss Me, Kate," co-starring Alfred Drake, was about battling ex-spouses — he's vain, she's tempestuous — who unite for a revival of Shakespeare's romantic comedy. An instant classic, the show ran for more than two years and won the Tony Award for best musical. The comedy also revived the reputation of composer and lyricist Porter after several flops and enshrined Morison in theater history.
Robert Osborne, the host of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, once called Morison "woefully misused" in films. One studio, ignorant of her background in musical theater, even dubbed her singing voice in the 1943 movie musical "Silver Skates."
But the qualities Hollywood had overlooked — Morison's skill as a mezzo-soprano, her droll presence, her feisty charisma — were on full display in the Porter show. New York Times theater critic Brooks Atkinson praised Morison as "an agile and humorous actress who is not afraid of slapstick and who can sing enchantingly."
Among the standards that Morison introduced were "So in Love," "Wunderbar" and "I Hate Men," a song Porter feared would turn the audience against her but in fact won ovations for her wickedly robust rendering while banging an ale tankard. (The score was awash in other future pop hits, including "Too Darn Hot," "Why Can't You Behave" and "Always True to You (In My Fashion).")
Morison reprised the role for a 1951 London production, followed by several TV performances. In 1954, she took over the Broadway role of Anna Leonowens in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I" starring Yul Brynner. They later toured nationally.
She often recalled fending off the less-than-subtle advances of Brynner, who once invited her to his dressing room — where she found him naked and in a lotus position.
"I didn't take my eyes off his face and said, 'You wish to speak to me, Mr. Brynner?' " she once told an interviewer. Her nonchalance diminished his morale. But, she added, "We ended up the best of friends.
Bernard Lewis, a pre-eminent scholar of Middle Eastern history whose work profoundly shaped Western views of the region — including fears of a "clash of civilizations" — but also brought scorn from critics who considered his views elitist and favoring Western intervention, died May 19 at an assisted-living facility in Voorhees, New Jersey. He was 101.
Lewis' prolific scholarship — including more than 30 books, hundreds of articles and competence in at least a dozen languages — traced fault lines that define the modern Middle East, such as sectarian divisions, the rise of radical Islamists and entrenched dictatorships, some backed by the West.
Lewis' friendship — and ideological kinship — with the Cold War hawk and Israel supporting Sen. Henry "Scoop" Jackson, D-Wash., opened prominent doors in the capital, eventually giving Dr. Lewis favored status among top White House and Pentagon planners before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
At the same time, Lewis' standing was under assault from intellectual rivals, especially in the heated political fallout from the 1973 war that left Arab armies routed by Israel. Lewis — Jewish by birth and uncompromising in attitude — increasingly became a target of detractors who ridiculed him as an embodiment of Western-centric arrogance and the West's attempts to remain the Big Brother of the Middle East.
Lewis repeatedly denied that he backed the invasion of Iraq, saying he advocated for greater aid to Western-allied Kurds in northern Iraq as a counterweight to the Baghdad regime.
"For some, I'm the towering genius," Lewis told the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012. "For others, I'm the devil incarnate."
Will Alsop, a British architect who brought zany playfulness and bold colors to his designs of commercial and residential buildings, subway stations and urban master plans, died May 12 in hospice care in London. He was 70.
A Falstaffian provocateur, Alsop believed that his visually spectacular projects brightened their landscapes, and that architects had a calling to inspire the public.
Alsop often said he was quite serious about having fun as an architect. In school, he was an acolyte of Archigram, a group of avant-garde, neofuturist architects in Britain in the 1960s who were inspired by pop art, science fiction and psychedelia. Architecture became a way for him to explore the fantastic.
Alsop designed the Peckham Library, in southeast London, in the shape of an upside-down capital L, creating an overhang supported by seven slanted pillars. One face of the library is sheathed in colorful glass; the others are clad in pre-patinated copper. The roof is topped by what looks like a giant orange beret.
While most of his successful buildings were in Europe, Alsop's effect was also felt in several projects in Toronto.
For one of them, the spectacular Sharp Center for Design at OCAD University, an art school, Alsop devised a two-floor slab for classes and offices, covered it in a crossword-puzzle-like pattern of corrugated black and white metal squares, and perched it nine stories above the ground, partly over an existing building, supported by a dozen lean, angled pillars of yellow, red, black, blue, purple and white. It was completed in 2004.
Glenn Snoddy, the studio engineer who was at the controls for the historic Nashville recording session that inadvertently produced the sound that became known as the fuzz tone, died May 21 at his home in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He was 96.
Though typically associated with 1960s rock — and maybe most famously with Keith Richards' fat, buzzing guitar riff on the Rolling Stones' 1965 hit "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" — the fuzz tone emerged from the studio session that produced the country singer Marty Robbins' otherwise euphonious 1961 single "Don't Worry."
A malfunction in the console through which the playing of electric bass guitarist Grady Martin was being transmitted caused the original fuzz tone effect. The low, reverberant sound produced by Martin's bass on "Don't Worry," which reached the country Top 10, was reminiscent of a rumbling car muffler.
Overriding the objections of Martin, who felt that another take was needed, Snoddy and Don Law, the session's producer, believed they had a unique sound on their hands.
Their instincts paid off, especially after Snoddy designed a device that could reproduce the tone on demand.
The resulting piece of equipment — a preamp commonly known as a fuzz box that was sold by the Gibson guitar company, for which Snoddy received royalties — allowed guitarists to change their tone from clean to dirty with the tap of a foot pedal.
Before long the fuzz tone had become a hallmark of '60s guitar rock, especially among its more psychedelic exponents, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. Loud and arresting, the fuzz tone was well suited to expressions of rock's more disruptive and rebellious impulses.
Faith Whittlesey, who was the highest-ranking woman on the Reagan White House staff during her time there and who helped lay the foundation for the religious right's enduring allegiance to the Republican Party, died of liver cancer May 21 in Washington. She was 79.
As a guardian of the conservative flame, Whittlesey sometimes vexed her more pragmatic and less ideological administration colleagues as she aggressively helped cobble together what became known as the Reagan coalition.
Between two separate terms as ambassador to Switzerland, she was director of the president's Office of Public Liaison from 1983 to 1985 and the only woman among the most senior White House staff members.
Whittlesey enlisted the support of evangelicals and other religious conservatives, disaffected blue-collar Democrats, the National Rifle Association and an array of other groups she believed had been insufficiently integrated into Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign.
Within the administration she echoed their concerns about a cultural and moral decline in the nation.
She won no fans among feminists. Whittlesey scheduled a screening of the anti-abortion film "The Silent Scream" at the White House, opposed the Equal Rights Amendment and warned that feminism was a "straitjacket" for women, having the effect, she said, of curtailing their legal rights in child custody and alimony cases.
"Ronald Reagan," she once said, "honored the role of full-time homemaker and her rights in Social Security and income tax in the face of elite feminists' demeaning of full-time mothers."
Whittlesey acknowledged that she had faced discrimination as a woman. In her last year at law school in the early 1960s, she said, she was advised not even to bother sitting for interviews when firms came to recruit. Later on, though, she said, her ideological leanings isolated her more than her gender.
"I find myself in many closed rooms filled with men," she was quoted as saying by Washington Post columnist David S. Broder in his book "Changing of the Guard: Power and Leadership in America" (1980), "but I'm rarely invited to women's movement functions, because I am pro-life and do not endorse feminist ideology of victimhood."
In the liaison office, she organized the White House Central American Outreach Group to document the Marxist orientation of the Sandinista guerrillas in Nicaragua.
Later, while acknowledging that she had worked closely with Lt. Col. Oliver North on the White House staff, she denied any connection with the Iran-contra scandal.
Discerning that she was on the losing side of White House infighting, she left in 1985, rejecting a federal judgeship. But she returned to the administration as ambassador to Switzerland.
She resigned as ambassador in 1988 to become president of the American Swiss Foundation, which this week described her in an online remembrance as "the Grande Dame of American-Swiss relations for almost four decades."
Per Kirkeby, a Danish artist who trained as a geologist before turning to painting quasi-abstract landscapes that were often characterized as neo-expressionist, died May 9 in Copenhagen. He was 79.
In addition to painting, Kirkeby worked in sculpture, drawing and printmaking, wrote and directed films, and constructed permanent outdoor installations from brick. He also published numerous books of poetry and essays on art, designed sets and costumes for New York City Ballet productions of "Swan Lake" and "Romeo and Juliet," and had credits for visual effects on three films by the Danish director Lars von Trier.
But the basis of Kirkeby's international reputation was his nature-inspired paintings, which were often seen as a continuation of the North European landscape tradition started by Caspar David Friedrich in the early 19th century.
Executed in earthy colors, they could evoke flattened stones, small boulders, skeins of vines and flowing water emerging from darkness — all slightly ajar and pressing forward, giving an ambiguous sense of slow-moving chaos.
"The light of ambivalence is a heavenly one," he once said.