Category Archives: Remembrance

Robert Hessen (1936-2024), RIP

I have learned that my friend and colleague, Robert Hessen, died on April 15, 2024, at the age of 87. The Bronx-born economic and business historian earned his B.A. from Queens College, his M.A. from Harvard, and his Ph.D. from Columbia.

In the early 1960s, he was drawn to Ayn Rand’s work and became a contributor to both The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. Some of those essays were republished as part of Rand’s book, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. Upon Rand’s death in March 1982, Bob told the New York Times that Rand’s “moral defense” of capitalism “had an electrifying effect on people who had never heard capitalism defended in other than technological terms.” Rand “made it clear that a free society is also a productive society, but what matters is individual freedom.” For this reason, Bob maintained that “Rand has had and will have an enduring influence on people in numerous fields.”

Author of Steel Titan: The Life of Charles M. Schwab and In Defense of the Corporation, Bob spent years at the Hoover Institution and at Stanford University and in the 1980s, he was a featured commentator on Free to Choose, Milton Friedman’s PBS series.

I had my first personal exchanges with Bob when he joined the Board of Advisors of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies (JARS), commencing with the second of our 23 volumes, in the Fall of 2000. I never had the pleasure of meeting him in-person, but our correspondence and phone conversations over the years were always warm and informative. He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a gentle soul. He was intensely supportive of the critical, interdisciplinary work we were publishing in JARS. Our last phone call, in the spring of 2023, was memorable not only for its length but for the extent to which he encouraged me in all my future endeavors, as JARS was winding down after 2+ decades of publication.

The Hoover Institution posted additional information in a memorial notice:

“Bob is survived by his wife of almost 29 years, Karin Bricker, who was with him at his passing. Bob’s first marriage, to the late Beatrice Minkus Hessen, lasted 26 years until her death in 1989 and produced two devoted children, Laurie and John, who survive him. Bob was a loving stepfather to Devi Bricker and the late David Bricker, and the beloved grandfather of five. He was a profoundly kind, decent and thoughtful man, a lover of books, music and movies, a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and friend. He passed at Stanford Hospital following a period of illness. The family is planning a memorial celebration for later this year.”

For me, Bob will always be remembered as a source of inspiration, and I will miss him very much. My deepest condolences to his family and friends during this difficult time.

Additional comments and condolences can be found on my Facebook page.

Also see a lovely tribute to Bob by Reena Kapoor.

Bravo, John Sterling!

I’m convinced that John Sterling, long-time radio announcer for the New York Yankees, has pinstripes running through his veins. He called 5,420 regular season Yankee games and another 211 postseason games. Retiring, effective immediately, he’ll be recognized in a pregame ceremony this Saturday before the Yanks host the Tampa Rays at The Stadium. I’ll miss his iconic calls and warm sense of humor.

For an extra special treat, check out Sterling’s hilarious (and creative) home run calls …

Postscript (20 April 2024): The New York Yankees honor John Sterling at The Stadium today. This is a really nice interview with the sportscaster!

The Henry Mancini Centennial / Song of the Day #2115

One hundred years ago on this date, the great composer, conductor, and arranger Henry Mancini was born. Winner of four Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, twenty Grammy Awards, and a posthumous Lifetime Grammy Achievement Award, Mancini composed some of the most memorable scores and cinematic songs of the twentieth century—from his Peter Gunn TV theme and his iconic “Pink Panther” theme to his Oscar-winning scores for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and “Victor/Victoria,” from songs such as “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses” to “Charade” and “Two for the Road.” Countless Mancini songs have made their impact on “My Favorite Songs” list over the years. Today, Turner Classic Movies is running a 24-hour tribute to Mancini that began at 6 am (ET) with “Carol for Another Christmas” (a 1964 TV flick, which features one of my favorite Christmas themes) and will end with “Wait Until Dark” (a 1967 thriller with the Oscar-nominated Audrey Hepburn).

In honor of Mancini the Magnificent, this musical montage …

Song of the Day: A Tribute to Henry Mancini (Medley) [YouTube link], music by Henry Mancini, arranged by Calvin Custer, features the Florida Lakes Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Konstantin Dimitrov. The medley includes “Baby Elephant Walk” (from the 1962 film “Hatari!”), “Charade” (1963), “The Pink Panther” (1963), “Days of Wine and Roses” (1962), and the Peter Gunn Theme (from the 1959-1961 television series). On the one hundredth anniversary of his birth, we celebrate Mancini’s wonderful musical legacy.

Remembering Nathaniel Branden

On this date in 1930, psychotherapist and writer Nathaniel Branden was born. Back on December 3, 2014, upon his death, I wrote a heartfelt tribute to him: “Nathaniel Branden: Love and Friendship Eternal.” The generosity and support that he showed me and my family during some of our most difficult days is something I will never forget. He was a kind, humane and brilliant counselor, and a caring, loving friend.

I was first exposed to Nathaniel’s writings in my encounter with the nonfiction works of Ayn Rand. His pioneering exploration of the nature of self-esteem and its centrality to the project of human freedom and personal flourishing was both insightful and inspiring. And in the aftermath of his departure from the Objectivist movement, his eclectic therapeutic strategies were enormously helpful to countless numbers of individuals, who sought guidance for a life of authenticity and interpersonal visibility.

In later years, on the urging of Barbara Branden—another very dear friend—Nathaniel read a draft of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and made wonderful suggestions along the way. We spent countless hours on the phone and later met in New York City. Eventually, he made his way to Brooklyn with his then-wife Devers (who also became a cherished friend), and I took them for my celebrated tour of the borough. (And yes, they sampled everything from Nathan’s Hot Dogs to the Sicilian slices of L&B Spumoni Gardens!)  In 1999, my sister and I joined them both at their Beverly Hills home for a delightful evening.

Long before Nathaniel died, I told him that The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies would publish a symposium dedicated to his work. Sadly, he never lived to see its publication in 2016. That 300-page double-issue, co-edited by Robert L. Campbell and me, was the first anthology to assess Branden’s contributions. “Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy” (still available as a Kindle edition) featured sixteen contributors, including writers in academic and clinical psychology, who offered personal reflections and critical studies of Branden’s corpus.

I honor Nathaniel’s memory. I loved him and miss him very much.

Below are a few photos to mark today’s anniversary. Clockwise from the top left: Nathaniel and I were on the Boardwalk in Coney Island; together in Beverly Hills; in my Brooklyn apartment; and with Devers, in the shadow of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

Postscript: In the Facebook discussion that followed this post, I added the following points:

Many folks remember his years with the Objectivist movement, when he was a stern gatekeeper. Others are still fighting over the schism of 1968. My exposure to him as a writer and dear friend was far removed from those years. And my experiences with him were far from unique. I discovered his work when I was 17. As a senior in high school, the first book of Rand’s that I read was Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and Branden’s essays were some of the most illuminating in the volume, including his discussion of “Alienation” (upon which he expanded in The Disowned Self).

I had the occasion to comment on several of his books in manuscript in the 1990s and 2000s, and I always told him that his approach had become even more profoundly dialectical over the years, insofar as it stressed the fuller context of process and system.

One could find this even in his attempts to redress the balance of reason and emotion from his earlier work. The Disowned Self emphasized the importance of never disowning one’s emotions. While Rand certainly recognized the integration of reason and emotion, Branden stressed that not only was it important to think in order to feel, but it was necessary to “feel deeply … to think clearly,” rejecting any “notion that thinking and feeling are opposed functions and that each entails the denial of the other.” His work is chock-full of important insights.

There’s a reason why Branden is considered “the father of the self-esteem movement”—except his own deeply philosophical and psychological exploration of self-esteem is far ahead of any of the fad-like books commonly associated with the topic. The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem is an outstanding example of his wider, evolving corpus.

Brooklyn Tech – Class of 1984 Prom Memories

This weekend is the Brooklyn Tech High School Homecoming. Back on June 6, 1984, I was privileged to provide a mixtape for Prom Night at Les Mouches, a dance club in Manhattan, for the Brooklyn Tech High School Class of 1984. (Yeah, I had connections with Ski! 😉 ) I was just starting out with my mobile DJ’ing … and it was fun!

In honor of the 40th anniversary of that event, I digitized a 13+ minute segment from one of those mixtapes, which packed the dance floor. It’s on my YouTube channel. Check out the memories …

Sassy 100 – Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme

This is a postscript to my Medium essay, “Sassy 100: Celebrating the Sarah Vaughan Centennial“!

Today, March 27, 2024, to mark the actual date of the Sassy Centennial, an audio recording of Sarah Vaughan’s appearance with Mel Torme on The Merv Griffin Show, which aired on Metromedia Channel 5 in NYC (circa 1976-77), has been posted to my YouTube channel. Merv Griffin’s musical director, Mort Lindsey, leads the band. The only track that has been seen in video format on YouTube is the song “Oh, Lady Be Good!” I recorded this from my TV when it originally aired. The montage presents the songs performed on that show in their entirety for the first time:

  1. Someone to Watch Over Me – Sarah Vaughan (solo)
  2. Porgy and Bess Medley – Mel Torme (solo)
  3. Oh, Lady Be Good! – Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme (duet)
  4. I Got Rhythm – Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme (duet); an impromptu and fun jam session!

Sassy 100: Celebrating the Sarah Vaughan Centennial

Next Wednesday, on March 27, 2024, we mark the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of legendary jazz vocalist, Sarah Vaughan. My article in tribute to the Sarah Vaughan Centennial makes its debut on Medium today: “Sassy 100: Celebrating the Sarah Vaughan Centennial.”

Just as important, today is the debut on my YouTube channel of the full audio recording of Vaughan’s 1974 concert appearance, “In Performance at Wolf Trap,” which has not been heard or seen in its entirety in nearly fifty years. My Medium article discusses the concert, but Notablog readers can see the video montage I created here:

Looking Back 55 Years: Our Cat Buttons

On March 17, 1969, a neighbor’s cat gave birth to a litter of kittens and among them was our cat Buttons. He was the kitten we chose and in June of that year, he came to live with us. He was with us until March 16, 1987, when he passed away on the cusp of his eighteenth birthday. We have had other very dear pets in our lives—our dog Blondie, who lived for 16 years, and our adopted cat Dante, who lived for 17 years. None of them was as crazy as Buttons.

Buttons was insanely playful and mischievous, especially at the witching hour—when he would begin to run through the apartment like it was a marathon version of the Belmont Stakes. His favorite holiday was Christmas, no doubt—when he would routinely scale the Christmas tree. On one Christmas morning, my mother came into the bedroom, screaming: “Get up! Get up!!! Look what he did!” The living room looked as if it had been ransacked. The Christmas tree had been toppled and many of its decorations were broken, scattered throughout the room. The curtains were down. The curtain rods were bent. And our Christmas presents were buried somewhere underneath the avalanche. It is still a mystery how none of us heard what was going on in the middle of the night.

Destructive though he could be, he brought us countless hours of laughter and joy. We loved him very much. As with all our pets, Buttons was part of our family. On the fifty-fifth anniversary of his St. Patrick’s Day birth, here are three photos of Buttons and me (I was 9-10 years old at the time).

* H/T to my friend Kevin for the Photoshop!

Song of the Day #2114

Song of the Day: Go Away Little Girl, words and music by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, was a #1 hit in 1963 for Steve Lawrence, who died today at the age of 88. He and his wife, Eydie Gorme (who died in 2013), made a terrific singing pair. One of the most memorable performances of this song was Lawrence’s delivery of it on the United Cerebral Palsy Telethon in the 1960s. Singing to a little girl—who took the lyrics seriously and began to cry—Lawrence embraced her and assured her that he wanted her “to stay”. By the time the song ended, she was all smiles. It was one of the most poignant moments I’ve ever seen on television. RIP, Steve Lawrence. Check out Lawrence’s rendition of this song [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #2104

Song of the Day: One Hundred and One Dalmations (“Cruella de Vil”), words and music by George Bruns and Mel Leven, is sung in the 1961 animated classic by Bill Lee [YouTube link]. Selena Gomez rocked the song in 2008 [YouTube link]. It paints a lyrical portrait of the iconic antagonist in the story, whose name is a mixture of “Cruel” and “Devil”, ranking 39th on AFI’s List of “100 Years … 100 Heroes and Villains“. Growing up, long before I saw the film that I came to love, my Mom—who was definitely not Cruella de Vil—must have read me this bedtime story at least 101 times, from the 1962 volume, “Walt Disney’s Story Land“. (The Disney story and franchise were based on Dodie Smith‘s 1956 novel, “The Hundred and One Dalmations“.) It was one of my all-time favorites as a child. On this date in 1919, my Mom was born. And I’ll forever cherish all the stories she told, all the love she gave, all the laughs we had, and all the memories that remain deep in my heart.

Photo collage: Clockwise from top left: Mom in the 1940s; Dad, Mom holding me, and my godfather, Uncle Nick, after my baptism on June 11, 1961; Dad, Mom, and me at my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding; Mom and me in the late 1970s; Mom in the 1980s; Mom, me, and my sister Elizabeth, June 1988, New York University, my Ph.D. commencement in Washington Square Park; Mom in the 1990s; Mom at the center, always.