Who Gets A New York Times Obituary Write-up?
What do legendary blues and heavy metal guitarist, Gary Moore, rock album photographer Jim McCrary and playwright, screenwriter, author and jazz champion Max Wilk all have in common?
When they died, The New York Times did not cover their deaths in the obituary column. We all know space is limited, but these people were significant in their artistic fields, enriching the lives of countless others. It would be nice had the self-proclaimed “newspaper of record” recorded and noted their amazing lives. But The Times editors felt these people were not deserving.
The official policy about who the The Times decides to write up is :
When we look to see whether someone had made a newsworthy impact in some way — who “made a wrinkle in the social fabric,” — we don’t equate significance with fame. In point of fact, 9 out of 10 people we write about are indeed not household names (the 10th is — a movie star, a secretary of state). But that doesn’t negate their importance. Most made their marks in quiet ways, out of the public limelight, but they still made a mark, possibly on your life and mine.
So who is deserving?
Apparently an unremarkable low-life, graffiti tagger, StayHigh 149, a.k.a. Wayne Roberts , can get a full write-up.
Yes, Roberts definitely, as The Times puts it, “made a mark on your life and mine.”
More like a blemish.
Especially in New York City in the 1970’s when the city was bombarded with the eyesore of graffiti defacing public and private property.
As is noted in the obituary, this great man (sarcasm) in the 1960’s was working as a messenger on Wall Street and smoking about an ounce of marijuana a week, earning the Stay High nickname.
Inspired by other vandals tagging subway cars, he then began defacing public property.
Chris Pape a fellow graffiti afficianado says in the Times obituary:
“He (Roberts) rode empty trains all day with markers in his pocket, and he wrote everywhere.” By the early ’80s, Pape said, drugs had begun to take their toll. Roberts left his World Trade Center job, and his wife, because of his drug use. “He was a functional junkie who occasionally did time in prison for stupid things,” Pape said. “He was like that for 20 years. He didn’t want to be found.”
For some reason, I can only think of the millions of wasted dollars that it cost taxpayers to eradicate the vandalism this cretin created. As I have said before – graffiti is definitely not art.
This is the sort of person The New York Times chooses to cover in their obituaries?
For the record, when one of the most influential singers in heavy metal history, Ronnie James Dio, died on May 16, 2010, the following day The Times devoted 493 words to summing up his life.
Graffiti vandal Wayne Roberts had 838 words written about him.