Deaths Elsewhere

Deaths Elsewhere

February 03, 2004

Eddie Clontz, 56, longtime editor of The Weekly World News, died of liver and kidney disease and complications from diabetes Jan. 26 at his home in Salt Springs, Fla.

As editor of the outlandish national weekly tabloid, Mr. Clontz always knew what he would do if he received a phone call from someone who said he had a Martian living in his bedroom. It wasn't what other editors would do.

"I'd tell the guy, `Great, we'll send a reporter right over,'" Mr. Clontz said in a speech to the Florida Press Club some years ago.

Mr. Clontz operated in an alternate journalistic universe - one populated by space aliens, talking cats and gardeners who married their vegetables.

He turned an obscure woman's claim about the late Elvis Presley into a front-page headline - "Elvis is Alive!" - that sold more than a million copies of the paper and launched a nationwide frenzy of Elvis sightings.

Dubbed by the mainstream press as the King of Supermarket Tabloids and the Yoda of the industry, Mr. Clontz saw himself as something of a tabloid P.T. Barnum.

"We are a throwback," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2000, the year he left the tabloid. "We are a sideshow, and we've got to get people into the circus tent. So we will put the three-headed woman out there, and we will put the 1,000-pound fat guy out there."

At Weekly World News, Mr. Clontz encouraged his reporters to follow the axiom: "Never question yourself out of a good story."

"We don't sit around and make them up," he said, "but if we get a story about a guy who thinks he is a vampire, we will take him at his word."

Out of that philosophy came stories that inspired memorable Weekly World News headlines such as:

"12 U.S. Senators Are Space Aliens."

"Fire Breaks Out on the Moon."

"Blind Man Regains Sight and Dumps Ugly Wife!"

From his desk in the middle of the newsroom - in Lantana, Fla., during his heyday - Mr. Clontz kept his 18-person staff motivated with his booming baritone, raucous laugh and sense of fun that included donning a rubber dog mask.

Mr. Clontz took pride in writing the famous 1988 "Elvis Is Alive!" headline, whose subhead read: "King of Rock 'N' Roll Faked His Death and Is Living in Kalamazoo, Mich.!"

The Elvis edition became the tabloid's biggest-seller, gave birth to the Elvis-is-alive phenomenon and led to dozens of spin-off Elvis-sighting stories.

Andrew J. Kuehn, 66, a movie advertising pioneer whose creativity and innovation revolutionized the motion picture "trailer," died Thursday of complications from lung cancer at his home in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Mr. Kuehn, founder and head of the movie advertising company Kaleidoscope Films, over the last four decades conceived of trailers for an impressive array of American movies including Jaws, the "Indiana Jones" trilogy, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Schindler's List, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The French Connection, The Sting, Star Wars, Funny Girl, Aliens, Top Gun, Back to the Future and Witness.

He used smart writing, strong use of music and innovative editing to invigorate what had been the cliched genre of studio-produced previews.

"A trailer is two or three minutes long, about the length of a song, and I think of trailers as songs," he told The New York Times some years ago. "One of the hardest things to do when looking at a movie is to determine the overall tone, tempo, mood, pacing and rhythm of the trailer. They may not be the same as the tone and rhythms of the picture itself."

An example of his smart writing would be the line "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water ... ," which he used to establish the dramatic tone for the trailer for Jaws 2. The line, harking back to the seaside terror of the first Jaws film, became the buzz words for 1978 when the film was released.

Charlotte Zwerin, 72, who was in the vanguard of American documentary filmmaking for four decades as an editor and director and collaborated with David and Albert Maysles on the landmark Gimme Shelter, died of lung cancer Jan. 22 at her home in New York City.

Ms. Zwerin, whose documentaries frequently focused on visual artists and jazz legends, had a talent for structuring narratives in the editing room that earned her a co-director credit after she edited the Maysleses' 1966 documentaries Meet Marlon Brando and A Visit With Truman Capote.

Her most notable collaborations with the Maysles brothers as co-director were Salesman, a 1969 feature-length chronicle about four Boston-based door-to-door Bible salesmen; and Gimme Shelter in 1970, a feature-length documentary on the Rolling Stones' 1969 American tour.

The tour ended with the Stones' notorious free concert at Altamont Speedway in Livermore, Calif., where members of the Hells Angels, serving as security guards, brawled with out-of-control fans in the crowd of 300,000 and stabbed a teen-ager to death after the youth charged the stage with a gun.

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