News Column

Hollywood Animal Trainer Who Became An Activist Dies at 69

Feb 20, 2013

Wire Reports

Pat Derby, a former Hollywood trainer for Flipper, Lassie and other performing animals who later devoted her life to protecting them after seeing widespread abuse, has died at age 69, her organization said Monday.

Derby, who had throat cancer, died Friday at her home in the biggest of the animal sanctuaries run by her organization, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, or PAWS, in San Andreas, Calif., outside Sacramento. Her partner and the organization's co-founder, Ed Stewart, was at her side, a statement said.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Derby worked on television shows such as "Flipper," "Daktari," "Gunsmoke" and "Lassie" and wrangled a pair of pumas, Chauncey and Christopher, that appeared with model- actress Farrah Fawcett in popular commercials for the Mercury Cougar.

Derby said she developed her training methods based on love and trust but was stunned by the abuse and neglect she saw among other trainers in the industry.

She often was the voice for performing animals, in recent years fighting primarily to get elephants out of circuses and zoos. Her 1976 autobiography, "The Lady and Her Tiger," was both a memoir and an expose of Hollywood's treatment of animals.

She began shifting her emphasis from training to activism, by 1984 opening the first PAWS sanctuary in Galt, Calif. Derby most recently made news when she coordinated flying three African elephants from the Toronto Zoo to the 2,300-acre PAWS sanctuary in San Andreas. The sanctuary also is home to lions, bears and tigers, but the elephants were closest to her heart.

"It had to begin with elephants," Derby wrote in her book. "I was born in love with all elephants, not for a reason that I know, not because of any of their individual qualities - wisdom, kindness, power, grace, patience, loyalty - but for what they are altogether, for their entire elephantness."

Shortly before her death, an African elephant at a sanctuary in Kenya was named "Pat Derby" in her honor.

British comedic actor Richard Briers dies at 79

British actor Richard Briers, an avuncular comic presence on TV and movie screens for decades, died Sunday in London. He was 79.

A former heavy smoker, he had suffered from emphysema.

Briers starred in the 1970s sitcom "The Good Life" as Tom Good, a man who decides to quit the urban rat race for a life of self- sufficiency in suburbia.

The show, which contrasted the back-to-the land Goods with their conventional neighbors the Leadbetters, made stars of its core cast - Briers, Felicity Kendal, Penelope Keith and Paul Eddington - and is regularly voted one of the greatest British sitcoms of all time. Broadcast in Britain between 1975 and 1978, it aired in the U.S. as "Good Neighbors."

Briars also starred in the comedy-drama "Ever- Decreasing Circles," the Scottish Highlands drama "Monarch of the Glen" and a host of other shows.

In later life he became well-known for Shakespearean roles. He joined director Kenneth Branagh's Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987 after deciding, he said, that "I had gone as far as I could doing sitcoms."

For Branagh he took on roles including King Lear, Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" and the buffoon Bottom in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

He also appeared in several Branagh-directed films, including "Henry V," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Hamlet," "Peter's Friends" and "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein."

Briers also was the voice of rabbit Fiver in the much-loved animated animal feature "Watership Down" and the narrator of 1970s children's cartoon "Roobarb."

On stage, he was associated with the work of British comic playwright Alan Ayckbourn, playing leading roles in "Relatively Speaking," "Absurd Person Singular" and "Absent Friends."

His latest film credit is in the recently released "Cockneys Vs. Zombies."

He said he had no desire to retire, but he complained in one of his final interviews that emphysema was slowing him down. "The ciggies got me. I stopped 10 years ago, but too late," he told the Daily Mail newspaper last month. "It's totally my fault. So, I get very breathless, which is a pain in the backside."

In 1989, Briers was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II for services to the arts.

Social worker who helped Holocaust survivors dies

After World War II, social workers typically urged Holocaust survivors to forget horrific wartime experiences and get on with their lives.

That struck Florabel Kinsler as foolish and impossible. During a decades-long career, the Los Angeles social worker and psychologist encouraged survivors to speak up about their experiences.

"Flo would never moralize or tell people how they should feel," said Sarah Moskovitz, a California State University, Northridge professor emeritus who collaborated with Kinsler. "By her compassion, ... she created an atmosphere of acceptance."

A pioneer in the treatment of Holocaust survivors and their offspring, Kinsler died Jan. 26 in Santa Monica, Calif. She was 83.

Kinsler received her master's of social work from the University of California, Los Angeles. For her thesis, she researched the effects on American soldiers of incarceration in prison camps during World War II. She observed increased levels of alcoholism and symptoms of mental problems that would now be called post-traumatic stress disorder.

While working at Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles, she noticed that a disproportionate number of older Holocaust survivors were struggling with broken marriages, alcoholism, and psychiatric and emotional problems. Kinsler became a sounding board for their stories of unimaginable horror. She counseled them to explore new adventures, travel or volunteer.

She also treated so-called child survivors - individuals who as children in Nazi- occupied Europe had been sent to concentration camps or had remained hidden or wandered forests to avoid detection. In addition, she treated the children of Holocaust survivors.

Kinsler shared her work at conferences worldwide and helped train generations of new therapists.

In the early 1980s, Kinsler sought out Moskovitz after reading her book "Love Despite Hate: Child Survivors of the Holocaust and Their Adult Lives." Together they organized a meeting for child survivors at what is now the American Jewish University.

Kinsler initiated regular group sessions for child survivors to share experiences and bond with one another. They became a model internationally.

"We found that people who had sat next to each other in high school never knew they were both survivors," Moskovitz said.

Source: (C) 2013 Tulsa World. via ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved

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