- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kirk Browning, 86, Lincoln Center director

NEW YORK (AP) — Kirk Browning, who rose from music librarian at a television network to become the award-winning director of the enduring series “Live From Lincoln Center,” died Sunday of a heart attack at his Manhattan home. He was 86.

In a career spanning 58 years, Mr. Browning directed 185 broadcasts of “Live From Lincoln Center,” winning 10 Emmys, and orchestrated such pioneering works as Frank Sinatra’s first TV show and the world premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” the first opera written for television.

He never retired, and in recent weeks began work on another “Live From Lincoln Center,” a New York City Opera production of “Madama Butterfly,” to be broadcast March 20.

Mr. Browning, a New York native, began his career filing musical scores at the NBC music library. Rising swiftly at the network, he directed live telecasts of the NBC Symphony led by Arturo Toscanini and later the NBC Opera Company.

Along with his Lincoln Center Emmys and three prime-time Emmys for other productions, Mr. Browning earned two Christopher awards, a CITA award and a George Foster Peabody award.

Frank Piasecki, 88, aviation pioneer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Frank Piasecki, inventor of the tandem-rotor helicopter used in troop-transport missions and land-and-sea rescue flights, died Monday at his home in Havertown. He was 88.

Mr. Piasecki’s wife, Vivian, was with him when he fell ill. He had suffered several recent strokes, said his son, John Piasecki.

Mr. Piasecki was born in 1919 in Lansdowne, Pa., and was involved in the earliest days of helicopters. Igor Sikorski became the first American to build and fly a helicopter, in 1941, and Mr. Piasecki became the second, in 1943.

In the 1940s, Mr. Piasecki invented the twin-rotor craft that was developed into the Army Chinook and Navy Sea Knight helicopters, which still operate today. The Chinook was used for long-distance troop-ferrying in Vietnam in the 1960s, and newer models continue to fly special-operations missions.

Mr. Piasecki eventually left Piasecki Helicopter Co. In 1955, and formed Piasecki Aircraft Corp. to continue exploring new technology. Piasecki Helicopter became Vertol Aircraft Corp. and was acquired by Boeing in 1960. Boeing now manufactures the Chinook and Sea Knight helicopters at its Ridley Township, Pa., plant.

Mr. Piasecki was still chief executive of Piasecki Aircraft, and testing is under way on his latest invention. In place of a sideways-facing tail rotor, the Speed Hawk helicopter has a rear-facing ducted propeller, designed to improve stability and forward speed.

Freddie Bell, 76, early rock ‘n’ roller

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Freddie Bell, a forerunner in the 1950s rock ‘n’ roll era whose toe-tapping versions of “Giddy Up A Ding Dong” and “Hound Dog” inspired Elvis Presley to cover the songs, died Sunday in a Las Vegas hospital from complications of cancer. He was 76.

Mr. Bell was performing at the Sands casino-hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in the mid-1950s when Mr. Presley was just an opening act across the street at the New Frontier. Mr. Bell’s upbeat covers, and perhaps his knee-wiggling dance moves, inspired Mr. Presley, his publicist Norm Johnson said.

Mr. Bell came to Las Vegas in 1953 from his hometown of Philadelphia and was considered one of the great lounge acts of the time, alongside the trio of saxophonist Sam Butera, Louis Prima and Keely Smith, Mr. Johnson said.

Mr. Bell also appeared in a number of films, including “Rock Around the Clock” (1956) starring Bill Haley.

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