Mark O'Donnell

Tony-winning

co-writer of 'Hairspray'

Mark O'Donnell, 58, the Tony Award-winning writer behind such quirky and clever Broadway shows as "Hairspray and "Cry-Baby," died Monday in New York. His agent, Jack Tantleff, said the writer collapsed in the lobby of his apartment complex on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

O'Donnell won the 2003 Tony for best book of a musical for co-writing "Hairspray" with Thomas Meehan, and the pair earned Tony nominations in 2008 for doing the same for "Cry-Baby." Both were adaptations of movies written and directed by John Waters.

The story of "Hairspray" centers on an overweight white teenager who lives to dance on "The Corny Collins Show," Baltimore's version of "American Bandstand." She also wants to integrate its all-white environs, and, along the way, be accepted for her full-figured self.

"I'm the youngest of 10 children, along with my twin brother Stephen. That seemed to predispose me to outlandish comedy," O'Donnell said in a Contemporary Authors profile.

Born July 19, 1954, into an Irish Catholic family in Cleveland, O'Donnell attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and with his twin enrolled at Harvard University. He studied creative writing and wrote for the Harvard Lampoon and the school's Hasty Pudding productions. His brother Steve later became a TV writer for late-night host David Letterman and others.

Mark O'Donnell's other plays include "That's It, Folks!" "Fables for Friends" and "The Nice and the Nasty." He also adapted Georges Feydeau's "Private Fittings" for the La Jolla Playhouse.

He wrote two novels, "Getting Over Homer" and "Let Nothing You Dismay," as well as comic stories and essays.

"Theater is exciting because it is collaborative, but it is also exhausting for the same reason," O'Donnell said in a 2002 interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "I also write novels and cartoons and plays. It's like crop rotation for the mind."

John Phelan

 

NYSE chief calmed fears

after 1987 'Black Monday'

John Phelan, 81, who led the New York Stock Exchange into the modern era of competition and huge trading volumes, and provided calm at the center of the storm when stock prices crashed in October 1987, died Saturday in New York. His death was announced by the NYSE, which did not give the cause.

From 1975 through 1990, as vice chairman, president and then chairman, Phelan steered the NYSE through a period of growth, modernization and change.

During his tenure, the exchange spent hundreds of millions of dollars on technology to make trading swifter and less prone to error.

On what became known as Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 508 points, or 22.6%.