Joey Adams, 88, a veteran Borscht Belt comedian who also wrote prolifically about joke-telling. A Brooklyn tailor’s son, he was a New York fixture who made his show business debut in vaudeville when he was 19. Adams, a contemporary of Henny Youngman, Milton Berle and George Burns, became a regular attraction in the Catskills and later made frequent television appearances as a guest on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and “The Jackie Gleason Show.” Adams wrote a daily column in the New York Post that was faithful to his one-liner style. The column that appeared on the day he died was typical, as in the line that “People want to get shoplifting reduced from a misdemeanor to a necessity.” The comedian was married to Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams, who threw him some legendary birthday parties, memorable for their guest lists--including John Gotti, Bess Myerson and Imelda Marcos--and for Adams’ quips. “If you’re indicted, you’re invited!” he cracked at his 80th birthday bash at the New York Friars Club in 1991. Two years ago, he was the audience favorite in an otherwise poorly received Broadway version of the best-selling self-help book “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.” Adams himself wrote more than 20 books, including “Encyclopedia of Humor” and “The Curtain Never Falls.” As a goodwill ambassador for presidents, he conducted more than 30 foreign tours. He was a longtime president of the American Guild of Variety Artists and showed his serious side organizing a benefit for civil rights in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. The show, which featured such entertainers as Ray Charles and Johnny Mathis, drew 22,000 people, who had to bring their own chairs to a poorly lighted field at a local black university. It was Birmingham’s first fully integrated performance before an integrated audience. On Thursday of apparent heart failure at a Manhattan hospital.
* Robert W. Bingham IV; Writer, Newspaper Heir
Robert Worth Bingham IV, 33, heir to a Kentucky newspaper fortune. Bingham belonged to a glamorous but tragedy-plagued clan that owned the Courier-Journal and the Louisville Times of Kentucky for seven decades. The last male member of the storied Bingham family to practice journalism, Bingham was a writer who recently had completed his first novel. Known to friends as an adventurer who thrived on risk, he had spent two years as a reporter for the Cambodia Daily, a Phnom Penh-based newspaper. He made his fiction debut in 1992 with a short story published in the New Yorker. In 1997, Doubleday published a collection of his short stories titled “Pure Slaughter Value,” which explored the lives of “a new lost generation” of young adults--New Yorkers with trust funds, a honeymooning screenwriter with murderous intentions, lovers who meet in a drug rehab center. A Los Angeles Times reviewer said Bingham wrote “with elegance and economy and a wicked sense of humor” about characters who “float in a moral vacuum so profound that it seems unworldly.” His novel, to be published in May, is called “White Lightning on the Sun,” a thriller set in Cambodia and New York. On Sunday, Bingham was found dead in the bathroom of his home in the fashionable TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City. Although the cause of death had not been determined, pending histology and toxicology tests, authorities told the New York Times that evidence indicated he had overdosed on heroin. His death was the latest in a string of untimely endings in the Bingham family. His father, Robert Worth Bingham III, the assistant publisher of the family’s two newspapers, was killed in a bizarre car accident involving a surfboard in 1966 when he was 34. The younger Bingham was in the car with his mother and sister when the accident occurred. In 1964, his uncle, Jonathan Bingham, electrocuted himself while trying to string lights for a party at the family’s Kentucky estate. Bingham is survived by his bride of eight months, Vanessa Chase, his mother and a sister.
* Matt Cohen; Award-Winning Canadian Author
Matt Cohen, 56, longtime member of Canada’s literary establishment. Born in Kingston, Ontario, Cohen was a prolific author known for his experimental style in short stories, poetry and novels about the search for self-knowledge. He gained acclaim in 1969 with his first novel, “Korsoniloff,” about a schizophrenic assistant professor of philosophy who “cannot survive the consequences of his own existence.” It was the first of more than 20 books he wrote over three decades. Last month Cohen won his country’s most prestigious writing prize, the Governor General’s Literary Award, for his novel “Elizabeth and After,” which he began more than a decade ago and which concerns a man in his late 20s who returns to his hometown to reconnect with his estranged daughter. Cohen’s Jewish heritage often colored his work, as in “Emotional Arithmetic,” a 1990 novel about a reunion of three Holocaust survivors. The author was at work on a novel about a Jewish Austrian writer in 1930s Paris when he died. His other books include “The Sweet Second Summer of Kitty Malone” and “Last Seen.” On Thursday of lung cancer at his home in Toronto.
* Philip Elman; Former Federal Trade Commissioner
Philip Elman, 81, federal trade commissioner in the 1960s who was instrumental in forcing tobacco companies to post health warning labels on cigarette packs. An appointee of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, Elman became known on the commission for his independence and willingness to scold fellow commissioners and corporate leaders for harming the public interest. One of his chief victories was persuading the commission to rule in favor of health warning labels on cigarette packs and the banning of cigarette advertising on television and radio. Congress later amended the ruling, limiting legislation to labels on packs and later to advertisements. In 1970, after serving nine years, Elman said he was in favor of disbanding the FTC, once called a “rest station for the politically faithful,” in favor of a single commissioner accountable to the president and Congress. Upon his retirement, Elman was called in a Washington Post editorial “one of the best men to serve on any of the agencies in recent years.” His tenure as a trade commissioner was preceded by a long Washington career. He spent 17 years as an assistant to the solicitor general of the Justice Department, where he specialized in desegregation cases. He was the principal author of the Justice Department’s friend-of-the-court brief in the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education case. Elman, who won a Rockefeller Public Service Award in 1967, remained active in his retirement as a volunteer mediator for the District of Columbia Superior Court and as a visiting law professor at Georgetown University and the University of Hawaii. On Tuesday of respiratory and renal failure at a Washington hospital.