PASSINGS: Harold Garfinkel, Gerald Allison, Tom King, Ronald D. Asmus, Christian Ferry


Harold Garfinkel

UCLA sociologist studied common sense

Harold Garfinkel, 93, a longtime UCLA sociology professor whose groundbreaking work examined the importance of common sense in everyday situations, died April 21 of congestive heart failure at his home in Pacific Palisades, said his wife Arlene.


“He was one of the major sociologists of the 20th century,” said UCLA sociology professor John Heritage, who wrote a book about Garfinkel. “His main contribution was to essentially undermine and reverse a number of assumptions sociologists made of the world.”

Sociologists had believed that social contacts such as conversations were too random and disorderly to be studied and explained. “Garfinkel said we live our lives in detail with everyday interactions,” Heritage said. Garfinkel’s theories became a subdiscipline of sociology known as ethnomethodology.

Garfinkel, who joined the UCLA faculty in 1954, used “very original but bizarre-sounding procedures” to show the “tremendous body of common-sense knowledge we use,” Heritage explained.

In one example, Garfinkel’s students went to a grocery store and bargained for lower prices. They showed the importance of common-sense assumptions people used every day to make society work “by undermining them,” Heritage said.

Garfinkel’s 1967 book “Studies in Ethnomethodology” was “one of the 10 or so most significant books published in sociology in the last 100 years,” Heritage said.

Garfinkel was born Oct. 29, 1917, in Newark, N.J. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1939 from what is now Rutgers University. He received a master’s in sociology from the University of North Carolina in 1942, then served in the Army Air Forces until 1946 before earning a doctorate in sociology from Harvard in 1952.


Garfinkel became an professor emeritus in the late 1980s.

Gerald Allison

Architect designed luxury hotels

Gerald Allison, 78, an architect who designed luxury resort hotels throughout the world, died April 22 of gastric melanoma at his home in Newport Beach, his family said.

A principal partner in the Irvine-based firm Wimberly Allison Tong & Goo, Allison’s many designs included the Palace of the Lost City in South Africa, the Palace of the Golden Horses in Malaysia, the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, the Mansion at MGM Grand and the Venetian in Las Vegas, and Disney properties in Florida, Paris and Hong Kong.

The Lost City resort, which opened in 1992, “looks exactly like the ruins of an empire centuries old, except for a few features of modernity — like a casino and golf course,” The Times reported in 1999.

Gerald Lou Allison was born Oct. 27, 1932, in Seattle, the second of three children of C. Jay and Ruth Allison. He graduated from the University of Washington’s school of architecture with a bachelor’s degree in 1955, the same year he married Charlotte Nelson. The couple moved to Hawaii in 1957 and he joined a firm that is now WATG. Allison also served in the Navy reserve in Hawaii.


“Man, he’s a genius, are you kidding?” music producer Quincy Jones told The Times in 1999. Allison designed a home for Jones, a high school classmate in Seattle. “Out of the 100 hotels I love in the world, Jerry’s done 84.”

Allison opened the firm’s California office in 1982 when his two daughters enrolled at USC. The company’s first prominent U.S. project was the Ritz-Carlton in south Orange County. Allison became a partner in 1962 and retired in 2007 as president international.

Tom King

Guitarist co-founded the Outsiders

Tom King, 68, a guitarist and founding member of the Outsiders who co-wrote the Cleveland rock ‘n’ roll band’s biggest hit, “Time Won’t Let Me,” died April 23, his family announced. The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reported that King died at a nursing home in Wickliffe, Ohio, after a period of declining health.

A Cleveland native, King formed Tom King and the Starfires with singer Sonny Geraci in the late 1950s. The duo expanded to a quintet and renamed themselves the Outsiders in 1965. The next year, King wrote “Time Won’t Let Me” with his brother-in-law Chet Kelley, and the song spent 15 weeks on the Billboard charts, peaking at No. 5.


The band also had hits with “Girl in Love,” “Respectable” and “Help Me, Girl” but disbanded before the end of the 1960s.

The Animals covered “Help Me, Girl,” and the Smithereens had a hit in 1994 with a remake of “Time Won’t Let Me.”

Geraci went on to lead the band Climax, known for the gold record “Precious and Few.”

Ronald D. Asmus

Author and former diplomat

Ronald D. Asmus, 53, a former U.S. diplomat who took charge of the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in 2005, died Saturday at a hospital in Brussels. He had cancer.


As U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs from 1997 to 2000 during the Clinton administration, Asmus was part of talks that saw formerly communist East European nations join the NATO alliance. He wrote a book about that — “Opening NATO’s Door” — in 2002.

In 2010 he published “A Little War That Shook the World,” about the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

Before leading the Brussels office of the German Marshall Fund, a think tank that promotes greater cooperation between North America and Europe, Asmus had spent three years as senior transatlantic fellow at the fund’s Washington office. He had previously been an analyst at the Rand Corp. think tank in Santa Monica.

A native of Milwaukee, he held degrees in Soviet and European studies.

Christian Ferry, former president of Les Films Marianne, Paramount Pictures’ French motion picture production subsidiary, whose film credits include serving as executive producer of the 1976 film “King Kong,” died April 21 of cancer at his home in Paris, his family said. He was 80.

—Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports