PASSINGS: Michael Baigent, Elliott Reid, John L. Dotson Jr.


Michael Baigent

Historical mysteries author sued publisher of ‘Da Vinci Code’

Michael Baigent, 65, a writer who gained attention for launching a lawsuit contending that “The Da Vinci Code” stole ideas from his book, died of a brain hemorrhage June 17 in Brighton, England, his family said.


Baigent is best known for writing the 1982 nonfiction book “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail,” which explores theories that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, the couple had a child and the bloodline survives. In 2006 Baigent and coauthor Richard Leigh made international headlines when they sued Dan Brown’s publisher for copyright infringement, claiming in a high-profile London court case that Brown “appropriated the architecture” of their book. They eventually lost the case.

Brown was cross-examined in London by lawyers during the 2006 copyright case. Although acknowledging that he had read “Holy Blood” during research for “Da Vinci,” Brown said he also used many other resources and that Baigent and Leigh’s work was not crucial to the novel.

Though Baigent lost the case, it boosted publicity for his work, and sales of “Holy Blood” — his first book — jumped as a result.

The author penned about a dozen other nonfiction books and a novel, specializing in topics including secret sects and historical mysteries. “The Messianic Legacy” was a sequel to “Holy Blood”; “The Temple and the Lodge” explored the origins of Freemasonry. He also wrote about the Inquisition, ancient astrology and the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Michael Feran Baigent was born in Nelson, New Zealand, in 1948. After graduating from New Zealand’s University of Canterbury with a degree in psychology, he worked as a photographer and magazine editor in Australia, New Zealand and Spain before taking up research for a documentary called “The Shadow of the Templars.”

From 1998 he lectured on and led tours of the temples and tombs in Egypt, and from 2001 he was editor of the magazine “Freemasonry Today.”

Elliott Reid

Longtime film, TV actor with a comic touch

Elliott “Ted” Reid, 93, a longtime character actor in films and on television, stage and radio who played opposite Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell in the classic comedy “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” died Friday in Studio City, said his nephew Roger R. Jackson.

Reid died of heart failure at an assisted living facility where he had resided in recent years, his nephew said.

Although Reid had a number of dramatic roles, he was best known for his comic touch in such films as “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

In that 1953 movie, Reid memorably played Ernie Malone, a private investigator hired to keep track of Monroe’s character, Lorelei Lee, who is suspected of being a gold digger by her fiance’s wealthy father. Along the way, Malone falls for Monroe’s best friend, Dorothy Shaw, played by Russell.

Reid also played Fred MacMurray’s self-important romantic rival in Disney’s “The Absent-Minded Professor” in 1961 and its 1963 sequel, “Son of Flubber,” as well as a local prosecuting attorney in “Inherit the Wind” in 1960.

A gifted mimic, Reid developed an impersonation of President Kennedy, which he performed for the president at a 1962 Washington dinner. Time magazine reported that the president was “convulsed” by the performance.

Edgeworth Blair Reid — he later took Elliott as his stage name — was born Jan. 16, 1920, in New York City. His father, Blair Reid, was a banker, and his mother, Christine Challenger Reid, an artist. At 15, he landed a role on the radio program “The March of Time,” where he worked with Orson Welles, who later invited him to join his Mercury Theatre company, doing both radio and stage productions. Reid became a regular.

In addition to his film and radio work, Reid appeared often on television series and variety shows. He was a regular guest on shows hosted by Dinah Shore and Jack Paar in the 1950s and a cast member on the U.S. version of David Frost’s 1960s political satire program “That Was the Week That Was.” He also appeared in episodes of “I Love Lucy,” “Perry Mason” and “Murder, She Wrote,” among many others.

John L. Dotson Jr.

Newspaper publisher pushed for newsroom diversity

John L. Dotson Jr., 76, a longtime journalist, editor and newspaper publisher who championed diversity in the newsroom, died Friday in Boulder, Colo., of mantle cell lymphoma, his family said.

During his long career, Dotson served as an editor at Newsweek and the publisher of two newspapers, including the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio when it won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994.

Dotson was an early advocate for minorities and female journalists, joining others in establishing the Institute for Journalism Education in 1977, now the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. The organization pushed for diversity in newsrooms throughout the U.S.

Born Feb. 5, 1937, in Paterson, N.J., Dotson graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia. He worked as a reporter for the Evening News in Newark, N.J., and the Detroit Free Press, then joined Newsweek in Detroit in 1965.

He moved to Los Angeles three years later to become the magazine’s deputy bureau chief. He advanced to the position of bureau chief before moving in the mid-1970s to the magazine’s New York headquarters to be a senior editor.

Dotson joined Knight Ridder newspapers in 1983 and served as publisher and president of the Daily Camera in Boulder starting in 1987 and then the Beacon Journal from 1992 until his retirement in 2001. The Beacon Journal won the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service for its yearlong examination of race relations in the city.

Times staff and wire reports