PASSINGS: Jay Reatard, George Bissell, Reva Mikles Graziadio, Jan C. Gabriel

PASSINGS: Jay Reatard, George Bissell, Reva Mikles Graziadio, Jan C. Gabriel
Punk rocker Jay Reatard, seen in May rehearsing in his Memphis home, started recording songs in his bedroom as a teenager and was playing Memphis clubs by age 15. (Mike Brown / Memphis Commercial Appeal)
Jay Reatard

Punk rocker in Memphis

Jay Reatard, 29, a punk rocker known for performing shows and releasing singles at a breakneck pace, was found dead in his bed early Wednesday in Memphis, Tenn.

Memphis police are investigating his death.

Friends of Reatard told the Commercial Appeal newspaper that the singer had been complaining of flu-like symptoms. An autopsy was performed Wednesday and the results are pending.

Reatard -- whose given name was Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr. -- started recording songs in his bedroom as a teenager and was playing Memphis clubs by age 15. Soon after, local independent label Goner Records began releasing his singles. He would go on to release more than 70 records, with some of the rarer ones now fetching hundreds of dollars on EBay.

He also gained a reputation for raucous, fast-paced live performances with the Reatards and the Lost Sounds before recording and performing under the solo moniker Jay Reatard.

According to his biography on the Matador Records website, "Shows frequently featured 18 songs (or more) in 25 minutes (or less), often running through his catalog at double or triple speed, and announcing the next song title before the first song ended."

Reatard was beginning to find mainstream success. Beck asked him to record a cover of Beck's "Gamma Ray" to be used as the B-side of the original, and they performed together.

Reatard recently had signed a multi-album contract with the noted indie label after being courted by major labels Universal and Columbia. He released the album "Watch Me Fall" on Matador in August to positive reviews.

George Bissell

Architect in Newport Beach

George Bissell, 82, a Newport Beach architect whose designs included transforming the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum into an appropriate setting for Pope John Paul II's Mass in 1987, died Jan. 2 from complications of lymphoma, his family said.

Bissell "needed only . . . a simple white altar, a chair and a canopy of steel tubes that seemed to float overhead" to create "an abstract, open-air cathedral," Valerie Takahama wrote in the Orange County Register in 2004.

"The first thing we did was sit on the top row at the west end of the Coliseum and think, 'What would make a good visual impact?' " Bissell told OC Metro in 2000. "We were on a tight budget, so we worked with donated materials trying to create a space that would have people in the upper rows still feel like an intimate part of the Mass."

George Arthur Bissell was born Jan. 31, 1927, in Los Angeles. He graduated from USC in 1953 with a bachelor's degree in architecture and began working in Pasadena in 1957. He moved to Newport Beach in 1960.

Among Bissell Architects' other projects were San Francisco Solano Catholic Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral in San Bernardino and a redesign of the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana.

In 1979, when Bissell was president of the American Institute of Architects California Council, he scheduled a design session as part of the group's annual conference. That session became the Monterey Design Conference in Pacific Grove. Bissell received a lifetime achievement award in 2002 from the American Institute of Architects California Council.

Reva Mikles Graziadio

Major benefactor of Pepperdine

Reva Mikles Graziadio, 87, a major benefactor of Pepperdine University, where the business school is named for her husband, George, died Jan. 8 at her home in Rolling Hills after a brief illness, the school announced.

The couple gave $15 million to Pepperdine in 1996 to fund the Graziadio School of Business and Management, and a scholarship for female students at the graduate school was established in her name.

The Graziadios also donated more than $1 million to Torrance Memorial Medical Center and its George and Reva Graziadio Radiology Center, and they made major contributions to other local universities and charities.

Graziadio was born May 17, 1922, in Magazine, Ark., and moved to Los Angeles during World War II. She was married for 59 years to George, a real estate developer who co-founded one of the largest banks in Southern California, Imperial Bancorp.

He died in 2002.

Jan C. Gabriel, a radio announcer whose voice was heard across the country in ads for drag-racing strips touting the action on "Sunday! Sunday!! SUNDAY!!," died Sunday at his home in Lombard, Ill., of complications from polycystic kidney disease, said his friend and business partner Denise Dorman.

He was 69.

-- times staff and wire reports