Four Gone: McLaughlin, Barry, Finkel, Hiller

Whenever we mark the death and passing of someone of note, we pay homage to the poet John Donne, who told us in enduring fashion: “No man is an island.”

We live in a time where the phrase becomes flesh. In the age of the internet, it is next to impossible to be an island, “Entire of itself.” We are connected, constantly, but in ways less intimate, less resonant, than before.

When we note someone’s passing in the news, or on the obituary pages, we feel the loss of someone in our immediate world, or the great world, but we also feel a rush of memory and remembrance.

So we remember a pioneering political talk show host; the sad, unfulfilled life of the son of a controversial Washington, D.C., mayor; a stage and screen actor of particular gifts made universal; and the director of the film version of a tear-inducing romantic classic.

John McLaughlin, 89

Many of us who’ve been Washingtonians for a considerable time, and those born to the city, probably spent some time, on a Saturday evening or a Sunday morning, watching what was in the 1970s (and even 1980s) still a novel form of television political discourse, the talk-show-panel argument.

John McLaughlin, who had until that time been a scribe, a priest and a political operative and speechwriter in the turbulent and very conservative Nixon administration, pioneered the form that would become the no-holds-barred, histrionic political punditry that makes itself felt loudly on the mainstream news airwaves — as well as fringy outlets to the left and right.

His “The McLaughlin Group” show played both ends against the middle, featuring writers and pundits Pat Buchanan and Charles Krauthammer on the right, for instance, and Eleanor Clift and Jack Germond on the liberal side, arguing the issues under the eye of whip-snapping ringmaster McLaughlin himself.

This was not about sages and reasoned arguments over policy and politics. McLaughlin would posit inflammatory and yes-or-no questions. Throwing fuel on the arguments, he would raise them if not to a fever pitch then at least to the level of a pointy-headed barroom brawl. His voice was the loudest, most formidable and most critical. His much imitated “Wrrroongg” judgment would later become a part of Saturday Night Live lore.

He was a bomb-thrower, a provoker, the voice that stirred the pot on his show, and it was for a long time almost irresistible. He could be and often was irritating, egotistical and maybe, at times, even “Wrrroongg” — depending on which side of an issue you occupied — but he and the show were enticing political goodies. Politics, of course, passed him by, especially this year, although he was still taping his show a few days before he died Aug. 16 of complications from prostate cancer.

Marion Christopher Barry, 36

The initial reaction to the news of the Aug. 14 death of the only child of Marion Barry and his wife Effie at the age of 36 — from an apparent drug overdose — was just plain and utter sadness. Christopher Barry had struggled with addiction a good part of his life, both embracing and trying to deal with the shadow of his father, Marion “Mayor for Life” Barry, the bigger-than-life four-time mayor of Washington, D.C., and a Ward 8 Council member at the time of death in 2014.

Christopher Barry had run unsuccessfully for that seat, but the news of his death was felt keenly by the Ward 8 community, which expressed nothing but praise for Barry’s potential, his caring and warm nature and his attempts to overcome his addiction.

The news also brought back memories for all of us of Marion Barry, who was such a large and vivid presence for such a long time to all the citizens of this city. Like him or not, he left a big footprint, a huge mark on the politics of this city and on issues of race and poverty, which still roil the city and the country. It’s likely that the junior Barry had a hard time being the son of such a large personality — most children in that predicament do — but it’s also clear that he loved his father. Eulogizing him, he said that his father “planted seeds in people’s lives. He planted hope in people who didn’t have hope.”

Fyvush Finkel, 93

To be an actor in any age is sometimes to be a star, sometimes to be a face in the crowd and sometimes to be unforgettable in everything you do. Fyvush Finkel, whose acting credentials go back to the historic atmospherics of the Yiddish theater in America, is remembered as a face and a voice if not always by name. Born in Brooklyn in 1922, Finkel died in Manhattan Aug. 14.

That face — big of features, ears, eyes and nose — and that voice — cheerful, emphatic, sometimes accented, rhythmic — were memorable on stage. He toured with “Fiddler on the Roof” as Mordcha the innkeeper and took the lead in a national tour in 1983. As late as 1989, Finkel won the Drama Desk Award for “Café Crown.” He was also — no doubt memorably — the owner of the man-eating, feed-me-feed-me plant in “Little Shop of Horrors.” On television, he was an old-fashioned teacher on “Boston Public” and a small-town defense lawyer in the idiosyncratic “Picket Fences.” When you saw the name in the obituaries, the face — buoyant, wide and open — instantly popped up in your mind.

Arthur Hiller, 92

You really need to know only two words, one thing, when you consider Arthur Hiller: “Love Story.” Hiller, a veteran Hollywood director, a man of many credits, helmed the movie version of Erich Segal’s sentimentally irresistible love story and book of the same name, making millions cry all over again and making millions at the box office. He died Aug. 17.

Segal’s book was about a preppy New England college boy who fell in love with a working-class Italian girl — then the girl dies of cancer. The book was as thin as its premise, and it included a punch line that resulted in oceans of tears: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” The 1970 movie version, starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw, made a fortune for Paramount, which was also blessed with “The Godfather” during that period.

If that was all Hiller ever did, it would still get him notices, but in actuality he did a lot more than that: “The Out-of-Towners,” a rabidly funny story about the mishaps of Midwestern tourists in New York, starring Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis, and “The In-Laws,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Plaza Suite” and the anti-war film “The Americanization of Emily,”

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