Charles John "Chick" Lang, 83, the longtime head of Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course who helped make the Preakness a must-watch for sports fans around the country, died Thursday of natural causes in a medical facility on Maryland's Eastern Shore, his family said.
Known as "Mr. Preakness," Lang is credited with bringing the Preakness national attention at a time when the Kentucky Derby overshadowed it. He tirelessly promoted the Baltimore race, traveling to the Kentucky Derby with "Next Stop Preakness" signs. He once floated hundreds of yellow and black balloons over the Kentucky Derby Parade.
The opening of the infield was Lang's idea. In 1965, he brought a school bus full of his daughter's friends to the infield to watch the races and some lacrosse games. That evolved into the all-day party, complete with rock bands and drinking, that marks today's Preakness.
Lang had deep family roots in horse racing. His great-grandfather, John Mayberry, was a Kentucky Derby-winning trainer in 1903 and his father, Chick Lang Sr., won the 1928 Kentucky Derby riding Reigh Count.
Lang started as a successful jockey's agent. He worked at Pimlico from 1960 to 1987, holding several management positions.
He later worked as a racing consultant for tracks around the country and as a racing analyst on radio.
Kennedy High track coach
Warren Farlow, 69, who started the Kennedy High School track program in Granada Hills in 1971 and coached for more than 25 years, died March 12 at a San Fernando Valley hospital after a bout with cancer.
Farlow grew up in Hollywood, ran track with his twin brother, Wayne, at Hollywood High and was a member of USC's 1961 NCAA championship track and field team. He and his brother were also child actors.
Farlow helped build a top track program at Kennedy, winning a state girls' title in 1980. In recent years, he served as a consultant on work experience with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Arcadia Invitational director
Doug Speck, 62, a former teacher, track and cross country coach and athletic director at Arcadia High School who was also the longtime meet director of the well-regarded Arcadia Invitational track meet, died March 4 after a long battle with melanoma. He lived in El Segundo.
Speck coached and taught social studies at Hueneme and Channel Islands high schools before being hired to do the same at Arcadia in 1976. He was Arcadia's athletic director from 2000 to 2004, and he retired in 2007.
A native of North Dakota, Speck graduated from Cal Poly Pomona and had a master's degree in education from Azusa Pacific University.
He also was a writer for track publications and an announcer for various meets.
Disc jockey, music journalist
Charlie Gillett, 68, a disc jockey, journalist, producer and music historian who highlighted an eclectic blend of world music, died Wednesday at a London hospital, the BBC announced. He had an autoimmune disease and suffered a heart attack.
"Charlie Gillett's World of Music" played everything from Cajun boogie to Nigerian soul. He was credited with launching the careers of several artists, including Dire Straits by playing the group's “Sultan of Swing” when they were still unknown in 1976.
Charles Thomas Gillett, born Feb. 20, 1942 in England, was teaching at Kingsway College in London in 1968 when he started writing a column in Record Mirror magazine. That led to television appearances and his radio career.
His 1970 book “The Sound of the City: The Rise of Rock and Roll” grew out of a master's thesis he wrote at Columbia University in New York. He co-founded the Oval record label in 1972.
"When I first met him, it was like meeting the rock 'n' roll equivalent of Dickens or Shakespeare," said BBC broadcaster Mark Lamarr.
Country music promoter
Johnnie High, 80, whose country music revues helped launch the careers of LeAnn Rimes and Boxcar Willie, among others, died Wednesdayat his home in Bedford, Texas, from heart disease, said his daughter, Luanne Dorman.
High started the shows in 1974, converting an old movie theater in Grapevine, Texas, into the Grapevine Opry. High moved the revue to Fort Worth and Haltom City before settling in Arlington in 1995. The show is now televised nationally.
Johnnie Ray High Jr. was born May 1, 1929, and grew up in McGregor, Texas. He had his own radio show in Waco at 14, radio historian Dorothy Hamm told the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.
Rimes was only 6 when she first performed on High's revue. Other artists who have performed there include singer Lee Ann Womack and fiddler Shoji Tabuchi.
Orange County developer
Barry Brief, 68, a developer of the Monarch Beach community along the south Orange County coastline, died March 3 of cancer at his home in Laguna Beach, his family said.
Brief was a longtime builder and marketer who worked for the Lawrin Co., Leadership Housing in Newport Beach and before starting his own firm, the Brief Corp., in 1974.
He joined with developer David Stein to form the Stein-Brief Group, which in 1983 bought more than 500 acres between Laguna Beach and Dana Point. More than 200 acres were sold in 1989 to the Australian firm Quintex.
Brief was born July 17, 1941, in Los Angeles and graduated from Millikan High School in Long Beach. He received a bachelor's degree in marketing from Cal State Fullerton and started his career in 1963 with the marketing division of Kaufman and Broad.
Stein-Brief was renamed Laguna Monarch Group in 1996. Brief continued to work as a developer and was active in philanthropy. He helped lead a fight to keep the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach in 1996.
-- times staff and wire reportsCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun