PASSINGS: Mike LeBell, H.C. Robbins Landon, Jack Cooke
Mike LeBell, wrestling promoter, dies at 79; H.C. Robbins Landon, Haydn expert, dies at 83; Jack Cooke, bluegrass bass player, dies at 72
Mike LeBell does a TV spot for wrestling circa 1974 at the Olympic Auditorium. (Theo Ehret)
Mike LeBell, 79, a longtime and highly successful promoter of wrestling at the Olympic Auditorium, died Nov. 24 at his Los Angeles home. He had cancer, said Jeff Walton, a former wrestling publicist.
In 1971, LeBell became one of the first North American wrestling promoters to use closed-circuit television to broadcast sold-out matches when he aired a live faceoff at the Olympic between Don Carson and John Tolos at two downtown theaters.
"These people live and die wrestling," LeBell told The Times after his initial closed-circuit broadcast sold out. "If we told them there was going to be wrestling at 4 o'clock in the morning, they'd be here."
From the mid-1960s until 1982, LeBell promoted wrestling cards at the Olympic, his showcase arena. He also staged wrestling matches at other Southern California venues.
His mother, Aileen Eaton, was the boxing promoter at the Olympic from 1942 to 1980. His stepfather, Carl Eaton, was also a major boxing promoter. His brother, Gene, wrestled and is a Hollywood stuntman.
A Los Angeles native, LeBell was born in 1930, one of two sons of Maurice LeBell, an osteopath who died in 1941 after a swimming accident.
After graduating from USC, Mike LeBell became the box office manager and treasurer for his mother at the Olympic.
Her weekly boxing shows grossed close to $1 million a year in the late 1960s, and her wrestling shows, directed by LeBell, did "even better," Sports Illustrated reported in 1967.
H.C. Robbins Landon
Musicologist, expert on Haydn
H.C. Robbins Landon, 83, a musicologist noted for his pioneering research on Franz Joseph Haydn and for writing popular works on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, died Nov. 20, according to records at the town hall in Rabastens in southern France, where Robbins Landon lived. The cause was not revealed.
Robbins Landon did much to popularize Haydn, inspiring the foundation of the Haydn Society, editing music scores and publishing a book on Haydn's 108 symphonies in 1955.
The society produced many first recordings of Haydn's works, and Robbins Landon was involved from 1969 to 1973 in Decca's recordings of all the Haydn symphonies, conducted by Antal Dorati.
Robbins Landon's books, including "1791: Mozart's Last Year," published in 1988, brought the musicologist to the attention of a wider audience and earned lucrative royalties.
His reputation took a knock in 1993 when he vouched for the authenticity of what were claimed to be six newly discovered piano sonatas by Haydn but which proved to be a hoax.
Harold Chandler Robbins Landon was born in Boston in 1926 and studied at Boston University with Karl Geiringer before traveling to Vienna to begin his research in Europe.
In 1949 he returned to Boston and joined with friends to found the Haydn Society, which quickly produced the first recording of Haydn's "Harmoniemesse."
He later returned to Vienna and Budapest to conduct more research.
Bluegrass bass player
Jack Cooke, 72, a longtime bluegrass bass player and singer with Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys, died Tuesday at a hospital in his hometown of Norton, Va., after collapsing at home, according to his publicist.
Cooke joined the Clinch Mountain Boys in 1970 and performed with the group until being sidelined by health problems early this year.
In 2002, he played upright bass on the Grammy-winning album "Lost in the Lonesome Pines," a collection headlined by Jim Lauderdale and Stanley.
-- times staff and wire reports