David Loeb Weiss, a retired proofreader at The New York Times who directed the award-winning 1980 documentary film Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu, which chronicled the last, clangorous night that the paper was put out using hot-metal type, died Thursday at his home in San Diego. He was in his early 90s.
Made in collaboration with Carl Schlesinger, then a Linotype operator at the paper, the film followed the issue of July 2, 1978, as it was "put to bed," as the nightly ritual of typesetting, composing and printing was known.
Filmed at the newspaper's offices on West 43rd Street, the 28-minute documentary captured a process that was largely unchanged since 1886, when Ottmar Mergenthaler invented the Linotype machine. The invention revolutionized printing, allowing metal type to be set a line at a time from a keyboard instead of painstakingly by hand, one letter at a time.
Farewell, Etaoin Shrdlu caught the din of the composing room, where dozens of Linotype machines clattered away, spitting out lines of type - formed backward of the printed impression - that were locked into metal page forms. The forms were used in making the 40-pound lead page plates, or stereotypes, from which the paper was printed.
The film's title represents the "words" formed by striking the first 12 keys, in two vertical rows, at the left of the Linotype keyboard. A compositor would strike those keys to fill out a garbled line of type, indicating that it should be discarded. On occasion, the offending line found its way into the paper, "etaoin shrdlu" and all. With the advent of computerized typesetting, "etaoin shrdlu" disappeared from the paper forever.
Mr. Weiss was born in Warsaw in either 1911 or 1912, and came to the United States with his family as a child. He earned a bachelor's degree from New York University and a master's in political science from the New School for Social Research. He rode the rails as a hobo and had a variety of jobs, among them dishwasher, busboy, waiter, union organizer, merchant seaman and teacher.
As a documentary filmmaker, his works also included Profile of a Peace Parade (1967) and No Vietnamese Ever Called Me Nigger (1968), which dealt with racism experienced by African-American soldiers returning from the war in Southeast Asia.
John Bryson, 81, a photojournalist whose images of celebrities as they went about their daily lives have appeared in Life and other magazines, died in his sleep Aug. 10 at a retirement home in Brookings, Ore.
Mr. Bryson began his career as a photographer and picture editor at Life, and later freelanced for it, Look, Holiday and other publications.
He assembled picture books on industrialist Armand Hammer and actress Katharine Hepburn, who once described Mr. Bryson as "mean as a snake and dear as an angel."
Among his well-known works were pictures of Ernest Hemingway kicking a beer can in the snow and Salvador Dali wearing a crown made of sausages.
During the height of the Cold War, he elicited hearty laughter from Nikita Khrushchev by offering to trade his expensive Nikon camera for a Soviet missile.
Mr. Bryson also dabbled in acting, appearing in Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway, Convoy and The Osterman Weekend, and playing himself in John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix.
Philip J. Klass, 85, a writer for Aviation Week & Space Technology who spent his career investigating, then debunking, UFO sightings and alien visits, died of prostate cancer Aug. 9 at his home in Merritt Island, Fla.
He published UFOs Identified in 1968, along with four other books that explained away unidentified flying objects.
Mr. Klass famously offered $10,000 to anyone whose UFO or alien abduction claims could be verified by the FBI. The reward went unclaimed.
Francy Boland, 75, a jazz pianist and composer who formed one of Europe's leading all-star swing bands of the 1960s and 1970s alongside American Kenny Clarke, died of cancer Friday in Geneva.
Mr. Boland was brought onto the American scene by singer and trumpeter Chet Baker in the mid-1950s. He spent some time in the United States, doing arrangements for bandleaders Count Basie and Benny Goodman. He returned to Europe to arrange for German swing leader Kurt Edelhagen, but became best known for his work with bebop innovator Mr. Clarke, who settled in Paris.
Rufus Thibodeaux, 71, a Cajun music fiddler who played with an array of country music performers during a career that spanned 50 years, died Friday in Nashville after a long battle with diabetes.
Beginning in 1956, he performed regularly on the Grand Ole Opry country music show, where he often got standing ovations for his solos. Among others, he played with Bob Wills, Jim Reeves, George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Ferlin Huskey, the Everly Brothers, Hank Williams Jr., Neil Young and Lynn Anderson.