Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Pearl of a Point Guard

"Dwayne ‘Pearl’ Washington, 52, college hoop legend" Associated Press  April 21, 2016

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Dwayne ‘‘Pearl’’ Washington, who went from New York City playground wonder to Big East star at Syracuse University, died Wednesday of cancer, the university said. He was 52.

Mr. Washington was not particularly fast, nor could he jump particularly high. Neither mattered — he simply excited fans with his amazing ball-handling skills, an uncanny court sense, elusiveness, and the ability to pull off unbelievable plays at the right time.

His signature move was the crossover dribble — the ‘‘shake-and-bake’’ — that froze defenders, then a drive to the hoop for an easy layup past the defense’s big men. His play was instrumental in helping create the aura of greatness the Big East Conference had during its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s.

He had been coping with medical problems since a brain tumor was diagnosed in 1995 and recently required around-the-clock medical care.

Mr. Washington had surgery in August to address the recurrence of a brain tumor. The first tumor was benign.

Current and former players, as well as others, rallied in support of Mr. Washington. A GoFundMe page was set up, and (hash)PrayersforPearl became the slogan for Syracuse basketball.

‘‘My heart goes out to the family, friends, and many adoring fans of Brooklyn native and Syracuse basketball legend, Pearl Washington,’’ New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted.

Dwayne Alonzo Washington was born in Jan. 24, 1964, and grew up in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, acquiring his nickname as an 8-year-old when he was compared to then-NBA star Earl ‘‘the Pearl’’ Monroe.

Mr. Washington made his mark in a nationally televised game on Jan. 24, 1984, against Boston College.

When Martin Clark missed a free throw for the Eagles in a tie game with only seconds on the clock, Mr. Washington took an outlet pass, raced up court, and swished the winning shot from beyond half court as time expired.

Exhibiting his flair for the dramatic, the 6-foot-2 guard never stopped running after he took the shot until he made it to the locker room.

The Orange entered the top 20 the week after that memorable shot and remained there for the rest of Mr. Washington’s college career. Later that winter, he set a Syracuse record with 18 assists against St. John’s.

A New York City playground legend who starred at Boys and Girls High School and on playgrounds throughout the city, Mr. Washington was the most highly recruited basketball player in the country after averaging 35 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists as a senior. He committed to Syracuse in 1983 determined to make the Carrier Dome his home. He left an indelible mark on Orange basketball.

‘‘I can’t underscore how big a moment that was for our program,’’ coach Jim Boeheim wrote in his recent book ‘‘Color Him Orange: The Jim Boeheim Story.’’ “I believe at that point we officially went from being an Eastern program to a national program. Everybody knew who the Pearl was.’’

As a freshman, Mr. Washington led the Orange to the conference tournament finals against nemesis Georgetown, but a controversial call late in the title game allowed the Hoyas to tie the game in regulation and they won in overtime.

Mr. Washington had some of his best moments in an arena he cherished — Madison Square Garden. As a junior, he had a 35-point game against St. John’s and again led the Orange to the Big East finals in 1986 after a dramatic 75-73 overtime win over Georgetown in the semifinals. In the championship game against St. John’s, Mr. Washington had 20 points and 14 assists but was denied a game-winner when Walter Berry blocked his layup after a court-long dash.

After losing to Navy and David Robinson in the second round of the 1986 NCAA Tournament, Mr. Washington said he would forgo his senior year and enter the NBA draft. He finished his college career as the school’s all-time leader in assists and still ranks third despite playing just three years.

Mr. Washington was the 13th pick in the first round of the NBA draft and went to the New Jersey Nets. He played two seasons with New Jersey and a final season with the Miami Heat in 1988-89.

Mr. Washington’s size and lack of speed were not well-suited to the fast pace of the NBA. He averaged 7.6 points and 4.2 assists for the Heat and finished his brief career with 256 steals and 733 assists in 194 games.



"Joanie Laurer, 46; won fame, matches as Chyna" by Sewell Chan New York Times  April 22, 2016

NEW YORK — Joanie Laurer, who studied Spanish literature and trained with the Peace Corps before gaining fame as the professional wrestler Chyna and as a reality-television star, was found dead Wednesday at her home in Redondo Beach, Calif. She was 46.

Unable to reach Ms. Laurer by telephone for several days, a friend went to her apartment, found her not breathing and called the police.

“There are no indications or signs that the death was a result of foul play,” said Sergeant Shawn Freeman, a police spokesman, in a statement.

The case has been referred to the Los Angeles County coroner’s office to determine the cause and timing of death.

Ms. Laurer, who also used the name Chyna Doll, had publicly battled substance abuse problems for years.

Joan Marie Laurer was born in Rochester, N.Y., on Dec. 27, 1969, and grew up in one of its suburbs, Penfield. She studied at the local high school, graduated from the University of Tampa with a degree in Spanish literature, was a trainee with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, and contemplated a career in law enforcement.

Though she was not a fan of the sport, Ms. Laurer eventually joined a wrestling school led by Killer Kowalski, one of the sport’s dominant figures from the 1950s to the ‘70s.

“I’d been rejected at everything,” Ms. Laurer told the Boston Herald in 1999, describing unsatisfying efforts as a bartender, saleswoman, and singer.

Watching a televised match, she said, she realized: “I could go out and be this big, huge female and entertain people. That’d be my niche.”

The World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment) hired her. Five feet 10 inches tall and weighing 180 pounds, she could bench-press 350 pounds, and she occasionally took on male competitors.

She was the first and only woman to win the company’s Intercontinental Championship, defeating Jeff Jarrett in 1999, and won its Women’s Championship in 2001.

Ms. Laurer posed for Playboy in 2000 and later made a number of pornographic films. In 2002, she boxed Joey Buttafuoco, a Long Island, N.Y., man who had become notorious after a teenager with whom he was having an affair shot and injured his wife at the couple’s home. (Ms. Laurer lost.)

She made many appearances on Howard Stern’s radio show, and she was a cast member of the reality television series “The Surreal Life,” which documented the antics of past-their-prime celebrities who were placed in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills for two weeks at a time.

She also took part in the VH1 series “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” which featured Dr. Drew Pinsky, an addiction specialist.

In 2005, Ms. Laurer was arrested and charged with beating her former boyfriend, pro wrestler Sean Waltman, known as X-Pac, after returning from the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles.

Ms. Laurer had said on “The Surreal Life” that she had once attempted suicide by taking pills and that she had no friends. Waltman later accused television producers of using Ms. Laurer to attract viewers, despite her unstable state.

Ms. Laurer leaves her mother, a sister, and a brother....

She was the “female Arnold Schwarzenegger.”