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PASSINGS: Zoogz Rift, Carl Bunch, David E. Davis Jr., James Pritchett, James M. Roberts, Pat Rowe

Zoogz Rift, punk rocker, dies at 57; Carl Bunch, drummer, dies at 71; David E. Davis Jr., car critic, dies at 80; James Pritchett, actor, dies at 88; James M. Roberts, Oscars executive, dies at 87; Pat Rowe, weather service spokeswoman, dies at 82

March 31, 2011

Zoogz Rift

Punk rock musician

Zoogz Rift, 57, a punk rock musician whose experimental style garnered comparisons with Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, died March 22 at Encino Hospital of complications from diabetes, said his partner, Laura Rift.

Rift's music "both challenges and irritates, insults and amuses," Jeff Spurrier wrote in The Times in 1985. "His songs are musical mud pies lobbed at the mainstream market, fragmentation earbombs set in often bizarre meters with arrangements that both soothe and sear."

Rift was born Robert Pawlikowski on July 10, 1953, in Paterson, N.J., but grew up in Parsippany, N.J. He moved to Los Angeles in 1977 after starting his career in the early 1970s. He played in New York punk rock clubs such as CBGB before moving to California.

His first album was 1979's "Idiots on the Miniature Golf Course." Rift recorded steadily through the 1980s.

He also was a painter and a pro wrestling personality with the Universal Wrestling Federation beginning in the 1990s. Rift had several health problems in recent years and started oil painting about 2002 after finding it increasingly difficult to play guitar, Laura Rift said.

Laura and Zoogz Rift were divorced but had reconciled years ago, she said.

Carl Bunch

Drummer for Buddy Holly

Carl Bunch, 71, a drummer for Buddy Holly and the Crickets who was in the hospital with frostbite when Holly and other members of the Winter Dance Party Tour were killed in a 1959 plane crash, died Saturday at Antelope Valley Hospital. The cause was complications from diabetes, his family said.

Bunch, then 19, thought of the tour as an audition for a permanent position with the band, he told The Times in 1993. He joined the tour weeks before the tour bus broke down Feb. 1, 1959, in a Wisconsin snowstorm, and he ended up with frostbitten feet. Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "the Big Bopper" Richardson died two days later in a plane crash.

"I couldn't believe it," Bunch said in The Times interview. "I couldn't see Ritchie dead. We had become close."

Bunch rejoined the tour for its final days and then joined the Army. He later played for a time with Roy Orbison and Hank Williams Jr.

Born Nov. 24, 1939, in Big Springs, Texas, Bunch took up the drums as a teenager to help recover from leg surgery.

In the 1980s, he earned degrees in theology, biblical counseling and psychotheology from Friends International Christian University in Merced. He ran a Christian ministry and was a substance-abuse counselor before poor health led him to retire in the early 1990s.

A father of three, he was married to his wife, Dorothy, for 44 years.

In 2000, Bunch played drums in a re-creation of the 1959 tour and signed autographs as "the Frostbitten Cricket."

David E. Davis Jr.

Founder of Automobile magazine

David E. Davis Jr., 80, the founder of Automobile magazine who was widely considered the dean of automobile critics, died Sunday at a hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich., of complications from bladder cancer surgery.

Davis had twice been editor of Car and Driver when he split from the magazine in 1985 and started Automobile the next year with financial backing from media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

The magazine was aimed at auto buyers "with cash for upscale, trendy cars … who like their reading material — even in a car magazine — to be literate, stylish and, yes, trendy," the Miami Herald said in 1986.

Born in 1930 in Burnside, Ky., Davis developed an enthusiasm for cars at 14 after a neighbor gave him a ride in a DKW Roadster.

After briefly studying at Olivet College in Michigan, he sold Volkswagens and men's clothing.

He tried auto racing but rolled an MG at a Sacramento track in 1955 and had to undergo 18 months of reconstructive surgery.

Turning to publishing, Davis sold advertising for Road & Track magazine and wrote automotive copy for a Detroit firm. By 1962, he was writing for Car & Driver and was soon the magazine's editor and publisher.

Many of his Car & Driver columns were reprinted in "Thus Spake David E: The Collected Wit and Wisdom of the Most Influential Automotive Journalist of Our Time" (1999).

James Pritchett, an actor who played Matt Powers on the NBC soap opera "The Doctors" from 1963 to 1982 and won an Emmy for the role in 1978, died March 15 at his home in New York, his family announced without giving the cause. He was 88.

James M. Roberts, a longtime executive with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, including 18 years as executive director, died Monday of emphysema at his home in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., the academy announced. He was 87.

Pat Rowe, former longtime spokeswoman for the National Weather Service in Los Angeles, died Saturday at Sherman Oaks Health & Rehab of complications from a fall in December, her family said. She was 82.

— Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports

news.obits@latimes.com

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