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Passings: John Cacavas, Joan Mondale

John Cacavas, composer whose career was helped by Telly Savalas, dies at 83; Joan Mondale, wife of vice president and a cultural arts advocate, dies at 83.

February 03, 2014
  • Besides a theme for "Kojak," John Cacavas' dozens of other TV music credits include scores for “Hawaii Five-O,” “Matlock,” “Columbo,” “Lady Blue,” “The Equalizer” and the made-for-TV movie “The Executioner’s Song.”
Besides a theme for "Kojak," John Cacavas' dozens of other… (Los Angeles Times )

John Cacavas

Composer's career was helped by Telly Savalas

John Cacavas, 83, a composer, arranger and conductor who parlayed his friendship with actor Telly Savalas into a prolific career scoring music for film and television, including a theme to "Kojak," died Jan. 28 at his home in Beverly Hills, his family announced. He had been in declining health.

While working in London in the early 1970s, Cacavas met Savalas. He agreed to produce an album for the actor, who promised to help the composer get into the film business. Cacavas was hired to write music for Savalas' 1972 movies "Horror Express" and "Pancho Villa."

The next year Cacavas began writing for "Kojak," Savalas' hit TV police drama, and composed a new theme for the 1977 season. His dozens of other TV music credits include scores for "Hawaii Five-O," "Matlock," "Columbo," "Lady Blue," "The Equalizer" and the made-for-TV movie "The Executioner's Song." Cacavas also scored "Airport 1975," "Airport '77" and other films.

Cacavas was born Aug. 13, 1930, in Aberdeen, S.D., where his family owned a restaurant. He began playing music as a child and went on to earn a bachelor's degree in music composition and theory from Northwestern University. After graduation, he joined the military and served as an arranger with the U.S. Army Band.

He collaborated with future TV and radio commentator Charles Osgood on various pieces of music, including a 1967 recording of "Gallant Men" narrated by Illinois Sen. Everett M. Dirksen, which won a Grammy Award for best spoken word album.

Joan Mondale

Wife of vice president was cultural arts advocate

Joan Mondale, 83, who built a reputation as a national cultural arts advocate while her husband was vice president, died Monday, her family said in a statement released by their Minneapolis church. She had been in hospice care, but no cause was disclosed.

So passionate about the arts that she was nicknamed "Joan of Art," Mondale was an avid potter when her husband, Walter, then a Democratic U.S. senator from Minnesota, was elected Jimmy Carter's vice president in 1976.

Carter named Joan Mondale honorary chairwoman of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities. She traveled frequently to museums, theaters and artists' studios on the administration's behalf, and she lobbied Congress and states for more spending on public arts programs.

She would later take her cultural zeal overseas when her husband was named U.S. ambassador to Japan during President Clinton's administration. She relished the chance to study Japanese art and give dignitaries clay pots she made as gifts.

She was born Joan Adams in Eugene, Ore., on Aug. 8, 1930. Along with her two sisters, she moved several times during childhood as their father, a Presbyterian minister, took new assignments. The family finally settled in St. Paul, Minn., where Joan earned an undergraduate degree at Macalester College.

It was the same liberal arts school that Walter Mondale attended, but they were a few years apart and didn't meet until 1955, when one of Joan's sisters arranged a blind date. Six months later they were engaged, and they married soon after.

Times staff and wire reports

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