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Hobie Alter, innovator of sailing and surfing, dies at 80

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Published Apr. 5, 2014

Hobie Alter, 80, who was known as the Henry Ford of the surfboard industry for his manufacturing innovations and who used his idle time to create the Hobie Cat, the lightweight, double-hulled sailboat that achieved worldwide popularity after it was invented in the 1960s, died March 29 in Palm Desert, Calif. More than 200,000 of the sailboats have been sold worldwide.

Jonathan Schell, 70, who as a 24-year-old graduate student visiting Vietnam in 1967 wrote a memorably lacerating account of American involvement in the war and whose later publications included The Fate of the Earth, a best-selling volume that helped propel the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980s, died of leukemia and skin cancer March 25 in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Marc Platt, 100, a lively and versatile dancer who had standout roles onstage and in films, including in the original 1943 Broadway production of Oklahoma! and as one of the virile young woodsmen seeking spouses in the 1954 film musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, died of pneumonia March 29 in San Rafael, Calif. He crisscrossed the country in the 1930s with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, which played a critical role in introducing ballet to U.S. audiences.

Irene Fernandez, 67, a champion of the oppressed in Malaysia whose indefatigable advocacy for better treatment of foreign migrant workers prompted her government to denounce her as a traitor and human rights groups to shower her with awards, died of heart failure March 25 in Serdang, Malaysia.

Frankie Knuckles, 59, a club disc jockey, remixer and producer who was often called the "godfather of house" for helping that percussive genre of dance music spread from Chicago nightclubs to global popularity and influence, died Monday in Chicago.

Kate O'Mara, 74, the British actor who played the scheming sister of Joan Collins' character on the 1980s prime-time soap opera Dynasty and another scheming sister on the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous, died March 30 in Sussex, England.

Lorenzo Semple Jr., 91, a playwright and screenwriter who would probably be best known for his scripts for films like Papillon and Pretty Poison if he hadn't put the Zap! and the Pow! in the original episodes of the arch, goofy 1960s television show he created, Batman, died March 28 in Los Angeles. "The TV show concept virtually exploded in my sangria-enhanced brain, full-blown," he wrote in Variety in 2008.