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Emmy Award winning film critic and entertainment reporter Norman Mark was a multi-media journalist who friends recall as upbeat, boundlessly positive and incredibly smart. As one commented, "He grabbed life with both hands and lived gloriously." He died at Eisenhower hospital, surrounded by his family, from complications of multiple myeloma. Friends say Mr. Mark continued to live an amazingly energetic life after his diagnosis three years ago, and had traveled on three continents and to a series of film festivals since that time. Mr. Mark grew up in Chicago, was graduated from Hirsch High School and Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. He started his career as the sole DJ and newsman anchoring the entire six-hour shift at a small radio station in Hopewell, Va. He quickly made a name for himself in larger markets, and quintupled the ratings at WCKY-AM in Cincinnati in less than a year on the air. The small-town radio experience served Mark well when he later hosted midnight-to-6 a.m. shifts on WIND-AM Radio in Chicago, often staging improvised soap operas in which callers played parts that he assigned to them on the spot. One of Mr. Mark's favorite radio experiences was arranging for Chicago pizza to be delivered to Iranian hostages as they were being released in 1980. Said film critic Roger Ebert, "Norman was a journalist and broadcaster of enormous skills, but his friends may remember him best for his boundless sense of humor. "You could find him in any room by listening for the sound of laughter. He was good company." His books included "Norman Mark's Chicago," a best seller of city walking tours now in its fourth edition, and "Mayors, Madams and Madmen," a history of Chicago's most scandalous characters. Most recently, he wrote a wine column and blogs about his experiences adopting a dog and living in Santa Fe. Often honored, he won an Emmy for Chicago television reporting, a Sigma Delta Chi Award for radio public service and the Peter Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism in arts entertainment reporting and criticism. He had three nominations for Pulitzer Prizes, and was a winner of the Discovery Award from the Hollywood Film Festival. John R. Powers, author of "Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" commented, "He took nothing seriously — least of all himself. But few people know how intelligent, how really smart, he was," said Powers." Besides his wife of 23 years Grace, he is survived by son Joel Mark and his wife, Ann, and their children, Snowden, 10, and Sophie, 5, of Los Angeles; son Geoffrey and wife Wendy of Los Angeles; and daughter Russell Arons and her husband, Mark Setrakian, of Los Angeles; and brother, Robert Mark of Evanston and Sedona, Ariz. A private memorial service is planned on the afternoon of April 8 at the family's home.
Published in The Desert Sun from Mar. 24 to Mar. 26, 2012