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America through the eyes of two American-Americans

Sathya Sai Baba, 84

Sai Baba once predicted he would live into his mid-90s, claiming he could choose the date of his passing. "The god has left us physically," said the Sai Baba hospital where he died, built largely with donations from Isaac Burton Tigrett, a devotee and the founder of Hard Rock Cafe, and located near his main ashram in Puttaparthi.

His legacy is not without controversy. There were several allegations that he sexually abused young male devotees. And in 1993 six followers were killed in his ashram, four of whom allegedly sought to assassinate him. The incident was never fully explained.

"India remains a country of faith," said Ravinder Kaur, a sociology professor at New Delhi's Indian Institute of Technology. "Even those reports about pedophilia didn't really dent his image. In this country, if you develop followers, they are very loyal. Nothing seems to shake it."

Over the years, several people alleged they were victims of sexual abuse during private audiences with Sai Baba.

In the 2004 BBC documentary "Secret Swami," filmmaker Tanya Datta interviewed two American male followers who said the guru had fondled their genitals, claiming it was part of a healing ritual.

Others from Sweden, Australia and Germany made similar allegations. A case against Sai Baba was reportedly filed in Munich but none was filed in India, which critics say reflects how well-connected he was here and supporters say is evidence that the allegations were baseless.

"He leaves behind values of peace, nonviolence and love," said Kunal Ganjawala, a Bollywood director and follower of 35 years. "Whether in the physical body, or after he leaves it, we should continue those teachings."

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Filed under: Obituaries

Charles Laufer, 87

Charles Laufer, who built a publishing career with youth-oriented fan magazines such as Tiger Beat, has died. He was 87.

He changed the name of Coaster to Teen, and that magazine led Laufer to launch his signature publication, Tiger Beat, in 1965. Laufer started several other magazines before selling the company in 1978. He built his success on stars such as teen heartthrobs Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy as well as the Beatles and the Monkees.

His other magazines included such monthly publications as Rona Barrett's Hollywood and Gossip. "The first [magazine] was for love," Laufer told The Times in 1980. "Tiger Beat was for money."

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Filed under: Obituaries

Owsley Stanley, 76

Among a legion of youthful seekers, his name was synonymous with the ultimate high as a copious producer of what Rolling Stone once called "the best LSD in the world … the genuine Owsley." He reputedly made more than a million doses of the drug, much of which fueled Ken Kesey's notorious Acid Tests — rollicking parties featuring all manner of psychedelic substances, strobe lights and music.

The music that rocked Kesey's events was made by the Grateful Dead, the iconic rock band of the era that also bears Stanley's imprint. His chief effect on the band stemmed not merely from supplying its musicians with top-grade LSD but from his technical genius: As the Dead's early sound engineer, Stanley, nicknamed "Bear," developed a radical system he called the "wall of sound," essentially a massive public address system that reduced distortion and enabled the musicians to mix from the stage and monitor their playing.

Stanley relocated to Australia more than 30 years ago because he believed it was the safest place to avoid a new ice age. He was a fanatical carnivore who once said that eating broccoli may have contributed to a heart attack several years ago.

He was driving his car in a storm near the town of Mareeba in Queensland when he lost control and crashed, said Sam Cutler, a longtime friend and former Grateful Dead tour manager. He died at the scene.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by sons Pete and Starfinder; daughters Nina and Redbird; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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Filed under: Obituaries

Suze Rotolo, 67

She was a 17-year-old art- and poetry-loving civil rights activist from Queens when she met the 20-year-old folk singer from Minnesota at an all-day folk concert at Riverside Church in Manhattan in the summer of 1961.

So began a four-year relationship with Bob Dylan that was immortalized on a wintery day in 1963 when photographer Don Hunstein captured the young couple walking down a snowy Greenwich Village street, Dylan's hands thrust in his pockets and Rotolo's hands wrapped snuggly around his arm.

Rotolo, who moved into a tiny apartment on West Fourth Street in the Village with Dylan when she was 18, is credited with introducing him to modern art and poetry, avant-garde theater and civil rights politics.

"You could see the influence she had on him," Sylvia Tyson, of Ian & Sylvia, recalled in a 2008 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "This is a girl who was marching to integrate local schools when she was 15."

Some rock historians, The Times' story noted, believe Rotolo inspired numerous Dylan songs, including "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" and "Tomorrow Is a Long Time."

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Filed under: Obituaries
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