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Last Updated: Monday, 6 November 2006, 13:20 GMT
Spies, sports and sharks
By Bob Chaundy
BBC News Profiles Unit

Our regular column covering the passing of significant - but lesser-reported - characters of the past year.

Henry Fok Ying-tung
Henry Fok Ying-tung was known as the Godfather
• The Hong Kong tycoon, Henry Fok Ying-tung, who has died at 83, was known as The Godfather, because of his close political ties to Beijing.

He was born into a poor fishing family in southern China and worked as a coolie shovelling coal on to ferries while trying to run his family's small shipping company.

His break came during the Korean War when he defied a UN embargo to smuggle vital supplies to mainland China. He was rewarded with various business monopolies from the communists and later grew even richer through the Macau casino business.

Pham Xuan An
Pham Xuan An, reporter and spy, showing a US identity card
• Another Asian, Pham Xuan An, led a double life - that of a Time magazine journalist and a spy for North Vietnam. An, who has died of emphysema aged 79, was a gregarious and much-loved figure who would mingle in Saigon cafes, swapping gossip with other foreign correspondents.

He would then photograph secret documents and type information gleaned from off-the-record US army briefings, and pass it to the Viet Cong through their tunnel systems. He always maintained that he never invented anything and that no-one died as a direct result of his spying.

• A double life of a rather different nature was practised by Jacqueline-Charlotte Dufresnoy, a celebrated French transsexual singer and entertainer who has died aged 75. Known as Cochinelle (Ladybird), she was born a man, Jacques-Charles Dufresnoy, and became the first Frenchman to undergo a sex-change operation.

Dufresnoy made his debut as a showgirl in Parisian cabaret, specialising in drag acts. He became a she after an operation in Casablanca in 1958 after which her stage act centred round prominent sex-symbols of the day including Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot.

Tommy Johnson
Tommy Johnson played the tuba in Jaws

• There was something of the brassy about Tommy Johnson, an American tuba player who has died aged 71. It is his performance in John Williams's famous Jaws theme that terrified people throughout the world. His tuba part represented the shark and many have not ventured into the sea since they first heard it.

When he asked John Williams why he wrote the tuba part in such a high register, when a French horn might seem more appropriate, the composer replied that he wanted it to sound a little more threatening.

• There was nothing frightening about Don Thompson, the geekish British race walker. He became something of a novelty figure despite winning a gold medal for the 50km walk at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

He prepared for the race by placing heaters and kettles of boiling water in his bathroom where he would then exercise in temperatures up to 38C. After half an hour he would feel dizzy.

Years later, he discovered that this was due not only to the heat but to carbon monoxide emissions from the paraffin stove he'd placed in his bath. Don Thompson has died aged 75.

Peter Norman
Peter Norman (left) at the Mexico Olympics in 1968
• Another Olympic medalist, the Australian Peter Norman, has died of a heart attack aged 64. He won silver for the 200 metres at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

But what made this special was that Norman stood on the same podium as the two American sprinters, Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they gave their famous black power salute.

Norman wore the same badge in support of their cause. It was he who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute after Carlos had forgotten his pair.

Among those who have also died in October are former South African President PW Botha (see full obituary), the Nigerian Muslim leader Sultan Maccido of Sokoto (see full obituary), the boxer Trevor Berbick (see full story), the travel writer Eric Newby (see full story), and actors Jane Wyatt (see full story), Peter Barkworth (see full story), William Franklyn (see full story), Phyllis Kirk, Tom Bell (see full story) and Frances Bergen.


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