Vaclav Havel, who led the Czech republic out of Communist rule and firmly into the West, is dead at 75. The first president of post-Communist Czechoslovakia, Havel was a playwright and leading figure in the Czech literary scene who, reports the New York Times, drew world leaders to Prague — including the Dalai Lama and former then- U.S.president Bill Clinton who jammed on his sax during a 1994 visit to Havel’s favorite jazz club.
According to a spokesman, Havel died from complications related to severe respiratory ailments. He was a heavy smoker who underwent treatment for lung cancer in 1996.
Havel was at home in the world of celebrity. Visitors to his presidential residence included Frank Zappa and the Rolling Stones.
Havel’s death came on the same day (Dec. 18) that North Korea’s longtime leader, Kim Jong Il’s death was announced.
Above: Havel with Joan Baez.