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​Hail and farewell to those we lost in 2019

"Hail and Farewell" to those who passed in 2019
"Hail and Farewell" to those who passed in 2019 21:47

It's a "Sunday Morning" tradition: Our annual look back to those who left us in the year gone by. They had all sorts of talents, all kinds of skills, and one big thing in common: they will be missed. HAIL AND FAREWELL, presented by Lee Cowan: 

Carol Channing did indeed belong on a Broadway stage; it was home. By her count she did some 5,000 performances of "Hello, Dolly!" But to her, it never got old.  "She's absolutely ageless," Channing said of her character, Dolly Levi. "She doesn't belong to any era."

At 97, she was still Dolly to everyone. "I'm the original," she said. "Is that a privilege? People come up in New York out of manholes when they're rebuilding the subway, they come up with helmets on out of the manholes, and say, 'Hello, Dolly!'"

"Dolly" was timeless, and so was the Broadway composer who wrote that tuneful score, and many, many more: Jerry Herman

"There's been a rumor around for a couple of years that the simple, hummable show tune was no longer welcome on Broadway; well, it's alive and well at the Palace!" Herman said in 1984 as he picked up his second Tony Award, for "La Cage aux Folles."  

We lost Herman this past week at 88. 

But perhaps Broadway's biggest light - was Hal Prince

"There's something about the theater that you can't get anywhere else," he said. "Why don't we exploit that, enjoy that?"

In his 91 years he produced, and often directed, some of our most enduring musicals: "West Side Story," "Fiddler on the Roof," "Follies," "Evita," "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street," "The Phantom of the Opera."

"I like directing. I love it," he said. "I'll tell you something, I've been correct more often listening to myself than listening to other people."

Big names can come in the smallest of packages – mini-packages, even. This year we lost Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie Mouse.

"The best part is that I ran into Wayne," Taylor said. Wayne was Wayne Allwine, the voice of Mickey Mouse, who himself died a decade ago. The two were married in real life.

Another voice of our childhood, Big Bird, left us, too: Puppeteer Caroll Spinney, through that lovable Bird, and even Oscar the Grouch, lovable in his own way, taught all of us that we're special in one way or another.

"He's a product of dreams," Spinney said of "Sesame Street"'s Big Bird. "I's very important to believe in those dreams and don't put those aside."

Architect I.M Pei found his dream in drafting, at 102 cementing his reputation as one of the most revered architects of our time.

His glass pyramid is now as synonymous with the Louvre as the Mona Lisa herself. 

"It's a form that belongs to the world, not to the Egyptians alone," he said. "The fact that we use glass instead of stone actually has totally transformed the form."

Lee Iacocca transformed form, too, in the auto industry. "Once you carve yourself out something, be the best guy or gal in the world in doing that, or give up and get into something else," he said.

He's considered the Father of the Ford Mustang, but he's perhaps best known for rescuing Chrysler. As he said in their TV ads, "If you can find a better car, buy it."

Some thought he'd make a better President. He never ran, but another businessman did.

"Let me just say this to all of America: If you hate people, I don't want your vote. That's how strongly I feel about it," said Ross Perot. He was as innovative a face in politics ("I don't have any speechwriters. Probably shows!") as radio personality Don Imus was to morning drive. 

"Nobody had ever done what I've done, ever," Imus told Anthony Mason in 2018. "Done this for 50 years, making a lot of money."

The controversial shock jock died this past week at 79. 

Karl Lagerfeld did his speaking on the runway as one of the icons of fashion. He redefined luxury clothing, especially for Chanel and Fendi. He was always shaping the lines of culture. ("Fashion needs to breathe of something new, something different, changing with the times.")

So was Gloria Vanderbilt, who created a fashion empire in the '70s with her designer jeans. 

But it was her social life that garnered most of the headlines, and for that, she was unapologetic.

"Of course, I'm always in love. I mean, this is what I believe," she said.

Painter Everett Kinstler was fascinated by folks like Vanderbilt – the rich and famous were his stock-in-trade as a portrait artist. He could paint anyone, even a face of ours.

"I'd recognize it anywhere," said "Sunday Morning" host emeritus Charles Osgood of his portrait.

"As long as I didn't have to do people, I was alright," laughed Dan Robbins, who helped all of us who wished we could paint but couldn't by inventing the paint-by-numbers kit: Merely fill in the colors as indicated by numbers on the canvas.

It was in the end, well, magic.

The Cars - Magic (Official Music Video) by RHINO on YouTube

We lost Ric Ocasek this year, the lanky lead man of The Cars who blended new wave and punk into a string of hits that helped define the excesses of the late '70s and early '80s...

… something fellow rocker Eddie Money knew all about. 

TOPPOP: Eddie Money - Baby Hold On by TopPop on YouTube

"You're making records and then you're on the road a lot. And there's always going to be a lot of beer around and there's a lot of women around and there's a lot of, I guess you have to say, drugs around," he admitted.

We lost him at age 70 to cancer.

Cancer also took the affable Peter Tork of The Monkees. He was the goofball of the manufactured band, America's answer to The Beatles.

In 2016 when he and Micky Dolenz were touring, Tork told Anthony Mason, "We'll tour until one of us drops, then the other will go on as the Monkee: 'Hey hey, it's the Monkee!'"

And then there was Dr. John, who had as unique an outlook on music as he did on death itself.

"The correct way to be a musician is to play all your life and at the last beat of the last song of the set, fall over and croak," he said. "Just (plays), hit this, plop! Hey! That's the way to go for a musician, it just seems correct to me."

So, in classic New Orleans tradition, we're saying goodbye to these talents who gave our ears something to really feast on:

On the silver screen we lost our share of giants, including the 7'3" Peter Mayhew, who became the Wookie everybody loved.

Studio executive Robert Evans was a towering presence, too. He was a legend that produced legendary films like "Chinatown," "Love Story" and "The Godfather."

"What means the most to me is pride of my work," he said.

Danny Aiello was in "The Godfather Part II," but it was his performance in "Do the Right Thing" that earned him an Oscar nod. 

Just one of a number of Tinsel Town's heroes and heroines whom we say goodbye to this year as well:

Director John Singleton was just 51 when he passed away. He was fresh out of film school when he debuted with "Boys N the Hood." It got him an Oscar nomination – the first for an African-American director.

"I wouldn't want the film to just be pigeon-holed as a black film," he said. "It's a piece of cinema. I mean, a black film? What is a black film?"

Actress Diahann Carroll ("Julia," "Dynasty") didn't want to be pigeon-holed by race, either.

"I have done several things in this industry that have never been done before by a black woman," she said. "And I don't want to be the last black woman to do it."

What Carroll communicated with a look – author Toni Morrison did with words...

"Having a reader just read it and feel as comfortable in it as I do when I read other cultures' books, that for me is a success," she said.

The Nobel Laureate found the seeds for her novels in those around her.

"Your life is big to me; life looks big," she said.

Judith Krantz saw life large, too. Her novels weren't high-brow, but they were blockbusters – each a tribute to shopping and romance.

TV has always has a soft-spot for love, and when Rhoda Morgenstern finally got married, it brought in a record audience.  Goodbye, Valerie Harper

… and goodbye, Georgia Engel, also of "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," who let's not forget, also tied the TV knot. 

To all who came into our living rooms for so many, many years, we bid a fond farewell:

There are many this year we honor not just for a life well-lived but a long one, too.

Dancer Dorothy Toy lit up stages around the world in the 1930s and '40. She lived to be 102.

Norma Miller started spinning, twirling, and leaping the Lindy Hop as a child, and was still considered the Queen of Swing even at age 99.

At 108 Anthony Mancinelli was officially the world's oldest working barber, as sharp as ever right until the end. "Working this late in life keeps you going," he said.

Orville Rogers kept going – running and running, winning medal after medal, even into his 100th year. He died at 101.

"All you need is a good pair of running shoes and any kind of clothes you want to wear," he explained.

But it was comedian Tim Conway who made us laugh at old age in a good-hearted way. He made slow and steady side-splittingly funny. 

"I don't think we rehearsed probably more than 20 minutes a week," he said, "and that's why you would see people laughing, us, on the show because it was just as fresh to us. Sometimes I was hearing myself for the first time," he said.

It's hard to make a funeral funny, but don't tell that to Shay Bradley. The Irishman left behind an unexpected recording to be played at his gravesite: "Hello? Hello? (knocking) I'm in the box!"

And we say "cheers" to all of those who left us laughing along the way:

There were some firsts, and some lasts, we pay tribute to this year as well.

Enriqueta Basilio became the first woman ever to light the Olympic cauldron.

There was Nick Clifford, who was the last surviving member of the team that carved Mount Rushmore. "I think it's the most beautiful place in the whole world," he said. "Never will be another thing like it."

Alexei Leonov worked even higher.  He was the first man to walk in space in 1965 – a big victory for the Russians.

But it was Christopher Kraft who oversaw the first lunar landing as head of NASA's Mission Control, winning the space race for good. He died at age 95.

We also say goodbye to a pioneering pilot, Dorothy Olsen. She was among the first of a group of female pilots, called WASPS, who proved during World War II that women could fly just as well as men. She lived to be 103.

Also 103 was the last surviving pilot of the storied Jimmy Doolittle raid on Japan, Richard Cole.

World War II wouldn't end for three more years, but when it did, nothing captured the euphoria as much as that kiss in Times Square. George Mendonsa claimed to be the amorous sailor in that photo.  "I know that the older girls, it's a joke to them, they want to kiss the 'kissing sailor,'" he said. "So, once in a while, I kiss them."

We were reminded this year that while history has proud moments, it also offers dark lessons to teach as well.

Branko Lustig lived through Auschwitz, and he helped make sure the horrors that were perpetrated there were never forgotten. He co-produced and even appeared in the Oscar-winning film, "Schindler's List." He said, "People died in front of me in the camps. Their last words were, 'Be a witness of my murder. Tell the world how I died. Remember.'"

Eva Kor was among 1,500 sets of twins made to endure horrific experiments in Auschwitz. Her twin sister Miriam died in 1993; the two were holding hands the day they got out of Auschwitz, and they were again holding hands when they came back.

"We've got to tell children what happened," Kor said. "Unfortunately, this is our legacy. A horrible legacy, but it happens to be the one we have."

Luis Alvarez spent months at Ground Zero after 9/11, and wanted the world to remember that many of his fellow first responders paid for their heroism with their health.

"You all said you would never forget," he told Congress. "Well, I am here to make sure that you don't. … We were part of showing the world that we would never back down from terrorism, and we could all work together."

Alvarez died at just 53.  One month later Congress passed the Never Forget the Heroes Act, allowing victims to file claims all the way up until the year 2090.

One of those who voted for it was Congressman Elijah Cummings, whose fire-and-brimstone oratory often made the House floor feel more like a church: "When we're dancing with the angels, the question will be asked, in 2019 what did we do to make sure we kept our democracy intact?"

We also lost the longest-serving Congressman, John Dingell, who represented his district in Michigan for 59 years. He left us at age 92.

"We are not the masters of this nation," he said. "We are public servants, and that's the highest calling of all."

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens ("I'd like to be thought of as a good lawyer and I hope I will") didn't retire until he was 90, in part, it sounds like, because he enjoyed the Court's camaraderie too much.

"We really all agree with one another," he said. "The disagreements, of course, are those that are publicized, and the 5-4 decisions in dramatic cases give people the impression that it's a cauldron of people fighting with one another and that sort of thing, but actually it's a very close working relationship."

Justice Stevens was 99.

It goes to show we might not be as divided as we sometimes feel. Heck, even the pop duo Captain and Tennille ("Love Will Keep Us Together") had their differences. But when Daryl Dragon, "the Captain," died at 76, Toni Tennille was right by his side.

Maybe as we close out one year and enter another, we should look to someone who, it seemed anyway, had one of the most optimistic outlooks of anyone: Doris Day. She was as charming as the songs she sang, rooted, she said in one film, in one basic fact: "Most boys and girls don't know how to say 'I love you.' So, you've got to say it. In 32 bars of music. No more. No less."

There are many more generous, talented, brave and unique folks who we've failed to mention this morning, but our thanks go out to all of them.

Their lives showed the rest of us how to live, and for that we bid all "Hail and Farewell."

Story produced by Young Kim. 

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