A look back at the esteemed personalities who left us this year, who'd touched us with their innovation, creativity and humanity.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan. The Associated Press contributed to this gallery.
An accomplished publisher and editor since his mid-20s, in 1987 Sonny Mehta (November 9, 1942-December 30, 2019) became just the third editor-in-chief of Alfred A. Knopf in its 72-year history, and over the following decades fashioned a remarkable record of critical and commercial success, from prize-winning literature by Toni Morrison and Cormac McCarthy, to blockbusters such as "Fifty Shades of Grey," "Jurassic Park," and "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."
The bearded, chain-smoking Mehta spoke carefully and chose wisely, helping Knopf thrive even as the industry faced the jarring changes of corporate consolidation, the demise of thousands of independent stores, and the rise of e-books.
Knopf's stable of authors included Gabriel Garcia Marquez, P.D. James, James Ellroy, John Updike, Kazuo Ishiguro, Alice Munro, and Don Winslow. He published memoirs by President Bill Clinton, Katharine Hepburn and Andre Agassi, Robert Cato's biographies of Lyndon B. Johnson, and humor by Nora Ephron.
While a young man in London, the Cambridge University graduate helped launch the literary career of his college friend Germaine Greer, and introduced British readers to the writing of Hunter S. Thompson. With Pan Books, he released works by rising authors such as Ian McEwan and Salman Rushdie, while signing up Jackie Collins, Douglas Adams and other bestsellers.
"On a good day, I am still convinced I have the best job in the world," Mehta told Vanity Fair in 2016, explaining that he had recently finished a novella by Graham Swift. "I opened it and didn't know what to expect, and I read it in one sitting right here in the office, utterly mesmerized. Sometimes you find something new and you just say, 'Wow.'"
Syd Mead (July 18, 1933-December 30, 2019) worked as a car designer for the Ford Motor Company before becoming a freelance illustrator, designing technology and drafting architectural renderings for a variety of companies, from Sony and Minolta to Intercontinental Hotels and U.S. Steel. His work began to attract Hollywood producers, and he was recruited to help design the look of science fiction environments.
Calling himself a "visual futurist," Mead's concept art offered evocative designs for transports, cityscapes and spacecraft for such films as "Star Trek: The Motion Picture," "Tron," "Aliens," "2010," "Timecop," "Short Circuit," "Mission to Mars," "Mission: Impossible III," "Elysium," and "Tomorrowland."
His signature film project was 1982's "Blade Runner," for which he was hired to design transports, including the flying police cars. He decided to illustrate entire cityscapes, and director Ridley Scott and production designer Lawrence Paull took them on board for their dystopian vision of Los Angeles in the year 2019. He returned for the recent sequel, "Blade Runner 2049."
In 2011 he told NPR that all of his designs expand upon advances currently being made in technology: "You start with that technology leap, or possibility, and then you design around that. To me, science fiction is reality ahead of schedule."
"I've suffered for my music. Now it's your turn"
Writer, comedian and singer-songwriter Neil Innes (December 9, 1944-December 29, 2019) originally came to fame as a member of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band (which he formed with fellow art school student Vivian Stanshall), a mirthful British group whose 1969 album "Tadpoles" included the song "I'm the Urban Spaceman." Their appearance as the house band for the British TV comedy series "Do Not Adjust Your Set" in 1968 would connect Innes with future members of the Monty Python comedy troupe.
His particular bent – melodically strong and lyrically zany – made him an effective collaborator to the Pythons, joining their stage shows and record albums (one popular tune was "How Sweet to Be an Idiot"), and appearing in their movies, including "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (as the leader of Sir Robin's minstrels, who sang about gruesome fates).
One of his greatest successes grew out of the TV series "Rutland Weekend Television," created with Python's Eric Idle, in which they memorably crafted a parody of The Beatles, called The Rutles ("a legend that will last a lunchtime"), a band which became the subject of a faux-documentary for NBC. Innes' delightful song parodies of Beatles favorites (collected on a Grammy-nominated soundtrack album) were more than just joyous pastiches, though he was hauled into court accused of plagiarism. They became a tribute band of sorts, and were revived for their send-up the Beatles' "Anthology" collection, called "Archaeology."
As he told The AV Club in 2011, "You put the Bonzo CD on your iTunes, which I've done recently because I thought I'd get it all together on my notebook, and it comes up as 'Unclassified.' I'm rather pleased about it."
At age 14, Sue Lyon (July 10, 1946-December 26, 2019) was picked to play the title role in Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of a Vladimir Nabokov novel, none other than "Lolita," about a middle-aged professor's erotic obsession over a 12-year-old girl. Described by the director as the "perfect nymphet," Lyon won the part over some 800 other girls, despite only a couple of TV credits to her name. Lyon won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the film, which costarred James Mason, Peter Sellers and Shelley Winters.
She continued to act for about 20 years, with film credits including "Night of the Iguana" (co-starring Richard Burton), John Ford's "7 Women," "Tony Rome," "Four Rode Out," "Evel Knieval," and the 1980 horror film "Alligator."
Speaking in 1987 of her experience on promotion tours for her early movies, Lyon said, "This is not my idea of a good time. I hate the spotlight. I hate people looking at me, I don't like strangers asking me questions. I like to be left alone, really."
She recounted a TV talk show appearance she did, at age 16, just two days after the death of her brother, when the interviewer began by asking if her brother had killed himself because she'd played Lolita. "I didn't say a thing. I got up, and I walked out, I couldn't even dignify that with, you know, 'Don't you have good sense, sir?' I had no words. And that's typical of the reasons that I can't be a movie star. I never could."
Little was reported of her post-acting career, though she was said to have been married five times, once to a convicted murderer sitting in prison.
For 50 years, Don Imus (July 23, 1940-December 27, 2019) was the flamethrower of morning drive-time radio, a provocateur as outrageous as he'd been influential. "I wasn't trying to be outrageous," he told "Sunday Morning" in 2018. "It's just the way I thought. My feeling was then, and is now, that if they didn't like what I did, get somebody else to do it. … I always had it in my head that I was talking to one person. I felt that when I walked in there and sat down and turned the mic on, that I was talking to you."
Raised on a ranch in Arizona, Imus aspired to be a singer, and even made some records with his brother, Fred. To get them radio play, he applied to be a DJ. That led to his first jobs in California, where he posed as a National Guard sergeant on air and ordered 1,200 hamburgers to go from McDonalds.
In less than three years, the irreverent young DJ had made it to WNBC in the number one market, New York. "I listened to what was on in New York and I thought, 'Man, this is gonna be easy!'" he laughed. He was an overnight sensation. In the '80s, "Imus in the Morning" evolved into a talk show, attracting the high and mighty. More than 100 stations syndicated his broadcast, and by 1997, Time magazine named him one of the most influential people in America.
In addition to his radio success, he also organized summer camps for kids suffering from cancer.
He told Anthony Mason he had a few regrets, including "the Rutgers thing," in which he'd criticized the hair of the university's women's basketball team. The remark cost him his syndicated radio show on CBS, and his TV show on MSNBC. "It did change my feeling about making fun of some people who didn't deserve to be made fun of, and didn't have a mechanism to defend themselves," he said.
But he was soon back on the radio, another comeback in a career full of resurrections.
Mason asked, "Why do you think that is?"
"I'm not full of sh*t," Imus replied. "If I've done it, I'll own up to it. And then I have some sorta weird relationship with the audience. I think they saved me most of the time."
Composer Jerry Herman (July 10, 1931-December 26, 2019) won two Tony Awards for Best Musical (for "Hello, Dolly!" and "La Cage aux Folles"), writing songs that were, in the words of Angela Lansbury, "bouncy, buoyant and optimistic."
Herman's love of musicals was born from attending a performance of Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun" at age 3. Back home he played several of the show's songs on the piano. He was playing piano in jazz clubs in New York when, in 1960, he made his Broadway debut, writing songs for the revue "From A to Z." The following year, his score for "Milk and Honey" earned him his first of eight Tony nominations.
In 1964 "Hello, Dolly!," starring Carol Channing as matchmaker Dolly Levi, began its run of 2,844 performances (becoming Broadway's longest-running musical at that time). The popular show, which won 10 Tonys, has been revived several times, most recently in 2017 starring Bette Midler.
Herman followed "Dolly" with "Mame," starring Lansbury. And while three other shows of his failed on Broadway ("Dear World," "The Grand Tour" and "Mack and Mabel"), he was back with a hit in 1983 with "La Cage aux Folles," adapted from the French film comedy about two gay men who own a drag nightclub on the Riviera. It won six Tonys.
Herman also contributed songs to "A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine," and his catalogue was mined for the revues "Jerry's Girls" and "An Evening With Jerry Herman." He earned an Emmy nomination for the 1996 TV movie "Mrs. Santa Claus," and in 2009 received a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 2010 he was a Kennedy Center Honoree.
In 1993, as he prepared for a tribute concert at the Hollywood Bowl, Herman explained his philosophy to the Los Angeles Times: "I love happy songs. I love to write optimistic, uplifting songs. It's hard for me to find source material, because I don't want to do a downer."
Songwriter Allee Willis (November 10, 1947-December 24, 2019) grew up in Detroit and was raised on the sounds of Motown, though she never learned to play music. She attributed her love for music to visiting Motown studios every weekend while growing up. "I would sit on the lawn," she told The Times in 2018. "You could watch everyone come in. But most importantly you could hear through the walls, which is how I became a songwriter."
She recorded an album, "Childstar," in 1974, but was dissatisfied with performing. However, Bonnie Raitt recorded one of her songs, "Got You On My Mind," and Willis began working as a songwriter for other artists, including Ray Charles, Sister Sledge and Cyndi Lauper. She co-wrote Earth, Wind & Fire's hits "September" and "Boogie Wonderland," and won a Grammy for co-writing Patti LaBelle's "Stir It Up" for the soundtrack of "Beverly Hills Cop."
She earned a Grammy and a Tony Award nomination) for the Broadway musical "The Color Purple, and an Emmy nomination for the theme song of the TV show "Friends," "I'll Be There for You," performed by the Rembrandts.
Willis was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. "I, very thankfully, have a few songs that will not go away," she told The Times, "but they're schlepping along 900 others."
Old enough to have known ex-slaves and Civil War veterans, Elizabeth Spencer (July 19, 1921-December 23, 2019), a grande dame of Southern literature, chronicled her complicated affection for her ties to tiny Carrollton, Mississippi – her determination to honor them and to leave them behind. Spencer was descended from plantation owners and grew up in a community where girls were chastised for smoking, gossip was forbidden (but flourished anyway), and matrons lived in columned mansions. Life was eased and haunted by the subservient presence of blacks, "an ugly system, of course," Spencer wrote in her memoir. "But in that childhood time of enchantment and love, it never seemed to me anything but part of the eternal."
Carrollton labeled her early, and unfavorably, as "smart." Taunted by her classmates, "ostracized and mocked at," she would sneak off to the woods to write, acts of defiance that left her with "pangs of feeling 'different,' evasiveness and secret anxieties."
She earned a master's degree in literature from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Her first novel, "Fire In the Morning," was published in 1948, followed by "This Crooked Way" and "The Voice at the Back Door," the story of a candidate for sheriff who supports racial justice in a small Mississippi community. "The Voice at the Back Door" was recommended by a Pulitzer committee for the 1957 fiction prize, but rejected by the board; no fiction award was given that year.
Admired by Eudora Welty and Alice Munro, among others, Spencer wrote the novels "The Snare" and "The Salt Line" and dozens of short stories, most recently for the 2014 collection "Starting Over." She also completed a play, "For Lease or Sale," and the memoir "Landscapes of the Heart."
Past regrets, troubled marriages and long-lost relatives were common themes of her stories, which earned her five O. Henry Awards for short fiction. Spencer also confronted her generation's anxiety over civil rights. In the novella "The Business Venture," a circle of Mississippi friends is unable even to mention the savage beatings of Freedom Riders or the whites enraged over efforts to integrate the University of Mississippi.
Her most famous work, "Light In the Piazza," is the story of a North Carolina woman in Florence who watches and worries as her mentally-impaired daughter falls in love with an Italian. First published in The New Yorker and released in book form in 1960, it was an immediate critical favorite adapted into a 1962 movie starring Olivia De Havilland and Yvette Mimieux, and later turned into a 2006 Broadway musical that won six Tony Awards.
Spencer taught at the University of Mississippi, Concordia University in Montreal, and most, recently, at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, allowing her to remain out of Carrollton, but not out of the South. "There's some argument for being able to stay in one region all your life, especially if your roots are there," she told The Paris Review in 1989. "I don't think I've ever really cut the root; I never wanted to. But there's a loss of immediacy in one's experience. You have to count on memory more and daily rhythms less. But memory is a muse, after all, a girl with a vital life of her own."
Born Richard Alpert, the spiritual teacher Ram Dass (April 6, 1931-December 22, 2019) was a countercultural leader and an early proponent of LSD. As a young psychology professor at Harvard, he experimented with colleague Timothy Leary with the effects of psychedelic substances like psilocybin, the compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms. The Harvard Psilocybin Project got them both fired. He and Leary retreated to upstate New York, where – joined by Beat Generation figures Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac – they continued their LSD experimentation.
But Alpert eventually sought a way to reach a state of enlightenment without drugs. Following Ginsberg's advice, he headed to India in 1967, where he met the man who became his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. He acquired the name Ram Dass during that trip, which introduced him to yoga, meditation and spiritualism (the name means "servant of God" in Hindi). He then sought to share that enlightenment with the world, founding several charitable organizations, including the Hanuman Foundation (which introduced prison inmates to spirituality), the Seva Foundation (which works to prevent blindness and helps community groups in developing countries), and the Love Serve Remember Foundation (dedicated to preserving his teachings and those of Neem Karoli Baba). He wrote about his experiences with drugs, and in 1971 published the spiritual primer, "Be Here Now."
"I want to share with you the parts of the internal journey that never get written up in the mass media," he wrote. "I'm not interested in what you read in the Saturday Evening Post about LSD. This is the story of what goes on inside a human being who is undergoing all these experiences."
Among his other books were "How Can I Help?," "Compassion in Action," and "Still Here: Embracing Aging, Changing, and Dying."
"In the '60s, I was an uncle for a movement," he told The Associated Press in 1998. "I was always showing people where they could go. I went east, and then there was a big movement east." Now, he said, "the baby boomers are getting old – and I'm learning how to get old for them. That's my role."
After a severe stroke in 1997 left him paralyzed on the right side and, for a time, unable to speak, he said the stroke brought physical and spiritual suffering, but that he came to see the suffering as a source of insight that he could share with others facing their own battles with illness and aging. "It's brought out new aspects of myself and aspects of my relationship to the world," he said in 1998. The stroke has gotten me into a stage of life – this is a stage close to death, a stage which is inward."
After regaining his speech, Ram Dass returned to the lecture circuit, starting by touring Northern California sharing tales of what he called his state of "heavy grace." "All illnesses are part of the passing show," he told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. "You are not just your body. You are the witness of your body."
French fashion designer Emanuel Ungaro (February 13, 1933-December 22, 2019) was known for his use of vibrant color, mixed prints and elegant draping.
Born in Aix-en-Provence, Ungaro learned to sew from his father, an Italian tailor who'd fled the rise of fascism. A sewing machine was Emanuel's first toy. He moved at age 23 to Paris, where he worked as an assistant to Spanish fashion designer Cristobal Balenciaga. He then worked for the Courreges house before creating his own couture house.
For decades, Ungaro clothed such celebrities as Jacqueline Kennedy, Gena Rowlands and Catherine Deneuve. A fragrance collection was also started. Though he sold his house to the Italian group Ferragamo in 1996, he continued creating collections for nearly two decades.
In 1977 Ungaro told the Washington Post, "I hate seeing women dressed in a sad way."
As a young man, Robert Glenn "Junior" Johnson (June 28, 1931-December 20, 2019) built a reputation as a moonshiner who could outrun the law on the mountain roads of North Carolina like no one else. He's credited with inventing the Bootleg Turn, a maneuver that spins the car into a quick 180-degree turn and sends it speeding off in the opposite direction. Johnson began driving at age 8, long before he had a license. "I didn't need one anyway," he often said with a laugh. "They weren't going to catch me."
Johnson was never caught on the roads during his moonshining days, but he was arrested by federal authorities in 1956 when he was caught working at his father's still. He served 11 months of a 20-month sentence in federal prison in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Johnson turned that talent behind the wheel to racing, and became a superstar in NASCAR in the 1950s and '60s. He is credited with discovering drafting – using the slipstream of the car in front of you on the track to keep up or slingshot past. Using that maneuver, he won the 1960 Daytona 500, outrunning several cars that were about 10 mph faster.
In a 1988 University of North Carolina oral history interview, Johnson said, "I think I was gifted with the feel of an automobile to correct any situation I got into when I got a little older. I basically could outguess what the car was going to do."
The winner of 50 races as a driver and 132 as an owner (for drivers that included Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte), he was described by Esquire writer Tom Wolfe as "The Last American Hero." His life story was later dramatized in a 1973 movie starring Jeff Bridges.
When asked by UNC what makes a driver fast, Johnson replied, "Nerve, one word, that's it … If you've got the nerve, then all you'll have to do is keep working 'til you get with the right team to where you've got the speed. Then you put both of them together and you've got something that nobody can basically cope with."
An acclaimed interpreter of Chopin, Schumann and Ravel, virtuoso pianist Abbey Simon (January 8, 1920-December 18, 2019) performed with some of the world's leading orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra, and the National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C., and toured extensively in Europe and South America.
He was also an educator, at Indiana University, the University of Houston and Juilliard, and was regarded as a tough and temperamental teacher (sometimes referred to as "Crabby Abbey"), who would nonetheless mix humor with his criticism of technique.
In his 2017 memoir "Inner Voices," co-authored with Garnet Ungar, a former student, he was quoted as telling a student about to go on stage for his doctoral solo recital, "Let yourself go. Don't go out there and practice."
Da Chen (1962-December 17, 2019) drew from the hardships he suffered as a persecuted child growing up in the midst of China's Cultural Revolution to create, in 1999, the critically-acclaimed memoir "Colors of the Mountain." It was a time when the Communist Party and its leader, Mao Zedong, were cementing their grip on power following the country's 1949 revolution. Chen's family, who had been prosperous landowners, became pariahs; his father and grandfather, both college-educated intellectuals, were tortured and sent to reeducation camps, while Da was kicked out of school to work in farm fields.
Eventually a kind-hearted teacher snuck Chen back into school, and after Mao died in 1976 he was allowed to take the country's college entrance exam on which he scored among the highest in the country. He was admitted to the prestigious Beijing Language and Cultural University where upon graduation he joined the faculty teaching English.
Offered a scholarship to Nebraska's Union College, Chen arrived in the United States with little more than $30 and his treasured bamboo flute, supporting himself for a time as a waiter in a Chinese restaurant. He soon received a scholarship offer from Columbia University, and headed to New York where, after earning a law degree, he worked as an investment banker on Wall Street. That's when he began to turn his hand to writing, inspired by thriller writer John Grisham.
He tried twice to write a legal thriller; his wife, who served as his editor, described the first effort as "awful" and the second as "mediocre." It was after she told him to start writing down the stories he'd told about his early years in China that he wrote "Colors of the Mountain," published to immediate acclaim. A New York Times bestseller, it has been published in seven languages and taught at schools and universities.
Other books included "Sounds of the River," which recounted Chen leaving his poor south China town of Yellow Stone to attend college in Beijing. In "Brothers: A Novel," Chen turned to fiction in addressing the Cultural Revolution, in a tale of two brothers, one born into wealth as the son of a general, another into poverty as the son of the general's mistress.
He also published several children's books, including the fantasy "Wandering Warrior." His most recent work, "Girl Under a Red Moon," casts his real-life sister Xi Xi as the heroine during China's Cultural Revolution.
Haitian-American model Mama Cax (November 20, 1989-December 16, 2019) was diagnosed with bone and lung cancer at the age of 14; she was estimated to have two weeks to live. Despite chemotherapy, she would undergo hip replacement surgery that failed, requiring that she have her right leg and part of her pelvic bone amputated.
Speaking at the Reykjavik Global Forum in November 2019, Cax said, "I found myself covered in scars, which led to body image insecurities, depression and sense of worthlessness."
But she did not let disability get in the way of a modeling career, landing the cover of Teen Vogue and several fashion ads, including for Tommy Hilfiger and Olay. As an advocate for both disability groups and the body positive movement, she has participated in fashion shows and workshops, and a 2016 White House disability conference, and recently hand-cycled the New York City Marathon.
"Using my story to uplift others became my mission," she said. "Isn't it better to teach young girls about strength, perseverance, courage and confidence?"
A leading actress of the French New Wave, the Danish-born Anna Karina (September 22, 1940-December 14, 2019) modeled and sang in cabarets before moving to France, where she was advised by Coco Chanel to change her name (from Hanne Karin Bayer). She appeared in a cinema advertisement for Palmolive, sitting in a bubble bath. The ad was spotted by Jean-Luc Godard, who asked her to appear in his film, "Breathless," nude. She refused. When challenged by the director that she had already willingly appeared on screen in a bathtub showing some skin, Karina recalled to Vogue magazine in 2016 that she replied, "I wasn't nude. That was your imagination. … The soapsuds were up to my neck."
But she would work with Godard in "Le Petit Soldat" ("The Little Soldier," pictured), and soon after made him the first of her four husbands. She starred in six other Godard films: as a femme fatale in "Une Femme Est Une Femme" ("A Woman Is a Woman"), for which she won Best Actress at the Berlin Film Festival; a prostitute in "Vivre Sa Vie" ("My Life to Live"); one point of a romantic triangle in the comic caper "Bande à Part" ("Band of Outsiders"); an arms smuggler in "Pierrot le Fou"; a computer programmer in the sci-fi "Alphaville"; and a woman investigating a murder in the French town of "Atlantic-Cité" in the crime comedy "Made in U.S.A."
Karina also worked with such directors as Jacques Rivette ("La Religieuse," "Haut, Bas, Fragile"), Luchino Visconti ("The Stranger"), George Cukor ("Justine"), Rainer Werner Fassbinder ("Chinese Roulette"), and Jonathan Demme ("The Truth About Charlie").
Karina also went behind the camera to direct "Vivre Ensemble" ("Living Together"), and "Victoria," and to write "Last Song." She also recorded songs by Serge Gainsbourg, including "Sous le soleil exactement" and "Roller Girl."
In 2014 actor Danny Aiello (June 20, 1933-December 12, 2019) made a confession in the title of his memoir, "I Only Know Who I Am When I Am Somebody Else." "I have no idea who I am," he told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Tracy Smith. "Now, when I'm playing a character, I know exactly what I'm going to say, who I am, where I came from. And life is lot easier like that."
As to life's hardships: beginning at age 9 Aiello sold newspapers, shined shoes, worked in a grocery store and bowling alley, and loaded trucks after his father left the family (which included six siblings). He was a pool hustler and high school dropout who married and joined the Army (where he played baseball to entertain the troops), then worked factory jobs. He spent 10 years with Greyhound; during one labor dispute he was forced to quit his job, and his post as president of the transit union. He turned to crime, cracking safes (by throwing them out a window), but was never caught.
Working as a bouncer at a New York comedy club, he filled in as emcee introducing acts, and found he had a knack for performing. That led to small roles in the films "Bang the Drum Slowly" and "The Godfather Part II" (playing a hitman who fails to silence Frank Pentangeli). The roles got bigger, in "Fort Apache, The Bronx" (as a cop who throws a kid off a rooftop); "The Purple Rose of Cairo" (as Mia Farrow's loutish husband); and "Once Upon a Time in America" (as a camera-loving police chief).
In "Moonstruck," he played a courter of Cher, hesitantly getting down on one knee to propose (worried it might ruin his new suit). And for Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," Aiello earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as Sal, owner of a Brooklyn pizzeria that becomes Ground Zero of a racially-charged riot.
His other credits include "Bloodbrothers," "Radio Days," "Jacob's Ladder," "Hudson Hawk," "Ruby," "Mistress," "The Pickle," "Once Around," "Leon: The Professional," "City Hall," "2 Days in the Valley," the TV series "The Last Don," and Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" music video. On stage he appeared in "Lamppost Reunion," "That Championship Season," "Gemini" (for which he won an Obie Award), "Knockout," "The Floating Light Bulb," "Hurlyburly," "The House of Blue Leaves" and "Home for the Holidays."
He told Tracy Smith he'd lived life with few regrets, except maybe one: He never got to work with director Martin Scorsese. "Now, I'm the only Italian American in the United States that's not in one of his movies! Does he think I suck? Does he think I'm the worst actor in the world? Maybe he does. That's fine. But I've seen some of the actors in some of his pictures. And they do suck. You know what I mean? But they were still in his movies.
"Anyway. I don't want you to think I resent Marty Scorsese because of that. But I do!" he laughed.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was begun in 2014 when pro golfer Chris Kennedy challenged his wife's cousin, Jeanette Senerchia, whose husband has ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). ALS patient Pat Quinn picked up on it and started its spread. The process was simple: Take a bucket of ice water, dump it over your head, post a video on social media, and challenge others to do the same – OR make a donation to charity. Most people happily, and soggily, did both.
But when Pete Frates (December 28, 1984-December 9, 2019), a former college baseball player, and his family got involved, the phenomenon exploded on social media. Thousands of people participated, including celebrities, sports stars and politicians. "The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge represents all that's great about this country," Frates said at the time. "It's about fun, friends, family, and it makes a difference to all of us living with ALS."
The challenge has raised about $220 million worldwide, including $115 million alone for the Washington-based ALS Association.
Frates (pictured, center), a native of the Boston suburb of Beverly, was a three-sport athlete who played baseball professionally in Germany and in amateur leagues in the U.S. While playing for the Lexington Blue Sox in 2011, he got hit on the wrist by a pitch. It failed to heal properly. After months of testing, Frates was diagnosed with ALS in 2012. As the disease progressed, he became paralyzed and had to use a wheelchair, lost the ability to talk, and had to be fed through a tube.
"The Man Upstairs has a plan for me," he told The Salem News in 2012. "I'm not having too many issues with this, mentally. This is the hand I've been dealt and I've made my peace with it. There are people out there that don't have my support system or my advantages, and I want to help them."
With the help of funds raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge, significant investments in research on the causes of and potential treatments for ALS have been made. Dozens of research institutions around the world have benefited from the money raised. The challenge has also been used to raise awareness for other charitable causes, leading to advances in treating other diseases.
René Auberjonois (June 1, 1940-December 8, 2019) was a prolific character actor for decades, his dry humor making major impressions on stage, in films and on TV, even when he wasn't raising money for Doctors Without Borders.
On Broadway, he played the Fool in a 1968 Broadway production of "King Lear" opposite Lee J. Cobb, and won a Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical in "Coco," which starred Katharine Hepburn. He received three more Tony nominations for Neil Simon's "The Good Doctor," and the musicals "Big River" and "City of Angels." Other stage credits include "Twelfth Night," "Metamorphosis," "Dance of the Vampires" and "Sly Fox."
In Robert Altman's Korean War comedy "M*A*S*H" (1970), he was Father Mulcahy, the military chaplain and straight man to the hijinks of the doctors at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital. In a line he'd ad-libbed, Auberjonois memorably explained how such an anti-authoritarian cut-up as Hawkeye Pierce had made it into the Army: "He was drafted." He would work with Altman several times after, including in "Brewster McCloud," "McCabe and Mrs. Miller," "Images," and "The Player" (as himself). Recently he worked with director Kelly Reichardt in "Certain Women" and "First Cow."
In addition to scores of guest appearances on television, in the 1980s Auberjonois starred in the sitcom "Benson" (pictured) as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III, the governor's hypochondriacal chief of staff (for which he earned the first of two Emmy nominations), and in the '90s he was Odo, the shape-shifting Changeling in the sci-fi series "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." He later was a regular on "Boston Legal."
Among his lengthy credits for animation voice work, he was the French chef who sings the love song to fish-killing, "Les Poissons," in Disney's "The Little Mermaid."
"I am all of those characters, and I love that," Auberjonois said in a 2011 interview with the "Star Trek" website. "I also run into people, and they think I'm their cousin or their dry cleaner. I love that, too."
Puppeteer Caroll Spinney (Dec. 26, 1933-Dec. 8, 2019) gave Big Bird his warmth and Oscar the Grouch his growl for nearly 50 years on "Sesame Street." Spinney voiced and operated the two major Muppet characters from their inception in 1969 when he was 36, and performed them almost exclusively into his 80s.
"Before I came to 'Sesame Street,' I didn't feel like what I was doing was very important," Spinney said when he announced his retirement in 2018. "Big Bird helped me find my purpose."
Spinney told "CBS Evening News" in 2015 about a phone call he had made to a five-year-old boy named Joey, sick with cancer. The boy's father later told Spinney his son, who hadn't smiled in a month, passed away with a smile on his face thanks to Big Bird's call. In Joey's final moment, described the father to Spinney, Joey said: "Big Bird called me. He's my friend."
And as the lovable, whimsical, giant flightless bird, Spinney became a friend to generations of children, a slightly goofy but joyful and optimistic character who would learn lessons alongside them.
"I've been asked: Does it bother me that people don't know who you are?" he said in 2015. "But they know Big Bird and Oscar. And I don't mind a bit because I know I can play them – and also good pay – and I get to take the pay home. Meanwhile, they're back at 'Sesame Street.'"
He saw his first Broadway play when he was three years old. Fifty-three years later, Ron Leibman (October 11, 1937-December 6, 2019) was honored with a Tony Award for Best Actor, playing the fiery and corrupt lawyer Roy Cohn in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." Between those events, Leibman had become a familiar figure on stage and in films and television in roles both dramatic and comedic, relishing characters whose authority, machismo and wildness could be blended in surprising ways.
He starred as a union organizer with Sally Field in "Norma Rae," and as a gleeful car enthusiast opposite Robert Redford in the heist comedy "The Hot Rock." He also starred in "The Super Cops," "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Night Falls on Manhattan," "Seven Hours to Judgment," "Zorro the Gay Blade," "Auto Focus," "Dummy," and "Garden State,"
"Nice guys are boring," he told The AV Club in 2011. "I don't mean in real life. As an actor, those characters are boring."
He played an ex-con-turned-lawyer in the CBS series "Kaz," which he co-created, and won an Emmy for his performance two weeks before the show was cancelled.
"I really don't understand this business. I've stopped trying to figure it out," he told The AV Club. "I didn't know much about television then, because I was a theater actor who had been snatched up and taken out there. And suddenly I was on this television show, which I'd helped write.
"It was my idea, basically, a guy who had been in prison and then gets out and joins a law firm. A man haunted by his past. A sort of 'Les Misérables' theme. I had no idea if it was going to be successful or not, but when it went on the air and I saw the commercials, they were for trucks. And I said, 'Wait a minute, the audience watching this show ain't buying trucks!' I thought we might've been in the wrong place – and sure enough, that was true. I learned a lot, very quickly."
Other stage roles included "We Bombed in New Haven" "Doubles," "Cop-Out" (with his then-wife Linda Lavin), "I Ought to Be in Pictures," "Rumors" (with his second wife, Jessica Walter), "The Merchant of Venice," and "Rich and Famous." Leibman also played Dr. Leonard Green (Jennifer Aniston's father) on "Friends." He also recently did voice work on the animated series "Archer," which also stars Walter.
Rather than carry out President Richard Nixon's unlawful order to fire Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox, William Ruckelshaus (July 24, 1932-November 27, 2019), who was deputy attorney general at the time, quit his job, following in the footsteps of Attorney General Elliot Richardson. After their resignations, Solicitor General Robert Bork carried out the firing of Cox in what became known as the "Saturday Night Massacre." Impeachment proceedings against Nixon began a mere 10 days later.
Called "incorruptible" by longtime friend and Seattle philanthropist Martha Kongsgaard, Ruckelshaus, a lifelong Republican, also served as acting director of the FBI, and was the first administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, where he helped implement the 1970 Clean Air Act, pushed automakers to tighten controls on air pollution, and took actions against major companies polluting the nation's waters. (He returned to run the EPA under President Ronald Reagan.) He also held senior positions at Weyerhaeuser Co. and Browning-Ferris Industries.
Reflecting on his long career in public service and private enterprise in 2001, Ruckelshaus ranked his time at the EPA as one of the most fulfilling and challenging. "At EPA, you worked for a cause that is beyond self-interest and larger than the goals people normally pursue," he said in an EPA oral history interview. "You're not there for the money, you're there for something beyond yourself."
In recent years, Ruckelshaus joined other former EPA directors in championing the agency against cuts or efforts to curtail its authority. In an interview with The Associated Press last year, his criticism of President Donald Trump's moves to roll back environmental protections and give more regulatory power to the states was withering.
He said some states don't have the resources to police big polluters, and others lack the will. "The reason that the ultimate authority to enforce the law was put into federal hands was because the states weren't any good at it," Ruckelshaus said. "The idea that you're going to delegate it to the states ... is completely fraudulent."
A stage and opera director, filmmaker, author and comedian who co-created the groundbreaking comedy revue "Beyond the Fringe," Jonathan Miller (July 21, 1934-November 27, 2019) studied medicine and qualified as a doctor before turning to the arts, spurred by the success of the satirical revue he created with fellow Cambridge University student Peter Cook and Oxford students Dudley Moore and Alan Bennett. "It was kind of an accident, really," he told The Associated Press in 1981.
The satirical show, which later transferred to London's West End and then Broadway, triggered a wave of irreverent British comedy on stage, records and television, and launched Miller into a theatrical career. He directed a production of "The Merchant of Venice" starring Laurence Olivier; a psychedelic 1960s BBC TV adaptation of "Alice in Wonderland"; "The Taming of the Shrew" starring Monty Python alumnus John Cleese (pictured); and a revival of "Long Day's Journey Into Night" starring Jack Lemmon. He also staged operas (despite his inability to read music), working with such companies as Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera and the English National Opera. His productions included "Cosi Fan Tutte," "The Marriage of Figaro"; and a 1920s-set "The Mikado" with Python's Eric Idle.
He was also a popular television presenter, hosting such series as "The Body in Question" (a history of medicine), and "Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief."
His wide range led to incessant characterizations of him as a "Renaissance Man," which he rejected. As he told Time Out magazine in 2008, "It's so ignorant and vulgar. My father was a painter and a sculptor in addition to being a psychiatrist and a founder of child psychology, but no one would ever have called him a Renaissance Man. One usually gets called a 'Renaissance Man' by people who are entirely unacquainted with the Renaissance."
The work of cartoonist Gahan Wilson (February 18, 1930-November 21, 2019) would become a mainstay of Playboy, the New Yorker and National Lampoon magazines, but not until after struggling for years to convince editors to take a chance on his rather macabre drawings.
Wilson delighted readers with his haunting scenes and dark humor. One cartoon shows a man reading a doctor's eye chart with progressively shrinking letters that spell out, "I am an insane eye doctor and I am going to kill you now." Behind him, a figure gleefully holds a blade, ready to strike.
On his website Wilson reflected on artists who push boundaries and shock the status quo: "Art should lead to change in the way we see things. If some artist comes up with a vision which gives a new opening, it usually creates a lot of stress, because it's frightening."
Jake Burton Carpenter
Jake Burton Carpenter (April 29, 1954-November 20, 2019) did not invent the snowboard, but he helped popularize it, turning it into a billion-dollar business and a major Winter Olympic sport. Twelve years after Sherman Poppen created what was known at the time as a "Snurfer," the 23-year-old entrepreneur – then known only as Jake Burton – quit his job in Manhattan, moved back to Vermont, and launched his company, Burton, in 1977, selling 300 snowboards that year from his Londonderry barn. "I had a vision there was a sport there, that it was more than just a sledding thing, which is all it was then," Burton said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press. Today, Burton employs more than 900 people, with estimated annual revenue of a quarter-billion dollars, and has sponsored nearly every big name in the sport, from Seth Wescott and Shaun White, to Kelly Clark and Chloe Kim.
Burton helped organize the first U.S. Open Snowboarding Championship in 1982, and in 1998 the Olympics added snowboarding to its roster in Nagano, Japan. During the last decade, snowboarders accounted for more than 25% of visitors to mountain resorts in the United States. In addition to promoting the sport of snowboarding, in 1995 Burton and his wife, Donna, formed the Chill Foundation, which aims to bolster youths' self-confidence and life skills through board sports.
As the years passed, Carpenter straddled the delicate line between the "lifestyle sport" he'd helped create and the mass-marketing behemoth snowboarding was fast becoming. "I had no clue whatsoever that you'd be building parks and halfpipes and that kind of thing," Burton said in his 2010 AP interview. "We're doing something that's going to last here. It's not like just hitting the lottery one day."
Michael J. Pollard
A New Jersey native, actor Michael J. Pollard (May 30, 1939-November 20, 2019) started out with roles in 1950s and '60s TV series, including " Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," "Lost in Space" and "Star Trek," and appeared on Broadway in "Bye, Bye Birdie" and "A Loss of Roses" (with costar Warren Beatty), before landing his breakout role in "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967), playing C.W. Moss, who joins the bank-robbing duo played by Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
In 1969 he related to Roger Ebert a memorable scene in which he was to drive their getaway car, but was forced to improvise when he couldn't maneuver out of a parking space: "See, I can't drive a car," he said. "There was this guy teaching me, but I couldn't learn. So here I was, stuck in the parking place, and [director Arthur] Penn said, 'Okay, do it that way.'" He earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
Other film credits include "The Wild Angels," "Enter Laughing," "Hannibal Brooks," "Sunday in the Country," "Little Fauss and Big Halsy," "Between the Lines," "Melvin and Howard" (pictured), "Roxanne," "Scrooged," "Tango & Cash," "Dick Tracy," and "House of 1,000 Corpses."
As a businessman and a movie producer, Robert Evans (June 29, 1930-October 26, 2019) rarely took "no" for an answer – and Paramount Pictures wouldn't have survived without him. Born in New York City, he worked with his brother in a successful women's clothing company after spotty work as a child actor. But at age 26, while visiting Los Angeles, he was spotted sunbathing by a pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel by actress Norma Shearer. Evans was tapped to play a Hollywood executive in a James Cagney movie about horror film star Lon Chaney, "Man of a Thousand Faces" (1957).
A few roles followed but, he told CBS News' Lee Cowan, he was a "half-assed actor," and knew that he wasn't going to be "the next Paul Newman." Indeed, he was almost dropped from the Ernest Hemingway drama "The Sun Also Rises," except for the protestations of producer David O. Selznick, who decreed, "The kid stays in the picture."
Evans eventually turned to producing, and wound up head of production at Paramount at an opportune (or inopportune) moment: the studio's new corporate owners, Gulf + Western, wanted to sell off the backlot. Evans fought back, and years later remembered what the board told him: "You better have some luck, Evans. That's all I can tell you, you better have some luck."
And his did. In the late 1960s and '70s, he took the failing studio and made it number one, with some of the most popular and acclaimed films ever made, including "The Odd Couple," "True Grit," "Love Story," "Harold and Maude," "Chinatown" and "The Godfather." "The first night, when the picture closed, there wasn't a sound in the entire theater," Evans said of the Francis Ford Coppola classic to "Sunday Morning" in 2012. "I said, 'Oh God, I might have a bomb here.' I thought it was a bomb – until the party afterwards. People were stunned by it, actually stunned!"
After a corporate restructuring in the mid-'70s, he continued as a producer, of "Marathon Man," "Black Sunday" and "Urban Cowboy." Later films included Coppola's "The Cotton Club," and "The Two Jakes" (a sequel to "Chinatown" directed by Jack Nicholson).
His flashy career and equally flashy personal life (he was married a total of seven times, including to actresses Ali MacGraw and Catherine Oxenberg and former Miss America Phyllis George) were recounted in his 1994 memoir, "The Kid Stays in the Picture," which later became a documentary film.
One night in 1998 he suffered three massive strokes. But just as he had in Hollywood, Evans set out to beat the odds, enduring months of painful rehabilitation, and eventually becoming healthy enough to get married (and divorced) again. He wrote about his recovery in the book, "The Fat Lady Sang," which he hoped would inspire others. "If I can make it through what I did – I'm no better than they are – they should work it, too," he told "CBS This Morning" in 2013. "I'm so grateful, because the greatest show on Earth is life, and I'm still in the front row center."
"I may be dancing with the angels when all of this is corrected, but I gotta tell you, we must fight for our democracy," said Rep. Elijah Cummings (January 18, 1951-October 17, 2019) in February when, as chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, he oversaw investigations into President Trump's business dealings and campaign finance violations, and their intersections with government actions. He denounced the president's immigration policy that separated parents and children at the border, and in his final hours signed subpoenas demanding the administration hand over documents pertaining to its controversial decision to deport children with life-threatening health issues, dooming them to death.
"We are in a fight for the soul of our democracy, and you've got to understand that," Cummings told "60 minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft earlier this year. "This is serious business."
He was always a fighter for what was right. Even at age 11, he was one of the first children to integrate a swimming pool in Baltimore's Riverside Park in 1962, despite a mob of whites throwing bottles and rocks, one of which struck Cummings in the face, giving him a scar he carried ever since.
The Baltimore native was one of seven children born to parents with fourth-grade educations who'd once been sharecroppers in South Carolina. Both his mother and father were Pentecostal ministers, and they instilled the importance of education. Cummings told Kroft: "[My father] told us, 'If you miss one day of school, that meant you died the night before.' And he meant that. I did not miss one second of school between kindergarten and graduating from high school. Not one second."
He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Howard University, and earned a law degree at the University of Maryland. He rose through the ranks of the Maryland House of Delegates, becoming that body's first black House Speaker Pro-Tem, before winning a special Congressional election in 1996 to replace Rep. Kweisi Mfume, who'd left the House to lead the NAACP.
Cummings was a formidable orator, passionately advocating for the poor and the addicted, as he represented both inner-city Baltimore and more well-to-do suburbs. He chaired the Congressional Black Caucus from 2003 to 2004, and when the Democrats won control of the House, he became chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee.
Cummings would scrape with Mr. Trump over the White House issuing top security clearances to his family members despite their being rejected through standard protocols. As one of the committee chairmen in charge of the House's impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump, Cummings was also investigating how the president was enriching himself in the Oval Office through his real estate properties, and how the president demanded a personally-beneficial quid pro quo from the Ukrainian president in exchange for U.S. military aid and a visit to the White House.
In April on "Face the Nation" Cummings defended the urgency of investigating charges against the president and his team: "We don't have time to get tired, because the Russians aren't getting tired. They are attacking our electoral system every single day, if not every hour. And so we're going to have to stand up. … We cannot afford that, our democracy cannot afford that."
Actor Bill Macy (May 18, 1922-October 17, 2019) came to the attention of producer Norman Lear with a tour de force performance in an Off-Broadway play in which he comically choked for several minutes on a chicken bone. "If I live to be a thousand, and I hope to, I will never forget his choking to death on a chicken bone!" Lear told the Television Academy in 1998. Lear would hire Macy to play Walter Findlay, husband of the outspoken and irrepressible Maude (played by Bea Arthur), in the "All in the Family" spinoff, "Maude."
The series ran for six seasons, and tackled issues rarely seen (certainly in comedies) on TV screens in the '70s, such as abortion, alcoholism and homophobia. In one episode, "Walter's Problem," Macy slapped Arthur across the face during an argument over his drinking. The memory of it still affected him years afterwards.
Previously, Macy played the jury foreman in Mel Brooks' "The Producers" ("We find the defendants incredibly guilty!"), and on stage appeared in "Oh! Calcutta!" and "Wake and Sing!"
His film roles included "The Late Show," "The Jerk," "Serial," "My Favorite Year," "Movers & Shakers," "Analyze This," "Surviving Christmas," and "The Holiday." On TV he starred in "The Scarlett O'Hara War," and had guest appearances on "St. Elsewhere," "L.A. Law," "Murder, She Wrote," "The Famous Teddy Z," "Seinfeld," and "How I Met Your Mother." He returned to Broadway in "I Ought to Be in Pictures" and "The Roast."
A native of Rochester, New York, Robert Forster (July 13, 1941-October 11, 2019) quite literally stumbled into acting while in college. Studying to be a lawyer, he followed a fellow female student he was trying to talk to into an auditorium where "Bye Bye Birdie" auditions were being held. He wound up being cast in that show; that fellow student would become his wife (with whom he had three daughters), and he was launched on a trajectory that would take him, as an actor, to nearly 200 film and TV appearances and an Academy Award nomination.
After appearing on Broadway in "Mrs. Dally Has a Lover," Forster made his film debut in "Reflections in a Golden Eye" (1967), which starred Marlon Brando and Elizabeth Taylor. Forster would go on to star in Haskell Wexler's documentary-style classic "Medium Cool" and the detective series "Banyon." It was an early high point that he would later say was the beginning of a "27-year slump."
He worked consistently throughout the 1970s and 1980s in mostly forgettable B-movies and genre films, including "The Don Is Dead," "Alligator," "The Black Hole," "Vigilante," "Stunts," and "The Delta Force." "I had four kids, I took any job I could get," he said in an interview with the Chicago Tribune last year. "Every time it reached a lower level I thought I could tolerate, it dropped some more, and then some more. Near the end, I had no agent, no manager, no lawyer, no nothing. I was taking whatever fell through the cracks."
Quentin Tarantino, in his 1997 film "Jackie Brown" (pictured), put Forster back on the map. The role of bail bondsman Max Cherry was created with Forster in mind; the actor had unsuccessfully auditioned for a part in "Reservoir Dogs," but Tarantino promised not to forget him. His performance opposite Pam Grier earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In a 2007 interview for Fandor, Forster said of the director, "He gave me a career back." That second-act resume included films like David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"; ''Me, Myself and Irene"; ''The Descendants"; ''Olympus Has Fallen"; and "What They Had." On TV he was featured in the revival of "Twin Peaks," on "Last Man Standing" (as Tim Allen's father), and on "Breaking Bad." (He revived his character, Ed the Disappearer, in its spinoff film, "El Camino.")
In 1999 Forster told the Rochester Review his method for choosing roles: "I'm of the school that I only have a certain number of years to work, so I take what I can get and then deliver the best work I can. I have to deliver the goods now. In the moment. Time is all you have, and now is the only time you can deliver excellence."
The first human to take a spacewalk, Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov (May 30, 1934-October 11, 2019) ventured out of his Voskhod 2 spacecraft in March 1965. The 12-minute spacewalk nearly killed him, but he was instructed to make statements to the press describing the ease of his excursion into space, and that his training had been perfect, rather than the fact that he'd nearly died.
Speaking to a NASA interviewer on the 50th anniversary of the mission, Leonov said "I really don't know how I managed to turn and go with my legs first. I was running a fever, I was sweating, I could not see much because of the sweat." Leonov later revealed he was on the verge of heat stroke.
Difficulties with his suit and with re-entering the capsule, and with the descent craft failing to properly disengage, led to problems upon re-entry; Leonov and fellow cosmonaut Pavel Belyayev landed nearly 240 miles off-course, in a forest in Upper Kama Upland. There was no clearing for helicopters to land; rescuers had to arrive on skis, after the cosmonauts spent an uncomfortable night in freezing temperatures, surrounded by timber wolves.
In 1975 Leonov commanded the Russian Soyuz spacecraft that docked with a NASA Apollo capsule, a space rendezvous that symbolized détente between the two space race rivals. After the flight, Leonov was promoted to general. He became a statesman for the international space community, and also an accomplished artist.
"The most vivid impression of my life has to do with the fact that not only was I in a (spacesuit), but I found myself to be surrounded with the stars," he told NASA in 2015. "Stars were on the right-hand side and the Earth was on the left-hand side, and there was just enormous, unbelievable silence. … I hear how my heart was pounding. I could hear myself breathe.
"The stars were very bright. They were everywhere. They were above, they were beneath. On the ground, you can only see stars up in the sky. In space, they are everywhere."
Charles Elmer Taylor Jr. worked as a congressional page before serving in the Army during the Korean War, where he started performing standup. He readily admitted stealing jokes from USO shows when he plied his trade in the Catskills, but as he recalled in 1992, "I sat on a stool telling jokes, and nobody was laughing. In desperation, I pretended to cry as I begged them to laugh. That killed 'em." That, he said, is when the character Rip Taylor (January 13, 1931-October 6, 2019) was born. The "crying comedian" bit got the attention of Ed Sullivan, who would say, "Get me the crying comedian."
The madcap comic, who cut a memorable figure with his bushy blonde toupee, exaggerated eyebrows and walrus-like mustache (not to mention his penchant for throwing confetti), ended up on tour with Judy Garland and Eleanor Powell in Las Vegas in 1966, and appeared on stage in "Anything Goes," ''A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," ''Sugar Babies," "Oliver!" and "Peter Pan" (as Captain Hook).
Taylor became a television mainstay, making more than 2,000 guest star appearances on shows like "The Monkees," ''The Merv Griffin Show," ''The Tonight Show," ''Late Night with David Letterman," ''Hollywood Squares" and "The Gong Show." He also hosted the beauty pageant spoof, "The $1.98 Beauty Show," and he played himself in "Wayne's World 2" and the "Jackass" movies.
In 1992 Taylor reflected that he always considered himself an actor. "Rip is funny because he's crazy. Every night on stage, he's cornered and put-upon. That's what I am bringing into play as a straight actor."
With blazing eyes, orange-red hair and a temperament to match, London native Ginger Baker (August 19, 1939-October 6, 2019) was a volatile, propulsive and immodest drummer who wielded blues power and jazz finesse. One of the most highly-rated drummers of all time, Baker had contempt for The Who's Keith Moon and others he dismissed as "bashers" without style or background.
Baker was a drummer from early on, even rapping out rhythms on his school desk as he mimicked the big band music he loved and didn't let the occasional caning from a teacher deter him.
Baker came of age just as London was learning the blues, with such future superstars as Clapton, Mick Jagger and Jimmy Page among the pioneers. Baker joined Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated, where he met Scottish-born bassist Jack Bruce, with whom he was thrown together again as members of the popular British group the Graham Bond Organization.
Baker teamed with Eric Clapton and Bruce in the mid-1960s to become Cream, one of the first supergroups. All three were known individually in the London blues scene, and together they helped make rock history by elevating instrumental prowess above the songs themselves, even as they had hits with "Sunshine of Your Love," ''I Feel Free" and "White Room."
Cream sold more than 10 million records. But by 1968 Baker and Bruce had worn each other out, and even Clapton had tired of their deafening, marathon jams, including the Baker showcase "Toad," one of rock's first extended drum solos. Cream split up at the end of the year, departing with two sold-out shows at London's Albert Hall.
"Oh, for God's sake, I've never played rock," Baker told the blog JazzWax in 2013. "Cream was two jazz players and a blues guitarist playing improvised music. We never played the same thing two nights running. Jack and I had been in jazz bands for years. All that stuff I did on the drums in Cream didn't come from drugs, either. It was from me. It was jazz."
To the surprise of many, especially Clapton, he and Baker were soon part of another super group, Blind Faith, which also featured singer-keyboardist Stevie Winwood and bassist Ric Grech. The band debuted in June 1969 before some 100,000 at a concert in London's Hyde Park. It split up after completing just one, self-titled album, as notable for its cover photo of a topless young girl as for its music. A highlight from the record: Baker's cymbal splashes on Winwood's lyrical ballad "Can't Find My Way Home."
From the 1970s on, Baker was ever more unpredictable. He moved to Nigeria, took up polo, drove a Land Rover across the Sahara, lived on a ranch in South Africa, divorced his first wife and married three more times. He recorded with the Nigerian musician-activist Fela Kuti, jammed with Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and other jazz drummers, and played with John Lydon's Public Image Ltd. He founded Ginger Baker's Air Force, which imploded after two albums.
Baker continued to perform regularly in his 70s despite arthritis, heart trouble, hearing loss dating from his years with Cream and lung disease from smoking. Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
And his immodesty was on display in his 2010 memoir, titled: "Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Drummer."
She began her career as a model in a segregated industry, appearing in Ebony magazine; winning first prize on a TV talent program led to performing in nightclubs. Diahann Carroll (July 17, 1935-October 4, 2019) would become the first African-American actress to win a Tony Award for a leading role in a musical, portraying a high-fashion American model in Paris who has a love affair with a white American author in the 1962 Richard Rodgers show "No Strings." She also earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress for "Claudine" (1974), as a hard-bitten single mother of six who finds romance in Harlem with a garbage man (James Earl Jones).
But she was perhaps best known for her pioneering work on "Julia" (1968-71). Carroll played Julia Baker, a nurse whose husband had been killed in Vietnam. Although not the first black woman to star in her own TV show, she was the first to star as someone other than a servant. NBC executives were wary about putting "Julia" on the network during the racial unrest of the 1960s, but it became an immediate hit.
In the 1980s, she joined in the long-running prime-time soap opera "Dynasty" as Dominique Deveraux, the glamorous half-sister of Blake Carrington. Her other TV appearances included "Naked City" (for which she received the first of four Emmy nominations), "The Colbys," "A Different World," "Lonesome Dove," "Grey's Anatomy," "Diary of a Single Mom," and "White Collar."
Her film roles included "Carmen Jones" and "Porgy and Bess" (although her singing voice was dubbed), "Goodbye Again," ''Hurry Sundown," ''Paris Blues," "The Split," "The Five Heartbeats," and "Eve's Bayou."
Her other stage appearances included "Same Time, Next Year," ''Agnes of God," and the musical "Sunset Boulevard," roles originated by white actresses.
She also returned to her roots in nightclubs; in 2006, she made her first club appearance in New York in four decades, singing at Feinstein's at the Regency.
For a time in the 1980s punk rocker Kim Shattuck (July 17, 1963-October 2, 2019) joined the all-female L.A. rock band The Pandoras. She told the L.A. Times in 1993 that she preferred punk's thrilling edge to the "elevator music" that had surrounded her as a child. She also characterized pop music as suffering from "wimpy-sounding" guitars.
But she felt stifled in the Pandoras, wanting to write songs (but not for them). So, she, Pandoras vet Melanie Vammen, Ronnie Barnett and, later, Roy McDonald formed the pop/punk band The Muffs. Their cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America" made a splash in the soundtrack of the film "Clueless." Vammen left the group, but The Muffs continued to record sporadically, with their seventh album, "No Holiday," scheduled for release later this month.
Shattuck also performed with Lisa Marr and Sherri Solinger as The Beards. In 2013 Shattuck joined the indie rock band The Pixies, but her enthusiasm on stage led to her being dismissed from the "introverted" group.
In 2011 Shattuck told Guitar World about her first guitar: an Ibanez semi-hollowbody. "It was a great guitar, and it cost me more than I had. I wanted to get a Gibson hollowbody but I couldn't afford it. But I swear [the Ibanez] is solid because I have a temper, and I would literally scream and throw it across the room. Luckily most of the time it landed on my bed, so it was okay."
(Pictured: The Muffs – Kim Shattuck with Ronnie Barnett (left) and Roy McDonald - in 1995.)
The international opera star Jessye Norman (Sept. 15, 1945-Sept. 30, 2019) grew up in Augusta, Georgia, singing in church and around a musical family that included pianists and singers. She earned a scholarship to the historically black college Howard University in Washington, D.C., to study music, and later studied at the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Michigan. She made her operatic debut in 1969 in Berlin, and wowed audiences around the world on stages in Milan, London and New York.
Renowned for her performances in "Carmen," ''Aida" and Wagner's "Ring" cycle, and for her interpretations of lieder by Brahms, Mahler and Strauss, Norman was not limited to opera or classical music; she also performed spirituals, and songs by Duke Ellington, Cole Porter and George & Ira Gershwin. "I have always been drawn to things other people might consider unusual," Norman said in a 2002 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. "I'm always taken by the text and beautiful melody. It's not important to me who has written it. It's just more reasonable to have an open mind about what beauty is. It's important for classical musicians to stretch and think beyond the three B's (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms)."
In that same interview she profoundly said, "Pigeonholing is only interesting to pigeons."
Her passionate soprano voice won her four Grammy Awards (plus a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006), the National Medal of Arts, and the Kennedy Center Honor.
Norman also gave back, raising funds to help students attend school, championing the arts in schools, and promoting diversity. In 2003 the Jessye Norman School of the Arts opened in Augusta to provide a free fine arts education to disadvantaged children. This month the street on which the school is located is being re-named Jessye Norman Boulevard.
Mexican crooner José Rómulo Sosa Ortiz, who sang under the name José José (Feb. 17, 1948-Sept. 28, 2019), moved audiences to tears with melancholic love ballads. Known as the "Prince of Song," the power of his voice and ability to sing technically-difficult tunes in a wide register made him a treasured cultural icon in Latin America. The singer had added a second José to his stage name in honor of his father, a tenor with the National Opera of Mexico. (He was 17 when the elder José died.) "I wanted to honor the memory of my father, who was a great opera singer and died very young, without knowledge of my success," he told The Associated Press in a 2005 interview. "Since I inherited his voice, this is recognition of that inheritance."
The artist's voice, a combination of baritone and lyric tenor, captivated audiences, while his dress style – suits accented with bow ties, pocket handkerchiefs and silk scarves – was copied at nightclubs across Latin America. Born in a musical family, he started singing in cafes before founding a rock group called the Heart Breakers that launched an unsuccessful album in the mid-'60s. His solo career took off with a single called "La nave del olvido" ("The Ship of the Forgotten"), and he climbed to the top of the Latin charts in the 1970s with slow songs such as "El Triste" ("The Sad Man") and "Amar y querer" ("Love and Want"). He peaked in the 1980s with albums like "Secrets," his best-selling collaboration with Spanish love song composer and producer Manuel Alejandro.
José José struggled with Lyme disease, facial paralysis, substance abuse and depression. His problems with alcohol and drugs led to the 1993 dissolution of his 18-year marriage with model Anel Noreña, with whom he had two children. He hit bottom following the separation and began sleeping in a taxi on the outskirts of the Mexican capital. Friends intervened and took him to an addiction treatment center in the U.S. He would later remarry.
He was nominated on multiple occasions for a Grammy, but never won, through the Latin Recording Academy recognized the singer with a Musical Excellence Prize at the 2004 Latin Grammy Awards. That same year, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In his later years voice troubles made it very difficult for him to sing. "He fought really hard for every word, for every sound," said Greek composer and pianist Yanni.
"I still have moments in the Capitol where I will turn a corner, and something will just come rushing back. And I'm 63 years old. And there'll be times when I'll turn a corner and sort of half expect to see my father. So, it's ... a place redolent with memories, to put it mildly."
The daughter of politicians – both her father and mother served in the House of Representatives – Cokie Roberts (December 27, 1943-September 17, 2019) grew up with a keen understanding of politics during the 1940s and '50s, given that there was no separating their family life from the political life. "We went on campaign trips, we made speeches, we went to the blessing of the fleet or the opening of the headquarters," she told a House Oral History project in 2007). "We certainly went out on Election Day and went to all the polling places, and we handed out literature and we put up signs, and we tore down other people's signs! I mean, it was very, very much an active involvement."
In a 2018 interview with the Television Academy, Roberts said, "Journalism just kind of happened to me. It wasn't anything I had planned to do." She got her start when her husband, correspondent Steven Roberts, was stationed in Greece, from where she filed stories for CBS News. Returning to Washington in the mid-1970s, she was hired by National Public Radio to cover Congress, her background gifting her with an understanding of the Capitol that few others had.
She became a pioneering broadcast journalist who chronicled Washington for NPR, PBS and ABC News – the rare female voice among the most prominent media figures in D.C. From 1996 to 2002 Roberts co-anchored the ABC Sunday political show "This Week" with Sam Donaldson, and later settled into the role of analyst and commentator. During her career she won three Emmy Awards, and in 1990 she received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Outstanding Contributions to Public Radio.
She wrote several bestselling books, including "Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868," and "We Are Our Mother's Daughters" about the changing roles and relationships of women. She also co-authored two books with her husband, about marriage ("From This Day Forward") and an interfaith family ("Our Haggadah").
She downplayed how her gender may have hindered her professional advancement once she began interviewing Washington figures. "Politicians will talk to anybody," she said. "They cared about the initials after your name—NPR, ABC, you know. They didn't care about your sex or anything else, really."
"Purple hum, assorted cards
razor lights, you bring
and all to prove you're on the move
Candy O, I need you so"
"Candy O" by Ric Ocasek
Rock guitarist Ric Ocasek (March 23, 1944-September 15, 2019) was lead singer for the rock band The Cars, whose hits in the late 1970s and '80s included "Just What I Needed," ''Shake It Up," "Good Times Roll," ''My Best Friend's Girl" and "Drive." Ocasek (who also wrote most of the band's songs) and Benjamin Orr (who played bass and also sang) were buddies who played in several bands in the 1960s and '70s (including ID Nirvana and the folk-rock Milkwood), until they founded The Cars in Boston in 1976.
A decade older than many of their modern-rock compatriots, they nevertheless became one of the most essential American bands of that time with their fusion of new wave, 1960s pop and 1970s glam. As frontman, Ocasek's minimalist, half-spoken deadpan vocals and lanky, sunglassed look, jovially on display in tongue-in-cheek music videos, defined the MTV-era rock band.
The band's commercial peak came with 1984's "Heartbeat City," which featured the hit singles "You Might Think"; "Magic," sung by Ocasek; and the atypical ballad "Drive," sung by Orr. Other songs included "Tonight She Comes," "You Are the Girl" and "Strap Me In."
After the band broke up in 1988, their influence continued to be felt among younger artists, including Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. Ocasek also produced albums for the bands Weezer, No Doubt and Bad Religion. In 2011 Ocasek reunited the group's surviving members (Orr had died in 2000) and released the album "Move Like This," featuring "Sad Song." Last year The Cars were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
In 2011 Ocasek was asked by Vanity Fair about his songwriting: "Everything is totally sincere, but there's a lot of sarcasm and some comedy in the lyrics," he said. Alluding to his appreciation of the Beat Poets he said, "I just love the way people threw words around like they were painting."
A New York City native, Edward Joseph Mahoney broke with his family's tradition of police work, leaving behind his officer training program for a musical career under the name Eddie Money (March 21, 1949-September 13, 2019). He moved to Berkeley, California, and had enough success in Bay Area clubs to attract the attention of famed rock promoter Bill Graham. "Two Tickets to Paradise" and "Baby Hold On" were both hits from his eponymous 1977 debut album, which went platinum.
By the end of the '70s he was opening for the Rolling Stones, although the job didn't last as long as expected. "I had a hit with 'Two Tickets' and everybody loved me; I was getting too many encores," Money told hippopress.com. "We were supposed to have six dates (with the Stones), and we only worked four. The way I see it is this - if you're gonna get fired from a Rolling Stones tour, get fired for being too good."
In 1987, the husky-voiced performer earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Vocal for "Take Me Home Tonight." Other hits included "Think I'm in Love"; "I Wanna Go Back"; "The Love in Your Eyes"; "She Takes My Breath Away"; and "Walk on Water."
He had few chart successes after the 1980s, when he struggled with alcoholism and addiction, and almost died from a Fentanyl overdose, topics he covered in his 1982 album, "No Control." He would overcome alcohol addiction by a 12-step program in 2001. Money continued to record and tour (with his children playing backup), and recently starred in a reality TV series, "Real Money."
In 2018 Money told Rolling Stone he wasn't considering retiring: "I'm not really getting rich out here. But I look at it like this: The kids aren't in jail, they're not in rehab, nobody's wrecked the car this week, and there's still milk in the refrigerator. I'm having a good month."
"Trolley - New Orleans"
One of the most influential of photographers, the Zurich-born Robert Frank (November 9, 1924-September 9, 2019) apprenticed for photographers in Switzerland before emigrating to New York City in 1947. He worked for Harper's Bazaar, and contributed pictures to such publications as Life and Camera. After traveling through Europe and Peru, in 1955 Frank began a two-year journey across the continental United States as a Guggenheim Fellow. He took 28,000 pictures; a selection of 83 images was published in 1958 as "The Americans."
The book was a landmark in documentary photography, eschewing classical portraiture and instead creating intimate, moody portraits of an America struggling to define itself in a post-war world, capturing on film people and places often ignored – from the clash of high- and low-class and people operating on the edges of celebrity, to laborers, the disenfranchised, and the isolation that exists in both crowded cities and lonely rural landscapes.
While some criticized Frank's images as being derogatory towards their subjects, or just downright sloppy, his work came to be revered for expertly capturing the moods of a variety of urban and rural environments. "The Americans" spoke not of a nation bathed in post-war optimism or nostalgia; it was a land of suffering, often quiet or overlooked, with people in search of an American Dream that was hard-fought or inaccessible. New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl called "The Americans" ''one of the basic American masterpieces of any medium."
In 1987 Frank described for "Sunday Morning" what he was aiming for with his camera: "I was passionate about losers. That was maybe the political [theme], that people that were taken advantage of, that really couldn't make it, that would never make it. Those people, I felt passionate about."
He would drop documentary photography and take up the motion picture camera, creating experimental films like 1959's "Pull My Daisy" (on which he collaborated with Beat poets Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg), and the 1972 Rolling Stones concert film, "C********r Blues."
He also created photo montages and mixed-media artwork, but rarely aimed his camera at subjects as he had before. "You know, life is different," Frank told "Sunday Morning." "You go through different rooms. I don't think you go back to that room you occupied once if you can help it not to go back. I would have a very hard time to become a photographer like I used to be. I think it would almost be impossible for me to do. I'd rather would dig a ditch or something."
Pictured: "Trolley - New Orleans" (1955) by Robert Frank.
Born in Poland, the German fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh (November 23, 1944-September 3, 2019) was renowned for working with such supermodels as Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss and Linda Evangelista – often demanding that they take off their makeup.
After studying at Berlin's Academy of Fine Arts in the 1960s, he opened his first studio in 1973, before moving to Paris in 1978. His striking, almost cinematic black-and-white portraits have appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and The New Yorker, and in museums, such as London's Victoria & Albert.
He recently shot the September 2019 cover of British Vogue's special "Forces for Change" issue, guest edited by Meghan Markle. Images of 15 female trailblazers were captured over several days in June across three continents (including New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern photographed via video link).
"My instructions from the Duchess were clear: 'I want to see freckles!'" Lindbergh said in a Vogue interview. "Well, that was like running through open doors for me. I love freckles."
New York-born Carol Lynley (February 13, 1942-September 3, 2019) started out as a child model, and at 15 was starring in the Broadway production of "The Potting Shed," a role which landed her on the cover of Life Magazine. She earned a Golden Globe nomination for the 1959 film "Blue Denim" in which she recreated her Broadway role of a teenager seeking an abortion.
Lynley appeared in more than 100 films and TV series, including "Return to Peyton Place," "The Stripper," "Under the Yum Yum Tree," "The Cardinal," "The Pleasure Seekers,' "Harlow," "Bunny Lake Is Missing," and "The Shuttered Room." Her best-known role was in the 1972 disaster film, "The Poseidon Adventure" (pictured), playing a singer performing on board an ocean liner on New Year's Eve when the fated ship is struck by a tidal wave and capsized.
She had numerous guest appearances on such shows as "The Man From U.N.C.L.E.," "Fantasy Island," ''The Love Boat" and "Hawaii Five-O."
As Rhoda Morgenstern, the chubby, self-deprecating best friend of Mary Richards in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," said of a piece of candy, "I don't know why I'm putting this in my mouth. I should just apply it directly to my hips."
Rhoda, a Jewish Bronx native who proclaimed she'd migrated to the cold of Minneapolis because "I figured if I was frozen I'd keep better," was a beloved sitcom character who would later earn her own hit series, "Rhoda." Along the way, actress Valerie Harper (August 22, 1939- August 30, 2019) won four Emmy Awards for her character.
Harper busted TV taboos as Rhoda went from being a brash, overweight girl-next-door to a wise-cracking divorcee, and she became indelibly identified with the role.
A dancer whose family had settled in Jersey City, N.J., Harper had taken dance lessons in Manhattan while in school, and by age 15 was dancing at Radio City Music Hall. She was in the chorus of the Broadway musical "Li'l Abner" (and its film adaptation), and danced in the musicals "Take Me Along," "Wildcat," and "Subways Are for Sleeping." She then joined some former Second City improv players in Paul Sills' "Story Theatre." Her other stage credits include "Death Defying Acts," and "Looped," for which she received a Tony Award nomination playing Tallulah Bankhead.
Several years after "Rhoda" signed off, Harper starred in a new sitcom, "Valerie," but a contract dispute with the producers led her to walk off the show, only to be replaced by Sandy Duncan. Harper sued and won $1.4 million.
Her other credits include the TV series "Columbo," "The Love Boat," "City," "Melrose Place," ''Sex and the City" and "Desperate Housewives," and the films "Chapter Two," "The Last Married Couple in America" and "Blame It on Rio." She also reunited with Moore in the 2000 TV movie, "Mary and Rhoda."
In 2013, Harper revealed that she had been diagnosed with a rare brain cancer, leptomeningeal carcinomatosis; she'd been told she had as little as three months to live. In the six years since that announcement, Harper not only appeared as a guest star on "Hot in Cleveland," "2 Broke Girls," "Melissa & Joey" and "Children's Hospital," and did voice work on "The Simpsons" and "American Dad"; she also competed in "Dancing With the Stars."
"I'm not dying until I do," Harper said in a TV interview. "I promise I won't."
His look of shock at a shooting occurring right before his eyes seemed to accentuate the mindlessness and horror surrounding the national tragedy of a president's assassination. Dallas detective Jim Leavelle (August 23, 1920- August 29, 2019), sporting a Stetson, was escorting the man accused of the murder of President John F. Kennedy in the basement of the Dallas Police headquarters on November 24, 1963, when nightclub owner Jack Ruby approached and shot Lee Harvey Oswald at point-blank range. The assault occurred on live television, but it was this frozen image of Leavelle as Oswald slumped from a fatal bullet (captured by Bob Jackson of the Dallas Times Herald) that marked the day in our collective consciousness – underscoring that, with Oswald silenced, America might never get a clear answer about the president's murder.
In 2013, Leavelle said that when he saw Ruby approach with a weapon, he tried, unsuccessfully, to pull Oswald aside to shield him. "Him being real close, all I did was turn his body so instead of the bullet hitting him dead center it hit about 3 or 4 inches to the left of the navel," Leavelle said.
Over the following decades (he retired from active service in 1975), Leavelle received mail nearly every day from people asking questions about the assassination or invoking any one of several conspiracy theories, his daughter, Tanya Evers, told The Associated Press. He regularly spoke at schools and before various groups because he believed "he had a responsibility to share his story," she said.
"He really felt a need to address the theories," said Evers. "He wanted to make sure that people knew there was no conspiracy and that one misguided person could take a shot at a president and succeed."
He became a sensation in the 1969 cult classic "Easy Rider," playing a biker on a drug-fueled road trip through America's Southwest. Peter Fonda (February 23, 1940-August 16, 2019) earned an Oscar nomination for co-writing the film, which introduced a new, rebellious streak to Hollywood, ushering in a wave of younger filmmakers catering to disenchanted '60s and '70s audiences.
But Fonda, whose family was movie star royalty (father Henry, sister Jane), had long before appeared in some Hollywood studio fare ("Tammy and the Doctor," "The Victors," "The Young Lovers") and in indie hits for filmmaker Roger Corman ("The Wild Angels," "The Trip"). "Easy Rider," though, made him an undeniable star, while pointing to a more raw and cynical narrative that Hollywood would eagerly chase for the next decade. Which was ironic given that, as Fonda told Hollywood Reporter's Scott Feinberg in 2015, the idea for "Easy Rider" came to him in response to MPAA chief Jack Valenti urging filmmakers not to make movies about motorcycles, sex and drugs. "I knew this would shake the cage," he said.
And like his disaffected biker, nicknamed Captain America, Fonda was a force to be reckoned with, or shot down. He rejected the establishment, grew his hair long and experimented with drugs. During an acid trip with The Beatles, Fonda recalled a childhood incident when he accidentally shot himself. He told John Lennon, "I know what it's like to be dead." Lennon used that line in the Beatles' song "She Said She Said."
Fonda's film and TV resume post-"Easy Rider" was a mixture of '60s anti-establishment ("Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry," "The Last Movie") and drive-in exploitation fare ("Race With the Devil," "Spasms," "Fighting Mad"). But he achieved a graceful pinnacle, and an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, as a beekeeper fighting to salvage his family in "Ulee's Gold" (1997). He performed wearing the same eyeglasses his father wore in his Oscar-winning role in "On Golden Pond," bringing about a quasi-reconciliation on-screen with the forbidding father whom he'd famously battled.
"If I wasn't an actor and I was digging ditches, let me tell you that I'd be digging the best ditches," he told The Independent in 2014. "People at the other end of the ditch would be looking over and saying, 'Do you know who that is? That's Henry Fonda's son.' F**k that, that's who they see me as. If I'm on stage, if I'm on film, I'm not Henry Fonda's son."
In addition to directing three films ("The Hired Hand," "Idaho Transfer" and "Wanda Nevada," which featured his dad), Fonda acted in "3:10 to Yuma," "The Limey," "Love and a .45," "Escape From L.A.," "Ghost Rider," "Japan" and "Boundaries," and the TV movie "The Passion of Ayn Rand," for which he won a Golden Globe. He also furthered the family dynasty by fathering actress Bridgit Fonda ("Single White Female").
Still, Fonda's reputation – thanks in part to the rebellious roles he pursued – stood in stark contrast to the wild successes his co-stars Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson would later enjoy. He told The Independent in 2014, "That Dennis and Jack had their careers didn't affect me at all. I know Hollywood didn't like me. They blamed me for what they thought was trying to overthrow the system. My reaction to that is, are they kidding me? The government yes, Hollywood no."
(Photo: Peter Fonda poses on a replica of the "Captain America" bike from "Easy Rider," in Glendale, Calif., October 23, 2009.)
When the makers of the 1988 film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" needed their human cast members to interact believably with characters made out of ink and paint – in worlds both real and fantastical – they turned to Richard Williams (March 19, 1933-August 16, 2019), a Canadian-British animator whose career straddled the Golden Age of Animation and today's computer-animated cinematic universe.
"Roger Rabbit" featured stars of 1940s Hollywood cartoons who mix it up with a private detective (Bob Hoskins) investigating a murder. The movie's outrageous animation and special effects, a landmark in cinematic technique, won two Oscars, including a special Academy Award for Williams (who'd previously won an Oscar for his animated version of "A Christmas Carol").
Williams also supplied animation to features such as "The Return of the Pink Panther" (1975), whose opening credits were a joy.
For decades he labored on a fantasy feature, "The Thief and the Cobbler," whose production shuttled from one studio to another. It was taken from Williams' control and re-edited, and then re-re-edited. Recent work to restore the film to the director's intentions based on a surviving workprint has been done, creating a "Recobbled" version that aims to mirror the story as planned.
His best-selling book, "The Animator's Survival Kit," was a distillation of decades' worth of experience and has been deemed a bible for animation students around the world. Williams' role as an educator in his craft continued on social media, where he would answer questions about technique and artistic inspiration. He recently tweeted, when asked what tools he wishes he'd had when he started in the industry, "You can do virtually anything today. The question is, what are you going to do that's generated by your talent. In my 2D world it started with drawing and I found the medium was capable of anything if I worked at it. I had what I needed."
Growing up in Lorain, Ohio, not far from Cleveland, Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931-August 5, 2019) never experienced anything like what happened to the characters in her dark, often heart-breaking books about the black experience in America. Until she went away to college at Howard University, she had always lived surrounded by whites. "Most of my writing about the black public, the black family, the black community is part of my life, but a lot of it was inquiry," Morrison told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Martha Teichner in 2004. "I never lived in a black neighborhood."
Morrison was a single mother trying to raise two sons as she worked fulltime as an editor at Random House, while struggling to write her own books. "What is it I have to do that's so important that I'll die if I don't?" she told Teichner. "There were two things, and the first one was mother my children. And the second one was write."
But it was difficult for her to do both at the same time, so used to shutting herself in a room alone, immersing herself in the rigors of writing. She admitted she never read to her children when they were little. But this editor and professor (it wasn't until her third book, "Song of Solomon," that she dared to call herself a writer on her income tax forms) created elegant, emotional works about the parameters of love and freedom in a society scarred by racism. Her novels included "The Bluest Eye," "Tar Baby," "Jazz," "Paradise," "Love," "Home" and "God Help the Child." She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 for "Beloved," in which a mother loved her children so much she was willing to kill them rather than see them returned to slavery.
Morrison also wrote non-fiction books, two plays ("Desdemona" looked at Shakespeare's "Othello" from his lover's viewpoint), and several children's stories, on which she collaborated with her son, Slade.
In 1993, she was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, the first African American woman ever so honored. As part of her Nobel acceptance speech, she said, "Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation."
Documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (July 15, 1925-August 1, 2019) revolutionized moviemaking – certainly non-fiction films – with the production of 1968's "Monterey Pop," chronicling the Monterey Pop Festival in California. Pennebaker's team built the first portable sound-synched cameras, necessary for shooting music performances on the fly, as you would need to when you're trying to capture the essence of artists such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
Other renowned music-oriented films by Pennebaker included "Bob Dylan: Don't Look Back" and "Down From the Mountain," as well as concert films featuring such artists as David Bowie ("Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars"), John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, Jerry Lee Lewis and Depeche Mode.
Yet Pennebaker's background did not bode well for the life of a musical filmmaker; he never went to film school ("I was at engineering school at Yale and trying to figure out how to build a power station in the Permian Basin, which interested me not at all," he told Film Comment in 2017), and his father forbid him to even say the word "jazz" in his presence. But he hooked up with other filmmakers in New York City in the 1950s and '60s, including Francis Thompson and Albert Maysles, and began teaching himself the process.
In addition to rock, pop and jazz subjects, Pennebaker also directed "Elaine Stritch at Liberty," a document of the actress' one-woman show, which earned him a Primetime Emmy nomination. He received a News Emmy nomination for "Unlocking the Cage," about lawyers seeking to represent non-human clients in court. He earned an Oscar nomination for "The War Room," which went behind the scenes of Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign. In 2012 Pennebaker received the Academy's Governor's Award for lifetime achievement.
Pennebaker described the essence of documentary storytelling to Film Comment: "When you're filming, it's like a hunt. Anything that moves, you film. If it looks interesting, you film it. And you build this huge collection of stuff you've filmed. And then to edit it, it isn't just cut out the bad pictures. You had to create scenes. I learned what scenes were just by trying to make them."
From "West Side Story" to "Fiddler on the Roof," "Damn Yankees" to "Cabaret," "Sweeney Todd" to "The Phantom of the Opera," Harold Prince (January 30, 1928-July 31, 2019) was the driving force behind some of the greatest musicals ever to open on Broadway. By the time he was 26 he'd produced his first musical, "The Pajama Game," and won his first Tony Award. During his career, he collaborated with such musical theater giants as Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Andrew Lloyd-Webber. He produced "Fiorello!," "Take Her, She's Mine," and "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." As a director (or a director-producer) his credits include "She Loves Me," "It's a Bird … It's a Plane … It's Superman!," "Zorba," "Company," "Follies," "A Little Night Music," "Candide," "Pacific Overtures," "On the Twentieth Century," "Evita," "Merrily We Roll Along," "Kiss of the Spider Woman," and "Show Boat."
He would earn a total of 21 Tony Awards, a record.
One of his keys to success was his willingness to reverse course and make changes. As he told "CBS Sunday Morning" host Charles Osgood in 1979, "I will do a whole show and be ready to preview It, and I'll be very happy. And suddenly, an actor will say, 'Can I say something?' And I'll say, 'Yes, what is that?' And he'll say, 'This isn't logical.' And I'll want to kill him. Because all along, I knew it wasn't logical, but I've been too lazy to change it, and I thought I'd gotten away with It. I hoped I'd gotten away with it. And then suddenly somebody says, 'You didn't get away with it, you know?' And you have to deal with it."
Despite helming some of the most glorious examples of musical theater, he also had some misfires. 1982's "A Doll's Life" closed after five performances.
"The memories of the shows that were not hits are terrific memories," Prince told "Sunday Morning." "I think almost without exception, I had a good time doing them. I didn't have such a good time opening night, reading the reviews of some of them, but otherwise, I had a good time!"
Pro Football Hall of Fame middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti (December 15, 1940-July 30, 2019) was an undersized overachiever who'd overcome any number of hurdles during his early years: nearly drowning when he was two years old, falling out of a moving car at age three, and contracting scarlet fever at eight. He was small for a football player, but not too small to take the field for Notre Dame. After playing guard on offense and linebacker on defense for the Fighting Irish, he was ignored by the NFL Draft, and only managed to get picked by the AFL's Boston Patriots in the 13th round. He played for the Patriots from 1962 to 1968, then went on become captain of the Miami Dolphins' back-to-back Super Bowl champions; his 1972 turn with the Dolphins remains the NFL's only perfect season, finishing 17-0.
Following retirement from the game, Buoniconti worked as an attorney, a broadcaster, as president of U.S. Tobacco, and as an agent to such athletes as Bucky Dent and Andre Dawson. For 23 seasons he was co-host of HBO's weekly sports show, "Inside the NFL."
Most importantly, in 1985 Buoniconti and his son, Marc, who was paralyzed from the shoulders down making a tackle for The Citadel, helped to found the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, which has become the world's largest spinal cord injury research center. They would help raise more than a half-billion dollars for paralysis research. He also launched the Nick & Lynn Buoniconti CTE Research Fund, to study the effects on the brain of repetitive concussions. He announced that he would donate his own brain to science.
As flight director during the Mercury and Gemini missions, Chris Kraft (February 28, 1924-July 22, 2019) brought a no-nonsense management style to America's space program, and helped define control room operations at NASA through Apollo and beyond.
Kraft founded Mission Control and created the job of flight director (later comparing it to an orchestra conductor), establishing how flights would be run as the space race between the U.S. and Soviets heated up. "It's where the heart of the mission is," Kraft said in an April 2010 AP interview. "It's where decisions are made every day, small and large ... We realized that the people that had the moxie, that had the knowledge, were there and could make the decisions."
"We didn't know a damn thing about putting a man into space," Kraft wrote in his 2002 autobiography, "Flight: My Life in Mission Control." "We had no idea how much it should or would cost. And at best, we were engineers trained to do, not business experts trained to manage."
And when President John F. Kennedy set a goal of landing a man on the moon within a decade, Kraft – who'd overseen short orbital Mercury missions – didn't know how it could be done. "Frankly it scared the hell out of me," he said at a 2009 lecture at the Smithsonian.
Neil Armstrong once called him "the man who was the 'Control' in Mission Control."
Kraft also helped design the Apollo missions that took 12 Americans to the moon from 1969 to 1972, and later served as director of the Johnson Space Center, until 1982, overseeing the beginning of the era of the space shuttle.
In his autobiography, Kraft said with the name Christopher Columbus Kraft Jr., "some of my life's direction was settled from the start." He considered himself fortunate to be part of the team that sent Americans to space, and called it a sad day when the shuttles stopped flying, blasting the decision to end the shuttle program as foolish. "The people of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo are blossoms on the moon. Their spirits will live there forever," he wrote. "I was part of that crowd, then part of the leadership that opened space travel to human beings. We threw a narrow flash of light across our nation's history. I was there at the best of times."
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."
It would not be an overstatement to say that Dutch actor Rutger Hauer (January 23, 1944-July 19, 2019), as the replicant Roy Batty in the 1982 science fiction classic "Blade Runner" (pictured), offered one of the most remarkable discourses on mortality in cinema history. It was a monologue he rewrote, and his performance as the artificial intelligence with a mandated four-year life span facing his end elicited a moving portrait of humanity, compassion and grace. "There's no film that competes with it," Hauer told Empire Magazine in 2015. "It shines completely on its own for ever and ever and ever."
But it would be reductive to only remember Hauer's performance in that film and ignore his vibrant contributions to, for example, the works of Paul Verhoeven, including "Soldier of Orange," the Oscar-nominated "Turkish Delight," and "Spetters." He played a terrorist in the Sylvester Stallone action film "Nighthawks," the mentor of a fashion designer in "Chanel Solitaire," a journalist mixed up with the CIA in "The Osterman Weekend," a cursed lover in the fantasy "Ladyhawke," a murderous hitch-hiker in "The Hitcher," a vengeful swordsman in "Blind Fury," a bounty hunter in "Wanted: Dead or Alive," a vampire ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") AND a vampire hunter ("Dracula 3D"), an SS officer in the alternative history "Fatherland," a shady CEO ("Batman Begins"), a vigilante ("Hobo With a Shotgun"), and Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel ("The Mill and the Cross"). He won a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe in 1988 for the TV movie "Escape from Sobibor."
Hauer told the Associated Press in 1987, "It's so much fun to playfully roam into the dark side of the soul and tease people."
Born in the Netherlands village of Breukelen, Hauer ran away at age 15 to work on a freighter, and later joined the Army, but inevitably – both his parents were actors – he signed up for acting school, and spent five years with a small theater troupe in rural Holland. A stream of Dutch and European films followed, and he was encouraged to seek work in Hollywood. Though an agent suggested he change his name to something easier for American audiences to grasp, Hauer declined: "If you're good enough, people will remember your name," he said.
John Paul Stevens
On the bench, former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens (April 20, 1920-July 16, 2019) was known for his fierce independence, old-fashioned geniality, and trademark bowtie. During his nearly 35 years on the bench, the former Navy code breaker in World War II (a Republican who was nominated to the court by President Gerald Ford in 1975) gradually transformed from a moderate conservative to a leading liberal voice. "I don't really think I've changed; I think that there have been a lot of changes in the court," Stevens said in 2010.
But the justice who began his Supreme Court years as a critic of affirmative action and a supporter of the death penalty shifted his views substantially, to the point that Stevens declared in 2008 that he believed the death penalty is unconstitutional. His decisions, in part, helped promote racial equality and gay rights, and he became a strong proponent of abortion rights, consumer protection, and limits on the death penalty.
He was a prolific writer of separate opinions laying out his own thinking, whether he agreed or disagreed with the majority's ruling. Yet Stevens didn't consider his methods novel. He tended toward a case-by-case approach, avoided sweeping judicial philosophies, and stayed mindful of precedent. He also proved adept at drawing swing votes from Republican appointees Sandra Day O'Connor and Anthony Kennedy, often frustrating conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
He took an unusually courteous tone with lawyers arguing their cases, but he was no pushover. After his fellow justices fired off questions, Stevens would politely weigh in. "May I ask a question?" he'd ask gently, then quickly slice to the weakest point of a lawyer's argument.
Stevens was especially concerned with the plight of ordinary citizens up against the government or other powerful interests – a type of struggle he witnessed as a youth. When he was 14, his father, owner of a grand but failing Chicago hotel, was wrongly convicted of embezzlement. Ernest Stevens was vindicated on appeal, but decades later his son would say the family's ordeal taught him that justice can misfire. More often, however, Stevens credited his sensitivity to abuses of power by police and prosecutors to what he learned while representing criminal defendants in pro bono cases as a young Chicago lawyer.
He wrote a scathing dissent in Bush v. Gore, the 2000 case that ended Florida's recount and anointed George W. Bush as president: "Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."
In 2010 upon his retirement, he told "60 Minutes" it was one of the court's greatest blunders. "I don't question the good faith of the justices with whom I disagreed, but I think they were profoundly wrong," he said.
He also dissented in the 2010 ruling in Citizens United, when the court lifted restrictions on spending by corporations and unions to sway elections. He called the decision "a rejection of the common sense of the American people" and a threat to democracy.
He remained active after stepping down from the high court at age 90. He wrote books, spoke frequently in public, and contributed lengthy pieces to The New York Review of Books. He called for repealing the 2nd amendment and abolishing the death penalty. "This is a country in which people can disagree without being disagreeable," he said. "I try not to be disagreeable in my opinion writing. I think for the most part I succeed."
Pitcher Jim Bouton (March 8, 1939-July 10, 2019) signed with the New York Yankees in 1958, and made it to the majors in 1962. Throwing so hard that his cap often flew off his head, Bouton was 21-8 with six shutouts in 1963 - his second season in the majors and his only year as an All-Star - and went 18-13 with four more shutouts in 1964.
An injury in 1965 sidelined Bouton for much of the next three years in New York, and in 1969, while splitting the season with two expansion clubs, the Seattle Pilots and Houston Astros, he began to throw a curve at the baseball establishment by writing "Ball Four: My Life and Hard Times Throwing the Knuckleball in the Big Leagues," a revealing look at the game off the field. Published in 1970, "Ball Four" detailed Yankee great Mickey Mantle's carousing, the use of stimulants in the major leagues, and womanizing by the players. Bouton's book made for eye-opening and entertaining reading (the New York Public Library included it on its 1996 list of Books of the Century), but he paid a big price for the bestseller when former teammates, players and executives across baseball ostracized him for exposing their secrets. (He wouldn't be invited to the Yankees' Old-Timers' Day until 1998.)
Nicknamed Bulldog, Bouton also pitched for Houston in 1970 (and penned a follow-up book, "I'm Glad You Didn't Take It Personally"), before becoming a sportscaster in New York City (for WABC and WCBS). He starred in a 1976 CBS sitcom based on "Ball Four," which only aired five episodes, and he and a former teammate developed Big League Chew, a bubble gum alternative to tobacco.
At age 39 he returned to the majors with the Atlanta Braves in 1978, going 1-3. He finished his 10-year career with a 62-63 record and 3.57 ERA.
In an interview with ESPN, Bouton spoke of the staying power of his book: "It was an interesting time. It was a diary of not just a baseball team, but also of the period of time. Who knew that the 1960s would be seen as a transformational time in the nation's history? It was better that I kept a diary in 1969, with the Pilots, than with the Yankees in 1964. The star player doesn't notice anything, but the guy in the bullpen does."
Poor Violet Beauregarde, the mean little girl with a habit for incessantly chewing gum, in the 1971 film, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," based on Roald Dahl's book. She couldn't resist chomping down on Wonka's experimental candy flavored like a three-course dinner, finishing with a dessert of blueberry pie, only to swell up like a giant blueberry herself. She is summarily rolled away by Oompa-Loompas to be (ahem) squeezed.
Actress Denise Nickerson (April 1, 1957-July 10, 2019) was featured as two characters on the TV series "Dark Shadows," and appeared in "Flipper," before playing the Violet who turns violet. Later credits included "The Electric Company," "The Brady Bunch," "Search for Tomorrow," the TV movie "The Neon Ceiling," and Michael Ritchie's film "Smile." Her last role was in the 1978 comedy "Zero to Sixty," before she left show business to study nursing.
She would occasionally participate in reunions of the "Willy Wonka" cast, and told People magazine, "I'm a very fortunate lady to have been chosen to be a part of something that brings smiles to so many faces."