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.
A Miss America contestant from Reno, Nevada, Dawn Wells (October 18, 1938-December 30, 2020) pivoted from medical studies to an acting career, and earned immortality after a fashion while wearing a gingham dress (or belly button-covering shorts) as the wholesome Mary Ann Summers, one of seven shipwrecked castaways on the 1960s sitcom "Gilligan's Island."
Her other TV appearances included "Maverick," "77 Sunset Strip," "Hawaiian Eye," "Bonanza," "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island." But her most famous part far outlasted the three years spent on "Gilligan's Island." Wells recreated the role in spin-off movies (such as "Rescue From Gilligan's Island" and "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island") and the animated series "Gilligan's Planet," and even made cameo appearances in character on "Baywatch" and "Alf."
Her stage appearances included "Chapter Two," "The Odd Couple," "They're Playing Our Song!," "Love Letters" and "The Vagina Monologues." She ran a boot camp for actors in Idaho, where she also helped found a film and music festival, Spud Fest. She also help found The Elephant Sanctuary, a refuge in Tennessee developed for African and Asian elephants.
In 2016 "Sunday Morning" correspondent Mo Rocca visited with Wells in Marshfield, Missouri (home to the Missouri Cherry Blossom Festival), where Wells has a spot on the town's Walk of Fame, right next to aviators Charles Lindbergh Amelia Earhart. "You like flying, I hope?" Rocca asked.
"Better than sailing!" she laughed.
A designer who never stopped challenging convention, the Italian-born Pierre Cardin (July 2, 1922-December 29, 2020) took on the titans of French couture. He entered the business at age 14, and would go on to work for Christian Dior, who helped Cardin establish his own house when he was barely 30. By the 1960s Cardin's avant-garde, Space Age designs made with non-traditional materials, like vinyl, had defined the decade. (He was even commissioned by The Beatles to design their suits.)
Cardin helped change the business of fashion forever as a proponent of prêt-à-porter – ready-to-wear, affordable designer clothes, which he sold in department stores. The old Paris fashion houses were outraged, but Cardin made millions, and other designers soon got the message.
But he didn't stop with a line of designer clothes. A savvy businessman, Cardin sold his name to be used on T-shirts, ties, glasses, baby buggies, pens, key fobs – you name it.
In 2012 "Sunday Morning" correspondent David Turecamo asked Cardin, "Do you see fashion as an art or a business?"
"Both," he replied. "Everything is business, you know? A picture is business. If you don't sell your picture, no one knows you."
Cardin also turned his attention to automobile interiors, architecture, publishing and hospitality (he purchased the famed Maxim's restaurant). "When I was finished one thing very well, I start some other thing," Cardin said. "I don't like to stop. I like to continually prove myself. I'm a gambler, you know."
It was a fluttering knuckleball that helped propel pitcher Phil Niekro (April 1, 1939-December 26, 2020) to 318 career victories, and into the Baseball Hall of Fame. It also earned him the nickname "Knucksie."
He told ESPN that he'd learned the pitch from his father, who taught him how to grip the ball with his fingernails on the seams, which prevented the ball from spinning, and caused it to move in confounding ways on its way to home plate. "He was a very good pitcher," Niekro said. "He hurt his arm one spring, didn't warm up good enough, couldn't throw a fastball anymore. Another coal miner taught him how to throw the knuckleball."
Over a 24-year career, Niekro was a five-time All-Star, pitching mostly for the Milwaukee (later Atlanta) Braves, as well as the New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays. He notched 121 of his career wins after turning 40.
Niekro pitched a no-hitter in 1973, but his career highlight may have been in 1982, when the Braves made it into the National League Western Division playoffs. Then 43, Niekro pitched a three-hit shutout against the Padres, and capped the victory by hitting a two-run home run in the eighth inning, taking the Braves into the league championships.
In 1985 when he won his 300th victory – as a Yankee, pitching an 8-0 shutout of the Blue Jays – Niekro became, at 46, the oldest pitcher in MLB history to throw a shutout (a record since broken by the Phillies' 47-year-old Jamie Moyer).
Basketball Hall of Famer and Olympic gold medalist K.C. Jones (May 25, 1932-December 25, 2020) won 12 NBA titles, including four as a head coach or assistant coach. A point guard who excelled on defense, Jones was a two-time NCAA champion with the University of San Francisco. Jones and fellow "Don" Bill Russell also played on the American team at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, winning the gold.
Jones was drafted by both Red Auerbach to play for the Celtics, and Pete Rozelle to play cornerback for the Los Angeles Rams football team, for whom Jones started in four exhibition games until an injury knocked him out. He then called up Auerbach and asked if the Celtics were still a possibility, even though some scouts claimed Jones, at 6'1", was too short.
Teaming up again with Russell in Boston, Jones and the Celtics won eight straight NBA titles between 1959 and 1966. After retiring in 1967, Jones began coaching college basketball (at Brandeis and Harvard) before joining the Los Angeles Lakers. He earned a championship ring there in 1972, and three more back in Boston, beginning in 1981, as an assistant to Bill Fitch. He took over as head coach in 1984.
In a 2018 interview with Celtic Nation, Jones was asked one piece of life advice to others. "Honesty and effort," he replied. "In my mind, those are the two most important ingredients to achieving success."
Actress Rebecca Luker (April 17, 1961-Dec. 23, 2020) made her Broadway debut in "The Phantom of the Opera." Her soprano singing voice would earn her three Tony nominations: as Magnolia in the 1994 revival of "Show Boat"; as Marian the Librarian in the 2000 revival of "The Music Man"; and as Winifred Banks in "Mary Poppins."
Other stage credits included "The Secret Garden," "The Sound of Music," "Nine," "Death Takes a Holiday," "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella," "Fun Home," "Footloose," "Indian Blood" and "The Vagina Monologues."
Luker's TV and movie credits include "Bull," "NCIS: New Orleans," "Elementary," "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Boardwalk Empire," "The Good Wife," and "Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas."
In a 2020 interview on NPR's "Fresh Air," Luker was asked what she had learned from her husband, Broadway actor Danny Burstein: "Oh, just how to communicate a song. When I was younger, I would really fall back on just the fact that I had a pretty voice, you know? So, as I matured, especially after I met Danny, he would help me make things work more, mean more. I learned to act a song as opposed to just sing it."
Jazz pianist Stanley Cowell (May 5, 1941-December 17, 2020), who performed on stage with the likes of Roland Kirk, Harold Land and Sonny Rollins, spent the better part of his career as an educator – at Amherst College, Lehman College, the New England Conservatory, and Rutgers University – and a composer.
He received a master's in piano performance from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor by playing Bach, Schubert, Chopin and Ravel. His compositions included works for chamber groups and full orchestra. He also wrote and performed with electronic manipulations through the Kyma digital sound-design system, which altered what he performed on an acoustic piano.
But Cowell also played on more than 30 jazz recordings, with such artists as Max Roach, Stan Getz, Marion Brown, Jimmy Heath, Charles Tolliver, Bobby Hutcherson, The Heath Brothers, Buster Williams, Sonny Fortune, Stanley Clarke and Ed Blackwell. He also co-founded the Strata-East record label.
He told Jazz News in 2015, "Jazz and creative, improvised music as a whole has not been a popular music for many years. The sincere, knowledgeable jazz fan obviously does know about us, otherwise we would not continue to be invited to record and perform. We have not declined in our skills but have become seasoned, like fine wine."
John le Carré
In 1996 British author David Cornwell, best known by his pen name John le Carré (October 19, 1931 - December 12, 2020), told "Sunday Morning" correspondent Mark Phillips, "Joseph Conrad wrote about the sea because he was born to the sea. I was recruited very early into the secret world. I would copy Conrad in that request; the secret world was my natural element, I was in it for those years and I understand its workings as he understands the sea."
He was inspired by his own experiences in British intelligence to craft such celebrated novels as "The Spy Who Came in From the Cold," "The Looking Glass War," "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy," "The Honourable Schoolboy," "Smiley's People," "The Russia House," "The Little Drummer Girl," "The Night Manager," "The Tailor of Panama," "The Constant Gardener," "A Most Wanted Man" and "Our Kind of Traitor." Le Carré's characters, such as intelligence officer George Smiley, are tested by the betrayals and moral failures that seemed unavoidable in a career in espionage. The novels gave birth to hit films and TV adaptations – a more cerebral and cynical antidote to the sensational James Bond franchise.
Though a product of an upper-middle-class education (attending the prestigious Sherborne School, obtaining a degree from Oxford University), Cornwell's childhood was actually unsettling. His father was a con man jailed for insurance fraud; his mother left the family when he was five. The disparity between appearances and reality would instill in him a familiarity with secrecy, which came in handy as a clandestine operative. Having already worked with MI5 while at Oxford, after teaching at Eton he joined the foreign service, stationed in Germany on the frontlines of the Cold War, under the cover of a British Embassy functionary.
He wrote his first three spy novels while employed by the Foreign Service, hence the requirement to use a pen name. He chose "Carré" – square in French – because he liked its vaguely mysterious, European sound. The success of "The Spy Who Came In from the Cold" allowed him to retire from tradecraft and write full time.
His books continued to fascinate even after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
In 2019 he talked with "Sunday Morning" about his latest novel, "Agent Running in the Field," in which the villains are people trying to take Britain out of the European Union: "Let me just say, first of all, that always in my books, I've tried to live the passion of my time. And in this case, I felt very deeply – I continue to feel very deeply – that the British public is being bamboozled by people with private interests. So, to get that feeling, to invest the argument in characters rather than just stand on a soap box, that was my job."
Tony Award-winning choreographer, dancer and actress Ann Reinking (November 10, 1949-December 12, 2020) was a partner, collaborator and protégé of Bob Fosse, appearing on Broadway in the musicals "Pippin," "Dancin'," and Fosse's 1986 revival of "Sweet Charity," and co-starring in his 1979 film "All That Jazz." An understudy in the original "Chicago," Reinking starred in its 1996 revival, and won a Tony Award for her choreography – a blend of jazz and burlesque, modeled after the cool, modern style of Fosse.
A trained ballet dancer, the Seattle-born Reinking won a scholarship with the Joffrey Ballet in San Francisco, but decided to pursue musical theater at the encouragement of Robert Joffrey. Arriving in New York City, she appeared in "Cabaret," "Coco," "Pippin" and "Over Here!" She then starred in the musical "Goodtime Charley," as Joan of Arc. She earned a Tony nomination for performing in the 1978 revue "Dancin'."
Reinking also co-directed the 1999 show "Fosse"; choreographed "The Look of Love," "Here Lies Jenny," "An Evening with Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin," and a revival of "Pal Joey"; and performed in a national tour of "Bye Bye Birdie."
Besides her role in "All That Jazz," her movie credits include "Annie," "Movie, Movie," and "Micki and Maude."
Reinking also produced a documentary called "In My Hands" (about children with Marfan's Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder), and "Two Worlds, One Planet" (about "high-functioning" autism). [Reinking's son was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome and autism.]
In a 2007 interview with Dance Magazine, Reinking was asked what she focuses on when teaching dance: "I want my students to work on good alignment, but I also want them to be able to explore 'different lines,' especially for those dancers with strong balletic training. Their lines tend to be there automatically, but dancers often need to just let it go."
The first Black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Charley Pride (March 18, 1934-December 12, 2020) was best-known for his 1971 hit "Kiss an Angel Good Morning." In a career that produced dozens of albums and earned him three Grammy Awards, Pride sold more than 25 million records. In 1972 Pride won the Country Music Association's Top Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year Awards. Last month he won the Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Country Music Association.
The son of a sharecropper, Pride was raised in Sledge, Mississippi, and first pursued a sports career. He was a pitcher and outfielder with the Memphis Red Sox in the Negro American League, and in the Pioneer League in Montana. After playing minor league ball a couple of years, he started spending nights playing country music at clubs; while visiting Nashville, two of Pride's demo tapes made their way to the head of RCA Records, who signed him.
His first few singles were sent to radio stations without a publicity photo, so that race would not be a factor in air play. After he became known, a few country radio stations refused to play Pride's music. But for the most part, Pride said he was well-received. Early in his career, he would put white audiences at ease when he joked about his "permanent tan."
"They used to ask me how it feels to be the `first colored country singer,'" he told The Dallas Morning News in 1992. "Then it was `first Negro country singer;' then `first black country singer.′ Now I'm the `first African American country singer.′ That's about the only thing that's changed. This country is so race-conscious, so ate-up with colors and pigments. I call it `skin hangups' – it's a disease."
Among his more than 30 #1 hits were "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)," "(I'm So) Afraid of Losing You Again," "Is Anybody Goin' to San Antone," "I'd Rather Love You," "It's Gonna Take a Little Bit Longer," "Burgers and Fries," "Mountain of Love," and "Someone Loves You Honey."
"Music is the greatest communicator on the planet Earth," he said in 1992. "Once people heard the sincerity in my voice and heard me project and watched my delivery, it just dissipated any apprehension or bad feeling they might have had."
Before the landmark flight, on October 14, 1947, by test pilot Charles "Chuck" Yeager (February 13, 1923-December 7, 2020) in his Bell X-1 rocket plane, people did not know if it would be possible to fly faster than the speed of sound – Mach 1. But there was a "beyond" to the sound barrier, and Yeager got there before any other human being. His success was key to developing supersonic flight, and helped launch the race into space.
His exploits were written up by Tom Wolfe in the bestseller "The Right Stuff," heralding the stoic and fearless test pilots, and the Mercury astronauts who were the first Americans in space.
"They talk about the right stuff, well, you know, it really don't mean a lot to guys like us," Yeager told "Sunday Morning" in 1983. "Because flight-testing, research flying, is a way of life with you, and that's your job and you do it a lot. There's a lot of luck involved, and if you survive, you survive. If you don't, you don't."
Yeager's life was marked by more than just luck. The retired Air Force Brigadier General from a small town in the hills of West Virginia enlisted in the Army Air Corps after graduating from high school in 1941. Despite becoming severely airsick during his first airplane ride, he signed up for a program that allowed enlisted men to become fliers. He was an ace fighter pilot during World War II, shooting down 13 German planes on 64 missions. He was shot down over German-held France, but escaped with the help of French partisans.
After serving as a test pilot following World War II, he returned to combat during the Vietnam War, flying several missions a month. Yeager also commanded Air Force fighter squadrons and wings, and the Aerospace Research Pilot School for military astronauts. [He regretted that his lack of a college education had blocked him from becoming an astronaut himself.]
Yeager was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, the Air Medal and the Purple Heart.
"Living to a ripe old age is not an end in itself. The trick is to enjoy the years remaining," he wrote in his 1986 memoir "Yeager: An Autobiography." "I haven't yet done everything, but by the time I'm finished, I won't have missed much. … If I [crash] tomorrow, it won't be with a frown on my face. I've had a ball."
He was the man, and dominating presence, behind the mask. British actor and bodybuilder David Prowse (July 1, 1935-November 28, 2020) introduced the character of Darth Vader in the original "Star Wars" trilogy, bringing a sinister yet graceful presence to the Dark Lord of the Sith.
A three-time U.K. heavyweight champion in competitive weightlifting circles, the 6'6" Prowse got into acting playing Frankenstein's monster, and used his heft as a bodyguard in Stanley Kubrick's "A Clockwork Orange."
He told the BBC in 2013 that George Lucas offered him either of two roles in his fantasy film: Chewbacca, Han Solo's Wookiee sidekick ("Oh God, no, three months in a gorilla skin!") and Darth Vader. Prowse jumped at the chance to play the baddie. Why? He'd explained to the director, "'If you think back on all of the movies you've ever seen where there are good guys and bad guys,' I said, 'you always remember the bad guys.'"
Hired to play Vader, Prowse was hidden behind the mask (he said the costume was "quite comfortable, actually"), but lifted his character beyond the ordinary realms of boo-hiss villains, looming over toady Imperial apparatchiks and threatening agents of the rebellion – and, we learned in "The Empire Strikes Back," carrying a secret connection with the series' hero, Luke Skywalker.
Prowse's voice was replaced in post-production by American James Earl Jones, often stated to be due to the Bristol-born Prowse's West Country accent. But more contentious for the actor was being replaced at the climax of "Return of the Jedi," when the mortally-wounded Vader is unmasked by Luke, only to reveal actor Sebastian Shaw.
But he wasn't only known for playing villains and monsters. Beginning in the '70s Prowse also portrayed a good guy, the "Green Cross Code Man," a character in a series of British public service announcements warning children on crosswalk safety.
Internet entrepreneur Tony Hsieh (December 12, 1973-November 27, 2020) never imagined he would become head of the Las Vegas-based online shoe retailer Zappos. "I'm not a shoe person at all," he told "Sunday Morning" in 2010. "I used to wear one pair of shoes for two years until there were holes in it and it was falling apart, and then buy another pair." Yet, his revolutionary business practices raised Zappos to one of the most successful online sales companies ever.
Hsieh joined the dot.com craze after graduating from Harvard, and in 1998 sold an online venture, Link/Exchange, to Microsoft, walking away with more than $30 million, when he was just 24 years old. Soon after, he joined a start-up (then called shoesite.com), and rose to become CEO.
His philosophy? "It's actually possible to make employees happy, make customers happy, and still make investors happy … and you know, still have profits," he said. He offered unheard-of customer perks, like free shipping and free returns for up to a year. The Zappos brand would become successful enough to be acquired by Amazon for $1.2 billion.
In addition to building a corporate culture designed to encourage happy employees and satisfied customers, he also redesigned the company's headquarters to maximize what Hsieh called "water cooler moments," even when there is no actual water cooler. "The concept of your office becomes something that isn't necessarily just centered inside of four walls." Focusing on such personal details in the work environment, Hsieh said, was tantamount to "making the world a better place."
Hsieh also led efforts to revitalize the Las Vegas downtown, pledging hundreds of millions to redevelop 20 square blocks of land, with parks, restaurants and other attractions.
Pictured: Hsieh holding a copy of his autobiography, "Delivering Happiness."
Over a two-decade career Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona (October 30, 1960-November 25, 2020) captivated fans around the world with a bewitching style of play that was all his own. Bold, fast and utterly unpredictable, Maradona was a master of attack, juggling the ball easily from one foot to the other as he raced upfield. Dodging and weaving with his low center of gravity, he shrugged off countless rivals and often scored with a devastating left foot, his most powerful weapon.
Yet, one of the most famous moments in the history of the sport came when the diminutive Maradona punched the ball into England's net during the 1986 World Cup quarterfinals. England said the ball went in off of Maradona's hand, not his head. Maradona himself gave conflicting accounts of what had happened over the years, at one point attributing the goal to divine intervention, to "the hand of God."
Over the protests of England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, the referee let stand a goal by Maradona in which, as he admitted years later, he intentionally hit the ball with his hand in "a bit of mischief."
But Maradona's impact wouldn't be confined to cheating. Four minutes later, he spectacularly weaved past four opponents from midfield to beat Shilton for what FIFA later declared the greatest goal in World Cup history.
Many Argentines saw the match as revenge for their country's loss to Britain in the 1982 war over the Falkland Islands. "It was our way of recovering 'Las Malvinas,'" Maradona wrote in his 2000 memoir, "I Am Diego."
Following Argentina's 2-1 victory against England, Maradona led his team to a 3-2 win over West Germany in the final.
Although his reputation was tarnished by his addictions and an ill-fated spell in charge of the national team, he remained idolized in soccer-mad Argentina as the "Pibe de Oro," or "Golden Boy."
In 2001, FIFA named Maradona one of the two greatest in the sport's history, alongside Pelé.
In 2013, a month after his 30th birthday, Pat Quinn (February 10, 1983-November 22, 2020) was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease). A progressive neurodegenerative disease, ALS leads to paralysis due to the death of motor neurons in the spinal cord and brain. There is no known cure.
In 2014, Quinn saw the Ice Bucket Challenge on the social media feed of professional golfer Chris Kennedy, who first dared his wife's cousin, Jeanette Senerchia, to take a bucket of ice water, dump it over her head, post a video on social media, and ask others to do the same or to make a donation to charity. (Senerchia's husband had ALS.) Quinn and co-founder Pete Frates, a former Boston College baseball player, along with their teams of supporters, helped popularize the challenge.
The phenomenon exploded. Thousands of people participated in the viral trend, including celebrities, sports stars and politicians. The ALS Association called it "the greatest social media campaign in history." To date it has raised more than $200 million worldwide for Lou Gehrig's disease research
"As simple as a silly bucket of ice water, what it did was change the world," Quinn told the "CBS Evening News" in 2015.
Born James Humphrey Morris in Wales, journalist, historian, novelist and globetrotting travel writer Jan Morris (October 2, 1926-November 20, 2020) began a second journey in middle age, as a pioneer of the transgender movement.
Morris was a prolific and accomplished author who wrote dozens of books in a variety of genres and was a first-hand witness to history. As a young reporter for the Times of London, Morris accompanied a 1953 expedition to Asia led by Sir Edmund Hillary, and on the day of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation broke the news that Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay had become the first climbers to scale Mount Everest.
In 1956, for the Manchester Guardian, Morris helped break the news that French forces were secretly attacking Egypt during the so-called Suez Canal crisis that threatened to start a world war. The French and British, who also were allied against Egypt, both withdrew in embarrassment after denying the initial reports, and British prime minister Anthony Eden resigned within months.
To the outside world, James Morris seemed to enjoy an exemplary male life – joining the British army during World War II, serving as an intelligence officer in Palestine and mastering the "military virtues of "courage, dash, loyalty, self-discipline." In 1949, Morris married Elizabeth Tuckniss; they had five children. (One died in infancy). But Morris questioned her gender beginning at age 4. She had an epiphany as she sat under her mother's piano and thought that she had "been born into the wrong body, and should really be a girl." Decades of seeking "an inner reconciliation," she wrote, led to feelings of anxiety and thoughts of suicide. She traveled the "long, well-beaten, expensive, and fruitless path" of psychiatrists and sexologists.
Until the early 1970s, when she underwent surgery at a clinic in Casablanca and renamed herself Jan. Her bestselling memoir, "Conundrum" (1974), presented her decision as natural and liberating.
"I no longer feel isolated and unreal," Morris wrote. "Not only can I imagine more vividly how other people feel: released at last from those old bridles and blinkers, I am beginning to know how I feel myself."
Morris went on to receive praise for her immersive travel writing, and for her "Pax Britannica" histories about the British empire – a trilogy begun as James and concluded as Jan.
Life as a woman changed how Morris saw the world – and how the world saw Morris. She would internalize perceptions that she couldn't fix a car or lift a heavy suitcase, and found herself treated as an inferior by men and a confidante by women. She learned that there is "no aspect of existence, no moment of the day, no contact, no arrangement, no response, which is not different for men and women."
In 2000 Morris told "Sunday Morning" that she resented her transition from male to female had overshadowed her writing accomplishments. "I do object to it being dragged in, for example, when I write a book about the British Empire." But she long ago accepted what the headline of her obituary would be: "Sex-change author dies," she smiled.
An unruffled voice of authority for quiz show fans for more than four decades, "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek (July 22, 1940-November 8, 2020) stood out from his game-show peers, with brain power, poise – and, for many years, a mustache. "I was the first game show host since Groucho Marx to have a thick mustache, even though his was mostly makeup," he told "Sunday Morning" host Jane Pauley in 2019.
Trebek grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and majored in philosophy at the University of Ottawa. He worked at the CBC and other broadcasting companies, until NBC called in 1973 about a game show job, "The Wizard of Odds." "And it happened at exactly the moment when I had made a decision that I was going to try my luck here in the United States. And things have worked out rather handsomely."
You might say that: since 1984, Trebek hosted more than 8,000 episodes of "Jeopardy!" and won seven Daytime Emmys, along with a Lifetime Achievement Award. [Other game shows Trebek hosted included "High Rollers," "The $128,000 Question," "Classic Concentration," "Double Dare" and "To Tell the Truth."
Part of why Trebek excelled was that he seemed so at ease in the role – and appeared to know all the answers to the questions (or rather, given the "Jeopardy!" format, the questions to all the answers). His avuncular approach and banter with contestants left the impression he was on their side.
In March 2019 Trebek revealed that he had been diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. The news was devastating, but Trebek didn't miss a day of work, not even through chemotherapy, and he posted video messages of his progress to fans online. He recorded his final shows less than two weeks before his passing.
In his bestselling memoir, "The Answer Is ... Reflections on My Life," published earlier this year, Trebek compared himself to a visiting relative whom TV viewers find "comforting and reassuring, as opposed to being impressed by me."
Ken Hensley (August 24, 1945-November 4, 2020) was keyboardist and guitarist of the British rock band Uriah Heep, and a prolific writer of many of the band's songs in the 1970s, including "Easy Livin'," "Free Me," "July Morning" "Lady in Black," "Look At Yourself," and "Stealin'."
"The band was so great in those days; they would take my simple songs, and they would turn them into band songs," Hensley told Eon Music earlier this year. "And very often the songs were just simply ballads which I had written; verses, choruses, lyrics and the melody, and by the end of the day in the rehearsal room they'd turned them into Uriah Heep songs. It was such a great and productive relationship, at the time."
The London native had previously formed a band The Gods, whose players featured future members of the bands Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Jethro Tull.
In addition to co-writing some of Uriah Heep's songs, Hensley also collaborated with the bands Blackfoot, Cinderella, Head Machine, and W.A.S.P. He also recorded solo and with his bands Visible Faith, Free Spirit and Live Fire.
His last project, "My Book of Answers," is scheduled to be released in February 2021.
Scottish actor Sean Connery (August 25, 1930-October 31, 2020) defined the role of Ian Fleming's secret agent James Bond, which he first played in the 1962 film "Dr. No." Suave, quick-witted, violent, and a smooth operator with the ladies as he repeatedly saved the world from Iron Curtain operatives and power-mad oligarchs, Connery set the shaken-not-stirred big-screen template for Bond. He was, indisputably, the best.
He starred as Bond in seven films, including "From Russia With Love," "Goldfinger," "Thunderball," "You Only Live Twice," and "Diamonds Are Forever." After saying goodbye to the role for good (for the second time), he returned as 007 in the unofficial Bond adventure "Never Say Never Again" (a title Connery's wife suggested after the actor's adamant rejections to repeat the character).
"It became very limiting," Connery said, of playing Bond, to "60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft in 1999. Yet he recognized that he and frequent Bond director Terence Young had brought an attitude to the role to which all succeeding Bonds have been compared. "We shared a lot of the humor. Most of the one-liners and stuff, I put in the movie. We both agreed that we should have somebody that could be capable of doing all the things like snapping the necks and firing the gun and smoking himself to death and all of the chasing and the sex and all this stuff that goes with it, but to have a kind of counterbalance of humor, so it never really lost itself completely in that kind of serious world of spies."
Apart from playing MI6's most valuable agent with a license to kill, Connery starred in innumerable films that captured his heroic glamour. Rarely playing a villain, Connery was featured as a defecting Soviet submarine captain in "The Hunt for Red October"; a sleuthing monk in "The Name of the Rose"; an aged Robin Hood in "Robin and Marion"; a wizened elder in the fantasy "Highlander"; and Indiana Jones' professorial dad in "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." He played a folkloric Kipling figure in "The Man Who Would Be King," and a North African warlord in "The Wind and the Lion."
His outsized charm raised the level of numerous films, including "Darby O'Gill and the Little People," "Marnie," "The Hill," "The Molly Maguires," "A Fine Madness," "Murder on the Orient Express," "Zardoz," "The Great Train Robbery," "Cuba," "Outland," "Time Bandits," "The Russia House," "Medicine Man," "First Knight," "The Rock," "The Avengers," "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," "Playing by Heart," and "Finding Forrester."
His most memorable non-Bond role was as a veteran Chicago cop who teaches Kevin Costner's Eliot Ness a thing or two in "The Untouchables," an elegiac performance for which Connery earned an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Authentic Chinese food was hard to find when Cecilia Chiang (September 18, 1920-October 28, 2020) arrived in San Francisco's Chinatown in 1960. What passed for Chinese food in the United States then (dishes like moo goo gai pan and chop suey) was foreign to her.
When a botched business deal stuck Chiang with a restaurant lease, an accidental restaurateur was born. In 1961 she opened The Mandarin, introducing America to the grandeur of authentic Mandarin cuisine, like Peking duck, kung pao chicken, and sesame shrimp. The restaurant became a mandatory stop for bold-faced names, like John Lennon, Jack Nicholson, Freddie Mercury and Luciano Pavarotti.
Even after retiring, the imperial Chiang still commanded authority. "I don't like to follow, I like to do something different," Chiang said.
Leanza Cornett (June 10, 1971-October 28, 2020) had already volunteered at Serenity House, a pediatric foster home for children with AIDS in Orlando, when she entered the Miss Florida pageant in 1992. When asked what cause she wished to promote if she were to win, she suggested AIDS prevention. Local pageant directors asked if she would consider something else; she wouldn't. After winning Miss Florida, she was named Miss America in 1993, and became the first pageant winner to make AIDS awareness her platform, calling for the distribution of clean needles to addicts, and promoting safe sex to youth.
"Girls, no love unless he wears a glove," she told teenagers. "Boys, if you love her, wear a cover."
The Washington Post reports that when a rural school district in Florida blocked her from even saying the word "AIDS," she called them out for censorship: "I can adhere to any school board's needs," she said. "But I will not be an accomplice to the spread of this disease. People are dying from this disease. I feel guilty that I didn't speak about it. I don't want to lay blame, but the school board should feel guilty."
She also appeared on "The 700 Club" calling on people of faith to help fight the spread of AIDS.
Prior to winning her pageant titles, Cornett performed in the Christian music group Area Code. She was later a correspondent on "Entertainment Tonight" in 1994-1995. Her acting credits included stage productions of "The Little Mermaid," "Godspell," and "Bye Bye Birdie," and guest roles on the TV shows "Melrose Place," "Saved By the Bell: The New Class," "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Weeds" and "The Tick."
Billy Joe Shaver
Country singer-songwriter Billy Joe Shaver (August 16, 1939-October 28, 2020) was among the original group of outlaws and maverick country singers in the '70s, writing songs for Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Bobby Bare, Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan.
His lyrics reflected his hard-scrabble upbringing in Texas, and he helped popularize the outlaw country genre with songs like "Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me" (about Nelson), "Honky Tonk Heroes," "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train," "Old Five and Dimers Like Me," "You Asked Me To," "Black Rose," "Ride Me Down Easy," "I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train," "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)," and "Live Forever."
His guitar playing was similarly hard-scrabble; as a young man Shaver had lost parts of two fingers in an accident at a sawmill.
In 2010 Shaver was acquitted for shooting a man after being threatened at a saloon in Lorena, Texas. As he left the courtroom he said, "I am very sorry about the incident. Hopefully things will work out where we become friends enough so that he gives me back my bullet."
Diane di Prima
Poet, activist and teacher Diane di Prima (August 6, 1934-October 25, 2020) was one of the last surviving members of the Beats, and one of the few women writers in the Beat movement.
Di Prima's many works included "Revolutionary Letters," her multi-part poem "Loba" (referred to at times as a feminist counterpart to Allen Ginsberg's "Howl!"), and her fictionalized and explicit "Memoirs of a Beatnik," which she wrote after moving to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where "the language of the streets stung me." Her first collection, "This Kind of Bird Flies Backward," was published in 1959. She also co-founded the New York Poets Theatre, and was arrested for publishing poems deemed obscene in the magazine The Floating Bear. The charges were ultimately dropped.
Moving to California, di Prima studied Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, Sanskrit and alchemy, while raising five children.
In 2014 she told the San Francisco Chronicle that "Memoirs of a Beatnik" represented just a portion of her life that she magnified, writing the book to support a 14-room commune on Oak Street in Haight-Ashbury.
"Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Beat Generation?" the paper asked.
"Yes, if you define Beat as a state of mind not bound by any particular time or by a single generation," di Prima replied. "Beat belongs to the great American counterculture."
In her later years, suffering from Parkinson's and Sjøgren's syndrome, she would have someone type for her.
In 2014 she explained the title of her book "The Poetry Deal": "Poetry is my life, my commitment. I accept it unconditionally. I've never wanted fame and I've never willingly compromised my poetry. I've never compromised my kids, either."
Font designer Ed Benguiat (October 27, 1927-October 15, 2020) created hundreds of typeface designs (including some which bear his name, such as Benguiat, Benguiat Gothic and Benguiat Caslon), and crafted logos for companies, publications, motion pictures and advertising. Among his clients: AT&T, Coca-Cola, Ford, Estee Lauder, Esquire, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and The New York Times. Title treatments for films and TV included "The Guns of Navarone," "Planet of the Apes," "Super Fly," "Star Trek: Generations" and "Stranger Things."
Benquiat – who played in jazz bands with such artists as Stan Kenton and Woody Herman – told the Type Directors Club, "Music is placing sounds in their proper order so they're pleasing to the ear. Design is placing things in their proper order so they're pleasing to the eye."
Three-time Emmy-nominated actress Conchata Ferrell (March 28, 1943-October 12, 2020), a native of Charleston, West Virginia, earned plaudits for her early Off-Broadway work, including Lanford Wilson's "The Hot L Baltimore," and won a Drama Desk Award for her performance in "The Sea Horse." She repeated her role as a prostitute in "Hot L Baltimore" in the 1975 TV series adaptation produced by Norman Lear (pictured).
She starred as Berta the housekeeper in the TV series "Two and a Half Men," Nurse Joan Thor in "E/R," and entertainment lawyer Susan Bloom on "L.A. Law."
Of Berta, the crusty housekeeper she played during 12 seasons of "Two and a Half Men,' Ferrell told The A/V Club in 2014, "I love playing women who have the nerve to do things that I don't have the nerve to do. [Berta's] that person I wish I could be, and someone I think all of us kind of wish we could be: someone who can just say what's on her mind and not worry about it."
Her film credits included "Mystic Pizza," "Network," "Heartland," "True Romance," "Erin Brockovich," "Edward Scissorhands," "Where the River Runs Black," and "Mr. Deeds."
Other TV appearances included "The Rockford Files," "B.J. and the Bear," "Lou Grant," "St. Elsewhere," "A Peaceable Kingdom," "Hearts Afire," "Townies," "JAG," "Grace and Frankie" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."
Often regarded as the greatest second baseman in history, Joe Morgan (September 19, 1943-October 11, 2020) was a key to the Cincinnati Reds' dominance of the National League in the 1970s, when they won two World Series championships. Morgan's tiebreaking single with two outs in the ninth inning of Game 7 in 1975 gave the Reds the crown in a classic matchup against the Boston Red Sox, and he spurred a four-game sweep of the New York Yankees the following year.
Morgan got his start with the Houston Colt .45s expansion team in 1963, which was later renamed the Astros. After nine seasons, he was traded to Cincinnati, where he became an integral part of the Big Red Machine.
A two-time MVP, 10-time All-Star and five-time winner of the Gold Glove Award, Morgan scored 1,650 runs, stole 689 bases, hit 268 homers and batted .271 during his 22-year career, which ended in 1984. He spent his final years back in Houston, then San Francisco, Philadelphia (where he reunited with former Reds teammate Pete Rose and Tony Perez), and Oakland.
After his playing career, he spent years as an announcer for the Reds, Giants and A's, along with ESPN, NBC, ABC and CBS. He was an analyst for ESPN's Sunday night telecasts from 1990-2010, and won two Sports Emmy Awards.
When Morgan was inducted into baseball's Hall of Fame in 1990, he recognized his place on one of baseball's all-time greatest teams: "[Johnny] Bench probably had the most raw baseball ability of any of us," Morgan said. "Pete obviously had the most determination to make himself the player he was. Perez was the unsung hero. I guess I was just a guy who could do a lot of things."
Hurling the best winning percentage of any pitcher in the 20th century, Whitey Ford (October 21, 1928-October 8, 2020) was born on the East Side of Manhattan, about 100 blocks south of Yankee Stadium, and grew up playing sandlot ball in Astoria, Queens. He would spend his entire baseball career in Yankee pinstripes, during which he would help the Bronx Bombers win six World Series championships in the 1950s and '60s, posting the most wins in Yankees history. He still holds World Series records for World Series victories (10), games and starts (22), innings pitched (146) and strikeouts (94).
Ford was in his mid-20s when he became the go-to guy in manager Casey Stengel's rotation, the pitcher Stengel said he would always turn to if he absolutely needed to win one game.
Ford's best seasons came in 1961 and 1963, in the midst of a stretch of five straight American League pennants for the Yankees, when new manager Ralph Houk began using a four-man rotation instead of five. Ford led the league in victories with 25 in 1961, won the Cy Young Award and starred in the World Series. In 1963, he went 24-7, again leading the league in wins. Eight of his victories that season came in June.
He also led the AL in earned run average in 1956 (2.47) and 1958 (2.01) and was an All-Star in eight seasons.
Unlike Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax, Ford was not a power pitcher. Instead he depended on guile and guts, rarely giving hitters the same look on consecutive pitches. He'd throw overhand sometimes, three-quarters other times, mixing curves and sliders in with his fastball and changeup.
Ford often called his election to the Baseball Hall of Fame the highlight of his career, made more meaningful because he was inducted with teammate Mickey Mantle. "It never was anything I imagined was possible or anything I dared dream about when I was a kid growing up on the sidewalks of New York," he wrote in his autobiography. "I never really thought I would make it as a kid because I always was too small."
Singer-songwriter Johnny Nash (August 19, 1940-October 6, 2020) rose from pop crooner to early reggae star. He was best known for the million-selling "I Can See Clearly Now," which topped the charts in 1972. It came during just one incarnation of his multi-faceted career.
In the mid-1950s, he was a teenager covering "Darn That Dream" and other standards, his light tenor likened to the voice of Johnny Mathis. He also worked briefly as an actor.
In the '60s he sang the theme song of the cartoon series "The Mighty Hercules," and had a rhythm and blues hit, "Let's Move and Groove Together." Afterwards he moved to Jamaica, where he began a music publishing business and formed a record label, JAD Records, which helped launch the career of his friend Bob Marley. A rare American-born singer of reggae, Nash was among the first artists to bring reggae to U.S. audiences.
He peaked commercially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he had hits with "Hold Me Tight," "You Got Soul," an early version of Marley's "Stir It Up," and "I Can See Clearly Now," his signature song.
Reportedly written by Nash while recovering from cataract surgery, "I Can See Clearly Now" was a story of overcoming hard times that itself raised the spirits of countless listeners, with its swelling pop-reggae groove, promise of a "bright, bright sunshiny day" and Nash's gospel-styled exclamation midway, "Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies!", a backing chorus lifting the words into the heavens.
The rock critic Robert Christgau would call the song, which Nash also produced, "2 minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration."
"I feel that music is universal. Music is for the ears and not the age," Nash told Cameron Crowe, then writing for Zoo World Magazine, in 1973. "There are some people who say that they hate music. I've run into a few, but I'm not sure I believe them."
The fame of "I Can See Clearly Now" outlasted Nash's own. He rarely made the charts in the years following, even as he released such albums as "Tears On My Pillow" and "Celebrate Life," and by the 1990s had essentially left the business. His last album, "Here Again," came out in 1986, although in recent years he was reportedly digitizing his old work, some of which was lost in a 2008 fire at Universal Studios in Los Angeles.
A quarter century later, he explained to the Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, "I think I've achieved gratification in terms of the people I've had the chance to meet. I never won the Grammy, but I don't put my faith in things of that nature. … A lifetime body of work I can be proud of is more important to me. And the special folksy blend to the music I make, that's what it is all about."
Eddie Van Halen
Born in the Netherlands, Eddie Van Halen (January 26, 1955-October 6, 2020), among the top 20 bestselling artists of all time, was the son of a multi-instrumentalist. After moving to California as a child he performed classical piano recitals before taking up the drums, then the guitar. He formed a group with his older brother Alex, and two members of rival high school bands, singer David Lee Roth and bassist Michael Anthony, when they attended Pasadena City College together. Their original choice of band name, "Mammoth," was already taken, and they opted for Van Halen.
Gene Simmons, of Kiss, produced a demo recording of the group, in a session that Van Halen felt was awkward. "I quickly learned that I didn't like overdubbing," he told Guitar World in 1996. "Gene said, 'Here's what you do in the studio -- you play your rhythm parts on one track, and your solo parts on another.' I remember feeling very uncomfortable with separating my lead and fill parts from my rhythm parts. On stage, I'd gotten used to doing both simultaneously. I'd just noodle in-between chord lines. Because it was my first time in a recording studio, it didn't occur to me to say, 'Can't I play just the way I play live?'"
The demo didn't pan our – Kiss' management felt Van Halen lacked "commercial potential" – but the group would be discovered at the Starwood club in West Hollywood in 1977. They recorded six albums with Roth as frontman, including "Van Halen," "Van Halen II," "Women and Children First," "Fair Warning," "Diver Down" and "1984." Van Halen's virtuosic playing and standout solos on such songs as "Eruption," "Hot for Teacher," Cathedral," "Jump," "Runnin' With the Devil," and the Michael Jackson song "Beat it," landed him at #8 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists.
Mike McCready, of Pearl Jam, told Rolling Stone that listening to Van Halen's "Eruption" was like hearing Mozart for the first time: "He gets sounds that aren't necessarily guitar sounds – a lot of harmonics, textures that happen just because of how he picks."
After a split with Roth, Van Halen continued with singer Sammy Hagar, releasing four consecutive #1 albums: "5150," "OU812," "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge" and "Balance."
Health problems – hip replacement surgery, tongue cancer – and drug and alcohol abuse dogged Van Halen for years, but in the 2000s he rejoined both with Hagar and with Roth, and at one point toured with his son, 16-year-old Wolfgang Van Halen, performing on bass. A 2012 album "A Different Kind of Truth," with Roth back in front, rose to #2.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 2012 he pondered his success with Esquire magazine: "I can't think of anyone more blessed than me. For one, you know all the b******t I've been through in my life. To have a brother that I've been playing with since Day One, and now my son. I don't think anyone else in music can actually say that. I don't know anyone who has a son and brother that they play together. That brings me to, 'Hey mom, dad, why don't you have another kid?'" he laughed. "I could use a good accountant, tour manager, you know, whatever!"
Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Actor Thomas Jefferson Byrd (June 25, 1950-October 3, 2020) was best known for his roles in several films by director Spike Lee, including "Clockers," "Girl 6," "Get On the Bus," "Chi-Raq," "Bamboozled," "He Got Game," "Red Hook Summer," and "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus," as well as the series inspired by "She's Gotta Have It."
Byrd was nominated for a Tony Award in 2003 for his performance in the Broadway revival of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." His regional stage appearances included "Death of a Salesman," "Good Boys," "Crowns," "Gem of the Ocean," "Trouble in Mind," "Radio Golf" and "Gleam."
Other movie appearances include "Bulworth," "Ray," "MacArthur Park," and "Never Get Outta the Boat." He recently completed the Civil War drama, "Freedom's Path."
Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson (November 9, 1935-October 2, 2020), at 6'2", seemed so much taller on the mound, and even spent the 1957-58 season with the Harlem Globetrotters before turning his full attention to baseball. A two-time Cy Young Award-winner, Gibson dominated the game during his 17 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals. He struck out more than 200 batters nine times and led the National League in shutouts four times, finishing with 56 in his career. Averaging 19 wins a year from 1963-72, he finished 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA, and was only the second pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts, and set a modern standard for excellence when he finished the 1968 season with a 1.12 ERA, the best for any starter in the post-1920s era.
Gibson was, somehow, even greater in the postseason. He won a record seven consecutive World Series starts (and set a World Series record by striking out 17 batters in Game 1 of the 1968 championship against the Detroit Tigers).
His 1968 performance, the highlight of the so-called "Year of the Pitcher," left officials worried that fans had bored of so many 1-0 games. They lowered the mound from 15 to 10 inches in 1969 and shrank the strike zone. "I was pissed," Gibson later remarked, although he remained a top pitcher for several years, and in 1971 threw his only no-hitter, against Pittsburgh.
Batters never forgot how Gibson glared at them (or squinted, because he was near-sighted) as if settling an old score. That competitive nature was overpowering, extending even to his own teammates who dared speak to him on a day he was pitching (a sign above his locker read: "I'm not prejudiced. I hate everybody").
His own family wasn't even spared: "I've played a couple of hundred games of tic-tac-toe with my little daughter and she hasn't beaten me yet," he once told The New Yorker's Roger Angell. "I've always had to win. I've got to win."
I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back and pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again
The feminist anthem "I Am Woman," co-written by Australian singer Helen Reddy (October 25, 1941-September 29, 2020), appeared on her debut album in 1971. The single topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and won her a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Pop Performance.
The powerful tribute to female empowerment would become Reddy's biggest hit, but her Top 40 roster also included "Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady," "Delta Dawn," "Peaceful," "Angie Baby," "You and Me Against the World," and "Somewhere in the Night."
Reddy grew up in a show-business family in Melbourne, winning a contest that would launch her recording career in the United States, where judges told her she didn't sound "commercial" enough. Yet her recording of "I Don't Know How to Love Him," from the musical "Jesus Christ Superstar," led to a 10-year recording contract with Capitol. Seven of her albums with the label were certified gold or platinum.
Reddy also appeared in the films "Airport 1975," and Disney's "Pete's Dragon."
She retired from public life in the 1990s, she told the Associated Press, in part because of the enormous success of "I Am Woman": "I was shown a modern American history high-school textbook, and a whole chapter on feminism and my name and my lyrics (were) in the book. And I thought, 'Well, I'm part of history now. And how do I top that? I can't top that.' So, it was an easy withdrawal."
Songwriter and country star Mac Davis (January 21, 1942-September 29, 2020) wrote or co-wrote hits recorded by Elvis Presley ("A Little Less Conversation," "Memories," "In the Ghetto") Kenny Rogers ("Something's Burning"), Dolly Parton ("White Limozeen"), Ray Price ("Lonesomest Lonesome"), and Bruno Mars ("Young Girls"). He received a recording deal in 1970, and as a solo artist had hits with "I Believe in Music," "Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me," "One Hell of a Woman," "Stop and Smell the Roses," "Hooked on Music," "It's Hard to be Humble," and "Texas in My Rearview Mirror."
In addition to his crossover success on the pop charts, Davis also became a familiar presence on TV, as star of "The Mac Davis Show," and appeared with Nick Nolte in the football comedy "North Dallas Forty." He starred on Broadway in the musical "The Will Rogers Follies."
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006.
A two-time All-American at Kansas, running back Gale Sayers (May 30, 1943-September 23, 2020) played seven seasons with the Chicago Bears, where the Offensive Rookie of the Year dazzled with his speed. He set an NFL record with 22 touchdowns in his first season, and tied another record of six touchdowns in one game. He was selected All-Pro five times, and was, at 34, the youngest player ever inducted into the Hall of Fame.
His speed may have grown out of his experience as a youngster playing tackle with much older kids, as he told the Omaha World-Herald in 2005: "I was 13 and playing against guys who were 19 and 20. I think that helped make me a better athlete, because I did not want to get hit by those guys."
But Sayers' fame extended beyond the playing field, due to his friendship with his White teammate Brian Piccolo. The two, each competing for time on the field, forged an unusual bond. In 1968, Piccolo supported Sayers through the rehabilitation process after he'd suffered a torn ligament. The following year Sayers helped Piccolo following his teammate's terminal cancer diagnosis, remaining by his side and donating blood. Sayers wrote of their friendship in his book, "I Am Third."
The story was dramatized in the 1971 TV movie "Brian's Song," starring Billy Dee Williams and James Caan, which has been acclaimed as one of the best television dramas ever made.
After knee injuries ended his playing career, Sayers became a stockbroker at a Chicago investment firm, the athletic director at Southern Illinois University, the CEO and president of information technology company, and a philanthropist.
Vocalist and guitarist Tommy DeVito (June 19, 1928-September 21, 2020) was a founding member of The Four Seasons, a band whose hits in the 1960s included "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry,' "Walk Like a Man," "Dawn (Go Away)," "Rag Doll," "Let's Hang On!," "Working My Way Back to You," and "Tell It to the Rain."
Pictured, from left: DeVito, Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi.
Burned out from touring, DeVito left the group in 1970. Saddled with debts, he did manual labor in Las Vegas until he returned to music as a record producer. His childhood friend Joe Pesci also wrangled him bit parts in films such as "Casino."
In 1990 the original four members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Their lives became the basis of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Jersey Boys," later filmed by director Clint Eastwood.
In 2009 DeVito told the Las Vegas Review Journal that the story of "Jersey Boys" was mostly accurate, even if it exaggerated his mob ties, but it upset his wife and daughter, who didn't like how DeVito was portrayed. "What are you cryin' about?" he responded. "I make a lot of money with this show! You're cryin' because I'm makin' a lot of money?"
Cinematographer Michael Chapman (November 21, 1935-September 20, 2020) received an education as the camera operator on such classics as "The Godfather," "Klute" and "Jaws," as well as gritty indie features like John Cassavetes' "Husbands." As director of photography on Hal Ashby's "The Last Detail," he brought a documentary-style realism to its wistful tale of military police escorting a prisoner. He worked with Martin Scorsese on the concert film "The Last Waltz," before filming two of the director's most visually striking movies: "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull," which earned him one of his two Oscar nominations.
Chapman's dramatic landscapes, usually urban, were thrillingly gritty and haunted, as seen in "The Wanderers," "Hardcore," "The Lost Boys," the Michael Jackson music video "Bad," "The Fugitive," "Rising Sun," and the 1978 remake of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." But his resume also featured lighter fare, from the Steve Martin comedy "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid," to "Space Jam," "Kindergarten Cop" and "Ghostbusters II." His last film was "Bridge to Terabithia." Chapman also served as a director, helming the fantasy "Clan of the Cave Bear" and the Tom Cruise drama "All the Right Moves."
In a 2016 Variety profile Chapman asserted that "great cinema need not be beautiful," and noted that camera work is the underlying support for the success of a film. "Cinematography carries the whole bloody thing on its back," he said.
Pictured top: Michael Chapman, second from right, filming Steven Spielberg's "Jaws." Clockwise from left: "Taxi Driver," "Raging Bull," "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Fugitive."
The Rev. Robert Graetz
In the 1950s The Rev. Robert Graetz (May 16, 1928-September 20, 2020), pictured right, was the White pastor of a Black congregation at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Montgomery, Ala., when the African-American community initiated a boycott of the city's public buses, following Rosa Parks' arrest.
Graetz was the only White clergyman to openly support the boycott, and even drove protesters to work in his car, for which he was arrested. His alliance with Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and other civil rights activists drew criticism and death threats to him and his family. Publicly shunned by other White clergymen, harassed by racists and targeted by the Ku Klux Klan, Graetz found his car vandalized and booby-trapped. His home was bombed twice; a third bomb, reportedly large enough to level the entire neighborhood, failed to detonate.
But Graetz and his wife, Jean Graetz (who also died in 2020), persevered despite the personal dangers, and following the conclusion of the year-long bus boycott, he continued working on civil rights issues.
In his 2006 memoir, "A White Preacher's Message on Race and Reconciliation," Rev. Graetz wrote, "I have always contended that the absence of fear is not the point. What you do when you are afraid is what makes the difference."
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (March 15, 1933-September 18, 2020) was diminutive, but she loomed large as a powerful liberal voice on the nation's highest court. The influence of her mother was enduring, she told "Sunday Morning" host Jane Pauley in 2016: "She said two things: Be a lady and be independent. 'Be a lady' meant don't give way to emotions that sap your energy, like anger. Take a deep breath and speak calmly."
She graduated first in her class at Columbia Law School, but she didn't get a single offer from a New York law firm: "I had three strikes against me: One, I was Jewish; two, I was a woman. But the killer was that I was the mother of a four-year-old child."
But it was that kind of unequal treatment that drove her to become a law professor, at Rutgers University – groundbreaking in the 1960s. She eventually headed the women's rights project at the ACLU, where she argued six landmark gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning five.
Only the second woman to sit on the Supreme Court (appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993), she served for 27 years. Her conservative colleagues took issue with her more modern interpretation of the Constitution, but as she explained to CBS News' Mike Wallace on "Sunday Morning" in 2006, "The genius of our Constitution ['We the People'] is that, over now more than 200 sometimes turbulent years, that 'we' has expanded."
Among her most notable opinions on the court: United States v. Virginia (1996), which required Virginia Military Institute to accept women; and Olmstead v. LC (1999), which protected the rights of individuals with disabilities.
In a 2006 dissent to Ledbetter v. Goodyear, in which the court decided against a woman demanding pay equity with her male counterparts, Ginsburg argued, "The court does not comprehend or is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination."
And in a 2013 dissent to Shelby County v. Holder, when the majority on the court overturned a key part of the Voting Rights Act protecting the franchise for Black and other minority voters, she likened it to "throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."
Her standing as one of the most vital liberal voices on the court, and her persistence despite several bouts of cancer, inspired generations of women, and earned her comic portrayals on "Saturday Night Live" and a tongue-in-cheek moniker: "The Notorious RBG." She maintained her leadership on the court's liberal wing even in spite of her friendship with noted Constitutional originalist and fellow opera-lover Antonin Scalia.
In a sign of her willingness to seek consensus in the court's chambers, Ginsburg revealed to "Sunday Morning" that she credited her long and happy marriage to a piece of advice from her mother-in-law: "She said, 'Dear, in every good marriage it helps sometimes to be a little deaf.' And I followed that advice in dealing not only with my dear spouse, but in dealing even with my colleagues."
Journalist and author Winston Groom (March 23, 1943-September 17, 2020) was best known for his picaresque 1986 novel, "Forrest Gump," about a slow-witted mathematical savant whose life trajectory put him squarely at the center of some of America's most momentous events, crossing paths with the rich, famous and infamous.
The book became the basis of the 1994 blockbuster film, which won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for star Tom Hanks. As he noted in a New York Times interview, the movie version "took some of the rough edges off" his character. "They did an excellent job," Groom told the Tuscaloosa News. "I would have probably preferred my version of it, but that thing never would have opened."
He did manage to incorporate his character's movie fame into a book sequel, "Gump and Co.," in which Forrest and his son visit the famed New York restaurant Elaine's and encounter not just Tom Hanks, but also Elizabeth Taylor, Bruce Willis, George Plimpton, William Styron, Woody Allen, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Robert Ludlum, Donald Trump and Cher.
Groom, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, served a tour in Vietnam with the Army's Fourth Infantry Division, and later worked as a reporter for the Washington Star. He wrote 16 fiction and nonfiction books in all, including a Pulitzer Prize finalist, "Conversations with the Enemy," about a American POW accused of collaborating with the North Vietnamese. Other subjects included the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Alabama's Crimson Tide. His most recent novel was 2016's "El Paso."
Critic and essayist Stanley Crouch (December 14, 1945-September 16, 2020) was a ferocious and influential voice for jazz, as a passionate advocate for revolutionaries in the arts, and a cantankerous detractor of genres he deemed fads.
Raised in Los Angeles by his mother, he read Faulkner and Twain, and was by turns radicalized and then de-radicalized by the Black Power movement in the 1960s. But his radicalism continued unabated in his musical scholarship. As a columnist for the New York Daily News and The Village Voice, a contributing editor at the New Republic, a writer for The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Time magazine, and a frequent voice on National Public Radio, Crouch hailed masters like Charles Mingus, Ornette Coleman and Duke Ellington (whom he described as the "Artist of the Century"), and disparaged certain Black artists like Spike Lee and Toni Morrison. He celebrated the "tommy-gun velocity" improvisations of Charlie Parker, and disparaged gangsta rap as "'Birth of a Nation' with a backbeat." His pugilistic commentary would even become literal; he was reportedly fired from the Village Voice after getting into a fistfight with another writer and threatening to throw an editor out a window.
His disarming mixture of charm and contentious opinions was reflected in his books, including a biography of Charlie Parker ("Kansas City Lightning"), essay collections (including "Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz," "The All-American Skin Game, or, the Decoy of Race," and "Notes of a Hanging Judge"), a novel ("Don't the Moon Look Lonesome"), and scores of album liner notes. He appeared as a commentator in the Ken Burns documentary series "Jazz." He also recorded a spoken-word LP, "Ain't No Ambulances For No N-----s Tonight."
A self-taught drummer, he performed as part of a jazz combo, Black Music Infinity, and co-founded (with Wynton Marsalis) Jazz at Lincoln Center.
He likened the aesthetics of jazz – individuals contributing to a collaborative vision – to democracy itself. As he explained to journalist Harvey Blume in 1995, "In a jazz band, you'll often have the same thing happen that happens when a person wants to convince other people that his or her policy idea should be embraced. The great bassist Ron Carter said that in a band whoever is playing the strongest idea will convince everybody else to come his way. In a sense it reflects the democratic process."