Remembering the celebrities we lost in 2021 – National
Saying goodbye is never an easy thing to do. Every year we say farewell to people in our lives — sometimes it’s to our loved ones, and sometimes it’s to the people who touched our hearts with their talent.
This year we mourned the loss of those who made us laugh, including beloved actors and funny people Norm Macdonald and Jessica Walter. We witnessed Beverly Cleary’s final life chapter. We bid so long and farewell to Christopher Plummer.
We also said goodbye to legends Larry King, Michael K. Williams and child star Dustin Diamond.
Here are some of the beloved celebrities we lost in 2021.
That ’70s Show and James Bond actor Tanya Roberts died on Jan. 4 at age 65.
Roberts was best known as Midge Pinciotti from That ’70s Show and she also played a “Bond girl” in A View to a Kill.
Roberts also starred on multiple television shows, including Charlie’s Angels and Fantasy Island, but was beloved by recent TV audiences for the role of Midge on That ’70s Show.
Marion Ramsey, the actor who played the tiny-voiced police officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy movies, died Jan. 7 at the age of 73.
It all started for Ramsey on Broadway, where she co-starred in productions like 1978’s Eubie!, a biographical musical about jazz pianist Eubie Blake, and toured the U.S. in the musical Hello Dolly!.
Up next came Police Academy. She starred in six of eight of the franchise’s movies, making her one of the most notable characters. As Hooks, she would get laughs from audiences whenever her soft-spoken demeanour broke into a fierce, powerful roar.
Ramsey was an avid supporter of AIDS awareness and often lent her talents to help fundraise for the cause.
John Reilly, a beloved soap-opera actor who’d spent decades in the genre, died Jan. 9 at the age of 84.
Reilly played Sean Donely on General Hospital for almost 30 years, starting in 1984, and starred in wacky soap opera Passions for eight years, from 2000 to 2008. He also appeared on As the World Turns, Sunset Beach and Dallas.
Afterwards, he appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210 as father to Kelly Taylor (Jennie Garth) for eight episodes, and had a multi-year stint on Passions. But he always made his way back to General Hospital, revisiting his Donely character in 2008 and once again in 2013.
Siegfried Fischbacher, half of the illusionist duo Siegfried & Roy — who at their peak were the most popular act on the Las Vegas Strip — died on Jan. 13 at age 81.
Fischbacher announced he had terminal pancreatic cancer in early January. The other half of the pair, Roy Horn, died at 75 in 2020 from complications of COVID-19.
The two became an institution in Las Vegas and performed six shows a week, 44 weeks per year.
They returned to the stage in February 2009 for what was billed as their one and only comeback performance, to raise funds for the new Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. The brief performance, which included the tiger Montecore, became the basis of an episode of the ABC television show 20/20.
Phil Spector, the eccentric and revolutionary music producer who transformed rock music with his “Wall of Sound” method and who later was convicted of murder, died on Jan. 26. He was 81.
Spector was convicted of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in 2003 at his castle-like mansion on the edge of Los Angeles. After a trial in 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life.
In 1969, Spector was called in to salvage the Beatles’ Let It Be album, a troubled “back to basics” production marked by dissension within the band.
Although Lennon praised Spector’s work, bandmate Paul McCartney was enraged, especially when Spector added strings and a choir to McCartney’s The Long and Winding Road. Years later, McCartney would oversee a remastered Let it Be, removing Spector’s contributions.
The volume, and violence, of Spector’s music reflected a dark side he could barely contain even at his peak. He was imperious, temperamental and dangerous, remembered bitterly by Darlene Love, Ronnie Spector and others who worked with him.
American talk show host Larry King died on Jan. 23, at age 87.
A longtime nationally syndicated radio host, from 1985 through 2010 King was a nightly fixture on CNN, where he won many honours, including two Peabody awards.
King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews.
In 1995 he presided over a Middle East peace summit with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, King Hussein of Jordan and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He welcomed everyone from the Dalai Lama to Elizabeth Taylor, from Mikhail Gorbachev to Barack Obama, Bill Gates to Lady Gaga.
Actor and South Korean drama star Song Yoo-jung died on Jan. 23 at the age of 26.
Song launched her career as a model for Estee Lauder and Baskin Robbins before breaking into the K-drama world with Golden Rainbow in 2013. She later starred in the 2019 web series Dear My Name and appeared in several music videos during her career.
Cloris Leachman, an Oscar winner for her portrayal of a lonely housewife in The Last Picture Show and a comedic delight as the fearsome Frau Blucher in Young Frankenstein and self-absorbed neighbour Phyllis on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, died Jan. 27 at the age of 94.
A character actor of extraordinary range, Leachman defied typecasting. In her early television career, she appeared as Timmy’s mother on the Lassie series. She played a frontier prostitute in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a crime spree family member in Crazy Mama and Blucher in Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein.
In 2008, Leachman joined the ranks of contestants in Dancing With the Stars, not lasting long in the competition but pleasing the crowds with her sparkly dance costumes, perching herself on judges’ laps and cussing during the live broadcast.
Cicely Tyson, the pioneering Black actor who gained an Oscar nomination for her role as the sharecropper’s wife in Sounder, won a Tony Award in 2013 at age 88, and touched TV viewers’ hearts in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, died Jan. 28 at the age of 96.
A one-time model, Tyson began her screen career with bit parts but gained fame in the early 1970s when Black women were finally starting to get starring roles.
Besides her Oscar nomination, she won two Emmys for playing the 110-year-old formerly enslaved woman in the 1974 television drama The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. A new generation of moviegoers saw her in the 2011 hit The Help.
Dustin Diamond, the actor best known for his portrayal of Samuel (Screech) Powers on the original Saved By the Bell series, died Feb. 1 from lung cancer. He was 44.
Diamond was one of the core cast members of the original Saved By the Bell series that ran from 1989 to 1992. He also appeared in followup series The College Years and The New Class, as well as Good Morning, Miss Bliss, Saved By the Bell‘s predecessor.
He was the only original cast member not to appear in the recent reboot of the series — though former castmate and now-producer Mario Lopez said they had plans to bring him on the show in its current season.
Hal Holbrook, an award-winning actor acclaimed for his one-man portrayal of American literary legend Mark Twain and whose film work included portraying the mysterious “Deep Throat” in All the President’s Men, died on Jan. 23 at the age of 95.
In 2008, at age 82, Holbrook became the oldest male performer ever nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in Into the Wild.
But it was his recreation of the revered American novelist, humorist and social critic in Mark Twain Tonight that brought Holbrook his greatest fame. It earned him a Tony award for his Broadway performance in 1966 and the first of his 10 Emmy nominations in 1967.
Christopher Plummer, the Canadian actor who charmed us as Captain Von Trapp in the 1965 movie The Sound of Music, died Feb. 5 at the age of 91.
Plummer was a well-known veteran of stage and screen, playing iconic characters like Shakespeare’s King Lear at the Stratford Festival and starring in independent films like 2012’s Beginners, which landed him his only Academy Award at age 82 (he is the oldest actor to ever win an Oscar).
In what can only be described as an incredible career, Plummer also won two Emmy awards, two Tony awards, a SAG award, a BAFTA award and a Golden Globe.
Mary Wilson, the longest-reigning original Supreme, died on Feb. 8 at 76 years old.
Wilson, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard made up the first successful configuration of The Supremes. Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong in 1967, and Wilson stayed with the group until it was officially disbanded by Motown in 1977.
The group’s first No. 1, million-selling song, Where Did Our Love Go, was released June 17, 1964. Touring at the time, Wilson said there was a moment when she realized they had a hit song.
“I remember that instead of going home on the bus, we flew,” she told The Associated Press in 2014. “That was our first plane ride. We flew home. We had really hit big.”
Porn purveyor Larry Flynt, who built Hustler magazine into an adult entertainment empire while championing First Amendment rights, died Feb. 10. He was 78.
From his beginnings as an Ohio strip club owner to his reign as founder of one of the most explicit adult-oriented magazines, Flynt constantly challenged the establishment and became a target for the religious right and feminist groups.
Flynt’s company produced not only Hustler but also other niche publications. He owned a video production company, various websites, a Los Angeles-area casino and 10 Hustler boutiques. He also licensed the Hustler name to independently owned strip clubs.
Shot by a sniper in 1978, Flynt was paralyzed from the waist down and used a wheelchair the rest of his life. He fought battles with drug and alcohol addiction, and his fourth wife died of a heroin overdose.
Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, who helped shape the modern Republican Party while pushing conspiracy theories, bigotry and racism for decades on radio, died of lung cancer on Feb. 17 at the age of 70.
Limbaugh was a pioneer of conservative radio. He launched his show in the 1980s and carried it forward for over three decades, until his cancer diagnosis forced him to quit in late 2020. He built a large and committed following over the years, and became a multi-millionaire in the process.
Limbaugh is widely credited as playing a key role in the Republicans’ takeover of Congress in 1994, and remained a force until his death. He has been a vocal supporter for many Republicans over the years, and he was also a frequent contributor on Fox News.
Canadian actor Jahmil French, who starred as Dave Turner in Degrassi: The Next Generation, died on March 1 at the age of 29.
French started his acting career with a role in the Canadian police drama Flashpoint in 2009, before landing the role of Dave on Degrassi. He appeared in 149 episodes of the show from 2009 until 2013, according to IMDb.
French went on to appear in several TV movies after Degrassi, before appearing in Let’s Get Physical and Soundtrack in recent years. He was also nominated for a Canadian Screen Award for a supporting role for his work in the film Boost in 2018.
George Segal, the banjo player-turned-actor who was nominated for an Oscar for 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and worked into his late 80s on the ABC sitcom The Goldbergs, died on March 23.
Segal was always best known as a comic actor, becoming one of the screen’s biggest stars in the 1970s, when lighthearted adult comedies thrived.
Throughout his long acting career, Segal played the banjo for fun, becoming quite accomplished on the instrument he had first picked up as a boy. He performed with his own Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band.
Jessica Walter, the Emmy-winning actor best known as the sarcastic, acerbic mom Lucille Bluth on TV show Arrested Development, died on March 24. She was 80 years old.
Walter earned an Emmy nomination for supporting actress and two Screen Actors Guild nominations for her standout work as Bluth on Arrested Development. She had previously won an Emmy for her title character role in 1974 police drama Amy Prentiss.
She was also nominated for a best actress Golden Globe in 1971 for her work in the movie Play Misty For Me — Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut.
She loved playing difficult women because “those are the fun roles. They’re juicy, much better than playing the vanilla ingénues, you know — Miss Vanilla Ice Cream,” Walter said in an AV Club interview.
Beverly Cleary, the celebrated children’s author whose memories of her Oregon childhood were shared with millions through the likes of Ramona and Beezus Quimby and Henry Huggins, died on March 25. She was 104.
Cleary, a self-described “fuddy-duddy,” said there was a simple reason she began writing children’s books.
“As a librarian, children were always asking for books about `kids like us.′ Well, there weren’t any books about kids like them. So when I sat down to write, I found myself writing about the sort of children I had grown up with,” Cleary said in a 1993 Associated Press interview.
She was named a Living Legend in 2000 by the Library of Congress. In 2003, she was chosen as one of the winners of the National Medal of Arts and met President George W. Bush. She is lauded in literary circles far and wide.
Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth II, died April 9 at Windsor Castle. He was 99.
Philip was a pivotal figure in the British Royal Family. He was the longest-serving consort to a monarch in British history, having been in the role for more than 60 years. The Queen — a deeply private person — once called him “her rock” in public.
In recent years, Philip suffered from heart disease and other ailments, including a bladder infection, and had stepped out of the public eye since he announced his retirement from royal duties in 2017.
As Duke of Edinburgh, Philip served as president or patron to hundreds of organizations including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Philip became Britain’s longest-serving consort to a monarch in 2009.
Grammy-nominated rapper and actor DMX, real name Earl Simmons, died on April 9 following a days-long stint in hospital. He was 50 years old.
The musician had been open about his struggles with illegal drug use and had spoken about entering rehab in 2019 after serving time in federal prison on a tax fraud conviction.
DMX was one of the most successful and acclaimed rappers of the late 1990s and early 2000s, producing several hit songs including Ruff Ryders’ Anthem, X Gonna Give It to Ya, Party Up (Up In Here), How’s It Goin’ Down and What’s My Name? He made a splash in rap music in 1998 with his first studio album, It’s Dark and Hell is Hot, which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.
He was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album for 1999’s …And Then There Was X. His first five albums each debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 chart. He released seven albums in total and was named favourite rap/hip-hop artist at the 2000 American Music Awards.
Nikki Grahame, the bubbly, energetic British reality TV star who crossed over for Season 4 of Big Brother Canada, died on April 9 at the age of 38.
Grahame was a sweet, fan-favourite reality star who appeared on Big Brother U.K. in 2006 and Ultimate Big Brother in 2010. She also joined Big Brother Canada as one of two international contestants in 2016.
Grahame was open about her struggles with anorexia nervosa throughout her life, writing about it in two autobiographical books and discussing it in various television appearances.
Grahame’s mother told ITV that pandemic lockdowns had contributed to her daughter’s anorexia relapse, because she couldn’t work out at the gym to cope with her anxiety.
English stage and screen actor Helen McCrory, who appeared in several U.K. productions including Peaky Blinders, Skyfall and three Harry Potter films, died April 16 at the age of 52 from cancer.
The London-born actor appeared in many well-known TV and film franchises over her career. She starred as Aunt Polly in Peaky Blinders and Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films, in addition to roles in Penny Dreadful, Vampires of Venice, Doctor Who and the James Bond film Skyfall. She also played former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, in The Queen and The Special Relationship.
McCrory broke into film with 1992’s Interview with the Vampire.
Olympia Dukakis, the veteran stage and screen actor whose flair for maternal roles helped her win an Oscar as Cher’s mother in the romantic comedy Moonstruck, died on May 1. She was 89.
Dukakis won her Oscar through a surprising chain of circumstances, beginning with author Nora Ephron’s recommendation that she play Meryl Streep’s mother in the film version of Ephron’s book Heartburn. Dukakis got the role, but her scenes were cut from the film. To make it up to her, director Mike Nichols cast her in his hit play Social Security. Director Norman Jewison saw her in that role and cast her in Moonstruck.
Dukakis won the Oscar for best supporting actress and Cher took home the trophy for best actress.
Her Oscar victory kept the motherly film roles coming. She was Kirstie Alley’s mom in Look Who’s Talking and its sequel Look Who’s Talking Too, the sardonic widow in Steel Magnolias and the overbearing wife of Jack Lemmon (and mother of Ted Danson) in Dad.
Charles Grodin, the droll, offbeat actor and writer who scored as a caddish newlywed in The Heartbreak Kid and later had roles ranging from Robert De Niro’s counterpart in the comic thriller Midnight Run to the bedevilled father in the Beethoven comedies, died on May 18. He was 86.
Known for his deadpan style and everyday looks, Grodin also appeared in Dave, The Woman in Red, Rosemary’s Baby and Heaven Can Wait. On Broadway, he starred with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy Same Time, Next Year, and he found many other outlets for his talents.
Amid his film gigs, Grodin became a familiar face on late-night TV, perfecting a character who would confront Johnny Carson or others with a fake aggressiveness that made audiences cringe and laugh at the same time.
Kevin Clark, who played drummer Freddy “Spazzy McGee” Jones in the 2003 hit movie School of Rock, has died after he was struck while riding his bike in Chicago on May 26. He was 32 years old.
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Clark started playing drums at the age of three and spent his whole life around music. His sole acting role was in School of Rock, a comedy about a school teacher (Jack Black) who teaches a group of students to embrace rock and roll. Clark did not have any experience as an actor, but his drumming skills helped him land the role at the age of 12.
School of Rock became a cult hit, but Clark opted to pursue music instead of chasing a career in Hollywood. He played in various bands over the following 20 years of his life and spent most of his time in his hometown of Chicago.
Joe Lara, star of the ’90s television series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures, and his wife Gwen Shamblin Lara, a diet guru and founder of the Remnant Fellowship Church, were killed in a plane crash along with five other people on May 29.
Joe rose to fame as an actor in the ’80s. In 1989, he had his breakout role when he played the title part in the TV movie Tarzan in Manhattan. He later went on to play the same role in the short-lived ’90s syndicated fantasy-action series Tarzan: The Epic Adventures.
In recent years, Joe appeared in a self-produced YouTube series called Life With Gwen and Joe.
B.J. Thomas, the Grammy-winning singer who enjoyed success on the pop, country and gospel charts with such hits as I Just Can’t Help Believing, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head and Hooked on a Feeling, died on May 29. He was 78.
Thomas, who announced in March that he had been diagnosed with lung cancer, died from complications of the disease.
Besides music, Thomas loved baseball as a kid and started calling himself B.J. because so many Little League teammates also were named Billy Joe. By his teens, he was singing in church and had joined a local rock band, the Triumphs, whom he would stay with into his 20s.
Gavin MacLeod, the veteran supporting actor who achieved fame as sardonic TV news writer Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and stardom playing cheerful Capt. Stubing on The Love Boat, died on May 29. He was 90.
MacLeod toiled in near anonymity for more than a decade, appearing on dozens of TV shows and in several movies before landing the part of Murray in 1970.
MacLeod moved on to The Love Boat, a romantic comedy in which guest stars, ranging from Gene Kelly to Janet Jackson, would come aboard for a cruise and fall in love with one another.
Although scorned by critics, the series proved immensely popular, lasting 11 seasons and spinning off several TV movies, including two in which MacLeod remained at the cruise ship’s helm. It also resulted in his being hired as a TV pitchman for Princess Cruise Lines.
One major role he auditioned for: Archie Bunker in All in the Family. But he quickly realized that the character, immortalized by Caroll O’Connor, was wrong for him. “Immediately I thought, ‘This is not the script for me. The character is too much of a bigot.’ I can’t say these things,” MacLeod wrote in his memoir.
Ned Beatty, the Oscar-nominated character actor who starred in half a century of American movies, including Deliverance, Network and Superman, among many others, died on June 13. He was 83.
After years in regional theatre, Beatty was cast in 1972’s Deliverance as Bobby Trippe, the happy-go-lucky member of a male river-boating party terrorized by backwoods thugs. The scene in which Trippe is brutalized and forced to “squeal like a pig” became the most memorable in the movie and established Beatty as an actor whose name moviegoers may not have known but whose face they always recognized.
Beatty received only one Oscar nomination, as supporting actor for his role as corporate executive Arthur Jensen in 1976’s Network, but he contributed to some of the most popular movies of his time and worked constantly.
In a 1977 interview, he had explained why he preferred being a supporting actor.
“Stars never want to throw the audience a curveball, but my great joy is throwing curveballs,” he told The New York Times. “Being a star cuts down on your effectiveness as an actor because you become an identifiable part of a product and somewhat predictable. You have to mind your P’s and Q’s and nurture your fans. But I like to surprise the audience, to do the unexpected.”
Stage and screen actor Lisa Banes died on June 14 at the age of 65, a week after she was struck by a scooter in a hit-and-run incident in New York City.
Banes played Rosamund Pike’s mother in Gone Girl and appeared in dozens of other films and TV shows, including Cocktail, Nashville, A Cure for Wellness, NCIS and Masters of Sex.
Banes also appeared in many stage productions on and off Broadway over the years. She appeared in the Neil Simon play Rumors in 1988, as well as the musical High Society in 1998 and Present Laughter in 2010.
Banes was struck while crossing the street to visit Juilliard, her alma mater, in Manhattan on June 4.
John Langley, creator of the long-running TV show Cops, died at the age of 78 on June 26 after suffering a heart attack during a road race in Mexico.
He was an off-road racing enthusiast and died during the Coast to Coast Ensendada-San Felipe 250 off-road race in Baja.
Langley’s show Cops became one of the first reality television series when it launched on Fox in 1989, and it would go on to air for 32 seasons.
The show was well-known for its Bad Boys theme, its dizzying foot chases and its parade of shirtless suspects being arrested.
He also produced the 2009 film Brooklyn’s Finest, as well as the non-fiction series Jail, Vegas Strip and Anatomy of a Crime.
Filmmaker Richard Donner, who helped create the modern superhero blockbuster with 1978’s Superman and mastered the buddy comedy with the Lethal Weapon franchise, died July 5. He was 91.
Donner gained fame with his first feature, 1976’s The Omen. A then-unheard-of offer followed: $1 million to direct 1978’s Superman. Donner channelled his love of the character into making the film.
By the 21st century, the genre was dominating the box office in the U.S. and thriving overseas. The heads of Marvel Studios and DC Entertainment — producers of most of today’s superhero fare — both worked for Donner when they were starting out in Hollywood.
Adjusted for inflation, his films have generated more than $1 billion in box office receipts.
Away from the camera, Donner was known for his extraordinary kindness and generosity, covering college tuition for one Goonies star (Jeff Cohen, now an entertainment attorney) and paying for life-saving rehab for another (actor Corey Feldman).
Charlie Robinson, known for playing Mac the court clerk in the 1980s and ’90s sitcom Night Court, died July 11 due to cardiac arrest and cancer. He was 75.
Born in Houston, Robinson began his career as a theatre actor and singer for R&B groups Archie Bell and the Drells and Southern Clouds of Joy.
In the 1970s, Robinson acted in films such as Sugar Hill, The Black Gestapo, Caribe, A Killing Affair and The White Shadow. In his later career, he appeared in Beowulf, Malevolence, Land of the Free and Mercy Street.
Throughout his career, he guest-starred in television shows including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Key and Peele, This Is Us, Malcolm & Eddie and In The House.
Biz Markie, a hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic Just a Friend, died on July 16. He was 57.
Markie, whose birth name was Marcel Theo Hall, became known within the rap genre realm as the self-proclaimed “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” for his lighthearted lyrics and humorous nature. He made music with the Beastie Boys, opened for Chris Rock’s comedy tour and was a sought-after DJ for countless star-studded events.
Markie broke into mainstream music with his platinum-selling song Just a Friend, the lead single on his sophomore album The Biz Never Sleeps. The friend-zone anthem cracked Rolling Stone’s top 100 pop songs and made VH1’s list of 100 greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
Markie kept his name relevant as he consistently booked more than 175 shows a year, according to the rapper’s website.
Joey Jordison, a founding member of Slipknot, who drummed for the influential metal band in its most popular period and helped write many of its best-known songs, died July 26 at the age of 46.
Jordison grew up in Des Moines, Iowa, the eldest of three children, and began playing drums at age 8. While performing with Slipknot, Jordison often wore a white mask with black paint drippings and a crown of thorns when he performed.
Jordison was dismissed from the band in 2013. He later said it was because he had transverse myelitis, a neurological condition that left him unable to play.
Jackie Mason, the sometimes-controversial standup comedian, died July 24. He was 93.
A stand-up comedian, he recurred on The Simpsons as the voice of Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, the father of Krusty the Clown, winning his second Emmy for his efforts in 1992.
In the 2004 TV special Comedy Central Presents: 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time, he was ranked No. 63.
The comic received a 1987 special Tony Award for his highly successful solo effort Jackie Mason’s The World According to Me!, which ran for 573 performances.
He was ordained as a rabbi — there had been many in his family — but ultimately resigned from his post at a synagogue to become a comedian.
Joseph “Dusty” Hill, the long-bearded bassist for the blues-rock band ZZ Top, died in his sleep on July 28 at the age of 72.
Hill was a member of the Texas trio for more than 50 years, dating back to shortly after their formation in 1969. He played with ZZ Top continuously for the remainder of his life, up until a hip injury forced him to bow out of their 2021-22 tour of North America.
It was ZZ Top’s first time performing without Hill in five decades.
ZZ Top released 15 studio albums and sold more than 25 million records in the U.S. over the decades. Hill and his bandmates were all inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.
Markie Post, who played the public defender in the 1980s sitcom Night Court and was a regular presence on television for four decades, died on Aug. 7 after a lengthy battle with cancer. She was 70.
Post was a longtime television regular who appeared in shows from Cheers to Scrubs. But she was best-known for her seven-season run on NBC’s Night Court, the Manhattan municipal court sitcom that ran from 1984 to 1992 and starred Harry Anderson as Judge Harry T. Stone.
Post had two daughters with her second husband, TV producer and writer Michael A. Ross.
Jane Withers, the former child actor who bedeviled Shirley Temple on the screen and went on to star in a series of B movies, died on Aug. 7. She was 95.
After a series of minor roles as a child actor, Withers was cast by 20th Century Fox in the 1934 movie Bright Eyes, as the nemesis of lovable Temple, then Hollywood’s most popular star.
It didn’t turn out that way. Critics claimed that she stole the picture from Temple. Children wrote fan letters admiring what she did to Shirley “because she’s so perfect.”
As an adult she appeared in a few films and on television.
Trevor Moore, known for co-founding the Whitest Kids U’ Know comedy troupe at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, died on Aug. 7. He was 41.
A television program of the same name ran for five seasons on IFC from 2007 to 2011. The group is still active, posting regularly on Twitch and YouTube.
In addition to WKUK, Moore was also famous for Walk the Prank, Just Roll with It, and the Trevor Moore Talk Show, as well as multiple albums, sketches, and stage shows.
Don Everly, whose close-harmony singing with his brother, Phil, generated dreamy, chart-topping hits about teen romance in the late 1950s and early ’60s, died on Aug. 21 at the age of 84.
Isaac Donald “Don” Everly was born on Feb. 1, 1937, in Brownie, Kentucky, the son of two country musicians, Ike and Margaret Everly. Phil was born two years later and they were still boys when their musical careers began in their family band.
In the mid-’50s the brothers had their breakthrough hit, Bye Bye Love, rising to No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard pop charts. Soon after, Wake Up Little Susie rose to No. 1.
Don and Phil stopped speaking for a while, but reunited for a concert in Sept. 1983.
In 1997 the Everlys received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammy Awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
Charlie Watts, the longtime drummer for legendary rock band The Rolling Stones, died peacefully in hospital on Aug. 24 at the age of 80.
Watts joined the Stones early in 1963 and remained over the next 60 years, ranked just behind Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as the group’s longest-lasting and most essential member.
He had his eccentricities — Watts liked to collect cars even though he didn’t drive and would simply sit in them in his garage.
From childhood, he was passionate about music — jazz in particular. He fell in love with the drums after hearing Chico Hamilton and taught himself to play by listening to records by Johnny Dodds, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington and other jazz giants.
Ed Asner, the burly and prolific character actor who became a star in middle age as the gruff but lovable newsman Lou Grant, first in the hit comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show and later in the drama Lou Grant, died on Aug. 29. He was 91.
Asner was a journeyman actor in films and TV when he was hired in 1970 to play Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. For seven seasons he was the rumpled boss to Moore’s ebullient Mary Richards at the fictional Minneapolis TV newsroom where both worked. Later, he would play the role for five years on Lou Grant.
Asner won three best supporting actor Emmys on Mary Tyler Moore and two best actor awards on Lou Grant. He also won Emmys for his roles in the miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1975-1976) and Roots (1976-1977).
In 2003, he played Santa Claus in Will Ferrell’s hit film Elf and also was the voice of the elderly hero in the hit 2009 Pixar release, Up.
Matthew Mindler, a former child actor who appeared in the 2011 film Our Idiot Brother, was found dead near his college campus on Aug. 28, at the age of 19.
Mindler was a first-year student at the school and his death was ruled a suicide.
The native of Hellertown, Pa., got his start in Hollywood around the age of eight, when he first appeared in an episode of As the World Turns.
He would later star alongside Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel and Elizabeth Banks in the 2011 comedy Our Idiot Brother, before landing a handful of additional TV and film short roles.
Bollywood actor and reality TV star Sidharth Shukla died on Sept. 2 at the age of 40, after he suffered a heart attack.
Shukla was best-known as the Season 13 winner of Bigg Boss, India’s answer to the reality show Big Brother.
Shukla started his career as a model in 2005 before breaking into acting and reality TV. Bigg Boss was his biggest claim to fame, but he also appeared in India’s Fear Factor and hosted India’s Got Talent.
Michael K. Williams, who, as the rogue robber of drug dealers Omar Little on The Wire, created one of the most popular characters in television in recent decades, died Sept. 6 of acute drug intoxication.
The Brooklyn-born Williams was a ubiquitous character actor in other shows and films for more than two decades, including roles on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire and Lovecraft Country, and in the films 12 Years a Slave and Assassin’s Creed.
Williams had been working with a New Jersey charity to smooth the journey for former prison inmates seeking to re-enter society, and was working on a documentary on the subject.
He spoke in an Associated Press story in 2020 of his rough time growing up, and said he had struggled with drug addiction.
Norm Macdonald, the sardonic comedian from Quebec who rose to stardom on Saturday Night Live, died after a prolonged battle with cancer on Sept. 14. He was 61.
Born in Quebec City on Oct. 17, 1959, Macdonald cut his teeth as a stand-up comic at comedy clubs in Canada before appearing as a contestant on the show Star Search in 1990, which helped him get a foothold in Hollywood. He spent a season writing for Roseanne before landing a role on SNL as a cast member in 1993.
Macdonald became a fixture as host of SNL‘s Weekend Update segment for three seasons, and ultimately stayed with the cast until 1998. He was known for doing impressions of various celebrities including Burt Reynolds, whom he played opposite Will Ferrell’s Alex Trebek in Celebrity Jeopardy!
He went on to launch The Norm Show, a hockey-inspired comedy which ran from 1999-2001, and later made a number of appearances on late-night TV shows. He also did voice work on several TV shows, including the recurring role of Death on Family Guy.
Jane Powell, the bright-eyed, operatic-voiced star of Hollywood’s golden age musicals who danced with Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding, died on Sept. 16 of natural causes. She was 92.
She performed virtually her whole life, starting about age five as a singing prodigy on radio in Portland, Oregon. On screen, she quickly graduated from teen roles to the lavish musical productions that were a 20th-century Hollywood staple.
Her 1950 casting in Royal Wedding came by default. June Allyson was first announced as Astaire’s co-star but withdrew when she became pregnant. Judy Garland was cast, but was withdrawn because of personal problems. Jane Powell was next in line.
“They had to give it to me,” she quipped at the time. “Everybody else is pregnant.”
Willie Garson, who played Stanford Blatch, Carrie Bradshaw’s friend on TV’s Sex and the City and its sequels, died on Sept. 21 of pancreatic cancer. He was 57.
Born William Garson Paszamant in Highland Park, N.J., Garson began studying acting at age 13 at the Actors Institute in New York. He made hundreds of appearances on TV and in motion pictures.
Besides Sex and the City, he was perhaps best known as Mozzie, a con man on the TV show White Collar, and also had recurring roles on NYPD Blue, Hawaii Five-0 and Supergirl.
Garson, who was an advocate for adoption agencies, adopted his son, Nathen, in 2009 and marked the adoption in a January Instagram posting that read: “Best day of my life. Always.”
Peter Scolari, whose television roles included a yuppie producer on Newhart and a closeted dad on Girls and who was on Broadway with longtime friend Tom Hanks in Lucky Guy, died on Oct. 22 after a two-year fight with cancer. He was 66.
He first gained attention as the then-unknown Hanks’ co-star in the 1980-82 sitcom Bosom Buddies, in which their characters disguised themselves as women to live in affordable, females-only housing.
The two actors went on to work together in projects including Hanks’ 1996 movie directorial debut That Thing You Do! and in 2013’s Lucky Guy, Nora Ephron’s play about newspaper columnist Mike McAlary.
Scolari also performed on Broadway in Wicked, Hairspray and 2014’s Bronx Bombers, in which he played baseball’s Yogi Berra.
James Michael Tyler, an actor beloved for his portrayal of Gunther on Friends, died of prostate cancer on Oct. 24. He was 59.
The actor was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in September 2018. Tyler shared his story earlier this year, becoming a campaigner for individuals with prostates to get a first blood test as early as 40 years old.
Dubbed by fans as “the seventh ‘Friend,’” the actor was a series mainstay, first appearing in the second episode of Friends and returning as a guest star across the remainder of its 10-year run. He is the most frequently appearing recurring guest star across the series.
This year, Tyler’s spoken word performance of Stephan Kalinich’s poem If You Knew was adapted into a short video to help raise awareness for the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
Dean Stockwell, a Hollywood child actor who gained new success in middle age in the sci-fi series Quantum Leap and in a string of indelible performances in film, including David Lynch’s Blue Velvet, Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas and Jonathan Demme’s Married to the Mob, died of natural causes on Nov. 7. He was 85.
His Oscar-nominated role as Tony “The Tiger” Russo, a flamboyant gangster, in the 1988 hit Married to the Mob led to his most notable TV role the following year, in NBC’s science fiction series Quantum Leap. Both roles had strong comic elements.
“It’s the first time anyone’s offered me a series and the first time I’ve ever wanted to do one,” he said in 1989. “If people hadn’t seen me in Married To the Mob they wouldn’t have realized I could do comedy.”
Stockwell was active in the visual arts. He made photo collages and what he called “diceworks,” sculptures made of dice. He often used his full name, Robert Dean Stockwell, in his art projects.
Stephen Sondheim, the songwriter who reshaped the American musical theatre in the second half of the 20th century with his intelligent, intricately-rhymed lyrics, died on Nov. 26. He was 91.
Sondheim influenced several generations of theatre songwriters, particularly with such landmark musicals as Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd, which are considered among his best works. His most famous ballad, Send in the Clowns, has been recorded hundreds of times, including by Frank Sinatra and Judy Collins.
Six of Sondheim’s musicals won Tony Awards for best score, and he also received a Pulitzer Prize, an Academy Award, five Olivier Awards and the Presidential Medal of Honor. In 2008, he received a Tony Award for lifetime achievement.
A 2013 HBO documentary revealed that he liked to compose lying down and sometimes enjoyed a cocktail to loosen up as he wrote. He even revealed that he really only fell in love after reaching 60, first with the dramatist Peter Jones and then in his last years with Jeff Romley.
Jonshel Alexander, a one-time child actor who played a supporting role in the 2012 Oscar-nominated film Beasts of the Southern Wild, was killed in a Nov. 27 shooting in her native Louisiana. She was 22.
At age 12, Alexander played the character Joy Strong in Beasts of the Southern Wild, a drama filmed near Houma recounting the story of a poor Louisiana bayou community struggling for survival. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best picture.
Alexander was the youngest of three children. After graduating from high school, she worked as a hostess in restaurants and devoted herself to the care of her one-year-old daughter, De-vynne Robinson.
Anne Rice, influential author of Interview with the Vampire, among many other books, died on Dec. 11 due to complications resulting from a stroke. She was 80.
Born in New Orleans in 1941, Rice became renowned the world over as a writer of gothic fiction.
In the early 1970s, while grieving the death of her daughter Michelle, she began converting one of her stories into what became her first novel, the gothic horror Interview with the Vampire. The novel turns on vampire Louis de Pointe du Lac, who tells the story of his life to a reporter. Michelle served as an inspiration for the child vampire Claudia.
The book was adapted by Neil Jordan as a 1994 film starring Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas and Christian Slater, with Kirsten Dunst playing Claudia. Rice adapted the screenplay from her novel and the film gathered two Oscar nominations and a brace of BAFTA wins.
Monkees singer and guitarist Michael Nesmith died Dec. 10 from natural causes. He was 78.
Nesmith was known as the Monkee in the green wool hat with the thick Texas accent, and was a singer, guitarist and songwriter for the band, a made-for-television ensemble that would form the cast of the NBC series.
The prime-time hit was inspired in part by the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night and ran from the fall of 1966 to August 1968.
After the series was cancelled, Nesmith branched out with the First National Band, a country-rock band that produced several albums in the early 1970s. He also wrote hits for country stars Linda Ronstadt and Lynn Anderson. He then founded Pacific Arts Corp, a multimedia firm and won the first-ever Grammy Award for a music video in 1982.
Joan Didion, the revered author and essayist whose precise social and personal commentary in such classics as The White Album and The Year of Magical Thinking made her a uniquely clear-eyed critic of turbulent times, died on Dec. 23 at age 87 from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
Along with Tom Wolfe, Nora Ephron and Gay Talese, Didion reigned in the pantheon of “New Journalists” who emerged in the 1960s and wedded literary style to nonfiction reporting.
Tiny and frail even as a young woman, with large, sad eyes often hidden behind sun glasses and a soft, deliberate style of speaking, she was a novelist, playwright and essayist who once observed that, “I am so physically small, so temperamentally unobtrusive, and so neurotically inarticulate that people tend to forget that my presence runs counter to their best interests.”
Or, as she more famously put it: “Writers are always selling somebody out.”
John Madden, the Hall of Fame coach turned broadcaster whose exuberant calls combined with simple explanations provided a weekly soundtrack to NFL games for three decades, died on Dec. 28 at the age of 85.
The NFL said he died unexpectedly and did not detail a cause. He gained fame in a decade-long stint as the coach of the renegade Oakland Raiders, making it to seven AFC title games and winning the Super Bowl following the 1976 season. He compiled a 103-32-7 regular-season record, and his .759 winning percentage is the best among NFL coaches with more than 100 games.
But it was his work after prematurely retiring as coach at age 42 that made Madden truly a household name. He educated a football nation with his use of the telestrator on broadcasts; entertained millions with his interjections of “Boom!” and “Doink!” throughout games; was an omnipresent pitchman selling restaurants, hardware stores and beer; became the face of Madden NFL Football, one of the most successful sports video games of all-time; and was a best-selling author.
Most of all, he was the pre-eminent television sports analyst for most of his three decades calling games, winning an unprecedented 16 Emmy Awards for outstanding sports analyst/personality, and covering 11 Super Bowls for four networks from 1979-2009.
“People always ask, are you a coach or a broadcaster or a video game guy?” he said when was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “I’m a coach, always been a coach.”
Jean-Marc Vallée, a French-Canadian director who helmed a string of high-profile films and series after his breakout movie C.R.A.Z.Y. — winning an Emmy for the hit HBO series Big Little Lies and multiple nominations for the 2013 drama Dallas Buyers Club — died suddenly in his cabin outside Quebec City on Christmas Day at age 58.
Vallée, acclaimed for his naturalistic approach to filmmaking, directed stars including Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal over the past decade.
He also directed and executive produced the HBO limited series Sharp Objects, which was nominated for eight Emmys.
HBO called Vallée a “brilliant, fiercely dedicated filmmaker,” in a statement.
“A truly phenomenal talent who infused every scene with a deeply visceral, emotional truth,” the statement said. “He was also a hugely caring man who invested his whole self alongside every actor he directed.”
Legendary comedic actor Betty White died at the age of 99 on Dec. 31, mere weeks before her 100th birthday on Jan. 17.
White, TV’s Golden Girl, was as a pioneer of early television and had a career spanning over nine decades, working longer in that medium than anyone else in the television industry.
She was best known as Sue Ann Nivens on the 1970s sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show and for playing Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls in 1985.
White also had her own series, Life with Elizabeth, in 1952. She has been inducted into the Television Hall of Fame and was known for her tireless efforts on behalf of animals.
— With files from The Associated Press
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