Archive for Celebrity Deaths

Fashion designer L’Wren Scott found dead in her apartment

Renowned fashion designer L’Wren Scott, the long-time girlfriend of Mick Jagger, was found dead in her Manhattan apartment from an apparent suicide on Monday, police said.

Scott, a former model, designed slim-fitting dresses that were the favorites of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities, including Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Allison Williams, Amy Adams, Sarah Jessica Parker, Christina Hendricks and Penelope Cruz.

According to police there were no signs of forced entry and no indication of foul play; they did not find a suicide note.

Her assistant said Scott sent her a text on Monday morning to “come by” and when the assistant arrived shortly after 10 AM, Scott was found hanging from a doorknob with a scarf around her neck, prompting the assistant to call the police.

New York Police Detective Kelly Ort said, “We are investigating it as a suicide.” Police said that they had preliminary information showing that Scott was 49 but that had not yet been confirmed by her family. The New York Medical Examiner will determine the cause of death, according to the New York a Police Department.

Through a spokesman, Jagger, 70, said that he was “completely shocked and devastated.”

It was not clear if Scott had shown any signs, in her work or personal life, that foretold her death, but there were some early reports that claimed cer company was millions of dollars in debt. A publicist for Jagger said that a New York Post story claiming that the pair had split up “is 100% untrue” and “a horrible and inaccurate piece of gossip during this very tragic time for Mick.”

Anna Wintour, the long-time editor of Vogue magazine, posted on Vogue.com, “L’Wren was a total perfectionist, someone who absolutely embodied everything her marvelous clothes stood for: strength of character combined with a confident and powerful style.”

Kidman, a friend for 25 years, was, according to a spokeswoman, “heartbroken and in shock right now and unable to say anything.”

Madonna said, “This is a horrible and tragic loss. I’m so upset. I loved L’Wren’s work and she was always so generous with me.”

The Rolling Stones had been on tour in Australia but the band called off Wednesday night’s show on Perth following the news. There were unconfirmed reports that the band had left their hotel and were about to fly to New York. Jagger’s daughter, Georgia May, ended her participation in Melbourne Fashion Week.

Comedian David Brenner is dead at age 78

Veteran comedian David Brenner has died.  A notice on www.davidbrennersite.com reads as follows:

Official Family Announcement

Legendary stand-up comedian and long time Tonight Show favorite, David Brenner, passed away at the age of 78 after a courageous battle with his final dragon, cancer.david-brenner

Brenner died peacefully at his home in NYC surrounded by his family at his side.  He is survived by his wife, Ruth, his three sons, Cole, Wyatt and Slade, and his grandson, Wesley.

In David’s final request, he asked that one hundred dollars in small bills be placed in his left sock “just in case tipping is allowed where I’m going.”  His final resting spot will read:  If this is supposed to be a joke – then I don’t get it!”

The statement was posted by Brenner’s publicist, Jeff Abraham.

Michael Caine, Sean Connery, David Brenner and Johnny Carson

Michael Caine, Sean Connery, David Brenner and Johnny Carson

The thin, toothy comic made as many as 158 appearances as a guest and substitute host on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show,” starting in the 1970s.  He was considered the father of observational comedy, a form of humor that relied on impromptu quips rather than canned jokes.   Brenner is credited with inspiring countless comedians, including Richard Lewis.  “David Brenner was a huge star when I met him and he took me under his wing,” Lewis said.   “To me, historically, he was the godfather of ‘hip, observational comedy.’ He mentored me from Day 1. He was family to me in the deepest, most supportive sense. His passing leaves a hole in my life that can never be replaced.”  Comedian Jimmie Walker issued a statement that said Brenner was “a true comic genius” who was “my mentor and taught me about life and comedy.”

An article on AP.com relates the following story:

Other veteran comics could head straight to “The Tonight Show” couch to banter with Johnny Carson, but David Brenner had to do a stand-up routine when he was a guest.  Finally, Carson told a puzzled Brenner why.  “I like to sit back, smoke a cigarette and laugh for six minutes,” Brenner, in a 2013 interview with CBS, recalled him saying.Brenner_TS

Born and raised in south Philadelphia, Brenner shot to fame after his late-night TV favorite.  His “Tonight” exposure turned the former documentary filmmaker into a hot comedian. Brenner was a regular on other TV talk shows and game shows and starred in four HBO comedy specials. He also briefly hosted his own syndicated talk show in 1987.

In a 2000 interview with The Associated Press, was that he put family before fame.  He said that a long custody battle with a girlfriend over their son, Cole, forced him to limit his TV appearances and visibility beginning in the mid-1980s, when Brenner was living in Aspen, Colorado.  “In a nutshell, I couldn’t work more than 50 nights a year (out of town) or I’d be an absentee father,” he said. “That was when they were giving out the talk shows, the sitcoms.”  He was asked if he regretted his decision.  “I didn’t even make a decision. I didn’t even think about it. How could you not do it? I don’t mean to sound noble,” Brenner said. “Besides, I come from the slums of Philadelphia and everything in my life is profit. My downside is what most people would strive a lifetime to get to.”  He won the custody battle in 1992.

Tai Babilonia and David Brenner at an amFAR benefit in New York CIty on January 31, 2007.

Tai Babilonia and David Brenner at an amFAR benefit in New York CIty on January 31, 2007.

Brenner was engaged to former pairs figure skater Tai Babilonia, but they never married.  A fixture in Las Vegas, Brenner continued doing standup across the country well into his 70s.

A belated goodbye to Ralph Waite, 85

RalphWaite_WaltonVeteran actor Ralph Waite, best known for playing John Walton Sr. on “The Waltons,” died on February 13, 2014, at the age of 85, at his home in Palm Desert, California.  According to the Desert Sun, his longtime friend, Jerry Preece, showed up for a lunch and movie date only to find ambulances and Waite’s wife, Linda Waite, at the house.  “She just told me she thought he’d passed,” said Preece, who ascribed his friend’s death to a “tired heart… This last year or two, he had really gotten closer to realizing that his body was wearing out.”

Ralph Waite and Michael Learned

Ralph Waite and Michael Learned

Reacting to the news of her costar’s death, Michael Learned, who played Olivia Walton, Waite’s onscreen wife on The Waltons, told PEOPLE Thursday evening, “I’m a little emotional right now. It’s such a shock.”

She described Waite’s work by saying, “I don’t think people realized the skill behind what he was doing. He had such a great heart. … Ralph had suffered a lot of great tragedy in his life, but he always overcame it and was there for everyone. I just will miss him terribly. We were kind of like a celibate husband and wife. We never crossed that line, but we were dear, loving friends.” Waite_Ralph_JohnWaltonSr

Judy Norton, who played Mary Ellen Walton, the eldest daughter, told PEOPLE, “We were a real family. It wasn’t just a group of people who got together and worked and then went our separate ways. We have all stayed in contact very much over the years. We were all together again just a matter of months ago. From the beginning there was a special quality to the group. When we were on the set we looked to Ralph onset as a father figure.”

Ralph Waite and Mark Harmon

Ralph Waite and Mark Harmon

RalphWaite_MarkHarmon_2

Ralph Waite and Mark Harmon

Waite began taking acting lessons in 1960, and moved to California in 1964 after the death of his nine-year-old daughter from leukemia.  He eventually landed bit parts in several films, including a small part in Cool Hand Luke in 1967.  He also worked on stage, in The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald and the Shakespearean classics The Twelfth Night and Hamlet.  He then got his big break in 1970 when he landed the part of Carl Dupea, the brother of Jack Nicholson’s character Robert Dupea in Five Easy Pieces.

in 1970, he landed the iconic role that would thereafter define his career and change television history, as well. Waite played John Walton Sr. on The Waltons from 1972 to 1981.  When the series ended, in an effort to keep from being typecast as John Walton, he tried his luck with various other projects, including a lead role in The Secret Life of John Chapman 1967 and then played Slater in the epic miniseries Roots, for which he received an Emmy nomination.

David Boreanaz and Ralph Waite

David Boreanaz and Ralph Waite

More recently, he became known to a new generation of television viewers.  He played Jackson Gibbs, the estranged father of Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs, on eight episodes of NCIS from 2008 to 2013.  On three episodes of Bones from 2009 to 2013, he played Hank Booth, the father of David Boreanaz’s FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth.  He also has a long list of other appearances in films and on television.

Ralph Waite and Emily Deschanel

Ralph Waite and Emily Deschanel

He is survived by wife Linda, daughter Kathleen, stepson Liam and three grandchildren.

“The Honeymooners” star Sheila Macrae dead at 92

SheilaMacraeSheila MacRae, who played Alice Kramden in “The Honeymooners,” has died, her family has confirmed.  The actress died in Englewood, Neew Jersey, Thursday at the age of 92, according to her granddaughter, Allison Mullavey.

“She lived a good life and she lived a long time,” Mullavey told the The New York Daily News.

MacRae was born in Kilburn, England on September 24, 1921 as Sheila Margaret Stephens. According to family, throughout her life, she insisted that she was born in 1924.  It wasn’t until recently that she discovered her birth records in the United Kingdom, which confirmed the 1921 date.  When her family wished her a happy 90th birthday in 2011, she replied, “I am only ninety in London!”

Carney_Keane_Macrae_GleasonFrom 1966 to 1970 Macrae played Alice Kramden, the sharp-tongued wife of bus driver Ralph Kramden, played by Jackie Gleason.  She went on to host “The Sheila MacRae Show” and also appeared in “Parenthood” and “The Love Boat.”

Sheila and Gordon Macrae - Hollywood, 1952

Sheila & Gordon Macrae – Hollywood, 1952

She was married to actor and singer Gordon Macrae from 1941 to 1967, with whom she had four children.  She was married to her second husband, the producer of “The Jackie Gleason Hour,” Ronald Wayne, from 1967 to 1969.  He said, in a press release, “Sheila was the most wonderful mother and the most loving wife. I will miss her.”

(Clockwise)  Art Carney, Jane Keane, Sheila Macrae, Jackie Gleason

(Clockwise) Art Carney, Jane Keane, Sheila Macrae, Jackie Gleason

Academy Award-winner Shirley Jones, who appeared in “Oklahoma!,” “Carousel,” and “The Music Man,” expressed her sorrow.  “Sheila MacRae was not only a great lady and my dearest friend but was also a great talent in all areas,” she said. “My husband, Marty Ingels, thought she was the most beautiful and funny lady he ever met! We will miss Sheila every day!”

Macrae was best known for her role on “The Jackie Gleason Show” but is also remembered for her roles in”General Hospital” and “Caged.”  She is survived by her two children, Heather and Gar, her grandchildren, Allison Mullavey; Zak, Josh, Jeremy, Caitlin, and Michael MacRae, and two great-grandchildren, Niko and Jotaro.

Sheila MacRae arrives at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on June 26, 2004 in North Hollywood, California.

Sheila MacRae arrives at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on June 26, 2004 in North Hollywood, California.

Macrae’s “Honeymooners” co-star, Jane Kean, died on November 26, 2013 in Burbank, California, at age 90.

Maria von Trapp, last of the von Trapp Family Singers, dies at 99

Maria Von Trapp, the last surviving member of the famous von Trapp family that fled Nazi-occupied Austria in 1938, died in her sleep at her Vermont home. She was 99.  “It was a surprise that she was the one in the family to live the longest because ever since she was a child she suffered from a weak heart,” family friend Marianne Dorfer told the Austrian Times.

Playing the accordion at her home

Playing the accordion at her home

“It was the fact that she suffered from this that her father decided to hire Maria von Trapp to teach her and her brothers and sisters,” she continued. “That of course then led to one of the most remarkable musical partnerships of the last century.”

Maria was the third-oldest child of Agathe Whitehead and Captain Georg von Trapp. The couple had seven children – Rupert, Agathe, Maria, Werner, Hedwig, Johanna and Martina.

Maria von Trapp and her family famously escaped the Nazis in 1938 for a better life in the United States. Their journey was the inspiration for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 broadway hit, and in 1965, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer then starred in its film adaptation. Actress Heather Menzies-Urich portrayed her as the character Louisa. (According to the Times, Von Trapp’s first visit back to Austria after escaping was in 2008.)

After fleeing Austria, the Trapp family, traveled the world and eventually purchased a 27-room family home in Stowe, Vermont in 1950.  Thirty years later, the building was destroyed in a fire, then rebuilt into the Trapp Family Lodge. The property is still owned and operated by remaining members of the Trapp family, according to the lodge’s website.

Georg von Trapp’s second wife, Maria Kutschera von Trapp, wrote a book titled “The Story of the  Trapp Family Singers,” which inspired two German-made movies and “The Sound of Music.”  In 1959, the play “The Sound of Music” opened on Broadway. Julie Andrews, in arguably her most famous role, played the part of Georg’s wife, Maria, in the I1965 film. Christopher Plummer played Baron von Trapp. The movie won five Academy Awards, including best picture.

Johannes, the youngest son of Maria and Georg von Trapp, issued a statement following his sister’s passing: “Thank you for your thoughts. Maria had a wonderful life and while we will miss her, the memories of her will live on,” Johannes wrote.

Later in life, Maria von Trapp served as a lay missionary in Papua, New Guinea. She never married.  Both of Maria’s parents were talented musicians. Agathe played the violin and the piano while her father played the violin, accordion and mandolin.

“Sometimes our house must have sounded like a musical conservatory. You could hear us practice piano, violin, guitar, cello, clarinet, accordion, and later, recorders. We would gather in the evenings to play Viennese folk songs on our instruments with Father leading on the violin,” Maria wrote in her autobiography found on the Trapp Family Lodge’s website.

The elder Maria von Trapp died in 1987.

Long-time journalist Garrick Utley dead, at 74

 

Utley_GarrickGarrick Utley, a member of the old guard of world news reporter/journalists, has died of prostate cancer at age 74.

Gertje Utley said Friday that her husband of 40 years died Thursday night at his home in New York City.  “He has been fighting – as you always call it – prostate cancer for two years,” she said. “He had a very, very rare, very aggressive kind.”

Utley was hired by John Chancelor as an office assistant at NBC’s bureau in Brussels, Belgium.  He worked as a reporter for the Huntley-Brinkley Report, then went to Vietnam to start the network’s office there.  He was the only one there at the time, but by the time he left, there was a staff of 20 in Saigon.

He went on to serve as bureau chief in Berlin from 1966 to 1968 and then in Paris, where he met his wife in 1971. From 1973 to 1979, he was chief foreign correspondent for Europe and the British Isles.
GarrickUtley
He was a constant presence at the network, acting as a weekend anchor of “NBC Nightly News” and a moderator of “Meet the Press,” in addition to continuing his work as a correspondent. He left NBC after it was bought by General Electric, moving to ABC, but left  ABC after it was bought by Disney.  He then shifted to CNN, where he worked as a contributor.

CNN Editorial Director Richard T. Griffiths said in an e-mail to colleagues on Friday. “In his calm, measured, voice anchoring on 9/11 and in countless pieces, Garrick delivered thoughtful analysis that always raised the bar.

“Garrick was the consummate gentleman in every encounter. He was relentlessly curious, passionate about storytelling, and unafraid to take on the controversial topics. Those here in those days learned so much from Garrick… He left a mark. We can all hope to do the same.”

Upon leaving CNN in 2002, his farewell message noted advice he had received many years earlier, from Chancellor. “Keep your voice low and your sentences short.”

It’s a damn shame that there are so few on-air reporters who abide by that advice these days.  Instead, we have boatloads of “entertainers” who shout at us and are lost without their clever, clever “signature” catch-phrases and over-animated delivery.  That’s precisely why I appreciate a sportscaster like Vin Scully as opposed to a puffed-up presenter like Chris Berman and the legions of wannabes he has so unfortunately inspired.

Legendary folk singer/activist Pete Seeger dies at 94

Pete Seeger, the man considered to be one of the pioneers of contemporary folk music who inspired Pete_Seeger_3legions of activist singer-songwriters, died Monday.  He was 94.  His grandson Kitama Cahill Jackson told CNN that the singer died of natural causes at New York Presbyterian Hospital on Monday evening.

Seeger’s best known songs include “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (written with Joe Hickerson) and “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (based on a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes).  He also popularized “This Land is Your Land,” and “We Shall Overcome,” which he adapted from old spirituals, became a civil rights anthem.

In the 1940s, he co-founded The Weavers, who surprised everyone, including themselves, when they became the first group to bring folk music to the pop charts; which he wrote “If I Had A Hammer” with the group’s Lee Hays.  The Weavers success lasted until they were black listed. Seeger refused to answer questions about his politics when he appeared before House Un-American Activities committee in 1955. His conviction for contempt of congress was eventually overturned on appeal. He kept singing and protesting right through 2011, when he joined a march in support of the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Pete_Seeger_4 Seeger’s opinions didn’t always amuse the authorities.  “From the start, he aspired to use folk music to promote his left-wing political views, and in times of national turmoil that brought him into direct confrontation with the U.S. government, corporate interests, and people who did not share his beliefs,” William Ruhlmann wrote in a biography on allmusic.com. “These conflicts shaped his career.”

His influence extended far beyond individual hits.  In a career spanning more than 70 years, Seeger frequently invited controversy.  “He lived at a time when so many things hadn’t been done yet, the idea of making music about something hadn’t really been done,” Jackson said. “And now people do it all the time.”

He inspired singers and songrwriters through the 1950s and 1960s, including Bob Dylan and Don

Peter Seeger (C) with (L-R) John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Neil Young at Farm Aid

Peter Seeger (C) with (L-R) John Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Dave Matthews and Neil Young at Farm Aid

McLean.  Many years later, Bruce Springsteen drew from Seeger’s repertory of traditional music about a tumultuous America in recording his 2006 album, “We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions,” and in 2009 he performed Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” with Mr. Seeger at the Obama inaugural. At a Madison Square Garden concert celebrating Mr. Seeger’s 90th birthday, Springsteen introduced him as “a living archive of America’s music and conscience, a testament of the power of song and culture to nudge history along.”

In 2009, Seeger talked to CNN about the beginnings of his music career in the late 1930s.

“I come from a family of teachers, and I was looking for a job on a newspaper and not getting one,” he said in the interview. “I had an aunt who said, ‘Peter, I can get five dollars for you if you come and sing some of your songs in my class.’ Five dollars? In 1939, you would have to work all day or two days to make five dollars. It seemed like stealing.”  But Seeger said he took his aunt up on the offer.

“Pretty soon I was playing school after school, and I never did work on a newspaper,” he said “You don’t have to play at nightclubs, you don’t have to play on TV, just go from college to college to college, and the kids will sing along with you.”

Bruce Springsteen with Pete Seeger

Bruce Springsteen with Pete Seeger

For Seeger, folk music and a sense of community were inseparable, and where he saw a community, he saw the possibility of political action.

He most often played 12-string guitar or five-string banjo, sang topical songs and children’s songs, humorous tunes and earnest anthems, always encouraging listeners to join in.  The subjects he chose to discuss through his music echoed the concerns of the American left: He sang for the labor movement in the 1940s and 1950s, for civil rights marches and anti-Vietnam War rallies in the 1960s, and for environmental and antiwar causes in the 1970s and beyond.  One of his major interests later in life was the effort to clean up and maintain the Hudson River.

Although he recorded more than 100 albums, Mr. Seeger distrusted commercialism and was never comfortable with the idea of stardom. He invariably tried to use his celebrity to bring attention and contributions to the causes that moved him, or to the traditional songs he wanted to preserve.

Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died in 2013, just weeks before the couple’s 70th wedding anniversary.

TV character actors Russell Johnson and Dave Madden have died

RussellJohnson Russell Johnson, the actor who played the Professor on “Gilligan’s Island,” has died of natural causes. He was 89.  Dawn Wells, the actress who played girl-next-door Mary Ann on the popular ‘60s sitcom, confirmed Johnson’s death in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon.  “My 2 favorite people are now gone. The professor past (sic) away this morning. My heart is broken,” she wrote.  Wells’ other close pal from the show, Bob Denver, who played Gilligan, died in 2005.

Johnson died in his Washington state home in hospice care,  where he lived with his third wife, Connie. She and their daughter, Kimberly, were at his side, said agent Mike Eisenstadt. Johnson is also survived by a stepson, Court, and a grandson, he said.

Johnson worked up until his death, signing autographs over the holidays, said Eisenstadt. He called Johnson’s death “unexpected.”

The chief deputy coroner in Kitsap County, Washington, told CNN that Johnson died from natural causes.  Johnson was “just a positive and nice guy” who always treated people with respect, his agent said.

His acting career began in the early 1950s with many jobs as a character actor on television. He played Marshal Gib Scott in two seasons of “Black Saddle,” a Western that ran in 1959 and 1960.  Johnson acted in dozens of television shows after the four seasons on “Gilligan’s Island,” but his career seemed stranded on its own island because of the popular sitcom role.  A noteworthy big screen role was as a nuclear physicist in the 1955 science fiction film “This Island Earth.”

Johnson was in Ray Bradbury’s 1953 sci-fi classic “It Came From Outer Space.”

Before becoming an actor, Johnson served in the U.S. Army Air Forces during World War II. He was on a B-24 Liberator when it was shot down during a bombing raid over the Philippines in 1945, according to his official biography, and used his G.I. Bill benefits to pay for acting school after the war.

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Dave Madden, who portrayed ‘Partridge Family’ agent, died in Florida at age 82.  “The Partridge Family,” which DaveMaddenran on ABC from September 1970 to March 1974, revolved around a widowed mother and her five children who form a band. Towering and rumpled, Madden played Reuben Kincaid, the agent who managed the band and routinely clashed with its precocious preteen bassist, played by Danny Bonaduce.  Teens David Cassidy and Susan Dey were also band and family members.

Before “The Partridge Family,” Madden was part of the ensemble on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” comedy series, sipping and sometimes spitting milk along with joining in the show’s wacky sketches and wild jokes.  He later had a recurring role as a customer at Mel’s Diner on the long-running sitcom “Alice.”  He also appeared on such series as “Bewitched,” “Barney Miller,” “Happy Days,” “The Love Boat” and “Fantasy Island.”

In 2007 he published a memoir entitled Reuben on Wry.  Survivors include his wife, and a daughter and son, both from a previous marriage.

Don Everly (L) - Phil Everly (R)

Don Everly (L) – Phil Everly (R)

Phil_Don_Everly_1

Phil Everly (L) – Don Everly (R)

Phil Everly – one half of the groundbreaking, smooth-sounding, record-setting duo, the Everly Brothers, has died, his wife, Patti Everly, told the Los Angeles Times.
Patricia Aidem, a spokeswoman at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, confirmed Everly’s death on Friday, but could not provide additional details, citing the family’s request.

“We are absolutely heartbroken,” she told the newspaper, adding that Everly’s death from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease was brought on after a lifetime of cigarette smoking. “He fought long and hard.”

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Phil Everly and his brother, Don, ranked among the elite in the music world.  In their heyday between 1957 and 1962, they had 19 singles on the top 40 charts. The Everly Brothers had almost three dozen hits on the charts in their heyday from the late ’50s through the early ’60s. Some of their most notable songs – “Cathy’s Clown,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bye Bye Love,” “When Will I Be Loved” and “All I Have to Do is Dream” – have become pop staples.  Rolling Stone labeled the Everly Brothers “the most important vocal duo in rock,” having influenced the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel and many other acts. Along the way, they notched 35 Top 100 songs – more than any other vocal pair.  The Everly Brothers were one of the first 10 acts inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Don Everly was born in 1937 in Brownie, Kentuck, to Ike and Margaret Everly, who were folk and country music singers. Phil Everly was born to the couple on Jan. 19, 1939, in Chicago.

Phil Everly (L) - Don Everly (R)

Phil Everly (L) – Don Everly (R)

Phil Everly last performed in public in 2011, but his son Jason told The Associated Press on Friday he had been actively writing songs, living part of the year in Burbank and the rest in Nashville. He said his father had been in the hospital for about two weeks when he passed away

Though the COPD caused by smoking affected his health, Jason Everly said it never affected that voice.  “He sang like an angel,” his son said. “It was pretty surprising how he could still get those notes. We would still talk about it and sing together.”

John “Jay” Traynor of Jay and the Americans dead at 70

John “Jay” Traynor, the original “Jay” of Jay and the Americans, died on January 2nd after a two-year battle with liver cancer.  Traynor was the lead singer of Jay and the Americans when the had their first hit single, “She Cried.” in 1962.  The next two singles were not as successful and Traynor left the group. Jay Black, aka David Blatt, took Traynor’s place a short time later. Black’s voice is the one heard on subsequent Jay & the Americans hits from the ’60s, like “Cara Mia,” “Come a Little Bit Closer” and “This Magic Moment.”

JohnTraynor

Peter O’Toole, star of “Lawrence of Arabia,” dead at 81

peter_otoole_1Peter O’Toole died Saturday at age 81 at the private Wellington Hospital in London after a long illness.  He had been in declining health for a number of years.  Always thin, for some time he had appeared frail and almost gaunt.

Seamus Peter O’Toole was born August 2, 1932, the son of an Irish bookie, Patrick O’Toole, and his wife Constance. There is some question about whether Peter was born in Connemara, Ireland, or in Leeds, northern England, where he grew up

otoole_Lawrence

As T. E. Lawrence in “Lawrence of Arabia”

With only a few minor movie roles on his resumé, O’Toole was a virtual unknown when he rose to international fame in Lawrence of Arabia,  David Lean’s sprawling saga about T. E. Lawrence, the legendary British World War I soldier and scholar who led an Arab rebellion against the Turks.  His portrayal of Lawrence brought O’Toole his first Oscar nomination, and the spectacularly photographed desert drama remains his most famous role. O’Toole was tall, fair and remarkably handsome.  Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O’Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie “Florence of Arabia.”

As King Henry II, with Richard Burton as Thomas Becket, in "Becket"

As King Henry II, with Richard Burton as Thomas Becket, in “Becket”

In 1964′s “Becket,” O’Toole played King Henry II to Richard Burton’s Thomas Becket, and won another Oscar nomination. Burton also displayed O’Toole’s fondness for drinking, and their off-set carousing made headlines.  O’Toole played Henry II again in 1968 in “The Lion in Winter,” opposite Katharine Hepburn, for his third Oscar nomination.  His performance as Henry was matched matched blow-for-blow by Katharine Hepburn’s, whose standout portrayal of Henry’s wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine, won her the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Peter O'Toole as Henry II in "The Lion in WInter"

Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine and Peter O’Toole as Henry II in “The Lion in WInter”

O’Toole earned four more nominations – in 1968 for “Goodbye, Mr. Chips,” in 1971 for “The Ruling Class,” in 1980 for “The Stunt Man,” and in 1982 for “My Favorite Year.”  Nearly twenty-five years went by before he received his eighth and last, for “Venus.”

WIth Mark Linn-Baker in "My Favorite Year"

WIth Mark Linn-Baker in “My Favorite Year”

A month before his 80th birthday in 2012, O’Toole announced his retirement from a career that he said had fulfilled him emotionally and financially, bringing “me together with fine people, good companions with whom I’ve shared the inevitable lot of all actors: flops and hits.”

“However, it’s my belief that one should decide for oneself when it is time to end one’s stay,” he said. “So I bid the profession a dry-eyed and profoundly grateful farewell.”  In retirement, O’Toole said he would focus on the third volume of his memoirs.

His honorary Oscar came 20 years after his seventh nomination for “My Favorite Year.” By then it seemed a safe bet that O’Toole’s prospects for another nomination were slim. He was still working regularly, but in smaller roles unlikely to earn awards attention.  O’Toole graciously accepted the honorary award, quipping, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, my foot,” as he clutched his Oscar statuette.  He had nearly turned down the award, sending a letter asking that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hold off on the honorary Oscar until he turned 80.

O’Toole’s death was announced by agent Steve Kenis, who said the actor had been ill for some time.  His daughter Kate said the family had been overwhelmed by the expressions of sympathy.

Here is a small sampling of the films he starred in.

  • Lawrence of Arabia  – 1962 – with Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, Omar Sharif, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle and Claude Rains
  • Becket – 1964 – with Richard Burton and John Gielgud
  • What’s New Pussycat – 1965 – with Peter Sellers, Romy Schneider, Paula Prentiss, Woody Allen and Ursula Andress
  • Lord Jim – 1965
  • The Lion in Winter – 1968 – with Katharine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton
  • Goodbye, Mr. Chips – 1969
  • My Favorite Year -  1982

Former South African President Nelson Mandela Dies

South African media is reporting that after a recent and prolonged battle with illness, Nelson Mandela has passed away at the age of 95.
Mandela will have a state funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff from Friday through that funeral.

“He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

The world has lost a great a man. Mandela last appeared in public during the 2010 World Cup hosted by South Africa. His absences from the limelight and frequent hospitalizations left the nation on edge, prompting Zuma to reassure citizens every time he fell sick. There will never be another like you.

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Rock and roll legend Lou Reed dies at age 71

Lou Reed

Lou Reed, the founder of the band The Velvet Underground and who influenced a generation of rock stars, died Sunday at 71. No official cause of death was announced, but the hard-living rocker underwent a liver transplant in May.

Reed once said his goal was to write the Great American Novel in the form of a record album.

Lou Reed

His only pop radio hit was Walk on the Wild Side, the 1973 song that looked back on his days in the Andy Warhol sex- and drug-drenched world. The David Bowie-produced song reached No. 16 on the national charts. The David Bowie-produced song reached No. 16 on the national charts.

He is best known for this 1973 hit but his body of work over a nearly 50-year career often defied categorization.

He was one of the few artists who meant it when he said he was unconcerned with the commercial appeal of his music.

Pete Postlethwaite Passes Away

Reports from the British press have confirmed that Pete Postlethwaite, the British character actor who’s starred in more roles than I can count (Baz Luhrman’s “Romeo + Juliet” comes to mind for me), has passed away after a long battle with cancer. He was 64 years old.

Teena Marie Found Dead

Rumors had been spreading throughout the day that 80′s Pop/R&B songstress Teena Marie was found dead and, unfortunately, CNN has reported and confirmed that the songstress has indeed passed away today at the age of 54. Marie was found dead in her sleep earlier this morning, according to her manager.

Early in her career, Teena had a catalogue of hits including “Behind The Groove”, “Lovergirl” and a duet with Rick James titled “Fire And Desire”.

Leslie Nielsen Passes Away at 84

Legendary screen actor, Leslie Nielsen, known for his (early) dramatic roles as well as his late comedic roles from flicks like “Naked Gun” and “Airplane!” passed away today at the age of 84.

The New York Times reports that the actor died at a Ft. Lauderdale hospital where he was being treated for pneumonia. Surely, he will be missed. And, NO, his name is not “Shirley”.

In Memory Of 2Pac Shakur

Today marks the 14th year anniversary of the (still unsolved) death of Rap legend Tupac Shakur. In case you don’t remember (and how can’t you?), Tupac was shot on the night of September 7th, 1996 in a car he was riding with Suge Knight after a boxing match in Las Vegas. He was pronounced dead a week later on Friday the 13th.

Today all over the West Coast, all the major Rap stations are dedicating a full day of nothing but 2Pac’s music in honor of his passing and we at Celebutopia also honor the passing of a Rap legend. Rest in Peace.

Dennis Hopper Passes Away

The legendary Hollywood actor known for playing villains, Dennis Hopper, passed away earlier today from prostate cancer. He was 74.

Even in his frail state, Hopper still trotted out onto Hollywood Boulevard to accept his Star on the Walk Of Fame earlier this year. Throughout the last two decades, Hopper played many memorable villains for films like “Speed” and “Blue Velvet”.

Gary Coleman Passes Away

After suffering through a major bleeding brain hemorrhage within the last 48 hours, TV actor Gary Coleman was placed on life support. Unfortunately, due to Gary’s unstable condition, doctors couldn’t operate on him and was later taken off of life support. He was 42 years old.

Ronnie James Dio Passes Away

Metal and hard rock singer Ronnie James Dio has passed away at the age of 67. According to reports from TMZ, Dio suffered from stomach cancer and was in treatment when he was pronounced dead earlier today.

Credited with symbolizing the “devil horn” sign, Dio had a lucrative solo career in the early 80′s in addition to being the second lead singer for Black Sabbath. In memory of Dio, watch this classic video of his hit “Rainbow In The Dark”.

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio. Metal will never be the same.