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Elizabeth Taylor (Feb. 27, 1932—March 23, 2011) By Elton John
From her very first big role in National Velvet, Elizabeth was just the most beautiful-looking girl, and then the most beautiful-looking woman. I don't think there's ever been anyone as beautiful as her. She landed all the great roles — Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant, BUtterfield 8, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? — and she delivered. She was beautiful, but she was a really fantastic actress. She had an aura and a mystique around her. She was without doubt the most glamorous movie star that ever existed. Then she had all this incredible turmoil in her personal life, which made her so much more fascinating.
As an activist, she was a trailblazer. She spoke out about HIV at a time when it was incredibly unfashionable. And it came from a woman, which was great because everyone was calling AIDS a gay male disease. She was fearless in what she said. She set up amfAR and saved millions of people's lives. She became known for her activism even more than her acting, and I think ?she would be happy with that. She did my video for ''Original Sin,'' which was the last thing she ever did on film. And it was such a hoot. We laughed and laughed and laughed.
We used to insult each other and send each other up. She had the most incredible sense of humor, and she never took herself seriously at all. I miss talking to her on the phone and hearing that wicked laugh of hers. She had a cackle of a laugh. I miss dishing the dirt with her. And I miss her compassion most of all.
Taylor died of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles.
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Steve Jobs (Feb. 24, 1955—Oct. 5, 2011) By Yo-Yo Ma
Before I met Steve, I first had to say no to him. In the early '90s, I was touring like a madman, trying to juggle professional commitments and a home life with a young family, when a call came in. Steve Jobs was getting married at Yosemite and he wanted me to play. I declined with great regret. When we met, years later, I was also introduced to his wife and children. The simplicity, directness, and openness of his family really struck me. Steve showed me the things he cared about, and I shared the music I would have played at their wedding. From there, the friendship grew.
There were many more meetings, sometimes for a picnic dinner before concerts, other times grabbing lunch after one of his legendary presentations. Steve was ever eager to share the latest ''one more thing.'' I will never forget how he pulled out a prototype of the iPhone for me and the astonished members of the Silk Road Ensemble at UC Berkeley, or the conversations about intuition versus intelligence, and the importance of stimulating disciplined imagination in our students to ensure an innovative workforce. His life's work was a reflection ?of his father Paul's lesson: ''When you make something, make sure the back is as beautiful as the front, even ?if nobody sees it.''
This last year we had three visits, and in the spring, Steve asked me to play at his funeral. I said I would, if he would speak at mine. Needless to say, Steve got his way. I, like so many others, will always be grateful for the impact he had, for the beautiful tools that have helped change my thinking, but even more so for his extraordinary friendship.
Jobs died of pancreatic ?cancer in Palo Alto, Calif.
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Amy Winehouse (Sept. 14, 1983—July 23, 2011) By Tony Bennett
If there was one word I would use to describe the artistry of Amy Winehouse, it would be honesty. She had that rare gift that is the sign of a true genius. There are only a few performers whose total commitment to artistic truth set them apart: Billie Holiday, Judy Garland, for sure, and in my estimation, Amy Winehouse was among that unique class.
I met Amy backstage after one of my performances at the Royal Albert Hall in London several years ago. Despite her bold appearance, she seemed very shy and even a little unsure of herself. Even so, she had tremendous courage as a performer and was always ready to take chances — which is why I feel she was, in essence, a jazz singer. When we recorded ''Body and Soul'' together, four months to the date before her passing, she was constantly improvising through each take. There was an instinct she had to her phrasing that was completely a jazz influence — and you could tell she was always thinking almost instantaneously as she sang. It's what Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald did as well. Although she told me how much she loved singers like Dinah Washington, in the end she was just herself — an absolute original.
The greatest tragedy is that we are all deprived of hearing how this genuine talent would have developed and matured. In spite of it all, she will undoubtedly be remembered as a classic performer in the pantheon of great singers.
Winehouse died in London of accidental alcohol poisoning.
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Jeff Conaway (Oct. 5, 1950—May 27, 2011) By Marilu Henner
Jeff was like my brother. He was fun and sweet and had this wild streak in him, but he was always loving, always very considerate of other people. I met him in 1972 when we were both cast in the first national company of Grease and were on the road together for a year. I was 20 and he was 22. All the girls were always crazy about Jeff — he was like a big, funny, adorable puppy dog. And then in 1978 we did Taxi. He was cast at the last? minute as Bobby, and he was just perfection. It was a really close-knit cast — I've always ?said we shot 112 shows and had 112 parties. Tony Danza and I were with him a lot the last couple of weeks of his life. I really thought he'd pull through. It was heartbreaking. He was heartbreaking.
Conaway died of complications from pneumonia in Encino, Calif.
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Patrice O'Neal (Dec. 7, 1969—Nov. 29, 2011) By Seth Macfarlane
The first time you heard his name you thought, ''She must be a very sweet old Irish woman.'' The first time he towered over you, you thought, ''Jesus...keep this giant away from old Irish women.'' And the first time you saw him on stage, you'd have thought you'd never heard truth or comedy before. Shakespeare said, ''No legacy is so rich as honesty.'' And that's exactly how Patrice forged his legacy — with refreshing, hilarious honesty. He told the truth with his comedy, held others to be true to themselves, and in doing so, would have called me a pretentious a--hole for referencing Shakespeare in this tribute.
At the Charlie Sheen roast, his dissection of us was so pure and real, and damn funny. His comedy was from the heart and it had integrity. It was at that roast that Patrice reminded me that I'm ''not bigger than Yogi.'' And who could have said that better than a man the size of a Kodiak bear?
O'Neal died of complications from a stroke in Englewood, N.J.
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Pete Postlethwaite (Feb. 7, 1946—Jan. 2, 2011) By Ben Affleck
I remember him saying to me about his role [as a Boston Mob boss] in The Town, ''I see this as a combination of Kobayashi from The Usual Suspects and my character in In the Name of the Father.'' And I was like, ''That'll do it!'' Those were my two favorite movie roles of his — both ?are so brilliant.
Then he went to the bar in South Boston, which is a very Irish neighborhood, and he couldn't buy a drink. All these guys were not only buying ?him drinks but calling their families and piling into the bar because he played that part in In the Name of the Father. Guys were even bringing him gifts of stuff that ''fell off the truck.'' He was like the pied piper of South Boston. We ?had a great cast — Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively — but in Boston, Pete was by far the biggest star.
Postlethwaite died of cancer in Shrewsbury, England.
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Andy Whitfield (July 17, 1971—Sept. 11, 2011) By John Hannah
Spartacus was a very physically demanding role, and since I played his master, I spent a lot of time hitting Andy. I was always slapping him and punching him in the head, but he was always so patient. I would say, ''I won't hit you during the take,'' and end up just whacking him when we were shooting. There was one time I head-butted him, and he just started laughing. He was exhausted, but he was so wonderful about it. Andy was such a lovely human being. To be honest, that's what I feel personally is the greatest loss.
Whitfield died of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in Sydney, Australia.
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Heavy D (né Dwight Myers) (May 24, 1967—Nov. 8, 2011) By Q-Tip
Heavy D was the Jackie Gleason of hip-hop. He was one of the first cats I'd ever seen who smoked a cigar, and he carried himself with a flair that was unmatched. He was an uptown guy, so he became a flag-waver for that Harlem/Bronx music that's all about the syncopation of the drums, but it's smoothed out with a positive message. He brought hip-hop to crossover pop radio by bridging the gap between hip-hop and R&B. Now whenever you hear that new jack swing sound, that's Heavy D.
Myers died of a pulmonary embolism and deep leg-vein thrombosis in Beverly Hills.
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Sidney Lumet (June 25, 1924—April 9, 2011) By Philip Seymour Hoffman
Sidney had great full rehearsal periods — two weeks, every day. You don't see that in film too often. Since you'd already done everything in front of him, you felt very private and safe, and he knew exactly what to say to prick your brain. Many actors are grateful to him; he inspired so many great performances and it's not just because of rehearsals — like Katharine Hepburn in Long Day's Journey Into Night. Or Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon — you could watch that all day.
When we were shooting Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, I remember thinking that though he was 81 at ?the time, he moved like a 40-year-old man. His energy was extraordinary. He'd regale you with stories on the set. He'd sit off camera, and he'd talk to you, and you'd do two takes, and you'd move on, you'd do ?another one, and you'd move on. You'd be finished and you'd be full, not empty. You'd be grateful. I love him.
Lumet died of lymphoma in New York City.
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Betty Ford (April 8, 1918—July 8, 2011) By Marlee Matlin
Like many thousands who passed through the Betty Ford Center, every year I celebrate two birthdays: One is my actual birthday, and the other is the day I got sober. Today I've been sober 25 years because of the courage of one woman: Betty Ford. Never one to sit silently as many expected of a First Lady, Betty Ford bravely shared her battle with cancer and ?addiction. She took it one step further, paying it forward by speaking out, writing, and ?taking action. As a result, thousands of lives were saved, and thousands more were inspired to help.
Ford died of natural causes in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
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Andy Rooney (Jan. 14, 1919—Nov. 4, 2011) By Lesley Stahl
Andy Rooney was our poet laureate and curmudgeon-in-chief. He was the most popular and the bravest of us all on 60 Minutes. I first met him years ago at the CBS Evening News, where I was substituting for Dan Rather. Andy's greeting was to challenge me to wear the same dress on the air two days in a row, promising that if I did, I'd become famous (though Dan could wear the same blue suit for a month and nobody would care). Probably doesn't read as funny as I thought it was at the time. To me, it showed a sense of the absurdity of convention, and I laughed about it for weeks — though, I'm embarrassed to say, I didn't meet the challenge.
In our age of so many contradictions, Andy was consistent: He was who he was, and that was that (against paying for half-empty cereal boxes, in favor of newspapers)! He could sometimes be infuriating (on women's rights, for example), but he never bent to pressure or fudged his views. He was a man of conviction.
Rooney died in New York City following complications from surgery.
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Peter Falk (Sept. 16, 1927—June 23, 2011) By Chris Kattan
Peter Falk was my hero in comedies. He had that kind of untraditional way — a bit improvisational. The way he performed in those John Cassavetes films is just superior. If you've ever seen A Woman Under the Influence, he is crazy good. And the movies he did with Alan Arkin — The In-Laws and Big Trouble — are hilarious. So it was really cool when he wanted to do Corky Romano. ?I asked him, ''Why do you want to do it? It must be the money.'' He said, ''No, I actually like you. My wife thinks you're pretty funny.''
Falk died in Beverly Hills after battling Alzheimer's disease.
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Gil Scott-Heron (April 1, 1949—May 27, 2011) By Lenny Kravitz
Listening to Gil Scott-Heron sounded like getting a news flash. With songs like 1970?s ''The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,'' you were getting a super-funky, psychedelic history lesson, delivered by this spoken-word master who was like an anchorman reporting from the ghettos. The way he spoke was ?never preachy. It was like hearing my uncle sit me down and say, ''Look, boy, let me tell you something true.'' Wise people who came from the street — he spoke like them. To me, he'll always be that man who represented African-Americans in a way that was beautiful and strong.
Scott-Heron died of undetermined causes in New York City.
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Clarence Clemons (Jan. 11, 1942—June 18, 2011) By Max Weinberg
Mid-morning June 10, 2011, my home phone rang. A deep baritone embraced me: ''Mighty One.''
''Big Man,'' I replied. ''What's happenin'?''
''Love, baby—nothin' but love!'' said the Big Man.
The conversation was warm—two old friends catching up. He had just been on American Idol performing saxophone with Lady Gaga, the reigning world champion of pop music.
Clarence was flying high. He told me all about the inspiring time he'd had on that show. I heard the pleasure in his voice. Though he'd been dealing with some serious health issues, he was ''feeling strong — ready to rock.'' That old E Street feeling was misting around us. So many miles, so many concerts, so many memories. So much anticipation... It has been observed that Clarence was the spiritual center of the E Street Band. So true.
Clarence was a big, big man, and he was all about love — nothin' but love.
Clemons died of complications from a stroke in Palm Beach, Fla.
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Jack LaLanne (Sept. 26, 1914—Jan. 23, 2011) By Arnold Schwarzenegger
For 96 years, everywhere he went, Jack was the most energetic man in the room. Luckily for all of us, he wasn't selfish with his energy. He shared it every day of his life, ? inspiring millions to embrace his passion for health and fitness with his books, his products and gyms, and especially with his TV show, which was the longest-running exercise show in history. Jack's had almost a year now to whip them into shape up there, so I have no doubt that everyone in heaven is doing thousands of push-ups and showing off their six-pack abs.
LaLanne died of respiratory ?failure due to pneumonia in Morro Bay, Calif.
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Cliff Robertson (Sept. 9, 1923—Sept. 10, 2011) By Sam Raimi
I was a little bit in awe of Cliff when I met him because, as a kid, I had seen Charly and it was the most warm and moving performance I ever remember an actor giving. He brought that same warmth to Spider-Man. The audience had little time with Uncle Ben, but Cliff made people believe in ?his relationship with Tobey Maguire. There's a line that Cliff said to Tobey: ''Hey, Michelangelo, don't forget, we're painting the kitchen right after school.'' He added the word Michelangelo. When Tobey replied, ''Don't start without me,'' Cliff ad-libbed another line, ''Don't start up with me,'' in a very good-natured, sweet way — with a little twinkle in his eye. It made it seem as though those guys had a ?rapport going throughout the years. I was so impressed.
Robertson died of undisclosed causes in Stony Brook, N.Y.
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Harry Morgan (April 10, 1915—Dec. 7, 2011) By Loretta Swit
Harry...my very dear, close friend...the best colleague you could hope for...an accomplished, committed actor, humble to the extreme, possessed of a brilliant mind, a dazzling sense of humor coupled with impeccable timing... the quintessential colleague, able to lift your spirits with laughter during those long, late hours on the set...often my father figure...ever a mensch... always my ''comrade-in-arms.''...
How blessed I am to have had you in my life all this time.
And now, I find myself using the words from the ''Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen'' finale of M*A*S*H. Harry and I needed more than just a few takes during our goodbye scene. We could not stop the tears. ''Goodbye, Margaret,'' Colonel Potter says. ''Don't forget to have a happy life.'' Margaret says: ''You dear, sweet man...I'll never forget you.''
Even more so from me, dear Harry, dear friend. I take comfort in knowing that you knew how very much I loved you.
Morgan died of complications from pneumonia in Los Angeles.
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Jane Russell (June 21, 1921—Feb. 28, 2011) '50s Screen Siren and Bra Pitchwoman
If the camera was on a balcony above me or I was to bend over, I would just turn my back or stand and glare.... They only wanted a peep show and if they couldn't get it, they left disgruntled. I honestly feel sorry if The Outlaw publicity campaign was responsible for the young girls who decided that the only way to make it in show business was to shove out their bosom or take their clothes off altogether.'' —Russell in her 1985 autobiography
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Brian Jacques (June 15, 1939—Feb. 5, 2011) Author of the Redwall Fantasy Novels
''My stories are written from the viewpoint of a kid, sitting in the movie house while World War II is on, watching all this magic come on the screen.'' —Jacques, in a 2001 interview