Stars We Lost in 2017

Updated

Brad Bufanda

The actor, who played Felix Toombs on Veronica Mars, died by suicide on Nov. 3 at the age of 34. In addition to his role on the noir WB/CW drama, Bufanda also appeared in 2004’s Hilary Duff vehicle, A Cinderella Story, and guest-starred on Days of Our Lives, CSI: Miami, and Malcolm in the Middle. He is set to appear in the forthcoming movie Garlic & Gunpowder, which stars Michael Madsen and Vivica A. Fox.

Fats Domino

The legendary New Orleans musician died Oct. 25 at age 89. A prodigiously talented piano player, Domino — given name Antoine Domino Jr. — came of age in the post-war period and became a seminal force in the development and popularization of rock and roll. He began his recording career in 1949 with his first single, “The Fat Man,” which sold one million copies by 1953. He dominated the charts throughout the ’50s and early ’60s, catapulting nearly 40 hits into the Hot 100’s top 40 during that period.

Robert Guillaume

Robert Guillaume, perhaps most celebrated for his role as the TV sitcom butler in Benson and Soap, died Oct. 24 at age 89. Guillaume’s widow confirmed the news, noting he had been battling prostate cancer. Through the ’70s, Guillaume appeared on episodes of All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Good Times before he first appeared as Benson DuBois in Soap, which ran from 1977-1981. He then got his own spin-off on ABC in 1979 with Benson, a role which earned him two Emmys over the years. Among Guillaume’s lauded career, the actor voiced the character Rafiki in Disney’s animated The Lion King and Dr. Eli Vance in the Half-Life video game series.

Ralphie May

Comedian Ralphie May died on Oct. 6 at age 45 after suffering cardiac arrest. May was best known as a stand-up comic who finished as a runner-up on Last Comic Standing in 2003.

Tom Petty

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Tom Petty died on Oct. 2 at the age of 66 following cardiac arrest. Petty's longtime manager released a statement to PEOPLE, saying, "On behalf of the Tom Petty family we are devastated to announce the untimely death of our father, husband, brother, leader, and friend Tom Petty. He suffered cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu in the early hours of this morning and was taken to UCLA Medical Center but could not be revived. He died peacefully at 8:40p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates, and friends."

Monty Hall

The legendary Let's Make a Deal host and co-creator died on Sept. 30 at the age of 96.

Hugh Hefner

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died on Sept. 27 at the age of 91. “My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights, and sexual freedom,” Hefner’s son Cooper, Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a statement. “He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises.”

Charles Bradley

The soul legend, who began his career as a James Brown impersonator before breaking out in the 2000s with a trio of critically acclaimed albums, died on Sept. 23 at the age of 68 following a battle with cancer.

Jake LaMotta

Legendary boxer Jake LaMotta, who was portrayed by Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, died on Sept. 19, 2017 at a Miami-area hosptial at the age of 95. LaMotta took up fighting in 1941 after he was rejected for military service due to a medical issue. As a middleweight fighter, LaMotta won 83 of his 106 fights, earning the nickname “The Bronx Bull” because of his rugged fighting style. His  memoir inspired the 1980 film Raging Bull, and De Niro won an Academy Award for his portrayal of the troubled boxer.

Bernie Casey

Bernie Casey, the actor and former athlete known for his roles in movies including Revenge of the Nerds and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, as well as his seasons with the NFL’s 49ers and Rams, died Sept. 19, 2017 in Los Angeles after a brief illness. He was 78. Casey's other screen credits included the western sequel Guns of the Magnificent Seven, the James Bond movie Never Say Never Again, and the Martin Scorsese film Boxcar Bertha, as well as Cleopatra Jones, Another 48 Hrs., and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Harry Dean Stanton

Harry Dean Stanton, the utterly unique performer whose career soared across generations of film history, died Sept. 15 in Los Angeles at age 91. The actor's career spanned decades, with roles in classic films like Godfather II, Pretty in Pink, Repo Man, Cool Hand Luke, Alien and Escape from New York. Having just reprised his role as the trailer park guardian Carl Rodd in Showtime's Twin Peaks: The Return, the actor was slated to be back in theaters with a leading role in the film Lucky

Frank Vincent

The legendary film and television tough guy, who battled James Gandolfini and Robert De Niro in his most famous roles, died Sept. 13 at age 80. The New Jersey native began acting in the 1970s, and his career took off after he starred in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull in 1980 alongside Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, . More roles would follow 1995's Casino, including a part in the TV movie Gotti and work on New York Undercover and NYPD Blue. In 2004, Vincent joined the cast of The Sopranos as Phil Leotardo, the chief antagonist to Tony Soprano (the late James Gandolfini) as the series drew to its close.

Don Williams

The 'Gentle Giant' of country music died Sept. 8 at the age of 78. Earning 17 No. 1 country hits throughout his career, he recorded hits including "Tulsa Time," "Good Ole Boys Like Me," and "It Must Be Love." The singer inspired many current country music acts and was the subject of a 2017 tribute. He retired from performing in 2016, saying, "I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends, and my family for their everlasting love and support."

Troy Gentry

One half of the popular country duo, Montgomery Gentry, Troy Gentry tragically died at the age of 50 in a helicopter crash on Sept. 8 just hours before a scheduled concert in Medford, New Jersey. The duo was one of the most identifiable acts in country music since the late '90s and earned a Grammy nom for their 2008 song "Lucky Man." They were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009. 

Walter Becker

The Steely Dan co-founder died Sept. 3 at age 67. Said co-founder Donald Fagen in a statement, "Walter Becker was my friend, my writing partner and my bandmate since we met as students at Bard College in 1967. We started writing nutty little tunes on an upright piano in a small sitting room in the lobby of Ward Manor, a mouldering old mansion on the Hudson River that the college used as a dorm." Fagen added, "He was smart as a whip, an excellent guitarist and a great songwriter. He was cynical about human nature, including his own, and hysterically funny."

Tobe Hooper

Horror legend Tobe Hooper, who directed 1974's seminal Texas Chain Saw Massacre died on Aug. 26 at age 74. In addition to that classic horror film, which launched a number of sequels, Hooper also directed Poltergeist and the television adaptation of Stephen King's Salem's Lot.

Jay Thomas

Emmy-winning Murphy Brown star and Cheers actor Jay Thomas died on Aug. 24. "Jay Thomas was one of the funniest and kindest men I have had the honor to call both client and friend for 25 years plus. He will be dearly missed by so many," his longtime publicist, Tom Estey, said in a statement. Thomas, who was also known for his radio broadcasting career , died from cancer.

Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis, the hilarious and hugely influential rubber-faced comedian, trailblazing filmmaker, and tireless Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser, died of natural causes Aug. 20 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91.

Dick Gregory

The famed civil rights advocate and comedian died Aug. 19 at age 84. Gregory is widely regarded as the first black comic to perform in front of white audiences.

Glen Campbell

The country singer and entertainer, who sold more than 50 million albums during a career that spanned over a half century, died Aug. 8 after several years of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

Robert Hardy

The British actor, known for his role in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small and portraying Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter films, died at the age of 91.

Sam Shepard

The celebrated playwright and Oscar-nominated actor, who earned a Pulitzer Prize for his play Buried Child and had roles in films such as Black Hawk Down and The Right Stuffdied at the age of 73

John Heard

The character actor, best known for playing Kevin McCallister's dad in 1990's Home Alone and for appearances on The Sopranos and numerous other television series, died July 21 at age 72.

Chester Bennington

Chester Bennington, the frontman of the alternative rock band Linkin Park, died in an apparent suicide. The musician was found in a private residence on the morning of July 20, what would have been the late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell’s 53rd birthday. The Linkin Park musician performed at the funeral for Cornell, who died by suicide in May. “You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known,” Bennington wrote in part in a moving tribute shared on Twitter after Cornell’s death. Bennington was 41 and leaves behind a wife and six children from two marriages.

George A. Romero

The legendary filmmaker, known as the godfather of the zombie genre, made such classics as Night of the Living DeadDay of the Dead, and Creepshow, among many others. He died July 16 at age 77 after a short battle with lung cancer. 

Martin Landau

Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's Ed Wood and also had memorable costarring roles in Crimes and Misdemeanors and Rounders, died on July 15 at age 89.

Nelsan Ellis

The actor, best known for his work on the HBO series True Blood and for roles on CBS' Elementary and films like The Help and Get On Up, died on July 8 from complications due to heart failure. He was 39.

Joan Lee

Lee, the wife of Marvel legend Stan Lee, died July 6 at age 93. Marvel, home to the majority Stan's comic creations and where he was once the executive vice president and publisher, mourned Joan in a statement: "We are so saddened to hear about the loss of Joan Lee. We lost a member of the Marvel family today and our thoughts and prayers go out to Stan and his daughter Joan in this difficult time."

John Blackwell Jr.

Blackwell, a prolific musician who was known for his work with Prince died on July 4 at age 43. Blackwell's wife, Yaritza, confirmed the news on Blackwell's Instagram account. "My husband incredible drummer John Blackwell Jr. passed [away] peacefully in my company today. Thanks God for his life and thanks everyone for their support."

Stevie Ryan

Ryan, a YouTube star who rose to fame with her Little Loca series, died by suicide on July 1 at age 33.

Gary DeCarlo

DeCarlo, who was best known as the singer of the 1960s hit "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye), died on June 28 following a battle with cancer. He was 75.  

Michael Bond

The creator of Paddington Bear died on June 28 at age 91 following a short illness. "I feel privileged to have been Michael Bond’s publisher -- he was a true gentleman, a bon viveur, the most entertaining company and the most enchanting of writers," said Executive Publisher HarperCollins Children’s Books Ann-Janine Murtagh in a statement. "He will be forever remembered for his creation of the iconic Paddington, with his duffle coat and wellington boots, which touched my own heart as a child and will live on in the hearts of future generations. My thoughts and love are with his wife, Sue and his children Karen and Anthony."  

Michael Nyqvist

Nyqvist, who played publisher Mikael Blomkvist in the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, died following a battle with lung cancer at age 56 on June 27. One of Sweden's most accomplished actors, Nyqvist also made an impact in Hollywood films like  Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and the Keanu Reeves thriller John Wick.

Prodigy

The New York rapper, who along with Havoc comprised the hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, died June 20 at the age of 42. "It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary N.Y. rap duo Mobb Deep," a Mobb Deep representative wrote in a statement to XXL. "Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth. The exact causes of death have yet to be determined."

Stephen Furst

The actor, best known for playing Flounder in Animal House and also for his role on '80s television classic St. Elsewhere, died at age 63 on June 16.

John G. Avildsen

Avildsen, who won an Oscar for directing Sylvester Stallone in the original Rocky and also made Ralph Macchio a star with The Karate Kid, died on June 16 at age 81 following complications due to pancreatic cancer.

Adam West

West, who played Batman on the campy, classic 1966-68 TV series (and in the feature film version of the show that was released in 1966 as well), died on June 9 at age 88. The Hollywood legend also provided memorable voice contributions to Family Guy among other shows.

Glenne Headly

The Emmy-nominated actress died on June 8 at age 62. Best known for major films like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988), Dick Tracy (1990), and Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), Headly got her start on the stage as an originating member of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In recent years, she won acclaim for her supporting role on HBO's hit limited series The Night Of. Her Emmy nominations came for roles in Lonesome Dove and Bastard Out of Carolina.

Gregg Allman

Legendary rocker Gregg Allman died at 69 on May 27 from complications due to liver cancer. Allman's longtime manager announced the news of the Allman Brothers Band co-founder with a statement: "I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a brilliant pioneer in music. He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and bandmates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him."

Denis Johnson

The author, best known for his exceptional story collection Jesus' Son, died at 67 on May 25. Johnson won the National Book Award in 2007 for his novel, Tree of Smoke, which was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Johnson's 2012 novella Train Dreams was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist, though no Prize was awarded that year.  

Jared Martin

Martin, perhaps best known for his role of Steven "Dusty" Farlow on the series Dallas, died at the age of 75 on May 25. In addition to his work on the popular '80s nighttime soap, Martin appeared on War of the Worlds, Murder, She Wrote, Magnum, P.I., One Life to Live, and The Love Boat, as well as a two-part stint on the original Wonder Woman. He also featured in films like Westworld and The Lonely Lady.

Lisa Spoonauer

Lisa Spoonauer, the actress best known for portraying Dante’s (Brian O’Halloran) high school girlfriend Caitlin Bree in Clerks, died at age 44. Spoonauer reprised the role as a voice actor in the 2001 animated series of the same name, and appeared in only one other film, Gabe Torres’ Bartender, before ending her acting career. She went on to become a restaurant manager and event planner, according to an obituary posted by a New Jersey funeral home. Director Kevin Smith, who discovered Spoonauer in a community college acting class, announced the news on his Instagram account on May 23, 2017. In his tribute, he called Spoonauer “one of the most important people [he’d] ever meet” and credited her as being one of the “chief architects” of his debut feature, which was shot in the convenience and video stores where he worked as a clerk. Smith also praised her role as a mother, writing, “As strong an actress as she was, Lisa was an even more excellent Mother to her daughter Mia. Whenever we’d Facebook later in life, she’d gush about her baby girl proudly. My heart goes out to Tom, Mia and Lisa’s family. Thank you for dreaming my dream with me. You changed my life, Lisa.”

Roger Moore

Sir Roger Moore died May 23 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 89. Moore was best known, of course, for having played James Bond in seven 007 films, beginning with 1973’s Live and Let Die and ending with 1985’s A View to Kill. He was the third actor, following original Bond Sean Connery and one-off 007 George Lazenby, to assume the mantle of the superspy, and was known for his suave, tongue-in-cheek portrayal. Before he was Bond, Moore started out appearing in toothpaste ads, became a contract player at MGM in the ‘50s, and finally achieved international fame playing Simon Templar on the British TV series The Saint, which ran from 1961–69. After his final Bond outing, Moore’s onscreen appearances — including a small role in 1997’s Spice World — were fewer and less frequent, but he remained very active as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, a position he held for over 25 years. His autobiography, My Word Is My Bond, was published in 2008. 

Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes, the controversial former chairman of Fox News, died May 18 at age 77. As one of the founders of Fox News, Ailes helped build the network into one of the highest-rated in cable media outlets as the founding CEO, beginning in 1996. However, his life and career were marred by allegations of sexual harassment. He was the subject of a lawsuit from former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson, and multiple other women came forward afterwards. Megyn Kelly, another ex Fox veteran, also claimed sexual harassment against Ailes in her memoir, though he denied them. He was ultimately replaced by Rupert Murdoch as CEO and chairman of Fox on July 21 last year. Prior to joining Fox, Ailes worked as a political consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush.

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell, the legendary frontman of Soundgarden who was known to possess one of the most powerful voices of the grunge era, died May 17 in Detroit while touring with his band. He at 52. Born in Seattle in 1964, Cornell was a fixture of the grunge generation, leading Soundgarden and supergroup Temple of the Dog in the late ’80s and into the ’90s. Soundgarden split in 1997, after which Cornell began his solo career, releasing Euphoria Morning in 1999. Soon after, Cornell joined up with the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine, minus lead singer Zack de la Rocha, to create the band Audioslave. After Audioslave and more solo work (including the theme song to 2006’s James Bond reboot Casino Royale), Soundgarden reformed in 2010. In addition to touring with his most-famous band, Cornell also recently completed a nationwide tour with Temple of the Dog — which is comprised of members of Pearl Jam, including current member and former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron.

Brad Grey

Former Paramount CEO Brad Grey died May 14 following a battle with cancer. He was 59. Grey stepped down from his position as chairman and CEO at Paramount just three months before his death, after having held the post for 12 years, overseeing such projects for the studio as the There Will Be Blood, the Paranormal Activity franchise, Up In the Air, No Country for Old Men, and the Transformers movies. Before joining Paramount, he started out as an assistant to Harvey Weinstein, then worked as a talent manager, mostly for stand-up comics. Later, he developed and shepherded The Sopranos and The Larry Sanders Show, among other projects, to great success through Brillstein-Grey Entertainment, which he launched with Bernie Brillstein; he was also an original co-founder of Plan B Entertainment along with Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston.

Powers Booth

Powers Boothe died May 14 in his sleep from apparent natural causes. He was 68. The actor made his breakthrough in 1980 starring as a true-life cult-leader in the CBS docudrama Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones. Released just two years after the real incident, Boothe won an Emmy for his portrayal. There was still no shortage of roles for Boothe: He was the grinning, sociopathic “Curly Bill” terrorizing the citizens of 1993’s Tombstone, and the lawman’s old friend turned bloodthirsty drug trafficker in 1987’s Extreme Prejudice. On HBO’s Deadwood, he played the volatile, ruthless saloon owner Cy Tolliver, and in 1995’s Sudden Death, he was the CIA agent holding the Vice President hostage at a hockey arena. In recent years, Boothe played the vice president who ascends to the highest office in Season 6 of Fox’s 24, the nefarious World Security Council leader Gideon Malick in Marvel’s The Avengers and ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,  and on TV’s Nashville, he played the manipulative, wealthy father of Connie Britton’s country star Rayna Jaymes.

Michael Parks

Actor Michael Parks died May 10 at the age of 77. He was a favorite collaborator of both Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, the latter of whom broke the news of Parks’ death in an emotional post calling the actor “hands-down, the most incredible thespian I ever had the pleasure to watch perform.” Parks had memorable roles in Smith’s films Red State (2011) and Tusk (2014) — both of which Smith wrote with the actor in mind — and appeared in the Tarantino-penned From Dusk till Dawn (1996) as well as both of the filmmaker’s Kill Bill movies.

Christopher “Big Black” Boykin

MTV reality personality Christopher “Big Black” Boykin died May 9 from a heart attack. He was 45. He was known for having starred, along with skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, on MTV’s reality series Rob & Big from 2006–08. He appeared on the show as Dyrdek’s bodyguard, and the series came to its abrupt ending due to tension between the pair of them. Dyrdek described the “strange period” in a March 2016 interview: “I think we both struggled with I didn’t want to be known as like Rob from Rob & Big … and I think he didn’t want to be known for like the sidekick. So that created a lot of that tension between me and him.”

Bob Wilson 

Bob Wilson, a local TV executive and father to Luke and Owen Wilson, died May 5 after years of battling Alzheimer’s disease. He was 75. A Texas TV pioneer, Wilson shaped North Texas’ public broadcasting station KERA, with the hiring of Jim Lehrer and the development of the landmark news program Newsroom. In addition to launching Lehrer’s career, Wilson’s KERA was also responsible for bringing Monty Python’s Flying Circus to the U.S., broadcasting it stateside for the first time in 1974. His lasting impression on public television was documented in the 2011 documentary Bob Wilson and the Early Years of KERA.

Jonathan Demme

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme died April 26 as a result of complications from esophageal cancer. He was 73. The writer-director-producer, who won an Academy Award for Best Director for 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, began his career making films for Roger Corman; Demme’s credits under the B-movie king include 1974’s Caged Heat and 1975’s Crazy Mama. Demme began garnering more attention in Hollywood over the course of the ‘80s, with such films as 1980’s Melvin and Howard, 1986’s Something Wild, and 1988’s Married to the Mob. His later films include 1993’s Philadelphia, for which Tom Hanks won an Oscar for Best Actor; 2004’s acclaimed remake of The Manchurian Candidate; and 2008’s Rachel Getting Married. His most recent directorial feature credit was the concert film Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids

Erin Moran

Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi star Erin Moran died April 22 of stage 4 cancer. She was 56. Moran was in her early teens when she was cast on Happy Days as Joanie Cunningham, the younger sister of Ron Howard’s protagonist Richie. She played Joanie in more than 200 episodes over the course of 10 years on the beloved sitcom, as well as in the short-lived spin-off Joanie Loves Chachi, which ran for two seasons from 1982–83. Before she was Joanie, Moran had already racked up over a dozen film and TV credits as a child and preteen; after Happy Days, her other roles included parts on The Love Boat and Murder, She Wrote

Clifton James

Character actor Clifton James died April 15 due to complications from diabetes. He was 96. Though he collected dozens of film, TV, and stage credits over the course of his long career, James was best known for his comedic role as a Louisiana Sheriff, J.W. Pepper, in the Roger Moore-starring James Bond films Live and Let Die (1973) and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974). James got into acting after serving in the U.S. Army in World War II; his professional career began onstage in New York, where his Broadway credits include the Pulitzer Prize-winning drama All the Way Home. After getting into screen acting, in addition to the bumbling Bond sheriff, James’ other memorable roles include Cool Hand Luke (1967), The Untouchables (1987), Eight Men Out (1988), The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), and Lone Star (1996). 

Cuba Gooding Sr.

Soul singer Cuba Gooding Sr. was found dead in a car on April 20. He was 72. Gooding was the lead singer of the group Main Ingredient beginning in 1971; the band’s biggest hits, 1972’s “Everybody Plays the Fool” and 1974’s “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely,” both of which were released during his tenure as the lead vocalist. The father of actors Cuba Gooding Jr. and Omar Gooding, Gooding Sr. also released two albums as a solo artist.  

Allan Holdsworth

Legendary musician Allan Holdsworth died April 15 at the age of 70. The English guitarist and composer released a dozen solo albums in addition to playing with Soft Machine, The New Tony Williams Lifetime, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, UK, Jean-Luc Ponty, and Bill Bruford, among others. A true guitarist’s guitarist, the innovative jazz-fusion musician was admired by the likes of Eddie Van Halen, Pat Metheny, Tom Morello, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, and Vernon Reid. Following his death, a GoFundMe campaign to cover the costs of his funeral raised almost six times as much as its goal, with contributions from over 2,800 people. 

Charlie Murphy

Comedian Charlie Murphy died April 12 after a battle with leukemia. He was 57. Murphy was best known for his work on Chappelle’s Show, for which he wrote and starred in the beloved sketch “Charlie Murphy’s True Hollywood Stories,” in which he recalled his real-life celebrity encounters (and in which Chappelle famously played Rick James). His other projects include co-writing the screenplay for 2007’s Norbit with his brother, Eddie Murphy, and playing a voice role in the film, as well as having roles in the Adult Swim series Black Jesus and the 2016 film Meet the Blacks. He will also appear in the upcoming season of the Starz drama Power

Michael Ballhaus

Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus died April 11 at the age of 81. The German DP began his career working with the legendary filmmaker Rainer Werner Fassbinder, for whom he shot over a dozen films. Over the course of his decades-long career behind the camera, Ballhaus was nominated for three Oscars, for 1987’s Broadcast News, 1989’s The Fabulous Baker Boys, and 2002’s Gangs of New York. He was a frequent collaborator of Martin Scorsese’s; in addition to Gangs, the pair teamed up for six other films, including 1990’s Goodfellas and 2006’s The Departed. The long list of beloved films on Ballhaus’ résumé also includes 1988’s Working Girl, 1990’s Postcards from the Edge, and 1997’s Air Force One, among many others. In addition to the many films he worked on, Ballhaus also shot a number of episodes of German TV shows and two Madonna music videos, “Papa Don’t Preach” and “True Blue.” 

J. Geils

Guitarist John Warren Geils Jr., known as J. Geils, died April 11 at the age of 71. Geils founded the J. Geils Band in 1970; the band released a handful of albums over the course of the decade, with three of their ‘70s singles making the Top 40 chart. They achieved mainstream success in the early ‘80s, with the 1980 album Love Stinks and 1981’s Freeze-Frame, the latter of which included the mega-hit “Centerfold,” which charted for 70 weeks, occupying the top spot for six. Since the band’s breakup in 1985, Geils served as a producer on an album for Danny Klein and formed another band, Bluestime with Magic Dick. 

Dorothy Mengering

David Letterman’s mother and frequent TV guest Dorothy Mengering died April 11 at the age of 95. Mengering, who Late Show viewers knew simply as “Dave’s mom,” contributed to her son’s top 10 lists, reported on the Olympics, and delivered segments from her kitchen at home. In 1996, she published a cookbook, Home Cookin’ with Dave’s Mom, with EW editorial director Jess Cagle. 

Don Rickles

Legendary comedian Don Rickles died April 6 from kidney failure. He was 90. Before making his name as one of the greatest insult comics of all time, the New York-born star originally intended to be an actor; he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and his long résumé includes the starring role in the ‘70s sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey, parts in 1970’s Kelly’s Heroes and 1995’s Casino, and playing Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films. He is best known, however, for his comedy. Crowds of fans swarmed to his stand-up shows in Las Vegas to be verbally assaulted with his merciless mockery, and he took his insults to the screen with such films as 1998’s Dirty Work and dozens of TV appearances, including over 100 on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Clay Adler

MTV alum Clay Adler died by suicide on March 26. He was 27. Best known for starring on MTV’s 2007 teen reality series Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County, Adler also made appearances in the 2009 TV movie Fish Tank and on a 2009 episode of Make It or Break It

Lola Albright

Singer and actress Lola Albright died of natural causes on March 23. She was 92. Douglas first came to Hollywood’s attention when she played Kirk Douglas’ rejected lover in 1949’s boxing movie Champion, but is best known for starring on Peter Gunn as nightclub singer Edie Hart, a role she played from 1958 to 1961. She recorded two albums in the ‘50s, 1957's Lola Wants You and 1959’s Dreamsville. Her other film credits include 1961’s Kid Galahad with Elvis Presley, and 1967’s The Way West with Kirk Douglas and Robert Mitchum. She was active in the industry into the ‘80s, mostly making TV appearances in the latter half of her career.  

Chuck Barris

TV host and producer Chuck Barris died of natural causes on March 21. He was 87. Known as the “godfather of reality TV,” Barris created The Dating Game in 1965 and went on to produce The Newlywed Game soon after. In 1976, he began hosting the wacky talent competition The Gong Show, after which his impressive reality TV résumé earned him the nickname “The King of Schlock.” In 1984, Barris published his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, in which he wrote that, at the height of his reality TV career, he was also moonlighting as an assassin for the C.I.A. (which has denied the claim). George Clooney directed a 2002 film adaptation of the book, which starred Sam Rockwell as Barris. 

Colin Dexter

Novelist Colin Dexter died March 21 at the age of 86. His most famous creation was the character Inspector Morse, about whom Dexter wrote 13 novels, beginning with 1975’s Last Bus to Woodstock. Since the final Morse novel, 1999’s The Remorseful Day, Dexter wrote a handful of short stories. The Inspector Morse books inspired a popular British TV show, which in turn spawned two spinoffs, Lewis (about Morse’s trusty right hand, Sergeant Lewis) and Endeavor (a prequel about Morse at the beginning of his career). Inspector Morse ran for 13 years, and Dexter himself appeared in most of its episodes. 

Bernie Wrightson

Comic book artist and illustrator Bernie Wrightson died March 19 after a long battle with brain cancer. He was 68. The great horror illustrator was best known for co-creating the Swamp Thing, a character in the DC Universe, along with writer Len Wein; he also illustrated the Swamp Thing comic in the early ‘70s. His myriad other credits include the 1982 comic adaptation of the horror anthology film Creepshow (which was written by Stephen King), and an illustration 1983 edition of Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein. As a conceptual artist for films, Wrightson worked on Galaxy Quest and the original Ghostbusters, among others. 

Chuck Berry 

Music legend Chuck Berry died March 18 at the age of 90. His impact on rock and roll cannot be overstated; artists from Elvis to the Beatles to the Beach Boys to the Rolling Stones were enormously influenced by his sound and style. Though the rock pioneer continued to release music into the ‘70s and got his biggest hit with 1972’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” Berry’s best-known records are those he released in the ‘50s with the Chess label, including “Maybelline,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Carol.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — by none other than Keith Richards, who claimed he “lifted every lick” of Berry’s — in 1986. 

Derek Walcott

Poet and playwright Derek Walcott died March 17 at the age of 87. Walcott, whose first poem was published in a newspaper when he was only 14, broke out with his 1962 collection In a Green Night, then was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1992, following the publication of his 1990 epic Omeros. His other accolades include having been named an Office of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1972 and the T.S. Eliot Prize in 2011 for White Egrets

Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Writer Amy Krouse Rosenthal died March 13 after a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 51. Rosenthal wrote more than 28 children’s books, including Uni the Unicorn and Duck! Rabbit!, and the memoirs Encyclopedia of an Extraordinary Life and Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal. She made waves in early March, just 10 days before her death, with the publication of an emotional Modern Love column for the New York Times, which went viral. The piece went into detail about her health struggles and doubled as an adoring, informal dating profile for her soon-to-be-widowed husband. 

Robert Osborne

Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne died March 6, at the age of 84. Before he served as the channel’s host and resident classic film expert, he began his career as an actor, with a few appearances on shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, and then moved to writing. His history of the Oscars, The Academy Awards Illustrated, was published in 1977, then he became an entertainment journalist; he wrote The Hollywood Reporter’s “Rambling Reporter” column from 1982 to 2000. He got the gig that he was best known for when TCM launched in 1994, and also served as the host of the TCM Classic Film Festival in its first five years, from 2010 to 2014. “All of us at TCM are better for having known him,” his fellow host Ben Mankiewicz tweeted upon Osborne’s death. “His legacy is reflected in the shared love and appreciation we all have for the movies he cared about so deeply.” 

Tommy Page

Musician Tommy Page died March 3 at the age of 46. Page toured with New Kids on the Block in the ‘80s, then co-wrote his song “I’ll Be Your Everything” with NKOTB’s Jordan Knight and Danny Wood. The 1990 track peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and would become Page’s biggest hit. Following his successful career as a solo artist, Page focused more of his efforts on the business side of the industry, working at Warner Bros./Reprise Records, Pandora, Cumulus Media, The Village Voice, and Billboard, where he served as publisher from 2011 to 2013.  

Joseph Wapner

America’s first reality TV judge Joseph Wapner died Feb. 26 after having been admitted to the hospital with breathing issues. He was 97. Wapner reviewed thousands of cases and rose to fame as the judge on The People’s Court, beginning when the series premiered in 1981 and holding the position for 12 years. He became a pop culture touchstone as the head of The People’s Court, and was parodied on Saturday Night Live and heavily referenced in 1988’s Rain Man

Bill Paxton

Actor Bill Paxton died Feb. 25 due to complications from surgery. He was 61. Paxton began his decades-long career with TV appearances and small film roles, including parts in 1984’s The Terminator, 1985’s Weird Science, and 1986’s Aliens. He was especially prolific in the ‘90s, during which he starred in 1995’s Apollo 13 and 1996’s Twister, and reteamed with his Terminator and Aliens director James Cameron for 1994’s True Lies and 1997’s Titanic. His television résumé is equally impressive: He picked up three Golden Globe nominations for starring on HBO’s Big Love from 2006 to 2011, and was nominated for an Emmy for his role in History’s miniseries Hatfields & McCoys in 2012. His recent film roles include 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler and the upcoming adaptation of Dave Eggers’ The Circle; in TV, he had roles on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the miniseries Texas Rising, and starred on the new series Training Day

Ivan ‘The Russian Bear’ Koloff

Legendary wrestler Ivan “The Russian Bear” Koloff died Feb. 18 after a battle with liver cancer. He was 74. Though never inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, Koloff was an enormously popular character as the villainous “Russian Bear,” a persona he introduced during an International Wrestling Association match in 1967. He joined the World Wide Wrestling Foundation in 1969, winning the WWWF World Heavyweight Championship in 1971, and later switched over to the National Wrestling Alliance, where he was a leader of a group called “The Russians.” He retired in 1989. 

Warren Frost

Twin Peaks actor Warren Frost died Feb. 17 after battling an illness. He was 91. Though best known for playing Dr. Will Hayward on Twin Peaks — a role he reprised in the upcoming revival, which was co-created by his son Mark — Frost also made appearances on shows including Dragnet, The Larry Sanders Show, Murphy Brown, and L.A. Law; was a regular on As The World Turns; and had recurring roles on Seinfeld and Matlock

George ‘The Animal’ Steele

WWE wrestler George ‘The Animal’ Steele died Feb. 17 at the age of 79. Known for sticking out his tongue, which was always dyed green from eating mints, and tearing up turnbuckles with his teeth, Steele developed a wild-man image, and often played antagonistic roles in the ring. He was a professional wrestler from 1967 to 1988, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.  

Al Jarreau

Jazz legend Al Jarreau died Feb. 12 — just a few hours before the Grammys, and just days after he announced his retirement from touring — due to exhaustion. He was 76. Over the course of his decades-long career, Jarreau won seven Grammys and released 16 albums, from his first, 1975’s We Got By, to his last, 2014’s My Old Friend: Celebrating George Duke. He was known for having recorded the Moonlighting theme song, for which he got two Grammy nominations, as well as having sung a part on Quincy Jones’ 1985 charity single “We Are the World” alongside a star-studded lineup. 

Richard Hatch

Actor Richard Hatch died Feb. 7 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 71. Best known for playing Captain Apollo on the original Battlestar Galactica in the ‘70s, Hatch later appeared in the 2004 reboot of the series in a recurring role as Tom Zarek. He also wrote Battlestar Galactica novels and campaigned for a long time to revive the franchise in the form of a sequel rather than the remake that eventually happened (and of which he became a part). Before he was Apollo, Hatch began his career with a role on All My Children in 1971; his other TV credits include appearances on Fantasy Island, CHiPs, Murder She Wrote, Dynasty, T.J. Hooker, The Love Boat, MacGyver, and Baywatch, among others. 

Rob Stewart

Documentary filmmaker and marine biologist Rob Stewart was found dead after going missing while deep-sea scuba diving on Jan. 31. He was 37. Stewart was best known for his 2006 documentary Sharkwater, which exposed the shark-hunting industry and called for greater protection of sharks; he followed up the acclaimed film with the environmental doc Revolution in 2012, and was working on a Sharkwater sequel at the time of his death. 

Emmanuelle Riva

French actress Emmanuelle Riva died Jan. 27 after a long battle with cancer. She was 89. She made history four years ago when she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her performance in Michael Haneke’s Amour, at the age of 85 — making her the oldest woman ever nominated for the award. Her other most famous role came at the very beginning of her long career, when she played the nameless young woman in Alain Resnais’ groundbreaking 1959 film Hiroshima Mon Amour

Barbara Hale

Perry Mason actress Barbara Hale died Jan. 26. She was 94. Hale played Della Street, secretary to the title character, in all 271 episodes of the legal drama, which ran from 1957–1966, and won an Emmy for her performance in 1959. Following the show’s finale, she reprised her role in all 30 of the Perry Mason TV movies, produced from 1985–95. Before she was Della, Hale began her career as a contract player for RKO and Columbia, and picked up credits on films including 1943’s Higher and Higher, 1945’s West of the Pecos, 1949’s The Window, and 1951’s Lorna Doone. Post-Perry Mason, her film credits included 1970's Airport, 1975’s The Giant Spider Invasion, and 1978’s Big Wednesday.  

Mike Connors

Mannix star Mike Connors died Jan. 26, soon after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was 91. Connors starred as Detective Joe Mannix for the duration of the series’ long run, from 1967–75, and was nominated for six Golden Globes, winning one, and four Emmys for playing the sleuth. Connors’ other TV credits include appearances on Gunsmoke, Maverick, Perry Mason, The Love Boat, Murder She Wrote, and Two and a Half Men. His big-screen resume includes roles in Sudden Fear, Island in the Sky, The Day the World Ended, The Ten Commandments, and Gideon

John Hurt 

Actor John Hurt died Jan. 25 at the age of 77. Hurt got his breakout role in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons; over the course of his long career, he was nominated for two Oscars — for 1978’s Midnight Express and 1980’s The Elephant Man — and amassed over 200 credits on both the big and small screen. Some of this other notable film credits include starring as Winston Smith in 1984’s 1984, playing the spy called “Control” in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and appearing as wand-maker Ollivander in the Harry Potter films. He most recently appeared in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, and completed work on three more films that had not yet been released at the time of his death, entitled That Good Night, Damascus Cover, and My Name Is Lenny. Hurt was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the British Academy of Film and Television in 2012, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015. 

Mary Tyler Moore

Television icon Mary Tyler Moore died Jan. 25 at the age of 80. Moore got her breakout role on The Dick Van Dyke Show as Van Dyke’s character’s adorable wife, Laura Petrie. She won two Emmys in the part, which she played for the series’ entire run, from 1961–66. It was with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, however, that the actress broke boundaries for women in television. She collected three more Emmys for her work on the sitcom, which ran from 1970–77 and in which she played Mary Richards, a sweet, single, career-oriented 30-something. Many of her later roles would try to shake off the sunny image Moore built with the show, including her Golden Globe-winning turn in 1980’s Ordinary People and her Emmy-winning performance in the 1993 TV movie Stolen Babies, but nothing overshadowed her legacy as Mary Richards. Outside of entertaining, Moore was also committed to raising funds for diabetes research and spreading awareness of the disease, having been diagnosed with it herself as a young woman.  

Butch Trucks

Drummer Butch Trucks died Jan. 24 at the age of 69. Along with Duane Allman, Dickey Betts, Jai Johanny “Jaimoe” Johanson, Gregg Allman, and Berry Oakley, Trucks was an original member of the Allman Brothers Band, founded in 1969. In 1971, they recorded the iconic live album At Fillmore East; last year, Trucks recalled of those early days, “We were in another universe. We were out spreading the gospel of this music we had discovered. We never thought that we would be more than an opening act.” The band has been intermittently active ever since its initial breakup in 1976; Trucks last played as part of the group in its last show, at New York’s Beacon Theatre in October 2014. 

Gorden Kaye

British sitcom star Gorden Kaye died Jan. 23, at the age of 75. He was best known, especially in the U.K., for his role in the BBC series ‘Allo ‘Allo! Kaye starred in the ‘80s sitcom, which ran for 10 years, as René Artois, a French café owner during the Nazi occupation. His other credits include Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and the soap opera Coronation Street

Miguel Ferrer

Actor Miguel Ferrer, the son of Rosemary Clooney and José Ferrer, died of cancer on Jan. 19. He was 61. He started out in entertainment working in music, playing drums for various bands and touring with his mother. When he switched over to acting, he picked up early credits on CHiPS, Magnum P.I., and Cagney and Lacey, among other shows, and a part in 1987’s RoboCop. Ferrer is best known, however, for starring on NCIS: Los Angeles, as Assistant Director Owen Granger; for playing Garret Macy on Crossing Jordan; and as FBI Agent Albert Rosenfield on Twin Peaks (as well as the show’s upcoming revival). 

William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist writer William Peter Blatty died Jan. 12 from multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. He had just turned 89 a few days prior. Blatty is best known as the creator of The Exorcist, but began his career in comedy, having written the witty autobiography Which Way to Mecca, Jack? and the novel John Goldfarb, Please Come Home, among others. He wrote the original Exorcist novel in 1971, after having spent a few years working as a screenwriter, mostly with director Blake Edwards. After the novel became a success, spending over 50 weeks on the New York Times’ bestseller list, Blatty himself adapted it into a screenplay that director William Friedkin would make into the 1973 horror classic. 

Tilikum the Orca

On Jan. 6, Tilikum, the killer whale that was the subject of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s 2013 documentary Blackfish, died after suffering from a bacterial lung infection. The orca, who lived in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando, was believed to be about 36 years old. After his involvement in the deaths of three people between 1991 and 2010, Tilikum was at the center of the controversy over the ethics of keeping performance whales in captivity, the question and consequences of which the critically lauded Blackfish explored. In 2015, two years after the documentary’s release, SeaWorld announced that it would stop breeding orcas and phase out its killer whale shows.  
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