Stars we lost in 2019
The publishing legend, who served as Knopf’s editor-in-chief for 32 years, died Dec. 30, at 77. Mehta joined the publishing house in 1987 as editor-in-chief, becoming only the third person in history to lead Knopf. In the following decades, he published six recipients of the Nobel Prize (including Toni Morrison, Alice Munro, and Kazuo Ishiguro) and dozens more Pulitzer Prize winners. Under Mehta’s leadership, Knopf acquired bestsellers like E.L. James’ Fifty Shades novels and Stieg Larsson’s Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, as well as publishing books by celebrities and world leaders like Pope John Paul II, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Sheryl Sandberg.
The British comedian and musician died Dec. 29 at age 75. Innes was known for his many collaborations with legendary comedy troupe Monty Python, and for co-creating the Rutles, a Beatles parody band, with Python member Eric Idle. He was also a talented songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, and continued to perform live until shortly before his death.
The controversial radio personality died Dec. 27, at the age of 79. Imus made a name for himself with inflammatory and offensive comments on the air. In 2007, after he was initially served a two-week suspension, CBS fired Imus for racist and sexist remarks against the Rutgers women’s basketball team. Imus in the Morning was canceled as a result. He returned to radio shortly after on a new network, but made waves once again due to racist statements about the suspension of Cowboys player Adam Jones. Throughout his career, he continued to be called out for racist, misogynist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic remarks.
The Tony Award-winning composer behind Hello Dolly! and other popular works died Dec. 26, at age 88. Herman made his Broadway debut in 1960 with the revue From A to Z. One of his biggest hits would come in 1964 with Hello, Dolly! Many of its songs went on to become pop standards. He followed up that show with Mame, which opened in 1966 and starred Angela Lansbury. Herman’s second-biggest musical was 1984’s La Cage aux Folles, which won Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Original Score.
The actress, best known for playing the title role in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita, died Dec. 26, at 73. After Lolita, Lyon had TV and film roles in The Night of the Iguana, Tony Rome, Evel Knievel, and more. Her last acting credit was in the 1980 horror film Alligator.
The Grammy-winning songwriter who penned the Friends theme song died Dec. 24, at 72. Willis was best known for her work with the group Earth, Wind & Fire, and wrote their hit song "September." She also co-wrote the Broadway musical The Color Purple and the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, earning Grammy Awards for both. She was responsible for the theme song from The Karate Kid, a.k.a. “You’re the Best,” Patti LaBelle’s “Stir It Up,” and the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance,” among many others.
The actor, best known as the body double for Alfie Allen's Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones, died Dec. 24. In addition to being the body double for Theon, Dunbar appeared portrayed a Stark bannerman and a soldier in the Battle of the Bastards. His other TV credits included Krypton, Line Of Duty, and Derry Girls. Dunbar also worked as a Game of Thrones tour guide and as a DJ.
The former Bond girl died Dec. 19, at the age of 78. She played Domino opposite Sean Connery in 1965’s Thunderball. Before Léa Seydoux, Eva Green, and Carole Bouquet, Auger was the first French actress to star opposite 007, appearing in the Bond series’ fourth entry. Following her international breakthrough, Auger continued to act, appearing in films, mostly French and Italian productions, and on British television as well.
The French fashion designer died in Paris on Dec. 21, at 86. Ungaro once worked for Spanish fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga before moving on to a gig with Andre Courrèges, and by 1965 he opened his eponymous fashion house. He was a powerful player in the fashion industry for four decades, designing garments for revered fashion models including Cindy Crawford and Linda Evangelista, and dressing First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
Cosmo the Dog
Cosmo, the dog who portrayed the Fullers' beloved pup on Fuller House, died Dec. 16 following complications from surgery. He was 4 years old. Cosmo’s acting credits weren't limited to Fuller House — he was a TV pro, having also been on Suits, The Middle, Grey’s Anatomy, and in commercials for brands including Skechers and Chewy.com. Some of his favorite activities included chasing bubbles and playing tug-of-war.
Actor and comedian Chuy Bravo (born Jesus Melgoza) died Dec. 15 from a heart attack while visiting family in Mexico. He was 63. Bravo became a household name after teaming up with comedian Chelsea Handler on her popular E! network series Chelsea Lately, where they collaborated from 2007 to 2014.
Dutch-French actress, writer, and singer Anna Karina (born Hanne Karin Bayer), known for making French New Wave films, died of cancer Dec. 13. She was 79. Karina starred in more than 30 films throuhgout her career, including seven collaborations with former husband Jean-Luc Godard. Karina was also a singer, author, and director.
Danny Aiello, the actor known for his work in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing, Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck, and more, died Dec. 12 after a sudden illness. He was 86. Aiello landed his first movie gig in the 1970s, when he featured in a small role opposite Robert De Niro in Bang the Drum Slowly. Soon after, he appeared as Tony Rosato in The Godfather: Part II. “Michael Corleone says hello” was his famous line from the acclaimed film saga. He continued acting in various films and television shows, notably in Fort Apache the Bronx, opposite Paul Newman; Once Upon a Time in America, opposite De Niro; The Purple Rose of Cairo, opposite Mia Farrow; Moonstruck, opposite Cher; Jacob’s Ladder, opposite Tim Robbins; and Léon: The Professional, opposite Jean Reno and Natalie Portman.
Comedian Chris Cotton, who appeared on Comedy Central’s streaming talk show Every Damn Day, died Dec. 11. He was 32.
Philip McKeon, the former child actor known for playing Tommy Hyatt on the 1970s and ’80s sitcom Alice, died Dec. 10. McKeon, the elder brother of Facts of Life star Nancy McKeon, was 55. He began his career as a model at age 4, followed by roles in stage productions and films. He landed Alice after lead actress Linda Lavin saw him performing on Broadway, and the show ran from 1976 to 1985. McKeon’s other TV credits included CHiPs, Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat.
Marie Fredriksson, lead singer of the Swedish band Roxette, died Dec. 17 at 61, after a 17-year battle with cancer. Perhaps best known in the U.S. for their Pretty Woman ballad “Must Have Been Love” (which was ultimately certified gold in six countries, including the U.S., and platinum in Australia), Roxette was formed in 1986 by Fredriksson and Per Gessle. Other hits by the band include 1989’s “The Look” (one of four singles to reach the top of the charts in the U.S), “Listen to Your Heart,” and “Joyride.”
Legendary puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who brought Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life on Sesame Street, died Dec. 8, at 85. He had been living with the movement disorder dystonia for some time. In addition to Sesame Street, Spinney voiced Big Bird in 1979’s The Muppet Movie, Oscar the Grouch in 1981’s The Great Muppet Caper, and both beloved characters in 1985’s Follow That Bird.
The rapper died Dec. 8 after suffering a seizure. He was 21. Born Jarad Anthony Higgins, he made a big splash in 2018 with his song “Lucid Dreams” from his debut album Goodbye & Good Riddance. In June 2018, Higgins released a two-song EP Too Soon… he dedicated to deceased rappers Lil Peep and XXXTentacion. He collaborate with numerous artists including Travis Scott and The Chainsmokers.
Actor René Auberjonois, known for his roles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Boston Legal, died of lung cancer Dec. 8. He was 79. Auberjonois was famous for playing Odo, a changeling and the chief of security for the titular space station in the television series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. He played the character for 173 episodes from 1993 to 1999.
The actor known for his roles in Norma Rae, Friends, and Angels in America, died Dec. 6. He was 82. Throughout his lengthy career, Leibman held roles in television, on the stage, and in film. He won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series in 1979 for his role as Martin “Kaz” Kazinsky in the crime drama series Kaz, which he also co-created. Friends fans will also recognize him as Rachel’s (Jennifer Aniston) short-tempered father, Dr. Leonard Green. Other notable television roles include work on the series Murder, She Wrote, Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, Archer, The Sopranos, among many others. Liebman was also a profilic stage actor and made his biggest splash as caustic lawyer Roy Kohn in the original production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America: Millennium Approaches, for which he won the 1993 Tony for Best Actor in a Play.
Robert Walker Jr.
The actor known for the memorable Star Trek episode “Charlie X,” died Dec. 5 at the age of 79. In “Charlie X,” the second episode of the original series, which ran from 1966 to 1969, Walker played the lone survivor of a shuttle crash with dangerous powers. In addition to the popular sci-fi show, Walker had roles on series including Dallas (as Harding Devers), Bonanza, Charlie’s Angels, Columbo, CHiPs, Murder, She Wrote, and L.A. Law. He also appeared in numerous films, including 1964’s Ensign Pulver and 1969’s Easy Rider and Young Billy Young. As the son of actors Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones, he also had significant Hollywood roots.
Cha In-ha, a young Korean actor who was known for his roles in The Banker and Miss Independent Ji Eun 2, died on Dec. 4. He was 27. South Korean police told the local outlet that his manager discovered the young actor’s body at his home. Police are currently investigating details, but no cause of death has been released. Besides starring in The Banker and Miss Independent Ji Eun 2, the actor also appeared in Temperature of Love, Wok of Love, and First, Clean Passionately. Most recently, Cha starred in MBC’s new romantic-comedy series Love With Flaws.
Dorothy Catherine Fontana, a writer on the original Star Trek series, died Dec. 2. She was 80 years old. Fontana, who went professionally by “D.C.,” passed away after fighting a brief illness. The writer is credited with developing the Spock character’s backstory and “expanding Vulcan culture,” SyFy reported of her massive contribution to the beloved sci-fi series. Fontana was the one who came up with Spock’s childhood history revealed in “Yesteryear,” an episode in Star Trek: The Animated Series, on which she was both the story editor and associate producer.
Young ballet star and actor Jack Burns died at age 14. He was found dead at his home in Greenock, Inverclyde, in Scotland on Dec. 1, according to Metro UK. A cause of death has not been disclosed, but police told the UK news outlet that they are not treating it as suspicious. Burns appeared in the British miniseries In Plain Sight and One of Us (the latter released on Netflix with the title Retribution) and studied at the Elite Academy of Dance, a classical ballet school in Greenock.
Shelley Morrison, who played the beloved Rosario on Will & Grace, died Dec. 1 at age 83. She was admitted to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for heart failure after a brief illness. Morrison starred as Rosario Salazar, Karen Walker’s (Megan Mullally) maid on the first run of Will & Grace. Hailing from El Salvador, Rosario (known as Rosie) had a contentious yet loving relationship with Karen. The popular character appeared in 68 episodes of the comedy but was not featured in the revival, with Morrison declining to return after retiring from acting.
Taiwanese-Canadian actor and model Godfrey Gao died on Nov. 27 after suffering an apparent heart attack while filming Chase Me, a reality show featuring intense physical competition. It remains unclear what caused Gao's death.
K-pop star Goo Hara died at the age of 28. She was found dead at her home in Seoul, Korea on Nov. 24, the Gangnam Police Department confirmed according to multiple media reports. Hara was a member of the popular K-Pop group Kara, who made their big debut in 2007 with the album The First Blooming. In 2015, Hara made the leap to solo artist with the release of her EP “Alohara (Can You Feel It?).” She also had an active career in acting, with a mix of traditional and reality roles for film and television.
Hollywood restauranteur Harry Morton died at his Beverly Hills home on Nov. 23. The 38-year-old was discovered unresponsive by his younger brother Matthew. Harry, who is the son of Hard Rock Cafe co-founder Peter Morton, founded the Mexican food restaurant Pink Taco when he was just 18 years old. The brand later expanded into a chain with locations all over the United States including Los Angeles, Chicago, and Boston.
Michael J. Pollard
Michael J. Pollard, the actor best known for his Oscar-nominated performance in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde, died on Nov. 20. He was 80. Along with serving as the inspiration for Michael J. Fox's stage name, Pollard starred opposite Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde as C.W. Moss, a character based on W.D. Jones, the accomplice to the infamous outlaws in real life. That role went on to earn him Best Supporting Actor nominations at both the Oscars and the Golden Globes, as well as winning him the BAFTA for most promising newcomer.