Stars we lost in 2020
Jessica Campbell, who starred in Election and Freaks and Geeks before going on to work as a physician, died of unknown causes on Dec. 29 at the age of 38. Campbell most famously portrayed Tammy Metzler in the 1999 dark comedy Election, opposite Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick, which earned her an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Debut Performance. A year later, she appeared in two episodes of the cult-favorite TV series Freaks and Geeks as tuba player Amy Andrews, the love of interest of Seth Rogen's character Ken Miller. Her final Hollywood gig before her retirement was in the 2003 short Birth of the Vampire where she worked as a camera assistant.
Phyllis McGuire, the last surviving member of the McGuire Sisters, died on Dec. 29 of natural causes. She was 89. The McGuire Sisters, including her siblings Dorothy and Christine McGuire, were center stage in the 1950s until 1968 when they reportedly split due to Phyllis' controversial relationship with mobster Sam Giancana. Mary Louise-Parker played her in Sugartime, an HBO film about the love affair.
Adolfo 'Shabba-Doo' Quiñones
Adolfo "Shabba-Doo" Quiñones, dance legend and star of the cult hit Breakin', died on Dec. 30 of unknown causes at the age of 65. Prior to venturing into film, he choreographed and appeared in Lionel Richie's "All Night Long" music video. His most famous movie role was the character of Ozone in the underground classic Breakin', one he reprised in the film's sequel Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. He also appeared in other big-screen titles including Lambada, Tango & Cash, and Xanadu.
Dawn Wells, the actress best known for portraying Mary Ann Summers on 1960s CBS sitcom Gilligan's Island, died on Dec. 30 at 82 from COVID-19. Summers would be associated with the lovable Kansas farm girl character her entire life, reprising the role in reunion specials and on episodes of Baywatch and Roseanne. She also co-wrote a cookbook and a memoir/advice-book using the Mary Ann branding. Wells also appeared in small roles in television shows like The Love Boat, Bonanza, and Alf, as well as a in a handful of films such as The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
Joe Clark, the tough-as-nails New Jersey principal who Morgan Freeman portrayed in the film Lean on Me, died from an undisclosed illness on Dec. 29 at 82. Lean on Me, directed by John G. Avildsen, was loosely based on Clark's real-life experience as an inner-city principal whose students were challenged every day to become better versions of themselves through their commitment to education.
Fashion designer Pierre Cardin died on Dec. 29 at 98. Cardin designed costumes for Jean Cocteau's film, Beauty and the Beast, before starting his own brand, the House of Cardin, in 1950. He designed collections well into the 21st century (including a creation for Lady Gaga), opened the Past-Present-Future museum in Paris in 2014 to display his work, and was last seen in September toasting 70 years of his brand where he hosted a special screening of the documentary, House of Cardin.
Actor and wrestler Jon Huber died on Dec. 26 at the age of 41 from lung issues not related to COVID-19. Huber wrestled in the WWE under the ring name Luke Harper and then performed with the AEW as Brodie Lee. He played a soldier named Lachlan Allsopp in the 2017 period action-horror film Mohawk.
Michael Alig, the infamous leader of the "Club Kids" of the 1990s, died on Dec. 25 at the age of 54. Alig co-founded the group of eccentric partiers popular in NYC's club scene. He was later convicted of murdering and dismembering fellow club kid Andre "Angel" Melendez. His story was turned into the 2003 feature film Party Monster, starring Macaulay Culkin as Alig.
Legendary bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice died on Dec. 25 at the age of 69. The Grammy Award winner and International Bluegrass Music Hall of Famer was famous for his baritone voice and his flatpicking style. He famously collaborated with Ricky Skaggs and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead during his lifetime.
Rock guitarist Leslie West died on Dec. 23, two days after going into cardiac arrest, at the age of 75. West founded Mountain in 1969, with who he performed on the second day of Woodstock. Throughout his career, he collaborated with The Who, Bo Diddley, Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, and Ozzy Osbourne. During one of Mountain's breakups, West appeared on the big screen in Family Honor and The Money Pit.
John 'Ecstasy' Fletcher
John Fletcher, also known as Ecstasy, of the pioneering hip-hop group Whodini, died Dec. 23 of undisclosed causes at age 56. Fletcher founded the group with fellow rapper Jalil Hutchins in 1982, with DJ Grandmaster Dee later joining. Whodini are considered pioneers of hip-hop. Their songs "Friends" and "Five Minutes of Funk" have been heavily sampled by other artists.
Broadway actress Rebecca Luker died on Dec. 23 at the age of 59, 10 months after she revealed publicly that she had been diagnosed with ALS. The actress earned Tony nominations for the 2006 run of Mary Poppins, the 2000 revival of The Music Man, and the 1994 revival of Show Boat. She also appeared in the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music. Luker was married to fellow Tony-nominated Broadway star Danny Burstein.
Grammy-winning country star K.T. Oslin died on Dec. 21 a week after being diagnosed with pneumonia related to COVID-19. She was 78. The history-making singer-songwriter, best known for being the first-ever female to win song of the year at the CMA Awards back in 1988, also appearanced on TV in the '90s as a guest star and late-night host, as well as starring opposite Harry Hamlin in Poisoned by Love and in Peter Bogdanovich's 1993 film The Thing Called Love. She was inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014 and was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.
Jeremy Bulloch, who played the role of Boba Fett in the original Star Wars trilogy, died Dec. 17 at age 75 following health complications, including several years living with Parkinson's disease. The U.K. actor was under the armor during Boba Fett's live-action introduction in The Empire Strikes Back and continued the role in Return of the Jedi. He also made appearances without the helmet in different roles, playing Lieutenant Sheckil in Empire and Captain Jeremoch Colton in Revenge of the Sith. Bulloch also appeared in the 1984 TV series Robin Hood, the 2009 TV series Starhyke, and the James Bond films Octopussy and For Your Eyes Only.
John le Carré
John le Carré, perhaps the most celebrated spy novelist of the 20th century, died Dec. 12 at age 89 from complications of pneumonia. Known for defining the spy genre with his body of work, and coining terms like "mole," Le Carré revolutionized espionage storytelling through the eyes of George Smiley, his most well-known character at the center of the "Karla" trilogy: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), and Smiley's People (1979). Though he experienced a late-career boom in the 2000s, thanks to Hollywood adaptations of The Constant Gardener in 2005, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in 2011, A Most Wanted Man in 2014, and The Night Manager in 2016, he never mellowed in writing gripping spy stories and inventing his myriad characters.
Ann Reinking, the Tony-winning actress, singer, dancer, and choreographer, died Dec. 12 at 71. Beloved for her skills as a triple threat on stage and screen, Reinking was perhaps best known for her personal and professional association with director-choreographer Bob Fosse. She famously replaced Gwen Verdon as Roxie Hart in the original production of Chicago and reprised the role the 1996 revival, for which she also won the Tony for Best Choreography. (That production was still running until Broadway's COVID-19 shutdown.) Reinking also helped create the musical Fosse, a showcase of the legendary choreographer's work. Her other credits included Over Here, Goodtime Charley, A Chorus Line, Sweet Charity, and Bye Bye Birdie.
Charley Pride, the trailblazing performer considered country music's first Black superstar, died Dec. 12 of complications from COVID-19. He was 86. Known for his rich baritone voice, Pride was one of the most successful country musicians of all time, and the first Black artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Tommy "Tiny" Lister
Tommy "Tiny" Lister, the actor known for playing the neighborhood bully Deebo in the Friday movies, died on Dec. 10 at 62. Ice Cube remembered his Friday and Next Friday costar as "America's favorite bully" and "a good dude at heart." Lister's other TV and film credits include The Players Club, Posse, The Dark Knight, Little Nicky, Jackie Brown, and The Fifth Element.
Actress Natalie Desselle-Reid died on Dec. 7 after a private battle with colon cancer. She was 53 years old. A mainstay in Black entertainment, Desselle-Reid appeared in everything from Set It Off to the sitcom Eve to Tyler Perry's Madea's Big Happy Family. In addition to being a part of the groundbreaking, colorblind cast in Cinderella starring Brandy, Desselle-Reid's role in B.A.P.S is widely considered one of the earliest instances of a plus-size female lead in a comedy with a significant romantic storyline.
David Lander, who famously portrayed greaser Squiggy on Laverne & Shirley in the '70s, died on Dec. 4 at age 73 after a long battle with multiple sclerosis. Lander also appeared in beloved series like Happy Days, The Love Boat, Highway to Heaven, Married...With Children, Head of the Class, Twin Peaks, and even revived his Squiggy character on Saturday Night Live. After revealing his diagnosis in 1999, the actor took an active role in bringing awareness of the disease by speaking at medical conventions throughout the years.
Hugh Keays-Byrne, the actor known for portraying the antagonist in Mad Max and Mad Max: Fury Road, died in his sleep on Dec. 1 at the age of 73. Throughout his lengthy career, Keays-Byrne starred in a variety of film and TV projects including The Man from Hong Kong, The Blood of Heroes, Moby Dick, and Farscape. He made his directorial debut in the 1992 Australian film Resistance.
Italian actress and screenwriter Daria Nicolodi died on Nov. 26 at the age of 70. She began her career working in television but became well known for her film projects, including her collaborations with Dario Argento in Deep Red, Inferno, Tenebrae, Phenomena, and Opera. She was meant to play the lead in 1977's Suspiria, which she co-wrote with Argento, though a back injury led to the recasting of Stefania Casini. Nicolodi and Argento are parents to actress Asia Argento.
Soccer legend Diego Maradona died on Nov. 25 from a stroke at the age of 60. Maradona's extreme highs and lows were documented in an eponymous documentary released in 2019 by Academy Award-winning director Asif Kapadia.
Country singer Hal Ketchum died from complications of dementia on Nov. 23 at the age of 67. Ketchum's biggest commercial release was his 1991 album Past the Point of Rescue and song of the same name, though he had 17 entries on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart, including "Small Town Saturday Night" and "Hearts Are Gonna Roll," before retiring nearly three decades later after being diagnosed with dementia.
Comedian Joe Luna, who performed under the name Joe El Cholo, died on Nov. 23 due to complications from COVID-19 at the age of 38. He chronicled his battle with the novel coronavirus on social media, sharing his struggles amid the growing pandemic. Luna performed throughout his career in local Los Angeles comedy spots including the Ice House and the Improv Theatre.
Let's Stay Together actor Bert Belasco died at 38. The BET star was found dead in his hotel room in Virginia where he was quarantining in preparation of an upcoming movie role. In addition to playing Charles Whitmore on Let's Stay Together, Belasco appeared on Fox's Pitch and multiple episodes of Showtime's I'm Dying Up Here. He also had brief stints on shows like Justified, Superstore, NCIS: New Orleans, Key & Peele, and House.
Longtime Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek died Nov. 8 at age 80 following a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. A career emcee, Trebek began hosting game shows in his native Canada. He moved to the U.S. in the '70s to emcee The Wizard of Odds and High Rollers for NBC, as well as Double Dare and Pillsbury Bake-Off for CBS. He joined Jeopardy! in 1984, but continued holding the mic for shows like The National Geographic Bee from 1989-2013 and To Tell the Truth from 1990-91. In 2011, Trebek earned a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Daytime Emmys. He's also won seven Emmys for Outstanding Game Show host. In 2014, Guinness World Records announced that Trebek had broken the record for the most game show episodes hosted by the same person on the same program.
Ken Spears, who co-created the Scooby-Doo franchise for Hanna-Barbera, died on Nov. 6 from Lewy body dementia at the age of 82. He and his business partner Joe Ruby, who died in August, also created Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, Captain Caveman, and Jabberjaw. The duo also produced the Saturday morning cartoon Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Sean Connery, the Scotland-born actor who was the first star to play James Bond and became one of the franchise's most iconic stars, has died at the age of 90 on Oct. 31. The Oscar winner died in his sleep while in the Bahamas, according to the BBC, and had reportedly been unwell for some time.
Eddie Hassell, an actor known for appearing in the film The Kids Are All Right and the TV series Surface, died on Oct. 31 at the age of 30 after being shot outside of his girlfriend's apartment. Hassell appeared in the shows Devious Maids, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, Bones, and Longmire. He also had a small role in the Ashton Kutcher-led film Jobs in 2013.
Daniel Dumile, the legendary and enigmatic rapper known as MF Doom, died on Oct. 31 at the age of 49. Dumile performed with a metal mask modeled after the Marvel comic book villain Doctor Doom, and was rarely seen in public without it after debuting the Doom persona with the 1999 album Operation: Doomsday. He had previously rapped in the group KMD under the alias Zev Love.
Carol Arthur, Blazing Saddles actress and wife of Dom DeLuise, died on Oct. 31 after an 11-year battle with Alzheimer's disease. She was 85.
The Great British Baking Show season 5 runner-up Luis Troyano died at age 48 following a battle with esophageal cancer. Troyano won Star Baker during his respective season's notoriously difficult Bread Week. Judge Paul Hollywood and season 7 winner Candice Brown were among GBBS alums who paid tribute to the Cheshire native on social media, with the latter writing: "Oh my goodness this is just heartbreaking. Luis was a complete gent and we had some great giggles at festivals. Send love and strength to his friends and family."
Nikki McKibbin, American Idol season 1 finalist, died after suffering an aneurysm on Oct. 28. She was 42.
Leanza Cornett, who was crowned Miss America in 1993, died on Oct. 28 after being hospitalized due to a head injury she sustained after a fall. She was 49. After winning the title of Miss America, Cornett appeared in several television series, including Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Grown Ups, The Tick, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Weeds.
Billy Joe Shaver
Outlaw country singer/songwriter Billy Joe Shaver died in Waco, Texas on Oct. 28 after suffering a massive stroke. Shaver found success as a performer but was more famously known for writing some of the biggest hits performed by superstars like Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, and Kris Kristofferson.
Jerry Jeff Walker
Jerry Jeff Walker, a singer-songwriter and influential country musician known for penning the popular song "Mr. Bojangles," died Oct. 23 after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 78. Walker was a well-known figure in the Austin, Texas music scene and helped pioneer the "outlaw country" genre alongside such artists as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Michael Martin Murphey.
Disney legend Marge Champion died on Oct. 21 at age 101. Champion was a renowned dancer, actress, and character model for animated figures in animated classics Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, and Fantasia. Her subsequent career saw her acting in small roles, and she later won an Emmy for choreographing the 1975 television film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom. She also performed on Broadway, with her final stage appearance coming at age 82 in Stephen Sondheim's Follies.
Spencer Davis, the British rock musician whose namesake band turned out such '60s hits as "Gimme Some Lovin'," "I'm a Man," and "Keep on Running," died from pneumonia on Oct. 19 at 81. Davis found moderate success as a solo artist after the Spencer Davis Group split which led to him pivoting behind-the-scenes. He took a job with Island Records as an A&R where he helped develop artists like Bob Marley and Robert Palmer.
Musician Tony Lewis, vocalist and bass player for the British band The Outfield, died "suddenly and unexpectedly" on Oct. 19 at the age 62. The Outfield's 1985 debut album Play Deep became a multi-platinum selling album with hits like "Your Love" and "All the Love." Despite only reaching No. 6 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1986, "Your Love" has become a widely known classic used in many TV spots, commercials, and films. In recent years, Lewis began releasing music as a solo artist, including his 2018 album Out of the Darkness and 2020 EP, Unplugged – The Acoustic Sessions.
James Redford, a filmmaker, activist, and the son of Robert Redford, died on Oct. 16 from cancer at the age of 58. The filmmaker often focused on the environment, science, and education, in documentaries he directed and produced, like The Big Picture: Rethinking Dyslexia, Paper Tigers, Resilience, and 2017's Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution.
Anthony Chisholm, a veteran actor of stage, film, and television and frequent collaborator of playwright August Wilson, died Oct. 16 at age 77. He appeared in such films as the cult classic Putney Swope and Spike Lee's Chi-Raq, and played Burr Redding on HBO's Oz for three seasons. On stage, he earned a Tony Award nomination for his performance in Wilson's Radio Golf.
Rhonda Fleming, a classic film star once known as the "Queen of Technicolor," died on Oct. 14 due to complications from aspiration pneumonia. She was 97. Fleming was beloved by audiences for her presence in Technicolor movies, most notably 1949's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, opposite Bing Crosby. Some of her many film roles include Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound, Cry Danger, While the City Sleeps, The Killer Is Loose, Inferno, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and The Redhead and the Cowboy.
Saint Dog (Steven Thronson)
Saint Dog, a founding member of the hip-hop collective Kottonmouth Kings, was found dead at his home on Oct. 13. He was 44. Saint Dog founded the Kottonmouth Kings in 1996 with D-Loc, Johnny Richter, Daddy X, Lou Dog, and DJ Bobby B. He appeared in the band's first three projects: Stoners Reeking Havoc, Royal Highness, and Hidden Stash. Saint Dog also contributed to Mile High, Krown Power, and the group's last album, 2018's Kingdom Come.
Conchata Ferrell, the character actress known for her role as the witty housekeeper Berta on Two and a Half Men, died Oct. 12 of complications from a cardiac arrest after several months in poor health. She was 77. Ferrell appeared in over 100 films and TV shows, including Mystic Pizza, Edward Scissorhands, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Friends, and had a rare leading role in the acclaimed 1979 film Heartland, alongside Rip Torn.
Tom Kennedy, a veteran host of game shows like Name That Tune and Split Second, died after a long illness on Oct.7. He was 93. Kennedy hosted 16 shows between 1958 and 1987, including Name That Tune, Split Second, You Don't Say!, and Dr. I.Q. He also acted in shows like That Girl, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and Hardcastle and McCormick, and stage productions like The Odd Couple, Tunnel of Love, and There's a Girl in My Soup.
Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen, influential guitarist and founding member of his namesake rock band Van Halen, died Oct. 6 from throat cancer. He was 65.
Johnny Nash, the singer and songwriter best known for his 1972 hit "I Can See Clearly Now," died from natural causes at his home on Oct. 6. He was 80. Nash began his pop music career in the 1950s and made his major-label debut with the 1957 single "A Teenager Sings the Blues." His other notable songs included "Hold Me Tight," "You Got Soul," "Rock Me, Baby," and covers of Doris Day's "A Very Special Love" and Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World."
Actress Margaret Nolan, who appeared onscreen alongside James Bond and the Beatles, died from cancer on Oct. 5. She was 76. The English performer was best known for playing Bond's masseuse Dink in Goldfinger and for appearing as the gold-painted model in the 1964 film's title sequence. She also appeared in the Beatles' musical comedy film A Hard Day's Night.
Kenzo Takada, founder of the luxury Kenzo Global Brand, died due to complications from coronavirus on Oct. 4. He was 81. Takada was a renowned Japanese-French designer made his Paris debut with his eponymous collection featuring the trademark mix of patterns and loud colors he was famous for in the 1970's. Not even retirement could keep Takada from following his passion. In January, he announced the launch of home and lifestyle brand K3 with a focus on interior design.
Daisy Coleman, activist and documentary subject, died by suicide on Oct. 4 at the age of 23. Coleman shared her experience as a rape survivor and the subsequent abuse and cyberbullying she endured as a result of coming forward in the 2016 Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy.
Thomas Jefferson Byrd
Thomas Jefferson Byrd, a Tony Award-nominated actor who appeared in numerous Spike Lee movies, was killed on Oct. 3. He was 70. Byrd also appeared in films like F. Gary Gray's 1996 movie Set It Off, Antoine Fuqua's 2009 flick Brooklyn's Finest, the Lee-created Netflix series She's Gotta Have It, and The Last O.G. in 2020. He scored a Tony nomination for Best Actor in 2003 for a revival of August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
Actor Clark Middleton, best known for appearing in The Blacklist and the recent Twin Peaks revival, died on Oct. 4 from the West Nile Virus. He was 63. His other TV credits include Fringe, The Path, Law & Order, Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., American Gods, and Gotham. On the big screen, Middleton appeared in films like Sin City, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Snowpiercer, and Birdman.
Mac Davis, the pop-country musician and occasional actor who wrote hits for Elvis Presley and a few in his own name as well, died following heart surgery on Sept. 29 at the age of 78. His biggest solo hit was 1972's "Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me" went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, found crossover success on the country charts. Davis made his acting debut in the 1979 comedy North Dallas Forty, starring Nick Nolte. In recent years, he collaborated with 21st century pop stars like Avicii ("Addicted to You") and Bruno Mars ("Young Girls").
Bonni Lou Kern
Bonni Lou Kern, one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club, died Sept. 28 at age 79. Kern rose to fame when she appeared as a Mouseketeer in Disney's The Wonder Mouseketeers! At just 14 years old, Kern starred in the inaugural episode and she went on to appear on the spin-off film Save the Wonder Mouseketeers! During her time with Disney, Kern was presented with the Mousecar Award — the highest honor bestowed by the company — as well as the key to Fantasyland, according to her family.
Helen Reddy, the 1970s pop star and cultural icon behind the hit song "I Am Woman," died Sept. 29, at 78. Australian-born Reddy was regarded as a queen of 1970s pop, reigning as the world's top-selling female singer in 1973 and 1974. Her biggest hit, 1971's ″I Am Woman,″ catapulted Reddy to new heights as a feminist icon, and the song became the unofficial anthem of the women's movement. Her other hits included ″Delta Dawn,″ ″Angie Baby,″ Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress),″ and ″Ain't No Way to Treat a Lady.″ Reddy also made waves on screen, starring in her own weekly television variety program, The Helen Reddy Show, and appearing in Disney's Pete Dragon and Airport 1975.
Tommy DeVito, founding member of 60s group the Four Seasons, has died from COVID-19 on Sept. 21. He was 92. During DeVito's tenure with the group, alongside Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, and Nick Massi, the climbed the charts with hit songs "Big Girls Don't Cry," and "Sherry."
Michael Lonsdale died on Sept. 21 at age 89. The actor was best known for playing villainous Hugo Drax opposite Roger Moore's 007 in the 1979 James Bond adventure Moonraker. His many other film credits included The Day of the Jackal, Ronin, The Remains of the Day, Munich, and Of Gods and Men, for which he won a César award. On the small screen, Lonsdale appeared in the 1982 miniseries Smiley's People, based on the John le Carré novel of the same name.
Jackie Stallone, entertainer and Sylvester Stallone's mother, died in her sleep on Sept. 21. She was 98. While known as the mom of the Rocky star and musician Frank Stallone, she had a notable career in her own right. She starred in the '80s wrestling show GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, the organization which later inspired the Netflix series of the same name. Stallone was also an astrologist who published books, appeared on television, and had her own psychic hotline.
Japanese actress Yuko Takeuchi — who helped break barriers as the lead of HBO's female-led Sherlock Holmes adaptation Miss Sherlock — died on Sept. 20 from an apparent suicide. She was 40. In addition to her prolific career on Japanese television dramas. Takeuchi appeared in a small role in Hideo Nakata's J-horror hit Ringu, which inspired Gore Verbinski's 2002 English-language remake The Ring starring Naomi Watts.