A look back at the esteemed personalities who left us this year, who’d touched us with their innovation, creativity and humanity.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan. The Associated Press contributed to this gallery.
Broadcast veteran Willard Scott (March 7, 1934-September 4, 2021) started his 65-year-long career at NBC as a page, the springboard for many television résumés, and in Scott’s case that included serving for more than three decades as the weatherman for the network’s morning show, “Today.” But not many pages could say they’d also dressed up as Bozo the Clown or Ronald McDonald – or as Brazilian singer Carmen Miranda, whom Scott once impersonated as a stunt to raise a $1,000 donation for the USO.
His stint as Bozo came after being picked among his station’s announcers to attend clown school in California. “I was either going to be a politician when I graduated, or Bozo,” he said in 1997. “And I chose the straight life; I chose Bozo.”
Joining “Today” in 1980, Scott charmed the audience with his self-deprecating humor and cheerful personality, which extended to congratulating viewers who were celebrating their 100th birthdays – 40,000 centenarians, by one count, during his 35 years on the broadcast.
A fan favorite of young and old, Scott was covering the parade at President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration, when he was greeted by first lady Barbara Bush, who ran over to Scott on the sidelines and planted a big kiss on his lips. “I got a seven-year contract out of that kiss!” Scott said in a 2015 “Today” retrospective.
NFL wide receiver David Patten (August 19, 1974-September 2, 2021) caught Tom Brady’s first postseason touchdown pass – a leaping 8-yard reception against the St. Louis Rams – to help the New England Patriots win their first Super Bowl title in 2002. He helped the Patriots to two more championships, in 2004 and 2005.
During his 12 seasons in the NFL (he also played for the New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns, and New York Giants), Patten appeared in 147 games, catching 324 passes for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns.
After retiring from professional football, Patten returned to Western Carolina University, his alma mater, to join the coaching staff.
In a 2013 interview with the Western Carolina Journal, Patten recounted the rough, early years of his career (being cut loose from the Canadian Football League, ignored during the 1996 NFL draft, and, after a year in the Arena Football League, being picked up, then dropped by the Giants), and how he finally found his footing with Brady and the Patriots.
“My dream had come true,” Patten said. “Everybody dreams of catching a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl, and I achieved that. It was as if all of the hard work, all of the setbacks had made it that much sweeter. It made it all worth it.”
Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis (July 29, 1925-September 2, 2021) was renowned for creating rousing music while leading a life of rousing political defiance, which included several years as a member of the Greek parliament.
Born on the eastern Aegean island of Chios, Theodorakis began writing music and poetry in his teens, just as Greece entered World War II. His involvement in left-wing resistance groups led to his arrests by Italian and German occupiers, and persecution after the war by the Greek regime. He was jailed, and as a result of severe beatings and torture, including mock executions, Theodorakis suffered broken limbs, respiratory problems and other injuries that plagued his health for the rest of his life. Despite the hardships, he graduated from Athens Music School and continued his studies in Paris.
A prolific career as a composer included more than 1,000 songs, as well as symphonies and chamber music, operas, and music for films and ballet. A music series based on poems written by Nazi concentration camp survivor Iakovos Kambanellis, “The Ballad of Mauthausen,” described the horrors of camp life and the Holocaust.
But it was the Oscar-winning film adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis’ “Zorba the Greek,” in 1964, and Theodorakis’ slow-to-frenetic folk music, that made him a household name.
As Theodorakis’ fame grew, political turmoil in Greece led to his compositions being banned by the military dictatorship then in power. Placed in a concentration camp, Theodorakis was ultimately freed following an international outcry, and went into exile in Paris, from which he maintained his activism, his music becoming a soundtrack of resistance.
In a 2017 interview with the Greek newspaper Proto Thema, Theodorakis talked about facing his torturer in prison, who’d asked him if he knew that his life was worth nothing. Theodorakis responded by humming the theme from “Zorba the Greek.” When his torturer asked what it was, Theodorakis replied, “‘It’s “Zorba”‘s music. If I die, every time this is played you will be haunted by “Zorba.” Both you and your superiors.’ … And that’s how I was saved, I think. ‘Zorba’ must have saved me. Otherwise, I would have been done for.”
He also contributed the scores for 1969’s “Z” (the Oscar-winner for Best Foreign Language Film), and the 1973 Al Pacino police drama “Serpico.”
For most of the 1980s he was a member of parliament for the Greek Communist Party, but later served in the cabinet of the conservative government. His defenders saw him as a unifier, trying to heal the nation’s longstanding political divisions.
Gruff and curmudgeonly on the outside, with a gooey center: That was how the character of Lou Grant, the boss of Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” cemented actor Ed Asner (November 15, 1929-August 29, 2021) in the popular imagination.
A high school football player who had studied journalism at the University of Chicago, Asner switched to acting, making his debut as Thomas Becket in a campus production of T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral.” After a stint in the Army Signal Corps, working at an auto plant and a steel mill, and driving a cab, he appeared at Chicago’s Playwrights Theatre Club and the improv troupe Second City, before a trip to Hollywood to appear in the series “Naked City.”
Asner began amassing more than 400 film and TV appearances, from the John Wayne western “El Dorado,” to the Elvis Presley vehicles “Kid Galahad” and “Change of Habit.” His other credits included “Route 66,” “The Untouchables,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “The Virginian,” “Dr. Kildare,” “The Outer Limits,” “The Defenders,” “Slattery’s People,” “The Satan Bug,” “The Rat Patrol,” “Gunsmoke,” “The Fugitive,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Mission Impossible,” “The FBI,” “Ironside,” and “They Call Me Mister Tibbs.”
For seven seasons beginning in 1970, Asner portrayed Mary Tyler Moore’s boss at the WJM-TV newsroom. His introduction to us, and to prospective employee Mary Richards, was hilariously pithy:
Grant: “You know what? You’ve got spunk.”
Richards: “Oh! Well …”
Grant: “I HATE spunk!”
“That audience was like an animal,” Asner recalled for “Sunday Morning” in 2012. “Three hundred people, and they went Aaahhhhhhh!!! I felt like I could command them to walk off a cliff!”
Then, when Moore’s comedy went off the air, he continued in a spin-off series, “Lou Grant,” an hour-long drama in which Grant returned to newspaper work as the city editor of a Los Angeles daily. Asner starred in that series for five years, and between the two shows won five Emmys for playing the same character. (He received two more Emmys for the miniseries “Rich Man, Poor Man” and “Roots.”)
Asner served as president of the Screen Actors Guild at the time he starred in “Lou Grant.” When he spoke out against U.S. involvement in El Salvador, the furor led to boycotts by advertisers and the series being cancelled. (CBS insisted that declining ratings were the reason.)
Other roles included “Fort Apache, the Bronx,” “Daniel,” “The Bronx Zoo,” “JFK,” “Mad About You,” “ER,” “Elf,” “The Practice,” “Center of the Universe,” “The Good Wife,” “Forgive Me,” “Dead to Me,” and “Cobra Kai.” Among his numerous vocal performances, the most notable was as the centerpiece of the Oscar-winning Pixar animated film, “Up,” as an elderly man whose house takes flight courtesy of balloons.
Asner continued to be politically active, publishing “The Grouchy Historian: An Old-Time Lefty Defends Our Constitution Against Right-Wing Hypocrites and Nutjobs.”
In 2012 “Sunday Morning” correspondent Rita Braver asked the then-82-year-old about his starring role in the Broadway play, “Grace”: “I just think a lot of people as successful as you are, they wouldn’t put themselves through this, out there every night.”
“Well, then, they don’t love acting,” Asner replied. “I love acting.”
From childhood Charlie Watts (June 2, 1941-August 24, 2021) was passionate about music, particularly jazz. He taught himself the drums, which he played as a side gig to his day job at an advertising agency. After performing with Mick Jagger in Alexis Korner’s Blues Incorporated, he joined the Rolling Stones, in 1963, and would be their drummer until his death.
Watts was ranked among the greatest of rock drummers, as the Stones rose to international superstardom. Self-effacing, Watts largely avoided the drugs and personal dramas that affected other band members, and was a steadying influence for a group known as much for its longevity as for its musical supremacy.
Watt’s remarkable percussion contributed to the success of such classics as “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Get Off of My Cloud,” “Gimme Shelter,” “19th Nervous Breakdown,” “Miss Amanda Jones,” “Paint It, Black,” “Beast of Burden,” “Honky Tonk Women,” “Moonlight Mile,” and “Tumbling Dice.”
As a jazz aficionado, Watts recorded several albums, beginning in 1986 with “Live at Fulham Town Hall.” He toured and recorded with his own group, the Charlie Watts Quintet, and the expanded Charlie Watts and the Tentet.
In 1994 Watts told “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley, “I always consider myself a drummer, you know? That’s to keep the time and help everyone else do what they’re doing. I don’t really like solo-type things. I mean, I do sort of solo records, but they’re sort of jazz-type things, and I do that because I don’t do that with the Rolling Stones.”
Singer-songwriter Micki Grant (June 30, 1929-August 22, 2021) earned two of her three Tony Award nominations for the 1973 musical “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope,” a revue in which rock, jazz, soul, gospel and spoken-word told of the Black urban experience in the early ’70s.
“There was a lot of angry theater out there at the time, especially in the Black community,” Grant told The New York Times in 2018. “I wanted to come at it with a soft fist. I wanted to open eyes but not turn eyes away.”
She also wrote the music for the 1978 adaptation of Studs Terkel’s “Working.” Grant’s other theatre credits included “Your Arms Too Short to Box With God,” “Eubie!,” “Alice,” and “The Prodigal Sister.”
Her song “Pink Shoelaces,” a hit for Dodie Stephens in 1959, would appear in such TV shows as “The Monkees” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.”
As an actress, Grant appeared on stage in “The Blacks,” “The Cradle Will Rock,” “Having Our Say,” and “Brecht on Brecht,” and on TV in the soaps “Another World,” “Guiding Light,” “Somerset,” “The Edge of Night,” and “All My Children.”
Don Everly (February 1, 1937-August 21, 2021) and his brother, Phil, grew up in a musical family, the sons of Ike and Margaret Everly, who were folk and country music singers. In the 1940s, Don and his brother would join their parents on their family’s radio show in Shenandoah, Iowa, singing as The Everly Family. In the 1950s, after moving to Nashville, Don and Phil signed with Cadence Records, and began a long streak of hits – poignant pop and country-rock songs with yearning harmonies that spoke to their rural roots.
The Everly Brothers had 19 Top 40 hits, including “Bye Bye Love,” “Let It Be Me,” “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Cathy’s Clown,” “When Will I Be Loved,” and “Crying in the Rain.”
In 1973 they broke up, dramatically so, on stage at Knott’s Berry Farm in California. Phil threw down his guitar down and walked off, as Don told the crowd, “The Everly Brothers died 10 years ago.”
Don recorded three solo albums in the ’70s, but the duo reunited in 1983, “sealing it with a hug,” Phil said. They continued with successful concert tours in the U.S. and Europe, and had late-career success with “On the Wings of a Nightingale” (written by Paul McCartney) and “Born Yesterday.” They were inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
Don Everly said in a 1986 Associated Press interview that he and his brother were successful because “we never followed trends. We did what we liked and followed our instincts. Rock ‘n’ roll did survive, and we were right about that. Country did survive, and we were right about that. You can mix the two, but people said we couldn’t.”
Tom T. Hall
Country music singer-songwriter and author Tom T. Hall (May 25, 1936-August 20, 2021) was nicknamed “The Storyteller,” for songs that spoke of life’s joys, slights, and blue-collar travails.
Born in Kentucky, Hall wrote his first song by age nine. He would become one of Nashville’s biggest songwriters, composing hundreds of songs for himself or others, including Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, George Jones and Waylon Jennings. A dozen of them became No. 1 hits. Among his biggest were “Harper Valley PTA,” “I Love,” “Country Is,” “I Care,” “I Like Beer,” “Faster Horses (The Cowboy and The Poet),” and “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine.”
He recorded more than two dozen albums. A member of the Grand Ole Opry, Hall hosted the syndicated TV show “Pop! Goes the Country.” He was inducted into both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Hall also penned several books – songwriting guides, short stories, and novels. And while his songs sold millions of recording, he won his Grammy Award for writing liner notes.
Artist Chuck Close (July 5, 1940-August 19, 2021) was an early adherent of photo-realism, who gained international acclaim in 1968 with a huge, nine-foot-tall black-and-white self-portrait. He would spend the next 50 years re-defining just what a portrait was – breaking the human face down into pixelated squares, as he explained to “Sunday Morning” in 2007: “It’s a little bit like an architect picking up a brick. You stack up the bricks one way, you get a cathedral. You stack up the bricks another way and you get a gas station.”
He began his portraits with a photograph, which he divided into squares: “Every square here will become four squares in the painting. There is no drawing on the canvas other than the grid. I never draw a nose. I never draw a lip.”
In 1988 he suffered a serious spinal injury which left him partially paralyzed, but, fortunately still able to paint. “Thankfully, if I’m only going to be able to still do something that I used to do, I’m pretty lucky that it turned out to be painting,” he said.
In terms of the content of his artwork, Close said, “What’s changed is perhaps a slightly brighter palate, a more celebratory nature to the work. Because I was just so happy to be able to get back to work, and to find a way to work again.”
In the original “Star Trek” series, “redshirts” referred to the security personnel and other, often nameless Enterprise crewmembers who seemingly always turn up dead from an alien encounter. (You do not want to wear a red uniform when going boldly where no one has gone before!) But Eddie Paskey (August 20, 1939-August 17, 2021) survived the redshirt jinx. With barely any acting experience, Paskey was hired to portray Lt. Leslie on the second “Star Trek” pilot, and eventually appeared (as Leslie, other anonymous redshirts, a sick bay assistant, or just a stand-in) in 62 episodes of the series – more than George Takei or Walter Koenig.
Curiously, in a season two episode, “Obsession,” Lt. Leslie actually DID die, thanks to a red corpuscle-eating cloud, but Paskey turned up again later in that same episode, and in 20 more, with no real explanation as to why. (It was, after all, a science fiction show.) Paskey would later claim, in a 2004 online post, that the original script had a scene of Leslie being brought back to life, but it was never filmed.
As the 1960s series ended its run, Paskey dropped out of acting, but he maintained a “Star Trek” presence with appearances at conventions, and a turn as “Admiral Leslie” in a fan series, “Star Trek: New Voyages.” Meanwhile, the term “redshirt” as a trope of expendables has lived on, called out in parodies, video games, and even the 2009 “Star Trek” feature film reboot.
Performing since age 12 at coffeehouses, clubs and folk festivals in her native Texas, Grammy-winning folk singer and songwriter Nanci Griffith (July 6, 1953-August 13, 2021) grew her sound from confessional folk singer to a country-folk storyteller in her 1986 album, “The Last of the True Believers,” with such songs as “Love at the Five and Dime” (in which lovers slow-dance after hours at Woolworth’s), “Lookin’ for the Time (Workin’ Girl),” and “More Than a Whisper.” Her first major label album, “Lone Star State of Mind” (1987), featured “From a Distance” (which was later covered by Bette Midler), “Cold Hearts/Closed Minds” and “Trouble in the Fields,” in addition to the title track.
Her songs ran the gamut from sentimental odes to love (“Gulf Coast Highway”) and its missteps (“If Wishes Were Changes,” “Outbound Plane”), to avenues of social commentary, as in “It’s a Hard Life Wherever You Go” (which spoke to generational attitudes of racism in America and Northern Ireland) and “Trouble in the Fields” (about the economic hardships facing rural communities). “I wrote it because my family were farmers in West Texas during the Great Depression,” Griffith told the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “It was written basically as a show of support for my generation of farmers.”
Her 1993 album “Other Voices, Other Rooms,” on which she sang with Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Arlo Guthrie and Guy Clark, won a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
Philanthropist James Hormel (January 1, 1933-August 13, 2021), the first openly-gay U.S. ambassador, was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1997 to become ambassador to Luxembourg. His nomination was blocked for two years by conservatives in the Senate (then-Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott likened homosexuals to alcoholics, kleptomaniacs and sex addicts), but during a congressional recess Hormel was appointed via executive privilege.
“The process was very long and strenuous, arduous, insulting, full of misleading statements, full of lies, full of deceit, full of antagonism,” Hormel said during a 2012 book tour for his memoir, “Fit to Serve.” He served from June 1999 through 2000.
A former dean of the University of Chicago Law School, Hormel (heir to the Hormel Foods fortune) married his college sweetheart, Alice McElroy Parker, and had five children before they divorced in 1965. He later moved to San Francisco, and at age 45 came out publicly as gay.
Hormel co-founded the Human Rights Campaign and helped fund many activities geared to arts, education and human rights, including a gay and lesbian center at the San Francisco Public Library; the National AIDS Memorial Grove; the American Foundation for AIDS Research; and the American Conservatory Theater.
In 2014 Hormel married Michael P.N. Araque. Two years later, after the Supreme Court had made same-sex marriage legal throughout the U.S., he told the San Francisco Chronicle, “There’s still a substantial cadre that would be willing to overturn the marriage-equality ruling. Which is totally bizarre to me. There are still people who are not willing to accept that being gay is not a choice. It’s not a choice. You don’t choose to be tortured by society.”
Japanese publisher Maki Kaji (October 8, 1951-August 10, 2021) turned a numbers game into one of the world’s most popular logic puzzles. In the mid-1980s, Kaji, founder of Japan’s first puzzle magazine, Nikoli, popularized sudoku, a form of numbers game that first appeared in the 19th century, in which a grid of boxes must be filled with digits one through nine.
The game took off when it was published in newspapers overseas – and because Kaji neglected to pursue a trademark in the United States, sales of sudoku publications by others generated no royalties for him.
In 2007, the “godfather of sudoku” told The New York Times he believed that was a brilliant mistake, allowing the game to flourish: “This openness is more in keeping with Nikoli’s open culture. We’re prolific because we do it for the love of games, not for the money.”
The daughter of director Alfred Hitchcock, actress Pat Hitchcock (July 7, 1928-August 9, 2021) made several appearances in her father’s films and TV shows, most notably in “Strangers on a Train” and “Psycho” (as a colleague of embezzling bank employee Janet Leigh). She also acted on stage in London and New York, including as the title character in “Violet.”
She mostly retired from acting to raise a family, but did make a few appearances in the ’70s, including the TV films “Ladies of the Corridor” and “Six Characters in Search of an Author.” She also co-wrote, with Laurent Bouzereau, “Alma Hitchcock: The Woman Behind the Man,” a biography of her mother.
Being the only child of the Master of Suspense, Hitchcock had a unique perspective on her father’s proclivities. “My parents were ordinary people,” she told The Guardian in 1999. “I know a lot of people insist that my father must have had a dark imagination. Well, he did not. He was a brilliant filmmaker and he knew how to tell a story, that’s all.”
He was also not immune to practical jokes, as when, during the filming of “Strangers on a Train,” he bet his daughter (who was afraid of heights) $100 that she wouldn’t dare ride a Ferris wheel, and then had the wheel turned off once she’d gotten to the top. “The only sadism involved was that I never got the $100,” Pat said.
Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas
Saxophonist Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas (February 9, 1951-August 7, 2021) was a founding member of the band Kool & the Gang. A flutist and percussionist as well, he also served as the emcee of the band’s shows.
Thomas was one of seven friends who, as teenagers in Jersey City, N.J. in 1967, created the group’s entrancing blend of jazz, soul and funk. Originally the Jazziacs, the band released their first album in 1969, featuring the singles “Kool and the Gang” and “Let The Music Take Your Mind.”
The group had 11 Top 10 hit singles, including “Jungle Boogie,” “Celebration,” “Ladies’ Night,” “Too Hot,” “Get Down On It,” “Johanna,” “Cherish,” “Fresh” and “Stone Love.”
They would release 30 studio and live albums, selling 70 million albums worldwide. They earned three Grammy nominations, and shared the Album of the Year Award in 1978 for their contribution to the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack (“Open Sesame”).
Comedian Trevor Moore (April 4, 1980-August 6, 2021) co-founded the sketch comedy troupe The Whitest Kids U’ Know, whose unbridled TV series (which ran on Fuse and IFC from 2007-2011) was bloody, vulgar, violent, and relentlessly inventive.
Moore and his cohorts (most of whom were graduates from New York’s School of Visual Arts) began performing together at SVA and at comedy clubs before winning an award at the Aspen Comedy Festival. Their TV show, filled with blackout bits and songs (and often run uncensored), was more than willing to tackle sex, violence, religion (the Devil turns “Hell’s Kitchen” into a five-star restaurant, ticking off God), and other taboo subjects. Even sainted President Lincoln was not immune; Abe’s boorish behavior in his box at Ford’s Theatre inspires an audience member (Moore) to take matters into his own hands.
Moore performed many rap and rock numbers, include songs about Hitler, dinosaurs, religious head coverings, and old folks’ homes (where he could score Oxycodone and Percodan).
After “WKUK” ended, Moore co-created the Disney XD series, ”Walk the Prank,” and released a musical album, “Drunk Texts to Myself.” On Comedy Central he starred in the series “The Trevor Moore Show,” and the musical special “High in Church.” He also wrote and co-directed the film “Miss March.”
Raised in rural Virginia, the child of Christian rock singers Mickey and Becki Moore, Trevor told the Hollywood Reporter in 2015 that traveling around the country (he would sell merchandise when his parents went on tour) bolstered his comic skills: “How I got into comedy was from that sort of being in a different city every night,” he said. “If the pastor of the church, or people who were throwing the festival, had kids my age, then you try to become quick friends for a day – and then you’ll never see them again.” He had his own public access comedy show at age 16, which was picked up by the Pax cable channel – and then cancelled.
Moore told New York Magazine in 2015 that growing up without cable he was forced to be creative out of “sheer mind-numbing boredom” – and as an adult he would return to the topics that surrounded him as a child in rural Virginia, including religion and Civil War history. “I grew up in an area full of Civil War battlefields. I would go out with my grandfather with metal detectors and find cannonballs, sword handles, stuff like that. History was always present.”
Which might explain his 2011 film, “The Civil War on Drugs,” in which stoners believe the War Between the States is really about the legalization of marijuana.
In the summer of 1969, at a club in Houston called The Catacombs, guitarist Billy Gibbons and drummer Frank Beard were auditioning bass players, when Dusty Hill (May 19, 1949-July 27/28, 2021) strolled up. Beard recalled for “Sunday Morning” in 2019 that Hill “strapped on the guitar, and I think we wound up playing one song for about three hours straight!”
The hard-driving bluesy country rock band ZZ Top built its following by touring hard – 300 nights a year in the early days, often with elaborate stage shows involving Texas longhorn steers, rattlesnakes and buzzards, not to mention Hill and Gibbons’ trademark beards. (Beard himself was beardless.)
What blew up ZZ Top into A-List Rock and Roll Hall of Famers was when, in the 1980s, their music videos went into heavy rotation on MTV, featuring a hot rod, a trio of women, and a string of catchy tunes, including “Gimme All Your Lovin’,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Legs,” and “Sleeping Bag.”
Other ZZ Top hits included “La Grange,” “Tush,” “Tube Snake Boogie,” “Rough Boy,” “Stages,” “Velcro Fly,” “Doubleback,” “My Head’s in Mississippi,” “Give It Up,” “Pincushion,” “What’s Up With That,” and “Fearless Boogie.” Their 1983 album “Eliminator” is rated 10x Platinum – more than 10 million copies sold.
After half a century, ZZ Top was still working hard to make it all look so easy – and Hill was not looking forward to stopping any time soon. “I’ve told people, I said, ‘Look, if I retired after a few months I would be at your house singing you a song or something!'” he told correspondent Jim Axelrod. “I have to perform somewhere!”
The king of the TV informercial, inventor and salesman Ron Popeil (May 3, 1935-July 28, 2021) got his start selling his father’s creation, the “Chop-o-Matic,” to a captive audience: lunch counter customers in a Chicago Woolworth store. But he soon expanded his audience to TV, personally demonstrating his expanding repertoire of household gadgets that people didn’t realize they absolutely needed: A smokeless ashtray; the Miracle Broom mini-vacuum (“It’s so tough, it eats up nails and tacks”); and most famously, his Popeil’s Pocket Fisherman – rod, reel and tackle that could slip into your pocket, ready for any opportunity to go fishing.
“I have the product that solves the problem,” he’d say, as he hawked inventions from his own company, Ronco. There was the Inside-The-Shell Egg Scrambler; the Electric Food Dehydrator; Mr. Microphone (which would transmit your dulcet tones to a nearby FM radio); the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ; and “hair in a can,” a spray-on application to cover bald spots.
His commercials made Popeil an informercial superstar. “Whether it’s 3:00 in the morning or noontime on a Sunday afternoon, I will be there with one of my inventions,” Popeil told “Sunday Morning” correspondent Bill Geist in 2000.
Robert Parris Moses
Civil rights activist Robert Parris Moses (January 23, 1935-July 25, 2021) was shot at and endured beatings and jail while leading Black voter registration drives in the American South during the 1960s. As the Mississippi field director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he worked to dismantle segregation and was central to the 1964 “Freedom Summer,” in which hundreds of students went to the South to register voters.
“I was taught about the denial of the right to vote behind the Iron Curtain in Europe,” Moses once said. “I never knew that there was (the) denial of the right to vote behind a Cotton Curtain here in the United States.”
Moses’ family had moved north during the Great Migration. Born in Harlem, he became a teacher in New York City when, in 1960, he was inspired by the sit-in movement. He traveled to the Deep South, seeking out the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. He soon turned his attention to SNCC. He tried to register Black people to vote in Mississippi’s rural Amite County where he was beaten and arrested. When he tried to file charges against a White assailant, an all-White jury acquitted the man. A judge provided protection to Moses to the county line so he could leave.
In 1963, he and two other activists were driving in Greenwood, Miss., when someone opened fire on them. In a statement released by SNCC, Moses described how bullets whizzed around them, and how he took the wheel when one of his companions was struck. “We all were within inches of being killed,” he said.
Disillusioned with White liberal reaction to the civil rights movement, Moses soon began taking part in demonstrations against the Vietnam War. He worked as a teacher in Tanzania, Africa, returned to Harvard to earn a doctorate in philosophy, and taught high school math in Cambridge, Mass. He later taught math in Jackson, Miss., while commuting back-and-forth to Massachusetts on the weekends.
In 1982, thanks to a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, Moses started his “second chapter in civil rights work” by founding the Algebra Project, a curriculum he developed to help struggling students in disadvantaged schools succeed in math. It would grow to serve 10,000 students yearly in nearly 30 cities nationwide.
With regard to the Algebra Project, Moses told The New York Times in 2001, “The legacy that’s important is the organizing, the passing on.”
In the 1940s, to fill vital defense plant jobs left open when many men went off to war, women stepped up, thanks in part to a U.S. government recruitment program featuring a woman in a polka-dotted bandana rolling up her sleeve: “Rosie the Riveter.” Some six million women joined the workforce, including Phyllis Gould (1921-July 20, 2021), a welder building warships at the Kaiser-Richmond Shipyards, near San Francisco. She not only followed her husband into the welding trade, she was earning equal pay: $0.90 an hour.
After the war, she became an interior decorator, was twice-divorced, had five children and moved around, before settling in Fairfax, Calif. She was “kind of like a hippie, you know, where the wind blows,” her sister told The Associated Press.
But because women defense workers received little notice or appreciation for their contributions after the war, Gould fought tenaciously to honor them, writing letter after letter to politicians. She helped push for the creation of the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, established in 2000.
“Something has to be done so there’s something tangible after we’re gone,” she told the Marin Independent Journal in 2019. “There were millions of us, but there’s nothing that says we were there.”
She and other “Rosies” met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in 2014, pushing for the observance of National Rosie the Riveter Day. She also helped in the design of a Congressional Gold Medal, to be issued next year in honor of the women who helped win the war.
“I know they’re busy with really important stuff, but this is important to us,” Gould said. “And time is running out.”
A Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for Reuters, Danish Siddiqui (May 19, 1983-July 17, 2021) was killed as he chronicled fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban amid the continuing withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops.
A native of New Delhi, and a defense correspondent for an Indian TV network, Siddiqui decided to change careers in 2010, beginning an internship with Reuters. A self-taught photographer, Siddiqui told Forbes India in 2018 that he had been frustrated that television news focused only on big stories, not smaller features from the interior of India.
Siddiqui was part of a team that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography in 2018 for their coverage of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. He has captured searing images of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, unrest in India, and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While I enjoy covering news stories – from business to politics to sports – what I enjoy most is capturing the human face of a breaking story,” Siddiqui wrote in a profile on Reuters’ website. “I really like covering issues that affect people as the result of different kind of conflicts.”
Click here to view a gallery of some of Siddiqui’s remarkable images.
Esther Bejarano (December 15, 1924-July 10, 2021), a survivor of Auschwitz, used the power of music to fight antisemitism and racism in post-war Germany.
She was born in French-occupied Saarlouis in 1924; her family later moved to Saarbruecken, which was returned to Germany in 1935. When the Nazis came to power, Bejarano’s parents and sister Ruth were deported and killed; Bejarano had to perform forced labor before being sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1943. There, she volunteered to become a member of the girls’ orchestra, playing the accordion every time trains full of Jews from across Europe arrived.
“We played with tears in our eyes,” she recalled in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press. “The new arrivals came in waving and applauding us, but we knew they would be taken directly to the gas chambers.”
Bejarano would say later that music helped keep her alive in the notorious German Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, and during the years after the Holocaust.
In a memoir, Bejarano recalled her rescue by U.S. troops, who gave her an accordion, which she played the day American soldiers and concentration camp survivors danced around a burning portrait of Adolf Hitler to celebrate the Allied victory over the Nazis.
Bejarano emigrated to Israel after the war and married Nissim Bejarano. The couple had two children before returning to Germany in 1960. After once again encountering open antisemitism, Bejarano decided to become politically active, co-founding the Auschwitz Committee in 1986 to give survivors a platform for their stories.
She teamed up with her children to play Yiddish melodies and Jewish resistance songs in a Hamburg-based band they named Coincidence, and also with hip-hop group Microphone Mafia to spread an anti-racism message to German youth.
“We all love music and share a common goal: We’re fighting against racism and discrimination,” she told the AP of her collaborations across cultures and generations.
Bejarano received numerous awards, including Germany’s Order of Merit, for her activism against what she called the “old and new Nazis,” quoting fellow Holocaust survivor Primo Levi’s warning that “it happened, therefore it can happen again.”
While addressing young people in Germany and beyond, Bejarano would say, “You are not guilty of what happened back then. But you become guilty if you refuse to listen to what happened.”
Robert Downey, Sr.
Director Robert Downey Sr. (June 24, 1936-July 7, 2021) was a maverick whose most famous film was the 1969 satire “Putney Swope,” in which a Black man ascends to the top of a Madison Avenue advertising agency, which he renames “Truth and Soul, Inc.”
Born in New York City as Robert Elias Jr., he later changed his surname to Downey as an underage enlistee in the Army. He was a semi-pro baseball pitcher, boxer, and aspiring playwright (in one absurdist show actors portrayed nuclear missiles). He got into experimental filmmaking at the suggestion of a friend who happened to have a 16mm camera, with a series of anti-establishment films, including “Babo 73,” “Sweet Smell of Sex,” “Chafed Elbows” and “No More Excuses.”
The films were rough-and-tumble almost by necessity: “It was just fun,” he told the Village Voice’s Bilge Ebiri in 2016. “We had no money. My wife would get a check from doing a commercial, and I’d grab it before she even saw it. Later, I’d pay it back. Nobody ever made a dime on these things. We didn’t have sync sound, just a spring wind. So, you could only get eighteen seconds, and that was the end of the take, whatever it was. And we put the words in later.”
“Putney Swope” was the film that no one wanted, until a theatre owner, Dan Rugoff, picked it up and ran it on New York’s Upper East Side, where the counterculture tale of an African American rewriting the rules of New York’s ad world sold out. Downey recalled a screening of the film at Temple University, where he was greeted by a fellow in a jacket and tie who thanked him for getting him into advertising: “That’s when I realized I don’t know anything about anything. That guy was serious. Isn’t that great? He thought he was going to have that kind of fun.”
“Greaser’s Palace” (1972) starred Allan Arbus as a Christ figure in the Old West. In “Pound,” actors play stray dogs. Among the cast: his son, Robert Downey Jr., who appeared in several of his father’s films.
Downey directed a 1973 television adaptation of David Rabe’s Tony-winning play “Sticks and Bones,” about a blinded Vietnam veteran, produced by Joseph Papp, which CBS postponed following complaints from affiliates. When it was later rescheduled, without commercials (advertisers weren’t buying), more than 90 stations refused to air it.
Downey also directed the Mad Magazine comedy “Up the Academy,” and worked as a second-unit director on Norman Lear’s “Cold Turkey.” His final film was the 2005 documentary “Rittenhouse Square,” an impressionistic look at a Philadelphia park and its denizens.
Downey also appeared as an actor, in “To Live and Die in L.A.,” “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.”
Actress Suzzanne Douglas (April 12, 1957-July 6, 2021) starred in the TV sitcom “The Parent ‘Hood” and in such films as “Tap,” opposite Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr., and “How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”
She played Cissy Houston in the 2015 biopic “Whitney.” Other credits include “The Inkwell,” “Jason’s Lyric,” “School of Rock,” “Against the Law,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Promised Land,” “The Good Wife,” “Bull,” “Really Love,” the 2008 TV remake of “Sounder,” and the miniseries “When They See Us.”
On Broadway she performed in “The Tap Dance Kid,” “Into the Woods” and “Threepenny Opera.” Other stage credits include “42nd Street,” “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” “American Son,” “Henry V,” “Women of Brewster Place,” “Hallelujah, Baby!” and “Wit.”
As a singer-composer, Douglas also performed jazz and standards regularly with her band, Voba.
He made audiences believe that a man could fly, that a cute little boy was the Antichrist, and that William Shatner could witness a monster tearing apart a plane in mid-flight. Director Richard Donner (April 24, 1930-July 5, 2021) ushered in the modern movies’ superhero genre with the 1978 blockbuster film “Superman,” in which Christopher Reeve vividly brought the Man of Steel to life.
Donner also helmed the highly-successful “Lethal Weapon” franchise of buddy-cop films starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover as Los Angeles detectives fighting drug traffickers, arms dealers, and underworld figures.
Donner originally set out to become an actor, but recalled some telling advice from director Martin Ritt, who said, “Your problem is you can’t take direction.” He recommended Donner pursue directing instead and hired him as an assistant.
Donner built a hefty resume in television, including “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “The Rifleman,” “Wagon Train,” “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Combat,” “Perry Mason,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “The Fugitive,” “The Wild Wild West,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Ironside,” “Cannon,” “The Streets of San Francisco” and “Kojak.” He directed six episodes of Rod Serling’s “The Twilight Zone,” including the classic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”
His first feature was the 1976 horror film “The Omen,” in which an adorable little boy carried the mark of the devil. It won an Oscar for its score and inspired several sequels.
After “The Omen,” Donner was offered $1 million to direct “Superman,” a mammoth superhero origin tale with Marlon Brando and Gene Hackman attached. A tremendous fan of the character (he mourned that his mother had thrown out all his old comic books), Donner pushed for special effects that could make audiences suspend their disbelief, as Reeve carried Margot Kidder (as Lois Lane) high above Metropolis.
Far from the parody of TV’s “Batman,” Donner’s film took the superhero from the planet Krypton seriously. In 2016 he told KCRW, “I wasn’t going to f*** up Superman.”
The mammoth production actually shook out into two movies, the second of which saw Donner fired and replaced by producers.
Donner followed “Superman” with “Inside Moves,” the Richard Pryor comedy “The Toy,” the medieval romantic fantasy “Ladyhawke,” and the Steven Spielberg-produced kids adventure, “The Goonies.” Other films included the Bill Murray comedy “Scrooged,” “Maverick,” “Conspiracy Theory” and “Radio Flyer.”
He and his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner, founded Donner/Shuler-Donner Productions (now the Donners’ Company), which produced the “X-Men” franchise, “Free Willy,” “Dave,” and “Deadpool.”
At a 2017 tribute, Lauren characterized her husband’s work: “If you look at Dick’s movies, Dick is fun, larger than life, loud, strong, with a big mushy heart.”
Donner was also known for his kindness and generosity, covering college tuition for one “Goonies” star, Jeff Cohen, and paying for life-saving rehab for another, Corey Feldman, and also for supporting animal rescue efforts.
Former Democratic Senator Mike Gravel (May 13, 1930-June 26, 2021), who represented Alaska from 1969 to 1981, was an anti-war activist who led a one-man filibuster protesting the Vietnam-era draft. In 1971 he read 4,100 pages of the leaked “Pentagon Papers” into the Congressional Record. He was also instrumental in gaining Congressional approval for the Trans-Alaska pipeline.
His reelection bid in 1980 was squelched over anger from President Carter’s use of the Antiquities Act to protect public lands in Alaska from development (which later led to the compromise Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act).
Gravel’s upstart reputation had been cemented from his 1968 campaign against incumbent Senator Ernest Gruening. He created a half-hour campaign film, “A Man for Alaska,” which aired in Alaska’s major markets, and was flown by bush plane to screen across the state.
In 2006 Gravel announced he would seek the presidency, running as a critic of the Iraq War. His campaign was most notable for its David Lynchian ads; in one, Gravel silently stared into the camera for more than a minute, before turning, throwing a large rock into a pond, and walking away.
“The point of the spot is not the rock but the ripples it leaves in the water,” Gravel told MSNBC, stating that he wished to cause “ripples in society.”
After he was excluded from Democratic Party forums (in one 2007 debate he asked then-Sen. Barack Obama, “Tell me, Barack, who do you want to nuke?”), he ran as a Libertarian candidate.
He briefly ran again for the Democratic nomination in 2020, vowing to slash military spending, after agreeing to the entreaties of two “unbelievably precocious” 18-years-olds whom he put in charge of his campaign. “When I finally succumbed to their pressures, I gave them access to the Twitter and they gave me a veto power, which I’ve only exercised once, by warning them about rough language,” he told CBSN’s “Red & Blue.” “Other than that, it’s been their show.”
He failed to qualify for the debates, but offered himself as a vice-presidential pick for Bernie Sanders should he win the nomination. “Well, you never know. I’m flexible. If I do get up there, I’m good for a couple, three years,” the then-89-year-old said.
A longtime New Yorker staff writer and author of several books, Janet Malcolm (July 8, 1934-June 16, 2021) wrote astutely about such topics as psychoanalysis, murder and photography, usurping the traditional view of the journalist as a dispassionate observer or notetaker of facts.
Born in Czechoslovakia, Janet’s family emigrated to the U.S. when she was five, at the time the Nazis were annexing her homeland. Having written for the University of Michigan newspaper, Janet published little beyond film criticism and poetry, until 1966, when a piece on children’s books got the attention of New Yorker editor William Shawn, who gave her a column.
Malcolm’s style was witty, intellectual and provocative, corralling nonfiction issues and characters with her novelistic flair, and analyzing her subjects with a withering gaze.
In her highly-praised first book “Psychoanalysis: The Impossible Profession” (1981), Malcolm (the daughter of a psychiatrist and a lawyer) explored Freudian theory, the psychoanalyst’s techniques, the inner lives of analysands on the couch, and the politics of the psychoanalytic world.
She wrote about her first conversation with one of her subjects: “The analysts I had seen so far had dealt with me as they habitually deal with patients on first meeting – courteously, neutrally, noncommittally, reservedly, ‘abstinently’ – and had also shown a certain wariness over being in the presence of a journalist. With Aaron Green, however, things were different from the start. He subtly deferred to me, he tried to impress me. He was the patient and I was the doctor; he was the student and I was the teacher. To put it in psychoanalytic language, the transference valence of the journalist was here greater than that of the analyst.”
“In the Freud Archives” roped in the personalities of academics quarreling over the legacy of Sigmund Freud – and triggered a $7 million libel suit from one subject who claimed quotations had been fabricated. The case persisted for years (with Malcolm testifying she had misplaced her notebook). She was ultimately cleared.
In Malcolm’s serialized New Yorker story, “The Journalist and the Murderer” (later published in book form), she criticized writer Joe McGinniss, who collaborated with accused murderer Jeffrey MacDonald on a book about MacDonald’s case (MacDonald later sued McGinniss), opening with a deft piece of self-analysis about her own profession: “Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and ‘the public’s right to know’; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about earning a living.”
Other books included the revisionist biography “The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes”; “Reading Chekhov: A Critical Journey”; “Two Lives: Gertrude and Alice” (A PEN Award winner); and “Iphigenia in Forest Hills: Anatomy of a Murder Trial.” Her essay collections included “Diana & Nikon: Essays on the Aesthetic of Photography”; “Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers” (a National Book Critics Circle nominee); and “Nobody’s Looking at You: Essays.”
In a 2011 profile in the Guardian, Malcolm spoke of the “invented I of journalism” as a character within whom she approached her subjects: “It’s a construct. And it’s not the person who you are. There’s a bit of you in it. But it’s a creation. Somewhere I wrote, ‘The distinction between the I of the writing and the I of your life is like Superman and Clark Kent.'”
Actor Frank Bonner (February 28, 1942-June 16, 2021) found his greatest popular recognition for a thoroughly ridiculous character: Herb Tarlek, a brash, flirtatious and not terribly successful radio station ad sales manager with a tendency to wear loud polyester plaid suits, on the sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.”
Bonner would direct several episodes of the series, which led to his career as a TV comedy director, helming episodes for more than a dozen shows, including “Family Ties,” “Head of the Class,” “Harry and the Hendersons,” “The Famous Teddy Z,” “The Mommies,” “Who’s the Boss,” “Saved by the Bell: The New Class,” and “City Guys.”
Bonner’s first appearance before the camera was in the horror film “Equinox,” which grew out of a student production. Thanks to a Satanic book, Bonner turned into a winged demon.
He also returned to playing Tarlek in the ’90s spinoff, “The New WKRP in Cincinnati.” His other TV acting credits included “The Young Lawyers,” “Mannix,” “Cannon,” “Man From Atlantis,” “Sex and the Single Parent,” “Scarecrow and Mrs. King,” “Newhart,” “Matt Houston,” “Night Court,” “Sidekicks,” and “Just the Ten of Us.”
Louisville native Ned Beatty (July 6, 1937-June 13, 2021) spent years performing in regional theaters, in Kentucky, Virginia, Indiana and Washington, D.C. (including in “Uncle Vanya” and “Death of a Salesman”), and in New York (in “The Great White Hope”), before auditioning for a role in John Boorman’s “Deliverance” (1972). Boorman had already cast the part of Bobby Trippe, one of a quartet of men on a canoe trek through the wilds of Georgia, who is set upon and raped by backwoods villains. But he hired Beatty instead, and the film’s critical and commercial success launched him into the tier of most-in-demand character actors whose presence was welcomed in both comedies and dramas for more than 40 years.
In “Network,” Beatty played the chairman of a communications giant who dresses down TV anchor Howard Beale (Peter Finch) for attacking the sale of the company to Arab interests. “You have meddled with the primal forces of nature, Mister Beale!” he bellows, in a performance that earned him an Oscar nomination.
Beatty was also memorable as Gene Hackman’s idiot sidekick Otis in “Superman”; a political campaigner in “Nashville”; a district attorney in “All the President’s Men”; the father of an aspiring Notre Dame football player in “Rudy”; and the voice of the sinister Lots-O’-Huggin’ Bear in the animated “Toy Story 3.”
Other films included “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean,” “Wise Blood,” “Silver Streak,” “Mikey and Nicky,” “Exorcist II: The Heretic,” “1941,” “Hopscotch,” “The Toy,” “Back to School,” “The Big Easy,” “Prelude to a Kiss,” “Just Cause,” “He Got Game,” “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Rango,” and “Rampart.” He re-teamed with his “Deliverance” co-star Burt Reynolds in “White Lightning,” “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings,” “Stroker Ace,” and “Switching Channels.”
Betty’s many TV appearances included “The Execution of Private Slovik,” “The Marcus-Nelson Murders” (the pilot for the series “Kojak”), “MASH,” “Attack on Terror: The FBI vs. the Ku Klux Klan,” “Friendly Fire,” “Last Train Home,” “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones,” “Streets of Laredo,” and “Homicide: Life on the Street,” as Detective Stanley Bolander.
He returned to the New York stage in 2003 as Big Daddy in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” winning a Drama Desk Award.
Beatty was rarely the lead in a film (his most notable starring role was “Hear My Song,” in which he portrayed Irish tenor Josef Locke, earning a Golden Globe nod). In a 1977 New York Times interview, Beatty explained why he preferred supporting roles: “Stars never want to throw the audience a curve ball, but my great joy is throwing curve balls. Being a star cuts down on your effectiveness as an actor, because you become an identifiable part of a product and somewhat predictable. You have to mind your p’s and q’s and nurture your fans. But I like to surprise the audience, to do the unexpected.”
Scholastic, the largest publisher of children’s magazines and books, recently marked its 100th anniversary of helping children make sense of the world. Founded in 1920 by Maurice R. Robinson, a freshly-minted Dartmouth grad who began publishing a magazine for schoolchildren out of his mother’s sewing room, Scholastic has been led since the 1970s by his son, Richard Robinson (March 15, 1937-June 5, 2021), only the second CEO in the company’s history.
During his tenure Scholastic grew to annual revenues of about $1.5 billion, producing current-events magazines and educational materials for students in 90% of American schools, without any serious competition.
Describing the mission of Scholastic magazines in the wake of the January 6th insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, Robinson told “Sunday Morning” earlier this year, “Over the years people have turned to us in important moments like this to explain things to kids and give them a pathway to understand it, and feel better about themselves and their society because of their understanding.”
Scholastic’s book publishing empire includes the Harry Potter, “Hunger Games,” “Baby-Sitters Club,” Clifford the Big Red Dog and Captain Underpants series, as well as reading clubs and book fairs.
Scholastic books were frequently included in the American Library Association’s annual “Challenged Books” list that spotlighted books that had been pulled or censored from library or school bookshelves, such as Alex Gino’s “George,” about a middle-school transgender girl.
“We strongly believe our books and magazines need to address tough topics that are relevant, even if we get backlash or boycotted,” Robinson told The Associated Press in 2020.
Clarence Williams III
Clarence Williams III (August 21, 1939-June 4, 2021) was a Tony-nominated actor whose breakout role was as Lincoln “Linc” Hayes in the TV series “The Mod Squad.” The show ran for five years beginning in 1968, and featured Williams (pictured, center), Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton as a trio of young, hip detectives using their counterculture creds to go undercover.
A New York native whose family included noted singers, musicians and composers, Williams got his first taste of acting as a teenager, when he won a bit part in a Harlem YMCA production of “Dark of the Moon” – Cicely Tyson’s first stage play. After serving as a paratrooper in the 101st Airborne, Williams appeared on Broadway in “The Long Dream,” “The Great Indoors,” and “Slow Dance on the Killing Ground” (for which he earned a Tony nomination), and in the film “The Cool World.”
Williams followed “Mod Squad” with roles in, among others, “Hill Street Blues,” “Purple Rain” (playing Prince’s father), “Miami Vice,” “52 Pick-Up,” “Tough Guys Don’t Dance,” “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” “Twin Peaks,” “Tales from the Crypt,” “Sugar Hill,” “Tales From the Hood,” “The Immortals,” “The Silencers,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “The Brave,” “Half Baked,” “The Legend of 1900,” “The General’s Daughter,” “Life,” “Reindeer Games,” “Law & Order,” “George Wallace,” “Everyone Hates Chris,” “Mystery Woman,” “A Day in the Life,” “Empire,” and an uncredited role in “American Gangster.”
In 1979 he co-starred with Maggie Smith on Broadway in Tom Stoppard’s “Night and Day.”
Despite his long resume, Williams told the Orlando Sun-Sentinel in 1999 that he did not begrudge his “Mod Squad” fame: “All most people know about me is the two hours they’ve invested in a movie theater or the time spent in front of their TV. There’s so much entertainment out there right now, it’s difficult to break through and become part of the national consciousness. It’s nice to be recognized, and I have no problem with it at all.”
F. Lee Bailey
Attorney F. Lee Bailey (June 10, 1933-June 3, 2021) made a name for himself in the sensational case of Ohio doctor Sam Sheppard, convicted in 1954 for the murder of his wife, which he’d blamed on an intruder. (His story would inspire the TV series “The Fugitive.”) Bailey argued for and won Sheppard’s right to a retrial, which Bailey would win in 1966. (He later needled the prosecutor, who was “not on the ball,” for neglecting to ask prospective jurors if they watched “The Fugitive,” in which the accused man was innocent.)
In a career that lasted more than four decades, the bold and brilliant Bailey became one of the most publicly identifiable attorneys in the country, with a client list that included Capt. Ernest Medina, charged in connection with the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War (Bailey won his court-martial case); and Patty Hearst, the kidnapped newspaper heiress who joined her kidnappers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, in robbing banks (a case he lost). Hearst later accused Bailey of bungling her defense and drinking during the trial.
He was a member of O.J. Simpson’s defense team who argued against the former NFL star’s charges of murdering his wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, in 1995. In his cross-examination of Mark Fuhrman, Bailey painted the Los Angeles police detective as a racist who planted evidence against Simpson. Bailey told CBS Station KDKA in 2017, “I had only one objective: to show him to be a liar about something.”
Fuhrman denied using racial epithets, but the defense later turned up recordings of Fuhrman making racist slurs, which colored his testimony. The jury acquitted Simpson.
Bailey was charismatic, but could also be arrogant and abrasive, and was once censored for what a judge called his “extreme egocentricity.” He was disbarred for a year in New Jersey in 1971 for talking publicly about a case. In 1996 Bailey spent almost six weeks in federal prison, charged with contempt of court after refusing to turn over millions of dollars in stock owned by a convicted drug smuggler. The experience left him “embittered” – and in 2001 it earned him a disbarment in Florida (and in Massachusetts the following year). The former Marine pilot who once owned airplanes and several homes filed for bankruptcy in 2016.
When KDKA asked Bailey what he wishes people would ask him during interviews, he answered, “What do you want to see on your gravestone?” And what would he like it to read? “That I was a good swordsman and a very nice guy,” he replied.
Born Allan See, Gavin MacLeod (February 28, 1931-May 29, 2021) took as his stage name a figure from a French film and the last name of an Ithaca College drama teacher who’d encouraged him to pursue an acting career. But in his 2013 memoir, “This Is Your Captain Speaking,” MacLeod wrote that losing his hair at an early age had compromised his job prospects: “I went all over town looking for an agent, but no one was interested in representing a young man with a bald head,” he wrote. He bought a used hairpiece, and his luck changed “pretty quickly.”
By the time he reached middle age, the toupee was no longer needed – certainly not to portray the wisecracking news writer Murray Slaughter on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” nor Capt. Merrill Stubing on the long-running series “The Love Boat.” He would later become an ambassador for Princess Cruise Lines.
MacLeod’s early credits included the Broadway play “A Hatful of Rain,” and the films “I Want to Live!,” “Pork Chop Hill,” “Operation Petticoat,” “High Time,” “The Sword of Ali Baba,” “Kelly’s Heroes,” “The Sand Pebbles,” and “The Party.” His TV roles included appearances on “Peter Gunn,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Untouchables,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” and “Hawaii Five-O,” and the supporting role of Seaman Joseph “Happy” Haines on “McHale’s Navy,” for which he dumped the hairpiece for good. “I wore it for one episode,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2013, “but it was so dry it looked like a rat. We threw it on the ground and shot it.”
MacLeod struggled with alcoholism until he quit, cold turkey, in 1974. He then remarried his second wife, actor-dancer Patti Steele, and became a born-again Christian. He and his wife hosted a Christian radio show, “Back on Course: A Ministry for Marriages.” “If it wasn’t for the Lord, I wouldn’t be alive,” MacLeod told the L.A. Times.
Kevin Clark (December 3, 1988-May 26, 2021) played drummer Freddy “Spazzy McGee” Jones in the 2003 movie “School of Rock.” It was the Highland Park, Ill.-native’s only film role, which he said he’d landed at age 14 after responding to a local newspaper ad looking for adolescents who can play drums, keyboards and guitar. [Clark is pictured in the film at left, and at right with co-star Jack Black at a “School of Rock” 10th-anniversary reunion.]
After the movie, Clark pursued music as a career, playing in the bands Dreadwolf, Jess Bess and The Intentions, and with singer-songwriter Robbie Gold.
Republican Senator John Warner (February 18, 1927-May 25, 2021), of Virginia, served five terms, during which his centrist streak often put him at odds with the more conservative GOP leadership.
As a teenager Warner volunteered for the Navy in World War II, and joined the Marines during the Korean War. He then earned a law degree and clerked at the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, before going into private practice. He later served as a federal prosecutor.
A Navy Secretary under President Nixon, Warner helped negotiate a maritime pact with the Soviet Union under President Ford, before running for the Senate in 1978. His high-profile marriage to actress Elizabeth Taylor (he was her sixth husband) burnished his credentials in the public’s eye, but the marriage did not survive his first term; they divorced in 1982 (Taylor citied her “intense loneliness” due to his Senate work).
Warner served as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and was a supporter of President George W. Bush’s declaration of war in Iraq, but he also called for the return of troops home, and held hearings into the torture of detainees at U.S.-run facilities. He angered conservatives by supporting gun laws, same-sex marriage, and Roe v. Wade, and by opposing GOP nominee Oliver North’s bid to unseat Virginia’s Democratic Senator Charles Robb (Warner called the Iran-Contra figure unfit for public office).
“I sure risked my political future, that’s for sure,” Warner said in 1994. “But I’d rather the voters of this state remember that I stood on my principle. … That’s the price of leadership.”
Samuel E. Wright
Broadway, TV, and movie actor Samuel E. Wright (November 20, 1946-May 24, 2021) brought great humanity to his roles, but he was best known for characters that weren’t human – from the grapes on the Fruit of the Loom underwear label come to life, to Sebastian the Crab in the Disney animated musical, “The Little Mermaid.” He repeated the role in sequels, spinoffs, and even reggae albums.
In 1992 he told “CBS This Morning” that people would stop him in airports just because of the voice: “If they hear the voice, my voice, they say, ‘That voice sounds really familiar,’ or they stop and ask me, ‘Weren’t you on “America’s Most Wanted” or something?'”
Wright was featured in “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and “Over Here,” replaced Ben Vereen in “Pippin,” and was nominated for two Tony Awards, for “The Tap Dance Kid,” and as Mufasa in “The Lion King.” He played Dizzy Gillespie in the Charlie Parker biopic, “Bird.” Other screen credits include the TV series “Ball Four,” “Enos,” and “Law & Order.”
In 1994 he cofounded the Hudson Valley Conservatory, a performing-arts school in Walden, N.Y.
Wright told the Los Angeles Times in 1991 that he tried to make every role – even an animated, singing crab – the best role he’s ever done. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a cartoon, Dizzy Gillespie or Othello, I’m going to play it with the same fervor – just in case anybody’s watching,” he said.
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” (1969) delighted children and parents with its tale of the metamorphosis of a green-and-red caterpillar into a multi-colored butterfly. Originally conceived by author and illustrator Eric Carle (June 25, 1929-May 23, 2021) as a story about a bookworm (“A Week with Willi the Worm”), the hero was changed to a caterpillar on his editor’s advice. It has sold some 40 million copies and been translated into 60 languages.
Born in New York to German immigrant parents but raised in Germany, Carle became attracted to the expressionist and abstract art that was banned by the Nazis. He returned to the States and worked as a graphic designer for The New York Times and at an advertising agency, when his artwork attracted the attention of Bill Martin Jr., who needed an illustrator for his book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”
Over the next five decades Carle would write and/or illustrate more than 75 books, including “Do You Want to Be My Friend?,” “The Grouchy Ladybug,” “Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?” and ‘”From Head to Toe.” One of his last was “The Nonsense Show,” which featured a parade of flying fish, cat-taming mice, and circus animals.
“The unknown often brings fear with it,” he once observed. “In my books I try to counteract this fear, to replace it with a positive message. I believe that children are naturally creative and eager to learn. I want to show them that learning is really both fascinating and fun.”
His signature illustration technique used pictures pieced together from tissue paper painted in various colors and textures. “It sounds corny, but I think I connect with the child in me, and I think others do, too,” he told The Associated Press in 2003. He said he chose to depict animals in unconventional colors to show young readers that, in art, there is no wrong color.
Carle received lifetime achievement awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Library Association. In 2002, Carle and his wife, Barbara Carle, founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Mass.
Sprinter Lee Evans (February 25, 1947-May 19, 2021), an NCAA champion, set Olympic records in the 400 meter and the 4×400 meter relay at the 1968 Mexico City Games. As a founding member of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (formed to combat housing discrimination at his university), Evans had prepared to protest against racism at the Olympics. But after teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos were sent home for raising their fists on the winners’ podium, Evans was warned by officials not to repeat their act.
Evans told Counterpunch in 2004 that he was prepared to sit out the rest of the Games after Smith and Carlos were ejected. “I wanted to go home. I said I wasn’t going to run. But Tommy and John, they came to me and said I better run and I better win.”
After winning the 400, Evans wore a black beret on the podium, in sympathy to the Black Panther Party. “After what Tommy and John did, what anybody else did was like little or nothing,” Evans said. But it was enough to attract death threats.
A San Jose State graduate and Fulbright scholar, Evans followed his Olympic success with professional competition, before coaching track teams in Africa (including three Olympic medal winners from Nigeria), the Middle East, and at South Alabama University. He also coached for the U.S. Special Olympics.
As class president in fifth grade he was impeached for “talking incessantly.” But acting with bone-dry understatement, Charles Grodin (April 21, 1935-May 18, 2021) could steal entire scenes with just a look.
His dead-pan humor enriched such films as “The Heartbreak Kid,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Real Life,” “Seems Like Old Times,” “The Woman in Red,” “The Lonely Guy,” “The Great Muppet Caper,” “Movers & Shakers,” “Ishtar,” and “Dave,” as well as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Catch-22.” He starred as the father in “Beethoven” and its sequel, “Beethoven’s 2nd.” Grodin is perhaps best remembered for the action-comedy “Midnight Run,” as an embezzling accountant being escorted cross-country by Robert De Niro’s bounty hunter, being chased by both the feds and the mob.
On Broadway, he costarred with Ellen Burstyn in the comedy, “Same Time, Next Year,” and directed the plays “Lovers and Other Strangers,” “Thieves” and “Unexpected Guests.” He stepped away from acting for a time beginning in the early ’90s, and became a columnist and talk-show host on CNBC and MSNBC. He appeared as a commentator on CBS’ “60 Minutes II,” and shared an Emmy for writing 1977’s “The Paul Simon Special.”
Grodin also wrote several pithy books, including “It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here: My Journey Through Show Business”; “How I Got to Be Whoever It Is I Am”; “How I Get Through Life”; and “I Like It Better When You’re Funny,” describing how his late-night TV “act,” in which he brought a cringe-y, combative persona to his conversations with the likes of Johnny Carson and David Letterman, actually played out on “The Tonight Show”:
“It’s not that easy to make America uncomfortable, but I had evidently succeeded to an alarming degree,” he wrote. “I had even made my friends uncomfortable when they watched me on the show. They would tell me they’d leave the room when I came on, or stay and watch peeking through their fingers. What was I doing to cause such discomfort? I was kidding around. The problem was that only Johnny and a minority of viewers seemed to know it. So when Johnny would ask, ‘How are you?’ and I would refuse to answer, because I said I didn’t believe it mattered to him how I felt — millions shuddered at the rudeness of it all. Plenty laughed, but more shuddered.”
Actor Norman Lloyd (Nov. 8, 1914-May 11, 2021) had a career that read like a history of Hollywood. After appearing on Broadway, Lloyd joined Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre acting company in the 1930s. His credits included Welles’ anti-fascist modern-dress telling of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” He also appeared in a 1939 NBC broadcast of a play, “The Streets of New York,” a reel of which is the earliest-surviving live TV broadcast from Rockefeller Center.
In his first Hollywood feature, Lloyd worked with Alfred Hitchcock, playing a Nazi spy in 1942’s “Saboteur,” famously dangling from the torch of the Statue of Liberty in the film’s thrilling conclusion. He also appeared in Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” “The Unseen,” “A Walk in the Sun,” “Limelight,” “The Flame and the Arrow,” “Audrey Rose,” “FM,” “Dead Poets Society,” “The Age of Innocence,” and the TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “Night Gallery,” “Kojak,” “The Paper Chase,” “Wise Guy,” “Home Fires,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Seven Days” and “The Practice.”
He was best-known for playing Dr. Daniel Auschlander on the 1980s medical drama, “St. Elsewhere.” Lloyd also produced and directed television, earning two Emmy nominations.
Lloyd made his final film appearance, at the age of 100, in the 2015 Amy Schumer comedy “Trainwreck.” “CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Anthony Mason spoke to Lloyd the following year: “They call you now the oldest living actor – what do you think of that title?”
“I don’t really relish it,” Lloyd replied, “because it infers that it’s age that is giving me some dimension, not the skill of acting. … I’d like to find good parts to play. But there are not many parts for 102-year-old men!”
“But you’re available!” Mason said.
“Beautifully put, thank you,” Lloyd said. “But acting, well, I’d never stop.”
Chemist Spencer Silver (Feb. 6, 1941-May 8, 2021) was working at 3M’s central research laboratory in 1968, working on chemicals to be used in the production of aircraft, when he discovered a unique adhesive formula.
In 2010 Silver wrote in Financial Times that he is sensitive about the word glue: “Glue is a very simplistic term. You boil animal bones down and make something that sticks when it dries. Adhesives are completely different. They rely on a complex structure of molecules to create their tack and elasticity. The size and structure of the molecules will affect how tacky the adhesive is, and how well it can be removed from whatever it is stuck to, known as peel adhesion. I thought of myself as a molecular architect.”
Silver’s find was an adhesive (or acrylate copolymer microspheres) that had high “tack” but low “peel,” and was reusable. But he was frustrated in coming up with a proper use for his unique adhesive, and began giving seminars to 3M’s product developers. It was, he explained, a “solution waiting for a problem to solve.”
In 1974, colleague Art Fry came up with the idea of using the adhesive to prevent paper bookmarks from falling out of his hymnal when he sang in his church’s choir. His team tested the re-usable note among staffers, and then introduced it in select markets. The product was originally called the Press ‘n’ Peel memo pad, but in 1980 it was renamed the Post-it Note – a name that stuck. It is now an indelible entry in office supplies, and one of the top-selling items in 3M’s consumer products division.
During his time at 3M Silver earned 37 patents, and won several awards, including the 1998 American Chemical Society Award for Creative Invention, according to the company.
Born in Germany and a graduate from Technische Hochschule in Munich, architect Helmut Jahn (Jan. 4, 1940-May 8, 2021) moved to Chicago in 1966 to study under modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and would become a leading proponent of postmodernism.
Jahn, who taught at the University of Illinois Chicago, Harvard University, Yale University and the Illinois Institute of Technology, began his professional career in 1967 when he joined CF Murphy Associates (which later became Murphy/Jahn). Among his projects were Chicago’s McCormick Place, the United Airlines terminal at O’Hare International Airport (including a walkway famous for its colorful lighting), and the J. Edgar Hoover Building, the FBI’s headquarters, in Washington, D.C. One of his more controversial buildings was the James R. Thompson Center (originally the State of Illinois Center), a glass-sheathed, Illinois government office building in Chicago’s Loop that opened in 1985.
His later collaborations with engineers evolved into buildings that, he told the website ArchDaily, were the product of what he called archineering – a collaboration from an early stage in which performance and materials were more important than aesthetics.
Jahn’s work internationally included the 63-story Messeturm in Frankfurt, Sony Center in Berlin, and the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand.
Jahn decried clients who were not supportive of innovation, supposedly because of cost: “Most clients are afraid to run into a risk of making a mistake,” he told ArchDaily. “And that’s the biggest handicap in terms of making progress.
“Architecture,” he said, “is all about going with your gut.”
The Orvis company, founded in 1856 by Charles F. Orvis, was a niche fly-fishing supply company based in Manchester, Vt. (not far from the headwaters of the Batten Kill, a renowned trout stream), when lifelong outdoorsman Leigh Perkins (Nov. 27, 1927-May 7, 2021) bought it in 1965 for $400,000. Over the next 27 years, Perkins transformed it into a global retailer and mail-order supplier of outdoor sports products and apparel, with sales that topped $90 million.
In 1966, Perkins began what the company describes as the world’s first fly-fishing schools, first in Vermont and then elsewhere, which helped introduce thousands of anglers to fly fishing.
Perkins served on the boards of The Nature Conservancy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, among other environmental organizations. Perkins also directed the company to donate 5% of its pre-tax profits to conserving fish and wildlife. According to Orvis, with its matching grant program, the company and its customers have donated more than $20 million over the past 25 years.
Perkins, who’d once been kicked out of boarding school because he’d played hooky in order to go fishing, spent 250 days a year hunting and fishing around the world, even before he retired from the company in 1992. Today, second- and third-generation Perkinses run Orvis, which in 2020 had sales of more than $9 billion.
“There is only one reason in the world to go fishing: to enjoy yourself,” Perkins told The New York Times in 1992. “Anything that detracts from enjoying yourself is to be avoided.”
Actress and model Tawny Kitaen (August 5, 1961-May 7, 2021) appeared on the cover of two albums by the heavy metal band RATT, including 1984’s “Out of the Cellar,” before becoming an early star of music videos on MTV, including the 1987 Whitesnake smash “Here I Go Again,” which featured Kitaen performing cartwheels on the hood of a Jaguar.
In a 2016 interview with Rock n Roll Junkie, Kitaen described shooting the music video, her first: “They had everything all set up which was like shooting for a major motion picture. Paula Abdul was there with Marty Callner, the director, who had hired her to give me some routines and choreography. I told her I was a ballerina and I was a gymnast, so she asked me to show her what I had. So, I did a few things and she turned around to Marty and said, ‘She’s got this and doesn’t need me,’ and she left. That was the greatest compliment. So, I got on the cars and Marty would say, ‘Action,’ and I’d do whatever I felt like doing.”
Other music video appearances, which received heavy play on MTV, included “Still of the Night”; “Is This Love”; and “The Deeper the Love.”
She also starred opposite Tom Hanks in the 1984 comedy “Bachelor Party.” Other credits included the TV movie “Malibu”; “The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak”; a “Seinfeld” episode as Jerry’s actress-girlfriend; “Witchboard”; “White Hot”; “Capitol”; “The New WKRP in Cincinnati”; co-hosting “America’s Funniest People”; and the animated “Eek! The Cat.”
She also appeared on reality shows, including “The Surreal Life,” and “Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.”
Singer-songwriter Lloyd Price (March 9, 1933-May 3, 2021) was more than just an early star of rock ‘n roll, bringing the sound of New Orleans jazz and blues to the top of the R&B charts, and crossing over to White audiences with hits such as “Personality” and “Stagger Lee.” Known as “Mr. Personality,” he was also a maverick in the industry, running his own label, KRC Records, before stars such as Frank Sinatra did the same; holding onto his publishing rights; and serving as his own agent and manager.
Born in Kenner, Louisiana, one of 11 siblings, Price taught himself the piano as a youngster, and in his teens wrote his first hit, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy,” while working in his mother’s restaurant, Beatrice’s Fish ‘n’ Fry. Recorded with Fats Domino on piano, “Lawdy Miss Clawdy” sold more than 1 million copies, and sat at #1 on the R&B chart for seven weeks. It would later be covered by such stars as Elvis Presley, Little Richard, The Beatles and Joe Cocker.
He recorded “Ain’t It a Shame,” “Restless Heart” and “Tell Me Pretty Baby” before performing military service. He returned with the 1957 ballad “Just Because,” and hit #1 with his rendition of the folk song “Stagger Lee,” about a fatal barroom fight over a dice game. Pressed to sing a less violent version for Dick Clark’s “American Bandstand,” Price revised the lyrics – the two men work out their differences amicably. “I had to go make up some lyrics about Stagger Lee and Billy being in some kind of squabble about a girl,” Price told Billboard magazine in 2013. “It didn’t make any sense at all. It was ridiculous.”
Other hits followed, including “Personality,” “I’m Going to Get Married,” “Come Into My Heart,” “Lady Luck” and “Question.”
As the pop music scene in the ’60s changed, Price’s career in music continued. He helped found the Double L Records label that gave an early break to Wilson Pickett, and ran a New York nightclub. He migrated to Nigeria following the 1969 murder of his longtime business partner, and helped stage championship bouts between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali, and Ali and George Foreman. In the ’80s he returned to the States, where he become a favorite on oldies tours, performing with Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others.
In a 1998 interview with Larry Katz, Price credited clean living and a steady focus for his endurance. “I never drank, smoked, used drugs or had bad habits,” he said. “I never was starstruck. I had 23 hit records and I never looked for the next record to hit. I never had that need that they had to be somebody. I just wanted to be.”
He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
In his 2015 memoir “sumdumhonky,” Price wrote about the transitions he’d seen over eight decades: “Time brings about change, and the change of my generation was about one thing: music. It brought people together like nothing had ever before.”
Put into dance class by his mother at the age of seven to keep him off the streets, Jacques d’Amboise (July 28, 1934-May 2, 2021) was just 15 when George Balanchine recruited him for the New York City Ballet. He performed on its stage for almost 35 years.
He also appeared in the movies (in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Carousel”) and on Broadway (in “Shinbone Alley”).
D’Amboise devoted his later years to giving kids the same chance he had, through the National Dance Institute, which he founded in 1976. His classes extended the rigors and joys of dance to children who were deaf or blind as well. A 1983 documentary about d’Amboise and the Institute, “He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin’,” won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, as well as a Peabody and four Emmy Awards.
A MacArthur Fellow, d’Amboise was a Kennedy Center Honoree and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts.
As an educator he was motivated, he told “Sunday Morning” in 1980, by one compelling idea: “The arts, all of them, should be part of the curriculum of the schools and should be part of our life – the center of our life, not the periphery.”
He worked at his dad’s service station on Route 66 and raced jalopies at a New Mexico speedway. He would become part of a premier racing family that has taken home the Indianapolis 500 trophy nine times. Bobby Unser (Feb. 20, 1934-May 2, 2021) notched three of those victories, in 1968, 1975 and 1981.
Unser was one of six members of the Unser family to race in the Indy 500 (an older brother, Jerry, died after a crash preparing for the 1959 race). Bobby’s brother, Al, won four times, while his nephew, Al Unser Jr., won in 1992 and 1994.
After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Bobby’s racing career would bring him a record 13 wins at the Pikes Peak International in Colorado. He was the first driver in Indy car competition to record a 200-mph qualifying average speed. He notched 35 career Indy car wins, and four International Race of Champions (IROC) wins.
His final Indy 500 victory was disputed. Unser won from the pole and beat Mario Andretti by 5.18 seconds in a Penske PC-9B, but officials ruled Unser passed cars illegally while exiting the pit lane under caution – drawing a penalty that docked him one position, and moved Andretti to winner. Unser and the Penske team appealed, and the penalty was rescinded in October of that year. Though fined $40,000, Unser was declared winner, for the 35th, and final, victory of his career.
Unser moved from the driver’s seat to the broadcasting booth, winning an Emmy Award as part of ABC Sports’ coverage of the 1989 Indianapolis 500. He was also broadcasting when the checkered flag was waved on both his brother and nephew.
In 1993, at the Bonneville Salt Flat, he clocked 223.709 mph, a land speed record that stood for 18 years.
In later years Unser was a driver coach who assisted on race strategy in 1998 and 1999 when his son, Robby Unser, finished fifth and eighth.
In addition to racing, Unser was also a pilot, buying his first Cessna in the late 1950s, and commuting by air to races and endorsement events. He told Plane and Pilot Magazine in 2016 that flying initially scared the daylights out of him: he is afraid of heights, and is horrified at the notion of a stall. “Stalls petrify me. It’s serious, even to this day,” said the man who drove a car at 223 mph.
Actress Olympia Dukakis (June 20, 1931-May 1, 2021) won an Academy Award for her performance as the mother of Cher in “Moonstruck” (1987), but she admitted at the time that her ambition had never been to win an Oscar. It was, she said, “to play the great parts.”
The Massachusetts native’s love of theater drew her to the stage even after her Greek immigrant parents had dissuaded her, pressing upon her the importance of an education in a more practical field. Olympia got a degree in physical therapy, and worked at hospitals in West Virginia and Boston, before going on to study drama at Boston University. After appearing in summer stock in Williamstown, Mass., she won an Obie Award for her off-Broadway performance in Bertolt Brecht’s “A Man’s a Man.”
The lure of “great parts” would lead her to performing in or directing productions of Strindberg and Chekov, Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, and modern classics, including “Mother Courage and Her Children,” “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” “The Rose Tattoo.” “Titus Andronicus,” “Peer Gynt,” “The Memorandum,” and “Curse of the Starving Class.” When she and her actor-husband Louis Zorich moved from New York City to Montclair, N.J. to raise a family, they co-founded the Whole Theater Company there, specializing in classic dramas. Dukakis was artistic director.
Her screen credits in the 1960s and ’70s were limited (she was a police officer in the Charles Bronson revenge flick “Death Wish”), but she won her “Moonstruck” role by the fluke of having been cut from the movie “Heartburn.” Its director, Mike Nichols, made it up to her by casting Dukakis in Broadway’s “Social Security.” Director Norman Jewison saw her in the show, and cast her in “Moonstruck.”
Her Oscar win brought her roles in such films as “Look Who’s Talking,” “Steel Magnolias,” “Dad,” “The Cemetery Club,” “I Love Trouble,” “Mighty Aphrodite,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Picture Perfect,” “Cloudburst,” and “Away From Her.” Her TV credits include “Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City” and its sequels, the mini-series “Sinatra,” “Lucky Day,” “Joan of Arc,” “My Beautiful Son,” “Bored to Death,” and “Center of the Universe.”
She was the subject of a recent documentary, “Olympia,” in which she recounts her career, accepts honors, meets fans in a supermarket, visits her ancestral home on the Greek isle of Lesbos, and talks of the lineage of female power.
In 2015 Dukakis talked to the AV Club about her desire for “extraordinary experiences” in plays: “It was kind of a way of finding out who I was. The play was the vehicle through which I found out who I was. I got to tap into whatever the play was asking me to tap into. So, it became a way to self-discovery.”
Student reporter Damon Weaver (April 1, 1998-May 1, 2021) was just 11 years old when he gained national acclaim for interviewing President Barack Obama at the White House in 2009 – one of the youngest people ever to have interviewed a sitting president.
Weaver, who got his start in journalism in fifth grade when he volunteered for the school newscast at K.E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary in Florida, asked questions that focused primarily on education – funding of schools in poorer communities, lunch programs, bullying, conflict resolution, and how to succeed.
Weaver then asked Mr. Obama to be his “homeboy,” saying then-Vice President Joe Biden had already accepted. “Absolutely,” the president smiled, shaking the boy’s hand. Weaver later told CBS’ “The Early Show,” “The president is a normal person.”
Weaver used that meeting to later interview Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, Caroline Kennedy, Samuel L. Jackson, and basketball player Dwyane Wade.
Last year he graduated from Albany State University in Georgia, remarking on Instagram that, “At 22 I have beaten so many statistics against Black men raised without a father. Challenged by so many things I still did it! … this is not much compared to what I will do in the future!”
When President John F. Kennedy called for “landing a man on the moon,” he added the directive, “and returning him safely to the Earth,” which may have been the more difficult part of the Moon Shot. And no one person was perhaps more responsible for the success of that than astronaut Michael Collins (October 31, 1930-April 28, 2021), who flew Apollo 11’s command module while Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the moon’s surface in the lunar lander.
In 2019, marking the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, Collins told “Sunday Morning,” “I felt that we were fulfilling, if successful, [Kennedy’s] mandate. And I was just thrilled to be a piece of the whole thing.”
After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy in 1952 (a year behind Aldrin), Collins became a fighter pilot and test pilot with the U.S. Air Force, and applied to NASA following John Glenn’s successful Mercury flight. He first flew in space as part of the two-man Gemini 10 mission, in 1966, during which he and crewmate John Young performed a spacewalk, retrieved an experiment left behind in orbit by a previous Gemini flight, and practiced docking maneuvers necessary for a moon landing. During his spacewalk, Collins lost a camera, an early example of “space debris.”
In July 1969, while Armstrong and Aldrin were putting their footprints on the lunar surface, Collins circled the moon aboard Columbia. As his craft flew around the far side he was completely out of touch with NASA – and further away from Earth than any human had ever been. “When I was behind the moon I later discovered I was being described as, oh, lonely, lonely, lonely,” he said. “I was happy back there. I had my own little domain. And actually, going down and touching the moon, eh, that was not high on my list.”
Collins would be responsible for successfully docking the orbiting command module with the lander once Armstrong and Aldrin had blasted off from the Sea of Tranquility. Collins told “Sunday Morning” he was delighted to be reunited with them: “I was about to kiss Buzz Aldrin on the forehead, and I decided maybe no, no, I think the history books wouldn’t like that! It was a wonderful instant in time.”
Upon returning to Earth, Collins was met with adulation the world over. “I was flabbergasted,” he said. “I thought that when we went someplace they’d say, ‘Well, congratulations. You Americans finally did it.’ And instead of that, unanimously the reaction was, ‘We did it. We humans finally left this planet. We did it.'”
After Apollo 11, Collins joined the State Department as assistant secretary for public affairs. He then joined the Smithsonian Institution, leading a team planning the National Air and Space Museum, eventually becoming its director.
In a preface to his book for young readers, “Flying to the Moon: An Astronaut’s Story,” Collins urged more spending on space exploration, including a crewed mission to Mars. “I am too old to fly to Mars, and I regret that,” he wrote. “But I still think I have been very, very lucky. I was born in the days of biplanes and Buck Rogers, learned to fly in the early jets, and hit my peak when moon rockets came along. That’s hard to beat.”
The son of a Methodist minister and a music teacher, Vice President Walter Mondale (January 5, 1928-April 19, 2021) served in the Army during the Korean War before becoming a lawyer in Minneapolis. Entering politics in 1960, he was appointed the state’s Attorney General before being appointed to the Senate in 1964, filling the seat vacated by Vice President Hubert Humphrey. He advocated for social issues, such as education, housing, migrant workers and child nutrition, and was an outspoken supporter of civil rights.
Selected as Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter’s running mate in 1976, Mondale would go on to reinvent the role of vice president, becoming more of a senior adviser and governing partner to the president, rather than a constitutional afterthought. The first VP to occupy an office within the White House, Mondale was heavily involved in foreign policy and frequently traveled overseas. He was part of the 1978 Camp David Accords that led to a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel.
He ran for president against incumbent Ronald Reagan in 1984, and made history by choosing a female running mate, New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro. President Reagan trounced Mondale in a historic landslide, after the Democrat said he would raise taxes as president. Mondale accepted the blame for the historic loss himself, adding, “You know, I’ve never really warmed up to television. In fairness to television, it never really warmed up to me.”
Years later, Mondale said his campaign message had proven to be the right one. “History has vindicated me that we would have to raise taxes,” he said. “It was very unpopular, but it was undeniably correct.”
Mondale returned to practicing law and served as U.S. Ambassador to Japan during the Clinton administration.
In 2002, he was asked by Minnesota Democrats to run for the Senate again, stepping in after Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash days before Election Day. He narrowly lost to Republican Norm Coleman.
He was gracious to the end: “We fought the good fight, and every one of us should feel good about that,” he said.
Grammy-winning composer Jim Steinman (November 1, 1947-April 19, 2021) penned hits for Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Air Supply, Barry Manilow and Bonnie Tyler.
Steinman wrote the music for Meat Loaf’s classic debut album, “Bat Out of Hell,” including the songs “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth (Hot Summer Night),” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” and “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” Released in 1977, it became one of the top-selling albums of all time. Sixteen years later, Steinman composed a sequel album, “Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell” (which featured the hit “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)”), and, later, “Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose.”
Steinman’s other hits included Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” and Air Supply’s “Making Love Out of Nothing at All.” Dion’s 1997 album “Falling Into You” (which included Steinman’s “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”) won the Grammy for Album of the Year. Steinman also contributed songs to the soundtracks of “Streets of Fire” (“Tonight Is What It Means to Be Young” and “Nowhere Fast”) and “Footloose” (“Holding Out for a Hero”).
The sweep of his rock ballads stemmed from his early fascination with opera. While at Amherst College in the late 1960s he composed and starred in “Dream Engine” (which he later described as “a three-hour rock epic with tons of nudity”). It got him noticed, and led to work at Joseph Papp’s Public Theater in New York (including “Kid Champion,” starring Christopher Walken), and his first commercial release. He also cowrote “Rhinegold,” a take on Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
He returned to the theater, collaborating with Andrew Lloyd Webber on the musical “Whistle Down the Wind,” writing the music for Roman Polanski’s “Dance of the Vampires,” and creating a stage show based on “Bat Out of Hell.”
He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2012.
On his website, jimsteinman.com, the composer of “Wagnerian rock” was quoted about music genres: “I think rock and opera are probably closer to each other than to other musical forms. Rock and opera both make huge gestures, they’re both about extremes in content and form. Each puts incredible physical demands on a performer. And each of them has a great mix of the sublime and the ridiculous, heroism and humor. Seems to me that people’s barriers to enjoying both have more to do with sociology than actual music and performances.”
Actor and stuntman Felix Silla (January 11, 1937-April 16, 2021) was most famous for playing a character which made him virtually invisible: the hairy Cousin Itt on TV’s “The Addams Family.” Silla (who stood 3’11”) was covered with a floor-length hairpiece, sunglasses and a bowler hat. He proved memorable even though he had no dialogue (at least nothing that was decipherable by a non-Addams).
Born in Italy, Silla was a trapeze artist, acrobat and horse rider who toured with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, before beginning a Hollywood career as a stuntman, often doubling for children (including in “The Towering Inferno,” “The Hindenburg” and “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”).
Silla also portrayed a robot on the TV series “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”; an Ewok in “Return of the Jedi”; and a computer-sired baby in “Demon Seed.” Other credits included “The Black Bird,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Spaceballs,” “The Golden Child,” “Poltergeist” and “Batman Returns.” In-between film appearances, he performed with his musical combo, The Original Harmonica Band.
Academy Award-winning costumer designer Anthony Powell (June 2, 1935-April 16, 2021) earned his first Oscar with his second film assignment, 1972’s “Travels With My Aunt,” starring Maggie Smith. He followed with a magnificent range of historical and fantasy assignments: “Papillon”; “Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull’s History Lesson”; “Sorcerer”; two more Oscar-winners, “Death on the Nile” and “Tess” (pictured); “Priest of Love”; “Evil Under the Sun”; “Ishtar”; “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”; “Hook”; “101 Dalmations” and its sequel; “The Avengers”; and “Miss Potter.”
He won a Tony Award in 1963 for “The School for Scandal” and was nominated in 1995 for the musical “Sunset Boulevard.” Other stage credits include “Amadeus,” “Private Lives,” “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”
In 2016 he talked with the British Film Institute about his initial fears of doing a Roman Polanski project (which fell apart before filming) set in ancient Pompeii, featuring a cast “wrapped in sheets.”
“When I got the script, most of it seemed to happen in the sewers of Pompeii with Roman sewer workers, and I was flummoxed. I didn’t know how to make it interesting,” Powell said. “So I went to see Roman and I said, ‘Look, I don’t know how to do it.’ … And afterwards I realized I’d absolutely panicked. Any job, even if you think you can’t do it, once you start working on it, something happens.”
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
For more than seven decades, through socio-economic upheavals, wars, a dwindling of empire, and withering family scandals, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (June 10, 1921-April 9, 2021), husband of Queen Elizabeth II, was Britain’s longest-serving consort. He provided support to the woman who began her reign at the age of 25, through a period of history when the British royal family was forced to reinvent itself to accommodate the public’s more inquisitive view of the monarchy, as well as the British press’ increasingly skeptical view of the House of Windsor.
The queen referred to Philip as “her rock,” and her “strength and stay.”
Born into the Greek royal family, with ancestors of Danish, German and Russian extraction (he was himself a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria), the athletic Philip gave up a promising naval career when Elizabeth became queen, but nonetheless fulfilled more than 22,000 royal engagements during his career – promoting U.K. industry and science, advocating for the environment, serving as patron for hundreds of charities (including outdoor programs for children), and traveling widely to boost British interests abroad. He worked for decades to support the World Wildlife Fund, and served as its international president from 1981 to 1996.
And while he always walked a step or two behind his queen, Philip played a prominent part in raising their four children, including his eldest, Prince Charles, the heir to the throne. He managed the royal estate, painted, and collected modern art. But he once said, “the arts world thinks of me as an uncultured, polo-playing clot.”
In his later years, Philip acquired the image of an elderly, philosophical observer of the times, who maintained a military bearing while speaking his mind. Blunt, impatient and demanding, he was occasionally criticized for making racist or sexist remarks.
To a friend’s suggestion that he ease up a bit on his royal responsibilities, the prince is said to have replied, “Well, what would I do? Sit around and knit?”
But in 2011, when he turned 90, Philip told the BBC he was “winding down” his workload, reckoning that he had “done my bit.”
Earl Simmons, who performed under the name DMX (December 18, 1970-April 9, 2021), was the Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist behind the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here).”
Using a trademark delivery often paired with growls, barks and “What!” as an ad-lib, DMX built a multiplatinum career as one of rap’s biggest stars of the late 1990s and early 2000s. But he also struggled with drug addiction, and spent about 30 stints in jail, beginning at age 10.
His first studio album, 1998’s “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, and featured such hits as “Get at Me Dog,” “Stop Being Greedy” and “How It’s Goin’ Down.” His next four albums – “… And Then There Was X,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “The Great Depression” and “Grand Champ” – each topped the charts as well, followed by “Year of the Dog … Again,” which reached #2.
DMX also charted an acting career, starring in the 1998 film “Belly” and appearing in “Romeo Must Die,” “Exit Wounds” and “Cradle 2 the Grave.”
In a 2019 interview with GQ magazine DMX talked about his relationship with his mother, who had violently abused him as a child: “I think a lot of people struggle with forgiving their parents. In fact, I personally struggle with forgiving my parents. But until you learn how to forgive others, you can’t forgive yourself. You can’t forgive yourself if you don’t know how to forgive.”
An original writer for “Saturday Night Live,” Emmy-winner Anne Beatts (February 25, 1947-April 7, 2021) was the first female editor of National Lampoon magazine, and a lyricist for the Off-Broadway musical parody of Woodstock, “National Lampoon’s Lemmings.” She worked from the launch of “SNL” in 1975 to 1980, helping to create such characters as the nerds Lisa Loopner and Todd DiLaMuca; oily toy salesman Irwin Mainway; and “Fred Garvin, Male Prostitute.”
[Pictured: Anne Beatts in 2015, with a photo of her with head “SNL” writer and then-boyfriend Michael O’Donoghue.]
She was a co-writer of Gilda Radner’s stage show, “Gilda Live,” before becoming one of TV’s first female show runners on the CBS sitcom “Square Pegs.” The cult comedy (which sadly lasted only one season) was a rarity for presenting a teenage girl’s perspective – and for hiring an almost exclusively-female writers’ room.
Beatts also served as a producer for “A Different World,” “The Stephanie Miller Show,” and “John Waters Presents: Movies That Will Corrupt You,” and wrote episodes of “Murphy Brown,” “Faerie Tale Theatre,” and “Committed.” She also co-edited the 1976 collection of humor by women, “Titters,” and lectured at Chapman University’s Dodge College of Film and Media Arts.
In 2015 Beatts told writer Joy Press (author of a book on women in television, “Stealing the Show”) that working in the male-dominated worlds of comedy and TV was an exercise in self-defense: “I was going to work harder and stay up longer,” she said. “Essentially you find out that if you try to be one of the guys, you just end up being a slightly defective guy. …
“One of the issues in Hollywood is there are girls and ladies but there weren’t a lot of women. Just to be a regular woman was not a role that was recognized. A man has to invade a small country to be called aggressive, but with a woman, if she hangs up the phone on someone, that’s it.”
Morris “B.B.” Dickerson
A founding member of the Latin-funk group War (or ***, as it came to be referenced owing to a trademark dispute with their manager), vocalist and bassist Morris “B.B.” Dickerson (August 3, 1949-April 2, 2021) played on a dozen of the group’s studio album releases and co-wrote some of their most memorable songs.
The musicians of War, who’d played with former quarterback and R&B singer Deacon Jones, originally partnered with Eric Burdon (former lead singer of The Animals) to release their debut album in 1970 (which featured the single “Spill the Wine”), and shared the stage with Jimi Hendrix in London in what was the guitarist’s final public performance. After Burdon and War parted ways during a 1971 European tour, War continued with such hits as “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” “Low Rider,” “Cisco Kid,” “Summer,” and “The World Is a Ghetto.”
In 1972, following an appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, Dickerson explained the ethos of the group, which was multi-ethnic and blended multiple genres of music, to the New York Post: “We contribute to each other spiritually, and that’s what we are trying to project – the dude in the street selling papers, the dude working at the steel mill, again, everybody.”
Years after leaving War in 1979, Dickerson reunited with other founding members to tour under the name Lowrider Band.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry (June 3, 1936-March 25, 2021) wove tales of the American West both historic and contemporary, which depicted characters who were often shaped by the rugged, hard-scrabble landscapes of the frontier, their personas worn down into raw, unguarded emotions.
Born into a family of ranchers, McMurtry wrote his first novel at the age of 25. “Horseman, Pass By” would be made into a film starring Paul Newman, retitled “Hud,” that won three Oscars. Others from among his dozens of novels included “Leaving Cheyenne,” “The Last Picture Show,” “The Desert Rose,” “The Last Picture Show,” “Moving On,” “All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers,” “Terms of Endearment,” “The Evening Star,” and “Texasville.”
His Pulitzer-Prize winning epic “Lonesome Dove,” about former Texas Rangers leading a cattle drive across the Great Plains during the 1870s, was turned into an Emmy-winning CBS miniseries that starred Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones and Angelica Huston. “‘Lonesome Dove’ was an effort to kind of demythologize the myth of the Old West,” McMurtry told The Associated Press in a 2014 interview. The book launched a series of novels that included “Streets of Laredo,” “Dead Man’s Walk” and “Comanche Moon.”
As a screenwriter he shared an Academy Award nomination for the script of “The Last Picture Show,” based on his coming-of-age novel set in a small Texas town, and shared an Oscar for the script of “Brokeback Mountain,” the 2005 film, based on an Annie Proulx short story, that starred Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal as cowboys who fall in love.
His most recent novel, “The Last Kind Words Saloon,” was published in 2014.
In 2006 McMurtry explained to “Sunday Morning” correspondent Rita Braver his method of working – banging away on one of his nine Hermes typewriters, every day, regardless of weekend or vacation. “You know, I have no ideas until I sit down at this machine,” he said. “I can’t talk abstractly about anything. I don’t think about it. I do it at the same time every day, and whatever process I have starts when I hit the keys and stops when I get to the end of five pages.”
He told Braver he wasn’t bothered by fans who might object to the spinner of western tales writing about gay cowboys. “It doesn’t present any kind of agenda, any politics at all, one way or the other at all,” McMurtry said. “It just says life is not for sissies. You know, you need strength. Love is not easy. If you find it, it’s not easy. If you don’t find it, it’s not easy. It’s not easy if you find it, but it doesn’t work out … The strong survive, but not everybody is the strong, and many people don’t.”
Author Beverly Cleary (April 12, 1916-March 25, 2021) was something of a late starter, writing her first children’s book, “Henry Huggins,” when she was in her early 30s.
“I was a children’s librarian,” Cleary told “CBS Evening News” correspondent John Blackstone in 2010, “and a little boy said to me, ‘Where are the books about kids like us?’ Well, there weren’t any.”
For the next five decades, Cleary contributed more than three dozen children’s and young adult novels about “kids like them,” that were both reminiscent of her childhood in Portland, Ore., and fantastical (“The Mouse and the Motorcycle” told of a mouse who delivers life-saving medicine on a toy motorcycle).
Cleary wrote two long-running series, each featuring Henry Huggins and Ramona Quimby (who appeared in the first Huggins novel, and would star in eight books of her own). In 1981, “Ramona and Her Mother” won the National Book Award. “Dear Mr. Henshaw,” the touching story of a lonely boy who corresponds with a children’s book author, won the 1984 John Newbery Medal. “Ramona and Her Father” and “Ramona Quimby, Age 8” were named Newbery Honor Books. And she was awarded a National Medal of the Arts by President Bush in 2003.
Cleary also wrote two autobiographical books for young readers: “A Girl from Yamhill” (about her childhood), and “My Own Two Feet” (about the years leading up to her literary career).
“I seem to have grown up with an unusual memory,” Cleary told the Associated Press. “People are astonished at the things I remember. I think it comes from living in isolation on a farm the first six years of my life where my main activity was observing.”
The resume of Emmy-winning actress Jessica Walter (January 31, 1941-March 23, 2021) was characterized as that of a character actress, although she excelled in the lead role of a psychotic radio station caller in the Clint Eastwood thriller “Play Misty for Me.” More in line with her comic agility was her turn as scheming Lucille Bluth, mother of a dysfunctional family, on TV’s “Arrested Development”
In a 2012 interview with the AV Club, Walter said playing “difficult” roles was more fun: “They’re juicy, much better than playing the vanilla ingénues, you know – Miss Vanilla Ice Cream.”
A graduate of New York’s High School of the Performing Arts, Walter had established a stage career by her early 20s, making her Broadway debut in “Advise and Consent,” and appearing most recently in the 2011 revival of “Anything Goes.”
She starred in the soap opera “Love of Life” from 1962 to 1965, and appeared in numerous TV series, including “Naked City,” “Route 66,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “The Fugitive,” “Flipper,” “The FBI,” “Medical Center,” “Love, American Style,” “McCloud,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Wonder Woman,” “Trapper John, M.D.,” “90210,” “One Life to Live,” and “The Big Bang Theory.” Walter won an Emmy in 1975 starring in “Amy Prentiss,” a spin-off of the San Francisco cop show “Ironside.”
Film roles included “Lilith,” “The Group,” “Grand Prix,” “Bye Bye Braverman,” “Number One,” and “The Flamingo Kid.”
With her second husband, actor Ron Leibman, she starred on stage in Neil Simon’s “Rumors,” and they shared voice work as husband and wife on the animated series “Archer,” parents of the eponymous spy.
“I’ve played lots of mothers from Hell,” Walter said, commenting on her character Malory Archer. “Or maybe, for instance, with ‘Arrested Development,’ Lucille really does believe that she’s being a good mother. It’s interesting and challenging to find the levels that make them characters you love to hate.”
He was best known as a comic actor playing lovable jerks, as well as a banjo player, strumming with the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band. But George Segal (February 13, 1934-March 23, 2021) earned his Oscar nomination for Mike Nichols’ bitter drama, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Segal had worked with Nichols on Broadway in “The Knack,” and when Robert Redford turned down the role of a young professor in “Virginia Woolf,” he asked Segal. “We rehearsed for about a month,” Segal recalled to Film Talk in 2016. “So, we could have opened that on a stage. By the time we were shooting, we were all very comfortable in our roles.”
A student of Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen, Segal appeared on Broadway in Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh,” before being drafted into the Army. After his discharge in 1957, he returned to the stage and began getting small film roles, including “The Young Doctors,” “The Longest Day,” “Ship of Fools,” and “King Rat.”
Segal followed his “Virginia Woolf” success with the dramatic (“The Quiller Memorandum,” “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre,” “No Way to Treat a Lady,” “The Terminal Man”); the comic (“Bye Bye Braverman,” “Where’s Poppa,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” “The Hot Rock,” “A Touch of Class,” “The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox,” “Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?,” “Fun With Dick and Jane”); and a very ’70s mix of the two (“Loving,” “Blume in Love,” “California Split”).
His later TV career would capitalize on his gift for lighthearted comedy, playing magazine publisher Jack Gallo on “Just Shoot Me,” and Albert “Pops” Solomon, the grandfather on “The Goldbergs.”
In 2017 Segal told Variety, ” I’ve always considered myself to be a lucky person. When I’m asked about the ups-and-downs of my career, I mainly see a lucky guy.”
Glynn Lunney (November 27, 1936-March 19, 2021), who had helped devise the complex flight rules used to govern America’s space missions throughout the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, and who became NASA’s fourth flight director, went on duty moments after the Apollo 13 spacecraft exploded on its way to the moon in 1970. He would play a pivotal role in bringing the three-man crew safely back to Earth.
He also led the flight control team when Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin blasted off from the moon; managed the first joint U.S.-Soviet flight, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project; and served as the space shuttle program manager in Houston.
After retiring from NASA, he worked for Rockwell International, builder of the space shuttle, and later served as vice president of United Space Alliance, the company that serviced and maintained the shuttle for NASA.
In an interview with CBS News on the eve of Apollo 11’s 50th anniversary, Lunney talked about President John F. Kennedy’s 1961 call for Americans to land astronauts on the moon before the end of the decade. He described the declaration as “semi-crazy.”
“When we were having a beer talking about that, we didn’t think it could be done,” Lunney said. “We were working on Mercury, of course, at the time. Mercury was a 2,000-pound ship. And you know, what we had to deal with was getting 200,000 pounds in Earth orbit to get started.”
But, he said, “people stepped up to it. It was a wonderful thing to see because everybody in the program knew what their job was, and they knew they had to make it work. That happened everywhere. And it was a wonderful thing to see how well Americans did pooling together our resources and our talents and inventing a whole new world of space operations.”
A descendent of Cameroonian royalty on his father’s side, the Bronx-raised Yaphet Kotto (November 15, 1939-March 15, 2021) brought a charisma and air of gravitas to his film and TV roles. Familiar for playing law enforcement officers in such films as “Across 110th Street” and “Midnight Run” and the TV series “Homicide: Life in the Street,” and for his Emmy-nominated performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the 1977 TV movie “Raid on Entebbe,” Kotto was best remembered for two roles in which he rubbed against authority: the drug dealer Kananga in “Live and Let Die”; and Parker, the chief engineer of the ill-fated space tug Nostromo in the 1979 sci-fi/horror classic “Alien.”
In 2015 Kotto told The Big Issue he tried to avoid playing the part of the Bond villain as a stereotype: “That was the danger of that role. When I read that script, I said, man, if this is played the wrong way… I had to play Kananga in a way that was so believable you became mesmerized. You see a guy who is completely together – almost as together as James Bond himself.”
Of his time shooting “Alien,” Kotto recalled the scene in which an alien creature incubating inside John Hurt’s chest suddenly makes an appearance. He had a forewarning that something dramatic was planned when the crew showed up wearing head-to-toe protective gear. Of the terror he expressed, he said, “I would like to take credit for that acting, but I was in shock.”
Kotto made his stage debut in a Boston production of “Othello,” and in 1969 he replaced James Earl Jones on Broadway in the Pulitzer Prize-winning boxing drama “The Great White Hope.” His other film roles included “Nothing But a Man,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “5 Card Stud,” “The Liberation of L. B. Jones,” “Report to the Commissioner,” “Blue Collar,” “Brubaker” “Othello,” and “The Running Man.”
But it was his groundbreaking performance in “Alien” – a Black actor with a heroic role in a big-budget science-fiction film – that left the biggest mark for Kotto. At the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival he recalled revisiting the Lincoln Memorial in Washington where he had witnessed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, when a tour bus of Japanese schoolchildren pulled up. They recognized the actor, shouting “Alien.” “And it was so spooky because I realized that the dream had come true. I was now known throughout the world. The movie opened the door up for women – never before in the history of movies had we seen a heroic woman do what Sigourney [Weaver] did. … It was the first time that an African American had been seen in a role like that. And so today, we see women and African Americans in those heroic roles.”
Marvelous Marvin Hagler
One of the great middleweights in boxing history, Marvelous Marvin Hagler (May 23, 1954-March 13, 2021) fought on boxing’s biggest stages against its biggest names, as he, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran dominated the middleweight classes during the 1980s.
Quiet with a brooding public persona, Hagler fought 67 times over 14 years as a pro out of Brockton, Mass., finishing 62-3-2 with 52 knockouts. He fought with a proverbial chip on his shoulder, convinced that boxing fans and promoters alike didn’t give him his proper due. He was so upset that he wasn’t introduced before a 1982 fight by his nickname of “Marvelous” that he went to court to legally change his name.
“If they cut my bald head open, they will find one big boxing glove,” Hagler once said. “That’s all I am. I live it.”
Hagler once stopped Hearns in an epic 1985 fight at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas that still lives in boxing lore despite lasting less than eight minutes. Two years later he was so disgusted after losing a decision to Leonard (stolen, he claimed, by the judges) that he never fought again. He moved to Italy to act, and never really looked back.
“I feel fortunate to get out of the ring with my faculties and my health,” he said a year later.
During more than 30 years on network television, starting with CBS in 1961, veteran newsman Roger Mudd (February 9, 1928-March 9, 2021) covered Congress, elections and political conventions and was a frequent anchor and contributor. He shared a George Foster Peabody Award for the 1970 CBS documentary “The Selling of the Pentagon,” which looked at the military’s public relations efforts during the Vietnam War, and received another Peabody for his November 1979 special “CBS Reports: Teddy,” which aired just days before Sen. Ted Kennedy announced his attempt to challenge then-President Carter for the 1980 Democratic presidential nomination.
In that report, Mudd asked the Massachusetts senator a simple question: “Why do you want to be president?” Kennedy was unable to give a focused answer or specify what he personally wanted to do. As Mudd told viewers: “On the stump Kennedy can be dominating, imposing and masterful, but off the stump, in personal interviews, he can become stilted, elliptical and at times appear as if he really doesn’t want America to get to know him.”
Mudd frequently substituted for Walter Cronkite on the “CBS Evening News,” and anchored the Saturday evening news broadcasts from 1966 to 1973. He then joined NBC News (as a co-anchor of the “Nightly News” and “Meet the Press”), before working with PBS, on the “MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” Mudd left the “NewsHour” in 1992 to teach journalism at Princeton University, and to serve as a host and correspondent for The History Channel.
He wrote a memoir, “The Place To Be,” and in an April 2008 “NewsHour” interview he said he “absolutely loved” keeping tabs on the nation’s 100 senators and 435 representatives, “all of them wanting to talk, great access, politics morning, noon and night, as opposed to the White House, where everything is zipped up and tightly held.”
Six decades ago, two housemates in Brooklyn Heights, New York, dreamed up a children’s adventure story about a bored boy named Milo, “who didn’t know what to do with himself – not just sometimes, but always.” The fantastical adventure “The Phantom Tollbooth,” overflowing with witty wordplay, became a classic. Author Norton Juster (June 2, 1929-March 8, 2021), joined by his friend, the Pulitzer Prize-winning illustrator Jules Feiffer, told “Sunday Morning” correspondent Rita Braver in 2012 that back in 1961 no one expected “Phantom Tollbooth” to materialize into anything: “‘The vocabulary’s too difficult,'” Juster recalled the attitude. “‘The ideas were too complex … Kids would not get any of the word play and punning’ … and to top it all off, ‘It’s not really a children’s book.'” Or how about: “‘Fantasy is bad for children because it disorients them’?”
Juster dreamed up the story while working at an architectural firm, and even after writing “Phantom Tollbooth” stuck with architecture and urban planning, co-founding the firm Juster Pope Associates, in Shelburne Falls, Mass., and teaching at Hampshire College. But his stories managed to combine the precision and structure of engineering with his love for the absurd.
“The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Mathematics” is a love triangle involving a straight (and straight-laced) line, a dot, and a squiggle. It was adapted by Chuck Jones into an Oscar-winning animated short. Other books included “Alberic the Wise and Other Journeys,” “Otter Nonsense,” “Stark Naked: A Paranomastic Odyssey,” “The Hello, Goodbye Window” (a Caldecott Medal winner for its illustrations), “Sourpuss and Sweetie Pie,” and “The Odious Ogre” (also illustrated by Feiffer).
A planned book on urban planning, which was supplanted by his work on “Phantom Tollbooth,” never materialized. “The funny thing is that many of the things I was thinking about for that book did find their way into ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,'” he once wrote. “Maybe someday I’ll get back to it when I’m trying to avoid doing something else.”
Frustrated with handling loose spools of recording tape, Dutch engineer Lou Ottens (June 21, 1926-March 6, 2021) tasked his product development team at Philips to develop a contained cartridge for tape that could be recorded and played back without spilling its contents. One directive: the player had to be small enough to fit in a pocket.
The result: the compact cassette, whose small size allowed players to be portable. “It was a breakthrough because it was foolproof,” Ottens said in an interview for the Philips Museum.
Introduced in the early 1960s, cassettes became a worldwide phenomenon, with more than 100 billion sold, both pre-recorded and blank (on which fans could record their own music mixes). Eventually, with Dolby processing, cassettes could beat other music technologies, like 8-track tapes, in fidelity.
But its popularity would falter upon the introduction of another technology that Ottens helped develop: the digital compact disc.
Mark Pavelich (February 28, 1958-March 4, 2021) was an All-America selection at the University of Minnesota Duluth before joining the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, whose victory match over the Soviet Union earned the title “Miracle on Ice.”
The Soviet team, predominantly quasi-professional players, had won four consecutive Olympic Golds, and were heavily favored in their medal round match against what were, comparatively, a bunch of kids – college players and amateurs with an average age of 21. In a pre-Olympic exhibition game, the Soviets trounced the U.S. team 10-3.
On February 22, 1980 at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y., the Americans held down the Soviets early, and tied the game 2-2 in the last seconds of the first period. The Soviets, having replaced their goalkeeper, kept the Americans scoreless and led 3-2 by the end of the second. Then, on a power play, the Americans tied the game and, with Pavelich’s assist, Mike Eruzione shot what would be the winning goal of the 4-3 match.
The U.S. team completed its round robin medal play with a victory over Finland to capture the Gold.
Pavelich, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound center, would spend five seasons with the New York Rangers (and later with the Minnesota North Stars and San Jose Sharks), finishing with 137 goals and 192 assists in 355 NHL regular-season games. In a 1983 game against Hartford, Pavelich scored five of the Rangers’ 11 goals.
Though the “Miracle on Ice” team won fame, Pavelich balked at celebrity and guarded his privacy. When Eruzione, who became a Rangers broadcaster, asked Pavelich to do an interview for his many fans, he reportedly replied, “Rizzo, you know that’s not important.”
The career of British-born humorist Tony Hendra (July 10, 1941-March 4, 2021) ran the gamut from standup comedian, writer, author and actor to editor of the humor magazines National Lampoon and Spy.
Initially interested in becoming a monk, Hendra accepted a scholarship to Cambridge University, where he participated in satirical revues by the Footlights theatrical group, performing alongside future Monty Python members John Cleese and Graham Chapman.
With his comedy partner Nick Ullett, Hendra opened in New York for Lenny Bruce, and appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” After fitful years as a comedy performer and writer, Hendra became a contributor and then managing editor of The National Lampoon. He expanded Lampoon’s scope beyond magazine stands to albums and the stage, producing and directing the Off-Broadway revue, “National Lampoon’s Lemmings,” a parody of Woodstock, which featured future “Saturday Night Live” stars John Belushi and Chevy Chase, Alice Playten and Christopher Guest.
Hendra most memorably appeared with Guest in the 1984 mockumentary “This is Spinal Tap,” playing the heavy metal band’s manager, Ian Faith, who wielded a cricket bat at opportune moments, and who asserted to his touring band members that Boston was “not a big college town.”
In a 2000 Associated Press interview Hendra said he often did not understand people who would quote dialogue from “Spinal Tap” to him, as he didn’t remember his own lines – a lot of the script was improvised.
Civil rights activist, attorney and Washington insider Vernon Jordan (August 15, 1935-March 1, 2021), who grew up in the segregated South, took a strategic view of race issues: “My view on all this business about race is never to get angry, no, but to get even,” he told The New York Times in 2000. “You don’t take it out in anger; you take it out in achievement.”
As a young clerk for civil rights attorney Donald Hollowell, Jordan – an imposing 6 feet 4 inches – could be seen in an iconic photo holding back a White mob that was trying to prevent the integration of classes at the University of Georgia.
Jordan served as field secretary for the Georgia office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In two years Jordan built new chapters, coordinated demonstrations, and boycotted businesses that would not employ Blacks. After entering private practice, Jordan became director of the Voter Education Project of the Southern Regional Council, registering Black voters and helping elect Black officeholders.
In 1970 he became executive director of the United Negro College Fund, raising funds to aid students at historically Black colleges and universities, and soon after became president of the National Urban League (the first lawyer to lead the organization). During his tenure, the Urban League added 17 more chapters, and broadened its focus to include voter registration drives and conflict resolution between Blacks and law enforcement.
In May 1980 he survived a murder attempt when a racist shot him in the back with a hunting rifle in Fort Wayne, Ind. Jordan had five surgeries during his months of recovery. “I’m not afraid, and I won’t quit,” Jordan told Ebony magazine after the shooting.
His long friendship with Bill Clinton, which began in Arkansas in the 1970s, landed the Washington lawyer and influencer the position of “first friend” when Clinton became president. While turning down the opportunity to become the nation’s first Black attorney general after heading the Clinton transition team, Jordan served as an unofficial advisor and confidante – a role that was tarnished during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, when Jordan testified that his efforts to find the former intern a job were not in connection to the White House sex scandal.
In a 1978 speech at the National Press Club, Jordan addressed some pundits’ suggestions that civil rights advocates – those protesting against the immorality of injustice – ought not raise their voices about other issues (like the environment, tax cuts or national economic policies) that were, supposedly, outside their wheelhouse. “Civil rights don’t take place in a vacuum,” Jordan said. “They are meaningful only in the real world – the world where people have to survive to work, to raise their families, to instill in their children hope for the future and the skills to function in a society where a broad back and the desire to work are no longer enough. That is why we are concerned with tax cuts, with energy, with a multitude of issues some White people think are not the concern of Blacks. That is why we see our present efforts as being the logical outcome of those struggles for basic rights of the 1960s. And that is why we insist there is a vital, moral component to the current struggle.”
Kenneth C. Kelly
Electronics engineer and Navy veteran Kenneth C. Kelly (1928-Feb. 27, 2021) was awarded more than a dozen patents for innovations in radar and antenna technology in the 1950s. His early work at Hughes Aircraft helped create guided missile systems and the ground satellites that tracked NASA space missions. But in the early 1960s, he could not buy a house in the middle-class suburb of Gardena, Calif., without having a White friend buy it for him before transferring the mortgage, because Blacks were excluded.
Kelly and his wife Loretta later moved near California State University-Northridge, to be closer to his job, and again, the real estate agent wouldn’t sell him the lot, so he had to repeat the demeaning experience of having White friends front the purchase.
Kelly would become president of the San Fernando Valley Fair Housing Council, lobbying authorities and going to court to prevent Whites-only advertising. He also became a realtor himself, helping many Black families move into suburbs in the 1970s.
Still, the engineer who couldn’t buy a house on his own fostered advances in antenna designs that contributed to the race to the moon, made satellite TV and radio possible, and helped design robotic antennas for the Mars rovers Spirit and Opportunity. His two-way antenna designs are featured in the massive Mojave Desert radiotelescopes that search for signs of extraterrestrial life. He also formed a society of Black scientists and engineers who launched science fairs and outreach programs to minority students in Los Angeles, which was booming with Black people fleeing the South in the post-war period.
More down-to-Earth was his influence on the comic pages, corresponding with “Peanuts” cartoonist Charles Schulz to promote the inclusion of a Black character, Franklin, in the strip to promote racial harmony. Kelly urged the cartoonist to treat the Black character as just another member of the Peanuts gang.
The same persuasiveness had driven a young Kelly to successfully petition the Navy to allow him to take the engineering exam, despite being told Blacks could only serve as stewards to White officers.
“I think I’m a crazy optimist,” Kelly said in an oral history. “I’m definitely the half-full glass person. I meet lots of people who are so pessimistic. I always thought I could.”
Writer, activist, publisher and bookseller Lawrence Ferlinghetti (March 24, 1919-February 22, 2021) was a San Francisco institution. His influence extended from the beginnings of “Beat” poetry as a publisher (he claims to have served as a “soul mate” for the movement), to running one of the world’s most famous bookstores, City Lights.
Ferlinghetti was himself a poet, playwright, novelist, translator and painter. His 1958 compilation, “A Coney Island of the Mind,” sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the U.S. alone. He called his style “wide open,” and his work, influenced in part by e.e. cummings, was often lyrical and childlike.
This despite the traumas of his childhood, his father dying five months before Ferlinghetti was born, his mother suffering a nervous breakdown two years later, eventually dying in a state hospital. A haunting sense of loss followed him as he spent years moving among relatives, boarding homes and an orphanage, before he was taken in by a wealthy New York family, for whom his mother had worked as a governess. He would study journalism and literature, and served as a Navy commander stationed in Japan in 1945. He recalled witnessing the horrors of Nagasaki following the atomic bomb blast there, which he said made him an “instant pacifist.”
Settling in San Francisco, he helped establish a meeting place for the city’s literary movement. Ferlinghetti published Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems” in 1956, inviting arrest on an obscenity charge. Ferlinghetti won the case in court, and continued releasing works by Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Lew Welch, Diane di Prima and others.
In his 2007 poem “Poetry as Insurgent Art” Ferlinghetti called on fellow writers and thinkers to create work capable of answering “the challenge of apocalyptic times”:
I am signaling you through the flames.
The North Pole is not where it used to be.
Manifest Destiny is no longer manifest.
Nemesis is knocking at the door.
What are poets for, in such an age?
What is the use of poetry?
The state of the world calls out for poetry to save it.
A former Navy sailor, Merchant Marine and self-described “beach bum,” Bruce Meyers (March 12, 1926-Feb. 19, 2021) attended art school and built boats, learning to design with fiberglass. In the early 1960s, after watching heavy, “ugly” cars try to maneuver sandy beaches, Meyers designed an off-road vehicle that became an icon for California surfers, beach mavens and off-road racers: The dune buggy (pictured). Constructed with a lightweight fiberglass body atop four over-sized wheels, with a pair of googly head lamps and a place to stash a surfboard, the Meyers Manx was an instant hit, and became even more so when Meyers’ first dune buggy, dubbed Old Red, won a 1,000-mile off-road race in Mexico in record time.
More than 6,000 Meyers Manx dune buggies were built by B.F. Meyers & Co., while a quarter-million copycat dune buggies were built by competitors. According to the Historic Vehicle Association, the Meyers Manx is the most-replicated car ever. In 1976 Road and Track Magazine called the Manx “one of the most significant and influential cars of all time … recognized as a genuine sculpture, a piece of art.”
After losing a court case to protect his design, Meyers shut his company in 1971, frustrated with his creation being ripped off, and operated a trading post in Tahiti for many years, before running a car company.
In 2019 Meyers described to Automobile magazine an invitation to France in 1994 where he was asked to attend a parade of dune buggies (including many Manx copycats). When he objected, explaining the pain of losing his patent in court, a car expert upbraided him: “He says, ‘You’ve gotta change focus. You’re worried about something that’s happened a long time ago and it’s killing you. There’s a chemical in your body that will make you die sooner: anger. … Every dune buggy has a couple of smiling faces. You put ’em there. They’re yours. Stop thinking about that [other stuff], think about the smiling faces.’ …
“He shut my mind down, he was so right. I took his other advice and we started the Manx Club … Every dune buggy is a piece of fun, and all the dune buggies, good or bad, they’re part of the club – we allowed all copies in. For my enemies are now my friends. Not being pissed at all those people who you were pissed at is the greatest feeling. Unload it. Throw it away. ‘Cause it’s all in your mind. [Instead I’m] thinking on this happiness that I’ve caused.”
Dr. Bernard Lown
Cardiologist Dr. Bernard Lown (June 7, 1921-February 16, 2021) earned renown as creator of the first effective heart defibrillator, a device which applied a jolt of direct-current electricity to a patient experiencing abnormal heart rhythms.
But he won a Nobel Prize for Peace in 1985 as co-founder of the group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which protested against the Cold War arms race and the testing of nuclear weapons. He also founded a nonprofit, SatelLife USA, that launched a satellite to improve communications and training of medical personnel in Asia and Africa; and ProCor, an email and web network expanding medical information to developing nations.
In 2014 Lown discussed with U.S. News & World Report what he believed contributed to the crisis in medical care: “In my view the lost art of listening is a quintessential failure of our health care system. I think that you cannot heal the health care system without restoring the art of listening and of compassion. You cannot ignore the patient as a human being. A doctor must be a good listener.”
Created in 1964, Fania Records, which produced albums by such artists as Celia Cruz, Willie Colón, Rubén Blades and Hector Lavoe, became known as “the Motown of salsa.” Its co-founder, Johnny Pacheco (March 25, 1935-February 15, 2021), was a Dominican-born bandleader, songwriter and arranger, who led the supergroup Fania All-Stars.
His collaborations with Cruz (including their first breakout album, 1974’s “Celia & Johnny,” which went gold) brought forth a new genre that was international in scope, yet decidedly particular to a nation of immigrants.
In 2014 Pacheco talked with WNYC Radio about creating this hybrid form of Latin music: “When I was rehearsing the band, I saw that we had Dominicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and two Jewish fellows. When you make a sauce, you have different ingredients. And when I saw the band and the singer I thought, this is what we got. We got salsa.”
A virtuoso keyboardist, Chick Corea (June 12, 1941-February 9, 2021) pushed the boundaries of numerous musical genres – jazz, fusion, Latin, classical – while working both with acoustic and electronic instruments. A prolific artist, Corea recorded nearly 90 albums, winning 23 Grammy Awards (the most by any jazz artist) and four Latin Grammys.
Born just outside Boston, the son of a trumpeter and bandleader, Corea dropped out of both Columbia and Juilliard, and refused to be pigeonholed into any one category, as he told “Sunday Morning”‘s Billy Taylor back in 1990: “If I can conceive of something with my imagination, why can’t I do it? … Where’s the law written that I can’t play Latin music, or I can’t play blues, or I can’t be what I want to be, basically?”
Corea performed with Herbie Mann and Stan Getz, before joining the Miles Davis Quintet in 1968. He played on several of the group’s albums, including “In a Silent Way,” “Bitches Brew” and “On the Corner.” He then formed the free jazz group Circle, recorded solo albums, and founded the jazz fusion group Return to Forever. A string of bands in various musical styles followed: The Chick Corea Elektric Band, the Chick Corea New Trio, the Five Peace Band, Chick Corea & the Vigil.
He was named a National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Master in 2006.
In 2020 he talked with Jazz Times about the sense of fulfillment he experienced as a musician and composer as compared to many other professions: “Most people can’t tell how their effort is being received. I can see if I’m bringing people pleasure, if I’m inspiring anybody. When you do that, you’re putting something good into the world. I believe that.”
A founding member of the Supremes (along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard), Mary Wilson (March 6, 1944-February 8, 2021) was part of a Motown Records powerhouse, which had a dozen #1 hits during the 1960s. Their elegance, fashion and powerful voices helped define the style of the iconic record label.
(Pictured: Mary Wilson, center, with Ballard and Ross.)
The three singers, who had all grown up in Detroit, were still in their teens when they were signed by Berry Gordy in 1961. Within three years, The Supremes had their first chart-topper, “Where Did Our Love Go?” Other hits included “Baby Love,” “Come See About Me,” “Stop! In the Name of Love” and “Back in My Arms Again.”
Ballard was replaced by Cindy Birdsong by 1967, and Ross left the group in 1970, leaving Wilson as the sole original member by the time The Supremes broke up for good in 1977. Wilson followed up with two solo albums, and wrote several books, including the bestselling “Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme.” Her last book, “Supreme Glamour,” co-written with Mark Bego, was released in 2019, the same year she competed on the TV series “Dancing with the Stars.”
In 2019 Wilson told The Guardian, “We, the Supremes, can’t take all the credit. The writers and producers at Motown gave us the music and sound that people loved. And then there was the glamour. My whole life is like a dream. I tell you – if I were not a Supreme, I would want to be a Supreme. I’m living the dream.”
George Shultz (December 13, 1920-February 6, 2021) held numerous government positions throughout his long career that spanned academia, business, policy think tanks, and Cabinet posts in Republican administrations. After earning an economics doctorate at MIT, Shultz served as a senior staff economist with President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Council of Economic Advisers. He would later hold the office of dean of the University of Chicago’s business school, and was president of the construction and engineering company Bechtel Group from 1975-1982.
Shultz was Labor Secretary, Treasury Secretary and director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Richard M. Nixon, and – for six years – Secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan.
After the October 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 soldiers, Shultz worked tirelessly to end Lebanon’s brutal civil war in the 1980s. He spent countless hours of shuttle diplomacy between Mideast capitals trying to secure the withdrawal of Israeli forces there.
The experience led him to believe that stability in the region could only be assured with a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and he set about on an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful mission to bring the parties to the negotiating table, shaping the path for future administrations’ Mideast efforts by legitimizing the Palestinians as a people with valid aspirations and a valid stake in determining their future.
Shultz also negotiated the first-ever treaty to reduce the size of the Soviet Union’s ground-based nuclear arsenals despite fierce objections from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. The 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was a historic attempt to begin to reverse the nuclear arms race.
A rare public disagreement between Reagan and Shultz came in 1985 when the president ordered thousands of government employees with access to highly classified information to take a “lie detector” test as a way to plug leaks of information. Shultz told reporters, “The minute in this government that I am not trusted is the day that I leave.” The administration soon backed off the demand.
Shultz retained an iconoclastic streak, speaking out against several mainstream Republican policy positions. He created some controversy by calling the war on recreational drugs, championed by Reagan, a failure, and raised eyebrows by decrying the longstanding U.S. embargo on Cuba as “insane.” Since his retirement, Shultz advocated for an increased focus on climate change.
Following last November’s presidential election, Shultz wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, “Dec. 13 marks my turning 100 years young. I’ve learned much over that time, but looking back, I’m struck that there is one lesson I learned early and then relearned over and over: Trust is the coin of the realm. When trust was in the room, whatever room that was — the family room, the schoolroom, the locker room, the office room, the government room or the military room — good things happened. When trust was not in the room, good things did not happen. Everything else is details.”
Canadian actor Christopher Plummer (December 13, 1929-February 5, 2021), the great grandson of a former prime minister, caught the acting bug early, and earned praise for his stage roles while still in his teens. He made his film debut in 1958’s “Stage Struck,” appeared in a TV adaptation of “A Doll’s House,” and played the emperor Commodus in “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” before taking on what would be his signature movie role: Captain Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.”
The picture’s success launched him into film stardom, with roles in “Inside Daisy Clover,” “The Night of the Generals,” “Battle of Britain,” “Waterloo,” “The Return of the Pink Panther,” “The Man Who Would Be King,” “The Silent Partner,” “Murder by Decree,” “Eyewitness,” “Malcolm X,” “Twelve Monkeys,” and “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” (as a Shakespeare-quoting Klingon).
But for years his career remained focused on the stage, performing in “Henry V,” “Julius Caesar,” “Hamlet,” “Twelfth Night,” “Macbeth” and “Becket.” He won a Tony Award in 1974 as Cyrano de Bergerac, and another in 1997 playing John Barrymore. His other Broadway appearances include “J.B.,” “The Good Doctor,” Iago in “Othello,” “King Lear,” “No Man’s Land” and “Inherit the Wind.”
He saw a resurgence in film work beginning in 1999 with his portrayal of “60 Minutes” journalist Mike Wallace in “The Insider,” followed by a psychiatrist in “A Beautiful Mind,” a mystic in “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” a colonist in “The New World,” Leo Tolstoy in “The Last Station,” the voice of an explorer in the Pixar film “Up,” and a family patriarch in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” In “Beginners” he played a man who, at 75, comes out as gay. His performance earned him an Oscar, making him, at 82, the oldest Academy Award-winning actor ever.
“In many ways it feels like you’re kind of in the prime of your movie career,” correspondent Anthony Mason told Plummer in 2011, in an interview for “Sunday Morning.”
“Yes, it’s extraordinary to wait this long,” he replied. “I’ve worked harder and more frequently now that I’m in my eighties than I ever did before.”
He was not just in demand, but extraordinarily nimble. In 2017, when accusations of sexual predation led to the cutting of Kevin Spacey from the film “All the Money in the World,” Plummer stepped into the role of J. Paul Getty, with just one month before the movie’s L.A. premiere. Director Ridley Scott spent nine days reshooting all of Spacey’s scenes with Plummer, who wound up earning his third Oscar nomination. And in 2019 he starred in the comic thriller “Knives Out.”
In 1978 Leon Spinks (July 11, 1953 – February 5, 2021), a gold medalist from the 1976 Olympic Games and a former Marine, was an unranked boxer who’d only had seven professional fights when he faced off against Muhammad Ali, who’d picked Spinks as an easy opponent. Promoter Bob Arum told the Guardian that he thought Spinks was out-matched. But Spinks shocked the boxing world by beating Ali by split decision in a 15-round fight, winning the heavyweight boxing title at age 25.
“I’m not The Greatest,” Spinks said afterward. “Just the latest.”
In a rematch seven months later, before a record indoor boxing crowd of 72,000 at New Orleans’ Superdome and a national TV audience of an estimated 90 million, Ali regained the title.
Spinks, with a big grin that often showed off his missing front teeth, was popular among boxing fans for both his win over Ali and his easygoing personality, and he continued fighting into the mid-1990s, ending his career with a 26-17-3 record. But he burned through his earnings quickly, and at one point after retiring was working as a custodian, cleaning locker rooms at a Nebraska YMCA.
He later was part of a group of ex-fighters who had their brains studied by the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas. Spinks was found to have brain damage caused by a combination of taking punches to the head and heavy drinking, though he functioned well enough to do autograph sessions and other events late in his life.
“He was happy-go-lucky, the salt of the earth,” Arum said. “Leon was nutty but you couldn’t get angry at the guy. He never meant any harm to anyone.”
In 1968 Rennie Davis (May 23, 1940-February 2, 2021), a longtime peace activist, was a national director for the anti-war group Students for a Democratic Society, coordinating protests to be held at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. He was among the 3,000 demonstrators who faced off against police and Illinois National Guardsmen in a bloody confrontation that an investigation later described as a “police riot.”
Beaten on the head by cops, Davis (pictured here center, with Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin) was taken to a hospital to get 13 stitches. He told “Sunday Morning” correspondent Tracy Smith in 2020 that he was hidden by medical staff: “The police realized that I was in the hospital because they knew I had been clubbed. And so, they started a search of the hospital, room by room by room. And most of the nurses – they could end their careers by what they did – they put me on a trolley cart and covered me with a sheet and moved me from room to room, to hide [me] from the police.”
Ultimately, during the “Chicago Seven” trial in 1969-70, Davis and four co-defendants (Rubin, Hoffman, Tom Hayden and David Dellinger) were convicted of conspiracy to incite a riot, convictions that were late overturned by a federal appeals court.
By the early 1970s Davis became disillusioned with the more violent course the anti-war movement had taken. He moved to Colorado, where he studied and taught spirituality and entered the business world, selling life insurance and running a think tank that developed technologies for the environment. He became both a venture capitalist and a lecturer on meditation and self-awareness.
When she was five years old, Millie Hughes-Fulford (December 21, 1945-February 2, 2021) was watching “Buck Rogers” and decided she wanted to be Wilma Deering, a female astronaut who piloted a spaceship while wearing pants. “It was a life’s dream, and not many of us get our life’s dream,” she said in an interview with the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014.
Studying biology and plasma chemistry, Dr. Hughes-Fulford, a U.S. Army Medical Corps Major, was chosen by NASA to become the first female scientist to fly aboard Spacelab in 1991. After spending nine days in orbit, she participated in a week-long study of how the body readjusts to gravity. She also oversaw space experiments in the late ’90s investigating the causes of osteoporosis occurring in astronauts during space flights.
Hughes-Fulford later lobbied for the International Space Station, and worked on experiments in space that studied T-cell dysfunction in microgravity. A molecular biologist at the VA medical center in San Francisco, she became director of the laboratory that bears her name.
Captain Sir Tom Moore
Last year as health care workers began battling the COVID pandemic, World War II veteran and former motorcycle racer Capt. Tom Moore (April 30, 1920-February 2, 2021) set out to raise £1,000 for Britain’s National Health Service by walking 100 laps in his backyard – this as he turned 100 years old. For three weeks in April, daily videos showed Captain Tom, stooped with age, doggedly pushing his walker in the garden, maintaining a sunny attitude in the middle of a pandemic lockdown.
“Please always remember, tomorrow will be a good day,” Moore said in an interview – words that became his trademark.
Captain Tom became a viral sensation, and a true inspiration, with donations pouring in from across the U.K. and around the world, raising about £33 million ($40 million). When he finished his 100th lap on April 16, a military honor guard lined the path. World War II-era fighter planes flew overhead in tribute on his birthday.
“I felt a little frustrated and disappointed after I broke my hip and it knocked my confidence,” he said after completing his trek. “However, the past three weeks have put a spring back in my step. I have renewed purpose and have thoroughly enjoyed every second of this exciting adventure.”
He was made an honorary member of the England cricket team, had a train named after him, and in July, while wearing his wartime medals, Moore was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, in a socially-distanced ceremony at Windsor Castle.
“I have been overwhelmed by the many honors I have received over the past weeks, but there is simply nothing that can compare to this,” he tweeted after the ceremony. “I am overwhelmed with pride and joy.”
He dedicated his autobiography, “Tomorrow Will Be a Good Day,” to “all those who serve on the front line of any battle – be it military, psychological or medical.”
Actor Dustin Diamond (January 7, 1977-February 1, 2021) was best known for playing the nerdy character of Screech on the sitcom “Saved By the Bell,” and its related shows, including “Good Morning, Miss Bliss,” “Saved by the Bell: The College Years,” and “Saved by the Bell: The New Class.”
His other credits included “Big Top Pee-wee,” “The Wonder Years,” “Celebrity Fit Club,” “The Weakest Link,” “Celebrity Boxing 2,” and “Celebrity Big Brother.”
Actress Cicely Tyson (December 19, 1924-January 28, 2021) grew up in Harlem with a very religious mother who thought the world of modeling and acting was a den of iniquity – so much so she kicked Cicely out of the house after her daughter landed her first role. “My mother didn’t talk to me for two years,” Tyson told “Sunday Morning” correspondent Lee Cowan in 2013. Though the impasse was hard, she said, “I also knew that what I was feeling was so compelling that nothing was going to stop me.”
And nothing did. As an actress she became a beacon of social conscience, rarely taking on roles unless she felt they contributed to the national dialogue on civil rights. “I wanted to address certain issues, and I chose to use my career as my platform,” Tyson said.
Her performance as the wife of a Southern sharecropper in “Sounder” (1972) earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. And in the landmark TV miniseries “Roots,” she played Kunta Kinte’s mother. When asked to describe the impact “Roots” had, she replied, “Wow. I don’t even know if I could verbalize it. It is the one thing I believe that has touched every single culture or race.”
Tyson’s most indelible role was in the TV film, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” playing a former slave who lived to the age of 110 – old enough to take a stand in the civil rights movement. The performance won her two Emmy Awards in 1974.
Other film appearances include “Odds Against Tomorrow,” “The Last Angry Man,” “The Comedians,” “A Man Called Adam,” “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” “The Blue Bird,” “The River Niger,” “A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich,” “Bustin’ Loose,” “Fried Green Tomatoes,” “The Grass Harp,” “The Help,” and “Diary of a Mad Black Woman.”
On TV she appeared in “East Side, West Side,” “King,” “The Rosa Parks Story,” “Wilma,” “A Woman Called Moses” (as Harriet Tubman), “The Marva Collins Story,” “Sweet Justice,” “A Lesson Before Dying,” “House of Cards,” “Cherish the Day,” and “How to Get Away With Murder.” She earned a Best Supporting Actress Emmy for “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All.”
She would become the oldest Tony-winner for Best Actress, at age 88, for the 2013 revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful.” She returned to Broadway in 2015 for a revival of “The Gin Game,” co-starring James Earl Jones. She also taught master classes in acting at the Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, N.J.
When asked if she believes she has made a difference, Tyson said, “I hope I have. I hope so. I’m told so every day. And that’s very rewarding. It’s very satisfying.”
Actress Cloris Leachman (April 30, 1926-January 27, 2021) initially made her mark in drama, and won an Oscar for her mesmerizing portrayal of a lonely, adulterous housewife in “The Last Picture Show” (1971), a role she would repeat in the 1990 sequel, “Texasville.”
Her early credits include “Kiss Me Deadly,” “The Rack,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Lovers and Other Strangers,” “WUSA,” and such TV series as “Actors Studio,” “Suspense,” “Lassie” (playing Timmy’s mother), “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “One Step Beyond,” “The Twilight Zone,” “The Untouchables,” “77 Sunset Strip,” “Dr. Kildare,” and “The Virginian.”
But her power and versatility as a dramatic actress would become overshadowed by her unparalleled comedic chops, first on television and then in the movies of Mel Brooks.
Leachman won two of her nine Emmy Awards playing Mary Tyler Moore’s neighbor, Phyllis Lindstrom, on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” and would go on to headline her own spin-off TV series. Then, in Brooks’ 1974 classic “Young Frankenstein,” she played Frau Blücher, whose very name would cause horses to whinny in terror.
When “Sunday Morning” correspondent Tracy Smith asked Leachman in 2015 the story behind the horses, Leachman said, “I asked Mel a few years ago, and he said, ‘Blucher means glue.'”
She returned to work with Brooks in “High Anxiety,” as a villainous nurse in a mental institution, and in “History of the World: Part I.” Other films and TV credits include “Crazy Mama,” “Daisy Miller,” “Promised Land,” “The Facts of Life,” “The Ellen Show,” “Touched by an Angel,” “Raising Hope,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “Malcolm in the Middle” (for which she won two Emmys), “Mad About You,” and the animated “The Croods.”
She continued working up to the very end. In 2016, the then-90-year-old was asked by The Hollywood Reporter if she ever thought of retiring. Her reply? “F***.”
Broadcaster Larry King (November 19, 1933-January 23, 2021) conducted nearly 60,000 interviews during the course of his six-decade radio and TV career, asking questions of the famous and infamous. Describing his style to “60 Minutes,” King fell back onto his Brooklyn roots as someone who was “No baloney … I’m a guy who asks questions, that’s all. I’m a guy who’s curious.”
Born Lawrence Zeiger, the son of Jewish immigrants, he moved in 1957 to Florida, where he’d heard broadcasting jobs were available. Sweeping floors at a small radio station in Miami, he was put on the air when the DJ suddenly quit, and was given a new name by the station manager who decided Zeiger was “too Jewish” sounding. King bounced around to other radio stations during the ’60s, and acquired a newspaper column. But financial setbacks and a lawsuit pushed him off the air for several years, until the late ’70s, when he began hosting radio’s first nationwide call-in show on the Mutual Network. “The Larry King Show” would expand to more than 300 stations. When he joined CNN in 1985, his nightly conversations on “Larry King Live” became a staple of the cable TV medium (as did his trademark suspenders).
King had a penchant both for inviting newsmakers and making news. In 1992 Texas businessman Ross Perot was coaxed by King to announce on his show he’d consider running for president. King’s 1994 interview with Marlon Brando grabbed headlines, as much for the fact that the reclusive movie star actually gave an interview as for the kiss he planted on King’s lips.
He said that he did not adhere to prepared questions but primarily listened to what his subjects said, and jumped off from there, creating a conversational and friendly atmosphere that attracted politicians and dictators, musicians and movie stars, murderers and crime victims (and earned King two Peabody Awards). And the friendly tone invited humor, such as when the Dalai Lama complimented King on one of the broadcaster’s many wives: “Looks like your daughter!” he laughed.
In 1992 the curious King told “60 Minutes” correspondent Mike Wallace that his only worry was dying.
“What are you worried about? You’re a boy!” Wallace said to the then-59-year-old.
“This universe has been around a long time, it’s going to be around for a long time, and I’m here for a blip of it,” King said, “and I want to see it all.”
Baseball’s one-time home run king, Hank Aaron (February 5, 1934-January 22, 2021), endured virulent racism as he chased Babe Ruth’s home run record of 714, long held to be an insurmountable target. Aaron became a target himself, of hate mail and racist threats, forcing the Atlanta Brave to have bodyguard protection. He kept the hateful letters, he said, as a reminder of the abuse he bore.
Nevertheless, Aaron matched Ruth’s record on April 4, 1974, and topped it with homer no. 715 four days later before a sold-out Atlanta Stadium and a nationwide TV audience. (The unlucky pitcher: Al Downing of the Los Angeles Dodgers.)
Home runs were only part of his game. Aaron remains baseball’s all-time RBI leader (with 2,297) and leader in total bases (6,856). He ranks second in at-bats (12,354); third in games played (3,298) and hits (3,771); fourth in runs scored (tied with Ruth at 2,174); and 13th in doubles (624).
He won two National League batting titles, was a three-time Gold Glove winner, and recorded more than 20 stolen bases in seven seasons. His sole National League MVP Award came in 1957, when the Braves beat the New York Yankees to win the World Series (the only championship of Aaron’s career).
After 21 years with the Braves, he ended his career with two years back in Milwaukee, as a designated hitter for the Brewers. (He was traded after refusing to take a front-office job with a significant pay cut.) He added 22 homers to his lifetime total, finishing with 755, a record that would stand for 33 years (until Barry Bonds, of the San Francisco Giants, surpassed it).
“I just tried to play the game the way it was supposed to be played,” Aaron once said.
After his retirement in 1976, the Hall of Famer’s status as one of the game’s all-time greats, and as a civil rights hero, philanthropist, supporter of the NAACP, and an advocate for increased diversity among major league baseball’s coaching staffs, would lead boxer Muhammad Ali to describe Aaron as “the only man I idolize more than myself.”
Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda (September 22, 1927-January 7, 2021) bled Dodger blue for more than seven decades as part of the Los Angeles baseball team’s organization. Earning notice in the minors as a strikeout hurler (once recording 25 KOs in a 15-inning game), he was brought up to the majors in 1954. But in his first start, in 1955, he threw three wild pitches against the Cardinals and was called from the mound after the first inning. During three seasons in the majors (with the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Kansas City Athletics) he achieved a 0-4 record with a 6.48 ERA and 37 strikeouts.
Lasorda then became a scout and coach and, later, the Dodgers’ manager for 21 years. During that time, his gregarious leadership skills helped the team to two World Series championships (in 1981 and 1988), in addition to four National League titles and eight division titles. He also managed the U.S. Olympic team to a gold medal at the 2000 Sydney Games.
He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997.
Just as evident as Lasorda’s enthusiasm for the game was his waistline: “When we won games, I’d eat to celebrate,” he once explained. “And when we lost games, I’d eat to forget.”
In 1964 British filmmaker Michael Apted (February 10, 1941-January 7, 2021) was a 22-year-old researcher working on a documentary for U.K. television. His assignment: find a cohort of seven-year-old schoolchildren from across socio-economic lines for a film about London youth, inspired by the adage, “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will show you the man.” “Seven Up!” was a success, capturing the hopes and dreams of young Britons, affluent and poor, Black and White. Apted subsequently directed follow-up visits to the same schoolchildren, filmed at seven-year intervals, beginning with “14 Up” and “21 Up,” all the way through “63 Up,” released in 2019. For Apted, the series became his life’s work – a living document of humanity probing the joys and sadness of growing up.
In 2013 “Sunday Morning” correspondent Lee Cowan asked Apted what made the Peabody Award-winning series so compelling. “Well, ’cause I think people identify with it,” Apted replied. “You see 13, 14 stories up there, and there’s elements in some of them that hit home on every life. Everybody who watches it can identify with something.”
In addition to capturing real life, Apted also directed biopics (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Gorillas of the Mist”), comedies (“Continental Divide”), dramas (“Agatha,” “Thunderheart,” “Nell,” “Enigma”) thrillers (“Gorky Park,” “Blink”), fantasy (“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”), concert films (Sting’s “Bring on the Night”), and even a James Bond movie (“The World Is Not Enough”).
Apted said he hoped to keep the “Up” series going as long as his interviewees were willing and healthy. (“63 Up” included the passing of one subject, Lynn.) His goal: to keep it going until his film family are in their 80s – which would put Apted at nearly 100: “I figured out when I do ’84,’ I’ll be 99. So, that could be a nice swan song, shouldn’t it?” he laughed.
A war correspondent for United Press International and The New York Times in the early years of the Vietnam War, Neil Sheehan (October 27, 1936-January 7, 2021) was a national correspondent for the Times based in Washington when he obtained from Daniel Ellsberg, a former consultant to the Defense Department, a history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Sheehan broke the story of the Pentagon Papers in his articles for the Times, beginning in June 1971, which exposed widespread government deception, by political and military leaders, about U.S. prospects for victory. The Washington Post soon followed with reporting of its own.
In an interview published posthumously in the Times (Sheehan had asked that it not be printed until after his death), the writer revealed that Ellsberg did not give him the Pentagon Papers (as was widely believed), but that Sheehan had deceived his source and taken them. Admitting he was “really quite angry” by what the papers revealed, Sheehan decided that “this material is never again going in a government safe.” He smuggled the documents from the Massachusetts apartment where they had been kept, and copied thousands of pages to take to the Times.
“You had to do what I did,” Sheehan said. “I had decided, ‘This guy is just impossible. You can’t leave it in his hands. It’s too important and it’s too dangerous.'”.
The Nixon administration sought a restraining order against publication, argued on national security grounds. But on June 30, 1971, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 in favor of allowing the Times and the Post to continue revealing the Pentagon Papers’ contents. The coverage won the Times the Pulitzer Prize for public service.
The Nixon administration tried to discredit Ellsberg after the documents’ release, including orchestrating a break-in at the office of Ellsberg’s Beverly Hills psychiatrist to find information with which to discredit him. When evidence of the break-in and government wiretaps surfaced, Ellsberg’s trial for theft, conspiracy and violations of the Espionage Act ended in a mistrial.
When Ellsberg bumped into Sheehan and accused Sheehan of stealing the papers, the journalist replied, “‘No, Dan, I didn’t steal it. And neither did you. Those papers are the property of the people of the United States. They paid for them with their national treasure and the blood of their sons, and they have a right to it.'”
Sheehan’s 1988 account of the war, “A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam,” won him the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award. He also authored “After the War Was Over: Hanoi and Saigon.” In a 1988 C-SPAN interview Sheehan said, “Vietnam will be a war in vain only if we don’t draw wisdom from it.”
Bronx, N.Y. native Tanya Roberts (October 15, 1955-January 4, 2021) studied acting under Lee Strasberg and Uta Hagen, but her earliest jobs were in modeling and commercials that highlighted her beauty. Even her first big break, replacing Shelley Hack on the TV series “Charlie’s Angels,” was more glamorous than substantive.
Roberts would star in the films “The Beastmaster,” “Sheena: Queen of the Jungle” and “Hearts and Armour,” before being picked to star opposite Roger Moore in his last appearance as James Bond, in 1985′s “A View to a Kill.”
In a 2015 interview with London’s Daily Mail, Roberts admitted that she was cautious about accepting the role in a Bond film: “I remember I said to my agent, ‘No one ever works after they get a Bond movie,’ and they said to me, ‘Are you kidding? Glenn Close would do it if she could.'”
After “A View to a Kill,” Roberts made few film appearances. Her most notable role was in the sitcom “That ’70s Show” as Laura Prepon’s hippie mother, Midge, who embraced the women’s liberation movement.
“I’ve made a lot of good choices and a lot of bad choices and that’s part of life,” Roberts told the Daily Mail. “Whether you’re really successful or moderately successful … You can’t go through life defeated. It’s just trial-and-error.”
Eric Jerome Dickey
Bestselling novelist Eric Jerome Dickey (July 7, 1961-January 3, 2021) was a software developer and aspiring actor and stand-up comic when he began writing fiction in his mid-30s. His first book, “Sister, Sister,” was celebrated for its depiction of Black sisterhood.
His witty and conversational prose style punctuated such novels as “Friends and Lovers,” “Milk in My Coffee,” “Cheaters,” ” Liar’s Game,” “Thieves’ Paradise,” “The Other Woman” and “Genevieve,” and the “Gideon” crime fiction series, which included “Sleeping With Strangers” and “Resurrecting Midnight.” Dickey wrote 29 novels in all, with more than seven million copies in print worldwide. His final novel, “The Son of Mr. Suleman,” is due in April.
He also contributed to anthologies such as “Mothers and Sons” and “Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica,” and wrote a comic book miniseries for Marvel featuring the characters Storm and Black Panther.
In 2016 he talked with the Washington Independent Review of Books about how he “reinvented” himself by attending UCLA: “Studied, studied, studied, read, read, read, wrote, wrote, still rewriting what I wrote, wrote, wrote. At UCLA, I started with all the 101 classes, learned what I could from the ground up. My best approach to anything, no matter my level of experience or education, has always been with an empty cup. You never know everything.”