Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Saying Farewell to 26 Remarkable People that Passed on in 2017

by Nomad

As 2017 comes to a close, we should take one last parting glance at some of the famous (an infamous) characters who are no longer with us. Most of those on this list were not celebrated doctors, inventor or scientists. Nor were they statesman of great renowned.  Mostly just random celebrities who once occupied the spotlight of fame.

At 77, UK actor John Hurt succumbed to pancreatic cancer on 25 January. With a screen and stage career spanning more than 50 years, Hurt first became famous to American audiences for his jaw-dropping portrayal of the mad Roman emperor Caligula in the BBC series, I, Claudius.
He also played the flamboyant writer Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant, Winston Smith in the film "Nineteen-Eighty-Four" and John Merrick in "The Elephant Man." The list of film and stage credits is remarkable.
He once said:
I'd love to be one of those people who, whenever you see them, you feel pleased.
On 25 January, actress Mary Tyler Moore left us. Playing Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show from 1961 to 1966, Moore later went on to star in her own smash hit show for most of the 70s.
At that time, the premise of that show was considered groundbreaking: a single working woman who survived quite well all by herself. Strangely enough, Moore dismissed the idea that her show carried any underlying feminist message. She described herself like this:
There are certain things about me that I will never tell to anyone because I am a very private person. But basically, what you see is who I am. I'm independent. I do like to be liked, I do look for the good side of life and people. I'm positive, I'm disciplined, I like my life in order, and I'm neat as a pin.
American singer and musician Al Jarreau died on 12 February of this year. Jarreau received a total of seven Grammy Awards and was nominated for six more.

On 25 February, Texas-born actor Bill Paxton died from complications after heart surgery. He had roles in Aliens ("We're all fucked, man."), the half-crazy storm chaser in Twister and Apollo 13.

Not everybody will recognize the name of Judge Joseph Wapner. From 1981 to 1993, Wapner presided over "The People's Court" long before Judge Judy. He died at age 97 on 26 February.

Rock and roll pioneer and legend Chuck Berry died on 18 March. During the 1950s, Berry topped the charts with a string of hits that included “Maybellene” (1955), “Johnny B. Goode” (1958). He was 90 years old.

Funny-man Don Rickles was also 90 when he died of kidney failure on 6 April. His style of insult humor influenced several generations of comedians like Louis CK, Lewis Black and Zach Galifianakis, radio shock jock Howard Stern. Rickles summed up his comic style like this:
They always use the word 'insult' with me, but I don't hurt anybody. I wouldn't be sitting here if I did. I make fun of everybody and exaggerate all our insecurities.
On 18 May, the former Chairman and CEO of Fox Television Stations Group & Fox News Roger Ailes died of excessive bleeding from a fall (he suffered from hemophilia). A year before his death at age 77, he had been forced to step down following allegations of sexual harassment.
There were many who could not feel much sadness at Ailes' passing. He will probably not be missed except by his immediate family.  And that's not any wonder. One journalist called him "one of the worst Americans ever."

At age 89, actor Sir Roger Moore died from cancer on 23 May. He was known for his British suave and sometimes sardonic portrayals of spies like Simon Templer in “The Saint and James Bond in seven films.  

Rock Musician Gregg Allman died on May 27 of liver cancer. Allman founded The Allman Brothers Band with his late brother, Duane, and composed such classics as "Midnight Rider," "Melissa" and “Ramblin Man.”

Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega died on May 29 from complications from brain surgery). In 1989, Noriega was seized by US forces due to his ties to drug trafficking, In fact, Noriega has once been a useful CIA asset before establishing “the hemisphere’s first narcokleptocracy.”
After completing his 17-year sentence in 2007, Noriega was extradited to France and received a seven-year sentence for money laundering. In mid-2011, France approved his extradition to Panama where he faced 20-year convictions for embezzlement, corruption and the murder of his political opponents.

Actor Martin Landau became most famous for his role on the hit series “Mission: Impossible” (1966 -1973). Later he went on to star in the sci-fi series “Space: 1999." He was 89 years old when he died on July 15.

John Heard was the kind of actor that you might not recognize by name but his face was awfully familiar. He starred in films like "A Trip to Bountiful"Home Alone” " The Milagro Beanfield War" and "Cutter's Way " At age 72, Heard died of complications from back surgery on 21 July.

Actor/Playwright/Author Sam Shepard died on 27 July after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) also known as Lou Gehrig's disease at age 73. His acting resume included such films “Days of Heaven” (1978), “The Right Stuff” (1983).

Moreover, Shepard was also famous for plays like “True West” (1980), “Fool for Love” (1983) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Buried Child” (1978).
Shepard said fame had its negative side.
The funny thing about having all this so-called success is that behind it is a certain horrible emptiness. 

Singer/Songwriter Glen Campbell won 10 Grammys from the 21 nominations. With hits in the 1960s and 1970s like “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman" and 1975's "Rhinestone Cowboy." this Arkansas native also acted alongside John Wayne in the original version of "True Grit."

In 2011, Campbell revealed that he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and played 151 shows on his final tour. He was 81 when he died on 8 August.

Dick Gregory was more than just a pioneering African American standup comedian. He was also a civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur. The St. Louis native used comedy and satire to mock racism. He was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and friends with both Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Gregory marched in Selma, Alabama; got shot while trying to keep the peace during the 1965 Watts riots. At the age of 84, Gregory died of heart failure on 19 August. Here's an example of his humor and social commentary:
I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no white dude would come into my neighborhood after dark.
At one time, there was no bigger comedy star than Jerry Lewis. Lewis first teamed up with Dean Martin in 1946 and together they made a series of popular films. The pair parted ways, however, in July 1956 and both went on to successful solo careers. The 1960s saw Lewis produce and star in such comedic classics as “The Nutty Professor” and “The Bellboy.”
Despite the rumors of being both dominating and spiteful on set, Lewis earned a great deal of respect as a humanitarian due to his fundraising for research into muscular dystrophy
From 1966 to 2010, every Labor Day weekend, Lewis hosted the annual live telethon to benefit children with MD. Lewis' health had been in decline for several decades. In 1982 he had double-bypass heart surgery and gave up his four-pack-a-day smoking habit. Nevertheless, Lewis died at the age of 91 at his Las Vegas home on 20 August.

Comedian, actor, writer, teacher, lecturer and poet Shelley Berman died on 1 September a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. Sherman became a star during the Golden Age of Nightclub Comedy, around the time of Mort Sahl, Lenny Bruce and Bob Newhart. His popularity soared before crashing in the mid-1960 when he developed a reputation as being “a spoiled child with a nasty temper."
Since that time, Berman never stopped working but his career was defined by cameos and small roles.

One man who needed no introduction wherever he went was Hugh Hefner. Hefner was the founder of the Playboy Empire which repackaged and cleaned up what had been the grubby porn industry of the 1950s. His world-famous magazine offered revealing nude photography as well as intelligent interviews and news articles. He saw the prudishness of American culture as both historical and hypocritical.
Historically the Puritans left England to escape religious persecution, and they promptly turned around and started persecuting the people they didn't agree with - the scarlet letter A, and the stocks and the dunking board came from that. That puritanism is still there.
Hefner died of natural causes on 27 September at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles at the age of 91.

Canadian-born Monty Hall achieved fame as the host and producer of the daytime show “Let’s Make a Deal.” The show's basic premise was to offer costumed contestants a bewildering series of choices and gambles. Hall had a certain knack for being a kind of sharp dealer without seeming crooked. He died at 96 on 30 September.

While the country was still recovering from the shock of the Las Vegas shooting, news came of the death of singer/songwriter Tom Petty from a sudden heart attack on 2 October. His band, Tom Petty and the Heart Breakers, produced such hits as “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Fallin" and "Refugee."

Having sold more than 80 million records worldwide, Petty became one of the best-selling music artists of all time. In 2001, Petty was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Another legend of rock and roll, Fats Domino died on 24 October. As one of the pioneers of rock and roll music, Domino sold more than 65 million records. Between 1955 and 1960, he had eleven Top 10 hits which included “Ain’t That a Shame” (1955), “Blueberry Hill” (1956). He was 89.

With a career spanning seven decades, singer and actress Della Reese passed on at age 86 on 19 November. Reese started her career as a robust jazz and gospel singer before moving into acting in both film and TV. At one point, in the late 1960s, Reese hosted her own TV daytime talk show, pioneering the path that Oprah Winfrey would take a decade or so later.
In her later years, she starred as the lead in the hit series “Touched by an Angel” (1994-2003).

Here's a clip of her singing "Lonelyville" back in 1958.

On 19 November, country music legend Mel Tillis passed on at the age of 85. Overcoming a severe stutter through music, Tillis began recording in the late 1950s, hit his peak in the 1970s and continued touring until about two years ago. According to Variety,
In 1976, Tillis won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year award and was inducted in the Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. In 2007, Tillis was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, as well as the Country Music Hall of Fame. President Barack Obama bestowed the National Medal of Arts award upon Tillis in 2012.
Back in the 1970s, David Cassidy was a teen heart-throb in his role as Keith Partridge in TV series “The Partridge Family” (1970-74). At his peak, according to the UK Guardian, Cassidy received 25,000 letters a week and his fan club was said to be the biggest in the music business. After his teen idol years, Cassidy achieved moderate success as a more adult rocker and an actor.

On February 20, 2017, Cassidy announced that he was living with dementia. A few days before his death on 21 November, Cassidy lapsed into a coma, suffering from organ failure. He was 67.

Actor, singer, and comedian Jim Nabors was famous for his role as simple-minded but basically honest country boys in “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Gomer Pyle USMC.”
His big-hearted, ever-cheery gas-pump jockey was a neighborly fit in the easygoing town of Mayberry. But when Gomer enlisted in the Marines for five TV seasons, he truly blossomed.
In the years when being an admitted homosexual was career suicide, Nabors remained in the closet. Nabors' friends had known for years that he was gay, but he had never said anything to the media. That didn't stop Hollywood gossip columnists from spread the lie that Nabors and Rock Hudson were a couple. However, six years ago, Nabors did marry his partner of 38 years, Stan Cadwallader. He died on November 30 at age 87 following years of declining health.
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And so as another year speeds by, we bid these remarkable and unforgettable folk a fond farewell. A goodbye to celebrities that we knew in an oddly intimate and yet strangely superficial way.