Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the bold-faced names we lost in 2021, starting with this entertainer from Hollywood's Golden Age… Actress Jane Powell died of natural causes at her home in Wilton, Connecticut, on Sept. 16, Deadline reported. She was 92. Early in her career, she notably starred in MGM musicals including 1951's "Royal Wedding" with Fred Astaire and 1954's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers." Later, she appeared on "Growing Pains" as Alan Thicke's character's mother as well as on the soap operas "Loving" and "As the World Turns" in the '80s and '90s and made guest appearances on all the major now-classic TV shows including "Fantasy Island," "Love Boat" and "Murder, She Wrote," Variety added. Jane long worked in the theater too and might also look familiar to TV viewers from her many Polident commercials. The actress was also a bridesmaid in the first of late screen legend Elizabeth Taylor's many weddings.
Keep reading for more stars who died this year…
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Norm Macdonald, the actor, comedian and influential former star of "Saturday Night Live" who manned the "Weekend Update" desk in the '90s, died on Sept. 14 at 61, his management firm confirmed to Deadline. Lori Jo Hoekstra, the comic's producing partner and friend — who was with Norm when he passed away — revealed that he'd privately been battling cancer for nine years. "He was most proud of his comedy," she said. "He never wanted the diagnosis to affect the way the audience or any of his loved ones saw him. Norm was a pure comic. He once wrote that 'a joke should catch someone by surprise, it should never pander.' He certainly never pandered. Norm will be missed terribly." Dozens of friends and fellow comics and Hollywood stars mourned Norm on social media.
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Stand-up comedian and actor Art Metrano — who's best remembered as boss Ernie Mauser in the second and third "Police Academy" movies and as Chachi's manager uncle Rico Mastorelli on the "Happy Days" spinoff sitcom "Joanie Loves Chachi" — died of natural causes at his home in Aventura, Florida, at 84 on Sept. 8, son Harry told The Hollywood Reporter.
Character actor Michael Constantine, who's perhaps best known for his work as the Windex-loving father of the bride in the hit movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," died at home in Reading, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 8, from natural causes at 94, his hometown newspaper reported. Michael's lengthy resume also includes a notable role as the high school principal on "Room 222." He won an Emmy for his performance on the popular sitcom in 1970.
"The Wire" and "Boardwalk Empire" star Michael K. Williams — a five-time Emmy nominee who was again nominated this year, for his work on "Lovecraft Country" — was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment on Sept. 6, an NYPD source confirmed to People magazine. Another law enforcement insider told the outlet that the 54-year-old actor died of a suspected drug overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin. Other outlets including the New York Post also reported that police believe an accidental OD is to blame, as drug paraphernalia was found in the star's penthouse home. Celebrity friends including "The Wire" co-star Wendell Pierce took to social media to grieve. "The depth of my love for this brother, can only be matched by the depth of my pain learning of his loss," Wendell wrote in part, calling Michael an "immensely talented man with the ability to give voice to the human condition portraying the lives of those whose humanity is seldom elevated until he sings their truth."
Comedian Fuquan Johnson, a stand-up performer who also wrote for TV's "Comedy Parlour Live," is dead at 43 from what TMZ reported was a suspected unintentional drug overdose of fentanyl-laced cocaine. According to the webloid, a 911 call summoned police and paramedics to a residence in Venice, California, in the early morning hours of Sept. 4 where the funnyman and two other people, comedian Enrico Colangeli, 48, and Natalie Williamson, 33, also died at the scene. Another comedian, podcast host Kate Quigley, 39 — who made headlines in 2020 when she dated country music star Darius Rucker — was rushed to the hospital and survived. "I'm alive. I'm not great. But im. Ok," she texted a friend hours later, The Sun reported.
Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding died on Sept. 5 a little more than a year after sharing that she'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, which had spread to other parts of her body. She was 39. The British music star's mother announced the sad news on Instagram. "It's with deep heartbreak that today I'm sharing the news that my beautiful daughter Sarah has sadly passed away. Many of you will know of Sarah's battle with cancer and that she fought so strongly from her diagnosis until her last day. She slipped away peacefully this morning," her mum, Marie, wrote. "I'd like to thank everyone for their kind support over the past year. It meant the world to Sarah and it gave her great strength and comfort to know she was loved. I know she won't want to be remembered for her fight against this terrible disease — she was a bright shining star and I hope that's how she can be remembered instead."
Former "Today" show weatherman Willard Scott — who also notably played Ronald McDonald and Bozo the Clown on TV during his long career — passed away on Sept. 4 at his farm in Delaplane, Virginia, following a brief illness, his wife confirmed to The New York Times. Fellow weather forecaster Al Roker mourned Willard on Instagram. "We lost a beloved member of our @todayshow family this morning. Willard Scott passed peacefully at the age of 87 surrounded by family, including his daughters Sally and Mary and his lovely wife, Paris. He was truly my second dad and am where I am today because of his generous spirit. Willard was a man of his times, the ultimate broadcaster. There will never be anyone quite like him," Al wrote.
Seven-time Emmy winner Ed Asner — who won fans as newsman Lou Grant on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and later as the star of the spinoff "Lou Grant" — died on Aug. 29. The acclaimed character actor was 91. Ed, who also took home five Golden Globes during his long career and served as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the '80s, also notably starred in "Rich Man, Poor Man," "Roots," "Up" and "Elf," among other shows and movies. His family announced the sad news in a statement on Ed's Twitter account, writing, "We are sorry to say that our beloved patriarch passed away this morning peacefully. Words cannot express the sadness we feel. With a kiss on your head- Goodnight dad. We love you."
Pioneering Jamaican producer, songwriter and performer Lee "Scratch" Perry died at a hospital in Lucea, Jamaica, on Aug. 29. The Grammy winner was 85. "Perry was a pioneer in the 1970s' development of dub music with his early adoption of studio effects to create new instrumentals of existing reggae tracks," Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness shared in a statement. "He has worked with and produced for various artists, including Bob Marley and the Wailers, the Congos, Adrian Sherwood, the Beastie Boys, and many others. Undoubtedly, Lee Scratch Perry will always be remembered for his sterling contribution to the music fraternity. May his soul Rest In Peace."
Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at the bold-faced names we lost in 2021, starting with this reality TV star… Nene Leakes' husband Gregg Leakes — who made frequent appearances on "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" between 2008 and 2019 — died on Sept. 1 following a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 66. "After a long battle with cancer, Gregg Leakes has passed away peacefully in his home surrounded by all of his children, very close loved ones and wife Nene Leakes," publicist and family friend Ernest Dukes said in a statement, according to The Wrap. "We ask that you pray for peace and strength over their family [and] allow them to mourn in private during this very, very difficult time." Gregg was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in the summer of 2018. By May 2019, the cancer had gone into remission, but in June 2021, Nene announced that it had returned and that her husband had been hospitalized. Gregg and Nene tied the knot in 1997, divorced in 2011 and remarried in 2013. They share one son, Brentt. Nene has another son from a previous relationship, while Gregg has five older kids from previous relationships.
Former child star Matthew Mindler, who most notably appeared in the movie "Our Idiot Brother" as the son of Emily Mortimer and Steve Coogan's characters and acted on "As the World Turns" as well as in other projects, was found dead on Aug. 28. He was 19. The college student had been reported missing days earlier. "It is with a grieving heart that I let you know of the death of 19-year-old Matthew Mindler from Hellertown, Pennsylvania, a first-year student at Millersville University. Our thoughts of comfort and peace are with his friends and family during this difficult time," Millersville University president Daniel A. Wubah said in a statement. "A search had been underway for Matthew since Thursday, after he was reported missing. Millersville University Police and law enforcement agencies from the area had been searching for him since that time. Matthew was found deceased this morning, Saturday, August 28 in Manor Township near campus. Matthew was transported to the Lancaster County Forensic Center by the coroner for further investigation." A cause of death has not been released.
Actor Michael Nader, who memorably played the love interest of two formidable characters on two popular dramas — Alexis Colby's third husband, Dex, on the original "Dynasty" and Erica Kane's two-time husband, Hungarian count Dimitri Marick, on "All My Children" — died from an untreatable form of cancer in Northern California on Aug. 23 at 76. His wife, Jodi Lister, and rescue dog, Storm, were by his side. "With heavy heart, I'm sharing the news of the passing of my beloved, Michael. We had 18 wonderful years together with the many dogs we fostered and adopted," Jodi told Michael Fairman TV in a statement. "Recently, Michael was so thrilled to reconnect with his friends from the cast of 'Dynasty' during Emma Samms virtual event to help raise funds for Long-Covid research. Michael was working on a book about his life and addiction at the time of his death. He was a beautiful and fascinating man with many talents and skills. I will miss him forever."
On Aug. 24, a rep for "So You Think You Can Dance" season 11 alum Serge Onik — who also appeared in the 2021 movie "In the Heights" and on TV's "Dancing With the Stars," Marvel's "Agent Carter," "Jane the Virgin" and "Bones" — shared the heartbreaking news that the professional dancer was dead at 33. "He was an amazing dancer with a huge heart and he touched the lives of everyone who met him," Jim Keith of the Movement Talent Agency told Entertainment Weekly. "He will be truly missed. This is a sad day for us at the agency and for the dance community as a whole." Details, including a cause of death, were not released.
Charlie Watts — who played drums for the Rolling Stones for nearly 60 years — is dead at 80. On Aug. 24, publicist Bernard Doherty shared the sad news with The Associated Press that the Grammy-winning percussionist "passed away peacefully in a London hospital earlier today surrounded by his family," adding that "Charlie was a cherished husband, father and grandfather and also as a member of The Rolling Stones one of the greatest drummers of his generation." News of Charlie's death came a few weeks after he underwent an unspecified emergency surgery that caused him to pull out of his band's fall tour dates.
Saxophonist Brian Travers, a founding member of reggae group UB40, died after a "long and heroic battle with cancer" on Aug. 22 at his home in Birmingham, England, surrounded by his family, his band announced the following day. He was 62. The Grammy nominee, who with his bandmates delivered hits including "Red Red Wine" and "(I Can't Help) Falling In Love With You," sold more than 100 million records and enjoyed more than 40 Top 40 hits in the U.K.
Grammy-nominated music star Don Everly of the Everly Brothers (left) — one of rock 'n' roll's most influential duos, who were known for their impressive vocal harmonies — died in Nashville on Aug. 21. He was 84. "Don lived by what he felt in his heart," his family said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. "Don expressed his appreciation for the ability to live his dreams … with his soulmate and wife, Adela, and sharing the music that made him an Everly Brother." Don's late younger brother and bandmate, Phil (right) — with whom he recorded hit songs including "Cathy's Clown," "All I Have to Do Is Dream" and "Bye Bye Love" — passed away in 2014.
Japanese actor and martial arts legend Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba — who had memorable roles in movies including "The Street Fighter," "Kill Bill" and "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" — died from complications of COVID-19 on Aug. 19, his rep confirmed to Variety. He was 82.
Conservative talk radio host Phil Valentine, who in July was hospitalized with COVID-19, died from complications caused by the illness in August. He was 61. His station, SuperTalk 99.7 WTN, confirmed his passing in an Aug. 21 tweet. Phil had made headlines as he was a vocal vaccine skeptic and himself wasn't vaccinated, but after he was moved into a critical care unit, brother Mark Valentine said the radio host regretted that he wasn't a stronger advocate for COVID-19 vaccination. "I know if he were able to tell you this, he would tell you, 'Go get vaccinated. Quit worrying about the politics. Quit worrying about all the conspiracy theories,'" Mark told The Tennessean in July. "He regrets not being more adamant about getting the vaccine. Look at the dadgum data."
On Aug. 13, Grammy-winning folkabilly singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith died in Nashville. She was 68. While she was a talented singer herself, Nanci was perhaps best known for her songs that were performed by other artists like Kathy Mattea's "Love at the Five and Dime" and Suzy Bogguss's "Outbound Plane," Variety reported, as well as for her duets with Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Willie Nelson, the Chieftains, Darius Rucker and more.
Pat Hitchcock — the only child of famed director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife, screenwriter and film editor Alma Reville — died in Thousand Oaks, California, on Aug. 9, one of her daughters confirmed to Variety. She was 93. Pat, who began acting as a child, appeared on Broadway and acted in many television shows and films including some of her father's projects like "Strangers on a Train," "Psycho," "Stage Fright" and "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
Former child star Jane Withers, whose career flourished during Hollywood's Golden Age, died in Burbank, California, on Aug. 7, daughter Kendall Errair told Deadline. Jane was 95. Her breakout role came opposite fellow child star Shirley Temple in 1934's "Bright Eyes" and, after starring in many movies as a kid, she acted on the big screen as an adult in the 1956 film "Giant" alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean. In the '60s and '70s, she notably played Josephine the Plumber in TV ads for Comet cleanser. "My mother was such a special lady," her daughter told Deadline. "She lit up a room with her laughter, but she especially radiated joy and thankfulness when talking about the career she so loved and how lucky she was."
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On Aug. 7, actress Markie Post — who was best known for her work on the sitcoms "Night Court" in the '80s and '90s and "Hearts Afire" opposite John Ritter, as well as the early '80s action series "The Fall Guy" with Lee Majors — passed away following a nearly four-year cancer battle, manager Ellen Lubin Sanitsky told Deadline. In more recent years, Markie appeared on everything from "Scrubs," "Odd Man Out" and "Chicago P.D." to "Santa Clarita Diet" and "The Kids are Alright." She also memorably played the mother of Cameron Diaz's character in "There's Something About Mary." Markie was 70. Co-stars including "Night Court" foil John Larroquette took to social media to grieve the loss. "Her grace, her warmth, her intelligence, her compassion, her optimism, her empathy, her humility, her love and devotion to her family. And her flawless comic timing, her beauty, her laugh and more," John wrote on Twitter, "we all wish she could have stayed longer but we thank the cosmos for blessing us and enriching the world with her for as long as it did."
On Aug. 7, Kool & the Gang co-founder Dennis "Dee Tee" Thomas "passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 70 in New Jersey," the band said in a statement on social media. The Grammy winner "was known as the quintessential cool cat in the group, loved for his hip clothes and hats, and his laid-back demeanor. A huge personality while also an extremely private person, Dennis was the alto saxophone player, flutist, percussionist as well as master of ceremonies at the band's shows," the statement continued. "Dennis' prologue featured on the group's 1971 hit 'Who's Gonna Take the Weight' is legendary and an example of his showmanship. Dee Tee was the group's wardrobe stylist who made sure they always looked fresh. In the band's early days, Dennis also served as the 'budget hawk,' carrying the group's earnings in a paper bag in the bell of his horn."
DJ Paul Johnson — a house music icon from Chicago and influence for many modern-day DJs — passed away from complications of COVID-19 at 50 on Aug. 4. Paul was best known for his 1999 single "Get Get Down," which hit No. 1 on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart.
Saginaw Grant — a Native American character actor with dozens of credits in films and television shows including "Breaking Bad" and "The Lone Ranger" — died on July 28, rep Lani Carmichael told CNN. He was 85. On top of his acting career, Saginaw was the "hereditary chief and the medicine man of the Sac & Fox tribe" as well as a man who "traveled the world speaking of his traditions, his experiences, his sobriety and his faith as both a Native American and a Christian," his rep added.
Actor Jay Pickett, who was best known for his work on soap operas including "General Hospital," "Port Charles" and "Days of Our Lives," died on the Idaho set of the film "Treasure Valley," colleagues announced on Aug. 1. He was 60. "Many of you have already heard about the tragedy that happened two days ago. Jay Pickett, our leading man, writer, producer, and creator of this movie passed away suddenly while we were on location preparing to film a scene," director-producer Travis Mills wrote on the movie's Facebook page. "There is no official explanation for the cause of his death but it appears to have been a heart attack." Travis added that "Everyone present tried as hard as they could to keep him alive. Our hearts are broken and we grieve for his family who are so devastated by this shocking tragedy." A separate post written by actor Jim Heffel explained that Jay "died sitting on a horse ready to rope a steer."
Ron Popeil — the inventor and TV salesman known for his infomercials and catchphrases like "But wait! There's more" and "Set it and forget it" — died from a brain hemorrhage at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on July 28, The New York Times reported. The Ronco founder, who sold consumers everything from the Veg-O-Matic and the Pocket Fisherman to the Showtime Rotisserie & BBQ and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler — was 86.
On July 28, Grammy-nominated rock group ZZ Top announced that their bassist, Dusty Hill, was dead at 72. "We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX," read a statement from surviving members Frank Beard and Billy Gibbons. "We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the 'Top.' We will forever be connected to that 'Blues Shuffle in C.' You will be missed greatly, amigo."
Grammy-winning musician Joey Jordison — founding drummer of the metal band Slipknot who later performed in Scar The Martyr, Murderdolls and Sinsaenum — "passed away peacefully in his sleep on July 26," his family said in a statement to Billboard. He was 46. TMZ reported that, according to law enforcement sources, no foul play is suspected and no illegal drugs were found at his home. The medical examiner is working to determine a cause of death. Fellow rockers mourned Joey, with Korn guitarist James "Munky" Shaffer telling TMZ that his former tourmate — who in 2016 revealed he'd been diagnosed with the neurological disorder transverse myelitis a few years earlier, around the time he left Slipknot — was a "warrior," adding that Joey "loved drums, loved music, loved playing … It's very sad that he's gone so young … What an amazing f****** drummer."
Comedian Jackie Mason passed away at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City on July 24. He died in his sleep after experiencing breathing issues, his friend, famed lawyer Raoul Felder, confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. Jackie — who was a rabbi before he became known for his Borscht Belt style of comedy — was 93. During his long career, he earned a special Tony Award thanks to the success of his first (of many) one-man Broadway shows, "The World According to Me!," and won two Emmys on top of appearing in movies like "The Jerk," "Caddyshack II" and "History of the World: Part I."
On July 16, "Just a Friend" hitmaker Biz Markie (real name: Marcel Theo Hall) died in a Baltimore hospital after suffering a series of complications from diabetes, TMZ reported. He was 57. "Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry peers and his beloved fans whose lives he was able to touch through music, spanning over 35 years," his rep said in a statement. The hip-hop community mourned too, with many stars sharing tributes to the rapper on social media. "Rest in power Biz..I love you bro," LL Cool J wrote on Instagram alongside a video in which he shared memories from their friendship. The Roots' Questlove wrote a long message that began, "Biz built me man. In my early early stages it was Biz who taught me the REAL places to cop records….Biz taught me what cities had good digging…..Biz taught me where to collect 45s……Biz taught me where to collect 8TRACK TAPES!!" Tweeted A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip: "This one hurts baad… D*** I'm gonna miss u."
On July 12, Travis Orndorff announced on Instagram that his father, WWE Hall of Fame wrestler Paul Orndorff — better known as Mr. Wonderful — had died at 71. "Most of you will remember him for his physique. Many will remember his intensity. But if I could only get you to understand and see his heart," Travis wrote in part in a loving tribute alongside a photo of himself hugging his dad. Paul was one of the stars of the very first WrestleMania in 1985 during which he faced off against Hulk Hogan and Mr. T. "RIP my brother, love you and thank you for always making me fight for everything in our matches," Hulk wrote on social media upon hearing the sad news. "Heaven just got even more Wonderful."
Charlie Robinson — who's perhaps best known for playing court clerk and Vietnam vet Mac Robinson on the sitcom "Night Court" — died in Los Angeles on July 11 from cardiac arrest with multisystem organ failures due to septic shock and metastatic adenocarcinoma, which is a type of glandular cancer, his manager confirmed to Entertainment Weekly. He was 75. Charlie, who did a lot of work in the theater, also appeared in movies like "Set It Off," "Antwone Fisher" and "The House Bunny" and TV shows including "Buffalo Bill," "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," "House," "Grey's Anatomy" and more.
William Smith, who was known for playing tough guys, passed away at 88 on July 5 at the Motion Picture & Television Country House in Los Angeles, his wife confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. He appeared in everything from "Rich Man, Poor Man" and "Any Which Way You Can" to "Hawaii Five-O" and "Laredo."
Stage and screen star Chick Vennera died from cancer at his Burbank, California, home on July 7, Deadline reported. He was perhaps best known for his disco dance scene performed on top of parked cars in the '70s flick "Thank God It's Friday" and for playing Enrique/Pepe on TV's "The Golden Girls." He also starred in Robert Redford's "The Milagro Beanfield War," performed in "Grease" on Broadway and with the show's national touring company and voiced characters on "Animaniacs" and "Batman Beyond." Chick was 74.
Filmmaker and actor Robert Downey Sr. — the father of Marvel star Robert Downey Jr. — died in his sleep more than five years after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, third wife Rosemary Rogers told the New York Daily News on June 7. He was 85. Downey Sr. is known for directing the Madison Avenue advertising satire "Putney Swope" and myriad projects including episodes of TV's "The Twilight Zone." He also worked as a cinematographer and acted from the 1950s until 2011 in projects including "To Live and Die in L.A.," "Boogie Nights" and his final film, "Tower Heist." "Last night, dad passed peacefully in his sleep after years of enduring the ravages of Parkinson's ..he was a true maverick filmmaker, and remained remarkably optimistic throughout," Downey Jr. wrote on Instagram on July 7 alongside a vintage photo of his father. "According to my stepmoms calculations, they were happily married for just over 2000 years. Rosemary Rogers-Downey, you are a saint, and our thoughts and prayers are with you."
Stage, TV and movie actress Suzzanne Douglas passed away at 64 on July 6, her family confirmed on social media. She notably performed on Broadway in shows including "Into the Woods," "Threepenny Opera" and "The Tap Dance Kid" in the 1980s before focusing on the big and small screens, appearing on television in projects including "When They See Us," "The Parent 'Hood" and "Against the Law" and in films like "Jason's Lyric," "School of Rock" and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."
Famed Hollywood director Richard Donner — who helmed everything from "The Omen" and the original "Superman" flick to the "Lethal Weapon" film series, "The Goonies" and "Scrooged" — died on July 5 at 91, his production company confirmed to Variety. He also produced a slew of movies during his long career including "Free Willy," "The Lost Boys," "Any Given Sunday," "X-Men," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and more. Hollywood stars took to social media to mourn Richard upon hearing of his passing, with Ben Stiller praising his talent for making "big time movies … that remain in our consciousness." "Goonies" star Sean Astin remembered he had "the biggest, boomiest voice you could imagine [and] commanded attention and … laughed like no man has ever laughed before," calling him "so much fun" and someone who "cared." "Goonies" actor Corey Feldman called Richard "the closest thing I ever had 2 a real father." Filmmaker Steven Spielberg said that "being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time."
On July 4, rockabilly-country music star Sanford Clark, whose 1956 Top 10 hit "The Fool" was re-recorded by Elvis Presley and The Animals, died from COVID-19 at a Joplin, Missouri, hospital where he was receiving cancer treatment before his coronavirus diagnosis, publicist and fellow performer Johnny Vallis told Billboard. He was 85.
On June 10, actor Ray MacDonnell — who's best known for his portrayal of Dr. Joe Martin on the ABC soap opera "All My Children," on which he was an original cast member — died of natural causes at home in Chappaqua, New York, Michael Fairman TV reported. Ray was 93.
Johnny Solinger — the singer of rock band Skid Row from 1999 to 2015 — died on June 26. The sad news came a month after he told fans in a Facebook post that he'd been hospitalized amid a liver failure diagnosis. He was 55. Wife Paula Marcenaro Solinger, an actress, confirmed his death, telling USA Today, "He passed yesterday while I was holding his hand" after sharing on Facebook, "He went in peace."
John Paragon — who's best remembered as Jambi the Genie on "Pee Wee's Playhouse," the magical character whose catchphrase "Mecca lecca hi, mecca hiney ho!" was repeated by kids (and adults) everywhere — passed away on April 3 in Palm Springs, California, at 66, it was revealed in mid-June. According to the Riverside County Coroner, Page Six reported, he died from "cardiovascular disease with other significant conditions of chronic alcohol abuse." John, who was a member of the Groundlings and a television director, earned five Daytime Emmy nominations for his writing and directing work on "Playhouse." He also wrote the film "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark" with frequent collaborator Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson.
TV writer Heidi Ferrer, who wrote for "Dawson's Creek" and penned the Paris Hilton movie "The Hottie and the Nottie," died by suicide on May 26, husband Nick Guthe, a fellow writer, confirmed on social media. "My beautiful angel, Heidi, passed over tonight after a 13 month battle with Long Haul Covid," he wrote, calling her "an amazing mother" to their son. Heidi was 50. "She fought this insidious disease with the same ferocity she lived with," Nick added. "I love you forever and I'll see you down the road."
Frank Bonner — who's best known for his performance as radio station sales manager Herb on the '70s and '80s sitcom "WKRP in Cincinnati" — died on June 16 from complications of Lewy body dementia, his family told TMZ. He was 79. Frank also carved out a career as a director, working behind the camera on shows including "WKRP" and its '90s reboot as well as "Saved By the Bell: The New Class," "Head of the Class," "Harry and the Hendersons," "City Guys," "Who's the Boss?" and more.
On June 14 — 10 days after she was struck by a scooter that ran a red light on Manhattan's Upper West Side as she was in the crosswalk — actress Lisa Banes died in a New York City hospital from injuries she sustained in the hit-and-run accident. Lisa, whose most memorable roles include the healthy, wealthy older girlfriend of Tom Cruise's "Cocktail" character and Amy's mother in "Gone Girl," was 65.
Actor John Gabriel, who was best known for his work as Dr. Seneca Beaulac on the daytime soap opera "Ryan's Hope" — a role he played for more than 700 episodes from 1975 to 1989, and for which he earned a Daytime Emmy nod — has died. His daughter, "Lost" and "Twilight Saga" actress Andrea Gabriel, announced the news on social media on June 13. John — who also notably played the Professor in the pilot episode of "Gilligan's Island" before the part was recast — was 90.
Veteran character actor Ned Beatty, who's perhaps best known for his stand-out performances in films including "Deliverance," "Network" — for which he earned an Oscar nomination — and "Superman," passed away from natural causes at his Los Angeles home on June 13. He was 83.
Actor Ernie Lively died of cardiac complications in Los Angeles on June 3. Several of the father of eight's children with wife Elaine — including actors Blake Lively (pictured), Eric Lively, Robyn Lively, Lori Lively and Jason Lively — followed in his footsteps. Ernie worked in Hollywood for more than five decades in a variety of projects, everything from TV's "The Waltons," "The Dukes of Hazzard," "Falcon Crest," "That '70s Show," "Murder, She Wrote" and "The West Wing" to the big screen's "Turner & Hooch," "Passenger 57," "Mulholland Falls" and "The Man in the Moon." He also famously starred opposite daughter Blake as her character's father in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants" and its sequel.
Clarence Williams III — who was perhaps best known for his work as Linc Hayes on TV's "The Mod Squad" and Prince's father in the movie "Purple Rain" — died at his Los Angeles home on June 4 following a colon cancer battle. He was 81. Clarence got his start in the theater and earned a Tony nomination for his performance in "Slow Dance on the Killing Ground" in 1964. He's also recognized for his work in everything from the big screen's "Tales from the Hood," "Deep Cover," "Sugar Hill, "The General's Daughter" and "Lee Daniels' The Butler" to the small screen's "Miami Vice," "Twin Peaks, "Hill Street Blues" and "Everybody Hates Chris."
Former actor Joe Lara — who was best known for his starring turn in the late-'80s TV movie "Tarzan in Manhattan" and the '90s series "Tarzan: The Epic Adventures" — died in a plane crash on May 29. Joe, 58, wife Gwen Shamblin Lara, 66 — he married the author, who founded the Christian diet program the Weigh Down Workshop as well as Brentwood, Tennessee's Remnant Fellowship Church, in 2018 (see a recent picture of the couple here) — and five other church members took off from Smyrna Airport just outside Nashville in a private aircraft headed for Palm Beach, Florida, that just 90 seconds later, according to reports, crashed into Tennessee's Percy Priest Lake. After finding debris and remains, law enforcement confirmed that all seven passengers were presumed dead.
On May 29, B.J. Thomas — a five-time Grammy winner best known for songs including "Hooked on a Feeling" and "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" — died at his home in Arlington, Texas, from complications of stage 4 lung cancer. The Grammy Hall of Famer, who sold more than 70 million albums worldwide thanks to his pop, country and gospel hits, was 78. Notably, his performance of "Raindrops," which was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and was in the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," won a best original song Oscar.
R.I.P, Captain Stubing: Actor Gavin MacLeod — who was most famous for his work on "The Love Boat" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" — passed away on May 29 at his home in Palm Desert, California, according to reports from outlets including TMZ and The Hollywood Reporter. He was 90. Early in his career, Gavin also notably appeared on "McHale's Navy" and "Hawaii Five-O" in the 1960s and in movies including "Operation Petticoat" and "Kelly's Heroes." Hollywood co-stars, friends and fans mourned Gavin on social media.
Eric Carle — who illustrated more than 70 children's books over his long career but was best known for 1969's "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" — "passed away peacefully and surrounded by family members on May 23, 2021, at his summer studio in Northampton, Massachusetts," his family said in a statement. He was 91.
Kevin Clark, who played Freddy Jones aka Spazzy McGee, the kid drummer in Jack Black's 2004 comedy "School of Rock," died on May 25. TMZ reported that Kevin, 32 — who as an adult was a professional drummer in the band Dreadwolf — was riding his bicycle in Chicago when he was struck by a car. Jack took to Instagram to mourn and honor Kevin, writing, "Devastating news. Kevin is gone. Way too soon. Beautiful soul. So many great memories. Heartbroken. Sending love to his family and the whole School of Rock community."
Actor Samuel E. Wright — who was best known for voicing "Under the Sea"-singing Sebastian the crab in Disney's animated film "The Little Mermaid" and playing Mufasa in the original Broadway cast of "The Lion King" — died at home in Montgomery, New York, on May 24 after a three-year battle with prostate cancer, daughter Dee told The Hollywood Reporter. The two-time Tony Award nominee, 74, also notably appeared in the original cast of Broadway's "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Pippen" in the early '70s, turned in a Tony-nominated performance in "The Tap Dance Kid" in the '80s and starred as the Scarecrow alongside Whitney Houston in the 1995 Apollo Theater revival of "The Wiz" in the '90s.
Actor and comedian Paul Mooney died in Oakland, California, on May 19 of a heart attack. He was 79. The funnyman worked as a writer for late comedy legend Richard Pryor as well as for TV shows including "Sanford and Son," "Good Times," "In Living Color," "The Larry Sanders Show" and "Chappelle's Show." He also memorably played Sam Cooke opposite Gary Busey in "The Buddy Holly Story" and portrayed Junebug in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled."
Charles Grodin, who's perhaps best known for his work in films like "The Heartbreak Kid," "Heaven Can Wait," "Midnight Run" and the "Beethoven" movies, died on May 18 at his home in Connecticut following a battle with bone marrow cancer. He was 86. Celebrities took to social media to mourn the comedy great, who won an Emmy for his work on "The Paul Simon Special" in 1978.
Norman Lloyd — who appeared in everything from TV's "St. Elsewhere" to Alfred Hitchcock's "Saboteur" and "Spellbound" to Charlie Chaplin's "Limelight" to "Dead Poets Society" and "Gangs of New York" — died at his home in Los Angeles on May 11. Norman, a two-time Emmy nominee as well as a director and producer — he also appeared on Broadway during his lengthy career — was 106.
Video vixen and actress Tawny Kitaen died at her home in Newport Beach, California, on May 7, the Orange County coroner's office revealed. She was 59. She starred opposite Tom Hanks in the 1984 film "Bachelor Party" and appeared in music videos for Ratt and Whitesnake, most notably the latter's "Is This Love" and "Here I Go Again," and was briefly married to Whitesnake frontman David Coverdale before going on to have two daughters with baseball player Chuck Finley during their short-lived marriage. In more recent years, the beauty — whose real first name was Julie — was known for her reality TV show appearances on series including "The Surreal Life," "Botched" and VH1's "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew."
Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis passed away at 89 on May 1. Her brother released a statement confirming the sad news, writing on Facebook, "After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her Louis." Louis — Olympia's late husband — died in 2018. Celebrity friends and colleagues publicly mourned Olympia, with "Moonstruck" co-star Cher lauding her as an "amazing, Academy Award-winning actress" and revealing she'd just talked to her three weeks earlier. "Steel Magnolias" co-star Dolly Parton told "Today" that Olympia was "one of my favorite people that I have ever known or worked with," while another "Magnolias" co-star, Sally Field, tweeted that "Everyone loved her. She was a gift… unique and talented and one of a kind."
Johnny Crawford — one of the original Mouseketeers on "The Mickey Mouse Club" who earned an Emmy nomination at 13 for his performance on the ABC series "The Rifleman" and also found success as a musician — "slipped away peacefully" on April 29 with wife Charlotte by his side, his family announced on his website. Johnny, who was 75, had been battling Alzheimer's disease and had recently recovered after contracting COVID-19 and pneumonia.
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Philanthropist and former Hollywood publicist Anne Douglas — the widow of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, — who passed away at 103 in 2020 — died "peacefully at home in Beverly Hills" at 102 on April 29, a family spokesperson announced. Stepson Michael Douglas mourned Anne (née Buydens) — who was married to "Spartacus" star Kirk for 65 years — on social media, writing, "Anne was more than a stepmother, and never 'wicked.' She brought out the best in all of us, especially our father. [My wife] Catherine [Zeta-Jones] and I and our children adored her; she will always be in our hearts. RIP Anne Douglas."
On April 24, fashion designer Alber Elbaz died from complications of COVID-19 in Paris at 59. The company behind the Moroccan-born Israeli designer's latest venture, AZ Factory, confirmed the news to The New York Times. Alber, whose work was worn by celebrity clients including Beyonce, Natalie Portman, Harry Styles, Meryl Streep and more, most notably served as the fashion director for Lanvin from 2001 to 2015.
Singer Les McKeown — who fronted Scottish pop-rock group the Bay City Rollers at the peak of their success in the '70s — died on April 20, his family announced. Les, who was known for his vocals on hits like "Shang-a-Lang" and "Saturday Night," was 65. According to the BBC, the band sold 120 million records during Les's six-year tenure.
Digital Underground co-founder Greg "Shock G" Jacobs, 57 — who was famous for the hit song "The Humpty Dance" and his Humpty Hump alter-ego who wore glasses and a fake nose, as well as his collaborations with the late Tupac Shakur — was found dead in a Tampa, Florida, hotel room on April 22, according to his father, TMZ reported. (In June, the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner confirmed the rapper died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl, methamphetamine and alcohol.) "34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea we can be a hip-hop band and take on the world through it all," Underground co-founder Jimi "Chopmaster J" Dright wrote on Instagram in tribute. "The dream became a reality and the reality became a nightmare for some. And now he's awaken from the fame long live shock G Aka Humpty Hump and Rest In Peace my Brotha Greg Jacobs!!!"
Joe Long, born Joseph Louis LaBracio — who played bass with Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons — died at 88 on April 21 from complications of COVID-19, NJ.com reported. Former bandmates Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio also confirmed Joe's passing in a statement. Another former Four Seasons bandmate, Tommy DeVito, also died from coronavirus complications in September 2020.
Grammy winner Jim Steinman — the songwriter and producer known for his work with Meat Loaf, Celine Dion, Air Supply and more — died on April 19 in Connecticut at 73, TMZ reported. Jim famously composed Meat Loaf's 1977 debut album, "Bat Out of Hell," and also worked on its 1993 sequel, "Bat Out of Hell II: Back into Hell," writing and producing the wildly popular track "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)." Jim — who wrote Celine's "It's All Coming Back To Me Now" and Air Supply's "Making Love Out of Nothing at All" — also notably worked on the Bonnie Tyler hit "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
Former Bad Boy Records rapper Black Rob (real name: Robert Ross) — who's best known for the 2000 single "Whoa!" — died from a cardiac arrest on April 17 amid a health battle with lupus, kidney failure, diabetes and multiple strokes, Entertainment Weekly reported. He was 52.
Walter F. Mondale — the former Democratic senator who served as vice president under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981 — died on April 19 at his home in Minneapolis. He was 93. President Carter mourned his colleague — the first major party presidential candidate ever to select a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, as his running mate (they lost to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in 1984) — and praised him for changing the role of VP and turning it into what it is today. "Fritz," he said, using Walter's nickname, "used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency into a dynamic, policy-driving force that had never been seen before and still exists today."
Alma Wahlberg — a mother of nine who appeared on her family's A&E reality show, "Wahlburgers" — is dead at 78, celebrity sons Mark Wahlberg, Donnie Wahlberg and chef Paul Wahlberg announced on April 18. The family matriarch had been suffering from dementia. "My angel. Rest in peace," Mark captioned a photo of her on Instagram. "Blue Bloods" actor and New Kids on the Block singer Donnie posted a tribute video on Instagram along with an emotional message that read, in part, "I'm so blessed to have been brought into this world by, raised by, taught by and set on my life's path by, such an amazing woman … I've often said, if you like anything about me, I got it from Alma. … She was, without a doubt, the most loving human being I've ever known."
"Peaky Blinders" star Helen McCrory — who also delighted audiences with her portrayal of Narcissa Malfoy in the "Harry Potter" films and in numerous stage productions — is dead at 52 after a secret cancer battle, the BAFTA Cymru Award winner's husband, actor Damian Lewis, revealed on April 16. "I'm heartbroken to announce that after a heroic battle with cancer, the beautiful and mighty woman that is Helen McCrory has died peacefully at home, surrounded by a wave of love from friends and family," he said in a statement released on social media on behalf of his family, which includes their two teenaged children, Manon and Gulliver. "She died as she lived. Fearlessly. God we love her and know how lucky we are to have had her in our lives. She blazed so brightly. Go now, Little One, into the air, and thank you." Many of Helen's co-stars, including Cillian Murphy, Helen Mirren, Kate Beckinsale and more publicly shared memories of her in the wake of her passing.
Felix Silla — a trained circus performer and stuntman who's perhaps best known for portraying Addams family member Cousin Itt — has passed away at 84, his "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" castmate Gil Gerard announced on Twitter on April 16. The longtime Las Vegas resident — who also worked as a film and TV body double and appeared on the original "Star Trek" series as well as in the movies "Spaceballs" and "Star Wars: Episode VI" — died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
"The Sopranos" star Joseph Siravo — who memorably played Tony Soprano's father Johnny Boy on the hit HBO series — died on April 11 after a long battle with colon cancer, The Hollywood Reporter confirmed. He was 66. Joseph, who was also a veteran Broadway actor, notably delivered more than 2,000 performances as Angelo "Gyp" DeCarlo in the Tony- and Grammy-winning musical "Jersey Boys," THR notes.
One week after suffering a reported overdose that led to a heart attack that left him unresponsive and on life support, DMX passed away at 50, his family announced. On April 9, as his organs reportedly began failing, the rapper's family made the difficult decision to take him off life support. X, his family said, "was a warrior who fought till the very end." In the lead-up to his death, the rapper had been "in a vegetative state, [with] lung and brain failure and no brain activity," former manager told Buzzfeed News.
Queen Elizabeth II's husband of 73 years, Prince Philip — the longest serving consort of any British monarch — passed away at 99 on April 9. "It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle," the palace said in a statement. "The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss."
Actor Paul Ritter — who's best known for his work on the British sitcom "Friday Night Dinner" and notably appeared in "Chernobyl," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and the James Bond movie "Quantum of Solace" — passed away on April 5 following a brain tumor battle. He was 54. "He died peacefully at home with his wife Polly and sons Frank and Noah by his side," Agent Jonty Brook told CNN. "Paul was an exceptionally talented actor playing an enormous variety of roles on stage and screen with extraordinary skill. He was fiercely intelligent, kind and very funny. We will miss him greatly."
On April 1, former reality TV star Linda Torres — a close friend of the late Angela "Big Ang" Raiola who appeared on the VH1 reality series "Big Ang" and "Mob Wives" — died at Staten Island University Hospital in New York, where she spent nine weeks, from complications of the coronavirus, Big Ang's sister Janine Detore told People magazine. Linda, 67, had been fighting breast cancer and was recovering from surgery to implant a chemo port. After developing a fever, she returned to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with COVID-19. "She went back to the hospital thinking she had an infection. They found out she had COVID," Janine told People. "She was placed on a ventilator then they took off the ventilator. She really was fighting, but I guess she couldn't really battle it. It was too much."
Three separate shootings took place in Virginia Beach, Virginia, on March 26, making national headlines — and a former reality star was killed in one of them. Police confirmed that Deshayla E. Harris — a cast member on the final season of "Bad Girls Club" — lost her life amid the violence. "We do believe that she truly is, at this point in time, an innocent victim that was probably struck by stray gunfire in some regards," Virginia Beach Police Chief Paul Neudigate told reporters during a press conference. Deshayla was 29.
Beloved children's author Beverly Cleary — who published more than 40 books between 1950 and 1999 — died in Carmel, California, on March 25, HarperCollins Publishers announced. The Newbery medal-winning writer behind the Ramona Quimby books, among others — who in 2000 was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress and in 2003 was awarded the National Medal of Arts — was 104.
Famed novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry passed away on March 25 at 84. He won a Pulitzer Prize for "Lonesome Dove," his anti-Western novel about retired Texas Rangers driving a herd of stolen cattle, in 1986, and it was famously made into an Emmy-winning TV miniseries starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. Larry also won a best adapted screenplay Oscar for his "Brokeback Mountain" script in 2006 and was nominated for his "The Last Picture Show" script in 1972. The Academy Award-winning film "Terms of Endearment" was based on his novel of the same name.
Jessica Walter — who famously starred as Lucille Bluth on "Arrested Development" and voiced Malory Archer on "Archer" for more than a decade — died at her home in New York on March 24. "It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica. A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class and overall joie de vivre," her daughter, Brooke Bowman, said in a statement to Deadline.
Richard Gilliland — who enjoyed a long career on stage and on TV, appearing on shows including "Operation Petticoat," "Heartland," "Thirtysomething" and dozens more, died on March 18 in Los Angeles after a brief illness, his rep announced the following week. Richard also had a memorable role on "Designing Women" — which is where he met his wife of nearly 34 years, Jean Smart. He was 71.
Former child star Houston Tumlin — who's best known for playing one of Will Ferrell's foul-mouthed sons in the 2006 comedy "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" — passed away at his Pelham, Alabama, home on March 23. He was 28. According to the Shelby County Coroner's Office, he died by suicide.
Goodbye, George. "The family is devastated to announce that this morning George Segal passed away due to complications from bypass surgery," George's wife, Sonia Segal, said in a statement on March 23. The Oscar-nominated actor (for his work in the 1966 film "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"), whose career covered decades — many know him best for his work as fashion magazine owner Jack Gallo on TV's "Just Shoot Me!" or as Jewish patriarch Albert "Pops" Solomon on ABC's "The Goldbergs" — was 87.
Middleweight boxing great Marvelous Marvin Hagler died on March 13 at 66. "Today unfortunately my beloved husband Marvelous Marvin passed away unexpectedly at his home here in New Hampshire," heartbroken wife Kay wrote on Facebook. Marvin's website posted a statement saying the boxer died of "natural causes near his home in New Hampshire. He was a champion until the end." Though boxer Thomas "Hitman" Hearns made headlines when he claimed on Instagram that Marvin was in the ICU "fighting the after effects of the [COVID-19] vaccine," that allegation does not appear to be backed up by the legend's family. Son James told TMZ that Marvin was taken to a hospital, where he later died, after experiencing trouble breathing and chest pains at home.
Cliff Simon — the South African former competitive swimmer and gymnast-turned-actor who was best known as the villain Ba-al on TV's "Stargate SG-1" — died in a March 9 kiteboarding accident in Los Angeles. He was 58. Wife Collette shared the devastating news on Facebook, writing in part, "It is with unimaginable heartbreak that I am sharing with you, that my beloved husband, Cliff Simon, passed away at 12:30pm on Tuesday March 9, 2021. He was at Topanga Beach, California and sadly passed away after a tragic kiteboarding accident. He was known to most of you on this page as the villain you loved to hate, Ba'al, from Stargate SG-1. But as he said, 'acting is what I do, it's only a part of who I am. And he was SO much more – a true original, an adventurer, a sailor, swimmer, dancer, actor, author. There is a gaping hole where he once stood on this earth. He was loved by too many to mention and had a great impact on so many lives. He was an amazing and much loved brother, uncle, nephew, cousin and friend."
On March 9, political correspondent and TV news anchorman Roger Mudd — who worked for CBS, NBC, PBS, the History Channel and more over the decades and famously stumped Ted Kennedy with a simple question when the senator was running for president — died at his home in McLean, Virginia, of kidney failure, his son told media outlets. Roger was 93.
Reggae music icon Bunny Wailer died in a Kingston, Jamaica, hospital on March 2 at 73. The singer, songwriter and percussionist — whose real name was Neville Livingston — was a founding member of The Wailers with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Jamaica's Observer newspaper reported that he had been in declining health since suffering a second stroke in July 2020.
Jahmil French, who played Dave Turner on the hit series "Degrassi: The Next Generation" and Dante Mendoza on the Netflix series "Soundtrack," died on March 1, his agent confirmed to Variety. The Canadian actor was 29. No cause of death has been released.
English actor Ronald Pickup, who starred in 2011's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and its 2015 sequel and notably played the archbishop of Canterbury on the first season of "The Crown" in 2016, passed away after a long illness on Feb. 24, his agent told the BBC. He was 80.
Actor Geoffrey Scott — who was best known for his work on "Dynasty (as Krystal's first husband, Mark Jennings) and "Dark Shadows" (as Sky Rumson) — died in Broomfield, Colorado, on Feb. 23, after living with Parkinson's disease, wife Cheri Catherine Scott told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 79. Geoffrey was also a prolific commercial actor who notably appeared as both the Marlboro and Old Spice men.
On Feb. 18, Mark "Prince Markie Dee" Morales of The Fat Boys passed away in a Miami hospital — one day before his 53rd birthday. His manager told TMZ that Mark was being treated for a heart issue.
Conservative talk radio host and political commentator Rush Limbaugh — one of the most polarizing yet influential media figures of recent decades — died on Feb. 17 a year after revealing he'd been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, wife Kathryn announced. He was 70. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Donald Trump at the State of the Union address in 2020 days after announcing his cancer battle.
Jazz pianist Chick Corea, a 23-time Grammy winner, died at 79 on Feb. 9. The wildly talented musician passed away "from a rare form of cancer which was only discovered very recently," his team shared on his website. Chick left a message for fans that read, in part, "I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It's not only that the world needs more artists, it's also just a lot of fun."
Larry Flynt, the polarizing figure who founded Hustler magazine in 1974 and went on to found an adult entertainment empire, died at his Hollywood Hills home on Feb. 10 at 78, nephew Jimmy Flynt Jr. told CNN. Family sources further told TMZ he passed away from heart failure. Larry spent more than 40 years in a wheelchair as he was paralyzed from the waist down after being shot by a serial killer in 1978. Many also know his story thanks to seeing Woody Harrelson play him in the 1996 Oscar-nominated movie "The People vs. Larry Flynt," which also chronicled his First Amendment legal battles.
Mary Wilson — a founding member of The Supremes, known as Motown's most successful act in the 1960s and the No. 1 female recording group of all time — "passed away suddenly this evening" at her home in Henderson, Nevada, friend and longtime rep Jay Schwartz told CNN on Feb. 8. She was 76. Fellow Supremes singer Diana Ross tweeted, "I just woke up to this news, my condolences to you Mary's family. I am reminded that each day is a gift, I have so many wonderful memories of our time together 'The Supremes' will live on, in our hearts," while Motown Records founder Berry Gordy called Mary "a trailblazer" and "quite a star in her own right."
Boxing legend Leon Spinks passed away at a hospital in Henderson, Nevada, on Feb. 5 after a five-year battle with prostate and other cancers, a family spokesperson confirmed the following day. The former Marine and gold-medal-winning Olympic boxer was 67. He'll long be remembered for becoming the heavyweight champion of the world in 1978 when, in only his eighth professional fight, he beat Muhammad Ali in a split decision — delivering one of the greatest boxing upsets ever.
Christopher Plummer died after a fall at his home in Connecticut on Feb. 5, his family confirmed, according to Deadline. He was 91. Over the course of his illustrious career, the Canadian actor starred in "The Sound of Music," racked up Emmy nominations (and two wins) and won an Oscar, a BAFTA Award and a Golden Globe for his work in "Beginners." He recently starred in the 2019 hit "Knives Out."
On Jan. 29, ABKCO Music & Records announced that guitarist Hilton Valentine — a founding member of the rock band The Animals — had died at 77. He was, his band's label said in a statement, "a pioneering guitar player influencing the sound of rock and roll for decades to come."
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Hal Holbrook passed away on Jan. 23 at his home in Beverly Hills, his assistant confirmed to The New York Times on Feb. 1. He was 95. Hal — who lost wife Dixie Carter in 2010 — won a Tony Award for his Broadway performance as Mark Twain in his long-running one-man show then took home an Emmy, one of five he earned over his long career, for his work as the American novelist in the television version. The "All the President's Men" and "Lincoln" actor also became the oldest performer, at the time, to be nominated for an Oscar when he received a nod for his work in "Into the Wild" at 82 in 2008.
Dustin Diamond died on the morning of Feb. 1 — just a few weeks after he was hospitalized and diagnosed with stage 4 small cell carcinoma, more commonly known as lung cancer. He was 44. The actor shot into the spotlight playing Samuel "Screech" Powers on "Saved by the Bell" in the early '90s.
Captain Sir Tom Moore — the 100-year-old WWII veteran who catapulted to fame in 2020 when he helped raise more than $43 million for Britain's National Health Service charities in the early days of the U.K.'s coronavirus lockdowns by walking more than 100 laps in the garden of his home in Bedfordshire, England — died after being diagnosed with COVID-19, his family announced on Feb. 2. Captain Sir Tom, who was knighted for his fundraising efforts by Queen Elizabeth II in July 2020, was admitted to the hospital on Jan. 31 after being treated for pneumonia and testing positive for the coronavirus the previous week, Sky News reported. "The Queen is sending a private message of condolence to the family of Captain Sir Tom Moore," Buckingham Palace tweeted. "Her Majesty very much enjoyed meeting Captain Sir Tom and his family at Windsor last year. Her thoughts and those of the Royal Family are with them."
Grammy-nominated Scottish electronic and avant-garde pop artist SOPHIE is dead at 34. The trans performer, producer and DJ, who notably also worked with other artists including Charli XCX and Madonna, perished in what her music labels, Transgressive and Future Classic, described as a "terrible accident" at her home in Athens, Greece, on Jan. 30. "True to her spirituality she had climbed up to watch the full moon and accidentally slipped and fell. She will always be here with us," the labels' statement added.
Actress Cicely Tyson passed away on Jan. 28, her manager confirmed. She was 96. The Tony Award winner — who earned an Oscar nomination for her performance as a sharecropper's wife in "Sounder" — earned 16 Emmy nominations over her long career and won three, including two for her lead performance in "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman." Cicely also took home an honorary Academy Award in 2018, making her the first Black woman ever to do so, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom — the nation's highest civilian honor — in 1996. Hollywood's biggest stars including Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna, Zendaya, Viola Davis, Tyler Perry, Reese Witherspoon and dozens more took to social media to mourn as they learned the news.
Cloris Leachman — the most nominated actress in Emmys history, who's tied with Julia Louis-Dreyfus for the most wins ever with eight — died of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, California, on Jan. 26. She was 94. The comedy icon, who also won an Oscar for her performance in "The Last Picture Show," became a household name in the '70s when she starred on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." She even scored her own spinoff, "Phyllis," for which she won two Emmys and a Golden Globe.
News outlets confirmed on Jan. 27 that NBA reporter and analyst Sekou Smith, who covered the league for decades, had died from COVID-19. He was 48. "We are all heartbroken over Sekou's tragic passing," read a statement from Turner Sports, which operates NBA TV and NBA.com — where Sekou worked for the last decade-plus. "His commitment to journalism and the basketball community was immense and we will miss his warm, engaging personality."
Character actor Bruce Kirby — who was perhaps best known for his work on "Columbo" and "L.A. Law" — died in Los Angeles on Jan. 24. Bruce, who was 95, was preceded in death by his son, actor Bruno Kirby, who passed away in 2006 from complications of leukemia.
On Jan. 23, veteran journalist and radio host Larry King, 87, died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Larry had been hospitalized amid a battle with the coronavirus in late December. His sixth wife, Julia Alexander, told the New York Post that Larry died from COVID-19, but his most recent wife, Shawn Southwick King — whom Larry was in the midst of divorcing when he passed away — told "Entertainment Tonight" that the cause of death "was an infection, it was sepsis." Larry had famously, over the years, endured lung cancer, chronic leukemia, a heart attack, a stroke and more. "He was finally ready to go, I will tell you that. You know, he never wanted to go but his sweet little body was just, it had just been hit so many times with so many things and once we heard the word COVID, all of our hearts just sunk," Shawn added. "But he beat it, you know, he beat it, but it did take its toll and then the unrelated infection finally is what took him, but boy, he was not gonna go down easily."
MLB legend Hank Aaron — widely regarded as one of the best baseball players of all time — died on Jan. 22. The Hall of Famer and Atlanta Braves star, who hit 755 home runs during his career, was 86.
On Jan. 18, singer Jimmie Rodgers — who was best known for his late '50s hits like "Honeycomb" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine" — died from kidney disease in Palm Desert, California. He'd also tested positive for COVID-19, publicist Alan Eichler told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 87.
Actor Gregory Sierra, who's known for his supporting roles on '70s sitcoms like "Sanford and Son" and "Barney Miller," died from cancer in Laguna Woods, California, on Jan. 4, his family confirmed to Deadline a few weeks later. He was 83.
Croatian actress Mira Furlan — who's best known for her performance as Minbari Ambassador Delenn on the 1990s sci-fi TV series Babylon 5 — died on Jan. 20. Mira, who also appeared on shows including "Lost," was 65.
Socialite, model and beauty businessman Harry Brant — the younger son of supermodel Stephanie Seymour and publisher and businessman Peter Brant — was found dead at 24 on Jan. 17, his family confirmed to The New York Times. The New York "it" boy died of an accidental prescription drug overdose after battling addiction issues for years, according to his family. "We will forever be saddened that his life was cut short by this devastating disease," they told the Times in a statement. "He achieved a lot in his 24 years, but we will never get the chance to see how much more Harry could have done." In the years before his death, Harry worked as a columnist for his father's Interview magazine, walked runways for notable fashion designers and, with big brother Peter II, launched a unisex makeup line with MAC.
Phil Spector — the legendary music producer known for his groundbreaking "Wall of Sound" technique and wild success crafting rock 'n' roll and pop songs for music's biggest names in the 1960s and '70s — died on Jan. 16 while serving a lengthy prison sentence for the murder of Lana Clarkson. He was 81. He was "pronounced deceased of natural causes at 6:35 p.m. on Saturday, January 16, 2021, at an outside hospital. His official cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner in the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office," according to a statement from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. TMZ reported that he died of COVID-19-related complications. According to the webloid, the man who produced hits including The Righteous Brothers' "You Lost that Lovin' Feeling" and "Unchained Melody," The Ronettes' "Be My Baby," The Beatles' "Let It Be" album and John Lennon's "Imagine" was hospitalized with COVID-19 four weeks earlier but returned to prison after initially recovering. He then, TMZ reported, suffered breathing issues and was hospitalized again before he passed away.
Actor Peter Mark Richman, who's best known for his recurring role as Reverend Snow on "Three's Company" and Carrington attorney Andrew Laird on "Dynasty," died of natural causes at home in Woodland Hills, California, on Jan. 14, his rep told People magazine. Peter was 93.
New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain died on Jan. 13 at 69. "Sylvain battled cancer for the past two and half years," the music star's widow, Wanda O'Kelley Mizrahi, wrote on Facebook. "Though he fought it valiantly, yesterday he passed away from this disease. While we grieve his loss, we know that he is finally at peace and out of pain. Please crank up his music, light a candle, say a prayer and let's send this beautiful doll on his way."
Just two days after a report revealed that Siegfried Fischbacher of the world-famous performance duo Siegfried & Roy was "terminally ill with pancreatic cancer" and was being cared for by hospice workers, the magician who for decades entertained audiences in Las Vegas, often with the help of his white tigers, died from the disease at his home in Las Vegas on Jan. 13, his rep confirmed. Siegfried, 81, was preceded in death by his performing partner, Roy Horn, who passed away from complications of COVID-19 in May 2020.
On Jan. 10, actor John Reilly's heartbroken daughter Caitlin revealed he'd passed away at 86. Though John appeared on dozens of shows over the decades including the original "Dallas," "Paper Dolls" and "Beverly Hills, 90210," he was best known for playing retired spy Sean Donely on "General Hospital." Filmmaker Judd Apatow in 2014 called John "an awesome actor and the reason the other John has a C" in his professional name, referring to famed comedy and character actor John C. Reilly.
Country music singer-songwriter Ed Bruce, who crafted and performed hits like "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys," died of natural causes in Clarksville, Tennessee, on Jan. 8. He was 81.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1997, died following "a sudden cardiopulmonary arrest at his home" on Jan. 7, according to the MLB team. He was 93.
Broadway actress Marion Ramsey, who was best known for her role as Officer Laverne Hooks in the "Police Academy" movie franchise, died in Los Angeles on Jan. 7, her manager confirmed. She was 73.
Actor Dearon "Deezer D" Thompson — who was best known for his performance as nurse Malik McGrath on the long-running NBC medical drama "ER" — died after being found unresponsive in his Los Angeles home on Jan. 7. His brother Marshawn told TMZ their family believes he had a heart attack. Deezer, who also appeared in movies including "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion," was 55.
British filmmaker and documentarian Michael Apted died in Los Angeles on Jan. 7, the Directors Guild of America announced in a statement. He was 79. "Coal Miner's Daughter," the James Bond movie "The World is Not Enough," "Gorky Park," "Gorillas in the Mist," "Nell" and "Enough" are among the many films he helmed.
Actress Tanya Roberts died on Jan. 4 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. She suffered from a urinary tract infection that spread and caused sepsis, longtime partner Lance O'Brien and spokesman Mike Pingel told NBC News. Tanya, who was 65, memorably starred in the 1984 James Bond movie "A View to a Kill" and 1982's "The Beastmaster" as well as television's "That '70s Show" and "Charlie's Angels."
Barbara Shelley, the British actress best known for her work in horror films like 1958's "Blood of the Vampire," 1960's "Village of the Damned" and 1966's "Dracula: Prince of Darkness," died from complications of COVID-19 on Jan. 4, the BBC reported.
Gerry and the Pacemakers frontman Gerry Marsden, whose band was a rival to The Beatles in Liverpool's early '60s music scene, died on Jan. 3 in a hospital in England from complications of a heart infection, British media reported. He was 78.
New York Times bestselling author Eric Jerome Dickey died on Jan. 3 from cancer at 59, his publicist at Penguin Random House, Emily Can, told People magazine. His many books include the 1996 debut novel "Sister, Sister" as well as "Chasing Destiny," "Liar's Game," "Between Lovers," "Thieves' Paradise" and "Sleeping with Strangers" as well as the Marvel comic book "Storm" miniseries.
Famed Australian cake designer Kerry Vincent, who served as a judge on "Food Network Challenge" from 2006 to 2012, died on Jan. 2. She was 75. "Being a very private person when it came to all things not cake, she did not want to put her illness out there to the public. Unfortunately her fight has come to an end but she will no longer have any pain," the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show — an organization she co-founded — said in a statement.
Actor and singer-songwriter George Gerdes, 72, died on Jan. 1 in a Glendale, California, hospital, after suffering a brain aneurysm a day earlier, his partner, Judy Johns, told The Hollywood Reporter. He appeared on dozens of TV shows and movies including "Miami Vice," "Seinfeld," "L.A. Law," "The X-Files," "Lost," "Grey's Anatomy" and more. "Bosch" co-star Titus Welliver described him as "an actor's actor and deeply kind man" and pal Michael McKean called him "a wonderful songwriter, poet, and actor, much beloved by everyone who knew him. You would have liked him, too."