Celebrities, authors, politicos left us in 2008

Celebrities, authors, politicos left us in 2008

Charleton Heston's powerful screen presence dominated "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben-Hur." Paul Newman portrayed lovable rogues in smaller-scale films that reflected changing attitudes toward sex and society.

Moses and Michelangelo. Hud, Butch Cassidy and "Cool Hand Luke." Heston and Newman created indelible roles on screen - and strove to shape their world as well, through activism that put them on opposite sides politically.

They were two of the fascinating figures in the arts and entertainment world who died in 2008.

Born more than a half-century after them, Heath Ledger had his life cut short by a drug overdose, never seeing the phenomenal success of "The Dark Knight."

Eartha Kitt's incendiary style and catlike purr wowed audiences for decades. Three other queens of song, Miriam Makeba, Odetta and Yma Sumac, taught mainstream audiences in America - and the world - new ways of hearing and appreciating music.

George Carlin brought a counterculture spin to standup comedy and influenced every comedian to follow. Playwright Harold Pinter's groundbreaking style gave birth to a new adjective: Pinteresque.

We also said goodbye to Bo Diddley and producer Jerry Wexler, giants of rhythm and blues and rock. Studs Terkel illuminated the lives of ordinary Americans, weaving their reminiscences into moving best-sellers such as "The Good War." Arthur C. Clarke took us to new worlds with "2001: A Space Odyssey." Alexander Solzhenitsyn heroically challenged the Soviet system by revealing the horrors of the gulag.

Artist Robert Rauschenberg's "combines" used ordinary articles in extraordinary ways. Yves St. Laurent put women in elegant pants and used his clothes to make a social statement.

Here, a roll call of notable people in arts, entertainment and popular culture who died in 2008. (Cause of death cited for younger people if available.)

 

JANUARY:

Ken Nelson, 96. Capitol Records talent scout, helped push Buck Owens, Merle Haggard to stardom. Jan. 6.

Johnny Grant, 84. Honorary Hollywood mayor; Tinseltown's longtime cheerleader. Jan. 9.

Maila Nurmi, 85. TV's spooky, sexy "Vampira." Jan. 10.

Richard Knerr, 82. Co-founded Wham-O toy company that popularized Hula Hoop, Frisbee. Jan. 14.

Suzanne Pleshette, 70. Beautiful, husky-voiced actress; sardonic wife on "The Bob Newhart Show." Jan. 19.

Heath Ledger, 28. Actor nominated for Oscar for "Brokeback Mountain"; the Joker in "The Dark Knight." Jan. 22. Drug overdose.

Margaret Truman Daniel, 83. Harry Truman's only child; a singer, TV personality, mystery writer. Jan. 29.

 

FEBRUARY:

Barry Morse, 89. He played the relentless detective in 1960s TV series "The Fugitive." Feb. 2.

Gus Arriola, 90. Cartoonist; his "Gordo" celebrated Hispanic culture. Feb. 2.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, around 91. Beatles' guru; introduced transcendental meditation to West. Feb. 5.

Phyllis A. Whitney, 104. Novelist whose suspense tales ("Feather on the Moon") sold millions. Feb. 8.

Roy Scheider, 75. Two-time Oscar nominee ("The French Connection," "All That Jazz"); police chief in "Jaws." Feb. 10.

Alain Robbe-Grillet, 85. Writer, part of France's "new novel" movement. Feb. 18.

Robin Moore, 82. Wrote "The French Connection," "The Green Berets," both made into movies. Feb. 21.

Boyd Coddington, 63. California car-building legend; on TV's "American Hot Rod." Feb. 27.

Mike Smith, 64. Lead singer for British band Dave Clark Five ("Glad All Over.") Feb. 28.

 

MARCH:

Giuseppe di Stefano, 86. Leading Italian tenor; partnered with Maria Callas. March 3.

Gary Gygax, 69. He co-created Dungeons & Dragons; hailed as father of role-playing games. March 4.

Ivan Dixon, 76. Actor; Kinchloe on "Hogan's Heroes." March 16.

Anthony Minghella, 54. Oscar-winning director, turned literary works ("The English Patient") into acclaimed movies. March 18. Hemorrhage.

Paul Scofield, 86. British actor; won Oscar for "A Man for All Seasons." March 19.

Arthur C. Clarke, 90. Visionary science fiction writer ("2001: A Space Odyssey.") March 19.

Richard Widmark, 93. Hollywood leading man; made sensational debut as a giggling killer ("Kiss of Death.") March 24.

Abby Mann, 80. Socially conscious screenwriter, won Oscar ("Judgment at Nuremberg.") March 25.

Dith Pran, 65. Cambodian journalist whose harrowing story inspired "The Killing Fields." March 30.

Jules Dassin, 96. Director who starred wife Melina Mercouri in "Never on Sunday." March 31.

 

APRIL:

Wayne Frost, 44. Hip-hop pioneer known as Frosty Freeze ("Flashdance.") April 3.

Charlton Heston, 84. Oscar winner ("Ben-Hur"); later headed National Rifle Association. April 5.

Ollie Johnston, 95. Last of Disney animators called "Nine Old Men" ("Fantasia.") April 14.

Danny Federici, 58. Keyboard player for Bruce Springsteen ("Hungry Heart.") April 17. Cancer.

Henry Brant, 94. Avant-garde composer. April 26.

Albert Hofmann, 102. Discoverer of LSD, which influenced music, art in 1960s. April 29.

 

MAY:

Ted Key, 95. Cartoonist whose bossy maid, "Hazel," went from magazines to TV. May 3.

Eddy Arnold, 89. Country singer known for his mellow baritone ("Make the World Go Away.") May 8.

Robert Rauschenberg, 82. His use of odd and everyday articles made him an art world giant. May 12.

Warren Cowan, 87. One of last Hollywood superpublicists. May 14.

Dick Martin, 86. Zany co-host of "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," which took television by storm in 1960s. May 24.

Sydney Pollack, 73. Oscar-winning director, a Hollywood mainstay ("Tootsie," "Out of Africa.") May 26.

Earle Hagen, 88. Composed "Andy Griffith Show" theme. May 26.

Harvey Korman, 81. Emmy winner for "The Carol Burnett Show"; conniving politician in "Blazing Saddles." May 29.

 

JUNE:

Yves Saint Laurent, 71. One of most influential, enduring designers of the 20th century. June 1.

Mel Ferrer, 90. Actor ("War and Peace"), producer of movies starring then-wife Audrey Hepburn. June 2.

Paul Sills, 80. Co-founded Chicago's "Second City" comedy group. June 2.

Bo Diddley, 79. A founding father of rock 'n' roll, known for "shave and a haircut, two bits" rhythm. June 2.

Jim McKay, 86. "Wide World of Sports" host who told Americans about killings at 1972 Olympics. June 7.

Tim Russert, 58. Host of "Meet the Press" whose personality and passion made him beloved in Washington. June 13.

Stan Winston, 62. Oscar-winning special-effects maestro ("Jurassic Park.") June 15.

Cyd Charisse, 86. Dancer turned actress; starred in musicals with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly. June 17.

Tasha Tudor, 92. Illustrator famed for whimsical drawings of rural New England. June 18.

George Carlin, 71. The dean of counterculture comedians who taught us "Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV." June 22.

Ira Tucker Sr., 83. Dixie Hummingbirds gospel group's lead singer ("Loves Me Like a Rock.") June 24.

 

JULY:

Clay Felker, 82. Revolutionized city magazines as New York's magazine's founding editor. July 1.

Larry Harmon, 83. He turned Bozo the Clown into a show business staple. July 3.

Evelyn Keyes, 91. She played middle O'Hara sister in "Gone With the Wind." July 4.

Thomas M. Disch, 68. Author known for science fiction ("The Brave Little Toaster.") July 4.

Dorian Leigh, 91. 1950s supermodel, made Revlon's super-red "Fire and Ice" lipstick famous. July 7.

Jo Stafford, 90. Singer; topped charts in early 1950s ("You Belong to Me.") July 16.

Larry Haines, 89. Actor on "Search for Tomorrow" for nearly its entire 35-year run. July 17.

Estelle Getty, 84. Actress; played the sarcastic Sophia on "The Golden Girls." July 22.

Randy Pausch, 47. His "last lecture" about facing cancer became Internet sensation, best-selling book. July 25.

Youssef Chahine, 82. Acclaimed Egyptian film director. July 27.

 

AUGUST:

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 89. Nobel-winning Russian author who chronicled Stalin's slave labor camps. Aug. 3.

Lou Teicher, 83. Pianist, half of popular duo Ferrante and Teicher. Aug. 3.

Simon Gray, 71. British playwright ("Otherwise Engaged.") Aug. 6.

Bernie Brillstein, 77. Agent, studio head; guided "Saturday Night Live" stars. Aug. 7.

Mahmoud Darwish, 67. Palestinian poet who eloquently told of his people's experiences. Aug. 9.

Bernie Mac, 50. One of "Original Kings of Comedy" who connected with audiences across a wide spectrum ("Ocean's Eleven.") Aug. 9. Pneumonia.

Isaac Hayes, 65. Soul crooner who laid groundwork for disco; won Oscar, Grammy for "Theme From Shaft." Aug. 10.

Jerry Wexler, 91. Record producer who coined "rhythm and blues"; worked with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles. Aug. 15.

Dave Freeman, 47. Co-author of "100 Things to Do Before You Die." Aug. 17. Accidental fall.

LeRoi Moore, 46. Versatile saxophonist with Dave Matthews Band. Aug. 19. ATV accident.

Tad Mosel, 86. Pulitzer-winning playwright ("All the Way Home.") Aug. 24.

Ike Pappas, 75. CBS newsman who reported the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. Aug. 31.

 

SEPTEMBER:

Jerry Reed, 71. Witty country singer ("When You're Hot, You're Hot") and actor ("Smokey and the Bandit.") Sept. 1.

Don LaFontaine, 68. In a world where voiceover artists are rarely known by name, his distinctive work livened up innumerable movie trailers. Sept. 1.

Bill Melendez, 91. Producer-animator who gave life to Snoopy, Charlie Brown in "Peanuts" TV specials. Sept. 2.

Robert Giroux, 94. Giant of publishing; guided dozens of writers at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. Sept. 5.

David Foster Wallace, 46. Author famed for complex, darkly witty works ("Infinite Jest.") Sept. 12. Suicide.

Charlie Walker, 81. Grand Ole Opry star ("Pick Me Up on Your Way Down.") Sept. 12.

Norman Whitfield, 67. Motown songwriter, producer ("I Heard It Through the Grapevine.") Sept. 16.

Paul Newman, 83. Oscar-winning actor/race driver/philanthropist who never lost the heartthrob cool of his anti-hero performances. Sept. 26.

 

OCTOBER:

Boris Yefimov, 108. Celebrated Soviet political cartoonist. Oct. 1.

Nick Reynolds, 75. Founding member of Kingston Trio. Oct. 1.

Eileen Herlie, 90. Stage, TV actress; motherly Myrtle Fargate in "All My Children," Oct. 8.

Edie Adams, 81. Singer-actress; partnered with husband Ernie Kovacs. Oct. 15.

Levi Stubbs, 72. Dynamic Four Tops frontman ("Baby I Need Your Loving.") Oct. 17.

Rudy Ray Moore, 81. Raunchy, influential black comedian ("Dolemite.") Oct. 19.

Mr. Blackwell, 86. Designer whose worst-dressed list skewered fashion felonies. Oct. 19.

Estelle Reiner, 94. Had famed line in "When Harry Met Sally" - "I'll have what she's having." Oct. 25.

Gerard Damiano, 80. Directed "Deep Throat," 1972 porn film that became unlikely hit. Oct. 25.

Tony Hillerman, 83. Author of acclaimed Navajo mystery novels. Oct. 26.

William Wharton, 82. Painter-turned-author whose novel "Birdy" won National Book Award. Oct. 29.

Studs Terkel, 96. Broadcaster, Pulitzer-winning author; best-sellers celebrated the common people. Oct. 31.

 

NOVEMBER:

Yma Sumac, 86. Peruvian soprano whose stunning range wowed audiences in 1950s. Nov. 1.

Michael Crichton, 66. Best-selling author whose books became blockbuster films ("Jurassic Park.") Nov. 4.

John Leonard, 69. Literary critic; championed future Nobel winners Toni Morrison, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Nov. 5.

Miriam Makeba, 76. South African singer who wooed the world with her sultry voice. Nov. 10.

Mitch Mitchell, 61. Drummer with Jimi Hendrix Experience ("Purple Haze.") Nov. 12

Clive Barnes, 81. Witty, erudite critic for New York Post. Nov. 19.

Betty James, 90. She co-founded company that made the Slinky. Nov. 20.

Gerald Schoenfeld, 84. Headed theater's powerful Shubert Organization. Nov. 25.

William Gibson, 94. Playwright; dramatized Helen Keller's story in "The Miracle Worker." Nov. 25.

Joern Utzon, 90. Danish architect; designed distinctive Sydney Opera House. Nov. 29.

 

DECEMBER:

Paul Benedict, 70. Actor; played English neighbor Harry Bentley on "The Jeffersons." Dec. 1.

Odetta, 77. Folk singer with powerful voice who inspired civil rights marchers. Dec. 2.

Forrest J Ackerman, 92. Editor, literary agent; credited with coining term "sci-fi." Dec. 4.

Nina Foch, 84. Oscar-nominated actress ("Executive Suite," "Spartacus.") Dec. 5.

Dennis Yost, 65. Lead singer of 1960s group Classics IV ("Stormy.") Dec. 7.

Bettie Page, 85. Beauty who daringly bared it all in the straitlaced '50s. Dec. 11.

Van Johnson, 92. Boy-next-door Hollywood star in ("30 Seconds Over Tokyo.") Dec. 12.

Davy Graham, 68. Virtuoso guitarist; a leading figure in Britain's 1960s folk music scene. Dec. 15.

Majel Barrett Roddenberry, 76. "Star Trek" actress (Nurse Christine Chapel); widow of creator Gene Roddenberry. Dec. 18.

Robert Mulligan, 83. Oscar-nominated director of "To Kill a Mockingbird"; helped launch Reese Witherspoon's career. Dec. 20.

Harold Pinter, 78. Nobel-winning British playwright who showed human conflict through vivid dialogue ... and meaningful pauses. Dec. 24.

Eartha Kitt, 81. Singer, dancer and actress; an international symbol of elegance and sensuality for more than a half-century. Dec. 25.

Freddie Hubbard, 70. Influential, Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter. Dec. 29.

 

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)