Thursday, 30 December 2004
The 2004 Death List
By Joseph Planta
VANCOUVER - I think it was in Ecclesiastics or maybe it was Pete Seeger that said: "For every thing there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die."
As is tradition in this space each year at this time, let's look back at the year that was with a listing of those who in the past year have died. These are the notable names-the famous, the infamous, the good and the bad.
In the world of show business, many notable names left the stage. Spalding Gray, the ubiquitous actor died, as did stage legend Uta Hagen. Ann Miller who starred in many musicals on the screen and on the stage died; so too did Carl Anderson who originated the role of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar. Howard Keel, another noted musical theatre star, who in later years was a fixture on Dallas, died. Somewhere in my files, I still have a photograph that Mr. Keel sent me years ago. Jerry Orbach is remembered as a detective on Law and Order, but he was a musical theatre veteran with such credits as The Fantasticks, Chicago, 42nd Street, and his Tony-winning turn in Promises, Promises. Mercedes McCambridge, an Oscar winner died, as did two-time Oscar winner Sir Peter Ustinov. Ustinov was a raconteur who was a favoured guest on Jack Paar's talk program. Paar died in the early part of 2004, so too did another Paar favourite the French Genevieve. Vaughn Meader, the satirist who had a far too short career built on his dead-on impersonation of John F. Kennedy died, he too got some early exposure on the Jack Paar program.
Marlon Brando died in June, whom many considered the greatest actor of his time. Janet Leigh who was forever linked as the woman who died in the shower in Psycho (or known as Jamie Lee Curtis's mother) died; while another actress remembered for her scream, Fay Wray died just shy of a 100. Leigh screamed while being knifed. Wray died while in the grips of King Kong.
Tony Randall, the delightful bon vivant of the stage, television and motion pictures died; as did former Oscar nominees Paul Winfield and Carrie Snodgress. Robert Pastorelli, better known as Eldin the painter on the television program Murphy Brown died. Anna Lee of soap opera fame died, just before she was to have received a lifetime achievement Emmy. June Taylor, whose dancers accompanied Jackie Gleason, died; as did Isabel Sanford, forever remembered as Louise Jefferson. Alan King, the comedian died, as did the actress Peggy Ryan. When Rodney Dangerfield died many paid their respects to a man who made a career saying nobody gave him any respect. Christopher Reeve died, shocking many, considering he had made much improvement since his debilitating accident a decade ago. Canadian comedy's John Morgan died, as did the ballerina Dame Alicia Markova.
Jerome Lawrence, the noted stage producer died, as did Ray Stark, who brought Funny Girl to the stage, you know that musical about Fanny Brice. Brice was his mother-in-law. Skin flick director Russ Meyer died, while Theo van Gogh, a relative of Vincent, was murdered by Islamic extremists. Margaret Ann Jewison, also known as Dixie, the wife of famed director and producer, Norman Jewison, died as well.
In the world of music, Billy May sounded no more. He's remembered as the arranger for many of Sinatra's most memorable hits. Timi Yuro died, as did Johnny Ramone, Rick James, Skeeter Davis, and Russell Jones, better known as Ol' Dirty Bastard. Film scorers Jerry Goldsmith and Elmer Bernstein died. Their film credits reflect a diverse number of notable films. Robert Merrill, whom opera and baseball fans remember, died. He'd sing at Yankee Stadium, as he did in what I think was his last film appearance, Anger Management. Another opera singer, Renata Tebaldi died. She's remembered as Callas's rival. Cy Coleman, who composed many Broadway shows including Sweet Charity, Seesaw, and City of Angels, including the occasional pop hit ("The Best Is Yet to Come"), died. Famed lyricist Fred Ebb died. Along with John Kander, their repertoire of musical work represents a chunk of Broadway's best-Cabaret, Chicago, Steel Pier, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Zorba-he gave voice to a young girl they encountered back in the early '60s, Liza Minnelli. In fact, he wrote many of her concerts. Not to mention, penned those immortal lyrics for that song we all remember, "New York, New York."
The British Columbian artist Toni Onley died in a plane crash this year. Dead too are cosmetics mogul Estée Lauder, designer Geoffrey Beene, and photographers, Francesco Scavullo, Richard Avedon, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.
In sports, gone were baseball's Tug McGraw, whose son is Tim McGraw the country music superstar; Pat Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan; Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch; Reggie White; and the outspoken Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott.
Equally outspoken, with perhaps as much derogatory fervour was the Rev. Billy James Hargis. Noted for his strong anti-communist rhetoric and his passionate preaching of the baby Jesus, Hargis was the inspiration for radio's Don Imus and his infamous character the Right Reverend Dr. Billy Sol Hargis, who preached on the radio and television from his outpost at the First Church of the Gooey Death and Discount House of Worship in Del Rao, Texas. Say halleluiah, and can I get an amen? About the real Hargis however, he had many troubles in his life, as while spreading the word of Christ, he was often thought to have asked young men and women at his church camps to spread . . . ahem. In addition, he ran into some trouble with the IRS. Many of the donations that came into his ministry, you'll understand were cash.
Francis Crick died in 2004; his scientific discoveries have been studied, as perhaps has the output of one Jacques Derrida. Red Adair, who was played in a movie by John Wayne, died. He was called upon to put out those oil fires in Kuwait in the early 1990s. Mattie Stepanek, the remarkable young man who battled muscular dystrophy, and at the same time inspired many with his poetry, died. His funeral was attended by former President Carter and Oprah Winfrey. Jerry Lewis paid tribute to Mattie throughout this past Labour Day's MDA telethon.
In the political world, dead in 2004 were Queen Juliana, Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands, and the mother of Diana, Princess of Wales, Francis Shand Kydd. Yasser Arafat croaked, while notable Watergate figures Fred LaRue, Sam Dash, and Archibald Cox died; Dash and Cox on the same weekend, if I recall correctly. None, including Arafat, was Deep Throat. Former United States President Ronald Reagan died, as did the noted Kennedy aide, later conspiracy theorist Pierre Salinger. He still believed that the government had something to do with that TWA that crashed off the eastern seaboard in 1997. Just this past week, the author and activist Susan Sontag died.
In Canada, notable political figures that died included: Ivan Head, a Trudeau advisor and later co-author on a book about Canada's foreign policy; Mitchell Sharp, a former Trudeau cabinet minister, later senior advisor to Jean Chrétien; Eric Kierans, another former Trudeau cabinet minister early on; and Jack Horner, an arch Conservative under Diefenbaker and Robert Stanfield, later on a Liberal cabinet minister under Trudeau. Pierre Sévigny, a cabinet minister under Diefenbaker, who was involved in the Munsinger affair died; as did Ellen Fairclough, the first female ever to serve in a cabinet, that of Diefenbaker's as well. Dominic Agostino, an Ontario Liberal died at a fairly young age, while former Senator Philippe Deane Gigantes, who had suffered from cancer, and chronicled his battle in the pages of Maclean's died. Claude Ryan, the newspaper publisher turned leader of the Quebec Liberal Party during the time that Robert Bourassa was out of political life, died. Ryan, lead the 'no' campaign in that 1980 referendum over sovereignty in Quebec.
Harrison McCain, a scion of the Canadian Establishment died, as did Nat Taylor. Taylor is credited with turning old movie theatres into multiplexes, which he first did in Toronto in the 1950s. Daniel Iannuzi, who was instrumental in multicultural television in Canada, died. On his death, politicians and what not paid tribute to him for his life's work.
Roger W. Straus, the publisher died, as did famed biographer William Manchester. His studies of John Kennedy and Churchill are legendary. His study of Churchill because it is incomplete, will be finished by the historian Paul Reid. Another Canadian publisher who's died is Jack McClelland. The authors which he published are a who's who of Canadian literature, both fiction and non-fiction: Farley Mowat, Peter C. Newman, Pierre Berton, Margaret Atwood, Carol Shields and Mordecai Richler, among others. McClelland and Stewart call themselves 'The Canadian Publishers.' They are because of Jack McClelland. Pierre Berton died in 2004, leaving behind an amazing bibliography and a trove of Canadiana that will be studied forever.
Television chef and author Julia Child died, as did another television cook, Jeff Smith. His Frugal Gourmet was a hit in the 1980s, until scandal caught up to him in the 1990s. Bob Keeshan, Captain Kangaroo died; as did the famed author Arthur Hailey. Mary McGrory, a White House correspondent when there were very few women covering the President, died; as did Iris Chang, the historian who penned The Rape of Nanking. Gene Wood, whose voice introduced many game shows including Family Feud with Richard Dawson died, as did Alistair Cooke, the famed essayist who talked about and from America for his BBC audience. He also introduced the Masterpiece Theatre broadcasts on PBS for years. Brian Linehan, the celebrated celebrity interviewer died; Martin Short on SCTV used to do a celebrated impersonation of him. Global TV's parliamentary correspondent David Vienneau, who was a panellist on the English-language leaders debate during last summer's federal election died; as did the portly MSNBC host who was before that an editor of both the New York Post and the New York Daily News, Jerry Nachman.
Questions and comments may be sent to: email@example.com
An archive of Joseph Planta's previous columns can be found by clicking HERE.
©1999-2005. The Commentary, Joseph Planta