Gone to the Stars: Well-knowns Lost in 2017

January 2, 2018

Carrie Fisher, Dec. 27, 2016

OK, so the title literally says ‘Lost in 2017,’ and our first guest died at the end of 2016. But Carrie Fisher died after we went to print for our January 2017 issue, and we simply couldn’t leave her out, here. (And she’s not the only one).

Throughout her life, Fisher was at once brash/brutal/rude and completely and totally likeable. She was most known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, and recently chronicled her experience filming those movies in the 2016 memoir The Princess Diarist. She returned to the franchise in 2015 for a cameo in The Force Awakens. Her final movie feature is playing now – Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Fisher battled through well-publicized fights with drug and alcohol addiction and bipolar disorder. She had her better moments and her worse ones. But she was always honest. Always non-conformist. Always unquestionably hilarious.

One example fits perfectly with this year’s myriad sexual assault and harassment allegations. Fisher’s friend, Heather Ross, told of how Fisher stood up to an Oscar-winning producer after Ross disclosed to her that she’d been assaulted.

Fisher hand-delivered a package to the hotshot at Sony.

“It was a cow tongue from Jerry’s Famous Deli with a note that said, ‘If you ever touch my darling Heather or any other woman again, the next delivery will be something of yours in a much smaller box,’” Ross

Debbie Reynolds, Dec. 28, 2016

Like we already said, there were a few who died at the end of 2016 that needed their dues in this magazine. Debbie Reynolds, the mother of Carrie Fisher, fits the bill.

Screen and stage legend Debbie Reynolds died Dec. 28 at age 84 after a possible stroke, just one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died at age 60.

“She wanted to be with Carrie,” Reynolds’ son Todd Fisher told Variety. Spanning nearly seven decades, Reynolds’ career dates back to the Golden Age of Hollywood, when she signed with Warner Bros. at 16 and went on to star in Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

The American sweetheart’s personal life drew as much press as her career; in 1959, her marriage to Eddie Fisher crumbled when the pop singer left Reynolds for close friend Elizabeth Taylor. Reynolds later revealed she reconciled with Taylor when the icons found themselves on the same cruise before Taylor’s death in 2011.

A singer with a No. 1 Billboard hit under her belt (“Tammy” from her 1957 movie Tammy and the Bachelor), Reynolds was also known for her energetic live shows in Las Vegas. Throughout her multi-faceted career, Reynolds collected Hollywood memorabilia, including Marilyn Monroe’s white subway dress from The Seven-Year Itch, which she sold for $5.6 million in a 2011 auction.

George Michael, Dec. 25

Forgive us for going a little out of order to start here, but we wanted to kick off with Carrie and Debbie. This next entry was no less a star, though.

Singer-songwriter George Michael was found dead on Dec. 25 at his home in England. He was 53. As one-half of musical duo Wham! with bandmate Andrew Ridgeley, Michael catapulted up the music charts and into the hearts of teenagers in the early 1980s with hits like “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” and his shaggy hair and tight jeans.

Bit by the solo bug, Michael traded bubblegum pop for risqué fare in 1987, declaring “I don’t need no bible” in “I Want Your Sex,” the first single from his first solo album, Faith, which also spawned the rockabilly-soul hit of the same name.

The singer’s art was overshadowed by his personal life in 1998 when Michael came out as gay following an arrest for lewd behavior. He went on to release new music — his 2004 album Patience was partly inspired by his relationship with former long-time partner Kenny Goss — and triumphantly belt his anthem “Freedom! ’90” at the London 2012 Olympic Games closing ceremony. Michael largely remained out of the spotlight following his Symphonica tour in 2012.

Tilikum the Orca, Jan. 6

On Jan. 6, Tilikum, the killer whale that was the subject of Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s 2013 documentary Blackfish, died after suffering from a bacterial lung infection. The orca, who lived in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando, was believed to be about 36 years old.

After his involvement in the deaths of three people between 1991 and 2010, Tilikum was at the center of the controversy over the ethics of keeping performance whales in captivity, the question and consequences of which the critically lauded Blackfish explored. In 2015, two years after the documentary’s release, SeaWorld announced that it would stop breeding orcas and phase out its killer whale shows.

Mary Tyler Moore, Jan 25

A Minnesota television icon, Mary Tyler Moore died Jan. 25 at the age of 80. Moore got her breakout role on The Dick Van Dyke Show as Van Dyke’s character’s adorable wife, Laura Petrie. She won two Emmys in the part, which she played for the series’ entire run, from 1961–66.

It was with The Mary Tyler Moore Show, however, that the actress broke boundaries for women in television. She collected three more Emmys for her work on the sitcom, which ran from 1970–77 and in which she played Mary Richards, a sweet, single, career-oriented 30-something.

Many of her later roles would try to shake off the sunny image Moore built with the show, including her Golden Globe-winning turn in 1980’s Ordinary People and her Emmy-winning performance in the 1993 TV movie Stolen Babies, but nothing overshadowed her legacy as Mary Richards. Outside of entertaining, Moore was also committed to raising funds for diabetes research and spreading awareness of the disease, having been diagnosed with it herself as a young woman.

John Hurt, Jan 25

Actor John Hurt died Jan. 25 at the age of 77. Hurt got his breakout role in 1966’s A Man for All Seasons; over the course of his long career, he was nominated for two Oscars — for 1978’s Midnight Express and 1980’s The Elephant Man — and amassed over 200 credits on both the big and small screen.

Some of this other notable film credits include starring as Winston Smith in 1984’s 1984, playing the spy called “Control” in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and appearing as wand-maker Ollivander in the Harry Potter films.

He most recently appeared in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie, and completed work on three more films that had not yet been released at the time of his death, entitled That Good Night, Damascus Cover, and My Name Is Lenny. Hurt was honored with a lifetime achievement award from the British Academy of Film and Television in 2012, and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015.

Bill Paxton, Feb 25

Actor Bill Paxton died Feb. 25 due to complications from surgery. He was 61. Paxton began his decades-long career with TV appearances and small film roles, including parts in 1984’s The Terminator, 1985’s Weird Science, and 1986’s Aliens.

He was especially prolific in the ‘90s, during which he starred in 1995’s Apollo 13 and 1996’s Twister, and reteamed with his Terminator and Aliens director James Cameron for 1994’s True Lies and 1997’s Titanic. His television résumé is equally impressive: He picked up three Golden Globe nominations for starring on HBO’s Big Love from 2006 to 2011, and was nominated for an Emmy for his role in History’s miniseries Hatfields & McCoys in 2012.

His recent film roles include 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow and Nightcrawler and the upcoming adaptation of Dave Eggers’ The Circle; in TV, he had roles on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the miniseries Texas Rising, and starred on the new series Training Day.

Chuck Berry, March 18

Music legend Chuck Berry died March 18 at the age of 90. His impact on rock and roll cannot be overstated; artists from Elvis to the Beatles to the Beach Boys to the Rolling Stones were enormously influenced by his sound and style.

Though the rock pioneer continued to release music into the ‘70s and got his biggest hit with 1972’s “My Ding-a-Ling,” Berry’s best-known records are those he released in the ‘50s with the Chess label, including “Maybelline,” “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Carol.” He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — by none other than Keith Richards, who claimed he “lifted every lick” of Berry’s — in 1986.

Chuck Barris, March 21

TV host and producer Chuck Barris died of natural causes on March 21. He was 87. Known as the “godfather of reality TV,” Barris created The Dating Game in 1965 and went on to produce

The Newlywed Game soon after. In 1976, he began hosting the wacky talent competition The Gong Show, after which his impressive reality TV résumé earned him the nickname “The King of Schlock.” In 1984, Barris published his autobiography, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, in which he wrote that, at the height of his reality TV career, he was also moonlighting as an assassin for the C.I.A. (which has denied the claim). George Clooney directed a 2002 film adaptation of the book, which starred Sam Rockwell as Barris.

Don Rickles, April 6

Legendary comedian Don Rickles died April 6 from kidney failure. He was 90. Before making his name as one of the greatest insult comics of all time, the New York-born star originally intended to be an actor; he studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and his long résumé includes the starring role in the ‘70s sitcom C.P.O. Sharkey, parts in 1970’s Kelly’s Heroes and 1995’s Casino, and playing Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story films.

He is best known, however, for his comedy. Crowds of fans swarmed to his stand-up shows in Las Vegas to be verbally assaulted with his merciless mockery, and he took his insults to the screen with such films as 1998’s Dirty Work and dozens of TV appearances, including over 100 on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Jonathan Demme, April 26

Filmmaker Jonathan Demme died April 26 as a result of complications from esophageal cancer. He was 73.

The writer-director-producer, who won an Academy Award for Best Director for 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs, began his career making films for Roger Corman; Demme’s credits under the B-movie king include 1974’s Caged Heat and 1975’s Crazy Mama. Demme began garnering more attention in Hollywood over the course of the ‘80s, with such films as 1980’s Melvin and Howard, 1986’s Something Wild, and 1988’s Married to the Mob.

His later films include 1993’s Philadelphia, for which Tom Hanks won an Oscar for Best Actor; 2004’s acclaimed remake of The Manchurian Candidate; and 2008’s Rachel Getting Married. His most recent directorial feature credit was the concert film Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids.

Christopher “Big Black” Boykin

MTV reality personality Christopher “Big Black” Boykin died May 9 from a heart attack. He was 45. He was known for having starred, along with skateboarder Rob Dyrdek, on MTV’s reality series Rob & Big from 2006–08. He appeared on the show as Dyrdek’s bodyguard, and the series came to its abrupt ending due to tension between the pair of them.

Dyrdek described the “strange period” in a March 2016 interview: “I think we both struggled with I didn’t want to be known as like Rob from Rob & Big … and I think he didn’t want to be known for like the sidekick. So that created a lot of that tension between me and him.”

Chris Cornell, May 17

Chris Cornell, the legendary frontman of Soundgarden who was known to possess one of the most powerful voices of the grunge era, died May 17 in Detroit while touring with his band. He at 52. Born in Seattle in 1964, Cornell was a fixture of the grunge generation, leading Soundgarden and supergroup Temple of the Dog in the late ’80s and into the ’90s.

Soundgarden split in 1997, after which Cornell began his solo career, releasing Euphoria Morning in 1999. Soon after, Cornell joined up with the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine, minus lead singer Zack de la Rocha, to create the band Audioslave. After Audioslave and more solo work (including the theme song to 2006’s James Bond reboot Casino Royale), Soundgarden reformed in 2010.

In addition to touring with his most-famous band, Cornell also recently completed a nationwide tour with Temple of the Dog — which is comprised of members of Pearl Jam, including current member and former Soundgarden drummer Matt Cameron.

Roger Moore, May 23

Sir Roger Moore died May 23 after a brief battle with cancer. He was 89. Moore was best known, of course, for having played James Bond in seven 007 films, beginning with 1973’s Live and Let Die and ending with 1985’s A View to Kill.

He was the third actor, following original Bond Sean Connery and one-off 007 George Lazenby, to assume the mantle of the superspy, and was known for his suave, tongue-in-cheek portrayal.

Before he was Bond, Moore started out appearing in toothpaste ads, became a contract player at MGM in the ‘50s, and finally achieved international fame playing Simon Templar on the British TV series The Saint, which ran from 1961–69. After his final Bond outing, Moore’s onscreen appearances — including a small role in 1997’s Spice World — were fewer and less frequent, but he remained very active as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations, a position he held for over 25 years. His autobiography, My Word Is My Bond, was published in 2008.

Gregg Allman, May 27

Legendary rocker Gregg Allman died at 69 on May 27 from complications due to liver cancer. Allman’s longtime manager announced the news of the Allman Brothers Band co-founder with a statement: “I have lost a dear friend and the world has lost a brilliant pioneer in music. He was a kind and gentle soul with the best laugh I ever heard. His love for his family and bandmates was passionate as was the love he had for his extraordinary fans. Gregg was an incredible partner and an even better friend. We will all miss him.”

Adam West, June 9

West, who played Batman on the campy, classic 1966-68 TV series (and in the feature film version of the show that was released in 1966 as well), died on June 9 at age 88. The Hollywood legend also provided memorable voice contributions to Family Guy among other shows.

Michael Nyqvist

Nyqvist, who played publisher Mikael Blomkvist in the original Swedish Girl with the Dragon Tattoo films, died following a battle with lung cancer at age 56 on June 27. One of Sweden’s most accomplished actors, Nyqvist also made an impact in Hollywood films like  Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol and the Keanu Reeves thriller John Wick.

Martin Landau, July 15

Martin Landau, who won an Oscar for playing Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood and also had memorable costarring roles in Crimes and Misdemeanors and Roundersdied on July 15 at age 89.

George A. Romero, July 16

The legendary filmmaker, known as the godfather of the zombie genre, made such classics as Night of the Living DeadDay of the Dead, and Creepshow, among many others. He died July 16 at age 77 after a short battle with lung cancer.

Chester Bennington, July 20

Chester Bennington provided one of the biggest shocks of the year when he died by apparent suicide over the summer. The Linkin Park frontman was still writing and performing chart-topping music, playing to large crowds and embracing legions of fans.

The Linkin Park musician performed at the funeral for Chris Cornell, who died by suicide in May. “You have inspired me in many ways you could never have known,” Bennington wrote in part in a moving tribute shared on Twitter after Cornell’s death. Bennington was 41 and leaves behind a wife and six children from two marriages.

John Heard, July 21

The character actor, best known for playing Kevin McCallister’s dad in 1990’s Home Alone and for appearances on The Sopranos and numerous other television series, died July 21 at age 72.

Glenn Campbell, August 8

The country singer and entertainer, who sold more than 50 million albums during a career that spanned over a half century, died Aug. 8 after several years of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 81.

Jerry Lewis, Aug 20

Jerry Lewis, the hilarious and hugely influential rubber-faced comedian, trailblazing filmmaker, and tireless Muscular Dystrophy fundraiser, died of natural causes Aug. 20 at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91.

Troy Gentry, Sept 8

One half of the popular country duo, Montgomery Gentry, Troy Gentry tragically died at the age of 50 in a helicopter crash on Sept. 8 just hours before a scheduled concert in Medford, New Jersey. The duo was one of the most identifiable acts in country music since the late ’90s and earned a Grammy nom for their 2008 song “Lucky Man.” They were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009.

Don Williams, Sept 8

The ‘Gentle Giant’ of country music died Sept. 8 at the age of 78. Earning 17 No. 1 country hits throughout his career, he recorded hits including “Tulsa Time,” “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” and “It Must Be Love.” The singer inspired many current country music acts and was the subject of a 2017 tribute. He retired from performing in 2016, saying, “I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends, and my family for their everlasting love and support.”

Hugh Hefner, Sept 27

Playboy founder Hugh Hefner died on Sept. 27 at the age of 91. While his public persona was not always one of great honor and respect, Heffner spent a great deal of his life fighting for us all.

“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights, and sexual freedom,” Hefner’s son Cooper, Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises, said in a statement.

“He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises.”

Tom Petty, Oct 2

About a week after the death of Heffner, Tom Petty represented another of 2017’s most notable deaths. His legacy was obvious in the days after he died when a slew of his most well-known hit singles and albums crowded at the top of the United States (and countries around the world) iTunes charts.

Petty was a guy who could do it all. A master of several instruments, a producer, an actor, and of course, a singer and songwriter. He’s most known for his solo and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers discography, though he also spent time in the 1980s supergroup Traveling Wildburys and his earliest band Mudcrutch. From Rolling Stone:

“In the late 1970s, Petty’s romanticized tales of rebels, outcasts and refugees started climbing the pop charts. When he sang, his voice was filled with a heartfelt drama that perfectly complemented the Heartbreakers’ ragged rock & roll. Songs like “The Waiting,” “You Got Lucky,” “I Won’t Back Down,” “Learning to Fly” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” all dominated Billboard’s rock chart, and the majority of Petty’s albums have been certified either gold or platinum. His most recent release, Hypnotic Eye, debuted at Number One in 2014. Petty, who also recorded as a solo artist and as a member of the Traveling Wilburys and Mudcrutch, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.”

Ralphie May, Oct 6

Comedian Ralphie May died on Oct. 6 at age 45 after suffering cardiac arrest. May was best known as a stand-up comic who finished as a runner-up on Last Comic Standing in 2003.

Robert Guillaume, Oct 24

Robert Guillaume, perhaps most celebrated for his role as the TV sitcom butler in Benson and Soap, died Oct. 24 at age 89. Guillaume’s widow confirmed the news, noting he had been battling prostate cancer. Through the ’70s, Guillaume appeared on episodes of All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Good Times before he first appeared as Benson DuBois in Soap, which ran from 1977-1981. He then got his own spin-off on ABC in 1979 with Benson, a role which earned him two Emmys over the years. Among Guillaume’s lauded career, the actor voiced the character Rafiki in Disney’s animated The Lion King and Dr. Eli Vance in the Half-Life video game series.

Fats Domino, Oct 24

The legendary New Orleans musician died Oct. 25 at age 89. A prodigiously talented piano player, Domino — given name Antoine Domino Jr. — came of age in the post-war period and became a seminal force in the development and popularization of rock and roll. He began his recording career in 1949 with his first single, “The Fat Man,” which sold one million copies by 1953. He dominated the charts throughout the ’50s and early ’60s, catapulting nearly 40 hits into the Hot 100’s top 40 during that period.

Della Reese, Nov. 19

The singer and actress, who became a household name while starring as a divine supervisor named Tess on CBS’ Touched by an Angel, died Nov. 19 at age 86. Although her biggest role was on Touched by an Angel, she also appeared in shows like Chico and the Man and It Takes Two, and in 1970, she became the first black woman to guest-host The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson.


By Philip Weyhe and Molly Penny
Some blurbs from Entertainment Weekly

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