The New Year has overtaken us yet again. But before we leave last year in the rear view mirror, I’d like to take a few minutes to say goodbye to important folks we lost. Here’s my 2017 celebrity deaths list. There were some real heart-breakers.
Glen Campbell passed away Aug 8. It was like losing a friend. I had the honor of meeting Glen twice—once in 1973 when I was 18 and again in my mid-20s. The first time, my dad took my friend Sharon Fest (Sinkey) and me to a concert at Hemisfair Arena. I was as giddy as, well, a teenage girl.
Glen was on his – game that night and all too soon the intermission arrived. Scanning the arena, I recognized Glen’s parents, Wes and Carrie, in the audience. Dad gave us permission to say hi to the senior Campbells. They were sweet and kind. After a few minutes, I screwed up my courage and asked Wes if he would get my program book autographed. I was shocked by his answer. “No, honey. If you want that book signed, you’re going to have to do it yourself.”
What did that mean? All of a sudden, he smiled at his wife, stood up and pointed to the stairs. I almost passed out. Mr. Campbell took us backstage past the security guards right up to Glen himself. Wes smiled at his son, and Glen smiled back. “There ya go,” he told us. Then he was gone. I was so shocked, I don’t remember thanking him. I hope I did!
Glen in the flesh
Glen was very kind. He autographed the book, joked with us and then posed for a couple of photos. I even got one of me kissing him on the cheek. Woohoo. (I wish I knew what happened to that picture.) Sharon even got to spend a few minutes with Jerry Reed.
Years later I had moved to Dallas with my Future Ex who worked as an engineer at radio station KLIF. We got the word that Glen would be at the studio for a few minutes while promoting his latest album. When Glen arrived, I was waiting. Once again Glen was kind and gracious. Nervously I said the first thing that popped into my head. “This is my second time meeting you.” He could have blown me off, but Glen laughed and said, “For me too.”
Not only was he nice, I loved him because he had a beautiful voice and insane guitar skills. Rest in peace, Glen. Thanks for the memories.
Other 2017 Celebrity Deaths
My upcoming blog will acknowledge the notable animal lost in 2017. Here’s a list of notable people we’ve said goodbye to in 2017:
Jan 8 Pioneer Cabin Tree (also known as The Tunnel Tree) was an American giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, California. It was estimated to have been more than 1,000 years old. It measured 33 feet in diameter, but its age and height were unknown. The tree fell and shattered during a storm on January 8, 2017.
Jan 12 Tommy Allsup, guitarist best known for missing the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper on “The Day the Music Died,” died Jan. 12 at 85.
Jan 13 Dick Gautier, who played the robot Hymie on Get Smart died after a long illness at 85.
Jan 16. Eugene Cernan, an astronaut on both the Apollo 10 and Apollo 17 mission died at the age of 82. He was the last person to walk on the moon. I could find no cause of death.
Jan 19. Miguel Ferrer, actor in Twin Peaks, NCIS: Los Angeles and RoboCop, died of cancer at age 61.
Jan 20. Ronald “Bingo” Mundy. The vocalist best known for doo-wop hit “Blue Moon,” died of pneumonia at 76.
Jan 25. Sir John Hurt. (22 January 1940 – 25 January 2017) British actor known for Alien, The Elephant Man, 1984 and Harry Potter died of pancreatic cancer at 77.
Jan 25. Mary Tyler Moore. The iconic actress best known for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Ordinary People. The seven-time Emmy winner died at the age of 80 of cardiopulmonary arrest. Mary Tyler Moore made me want to be a reporter.
Jan 26. Mike Connors. Best known for playing TV’s Mannix, passed away at the age of 91 from leukemia.
Jan 26. Barbara Hale. American actress who played Della Street on Perry Mason and Sarah Demarest in Airport died of complications from COPD at 94.
Jan 28. Richard Portman was the Oscar-winning sound mixer on Star Wars, The Godfather and The Deer Hunter. He died at the age of 83 from complications from a fall.
Jan 31. Rob Stewart (December 28, 1979 – c. January 31, 2017) a Canadian filmmaker known for the movie Sharkwater, drowned a 37.
Feb 5. Betty Collette (December 5, 1930 – February 5, 2017). An American veterinary pathologist. She was the only African-American pathology researcher at Georgetown University School of Medicine in the 1950s. Her research focused on hypertension in animals. She passed away at the age of 86.
Feb 7. Richard Hatch. American actor played Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica. He also appeared in The Streets of San Francisco and All My Children. He died of pancreatic cancer at 71.
Feb 12. Al Jarreau. Grammy-winning jazz singer, died Feb. 12 at 76.
Feb 13. Trish Doan. The bassist for metal band Kittie, died at 31. No cause of death could be found.
Feb 25. Bill Paxton. 61-year-old Paxton, who starred in Twister, Apollo 13, Aliens and Titanic, died of complications from heart surgery at age 61.
Feb 26. Judge Joseph Wapner. The real-life judge on The People’s Court TV series, died at 97 of respiratory insufficiency.
Mar 1. Gustav Metzger. Auto-destructive’ artist who inspired The Who’s Pete Townshend to smash his guitars. He died at 90.
Mar 6. Robert Osborne. Turner Classic Movies host and film historian passed away in his sleep of natural causes just two months from his 85th birthday on May 3. His body was donated to New York University for medical science.
Mar 17. Lawrence Montaigne. (February 26, 1931 – March 17, 2017) Star Trek fans will remember the 86-year-old actor for his roles of Stonn in “Amok Time” and Decius in “Balance of Terror.” He was also in The Great Escape and Escape to Witch Mountain.
Mar 18. Chuck Berry. American Rock ‘n’ Roll icon and Hall of Fame guitarist, singer and songwriter known for “Johnny B. Goode”, “Maybellene”, “Roll Over Beethoven” died of a heart attack at age 90.
Mar 19. Jimmy Breslin. Pulitzer Prize-winning author of one of my favorite books as a teenager (The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight) died from complications from pneumonia at the age of 86.
Mar 21. Chuck Barris. The Gong Show host-creator and producer of The Dating Game,” died of natural causes at 87.
Mar 23. Alan Colmes. Former co-host of Fox News’ ‘Hannity & Colmes,’ died of lymphoma at 66.
Apr 6. Don Rickles. Insult comedian, who reminded me of my Uncle David Rainbolt died at age 90 of kidney failure.
Apr 22. Erin Moran, who played Joanie Cunningham in Happy Days and Joanie Loves Chachi succumbed to tonsil cancer at the age of 56.
May 8. Douglas Netter producer of Babylon 5 died at the age of 95.
May 18. Roger Ailes. Television executive, Chairman and CEO of Fox News from 1996–2016 died from a subdural hematoma at 77.
May 23. Roger Moore. He played James Bond in seven 007 movies died at age 89 after a short battle with cancer.
May 30. Elena Verdugo played Marcus Welby, MD’s secretary. She died at 92 of natural causes.
June 9. Adam West, TV’s Batman (also Family Guy, Robinson Crusoe on Mars) died at 88 after a short battle with leukemia.
June 15. Bill Dana, 92, comedian, actor and screenwriter (The Bill Dana Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Nude Bomb).
June 16. Stephen Furst of Babylon 5, Animal House, St. Elsewhere died at 63 of complications from diabetes.
June 25. Skip Homeier. Skip appeared in Star Trek as Dr. Sevrin in “Way to Eden” and Malakon in “Pattern of Force.”
July15. Martin Landau, Oscar-winning actor in Ed Wood and TV’s Mission: Impossible, died of cardiac disease at age 89.
July 21. John Heard. Actor known for Home Alone, Big, Prison Break, died after a cardiac arrest at 72. He was best known for his role as the dad in the original Home Alone movies.
July 27. Stan Hart. The 88-year-old writer at Mad Magazine died as a result of progressive supranuclear palsy.
July 27. Sam Shepard. The Oscar-winning actor, playwright, and 1979 Pulitzer prize winner died at 73 from complications from ALS. I loved his portrayal of Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff. He was also in Black Hawk Down.
Aug 3. Ty Hardin. 87, American actor starred in the TV series Bronco, and appeared in Berserk!, Battle of the Bulge, I Married a Monster from Outer Space, Maverick and PT-109.
Aug 7. Haruo Nakajima. Godzilla is really dead. Japanese actor best known as the man in the painfully hot rubber Godzilla suit who stomped over miniature bridges and buildings of “Tokyo” died of pneumonia in Japan at 88. He starred in Godzilla, Destroy All Monsters, Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964) and Seven Samurai (1954).
Aug 8. Glen Campbell. Music legend Glen Campbell, Grammy winner, Country Music Award winner died at 81 after a 10-year battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He sold more than 45 million records, amassed nine Grammy awards, had his own weekly TV show and reached the top of the charts with hits that included “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Wichita Lineman.” He co-starred with John Wayne in one of my favorite movies of all time, True Grit and later starred in another Charles Portis movie, Norwood.
After receiving his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, he and his wife bravely shared their painful journey with the world. He even went on a farewell tour and appeared in a documentary which chronicled the progression of the disease. His final album Adiós, was released in June.
Aug 15. Liam Devaney, an Irish hurler died at 82. Don’t know who he is, but I love the idea of an Irish hurler.
Aug 21. Thomas Meehan. Tony Award-winning playwright of The Producers, Hairspray and Annie died of cancer at 88.
Sept 8. Jerry Pournelle. Journalist and science fiction author of CoDominium died at home of heart failure at 84.
Sept 15. Harry Dean Stanton. Actor who appeared in Twin Peaks, Alien, The Green Mile, Big Love died at 91 of natural causes.
Sept 27. Anne Jeffreys. Anne played Marion Kerby opposite her real-life husband Robert Sterling as “the ghostess with the mostess” on the 1950s television series Topper. She was also on General Hospital, and appeared as David Hasselhoff’s mom on Baywatch. Anne “died peacefully in her sleep” at 94.
Sept 30. Monty Hall. Let’s Make a Deal game show host died of congestive heart failure at 96.
Sept 27. Hugh Hefner. Died of cardiac arrest (of course) at 91. Wonder how many STDs he had?
Oct 3. Tom Petty. The 66-year old American Hall of Fame musician (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Traveling Wilburys) and King of the Hill voice actor succumbed to a heart attack.
Oct 17. Mychael Knight, a third-season contestant on Project Runway, died at 39 possibly from complications associated with irritable bowel disease.
Oct 24. Robert Guillaume. Emmy (1979, 1985), Tony and Grammy Award-winning actor known for Soap, Benson, The Lion King and Sports Night succumbed to prostate cancer at 89.
Oct 24. Fats Domino. The Hall of Fame pianist, vocalist and songwriting rock legend famous for “Blueberry Hill”, “Ain’t That a Shame” and “I’m Walkin’”) died of natural causes at age 89.
Nov 9. John Hillerman, Emmy-winning Magnum P.I. actor died of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure at the age of 84. The native Texas was so masterful in his role of Jonathan Quayle Higgins many fans in Great Britain were shocked to learn he was from Denison, Texas. He perfected his English accent by listening to recordings of Laurence Olivier reciting Hamlet.
He once said, “In my humble opinion, Higgins is one of the best parts in all television.”
In Blazin’ Saddles, playing the part of Howard Johnson, he was able to fully embrace his inner Texan.
Nov 12. Wendy Pepper. Project Runway fashion designer “died peacefully on November 12, 2017, surrounded by her loving family” according to her obituary. She was 53. No official cause was given, but there were rumors about stage 4 cancer were circulating around the internet.
Nov. 19. Mel Tillis. Tillis, a regular on the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour and Country Music Hall of Famer, died of respiratory failure due to diverticulitis at 85.
Nov 19. Della Reese. Singer-actress best known for Touched by an Angel, died 86. Although no cause was given, she suffered from Type 2-diabetes.
Nov 21. David Cassidy. Partridge Family actor-singer and ’70s teen idol, died of liver failure at 67.
Nov 29. Jim Nabors. Andy Griffith Show and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. actor and amazing tenor, died of natural causes at 87.
Nov 29. Willie John Daly, a 92-year old Irish hurler has no official cause of death.
Nov 30. Alfie Curtis. (28 July 1930 – 30 November 2017) British actor appearing in Star Wars, The Elephant Man and Cribb died at the age of 87 of unknown cause. He was best known for the minor role as Dr. Evazan in original Star Wars (1977), the deformed man at the Mos Eisley Cantina whom Luke Skywalker is confronted with Curtis’ line “I have the death sentence on twelve systems.” The confrontation prompted Obi-Wan Kenobi to intervene and resulting in the first use of a lightsaber in combat.
Dec 6. Conrad Brooks. Actor known for his roles in the Ed Woods’ campy classics Plan 9 from Outer Space, Glen or Glenda, as well as The Beast of Yucca Flats. He died of blood poisoning at 86.
Dec 13. Vanessa Greene, a 63-year-old British-American television producer (Deadly Desire, Our Son, the Matchmaker) and writer (Star Trek: The Next Generation) died of breast cancer.
Dec 21. Bruce McCandless II. McCandless was the first American astronaut to fly untethered in space on STS-41-B. He died at the age of 80. No cause of death was disclosed.
Dec 28. Sue Grafton. The author of “B” Is for Burglar, Keziah Dane and The Lolly-Madonna War died of cancer at 77.
Dec 28. Rose Marie. The actress best known for her role as television comedy writer Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show. (Sally Rogers piqued my interest in writing humor.) She also appeared on The Hollywood Squares and The Doris Day Show. She died of natural causes at 94.
Next week I’ll remember the celebrity animals who passed in 2017.
These are the celebrities who meant something to me. Who would you like to remember? Tell me in the comments below.