Saturday, December 31, 2016

THE PASSING SCENE OF 2016

Every year brings new hope and more exciting personal adventures. However, with every year we must say good bye to entertainers that have made us laugh a little bit more, cry a little bit harder, and make our daily problems go away. Here are just a few of the the great entertainers that have left us in 2016...


Actor and comedian Gene Wilder died from complications from Alzheimer's disease on August 28th at the age of 83. Wilder began his career on stage, and made his screen debut in the TV-series Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1962. Although his first film role was portraying a hostage in the 1967 motion picture Bonnie and Clyde, Wilder's first major role was as Leopold Bloom in the 1968 film The Producers for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This was the first in a series of collaborations with writer/director Mel Brooks, including 1974's Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, which Wilder co-wrote, garnering the pair an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay. Wilder is known for his portrayal of Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and for his four films with Richard Pryor: Silver Streak (1976), Stir Crazy (1980), See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989), and Another You (1991). Wilder directed and wrote several of his own films, including The Woman in Red (1984).  His third wife was actress Gilda Radner, with whom he starred in three films. Her death from ovarian cancer led to his active involvement in promoting cancer awareness and treatment, helping found the Gilda Radner Ovarian Cancer Detection Center in Los Angeles and co-founding Gilda's Club.

Actress Carrie Fisher died of a heart attack on December 27th at the age of 60. She was known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films. Fisher was also known for her semi-autobiographical novels, including Postcards from the Edge and the screenplay for the film of the same name, as well as her autobiographical one-woman play and its nonfiction book, Wishful Drinking, based on the show. Her other film roles included Shampoo (1975), The Blues Brothers (1980), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), The 'Burbs (1989), and When Harry Met Sally... (1989). She was also the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. She was on a flight from London to Los Angeles when she suffered the initial heart attack on December 23rd.

Oscar winning actress Patty Duke died on March 29th at the age of 69. She was an American actress of stage, film and television. She first became famous as a teen star, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at age 16 for her role in The Miracle Worker, which she had originated on Broadway. She later starred in the sitcom, The Patty Duke Show. She progressed to more mature roles upon playing Neely O'Hara in the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls.

Opera star Patricia Munsel died at the age of 91 on August 4th. She was an American coloratura soprano. Nicknamed "Princess Pat", she was the youngest singer to ever star at the Metropolitan Opera. Munsel ended her career as an opera singer in 1981, and began to perform in musical comedies. She retired from performing in 2008.

Rock icon Prince died at the age of 57 on April 21st. Prince, was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. Prince was renowned as an innovator, and was widely known for his eclectic work, flamboyant stage presence, and wide vocal range. He is widely regarded as the pioneer of Minneapolis sound. His music integrates a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, soul, psychedelia, and pop. He changed his stage name in 1993 to an unpronounceable symbol , also known as the "Love Symbol".


Italian crooner Julius LaRosa died on May 12th at the age of 86. He was an Italian-American traditional popular music singer, who worked in both radio and television beginning in the 1950s. In the 1950s, he was famous for getting fired from Arthur Godfrey's television show. After consulting with CBS President Frank Stanton, on the morning of October 19, 1953 (in a segment of the show broadcast on radio only), after La Rosa finished singing "Manhattan" on Arthur Godfrey Time, Godfrey fired La Rosa on the air, announcing, "that was Julie's swan song with us." La Rosa tearfully met with Godfrey after the broadcast and thanked him for giving him his "break." La Rosa was then met at Godfrey's offices by his lawyer, manager and some reporters.

Rock star and actor David Bowie died on January 10th at the age of 69. Bowie was an English singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter and actor. He was a figure in popular music for over five decades, and was considered by critics and other musicians as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. Bowie stopped concert touring after 2004, and last performed live at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, he returned from a decade-long recording hiatus, remaining musically active until his death from liver cancer three years later.

Actress and entertainer Debbie Reynolds died of a stroke at the age of 84 on December 28th, only a day after her daughter Carrie Fisher died. Debbie's breakout role was the portrayal of Helen Kane in the 1950 film Three Little Words, for which she was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Newcomer. However, it was her first leading role in 1952 at age 19, as Kathy Selden in Singin' in the Rain, that set her on the path to fame. In 1959, she released her first pop music album, entitled Debbie.She starred in How the West Was Won (1963), and The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), a biographical film about the famously boisterous Molly Brown. Her performance as Molly Brown earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Her other notable films include The Singing Nun (1966), Divorce American Style (1967), What's the Matter with Helen? (1971), Mother (1996 Golden Globe nomination), and In & Out (1997).

Singer and big band vocalist Kitty Kallen died on January 7th at the age of 94. Kallen was an American popular singer whose career spanned from the 1930s to the 1960s—to include the Swing era of the Big Band years, the post-WWII pop scene and the early years of rock 'n roll. She is best known for her 1954 solo recording '"Little Things Mean a Lot" — a song that stayed at the U.S. number one spot for nine consecutive weeks, charted in the U.S. for almost seven months. She started out singing for the legendary bands of Jack Teagarden, Harry James, and Jimmy Dorsey.

Character actor Alan Rickman died at the age of 69 on January 14th of cancer. An English actor best known for playing anagonist roles, he was popular on the stage and screen.His big break was his role as the Vicomte de Valmont in the stage production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1985, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award. Rickman gained wider notice for his film performances as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series. His last film was the just completed film Alice Through the Looking Glass, released May of 2016.


Child star Bobby Breen died on September 19th at the age of 88. He was first discovered by Eddie Cantor in the 1930s. He was a popular male child singer during the and reached major popularity with film and radio appearances. After fighting in World War II, he largely quit performing. He made a few records on the Motown label in the 1960s. He lived with his family in Tamarac, Florida, and worked as the owner/operator of Bobby Breen Enterprises, a local talent agency.

Singer Kay Starr died on November 3rd at the age of 94. She was an American pop and jazz singer who enjoyed considerable success in the 1940s and 1950s. She is best remembered for introducing two songs that became #1 hits in the 1950s, "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Rock And Roll  Waltz". Starr was successful in every field of music she tried: jazz, pop and country. But her roots were in jazz; and Billie Holiday, considered by many the greatest jazz singer of all time, called Starr "the only white woman who could sing the blues.

Character actor George Gaynes died on February 15th at the age of 98. Born to Dutch and Russian parents in Finland, he grew up in France, England and Switzerland and was a US citizen for most of his life. Gaynes' most recognized role in cinema was arguably that of Commandant Eric Lassard in the Police Academy movie series from 1984 to 1994. To television fans, he is perhaps best known as the curmudgeonly but lovable Henry Warnimont on the NBC series Punky Brewster from 1984 to 1988.

Singer Gogi Grant died on March 10th at the age of 91. She is best known for her No. 1 hit in 1956, "The Wayward Wind". In 1957, she supplied the vocals for Ann Blyth's portrayal of Helen Morgan in the biographical film, The Helen Morgan Story. The soundtrack occasioned her return to RCA (the soundtrack album climbed to No. 25 in the Billboard album chart), where she had a minor hit the following year with "Strange Are the Ways of Love." Grant continued to perform into her 80s.


Character actor Alan Young died of pneumonia on May 19th. He was 96. Young was an English-born Canadian-American actor, voice actor, comedian, radio and television host, and personality, whom TV Guide called "The Charlie Chaplin of Television" best known for his role as naive Wilbur Post in the television comedy series Mister Ed from 1961-1966 and as the voice of Scrooge McDuck in Disney films, TV series and video games. He also appeared in a number of feature films, starting from 1946, including the 1960 film The Time Machine and from the 1980s gaining a new generation of viewers appearing in numerous Walt Disney Productions films as both an actor and voice artist.

Director Garry Marshall died from complications from a stroke on July 19th.  His notable credits included creating the television show Happy Days and its various spin-offs, developing Neil Simon's 1965 play The Odd Couple for television, and directing Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve, Mother's Day, The Princess Diaries, and The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement. His last directing credit was this year's movie Mother's Day (2016).

Singer Natalie Cole died of heart failure on January 1st.. She was 65. The daughter of Nat King Cole (1919-1965), Natalie rose to musical success in the mid–1970s as an R&B artist with the hits "This Will Be", "Inseparable", and "Our Love". After a period of failing sales and performances due to a heavy drug addiction, Cole re-emerged as a pop artist with the 1987 album Everlasting and her cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Pink Cadillac". In the 1990s, she re-recorded standards by her father, resulting in her biggest success, Unforgettable... with Love, which sold over seven million copies and also won Cole numerous Grammy Awards. She sold over 30 million records worldwide.

Actress and singer Gloria Dehaven died a week after her 91st birthday on July 30, 2016. She was a contract star for MGM during the "Golden Years Of Hollywood".  Despite featured roles in such films as Best Foot Forward (1943), The Thin Man Goes Home (1944), Scene of the Crime (1949) and Summer Stock (1950), and being voted by exhibitors as the third most likely to be a "star of tomorrow'" in 1944, she did not achieve film stardom. She portrayed her own mother, Flora Parker DeHaven, in the Fred Astaire film Three Little Words (1950). Her last film role was playing the love interest of Jack Lemmon in the comedy Out to Sea (1997).


Character actor George Kennedy died on February 28th at the age of 91 of lung cancer.  He is best remembered for portraying "Dragline" opposite Paul Newman in 1967'S Cool Hand Luke, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. His eclectic roster of performances also includes Joe Patroni in 1970's Airport (for which he received his second Golden Globe nomination) and its three sequels, Police Captain Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series of comedy films and corrupt oil tycoon Carter McKay on the original Dallas television series. He made his last movie appearance in the 2014 crime drama The Gambler.

Television actress Doris Roberts died on April 17th at the age of 90. She received five Emmy Awards and a Screen Actors Guild award during her acting career, which began in 1951. She was perhaps best known for her role as Raymond Barone's mother, Marie Barone, on the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond, which ran from 1996–2005.

Actress and ghost singer Marni Nixon died from breast cancer at the age of 86 on July 24th. She was an American soprano and playback singer for featured actresses in movie musicals. She is best known for dubbing the singing voices of the leading actresses in films, including The King and I, West Side Story and My Fair Lady. She retired from performing in 2008.

Singer Frank Sinatra Jr. died from a heart attack on March 16th. He was 72. He was the son of cooner Frank Sinatra that was in his father's shadows for most of his life. The younger Sinatra was also a songwriter, an actor, and a conductor. He died in Florida while on tour.

Actress Florence Henderson died on November 24th at the age of 82.. She is best remembered for her starring role as matriarch Carol Brady on the ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch from 1969 to 1974. . She appeared as a guest on many scripted and nonscripted (talk and reality show) television programs and as a panelist on numerous game shows. She was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars in 2010. On November 21, 2016, three days before her death, Florence appeared again on Dancing with the Stars giving moral support to her eldest Brady Bunch daughter Maureen McCormick, who played the popular Marcia Brady. Henderson hosted her own talk show, The Florence Henderson Show, and cooking show, Who's Cooking with Florence Henderson, on Retirement Living TV (RLTV), in the years leading up to her sudden death from heart failure.

These wonderful icons and stars are gone now, but they never will be forgotten...

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