Sunday, December 31, 2023

Celebrity Deaths 2023 Part Two

As it is every year, Death just can't seem to take a holiday— not even with the pandemic seemingly over. Or is it surging again? I honestly can't keep track of it anymore.

Once again we see that neither fame nor fortune makes one immune to Death's icy touch, as so far there've been thousands of celebrities and public figures who met their makers in 2023. Here's a partial list of the most notable ones who died in the second half of the year.

Note that there were many more high profile celebrity deaths this year than the ones I've listed here. I'm only including the ones I recognize or who had an impact on my life.

Jimmy Weldon
Died July 6, 2023 at age 99 (!).
While his name my not be a household word, you've definitely heard him before. Weldon was a prolific voice actor, best known as the voice of Yakky Doodle in Hanna-Barber cartoons. He was also a ventriloquist, and had his own kids' show in the 1950s called The Webster Webfoot Show.

Manny Coto
Died July 9, 2023 at age 62.
Coto was a TV writer and producer, and showrunner of Star Trek: Enterprise in its fourth and final season. He completely turned the show around and took it to new heights, but sadly not enough to get it renewed for a fifth season.

Tony Bennett
Died July 21, 2023 at age 96.
Grammy-winning crooner famous for singing such standards as I Left My Heart In San Francisco, Rags To Riches and Because Of You.

Ron Sexton
Died July 22, 2023 at the much too young age of 52.
Another celeb whose name wasn't a household word, but he was very well known to fans of The Bob & Tom Show on radio. He played numerous characters there, like r
edneck Donnie Baker, cellphone-obsessed salesman Kenny Tarmac and the addled Floyd The Trucker. 

Jaysis, with Sexton gone the show just lost half its cast!

Sadly, toxicology reports indicated Sexton died from a combination of fentanyl and alcohol.

Inga Swenson
Died July 23, 2023 at age 90.
American (?) actress best known for playing German chef Gretchen Kraus on 80s sitcom Benson.

Sinead O'Connor
Died July 26, 2023 at the much too young age of 56.
Irish singer/songwriter best known for her hit Nothing Compares 2 U, which hit the charts in 1990.

O'Connor was famously banned from Saturday Night Live after unexpectedly tearing up a photo of the Pope on live TV, to protest the Catholic church's coverup of sexual abuse.

Paul Reubens
Died July 30, 2023 at age 70.
Reubens was best known as Pee-wee Herman, the childlike character he played on stage, TV and movies.

Ouch. This one hurts. I was a huge fan of Pee-wee back in the 80s, as there was literally nothing else like him anywhere at the time. Reubens was a brilliant and original talent, and I'll miss him.

William Friedkin
Died August 7, 2023 at age 87.
Famed director who gave us The French Connection and The Exorcist, among many others films.

Johnny Hardwick
Died August 8, 2023 at age 64.
Writer and voice actor. Hardwick was best known as the voice of Dale Gribble on King Of The Hill.

The show was supposedly getting a revival in 2023, but the various writers and actors strikes delayed it till 2024. It's unclear at this time what effect the untimely death of Hardwick will have on the project. 

Jamie Reid
Died August 8, 2023 at age 76. 
British anarchist and visual artist. Reid designed the infamous cover of The Sex Pistols' album God Save The Queen.

Robbie Robertson
Died August 9, 2023 at age 80.
Canadian musician & songwriter, lead guitarist for Bob Dylan, and later a member of the imaginatively titled group The Band. Best known for writing The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and Up On Cripple Creek.

Shoji Tabuchi
Died August 11, 2023 at age 79.
Japanese fiddle player who came to America and became an unlikely country-western star. 

Tabuchi was born in Ishikawa, Japan in 1944. In college he attended a concert played by country star Roy Acuff, and was so impressed he met him backstage. Acuff encouraged him, and be began practicing the fiddle. Tabuchi later formed a band called The Bluegrass Ramblers, who won a national contest in Japan. 

After that he decided to seek his fortune in America, arriving with only his fiddle and $500 in cash. He moved to Nashville and reconnected with Acuff, who arranged for him to play at the Grand Ole Opry.

Tabuchi was a huge hit, and later moved to Branson, Missouri. In 1990 he built his own elaborate 2000 seat theater there and launched the Shoji Tabuchi Show, which played two shows daily for the next three decades.

Say what you will about him, but he literally lived the American Dream.

Arleen Sorkin
Died August 24, 2023 at age 67.
Actress who starred in Days Of Our Lives for decades. 90s kids will know her best thought for her work on Batman: The Animated Series, in which she voiced Harley Quinn (back when the character dressed as an actual harlequin and not a crack whore).

Bob Barker
Died August 26, 2023 at age 99.
Perennial game show host and TV personality, best known as host of The Price Is Right— a job he held ffrom September 4, 1972 to June 15, 2007!

Barker was also a prominent animal rights advocate, and closed each episode of The Price Is Right with a plea to "have your pets spayed or neutered."

Jimmy Buffet
Died September 1, 2023 at age 76.
Singer/songwriter responsible for such island-themed hits as Margaritaville, Cheeseburger In Paradise and more.

Gary Wright
Died September 4, 2023 at age 80/
Singer/songwriter best known for Dream Weaver and Love Is Alive.

Steve Harwell
Died September 4, 2023 at age 56.
Lead singer of Smash Mouth, who were best known for their hits All Star and Walkin' On The Sun.

For some reason All Star seemed to strike a chord with Hollywood, and the song appeared on the soundtrack of numerous movies during the early 2000s.

Geechy Guy
Died September 7, 2023 at age 59.
Guy, aka Michael Paul Cathers, was a stand up comedian and was another frequent guest on The Bob & Tom Show. Jaysis, once again, they're running out of guests over there!

David McCallum
Died September 25, 2023 at age 90.
Scottish-born actor, famous for his roles in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS.

Michael Gambon
Died September 27, 2023 at ge 82.
Iris-English actor with a ton of credits, including Gosford Park and The Singing Detective. Probably best known though for playing Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies (taking over the role after Richard Harris died).

Dianne Feinstein
Died September 29, 2023 at age 90.
Former Mayor of San Fransisco, and US Senator since 1992.

Jason Wynyard
Died October 4, 2023 at age 49.
I've never heard of Jason Wynyard and neither have you. I included him here though because he was incredibly well known in his home country of New Zealand, where he won the world woodchopping championship nine times over the years. Apparently woodchopping is a sport there (?).

Dick Butkus
Died October 5, 2023 at age 80.
American Hall Of Fame football player for the Chicago Bears. After his athletic career he became a celebrity spokesman, and even dabbled in acting, making appearances in several movies and dozens of TV series.

Burt Young
Died October 8, 2023 at age 83.
A prolific actor, Young was best known for playing Paulie in the various Rocky movies.

I was VERY surprised to find out he was only 36 when he starred in the first Rocky film. Wow, that was a rough looking 36! I'd have guessed he was 50 in that film if he was a day!

Keith Giffen
Died October 9, 2023 at age 70.
While hardly a household name, Giffen was well known in the world of comics, where he was a prolific artist & writer. 

He had a famous run on DC's Legion Of Superheroes in the 1980s, in which he drew and later wrote the book. In later years, Giffen began incorporating his warped sense of humor into his comics— a radical concept in the era of grim & gritty comics. In 1987, Giffen, along with JM DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire created Justice League International, a lighthearted comic that was more sitcom than superhero in tone.

Giffen also co-created many famous comic characters, such as Ambush Bug, Lobo and even Rocket Raccoon.

Mark Goddard
Died October 10, 2023 at age 87.
Best known for playing Major Don West on Lost In Space in the 1960s.

Phyllis Coates
Died October 11, 2023 at age 96.
Coates was best known for playing Lois Lane in the movie serial Superman And The Mole Men, and in the first season of TV's Adventures Of Superman.

Piper Laurie
Died October 14, 2023 at age 91.
Actress whose work included such films as The Hustler, Return To Oz and Children Of A Lesser God. Over on TV she played Catherine Martell on Twin Peaks.

Laurie will forever be known though for playing psychotic religious nut Margaret White in 1976's Carrie.

Suzanne Somers
Died October 15, 2023 at age 76.
Perennial TV actress, who starred in Three's Company, Step By Step and She's The Sheriff.

When Three's Company began its fifth season, Somers demanded a salary increase from $30,000 an episode to a whopping $150,000 (the same amount her costar John Ritter was getting). 

The producers offered her a $5,000 per episode raise, causing her to walk off the show for several weeks. She eventually returned to the show, but the producers severely reduced her role, giving her just sixty seconds of screentime per episode. At the end of the fifth season they fired her. It took a long time for her career to recover.

In the early 1990s, Somers famously became the spokesperson for the Thighmaster, filming numerous informercials for the dubious product.

Died October 21, 2023 at age 31.
Bobi gained notoriety for being the oldest dog in history. Would that all our dogs could have such long lifespans!

Richard Roundtree
Died October 24, 2023 at age 81.
Although he had many other roles, Roundtree will be forever known for playing the title character in the Shaft franchise.

Richard Moll
Died October 26, 2023 at age 80.
Character actor best known for playing the lumbering Bull on 80s sitcom Night Court.

Matthew Perry
Died October 28, 2023 at the much too young age of 54.
Perry was best known for playing Chandler Bing for ten seasons on 90s mega-sitcom Friends.

Sadly, Perry was plagued by many demons— something that happens all too often with comedians. He regularly abused alcohol and drugs throughout his life, and especially during the filming of Friends. Tragically, an autopsy revealed he succumbed from "acute effects of ketamine," a drug commonly used to treat depression.

Bob Knight
Died November 1, 2023 at age 83.
Mom always told me if you can't say something nice about someone, then don't say anything at all, so...

OK, OK, you talked me into it. But remember, you asked for it!

Knight was the head basketball coach of Indiana University from 1971 to 2000, and held the record for most wins. He was also a colossal asshole and a violent bully.

He argued constantly with referees, racking up numerous fines and suspensions.

Knight also was accused of physically abusing his players, going so far as to head-butt and even choke them (!). He even did this to his own son Pat, when he played for the Hoosiers.

In 1988 he was famously interviewed by Connie Chung, who asked him how he handled stress. Knight replied with a charming bon mot, saying, "I think if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it." His response was met with universal outrage (in the pre-internet era), prompting him to say his remark was "misinterpreted."

The incident he'll forever be remembered for though happened during a 1985 game against the Purdue Boilermakers, in which Knight threw a hissy fit over a call and tossed a chair onto the court. He never lived that one down, as his little episode followed him everywhere and became fodder for endless jokes and mockery. There was even a popular restaurant in Bloomington called The Red Chair, which featured, well, a red chair bolted above their sign.

He was by all accounts a thoroughly vile and repellant person, and the only reason he kept his coaching job as long as he did was because he generated millions for the university. I won't shed a tear for his demise.

Rosalynn Carter
Died November 19, 2023 at age 96.
Former first lady and wife of President Jimmy Carter. In addition to her first lady duties, Carter was a famed mental health activist. Sadly and ironically, she died of complications from dementia.

Marty Krofft
Died November 25, 2023 at age 86.
One half of the team of Sid & Marty Krofft, the Canadian puppeteers and producers who live action numerous kids' shows in the 1970s, including HR Pufnstuf, The Bugaloos, Lidsville, Land Of The Lost and Sigmund And The Sea Monsters.

For decades people have been convinced the Kroffts dreamed up their shows while under the influence of pot and LSD. Marty Krofft strenuously denied this, saying, "No drugs involved. You can't do drugs while you're making shows." I wholeheartedly agree with him. Every drug user I've ever known has just laid on the couch all day or was unable to perform even the simplest tasks with their fried brain. It's hard to be creative when you're completely out of your mind.

In the 1970s the Kroffts sued McDonald's, claiming the fast food giant's McDonaldland characters were lifted directly from HR Pufnstuf. After a lengthy trial, the Kroffts won the case and were awarded $1,044,000 in damages.

Sticky Vicky
Died November 28, 2023 at age 80
Sticky Vicky, aka Vicky Leyton, was a Spanish dancer and magician, whose stage act consisted of her pulling various objects out of her vagina. Things such as ping pong balls, eggs, handkerchiefs, sausages (!), razor blades, machetes (!!) and a lit light bulb.

Sure, why not.

Henry Kissinger
Died November 29, 2023 at age 100 (!).
Kissinger was a German-born diplomat & politician who emigrated to America and became national security advisor, as well as secretary of state.

Kissinger was an extremely divisive public figure, as his foreign policy decisions resulted in the deaths of millions— including 500,000 Cambodians killed by American carpet-bombing missions. His actions also prolonged the Vietnam War by at least five years, claiming even more lives. Ironically, he eventually he switched gears and worked to end the war— which amazingly won him the Nobel Prize in 1973!

Shane MacGowan
Died November 30, 2023 at age 65.
Lead singer of Irish band The Pogues.

Sandra Day O'Connor
Died December 1, 2023 at age 93.
Among her many accomplishments, O'Connor was best known as the first woman to become a Supreme Court Justice.

Norman Lear
Died December 5, 2023 at age 101 (!).
Damn, damn, DAMN! OK, so he lived to be a hundred and one, but it's still sad and unpleasant news.

Lear was the creative force behind dozens of beloved and provocative sitcoms, such as All In The Family, Sandford And Son, Maude, The Jeffersons, Good Times and many, many more.

His shows challenged viewers, as they covered numerous taboo subjects such as race, religion, sexuality and more. Yet somehow they managed to be entertaining without being preachy. He was a true pioneer who 
changed television forever.

Ryan O'Neal
Died December 8, 2023 at age 82.
Actor best known for starring in Love Story, Barry Lyndon and Paper Moon. Oddly enough he started out as a Golden Gloves boxer!

Tommy Smothers
Died December 26, 2023 at age 86.
One half of the comedy duo the Smothers Brothers. He and his brother Dick started out as folk singers, gradually adding humor and comedic bickering to their act.

The brothers began appearing on various variety shows of the day, and eventually got their own series— The Smother Brothers Comedy Hour— on CBS in 1967, The show was popular, but also extremely controversial, as the two regularly spoke out against the then-current Vietnam War, as well as politicians of the day.

Their most famous bit was when they said, "Easter is when Jesus comes out of his tomb, and if her sees his shadow, he goes back in and we get six more weeks of winter." Haw!

Eventually CBS demanded they submit all material a week before airtime, so they could review and edit it. The brothers refused, and CBS canceled the series in 1969.

Tommy famously always played the "dumb" brother, but he was anything but. In his later years he became an outspoken civil rights activist.

He was also a world champion yoyo master!

Miguel Angel Fuentes
Died December 29, 2023 at age 70.
Fuentes was a Mexican actor who, for better or worse, was best known for his role in Pumaman— a MST3K staple.

Cindy Morgan
Died December 30, 2023 at age 69(although for some shameful reason, her passing wasn't reported until January 8, 2024).
Actress who starred in such films as TRON and Caddyshack.

Even though she was never in a lot of stuff, I had a big crush on her back in the 1980s and am sad to hear of her untimely death.

Cale Yarborough
Died December 31, 2023 at age 84.
Yarborough was a famed NASCAR and Hall Of Fame race car driver.

Shecky Greene
Died December 31, 2023 at age 97.
Perennial Borscht Belt/Vegas comedian and occasional actor.

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