2019 In Memorandum

Carol Channing (January 31, 1921 – January 15, 2019)

Carol Channing, People We Lost in 2019

With her bright eyes, husky voice and larger-than-life smile, Broadway legend Carol Channing mesmerized audiences with her stage performances of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Vamp, Lorelei and her Tony-Award winning role in Hello, Dolly! Her film work includes Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), for which she won a Golden Globe, and Skidoo (1968). Channing died at age 97 at her Rancho Mirage, California home, just two weeks before her 98th birthday.

Lee Radziwell (March 3, 1933 – February 15, 2019)

Lee Radziwell, People We Lost in 2019

Forever in the shadow of older sister Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Lee Radziwell still managed to hold her own as a jet-setting style icon who sampled all the joys that a privileged life could offer. She dabbled in acting, worked in public relations and interior design, was a published author and even married a prince. But like her famous sister, Radziwell’s life had its fair share of complications and tragedies: Aside from her sibling rivalry with Onassis, she married and divorced three times and had a son, Anthony, whose life was cut short from cancer. Radziwell died at age 85 in New York City.

Karl Lagerfeld (September 10, 1933 – February 19, 2019)

Karl Lagerfeld, People We Lost in 2019

Credited for transforming Chanel into the international fashion powerhouse that it is today, German designer Karl Lagerfeld was business savvy, outspoken and one of the most recognizable fashion leaders of his time, thanks to his trademark dark glasses, gloves and immaculate wintry white ponytail. Lagerfeld left a prolific fashion legacy, not only with the reinvention of Chanel but also by leading the creative direction at Fendi and his own label. Lagerfeld died in Paris at 85 from pancreatic cancer.

Peter Tork (February 13, 1942 – February 21, 2019)

Peter Tork, People We Lost in 2019

Despite playing a simpleton in the 1960s musical TV sitcom The Monkees, Peter Tork was a reputable songwriter and musician. As the bass guitarist for his TV band, Tork produced a number of albums with The Monkees, but because of his teen idol status, never managed to be taken seriously by music critics. He quit The Monkees in 1968 and had a falling out with fellow members Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Davy Jones in the early 2000s before reconciling with them and participating in a number of reunion tours and albums. Stricken with recurring cancer, Tork died in his Connecticut home at 77.

Katherine Helmond (July 5, 1929 – February 23, 2019)

Katherine Helmond, People We Lost in 2019

As scrappy Mona Robinson on the ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss?, Katherine Helmond made audiences laugh with her character’s boldness and penchant for flirting. Before Who’s the Boss?, Helmond was known for being a ditzy socialite in the ABC sitcom Soap and further demonstrated her comedic chops on other sitcoms like Coach and Everybody Loves Raymond. Suffering from Alzheimer’s, Helmond died at age 89 in Los Angeles.

Luke Perry (October 11, 1966 – March 4, 2019)

Luke Perry, People We Lost in 2019

He was called the James Dean of the ’90s for his hunky, brooding teen idol status as Dylan McKay on the television teen drama Beverly Hills, 90210. But in real life, Luke Perry was known for his kindness and professionalism. After 90210, Perry continued acting in television and film, appearing more recently on Riverdale as Archie Andrews’ father and in Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). Suffering from a massive stroke, Perry died in Los Angeles at age 52.

Doris Day (April 3, 1922 – May 13, 2019)

Doris Day, People We Lost in 2019

Doris Day was the quintessential girl next door who would become one of the most successful actresses in Hollywood. She started her career as a big band singer in the late 1930s and produced chart-topping hits like “Sentimental Journey” and “My Dreams Are Getting Better All the Time.” After World War II ended, Day launched her film career, with memorable roles in Calamity Jane (1953), Love Me or Leave Me (1955), Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) and Pillow Talk (1959) — the last of which got her Oscar-nominated for Best Actress. She spent her later years as an animal rights activist before she died at 97 in Carmel Valley Village, California.

Gloria Vanderbilt (February 20, 1924 – June 17, 2019)

Gloria Vanderbilt, People We Lost in 2019

Famous for her family’s wealth, her branded designer jeans and later, for her son, Anderson Cooper, socialite Gloria Vanderbilt was thrust into the spotlight at age 10 when her mother and her paternal aunt each fought for her custody in addition to her $5 million ($95 million in 2019) trust fund in a nationally publicized trial. In her adult life, Vanderbilt expressed herself through her artistic endeavors in painting and fashion and later as a book author. Vanderbilt died at 95 in New York City after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Rip Torn (February 6, 1931 – July 9, 2019)

Rip Torn, People We Lost in 2019

Oscar, Tony and Emmy nominee Rip Torn had a career that lasted over six decades in Hollywood. Torn’s Tony nomination came in 1960 for Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird of Youth and a little over two decades later, he received an Oscar nod as Best Supporting Actor for playing Marsh in the 1983 drama Cross Creek. In the ’90s he received praise for playing the producer Artie in Gary Shandling’s groundbreaking The Larry Sanders Show, for which he received six Emmy nominations and won in 1996. Torn died at 88 in his Connecticut home.

Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019)

Toni Morrison, People We Lost in 2019

As a steward of the rich complexities of the African American experience, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison had a six-decade career that gave voice to the marginalized and inspired generations of writers of color. Morrison was the first African American female editor at Random House in the 1960s and wrote her first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970), when she was 39. Seven years later, she rose to prominence with Song of Solomon (1977) and Beloved (1987), the latter of which won her the Pulitzer Prize. In 1993 she won the Nobel Prize in Literature and continued to publish novels, essays, children’s books, plays and even an opera. In 2012 President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Morrison died at 88 in New York City.

Peter Fonda (February 23, 1940 – August 16, 2019)

Peter Fonda, People We Lost in 2019

Known as a counterculture icon for his starring role in 1969’s Easy Rider, Peter Fonda also co-wrote the film’s script, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. He came from a family of actors — his father is acclaimed actor Henry Fonda and his older sister is actress Jane Fonda. His second Oscar nomination came from his starring role in the drama Ulee’s Gold (1997), and he’d extend his talents into directing a variety of projects. His daughter, Bridget Fonda, followed the family tradition and made a name for herself in Hollywood starting in the 1990s. Fonda died of lung cancer at 79 in Los Angeles.

Valerie Harper (August 22, 1939 – August 30, 2019)

Valerie Harper, People We Lost in 2019

As Rhoda Morgenstern, the self-deprecating, bandana-wearing girl from the Bronx on the 1970s sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Valerie Harper instantly won fans…and three Emmys. As Moore’s best friend, Harper’s Rhoda was so popular that she was given her own spinoff show in 1974, which earned her another Emmy. Although Harper was a sitcom icon, she made some film appearances, continued working on stage and was later nominated for a Tony for her Broadway performance in Looped in 2010. After a long battle with cancer, Harper died at 80 in Los Angeles.

Ric Ocasek (March 23, 1944 – September 15, 2019)

Ric Ocasek, People We Lost in 2019

With his raven black hair, thin frame and enigmatic air, The Cars frontman Ric Ocasek took his band to the top of the ’80s pop charts with New Wave hits like “You Might Think,” “Magic,” “Shake It Up” and “Drive.” After leaving The Cars in 1989, Ocasek embarked on his next career as a solo artist and as a producer of up-and-coming indie and punk bands, which included Weezer, Nada Surf and No Doubt. Famously married to ’80s supermodel Paulina Porizkova, with whom he separated from in 2017, Ocasek died from heart disease at 75 in his Manhattan townhouse.

Cokie Roberts (December 27, 1943 – September 17, 2019)

Cokie Roberts, People We Lost in 2019

Raised by two parents who both served as U.S. House of Representatives, Cokie Roberts followed the family tradition of becoming a Washington insider but opted into it as a trailblazing journalist. In the 1970s she was one of the first female reporters who helped establish NPR and later reported and analyzed politics at ABC News, working with heavyweights like Peter Jennings, Sam Donaldson and Ted Koppel. Roberts was also a historian, writing many bestselling books on women in American history. With her sharp intellect and thoughtful analysis on politics, Roberts won multiple Emmys as well as the prestigious Edward R. Murrow award. After battling breast cancer, she died at age 75 in Washington D.C.

Diahann Carroll (July 17, 1935 – October 4, 2019)

Diahann Carroll, People We Lost in 2019

Actress and singer Diahann Carroll broke barriers onstage and onscreen. She became the first African American woman to win a Tony Award in a leading role for her work in Broadway’s No Strings (1962) and six years later, the first to carry her own primetime network series Julia, which portrayed a strong black woman that defied stereotypes. In 1974 she starred in the romantic comedy-drama Claudine, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. In the ’80s, Carroll set her sights on becoming, in her own words, “the first black bitch on television,” which she ruthlessly demonstrated in the primetime soap Dynasty as Dominique Deveraux. Carroll died at 84 in Los Angeles after a battle with breast cancer.

Caroll Spinney (December 26, 1933 – December 8, 2019)

Caroll Spinney

Caroll Spinney spent 50 years giving life to the most joyful of Sesame Street characters (Big Bird) to the grouchiest (Oscar the Grouch). Through Big Bird and Oscar, the puppeteer shaped generations of young minds, teaching them the importance of friendship and navigating growing pains. In 2014 the puppeteer temporarily emerged from the shadows of his iconic Sesame Street characters to participate in a documentary called I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, which explored his contribution to the children’s educational show and his relationship with Jim Henson. After battling dystonia, a muscle contraction disorder, Spinney died at his Connecticut home at the age of 85.

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