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"I was a good-looking kid," the iconic leading man told PEOPLE in 2008 of why he got into show business. Those Hollywood looks landed the Some Like It Hot star some 150 films roles, six wives and numerous romances with starlets from Marilyn Monroe to Natalie Wood. "His representation that dreams could come true moved me today more than any personal loss," his once-estranged daughter Jamie Lee Curtis said of her father's passing Sept. 29 in Las Vegas at age 85. "I'm proud to be his daughter."
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"I have four strikes against me. I'm black, I'm short, I'm intelligent, and I have a medical condition," 4 ft. 8 in. Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman told PEOPLE in 1999. Just more than decade later, on May 28, 2010, the biggest child actor of the '80s – who spent much of his adult life struggling to make peace with his faded fame – died from a brain hemorrhage at age 42. Even in death, Coleman tried to keep Hollywood at bay: In his two-page will, he wanted only "those who have no financial ties to me and who can look each other in the eyes and say they really cared personally for Gary Coleman" to attend his wake.
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After a decade-long battle with prostate cancer, Dennis Hopper died May 29 at the age of 74. Just before his death, the legendary rebel fittingly received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. "Dennis stands out because of his edge, his sincerity, the honesty he conveys," his friend Jack Nicholson once told Time. "And he does things his way" – evidenced in a 50-plus year career punctuated by addiction, failed marriages and memorable roles in classics from Easy Rider to Apocalypse Now. "We rode the highways of America and changed the way movies were made in Hollywood," said costar Peter Fonda. "I was blessed by his passion and friendship."
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"There are the things she taught without words ... how to continue to live your life on your own terms when it somehow becomes savaged by people you never invited into it," said Cate Edwards about mother Elizabeth, who was thrust into the national spotlight in 2004 when her husband, former Sen. John Edwards, became the Democratic nominee for Vice President. Her first and second battles with cancer again pushed her into the headlines, but it was her grace under fire – amid her husband's affair and subsequent love child – that made her an admired woman. "I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces – my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope," Edwards, 61, wrote in her final Facebook post, a day before she died of cancer on Dec. 7, 2010.
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The public lost one of TV's most lovable dads, Mr. C., on Oct. 19. when the Happy Days patriarch passed away at 83 following a brief battle with lung cancer. "He was always a father to us, both on screen, of course, and backstage. He was always giving us advice," Scott Baio, who played The Fonz's cousin Chachi Arcola on the show, told PEOPLE. "He played that father part so well because that is who he was."
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As Leave It to Beaver's beloved June Cleaver, Billingsley embodied the '50s sitcom mom, perfectly coiffed and collected onscreen – and in real life. "Barbara was a patient adviser and teacher," Jerry Mathers, who played the Cleaver's younger son Beaver, said in a statement following Billingsley's death Oct 16 at age 94. "She helped me along this challenging journey through life by showing me the importance of manners and respect for others."
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In his day, the '50s pop idol made girls swoon with hits like "Oh! My Papa." But the singer, who died Sept. 22 at 82 after suffering complications from hip surgery, will always be best known as the man who left Debbie Reynolds for Elizabeth Taylor. Though Fisher's career never recovered from the scandal and his personal life was often tumultuous, his family said in a statement: "The world lost a true American icon. He was an extraordinary talent and a true mensch."
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After quietly battling chronic leukemia for 21 years, Clayburgh died at age 66 at her Connecticut home on Nov. 5. The Academy Award-nominated actress was known for playing strong females in '70s and '80s films like An Unmarried Woman and Starting Over, and in later years, appeared on Law amp Order and Ally McBeal. In one of her last films, she played the mother to Jake Gyllenhaal's character in Love and Other Drugs. "I think part of her sickness is what made her live her life ... and really cherish the moments she had and cherish the people she was with," said Gyllenhaal.
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The passing of Dixie Carter "has been a terrible blow to our family," her husband, actor Hal Holbrook, said following the death of the Emmy-nominated actress on April 10. Best known for her role as sassy Julia Sugarbaker on the hit CBS sitcom Designing Women, Carter's death at 70 (from complications arising from endometrial cancer) was a blow deeply felt by fans and colleagues. "There was no one else like her," costar Jean Smart said. She was, added Annie Potts, "the kind of wife and mother that every mother hopes their daughters will become."
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Her gutsy performance opposite Paul Newman in 1963's Hud earned Neal an Oscar. But following her Hollywood triumph, the Southern actress from Packard, Ky., suffered several tragedies, including multiple strokes, a heart-breaking affair with her married Fountainhead costar Gary Cooper and the death of one of her five children. But Neal, who died Aug. 9 at 84 from lung cancer, didn't dwell on her misfortunes, telling PEOPLE, "I love life, though I know death is around the corner."
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Just days before London Fashion Week, British designer Alexander McQueen was found dead in his home on Feb. 11. Many linked the 40-year-old fashion bad boy's shocking suicide to the tragic loss of his beloved mother Joyce, who had died nine days earlier. "There has never been anyone like him," Sarah Jessica Parker said of her friend, who memorably dressed and accompanied the actress to the 2006 Met Costume Institute Gala. "And there simply never will be."
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After a seven-year battle with breast cancer, actress Lynn Redgrave passed away May 2 at 67. Though less flamboyant than her older sister Vanessa, Redgrave was a proud member of Britain's acting dynasty, earning an Oscar nod for her 1966 turn in Georgy Girl, which was followed by another nomination for her supporting role in 1998's Gods and Monsters. “The endless memories she created as a mother, grandmother, writer, actor and friend will sustain us for the rest of our lives," her family said in a statement.
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"Hello, Angels." The debonair star, embossed in memory as silver fox tycoon Blake Carrington on Dynasty and as the unmistakable voice of the elusive millionaire boss on Charlie's Angels, died April 1 at 92 of pneumonia-related causes after battling colon cancer. "He had a grace about him," former Angel Kate Jackson told PEOPLE, "that was incredibly awesome."
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At 25, Lena Horne became the first black actress to win a studio contract with MGM in 1942. Looking back, she told PEOPLE in 2005, "I was a test case for Hollywood." It was a milestone not lost on Oscar winner Halle Berry: "Lena Horne was breaking ground just by breathing," she said of the performer, who died of heart failure in New York City on May 9 at the age of 92. The New York native starred in two memorable musicals, Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather, and in 1981, won a Tony for her soul-baring, one-woman Broadway show Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music. Says Berry: "That was the very big statement that Lena Horne made, just by being who she was."
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He was often imposing and sometimes a bully, but in the end George Steinbrenner was simply "The Boss." "I just bought the Mona Lisa of sports teams," Steinbrenner boasted in 1973 after acquiring the New York Yankees, a sports franchise valued today at $1.6 billion. And under his frequently controversial ownership, the team became a baseball powerhouse, winning 11 American League pennants and seven world championships. "George and I had our differences, but who didn't?" remarked legendary baseball great Yogi Berra on the passing of Steinbrenner (who had just turned 80 on July 4) from a massive heart attack on July 13. "We became great friends over the last decade and I will miss him very much."
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Best known for '80s cult classics like License to Drive and Lucas, Corey Haim became the ultimate Lost Boy when the troubled former child star died at 38 from pneumonia and a heart condition on March 10. Sadly, the Gen-X icon, whose 2007-2008 reality series The Two Coreys (with fellow child actor and lifelong friend Corey Feldman) captured his ongoing 20-year battle with drug addiction, seemed finally to be getting a grip on sobriety. "This is a tragic loss of a wonderful, beautiful, tormented soul, who will always be my brother, family, and best friend,” Feldman said in a statement.
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The world lost another beloved Golden Girl when Rue McClanahan passed away from a massive stroke on June 3 at 76. Acting was "the only thing I ever wanted to do," the Oklahoma native once said, and as man-obsessed Blanche Devereaux on the still-popular '80s sitcom, McClanahan landed the role that brought her success, fortune – and several husbands (she is survived by sixth husband, Morrow Wilson). "Rue was a close and dear friend. I treasure our relationship," White, the last living Golden Girl, said. "It hurts more than I ever thought it would, if that's even possible."
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Surely, the world lost a comic giant when Leslie Nielsen died from pneumonia complications near his Fort Lauderdale, Fla., home on Nov. 28. He was 84. Known for his deadpan deliveries in cult classics like Police Squad! and The Naked Gun, the Canadian-born Nielsen began his career as a dramatic actor, notably starring in the 1972 blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure. In 1980, the his career took a welcome turn when he was cast as a clueless doctor in the disaster-movie spoof Airplane!. "It's been dawning on me slowly that for the past 35 years I have been cast against type," he told The New York Times in 1998, "and I'm finally getting to do what I really wanted to do."
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As Jack Lord's trusty sidekick Danny "Danno" Williams for 11 years, MacArthur became a household name in the 1970s on Hawaii Five-O. "We've lost a special part of our heritage today," the executive producer of CBS's Hawaii Five-0 remake, said in a statement after the actor's death at age 72 on Oct. 28. "The phrase 'Book 'em Danno' will forever be testimony to an actor and character that will not be forgotten."
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