From Della Reese to Hugh Hefner: Remembering The Stars We've Lost in 2017
Marie, known best for her portrayal of television writer Sally Rogers on the beloved CBS sitcom The Dick Van Dyke Show, has died at age 94, according to her official website.
A tweet from the actress' official Twitter account shared the news Dec. 28, with a message that read, “It is with broken hearts that we share the terribly sad news that our beloved Rose Marie passed away this afternoon.”
One year after the death of Carrie Fisher, another member of the Star Wars family has passed away. Alfie Curtis, who played Dr. Evazan in Star Wars: A New Hope, died at the age of 87, according to reports in December. His cause of death was not revealed.
Born in London in 1930, Curtis also portrayed the Milkman in 1980’s The Elephant Man, and he appeared in 1980’s The Wildcats of St. Trinian’s and 1982’s Take It or Leave It.
Nabors, who portrayed the jovial Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show before branching out with his own series, died on Nov. 30 at his home in Hawaii. He was 89. Nabors was discovered while performing at a cabaret theatre in Santa Monica, California, where he was asked by Andy Griffith to audition for the part of Gomer Pyle, a lovable gas station clerk — a role he debuted on The Andy Griffith Show in 1962 and continued through Gomer Pyle: USMC, due to the character’s popularity.
JULIO OSCAR MECHOSO
Mechoso, known for his lengthy career in both television and film, died in late November at the age of 62. Mechoso died of a heart attack on Saturday, according to the Miami Herald, which was first to report the news. The Miami native started acting in his early 20s and quickly earned spots on popular television series throughout his career, including Seinfeld and Miami Vice. More recently, he appeared on The Big Bang Theory and Grey’s Anatomy. Mechoso also landed several roles on the big screen such as The Legend of Zorro, Jurassic Park III and Little Miss Sunshine.
Reese, the vocal powerhouse who later starred as heaven-sent Tess on the television series Touched By an Angel, died in November at age 86. She leaves behind children James, Franklin, and Dominique, as well as husband Franklin Lett. She was predeceased by daughter Deloreese. In the late ’60s she began to expand her career from a jazz nightclub act to all-around entertainer by breaking into television. She became a familiar face on the small screen, securing guest spots on a host of shows, including The Mod Squad, The Love Boat, Sanford and Son, MacGyver, Night Court, and The Young and the Restless.
Hyman, best known for playing Cliff Huxtable’s father, Russell, on The Cosby Show, died just before Thanksgiving at age 91. The actor was actually widely regarded for his stage work — he even won a Tony Award for The Lady from Dubuque in 1980 — before joining The Cosby Show cast. Keisha Knight-Pulliam, who played Russell’s granddaughter Rudy on The Cosby Show, wrote on Instagram in response to Hyman’s death, “We have gained another angel.”
The country singer and songwriter died in late November, according to multiple outlets. He was 85. The Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, who was beloved for his stutter, wrote hits for Kenny Rogers and had several top 10 country singles including “Good Woman Blues,” ”Coca Cola Cowboy” and “Southern Rain.”
The Project Runway season 1 finalist (and favorite) was just 53 when she died in November. Though she placed third on the series, she won a variety of big challenges, including one that got her designs into Banana Republic and another to create a dress for TV personality Nancy O'Dell. She returned to Project Runway for its all-star season in 2012.
Young, AC/DC guitarist and co-founder of the iconic band, died in November at the age of 64. In 2014, he announced he'd been diagnosed with dementia, and took a step back from the band. “Today it is with deep heartfelt sadness that AC/DC has to announce the passing of Malcolm Young,” AC/DC wrote in a statement shared on social media. “Malcolm, along with [brother Angus Young], was the founder and creator of AC/DC. With enormous dedication and commitment he was the driving force behind the band. As a guitarist, songwriter and visionary he was a perfectionist and a unique man. He always stuck to his guns and did and said exactly what he wanted. He took great pride in all that he endeavored. His loyalty to the fans was unsurpassed."
The up-and-coming rapper was just 21 when he died of a Xanax overdose in November 2017. Sarah Stennett, the CEO of First Access Entertainment — which partnered with Lil Peep last year — said in a statement to PEOPLE, “I am shocked and heartbroken. I do not believe Peep wanted to die, this is so tragic. He had huge ambition and his career was flourishing […] I have spoken to his mother and she asked me to convey that she is very, very proud of him and everything he was able to achieve in his short life."
Knight — the original singer of “Everlasting Love,” one of the most enduring hits to come out of Nashville — died after suffering from a short illness, The Tennessean reported in early November. He was 72. Born on April 24, 1945, Knight first emerged onto the music scene as a member of the Paramounts, a quintet comprised of high school buddies. They signed with Dot Records in 1960 and debuted in 1961 with their small hit “Free Me. While at college, Knight sang with a vocal trio, the Fairlanes, which eventually led him to his solo recording deal when Mac Gayden of Rising Sons Records caught one of their performances. “Everlasting Love,” written by his label heads Buzz Carson and Gayden, would be his first release under his new deal. The song hit No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.
The New Orleans musician whose hit versions of “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame” were part of the opening salvo of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1950s, died in October at the age of 89. He was reportedly at his home, surrounded by friends and family at the time of his passing. While nascent R&B had coalesced around the Mississippi Delta for at least a generation before, Domino’s music helped bring what was then known as “race music” to mainstream—predominantly white—culture. Throughout the next decade he would mark an astonishing run of more than three dozen Top 40 hits. Selling more than 65 million singles, it was a commercial streak bested only by Elvis Presley.
Guillaume, perhaps most celebrated for his role as the TV sitcom butler in Benson and Soap, died in October in Los Angeles. He was 89. Guillaume’s widow, Donna Brown Guillaume, confirmed the news to the Associated Press, noting that he had been battling prostate cancer. Among Guillaume’s lauded career, the actor voiced the character Rafiki in Disney’s animated The Lion King, as one of his more recognizable roles. But he also made history in the theater arena: He played Nathan Detroit in the first all-black production of Guys and Dolls and became the first African-American Phantom of the Opera against a predominantly white production.
Briscoe, a character actor known for his work on Twin Peaks and Parks and Recreation, died following complications from a serious fall in October. He was 56. “We lost a class act on Wednesday,” a statement from his family said in part. “Brent played hundreds of roles throughout his career but his greatest role was to his family and friends. He was as genuine as they come. We will miss him dearly.” Of those hundreds of roles, Briscoe most recently portrayed Det. Dave Macklay on the revived Twin Peaks and had a memorable turn as diner owner J.J. on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. He also frequently collaborated with Billy Bob Thornton, appearing alongside him in Sling Blade and A Simple Plan.
Downie, the lead singer for Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, died in October after a battle with brain cancer. He was 53. The group announced the news via their website and Facebook page with a message from the rocker’s family. “Gord knew this day was coming – his response was to spend this precious time as he always had – making music, making memories and expressing deep gratitude to his family and friends for a life well lived, often sealing it with a kiss… on the lips."
British actor Dotrice died in October at the age of 94. Dotrice was known to Game of Thrones fans for his brief role as Wisdom Hallyne the pyromancer in season 2. But more impressively, he also read the audiobooks for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, and holds the Guinness World Record for the most characters voiced by a single actor in an audiobook — 223 in the saga’s first novel, A Game of Thrones, the audiobook for which is 33 hours long. The actor served in the Royal Air Force during WWII, was imprisoned in a German POW camp, and then went on to have a long career in radio, theater, television, and film — including playing Leopold Mozart in the film Amadeus. He also won a Tony in 2000 for a revival of A Moon for the Misbegotten.
Standup comedian Ralph O. May died of cardiac arrest in October in Las Vegas, at the age of 45. In 2003, May competed in the first season of Last Comic Standing, finishing in second place. The comedian went on to record multiple comedy specials for Comedy Central and Netflix, including Girth of a Nation. May and his wife, comedian Lahna Turner, filed for divorce in 2015. The couple had two children, daughter April June, 10, and 8-year-old son August James.
Perhaps forever to be known as “The Best Don Quixote Who Never Was,” French actor Rochefort died in October at age 87, according to AFP. One of the most loved, iconoclastic figures of French cinema in the last 70 years, Rochefort first began appearing in films in 1955. Valued by directors such as Robert Altman and Luis Bunuel, Rochefort achieved instant world-wide recognizability as the sinister moustached Colonel Louis in 1972’s black comedy The Tall Blond Man With One Black Shoe opposite Pierre Richard.
Rochefort last appeared onscreen in 2015’s Floride, portraying an Alzheimer’s sufferer.
The legendary rocker died on Oct. 2 at age 66, after suffering cardiac arrest. He was married to Jane Benyo for 22 years before the duo split in 1996. Petty shared two daughters with Benyo — Adria, a film director, and AnnaKim Violette, an artist. In 2001, he wed Dana York Epperson, whom he met in 1991 when she attended his concert. Before kicking off his 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers earlier this year, Petty — who took home three Grammys and received 18 total nominations over his lengthy career — told Rolling Stone it would likely be his “last big one.”
Low, a military veteran and real estate developer who memorably appeared in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas as Morrie, died in September at a nursing home in New Jersey, the New York Times reports. Born on July 21, 1928, in New York City, Low spent four years on active duty as an army major and was part of the U.S. Army Reserve for more than 30 years, as well as the U.S. National Guard from 1957-1965. He became friends with actor Robert De Niro during the 1970s, as he began to develop real estate in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, where he also owned properties. De Niro was one of his tenants. Their relationship led to Low’s first screen appearance, as a man in a Chinese restaurant who mocks De Niro’s character in The King of Comedy.
Hall, who co-created and hosted the iconic game show Let’s Make a Deal, died on Sept. 30 at age 96. Born Monte Halparin in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Hall worked in radio and television for years before creating Let’s Make a Deal with Stefan Hatos in 1963. The show, which focused on lavishly dressed contestants vying for the chance to make a deal, would air with Hall as host through 1986; he later returned to host a 1991 version. (In 2009, Wayne Brady took over as emcee of a new version of Let’s Make a Deal.)
The 91-year-old Playboy founder passed away in his storied mansion in late September. He was survived by wife Crystal and four children from previous marriages.
“My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom. He defined a lifestyle and ethos that lie at the heart of the Playboy brand, one of the most recognizable and enduring in history. He will be greatly missed by many, including his wife Crystal, my sister Christie and my brothers David and Marston, and all of us at Playboy Enterprises,” said Cooper Hefner, his son and Chief Creative Officer of Playboy Enterprises.
Singer Bradley, the “Screaming Eagle of Soul” whose career took off in the 2000s after years spent on the periphery of the music industry, died of cancer in September at age 68. Born in Florida in 1948 before later relocating to New York as a child, Bradley stayed on the fringes of music — working as a part-time musician throughout most of his life. In the 1990s, after moving back to New York to reconnect with his mother, Bradley began working as a James Brown impersonator. It was during these years of his life when Bradley’s discovery began in earnest — after Daptone Records co-founder Gabriel Roth introduced Bradley to producer Tom Brenneck.
Casey, best known for his scene-stealing role in Revenge of the Nerds and as the star of I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, died following a brief illness in September at the age of 78. In his youth, Casey was a record-breaking track and field athlete at Bowling Green University, earning All-American honors and a trip to the finals at the 1960 U.S. Olympic Trials. He was later drafted by the San Francisco 49ers as a top 10 pick, and played in the NFL as a wide-receiver for eight seasons, earning trips to the Pro Bowl. He went on to star in a series of films and TV shows, like Harris and Company, and ultimately costarred in over 80 different projects on the big and small screen throughout his career.
The Sopranos star, 78, died in September of complications from heart surgery, TMZ reported. The actor was known for his tough-guy roles in films like Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Casino, though appeared in myriad films in his long career.
The 28-year-old indie rocker, formerly of Those Darlins', died in September after battling cervical cancer. The niece of country musician Steve Wariner learned she had cervical cancer when she was 26 after she couldn’t stop bleeding. It was caused by a strain of human papillomavirus, according to the Nashville Scene. She started brachytherapy, but later discovered a lymph node in her neck. Biopsy results showed it was positive for the same type of cancer cell originally found in her cervix.
LaMura, known for his role as Mark Dalton on All My Children, died at the age of 68 in September after battling lung cancer, Deadline reported. LaMura, who was nominated for a daytime Emmy in 1988 for his work on the soap opera, has several other television credits, including Star Trek: The Next Generation, L.A. Law, One Life to Live, The Sopranos, 30 Rock, Law & Order: SVU and Damages.
The country star, one-half of the duo Montgomery Gentry, died at age 50 in September in a helicopter crash in New Jersey en route to a concert. Gentry leaves behind wife Angie and daughters, Kaylee and Taylor.
Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams died in September after a short illness. He was 78. After beginning his career in Nashville in the late 1960s and signing a songwriting contact in the early 1970s, Williams made his chart debut with “The Shelter of Your Eyes” in 1973. Over the course of his decades-long career, the so-called “Gentle Giant” of country music recorded hits like “Tulsa Time,” “Good Ole Boys Like Me” and “It Must Be Love.” Williams earned 17 No. 1 country hits throughout his career.
Heron, who played Marty Preston in 1996’s Shiloh, died in September at the age of 35, according to TMZ. Heron had been sick days prior, but had also previously battled heroin addiction and had recently completed rehab (though EMTs found no illegal drugs on the scene, only prescription flu medication). In addition to his role in Shiloh, Heron had small parts in films like We Were Soldiersand 11:13. He also recently appeared in a documentary called A Thousand Junkies, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival.
Becker, the co-founder, guitarist and bassist of the band Steely Dan, died in September at the age of 67. In July, Becker missed both of Steely Dan’s performances due to an unspecified ailment during the recent Classic West and Classic East concerts in Los Angeles and New York. His Steely Dan partner Donald Fagen later told Billboard that Becker was “recovering from a procedure” and hopefully would be “fine very soon,” but did not elaborate on Becker’s surgery or prognosis. Becker, who was born in Queens, New York, met Fagen when they were both students at New York’s Bard College. The duo later moved to California to form Steely Dan in 1972 alongside guitarists Jeff “Skunk” Baxter and Denny Dias, drummer Jim Hodder and singer David Palmer.
Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Poltergeist director Hooper died in August at the age of 74, according to Variety. Hooper’s other directing credits included The Funhouse, Lifeforce, and the 1986 remake of Invaders from Mars. Hooper’s directorial debut was 1969’s experimental ghost story Eggshells, but he made his name with his second film, 1974’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, an unforgettable tale of rural Texas-dwelling cannibals, including the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface. Widely regarded as one of the most terrifying horror films ever made, the movie would spawn many sequels, starting with 1986’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, which Hooper directed himself.