In Memoriam: A Look Back At People Who Passed On in 2011

We take a look back at some of the names in entertainment whose spotlights faded out this year. Granted, this is only a small number of people who passed, but to all those mentioned below and to the seemingly countless other lives lost this year, we thank them for the memories and may they rest in peace.

Harry Morgan (April 10, 1915 – December 7, 2011; age 96) – Morgan was best known for his portrayal of Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H and Officer Bill Gannon on Dragnet. Morgan appeared in more than 100 films over his career which began in the 1942 movie To the Shores of Tripoli. Other notable big screen credits include The Ox-Bow Incident, High Noon, The Glenn Miller Story as well as a cameo in the 1987 film version of Dragnet. Morgan died peacefully in his sleep at 3:00 a.m. on December 7, 2011. His son Charles said he had recently been treated for pneumonia.
Patrice O'Neal (Dcember 7, 1969 – November 29, 2011; age 41) – A stand-up comedian, radio personality and actor known for his confrontational cutting humor was born in Boston where he began his comedy career. Ricky Gervais frequently called O'Neal his favorite comedian and got his TV break with The Colin Quinn Show in 2002. O'Neal died of complications from a stroke he suffered in October.
Ken Russell (July 3, 1927 – November 27, 2011; age 84) – An English film director known for his flamboyant and controversial style in pioneering TV and film, Russell attracted criticism as being obsessed with sexuality and the church. His filmography includes TommyAltered States and Mahler. He was nominated for a Best Director Oscar for 1969's Women in Love.
John Neville (May 2, 1925 – November 19, 2011; age 86) – Perhaps best known to American audiences for his portrayal of The Well-Manicured Man in The X-Files TV series and feature film The X-Files: Fight the Future, however Neville was an accomplished English theater and film actor before joining the cast of Chris Carter's sci-fi drama. He also starred in The Fifth Element, Little Women and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen along with 93 other acting credits. Neville suffered from Alzheimer's disease in his latter years but was also appointed to the Order of Canada, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 2006.
Dwight Arrington Myers aka Heavy D (May 24, 1967 – November 8, 2011; age 44) – A Jamaican-born American rapper, record producer and actor, Myers came to prominence in the 90's as the leader of the hip hop group Heavy D & the Boyz. Myers gained even more fame by singing the theme song for the TV programs In Living Color and MADtv. Though his death was initially thought to be connected to pneumonia, an autopsy report found the cause of death was a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in his lung) with deep leg vein thrombosis (blood clots in the leg) and heart disease as contributing factors.
Gil Cates (June 6, 1934 – October 31, 2011; age 77) – An award-winning American film director, television producer, director of the Geffen Playhouse and founding dean of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Gates is probably best known for the annual Academy Award shows he produced 14 times between 1990 and 2008.
Andy Rooney (January 14, 1919 – November 4, 2011; age 92) – An American radio and television writer, Rooney was known for his weekly essay that capped the CBS News program 60 Minutes. Born in Albany, New York, Rooney began his career in newspapers while in the Army writing for Stars and Stripes in London during World War II. He joined CBS in 1949 and wrote his first television essay in 1964. His end of show segment on 60 Minutes began in 1978, where Rooney would offer satire on trivial everyday issues. His final essay was delivered on October 2, 2011. He died about a month later from post-operative complications for an undisclosed surgery.
Dolores Hope (May 27, 1909 – September 19, 2011; age 102) – American singer, philanthropist and wife of actor/comedian Bob Hope, Dolores died at her home in Toluca Lake, California of natural causes.
Joe Frazier (January 12, 1944 – November 7, 2011) – Also known as Smokin' Joe Frazier, he was an Olympic and Undisputed World Heavyweight boxing champion whose career spanned from 1965 to 1976. He had one come back fight in 1981 against Floyd Cummings which resulted in a draw. Frazier captured the 1964 Olympic gold medal in Tokyo and finished his professional career with a record of 32-4-1 with 27 wins by way of knock-out. Frazier was diagnosed with liver cancer in late September and was admitted into hospice care before his death two months later.
Steve Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011; age 56) – American businessman and co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Apple, Inc. and CEO of Pixar, Jobs helped revolutionize technology. His design sense was greatly influenced by the Buddhism which he experienced in India while on a seven month spiritual journey. Aside from his various versions of Apple computers, Jobs helped design and create the iPhone, iPod, iPad and iTunes. He died at his California home around 3p.m. due to complications from a relapse of his previously treated pancreatic cancer, resulting in respiratory arrest. He had lost consciousness a day prior to his death.
Al Davis (July 4, 1929 – October 8, 2011; age 82) – Principal owner of the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League from 1970-2011, the motto Davis coined for his team was, "Just win, baby." He entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1992 and his Raiders won three Super Bowls under his ownership.
Charles Napier (April 12, 1936 – October 5, 2011; age 75) – An American actor best known for his portrayal of square-jawed tough guys, Napier appeared in Rambo: First Blood Part II, The Silence of the Lambs, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and The Blues Brothers among 195 acting credits. The exact cause of death was not released but Napier had been treated for blood clots in his legs in May 2010.
Betty Ford (April 8, 1918 – July 8, 2011; age 93) – Elizabeth Ann Bloomer Warren Ford, better known as Betty Ford was The First Lady of the United States from 1974-1977 during the presidency of her husband Gerald Ford. She also founded the Betty Ford Center, a well-known institution for substance abuse and addiction treatment.
Jack Kevorkian (May 26, 1928 – June 3, 2011; age 83) – An American pathologist and euthanasia activist, Kevorkian is best known for publicly championing a terminal patient's right to die via physician-assisted suicide. He was also an oil painter and jazz musician who marketed limit quantities of his artwork to the public. He died from thrombosis caused by pneumonia and kidney problems.
Gil Scott-Heron (April 1, 1949 – May 27, 2011; age 62) – Scott-Heron was an American soul and jazz poet, musician and author primarily known as a spoken word performer in the 1970's and 80's. His music, most notably Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970's influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul. Shortly after returning from Europe, he fell ill and died.
Frances Bay (January 23, 1919 – September 15, 2011; age 92) – Best known for playing Adam Sandler's grandma in Happy Gilmore, Bay was U.S.-based Canadian actress who began her acting career in her mid-50s. Though the late start, she piled up over 150 acting credits over the span of her career including roles in Blue Velvet, Single White Female, Arachnophobia and Karate Kid Part III. She died of complications from pneumonia.
Andy Whitfield (July 17, 1972 – September 11, 2011; age 39) – Whitfield was a Welsh actor and model who had a leading role on the Starz television series Spartacus: Blood and Sand during 2010. In March 2010, Whitfield was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and began undergoing treatment in New Zealand. He died 18 months after his initial cancer diagnosis.
Cliff Robertson (September 9, 1923 – September 10, 2011; age 88) – Robertson's career as an American TV and film actor spanned over half a century, including a role in the 1963 film PT 109 in which he portrayed a young John F. Kennedy and astronaut Buzz Aldrin in the 1976 adaptation of Aldrin's biography Return to Earth. He won the 1968 Best Actor Oscar for his role in the movie Charly. He also starred in the campy surf movie Gidget as the Big Kahuna as well as the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy as Ben Parker. Spider-Man 3 was his last film appearance.
Michael Showers (March 14, 1966 – August 22, 2011; age 45) – Showers was an American actor best known for his role as Captain John Guidry on the television series Treme. His body was discovered on August 24th in the Mississippi River near the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Police speculated that he had been dead for at least two days and an autopsy confirmed the cause of death the be drowning.
Frank Potenza aka Uncle Frank (November 11, 1933 – August 23, 2011; age 77) – Potenza was a retired American police officer and former security guard who became a television actor and comic relief for the late night show Jimmy Kimmel Live! He appeared as Kimmel's real-life Uncle Frank as a regular from 2003 up until his death. Potenza died from cancer.
Nick Ashford (May 4, 1941 – August 22, 2011; age70) – Ashford was one-half of a husband and wife songwriting and production team. Along with his wife Valerie Simpson, the couple wrote songs for iconic 60's and 70's musicians including The 5th Dimension, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles as well as teaming with Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell to write and produce, Ain't No Mountain High Enough, Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing and You're All I Ned to Get By. Ashfrod died of complication from throat cancer.
Bubba Smith (February28, 1945 – August 3, 2011; age 66) – Charles Aaron "Bubba" Smith was an NFL defensive end who became an actor upon retirement. He played nine years in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts, Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers. His best known role was as Moses Hightower in the first six Police Academy movies.
Amy Winehouse (September 14, 1983 – July 23, 2011; age 27) – Amy Jade Winehouse was an English singer-songwriter known for her powerful deep contralto vocals and eclectic mix of music genres including R&B, jazz and soul. Her second album, Back to Black, earned her six Grammy nominations and five wins. Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning. Her Back to Black album subsequently became UK's best-selling album so far in the 21st century.
Sherwood Schwartz (November 14, 1916 – July 12, 2011; age 94) – Schwartz is best known for creating classic TV series Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch. He died peacefully in his sleep and is survived by his wife of nearly 70 years and their four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Peter Falk (September 16, 1927 – June 23, 2011; age 83) -  Best known for his role as Lieutenant Columbo in the television series Columbo, Falk also appeared in numerous films including The Princess Bride, The Great Race and Next. He was nominated twice for an Academy Award – 1960's Murder, Inc. and 1961's Pocketful of Miracles. He also won four Emmy awards for his portrayal as Columbo and one Golden Globe Award. In 1996, TV Guide ranked him the number 21 of its 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time. Falk died at his longtime Beverly Hills home from cardiorespiratory arrest with pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease as underlying causes.
Ryan Dunn (June 11, 1977 – June 20, 2011; age 34) – A reality TV personality and daredevil, Dunn was a part of the Jackass and Viva La Bam crew. Dunn died in an alcohol-related car crash in Pennsylvania. His blood alcohol was .196%, more than double the legal limit of .08%.
Clarence Clemons (January 11, 1942 – June 18, 2011; age 69) – Also known as The Big Man, Clemons was a prominent member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band, playing tenor saxophone. On June 12, 2011, he suffered a stroke and died of complications from it six days later.
Laura Ziskin (May 3, 1950 – June 12, 2011; age 61) – An American film producer, she produced the hit comedy Pretty Women and become the first woman to produce the Academy Awards alone in 2002 and 2007. She also produced the mega-blockbuster Spider-Man trilogy as well as the Jack Nicholson-Helen Hunt romantic comedy As Good As It Gets in 1997. She died from breast cancer.
James Arness (May 26, 1923 – June 3, 2011; age 88) – Best known for portraying Marshal Matt Dillon on the television series Gunsmoke, Arness starred in a number of westerns. An urban legend says that John Wayne had initially been up for the role of Marshal Dillon, but turned it down and recommended Arness for the role. Arness died of natural causes at his Brentwood home and is interred at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Jeff Conaway (October 5, 1950 – May 27, 2011; age 60) – Best known for his role as Kenickie in the 1978 classic Grease, Conaway also starred on the television sitcom Taxi where he earned two Golden Globe nominations for Supporting Actor. On May 11, Conaway was found unconscious from what was initially described as an overdose of pain medication. Dr. Drew Pinksy, who had counseled Conaway on his show Celebrity Rehab, said the actor was suffering not from a drug overdose but rather pneumonia with sepsis for which he was placed in an induced coma. On May 26, Conaway's family took him off life support after doctors decided there was nothing they could do to revive him. He died the following day.
Randy Poffo aka "Macho Man" Randy Savage (November 15, 1952 – May 20, 2011; age 58) – Best known for his time in the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling, Poffo held twenty championships during his professional wrestling career. Poffo played wrestler Bonesaw McGraw in Spider-Man and voiced "The Thug" in Disney's Bolt. Poffo died after suffering a sudden massive heart attack while driving in Seminole, Florida.
Mia Amber Davis (July 25, 1975 – May 10, 2011; age 35) – An American plus-size model, Davis was best known for her role in Road Trip. She played Rhonda, the young lady D.J. Qualls' Kyle Edwards spends the night with. Davis died from complications of a blood clot in her lungs.
Dana Wynter (June 8, 1931 – May 5, 2011; age 79) – A German-born British actress, Wynter appeared in film and television for more than forty years, including the 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She amassed 82 acting credit over her lifetime. She died from congestive heart failure.
Tim Hetherington (December 5, 1970 – April 20, 2011; age 40) – An award-winning British-American photojournalist, Hetherington came to prominence following his Oscar-nominated co-direction effort in Restrepo. The war documentary followed the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army in the Korengal Valley, Afghanistan. Hetherington was killed by mortar shells fired by Libyan forces while covering the 2011 Libyan Civil War.
Arthur Laurents (July 14, 1917 – May 5, 2011; age 93) – Laurents was an American playwright, stage director and screenwriter, famous for writing West Side Story, Gypsy, La Cage Aux Folles as well as Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. He died of pneumonia complications.
Jackie Cooper (September 15, 1922 – May 3, 2011; age 88 – American actor and television director and producer, Cooper was one of the few child actors who was able to successfully make the transition to an adult career.He remains one of the youngest Oscar nominees, when at age 9, he was nominated for Best Actor in Skippy. Cooper is probably best known for his role as Perry White in the late 70s/early 80s Superman movies. Cooper died after a short illness and is interred at Arlington National Cemetary in honor of his Naval service.
Elisabeth Sladen (February 1, 1946 – April 19, 2011; age 65) – Sladen was an English actress best known for her role as Sarah Jane Smith in the British television series Doctor Who. She was a regular cast member from 1973-1976 and reprised the role several times in subsequent decades. Sladen died after battling cancer for several months.
John Dye (January 31, 1963 – January 10, 2011; age 47) – Dye was an American television and film actor best known for his role on the television show Touched by an Angel. He was found dead in his home in San Francisco due to heart related problems.
Jack LaLanne (Setember 26, 1914 – January 23, 2011; age 96) – An American fitness, exercise, nutritional expert and motivational speaker, LaLanne was sometimes called The Godfather of Fitness. A self-described sugarholic and junk food junkie until he was 15, he turned his life around after listening to a public lecture by Paul Bragg, a well-known nutritional speaker. His many feats include swimming the entire length (1.7 miles) of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, under water, with 140 pounds of air tanks and other equipment strapped to his body. A year later he swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf, handcuffed. He also set the world record of 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes, swam the Golden Gate Channel while towing a 2,500 pound cabin cruiser. At age 70, while handcuffed, shackled and fighting strong winds and currents, he towed 70 rowboats a mile to the Queen Mary. LaLanne died at his home from respiratory failure due to pneumonia.
Peter Yates (July 24, 1929 – January 9, 2011; age 81) – An English director and producer, Yates is best known for directing Bullitt, Robbery and The Friends of Eddie Coyle. He broke into showbiz while directing the TV series The Saint and his first film was the 1963 musical Summer Holiday. He earned four Oscar nominations – Best Director and Best Picture for both The Dresser (1983) and Breaking Away (1980). Yates died in London from an undisclosed illness.
Sidney Lumet (June 25, 1924 – April 9 , 2011; age 86) – An American director, producer and screenwriter with over 50 films to his credit, Lumet was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Director on four separate occasions – 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Network and The Verdict. Though he didn't win an individual award, he was presented with an Academy Honorary Award as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. Lumet died at his residence in Manhattan, New York from lymphoma.
Farley Granger (July 1, 1925 – March 27, 2011; age 85) – Born in San Jose, California, Granger is best known for his two collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock – Rope and Strangers on a Train. Granger died of natural causes.
Elizabeth Taylor (February 27, 1932 – March 23, 2011; age 79) – Taylor began as a child actress at MGM and grew to become one of the most famous actresses of Hollywood's Golden Age. Recognized for her acting ability and beauty as much as her glamorous lifestyle and numerous husbands, Taylor was nominated for 5 Oscars and won two, Best Actress for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Butterfield 8. She also received nominations for Suddenly, Last Summer, Cat on a Hot tin Roof and Raintree Country. Though she struggled with health problems for most of her life, her cause of death is listed as heart failure.
Michael Gough (November 23, 1916 – March 17, 2011; age 94) – Perhaps best known for his recurring role as Alfred Pennyworth in the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman movies, Gough appeared in over 150 films during his career. Born in Malaysia, the English character actor also starred in Anna Karenina (1948), The Phantom of the Opera (1962) and both the 1966 and 2010 versions of Alice in Wonderland. Gough died following a brief illness.
Nathaniel Hale aka Nate Dogg (August 19, 1969 – March 15, 2011; age 41) – Known for his collaborations with rappers Dr. Dre, Warren G, Tupac and Snoop Dogg as well as his membership in the rap trio 213. He released three solo albums and died from complications of multiple strokes.
Mike Starr (April 4, 1966 – March 8, 2011; age 44) – Starr was best known as the original bassist for the rock group Alice in Chains, with whom he played from 1987-1993. Starr died from a prescription drug overdose.
Len Lesser (December 3, 1922 – February 16, 2011; age 88) – Though he had roles in Papillion, Kelly's Heroes and The Outlaw Josey Wales, audiences will most likely recognize Lesser from his role as Uncle Leo in the television sitcom Seinfeld. Lesser died of cancer-related pneumonia in Burbank, California.
Jane Russell (June 21, 1921 – February 28, 2011; age 89) – As one of the leading sex symbols of the 1940's and 50's, Russell began her film career in the 1943 Howard Hughes western The Outlaw. After attempting to launch a musical career, including recording Kisses and Tears with Frank Sinatra, Russell appeared opposite Bob Hope in The Paleface as Calamity Jane and co-starred with Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. She died at her home in Santa Maria, California due to a respiratory-related illness.
Betty Garrett (May 23, 1919 – February 12, 2011; age 91) – Actress, singer, comedienne and dancer who originally performed on Broadway before signing a contract with MGM, Garrett is best known for two television roles – Archie Bunker's liberal neighbor Irene Lorezno in All in the Family and landlady Edna Babish in Laverne & Shirley. She died in Los Angeles of an aortic aneurysm.
J. Paul Getty III (November 4, 1956 – February 5, 2011; age 54) – Also known as Paul Getty, he was the grandson of oil tycoon Jean Paul Getty and father of actor Balthazar Getty. In July 1973, Getty III was kidnapped and in November 1973, after the family refused to pay a $3.2 million ransom, a lock of hair and Getty III's ear were delivered to a daily newspaper. Getty Sr. refused to pay the ransom on account that if he did, his other 14 grandchildren could likely be kidnapped as well. He eventually agreed to pay $2.2 million, the maximum amount that was tax deductible and loaned the remaining money to his son who was responsible for repaying with a 4% interest. The following month, Getty III was found alive in southern Italy. Nine of his kidnappers were apprehended, including a carpenter, hospital orderly, olive oil dealer and high-ranking members of the 'Ndrangheta, a Mafia-type organization in Calabria. Getty III died following a long illness.
Roger Williams (October 1, 1924 – October 8, 2011; age 87) – Williams was an American pop music pianist who released 116 albums over his career. In March 2011, Williams posted on his website that he had pancreatic cancer and that his doctors had told him they could not remove the tumor until chemotherapy had shrunk it to an operable size.
Charlie Louvin (July 7, 1927 – January 26, 2011; age 83) – Louvin was a Grammy Award-winning country music singer and songwriter and a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1955. He released 21 albums over the course of his 60 year career. Louvin died from pancreatic cancer.
Peter Postlethwaite (February 7, 1946 – January 2, 2011; age 64) – An English stage, film and television actor, Postlethwaite is perhaps best known for his slew of supporting performances ranging from the mysterious lawyer Mr. Kobayashi in The Usual Suspects to the seedy flower shop owner in The Town. Postlethwaite also appeared in Amistad, The Constant Gardener, Alien 3 and Inception among other films. He died from pancreatic cancer.
Bil Keane (October 5, 2911 – November 8, 2011; age 89) – William Keane was best known for his long-running cartoon Family Circus which began in 1960 and continues to run in syndication, drawn by his son Jeff Keane. He died at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona (near Phoenix) from congestive heart failure.
Clarice Taylor (September 20, 1917 – May 30, 2011; age 93) -  Best known as Grandma Anna Huxtable from The Cosby Show, Taylor was an American stage, film and television actress whose other roles included appearances in Ironside and Sanford & Son. She also starred as Birdie in the Clint Eastwood film Play Misty for Me. Taylor died at her home in Englewood, New Jersey from congestive heart failure.

John Barry (November 3, 1933 - January 30, 2011) - An award-winning composer, Barry scored the soundtrack for 12 of the James Bond films between 1962 and 1987. He also wrote the award-winning scores for Midnight Cowboy, Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa during a career which lasted over 50 years. He won five Academy Awards over his lifetime and his score for Out of Africa is ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest film scores of all-time. Barry died of a heart attack at his home in Oyster Bay.

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