Dead Yet?

Picture1Every now and then, while watching TV or scanning a magazine, we come across a quasi-famous, once-notable, vaguely familiar person who has been out of the public eye for years or decades, and ask ourselves – is he or she still alive? The extended absence from the limelight has left a void of publicity. Sometimes we conflate such people with others which serves to confuse their mortal status. “Is Dick Sargent dead? Or am I thinking of Dick York?” (Answer: both are dead.)

Here is a list for you to peruse, and test your recollection (no peeking on Wikipedia). Answers at the bottom.

Fred Biletnikoff – Football Hall of Famer from my home town of Erie, Pa. Wide receiver for Oakland Raiders in the 1960s and 70s

Ernest Borgnine – Oscar winning actor, most famous for his roles in “Marty” and “From Here to Eternity.” Or for some people, their fondest memories might be the wacky “McHale’s Navy”.

Berke Breathed – Odd-ball creator of the much-admired and now defunct comic strip “Bloom County”.

Gay Brewer – PGA golfer who won the 1967 Masters.

Sean Casey – Also known as KC, leader of the soporific disco band KC and the Sunshine Band.

George Chakiris – Actor best (only?) known for his role as Bernardo in the film version of “West Side Story,” for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Cyd Charisse – Long-legged dancer cast in numerous seductive roles. Best performance: dancing with Gene Kelly in “Singing in the Rain”.

Michael Collins – Member of the Apollo 11 mission who didn’t get to be among the first men who walked on the moon. He had to stay behind in the capsule and keep the coffee maker running.

Ann B. Davis – Winner of back-to-back daytime Emmy’s in the 1950s but best known as the wise-cracking mediator for the blended family known as the “Brady Bunch”.

Dino De Laurentiis – Renowned Italian film producer. Some of his movies: “La Strada,” “Serpico,” “Barbarella,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Death Wish”.

Tom Dempsey – Half-armed, club-footed place kicker for the New Orleans Saints who kicked a 63-yard (!) field goal in 1970 to beat the Detroit Lions with no time left.

Phyllis Diller – Fright-wigged comedienne who dressed in wildly patterned outfits and mocked her appearance. A regular on such shows as “Laugh-In” and “The Tonight Show,” Diller was famous for her self-deprecating jokes.

Kathy Garver – Actress who played “Cissy” on the treacly 1960s television series “Family Affair” with Brian Keith.

Graham Greene – Not the author of “The Quiet American,” but the Canadian-born actor who played an Indian named Kicking Bird in Kevin Costner’s 1990 epic “Dances With Wolves,” among numerous type-cast roles as an American Indian in lesser-known movies.

Murray Hamilton – Character actor who appeared in countless films. Probably his most recognizable roles were the Mayor of Amity in “Jaws” and Mr. Robinson in “The Graduate.” Coincidentally, Richard Dreyfus was in both movies as well.

Shirley Jones – Probably best known as the mother of the irritating Partridge Family, but prior to her TV career had performed in film musicals “Oklahoma,” “Carousel,” and “The Music Man,” She also bagged an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1960′s “Elmer Gantry”.

Alex Karras – Pro footballer for the Detroit Lions turned movie actor, best known as Mongo in 1974′s “Blazing Saddles”.

Jack Kehoe – Familiar-faced character actor whose name no one knows. Played Joe Erie, Robert Redford’s side-kick in “The Sting”.

Lenny Montana – One-time professional wrestler (the fake kind) Montana was cast as Mafia goon Luca Brasi in “The Godfather”. His death scene is still hauntingly realistic.

Billy Preston – R&B and Soul musician, sometimes referred to as the “fifth Beatle” for his keyboard work on the albums “Abbey Road” and “Let it Be” as well as for his calming influence during contentious recording sessions. Possibly the best Afro in history.

JD Salinger – Reclusive author of “Catcher in the Rye”.

John Sculley – Apple founder Steve Jobs recruited Sculley from Pepsi in 1983 to lead the upstart personal computer company. When friction between Jobs and Sculley peaked shortly afterwards, Sculley engineered a boardroom coup that resulted in Jobs ouster.

Omar Sharif – Dashing film star of such epics as “Dr. Zhivago” and “Lawrence of Arabia”.

Harry Dean Stanton – Dogfaced character actor in about ten thousand movies, many of them quirky. Just a sampling: “The Godfather Part II,” “Alien,” “Repo Man,” “Cool Hand Luke,” “The Last Temptation of Christ,” “The Green Mile,” and “Paris, Texas”.

Stella Stevens – Born Estelle Eggleston, Stevens started her career as a model, and was featured as Playboy’s Playmate of the month for January 1960. She later turned her sexy image toward films. I think my favorite is her role as a former hooker in “Poseidon Adventure” where following the capsize of the ship struts around wearing only F-me pumps and a man’s shirt.

Sylvester (Sly) Stone – Frontman for the influential funk band Sly and the Family Stone.

Peter Tork – Not another “fifth Beatle” but a member of the manufactured 1960s band, The Monkees. Tork played the dimwit of the band which was ginned up by TV producers to perform a comedy show inspired by the seminal Beatles movie, “Help”. It’s a popular misconception that Tork couldn’t play an instrument, actually having proficiency in keyboards, bass guitar, banjo and harpsichord.

Francois Truffaut – Famous French film director of such considered masterpieces as “The 400 Blows,” “Jules and Jim,” “Fahrenheit 451,” and “The Wild Child”.

John Updike – Pulitzer Prize-winning author of several novels, including the “Rabbit” quatrain featuring everyman character Rabbit Angstrom.

Leslie Ann Warren – Nominated for several Golden Globes and an Oscar, Warren started her career as an accomplished ballet dancer, then movied to TV and movies in the early 1960s. Blessed with sultry eyes and a sexy smile, Warren starred in mostly lesser-known fare. I met her once on a flight from LA to New York in the 90s, and she was truly engaging and subtly beautiful.

The Dead (Get a mirror)


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