As the last blog of 2017 – and the last in the Stuff Happens series of blogs – let’s look at the names we lost in 2017.
Milt Schmidt, 98, the former Boston Bruins great and most frequently accidentally mispronounced name in hockey history … Jimmy ‘Superfly’ Snooka, former pro wrestler who lived to the unusually ripe age of 73 (unusual for a wrestler, anyway) … Anthony Armstrong-Jones, 86, former husband of Princess Margaret, recently featured in The Crown. Probably a good thing he died before he could see how he was portrayed in the series … William Peter Blatty, 89, author of The Exorcist, made into the scariest movie ever (at least I thought it was back when I saw it when I was 18) … Tony Rosato, 62, briefly a member of both SCTV and Saturday night live … Eugene Cernan, 82, last man on the moon. Poor guy; he goes to the moon, and nobody remembers … Mary Tyler Moore, 80, star of two of the most beloved sitcoms in TV history, The Dick Van Dyke Show and Mary Tyler Moore. I wish some channel, somewhere, would start showing MTM again … Mike Conners, 91, who starred in the old TV show Mannix, which nobody is clamouring to see again … John Hurt, 77, Brit actor Oscar-nominated for The Elephant Man, not that you would recognize him from the movie.
Brunhilde Pomsel, 106, who was the private secretary to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. Like all good Nazis, she said she knew nothing about all the bad stuff … Mike Illitch, 87, owner of the Detroit Red Wings and the man who inflicted Little Caesars Pizza on the world .. Darrel K. Smith, 55, former Eskimo receiver … Stuart McLean, 68, all-Canadian CBC broadcaster … George ‘The Animal’ Steele, 79, wild man of wrestling who in real life had a master’s degree in science … Bill Paxton, 61, all-purpose leading man of movies, most often described as ‘not Bill Pullman, Bill PAXTON’ … Bernie Custis, 88, first black QB to play pro football with the Hamilton Tiger Cats … Joseph Wapner, 97, the original People’s Court judge… Chuck Berry, 90, the father of rock and roll and the first of a superstar gallery of rock stars to exit the stage in 2017 … Larry Highbaugh, 67, five-time Grey Cup champ with the Eskimos as a defensive back and punt returner in the days when there was no blocking on punts … Betty Kennedy, 91, longtime panelist on Front Page Challenge (for younger readers, ask your parents, or grandparents) … Chuck Barris, 87, creator of The Gong Show and The Dating Game. Not necessarily anything you want to brag about.
Don Rickles, 90, one of the greatest stand-up comics of all time … J. Geils, 71, guitarist and band leader of the J. Geils Band, who inflicted ‘Centrefold’, ‘Freeze Frame’ and ‘Love Stinks’ upon an unsuspecting world … Aaron Hernandez, 27, former New England Patriot whose promising career went off the rails when he was convicted of murder. He committed suicide in prison … Erin Moran, 56, who played Joanie on both Happy Days and Joannie Loves Chachi. In her last days, she was reportedly kicked out of her trailer park for unruly behaviour. Happy days, indeed … Jonathan Demme, 73, director of Melvin and Howard, Philadelphia and The Silence of the Lambs … Stan Weston, 84, creator of G.I. Joe, fighting man from head to toe … Roger Ailes, 77, villainous genius of Fox News and a man who did more to damage American democracy than anyone before Donald Trump … Chris Cornell, 52, singer of Soundgarden and Audioslave … Roger Moore, 89, the most British of all the James Bonds (he played him seven times), and the star of some of the worst Bond films (Octopussy and Moonraker)… Greg Allman, 69, member of the Allman Brothers Band (Ramblin’ Man, Midnight Rider) … Bill White, 72, former NHL defenceman and member of Team Canada ’72.
Manuel Noreiga, 83, pizza-faced former dictator of Panama … Adam West, 88, the only true Batman, from the TV series of 1966-68 … Sam Panopoulous, 83, Canadian restaurant owner who created the Hawaiian pizza in 1962 … Don Matthews, 77, the most successful coach in CFL history … Stephen Furst, 62, who played Flounder in Animal House … my brother Richard, 73 … Dave Semenko, 59, beloved former enforcer for the Edmonton Oilers, the man who never let anyone lay a finger on Wayne Gretzky … George A. Romero, 77 who changed the horror genre with his film Night of the Living Dead … John Heard, 71, character actor best known as the dad in the Home Alone movies .. Kenny Shields, 69, lead singer of the Canadian rock band Streetheart … Martin Landau, 89, Oscar-winning actor for playing Bela Lugosi in the film Ed Wood, and before that he starred in the great old TV series, Mission: Impossible. Mind you, he also appeared in The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island … June Foray, 99, the voice of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Granny from the Warmer Brothers cartoons, and many others.
Sam Shephard, 73, Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright and sometime actor (nominated for a supporting actor Oscar in 1983). New York magazine called him the greatest American playwright of his generation … Glen Campbell, 81, country singer who achieved huge mainstream popularity with a string of hits like Wichita Lineman, By the Time I Get To Phoenix, and Rhinestone Cowboy. In his last years, he became the public face of Alzheimer’s Disease; if you have Netflix, I highly recommend the documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, which follows his final tour. He had a great late career return … Dick Gregory, 84, pioneering black stand up comic who brought race issues to the comedy stage, and who later devoted his life to “agitating” … Perhaps the biggest loss in the entertainment world this year was the departure of Jerry Lewis, 91, one of the most popular, and often critically reviled comics in film history. His best films, like The Nutty Professor, The Bellboy, The Stooge, Cinderfella, are considered comedy classics. His worst films were, well, unwatchable. He was also a raging egomaniac and often quite a nasty person.
Walter Becker, 67, guitarist, bassist and co-founder of one of my all-time favourite bands, Steely Dan. With partner Donald Fagen, Steely Dan produced unique hit songs like Reelin’ in the Years, Rikki Don’t Lose That Number, Hey Nineteen, Kid Charlemange, Peg, and of course, Deacon Blues, which is in the Top 5 of my all-time favourite songs … Shelly Berman, 92, a very successful stand-up comic in the 1960s, and frequent comic actor. He most recently played Larry David’s father on Curb Your Enthusiasm … Skip Prokop, 73, co-founder and drummer for the great Canadian band Lighthouse, described as the world’s first 13-piece rock orchestra. Lighthouse had hits with One Fine Morning, Sunny Days, and the truly great song, Little Kind Words … Don Williams, 78, a singer of heartfelt country ballads who emerged as one of the biggest stars in country music during the late 1970s. His hits include You’re My Best Friend, Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good, and Tulsa Time … Harry Dean Stanton, 91, familiar American character actor, best known for important parts in Alien, The Green Mile and many, many other movies …Jake LaMotta, 95, former boxer immortalized by Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull… Bobby ‘The Brain’ Heenan, 72, former WWE wrestler, manager and commentator … Hugh Hefner, 91, creator and publisher of Playboy magazine. Hefner’s impact on society can scarcely be understated. He created the first widely distributed magazine to feature female
nudity (my teenage self thanks you, Hef). But it wasn’t just a nudie magazine; Playboy featured writing from some of the most important and influential writers of the 20th century. You could actually say that you read Playboy for the articles, and not be laughed at … David Mainse, 81, Canadian televangelist who created and hosted the long-running 100 Huntley Street …. Monty Hall, 96, the Winnipeg-born host of the long running game show Let’s Make A Deal … While a lot of musicians who died this year were well past their prime, that wasn’t the case with Tom Petty, 66, one of the most enduring and widely popular rock and roll artists of the last few decades. … also gone well before his time was Gord Downie, 53, the poet laureate of Canadian rock as the lead singer and songwriter for The Tragically Hip … on the other end of the Canadian entertainment spectrum, Juliette, 91, at one time one of Canada’s most popular singers as star of her own long-running TV series which ran from the 1950s to the 1970s. She was known as ‘Our Pet Juliette’. Different times, different times … Fats Domino, 89, rock and roll pioneer, famous for hits like Blueberry Hill, Ain’t That A Shame, and I’m Walkin‘.
David Cassidy, 67, teen heart-throb from The Partridge Family TV show … Charles Manson, 83, notorious cult leader who led a murderous group of followers, resulting in one of the most infamous murder sprees of the 1960s. As the saying goes, the good die young … Della Reese, 86, singer and former star of Touched by an Angel … Mel Tillis, 85, longtime country music star and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame … Malcolm Young, 64, the guitarist and songwriter who with his brother Andrew helped found the Australian rock band AC/DC … Jim Nabors, 87, who played the amiable hick Gomer Pyle on The Andy Griffith Show, and later on his own show. Nabors spoke in a typically Southern drawl, but sang in a deep operatic baritone that was a weird contrast, to put it mildly .. Dick Enberg, 82, famed American sports broadcaster … Terry Cavanagh, 91, former mayor of Edmonton … Keely Smith, 89, American singer (That Old Black Magic) … bookending the passing of Mary Tyler Moore in January, this month saw the passing of Rose Marie, 93, who played the rarest of rarities – a female comedy writer – on the Dick Van Dyke Show … Sue Grafton, 77, wildly successful mystery writer who wrote a series of murder mysteries starting with A is for Alibi. She made it all the way to Y is for Yesterday just this year … Johnny Bower, 93, legendary NHL goaltender.
And this brings to an end the long running and widely ignored series Stuff Happens. Three years of this is enough, I think, particularly since I’m trying to wean myself off of news as best I can. I will still write occasional blogs on topics of interest. Thank you for reading.