Monday, January 09, 2006


Just throwin' this one out there for discussion.

"Submitted for your approval" as God Serling might have said.

Jon Stewart has been quoted as referring to Canada as the "nice loft apartment above the country and western bar of us [the U.S.]" or something close to that.

Here's some of what Canadian songster Ian (poet, comedian, actor and brother of SCTV's Dave) Thomas wrote in the liner notes from "right before your eyes; an anthology"

"It's been three decades since Painted Ladies and nature has saved me a tidy sum in hair salons. Britney Spears' navel is selling CDs while mine might hold a couple.

"I'm glad I managed to stay in Canada, although the reasons are hard to express, much like trying to decide what being Canadian really means. We're like Australians without the joy - Americans without ammo or the Swiss without numbered bank accounts.

"Celebrity in most countries means being admired and respected . Canadians don't usually respect their own unless they leave country and then they think you're a failure if you come home." - Ian Thomas

I've got a lot to say on the subject (what else is new) but right now, I'd just like to see what anyone who might still be checking this thing out has to say.


Monday, January 02, 2006


Hey Folks,

It's that time of year again where we reflect on the past and look to the blah blah blah...

Forget the ritual.


The great thing about ritual is it encodes the key aspects of recurring events so that they play out almost instinctively and thus the information that they embody is easily drawn to the attention of the participants.


The bad thing about ritual is that over time, it takes on a gloss, a rhythm and beat of it's own that serves the opposite function. Instinctive gestures and impulses which should lead to greater ---or at least renewed--- awareness, become so ingrained that they are replaced by reflex.

So forget the reflex. We're not swatting mosquitoes here.

I just want to point out that time is passing for all of us.

Hope we're making good use of it. (Whatever your definition of "good use" is, is fine with me.)

But here's the thing. I was looking at one of those lists of entertainment figures who passed away last year. We lost a lot of good ones.

Johnny Carson, James "Beam me up, Scotty" Doohan, Don "Sorry about that Chief" Adams...

The good news is, having worked in the field they did, much of their work is still available to us. And if we take the time to remember who they were and what they did, we discover an astounding thing...

They've been a part of our lives. These people we've never even met (in most cases) have been a part of our lives, part of that great figurative community we each carry around inside our heads.

From Euclid to Einstein, from Shakespeare to Arthur Miller, from Aristotle who thought about comedy to Don Adams and Johnny Carson who quite simply embodied it.

This is our community. This is our legacy. It belongs to all of us. So take just a couple minutes and scroll through the list below.

No. Seriously. Read it through. This is important.

It's too easy to just forget. To say "if I ever need that info I can look it up." Only one problem... if you aren't aware of it, how in the hell is it going to occur to you to look it up?

Some names listed below will mean nothing to you. Others will be familiar by their accomplishments. Others have made contributions, to music, to film, to the written word that serve as the ever-growing platform upon which we construct our world.

But some of them, if you stop and think about it, have held your attention for hours if not days out of your life. You chose to spend time with them (or at least with their work). You might have whiled away hours or days in fantasy about being them, or being like them or as talented as them or who knows.... being married to them.

(Hey, it's your fantasy-time don't let anyone tell you how to spend it!)

You might have spent a lot of time envying or idolizing them. But they weren't just idols. They were people, just like you.

And they grew up fantasizing about other real people, wanting to "be someone someone would want to be". (To quote Marillion's song Wendy from Marbles)

They grew up fantasizing about other real people, who had really done things in the real world. Same as you. And right now new generations are growing up doing the same thing.

Remember that. You don't have to be in entertainment to serve as somebody's idol.

Rembember that.

Because our lack our memory is killing us. We are fogetting important things.

Like the sheer joy of learning something and knowing it, just for the hell of it.

We are forgetting to learn and to keep learning.

We are forgetting to examine our connections to the world around us and KEEP examining them... and we are losing the insights and wisdom that kind of examination affords us.

We are forgetting to remember the world outside ourselves, that we are only a part of it and not alone in it.

As we glory and play in an ever-rising sea of information only the ability to reflect, to contrast, to examine and reexamine and view in perspective will keep us from drowning.

And none of this is possible without first knowing what it means to remember.

So take a BRIEF moment, read on and remember.

Maybe you'll help sustain a world in which somebody will take a moment to remember you once you're gone.

Celebrities who left us in 2005

Sacramento Bee 30-DEC-05

From the man who made _ would you believe?_ talking to his shoe cool, to Gilligan, to Mrs. Robinson and news and late-night talk show icons, here's a look at the celebrity icons who left us in 2005:

Don Adams, 82, comedian and three-time Emmy winner, starred as the fumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart in "Get Smart," the 1960s TV spoof of James Bond movies.

Mason Adams, 86, character actor who received three Emmy nominations for his role as the warmhearted newspaper managing editor on TV's "Lou Grant."

Eddie Albert, 99, versatile actor who moved smoothly from the Broadway stage to movies but found stardom as the constantly befuddled city slicker-turned-farmer in TV's "Green Acres."

Shana Alexander, 79, TV journalist whose on-air verbal skirmishes with conservative James J. Kilpatrick on CBS' "60 Minutes" were so popular they were spoofed on "Saturday Night Live."

Jack N. Anderson, 83, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who for years was America's most widely read newspaper columnist.

"Long" John Baldry, 64, British blues-rock singer who helped start the careers of the Rolling Stones, Rod Stewart, Elton John and other British stars.

Anne Bancroft, 73, winner of the 1962 best actress Oscar as the teacher of a young Helen Keller in "The Miracle Worker" (and a Tony Award for creating the role on Broadway) who achieved greater fame as the seductive Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate."

Barbara Bel Geddes, 82, actress who rose to stage and movie stardom but reached her greatest fame as Miss Ellie Ewing in the long-running TV series "Dallas."

Gary Belkin, 78, Emmy-winning comedy writer who worked on Sid Caesar's "Caesar's Hour," "The Carol Burnett Show" and "Sesame Street." Saul Bellow, 89, Nobel laureate and master of comic melancholy who, in "Herzog," "Humboldt's Gift" and other novels, both championed and mourned the soul's fate in the modern world.

Renaldo "Obie" Benson, 69, Motown singer for more than half a century who provided the bass vocal foundation to the Four Tops' lush harmonies.

Lamont Bentley, 31, played Hakeem Campbell in the UPN sitcom "Moesha" and Tupac Shakur in the TV movie "Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story."

Stan Berenstain, 82, writer who, with wife Jan, churned out more than 250 books showing how the warm and fuzzy Berenstain Bears confronted and learned from life's little crises.

Dennis Bigelow, 52, producing director of the Sacramento Theatre Company from 1986 to 1988 before becoming artistic director of Portland Center Stage and heading the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's residential theater experiment.

Lloyd Bochner, 81, actor best known for his roles as Cecil Colby on TV's "Dynasty" and in the "To Serve Man" episode of "The Twilight Zone."

Mike Botts, 61, the drummer for the 1970s rock band Bread; also recorded and toured with Linda Ronstadt, Dan Fogelberg, Eddie Money, Tina Turner and others.

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, 81, eminent blues guitarist and singer ("Okie Dokie Stomp").
Danny Joe Brown, 53, lead singer of the Southern rock band Molly Hatchet.

Oscar Brown Jr., 78, a singer, songwriter ("Brown Baby"), playwright and actor known for his distinctive blend of show-business savvy and social consciousness.

R.L. Burnside, 78, blues singer-guitarist who helped define the droning sound of the Mississippi hill country.

Hamilton Camp, 70, half of the folk-music duo Gibson & Camp, whose 1961 album, "Live at the Gate of Horn," became one of the era's must-have records.

"Little Milton" Campbell, 71, a bluesman with a gritty voice and a sensuous guitar style who had hits throughout the 1960s and '70s, including "I'm a Lonely Man."

Jim Capaldi, 60, drummer and songwriter with the British rock band Traffic ("Mr. Fantasy," "John Barleycorn Must Die"), which also included Steve Winwood, Dave Mason and Chris Wood.

Johnny Carson, 79, "Tonight Show" host from 1962 to 1992. "The king of late night" was considered the most powerful single performer on TV, winning four Emmys and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Vassar Clements, 77, fiddle virtuoso and A-list studio musician who played with Paul McCartney, Johnny Cash, the Grateful Dead, Hank Williams Jr., the Byrds and Woody Herman.
Frank Conroy, 69, who directed the University of Iowa's celebrated Writers' Workshop for nearly two decades and wrote "Stop-Time," a memoir chronicling his troubled,nomadic childhood.

Robert Creeley, 78, one of America's most celebrated poets and for more than half a century a leading figure in the literary avant-garde.

Ernest Crichlow, 91, Harlem Renaissance painter whose depictions of African Americans reflected shifting social realities through much of the 20th century.

Constance Cummings, 95, versatile American actress with a long career on stage, screen and television on both sides of the Atlantic.

Chris Curtis, 63, drummer with The Searchers ("Needles and Pins," "Sugar and Spice") in the 1960s.

Ossie Davis, 87, the imposing, unshakable actor ("Do the Right Thing") who championed racial justice on stage and screen, and in real life, often in tandem with his wife, Ruby Dee.

Tyrone Davis, 66, major Chicago rhythm and blues figure whose hit songs included "Can I Change My Mind."

Sandra Dee, 62, teenage actress who drew huge audiences with films such as "Gidget" and "Tammy and the Doctor," and later married singer Bobby Darin.

Vine Deloria Jr., 72, Sioux writer who burst into the American consciousness with "Custer Died for Your Sins" in 1969 and wrote 20 more books about the American Indian experience.
Martin Denny, 93, who recorded 38 albums that defined a genre of tropical mood music dubbed "exotica," which reflected tiki-lounge culture.

Bob Denver, 70, the goofball television comedian who played clueless beatnik Maynard G. Krebs on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis" and was first mate Gilligan, a hapless castaway on "Gilligan's Island."

James Doohan, 85, who was chief engineer of the Starship Enterprise in the original "Star Trek" TV series and movies and responded to the command "Beam me up, Scotty."

Paul Duke, 78, who lent both grace and gravitas to PBS' public affairs program "Washington Week in Review" as its host for two decades.

Spencer Dryden, 66, San Francisco rock band Jefferson Airplane's drummer, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Richard Eastham, 89, star on Broadway with Mary Martin in "South Pacific"; he went on to roles in several films, including Disney's 1965 "That Darn Cat!" and "Toby Tyler" in 1960.

Richard Eberhart, 101, 1966 Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, for "Selected Poems, 1930-1965"; he was considered one of the foremost writers of lyric verse in the 20th century.

Ralph Edwards, 92, broadcasting pioneer who spotlighted stars and ordinary people as host of the popular 1950s show "This Is Your Life."

Dana Elcar, 77, whose role as Peter Thornton on ABC's adventure series "MacGyver" depicted his real-life struggle with glaucoma and blindness. ("Baa Baa Black Sheep" --a.k.a. Black Sheep Squadron-- too I believe. I know he was on at least one of my favourite childhood shows.)

Stephen Elliott, 86, character actor who had recurring roles on the "Dallas" and "Dynasty" TV series and played a villain in the movie "Arthur."

Harold Ensley, 92, outdoors TV pioneer whose program, "The Sportsman's Friend," which lasted 48 years, was one of the first in the United States to feature fishing.

Ibrahim Ferrer, 78, Cuban singer who achieved long-delayed international fame after he was recruited for the Grammy-winning Buena Vista Social Club.

John Fiedler, 80, who played character roles on Broadway and in Hollywood but gained lasting fame among young audiences as the voice of Piglet in Walt Disney's Winnie the Pooh films.

Geraldine Fitzgerald, 91, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role in the 1939 film "Wuthering Heights" and rebelled against the Hollywood studio system before returning to the New York stage.

Myron Floren, 85, accordion virtuoso whose televised solos with the Lawrence Welk band became a staple of the cheerful folksiness of Welk's show.

Shelby Foote, 88, Southern author who became a national celebrity after he lent his observations to Ken Burns' 1990 PBS series "The Civil War."

John Fowles, 79, British author whose works include "The French Lieutenant's Woman" and "The Collector."

Al Frazier, 75, member of the West Coast-based vocal group the Rivingtons, whose "Papa-Oom-Mow-Mow" (my all-time favourite novelty song) and "The Bird's the Word" were novelty hits in the early 1960s.

Frank Kelly Freas, 82, artist and illustrator whose work included the jug-eared visage of Alfred E. Neuman for Mad magazine and the crew shoulder patch for Skylab I astronauts.

Christopher Fry, 97, British playwright best known for his durable comedy "The Lady's Not for Burning," and who also helped script Hollywood's 1959 epic blockbuster "Ben Hur."

R.C. Gorman, 74, famed Navajo artist who was internationally renowned for paintings and sculptures of female figures, often generously sized and draped in a blanket.

Frank Gorshin, 72, the impressionist with 100 faces best known for his Emmy-nominated role as the Riddler on the "Batman" TV series (1966-69).

Jimmy Griffin, 61, founder of the soft-rock group Bread who helped write the 1970 Oscar-winning song "For All We Know."

June Haver, 79, sunny blond star of 1940s musicals who was promoted as the next Betty Grable but gave up her career to briefly enter a convent and was married to Fred MacMurray.

Mitch Hedberg, 37, stand-up comedian who channeled his shyness into an act of offbeat musings, earning him a nationwide following and repeated appearances on "The Late Show With David Letterman."

Chet Helms, 82, revered father of San Francisco's Summer of Love in 1967 and a music promoter who launched the career of singer Janis Joplin.

Skitch Henderson, 87, conductor, pianist and radio and TV entertainer who provided music and repartee for the "Tonight" show in the 1950s and '60s, and who founded and led the New York Pops.

Paul Henning, 93, creator of the hit TV show "The Beverly Hillbillies" and writer of its theme song.

John Herald, 65, guitarist and singer whose group the Greenbriar Boys was among the first bluegrass bands in New York in the 1960s.

George Herman, 85, CBS correspondent for 43 years and moderator of the network's "Face the Nation" program for nearly 15 years.

Paul Hester, 46, drummer from the 1980s Australian rock band Crowded House, which he formed with singer Neil Finn and bass player Nick Seymour.

Hildegarde, 99, cabaret chanteuse whose career spanned almost seven decades.

Elsa Hilger, 101, cellist who was the first woman in the world, other than harpists, to be a permanent member of a major symphony orchestra (the Philadelphia Orchestra).

Gregg Hoffman, 42, film producer who developed an eight-minute film into the horror hit "Saw" (2004) and its gory successor, "Saw II" (2005).

Shirley Horn, 71, jazz vocalist and pianist who won a Grammy Award in 1998 for the album "I Remember Miles."

Evan Hunter, 78, novelist known to readers as Ed McBain, who wrote the 87th Precinct novels, as well as more than 100 other novels, short stories, plays and film scripts over 50 years and under different names.

Ruth Hussey, 93, actress who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as James Stewart's wisecracking girlfriend in 1940's "The Philadelphia Story."

Peter Jennings, 67, the urbane Canadian-born anchorman who led ABC's "World News Tonight" to the top of the ratings for 11 of the past 20 years.

John H. Johnson, 87, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines after World War II, who became one of the most influential black leaders in America.

Johnnie Johnson, 80, blues and rock 'n' roll pianist who played on many of Chuck Berry's early hits and performed with Berry for more than 20 years.

Joe Jones, 79, musician-turned-producer who sang the 1961 R&B hit "You Talk Too Much" and became an independent music publisher and advocate for black artists' rights.

Alvin M. Josephy Jr., 90, prolific historian on American Indian affairs who also was a war correspondent, screenwriter and government consultant.

Brian Kelly, 73, who starred as Porter Ricks, the father of two boys, in the popular 1960s NBC series "Flipper."

Bill King, 78, sportscaster who was the radio voice of the Oakland A's since 1981, and the play-by-play announcer for the Golden State Warriors (1962-83) and the Oakland Raiders (1966-92).

Keith Knudsen, 56, longtime Doobie Brothers drummer who was part of the band during a string of hits that included "Taking It to the Streets" and "Black Water."

Robert Koff, 86, founding member of the Juilliard String Quartet and a concert violinist who performed on modern and Baroque instruments.

Gavin Lambert, 80, British-born author of "Inside Daisy Clover" and the biographies of Norma Shearer and Natalie Wood, and one of Hollywood's finest chroniclers.

Frances Langford, 92, 1930s and '40s singer ("I'm in the Mood for Love") who traveled widely with Bob Hope entertaining troops during World War II.

Ruth Laredo, 67, American pianist known for groundbreaking recordings of the complete works of Scriabin and Rachmaninoff.

Dan Lee, 35, a lead animator at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville who worked on "A Bug's Life," "Toy Story 2," "Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo."

Chris LeDoux, 56, world-champion bareback rider who parlayed songs about rodeo cowboys into a successful country music career.

Ernest Lehman, 89, six-time Oscar nominee whose screenwriting and production credits include such classics as "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music."

David Lerchey, 67, founding member of the Del Vikings, one of the first integrated acts in rock 'n' roll ("Whispering Bells," "Come Go With Me").

Harold Leventhal, 86, internationally renowned folk music promoter who in 1963 presented a 21-year-old named Bob Dylan in his first major concert-hall appearance.

Sid Luft, 89, movie producer ("A Star Is Born") credited with reviving the career of his then-wife, Judy Garland, in the 1950s.

Virginia Mayo, 84, blond actress who brought beauty and romance to films of the 1940s and '50s with such co-stars as James Cagney, Bob Hope, Gregory Peck, Danny Kaye and Ronald Reagan.

Pat McCormick, 78, comedy writer for Phyllis Diller and Red Skelton; he also appeared on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" and had a role in three "Smokey and the Bandit" movies.

Al McKibbon, 86, bassist who brought a masterly fusion of jazz and Latin music to the George Shearing quintet and other groups in the 1940s and '50s.

Barney Martin, 82, comedian and stage actor best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld's father on the hit television series "Seinfeld."

Steve Mason, 65, "poet laureate of Vietnam veterans," whose poem "The Wall Within" was read at the 1984 dedication of the Vietnam Wall in Washington.

Jose Melis, 85, classically trained pianist who helped pioneer a broadcasting genre as orchestra leader for the "Tonight" show with Jack Paar.

Ismail Merchant, 68, half of the filmmaking team of Merchant Ivory, with his partner of 44 years, James Ivory, whose movies won six Academy Awards and defined the period-piece genre ("A Room With a View," "Howards End," "The Remains of the Day").

Dale Messick, 98, cartoonist who stormed the male world of the funny pages in the 1950s with her long-running comic strip "Brenda Starr, Reporter."

Arthur Miller, 89, playwright whose authorship of such theater classics as "Death of a Salesman," "The Crucible," "All My Sons" and "A View From the Bridge" made him a giant of the 20th century American stage.

Sir John Mills, 97, Academy Award-winning actor for his supporting performance in "Ryan's Daughter" (1970), and patriarch of one of Britain's leading theatrical families (daughters are Hayley and Juliet Mills).

Wayne Miyata, 63, surfer who appeared in the cult surfing film "The Endless Summer" and was later known among aficionados for his talent in decorating surfboards.

Robert A. Moog, 71, innovator whose self-named synthesizers turned electric currents into sound, revolutionizing music in the 1960s.

Constance Moore, 84, versatile actress of Hollywood films in the 1930s and '40s; she also starred in the short-lived TV series (1961-62) "Window on Main Street."

Benjamin Mordecai, 60, theater producer long associated with the plays of August Wilson, including "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (1984), "Fences" (1987) and "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" (1988).

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, 73, Isleton-born actor who received a 1985 Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the martial arts instructor, Mr. Miyagi, in the popular "Karate Kid" movies. (And of course, from Happy Days.)

Howard Morris, 85, comic co-star of the TV classic "Your Show of Shows" before finding success as a film director ("Who's Minding the Mint?" in 1967) and as poetry-spouting Ernest T. Bass on "The Andy Griffith Show."

Karl Mueller, 41, founding member and bassist of the rock band Soul Asylum ("Black Gold," "Runaway Train").

Sheree North, 72, platinum blond bombshell in 1950s films ("How To Be Very, Very Popular," 1955); she grew into older character roles on TV shows such as "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Seinfeld."

Louis Nye, 92, veteran sidekick comic who created a national catchphrase when he belted out "Hi Ho, Steverino" on Steve Allen's groundbreaking 1950s TV show.

Daniel O'Herlihy, 85, who was nominated for an Oscar for his leading-man performance in "The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" (1954). He ranged from the Irish stage to TV and movies during a 50-year career.

M. Scott Peck, 69, psychiatrist who worked his way into national consciousness with the publication of his 1978 self-help book "The Road Less Traveled."

Paul Pena, 55, San Francisco blues guitarist who wrote one of the biggest hits for the Steve Miller Band, "Jet Airliner," a Top-10 hit in 1977.

Brock Peters, 78, actor best known for his performance as the man falsely accused of rape in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Helen L. Phillips, 86, soprano who broke the color barrier among singers at the Metropolitan Opera seven years before Marian Anderson's historic debut.

Richard Pryor, 65, pioneering comedian whose audacious style influenced generations of stand-up artists and who became one of Hollywood's biggest stars with such films as "Stir Crazy," "Silver Streak" and "Which Way Is Up?"

Amrish Puri, 72, Bollywood's favorite villain also found roles in British and American movies, including "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" (1984).

Ford Rainey, 96, stage actor who also was a familiar face in such movies as "The Sand Pebbles," "Two Rode Together" and on the TV series "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke," "Route 66" and "Perry Mason."

John Raitt, 88, Broadway leading man and father of singer Bonnie Raitt, who launched his career in "Carousel" (1945) and later co-starred in the Broadway and film versions of "The Pajama Game."

Nell Rankin, 81, mezzo-soprano who sang with the Metropolitan Opera for more than two decades and performed in such marquee roles as Carmen and Amneris in Verdi's "Aida."
Eugene Record, 64, leader of the 1970s harmony group the Chi-Lites, which scored hits with mellifluous soul ballads like "Oh Girl" and "Have You Seen Her?"

Charles Rocket, 56, actor and former "Saturday Night Live" comedian.

Meta Rosenberg, 89, Emmy-winning executive producer of the TV series "The Rockford Files," who also was a talent agent and photographer.

Judith Rossner, 70, author whose hugely successful novel "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" was made into a movie starring Diane Keaton.

Nipsey Russell, 80, stand-up comedian who became a national TV personality through his frequent appearances on variety, talk and game shows and received critical acclaim for his role as the Tin Man in the 1978 film "The Wiz."

Herb Sargent, 81, veteran TV comedy writer who helped the fledgling Not Ready for Prime Time Players make "Saturday Night Live" a hit with skits like "Weekend Update."

Maria Schell, 79, Austrian actress who appeared in several American movies, including "The Hanging Tree" (1959) and "Superman" (1978), and was a German film star.

Chris Schenkel, 82, whose versatility and genial style for many years on ABC Sports made him one of the most important sports broadcasters from the 1950s to the '70s.

Vincent Schiavelli, 57, droopy-eyed character actor who appeared in scores of movies, including "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Ghost." (And Amadeus, and...)

Fritz Scholder, 67, expressionist painter, known for his "Indian series"; he studied art at Sacramento City College and the then-Sacramento State College, and had early exhibitions locally at the Artist's Cooperative Gallery and Crocker Art Museum.

Debralee Scott, 52, actress who was a regular on the TV sitcom "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," and a frequent face on the 1970s game show circuit.

George Scott, 75, founding member of the Grammy-winning gospel group, the Blind Boys of Alabama.

John Seitz, 67, mainstay of the off-Broadway stage for 40 years who won Obie Awards for his performances in "Abingdon Square" (1988) and "Talk" (2001).

Bobby Short, 80, suave, tuxedoed cabaret singer who epitomized Manhattan glamour and sophistication with renderings of the great American songbook.

Simone Simon, 93, French actress best known to American audiences for her haunting role in the 1942 RKO horror film "Cat People."

Jimmy Smith, 79, who was known as the "Emperor of the Hammond Organ" for turning the Hammond B-3 from a novelty instrument in jazz to a legitimate option for keyboard players.

Lane Smith, 69, longtime character actor played Richard Nixon in the TV movie "The Final Days," and Perry White in "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman."
Freddy Soto, 35, up-and-coming comic whose routines focused on Latino family life and growing up in El Paso, Texas.

John Spencer, 58, actor who played presidential chief of staff and vice presidential candidate Leo McGarry on NBC's "The West Wing."

Hunter S. Thompson, 67, maverick journalist and author ("Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas") whose savage chronicling of the underbelly of American life and politics embodied a new kind of nonfiction writing he called "gonzo journalism."

Luther Vandross, 54, four-time Grammy winner whose deep, lush voice on such hits as "Here and Now" and "Any Love" sold more than 25 million albums while providing the romantic backdrop for couples worldwide.

John Vernon, 72, stage-trained character actor who played cunning villains in film and TV and made his comedy mark as Dean Wormer in "National Lampoon's Animal House."

Coley Wallace, 77, boxer who played Joe Louis in "The Joe Louis Story" (1953) and in "Raging Bull" (1980), and knocked out Rocky Marciano in an amateur bout.

Kay Walsh, early 90s, actress who starred in some of the finest British films of the 1940s, including "Oliver Twist" (1948), and helped then-husband David Lean emerge as a director.
Ruth Warrick, 88, last surviving cast member of Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" and longtime star of the soap opera "All My Children."

Arnold Weinstein, 78, poet, playwright and librettist who wrote works performed on and off Broadway, including "A View From the Bridge" (with Arthur Miller) and "A Wedding" (with Robert Altman).

"Okie" Paul Westmoreland, 88, who wrote the 1954 hit song "Detour," which was recorded by Dean Martin, Willie Nelson and Patti Page.

Chris Whitley, 45, innovative songwriter and guitarist who played traditional blues as well as hybrids made with the sounds of electronic dance music.

Tom Wilde, 88, former Hollywood actor ("Dragnet," "The Untouchables," "Perry Mason") who taught English and drama at Sacramento's Encina High School and appeared in several Music Circus productions.

August Wilson, 60, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who sought to distill virtually the entire African-American experience in a cycle of 10 poetic and spiritually questing dramas, one for each decade of the 20th century.

Ronald Winans, 48, a Grammy-winning member of the Winans gospel quartet and pioneer in helping take gospel music mainstream.

Paul Winchell, 82, ventriloquist creator of puppet Jerry Mahoney; he later became famous as the animated voice of Tigger, Winnie the Pooh's exuberant friend.

Robert Wise, 91, editor of "Citizen Kane," director and producer of two of the most beloved movie musicals of all time, "West Side Story" and "The Sound of Music," and four-time Oscar winner.

Link Wray, 76, rock guitar pioneer who gave birth to the aggressively primal sound known as the power chord on his 1958 instrumental hit "Rumble."

Teresa Wright, 86, who won a supporting actress Academy Award in 1942 for "Mrs. Miniver" and co-starred in such notable films as "The Little Foxes," "The Pride of the Yankees," "Shadow of a Doubt" and "The Best Years of Our Lives." (Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service,