March 5, 2018

Actor David Ogden Stiers, most famous for starring in the last six seasons of MASH, died Saturday at his home in Newport, Oregon, a town on the central Oregon Coast. He was 75, and his agent said the cause of death was bladder cancer. Stiers stepped in to play Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III, a snobby Bostonian with serious surgical skills and wit, in 1977, when MASH star Alan Alda's previous foil, Maj. Frank Burns (Larry Linville), left the show.

Stiers was born in Peoria, Illinois, in 1942, then moved with his family to Eugene, Oregon. He started his acting career as a stage actor in Santa Clara, California, then moved to New York, making his Broadway debut in 1973. He was in several films, including voicing the clock Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast (1991), the villain Jumba Jookiba in Lilo & Stitch (2002), and the announcer in George Lucas' first feature film, THX 1138 (1971). Stiers also served as resident conductor of the Newport Symphony Orchestra. He never married, and he came out as gay in 2009. "I wish to spend my life's twilight being just who I am," he said at the time. You can watch him in action as Maj. Winchester below. Peter Weber

February 13, 2018

Vic Damone, a singer of the popular American songbook who admired and was admired by Frank Sinatra, died on Sunday at age 89. His daughter Victoria Damone said the cause of death was complications from a respiratory illness. Damone's career started taking off when he tied for first place in the radio show Arthur Godfrey's Talent Hunt, but his first break was trapping Perry Como in an elevator while he was an usher at New York's Paramount Theater; after an impromptu guerrilla audition, Como referred the 14-year-old Damone to a local bandleader, his family said in a statement.

Damone was born Vito Farinola in Brooklyn in 1928, the son of immigrants from Bari, Italy. (Damone was his mother's maiden name.) He dropped out of high school after his father was injured at his job as an electrician. He went on to sell millions of records, scoring hits including "Again," "My Heart Cries for You," "On the Street Where You Live," and the title song of the 1957 Cary Grant classic An Affair to Remember.

Damone was originally cast as the wedding coroner in The Godfather, ultimately losing the role to Al Martino. He performed into his 70s, retiring to Palm Beach, Florida, due to illness. Damone married his first wife, Italian across Pier Angeli, in 1954, after her mother refused to let her marry James Dean, The Associated Press reports. After their divorce in 1959, he went on to marry four other women, including actress-singer Dihann Carroll from 1987 to 1996. His fifth wife, fashion designer Rena Rowan, died in 2016. Damone is survived by two sisters, three daughters, and six grandchildren. Peter Weber

February 6, 2018

John Mahoney, a prolific actor best known for playing the curmudgeonly father Martin Crane on Frasier from 1993 to 2004, died in Chicago on Sunday, his manager, Paul Martino, said Monday. He was 77 and had been in hospice care. Mahoney, who moved to the U.S. from his native England at age 19, quit his job as a medical magazine editor and started acting full-time in his late 30s at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre, after meeting cofounder John Malkovich in 1977.

Along with his stage career, which he resumed after Frasier ended, Mahoney's film credits include Moonstruck, The American President, In the Line of Fire, Tin Men, Barton Fink, Reality Bites, The Russia House, and Say Anything, where he played the disapproving father of John Cusack's love interest.

He also had guest spots on Cheers, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and a recurring role as Betty White's love interest on Hot in Cleveland. Mahoney's awards include a Tony in 1986 for The House of Blue Leaves on Broadway and a SAG Award for playing Martin Crane on Frasier, a role that also earned him two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations. Peter Weber

January 3, 2018
George Frey/Getty Images

Thomas S. Monson, 16th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, died Tuesday night at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 90 and had been in poor health. Monson was president, "prophet, seer, and revelator" of the Mormon church for nearly a decade, but he had been one of the church's 12 apostles since 1963, at age 36, after 14 years as a bishop. When he joined the top ranks of the LDS church 53 years ago, there were 2.1 million Mormons and 12 temples around the world; by the time he died, the religion had expanded to 15.9 million members and 157 temples, Utah's Deseret News notes.

Monson will be succeeded by Russell M. Nelson, who is 93 but was ordained an apostle in 1984. When Monson had been ordained 20 years earlier, he "joined a quorum with a handful of men who knew or were raised by Latter-day Saint pioneers who crossed the plains in 1847," the Deseret News says. "They could speak from experience about the church before the Manifesto that ended polygamy in 1890. ... He was the final prophet to have served in the Twelve with church leaders who had known men who knew the first, Joseph Smith." Monson was also the last living person who was present in June 1978 when the Mormon leaders received a revelation allowing black people and other minorities to become full members of the church, a move Monson supported.

Monson's presidency also covered some significant tumult and famous firsts for the Mormon church, including a push against same-sex marriage, a fight over ordaining women, severance of the LDS relationship with the Boy Scouts, a move toward openness on doctrine and history, the first Mormon presidential nominee, and a modernization of the LDS public communications system. You can read more about Monson's life at the Deseret News and The Salt Lake Tribune. Peter Weber

December 26, 2017

Heather Menzies-Urich, a TV and movie actress whose best-known role was Louisa von Trapp in the 1965 movie The Sound of Music, died Sunday night in Frankford, Ontario, in her native Canada, her son Ryan Urich said Monday. She was 68 and had recently been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Menzies-Urich landed the role of the third-oldest von Trapp child at age 14, and she went on to act in the movies Hawaii, Piranha, and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, as well as the TV shows Dragnet, Bonanza, The Bob Newhart Show, and a starring role in Logan's Run.

Menzies-Urich, whose family moved from Canada to California when she was a teenager, met her husband, Robert Urich, while filming a commercial for Libby's Corned Beef Hash in the mid-1970s, Variety reports. After he died from cancer in 2002, Menzies-Urich started the Robert Urich Foundation for cancer research and support. She is survived by three children, several grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. Peter Weber

December 12, 2017

Ed Lee, San Francisco's mayor, died Tuesday morning, according to a statement from his office. He was 65, and no cause of death was given. "It is with profound sadness and terrible grief that we confirm that Mayor Edwin M. Lee passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at 1:11 a.m. at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital," Lee's office said. "Family, friends, and colleagues were at his side. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Anita, his two daughters, Brianna and Tania, and his family."

Lee, San Francisco's first Asian American mayor, took the job reluctantly in 2011, but was re-elected in 2015. London Breed, the president of the city Board of Supervisors, was named acting mayor, effective immediately. Peter Weber

November 20, 2017

Mel Tillis, an eminent country singer-songwriter famous for his song catalog and stuttering when he spoke but not when he sang, died on Sunday in Ocala, Florida, likely of respiratory failure though his publicist said Tillis had "battled intestinal issues since early 2016 and never fully recovered." He was 85. Tillis' long career began in Nashville in 1957, after a stint in the Air Force and trucking and railroad jobs, plus some college.

When he was playing rhythm guitar for Minnie Pearl in the late 1950s, Pearl urged him to use his stutter for comedic effect, and he found that audiences responded to his humor. But he is remembered more for serious songs like "Detroit City" and "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," the latter about a paralyzed Vietnam War vet whose wife is cheating on him. It was a 1969 hit for Kenny Rogers, but here is Tillis singing it on The Porter Wagoner Show in 1967:

Tillis himself scored six No. 1 singles on the country charts, including "Coca-Cola Cowboy," and 35 singles in the Top 10, mostly in the mid-1970s through early 1980s. He was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1967, inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007, and awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama in 2012. He had mixed feelings about his stutter, saying he always hoped to beat it even as it propelled him to fame — as in the 1972 bit for the The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.

Tillis is survived by six children, six grandchildren, one great grandson, his longtime partner, Kathy DeMonaco, and his first wife, Doris Tiliis. Peter Weber

October 3, 2017

Rock superstar Tom Petty died Monday night, after suffering cardiac arrest late Sunday at his home in Malibu, his band's longtime manager Tony Dimitriade announced Monday night. Petty "could not be revived" at the UCLA Medical Center, Dimitriade said. "He died peacefully at 8:40 p.m. PT surrounded by family, his bandmates, and friends." Petty was 66. He had just wrapped up a summer tour with his band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, at the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 25.

Petty was born Oct. 20, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida, and he traced his interest in rock 'n' roll to a meeting with Elvis Presley his uncle set up at a local movie shoot when Petty was 11. The Heartbreakers grew out of his band Mudcrutch, which fell apart after moving to Los Angeles and signing a record deal. The band's early hits include "Breakdown," "Refugee," and "Don't Do Me Like That." In the '80s, Petty sang a hit duet with Stevie Nicks, "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around," then climbed the charts with "Don't Come Around Here No More" in 1985.

In 1988, Petty took a break from the Heartbreakers to join Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynn in The Traveling Wilburys, and in between the super-group's two albums, he recorded a solo album, Full Moon Fever, whose hits "Free Fallin'" and "Won't Back Down" made Petty a huge star. He recorded another hit album with the Heartbreakers, Into the Great Wide Open, in 1991. The title song's video featured Johnny Depp and Faye Dunaway.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, which was active up until his death, was inaugurated into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and Petty was honored with UCLA's George and Ira Gershwin Award for lifetime achievement in 1996. Petty's long marriage to Jane Benyo fell apart in the mid-1990s as Petty got hooked on heroin for a few years. But the love of music stayed with him until the end. "Music, as far as I have seen in the world so far, is the only real magic that I know," he told CNN in 2007. "There is something really honest and clean and pure and it touches you in your heart." Peter Weber

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