The following are 12 personalities and/or public figures (some more familiar than others) that have passed on in the past several weeks. Most recent deaths are shown at the top. Note: some deaths are not reported for days, even weeks. That is why some obit updates do not appear on the top. Once again, obits are listed in order of date of death, most recent date on top.
Verne Troyer, who is best known for playing Mini-Me in the Austin Powers franchise, has died. He was 49. "It is with great sadness and incredibly heavy hearts to write that Verne passed away today. Verne was an extremely caring individual. He wanted to make everyone smile, be happy, and laugh. Anybody in need, he would help to any extent possible," his family confirmed in a statement shared on Instagram. "Verne hoped he made a positive change with the platform he had and worked towards spreading that message everyday. He inspired people around the world with his drive, determination, and attitude. On film & television sets, commercial shoots, at comic-con's & personal appearances, to his own YouTube videos, he was there to show everyone what he was capable of doing," the statement continued. On April 2, Troyer was rushed to the hospital for a "reported poisoning." The Los Angeles City Fire Department confirmed that they were called to the actor's North Hollywood home. Law enforcement sources told TMZ that Troyer was "extremely upset, drunk and suicidal." In the statement, Troyer's family wrote: "During this recent time of adversity he was baptized while surrounded by his family. The family appreciates that they have this time to grieve privately. Depression and Suicide are very serious issues. You never know what kind of battle someone is going through inside. Be kind to one another. And always know, it's never too late to reach out to someone for help."
Bruno Sammartino, professional wrestling's "Living Legend" and one of its longest-reigning champions, has died. Sammartino was 82. Sammartino was wrestling's biggest box office draw in the 1960s and 1970s and held the World Wide Wrestling Federation championship for more than 11 years (4,040 days) over two title runs. He was born in Italy and his family immigrated when he was a child to Pittsburgh, where he learned how to become a pro wrestler. The promotion now known as WWE said Sammartino sold out Madison Square Garden , known as the mecca of professional wrestling, 187 times over his career. Sammartino and WWE had a bitter falling out in the late 1980s that lasted until the company's greatest star accepted his induction into the Hall of Fame in 2013. He was inducted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sammartino defeated Buddy Rogers in just 48 seconds to become the second-ever WWE Champion in front of nearly 20,000 fans on May 17, 1963 at the old Madison Square Garden. He held the title until 1971. His second reign began in 1973 and it lasted until he was pinned by "Superstar" Billy Graham in 1977. Sammartino became a broadcaster for the company in the 1980s and later became outspoken about the company's evolving philosophy that put the emphasis on entertainment. Sammartino and Hulk Hogan are the biggest long-term box office draws in WWE history and two tagged together in the "Legend's" final match.
With her cloud of snow-white hair, signature three strand pearls and compelling presence, Barbara Bush's image was what she laughingly called "everybody's grandmother." But the feisty, outspoken Bush was also a tireless advocate for literacy , an author, experienced campaigner and both wife and mother of a U.S. president. Bush, 92, died, shortly after her family announced she was in failing health and would decline further medical treatment in favor of "comfort care." There were no details of her specific health problems. The announcement was made in a statement from the office of former President George H.W. Bush. "A former First Lady of the United States of America and relentless proponent of family literacy, Barbara Pierce Bush passed away Tuesday, April 17, 2018 at the age of 92. She is survived by her husband of 73 years, President George H. W. Bush; five children and their spouses; 17 grandchildren; seven great grandchildren; and her brother, Scott Pierce. She was preceded in death by her second child, Pauline Robinson 'Robin' Bush, and her siblings Martha Rafferty and James R. Pierce." Along the way, she wrote two books about the family dogs, "C. Fred's Story" and the best-selling "Millie's Book," with profits benefitting literacy. After her husband left the White House, she wrote a best-selling autobiography "Barbara Bush: A Memoir" in 1994 followed by "Reflections" in 2004. Bush once explained that people liked her because "I'm fair and I like children and I adore my husband."
Harry Anderson, who earned multiple Emmy nominations for playing Judge Harry T. Stone on the NBC comedy Night Court, was found dead at a home in Asheville, NC. He was 65. No cause of death was reported. Anderson appeared in three Season 1 episodes of NBC's Cheers as local flim-flam man/magician Harry "The Hat" Gitties, including a memorable sting episode in which he starred. That role, which he would reprise a few times later on the then-rising sitcom, led to his landing the lead in Night Court. The sitcom also starring John Larroquette, Markie Post and Richard Moll followed the wacky goings-on in a Manhattan night court and its staffers led by Stone, a boyish, grinning, jeans-and-sneakers jurist who was unconventional to say the least. It debuted in January 1984 as a midseason replacement and the lead-out of Cheers. The show went on to be part of its primetime lineup for the next nine seasons. Anderson, also an accomplished magician, would earn three consecutive Emmy nominations for the role from 1985-87, and he stayed with the series through its 193-episode run. Night Court was a top 10 show in all of primetime for its third and fourth seasons as it and Cheers gained in popularity. That fall, Anderson returned to TV as the star of Dave's World, the CBS sitcom in which he played syndicated newspaper columnist Dave Barry. It lasted four seasons through 1997. Anderson also made multiple appearances on Saturday Night Live in the early and mid-'80s, including a hosting gig in February 1985.
R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine Corps drill instructor known to millions of moviegoers as the sadistic Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Stanley Kubrick's "Full Metal Jacket," died due to complications from pneumonia. He was 74. A Kansas native, Ermey enlisted in the Marine Corps and age 17 and spent 14 months in Vietnam before he was discharged in 1972. He served as a technical adviser in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War epic, "Apocalypse Now," in which he also had a small role as a helicopter pilot. But Ermey didn't get his big break until eight years later, in Kubrick's own take on Vietnam. He was originally supposed to be a technical adviser, but Kubrick offered him the role of Gunnery Sergeant Hartman after seeing a demo tape of Ermey railing at extras. The main target of Ermey's wrath is the unfortunate, overweight Private Pyle, played by Vincent D'Onofrio. "Full Metal Jacket" earned Ermey a Golden Globe nomination, as well as a career playing authority figures, from Mayor Tilman in 1988's "Mississippi Burning" to a toy soldier sergeant in the more family-friendly "Toy Story." An outspoken conservative, Ermey spoke to Fox News in 2016 about being "blackballed" from Hollywood over his political views. Ermey, who was an NRA board member, said at the time that his association with the organization and his disapproval of President Obama cost him acting jobs. "Do you realize I have not done a movie in five to six years? Why? Because I was totally blackballed by the ... liberals in Hollywood," he alleged. "They can destroy you. They're hateful people [who] don't just not like you, they want to take away your livelihood ... that's why I live up in the desert on a dirt road ... I don't have to put up with their crap."
Longtime radio host Art Bell, whose paranormal-themed show "Coast to Coast AM" was nationally syndicated, died at his Nevada home, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. He was 72. Bell's show was broadcast on approximately 500 North American radio stations during its peak in the 1990s. Bell's program aired from his hometown of Pahrump before he left the late-night show in 2002. He had a brief stint on SiriusXM satellite radio in 2013, the Review-Journal reported. Bell was born in Jacksonville, North Carolina, on June 17, 1945. He was a medic during the Vietnam War. According to the Coast to Coast AM website, Bell was an FCC licensed radio technician at age 13. The website also said that Bell set a Guinness World Record for a solo broadcast marathon, at more than 116 hours, while working as a DJ on KSBK in Okinawa, Japan. That record has since been broken; the current mark of 205 hours, 2 minutes, 54 seconds was set in 2016 by Stefano Venneri on Radio BBSI in Alessandria, Italy, Guinness said on its website. Bell announced his retirement from weekend hosting on July 1, 2007, but occasionally served as a guest host through 2010. He attributed the reason for his retirement to a desire to spend time with his new wife and their daughter, born May 30, 2007. He added that unlike his previous "retirements", this one was permanent, while leaving open the option to return. Bell founded and was the original owner of Pahrump-based radio station KNYE 95.1 FM. His broadcast studio and transmitter were located near his home in Pahrump where he also hosted Coast to Coast AM. However, from June to December 2006, he lived in the Philippines. He and his family returned to the Philippines in March 2009, after having significant difficulties obtaining a U.S. visa for his wife, Airyn.
Milos Forman, winner of Best Director Oscars for both One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus, has died, Czech press agency CTK reported. The Czech-born filmmaker, who left his native country in 1968 in the wake of the Prague Spring, was 86. Forman was tapped by producer Michael Douglas to helm Ken Kesey's novel One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. The film, which had been a Douglas family project since its pre-publication rights had been purchased by Kirk Douglas in 1961, earned five Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson and Best Actress for Louise Fletcher. The major categories sweep made Forman an instant and sought-after Hollywood player with a reputation for being able to bring to the screen projects that frustrated other directors. Forman followed Cuckoo's Nest with film versions of the musical Hair (1979) and E.L. Doctorow's multi-storied novel Ragtime (1981). After becoming a U.S. citizen in 1977, Forman dramatically returned to Czechoslavakia, still under Communist rule, to shoot scenes for Amadeus, including opera sequences at the same theater where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had premiered Don Giovanni 200 years earlier. The highly unconventional biography won a total of eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham) and Forman's second Best Director statue. His later films included Valmont (1989), The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996), Man on the Moon (1999) and Ghosts of Goya (2006). Forman was recently featured in Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, Jim Carrey's Netflix documentary about playing Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon.
Tim O'Connor, longtime character actor who co-starred in "Peyton Place" and "Buck Rogers," died at his home in Nevada City, Calif., according to multiple news sources. He was 90. O'Connor appeared in over 400 episodes of 1960s prime-time soap opera "Peyton Place." He played Elliot Carson, an ex-con who was revealed to be the father of Allison MacKenzie, played by Mia Farrow. He later married her mother, Constance MacKenzie, played by Dorothy Malone. He also starred in the first season of the sci-fi TV series "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," as Dr. Elias Huer, who helped 20th century hero Buck Rogers adapt to the future world. O'Connor was born on the South Side of Chicago. He studied acting at the Goodman Theatre and worked in local TV. In 1965 he landed his role on "Peyton Place" and moved to Santa Monica, Calif. Once he began appearing on television he rarely had a break. He appeared in notable series like "All in the Family," "The Fugitive," "M*A*S*H*," "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and dozens more. He often played authority figures, military officers and businessmen, but he never felt typecast. "I just took whatever came along. I never thought in terms of type. I played so many different kinds of guys," he said in a 2010 interview with the Classic TV History website. While continuing to act on TV and in the movies, he moved to Nevada City, northeast of Sacramento, in 1982. There he served as a director for the Foothill Theater Company.
Actress Susan Anspach, whose style came to epitomize the counterculture of the 1960s and '70s in such films as Five Easy Pieces, passed away at her home in Los Angeles from coronary problems. She was 75. Anspach was on the cutting edge of acting in the 1960s. She appeared in the off-Broadway version of Hair early in her career, then moved on to such films as The Landlord, Blume in Love and opposite Jack Nicholson in Five Easy Pieces. Anspach (pronounced ONS-bok) began her film career in 1972 in Hal Ashby's The Landlord (1970), following that same year with her definitive role, the classic Five Easy Piece directed by Bob Rafelson. Anspach portrayed a New Age intellectual who sleeps with Nicholson even though she is engaged to his character's brother. She continued along with a busy schedule, appearing as writer-director-star Woody Allen's ex-wife in 1972's Play It Again, Sam. After college, she moved to New York and fell in with then-struggling actors Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. She made her stage debut in 1965 in the off-Broadway play A View from the Bridge, which also starred Voight and Robert Duvall. Anspach worked into her 60s in film and television, appeared in the 2009 movie Wild About Harry.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, prominent anti-apartheid activist and the ex-wife of Nelson Mandela, died in a hospital after a long illness. She was 81. Madikizela-Mandela was married to Mandela from 1958 to 1996. Mandela, who died in 2013, was imprisoned throughout most of their marriage and Madikizela-Mandela's own activism against white minority rule led to her being imprisoned for months and placed under house arrest for years. "She kept the memory of her imprisoned husband Nelson Mandela alive during his years on Robben Island and helped give the struggle for justice in South Africa one of its most recognizable faces," the family said. However, Madikizela-Mandela's political activism was marred by her conviction in 1991 for kidnapping and assault, for which she was fined. She faced these allegations again during the 1997 hearings before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a panel that investigated apartheid-era crimes. As a parliamentarian after South Africa's first all-race elections, she was convicted of fraud. Still, Madikizela-Mandela remained a venerated figure in the ruling African National Congress, which has led South Africa since the end of apartheid in 1994. She was a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle who continued to tell the party "exactly what is wrong and what is right at any time," said senior ANC leader Gwede Mantashe. Nobel laureate and former archbishop Desmond Tutu, a periodic critic of the ruling party over the years, described Madikizela-Mandela as "a defining symbol" of the fight against apartheid.
Steven Bochco, creator of classics such as NYPD Blue and Hill Street Blues that helped redefined the medium of television, has died at 74 after a long battle with leukemia. Bochco's series over several decades revamped the cop and legal genres and created lucrative franchises for NBC and ABC. He had most recently co-created mystery crime-drama Murder in the First, which began its run on TNT in 2014. Another TNT show he created, Raising the Bar, ran for two seasons in 2008 and 2009. Among his other credits was L.A. Law, a significant hit for NBC in the 1980s which he was working on rebooting in recent years. Bochco was nominated for an Emmy 30 times as producer and writer, winning 10. His many other honors include the Humanitas Prize and Peabody honors. He created Hill Street Blues, his breakout, which premiered in 1981. It collected eight Emmys in its debut season and racked up 98 nominations in its seven-season run. The other trailblazing aspect of Hill Street, whose cult-y catch phrase was "Let's be careful out there," was its serialized narrative. In 1987, Bochco signed an unprecedented six-year, 10-series deal at ABC, which let him own the series he developed. The decision led to some middling shows, among them Murder One and City of Angels, but also to his peak achievement, NYPD Blue. From the pilot of the show to its finale 12 seasons later, it continually pushed the boundaries of decency in skirmishes that might seem almost quaint by today's standards. In a statement, Disney CEO Bob Iger called Bochco "a visionary, a creative force, a risk taker, a witty, urbane story teller with an uncanny ability to know what the world wanted."
Debbie Lee Carrington, who is probably best known for her roles in Star Wars sequel Return of the Jedi, Total Recall, and Bride of Chucky, has passed away at the age of 58. Carrington performed as an actress and stuntwoman in many Hollywood and TV projects over the years, including Seinfeld, Titanic, Howard the Duck, The Drew Carey Show, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, and many, many more. There is currently no information on the cause of death. Carrington was also an advocate for the rights of people with disabilities in Hollywood and also had a degree in child psychology, which earned her much respect in the industry along with her giant body of work. Mike Quinn, who worked with Debbie Lee Carrington on Return of the Jedi, had this to say. "So sad to hear of the passing of a fellow Return Of The Jedi performer Debbie Lee Carrington. She was an advocate for actors with disabilities and had a degree in child psychology. She had done so much, not only as an Ewok but was inside the costume for Howard The Duck, appeared in Total Recall, Grace & Frankie, Dexter, Captain Eo, the list goes on...Way too young. She was a real powerhouse! My condolences to all her family and friends at this time." Carrington was born with dwarfism, a condition in which a person will not grow beyond 4'10", even into adulthood.