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.
Charlotte Rae, the Emmy and Tony-nominated actress who entertained TV audiences as Mrs. Garrett on "The Facts of Life" and "Diff'rent Strokes," died of unknown causes at the age of 92, her publicist announced. Born Charlotte Rae Lubotsky, she was best known for her role as beloved housemother Edna Garrett, who first appeared on "Diff'rent Strokes" in 1978 before earning her own spinoff, "The Facts of Life," the following year. Viewers quickly fell in love with Mrs. Garrett, who also served as a wise yet sharp-tongued mentor to the young women on "The Facts of Life." By 1986, she left the show, saying there was nothing left to pursue with her character. The actress started her career on the radio and in theater as a teenager. She announced in April 2017 that she was diagnosed with bone cancer, and seven years prior to that was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Charlotte Rae said it was a "miracle" they found the pancreatic cancer "because usually, it's too late." She revealed her mother, sister and uncle died of pancreatic cancer and that she was cancer-free after six months of chemotherapy. The actress told Fox News last spring that she still stayed in touch with her family from "The Facts of Life," and that when Kim Fields, who played Tootie, was on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" in 2016, Rae was in the studio cheering her on.
Elmarie Wendel, the actress best known for portraying the eccentric landlady Mrs. Dubcek on the '90s sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun, has died at age 89. Wendel's daughter, fellow actress J.C. Wendel, confirmed her mother's passing and paid tribute to her on Instagram, writing, "#ripelmariewendel you were a great mom and a badass dame." An Iowa native, Wendel grew up in a performing family, traveling with her two musical parents throughout her childhood before settling in New York City and finding early success on Broadway. It was a national touring production of Annie that brought Wendel to Hollywood. Prior to the success she found as Mrs. Dubcek beginning in 1996, Wendel racked up guest star credits on television shows including Seinfeld; NYPD Blue; Murphy Brown; and Murder, She Wrote. 3rd Rock ended its run in 2001, and Wendel continued to perform, making her mark as a voice actress as Aunt Grizelda in the 2012 big-screen Dr. Seuss adaptation The Lorax. In 2015, she lent her voice to the popular videogame Fallout 4. Wendel continued to work in live action as well, most notably appearing as assembly line worker Gina on George Lopez from 2003 to 2007. Throughout her career, Wendel's Broadway credits included Wonderful Town, Little Mary Sunshine, Gigi, and Cole Porter Revisited.
Roger Perry, the veteran character actor who guest-starred on a memorable episode of the original Star Trek and portrayed Eastland headmaster Charles Parker on The Facts of Life, has died after a battle with prostate cancer. He was 85. Survivors also include his wife since 2002, actress Joyce Bulifant, perhaps best known for playing the wife of Murray Slaughter (Gavin MacLeod) on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Perry was previously married to Laugh-In star Jo Anne Worley from 1975 until their divorce in 2000. On a 1965 episode of CBS' The Munsters, Perry played a young man with admirable intentions who's out to rescue the beautiful niece Marilyn (Pat Priest) from a band of ghouls. However, they are, of course, members of her loving family. On the big screen, Perry appeared in not one but two Count Yorga movies; was a doctor in the infamous Ray Milland and Rosey Grier classic, The Thing With Two Heads (1972); and played the father of Linda Blair's flautist character in the musical drama Roller Boogie (1979). On the first-season Star Trek episode "Tomorrow Is Yesterday," which debuted in January 1967, Perry starred as Capt. John Christopher, an Air Force pilot in the 1960s who is suddenly transported aboard the Enterprise in the future. His TV résumé also includes a recurring role on Falcon Crest as John Costello, a corrupt member of the Tuscany Valley Board of Supervisors who often was in the back pocket of Jane Wyman's Angela Channing, and stints on Nanny and the Professor,Ironside, The F.B.I., The Bob Newhart Show, The Bionic Woman, Barnaby Jones and Love, American Style.
Tab Hunter, the blond actor and singer who was a heartthrob for millions of teenagers in the 1950s with such films as "Battle Cry" and "Damn Yankees!" and received new attention decades later when he revealed that he was gay, has died. He was 86. Producer and spouse Allan Glaser said Hunter died of a blood clot in his leg that caused cardiac arrest. Glaser called the death was "sudden and unexpected." Hunter was a star for several years. In addition to his hit movies, his recording of "Young Love" topped the Billboard pop chart in 1957. But in his 2005 memoir, "Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star," Hunter recounted the stresses of being a love object to millions of young women when he was, in reality, a gay man. "I believed, wholeheartedly, still do, that a person's happiness depends on being true to themselves," he wrote. "The dilemma, of course, that was being true to myself, and I'm talking sexually now, was impossible in 1953." Among those stars honoring Hunter included Harvey Fierstein, who called Hunter a "gay icon" and a "true gentleman," adding, "We shared some good laughs back in the 80's. I was always fond of this dear man."
Harlan Ellison, one of the world's foremost science fiction writers, has died at 84. Though Ellison was a longtime resident of Los Angeles, the location of death was not disclosed. Among Ellison's highly influential and very popular novels and novellas are 1969's post-apocalyptic A Boy and His Dog (made into a 1975 cult film starring a young Don Johnson) and, among the very many short story collections, 1980's Shatterday, which included the remarkable title story that became the basis for the very first episode of the rebooted 1985 Twilight Zone. Among Ellison's Hollywood work was the screenplay for the non-sci-fi The Oscar, starring Stephen Boyd, and he also wrote for such TV shows as The Flying Nun, Route 66, The Outer Limits, Star Trek and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Ellison's Star Trek episode, "The City on the Edge of Forever," is often cited as among the original series' very best. Ellison himself was no fan of the end result, though, often complaining about rewrites. The 1967 episode had Captain Kirk (William Shatner) traveling back to 1930s New York and falling in love with a pacifist memorably played by Joan Collins. The twist: Kirk is faced with the prospect of saving the life of his new lady love, but doing so would altar the course of history to the extent that Germany would win World War II.
Richard Harrison, known as "The Old Man" on History's long-running Pawn Stars, died after a battle with Parkinson's disease, his son Rick Harrison confirmed. He was 77. With his deadpan humor and signature black suit and fedora, Navy veteran Richard Harrison was the patriarch of Pawn Stars. He took no small amount of ribbing from his son Rick, grandson Corey and longtime family friend Austin Russell, known on the show as Chumlee. Richard and Rick Harrison opened the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas in 1989 after relocating from San Diego. The series Pawn Stars, premiered in July 2009 on History, chronicling the family business and the Harrisons' interaction with customers, who bring in a variety of items to sell or pawn. The series, currently in its 15th season, became the network's highest-rated show and the No. 2 reality show behind MTV's Jersey Shore. "We are deeply saddened by the loss of our friend Richard 'The Old Man' Harrison, a beloved member of the History and 'Pawn Stars' family," History said in a statement. "He will be greatly missed for his wisdom and candor. Our thoughts are with the Harrison family during this difficult time." Harrison earned his nickname "The Old Man" when he was 38.
Stage, film and TV actor Stanley Anderson, known for his role as the judge in the final episode of Seinfeld and as General Slocum in Spider-Man, has died. Anderson passed away six weeks after being diagnosed with brain cancer, according to a statement from his family. He was 78. Anderson began his professional acting career on the stage, first with the Seattle Repertory Theatre, then the Actor's Theatre of Louisville. He went on to spend more than 20 years at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. where he earned a Helen Hayes Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Piggy Bank. Anderson later sequed to film and TV. In addition to Spider-Man, his feature work included roles as the President of the United States in Michael Bay's Armageddon and The Rock. His most recent film credits include Red Dragon, Legally Blonde 2 and Runaway Jury. On TV, he had a recurring role as Drew Carey's dad on The Drew Carey Show and played the memorable role of Judge Vandelay in the final episode of Seinfeld. Anderson also was a longtime member of three unions for actors, according to his family, and worked behind the scenes doing voiceover work in ads for Democratic candidates and issues across the country. "He was most proud, ultimately, of the part he played in politics," his family said.
A western lowlands gorilla named Koko, famous for having learned a simplified form of American Sign Language (ASL), died in her sleep at her Californian reserve at the ripe old age of 46. The gorilla's talent for communicating has intrigued primate researchers, but it was her human-like affection, intelligence, and love of kittens that really captured our hearts. Her birth in San Francisco Zoo on Independence Day, 1971, inspired her full name of Hanabiko, fireworks child in Japanese. By her first birthday her caregiver, animal psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson, was already showing her how to use her hands to communicate basic ASL signals. It's not clear how many hand signs Koko learned to understand during her lifetime, with speculation that they exceeded 1,000. She reportedly mastered at least one universal symbol, an extended middle finger that would be recognised virtually anywhere in the western world. It was this human connection that made Koko more than just a study subject. She was a media celebrity. Koko has been the subject of documentaries, books, and numerous studies. Her mastery of the recorder might not have sold records, but it did challenge thinking on how non-human primates can learn to modify their breathing. Her connection with an adopted kitten she named All Ball made headlines in 1984, when Koko learned her beloved pet was struck by a car and killed. Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love, came the signs. And then, Unattention, visit me. Now it's our turn to mourn Koko.
American TV celebrity and food writer Anthony Bourdain was found dead in his hotel room Friday (June 8) in France while working on his CNN series on culinary traditions around the world. He was 61. CNN confirmed the death, saying in a statement that Bourdain was found unresponsive Friday morning by friend and chef Eric Ripert in the French city of Strasbourg. It called his death a suicide. Bourdain achieved celebrity status after the publication in 2000 of his best-selling book "Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly." The book created a sensation by combining frank details of his life and career with behind-the-scenes observations on the culinary industry. It was a rare crossover, a book intended for professional cooks that had enormous mass appeal. Bourdain went on to achieve widespread fame thanks to his CNN series "Parts Unknown", and was filming an upcoming segment for the program when he was found dead, according to CNN. "His love of great adventure, new friends, fine food and drink and the remarkable stories of the world made him a unique storyteller. His talents never ceased to amaze us and we will miss him very much," CNN said.
William Phipps, the voice of Prince Charming in the animated Disney film Cinderella and a prolific actor who appeared in more than 200 film and television productions, has died. Phipps passed June 1 at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica at age 96 from lung cancer complications, according to his friend, author Tom Weaver. Phipps was best known for his many roles in 1950s science fiction films, where he was one of the genre's main players. Among his appearances were the films Five, The War of the Worlds, Invaders From Mars, Cat Women of the Moon, and The Snow Creature. Phipps voice-over gig as Prince Charming was a direct hire by Walt Disney himself. It brought Phipps a whopping $100 for an afternoon's work. Among his other roles were in the RKO Westerns The Arizona Ranger and Desperadoes of Dodge City, both released in 1948; as a servant to Marlon Brando's Antony in Julius Caesar; as the French Impressionist painter Emile Bernard in Kirk Douglas' Lust for Life (1956); and as Quentin in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993). In television, he had a recurring role as Curly Bill Brocius on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp and also appeared on The Twilight Zone (the 1960 episode "The Purple Testament"), Perry Mason, Rawhide, 77 Sunset Strip, Gunsmoke, F Troop, Batman, The Virginian and Mannix. Phipps moved to Maui in the late 1960s, but came back to portray Theodore Roosevelt in the 1976 ABC miniseries Eleanor and Franklin, which won 11 Emmy Awards. He later performed the role in a commercial for Maxwell House coffee.
Clint Walker, the hulking star of TV's Cheyenne who also appeared in such classic films as The Ten Commandment and The Dirty Dozen, died from a heart problem. He was 90. Walker was best known for playing Cheyenne Bodie, the strapping, brooding, mean title drifter in the 1955-63 ABC Western Cheyenne. Roaming from town to town and job to job in the post-Civil War West. The series did a slow build, breaking into the year-end Primetime Top 25 at No. 12 in its third season, where it peaked amid the crush of Western fare. Around then, a contract beef with producer Warner Bros led Walker to quit the show. The studio replaced him with an unknown actor, Ty Hardin, who would go on to star in Bronco, but Walker returned in early 1959 and finished out the series' seven-season run. Soon after arriving in L.A., he was introduced to Cecil B. DeMille, who cast him in the 1956 blockbuster The Ten Commandments. That led to Walker's casting in Cheyenne, and he would go on to make several films during the series' 108-episode run. In the mid-1960s, he appeared in such features as the World War II drama None but the Brave, the only film Frank Sinatra directed, Maya and The Night of the Grizzly. They were followed by probably his second-best-known role, as Samson Posey, one of the condemned soldiers who are picked for a suicide mission into Nazi Germany in Robert Aldrich's star-packed 1967 classic The Dirty Dozen. Walker would get his second starring role in a TV series with Kodiak, playing Alaska State Patrolman Cal "Kodiak" McKay. Filmed on location in the 49th state, the drama aired one season on ABC in 1974. Walker continued to work in films and TV, more sporadically, into the 1990s. His final credit was a voice role in the 1998 action-figures movie Small Soldiers. In May 1971, Walker narrowly escaped death in a skiing accident at Mammoth Mountain, California. In a fall from a ski lift, Walker was pierced through the heart with a ski pole.
Joseph Campanella, a prolific character actor whose career on the big and small screens spanned more than a half-century, died at his home in Sherman Oaks, CA. He was 92. Among his nearly 200 credits were a regular in the role in first season of the 1967-75 CBS cop drama Mannix, for which he earned an Emmy nom, and a Daytime Emmy-nominated late-'80s/early-'90s role as Harper Deveraux in the long-running NBC soap Days of Our Lives. He also appeared as Jonathan Young in nearly 100 episodes of CBS' soap The Bold and the Beautiful from 1996-2005. With a face known to most fans of TV from the latter half of the 20th century, Campanella started his career in 1950s television, guesting on such classic series of that decade and the next as Suspense, Route 66, The Big Valley, The Wild Wild West, The Fugitive and Mission: Impossible. After his Mannix stint he continued to work mostly in TV into the 1970s, appearing on Night Gallery, Gunsmoke, Marcus Welby, M.D., and many others. He also co-starred in the rat-infested 1972 cult classic film Ben and narrated the star-studded 1978 miniseries Pearl. The New York City native rode the 1970s TV movie throughout that decade, including The President's Plane Is Missing and, amid the disaster-movie crush, Skyway to Death. He also found guest roles on such popular series as Ironside, McCloud, Medical Center, Police Woman, The Rockford Files and, like seemingly every other TV actor of the era, Fantasy Island. In 1976, he began a sporadic but long-spanning stint as a recurring on Norman Lear's One Day at a Time. The younger brother of the late actor Frank Campanella, he found more TV work throughout the '80s on series including Quincy, M.E., Hotel, Murder, She Wrote, Dallas, Mama's Family and a recurring role on the Charlton Heston-led Dynasty spinoff The Colbys. In the late '90s and 2000s, Campanella appeared in nearly a dozen episodes of the CBS family dramedy That's Life and recurred on The Practice. His final credit was the 2009 movie Lost Dream.