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.
Burt Reynolds, a top Hollywood star of the 1970s whose hits ranged from such classic, easy-going drive-in fare as Smokey and the Bandit to the intense, hunted-men drama Deliverance, died at the Jupiter Medical Center in Florida. He was 82. With a sly, knowing grin, signature moustache and a unique blend of charm and machismo, Reynolds was a bona fide cultural phenomenon. He became a frequent guest of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show, was the first major celebrity nude male centerfold and off-screen romantic partner of such stars as frequent co-star Sally Field and Dinah Shore. Reyrolds would achieve a newfound respect among critics and fans alike for the late-career peak in 1997's Boogie Nights, for which he earned his only Oscar nomination. He was among the most popular movie stars on the 1970s, starting with the gritty Deliverance (1972), in which he starred alongside Jon Voight and Ned Beatty, and continuing with leads in hits including Shamus (1972), The Longest Yard (1974), Gator (1976), Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and its 1980 sequel, football dramedy Semi-Tough (1977), the stuntman tale Hooper (1978) and Starting Over (1980). Reynolds continued to work in TV and film through the '60s before landing a third toplining TV series. This time it was ABC's Dan August (1970), playing a detective who got personally involved in his cases. August always got his man, but the show was not renewed after its rookie year. Reynolds' box office stardom continued in the early 1980s with such crowd-pleasing yarns as Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), star-packed racing pic The Cannonball Run (1981), Sharky's Machine (1981), opposite Dolly Parton in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) and Stroker Ace (1983). He also directing Sharky's Machine. Reynolds continued to work in TV and film into the 2010s, including playing himself in 2017's The Last Movie Star. Written and directed by Adam Rifkin and originally titled Dog Years, it saw Reynolds as an aging screen hero who is lured into attending a local film festival to give him a career achievement award. It turns out to be "run" by a pair of starstruck local dudes.
Richard DeVos, the co-founder of Amway, died at age 92, at his home in Ada, Michigan, near Amway's headquarters. The cause was complications from an infection. DeVos had been president of Amway from its 1959 founding until he retired in 1993. His son Doug DeVos has served as president of Amway since 2002. He was also the father-in-law of Betsy DeVos, the US education secretary. His family still co-owns Amway with the family of co-founder Jay Van Andel. DeVos and his family has a combined fortune worth $5.5 billion, according to Forbes' list of richest people. Amway started the move away from traditional brick-and-mortar stores decades before the internet changed the way people shopped. The company's products aren't sold in stores. Instead it uses a network of independent salespeople who buy products and sell them directly to people in their communities. DeVos and Van Andel were among a handful of people who created an entire industry: multi-level marketing companies. It wasn't the first such direct retailer, but it was a leader in the field. Amway is still successful: It reported sales of $8.6 billion last year. It uses a network of 3 million sales people worldwide. The multi-level marketing industry as a whole posted global sales of about $190 billion, according to its industry trade group.
Christopher Lawford, a veteran actor and activist whose uncles were Ted, Robert and President John Kennedy and was the son of Peter Lawford, has died. He was 63. His cousin Kerry Kennedy announced the news on social media but gave no details. Lawford had dozens of film and TV credits during a 30-year acting career. He appeared in features ranging from Impulse and The Doors to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Thirteen Days, a Cuban Missile Crisis tale that featured his uncles JFK and RFK as characters. He also guested on such popular TV series as Frasier, Silk Stalkings, Chicago Hope and The O.C. He also appeared on the daytime soaps All My Children and General Hospital. He had public battles with substance abuse in the 1970s and '80s but later while in recovery worked for Ted Kennedy and founded and was CEO of Global Recovery Initiative, described as a social enterprise to help transform social attitudes and policy to remove barriers and create more opportunities for recovery from drug and alcohol problems. He also worked with the United Nations, the White House Office on Drug Control Policy, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Center on Substance Abuse. He was appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to the California Public Health Advisory Committee in 2009 and two years later was named Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime. Lawford also authored books including Symptoms of Withdrawal: A Memoir of Snapshots and Redemption, Moments of Clarity and Healing Hepatitis C and was a lecturer in psychology at Harvard Medical School.
Bill Daily, the comic actor who found breakout success as Major Healey on the hit 1960s sitcom I Dream of Jeannie and also had notable roles on The Bob Newhart Show and Alf, died of natural causes on Sept. 4 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 91. I Dream of Jeannie title star Barbara Eden remembered Daily on Twitter. Major Healey was a supporting character on all five seasons of the show, as the goofy best friend to NASA astronaut Anthony Nelson (the late Larry Hagman). "Our favorite zany astronaut, Bill Daily has passed," Eden, 87, tweeted, captioning a photo of them. "Billy was wonderful to work with. He was a funny, sweet man that kept us all on our toes. I'm so thankful to have known and worked with that rascal. Until we meet again Billy, xo." After Jeannie, Daily would spend all six seasons (and 140 episodes) on The Bob Newhart Show, playing Newhart's dotty neighbor, airline pilot Howard Borden. "Bill Daily & I go back to Chicago in the 50s," Newhart, 89, wrote on Twitter. "He and I were both trying to get into standup." He would also have credited roles on Mary Tyler Moore; CHiPs; The Love Boat;My Mother the Car; Getting Together; Love, American Style; Aloha Paradise; Starting from Scratch; Caroline in the City; and two of Newhart's other shows, Newhart and Bob. From 1987 to 1989, he recurred as psychiatrist Dr. Larry Dykstra on ALF. Daily would also have his own short-lived sitcom called Small & Frye. The 1983 series lasted for three months.
Neil Simon, the legendary playwright whose string of Broadway smashes in the 1960s and 1970s helped define American comedy, died at the age of 91, the New York Times reports. Simon, who had written his first play to escape television work, saw his career go full circle in the ensuing years, as the success of Gene Saks' 1968 film adaptation of The Odd Couple led to a successful sitcom version on ABC from 1970 to 1975. Simon didn't make much money from the TV version, but his iconic pairing of a fastidious snob with a genial slob knew neither cultural nor temporal boundaries. In addition to adapting his stage hits like Plaza Suite, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, and The Prisoner of Second Avenue for the screen, Simon also wrote original features, including The Out of Towners and The Heartbreak Kid. His comedic voice, urban, Jewish, fast, cutting, but always accessible, became a shared cultural touchstone in a way few writers ever achieve. But ubiquity has its price, and Simon's commercial successes never came with critical respect, which seemed to bother him. "All the success has demeaned me in a way. Critically, the thinking seems to be that if you write too many hits, they can't be that good," he told the New York Times in 1991. That was after the most critically-lauded work of his career, the trilogy formed by Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, and Broadway Bound; 1991 was also the year Simon won a Tony and a Pulitzer Prize for Lost in Yonkers. The last new Neil Simon play to be produced on Broadway was 2001's 45 Seconds from Broadway; his last new play to be produced at all was 2003's Rose's Dilemma, which made the news because Mary Tyler Moore walked out right before a performance after receiving a critical letter from Simon. In 2006, he was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American humor; his other awards include a Tony for The Odd Couple, another for Biloxi Blues, and a special Tony Award in 1975.
John McCain, who shed a playboy image in his youth to become a fighter pilot, revered prisoner of war and both an independent voice in the Republican Party and its 2008 presidential nominee, died a little more than a year after he was told he had brain cancer. He was 81. McCain's office said in a statement "Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on August 25, 2018." He announced on July 19, 2017, that he had been diagnosed with a glioblastoma, an aggressive type of brain tumor. On Friday his family announced he was discontinuing treatment. "With the Senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years," McCain's office said in the statement. His daughter, Meghan McCain, said in a statement that "I was with my father at his end, as he was with me at my beginning." "All that I am is thanks to him. Now that he is gone, the task of my lifetime is to live up to his example, his expectations, and his love," she said. Last year, in his last act of defiance, McCain returned to the Capitol less than a week after his cancer was diagnosed to cast his vote on the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the biggest legislative achievement of President Barack Obama, the man who defeated him in the 2008 election.
And for all you Trump lovers, let's remember the quote from traitor Donald Trump about John McCain: "He's not a war hero," said Trump. "He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren't captured."
Robin Leach, the debonair TV host who regaled audiences with talk of "champagne wishes and caviar dreams," has died, his publicist confirmed to CNN. He was 76. John Katsilometes, a writer for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where Leach was working as a columnist before his death, said on Twitter Leach had suffered a stroke and had been hospitalized since November. Born in London, Leach was a veteran journalist best known for his syndicated TV show "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," which ran from 1984 to 1995. "Despite the past 10 months, what a beautiful life he had. Our Dad, Grandpa, Brother, Uncle and friend Robin Leach passed away peacefully last night at 1:50 a.m.," the family said in a statement. "Everyone's support and love over the past, almost one year, has been incredible and we are so grateful." Leach began his career in newspapers, writing for the Daily Mail, People and the New York Daily News. He moved to the U.S. in the early 1960s becoming editor of media mogul Rupert Murdoch's tabloid Star. He later helped launch "Entertainment Tonight," through Paramount Television, before co-creating and hosting "Lifestyles." In a 2016 interview with the Hollywood Reporter when he joined the Review-Journal, Leach said, "It's been a good life, and it's always been a good life. I have been rewarded very nicely."
Actress Barbara Harris, who capped Robert Altman's masterpiece Nashville with a strangely haunting musical performance, won a Tony Award for 1967's The Apple Tree and co-founded Chicago's Second City comedy troupe, died of lung cancer in Scottsdale, Arizona. She was 83. Harris was nominated for a supporting actress Oscar for 1971's Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?, but might best be remembered by children of the era for her role in 1976's original Freaky Friday, Disney's body-switch comedy in which Harris and a young Jodie Foster did the switching. That same year, Harris appeared in Alfred Hitchcock's dark comedy Family Plot, an indication of her range. Later audiences would see her as the tender-hearted, understanding mother in Peggy Sue Got Married or appearing alongside John Cusack and Minnie Driver in 1997's Grosse Pointe Blank. As an original Second City cast member, Harris was the first performer of the first show, singing "Everybody's in the Know" on Dec. 16, 1959. Her Hollywood career, aside from some episodic TV appearances (Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City, The Defenders), began in earnest with 1965's A Thousand Clowns, in which she more than held her own with the brash, growling scene-stealer Jason Robards. By 1971 she was costarring with Walter Matthau, Maureen Stapleton and Lee Grant in the hit comedy Plaza Suite.
Aretha Franklin, whose gospel-rooted singing and bluesy yet expansive delivery earned her the title "the Queen of Soul," died at her home in Detroit, surrounded by family and friends. She was 76. The "official cause of death was due to advanced pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin's oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit," the family statement said. Over the course of a professional career that spanned more than half a century, Franklin's songs not only topped the charts but became part of the vernacular. She made "Respect," written by Otis Redding, a call to arms. "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," a Carole King song, was an earthy expression of sexuality. "Think," which she wrote with her then-husband, Ted White, became a rallying cry for women fed up with loutish men. The first woman admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she had 88 Billboard chart hits during the rock era, tops among female vocalists. At the peak of her career, from 1967 to 1975, she had more than two dozen Top 40 hits. Over the course of a professional career that spanned more than half a century, Franklin's songs not only topped the charts but became part of the vernacular. She made "Respect," written by Otis Redding, a call to arms. "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman," a Carole King song, was an earthy expression of sexuality. "Think," which she wrote with her then-husband, Ted White, became a rallying cry for women fed up with loutish men. "Aretha Franklin is not only the definitive female soul singer of the Sixties," according to her Rolling Stone biography, "she's also one of the most influential and important voices in pop history." She won 18 Grammy awards, including the honor for best female R&B performance for eight straight years.
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.