In Memoriam: 2012 a Banner Year for Celebrity Passings

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By Jon Konjoyan

Singer Whitney Houston, whose final movie “Sparkle” is now playing, was one of many celebrity deaths so far this year.

Singer and actor Tony Martin passed away last month at the age of 98 of natural causes. Born in San Francisco, and married to performer Cyd Charisse for 60 years, Martin is the latest celebrity death. It’s only August, but the number of notable losses so far this year is staggering. Here’s a partial list:

  • Gore Vidal, 86, playwright, novelist, and political commentator, pneumonia;
  • Sherman Hemsley, 74, actor (The Jeffersons, Amen, Dinosaurs), lung cancer;
  • Chad Everett, 75, actor (Medical Center), lung cancer;
  • Sally Ride, 61, physicist and astronaut, first American woman in space, pancreatic cancer;
  • William Asher, 90, TV writer and director (Alice, Bewitched, I Love Lucy), complications from Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Kitty Wells, 92, country music singer (“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” “Making Believe”), complications after a stroke;
  • Sage Stallone, 36, actor (Rocky V), son of Sylvester Stallone, still undisclosed;
  • Richard D. Zanuck, 77, film producer (Jaws, Driving Miss Daisy, Road to Perdition), heart attack;
  • Richard Dawson, 79, actor (Hogan’s Heroes), and game show host (Family Feud), esophageal cancer;
  • Ray Bradbury, 91, science fiction and fantasy author (Fahrenheit 451, Something Wicked This Way Comes), after a lengthy illness;
  • Bob Welch, 66, musician (Fleetwood Mac, Paris) and songwriter (“Sentimental Lady”), suicide by gunshot;
  • Ann Rutherford, 94, actress (Gone with the Wind, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty), heart disease;
  • LeRoy Neiman, 91, artist, natural causes;
  • Don Grady, 68, actor (My Three Sons, The Mickey Mouse Club), cancer;
  • Mort Lindsey, 89, orchestra leader and composer, natural causes;
  • Adam Yauch, 47, musician (Beastie Boys), salivary gland cancer;
  • George Lindsey, 83, TV actor (The Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D., Hee Haw), after brief illness;
  • Vidal Sassoon, 84, hairstylist, leukemia;
  • Carroll Shelby, 89, automobile racer and designer, heart disease;
  • Donna Summer, 63, singer (“Bad Girls,” Last Dance,” “I Feel Love”), lung cancer;
  • Robin Gibb, 62, singer and songwriter (Bee Gees), liver and kidney failure;
  • Mike Wallace, 93, news correspondent (60 Minutes), natural causes;
  • Dick Clark, 82, TV host and producer (American Bandstand, Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve), heart attack;
  • Levon Helm, 71, musician (The Band), throat cancer;
  • Charles Colson, 80, White House Counsel convicted in Watergate scandal, evangelist, founder of Prison Fellowship, brain hemorrhage;
  • Earl Scruggs, 88, bluegrass musician, natural causes;
  • Don Cornelius, 75, TV host and producer (Soul Train), suicide by gunshot;
  • Ben Gazzara, 81, actor (The Big Lebowski, Road House), pancreatic cancer;
  • Whitney Houston, 48, singer (“I Will Always Love You”) and actress (The Bodyguard), drowned;
  • Davy Jones, 66, actor and musician (The Monkees), heart attack;
  • Johnny Otis, 90, R&B singer-songwriter, natural causes;
  • Etta James, 73, jazz/blues singer (“At Last”), leukemia;
  • Joe Paterno, 85, college football coach (Penn State), lung cancer;
  • Helen Gurley Brown, 90, author, publisher, undisclosed causes;
  • Phyllis Diller, 95, comedienne, undisclosed;
  • Ron Palillo, 63, actor (Welcome Back Kotter), heart attack.
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