HOLLYWOOD, CA — The new year is almost upon us, but how can we move on without a final farewell to those who shared the journey? In 2019 we lost icons, teen idols, goofballs and furballs. Some were famous for generations. Others shot to stardom and died all too soon.
But they all left their mark.
Doris Day, America’s ultimate sweetheart, passed away at 97. Gloria Vanderbilt, the original “poor little rich girl,” was 95 when she died in June.
Heartthrob Luke Perry died of a massive stroke at 52. Groundbreaking author Toni Morrison died at 88. And rapper Nipsey Hussle’s violent death rattled the city he was working to heal.
2019 was also a year that Grumpy Cat went to his maker along with Boo, the “world’s cutest Dog.” Peter Mayhew, the towering actor who brought Chewbacca to life in five Star Wars films passed away, and so did Caroll Spinney, the 85-year-old actor behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
To all the greats who entertained and inspired us, rest in peace.
Actor Luke Perry died March 4, just days after suffering a massive stroke at his Sherman Oaks home. The 52-year-old actor was playing Fred Andrews on the show “Riverdale” at the time of his death, but he is best known for playing Dylan McKay in the ’90s hit “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Perry suffered the stroke on the same day Fox announced a reboot of “90210,” starring most of the original cast.
Playing Dylan McKay in his mid-20s, he became a teen idol almost overnight, enduring comparisons to the likes of James Dean for his performance as the moody-but-soulful Beverly Hills teen. “Beverly Hills 90210″wasn’t the only iconic ’90s franchise Perry was part of. He also landed the role of the vampire boyfriend in the film “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” that would go on to launch the classic TV show of the same name.
Peter Tork, the keyboardist and bass guitarist of the Monkees, died Feb. 21 at his Connecticut home following a 10-year bout with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the salivary glands.
At once unrecognizable and famous worldwide, Peter Mayhew, the actor who portrayed Chewbacca in the five “Star Wars” films from 1977 to 2015, died April 30 of a heart attack at his home in North Texas.
At 7 feet, 2 inches, the British-born actor towered above most literally as well as figuratively. Few portrayals have left such an indelible impression in cinematic history — and without the benefit of discernable dialogue. Mayhew played Han Solo’s Wookiee companion and co-pilot Chewbacca in the original trio of “Star Wars” films as well as “Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Chicago rapper Juice WRLD suffered a medical emergency and died Dec. 8 after his private plane landed at Midway Airport in Chicago. Police had been called to search the plane for weapons and drugs, and the young musician experienced convulsions during the search. He died shortly after at an Illinois hospital.
Born Jarad Higgins, Juice WRLD released his first album “Goodbye & Good Riddance” in 2018. The album included “Lucid Dreams,” which shot to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. He quickly released two more albums, including “WRLD on Drugs” and “Death Race for Love,” which Rolling Stone named one of the best albums of the year. His untimely death shocked fans and the music world, and it remains under investigation.
For decades, Doris Day was “America’s Sweetheart” until her death on May 13 after contracting pneumonia. She remains one of the most popular actresses ever to grace the big screen. The actress and singer, famous for her honeyed voice and wholesome image, starred in dozens of films and as many albums.
From her debut film “Romance on the High Seas” in 1948 throughout the 1960s, she played the leading lady opposite stars such as Rock Hudson, Clark Gable, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, with whom she starred in Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956). She was married four times and spent her final years as an animal welfare activist.
Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, an iconic writer who probed race and African American identity, died at a Bronx hospital Aug. 5 after a brief illness. She was 88.
Morrison was revered among writers for the beauty of her prose and her fearless embrace of complicated characters. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel “Beloved” and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
1980s pop star Eddie Money died of stage 4 esophageal cancer Sept. 13. The 70-year-old singer was best known for pop classics “Take Me Home Tonight” and “Two Tickets To Paradise.”
In recent years, Money continued to tour, playing summer concerts and small clubs in the San Francisco Bay area where he reportedly lived. His battle with cancer forced him to cancel his final tour.
Gloria Vanderbilt, the heiress-turned-fashion-designer and New York socialite, died June 17 following a diagnosis of advanced stomach cancer. She was 95 when she died.
Vanderbilt spent her life in the public eye, beginning in the 1930s with the “trial of the century” centered on custody over young Gloria and control of her share of the Vanderbilt family railroad fortune.
When she came into her own, Vanderbilt went on to a career as an actress, an artist, a model and fashion designer with a jeans empire.
“Gloria Vanderbilt died as she lived — on her own terms,” her son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, said in a video tribute to his mother. “I know she hoped for a little more time, a few days or weeks, at least. There were paintings she wanted to make, more books she wanted to read, more dreams to dream. But she was ready. She was ready to go.”
Grammy-nominated rapper Nipsey Hussle was shot dead March 31 outside his clothing store in south Los Angeles. He was 33.
Born Ermias Ashgedom, his album “Victory Lap” was nominated for best rap album at the 61st annual Grammy Awards and reached No. 3 on Billboard. Linked to the Rollin 60s Neighborhood Crips, Hussle was working with community leaders and police officials to help quell gang violence in South LA when he was slain.
Thousands lined the street to honor Hussle. Thousands more, including rapper Snoop Dogg and singer Stevie Wonder, gathered at a memorial service for the gangster-turned-community advocate at Staples Center. Hussle was eulogized by some of the biggest names in the industry as well as former President Barack Obama, who praised him for seeing the potential of South LA and committing himself to a better future. The man accused of killing him is awaiting a murder trial.
Caroll Spinney, the legendary puppeteer who played Big Bird on “Sesame Street” for nearly 50 years, died Dec. 8. Spinney delighted generations of children globally as Sesame Street’s yin and yang — Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Spinney was with the groundbreaking show from the beginning, helping to create its iconic characters. Spinney had suffered from dystonia for several years before his death, forcing him to retire in 2018.
Oscar-nominated director John Singleton died April 28 of a massive stroke. The “Boyz in the Hood” filmmaker was just 51.
He rose to fame directing, 1991’s “Boyz in the Hood” as well as “Poetic Justice,” “Higher Learning,” “2 Fast 2 Furious” and the 2000 remake of “Shaft.” The L.A. native grew up in South Los Angeles, attended USC and produced the A&E documentary “L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later.” He was the creator of the FX series “Snowfall,” about the 1980s crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles.
Karl Lagerfeld, Age: 85
Fashion icon and Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld died Feb. 19 from complications of pancreatic cancer. The 85-year-old spent much of his life dictating the trends of high fashion as the creative director for Chanel and Fendi. He was known for his signature shock of white hair, black sunglasses and fingerless gloves.
But it was the 1949 Broadway musical “” that gave Channing her start on Broadway. She also appeared in several films and won the and for her turn as Muzzy in “ ” in 1967.
Einstein’s career spanned decades as a writer and actor in some of biggest TV comedies of the day. In fact, his Emmy awards and many Emmy nominations stemmed from his work writing for shows such as “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” and “Van Dyke and Company.” He was the elder brother of actor-director Albert Brooks.
Grumpy Cat, Age: 7
Grumpy’s real name was Tardar Sauce, and she stumbled into stardom with a simple picture posted to Reddit in 2012. Her famous frown (an effect of her dwarfism) prompted millions of smiles and became one of the most recognizable memes ever.
Boo, the “world’s cutest dog,” Age: 12
The little pup died in his sleep Jan. 18