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In memoriam: Celebrity deaths of 2019 – UPI News

Dec. 30 (UPI) — 2019 saw the unexpected deaths of rising music and TV stars in their 20s, as well as beloved, seasoned entertainers.

Here are a few who made unforgettable contributions to the arts.


The Descendants and Jessie star Cameron Boyce died July 6 at age 20 of complications from epilepsy.

The Grown Ups and Grown Ups 2 actor had also voiced the title character on the animated TV series Jake and the Never Land Pirates.

Juice WRLD was 21 when he died on Dec. 8 after suffering a seizure at Chicago Midway Airport.

The rapper had a history of drug abuse and copious amounts of narcotics reportedly were found on the private plane on which he had been traveling. An official cause of death is pending the results of toxicology tests.

The artist, whose real name was Jarad Anthony Higgins, was famous for his records Goodbye & Good Riddance, Death Race for Love and WRLD on Drugs — all hits on the Billboard 200 album chart.

Several wildly popular young Korean celebrities died this fall, as well.

The causes of their deaths have not been publicly disclosed, but two are suspected suicides.

K-pop star Sulli, a former member of group f(x), was found dead at age 25 on Oct. 14, while singer and anti-cyberbullying activist Goo Hara died at age 28 on Nov. 24 and Love with Flaws actor Cha In-ha died Dec. 4 at 27.

“Cyberbullying has been affecting Korean society a great deal as people spend more and more time on social media,” Min Byeong-cheol, a professor at Hanyang University, told UPI through an interpreter last month. “The last few years, several celebrities and a number of students have died because of cyberbullying. A middle school student killed herself by jumping from her family’s 10th-floor apartment because five of her classmates bullied her in a social media chatroom. This is a serious social issue in Korea.”

Stage and screen legends

Raspy-voiced stage star Carol Channing died of natural causes Jan. 15 at age 97.

Channing headlined Broadway productions of The Vamp, Wonderful Town and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes before taking on her Tony-winning role of the titular matchmaker in Hello, Dolly!, which she played more than 5,000 times between 1964 and 1995. (Hello, Dolly! composer Jerry Herman died this month at 88).

Channing’s film credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie, The First Traveling Saleslady and Skidoo. She was also a popular guest on The Ed Sullivan Show and Hollywood Squares.

Peter Tork, bass player and keyboardist for the pop music group the Monkees, died Feb. 21 at age 77.

Along with Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Davy Jones, Tork toured for decades, performing their hit songs “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Daydream Believer.” The musicians also starred in a TV sitcom called The Monkees from 1966 to ’68.

Comedian Tim Conway died on May 14 at age 85.

The six-time Emmy Award winner was a cast member of the sitcom, McHale’s Navy, 1962-66, and the sketch-comedy series, The Carol Burnett Show from 1975 to ’78.

He also had memorable guest appearances on Coach and 30 Rock, and voiced the character of Barnacle Boy on the kids’ cartoon, Spongebob Squarepants.

His movie roles included The Longshot, Dear God, Speed 2: Cruise Control, The World’s Greatest Athlete, The Apple Dumpling Gang, The Shaggy D.A. and Gus.

Easy Rider and Ulee’s Gold actor Peter Fonda died of complications from lung cancer on Aug. 16 at age 79.

The actor and occasional director was part of the Fonda acting dynasty that included father Henry, sister Jane and daughter Bridget.

Fonda penned the 1998 autobiography Don’t Tell Dad: A Memoir and appeared in the movies Boundaries, Ghost Rider, The Maldonado Miracle, Wild Hogs, The Limey, Escape from L.A., 3:10 to Yuma, Bodies, Rest & Motion, Deadfall, The Runner, The Wild Angels, Futureworld, Cannonball Run, The Trip and Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry.

Valerie Harper died of cancer on Aug. 30 at age 80.

The Valerie and Freebie and the Bean actress won four Emmys and a Golden Globe for her portrayal of feisty Rhoda Morgenstern on the sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore and its spinoff, Rhoda.

Harper competed on Dancing with the Stars in 2013.

Best known for her roles in the TV shows Julia and Dynasty, Diahann Caroll died of cancer on Oct. 4. She was 84.

She became the first black woman to win the Tony Award for Best Actress in 1962 for her role in the Broadway musical No Strings. Her other New York stage credits includes Porgy and Bess and House of Flowers.

Carroll was most recently seen in the small-screen dramas Grey’s Anatomy and White Collar.

Pop-culture icons from the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s

Teen idol Luke Perry of Beverly Hills, 90210 and Riverdale fame died March 4 following a stroke. He was 52.

The actor also appeared in the soap operas Another World and Loving, TV dramas Oz and Jeremiah, and the films Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and 8 Seconds.

Peter Mayhew died on April 30 at age 74.

The 7-foot-3-inch-tall actor played the heroic co-pilot Chewbacca the Wookiee in five Star Wars films released between 1977 and 2015.

The star of Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger and Terror also created the Peter Mayhew Foundation to support individuals and families in crisis situations with food and supplies.

Eddie Money died of cancer on Sept. 13. He was 70.

The singer-songwriter was famous for his singles “Two Tickets to Paradise,” “Walk on Water,” “I Wanna Go Back,” “Take Me Home Tonight,” “Baby Hold On,” “Shakin” and “Think I’m in Love.” He also recently starred in the TV reality show, Real Money.

The Cars frontman Ric Ocasek died of heart disease Sept. 15 at age 75.

He and his fellow Cars bandmates were known for their hits “Drive,” “Let’s Go,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Good Times Roll,” “Just What I Needed,” “Magic,” “You Might Think” and “Bye Bye Love.”

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year.

Rene Aburjonois from Benson, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, The Little Mermaid and Boston Legal died on Dec. 8 at age 79.

He also starred in the 1970 film version of MASH and 1976 remake of King Kong.

Puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who brought the Muppet characters of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life for more than 40 years on TV’s Sesame Street, died Dec. 8. He was 85.

He played the roles in The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, Big Bird in China, Follow That Bird and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.

Spinney earned the Daytime Emmy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and was the subject of the 2014 documentary, I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story.


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