By Emily Feimster
The end of 2007 is fast approaching and so we must bid farewell to some of our most beloved celebrities who passed on during the year. While some had their time cut short, others were lucky enough to live a lifetime. Join us as we remember their lives and celebrate their legacies.
One of the most shocking deaths came earlier this year when 39-year-old Anna Nicole Smith passed away. The model/reality star had been found unresponsive in a hotel room in Florida and had CPR performed on her by a bodyguard, but was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The autopsy concluded that she died of "combined drug intoxication," though no illegal drugs were found in her system.
Beloved TV talk show host, singer, businessman and creator of "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy," Merv Griffin, was mourned by much of Hollywood after he succumbed to prostate cancer at the age of 82. He certainly wasn't the only one to lose his battle with cancer this year. Italian opera star Luciano Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 71. Tributes to the great tenor were published by opera houses all over the world, and hundreds of mourners attended his funeral in Italy.
Then there's televangelist-turned-gay-icon Tammy Faye Messner
, formerly known as Tammy Faye Bakker, who died at the age of 65. She had been diagnosed with colon cancer 11 years ago, but it spread to her lungs in more recent times. Fans watched the ever-optimistic Tammy looking like a shell of her former self as she appeared on "Larry King Live" weighing only 65 pounds. A day later she was dead.
We also said goodbye to actor and singer Robert Goulet, who rose to fame in "Camelot." He died in the hospital awaiting a lung transplant as he suffered from idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable and terminal lung disease, which also led to the death of Evel Knievel, who had been sick for many years. The larger-than-life celebrity stunt man did go out in style as fireworks exploded in the sky as pallbearers carried his casket into his funeral.
Some deaths, of course, came too soon and unexpectedly. Director Bob Clark, known for his work in "A Christmas Story" and "Porky's," and his 22-year-old son Ariel were killed in a head-on collision when an SUV crossed the median and struck their car. In November, Washington Redskins NFL player Sean Taylor was shot and killed in his house by an intruder. Thirty-three-year-old rapper Pimp C, born Chad Butler, was found dead in a West Hollywood hotel room. Comedian Richard Jeni shocked fans, family, and friends when he died from an apparent self-inflicted handgun wound to the facial area. And of course people were stunned to learn that famed singer Kanye West's mother Donda died from plastic surgery complications.
The world of politics also lost some historic figures. Lady Bird Johnson, widow of former US president Lyndon Baines Johnson, died at the age of 94. Boris Yeltsin, the man who "brought democracy to Russia" after the dismantling of the Soviet Union, died of congestive heart failure. And US evangelical Christian and leader of the conservative political force the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell, died.
The literary world lost Pulitzer Prize winner and co-founder of the "Village Voice," Norman Mailer. Famed television writer and producer Sidney Sheldon passed away at the age of 89. And US author of "Rosemary's Baby, "Stepford Wives," and "The Boys from Brazil," Ira Levin, died at age 78.
Some of the world's richest and most successful women passed on as well. Belgian-born American designer, Liz Claiborne, who became a leading figure in the fashion world, died of cancer. Then there was the 105-year-old socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor, who certainly lived a very full life. And US businesswoman and hotelier, Leona Helmsley, who was known as "the Queen of Mean," passed away. One legacy that she leaves behind is having been jailed for tax fraud and famously declaring, "Only the little people pay taxes." Did we mention that she also left a $12 million trust fund to her Maltese, Trouble?
Music fans bade farewell to Denny Doherty, who sang with the folk group the Mamas and the Papas. Lead singer of the band Boston, Brad Delp, committed suicide via carbon monoxide poisoning. Ike Turner, the ex-husband of Tina Turner, died at age 76 in his sleep. The last original member of The Drifters, Bill Pinkney, passed away at the age of 81. He was a World War II veteran and pitcher for the New York Blue Sox baseball team before joining the now-historic band. US rock singer with 1980s band Quiet Riot, Kevin DuBrow, died at age 52 from an accidental cocaine overdose. And the world lost US opera star Beverly Sills, whose late-in-life debut at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 1975 received a 20-minute standing ovation.
Let's not forget country music's beloved Porter Wagoner. The Grand Ole Opry star, most known for his duets with Dolly Parton, died of lung cancer. And we lost country music star Hank Thompson, who had 60 top 40 hits over the span of his career.
We also said goodbye to: Ingmar Bergman, 89; soap opera star Michael Evans; American actress and first wife of Ronald Reagan, Jane Wyman, 93; actress and mother of Angelina Jolie, Marcheline Bertrand, 56; movie critic Joel Siegel; "Hogan's Heroes" star Patricia Crane, 72; Lois Maxwell, 80; actress Deborah Kerr, 86; member of the Rat Pack, Joey Bishop, 89; "Foreign Correspondent" actress Laraine Day, 87; actor Ian Richardson; Werner von Trapp, yes of the famous "Sound of Music" family; Canadian actress Carol Bruce, 87; US entertainer Brett Somers; former owner of famed New York rock club CBGB Hilly Kristal; and Alice Ghostley, 81, who was most known for her TV roles as Esmerelda in "Bewitched" and Bernice in "Designing Women."
May all of these beloved, or at least memorable, stars rest in peace.
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