By Emily Feimster
Now that 2005 is coming to a close, it's time we bid farewell to the beloved celebrities we've lost this year. Some, of course, were taken too soon, but for many, we had the good fortune of being entertained by them for a number of decades.
On Dec. 10, Richard Pryor's long battle with Multiple Sclerosis came to an end as he died of a heart attack at 65. He was so much more than a great comedian - a groundbreaking iconoclast, a force for social change, a true original, a fine actor in addition to being wickedly hilarious.
Another of the entertainment industry's biggest losses came early this year when talk show host Johnny Carson died of emphysema. The long-time King of Midnight, who launched innumerable careers and brought nightly silliness and comfort to America over three decades, was 79. Known as a heavy smoker, he had announced in 2002 that he was suffering from the disease. Though he had been keeping a low profile since leaving "The Tonight Show," we still got to feel his presence on TV when David Letterman would use his jokes in the opening monologues. In keeping with his fondness for privacy, Carson's family held no funeral.
Another legendary man to lose his battle with smoking was broadcasting great Peter Jennings, who died of lung cancer at the age of 67. The news came only four months after the longtime anchor of ABC "World News Tonight" had announced the diagnosis. In a statement, the family said, "Peter died with his family around him, without pain and in peace. He knew he had lived a good life." Indeed.
TV fans were certainly dealt another blow when they lost two more icons. James Doohan, best known as Scotty on "Star Trek," died at the age of 85 from pneumonia and Alzheimer's disease. Not long after, Bob Denver, a.k.a. Gilligan, passed on at the age of 70. Having already undergone quadruple heart bypass surgery earlier in the year, Denver died in the hospital of complications from treatment he was receiving for cancer.
Former teenage heartthrob Sandra Dee, who was best known as Gidget, died after having been treated in the hospital for 14 days for complications from kidney disease and pneumonia. Dee, who reigned as Hollywood royalty in the early 60s with her husband, the late Bobby Darin, was 63.
Hollywood was saddened once again from the passing of actress Anne Bancroft, who died at the age of 73 from uterine cancer. Though she had a long, successful career, the Oscar and Tony award winner was most remembered as Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate." She is survived by her long-time loving husband, Mel Brooks, and a son.
Never was any teenager in America more excited to wash a car than after seeing Mr. Miyagi teach the techniques of "wax on, wax off" in "The Karate Kid." The actor who made those lines famous, Pat Morita, died in November of natural causes at age 73.
Revered actor / filmmaker / activist / theater director Ossie Davis died at the age of 87.
Brock Peters, who was best known for his heartbreaking performance as the black man falsely accused of rape in "To Kill a Mockingbird," passed away at 78. Nipsey Russell, who played the Tin Man alongside Diana Ross and Michael Jackson in "The Wiz," succumbed to cancer at 80.
We said goodbye to master impressionist Frank Gorshin, who was known to most as the Riddler in the original "Batman" TV series.
Also, Gordon Lee, the chubby child actor who played Spanky McFarland's little brother Porky in the "Little Rascals" comedies, died at 71 after having battled lung and brain cancer.
America lost two of its greatest playwrights this year with the death of Arthur Miller at age 89, whose work included "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible," and August Wilson ("Fences," "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom").
The 71-year-old jazz great, Shirley Horn, has left a void in the music world now that she has passed on. Not to mention, founding member of the Blind Boys of Alabama gospel group, George Scott, who died of complications from diabetes and a heart condition.
Then there are those who lost their lives much too early. Having suffered a stroke in 2003, but expected to make a full recovery, one of the greatest voices of all times, Luther Vandross, died at age 54. After having battled breast cancer for eight years, "Bosom Buddies" star Wendie Jo Sperber died at age 46. WWE professional wrestler Eddie Guerrero, 38, died instantly of heart failure while brushing his teeth. "Saw" producer Gregg Hoffman died at age 42 after having complained of neck pains.
In 2005, the world grieved after learning that "Halloween" producer, Moustapha Akkad, and many others were killed during a triple hotel bombing at a wedding in Jordan. He was 75. His daughter was also killed in the blasts.
We also said farewell to: Oscar winner John Mills, 97; "This Is Your Life" host Ralph Edwards; "The Incredible Hulk's" Jack Colvin, 71; "Little House on the Prairie's" Kevin Hagen, 77; "Dick Tracy" author Michael Kilian, 66; "Seinfeld's" Barney Martin, 82; Stan Berenstain, who wrote The Berenstain Bears book, 82; Paul Winchell, who provided the voice of Tigger, 82; American-born British actress Constance Cummings, 95; director of "The Sound of Music" Robert Wise; screenwriter Ernest Lehman, 89; the 7-foot-plus "Big Fish" giant Matthew McGrory, 32; actress and sister of Marlon Brando, Jocelyn Brando, 86; "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" creator Michael Pillar, 57; comedian Charles Rocket; "Animal House's" John Vernon, 72; Four Tops member Renaldo "Obie" Benson, 69.
Outside the entertainment industry, the world felt the tremendous loss of one of its most influential civil rights icons, Rosa Parks, who died at the age of 92. Prince Ranier III of Monaco, whose wife was movie star Grace Kelly, died at the age of 81. Edward L. Masry, attorney and mentor to Erin Brockovich, died of diabetes complications. Johnnie Cochran, the lawyer best known for his work on the O.J. Simpson defense, died at the age of 67 from an inoperable brain tumor. And in April of 2005, Pope John Paul II finished his long suffering with Parkinson's Disease and other ailments, saying, "Let me go to the house of the Father" just before his death. He was 84.
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