The Doors' founding keyboardist, Ray Manzarek, died in Germany Monday after a long fight with cancer, his publicist said in a statement. He was 74.
The artist had been diagnosed with bile duct cancer.
The Doors formed in 1965 after Manzarek happened to meet Jim Morrison on California's Venice Beach. The legendary rock group went on to sell 100 million albums worldwide, establishing five multiplatinum discs in the U.S.FULL STORY
George Jones, the country music legend whose graceful, evocative voice gave depth to some of the greatest songs in country music - including "She Thinks I Still Care," "The Grand Tour" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today" - has died, according to his public relations firm.
Jones, 81, died Friday at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, the public relations firm said. He had been hospitalized since April 18 with fever and irregular blood pressure.FULL STORY
Jonathan Winters, the wildly inventive actor and comedian who appeared in such films as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" and "The Loved One" and played Robin Williams' son on the TV show "Mork & Mindy," has died.
He was 87.
Winters died Thursday evening of natural causes at his home in Montecito, California, according to business associate Joe Petro III.FULL STORY
A star of the long-running TV show "One Day at a Time" has died.
Actress Bonnie Franklin died Friday due to complications from pancreatic cancer. She was 69.
Her "One Day at a Time" character, Ann Romano, was "ground-breaking," CBS said in a statement, because it "helped define and illuminate the role of single working mothers within the cultural landscape."FULL STORY
Pauline Phillips, better known to millions of newspaper readers for decades as the Dear Abby advice columnist, has died after a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease, her family said Thursday.
She died Wednesday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at age 94.
Phillips, who wrote under the name of Abigail Van Buren, was the twin sister of Esther Pauline Lederer, also known as the advice columnist Ann Landers. Lederer died in June 2002 at the age of 83.
In 2001, Phillips acknowledged that her daughter Jeanne Phillips co-wrote the "Dear Abby" column with her. Jeanne Phillips took the column over in August 2002, when the family announced that her mother had Alzheimer's.FULL STORY
Conservative judge Robert Bork died early Wednesday at the age of 85 at his home in Virginia, two sources close to his family tell CNN today.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Bork as a Supreme Court justice, only to have the nomination fall apart in a contentious confirmation battle after left-leaning groups opposed Bork's conservative judicial philosophies.FULL STORY
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, who fought in some of the U.S. Army's bloodiest battles in three wars, died Wednesday in Columbus, Georgia. He was 92.
Plumley saw action in some of the largest battles of World War II, including the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of Salerno in Italy and Operation Market Garden.
He then fought in the Korean War, but it was his role in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam that brought him the most fame. The battle was chronicled in the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," which was later a 2002 movie starring Mel Gibson. Sam Elliott played Plumley.
The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, tweeted a picture of Elliot and Plumley in noting the veteran's death.
Plumley, along with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, led the Army's 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in the November 1965 battle that saw 450 U.S. forces face off against 2,000 troops from the North Vietnamese army in the first major engagement between the two armies. More than 230 U.S. troops were killed.
Plumley was at Landing Zone X-Ray, where 79 U.S. troops died.
"That was a long day. I was the second one in and next to the last to leave," Plumley was quoted as saying by The Bayonet in 2010 when he donated a large print of himself and Moore in Vietnam to the National Infantry Museum.
[Updated at 11:32 a.m. ET] Alex Karras, the former Detroit Lions defensive tackle turned actor in the ABC sitcom "Webster," died Wednesday in his Los Angeles home following a battle with kidney disease, heart disease, dementia and stomach cancer, according to a family spokesman.
He was 77.
Karras, a Gary, Indiana native, was an All-American at the University of Iowa before becoming a four-time Pro Bowl selection in the NFL, playing for the Detroit Lions from 1958 to 1970. He went on to star in the 1980s' sitcom “Webster” - he played George Papadapolis, the guardian of the newly orphaned Webster, played by actor Emmanuel Lewis - and also played the horse-punching Mongo in the 1974 movie “Blazing Saddles."
In April, he joined hundreds of former NFL players suing the league over concussion-related injuries, serving as lead plaintiff for what was then the 12th concussion-related complaint filed against the NFL by the Locks Law Firm in Philadelphia.
Karras “sustained repetitive traumatic impacts to his head and/or concussions on multiple occasions” during his NFL career, and “suffers from various neurological conditions and symptoms related to the multiple head traumas,” the lawsuit said.
His wife, "Webster” co-star Susan Clark, said in April that Karras suffered from dementia.
The more than 2,000 NFL players who are suing the league claim the NFL misled players concerning the risks associated with concussions. The NFL has repeatedly said that player safety is a priority and that any allegation that the NFL intentionally sought to mislead players has no merit.
According to his family, "Karras had always dreamed of being an actor," and got a boost when Lucille Ball "took him under her wing and allowed him to train in small parts."
Karras also co-wrote autobiographies called "Even Big Guys Cry" and "Alex Karras by Alex Karras."
"His love of nature and most especially of the ocean, where he spent many happy days on his fishing boat, led him to support numerous organizations committed to protecting our environment for future generations," his family said.
Memorial services are being planned and will be announced soon, his family said.FULL STORY
Former Baltimore Ravens owner Art Modell died Thursday, the team reported on its website.
Modell, 87, was an NFL owner for 43 years, during which his teams won two Super Bowls.
He died peacefully of natural causes at Baltimore's Johns Hopkins Hospital, the team said.
"'Poppy' was a special man who was loved by his sons, his daughter-in-law Michel, and his six grandchildren," Modell's son, David Modell, said in a statement released by the team. "Moreover, he was adored by the entire Baltimore community for his kindness and generosity. And, he loved Baltimore. He made an important and indelible contribution to the lives of his children, grandchildren and his entire community. We will miss him."FULL STORY
Comedian Phyllis Diller, known for her self-deprecating humor, died "peacefully in her sleep" at her Los Angeles home Monday morning, her manager told CNN. Diller was 95.
"Her son, Perry, found her with a smile on her face," Milt Suchin said.
Diller , who paved the way for female comedians, began her legendary stand-up comedy career at the age of 37.
"We lost a comedy legend today," comedian Ellen DeGeneres tweeted. "Phyllis Diller was the queen of the one-liners. She was a pioneer."
Diller's career as a stand-up comic skyrocketed in the 1960s, partly because of her many appearances with Bob Hope on his television specials and USO tours. Diller remained good friends with Hope until his death.
"She was a true pioneer," said talent agent Fred Wostbrock. "She was the first lady of stand-up comedy. She paved the way for everybody. She paved the way for Joan Rivers, Chelsea Handler, Roseanne Barr, Ellen Degeneres, and all the women stand-up comics. She was the first and the best."
Comedian Whoopi Goldberg tweeted that she was said the world lost a funny, classy and smart woman like Diller.
"A true original has died," Goldberg tweeted, adding that there was nobody who looked or sounded like her.
Diller's first appearance on TV was as a contestant on Groucho Marx's show "You Bet Your Life."
Diller was also known her for hilarious roasts of major personalities. You can watch her roast Ronald Reagan here:FULL STORY
Editor's note: Jay Parini is a poet, novelist, biographer and critic. He is the author of more than 20 books, ranging from poetry and nonfiction to biographies as well as collections of essays. In 2009, his novel "The Last Station" was turned into an Academy Award-nominated film. Film adaptations of "Benjamin’s Crossing" and "The Passages of H.M." are under way.
For a long time now I've been thinking about the day Gore Vidal would die, as we've been close friends for three decades. I knew I would miss him terribly, and I do – although he hasn’t been dead for a day yet.
We met a few decades ago in southern Italy, where I lived for a period in a small house overlooking the Amalfi Coast – a magical place, with astonishing views of the sea and a lemon grove behind us. I was writing a historical novel, set in the coal country of Pennsylvania, in the 1920s, and reading historical novels to get ideas, especially those by Vidal – he had been a favorite author of mine from my days in college, when I first read "Julian" and "Washington, D.C."
At the time, I didn't even know he lived on the Amalfi Coast, nor that - in fact - I had rented a house in a garden below his imposing villa, which perched on a cliff like a swallow’s nest. (Gore had lived there since 1972 with his lifelong companion, Howard Austen.)
By chance, soon after my arrival, I asked a local newsagent who lived in the big villa, assuming it was some feudal lord. He said: "Gore Vidal, il maestro!" He explained that Vidal stopped by every afternoon to buy a paper and have a drink next door. Somewhat taken aback, I left a note for him:
'Dear Mr. Vidal, I'm an American writer who has moved to town. If there is any chance to meet you, I would be delighted.' I left my address but hardly expected to hear from him. Much to my amazement, he knocked on my door a few hours later, saying: "Parini, come for dinner."
That night I went for dinner, and I kept going. Over time, we became close friends, and he would read a good deal of what I wrote and comment in detail, offering shrewd criticism and encouragement. I would read drafts of things that he wrote, too, and we talked endlessly about the craft of writing.
He really did seem to know everything there was to know about this. Once, for instance, I was sitting with him and said: “I'm writing a novel in which two characters talk about Kierkegaard for about 20 pages. Can I get away with this?" With a twinkle, after a slight pause, he replied, "You can do that. But only if these characters are sitting in a railway car, and the reader knows there is a bomb under the seat."
Gore Vidal, the eclectic author who faithfully chronicled the major shifts and upheavals in the United States in books, essays and plays, has died. He was 86.
Here are a dozen of his best quotes, as gathered by The Gore Vidal Pages.
"Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies."
"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."
"I can understand companionship. I can understand bought sex in the afternoon, but I cannot understand the love affair."
"Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television."
"A narcissist is someone better looking than you are."
"Write something, even if it's just a suicide note."
"You know, I've been around the ruling class all my life, and I've been quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country."
"I suspect that one of the reasons we create fiction is to make sex exciting."
"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country - and we haven't seen them since."
"Every four years the naive half who vote are encouraged to believe that if we can elect a really nice man or woman president everything will be all right. But it won't be."
"The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so."
"There is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise."
Ray Bradbury, author of "Fahrenheit 451" and other science fiction classics, has died, according to a statement from his representative at HarperCollins.
“Yes, Mr. Bradbury died peacefully, last night, in Los Angeles, after a lengthy illness," the statement said.
Bradbury's books, including "The Martian Chronicles" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes," and 600 short stories predicted everything from the emergence of ATMs to live broadcasts of fugitive car chases.
- CNN's Carolyn Sung contributed to this report.FULL STORY
Mary Kennedy, the estranged wife of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., died of asphyxiation due to hanging, a spokeswoman for the Westchester County medical examiner said Thursday.
Few details of Mary Kennedy's death were immediately available.
The Bedford Police Department confirmed Wednesday that they were investigating a possible unattended death at an address owned by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.
Authorities found a deceased individual inside "an out building" on the property, police said in a statement.
"It is with deep sadness that the family of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. mourns the loss of Mary Richardson Kennedy, wife and mother of their four beloved children. Mary inspired our family with her kindness, her love, her gentle soul and generous spirit," a statement by the husband's family said.
"We deeply regret the death of our beloved sister Mary, whose radiant and creative spirit will be sorely missed by those who loved her. Our heart goes out to her children who she loved without reservation," her family said in a statement.
Mary Kennedy was 52.
Where have all the heroes gone? That question popped into my mind Friday when I learned that Carroll Shelby had died at age 89.
To automotive fanatics like myself, Shelby was the hero of performance cars, starting in the mid-1960s when the Mustang, Camaro and Barracuda dominated our imaginations. Shelby took the Ford Mustang to a level never even considered with the Cobra and Cobra GT models.
While most of his fame came from his modifications of Mustangs, Shelby also shared some of his genius with Chrysler for a few years. While there he took an Omni and converted it from a commuter car to a fire-breathing monster that nearly went airborne when pushed to the limit.
Shelby was more than a gearhead and racer. He was a visionary who put an American-designed, American-built muscle car on a global platform. His appeal was more than mere mechanics and was clearly demonstrated a few years ago when Ford unveiled the latest version of the Mustang on the eve of the Los Angeles Auto show. FULL POST
Vidal Sassoon, the legendary hairstylist, died of "apparent natural causes" at his Los Angeles home Wednesday morning, a Los Angeles police spokesman said. He was 84.
Police were called to Sassoon's Bel Air home on Mulholland Drive at 10:30 a.m., spokesman Kevin Maiberger said.
"When officers arrived, there were family members at the residence," Maiberger said.
Sassoon, a British native, spent several years as a young boy in a London orphanage after his father left and his mother could not afford to care for him.
Later, after his mother dreamed of her son being in a barber shop, she apprenticed him to a local barber. That began a career that saw him develop two classic hairstyles of the 1960s - the bob and the even shorter five-point cut - along with an eponymous hair care line, a range of hair care tools, and a chain of salons.FULL STORY
[Updated at 10:34 a.m. ET] Maurice Sendak, author of the classic children's book "Where the Wild Things Are," died from complications after a stroke on Tuesday, said Erin Crum, a spokeswoman for HarperCollins Publishers.
Sendak illustrated nearly 100 books during a 60-year career, winning dozens of accolades as he endeared himself to generations of children reared on his fanciful stories. One critic called him "the Picasso of children's literature." Former President Bill Clinton called him the "king of dreams."
Born in Brooklyn the son of Polish immigrants, Sendak grew up to take a few night classes but largely taught himself as an artist.
He is best known for his book, "Where the Wild Things Are." It tells the story of a boy named Max, who dresses in a white wolf costume and escapes his life at home by sailing to a remote land, where he discovers wild things who roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth.
The book stirred controversy when it was first published in 1963. Many librarians initially feared it would disturb children, although it has become a timeless classic well-stocked in bookstores and libraries around the world.
"Maurice Sendak captured childhood in brilliant stories and drawings which will live forever,” Richard Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic Inc. said after Sendak's death.
Sendak received the Caldecott Medal for "Where the Wild Things Are" and was known for other favorite children's classics, such as "In the Night Kitchen," "Chicken Soup with Rice," "Alligators All Around," and the "Little Bear" books. He won the National Medal of Arts, the National Book Award, the Hans Christian Andersen Medal and the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, according to Harper Collins Publishers.
We can think of no better way to pay tribute to Sendak than through his own memorable words.
“But the wild things cried,
'Oh please don’t go – we’ll eat you up – we love you so!'
And Max said, 'No!'
The wild things roared their terrible roars and gnashed their terrible teeth
and rolled their terrible eyes and showed their terrible claws,
but Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.”
- Maurice Sendak
Sendak recently did an interview with Stephen Colbert and was also the subject of an HBO documentary as well as a DVD by the Rosenbach Museum & Library in Philadelphia.
Watch the videos below for more on the legendary children's author and leave your memories of Sendak and his books in the comments below.
ColbertNation.com video: Sendak on the complexity of children and the simplicity of Newt Gingrich
ColbertNation.com video: Sendak on the state of children's literature