Lena Horne, 92 She stood apart from the very beginning, and not always in a good way. Although she appeared in several MGM musicals in the '40s, Horne often performed alone, so that her scenes could be easily removed if bigoted audiences objected to them (a fate that sunk her wonderful bubble-bath number in Cabin in the Sky). But no one could silence Horne for long. She launched a successful nightclub career that culminated in The Lady and Her Music, still one of the longest-running solo acts in Broadway history.
Joan Sutherland, 83 "Voice of the Century." "La Stupenda." It's almost unthinkable today, given Donizetti's popularity, but bel canto repertoire was in need of a heroine when this soprano strode into the world of opera. Her "mad scene" in Lucia brought a 12-minute ovation at the Met; her Decca recording of L'Elisir d'Amore (with Luciano Pavarotti) may make you get up and clap at home.
Richard Holbrooke, 69 He was a passionate, ambitious, larger-than-life American whose likes we rarely see anymore in high places--a Theodore Roosevelt for our times. Holbrooke was a world-class fighter, in many senses--when he'd arrive back in Washington from one of his countless diplomatic missions, his staff would say, "The Ego has landed." But having cut his teeth in Vietnam, saved the Balkans, and practically died with his Afghan boots on, you might say he earned the right to yell.
Bob Guccione, 79 If Hugh Hefner was the seductive martini of men's magazines, New Jersey-raised Guccione was the worm in the tequila bottle: bolder, kinkier, and fond of racing to the bottom (just ask Vanessa Williams). His Penthouse magazine made $4 billion before losing the porn wars to the Internet. By then, he'd found a way to acquire some class: he bought it, in the form of a major fine-art collection.
Louise Bourgeois, 98 Long before the memoir craze, Bourgeois mined her childhood traumas--a philandering father, an invalid mother--for her spooky, evocative abstract sculptures. She was called the mother of confessional art, but you didn't need to know anything of her biography to sense the power of her giant spider sculptures, or the wit behind her mold of a disembodied phallus.
Gary Coleman, 42 As Arnold, the baby-cheeked orphan who never grew, Coleman helped make Diff'rent Strokes the template for the interracial blended-family sitcom. But the show's rags-to-riches happy ending was belied by Coleman's real life--he sued his parents for mismanaging his trust, filed for bankruptcy, and worked as a shopping-mall security guard. So there was a Diff'rent Strokes curse after all.
Barbara Billingsley, 94 Her trademark pearls and heels on Leave It to Beaver were more a matter of function than form--the necklace covered a hollow in her neck, and the pumps kept her taller than her onscreen sons. But to audiences, the outfits defined June Cleaver, and the serene June defined the ideal of 1950s American motherhood. In real life, Billingsley was a thrice-married working mom, but no less an icon of style or sincerity.
Tony Curtis, 85 As Joe in Some Like It Hot, he performed a double drag, masquerading as both a female jazz musician and a Cary Grant-inspired oil baron. But his most successful transformation was real--from Bronx-born Bernard Schwartz, whose impoverished parents sent him to an orphanage, to the debonair, impeccably coiffed star of Hot, The Sweet Smell of Success, and The Defiant Ones.
Dorothy Height, 98 Social worker, educator, and activist, she was president of the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years and was awarded both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. When historians talk about the civil-rights movement's "Big Six" (King, Farmer, Lewis, Randolph, Wilkins, and Young) they'd do well to make room for No. 7.
Arthur Penn, 88 No one wanted Bonnie and Clyde. The New Republic refused to publish Pauline Kael's landmark review, and Warner Brothers thought the movie would flop, which is why it gave Warren Beatty 40 percent of the profits. Penn knew better. Influenced by the French New Wave, he turned the gangster film into a work of art and made stylized violence a Hollywood staple.
Dennis Hopper 74 Screen villain, behind-the-camera maverick, visual artist, Ameriprise pitchman: Hopper spent five decades in our face. His fulminating made great movies iconic (Blue Velvet) and passable entertainments better (Speed), yet he could play wounded, too (Hoosiers). And though his directing debut, Easy Rider, is legendary, The Last Movie doesn't deserve its obscurity.
John Wooden, 99 He coached the UCLA Bruins basketball team to unparalleled success: 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including seven in a row. As a player, he was the first person named basketball All-American three times, and he was the first ever inducted as both a player and a coach in the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Leslie Nielsen, 84 Though the blandly handsome actor had worked steadily in film and television for three decades, he never became a major star until he played the cluelessly deadpan Dr. Rumack in Airplane! and the equally dense Det. Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun franchise. Call him versatile. Call him a late bloomer. But don't call him Shirley.
Alexander McQueen, 40Horns, fur, breastplates, and a 10-inch heel shaped like a lobster claw: his designs would fit better in a bizarro-world natural-history museum than on an actual woman. But McQueen called himself an enemy of "nicey-nice" fashion, and he used clothes to express his views on art, politics, and the savage world of fashion itself.
Patricia Neal, 84 She won a Tony for her first Broadway play and an Oscar for Hud. Her private life was more fraught: a tumultuous affair with Gary Cooper (she was 23, he was 48 and married), a long but difficult marriage to Roald Dahl, and three strokes in 1965 that left her unable to walk or talk. Three years later, she got an Oscar nomination for her comeback film, The Subject Was Roses. "I think I'm just stubborn," she said. "That's all."
J. D. Salinger, 91 In Holden Caulfield, the opinionated, wised-up, boy-hero of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger gave America a Huck Finn for the 20th century. Then he pulled a Huck Finn move of his own, lighting out for the territory and secluding himself in a New Hampshire town for five decades. Was he writing? If so, did he preserve it? Considering how Salinger's published work shaped the postwar zeitgeist, the shape of America's 21st-century literary life might hinge on the answers.
George Steinbrenner, 80 He won seven World Series rings as Yankees owner, which is one for each of Billy Martin's stints as manager, plus two for the times he was barred from baseball. The Boss was one of sports' most divisive figures, and one of the savviest. After his 37 years, the Yankees' financial success loomed over other teams, much as his huge memorial plaque dwarfs DiMaggio's and the Babe's in Monument Park.
Manute Bol, 47 He stood taller than any man around, but let's talk basketball first. At 7 feet 7, Bol was a shot-blocking machine, the only player with more career blocked shots than points scored. Yet his records are dwarfed by his activism on behalf of his native Sudan. His Ring True Foundation gave millions to refugees, and he'd do anything to raise money: he once played a pro hockey game (though he couldn't skate) and suited up as a jockey. As we said, a giant among men.
Benjamin Hooks, 85 He was the first black judge in Tennessee, the first black on the Federal Communications Commission, an ordained minister (with two churches, one in Detroit and the other in his native Memphis), a gifted orator, executive director of the NAACP--and a Republican. As his friend Andrew Young said, "He's just done an awful lot."
Fess Parker, 85 The lanky Parker became the only famous actor whose hat--the coonskin kind--was more popular than he was. Davy Crockett was one of the first entertainment merchandising gold mines, earning $300 million or so in the 1950s. Parker didn't seem to mind being upstaged (or turned into a Disneyland ride, for that matter). When he retired from acting and became a vintner, he put a tiny coonskin cap on the wine labels.
Robert Byrd, 92 The West Virginia Democrat (and more-than-able country fiddler) was the longest-serving senator and longest-serving member of Congress: he was elected to three terms in the House, then nine in the Senate. He never lost an election, and with his unparalleled mastery of parliamentary rules, he won more than his share of floor fights. He joined the Ku Klux Klan in the '40s but repudiated segregation in the late '60s, and two years before his death endorsed Barack Obama's candidacy.
Miep Gies, 100 She insisted that she was just one of many Dutch who helped hide Jews during World War II. But in rescuing Anne Frank's diary after the Frank family was taken by the Gestapo, and then returning it to Anne's father, Otto, when he came home alone from the concentration camps, she enabled a singular voice to speak for the experience of millions.
Jose Saramago, 87 The Nobel Prize-winning Portuguese novelist was an atheist and a communist. But although his views influenced his fiction, his stories and novels are rarely didactic, driven instead by a surreal imagination (a whole country goes blind at once) and daunting stylistic innovations--page-long sentences, novels with no proper names.
Bobby Thomson, 86 In the last inning of the last game of a playoff to decide the 1951 National League pennant, he hit a home run so unlikely that a columnist declared: "The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention." Thomson never equaled the drama of "the shot heard round the world" with the New York Giants or any of the other teams he played for, but his homer still stings Brooklyn Dodger fans and looms as the standard by which game-winning heroics are judged.
Wilma Mankiller, 64 She became an activist after participating in the occupation of Alcatraz, though "activist" doesn't do her justice. In 1987 Mankiller became the first woman elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, remarkable considering that she also survived a near-fatal car accident, breast cancer, lymphoma, and a kidney transplant. She joked that she earned her last name, but the fact is she was born a Mankiller.
Ted Sorensen, 82 At 27, he began researching a book called Profiles in Courage for then-senator John F. Kennedy. Many years (and rumors) later, Sorensen finally admitted he'd also written parts of it. Though he later became the president's primary speechwriter, he was more coy about JFK's most famous words: "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." Was he the real author of that, too? Sorensen's reply: "Ask not."
Solomon Burke, 70 He was called the "King of Rock and Soul," and to prove it he took to performing on a throne. That was fun, but unnecessary. He had an incredible run of Atlantic 45s in the early 1960s, and while his LPs rarely achieved the perfection of singles like "Cry to Me," his excellent late album Don't Give Up on Me featured songs contributed by Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan. That's quite the royal court.
Elizabeth Edwards, 61 An operatic streak of adversity dogged "Saint Elizabeth" before, during, and after her husband's political career. Whether she was facing the death of a son, cancer, or the tabloid unspooling of a marriage, her mode of addressing setbacks had a welcome authority amid weightless political bromides. Perhaps she was harder-edged behind the scenes. (In politics? Imagine!) Yet she carried a light of dignity into the murky corners of public life.
Al Haig, 85 As Richard Nixon's White House chief of staff, he kept the administration running in its last days. But the decorated four-star general will be remembered for the way, as secretary of state, he seized command when Ronald Reagan was shot: "I am in control here." He wasn't, in more ways than one.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Obituaries: -2010. Contributors: Not available. Magazine title: Newsweek. Volume: 157. Issue: 01 Publication date: January 3, 2011. Page number: 67. © 2009 Newsweek, Inc. All rights reserved. Any reuse, distribution or alteration without express written permission of Newsweek is prohibited. For permission: www.newsweek.com. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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