Obituaries: -2010


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. …

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