2013 in Memoriam: The Best Moments from the Pop Culture Icons We Lost

| December 23, 2013
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Photo: Andy Castro, via Flickr

Photo: Andy Castro, via Flickr

As KQED Pop looks back on 2013, we take a moment to remember a few of the special pop culture figures we lost this year. From the Mouseketeer who put a public face to multiple sclerosis and the musician who took us on a “Walk on the Wild Side” to the actor who made us empathize with a mob boss and the world leader who taught a nation to forgive, let’s celebrate the impact of these icons and remember their best moments.

Patti Page

November 8, 1927 – January 1, 2013

The top selling female recording artist of the 1950s is remembered as one of the first successful female singers to blend country and pop music styles. Her hit “How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?” has become a beloved children’s song.

Roger Ebert

June 18, 1942 – April 4, 2013 (complications from papillary thyroid cancer)

The first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, Ebert was one of America’s (and the world’s) most famous authors and historians on the art of movies. While bringing movie critiques to the masses in his Chicago Sun-Times reviews and his various television shows, first with Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper, Ebert made the act of watching and discussing films an accessible art form the public could participate in. Even when cancer took away his voice, Ebert continued to get his message out loud and clear. Thumbs up, sir.

Annette Funicello

October 22, 1942 – April 8, 2013 (complications from multiple sclerosis)

For the first generation of television fans, she will always be a founding Disney Mouseketeer, while for film goers in the 1960s, she became the breakout Malibu surf bunny in Beach Blanket Bingo. But it was her role as one of the first celebrities to come out as having multiple sclerosis that is Annette Funicello’s true legacy. We’ll keep the clubhouse light on for her.

Deanna Durbin

December 4, 1921 – April 20, 2013 (natural causes)

Operatic actress and singing star in Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s.

Richie Havens

January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013

Famed guitarist best remembered for his opening performance at Woodstock.

Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly

August 11, 1978 – May 1, 2013 (drug related cause)

Rapper and part of ’90s duo Kris Kross.

Dr. Joyce Brothers

October 20, 1957 – May 13, 2013 (respiratory failure)

Psychologist and television personality famous for popularizing mental health professionals’ role in the media.

Jean Stapleton

January 19, 1923 – May 31, 2013 (natural causes)

Forever immortalized on television as Archie Bunker’s beloved “dingbat” wife Edith, Stapleton brought a strength and humanity to the character that made Edith the heart of All in the Family.

Esther Williams

August 8, 1921 – June 6, 2013

The competitive swimmer turned actress and musical “water ballet” star was famed for her appearances in over-the-top aquatic films at MGM studios in the 1940s and ’50s. Williams practically invented synchronized swimming. The mind-bogglingly beautiful pool production numbers in Million Dollar Mermaid and Neptune’s Daughter are must-sees.

James Gandolfini

September 16, 1961 – June 19, 2013 (heart attack)

An actor of great power, nuance, bravura and sensitivity, Gandolfini could at times make you cower or cry in his role as Tony Soprano on HBO’s acclaimed mafia portrait The Sopranos. If The Sopranos is the best show in the history of television, much of the series’ humanity rests of Gandolfini’s shoulders. It was a humanity that was at the core of the man that went on to devote much of his time to Iraq veterans with projects like Alive Day Memories and gave a heartbreaking performance in the screen adaptation of the children’s classic Where the Wild Things Are.

Cory Monteith

May 11, 1982 – July 13, 2013 (accidental heroin overdose)

Glee‘s Finn Hudson may have been Ryan Murphy’s creation on the page, but the heart and the voice on television belonged to actor Cory Monteith. Although his death is a reminder of the danger and stigma of addiction, he’ll be remembered for his tour de force musical performances long after the show’s end.

Dennis Farina

February 29, 1944 – July 22, 2013 (pulmonary embolism)

Television and big screen tough guy known for roles on Law and Order, Luck and on the big screen in Get Shorty.

Eileen Brennan

September 3, 1932 – July 28, 2013 (bladder cancer)

Character actress famous for her roles in Private Benjamin, Clue and Will and Grace.

Karen Black

July 1, 1939 – August 8, 2013

One of the biggest stars of the 1970s, Black will be remembered for roles in groundbreaking films of the era including Five Easy Pieces, Nashville, Easy Rider, The Day of the Locust and her role in Alfred Hitchcock’s final film Family Plots, as well as her heroic turn in Airport 1975.

Eydie Gorme

August 16, 1928 – August 10, 2013 (natural causes)

Singer famed as part of husband and wife duo “Steve and Eydie” with Steve Lawrence. Hits include “Blame It on the Bosa Nova” and “If He Walked into My Life Today.”

Elmore Leonard

October 11, 1925 – August 20, 2013 (natural causes)

American novelist and screenwriter famous for works including Get Shorty, Out of Sight, Rum Punch (the basis for Quentin Tarentino’s film Jackie Brown), and Fire in the Hole (the basis for FX series Justified).

Julie Harris

December 2, 1925 – August 24, 2013 (congestive heart failure)

An actress renowned for bringing everyone from Mary Todd Lincoln to Eleanor Lance in The Haunting to life, Harris will always be best remembered as tomboy Frankie in Carson McCullers’ A Member of the Wedding.

Marcia Wallace

November 1, 1942 – October 25, 2013

Mrs. Krabappel, we’re speechless.

Lou Reed

March 2, 1942 – October 27, 2013 (liver disease)

One of the most widely cited and influential musicians of his time, Lou Reed left a void in music with his passing that marked the end of an intellectual and artistic rebellion that began in the 1960s. When the Velvet Underground frontman checked out, he took a piece of rock ‘n’ roll and a piece of every fan with him. When I heard the news, I looked up in the sky half thinking I’d see a satellite in ascent.

Doris Lessing

October 22, 1919 – November 17, 2013 (natural causes)

Nobel Prize winning author of classic “feminist” novel (although Lessing herself downplayed that label) The Golden Notebook.

Paul Walker

September 12, 1973 – November 30, 2013 (car accident)

Famed for his roles in Varsity Blues and She’s All That but best remembered for his breakout in the Fast and Furious franchise, Paul Walker’s death received an outpouring of fan grief when news hit Twitter. His real legacy lies in the work he did with his relief organization Reach Out World Wide addressing crises in Haiti, Chile and beyond.

Soroush “Looloosh” Farazmand and Arash “Sina” Farazmand

November 11, 2013 (murder by gunshot)

Founding members of Iranian-American rock band The Yellow Dogs

Sylvia Browne

October 19, 1936 – November 20, 2013 (heart attack)

Medium/psychic famed for appearances on Montel Williams, Maury and Larry King.

Nelson Mandela

July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013 (complications from respiratory infection)

South Africa’s first black president was a leader who inspired the people of his own country and the entire world. After 27 years of imprisonment, Mandela taught humanity the true meaning of the word “forgiveness.” His prison release was one of the most watched news events of the ’90s and widely covered by early international cable news. May Tata’s legacy continue in his people and in the hearts of all leaders. For more on Nelson Mandela please read my colleague Lizzy Acker’s KQED Pop post on his passing.

Eleanor Parker

June 26, 1922 – December 9, 2013 (pneumonia)

Although best known for her role as the Baroness Shrader in The Sound of Music, the blond beauty was an acclaimed Academy Award nominated actress in films from Naked Jungle to the women in prison classic Caged and Detective Story.

Peter O’Toole

August 2, 1932 – December 14, 2013 (natural causes)

“If he were any prettier, he’d be Florence of Arabia,” Noel Coward quipped of O’Toole’s matinee idol handsomeness in the film that made him a star. Famed for his roles on stage as well as on screen, the star of Becket, My Favorite Year and A Lion In Winter was also a renowned bon vivant and storyteller who, in later years, regaled talk show hosts with tales of working with the greats of the West End stage and cheeky stories of his Falstaffian drinking days.

Joan Fontaine

October 22, 1917 – December 15, 2013 (natural causes)

The golden age Hollywood star rocketed to acclaim as the nameless second Mrs. De Winter in Rebecca and was the only actor to win an Academy Award under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock for 1941′s Suspicion. A celebrated talent the world over, Fontaine is also remembered as one half of the most notorious case of sibling rivalry Tinseltown has ever seen; her feud with actress sister Olivia de Havilland is the stuff of legend. A long time resident of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Fontaine’s last interview was with the Bay Area’s own Backlots Classic Film Blog this past fall.

Lord Infamous

November 17, 1973 – December 20, 2013 (heart attack)

Founding member of Three 6 Mafia.

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About the Author ()

Tony Bravo is a San Francisco freelancer covering fashion, menswear, lifestyle and entertainment stories. He is a regular contributor to The Bold Italic and the San Francisco Chronicle's Style section.
  • john

    what about Les Blank, our cherished local filmaker