Looking back at the famous, the infamous and the interesting figures who we lost in the last year.
Every year, we lose people who are interesting and significant figures. Some of them are mourned internationally; others die almost unnoticed. Here is our annual round-up of those who died this year, and like every other list, it is a somewhat curated one towards those we feel have some significance to Reprobate readers.
A fake medium and spiritualist, best known for his work on the dreadful Most Haunted, a show that spawned the entire night-vision ghost hunting genre where nothing ever actually happens. Best known for shouting “Mary loves Dick!” and being tricked into channelling spirits with names that were anagrams of ‘Derek lies’ and ‘Derek faker’, he was eventually fired from the show for – I kid you not – making things up. He’s probably not making contact with anyone from beyond the grave. He died of pneumonia and sepsis, aged 69.
Joseph Adler was an acclaimed American theatre director who won awards for his work on the stage, but outside the theatrical world, he is best known for his dabbling in exploitation cinema. His films were few, but memorable – Sex and the College Girl, Scream Baby Scream, Revenge is My Destiny, Sammy Somebody (with Zalman King) and Convention Girls. He died after a long illness, aged 79.
If you needed a Scouser in the 1970s or 1980s, Michael Angelis was your man. Whether in sit-coms like The Liver Birds or gritty dramas like Boys from the Black Stuff, Angelis was a familiar, laconic face on British TV; he also appeared in the underrated dark comedy No Surrender. Later in his career though, it was his voice that people recognised, as he spent eleven years narrating children’s show Thomas and Friends. He died of a heart attack, aged 76.
More than anyone else, Mike Appleton was responsible for having rock music taken seriously – briefly – by the BBC when he became the producer of The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1971. Although mocked vigorously by throwaway music hipsters, the OGWT archives are essentially the history of music between the launch and its demise (the show suffering death by a thousand BBC cuts over several years) in 1987. Appleton also produced the British end of Live Aid and the Nelson Mandela concert in 1988, before leaving to launch The Landscape Channel. He died, aged 83.
The former head of Satanic organisation The Temple of Set. Full obituary.
The wife of Dom DeLuise and an actor in several Mel Brooks comedies – from Blazing Saddles through Silent Movie to Dracula: Dead and Loving It – Arthur also appeared in small roles in The World’s Greatest Lover, The Sunshine Boys and others, as well as appearing as Safety Sadie in a series of late Seventies/early Eighties public service announcements. She died aged 85.
At one point, Bobby Ball was one half of the most popular comedy double act in the UK, with straight man Tommy Cannon. Rising through the working men’s club circuit, the pair were massively popular in the early 1980s, leading to a misguided film, The Boys in Blue. Like many old-school comedians, they were sidelined by the less popular but more fashionable (with TV producers) alternative comedy scene, though they remained popular in panto and live shows. More recently, Ball appeared in sitcoms Last of the Sumer Wine and Not Going Out. he died of Covid-19 complications, aged 76.
Mark Barkan was a songwriter who plied his trade in the early 1960s from the Brill Building, writing songs for Connie Francis, Lesley Gore and others, including Manfred Mann’s Pretty Flamingo. In 1966 he allegedly invented psychedelia with The Deep’s Psychedelic Moods, and would write for The Archies, The Monkees and other bubblegum favourites, before helping create The Banana Splits, co-writing the Tra-La-La Song among others. He followed this success with the notorious Olivia Newton-John sci-fi musical Toomorrow. He died aged 85.
Christopher Beeney started out as a child actor in 1953, but gained fame in the UK in the 1970s as one of the stairs of period soap Upstairs, Downstairs and then had roles in a trilogy of sitcoms – Miss Jones and Son, The Rag Trade and In Loving Memory, as well as guest roles in The Sweeney, The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Armchair Theatre. As the Golden Age of the British sit-com ended, he moved into theatre work, but returned to TV in the 2000s with a recurring role in Last of the Summer Wine. He died aged 78.
Brigid Berlin was an artist closely associated with Andy Warhol during the peak of his factory years and beyond. She worked with him from 1964 until his death and was involved in his Interview magazine beyond that point. It’s been said that her art was overshadowed by the Warhol connection, but we might equally think that is was elevated by the same association. Her most famous work was the ‘tit prints’ in which she dipped her breasts in paint and then pressed them onto the canvas, but she was also a sketch artist (her Cock Book featuring sketches of the genitalia of Warhol, Jasper Johns and others ran for three volumes and was sold at auction for $175,000) and Polaroid photographer. She appeared in Warhol’s seminal film Chelsea Girls, famously injecting herself, and her other films for/with the Warhol circle include Ciao! Manhattan, Bike Boy, ****, Women in Revolt and Bad; she later worked with John Waters on Serial Mom and Pecker. Her tape recordings helped inspire the stage show Andy Warhol’s Pork and the Velvet Underground album Live at Max’s Kansas City. She died aged 80.
Martin Birch started his career engineering records for Fleetwood Mac, Wishbone Ash and Deep Purple, before graduating to production, where he was behind albums for Purple off-shoots like Rainbow, Whitesnake and Jon Lord, as well as Blue Oyster Cult and Black Sabbath. Birch was probably the best heavy rock producer out there, giving the music the depth and solidity that it needed. In 1981, he produced Iron Maiden‘s second album, Killers, and would subsequently handle all their albums, having found his ideal musical muse, from 1982 until he retired in 1992 Birch would work for no one else. He died of undisclosed causes, aged 71.
Honor Blackman was best known for her roles in two iconic British spy franchises of the 1960s. She joined The Avengers in its second season, when the show was still in transition from a standard espionage show into the fantastical, whimsical series it is remembered as; in this season, she was not Steed’s regular partner, splitting support duties with nightclub singer Venus Smith (Julie Stevens). But by the third season, the show and her Cathy Gale character had been fully developed. Her leather-clad action figure was one of TV’s first female characters to be on an equal footing with her male partner and as good in a fight as he was. Her success in the show led to her leaving it, ironically; she was cast in Goldfinger as a result of her popularity, and so had to leave the series as filming clashed; she was replaced by Diana Rigg (who also died this year). Her role in Goldfinger, as the outrageously-named Pussy Galore, remains one of the most iconic Bond women, and one of the oldest – she was 38 when the film was shot, a good decade or more above the usual Bond Girl. Other notable screen appearances include A Night to Remember, The Square Peg, Jason and the Argonauts, The Secret of My Success, Life at the Top, Shalako, Twinky, The Virgin and the Gypsy, Fright, the Columbo episode Dagger of the Mind, To the Devil – A Daughter and Radley Metzger‘s Cat and the Canary. Her last film was Cockneys Vs Zombies. She also had a hit single with Avengers co-star Patrick Macnee and wrote self-defence books. She died aged 94.
A TV writer and producer, William Blinn is best known as the creator of Starsky and Hutch in the mid-1970s. He also wrote episodes of Roots, Gunsmoke and Fame, and was the screenwriter of Purple Rain. He died of natural causes in a retirement home, aged 83.
Best known for her work with director Frank Henenlotter (Basket Case, Basket Case 2, Frankenhooker), Beverly Bonner was a stage veteran, appearing in Women Behind Bars with Divine, and a comedy circuit veteran. She recently made her directorial debut with Steamed.
For years, Frank Bough was TV’s Mr Wholesome: the woolly-jumpered host of Saturday-swallowing sports show Grandstand and the travel show Holiday, the man hand-picked to help launch breakfast TV in the UK. He was the epitome of conservative, safe blandness. What a shock, then, when it was revealed that the fifty-five-year-old Bough had been snorting cocaine off the bodies of prostitutes at kinky sex parties during his time off. The News of the World ran an exclusive exposé (Bough agreeing to be interviewed when it became clear that they had the goods on him) and this – plus stories about his wandering eye and hands among female co-hosts that quickly came out – saw him booted out of the BBC. After a few years in the wilderness, Bough clawed his way back onto TV through a regional news programme, and soon graduated to hosting the Rugby World Cup for ITV in 1991 – a triumphant comeback. Sadly for Frank, he was soon photographed leaving the house of a famous dominatrix, where he would be a frequent visitor to her ‘torture dungeon’. Amazingly, this wasn’t the end of his media career, although he would never quite scale the giddy heights of his 1980s fame again. The public, it seems, had a certain affection for Bough that his extra-curricular activities only enhanced. He died, in a care home, aged 87.
Ben Bova was a prolific science fiction – and science fact – writer, with some 124 books to his name. He was editor of Analog magazine, a six-time Hugo Award winner and president of both the National Space Society and the Science Fiction Writers of America. his books include several series, assorted space operas and dystopian tales, as well as the novelisation of THX-1138. He died of Covid-19, aged 88.
Wilfred Brimley was an actor who didn’t begin his acting career until he was in his forties, appearing in The Waltons in a recurring role. He then worked pretty regularly in films like The China Syndrome, The Electric Horseman, Absence of Malice, Brubaker, Death Valley, The Thing, 10 To Midnight, High Road to China, Cocoon, Hard Target and more. He was also an accomplished jazz singer, former bodyguard for Howard Hughes, diabetes campaigner and political libertarian – he once campaigned against a ban on cockfighting, not because he supported it, but because of the principles of individual freedom (though not, presumably, for the cocks). He died aged 85.
One of the great figures of the British comedy boom that emerged in the 1960s from the Cambridge Footlights, Tim Brooke-Taylor often seemed unfairly overlooked compared to his contemporaries, including John Cleese, Graham Chapman and his later Goodies partners, Bill Oddie and Graeme Garden. but his track record is second to none. He performed in and co-wrote radio comedy series I’m Sorry, I’ll Read That Again in the early 1960s, and then moved on to TV with shows like At Last The 1948 Show, where he co-wrote the Four Yorkshiremen sketch later made legendary by Monty Python. He was also in Do Not Adjust Your Set and Marty, the Marty Feldman sketch show, before joining up with Oddie and Garden to form The Goodies, an anarchic collision of sketch show and sitcom that ran from 1970 to 1982, and also saw the trio develop a successful recording career, their single The Funky Gibbon, which peaked at Number 4 in the UK charts. He was also in sketch show Hello Cheeky, and post-Goodies appeared as a regular or one-off guest in several sitcoms and dramas, including One Foot in the Grave. He was also a regular on radio quiz I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue from 1972 until 2020. He died of Covid-19, aged 79.
David Owen Brooks
As a fifteen-year-old, David Brooks began luring teenage boys – some schoolfriends – to the home of Houston serial killer and rapist Dean Corll, who he had been having a sexual relationship with since the age of twelve. Corll and Brooks were later joined by Wayne Henley, and the two of them were complicit in luring more victims and increasingly took part in the torture and murder of the boys. Eventually, Henley killed Corll – allegedly in self-defence when the older man tried to assault him – and called the police, bringing the grotesque affair to an end. The story of Corll and Henley was covered in the documentary The Killing of America, though Brooks was very much sidelined in the story. Nevertheless, he seemed to have been the more active of the two teenagers in the abductions and murders. He died in prison of Covid-19, aged 65.
Edd Byrnes was a jobbing actor until 77 Sunset Strip turned him into a teen idol overnight in 1958, in the role of wannabe detective Kookie. With his rock ‘n’ roll persona and street cred – his character spoke in a Fifties jive style unheard on TV before and constantly combed his ducktail hair – he became the first identifiable television character for the teenage generation. Naturally, he cashed in with a pop single, Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb – a duet with Connie Stevens that hit number 4 on the US pop charts. Byrnes constantly clashed with Warner Brothers, who had him under contract, and by the time he escaped their crip, the opportunity for film roles that might have cashed in on his fame had gone. After 77 Sunset Strip ended, he made unsuccessful pilots (a TV version of Kissin’ Cousins) and guested on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Honey West and other shows, and made appearances in Roger Corman’s The Secret Invasion and Beach Ball, but roles were harder to come by than you might have expected. He went to Europe to appear in spaghetti westerns, and was in Wicked Wicked, Stardust and Grease in the 1970s, alongside the TV guest appearances that would dominate his career until his retirement at the end of the 1990s. He died of natural causes, aged 87.
A familiar face from Italian cult cinema, Flavio Bucci mixed arthouse and exploitation movies, and was in some of the most iconic films of the 1970s – he was the blind pianist in Suspiria, a sex criminal in Night Train Murders, the lead of Property is No Longer a Theft and more. He was also a voice dubber for the Italian market, providing new voices for John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone among others. He died of a heart attack, aged 72.
Jeremy Bulloch was a British actor who was best known for appearing in a couple of Star Wars films – enough to grant anyone cult status, apparently. Other than this, he was a fairly familiar face as a supporting character on British TV shows and movies: he had an ongoing part in flashy Sixties soap Compact and Eighties cult hit Robin of Sherwood, and popped up in The Virgin and the Gypsy, Doctor Who, Can You Keep It Up For a Week, The Spy Who Loved Me (and For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy in different roles), Man About the House, the Hammer version of The Lady Vanishes, The Professionals and more. He died aged 75.
In a world of traditionalism and haute couture, Pierre Cardin made clothes for the bright new future that everyone in the 1960s assumed was theirs for the taking. An innovator of modernist design, the use of plastic and sharp geometrics and the idea of making your name a brand that could be licensed out, Cardin’s importance in shaping the world that we live in – or at least once lived in – cannot be overstated. Cardin was the designer for the space age, even designing a spacesuit for NASA and creating clothes that were actually made for wearing on other worlds. But his style translated beyond the sci-fi and into the mainstream, with an effortless sophistication and wearability that made him a pioneer of the ready-to-wear. He licensed his name to countless products that he had no personal involvement with, something that arguably weakened his standing among a fashion elite (even though the darlings of the industry would all do likewise) and in a world where shifting tastes have to be reflected at all times, his desire to stick to classic styles over the years made him less relevant to the fashion writers, ever in search of the new – but who cares? His style was decades ahead of everyone else’s anyway. A collaborator with Jean Cocteau (he made costumes and masks for La Belle et La Bête), Elsa Schiaparelli and Christian Dior, a colleague of Dali and Picasso, and costume designer for The Avengers, he was one of the most significant creative figures of the 20th century. He died aged 98.
Lewis John Carlino
Lewis John Carlino was a screenwriter and director, responsible for some of the darkest stories to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s – he wrote Seconds for John Frankenheimer, A Reflection of Fear, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea, which he also directed. Other films he wrote included Ressurection – the oddball religious thriller from 1980 – Class, The Fox, The Mechanic, The Great Santini and Haunted Summer. All in all a pretty interesting career. He died aged 88.
Steve Martin Caro
Carmelo Esteban ‘Steve’ Martin Caro was the lead singer of baroque psychedelic band The Left Banke and performed on their classic hits Walk Away Renee and Pretty Ballerina. In the 1970s, he collaborated – with other former Left Banke members – on songs for the adult movie Hot Parts. His fellow Left Banke member Tom Finn also died this year. Caro died of heart disease, aged 71.
Guitarist Paul ‘Tonka’ Chapman is best known for his tenure with heavy rock band UFO, from 1974-1975 and 1979 – 1983. He subsequently played alongside fellow ex-UFO member Pete Way (who also died in 2020) in the band Waysted. He died on his 66th birthday.
A Scottish anarchist, Stuart Christie was arrested, aged, eighteen, for plotting to assassinate the Spanish fascist leader General Franco. In the 1970s, he was believed to be a member of The Angry Brigade, though he was acquitted of all charges. He was part of the CND’s Direct Action Committee and launched the anarchist publishing house Cienfuegos Press. His own books include Granny Made Me an Anarchist, General Franco Made Me a Terrorist, and Edward Heath Made Me Angry. He died of cancer, aged 74.
Robert Conrad was an American actor best known for his role in the TV series Wild Wild West and Hawaiian Eye in the 1960s. A familiar face to TV viewers, he guest-starred in Mannix, Columbo, Mission: Impossible and several TV movies. In 2003, he and another driver suffered serious injuries in a car crash, the aftermath of which saw Conrad convicted of drunk-driving. The case would continue to dog him for several years. He died of heart failure, aged 84.
Sean Connery was a Scottish actor who was the first person to play James Bond in a movie, and so will forever be associated with the role. He played Bond seven times between 1962 and 1983 (or eight if you count his voiceover for the 2005 video game of From Russia with Love). His pre-Bond films include some interesting titles – Hell Drivers, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure and The Longest Day – but his best work came after the series had rocketed him to fame. His extensive career is, inevitably, a mixed bag, but there are plenty of interesting titles: The Hill, Marnie, Shalako, The Anderson Tapes, The Offence, Zardoz, Murder on the Orient Express, Ransom, The Man Who Would Be King, Robin and Marion, A Bridge Too Far, The First Great Train Robbery, Meteor, Outland, Time Bandits, Sword of the Valiant, Highlander, The Name of the Rose, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Rock, The Hunt for Red October and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Connery famously kept his Scottish accent for whatever role he played, and politically was a Scottish nationalist; his love of the country didn’t, of course, extend to actually living there, and his tax status would continue to be a subject of some controversy over his life, as would his views about hitting women. He retired from acting in 2006, disillusioned with the state of Hollywood – we can only imagine what he’d think of it today. He died aged 90.
Terence Conran was an English designer and restaurants who helped modernise Britain. He launched the Habitat shops, several restaurants including Bibendum and wrote over fifty books on design. In 1989, he launched The Design Museum, currently in Kensington. He died aged 88.
Richard Corben was an American illustrator and comic book artist whose work is some of the most iconic of the 1970s and 1980s. His work for Heavy Metal (and its French predecessor Metal Hurlant) included Den, based on his short film Neverwhere, which featured a well-endowed naked muscleman in Conan-style fantasy adventures; a rather less upfront version of the story was adapted for the Heavy Metal movie in 1981. Corben also worked for Warren Publications Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella and 1984, and did colour work for Will Eisner’s The Spirit. Between 1986 and 1994, he ran Fantagor Press, publishing his own work, and in later years contributed to Hellblazer, The Punisher and Ghost Rider, as well as adapting William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland and works by Poe and Lovecraft. His artwork appeared on the classic cover for Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell and the poster art for Phantom of the Paradise. He died after heart surgery, aged 80.
The younger brother of Roger Corman, Gene entered the film industry prior to Roger, working as an agent. he moved into film production in the 1950s, often working with his brother and others on a fantastic series of exploration films until the end of the 1970s – I, Mobster, Hot Car Girl, Night of the Blood Beast, Beast from the Haunted Cave, Attack of the Giant Leeches, The Intruder, The Tower of London, The Secret Invasion, The Girls on the Beach, Ski Party, Beach Ball, Cool Breeze, Private Parts, Hit Man, Darktown Strutters, Vigilante Force, The Big Red One and many more. He later became vice-president of 20th Century Fox television. Though obviously overshadowed by his older brother, the importance of Gene Corman in exploitation film history shouldn’t be underestimated. He died aged 93.
I met Ben Cross a couple of years ago when we interviewed him for the documentary film about Dark Shadows – he’d been the star of the 1991 revival of the classic gothic TV series. He turned up late, gave a lackey a thorough tongue-lashing for taking him to the wrong place and was then very on the ball, giving us exactly what we needed – no more, no less. I was rather impressed by the whole experience. Cross rose to fame as a posh boy in British costume dramas like Chariots of Fire and The Far Pavillions but had a more interesting international career in films like The Unholy and First Knight, and countless television projects. He was working until the end, with some projects still in production when he died of cancer aged 72.
Clive Cussler was the author of a series of thriller novels, often with fantastical, Bondian themes that took them out of the realistic styles of his contemporaries. Featuring his hero Dirk Pitt, the stories combined pulp action and techno-drama. The most famous is probably Raise the Titanic, adapted as a film in 1980. Cussler’s work does not seem to have translated well to the big-screen” raise the Titanic was a flop, as was the later adaptation Sahara. Yet the books have every element that ought to make them irresistible for blockbuster filmmakers. Cussler was, in real life, an underwater explorer who discovered more than sixty shipwreck sites and wrote non-fiction books about his exploits. His last novel is scheduled for release in 2021. He died aged 88.
Cristina Monet Zilkha was an American singer, best known for her acerbic and nihilistic new wave cover of Is That All There Is?. Her deadpan delivery and wittily reworked lyrics got the song pulled from sale for years after writers Lieber and Stoller took offence, but the song remains a classic. Other, less well-known tracks include Disco Clone and What’s A Girl To Do?, but after her second album flopped, she quit music. In later years, she would write for publications such as the Times Literary Supplement, the promise of a great musical career cut short. She died of Covid-19, aged 64.
Charlie Daniels was an increasingly right-wing country singer who started out in the Southern Rock movement before becoming a more traditional country artist. He was best known for his single The Devil Went Down to Georgia, which was an unexpected global hit at the end of the 1970s. He died of a stroke, aged 83.
Spencer Davis was a British musician who led The Spencer Davis Group, one of the leading acts of the British Blues boom in the 1960s. The band had a few iconic hits – Keep On Running, Gimme Some Lovin’ and others, sung by Steve Winwood. The original version of the band split in 1969, but Davis would keep various incarnations going throughout the 1970s and beyond. Davis also worked as a promoter for Island Records and remained active in the music industry throughout his life. He died of pneumonia, aged 81.
The life of Wilfred De’Ath is either a cautionary tale or an aspirational one; possibly both. A BBC producer in his twenties, he interviewed the big names of the time before getting on board with the burgeoning youth movement by launching Teen Scene, a radio programme that saw him interviewing the likes of Mick Jagger and John Lennon. Also working on Teen Scene was Jimmy Savile, and this would come back to haunt De’Ath later when he was one of many accused during the Operation Yewtree investigations. His accuser later withdrew her complaint, seemingly having mistaken De’Ath for someone else when he was shown on a documentary about Savile. The mere accusation might have affected his career, had he still had one; but he had long since thrown it away. In the late 1970s, he accused – in print – nine BBC colleagues of being “intellectual pygmies” – perish the thought! They sued and, remarkably (given the fact that it seems an insult more than a libel) won. De’Ath lost his job, all his money and his home. Years of homelessness, interrupted by periods spent in prison for theft, and estrangement from his family followed. In later years, he led a slightly more settled life, but his willingness to make pronouncements like “I don’t like people with coloured skin, no – they’ve brought terrible things to this country – Aids, guns, and all kinds of things I don’t like” helped ensure that he would remain in the cultural wilderness. He ended his days writing a column about his dissolute life for The Oldie. His autobiography, Uncommon Criminal, was published via Amazon but is no longer available. He died aged 82.
Betty Dodson was a sex educator and part of the pro-sex feminist movement. She was famous for her masturbation workshops, where naked women would lie in a circle and example their own genitalia in a mirror, which was usually presented as a ludicrous novelty or titillating spectacle for TV viewers or newspaper readers who overlooked the empowering and liberating opportunity it gave women to embrace their own bodies and sexuality at a time when such things were not the norm. Her Magic Wand was a pioneering upmarket and ergonomic sex toy and her books are equally forward-thinking sex-positive guides. She died of cirrhosis of the liver, aged 91.
Kirk Douglas was a Hollywood legend, the last survivor of cinema’s classic era – an actor, writer, director and producer who was successful over several decades. Not always a beloved figure amongst his colleagues, he was a driven and self-determined individual who thought that he knew better than directors about how his roles should be played, and certainly made enemies along the way – but the body of his work, just as an actor, is hugely impressive. He made his screen debut in noir classic The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers and would go on to appear in (to name a few) Out of the Past, Champion, The Glass Menagerie, Ace in the Hole, The Bad and the Beautiful, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Ulysses, Lust for Life, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Paths of Glory, The Vikings, Spartacus, Town Without Pity, Lonely Are the Brave, The List of Adrian Messenger, Seven Days in May, Is Paris Burning?, The Arrangement, There Was a Crooked Man, To Catch a Spy, The Light at the End of the World, the musical TV version of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde, Holocaust 2000, The Fury, Saturn 3, The Final Countdown and Tough Guys. In 1955, he formed his own production company and was behind Kubrick‘s Paths of Glory and Spartacus, The Vikings and others. He gave full credit to blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo, helping end the blacklist against alleged Communist sympathisers. He bought the film and stage rights to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the mid-Sixties and starred in a stage adaptation, but was unable to get a film version mounted; eventually, he passed the rights to his son Michael, who produced the acclaimed movie in 1975. Douglas and his wife have donated much of their fortune – well over $60 million – to charitable causes over the last twenty years. He served as a goodwill ambassador for many years, and after a stroke in 1996 robbed him of his ability to speak, he managed a remarkable recovery and later wrote a book aimed at helping others recover from the same situation. He died aged 103.
Burkhard Driest was a novelist, screenwriter and actor who worked with some of the best – Werner Herzog in Stroszek, Sam Peckinpah in Cross of Iron and Rainer Werner Fassbinder in Querelle – not bad for someone who robbed a savings bank in 1965 and was sentenced to five years in prison. His first novel, Die Verrohung des Franz Blum, was filmed in 1974, and he also wrote the eccentric comedy The Son of Hitler in 1978. He died after a long illness, aged 80.
Hilary Dwyer had a brief but interesting film career that today would see her described as a Scream Queen; at the turn of the Seventies, though, there was little mileage to be had as a horror film actress. She made her film debut in Witchfinder General, and then rapidly appeared in a handful of other American International witchcraft films and gothic tales: The Oblong Box, Cry of the Banshee and Wuthering Heights, as well as sci-fi film The Body Stealers. She also had a solid television career until 1974, when she married and launched a talent agency, retiring from acting. Under the name Hilary Heath, she became a producer in the 1980s – among her production work was The Worst Witch, Nil By Mouth and TV remakes of Rebecca and Jamaica Inn. She died of Covid-19 complications, aged 79.
Georges Pailler, known by the pen name Esparec, was a staggeringly prolific French erotica writer, with well over one hundred novels to his name, which he began to write in the 1990s. He believed that erotica was an art form, and was much admired as the best in his field by French creatives, including Georges Wolinksi, one of the cartoonists killed in the Charlie Hebdo attacks. He died aged 87 – 88.
Steve Farmer was a founding member of pioneering American heavy psych band The Amboy Dukes, co-writing most of the songs on their first three albums. He died aged 71.
Julie Felix was an American singer who relocated to Britain in 1964, just in time to become a leading figure of the folk music revival. She was the first folk singer to sell out the Albert Hall, was a resident singer on The Frost Report and had her own BBC TV series from 1967 to 1970 – where guests included The Kinks, Jimmy Page, Leonard Cohen and Fleetwood Mac. He career was damaged in 1970 when she was caught with drugs at Heathrow Airport – not the image for a wholesome BBC music host of the era. Although the high point of her career was now over, with other performers taking over the folk-rock mantle, she continued recording – with fourteen albums between 1972 and 2018 – and was a constant performer. She died aged 81.
Tom Finn was a founder member of baroque psychedelic band The Left Banke, one of the more interesting acts of the late Sixties. He played on classic tracks Walk Away Renee and Pretty Ballerina, and performed with various versions of the band over the years. He was the second member of the band to die in 2020, after Steve Martin Caro. He was 71.
Waye Fontana was a Manchester-born singer, best known for his work with backing band The Mindbenders, one of several post-Beatles, pre-hippy British beat bands who had minor success – their biggest hit, The Game of Love, reached Number 2 in the UK charts, but did not set a precedent. As a solo artist, he ploughed on, with a number 11 UK hit, Pamela, Pamela being his biggest success. he was also one of the performers at the first Glastonbury Festival – notably, he is absent from either the LP or film of that event. Fontana kept going, with a stream of flops, until 1976, when he finally decided to pack it all in. But he would go on to have a steady career on the Sixties revival circuit, playing clubs and holiday camps. His later years were lively – in 2005, he set fire to a car that still contained one of the bailiffs sent to collect on unpaid debts; he turned up to court dressed as Lady Justice, complete with cape, crown, sword and scales. He was – perhaps unsurprisingly – detained for some time under the Mental Health Act. He died of cancer, aged 74.
Derek Fowlds was a British actor, best known for a long-running role in Heartbeat, Yes Minister and before that The Basil Brush Show. But he had a long acting career that saw him appearing in more interesting films and TV shows than you might expect: The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Hot Enough for June, Frankenstein Created Woman, The Solanauts, The Smashing Bird I Used to Know, Tower of Evil and Thriller before episodic TV got hold of him. He died of sepsis and heart failure aged 82.
Not to be confused with the British glamour model of the same name, the former Stasia Therese Angela Micula was one of the great adult film stars of the golden age of porn. With her sophisticated good looks, Fox was an immediate star after entering the industry in 1975, initially as a magazine model but quickly moving into films. Her work is a checklist of the great titles of the era: Gerard Damiano’s Odyssey: The Ultimate Trip and People, Henri Pachard’s A Girl’s Best Friend and The Devil in Miss Jones Pt II, Babylon Pink, Jack ‘n’ Jill, The Pink Ladies, Her Name Was Lisa, Afternoon Delights, Dracula Exotica, Amanda By Night, Chuck Vincent’s Roommates and In Love, Tigresses and Other Maneaters, Wanda Whips Wall Street… the list goes on. Outside the adult industry, she appeared in Doris Wishman’s slasher A Night To Dismember and Chuck Vincent’s Warrior Queen among others, though like many an adult film star she struggled to overcome mainstream prejudice. For much of her career, she battled drug addiction but finally got clean in the mid-1980s. After retiring from porn, she worked as a fitness instructor. Like many a former star, she went through a period of disowning her past, but finally came to embrace it. She died of cardiovascular illness, aged 69.
John Fraser was a Scottish actor who made a fair few cult film appearances: The Dam Busters, The Trials of Oscar Wilde, El Cid, Repulsion, Doctor in Clover, A Study in Terror (where he played Jack the Ripper), Isadora, Pete Walker’s Schizo and others. His TV work included Doctor Who, Danger Man, Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and Columbo. In 2004, he wrote his autobiography, Close Up, which detailed his friendship with fellow gays actors in the 1960s. He died of cancer aged 89.
Cornelis William Hendrik Fuhler was an experimental musician who worked in the free jazz and avant-garde music. He manipulated the sound of the piano by using electromagnetic string stimulators like Ebows and motorized actuators and invented a new musical instrument, the keyolin – a melding of keyboard and violin. He died aged 56.
Allen Garfield was an American actor who had an extensive career, mostly in supporting roles; his few leads include the X-rated (but not pornographic) comedy Cry Uncle in 1971 and Skateboard in 1978, and he was in some of the most significant cult films of the 1970s, frequently working with Brian De Palma and Francis Ford Coppola. His impressive career includes Orgy Girls ’69, Greetings, Putney Swope, Hi Mom, The Owl and the Pussycat, Roommates, Taking Off, Bananas, The Candidate, Get to Know Your Rabbit, Slither, The Conversation, The Front Page, Nashville, The Stunt Man, One From The Heart, The Cotton Club, Diabolique and The Ninth Gate. He died of Covid-19, aged 80.
Tony Garnett worked for thirteen years as a producer with Ken Loach, though we shouldn’t hold that against him – this was the golden era of Loach’s television work, from Cathy Come Home to children’s film Black Jack. In the 1980s, Garnett moved into directing as well as producing, with a strange collection of films – the Loachian grim drama Prostitute, the dark vengeance film Handgun (both of which he directed) and production work on Earth Girls Are Easy, Shadow Makers, Follow That Bird and Beautiful Thing. He then turned to soap-style dramas for TV including Ballykissangel and This Life. He died aged 83.
Jill Gascoigne was a British actress, best known for her early 1980s TV series The Gentle Touch (the first British police show to have a female lead) and its spin-off, C.A.T.S Eyes. But she had a long career reaching back to the start of the 1960s when she was in The Pure Hell of St. Trinians and narrated Nudist Memories. Her sexploitation career continued in the 1970s with Confessions of a Pop Performer, but she had a more respectable television career with a lead role in The Onedin Line and guest slots in Raffles, Within These Walls and General Hospital. In the 1990s, she started a new career as a writer with the semi-autobiographical novel Addicted. Other novels followed. She died of Alzheimer’s complications in a Los Angeles care home, aged 83.
David Giler was an American screenwriter and film producer, who first rose to prominence working alongside his father Bernie, writing for TV shows like Burke’s Law and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., before branching out on his own. He wrote the notorious Myra Breckinridge, The Parallax View and Fun with Dick and Jane in the 1970s before teaming with Walter Hill and Gordon Carroll to form a production company, Brandywine. Their first film was Alien. He wrote and produced Southern Comfort, The Money Pit and Alien 3, and was a producer on all the Alien sequels and spin-offs, and the Tales from the Crypt TV show and spin-off films. He died of cancer, aged 77.
You’ll be familiar with Milton Glaser’s work, even if you don’t realise it. He designed the logos for DC Comics and The Brooklyn Brewery, the iconic I Love New York image and over four hundred posters, including a classic one for Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits. In 1968, he co-founded New York magazine. He died of a stroke aged 91.
Juliette Gréco was an icon of French culture: an actress, singer and bohemian who could count some of the greatest names of the 20th century as friends, colleagues and lovers. She was a friend and muse to the likes of Jean-Paul Satre, Albert Camus, Jacques Prévert and Boris Vian in the 1940s, and became acquainted with Jean Cocteau at the end of the decade, appearing in his film Orphée. Other filmmakers that she worked with over four decades included Jean-Pierre Melville, Jean Renoir, John Huston, Otto Preminger, Richard Fleischer and Jacques Brel. She made her debut as a cabaret singer in 1949 and would work with the likes of Serge Gainsbourg. She had a decades-long affair with Miles Davis and dated Quincy Jones, Sacha Distel and Darryl F. Zanuck, inspired the Beatles‘ Michelle and the Kinks’ Art School Babe and was a role model for Marianne Faithfull. All in all, quite a life. She died aged 93.
Peter Green was an integral part of the British Blues scene during the mid-Sixties, leading eventually to him replacing Eric Clapton in John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers in 1966. A year later, he left to form his own band with fellow Bluesbreaker Mick Fleetwood, and Fleetwood Mac was born. By the end of the decade, the band were experiencing major success with hit singles like Albatross, Black Magic Woman and Man of the World, but it all fell apart in 1970 when Green attended a party at a Munich commune, took some very bad acid and never quite came back to Earth. He left the band and after a brief solo career, started to suffer from mental illness, eventually diagnosed as schizophrenia. While no one is quite sure if the LSD was cause or catalyst, Green spent the 1970s in a deeply damaged state. Stories of varying authenticity abound about his behaviour at this time, the most famous being the claim that he threatened his accountant with a shotgun because the man wouldn’t stop sending him royalty cheques (Green disputed this). At the end of the 1970s, Green began to re-emerge and recorded a series of solo albums and worked on various group projects, though he was never quite himself again. He died aged 73.
Dave Greenfield was the keyboardist for The Stranglers, from 1975 until 2020. Greenfield’s organ sound was arguably the most instantly recognisable element of the band, making them stand out from their punk contemporaries, and was central to their biggest hit Golden Brown. He died of Covid-19, aged 71.
Sonny Grosso was part of the NYPD team that broke up a major organised crime ring in 1961, seizing 112lb of heroin. The case was turned into a book, The French Connection, and then filmed – albeit it in highly fictional form, with Grosso’s character renamed ‘Buddy’. Grosso acted as a consultant on both The French Connection and The Godfather films, and as many people do, got a taste for the industry. On retirement from the police force, he became a TV producer after working as a technical adviser on major USTV shows like Kojak and Baretta, where he was credited with bringing a new sense of realism to crime shows. Among his extensive production credits is Pee Wee’s Playhouse. He died after an undisclosed illness, aged 89.
What is generally known as ‘a character’, Eric Hall was an agent and publicist who – for a while – was more famous than many of his clients, thanks to a flamboyant style, endless catchphrases (“monster, monster”) and a flair for selling himself as a celebrity to over-eager TV producers. It was Hall who booked the Sex Pistols onto the Bill Grundy show, ensuring their notoriety forever, and was a friend of Marc Bolan, Elton John and Freddie Mercury. Later he moved into football, building a large repertoire of clients and was behind Justin Fashanu coming out as the first (admitted) gay footballer. He was, for a while, a regular face and voice in the British media, a larger than life East London Jew who played on all the cliches of that character. He died of Covid-19, aged 73.
Sandy Harbutt only made one film as director, but it would be the crowning achievement of most careers – Stone, the Australian biker movie, is one of the most extraordinary and uncompromising productions of the 1970s. Despite its success, Harbutt never got another movie off the ground, possibly because his reputation often confused the character he played in the film and real life (I remember a Kerrang! review where the critic wrote that if he said anything bad about Stone, Harbutt would come round and break his legs – a joke, perhaps, but not too far from what many seemed to believe). He died aged 79.
Margot Sari Hartman Tenney was an American philanthropist and supporter of the arts through the Hartman Foundation and First Stamford Corporation, one of the largest privately-held commercial real estate companies in Connecticut, winning awards in business as Outstanding Connecticut Woman and the Lifetime Achievement Award for the Advancement of Women from the Connecticut United Nations Associations. More significantly for Reprobate readers, she was married to film director Del Tenney, and in her acting career appeared in his film The Curse of the Living Corpse in 1963, as well as Violent Midnight and Voyage to the Planet of the Prehistoric Women. You might think that such nonsense was in her past by the time she was being feted by the United Nations, but in the early 2000s she appeared in three of Tenney’s comeback movies – Clean and Narrow, Do You Wanna Know a Secret and Descendent. That’s marital devotion for you. She died aged 86.
Namio Harukawa was the pseudonym for an extraordinary Japanese fetish artist who reached fame in the 1960s and 1970s for his illustrations of big-breasted, voluptuous and powerful women dominating smaller, weaker men – not for nothing has he been compared to Robert Crumb. He specialised in images of bondage, facesitting and asphyxiation, and inevitably his work has not been widely seen outside Japan, though he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition in the Paris Museum of Eroticism in 2013. He died aged 72.
Ken Hensley formed The Gods in the mid-Sixties, a band that helped pioneer the heavy rock sound, but he is best known for his time in Uriah Heep, which he joined in 1969. He played keyboards and co-wrote most of the songs for the band until leaving in 1980 over the usual ‘musical differences’. He then joined Blackfoot, and later – despite keyboards having generally been booted out of the heavy metal line-up – would perform with the likes of W.A.S.P. and Cinderella. In the 2000s, Hensley was hailed as a pioneer of the metal genre and had something of a late career boost. He died after a short illness, aged 75.
Richard Herd was a familiar face on USTV, best known as the leader of the alien invaders in the miniseries V and V – The Final Battle. He also had recurring roles in Seaquest DSV and T.J. Hooker and made appearances on the likes of Starsky and Hutch, Kojak, Quantum Leap, M*A*S*H*, The Rockford Files, The A-Team, Hart to Hart and many others. Though best known for TV, his feature film credits are pretty impressive – Hercules in New York, All the President’s Men, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, The China Syndrome, The Onion Field, Wolf Lake, Schizoid, Summer Rental and lots more. He died of colon cancer, aged 87.
Irmgard Hermann was a prolific German actress, best known for her extensive work with Rainer Werner Fassbinder, a director with whom she had a difficult relationship (after his death, she claimed he was physically abusive towards her), but who she made some fifteen films for, including The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, Eight Hours Don’t Make a Day, Effi Briest, Fox and His Friends, Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, Berlin Alexanderplatz and Lili Marleen. Clearly, there was something in their relationship that worked. After his death, she worked with Werner Herzog on Woyzeck and Christoph Schlingensief on The German Chainsaw Massacre among her 160-odd films and TV shows. She died aged 77.
Frederick Nathaniel ‘Toots’ Hibbert was a reggae pioneer and leader of Toots and the Maytals, which he formed in 1961. The band became big in Jamaica in the mid-Sixties but were thrown briefly off course when Hibbert was imprisoned for marijuana possession. In the early 1970s, the band were signed to Island Records in the UK, becoming big in the ska scene, and appearing in The Harder They Come. Variations on the band – always led by Hibbert – continued into 2019. He died of Covid-19, aged 77.
Mary Higgins Clark
Mary Higgins Clark was a prolific author of suspense novels, with over 100 million sales to her name. Her novels are often on the cusp of straight-forward thrillers and supernatural dramas, with psychic phenomena and children with strange powers being a recurring theme. Her work has been particularly popular in France, where a series of film adaptations was launched in 2010; oddly, few of her novels had been filmed before this point despite her huge popularity. Her final novel appeared in 2020. She died aged 92.
Rupert Hine had a decent career as a recording artist, one more respected by his peers than successful commercially – his biggest hit was with his band Quantum Jump, when the novelty song Lone Ranger cracked the UK top ten in 1979, three years after its original release. But as a record producer, Hine worked with dozens of successful artists on some of their biggest hits – from Jon Pertwee in 1972 on his Doctor Who novelty song to Kevin Ayers, Anthony Phillips, Dave Greenslade, Howard Jones, Tina Turner, Chris De Burgh, Stevie Nicks, Rush, Bob Geldof and Suzanne Vega. He died aged 72.
Shere Hite was a sex educator and feminist, known for a series of books that primarily explored female sexuality. Her Hite Reports were initially a sex-positive series of books that looked at fantasy, sexuality and desire that were seen as sex-positive and made her an icon of both feminism and sexual freedom, though later volumes became more hung up on buzz issues of patriarchy and globalisation. In 1971, she posed nude for Playboy, a decision she later regretted. In 1995, she took German citizenship, feeling that Germany understood her work better than America. She died in London, of the neurological disorder Corticobasal Degeneration, aged 77.
Ian Holm was a British actor who first rose to prominence as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1960s before moving on to TV and film. His best-known roles are appearances in Alien and The Lord of the Rings films (having already appeared in a BBC radio adaptation of the story back in 1981). But he made more notable projects: Oh! What a Lovely War, Nicholas and Alexandra, Robin and Marian, Shout at the Devil, Jesus of Nazareth, Holocaust, Chariots of Fire, Time Bandits, Greystoke, Brazil, Naked Lunch, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, The Fifth Element, eXistenZ, Wisconsin Death Trip and From Hell among them. He died aged 88.
Uwe Ludwig Horn was born in Germany at the end of World War 2 and began to work with exotic wild animals as early as the age of ten. Working as a waiter on a cruise ship, he met Siegfried Fischbacher, and they started a professional (and, for a while, romantic) partnership that began as magicians, but soon brought wild animals – namely white tigers and lions – into the act. the pair would go on to be Las vegas favourites, a hugely kitsch and controversial act that came to a sudden halt in 2003 when Horn was attacked during a show by a white tiger called Montecore. Horn had gone off-script and teased the tiger with microphone, leading to it grabbing his sleeve. When he tried to get Montecore to release him, Horn became dizzy and fell over. The tiger then bit into his neck and dragged him offstage. The attack severed Horn’s spine. Explanations for what exactly went wrong have varied, but Horn admirably insisted that Montecore not be killed, and after years of rehabilitation, Seigfried and Roy appeared with the tiger again in 2009 (though some have claimed it was, in fact, a different animal) for a charity show, before retiring in 2010. Horn died from Covid-19, aged 75.
Robert Hossein was a French actor and film director who was much scoffed at during the 1960s for his old-fashioned style, but who is now seen as an adventurous and interesting filmmaker. His directorial work includes The Vampire of Dusseldorf, Cemetery Without Crosses and I Killed Rasputin, while as an actor he worked with Roger Vadim, Jules Dassin, Claude Lelouch and others on films like Rififi, Love on a Pillow, Vice and Virtue, The Battle of El Alamein, Life Love Death, If Don Juan Was a Woman and The Wax Mask. He died of Covid-19, aged 93.
Roy Hudd was one of the most important figures in British comedy – not just for his own work, but as a historian and expert of what might have otherwise been a lost world of music hall, the low form of entertainment that was widely dismissed and ignored, but which – of course – is a hugely important part of the story of British culture. Hudd’s enthusiasm for and knowledge of the performers and venues would be an invaluable source of information over the years. As a performer, Hudd’s topical sketch show The News Huddlines – which ran from 1975 to 2001 – would probably be hailed as one of the great comedy shows if it had been on TV rather than the radio. His acting work includes Lipstick on Your Collar, Common as Muck, One Foot in the Grave, The Blood Beast Terror, Up Pompeii, Up the Chastity Belt, The Magnificent Seven Deadly Sins and The Alf Garnett Saga. He died aged 83.
“It’s scary as hell. But none of us are getting out of this world alive.”
Mike Hughes was a daredevil known as ‘Mad’ Mike, with good reason – his stunts that included a 32-meter jump in a limousine were outrageous enough, but Hughes was also a committed Flat Earther, who raised nearly $8000 from other lunatics to make multiple rocket trips into outer space, where he planned to photograph the Earth to prove his theory. This was in 2017. bureaucratic gobbledygook slowed his progress, but eventually, Hughes made it 572 metres into the sky in a steam-powered rocket ship. Astute readers will note that this was not quite outer space, but Hughes persevered with plans for a rocket that would reach 500mph and be launched from a balloon twenty miles up. This too failed to happen, but in February 2020, Hughes made another attempt to launch a home-made rocket. Unfortunately for him, the parachute became detached as he launched, and… well, you can guess the rest. After his death, his press agent admitted that the whole Flat Earth thing was a publicity stunt – a rather bizarre one, it must be said. But conspiracy theorists are no doubt already theorising that he was nobbled to prevent him photographing the truth. Hughes was 64 when he died.
Ip hok-Ching was a martial artist and one of five Grandmasters of the Ip Man family. His father, Ip Man, was a legendary martial artist who taught Bruce Lee and has been the subject of countless films. Ip Ching continued the tradition of teaching Wing Chun kung fu. He died aged 83.
The Monty Python member and filmmaker. Full obituary.
Irving Kanarek was Charles Manson‘s doggedly determined lawyer during the Tate-La Bianca murder trials – a thankless task, given the reluctance of Manson to allow any sort of worthwhile defence and the risks involved (Manson’s previous lawyer, Ronald Hughes, died in mysterious circumstances after failing to follow Charlie’s instructions… no cause of death was forthcoming, but of course, rumours that he was offed by the family spread like wildfire). Kanarek made headlines because of his delaying tactics, constantly objecting to everything from prosecution claims to witnesses stating their own name. Later, he would defend Onion Field kidnapper Jimmy Lee Smith. A classic liberal lawyer, Kanarek believed that everyone deserved their day in court, and while his tactics frustrated many, he was a passionate and effective attorney. In 1989, he had a mental breakdown that saw him lose his licence. He died aged 100.
John Karlen was an actor best known for various roles on the gothic soap Dark Shadows, and the two film spin-offs – House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows. Between those two films, he also starred in the vampire classic Daughters of Darkness, and his other films include Trilogy of Terror, Pennies from Heaven, Impulse, Gimme an ‘F’ and Surf Ninjas. He had a prolific guest-star career on TV, with appearances on The Mod Squad, The Magician, Kojak, Mannix, Serpico, Charlie’s Angels, Supertrain, Starsky and Hutch, Hill Street Blues and a recurring role in Cagney and Lacey. He died of heart failure, aged 86.
Hugh Keays-Byrne was an Australian actor who appeared in a huge chunk of the Ozploitation films of the golden age – he was in Stone, The Man from Hong Kong, Mad Dog Morgan, Snapshot, The Chain Reaction, Lorca and the Outlaws, Les Patterson Saves the World and, of course, Mad Max, where he played Toecutter. He then turned up in Mad Max: Fury Road thirty-six years later. He also had a recurring role in science fiction series Farscape. He died aged 73.
The guitarist and singer for Japanese band The Tigers, Shirō Kishibe was best known outside Japan for his acting – he played Sandy in the cult fantasy series Monkey. His other acting roles include parts in Zatoichi’s Conspiracy and Nikkatsu’s Roman Poruno film Pink Tush Girl. He died of heart failure, aged 71.
Rosalind Knight was a British actress, who had roles in some iconic comedy film series in the 1950s – a couple of Carry Ons, Blue Murder at St Trinians (and the 1980 reboot of the series) and Doctor in Love. In the 1960s, she appeared in There Was a Crooked Man, Tom Jones, Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? and Start the Revolution Without Me, and in the 1970s she was the Mary Whitehouse/Lord Longford substitute character Lady Longhorn in Eskimo Nell. Her subsequent career was in TV sitcoms like Gimme Gimme Gimme. She died aged 87.
A prolific and respected actress who was nominated for major awards at the start of her career, but failed to become a star, instead building a solid career as a supporting player. Her films include The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, The Couch, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Group, Petulia, Juggernaut, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, The Sender, The Color of Night and Diabolique, while her TV appearances take in shows like The Fugitive, The Outer Limits, The Streets of San Francisco, Tales of the Unexpected, The Equalizer, Law & Order, Desperate Housewives and Ally McBeal. She died of natural causes, aged 83.
Ivan Král was one of the most important figures in New York’s musical revolution during the second half of the 1970s, having worked in one way or another with just about all the important artists of the time. A Czech refugee, Král’s musical ambitions at first seemed doomed to failure – his 1973 glam band Luger managed a support gig with Kiss but quickly fell apart. Král soon became part of the pre-punk scene and had dalliances with Blondie and Iggy Pop, but his most important work was with Patti Smith – he was a songwriter, bassist and guitarist in The Patti Smith Group on her most important albums and wrote some of her biggest songs. Even more significantly, he used his connections and a Super-8 camera to shoot The Blank Generation, the most important visual record of the era and an important part of bringing the New York punk scene – then still a collection of acts with no record deals – to wider attention. After the fall of Communism, Král returned to the Czech Republic and worked with many emerging Czech bands. He died of cancer, aged 71.
Poor Bob Kulick – he probably should’ve been a member of Kiss, especially given how many of their records he played on, but in 1972 he was overlooked in favour of Ace Frehley, and later was passed over on the basis of not having enough hair while the band were still in their make-up phase; to add insult to injury, his more hirsute brother Bruce would get the job in 1984. Still, Bob had a solid career as a jobbing musician and acclaimed guitarist. As well as his work on Kiss albums (both band and solo), he appeared with Meat Loaf, W.A.S.P. and Diana Ross. As a producer, he worked with Motörhead, WWE wrestler Triple H and Spongebob Squarepants, which is nothing if not eclectic. He was a first-rate musician, by all accounts a decent guy and probably deserved to be a bigger star than he was. He died of heart disease, aged 70.
John Lafia was a screenwriter and director, best known for co-writing Child’s Play and then writing and directing the first sequel. He also wrote and directed The Blue Iguana and Man’s Best Friend, and worked on several 1990s TV series including Freddy’s Nightmares, Babylon 5, The Adventures of Sinbad and The Dead Zone. Perhaps more interesting than his film work was his recording career – he was an experimental artist in the Los Angeles underground, releasing several albums and appearing alongside Charles Bukowski and Exene Cervenka on a spoken word compilation, English as a Second Language. He committed suicide, aged 63.
David Lander was an actor best known for his work on American sit-com Laverne and Shirley, but he also appeared in numerous films and TV shows, mostly comedies – 1941, Wholly Moses, Used Cars, Pandemonium, The Man with One Red Shoe, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Twin Peaks, On The Air, The Bob Newhart Show, Barney Miller, Married… With Children and more. As a voice actor, he was in The Big Bang, A Bug’s Life, The Iron Giant, Titan A.E. and others. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1984 and became a campaigner for the illness after going public in 1999. He died of the illness, aged 73.
Edward Hugh McGinnis was part of the hugely popular British double act Little and Large, partnering with straight man Syd Little. The pair started out in Northern clubs before getting their big break winning talent show Opportunity Knocks in 1971 – the hugely popular Little and Large Show ran on the BBC from 1978 to 1991, when the pair were among a plethora of old-school comics given the boot by fashion-conscious programmers. Eddie and Syd had a falling out soon after this, and went their separate ways, with Eddie taking some straight acting roles and performing as a solo artist on the after-dinner circuit. he died of Covid-19, aged 78.
The veteran German actor is now best known for his work in the Human Centipede series, but before that career-defining moment, he was a serious actor in serious films like The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, The Glass Cell and Meeting Venus. Cult audiences also knew him from his role in sci-fi series Lexx. He was 78. Interview.
Philip Latham was an English actor, best known for an impressively sinister performance as Dracula‘s manservant Klove in the Hammer film Dracula – Prince of Darkness. He also appeared in war film Secret of Blood Island and The Devil-Ship Pirates for Hammer, and his other films include Ring of Spies, Force 10 from Navarone, The Dam Busters and The Wild and the Willing. He had a continuing role in the TV series The Troubleshooters between 1965 and 1972 and The Pallisers in 1974, and made other TV appearances in The Avengers, UFO, Danger Man, The Saint, Hammer House of Horror, The Professionals and more. He was also in the Doctor Who special The Five Doctors as the leader of the Time Lords. He died aged 91.
Derek Lawrence was a British record producer who began his career working with Joe Meek before going freelance and producing the first three Deep Purple LPs and working with The Pretty Things, The Zephyrs, Jethro Tull, Wishbone Ash, Angel and Legs Diamond. At the end of the 1970s, he dabbled in NWOBHM with records by Fist and Quartz before retiring from mainstream production. He died aged 78.
David John Moore Cornwell, who wrote as John LeCarre, was a former MI5 and MI6 spy who turned to writing espionage novels in the early 1960s. LeCarre’s novels were the books of choice for those who wanted less action and more intrigue and Cold War realism – his work was the antithesis of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels, and his main character, George Smiley, was an unglamorous and morally ambiguous figure. LeCarre’s novels, some later filmed, include The Spy Who came In From The Cold, The Looking Glass War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Smiley’s People, The Russia House, The Night Manager and The Constant Gardener. LeCarre was a fierce critic of the Gulf War and Brexit; he also condemned Salman Rushdie, in an interview with The Economist, for writing The Satanic Verses, saying “nobody has a God-given right to insult a great religion and be published with impunity”, which seems a rather dickish comment to make, frankly. He died of pneumonia, aged 89.
Christopher Paul Lee was a leading player in the Manchester music scene with his comedy band Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias and the later Gerry and the Holograms, but is perhaps better known for his pop culture journalism and involvement in Mancunian music and arts. He worked for Factory Records, wrote books about Bob Dylan and Cliff Twemlow and was a regular figure in media interviews dealing with the punk, post-punk and Northern arts scenes. He died aged 70.
The flamboyant rock ‘n’ roll pioneer. Full obituary.
Samuel Little was an American serial killer, convicted of four murders but suspected of as many of ninety-three killings between the 1980s and 2005. He died aged 80.
Michael Lonsdale was a prolific British-French actor, active from the late 1950s until the late 2010s. He is best known as the villainous Drax in Bond film Moonraker and the detective in The Day of the Jackal, but his lengthy career takes in several impressive titles: Is Paris Burning, Out 1, Successive Slidings of Pleasure, Stavisky, The Phantom of Liberty, Chariots of Fire, Enigma, The Name of the Rose and more. He died aged 89.
Sydney Lotterby was a producer and director for the BBC, responsible for countless sit-coms and comedy shows. His shows include Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em, Up Pompeii, The Liver Birds, Porridge, Going Straight, Ripping Yarns, Butterflies, Open All Hours, Ever Decreasing Circles, Last of the Summer Wine and more. He died aged 93.
Johnny Mandel was a composer and arranger of popular music, jazz songs and film scores. He worked for the likes of Count Basie and Stan Getz in the 1950s, and his scores include I Want to Live, The Sandpipers, Being There and the song Suicide is Painless from M*A*S*H*. In later years, he arranged recordings for Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole. He died aged 94.
Jose Mojica Marins
The artist better known as Coffin Joe. Full obituary.
Phil May was the lead singer and primary lyricist of The Pretty Things, who started out as just another British blues band but then became rather more interesting as they explored psychedelia and conceptual rock with 1968’s pioneering S.F. Sorrow. May also seemed to define the idea of the rock star before rock stars really existed – he had ‘the longest hair in England’, talked about drug-taking and bisexuality and the band boasted of being the dirtiest, sleaziest act out there – in the mid-1980s, a school teacher of mine was still so aghast at the idea of them that he once devoted an entire English class to bad-mouthing them. May stayed with the band until they called it a day in 2018, though he did briefly attempt a side-project, The Fallen Angels, in 1976. He died after complications from hip surgery, aged 75.
Sid McCray was the lead singer of jazz fusion band Mind Power in the 1970s. In 1978, inspired by the rise of punk, the band changed both their sound and their name – to Bad Brains. The band would be pioneers in many ways – as one of the few African-American bands in what was a very white movement, and as innovators in the hardcore punk movement. McCray was replaced in 1979 when the band began to move more towards a reggae sound. He died aged 63.
Allan Preston Sachs became big in Japan before it was fashionable – he was a member of Tokyo-based band The Lead, a successful solo artist and an actor of TV before forming glam band Vodka Collins. It was living in Japan that made him change his name, as ‘Sachs’ sounded too much like ‘sex’ when said by Japanese fans (though why that would be a problem for a rock star is anyone’s guess). In 1974, he moved to London and formed Arrows, who had a couple of hit singles (including Touch Too Much) and their own Granada TV series in 1976. Unquestionably though, Arrows’ greatest achievement was writing and recording I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll, which Joan Jett later made her own. Merrill would go on to work with Rick Derringer and a reformed Vodka Collins among other projects, working up until 2019. He died of Covid-19 aged 69.
Michel Georges Alfred Catty was a French drag artist and singer, known by his stage name Michou. He was the owner of the Montmartre club Chez Michou and before that, Cabaret Michou in Paris. He was known for his impressions of French icons like Brigitte Bardot and France Gall, was a recording artist whose career spanned from the early 1970s to 2011, and was a regular sight on French TV in his extravagant (even when not in drag) outfits. He died aged 88.
For most people, Ennio Morricone remains best known for his iconic and game-changing scores for Sergio Leone’s westerns in the 1960s, music that essentially helped reinvent the genre. Others might be fans of his major Hollywood movie work, of which there are many. These impressive orchestral scores would be the lynchpin of Morricone’s career and reputation, and the centre point of his later concerts. For us though, the iconic Morricone is primarily the Italian movie scores from the 1960s and 1970s and his groovy easy listening pop, often topped with the ‘lalala’ vocals of Edda Dell’Orso – a groovetastic sound that seems to encapsulate the era and is much more fun and unique than the more classic film scores that he would increasingly move towards from the 1980s onwards. The best of his work includes Danger: Diabolik, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, The Cat O’Nine Tails and Four Flies on Grey Velvet for Dario Argento, and assorted other Giallo scores including The Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. Morricone’s work also included sex comedies, Mondo movies, horror, action and drama, and his best Hollywood movie score for us is Exorcist II: The Heretic, the saving grace of an otherwise atrocious movie. His pop music career in the 1960s includes work with Catherine Spaak, Francoise Hardy, Mina and Demis Roussos. His 1971 composition Chi Mai reached Number 2 on the British charts a decade later, thanks to its inclusion in the series The Life and Times of David Lloyd George. From 2001, he began a series of regular live performances around the world, clocking up over 250 concerts. For all his international success, Morricone never left Italy and never learned to speak English. He died after a fall, aged 91.
Johnny Nash was an American singer-songwriter who began his career being marketed as a MOR singer before moving to Jamaica and discovering reggae, becoming one of the first non-Jamaicans in the genre. He remains best known for his hit single I Can See Clearly Now, a reggae-flavoured pop number and much of his career was a mix of the two styles. He died of natural causes aged 80.
Lori Nelson was an American actress best known for a string of 1950s science fiction and exploitation movies – Revenge of the Creature, Untamed Youth with Mamie Van Doren, The Day the World Ended, Underwater!, Hot Rod Girl, I Died a Thousand Times and the TV series of How to Marry a Millionaire. During the early 1950s, she famously dated Tab Hunter, who was then still very much in the closet and struggling with his sexuality; the relationship seemed honest, at least on Nelson’s part (Hunter was also seeing a male figure skater on the side) and he later cast her on his sit-com The Tab Hunter Show. She died aged 87.
Daria Nicolodi was more than just an actress. If we track the decline of Dario Argento as a filmmaker, we might sensibly say that it began – very dramatically – when he split with Nicolodi as a creative and life partner. The pair first collaborated on Deep Red, where Nicolodi took the female lead, and for his next film, Suspiria, she was pivotal, not only co-writing but essentially coming up with the whole idea, which was a major break in style from Argento’s Giallo movies. That his best film by quite some way was the creative vision of someone else is perhaps telling, and Nicolodi has rarely had the full credit that she deserves for the film. She appeared in a small role in the film’s follow-up Inferno (and later in the unspeakably bad finale to the trilogy, Mother of Tears) and Argento’s Tenebrae; the couple split personally after this movie and, coincidentally, or not, the director’s work went downhill rapidly – while Nicolodi appeared in Phenomena and Opera, there was no artistic collaboration and both films are shallow imitations of what came before. Outside her work for Argento, she was in Mario Bava’s final film Shock (possibly her best role), and Property is No Longer a Theft, and later films include Luigi Cozzi’s Paganini Horror and The Black Cat. She was the mother of Asia Argento, but we can forgive her that. She died aged 70.
British glamour model and comedy actress noted for work in Carry On films and for George Harrison-Marks. Full obituary.
Roy Lewis Norris was the partner-in-crime of Lawrence Bittaker, known together as The Tool Box Killers. Together, they kidnapped, raped and murdered five teenage girls in California during 1979. The pair were career criminals – Bittaker labelled a psychopath who had no understanding of the nature of his violent crimes, Norris a habitual sex criminal diagnosed as a schizoid personality. The pair met in prison and on release teamed up to carry out the crimes that they had fantasised together while incarcerated. When the pair were arrested, Norris quickly confessed and accepted a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty; he was sentenced to life imprisonment, while Bittaker – who refused to enter a plea a trial – was sentenced to death; he died in 2019, having been on death row since 1981. Excerpts from Bittaker’s trial were included in the documentary The Killing of America; Norris wasn’t even mentioned. But the crimes the pair committed remain some of the most sadistic and horrifying serial killer murders in history. Norris died of natural causes in prison, aged 72.
The butt of Morecombe and Wise’s jokes, Des O’Connor was the UK’s Mr Light Entertainment for decades. As well as a prolific recording artist, with thirty-six albums to his name, he hosted The Des O’Connor Show throughout the 1960s and then had his chat show from 1977 to 2002. He was a TV host every year from 1963 to 2009, a familiar face for entire generations of British viewers. He died, following a fall at home, aged 88.
Dennis O’Neil was a comic book writer who began his career at Marvel, doing support work on Doctor Strange and The X-Men, before working for Charlton Comics and then DC, where he worked on both new and established characters, including Wonder Woman and The Justice League of America. In the 1970s, he was behind the move that took The Green Lantern and Green Arrow into political, socially conscious areas, culminating in a ground-breaking heroin addiction story. He followed this with his best-known work on Batman, as he took the character and his adversaries back to their darker roots, making Batman a vengeful obsessive and the Joker a homicidal killer. In subsequent years, he would work for both Marvel and DC on Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Shadow, Daredevil and The Transformers. He died of cardiopulmonary arrest, aged 81.
Nobuhiko Obayashi was a Japanese experimental filmmaker, best known for his surreal and bizarre horror film Hausu, made in 1977. His 1988 horror film The Discarnates is a much-underrated movie and in 1998, he made Sada, based on the true story of Abe Sada. In 2016, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer, but still managed to complete his passion project, the war film Hanagatami in 2017 and his final film, Labyrinth of Cinema in 2019. He died aged 82.
Keith Olsen was a record producer who, as much as anyone, helped craft the sound of the 1970s and 1980s, at least as far as AOR goes. His list of production credits is impressive: he was being the Buckingham-Nicks album that brought Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham to the attention of Fleetwood Mac (who he also produced the self-titled 1975 album for) and also worked with Santana and the Grateful Dead in the 1970s before going on to extensive 1980s production for the likes of Pat Benatar, Rick Springfield, Heart, Kim Carnes, Sammy Hagar, Scorpions, Ozzy Osbourne, Starship and Whitesnake, for whom he produced their breakthrough 1987 album. He died of a heart attack, aged 74.
The leader of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV, once declared ‘the most evil man in Britain’. Full obituary.
Geoffrey Palmer was an actor best known for his laconic and eccentric style, something best seen in his two most famous roles – as Reggie’s useless brother-in-law Jimmy in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin and as the frustrated doctor in an episode of Fawlty Towers. He starred in the comedy series Fairly Secret Army, Butterflies, Mr Men and Little Miss (as narrator) and As Time Goes By, and had an impressive collection of film and television credits to his name: The Strange World of Gurney Slade, The Saint, Gideon’s Way, The Baron, Cathy Come Home, The Sweeney, The Professionals, Whoops Apocalypse, Blackadder Goes Forth, Ring of Spies, O Lucky Man!, A Zed and Two Noughts, Clockwise, A Fish Called Wanda, The Madness of King George, Tomorrow Never Dies and Paddington. He was also the narrator of Grumpy Old Men and a familiar voice on radio and spoken word recordings. He died aged 93.
Alan Parker was one of a number of British directors to emerge just as the British film industry was collapsing. Learning his craft on commercials (including the legendary Cinzano ads with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins), he would go on to direct a number of impressive and high-profile projects across a variety of styles. His first film as screenwriter, Melody, was an unsuccessful schoolkid romance, but he had his big break with Bugsy Malone, his directorial debut that featured an all-child cast for a gangster musical. From then on, his films were an eclectic mix: marital drama Shoot the Moon, Pink Floyd – The Wall, Birdy, Angel Heart, Mississippi Burning, The Commitments, The Road to Wellville, Evita, Angela’s Ashes and The Life of David Gale. A mixed bag of titles, but all interesting in their own way. He died aged 76.
Like Bob Monkhouse, Nicholas Parsons was unfairly dismissed by many as a game show host and smarmy TV host – and slick he certainly was. But there was much more to Parsons than Sale of the Century and the conservative, mainstream old-school image that he was often labelled with. The mere fact that he hosted radio comedy quiz show Just a Minute from 1967 to 2019 ought to be evidence enough of that – Parsons could more than hold his own against several generations of comedians. He was the straight man to Arthur Haynes in the 1960s and worked with Benny Hill, was the voice of Tex Tucker in Gerry Anderson’s Four Feather Falls, acted in The Comic Strip and Doctor Who on TV and appeared in films like Carlton-Brown of the F.O., Doctor in Love, Carry On Regardless, Murder Ahoy!, The Wrong Box and The Ghost Goes Gear. He died aged 96.
Ivan Passer was a writer and director who first rose to prominence as part of the Czech New Wave, co-writing with Miloš Forman, Jaroslav Papoušek and Václav Šašek the films Audition, Loves of a Blonde and The Fireman’s Ball. After the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, he left for America, where he directed cult favourites Born to Win and Cutter’s Way among other films, including the 1992 biopic Stalin for HBO. He died from pulmonary complications, aged 86.
Alan Patillo was best known for his work with Gerry Anderson, as a director, writer and script editor on shows like Four Feather Falls, Supercar, Fireball XL5, Stingray and Thunderbirds. Away from the Anderson shows, he worked as a sound or film editor on Nicholas Roeg’s Performance and Walkabout, Pink Floyd The Wall and the 1979 version of All Quiet on the Western Front. He died aged 90.
Neil Peart was the drummer and main lyricist for Canadian progressive rock band Rush, noted for his hard rock style and science fiction/objectivist lyrics on acclaimed concept albums like 2112. Peart joined the band in 1974 and was central to their biggest successes, but in 2015 he announced his retirement due to tendinitis and shoulder pain, essentially bringing the band to an end. As well as his musical work, Peart wrote several non-fiction books, mostly road trips and travelogues, as well as science fiction including a novelisation of Rush’s 2012 album Clockwork Angels. He died from virulent brain cancer glioblastoma, aged 67.
Michel Piccoli was a legendary French actor who was active from the 1940s until the mid-2010s. He appeared in some of the greatest movies of the 1960s and 1970s, for directors like Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Melville, Luis Bunuel and Alain Resnais. His films include Le Doulos, Le Mepris, Diary of a Chambermaid, The Sleeping Car Murders, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Belle De Jour, Danger: Diabolik, Dillinger is Dead, The Milky Way, Topaz, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Themroc, Le Grand Bouffe, Don’t Touch the White Woman, The Phantom of Liberty, Leonor, The Last Woman, Atlantic City and many more – his filmography is a like a checklist of classic European cinema from the era. He died of a stroke, aged 94.
Joe Porcaro was a jazz session drummer who played with just about everyone. He’s on Lalo Schifrin’s soundtrack to Enter the Dragon and appears on albums by Nancy Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Glen Campbell, Stan Getz, Paul Anka, Donna Summer, Barbra Streisand, Madonna and Sergio Mendes among many others. Chips off the old block, three of his sons would also become session men and formed Toto; Joe played on all the band’s albums from 1981 to 1992. He died aged 90.
Lovelady Powell was an actress and nightclub singer, best known for her appearances on Dark Shadows and various USTV commercials, as well as her extensive advertising voice-over work. Outside her television work, she was a nightclub singer, dabbled in unsuccessful Broadway shows and made three interesting films: I Never Sang for My Father, The Possession of Joel Delaney and The Happy Hooker. She died aged 89.
The daughter of Tyrone Power and Linda Christian, Taryn Power had a brief but interesting film career, starring in Tracks, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, Pupi Avati’s House of Pleasure for Women and the 1975 Count of Monte Cristo. Her career fizzled out at the end of the 1970s, which was a shame. She died of leukaemia, aged 66.
Margarita Figueroa was a Cuban singer, living in New York who had a self-belief that belied her lack of singing ability. She became a cult figure in Britain after Clive James came across her public access TV show and decided to make her a regular feature on his chat show in 1994. Although never mocking her openly, and having signed her up on the basis that he genuinely admired her, James’ introductions to her mangled versions of well-known pop hits left the viewer in no doubt that this was supposed to be hilarious; only Figueroa, who had adopted the stage name Pracatan, was left out of the joke. A more humourless act might have taken offence once the joke became clear, but Pracatan instead embraced her infamy and found a new audience of people who admired her outsider approach and lack of pretence – she was what she was. She toured the UK and Australia, and – of course – became a gay icon. In the end, she had the last laugh, because she actually managed to build a career doing the thing she loved. She died aged 89.
Charley Pride was that rarest of things: a black country singer. Emerging in the mid-Sixties, when America – more specifically, the part of America most receptive to country music – was still battling to hold onto segregation and facing racial conflict, he faced challenges from the start. Audiences who had no idea that he was black until he walked out onto the stage had to be won over even though they’d loved his records. But Pride persevered and over time, as attitudes changed and he became more famous, his skin colour became less of an issue; for him, it never was anyway, and he never understood why country music had to be the preserve of the white performer to begin with. At the end of the Sixties, he was selling millions of records and perhaps doing his bit to heal a fractured South. In the mid-Seventies, Pride played Belfast at the height of the Troubles, when few acts even considered adding the city to their schedules. In doing so, he became something of a cross-divide icon, and his hit Crystal Chandeliers was seen as helping promote understanding and acceptance over both sides. He continued to have success over the subsequent decades and in 202 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award and the 54th Country Music Association Awards – a little late, some might say. He died of Covid-19, aged 86.
Steve Priest was co-founder, bass player and sometimes lead vocalist for Sweet, who had a number of hit singles as both a bubblegum pop and glam rock act. The hits between 1971 and 1974 were penned by Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, and while they made Sweet a big name at the time, the association ultimately doomed them. ironically, the band had been penning hard rock, Led Zeppelin-inspired B-sides themselves. Priest was the most camp member of the band in the glam days, with heavy make-up and Nazi uniforms (to make it clear – if anyone thinks that he was in any way an actual Nazi, blowing kisses at the Top of the Pops camera and plastered in slap, they are idiots) but from the mid-Seventies, the band took control of their own destiny and had a few hits under their own steam. When Brian Connelly left, Priest took over lead vocals for three underrated albums before the band imploded. Attempts to reform the band in the 1980s failed, but Priest would form his own version of Sweet in 1998 – fellow band member Andy Scott also had a version of the band touring. He died aged 72.
The man known as Darth Vader to some, the Frankenstein monster to others and the Green Cross Code man to a generation of British schoolchildren. Prowse was a bodybuilder and weightlifter who made his way into the film industry as a muscleman but managed to build quite a career over a couple of decades. For Hammer, he was the strongman in Vampire Circus and two separate Frankenstein monsters, in Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell (he also made a brief appearance as the monster in the 1967 Casino Royale). For Kubrick, he was Mr Alexander’s bodyguard in A Clockwork Orange, and he was a muscle man in Russ Meyer‘s Black Snake. His big break was as the Green Cross Code man, teaching kids how to safely cross the road, though his most famous role was as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Prowse’s strong West Country accent meant that in most roles, he was either silent or dubbed, something that obviously grated – he would come out with all manner of unlikely excuses why Darth Vader had the voice of James Earl Jones, and demanded that for his last Green Cross Code ad, his own voice was used. Prowse rode the coattails of his Darth Vader appearance (though fans might argue if it was him or Jones who effectively played the character) but his continual criticism of Lucasfilm and more or less everyone involved in the Star Wars films eventually saw him banned from attending official conventions in 2010. He died aged 85.
Kevin Rafferty was a documentary filmmaker, best known for The Atomic Cafe, a film that showed the horrors of nuclear war through careful editing of old atomic-age educational and propaganda films. Rafferty used a similar editing style on Radio Bikini, Feed (which collated off-air moments of politicians waiting to be interviewed on television) and Blood in the Face, about white supremacists. He died of cancer aged 73.
Helen Reddy was an Australian singer who became an icon of the 1970s feminist movement thanks to her anthem for the movement, I A Woman, a song that reached Number 1 in the US after a grass-roots campaign from female listeners. It was the start of a successful career that saw two more chart-toppers, including the moody psychosexual drama Angie Baby, and several more top forty hits. In 1977 she starred in Disney film Pete’s Dragon, but her career had already peaked and while still a well-known face, the record sales in the 1980s and 1990s were minimal. In 2002, she announced her retirement and returned to Australia from the US, where she took a degree in clinical hypnotherapy and neurolinguistic programming. She made a return to performing in 2012. She died aged 78.
Carl Reiner was an American comedian, director, actor and writer who teamed up with Mel Brooks in 1960, with their best-known collaboration being the skit The 2000 Year Old Man, a twelve-minute sketch that wound up extending to five LPs and an animated film. He directed and appeared in Oh, God!, The Jerk, The One and Only, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man with Two Brains, All of Me, Summer Rental and Fatal Instinct. He was the oldest celebrity to use Twitter, and a persistent Tweeter, which was not always a good thing frankly. He died aged 98.
The projects that Bill Rieflin played drums on are a checklist of 1990s industrial bands – he was either a member of or additional musician in Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Lard, 1000 Homo DJs, KMFDM, Swans, Pigface and Nine Inch Nails as one of a revolving collective of performers in bands, side projects and individual outfits. It’s hard to over-estimate the importance of drums to that sound, giving the crunching and brutal sound both stability and a vital dance beat. In that sense, it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that Rieflin was one of the most important musicians of the decade. Post-Nineties, he expanded his horizons, playing with R.E.M., Robyn Hitchcock, King Crimson and – bizarrely – Taylor Swift. He died of cancer, aged 59.
Diana Rigg’s first love as an actress was always the theatre, and there was always the suspicion that she felt both film and TV to be somehow beneath her. But she made some genuinely classic screen appearances. Her most famous role and greatest artistic achievement was as Emma Peel in The Avengers (having replaced Honor Blackman), and she appeared on the show while it was at its creative peak; but she seemed dismissive of the show later and reluctant to talk about it for many years. A pity that. She also appeared in the best Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, where her appearance was dogged with unsubstantiated rumours of a feud with co-star George Lazenby. But she was the best Bond girl ever, and the only one to be a match for 007 before such things became a contrived requirement. Her other work included the horror masterpiece Theatre of Blood, The Assassination Bureau, Julius Caesar, The Great Muppet Caper, Evil Under the Sun and Parting Shots – okay, maybe she had a point about some of this stuff being beneath her. in recent years she appeared in several episodes of Game of Thrones, and ended her career with the unnecessary BBC version of Black Narcissus. She died of lung cancer, aged 82.
David Roback first rose to fame as part of the Paisley Underground of psychedelia-inspired bands in the mid-1980s, playing guitar for The Rain Parade, arguably the most ethereal of the bands on the Los Angeles scene. After their first album, Roback quit and formed a few short-live projects – Rainy Day, Opal – before the latter project evolved, with new singer Hope Sandoval, into Mazzy Star. The three Mazzy Star albums of the 1990s are amongst the decade’s most evocative works – ethereal, haunting, trippy and emotionally wrenching. While Sandoval’s voice was the thing that tore at the heartstrings, Roback’s shimmering, eerie guitar was every bit as important a part of their sound. Roback then moved into production work, working on film soundtracks and relocating to Norway where he worked on providing soundtracks for art projects and collaborated with other artists. He died of metastatic cancer, aged 61.
Kenny Rogers first came to public prominence as the front-man of First Edition, with their psychedelic hit Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) in 1967. Who would have expected him to become a country music legend after that? But under Rogers’ lead, the band began to shift their sound in a country direction – not that unusual in an era of The Birds and Buffalo Springfield, perhaps. When the band broke up in 1976, Rogers went solo and had a string of cross-over hits – Lucille, Coward of the County – and duets with Dottie West, Kim Carnes and Dolly Parton. He also had acting success, most notably in The Gambler series that was inspired by his 1978 album of the same name. He died aged 81.
Giovanni Romanini was an Italian comic book artist, best known for his work on the classic Kriminal and Satanik series alongside fellow artist Magnus. He would go on to specialise in erotic and horror comic strips, including a series of comics based around porn star La Cicciolina. Outside his more salacious work, Romanini also worked for Panini and Disney (on Mickey Mouse!) as a hired gun. He died of a heart attack, aged 75.
Rafael Romero Marchent
An actor since the late 1940s in Spanish dramas, Rafael Romero Marchent had a brief but productive period as the director of westerns – between 1965 and 1970, he shot nine films, mostly Spanish-Italian co-productions. His films include Hands of a Gunfighter, Sharp-Shooting Twin Sisters, Ringo the Lone Rider, The Avenger Zorro and Sartana Kills Them All. In the 1970s, he branched out into crime films (Prey of Vultures, Disco Roja), Spanish Giallo (The Student Connection, Curse of the Black Cat), domestic dramas and even a Santo film (Santo vs Dr Death). He died aged 93.
Suzanne Roquette was a German actress who worked on both German and British TV series and films. She is best known for appearing in the first season of Space: 1999, but also appeared in British dramas Special Branch, Spearhead and Hadleigh, and the sitcom Sorry!, as well as the film The Vengeance of Fu Manchu. In Germany, she was in long-running police show Tatort, spy film Red Dragon and a couple of the long-running Edgar Wallace film series – The Hunchback of Soho and The Monk with the Whip. She died aged 77.
Annabelle McCauley Allan Short was a jazz singer and actress, born in Scotland but raised in the USA, who achieved fame in the 1950s as a prolific recording artist and songwriter. Her first acting role was as a child, playing Judy Garland’s sister in Presenting Lily Mars, but her real acting career took off years later, back in the UK. She was in Hammer’s grim Straight On Till Morning, Dead Cert, Alfie Baby, Yanks and Superman III, and also dubbed characters and singers in The Beast Must Die, The Wicker Man (dubbing Britt Ekland) and Salon Kitty. Back in the US, she appeared in Basket Case 2 and 3, Throw Momma from the Train, Pump Up the Volume, The Player and Short Cuts, and was also in Italian horror film La Casa 4. In 1964, she opened Annie’s Room in London, was addicted to heroin in the late Fifties and had an affair with Lenny Bruce. A documentary about her, No One But Me, was made in 2012. She died from emphysema and heart disease, aged 89.
Sergio Rossi was an Italian shoe designer, known for his own luxury brand that would appear on catwalks with clothes by Versace and others. He had his big break when Anita Ekberg wore his shows in La Dolce Vita in 1960. In March 2020, Rossi and his company donated €100,000 as part of a fashion industry fightback against Covid-19; ironically, he died of the virus a month later, aged 84.
Along with Ken Spears (who also died this year), Joe Ruby created Scooby Doo Where Are You? for Hanna-Barbera in 1969, a decade after first working for the company, and so launching a franchise that continues to this day. An artist, writer, animator and producer, Ruby and Spear would go on to create Dynomutt, The Dog Wonder and Jabberjaw for Hanna-Barbera, and The Barkleys and The Houndcats for DePatie-Freleng, before launching their own company in 1977. Ruby-Spears were responsible for animated shows like Thundarr the Barbarian, Fangface, The Plastic Man Comedy-Adventure Hour, Mr T, Alvin and the Chipmunks and Superman among others. He died aged 87.
The star of numerous cult movies in the USA and Italy. Full obituary.
Adam Schlesinger was best known as the founding member of Fountains of Wayne, who had a memorable hit with Stacy’s Mom; but his career was primarily that of songwriter, writing for films (Ice Age: Continental Drift, Robots, There’s Something About Mary, Josie and the Pussycats, Scary Movie) and other artists (Bowling for Soup, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry). He was also a record producer who worked with The Monkees, Robert Plant, Dashboard Confessional, They Might Be Giants and others, and wrote music for the theatrical musical version of John Waters’ Cry Baby. He died of Covid-19, aged 52.
from 1956 until the mid-2000s, Jacqueline Scott was a familiar face on USTV, making guest appearances in just about every significant series out there up until the 1980s – 77 Sunset Strip, Gunsmoke, Lassie, Route 66, The Virginian, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Fugitive, Mission: Impossible, Cannon, Ironside, The Streets of San Francisco, Planet of the Apes, Starsky and Hutch, Police Woman, Salvage 1 and more. Her career slowed in the 1980s, but she was still a prolific performer. Her few films include Duel and Empire of the Ants. She died of lung cancer, aged 89.
Roger Scruton was a conservative (in both small and big C meanings) philosopher who seemed to revel in causing outrage with the Left and saying the unsayable. His books attacked Left-wing thinkers, his magazine The Sailsbury Review effectively ended the careers of its writings and he was cancelled continually before cancel culture was even a thing. How much of Scruton’s declarations was heartfelt and how much deliberate provocation is hard to tell, but over the years he attacked the concept of Islamophobia as “a propaganda word”, attacked gay rights and feminism, supported Margaret Thatcher and allegedly defended ‘date rape’ (actually saying that is was not a crime distinct from rape per se). In 2019, he was briefly brought down by a New Statesman interview that attributed outrageous racist and anti-semitic quotes to him; the interviewer, George Eaton, posted a photo of himself on Instagram, drinking champagne captioned “The feeling when you get right-wing racist and homophobe Roger Scruton sacked as a Tory government adviser”. Unfortunately, Eaton had edited the damaging words out of context to make them sound like racist statements. For a period, the whole debacle seemed to sum up the problem of journalist as activist, though by 2020 standards it seems very small potatoes. In any case, The New Statesman had to apologise and Scruton got his job back. In any case, he died of cancer, aged 75. No word on whether Eaton broke out the champagne again at the news.
Martin Gerald Simmons was the co-founder and publisher of National Lampoon, the 1970s satirical magazine that would go on to spawn assorted films, including National Lampoon’s Animal House and the National Lampoon’s Vacation franchise. He was also vice-president of Diner’s Club, the world’s first credit card, and launched Weight Watchers. he died aged 93.
Joe Sinnott was a comic book artist who worked on just about everything. his professional career began in 1951 when he worked with Stan Lee at what was then Atlas Comics, and illustrated horror, science fiction, westerns, war comics and more – whatever the market demanded. He would go on to ink Jack Kirby’s work on The Fantastic Four, and he remained on the book long after Kirby had left. In 1992, he left comic book work to concentrate on the Amazing Spider-Man Sunday newspaper strip, which he worked on until 2019. He died aged 93.
Millie Small was forever doomed to be defined by her biggest hit, My Boy Lollipop, a quasi-novelty number that saw her listed as a one-hit-wonder. But she did a lot more interesting work and seems ripe for rediscovery. The Caribbean’s most successful female act – and its first global star, Small (who was often reduced by record labels to simply ‘Millie’), she floundered with variations of pop, blues and ska in the 1960s but re-emerged as a reggae artist at the end of the 1960s, something that might have given her more credibility if only anyone was listening. To promote her single Mayfair (a Nick Drake cover) she posed nude in Mayfair magazine, and she recorded an anti-Enoch Powell song, Enoch Power, which was banned from the radio. Neither move helped boost her profile at the time, though both seem brave now. Her music career came to a halt at the end of the 1960s, and by 1987 she was living in a hostel with her daughter – like many artists of the era, she seems to have been screwed out of her royalties. She died, apparently of a stroke, aged 72.
Guy N. Smith
The legendary pulp horror novelist. Full obituary.
Tim Smith formed the eccentric, hard to pigeonhole band The Cardiacs at the end of the 1970s and, on and off, led them until their demise in 2007. A band that played with rock, punk, new wave, psychedelia and experimentalism, they were an acquired taste – as their infamous support slot on the 1984 Marillion tour showed when they were subjected to levels of audience abuse that are still quoted as an example of the very worst of bad reactions. Nevertheless, The Cardiacs found a devoted cult following and carved their own niche in the music world, with some unlikely associates such as The Wildhearts, with whom Smith worked both as a producer and video director. Smith had a heart attack in 2008 and this led to the rare neurological condition dystonia that he suffered with for the remainder of his life. He died of another heart attack, aged 59.
The legendary talent agent for the adult film and magazine industry. Full obituary.
Ken Spears was an animator and producer who co-created Scooby Doo Where Are You? with Joe Ruby, who also died in 2020 (see Ruby’s entry in this list for details of their careers). He died of dementia complications, aged 82.
Volker Spengler was a German actor, best known for his work with Rainer Werner Fassbinder – their films together include Satan’s Brew, Chinese Roulette, Despair, In a Year of 13 Moons, The Marriage of Maria Braun, Berlin Alexanderplatz and Veronika Voss. For Christoph Schlingensieff he appeared in The German Chainsaw Massacre and 100 Jahre Adolf Hitler – Die letzte Stunde im Führerbunker and was a prolific stage actor. He died aged 81.
Barry St John
Eliza Janet Thomson adopted the male-sounding stage name Barry St John for her singing career when she signed with Decca Records in 1964. The Scottish singer only had one minor hit – Come Away Melinda reached Number 47 on the UK charts in 1965. But her brief recording career is an interesting one, with several tracks that ought to have been bigger, and which would become popular on the Northern Soul scene years later. As a session singer, she had more success, appearing on Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and oddball rock opera The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast, and working with acts as varied as Alexis Korner, Bryan Ferry, Elton John, Tom Robinson and Whitesnake. She died aged 76.
It took a while, but in the 1980s and beyond, Jackie Stallone made the most of her rather dubious claim to fame – namely, being the mother of Sylvester Stallone. This, combined with her all-round eccentricity (whether studied or genuine) was enough to secure some sort of fame for her as she bounced from career to career until the age of people being famous just for being famous arrived. In the early 1980s, she was a wrestling manager and heel on GLOW: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling; after that, she published astrology books and set up a psychic hotline, launched her own cosmetics business – because who wouldn’t want to look like Jackie Stallone, appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in the UK (and was rapidly voted off by viewers) and made a notorious appearance on the Howard Stern Show alongside ex-husband Frank where she accused him of wanting Sylvester to be aborted. As a comedy character, She was perhaps a harmless eccentric and fame junkie, but there often seemed something unpleasantly malicious about her as well. She died aged 98.
The British serial killer, better known as the Yorkshire Ripper. Full article.
Billy Tang was a film director in Hong Kong, best known for his infamous shocker Dr Lamb. His other unrestrained and censor-baiting films include Red to Kill, Street Angels, Sexy and Dangerous, Haunted Karaoke, Dial D for Demons, Raped By An Angel 5: The Final Judgement and Death Trip. He died aged 69.
Stella Tennant was a British fashion model from an aristocratic family who rose to fame in the early 1990s, working with the biggest names of the era – Helmut Lang, Karl Lagerfeld, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, Gianni Versace, John Galliano and others, alongside photographers Steven Meisel, Bruce Weber, Mario Testino, Paolo Roversi and Tim Walker. She was one of the models who walked a catwalk at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony and in more recent years had turned her hand to designing, running a cashmere and luxury collectables business. She died aged 50.
The legendary star of the Ilsa movies and a popular cabaret artist. Full obituary.
Pamela Tiffin was an actress and model, often found on the covers of showbiz and entertainment magazines like Parade. She was the subject of a 1969 photo feature in Playboy. Billy Wilder called her “the biggest find since Audrey Hepburn” after she appeared in One, Two, Three and her career seemed to be on the up with leading roles in the remake of Summer Fair and Come Fly With Me, and youth-oriented films like The Pleasure Seekers, The Lively Set and For Those Who Think Young, as well as Viva Max – but her career never quite took off. She moved to Italy to try her luck there and appeared in The Almost Perfect Crime, Torture Me But Kill Me With Kisses (a comedy in case you were wondering), No One Will Notice You’re Naked, The Fifth Cord, Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears, Kill Me My Love and Brigitte, Laura, Ursula, Monica, Raquel, Litz, Florinda, Barbara, Claudia, e Sofia le chiamo tutte… anima mia, none of which did much for her career, which was essentially over by 1974. She died aged 78.
Alex Trebek was a Canadian-American serial game show host, presenting a variety of shows from the 1960s until his death. He was a ubiquitous face on American TV, never more so than during his thirty-six year run fronting Jeopardy! he also clocked up an impressive series of film credits, almost always playing himself. He taped his last episodes of Jeopardy! just days before his death, of pancreatic cancer, aged 80.
Frank Uwe Laysiepen was a German performance artist best known for his work with Marina Abramović. In the 1970s, Ulay moved from Germany to Amsterdam, while struggling with his ‘Germanness’ and began experimenting with Polaroid art. He met Abramović in 1975 and the two formed a personal and professional relationship that encompassed the pair’s most significant work, and ended in 1988 in a piece called Lovers, in which they walked the Great Wall of China from opposite ends, meeting in the middle and symbolically (and actually) ending their relationship. In 2010, during Abramović’s piece The Artist Is Present, where she would sit in silence across from a stranger, Ulay showed up for a memorable moment – the art crumbles and it becomes a real emotional moment. Unfortunately, this reconnection didn’t last long and in 2015, Ulay sued her for unpaid royalties and lack of credit; he won the case. He died aged 76.
Albert Underzo was the co-creator (with René Goscinny) and illustrator of comic strip Asterix, which launched in 1959. After the death of Goscinny in 1977, Underzo wrote the stories himself, and still produced a new book every two or three years until his retirement in 2011. he died of a heart attack, aged 92.
Ricky Valance was a Welsh pop singer, best known for his 1960 hit Tell Laura I Love Her, a classic tragedy ballad that was banned by the BBC but reached Number One anyway. He failed to keep up with rapidly changing musical trends, and after the hits dried up, he moved onto showband and country music, before moving to Spain, where he had some success on the nostalgia market for British tourists. He died of dementia, aged 84.
Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen moved from the Netherlands to the USA with his family at the age of seven, and with his brother Alex, formed his first band in 1972. Changing the band name to Van Halen in 1974, they became Los Angeles music scene regulars before signing a contract in 1977. The rest is history: their debut album was an immediate hit and became hugely influential, and over the subsequent years and changing line-ups, the band became bigger than ever. Over the years, he also worked with Michael Jackson (playing the guitar solo on Beat It), Roger Waters, Brian May and Gene Simmons, composed film scores and was widely recognised as one of the greatest guitar players of all time. He struggled with alcoholism for years and battled cancer on a couple of occasions. By all accounts, he was one of the nicest guys in rock music. He died of a stroke, aged 65.
Dan Van Husen
Dan Van Husen was a German actor who began his career in the 1960s in Italy, appearing in over twenty spaghetti westerns in a six-year period, including A Bullet for Sandoval, Arizona Colt Returns and Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming. Later, he would appear in Fellini’s Casanova, Salon Kitty, Nosferatu the Vampyre, Bloodline, The Lady Vanishes, Graf Dracula in Oberbayern, The Sea Wolves, Freak Orlando, Wild Geese II, Killer Barbys vs Dracula, Enemy at the Gates and Band of Brothers. He died of Covid-19, aged 75.
Max von Sydow
Max von Sydow was an actor who first came to prominence for his work with Ingmar Bergman, starring in some of the director’s best movies – The Seventh Seal, Through a Glass Darkly, Wild Strawberries and The Virgin Spring amongst the eleven films they made together. But for international audiences, he is best known for his work on The Exorcist (playing Father Merrin under heavy old-age make-up) and Flash Gordon, where he was Ming the Merciless. Other interesting films include The Night Visitor, Steppenwolf, Three Days of the Condor, Voyage of the Damned, The Ultimate Warrior, Death Watch, Conan the Barbarian, Never Say Never Again, The Ice Pirates, Dune, Hannah and Her Sisters and Judge Dredd. He died aged 90.
Lee Wallace was an American actor, known for small but significant parts in a series of significant 1970s and 1980s films: Klute, The Hot Rock, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, The Happy Hooker, Diary of the Dead, Private Benjamin, World War III and Batman amongst them. He died aged 90.
James Wasserman was a writer and occultist who befriended important artists like Alejandro Jodorowsky and Harry Smith while working at esoteric bookshop Weiser Books in the early 1970s. A member of the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O) since 1976, Wasserman was responsible for a new edition of Crowley’s Book of the Law and the famous Thoth Tarot deck, as well as the Simon Necronomicon, supposedly the authentic version of the mythical book featured in many H.P. Lovecraft stories. His 1994 version of the Egyptian Book of the Dead is considered to be a seminal volume, and his other works include The Holy Books of Thelema (a collection of Crowley’s writings), In the Center of the Fire: A Memoir of the Occult 1966-1989 and To Perfect This Feast, about the Gnostic Mass. Wasserman was seen by many as the leader of the modern O.T.O. He died aged 72.
Pete Way was best known as the bassist in heavy rock band UFO, which he co-founded in 1970, staying with the band through their most successful period before musical differences made him quit in 1983. He formed Fastway with former Motörhead guitarist Fast Eddie Clarke, but found himself hamstrung by a record label contract and unable to actually play with the band that he’d given his name to. Undeterred, he then formed a new band that was also named after him – Waysted recorded three albums before Way was tempted back into UFO between 1988-89 and the from 1991 to 2008, when ill-health forced his retirement. He would return with Damage Control and The Pete Way Band, with whom he played up until 2020. He wrote an autobiography – A Fast Ride Out of Here: Confessions of Rock’s Most Dangerous Man – in 2017. He suffered major injuries in an unspecified accident mid-2020 and died two months later, aged 69.
Andrew Weatherall was a DJ and producer, noted for his remix work with bands like Happy Mondays, New Order, Saint Etienne, The Orb, Manic Street Preachers, Future Sound of London and Primal Scream, for whom he created the hit single Loaded from their earlier track I’m Losing More Than I’ve Ever Had and Wild Angels samples. he also worked with Primal Scream as a producer proper and founded both the record label Boy’s Own Recordings and the band The Sabres of Paradise. He died of a pulmonary embolism, aged 56.
Dawn Wells was an actress best known for her role on classic comedy show Gilligan’s Island in 1964; she would repeat the role in both the cartoon version of the show and various spin-off movies. In 1993 she co-wrote The Gilligan’s Island Cookbook, and wrote another spin-off book in 2014. Outside the Gilligan’s Island world, she operated Wishing Wells Collections, making clothing for people with limited mobility, and appeared in guest/recurring roles in 77 Sunset Strip, Wagon Train, Surfside 6, The Invaders, The Wild Wild West, The Love Boat and Fantasy Island, as well as the movies Return to Boggy Creek and The Town That Dreaded Sundown. She died of Covid-19, aged 82.
In the 1970s, as a kid in the UK, you would have your Sunday afternoon TV viewing interrupted by current affairs show Weekend World, the only appealing aspect of which was the belting theme tune. Years later, I found out that this was an extract from Nantucket Sleighride by Mountain, a track that the band impressively expanded across two sides of vinyl on their live Twin Peaks album. There was more to Mountain than this track – namely the hit Mississippi Queen, which is a go-to track for soundtracks – but the band would forever be a part of my consciousness thanks to that track and the impressive guitar noodling of Leslie West, heavyweight co-founder of the band. Mountain was one of the leading acts of the heavy rock explosion at the end of the 1960s, and West had a long career after the band broke up, as a musician and sometime actor. He died of cardiac arrest, aged 75.
Stuart Whitman was an American actor who had a brief period, in the early 1960s, where he was seen as the Next Big Thing, with significant and leading roles in major movies like The Longest Day, Shock Treatment and Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, but he never quite managed to sustain his popularity. But Whitman was, by his own admission, someone who liked to work and his willingness to do pretty much anything kept him in lead roles in lower-budget movies and TV shows, as well as character parts in bigger movies. His filmography is, as you might expect, eclectic and fascinating: The Girl in Black Stockings, Hound-Dog Man, Sands of the Kalahari, City Beneath the Sea, Night of the Lepus (the film he blamed for ruining his career), Night Gallery, The Cat Creature, Welcome to Arrow Beach, Shatter, Crazy Mama, Death Trap, The White Buffalo, Ruby, Guyana – Cult of the Damned (playing Jim Jones), The Monster Club, Demonoid, Butterfly, Invaders of the Lost Gold and countless TV series guest spots. He died of skin cancer, aged 92.
Hal Willner was a music producer who was best known for collating concept albums, tribute shows and live spectaculars. His albums include Dead City Radio, which featured William Burroughs backed by the likes of John Cale and Sonic Youth; Closed On Account of Rabies, the stories of Edgar Allan Poe read by Christopher Walken, Iggy Pop, Marianne Faithfull, Diamanda Galas, Debbie Harry, Abel Ferrara and others; performances of works by De Sade, Allen Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen; and the Rogue’s Gallery performances of sea shanties and pirate ballads. His work is well worth seeking out. He died of Covid-19, aged 64.
Wes Wilson was one of the leading poster designers during the psychedelic era in San Francisco – if you’ve ever seen ‘psychedelic lettering’, with letters that seem to be liquid and moving into each other, Wilson is the man ton thank – he invented that style. He designed posters for the Fillmore and did artwork for bands including Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. He also did the poster art for the final Beatles concert in 1966. As tastes changed, Wilson was less in demand from bands but carried on painting throughout his life, and his work was exhibited in galleries from the 1990s onwards. He died of cancer, aged 82.
the death of Barbara Windsor was treated, in Britain, as though the Queen herself had died; gushing tributes all night on the BBC that praised her acting talents, body of work and all-round national treasureness. Her association with violent and murderous criminals was somewhat sanitised, but that’s the power of soap opera popularity for you; I doubt there would have been quite as much fuss if she hadn’t starred in Eastenders, absolutely the least interesting thing that she ever did. For more discerning viewers, she was better known and loved for her work on the best of the Carry On films, which ran from 1964 to 1974, as well as TV and stage specials and the compilation film That’s Carry On. In the fantasy Carry On universe, Babs was the busty sex-pot to be leered after by Sid James, and her infectious giggle and exaggerated wiggle made her a much-loved part of the series. She was also the cast member most likely to flash her boobs. Her other film work included The Belles of St Trinians (an uncredited part as one of the schoolgirl ensemble), Too Hot to Handle, Flame in the Streets, On the Fiddle, Crooks in Cloisters, Sparrows Can’t Sing, A Study in Terror, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Boyfriend and Not Now Darling, and guest spots in Up Pompeii, Dad’s Army, Worzel Gummidge and One Foot in the Grave. In 2017, she was the subject of a TV hagiography, Babs!. She had brief affairs with Reggie and Charlie Kray, and was an apologist for their violent reign of terror; she later married gangster associate Ronnie Knight, who – by his own admission – hired a hitman to kill a rival and then fled to the Costa Del Sol after being involved in an armed robbery, all while still married to Windsor who publicly supported him at the time. She died aged 83.
Frank Windsor was an actor best known for his TV work, most notably Z-Cars and its assorted spin-offs including Softly, Softly and Jack the Ripper (an odd 1973 investigation), but his film career also encompassed several interesting titles: This Sporting Life, The Jokers, Spring and Port Wine, Sunday Bloody Sunday, Barry McKenzie Holds His Own, Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? and Dangerous Davies: The Last Detective. He died aged 92.
Mark Wirtz was a French record producer, best known for his uncompleted Teenage Opera project, which spawned one hit single but was never quite finished, though in 1996 a compilation appeared that collected all the songs initially planned for the project and then issued as unrelated singles. Wirtz was a prolific producer, working across genres and more than willing to create fake bands to front his own musical projects. He worked with Kim Fowley, Helen Reddy, Kim Carnes, Anthony Newley and others, and in the 1980s, during a hiatus from music, he took on a wide variety of jobs, from voice-over artist to stand up comedian and food critic. He died aged 76.
Bill Withers was noted for his easy-listening soul hits of the 1970s, some of the most chilled out records ever recorded: Ain’t No Sunshine, Lovely Day, Just the Two of Us, Lean On Me and others. His life and career had plenty of ups and downs, sometimes reflected in his songs, and he had a well-documented falling out with his record label in the 1980s, who he accused of attempting to crush his career. As a songwriter, he is much-admired, if not by the sort of people whose opinions you might care about (Ed Sheeran, Justin Timberlake). He died of heart complications, aged 81.
Charles Wood wrote some of the most iconic British films of the 1960s – The Knack… and How to Get It, Help!, How I Won the War, The Charge of the Light Brigade and The Bed Sitting Room. He was also a prolific TV writer, penning several edgy plays in the 1960s and 1970s as well as three plays about classical composers that were directed by Tony Palmer for Channel 4 in the early 1980s. His later work, perhaps reflecting the decline of British TV, was more episodic and throwaway – episodes of Inspector Morse, Kavanagh QC and Sharpe. He was also a playwright of some controversy, though his work has largely been forgotten now – the theatre is no more challenging than TV these days. He died aged 87.
Bessie Regina Norris was an American soul singer, best known for her mega-selling hit Clean Up Woman, recorded when she was seventeen. Nothing else quite reached the heights of that again, but she had a long and successful recording career, from 1968 to 2014. She died of cancer, aged 66.
Ned Wynn was an American actor who made his name in the 1960s with a series of beach party movies and classic comedies: The Bellboy, The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, Bikini Beach, The Patsy, Pajama Party, Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini. In later years he turned to screenplay writing and wrote and appeared in Don’t Go to Sleep and California Dreaming. The son of actor Keenan Wynn, he died of Parkinson’s Disease, aged 79.
General Chuck Yeager was an unlikely pioneer of space travel – a man who joined the US Army Air Corps to work on engines and famously threw up on his first flight and scoffed at astronauts as mere passengers not much more important than their chimp predecessors – nevertheless, he trained twenty-six of them. Most famously, he was the test pilot who was the first man to break the speed of sound in 1947. He did so with two broken ribs after horse fall that he kept to himself. Tom Wolfe made Yeager a central character in his book The Right Stuff, about the pioneers of space flight, later filmed. He died aged 97.
Help support The Reprobate: