'Casablanca' actor Madeleine Lebeau dead at 92


Actress Madeleine Lebeau has died. She was 92. She is best known in America for her role as 'Yvonne' in Casablanca. Lebeau was the film's last known surviving cast member, and also performed in a number of classic films including Federico Fellini's 8 ½ and Hold Back the Dawn with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.

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A long list of comedians mourn the passing of Garry Shandling, age 66


Comedy legend Garry Shandling passed away in Los Angeles, today, according to the Los Angeles Police.

Shandling was well respected and loved. E! Online shares a long collection of goodbyes from his colleagues.

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Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner has died at 74

Paul Kantner on stage at the "Summer of Love" 40th anniversary concert at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, 2007.  REUTERS

Paul Kantner, founding member of Jefferson Airplane and icon of the sixties San Francisco rock explosion, died today. He was 74. Earlier this week, he suffered a heart attack, and had for years been dealing with serious health issues.

His death was confirmed by longtime publicist and friend Cynthia Bowman, who told reporters he died of multiple organ failure and septic shock.

Paul Kantner and Grace Slick and daughter China of the Jefferson Airplane, photo dated 10/08/1971

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

With Jefferson Airplane, Mr. Kantner pioneered what became known as the San Francisco sound in the mid-1960s, with such hits as “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”

The Airplane was renowned for thrilling vocal gymnastics by singers Marty Balin, Grace Slick and Mr. Kantner, the psychedelic blues-rock sound developed by guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bass player Jack Casady and the LSD-spiked, ’60s-era revolutionary fervor of its lyrics.

Paul Kantner [Wikipedia]

Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock

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Alan Rickman, 1946-2016


Famous for his intriguing villains and staccato voice, English actor Alan Rickman is dead at 69.

The star was suffering from cancer, his family said. He became one of Britain's best-loved acting stars thanks to roles including Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films and Hans Gruber in Die Hard.

He also won a Bafta Award for playing the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

A family statement said: "The actor and director Alan Rickman has died from cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by family and friends."

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RIP Wayne Rogers, 1933-2016

Wayne Rogers, the actor who portrayed M*A*S*H's legendary "Trapper" John McIntyre, has passed away at the age of 82.

Rogers was an incredibly talented individual. In addition to his numerous television and film credits, Rogers became a very successful business person, board member, real estate investor, and continued to produce theater.

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RIP Dean Jones, 1931-2015

Dean Jones, the iconic superstar of so many early Disney films, has passed away. The Chicago Tribune shares a wonderful remembrance.

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RIP Patrick Macnee, 'The Avengers' John Steed, 1922-2015

The British and American actor is best known for his role as the secret agent John Steed in the TV series The Avengers.

James Horner, 1953-2015


The creator of legendary soundtracks to Titanic, A Beautiful Mind, Aliens and countless other famous movies died yesterday in a plane crash in California.

"We have lost an amazing person with a huge heart and unbelievable talent," Sylvia Patrycja, his assistant, posted to Facebook. "He died doing what he loved. Thank you for all your support and love and see you down the road."

He was the only occupant of the small, single-seater plane, which went down about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara.

Horner, 61, won two Oscars for his soaring work on Titanic. In scoring Avatar, his work came to define the emotional landscape of the two most successful movies of all time. He was reportedly working on the score for Avatar's forthcoming sequel at the time of this death.

Director Ron Howard wrote that Horner would "live on through the ages." At her website, Titanic collaborator Celine Dion wrote that she was deeply saddened by the loss: "He will always remain a great composer in our hearts. James played an important part in my career. We will miss him."

Investigators are examining the crash site near Ventucopa, an unincorporated community in the upper Cuyama Valley. Read the rest

Maya Angelou, legendary poet and author, 1928-2014

Maya Angelou receives a Medal of Freedom from U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, February 15, 2011. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)

The great American poet, author, activist, and actor Dr. Maya Angelou died today at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She was 86. Read the rest

Dave Brockie, punk artist of GWAR fame, has died. Here's video of the first GWAR show ever.

GWAR creator Dave Brockie has died. He was found in his home, and no cause of death has been released. He was 50 years old.

I knew Dave in the mid-1980s, and crashed at punk/art houses where he and co-creatives practiced and built props for GWAR, and before it, Death Piggy.

Dave Brockie, from the era of "Death Piggy," the pre-GWAR band. For a time, I went to every show. —XJ

RVA Magazine has extensive coverage of his life and death, and a statement from GWAR's manager. Style Weekly broke the sad news. Here's an earlier interview with Brockie from RVA Mag. My old friend from that era, Doug Dobey, wrote a beautiful homage on Facebook.

As Gareth Branwyn said on Facebook today, the comment seen about Brockie so far: "He was a great space Barbarian, and an even better human."

Above, the very first GWAR show. I was there.

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Steve Jurvetson, on the recurring nightmare Neil Armstrong had for two years leading up to Apollo 11

Venture capitalist, photographer, and master-level space fanatic Steve Jurvetson has been digging in to his archives for snapshots and relics related to the life and legacy of the late astronaut Neil Armstrong. For instance: above, a vintage 11”x 14” X-ray of Armstrong's lunar EVA spacesuit boots dated 7-7-69, only 9 days before the launch.

You can scroll through more photos here, on Steve's Facebook page.

Steve shared some amazing conversations with the "First Man," from what I can tell. Here's one:

Tang is a farce. That was the first thing Neil Armstrong told me last night. “We did not use it on the Apollo missions.”

I asked him, of all of the systems and stages of the mission, which did he worry about the most? (the frequently failing autopilot? the reliance on a global network of astronomers to spot solar flares in time to get the warning out? the onboard computers being less powerful than a Furby?....)

He gave a detailed answer about the hypergolic fuel mixing system for the lunar module. Rather than an ignition system, they had two substances that would ignite upon contact. Instead of an electric pump, he wished he had a big simple lever to mechanically initiate mixing.

That seemed a bit odd to me at first. So, I asked if he gave that answer because it really was the most likely point of failure, or because it symbolizes a vivid nightmare – having completed the moon mission, pushing the button...

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David Rakoff, 1964-2012

David Rakoff, best known as a storyteller, author, and a regular contributor to the radio programs "This American Life" and "Fresh Air," has died of cancer. The news first appeared on the website Third Beat. Rakoff wrote beautifully about the experience of going through treatment here, in the New York Times.

Choire Sicha at the Awl:

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Gore Vidal, 1925-2012

Writer, analyst, and eloquent opinionator Gore Vidal died today. He was 86. The LA Times reports that he died Tuesday in his Hollywood Hills home, from complications related to pneumonia.

In his lifetime, Vidal received the National Book Award, wrote many novels, short stories, plays and essays. He was a political activist, and received the most votes of any Democrat in more than 50 years when he ran as a Democratic candidate for Congress in upstate New York. Vidal's The City and the Pillar was one of the first American novels to present homosexuality in a direct manner, and outraged many at the time.

Above, his epic 1968 debate with noted dirtbag William Buckley, in which he tells Buckley to "shut up," and calls him a "cryptonazi."

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Sally Ride, first American woman in space, has died

Dr. Sally Ride, an American physicist and former NASA astronaut, has died of pancreatic cancer. She joined NASA in 1978, and in 1983 became the first American woman to travel into space. From a statement on her website:

Sally Ride died peacefully on July 23rd, 2012 after a courageous 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Sally lived her life to the fullest, with boundless energy, curiosity, intelligence, passion, joy, and love. Her integrity was absolute; her spirit was immeasurable; her approach to life was fearless.

Sally was a physicist, the first American woman to fly in space, a science writer, and the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science. She had the rare ability to understand the essence of things and to inspire those around her to join her pursuits.

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Ernest Borgnine, 1917-2012

He won an Academy Award for his portrayal of a lovelorn butcher in 1955's "Marty," but to me he's Airwolf's Dominic Santini. [CNN] Read the rest

Robin Gibb, 1/3 of the Bee Gees, has died of cancer at 62

Photo: Robin Gibb. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor, 2008.

From multiple sources today: One of the three Bee Gees has died. Robin Gibb was 62 years old, and was diagnosed two years ago with colon and liver cancer that responded to treatment, then returned and spread. Read the rest

Chuck Brown, godfather of Go-Go music, dies at 75

Chuck Brown performing at the 20th St. Lucia Jazz Festival, May 8, 2011. REUTERS/Andrea De Silva.

The artist widely credited with founding the Go-Go music genre died today. Chuck Brown was 75.

Like many punk teens growing up in Virginia in the eighties, I discovered this DC-rooted genre of black American music by accident—a go-go band opened up for a hardcore group I'd traveled from Richmond to DC to see. But it just took once to fall under the spell of that heavy, funky beat.

Bands like Trouble Funk and E.U. were among the go-go acts to achieve fame beyond DC, but Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers started it all.

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