Yearly Archives: 2005

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Dana Elcar

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Categories: Actors

delcar.jpgIbson Dana Elcar, the veteran actor best known for his work on the TV show “MacGyver,” died on June 6 of complications from pneumonia. He was 77.
The Ferndale, Mich., native had drama in his soul. He used to recreate radio plays with his siblings, and decided to become an actor after spending all night in a movie theatre watching numerous showings of the Orson Welles classic, “Citizen Kane.” Elcar enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 18 and served a tour of duty in Newfoundland, then attended the University of Michigan, where he founded the Ann Arbor Theater. He would later form the L.A. Actors’ Theater and the Santa Paula Theater Center in California.
Elcar moved to New York in the 1950s to become a professional thespian. He studied drama at the Neighborhood Playhouse and landed roles in several off-Broadway plays, such as “The Dumb Waiter,” “The Caretaker,” “Under Milk Wood” and “Waiting for Godot.” Elcar appeared opposite George C. Scott in “Richard III,” and served as an understudy to both Alec Guinness and Jason Robards. Although he acted in six Broadway productions, none of them lasted very long on the Great White Way.
Elcar had better luck on the small and silver screen. The character actor appeared in more than 40 films, including “Fail-Safe,” “The Sting,” “2010” and “All of Me.” He was also a regular on the TV shows “Baretta” and “Dark Shadows.”
Elcar found his niche on the ABC series “MacGyver,” which aired from 1985 to 1992. He played Peter Thornton, the best friend and boss of the title character. When Elcar’s glaucoma began to affect his eyesight, he told the producers of “MacGyver” about his impending blindness. Instead of replacing him with another actor or killing off the character, the writers adapted his illness into the show. Elcar’s blindness was also written into stirring guest appearances on “Law & Order” and “ER.”

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Luther Vandross

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Categories: Musicians

lvandross.jpgLuther Ronzoni Vandross, the R&B singer whose lush voice sold more than 25 million albums, died on July 1. Cause of death was not released. He was 54.
The New York native began playing the piano when he was only three years old. In his teens, Vandross fell in love with the musical stylings of Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick because he felt they had more emotional range than their male counterparts. He attended Western Michigan University for two terms, then dropped out to become a professional singer/songwriter.
Vandross’ first gigs involved writing songs for the Broadway musical “The Wiz,” and working as a singer and vocal arranger for David Bowie. He sang backup for Donna Summer, Bette Midler and Barbra Streisand, and made more than $500,000 a year writing advertising jingles for Kentucky Fried Chicken and 7-Up.
As the lead vocalist for Change, Vandross scored his first big hit with the 1980 record “The Glow of Love.” A year later, Epic Records signed him to a solo recording contract, and released “Never Too Much.” The debut album sold 2 million copies.
Over the next 25 years, Vandross’ smooth tenor would become a staple on R&B and love song dedication radio stations. He charted 22 R&B hits, including “Superstar,” “Give Me the Reason” and “Love Won’t Let Me Wait,” but scored his first Top 10 pop single in 1990 with “Here and Now.”
The romantic crooner won eight Grammy Awards: one for “Here and Now,” two for “Power of Love / Love Power,” one for “Your Secret Love,” three for “Dance With My Father” and one for his duet with Beyonc

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Domino Harvey

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Categories: Law

Domino Harvey, a former model and bounty hunter, died on June 27 from an accidental overdose. She was 35.

Born in Belgravia, Harvey was the daughter of British actor Laurence Harvey (“The Manchurian Candidate”) and Vogue model Pauline Stone. Despite her glamorous upbringing, she was a tomboy at heart who preferred playing with weapons to dressing up dolls. After being expelled from four public schools for fighting with boys, Harvey spent her teens strutting up and down the London catwalks as a model for the prestigious Ford agency.

At 19, Harvey moved to California to find her place in the world. She ran a nightclub, did some gigs as a DJ, labored as a ranch hand and even worked as a firefighter. Dangerous situations jacked her up almost as much as heroin, her drug of choice. This passion for peril also led to a new career: bounty hunter.

In 1993, Harvey became a bail recovery agent for the Celes King Bail Bonds Agency in South Central Los Angeles. Although her pickups were usually small-time drug dealers and addicts, she helped arrest the leader of one of the city’s most violent gangs.

When Harvey checked into a Hawaiian rehabilitation clinic in 1997, she weighed less than 100 pounds. That same year, she sold the rights to her life story for approximately $46,000. Harvey had reportedly kicked her drug habit, but was recently arrested in Mississippi and charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs, possession, trafficking and racketeering. At the time of her death, she was under house arrest pending trial, and facing a possible life sentence in prison.

“Domino,” an action-filled biopic loosely based on Harvey’s life and starring Keira Knightly, is scheduled for release in theaters this fall. One of Harvey’s original songs will be played during the film’s opening credits.

“Domino never failed to surprise or inspire me over the last 12 years. She was a free spirit like no other I have ever known,” said Tony Scott, director of “Domino.”

Watch the “Domino” trailer

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Verne Meisner

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Categories: Musicians

LaVerne D. Meisner, a virtuoso accordionist and bandleader who was known as the “Polka King of Wisconsin,” died on June 10 from complications of melanoma. He was 66.
The Milwaukee native picked up the accordion when he was eight years old and formed his first band, Verne Meisner and the Polka Boys, when he was 11. The group had been performing at local taverns for two years when Meisner got his big break. It was 1953, and the 13-year-old musician was offered the chance to play with Frankie Yankovic, “America’s Polka King.” Yankovic was so impressed that he invited the teen to tour with his band.
Other than a single term of enlistment with the National Guard, Meisner spent the next five decades performing for polka lovers in the United States, Canada and in Europe. Known for playing in the Cleveland-style, he was a regular attraction at the Wisconsin State Fair and Dairy Expo.
Meisner recorded 20 albums and composed more than 60 songs, including the hits “Memories of Vienna” and “El Rio Drive.” He appeared on the ABC show, “In Search of America,” hosted by Peter Jennings, and was the first polka musician to win the Wisconsin Area Music Industry Award. Meisner also was inducted into five polka halls of fame.
“My dad had a knack for writing a song that people would remember. He was a genius with melody,” said Meisner’s son Steve, who continues the family’s accordion-playing legacy.
Following Meisner’s memorial service on June 21, hundreds of polka fans and musicians from across the Midwest gathered at the Whitewater American Legion building in Wisconsin to honor and remember their king.

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John T. Walton

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Categories: Business, Education, Military

John Thomas Walton, an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune and one of the wealthiest men in America, died on June 27 in a plane crash. He was 58.
Walton had just taken off from Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming on Monday afternoon when his homemade, ultralight aircraft crashed in Grand Teton National Park. He was the sole occupant of the plane, which weighed an estimated 400 to 500 pounds and ran on a small, gasoline-powered engine. Cause of the accident is under investigation.
The Arkansas native dropped out of The College of Wooster in Ohio, then served with the Green Berets as a medic in Vietnam. There he earned the Silver Star for saving the lives of several members of his unit while under enemy fire. When Walton returned to the states, he opted to have minimal involvement with the family business. Instead, he started a crop-dusting company in Texas and Arizona and a boat-building business in California.
Walton’s father was Sam Walton, who founded Wal-Mart and turned it into one of the biggest companies in the world. In March, John Walton and his younger brother Jim tied for No. 11 on the Forbes magazine list of the world’s richest people. (Spot No. 10 belongs to John’s older brother Rob, the chairman of Wal-Mart.) The sixth richest man in America, John Walton had a net worth of approximately $18.2 billion.
Through inheritance, Walton became a major stakeholder in Wal-Mart. He owned about 12 million shares of the company’s stock and shared ownership of about 1.7 billion shares with his family in a joint partnership called Walton Enterprises. Walton joined the board of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., in 1992, and sat on the company committee that reviews Wal-Mart’s finances and oversees long-range planning, but was not considered to be a potential successor to his brother.
Although he was a successful businessman in his own right, Walton’s passion was philanthropy, particularly in the area of education. In 1998, he and Wall Street buyout artist Ted Forstmann co-founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund. To date, the fund has provided tuition assistance to more than 67,000 low-income families that want to send their kids to private schools. In his spare time, Walton loved to fly. He also enjoyed skydiving, scuba diving and riding motorcycles.

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