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Bowing Out

Jerry Garcia

(b. 1942) Even when he was young, even during those freewheelin’ Haight-Ashbury days when his hair was black and his heart was healthy, Jerry Garcia had the voice of an old man. High, creaky, and supremely gentle, his tenor didn’t seem to suit the leader of a pack of slovenly San Francisco outlaws like the Grateful Dead. Garcia’s voice sounded more like it belonged to some trippy Appalachian codger—an echo of his early days jamming with bluegrass bands like the Sleepy Hollow Hog Stompers.

Eventually, it made sense. Garcia wasn’t just the singer and nine-fingered guitarist in the now-defunct Dead; he was the counterculture’s bearded, beaming grandpappy—its old man. When his 53-year-old heart gave out on Aug. 9 at a California rehab center called Serenity Knolls, a nation unraveled. Not necessarily the nation known as the United States — although the mourning did stretch all the way from Golden Gate Park to the White House — but a rambling republic of Deadheads who had looked upon Garcia as the psychedelic Santa Claus to their eternal Christmas.

Garcia had Saint Nick’s girth — years of junk food, smoking, and drugs didn’t keep his ticker in tip-top shape — as well as his generosity of spirit. ”I always experienced him as this guy bursting with enthusiasm,” says his widow, Deborah Koons Garcia. ”It was easy for him to inspire people to go out and do things.” The wrong things, countered conservatives, who wrote off Captain Trips as an irresponsible guru who’d led his disciples to dope. For his part, the apolitical Garcia never wanted to be a counterculture chieftain in the first place. He preferred simply to play the songs—tender campfire reels like ”Uncle John’s Band” and ”Black Peter” and ”Ripple,” delivered in a voice that quavered with the joy and ache of the ages. – Jeff Gordinier

Ginger Rogers

(b. 1911) In more than 70 films from 1930 to 1965, Ginger Rogers handled every genre thrown at her with pluck and underrated skill. She fought for serious roles and won a Best Actress Oscar for 1940’s Kitty Foyle. By 1941, she was the highest-paid woman in America.

And yet you can watch one of her films and never get a sense of her. Swing Time and Monkey Business are supreme works, but are they Ginger Rogers movies the way Camille is a Greta Garbo film? Unlike Garbo, Rogers never had a cult beyond that which clustered around Fred Astaire. Her sass, her romantic yearning, even her dancing was deceptively ordinary; she could give hope to a hatcheck girl, but deeper mystery there was none.

Which is why she succeeded when she did. The face of American movies in the ’30s is the face of Rogers, singing ”We’re in the Money” in pig latin in Gold Diggers of 1933, spitting fire at Katherine Hepburn in Stage Door, gliding across liquid parquet with Astaire in film after ethereal film. She was necessary not only to bring warmth to Fred’s chilly perfectionism, but as Hollywood’s paramount working girl—proof that behind all that soft soap is elbow grease, cheerfully applied. – Ty Burr

Selena

(b. 1971) The plan was thus: Tejano pop star Selena Quintanilla-Perez, 23, would cross over into national stardom with her first English-language album. It would be a vindication not only of Selena’s version of tejano (injecting perky dance pop into the mix of Mexican folk and German polkas) but of the tejano border culture as well.

Then, on March 31, at a motel near her home in Corpus Christi, Tex., Selena confronted Yolanda Saldivar, the head of her fan club. The singer’s family had accused Saldivar of embezzlement; Saldivar felt betrayed by Selena’s career-domineering father. But then suddenly Saldivar fired a .38-caliber pistol into Selena’s back—and killed her.

Thousands of local fans flocked to her funeral; others held a vigil at Saldivar’s trial (found guilty of murder, she was sentenced to life). And in the typically ironic way of American culture, Selena finally became a national figure. Her posthumous album, Dreaming of You, hit No. 1 on the pop charts; a biopic and books are in the works. Such acknowledgment was small consolation for Selena’s fans. Yet, in its own way, it was a legacy of which the singer would have been proud. – David Browne

Lana Turner (b. 1920) Eight marriages, three stillbirths, two abortions, one murder, a suicide attempt, a religious awakening, and uncounted romances. That was Lana Turner’s life, but it could have been one of her 54 films. Turner (above) specialized in tramps moved by inarticulate lust (her murderous Cora in The Postman Always Rings Twice gleams with sin) or couture-swaddled heroines tormented by loved ones (her used and abused actress in The Bad and the Beautiful hinted at depths she never reached again). As she grew older, the swooning melodrama of her films increased, and when her gangster boyfriend was stabbed to death by her 14-year-old daughter in 1958, it could have been a grisly outtake. Turner’s career survived, of course, and her last major role was on CBS’ Falcon Crest, an appropriate retirement home for a grande dame of such unconscious carnality. – TB

Howard Cosell (b. 1918) ”Arrogant, pompous, obnoxious, vain, cruel, persecuting, distasteful, verbose, a show-off—I’ve been called all of these,” Howard Cosell once wrote. ”Of course, I am.” With his patented nasal-drippy tone and stilted staccato delivery, the ABC radio/TV commentator was known for ”telling it like it is”; along the way, he revolutionized sports broadcasting and became reviled by many of his peers. The former entertainment attorney worked the press box from 1953 to 1992, calling the big boxing bouts, coanchoring Monday Night Football, and hosting the Emmy-winning SportsBeat. He asked tough questions and pulled few punches in his commentary. And outside the arena, Cosell assured himself of a pop-culture niche the old-fashioned way, playing himself in seven big-screen and TV movies, including Woody Allen’s Bananas. – Dan Snierson

Elizabeth Montgomery (b. 1933) She left us bewitched, bothered, bewildered—and finally bereaved, as Elizabeth Montgomery succumbed to cancer on May 18. Even so, her death couldn’t break the spell cast over a generation by Samantha Stephens, the suburban sorceress with the magic wiggling nose. After Bewitched ended its eight-season run in 1972, Montgomery (below), daughter of matinee idol Robert Montgomery, played against comedic-ingenue type, winning nine Emmy nominations for her turns as a rape victim, a pioneer woman, even Lizzie Borden. Just before she died, Montgomery (whose age was reported as 57 by her family, 62 by reference books) was seen in a CBS telepic, playing reporter Edna Buchanan. Successful as her second act was, her memory will be honored most ardently by the Nick at Nite set, with its wistful epitaph: There was no nicer witch than you. – Chris Willman

Eazy-E (b. 1964) He ran with gangs. Dealt drugs. Owned Uzis. But it was a different peril that felled rapper Eric Wright (right), a.k.a. Eazy-E, at age 31: AIDS. ”I may not seem like a guy that you’d pick to preach a sermon,” he said, warning fans about the virus, ”but I feel it’s now time to testify.” Actually, he’d been giving testimony since his debut, 1988’s Eazy-Duz-It, an obscenity-littered depiction of violent, hollowed-out life in Compton, Calif. In 1989, N.W.A (Niggaz With Attitude) — the crew he formed with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube — released the triple-platinum Straight Outta Compton; its anthem ”F – - tha Police” branded Eazy an outlaw hero. He later worked to build his Ruthless Records and was labeled a godfather of the gangsta genre. As Eazy noted, ”Everyone in America started paying attention to the boyz in the hood.” – DS

Wolfman Jack (b. 1938) It’s hard to believe, but he was born with a boring name: Robert Smith. In the wee hours of the early ’60s, however, this too-wild-for-prime-time deejay dubbed himself Wolfman Jack, howled and hooted from a high- power radio station in Mexico, and shook America with the lascivious rumble of rock & roll. For years on his late-night radio shows, he anointed songs with a voice like crude oil, but most people didn’t see his face until 1973, when he popped up in American Graffiti. By then, Bob Smith was long gone, replaced by a barking madman with a lupine bristling of facial hair. Like the moon, the Wolfman’s fame waxed and waned, but he never stopped spinning discs. Before dying from a heart attack at 57, he wrote his autobiography, and the title says it all: Have Mercy! Confessions of the Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal. – JG

Shannon Hoon (b. 1967) Call it a case of do-it-yourself foreshadowing. Shortly after Kurt Cobain’s 1994 suicide, Blind Melon frontman Shannon Hoon appeared on Late Show With David Letterman with a question mark drawn on his forehead. On Oct. 21, a drug overdose ended the riddle far sooner than even the self-conscious ironist Hoon could have anticipated. Still, the only real irony surrounding Hoon’s death was in its untimeliness. Blind Melon’s sophomore album, Soup, may have been jinxed, but friends said the 28-year-old Indiana native seemed far more preoccupied with doting on his 4-month-old daughter, Nico Blue. ”I need to start caring for myself if I’m going to be the proper father,” the arrest-prone singer confided after one of several rehab stints. Was it sobering to his contemporaries that a commitment to clean up came too late for Hoon to prove himself a fit father and more-than-one-hit wonder? This time, there was no question. – CW

Eva Gabor (b. 1921) She was beloved as Green Acres’ agriculturally challenged socialite, Lisa Douglas—but that TV fame was eclipsed by her real-life role as the youngest of the three glitzy Gabor sisters. Born in Budapest, Eva — a former cafe singer and ice skater — married young and became the first Gabor to come to America. When her family joined her in the late ’40s, she and her two sisters found fame singing in Vegas clubs, gracing magazine covers, and leading tumultuous love lives. ”Marriage is too interesting an experiment to be tried only once or twice,” cooed the five-times-wed Eva, who appeared in 17 films (such as 1958’s Gigi) and 4 Broadway shows. The beauty also proved business-savvy: Eva Gabor International, founded in 1969, has become the world’s largest wig manufacturer. – DS

Louis Malle (b. 1932) To TV viewers, he was the film director who couldn’t imagine anyone living with feisty Murphy Brown. But to cinemaphiles, Louis Malle (right), who died of lymphoma at 63, was a thoughtful chronicler of the human condition—married, incidentally, to Candice Bergen, whose only work with him was that one playful episode of her sitcom. Malle’s career took him from the ocean’s depths (he codirected Jacques Cousteau’s 1956 Oscar-winning documentary The Silent World) to Paris (1957’s Elevator to the Gallows) to India (two 1969 documentaries), and finally to the U.S., where he won kudos for Pretty Baby and Atlantic City. He could empathize with a peasant seduced by Nazism (in 1974’s Lacombe, Lucien) or a cranky intellectual (in 1981’s My Dinner With Andre) with equal ease. His last film, 1994’s Vanya on 42nd Street, revealed him at his inventive and compassionate best. – Glenn Kenny

David Begelman (b. 1922) He represented the two extremes of a movie exec’s existence: spending and despair. As president of Columbia Pictures in the ’70s, David Begelman (below) oversaw a number of key films: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Taxi Driver, Shampoo. At some point, personal demons decreed that he embezzle money from his own studio: $40,000 he had no need for. The 1977 scandal, chronicled in David McClintick’s Indecent Exposure, brought him down, and though he was back in power within two years, his luck had deserted him—and that is the only crime that matters in Hollywood. After a stint at MGM in the early ’80s, he ran two small production companies. In 1994, after one of them filed for bankruptcy, despair closed in. Begelman booked a room at the Los Angeles Century Plaza Hotel and shot himself. He was 73. – TB

Friz Freleng (b. 1906) When the end came, there wasn’t one falling anvil or exploding TNT stick to mark the moment. But in his prime, cartoon director Isadore ”Friz” Freleng merrily juggled such stock elements of lethal ‘toon slapstick through hundreds of shorts. A fixture at Warner Bros. for some 30 years, Freleng redesigned Tweety Bird and Speedy Gonzalez into major stars, winning two Oscars for Best Animated Short. He also put his stamp on Looney Tunes characters from Bugs Bunny to Yosemite Sam (whose hair was only slightly redder than Freleng’s). In the mid-’60s, Friz went Pink—Panther, that is, bringing the character to life in film credit sequences and on TV. In 1980, after his production company closed shop, Freleng retired. But thanks to today’s television and video showcases, Friz fans never really have to say, ”That’s all, folks.” – Steve Daly

George Abbott b. 1887 Playwright, director, and producer (The Pajama Game, Damn Yankees)

Vivian Blaine b. 1921 Actress (Guys and Dolls)

Robert Bolt b. 1924 Playwright and screenwriter (Lawrence of Arabia, Dr. Zhivago)

Rosalind Cash b. 1938 Actress (Mary Mae Ward on General Hospital)

Don Cherry b. 1936 Jazz and world-music trumpeter

Jack Clayton b. 1921 Director (The Innocents, The Great Gatsby)

David Cole b. 1963 Record producer and half of the team behind C+C Music Factory

Peter Cook b. 1937 Actor and screenwriter (Beyond the Fringe, Bedazzled)

Robertson Davies b. 1913 Author (the Deptford trilogy, The Cunning Man)

Jack Finney b. 1911 Author (The Body Snatchers, Time and Again)

Ed Flanders b. 1934 Actor (Dr. Westphall on St. Elsewhere)

Art Fleming b. 1925 Original host of TV’s Jeopardy!

Melvin Franklin b. 1942 Member of the Temptations

Alexander Godunov b. 1949 Ballet dancer and actor (Witness)

Gale Gordon b. 1906 Actor (Our Miss Brooks, The Lucy Show, Here’s Lucy)

Albert Hackett b. 1900 Playwright and screenwriter (The Diary of Anne Frank, The Thin Man, Father of the Bride)

Phil Harris b. 1904 Bandleader, radio star, and voice of Baloo the Bear in Disney’s Jungle Book

Julius Hemphill b. 1940 Saxophonist and composer

James Herriot b. 1916 Author (All Creatures Great and Small)

Burl Ives b. 1909 Folksinger and Oscar-winning actor (The Big Country)

George Kirby b. 1924 Comedian and impressionist

Howard Koch b. 1902 Oscar-winning screenwriter (Casablanca) and author of The War of the Worlds radio script

Viveca Lindfors b. 1920 Actress (The Adventures of Don Juan, The Way We Were)

Ida Lupino b. 1918 Actress (High Sierra) and director (Have Gun Will Travel)

Doug McClure b. 1935 Actor (Trampas on The Virginian)

Sterling Morrison b. 1942 Guitarist of the Velvet Underground

John O’Brien b. 1960 Author (Leaving Las Vegas)

Donald Pleasence b. 1919 Actor (The Great Escape, You Only Live Twice)

Charlie Rich b. 1932 Country singer (”The Most Beautiful Girl”)

Roxie Roker b. 1929 Actress (Helen Willis on The Jeffersons)

Bob Ross b. 1942 Host of PBS’ Joy of Painting

Terry Southern b. 1924 Screenwriter (Dr. Strangelove, Easy Rider)

Bob Stinson b. 1959 Original guitarist of the Replacements

Woody Strode b. 1914 Actor (Spartacus, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance)

Krissy Taylor b. 1978 Model

Randy Walker b. 1968 Rapper known as Stretch, of Live Squad

Mary Wickes b. 1916 Actress (White Christmas, Sister Act)