Television Stars We Lost in 2017

Written Fondly Remembering TV's Legacy of Departed Souls by Bridger Cunningham.

Every year, fans must bid adieu to several performers who made a cultural impact via their art.  This year claimed several television actors and presenters who made an impact on TV as we have known it since the 1950's.  This year alone, America lost its greatest beacon to 70's feminism, Mary Tyler Moore.  Along with her, several actors and actresses involved in current productions left us all too young and beautiful.  Teen icons, talented Sopranos gangsters, sitcom stars, gameshow emcees and some of the leading talents who helped establish soaps left us a rich legacy.  Take a moment and celebrate these actors' accomplishments, as they are gone, but not forgotten.
Rose Marie (August 15, 1923 -- December 28, 2017)
Rose Marie 1970.JPG
Born Rose Marie Mazetta, she became one of CBS' moonlighting sitcom actresses of the 60's.  Ivolded in the entertainment industry since 1926, Marie is best known as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-660, as well as Myrna Gibbons on The Doris Day Show (1969-71).  In addition to her acting credits, Marie was a 14-year panelist on Hollywood Squares.  Marie was survived at her sage age by daughter Goergiana from her marriage to trumpeter Bobby Guy, who widowed her during Duck Van Dyke's run in 1964. [2]
Heather Menzies Logan's Run 1977 (cropped).JPGHeather Menzies-Urich (December 3, 1949-December 24, 2017)
The actress, known to 70's TV fans as Jessica 6 on Logan's Run (1977-78), died from brain cancer at the age of 68 shortly after being diagnosed weeks earlier in November.  She is best known as Louisa in 1965's Sound of Music.  As the 70's waned down, Menzies-Urich haded out of the spotlight as she and Swat/Vega$ actor Robert Urich married and started a family.Menzies-Urich is survived by three children and eight grandchildren.  Nearly 16 years earlier, husband Robert predeceased her on April 16, 2002 after succumbing to a 6-year battle with small cell cancer. [1]
Jim Nabors (June 12, 1930-November 30, 2017)
Comedian neighbors was best known for his self-character-titled series, Gomer Pyle, USMC (1965-70).  The character initially appeared on the Andy Griffith Show and proved so popular, CBS crafted a spinoff for Nabors.  Gomer Pyle, USMC delivered as one of CBS' sturdier players in the late 60's, always in the top 10 and often outperforming its parent season with 2 seasons peeking in 2nd place.  After Nabors walked away from Gomer Pyle, he embarked on a singing career, even hosting a self-titled musical variety hour on CBS from 1970-71.  Nabors was survived by 43-year partner/spouse, Stan Cadwallater, whom he married in January 2013. [3]
David Cassidy (April 12, 1950-November 21, 2017)
Teen sensation David Cassidy rose to fame as his sitcom, The Partridge Family, remained a top 30 player for the earlier portion of its 1970-74 run.  Cassidy starred as Keith Partridge on the ABC sitcom, along with former stepmother Shirley Jones.  Cassidy shifted acting to sporadic appearances and moved into music, which he continued to perform until as recently as 2016.  Born to entertainment industry icons Jack Cassidy and Evelyn Ward, Cassidy's rich entertainment lineage helped launch his career and make him one of the 70's leading talents.  Like so many of entertainment's greatest stars, David Cassidy's personal troubles became headline grabbers, particularly in the 2010's with a multitude of DUI's, arrests and stints in rehab.  Earlier in 2017, Cassidy went public and disclosed he was battling dementia and was forced to cease public appearances.  He succumbed to multiple organ failure later than year and leaves behind a son, Beau, and a daughter, film star Katie Cassidy.  [8]
Della Reese (July 6, 1931-November 19, 2017)
In an era which television shows aimed for brash, unholy maneuvers to display on television, Della Reese's presence as Tess on Touched by An Angel offered a welcome departure from sensationalist program.  An ordained minister, singer and actress, Reese was one of CBS' tour de forces which helped the network cope with a lean era of hits.  A top-10 player for a number of years, Touched by An Angel gave Reese new exposure to new generations.  Initially reluctant to take the role after dear friend Redd Foxx's 1991 passing, Reese ultimately enjoyed a successful 9-year run.  During the series' 8th season, her only child, adopted daughter Delores Owens, died of pituitary disease.  Reese was survived by her 4th husband of 34 years, concert producer Franklin Thomas Lett, Jr. [7]
Earle Hyman (October 11, 1926-November 17, 2017)
Hyman's most famous role to date was the recurring role as Cliff Huxtable's father Russell on The Cosby Show.  Hyman was also an accomplished voiceover actor, with his most prolific credit the 1985-89 animated series, Thundercats.  Born in Rocky Mount, NC as George Earle Plummer, the 91 year old actor never married nor had children.  He passed at the Lillian Booth Actor's Home in Englewod, NJ.

Ann Wedgeworth PictureAnn Wedgeworth (January 21, 1934-November 16, 2017)
Wedgeworth is likely best known as Lana Shields on Three's Company (1979), Bootsie Westchester on Filthy Rich (1982-83), as well as her starring role as Merleen Allredge on Evening Shade (1990-94).  The Abilene, Texas native's television and film work was prolific with a lengthy resume of guest stints, including the Thanksgiving 1989 episode of Roseanne which she played the title character's mother-in-law Audrey.  She passed from a lengthy illness late in 2017 and was survived by her husband of 47 years, Ernie Martin, their acting coach/actress/writer daughter, Diana, and Wedgeworth's eldest duaghter, actress Danae Torn (from her 6-year marriage to actor Rip Torn). [11]
John Hillerman (December 20, 1932-November 9, 2017)
Image result for john hillermanThe subtle, sophisticated performance of John Hillerman can be found throughout films until as recently as 1996's A Very Brady Sequel.  With his signature polished mustache, Hillerman perfected one of Tom Selleck's greatest archenemies as Higgins on Magnum, PI (1980-88).  Hillerman also managed to deliver extremely dry sense of humor seldom smiling on One Day at a Time as Ed Connors from 1976-80, Betty White's estranged husband John Elliot on the sitcom The Betty White Show (1977-78) and the final season of the Hogan Family as Lloyd Hogan from 1990-91.  Hillerman's greatest comedic contribution on ODAAT was his character's undermining attempt at political correctness, always referring to his employee as M.S. Romano (a pun on mis, as the show's leading heroine was a trail-blazer of modern feminism).  Hillerman never married, having disappeared from the spotlight in 1996 and retiring to Texas, having passed from cardiovascular disease this year. [12]
Bradley Joseph PictureBrad Bufanda (May 4, 1983-November 1, 2017)
The gripping realities of suicide devastated the entertainment world again when Brad Bufanda (often credited as Bradley Joseph) made a fatal plunge off his Park La Brea highrise.  The Veronica Mars and Co-ed Confidential actor was 34.  Bufanda played Felix Toombs on Veronica Mars from 2004-06 and had been immersed in the entertainment industry since childhood.  Bufanda made a brief return to acting prior to his tragic death. [13]
Robert Guillaume (November 30, 1927-October 24, 2017)
ABC owes a debt of gratitude to Guillaume, who helped carry the network from 1977-87 during eras of greatness and decline.  From 1977-79, he starred on Soap as butler Benson DuBois.  Guillaume carried the character over to spinoff Benson, which exhibited a successful 1979-86 run featuring the same name.  Guillaume made several appearances on several television staples such as The Fresh Prince of Bel Air long throughout his career.  He passed at his home after battling prostate cancer and was survived by his second wife, Donna Brown, their daughter, and two daughters and a son from previous relationships and marriages.  Robert Guillaume was predeceased in death by his son Jacques, who died aged 33 from complications relating to AIDS on December 23, 1990. [14]
Brent Briscoe PictureBrent Briscoe (May 21, 1961-October 18, 2017)
Character actor Briscoe is known to recent television viewers for his recurring role as JJ on Parks and Recreation (2011-15) and as Detective Dave Macklay on the 2017 revival of Twin Peaks.  His prolific acting and writing career launched in 1990 with a recurring role on Evening Shade (1990-91).  Tragically, Briscoe died from internal bleeding in relation to a fall he suffered. [10]
John Dunsworth (April 12, 1946-October 16, 2017)
Canadian actor and politician John Dunsworth was best known for his 2001-08 and 2013-18 run as Jim Lahey on The Trailer Park Boys.  Prior to his 21st centry landmark role, Dunsworth also ran for Canada's New Democratic Party, placing 3rd with 19% of the populous' vote.  Dunsworth died aged 71 from undisclosed causes, survived by his wife of 43 years, Elizabeth and their four grown children (including actresses Sarah and Molly Dunsworth). [23]
Monty Hall (August 5, 1921-September 30, 2017)
Gameshow host Monty Hall is best known for his 1963-91 run on Let's Make a Deal.  The durable franchise was showcased on NBC, ABC and in syndication during Hall's tenure and bolstered its hosting networks with lucrative ratings.  Hall passed from heart failure at 96 years old, four months after his wife of 69 years, Marilyn predeceased him aged 90.  Hall passed two days after what would have been the couple's 70th anniversary, survived by grown children Richard, Sharon and actress Joanna Gleason. [24]
Anne Jeffreys (January 26, 1923-September 27, 2017)
Screen beauty and legend Anne Jeffreys was no stranger to television, having starred in CBS sitcom Topper (1953-55), The Delphi Bureau (1972-73) and Baywatch (1993-98).  Where Jeffreys capitalized on television appearances was roots to soaps, as her 1982-83 Falcon Crest stint as Amanda Croft led to a longstanding daytime one on General Hospital of similarly-named Amanda Barrington (1984-2004).  Jeffreys also appeared on the series' spinoff, Port Charles as the same character from 1999-2003.  Jeffreys was survived by her three sons, a stepdaughter and multiple grandchildren.  Second husband of 45 years, Robert Sterling, predeceased her in 2006 aged 88. [25]
Frank Vincent.pngFrank Vincent (April 15, 1937-September 13, 2017)
2017 claimed not one, but two gangster veterans of The Sopranos and 1990's Goodfellas as Frank Vincent passed from a heart attack aged 80.  Born Frank Vincent Gattuso, Jr., Vincent shortened his name via his 40+ year career, gaining greatest fame for portraying gangster Phil Leotardo on the Sopranos from 2004-07.  Vincent was survived by his wife of 47 years, Kathleen and their three grown children. [26]
Image result for mark la muraMark LaMura (October 18, 1948-September 11, 2017)
Soap actor Mark LaMura, who starred on ABC's All My Children as Mark Dalton from 1976-89, was one of the trailblazing factors which catapulted the series into 1st place two years into his tenure.  During the 1977 television season, LaMura was involved in a romance with his then-unknown sister, Erica Kake (soap queen Susan Lucci).  Their "sordid" tale of taboo stakes for the swingin' 70's coincided with the series' expansion to 60 minutes pushing the series from 6th Place into 3rd.  LaMura's Mark Dalton also engaged in a romance with a middle-aged divorcee, another "racy" tale for the era.  LaMura succumbed to lung cancer aged 68, survived by his grown daughter. [22]
Richard Anderson PictureRichard Anderson (August 8, 1928-August 31, 2017)
Screen actor Anderson kept himself busy from the 1970's through 1990's with various television roles.  He starred simultaneously on The Six Million Dollar Man as Oscar Goldman (1974-78) and The Bionic Woman (1976-78) in the same marqueed role.  Later fans may recognize him as Henry Towler on Cover Up (1984-85), Buck Fallmont on Dynasty (1986-87) and the narrator of Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1993-97).  Anderson also influenced the career of MacGyver actor Richard Dean Anderson, who was forced to lengthen his marquee due to the senior Anderson already registered in the Screen Actors Guild.  Anderson passed from natural causes aged 91 and was survived by his three daughters. [27]
Jay Thomas (July 12, 1948-August 24, 2017)
Jay Thomas PictureThomas' most recent role as Marty Grossman on Ray Donovan (2013-17) brought a dark turn to his performance.  Prior to that, Thomas spent the 80's and 90's delivering comic gold on a plethora of sitcoms as Carla's 2nd husband, Eddie LeBec on Cheers (1987-89), Murphy's baby daddy Jerry Gold (whom invoked a negative commentary from Vice President Quayle) on Murphy Brown from 1991-98, Jack Stein on love and War (1992-95), the same character he would also carry over to Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen's failed 1996-97 sitcom, Ink.  Thomas enjoyed a lengthy career, particularly on CBS in the 90's.  He gained infamy in 1989 when he cast shade on Cheers costar Rhea Permlan during a radio interview, denouncing kissing her on screen.  Perlman, infuriated by the comment, went to the network and demanded Thomas' firing, resulting in his character Eddie LeBec being run over by an ice machine.  Jay Thomas succumbed to throat cancer, survived by his wife of 30 years, Sally and three grown sons. [28]
Martin Landau (June 20, 1928-July 15, 2017)
Martin Landau-Mission-1968.jpgScreen legend Landau ventured into the television realm via action-adventure series Misson: Impossible.  Landau enjoyed a 3-year run as Rollin Hand from 1966-69, later starring in British ITV's Space:1999 for two seasons from 1975-77.  Landau amassed an impressive resume of guest-starring roles on several television shows after the show's cancellation on such series as The Evidence, Entourage and Without a Trace.  Landau passed away following a brief illness at 89, leaving behind two grown children from his prior marriage. [34]
Nelsan Ellis PictureNelsan Ellis (November 30, 1977-July 8, 2017)
Nelsan Ellis took a bite out of television's vampire trend, moonlighting as Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood from 2008-14.  Ellis' most recent television credits included last season's portrayal as Shinwell Johnson on CBS' Elementary (2016-17).  Ellis' personal issues, however claimed his young life.  Weeks prior to his passing, Ellis attempted to conquer a battle with alcohol consumption, dying from hear failure as a direct result.  Ellis leaves behind a wife and two young children. [33]
Stephen Furst (May 8, 1954-June 17, 2017)
Stephen Furst Picture
Character actor and comedian Stephen Furst was best known for his role as Kent "Flounder" Dorfman in 1978 film Animal House.  Animal House's success inspired a tamed down ABC continuation sitcom titled Delta House, which registered a paltry 78th Place for the network and was abruptly cancelled.  Furst expanded his acting range when he took on the 1983-88 role of Dr. Elliot Axelrod on NBC's critical darling, St. Elsewhere.  Along with Howie Mandel, Furst delivered the series' few laughs against the melancholy tone of the medical drama.  Furst also starred as Vir Cotto on Babylon 5 (1993-98). Having a lifelong battle with his weight and diabetes, Furst shed over 100 lbs and raised awareness for diabetes.  Tragically, complications from the disease took his life too short.  Furst left behind his wife of over 40 years, Lorraine, and grown sons Nathan and Griff, who have carried on as producers, actors and musicians in the entertainment industry. [32]
Adam West (September 19, 1928-June 9, 2017)
60's sensation Adam West delivered ABC's second multi-evening hit of the 60's when Batman flew into the lineup early in 1966, becoming a top-10 player for both showing in its first season.  West's career cooled following his instantaneous stardom, yet he birthed one of the longest-standing film franchises known to date.  West succumbed to a brief battle with leukemia, survived by his 3d wife of 46 years, Marcelle, and 4 grown children. [31]
Glenne Headly (March 13, 1955-June 8, 2017)
Glenne Headly PictureSlated to star in Future Man as Diane Futterman, Headley would not live to see the November 14 premiere as her life was tragically cut short at 62 from a pulmonary embolism.  Primarily an accomplished film star with 1979's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels her leading vehicle, Headley dabbled in television shows from 1998-99 sitcom Encore! Encore!, a 1996-97 run as Dr. Abby Keaton on ER, as well as several guest stints on long-running shows such as Monk (2003-06).  Headly was survived by her 2nd husband of 24 years, Byron McCullough and their grown son. [30]
Roger Smith (December 18, 1932-June 4, 2017)
Roger Smith Mister Roberts.JPGSmith holds the distinction of being the star of one of ABC's earliest hits as Detective Jeff Spencer on 77 Sunset Strip (1958-64).  77 Sunset Strip delivered stellar ratings, marking the top 30 programs for much of its run.  Smith also starred on NBC's short-lived Mister Roberts (1965-66).  Smith spent the remaining portion of his life managing the career of his second wife, Ann Margaret (one of Elvis' beauties).  He lived past the couple's 50th anniversary and was survived by his three grown children from his first union. [29]
Robert Michael Morris (May 6, 1940-May 30, 2017)
Theater actor and late-in-life television star Robert Michael Morris proved it's never too late to burn a glistening star in the entertainment world, having made his debut well into his 60's in 2005.  That year, he landed a starring role on HBO's The Comeback.  After a 9-year absence, the series was revived in 2014 for a second season.  Morris also amassed an impressive roster of guest spots on 2 Broke Girls, Better Things, Arrested Development and Brothers and Sisters among many shows.  He passed away aged 77 of undisclosed causes. [21]
Erin Moran (October 18, 1960-April 22, 2017)
Happy Days sweetheart Erin Moran enjoyed a lucrative run as Joanie Cunningham, the character who grew up right before our eyes on Happy Days.  Joanie's popularity paired with Scott Baio's Chachi Arcola inspired ABC to give the duo their own spinoff, Joanie Loves Chachi.  Initially lucrative in the ratings, Joanie Loves Chachi collapsed in its second season on the air.  After the failed sitcom, Moran returned to parent show Happy Days for it's 11th and final season.  Following the end of the franchise, Moran faded to obscurity with few acting roles materializing.  Moran admitted in a 1988 interview her battle with depression crippled her career.  The actresses' personal troubles in the 2010's were well-chronicled, having foreclosed on her California home in 2010 during the Economic crisis.  She passed away aged 56 from complications from throat cancer in Corydon, Indiana.  She was survived by her husband of 24 years, Steven Fleischmann. [15]
Chuck Barris (June 3, 1929- March 31, 2017)
The Gong Show Chuck Barris 1976.jpgGame show host prodigy Chuck Barris led CBS to a ratings victory by hosting The Gong Show, along with hosting The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game.  Gameshow franchises were where Barris excelled, carrying the genre though CBS and syndication affiliates.  Barris' personal life entailed multiple marriages, as well as the tragic 1998 death of his daughter in 1998 due to an overdose.  Regardless, Barris stood as one of the gameshow genre's greatest pillars of the 20th century. [20]
Bill Paxton (May 17, 1955-February 25, 2017)
Sunday, February 25 took away on of the entertainment industry's strongest players when Bill Paxton died from a stroke following heart valve surgery.  Paxton's film career was where fans knew the actor, who bullied us as Chet in Weird Science, chased storms in Twister and went off the deep end in Frailty.  However, he managed to stir a little magic in the small screen too in Big Love (2006-11) and his most recent addition, Training Day.  After Paxton's death, the series suffered a steep fall in the ratings, being moved to Saturdays before ultimately being cancelled in direct relation to the passing.  Paxton left behind a wife of 30 years, Louise, and their two children, James and Lydia. [19]
Warren Frost PictureWarren Frost (June 5, 1925-February 17, 2017)
Veteran actor Warren Frost's career spanned 60 years via film, stage and television credits.  Receiving an auspicious launch in the 50's, Frost's resume froze for much of the 60's and 70's until his son Mark Frost cast him in 1990-91 sensation Twin Peaks as Dr. Will Hayward.  Frost's career reignited, with recurring roles on Matlock and Seinfeld.  Shortly after appearing in the Twin Peaks revival in 2017, Frost passed away at the age of 91, survived by his wife of 68 years, Virginia and their three children. [18]
Richard Hatch (May 21, 1945-February 7, 2017)
Richard Hatch 1977.JPG
Richard Hatch is perhaps best known for his role as Captain Apollo in the 1978-79 series Battlestar, Galactica.  Although the series performed above average in the Nielsens, finishing the season in 33rd Place with a respectable 19.6 rating, ABC cancelled the series due to exceeding costs.  Prior to Hatch's showpiece, he starred for one season as Dan Robbins on The Streets of San Francisco from 1976-77, replacing Michael Douglas.  Along with a titular recurring role on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman the following season, Hatch amassed an impressive resume of guest spots on major flagship shows throughout the entirety of his career.  Just like another tragic mention in this list, Hatch also held a hand in launching and building daytime soap All My Children as Phillip Brent from 1970-72.  He is survived by his grown son, Paul Michael Hatch. [17]
Frank Pellegrino PictureFrank Pellegrino, Sr. (May 19, 1944-January 31, 2017)
New York restauranteur Frank Pellegrino, Sr. showed it is never too late in life to pursue dreams.  In 1989, at the age of 45, he ventured into acting in the pilot of True Blue.  Often portraying crime boss and figurs of power, Pellegrino played FBI Chief Frank Cubitoso in HBO's The Sopranos.  Pellegrino also played Johnny Dio in 1990's Goodfellas, catapulting his portfolio for playing gangsters.  Pellegrino passed away from lung cancer in January.  He was survived by his wife of 48 years, Josephine and his two grown children (including restauranteur Frank Pellegrino, Jr.). [16]
Mary Tyler Moore (December 29, 1936-January 25, 2017)
The quintessential face of feminism in the 70's, Mary Tyler Moore leaves behind a rich legacy of television favorites known several generations past her top-20 flagship, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77).  Prior to this career windfall, Moore was known as Laura Petrie in CBS' ratings hit The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-66).  Following a series of variety hours, Moore branched into film in the dramatic 1980 Oscar weeper Ordinary People.  Two failed attempts at sitcom revivals befell Moore in the 80's with Mary (1985-86) and Annie McGuire (1988).  Moore was married three times, with her second marriage most visible to television producer Grant Tinker.  Together, with Grant, they formed MTM productions, which created several successful productions before disbanding in 2000.  Blessed with a porcelain smile, Moore showed when life threw lemons at her, she'd throw a party back.  In 1969, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes after suffering a miscarriage.  In 1980, her only child, 24 year old son Richard Meeker died after accidentally shooting himself n the head with a small .410 shotgun.  Her marriage to Tinker ended in subsequent years, and Moore successfully overcame alcoholism in 1984.  In the remaining years of her career and life, Moore devoted her efforts to diabetes awareness before succumbing to complications from the disease. [6]
Miguel Ferrer (February 7, 1955-January 19, 2017)
Miguel Ferrer PictureBorn into a rich entertainment legacy, Ferrer was the son of acclaimed actor Jose Ferrer and heralded singer Rosemary Clooney.  An accomplished actor with a barrage of reputable film credits including Robocop, Ferrer was showcased as NCIS Assistant Director Owen Granger on NCIS: Los Angeles (2012-17).  Ferrer's passing at 61 from throat cancer, Owen Granger himself succumbed to cancer at the close of season 8.  Ferrer's other television credits include Crossing Jordan (2001-07) and Twin Peaks (1990-91, 2017).  Ferrer was survived by his wife of 12 years, Lori Weintraub, and 3 sons from previous marriages and relationships. [5]
William Christopher (October 20, 1936-December 31, 2016)
William Christopher PictureAlthough Christopher died on the cusp of 2017, his death was overshadowed by the coverage in the trifecta deaths of singer George Michael, Star Wars icon Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds.  William Christopher was best known for his 1972-85 run as Father Mulcachy on MASH (1972-83) and its continuation, AfterMASH (1983-85).  Viewers often forget Christopher also starred on Gomer Pyle USMC as Private Lester Hummel from 1965-68.  The actor had been battling small-cell carcinoma for 18 months prior to his passing, and was survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Barbara and two adopted sons, John and Ned.  As his son Ned was one of the earlier diagnosis of Autism, Christopher devoted much of his life to awareness and charities relating to the condition. [4]

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