(March 1, 1935 – Feb. 8, 2020) A hotheaded boxer and nightclub singer turned daredevil stunt man, Conrad continued to do many of his own stunts as an actor starring on TV detective show Hawaiian Eye (1959-63) and The Wild Wild West (1965-69), a combination of a Western and a James Bond-style adventure set in the 1870s, whose many gizmos and sci-fi plots paved the way for the steampunk genre. He was one of the few Hollywood screen tough guys who was sued in real life for fistfights. So daring that he almost died falling from a chandelier in a fight scene, he took more exhilarating risks as he grew older, learning to fly a plane to play WWII Marine aerial commander Pappy Boyington on Baa Baa Black Sheep (1976-78). “I was so happy to have been surfing in Hawaiian Eye and horseback riding during The Wild Wild West, flying airplanes during Baa Baa Black Sheep, and being next to these beautiful women,” he said.
PHOTO BY: Nancy R. Schiff/Getty Images
Kirk Douglas, actor, 103
(Dec. 9, 1916 – Feb. 5, 2020) A poor immigrant ragman’s son, Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch Demsky) said, “I’ve always been a maverick.” He defied his agents by spurning an MGM prestige picture to play a ruthless boxer in 1949’s Champion; the MGM flick bombed, and Champion earned Douglas his first Oscar nomination. Reflecting on the career move, he said, “Since then I haven’t worried about what other people said.” He was also nominated for his performances as a magnetically nasty film producer in The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) and moody, depressed artist Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956). He launched Stanley Kubrick by starring in the 1957 antiwar masterpiece Paths of Glory and defied the Hollywood establishment to hire blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo for Spartacus, in which Douglas starred as a Roman slave-revolt leader. After his 1996 stroke, he wrote a book, My Stroke of Luck, and kept working, making his last film at 92, the small-screen feature Empire State Building Murders, in 2008. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored him in 1996 as a creative and moral force in the industry. “To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years,” said his son Michael Douglas. “But to me and my brothers [he] was simply Dad.”
PHOTO BY: John Lamparski/WireImage
Mary Higgins Clark, author, 92
(Dec. 24, 1927 — Jan. 31, 2020) Justly known as the Queen of Suspense, Mary Higgins Clark was the mastermind behind best-selling page turners for nearly half a century. Her readers adored her — and the feeling appeared to be mutual. “Nobody ever bonded more completely with her readers than Mary did,” her editor Michael Korda said in a statement. Clark started writing in earnest after her husband’s fatal heart attack in 1964 left her as a young widow with five children; since then more than 100 million copies of her books have sold in the U.S. alone, including the gripping Under Suspicion series she coauthored with crime writer Alafair Burke and five holiday-themed mysteries she penned with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark. She loved writing and did so until the very end: “I can’t imagine what I would do if I didn’t write,” she told AARP last year in an interview about what would be her final book, Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry. “I hope I never find out.”
PHOTO BY: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/GettyImages
Jim Lehrer, legendary journalist and news anchor, 85
(May 19, 1934 — Jan. 23, 2020) Journalist, prolific author, broadcast fixture and a witness to history, Jim Lehrer had many roles and titles during his long career. But it was his position as a PBS news anchor and reporter for 36 years that defined much of his life, with his calm, intelligent and down-to-earth style standing in increasing contrast to some of his more personality-driven peers. Lehrer, often alongside fellow journalist Robert MacNeil, appeared on PBS' nightly NewsHour broadcast as a reporter and anchor from 1975 to 2011. But his journalism career began well before that, as he served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers in Dallas from the late 1950s to the late 1960s. Lehrer joined Dallas public television station KERA in 1970, eventually moving to PBS and uniting with MacNeil for coverage of the Watergate hearings in the mid-1970s. That coverage morphed into The Robert MacNeil Report, then the MacNeil-Lehrer Report, followed by the MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour. MacNeil retired in 1995, and Lehrer became the lead anchor of the program, which was renamed The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. Along with moderating 12 presidential debates, between 1988 and 2012, Lehrer covered political conventions, presidential inaugurations and many other high-profile events.
(Dec. 9, 1930 — Jan. 8, 2020) Although Buck Henry was cocreator of the original Get Smart TV series (1965-70), nominated for an Oscar for his screenplay of The Graduate (1967) and a frequent early host of Saturday Night Live between 1975 and 1979, perhaps his most public legacy was as the man who miffed the almost-unflappable Walter Cronkite. Sixty years ago, before Borat and fake news, Henry helped perpetuate a more-than-three-year hoax as “president” of the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, which landed him on NBC’s Today show twice and Cronkite’s CBS Evening News. As prudish G. Clifford Prout Jr., Henry pleaded with viewers to join his national crusade to clothe all animals — because “a nude horse is a rude horse.” Only when CBS staff recognized Henry during the Aug. 21, 1962, broadcast was the hoax exposed. Born Henry Zuckerman, he acquired the nickname Buck as a child. In his Hollywood career, Henry was responsible for writing the “plastics” advice given to a young Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, received an Oscar nomination for codirecting Heaven Can Wait (1978) and hosted 10 episodes in Saturday Night Live’s first five seasons. Most recently, Henry had roles as Tina Fey’s father in the NBC sitcom 30 Rock — on the same network where he had started his comedy career.
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David Stern, NBA commissioner, 77
(Sept. 22, 1942 — Jan. 1, 2020) Longtime NBA commissioner David Stern is credited with taking a lackluster league and turning it into a multibillion-dollar global sports phenomenon. Because of his ability to put bodies in the seats at arenas throughout the United States and the world, Stern transformed the NBA into a mega enterprise through a series of marketing coups, including bringing in millions of dollars from the sale of clothing, videos and other branded products. Stern not only added seven new franchises to the league during his 30-year tenure, but he also created the WNBA in 1997 and once said that one of his most cherished memories was seeing the 1992 Dream Team win Olympic gold. In addition, he instituted the draft lottery, which became a huge televised media event. Stern’s tenure was not without strife and controversy, though: He oversaw two work stoppages by the National Basketball Players Association and had a reputation as a tough, relentless negotiator.