Sadly, the funeral directors to the stars have been busy the past two weeks. Here's a quick tribute to some of the celebrities we've lost recently.
Art Linkletter (July 17, 1912 "“ May 26, 2010)
Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, and given up when only a few weeks old, Gordon Arthur Kelly was adopted by Mary and Fulton Linkletter, a pair of evangelical street preachers. The family was so poor, Art would later recall, that the Great Depression had no impact on them at all. The Linkletters moved to San Diego when Art was five years old. After he graduated from college, he got into broadcasting, first in radio and then in the fledgling television industry, and he went on to host long-running shows People Are Funny and House Party.
The poverty of his youth made an impression on Linkletter and he became a savvy businessman, forming a company and investing in everything from the hula-hoop (when it was still only available in Australia) and Milton Bradley's board game Life (Art's photo is on the $100,000 bill) to sheep ranches and oil wells. He also struck a deal with Walt Disney that gave him the concession rights on all cameras and film sold in Disneyland.
Gary Coleman (February 8, 1968 "“ May 28, 2010)
Gary Wayne Coleman was born with a congenital kidney disease that rendered his right kidney malformed and useless at birth. His overworked left kidney gave out when he was just five years old, which led to years of dialysis and an eventual kidney transplant. The immunosuppressant drugs he took stunted his growth, and the accompanying steroids gave him a permanent chubby-cheeked appearance. If you're a turn-lemons-into-lemonade type person, you might theorize that Coleman's illness led to his eventual stardom. Mingling with adults in the dialysis unit matured him beyond his years, and when he was nine years old he could still pass for a preschooler, so the adorable child-like tyke with the snappy adult repartee found plenty of work in Chicago-area TV commercials.
He landed a semi-regular role on the late-night talk show spoof America 2Night, where he was credited as "Little Wayne" Coleman. He played an adorable black tyke hoping to be adopted by a white man (series host Barth Gimble, who was played by Martin Mull). Hmmm"¦.sounds like a possible premise for a sitcom, no?
Dennis Hopper (May 17, 1936 "“ May 29, 2010)
Dennis Hopper's personal feelings toward his two Easy Rider co-stars were made painfully public during the viewing for the 1998 Academy Awards at Elaine's, the famed Upper East Side New York bistro. When Peter Fonda's name was announced as a Best Actor nominee and clips of Ulee's Gold were shown onscreen, Hopper remained silent and unexpressive. When Jack Nicholson's face graced the screen in scenes from As Good As It Gets, Hopper banged his fists on the table and whooped with enthusiasm. Hopper and Fonda have been feuding for decades over multiple issues, from the screenwriting credit and royalties for Easy Rider to the fate of the Captain America motorcycle.
Hopper said he stopped drinking and using drugs in the mid-1980s. According to his New York Times obituary, "he followed that change with a tireless phase of his career in which he claimed to have turned down no parts." He appeared in six films released in 2008 and at least 25 over the past 10 years.
Rue McClanahan (February 21, 1934 "“ June 3, 2010)
Rue will always be remembered as one of TV's Golden Girls (she was the "devastatingly beautiful" one), but all that cheesecake on the lanai was just one small portion of a very long and successful career. Prior to landing the role of Blanche Devereaux, McClanahan spent six years playing naive Vivian Harmon (opposite Bea Arthur) on Maude. Norman Lear first spotted Rue working in an off-Broadway play and hired her for a one-off spot on his hit All in the Family. That episode, "The Bunkers and the Swingers," is considered one of the classics of the series. Edith answered a friendship ad in the "swap" section of a magazine she found on the subway. Thinking they were a lonely couple looking for new friends, Edith invited them over for pie and coffee. Hilarity ensued when it finally dawned on her (and Archie) that their new acquaintances were looking to swap a lot more than recipes"¦