Amy Winehouse, Steve Jobs, Vaclav Havel and many more
Here are some of the most famous people who died in the year 2011.
“I can’t die. It would ruin my image!” That was the frequent quip of fitness guru JACK LaLANNE, who finally went to that great locker room in the sky on January 23rd. He was 96 years old.
LaLanne preached fitness and good nutrition on his own TV show in the 1950s, long before they were mainstream ideas. He made hay out of his own fitness for years: for his 70th birthday in 1985, he towed 70 rowboats for a mile in Long Beach Harbor — handcuffed and shackled.
Hollywood grande dame ELIZABETH TAYLOR was 79 when she died of congestive heart failure on March 23rd.
Taylor spent six decades in the movies, starting with There’s One Born Every Minute in 1942 (she was 10) and wrapping up with the TV movie These Old Broads in 2001. In her later years she was a tireless fundraiser in the fight against AIDS. Married eight times, she was a Hollywood glamour girl right to the end.
America’s most-wanted criminal for nearly a decade, OSAMA BIN LADEN died on May 2, 2011. He was 54. The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks was killed in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, by a special team of Navy SEALS acting on orders from President Barack Obama.
GIL SCOTT-HERON was the poet-rapper-singer best known for the jazzy 1970 spoken-word classic “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” (“The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal… The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner, Because the revolution will not be televised, brother.”)
Scott-Heron died shortly after returning from a trip to Europe, on May 27th, 2011. He was 62.
The man known as “Dr. Death,” JACK KEVORKIAN, himself passed away on June 3, 2011. He was 83.
Kevorkian was a firm supporter of an individual’s right to die — so firm that he helped more than 130 terminally ill people end their own lives between 1990 and 1999. Kevorkian served eight years in jail for his actions; he was released in 2007 and died a natural death four years later.
BETTY FORD was First Lady of the United States from 1974-77, during the term of her husband, President Gerald Ford. She later founded the Betty Ford Center, the substance abuse clinic that has since treated thousands of people. Betty Ford died on July 8, 2011. Born during World War I, she was 93 years old.
AMY WINEHOUSE was found dead at her home in London on July 23, 2011. She was 28. While autopsy results were inconclusive.
In September, her father Mitch told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that traces of the prescription drug Librium, which can be used to treat withdrawl symptoms from alcohol, had been found in his daughter’s body. “Everything Amy did, she did to excess,” Mitch Winehouse said. “She drank to excess and did detox to excess.”
SHERWOOD SCHWARTZ created not just one but two iconic American TV comedies: The nutty Gilligan’s Island (1964-67) and the warm-hearted family sitcom The Brady Bunch (1969-74). A multi-talented guy, he also wrote the theme songs for both shows. Schwartz was 94 when he died of natural causes on July 12th.
GERALDINE FERRARO died on August 26, 2011. She was 75. Ferraro was the first woman ever to run on a major party presidential ticket in the United States. A Democrat, she was Walter Mondale‘s running mate in the presidential elections of 1984.
STEVE JOBS died of complications from pancreatic cancer on October 5, 2011. He was just 56 years old.
Jobs packed a lot into 56 years. He founded Apple Computers in the 1970s, got forced out in the 1980s, and then came back in the 1990s and lead it to 21st-century glory. Almost as a side project, he bought George Lucas’s computer animation company in 1986 and turned it into Pixar, the most successful animated feature film compan of its era. He leaves behind a wealth of user-friendly innovations, including Macintosh computers, the iPhone, and the iTunes music system.
Muammar Gaddafi was only 27 when he overthrew Libya’s King Idris I in 1969. Gaddafi ran Libya for the next four decades. But years of tyrrany caught up with him in 2011, when popular protests turned to violent revolution and he was overthrown. He was killed on October 20th after a gun battle near his hometown of Sirte.
For three decades, ANDY ROONEY ended the TV show 60 Minutes with his irascible comments about everything from the contents of his desk drawer to the death of Kurt Cobain. Rooney finally stepped down with a final regular commentary on October 2, 2011. One short month later he died after complications from minor surgery.
Heavyweight boxer JOE FRAZIER died of liver cancer on November 7, 2011. A stubborn bruiser with a crushing left hook, Frazier was heavyweight champion of the world from 1970-73. But he’s best remembered for his three brutal bouts with Muhammad Ali in 1971, 1974, and 1975. Frazier won the first, Ali won the second. The third, the so-called Thrilla in Manila (pictured here), went 14 rounds before Ali beat Frazier by TKO to win the match and the series.
Cartoonist BIL KEANE created The Family Circle in 1960, a single-panel comic with a distinctive round shape and a friendly cast of a typical suburban family of the era: mom, dad, and four kids. The strip was soon renamed The Family Circus, but the lovable kids remained: Dolly, Billy, P.J. and Jeffy.
The strip became one of the most popular comic strips in America, appearing in over 1500 papers at its peak. Bil Keane worked on the strip for over 50 years, bringing his son Jeff (the “Jeffy” of the strip) on as co-creator in later years. Bil Keane was still working on the strip when he died of heart failure on November 8, 2011.
Veteran actor HARRY MORGAN was 96 when he died after a bout with pneumonia on December 7th, 2011.
Harry Morgan was best known for playing crusty Col. Sherman Potter on the smash-hit TV series MASH from 1975 until the 1983 finale that remains among the most-watched TV shows of all time. But his career started 40 years before that, with work on Broadway in the 1930s and then 1940s movies like The Ox-Bow Incident. Morgan also played Frank Gannon, the sidekick to Sgt. Joe Friday, on the popular cop show Dragnet from 1967-70. The IMDB lists over 150 career acting roles for Morgan. He was born Harry Bratsberg in Detroit in 1915.
The author, critic and contrarian CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS died on December 15th, 2011, at a hospital in Houston, Texas. He was 62.
Hitchens was on a book tour in 2010 for his memoir, Hitch-22, when he went to a doctor with what felt like exhaustion and instead was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He canceled the tour and started treatment, but there was never much doubt about his long-term diagnosis. Hitchens continued to write right through the following year, finishing a 3000-word article for Vanity Fair just a few weeks before his death.
The Czech playwright, dissident and president VACLAV HAVEL died on December 18th at his country home in Hradacek, north of Prague. He was 75.
Havel was a truly remarkable figure: blackballed by the Communists because his family had been wealthy, he fought back with satirical plays and eventually direct political activism. He was jailed many times by the Soviet-backed government of Czechsolovakia, but he got the last laugh when the Soviet Union fell in 1989. Havel was a trusted name and he was immediately named president of Czechoslovakia at the end of 1989. The country split in two a few years later, and Havel was then elected the first president of the independent Czech Republic. He served two terms and later returned to the arts, publishing the play Leaving in 2007.
KIM JONG-IL, the dictator (and “dear leader”) of North Korea, died on December 17th, 2011. That was the day before the death of Czech leader Vaclav Havel, but thanks to North Korean secrecy, Kim’s death was announced after Havel’s.
The two men didn’t have much in common. Kim Jong-il got his job by being the son of an earlier dictator, Kim Jong-il. The younger Kim took power after this father’s death in 1994. President George W. Bush named him as part of world’s “Axis of Evil” in the 21st century, and Kim loved to rattle the sabers, but most of the havoc he raised was in his own country. He suffered a stroke (reportedly) in 2008 and never quite recovered, dying near the end of 2011. North Korea’s official media reported that his successor would be a 20-something son, Kim Jong-un.
2012 picked up where 2011 left off, with the January death of Joe Paterno and the shocking February death of Whitney Houston.
See all the CELEBRITIES WHO DIED IN 2012 »