Entertainment

Celebrity deaths: All the stars we lost in 2021

Legend is not a term thrown around lightly, but Australia unequivocally lost two in 2021 — small screen legend Bert Newton and music trailblazer Michael Gudinski.Internationally, talk show host Larry King passed away, as did the Monkees’ Michael Nesmith and Rolling Stones’ drummer Charlie Watts.Here, we look at the lives and legacies of the stars who exited the stage in the past 12 months.BERT NEWTON, 83A bona fide national treasure, Bert Newton changed the face of Australian television, and paved the way for a generation of TV hosts to follow. (His on-screen pairings with Graham Kennedy and Don Lane were legendary.)Newton’s varied career across radio, television, stage and screen spanned more than 60 years and crossed generational divides moving Bob Hope to once describe him as “the Bob Hope of Australia”. Newton died in October at the age of 83 after several years of ill health.MICHAEL GUDINSKI, 68The Australian music legend died in March at the age of 68. And while Gudinski brought music’s biggest names – Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, close mate Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift – to our shores, Australasian music remained his passion. Gudinski launched Kylie Minogue’s career and championed Australian acts such as Skyhooks, New Zealand’s Split Enz and more recently, Eskimo Joe and Evermore. British superstar Ed Sheeran flew to Australia and quarantined for two weeks so he could debut his emotional tribute Visiting Hours at Gudinski’s memorial. CARLA ZAMPATTI, 78.Celebrated fashion designer Carla Zampatti died in hospital in April at the age of 78, after she fell on stairs at an outdoor opera event.Born in Italy, Zampatti moved to Sydney in her 20s and produced her first collection in 1965, and her first national collection five years later.In a radio interview she spoke of what motivated her. “You have to present your very best image, so that is a visually important part of Italian society. What I noticed in Australia; fashion didn’t play a big role in that time,” she said. She received the Companion of the Order of Australia in 2009.BETTY WHITE, 99The much-loved Betty White, who had the longest career of any entertainer in TV history died on the final day of 2021, aged 99.Active in television since 1939, White put her long-running success down to old-fashioned perseverance.Her first signature role came in the 1970s, when she appeared as a series regular on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.She then gained greater fame with her role as the wide-eyed Rose Nylund in the Golden Girls.White had been planning to mark her milestone 100th birthday with a star studded bash, fans were being encouraged to buy tickets for. Hollywoods stars who were due to attend included Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Ryan Reynolds.White said her secret to her long life was being a “cockeyed optimist”.“I got it from my mum and I never changed,” she told People magazine.HELEN McCRORY, 52The British actor, who died of cancer in April at just 52, was best known for her roles as the villainous matriarch in acclaimed series Peaky Blinders and as Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise. She was no stranger to political roles, either, playing Cherie Blair in The Queen and again in the TV series The Special Relationship, both times opposite Michael Sheen. McCrory was also an accomplished stage and character actor playing Lady MacBeth and Medea on London’s West End. She had two children with husband, Homeland and Billions star Damian Lewis.CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, 91The Canadian-born actor was best known for his iconic role as Captain Von Trapp opposite Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music, a role he admitted he had a love-hate relationship with. With a Hollywood career that spanned seven decades, Plummer’s acting roles were varied – including playing a 75-year-old widower who comes out as gay in 2012’s Beginners, a role for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, making him the oldest actor ever to win the Academy Award in the category. Plummer died at the age of 91 in February after he suffered a blow to the head following a fall. LARRY KING, 87With his trademark suspenders, horn-rimmed glasses, striped shirts, slicked back hair and rolled-up sleeves, the talk show host more resembled Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko than the man who fronted US interview shows for more than 40 years. Larry King would chat with presidents, authors, actors, psychics, criminals, heroes or anyone who needed to push a product or overhaul their image. His non-confrontational style endeared him to pretty much everyone. (Not surprisingly, Donald Trump was a frequent guest.) King died in January in a Los Angeles hospital at the age of 87. He had earlier been hospitalised for Covid, but the official cause of death was sepsis.MARY WILSON, 76The US singer was an original member of The Supremes, the group that dominated the charts in the 1960s with more than a dozen hits. She died in her home in Nevada, aged 76, in February. Alongside her bandmates, Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, she is best remembered for hits like Baby Love and Stop! In the Name of Love. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame said the Supremes were Motown’s first and most successful girl group. Wilson stayed with The Supremes until the band broke up in 1977.DIETER BRUMMER, 45 At one point in the early 1990s, Dieter Brummer was Australia’s biggest TV star. The floppy- haired Brummer played rough diamond Shane Parrish on Home And Away from 1992-1996 and his on screen romance with Melissa George’s Angel launched a thousand TV Week covers (he also won two Silver Logies in the process). While they weren’t quite Kylie and Jason, they were huge. Over the past decade, Brummer drifted away from acting and started his own window cleaning business. He died in July, aged 45.WILLIE GARSON, 57Best known for playing Carrie Bradshaw’s well-dressed best male friend, Stanford Blatch, in Sex and the City (SATC), Garson’s Stanford was one of the few openly gay characters on TV at the time. Garson appeared on everything from Family Ties, to Friends, to the X-Files. Overall, he acted in more than 300 television episodes and more than 70 films. At the time of his death, he was shooting the SATC reboot, And Just Like That, and his character appeared in the first three episodes. Garson died in September at the age of 57 from pancreatic cancer.MICHAEL NESMITH, 78Monkees singer and guitarist Michael Nesmith died in December at the age of 78 of natural causes. Nesmith was known as the Monkee in the green wool hat, and the writer of songs such as “Mary, Mary,” “Circle Sky,” “Listen to the Band,” and “The Girl I Knew Somewhere.” He was also the most outspoken Monkee and fought to get the group control of its music. Interestingly, Nesmith’s mother, Bette Nesmith Graham, invented Liquid Paper and left him a substantial fortune when she died in 1980. He used the money to invest in a series of businesses and movies.SARAH HARDING, 39Girls Aloud were one of Britain’s greatest ever pop groups and had a straight run of 22 Top 20 singles (including four No 1s) in the UK. Separately, Harding was one of music’s most charismatic stars. The self-confessed “loon” had a powerful voice but also suffered from depression and substance abuse. Post-Girls Aloud she became a fixture on British reality TV but was planning to reunite with her bandmates for a 2022 tour. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020 and died from the disease in September at just 39.CHARLIE WATTS, 80Was there ever a cooler drummer in music? Mick Jagger and Keith Richards may have given the Rolling Stones sex appeal and swagger, but Charlie Watts gave them style. The sensible one, he was the band’s steadfast rock for more than 50 years, manning the kit on all the band’s hits from Paint it Black to Gimme Shelter to Start Me Up. Watts died in August at the age of 80. No cause of death was made public. DUSTIN DIAMOND, 44The actor found global fame as the geeky Screech in the Saved By The Bell franchise and he played the character in various iterations of the show for more than a decade.Diamond’s 2009 book Behind the Bell created controversy after the star let loose about backstage stories shooting the series with some of his accounts being less than flattering to his co-stars. He also faced some legal troubles, serving three months in jail for stabbing a man during a 2014 altercation at a bar in Wisconsin.In recent years he had reconciled with his Saved By The Bell co-stars, apologising to them for some of the things he’d said. Diamond died in February at 44, just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.News.com.au Celeb Deaths 2021Other notable 2021 deaths: Phil Spector, Joan Didion, Doug Parkinson, Anne Rice, Gavin McLeod, John Cornell, Brian Henderson, Ernie Sigley, Ed Asner, Michael K. Williams, Olympia Dukakis, Jessica Walter, Dustin Diamond.

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