MORBID CURIOSITY: Celebrity Tombstones Across America | home
JANUARY | FEBRUARY | MARCH | APRIL | MAY | JUNE | JULY | AUGUST | SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER | NOVEMBER | DECEMBER
Wednesday, November 5
Bobby Hatfield, half of the "blue-eyed soul" duo the Righteous Brothers, which made "Unchained Melody" and "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " enduring favorites for slow dances and romantic glances, was found dead Wednesday at a hotel room in Kalamazoo, Mich., shortly before a concert performance that night. He was 63.
A Kalamazoo Public Safety spokesman said the cause of death is under investigation.
The "brothers" -- Mr. Hatfield doing gospel-tinged tenor and Bill Medley singing baritone -- forged a career together in the late 1950s. The ambition of the two clean-cut Southern Californians was to be a Las Vegas lounge act. They soon found a wider demand.
Under the watch of producer Phil "Wall of Sound" Spector in the mid-1960s, they created a handful of consummate pop-soul numbers that became a signature sound: slow rhythm-and-blues melodies with lush arrangements and melismatic vocal stylings.
Further attention focused on the duo being two white men exploring musical terrain dominated by black musicians. Mr. Hatfield's nickname was "the Blonde Bomber."
"Sometimes people with blue eyes transcended the limitations of what their color and culture can actually be," singer-songwriter Billy Joel said in March, when the Righteous Brothers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. "Sometimes white people can actually be soulful. This was a life-changing idea. It changed my life."
Their best-known recordings had a popular revival a generation later when "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " was used in the hit movie "Top Gun" (1986), when Tom Cruise crooned it to Kelly McGillis, and "Unchained Melody" became the love anthem in "Ghost" (1990), starring Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore.
With that newfound attention, they toured frequently. Mr. Hatfield told a reporter in Elmira, N.Y., this year that he had sung "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' " about 5,000 times.
"I get into those songs night after night, no matter how many times we do it," he joked. "And I know all the words by now."
Born in Beaver Dam, Wis., Robert Lee Hatfield grew up in Anaheim, Calif., where he helped his parents in their dry-cleaning business. He told a reporter last year that, in his youth, he drew upon black singers as his chief musical influence.
While attending what is now California State University at Long Beach, he became active in musical groups that played at proms and area dance parties. He met Medley in 1962 and formed a band with a few other musicians, dividing their first paycheck of $40 five ways.
Mr. Hatfield once said he and Medley, then performing as the Paramours, got the idea for their new name at a club near a Marine Corps base in Southern California. After they finished singing, he said, a black Marine in the audience called out, "That was righteous, brothers!"
Recording on the small Moonglow label, the duo had moderate success in 1963 with Medley's song "Little Latin Lupe Lu."
They came to Spector's attention in 1964 and recorded "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin,' " which Spector wrote with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil. They followed that with "Just Once in My Life," "Unchained Melody," and "Ebb Tide."
Moving on to Verve records, the duo had hits with "(You're My) Soul and (My) Inspiration" and "He." They broke up in 1968 when Medley, also a songwriter, wanted to pursue a solo career. Changing musical tastes also figured in their breakup.
They reunited briefly in 1974 to record the album "Give It to the People," yielding the hit "Rock and Roll Heaven." Starting in the 1980s, they reteamed and were working together at the time of Mr. Hatfield's death.
Their manager, David Cohen, told the Associated Press last night that Medley was devastated by the death. "He's not even coherent," Cohen said.
Mr. Hatfield had owned dance clubs, including one in Orange County called the Hop, which featured classic rock.
He leaves his wife, Linda Hatfield, and two children. After his wife was diagnosed with lupus decades ago, Mr. Hatfield helped raise money for the Lupus Foundation.
Dorothy Fay Ritter, actress, 88. She was Tex's wife and John's mother.
Thursday, November 6
Hal England, actor (Waldo in "Bewitched"), of heart failure, 71.
John Donald "Spider" Jorgenson, major-league baseball player (Brooklyn Dodgers), 84.
Sunday, November 9th
Arthur William Matthew Carney, died in Chester, Conn., on Sunday and was buried on Tuesday after a small, private funeral. He had been ill for some time.
The comic actor would be forever identified as Norton, Ralph Kramden's bowling buddy and not-too-bright upstairs neighbor on "The Honeymooners." The sitcom appeared in various forms from 1951 to 1956 and was revived briefly in 1971. The shows can still be seen on cable.
With his turned-up porkpie hat and unbuttoned vest over a white T-shirt, Carney's Ed Norton with his exuberant "Hey, Ralphie boy!" became an ideal foil for Gleason's blustery, bullying Kramden. Carney won three Emmys for his role and his first taste of fame.
"The first time I saw the guy act," Gleason once said, "I knew I would have to work twice as hard for my laughs. He was funny as hell."
In one episode, Norton and Ralph learn to golf from an instruction book. Told to "address the ball," Norton gives a wave of the hand and says, "Hellooooo, ball!" In another episode, Norton inadvertently wins the award for best costume at a Raccoon Lodge party by showing up in his sewer worker's gear. Another time, the loose-limbed Norton teaches Ralph a finger-popping new dance called the Hucklebuck.
Carney told a Saturday Evening Post interviewer in 1961 that strangers were always asking him how he liked it down in the sewer. "I have seasonal answers," he said. "In the summer: 'I like it down there because it's cool.' In the winter: 'I like it down there because it's warm.' Then I've got one that isn't seasonal: 'Go to hell."'
After "The Honeymooners," Carney battled a drinking problem for several years. His behavior became erratic while co-starring with Walter Matthau in the Broadway run of Neil Simon's "The Odd Couple" in the 1960s. He dropped out of the show and spent nearly half a year in a sanitarium.
His career resumed, and in 1974 he was cast in Paul Mazurksy's "Harry and Tonto" as a 72-year-old widower who travels from New York to Chicago with his pet cat. He stopped drinking during the making of the film.
When it won him his Oscar, Carney wisecracked: "You're looking at an actor whose price has just doubled."
"Art was, and is one of the most endearing men I have ever met," the late actress Audrey Meadows (the caustic Alice Kramden on "The Honeymooners") wrote in her 1994 memoir "Love, Alice." She called him a "witty and delightful companion who went out of his way to help each new actor find his niche" on the show.
Carney was born into an Irish-Catholic family in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Nov. 4, 1918, and baptized Arthur William Matthew Carney. His father was a newspaperman and publicist.
MAN OF MANY VOICES
After appearing in amateur theatricals and imitating radio personalities, Carney won a job in 1937 traveling with Horace Heidt's dance band, doing his impressions and singing novelty songs.
"There I was, an 18-year-old mimic rooming with a blind whistler," he told People magazine in 1974. "He would order gin and grapefruit juice for us in the morning, and it was great. ... No responsibilities, no remorse. I was an alcoholic, even then."
Later he won a job at $225 a week imitating Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and other world leaders on a radio show, "Report to the Nation."
He was drafted into the Army in 1944 and took part in the D-Day landing at Normandy. A piece of shrapnel shattered his right leg. He was left with a leg three-quarters of an inch shorter than the other and a lifelong limp.
Carney returned to radio as second banana on comedy shows, then ventured into television on "The Morey Amsterdam Show" in 1948. That brought him to the attention of Gleason.
Among his movie credits: "W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings," "The Late Show," "House Calls," "Movie Movie," "Sunburn," "Going in Style," "Roadie," "Firestarter," "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and "Last Action Hero."
Around Westbrook, where he and his wife had a waterfront home, Carney was known around town as "Mr. C."
Family friend Janice Buglini remembered how Carney came to cheer up her 11-year-old daughter, who had leukemia. "He would bring ice cream over for her, and a lobster - anything she wanted," Buglini said.
Carney married his high school sweetheart, Jean Myers, in 1940. After the marriage broke up, Carney married Barbara Isaac in 1966. They divorced 10 years later, and in 1980 he and his first wife remarried.
"We always kept in touch because of our three children," he said in a 1980 AP interview. "After our second divorces, it was sort of like the puppy coming home: 'Oh, it's you, come on in.' We decided to give it a go again."
James "Spider" Rich, songwriter ("Yakety Sax"), 80.
Marvin Smith, photographer ("Harlem: The Vision of Morgan and Marvin Smith"), 93.
Monday, 10 November
John Emmett Lyle, U.S. Congressman (D-TX, 1945-55), 93.
Irv Kupcinet, news columnist (Chicago Sun-Times), 91.
David O'Rourk, tenor saxophonist, of heart failure, 66.
Tuesday, 11 November
Lloyd Pettit, hockey announcer (Chicago Blackhawks), cause not reported, 76.
Wednesday, 12 November
Charles L. Brown, communications executive (AT&T), 82.
Penny Singleton, actress ("Blondie"), of a stroke, 95.
Thursday, 13 November
Tony Thompson, rock drummer (Chic), of kidney cancer, 48.
Kellie Waymire, actress (Elizabeth Cutler on "Enterprise"), cause not reported, 35.
Saturday, 15 November
Dorothy Loudon, Broadway actress ("Annie"), of cancer, 70.
Laurence A. Tisch, television executive (CBS), 80.
Wesley "Speedy" West, steel guitarist, from heart congestion, 79.
Ned Wulk, college basketball coach (Arizona State), of Alheimer's disease, 83.