Ricardo Montalban (b. 1920) (actor)
The Mexican-born Montalban made several films in Mexico and the U.S. from the 1940s through the ’60s before gaining some of his major pop-culture status starting in the late ’60s. In 1967, he guest-starred on Star Trek as the villainous Khan, a role he would reprise in the 1982 feature film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. In the ’70s, Montalban’s smooth voice helped make the “soft Corinthian leather” of the Chrysler Cordoba well known through television commercials. During that decade he also began his most famous TV role, as Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island (1978-84). Later in his career he also played the villain in the 1988 comedy The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!, and starred as Grandfather Cortez in two Spy Kids sequels in 2002 and 2003. In recent years he also did animated voice-over work, including several episodes of Kim Possible, an episode of Family Guy, and his final role, in an American Dad episode this year.
Patrick McGoohan (b. 1928) (actor/producer/director)
Born in America, McGoohan was raised in Ireland and England, where he became famous for his work in the series Danger Man (1960-61) and especially The Prisoner (1967-68, for which he wrote and directed several episodes). He also provided a voice in a Simpsons episode that spoofed The Prisoner in 2000. His notable movie roles include Scanners (1981) and Braveheart (1995).
Bob May (b. 1939) (actor/stuntman)
Although viewers may never have seen him in person, they are likely quite familiar with actor/stuntman May’s most famous role — as the Robot in the original series Lost in Space. Although it was difficult to get into, May called the Robot suit his “home away from home.”
John Updike (b. 1932) (writer)
Most famed as the author of novels such as the Rabbit series and The Witches of Eastwick, Updike wrote works that inspired film and TV projects, including the 1970 James Caan movie based on the book Rabbit, Run, and the 1987 film adaptation of The Witches of Eastwick. The current Eastwick TV series on ABC is also based on that latter work.
James Whitmore (b. 1921) (actor)
The film actor may be most familiar to recent audiences as librarian Brooks Hatlen in 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption, but his long career includes other notable performances in films such as 1949’s Battleground (Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Kiss Me Kate (1953), the sci-fi classic Them! (1954), Oklahoma! (1955), Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) and Give ‘Em Hell, Harry! (Best Actor Oscar nomination). His numerous TV guest appearances range from The Twilight Zone and The Big Valley to CSI.
Ron Silver (b. 1946) (actor)
Known throughout his life as a political activist on both sides of the aisle, Silver is remembered as an actor for his roles in films such as Garbo Talks (1984), Blue Steel (1989), Enemies: A Love Story (1989), Reversal of Fortune (1990) and Ali (2001). On television, Silver received Emmy nominations for his performances in the 1987 miniseries Billionaire Boys Club and in a 2002 episode of The West Wing.
Natasha Richardson (b. 1963) (actress)
The British actress of stage and screen was married to actor Liam Neeson and came from a strong acting family, being the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and granddaughter of Michael Redgrave. Memorable early film appearances include roles as Mary Shelley in 1986’s Gothic and in the title role of Patty Hearst (1988). Other notable works include starring in The Handmaid’s Tale (1990), 1998’s The Parent Trap remake, Blow Dry (2001), Maid in Manhattan (2002) and Asylum (2005).
Bea Arthur (b. 1922) (actress)
Working primarily in the theater from the 1940s through the ’60s, Bea Arthur instantly became known to TV viewers with a memorable 1971 guest role on All in the Family as Edith’s outspoken cousin Maude. This appearance made such an impression on viewers and CBS brass that the character was given her own series, aptly named Maude, which ran from 1972-78 and garnered Arthur several Emmy nominations and one win, along with several Golden Globe nominations. Arthur would also receive more Golden Globe and Emmy nominations, and one Emmy win, for her other famous role as Dorothy on The Golden Girls (1985-92). More infamously, she appeared on the little-seen Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. Like her character Maude, Arthur was an outspoken activist, particularly for the rights of women, the LGBT community, and animals.
Dom DeLuise (b. 1933) (actor)
Comedic actor Dom DeLuise was a regular in the films of Burt Reynolds (The Cannonball Run and Cannonball Run II, Smokey and the Bandit II, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas) and Mel Brooks (including 1974’s Blazing Saddles, 1976’s Silent Movie, 1981’s History of the World Part I and 1987’s Spaceballs). On television, he made frequent appearances on The Dean Martin Comedy Hour throughout the 1960s and ’70s, hosted a revived Candid Camera in the early ’90s, and did a lot of voice-over work in animated projects, including the TV adaptation of All Dogs Go to Heaven, for which he received a daytime Emmy nomination in 1999.
David Carradine (b. 1936) (actor/producer/musician)
The popular character actor and martial artist is best known for his role in the series Kung Fu (1972-75), for which he received an Emmy and Golden Globe nomination, the 1975 cult classic Death Race 2000, and recently in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill films, receiving a Golden Globe nomination for the second one. He also received a Golden Globe nod for his role in the 1985 TV miniseries North and South, and appeared in its 1986 sequel. In the ’90s, he reprised his Kung Fu role in the series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues. His film and television work spans countless other projects in a wide range of genres.
Ed McMahon (b. 1923) (actor/producer)
The legendary sidekick to Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show from 1962-92, McMahon also was a prolific producer, announcer and pitchman. Outside of The Tonight Show he is probably best remembered for hosting Star Search from 1983-95, producing and hosting, with Dick Clark, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes from 1982-86, and cohosting The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon for many years. He appeared in many commercials and endorsements, including the ubiquitous American Family Publishers sweepstakes.
Farrah Fawcett (b. 1947) (actress)
Fawcett had a career that saw her evolve from sex symbol into a serious actress. Beginning her early career in TV commercials, she moved on to guest-starring roles in shows such as I Dream of Jeannie in 1969, and The Six Million Dollar Man in 1974. She really hit it big in 1976 with the debut of Charlie’s Angels, on which she remained a regular for just one season. But that was enough to make her an international superstar; women everywhere wanted to emulate her hairstyle, and sales of that famous poster of her in a red swimsuit went through the roof. Embarking on a series of more dramatic roles, Fawcett earned her first Emmy nomination for her role as a battered wife in the TV movie The Burning Bed in 1984. In 1987, she received a Golden Globe nod for the feature film Extremities, as an intended rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker — a role she had also performed onstage. She took on other critically acclaimed roles in the TV movies Nazi Hunter: The Beate Klarsfeld Story (1986, Golden Globe nomination), Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story (1987, Golden Globe nomination), Margaret Bourke-White (1989) and Small Sacrifices (1989, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations). In 1997, she returned to the big screen as the wife of Robert Duvall’s main character in The Apostle. In the last decade, she made guest appearances on the TV series Ally McBeal, Spin City and The Guardian (for which she garnered another Emmy nomination). Just this year, she also received an Emmy nomination for her last TV project — Farrah’s Story, which she executive produced.
Michael Jackson (b. 1958) (musician)
One of the most popular and influential musicians of all time, “King of Pop” Jackson not only changed the history of music, but also music videos, and pop culture in general. With his brothers he was part of The Jackson 5 in the 1960s and ’70s, and the group topped the charts with hits such as “ABC” and “I’ll Be There.” During this time Jackson also recorded some of his own songs, including the infamous title tune to the 1972 horror film about rats, “Ben.” In 1978, after starring in the musical film The Wiz, Michael met producer Quincy Jones, and the two teamed up for Jackson’s 1979 Off the Wall album. It was a huge hit, but nothing like what he would experience three years later, with the iconic, game-changing album Thriller, which remained in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 for 80 consecutive weeks, staying at the top position for 37 of those weeks. Songs off the album — including the title track, “Billie Jean,” “Beat It” and “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” — remain influential classics. Thriller also elevated Jackson into the realm of super-pop culture status not merely from its music, but from the ripple effect it and Jackson had on everything from dance (the “moonwalk”) to fashion. The epic, movielike videos created for “Beat It” and “Thriller” also changed that genre; videos started to develop storylines of their own. In 1983, Jackson’s appearance on the Motown 25th anniversary special — where he introduced the moonwalk — became an instant classic pop-culture moment, compared by some to the appearances Elvis and The Beatles made on The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1985, Jackson cowrote, with Lionel Richie, the charity song “We Are the World,” one of the best-selling singles of all time. After the ’80s, Jackson put out other hit albums, most notably Bad in 1987 and Dangerous in 1991, and continued to influence videos and music. Even before his passing, Jackson had attained that unique pop-culture attribute that only a select few have. He has been honored with performances on American Idol and Dancing With the Stars, and contributed one of the first high-profile (albeit pseudonymous) guest voices on The Simpsons in 1991. Saying “Michael” says it all, just as merely saying “Elvis” or “Marilyn” does.
Gale Storm (b. 1922) (actress/singer)
Born Josephine Owaissa Cottle, Storm acted and sang in many films throughout the 1940s and ’50s, but is probably best known for her starring roles on TV. She appeared as the title character in the series My Little Margie from 1952-55, and in The Gale Storm Show from 1956-60. During the ’50s her recording career also took off, and she had a number of hit songs and records in the decade.
Billy Mays (b. 1958) (TV pitchman/producer)
Mays is most familiar as the sometimes loud but definitely memorable TV pitchman for products such as OxiClean and Orange Glo. Earlier this year, he appeared in a Discovery Channel series called PitchMen, with fellow infomercial salesman Anthony Sullivan.
Karl Malden (b. 1912) (actor)
A star of stage, screen and TV, Malden did everything from star in classic films to make memorable commercials throughout his long career. His primary feature film work took place from the 1950s through the ’70s, and included an Oscar-winning role in 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire and an Oscar-nominated role in 1954’s On the Waterfront. Other notable film works included Fear Strikes Out (1957), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), How the West Was Won (1962) and Patton (1970). In 1972, Malden began starring in the series The Streets of San Francisco, and garnered several Emmy nominations for his role. Also in the ’70s, Malden started work as a spokesman for American Express traveler’s checks, famously warning viewers, “Don’t leave home without them.”
Walter Cronkite (b. 1916) (journalist)
Often called “the most trusted man in America” during his heyday at CBS News in the 1960s and ’70s — and famous then for his closing statement, “and that’s the way it is …” — Cronkite, through radio and TV, reported on many key events of the 20th century. He was there from World War II to Vietnam, from the Kennedy assassination to Watergate, from the moon landings to the space shuttle launch. Although he retired from CBS in 1981, he remained involved with special reports for various networks, and created a 1997 miniseries for Discovery Channel called Cronkite Remembers. From 1988-2008, Cronkite hosted PBS’ annual coverage of the New Year’s Eve concert in Vienna, and until 2002 he was longtime host of the Kennedy Center Honors. He even had a few brief but memorable acting appearances on two news-related sitcoms — The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1974, and two episodes of Murphy Brown, in 1989 and 1997.
Frank McCourt (b. 1930) (writer)
The Pulitzer Prize-winning author is best known for his novel Angela’s Ashes, which was made into a film in 1999. Another of his books, Teacher Man — detailing his own career as a teacher — is being planned for a feature film.
Gidget (b. 1994)
The cute Chihuahua was famed as the “spokesdog” for Taco Bell in a series of commercials that aired from 1997-2000.
Robert Novak (b. 1931) (journalist)
The conservative political commentator and columnist was involved with CNN from its beginning, appearing on the network during its launch week in 1980, eventually getting his own show and taking over as host of Crossfire from 1985-87. He also appeared as a regular panelist on the syndicated series The McLaughlin Group starting in 1982. In 2005, Novak left CNN to do various reporting for FOX News Channel.
Don Hewitt (b. 1922) (producer/journalist)
Hewitt began his long broadcast journalism career at CBS in 1948. During his first 20 years he worked with the likes of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite, producing their broadcasts. He also directed the televised 1960 presidential debates between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy, the first such debates ever televised. In 1968 he created his greatest legacy — the popular and influential newsmagazine 60 Minutes, which still airs and is the longest-running prime-time show on American television.
Dominick Dunne (b. 1925) (writer/journalist/producer)
Investigative journalist Dunne is known for his writings about the justice system, particularly when rich people get involved with it. He probably became familiar to most viewers during his coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial for Court TV in 1995. He had a series on that network (later to become truTV) called Power, Privilege & Justice, which explored further the subject of wealth, celebrity and justice. Dunne was the father of actors Griffin and Dominique Dunne.
Larry Gelbart (b. 1928) (writer/producer)
A prolific writer of books, for the stage, and both large and small screens, Gelbart worked early in his career for Sid Caesar on the show Caesar’s Hour, for which he received three Emmy nominations in the 1950s. In the ’60s, he gained another Emmy nod for his writing on The Danny Kaye Show, and he also penned the hit play A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which was adapted into a 1966 film. In 1972, Gelbart became one of the creative forces who adapted the book and film M*A*S*H into a TV series. Gelbart was involved with the now-classic show during its first four seasons, writing many episodes (with Emmy nominations for two of them), and sharing a 1974 Emmy win as a producer when the series was named Outstanding Comedy Series. Following M*A*S*H, Gelbart went on to write the popular and critically acclaimed feature films Oh, God! (1977) and Tootsie (1982), gaining Oscar nominations for both. Other notable feature film screenplays include the 1984 comedy Blame It on Rio, and 2000’s Bedazzled. Gelbart found more television acclaim through a couple of other TV projects. He wrote the Emmy-nominated scripts for Barbarians at the Gate (1993), Weapons of Mass Distraction (1997), and And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003). Another of his popular plays, City of Angels, is currently being made into a film.
Patrick Swayze (b. 1952) (actor/dancer)
The popular leading man, and People’s 1991 “Sexiest Man Alive,” didn’t really become famous until his sleeper hit Dirty Dancing in 1987. Before then he had appeared in film roles such as 1983’s The Outsiders, 1984’s Red Dawn and 1986’s Youngblood (he’s sometimes lumped in with the “Brat Pack” thanks to these films), as well as a guest role in a 1981 episode of M*A*S*H. But Dancing, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination and sang and cowrote the hit song “She’s Like the Wind,” was his breakthrough, showing off his acting and dancing skills. Over the next decade he had his biggest hit in the romantic film Ghost (1990), but otherwise was typecast in less-popular films such as 1989’s Road House, which has since become a cult favorite. Swayze kept working up to his passing, most recently starring in the A&E series The Beast earlier this year.
Mary Travers (b. 1936) (musician)
As a member of the famed singing trio Peter, Paul and Mary, Travers became one of the most popular and successful folk singers ever. Along with helping the group achieve greatness in the 1960s with hits such as “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and renditions of “If I Had a Hammer” and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Travers went on to a solo career in the ’70s, recording five albums of her own.
Henry Gibson (b. 1935) (actor)
Born James Bateman, Gibson is best known for his appearances on the 1960s TV show Laugh-In, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination. On the big screen, his notable works include a role as a country singer in Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975), for which he was again nominated for a Golden Globe; as the head of the Illinois Nazis in 1980’s The Blues Brothers; and as the villain in the 1989 Tom Hanks comedy The ‘Burbs.
Al Martino (b. 1927) (musician/actor)
The Italian-American crooner had a string of hit singles and albums from the 1950s into the ’70s, including songs such as “Here in My Heart,” “I Love You Because” and “Spanish Eyes.” But Martino is also remembered for his acting role as singer Johnny Fontane in 1972’s The Godfather, a character whose problems with a Hollywood producer led to the film’s iconic “horse head in the bed” scene.
Lou Albano (b. 1933) (actor)
“Captain” Lou — known for his unique beard (filled with rubber bands) and often outrageous outfits — had a long career in wrestling, and his involvement with the (then) WWF (World Wrestling Federation) helped make pro wrestling explode into pop culture in the 1980s. His non-wrestling projects included appearances in Cyndi Lauper music videos, and a role as video game hero Mario (voicing the cartoon and appearing in live-action segments) on The Super Mario Bros. Super Show! in 1989.
Vic Mizzy (b. 1916) (musician/composer)
Although he created a number of popular songs in the 1930s and ’40s, and composed several film soundtracks, Mizzy will be best remembered as the composer of two of the most infectiously popular TV theme songs in history — The Addams Family and Green Acres.
Joseph Wiseman (b. 1918) (actor)
He enjoyed a long acting career on the stage, but Wiseman is probably most familiar for his film and television work. His notable films include Detective Story (1951), Viva Zapata! (1952) and The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), and he will always be a part of film history for his role as the title villain in the first James Bond movie, 1962’s Dr. No.
Soupy Sales (b. 1926) (actor/comedian)
The recipient of countless pies to the face throughout his long history of comedic sketches, Sales hosted The Soupy Sales Show from 1959-62, where he wrote and performed many different live characters and puppets. Sales was also a regular on game shows like What’s My Line?, and on variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show.
The prolific TV writer wrote for many popular and award-winning sitcoms, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show (he wrote the classic, Emmy-winning episode “Chuckles Bites the Dust”), The Bob Newhart Show, Taxi, Cheers, Frasier and Wings.
The English actor is probably best known to American audiences as ex-secret agent and vigilante Robert McCall in the series The Equalizer (1985-89), and to horror buffs as the ill-fated police sergeant in the 1973 cult flick The Wicker Man.
Born Ken Oberding, Ober is most recognized for his game show hosting duties, most notable MTV’s series Remote Control (1987-90).