Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Answers to: Are These Baby Boomer Icons Dead or Alive?

     A few have passed on, but many are still with us, living out their lives in peace and obscurity. How many did you get right?

     1)  George McGovern remained in the U. S. Senate after his 1972 defeat. He was reelected in 1974, but lost in 1980. He entered the Democratic presidential primaries in 1984 but dropped out after trailing Gary Hart and Walter Mondale. McGovern went on the lecture circuit and focused on fighting world hunger. His daughter Teresa, an alcoholic, fell into a snowbank in Madison, WI, in 1992 and died of hypothermia. His wife, Eleanor, died in 2007. But George McGovern is still alive at age 89, living in Mitchel, SD, and St. Augustine, Fl, where he continues to write and lecture.

     2)  Geraldine Ferraro twice ran for the U. S. Senate from New York, after her losing bid for the vice presidency. She faltered both times, in part because of her husband, who pleaded guilty to fraud and was later accused (but acquitted) of bribing a Queens politician. Ferraro remained active in Democratic politics and supported women's causes, and in the 1990s President Clinton named her U. S. Ambassador to the U. N. Commission on Human Rights. In 1998 she was diagnosed with bone cancer, and she died in March 2011 at age 75. She is survived by her husband, a son and two daughters.

     3) Pat Boone, a devout Christian, remained active in country and Gospel music from the 1950s through the 1990s. He and his wife Shirley had four daughters, one of whom, Debby, had her own career highlighted by the 1977 megahit "You Light Up My Life." Pat Boone has been active in Republican politics; he has hosted a long-running charity golf tournament in Chattanooga, TN, and also, as a well-known basketball fan, has been part owner of two basketball teams. At age 77, Boone currently lives with long-time wife Shirley in Los Angeles.

     4)  Fess Parker leaped to fame playing Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, a Disney miniseries in 1954 and 1955, and went on to portray Daniel Boone on TV from 1964 to 1970. In the 1980s Parker became a real-estate developer, building a resort hotel in Santa Barbara, CA, and later a winery and vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley north of Santa Barbara. He died at age 85, in 2010, and is survived by his wife and two children.

     5) Michael Crichton was already wildly popular by the time Jurassic Park came out in 1990. He'd written his first medical thriller, The Andromeda Strain, while still a student at Harvard Medical School in the 1960s. He went on to write a dozen bestselling books, several movie scripts, and the NBC TV medical drama "ER". His controversial 2004 book State of Fear questioned the politically correct concern about global warming. Crichton was diagnosed with throat cancer early in 2008 and he died on Nov. 4, 2008 at age 66.

     6)  Sophia Loren, who won the 1962 Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Two Women, was one of the most popular movie actresses of the 1950s and 1960s. She scaled back her acting after she became a mother, and instead branched out to cookbooks, eyewear, jewellry and perfume. Her longtime husband, Carlo Ponti, died in 2007, but Ms. Loren is still very much alive, with two sons and three grandchildren. She lives in Switzerland, with other homes in Naples and Rome.

     7)  Sidney Poitier, the first black actor to win an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Lilies of the Field, went on to star in To Sir, With Love, In the Heat of the Night and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. He later directed several movies, including the popular comedy Stir Crazy with Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. Poitier, whose parents were from the Bahamas, was appointed Knight Commander of the British Empire in 1974, and later served as "nonresident" Bahamian ambassador to Japan. In 2009 Sir Sidney was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. A prostate cancer survivor, Poitier, now 84, lives in California.

     8) Chubby Checker, famous for his 1960 song "The Twist," went on to record "Twistin' USA" and "Let's Twist Again" and "Slow Twisting" and "Twist It Up." But he did not do "The Peppermint Twist" -- that was Joey Dee and the Starliters. In 2008 "The Twist" was named the biggest single chart hit of all time by Billboard magazine. At age 70, Chubby Checker is still on tour, appearing in Oregon and Washington in January, heading to The Villages in Florida in February.

     9) Willie Mays retired from baseball in 1973, and was elected into the baseball Hall of Fame in 1979. In retirement Mays became an accomplished amateur golfer (with a 4 handicap), worked for an Atlantic City casino, and went on to serve as Special Assistant to the President of the San Francisco Giants. He currently lives in California and also serves on the Advisory Board of Baseball Assistance Team, a nonprofit organization that helps former baseball players with financial and health problems.

    10) Peter Benchley, grandson of the famous humorist and Algonquin Round Table cofounder Robert Benchley, worked at the Washington Post and Newsweek before writing the bestseller Jaws, and then co-writing the screenplay for the movie, the top-grossing film of 1975. Benchley went on to pen The Deep, The Island and The Beast, but nothing could plumb the mysteries of the depths like his seminal shark tale. He was an active environmentalist and supported Wildaid, an organization protecting sharks. Benchley died in 2006 at age 66 of pulmonary fibrosis, a scarring of the lung tissue, survived by a wife and three children.

    11) Elizabeth Taylor was a dual citizen of the United Kingdom and the United States -- born of American parents, in 1932 in a London suburb. The screen legend won two Best Actress Academy Awards, for Butterfield 8 in 1960 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1966, and survived eight marriages (counting Richard Burton twice). She converted to Judaism and in her later years became an advocate for AIDS victims. Taylor had a history of weight gain and various health problems. In 2004 she was diagnosed with congestive heart disease. She had heart surgery in 2009, and died of heart failure in March 2011.

    12) Patty Hearst, the newspaper heiress, dominated the headlines in 1974 after she was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army. She later helped rob a San Francisco bank and, when arrested, she listed her occupation as "Urban Guerrilla." In 1976 she was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced to 35 years in prison, later reduced to 7 years. She was released after serving 22 months, when her sentence was commuted by President Carter. Hearst married her former bodyguard, wrote her autobiography and produced a documentary. She currently lives in New York, where her husband is head of security for the Hearst Corp., and her daughter Lydia Hearst, 27, is a model and actress.

    13) Roger Staubach, star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys from 1969 to 1979, turned his fame into fortune when he started a commercial real-estate business in Texas. In 2008 the Staubach Company was sold to Jones Lang LaSalle, a Chicago real-estate firm, for over $600 million. Along the way, Staubach did color commentating for CBS sports, invested in auto racing and dabbled in politics. He currently serves as executive chairman of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Americas division.

    14) Rodney Dangerfield, born Jacob Cohen in 1921, gained some respect for his 1980s movie roles, most memorably in Caddyshack, but continued his career with his moneymaking line: "I don't get no respect. No respect, no respect at all." In 2001 Dangerfield suffered a mild heart attack while backstage at "The Tonight Show." In August 2004 he went into a coma after surgery, and he died in October 2004 at the age of 82.

    15) Gladys Knight was the front person for Gladys Knight & the Pips from 1959 to 1978, when they began to record separately, and again from 1980 to 1988, after they reunited. Knight became a Mormon, and now leads an American Gospel choir. At age 67, Gladys Knight has had four husbands, and she has three children, one of whom, son Shanga, owns a chain of restaurants in the Atlanta area, Gladys Knight and Ron Winans Chicken & Waffles.



MerCyn said...

Loved reading where the once-famous are now and what happened when fame fizzled and they moved on. Gladys Knight is still going strong - she performed in Atlantic City New Year's Eve. Did not see the show, but heard she was terrific.

Stephen Hayes said...

I read that Peter Benchley spent most of his final years trying to undo the damage he caused the environment by demonizing sharks. Sharks are incredible creatures, their design so perfect that they have not changed in 200 million years. And we are stripping the oceans and seas of them. As has happened so many times before, we will pay a stiff price for our arrogance.

rosaria said...

Except for a couple, I knew these people. They showed us how to life our own life.

schmidleysscribblins,wordpress.com said...

I should have remembered Elizabeth Taylor died, but either I missed it or forgot it. She was one of my favorites. Thanks for remembering ALL of them. Dianne

Kay Dennison said...

I got about 85% right. I read a lot and love the New York times obits.

Dick Klade said...

Shucks, I really didn't have them all right. All your items were enjoyable,however. Thanks for the memories.

Jono said...

I saw Rodney Dangerfield at a dinner theater in Minneapolis about 1979. When the show was over my face hurt from laughing so hard.

Bob Lowry said...

Two other important Boomer memory-makers left us last year: Actor Henry Morgan with his characters in Dragnet and MASH always seemed to be a class act.

Cartoonist Bill Keane and his Family Circus series portrayed the idealized family life we all dreamed of.

Bob Lowry said...

Sloppy typing this early in the morning. Of course I meant Harry Morgan.

Anonymous said...

This was fun! I actually saw Willie Mays, in person, last year in SF when the Giants won the World Series. He's quite dapper and going strong.