Friday, February 16, 2018

Did Opening King Tut’s Tomb Dig Up a Curse?

Valley of the Kings
It was February 16, 1923, in the Valley of the Kings when the tomb of King Tutankhamen was officially opened. English Egyptologist Howard Carter had searched for five years before discovering the tomb on November 26, 1922. Fortunately, it was one of the few tombs that had not yet been found, which meant that the treasure trove it contained was still intact.

King Tutankhamen
The sarcophagus contained three coffins encased inside one another. In the last coffin, made of solid gold, explorers discovered the mummified body of King Tutankhamen.
King Tut’s tomb contained close to 5,300 items his followers had sealed away for his use in the afterlife. Things like chariots, weapons, furniture, jewelry, statues, clothing, funeral items, and works of ancient art. But the most valuable artifact in the tomb was the mummy of the boy-king. 

Tomb Treasures
The relics were removed from the tomb for sketching, photographing, recording, and cataloging. Due to the interest in preserving the artifacts, it took more than 10 years to remove all of the treasures... and some "disappeared." Once the items were preserved, a traveling exhibition known as the “Treasures of Tutankhamen” made its way around the world. The collection now resides in a permanent home at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Egypt. 

Of course, there were rumors of a curse that would descend upon all who disrupted the ruler’s eternal rest. Supposedly engraved in hieroglyphics on the exterior of the tomb were the words, “Death Shall Come on Swift Wings To Him Who Disturbs the Peace of the King.” The “Mummy’s Curse” is claimed to have taken numerous lives.

George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon
Lord Carnarvon and His Daughter
Carnarvon had financed the excavation of the tomb from 1918 to 1923. The Earl was on hand at the Tomb in November, 1922, and again on March 6th the day he was bitten by a mosquito. He nicked the bite while shaving and it became infected. Carnarvon died of blood poisoning on April 5, one month after his second visit to the tomb, and six weeks after the media began reporting on the curse. To add fuel to the fire, there was a widespread blackout in Cairo on the night Carnarvon died. But it was said that power failures were common in the area…

 George Jay Gould

American financier and railroad executive, George Jay Gould, visited the tomb in the spring of 1923. Rumor spread that he became ill with a fever immediately afterwards and died of pneumonia on May 16, 1923.

Sir Archibald Douglas Reid
Sir Archibald Douglas Reid was the radiologist who x-rayed the mummy before it was presented to museum officials. Reid became sick the following day and died of a mysterious illness three days later, on January 15, 1924.

Arthur Cruttenden Mace
Arthur Cruttenden Mace was a British Egyptologist, and member of Carter’s excavation team in 1923. Mace assisted Carter in writing the draft for the first volume of The Tomb of Tutankhmun. Mace died of arsenic poisoning on April 6, 1928; another death supposedly related to the curse.

Richard Bethell
Richard Bethell, Howard Carter’s personal secretary died on November 15, 1929 at the London Mayfair Gentleman's Club. He was discovered smothered in his room. Some suggested that it was the curse at work since Bethell’s home had experience a series of small fires after some of the treasures from the tomb were "stored" there.
Richard Bethell, Baron Westbury
Bethell’s father, Richard Bethell, 3rd Barron Westbury was also thought to be a victim of the curse. The Baron killed himself by jumping off the 7th floor of his apartment building on February 20, 1930. It was reported that several of the tomb’s treasures had also been stored there. Bethell's suicide note read, in part, "I really cannot stand any more horrors and hardly see what good I am going to do here, so I am making my exit." Were the horrors related to the tomb? No one could say for sure.
By 1929, eleven people were said to have died from the curse.
Howard Carter
Interestingly, Howard Carter, the first person to enter the tomb never suffered any ill effects. Carter lived to the age of 64, dying of natural causes. He did, however, record in his diary during the excavation that he had seen jackals, known as the guardians to the dead, roaming in the area. It was the first time he had seen them in that region after 35 years of working there.

So was the curse real? Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, said he was sure the curse existed and began promoting wild accusations after Lord Carnarvon died. Others say that Carnarvon himself created the curse as a way to keep reporters and sightseers away from the excavation. (Unfortunately for him, he added to the legend by conveniently dying soon after.) Although the tomb was opened 95 years ago, many think the curse is still to be believed.
~ Joy

Friday, February 9, 2018

Remembering George Burns

George Burns
Nathan Birnbaum was born on January 20, 1896 in New York City. He began his career singing harmony with other 6 and 7 year olds while making candy in a basement shop. People came down to listen, tossing coins when they finished. Nathan decided it was showbiz for him from there on out. He began billing himself at George Burns – George was his brother’s name, who was glad to lend it out. And Burns came from the Burns Brothers Coal Company whose trucks George would steal coal from to heat their home.
George partnered with several girls but the chemistry just wasn’t there. One partner was Hanna Siegel whom George married so that they could go on tour together. When the tour ended after six months, they divorced, having never consummated the marriage.

Gracie Allen
Grace Allen grew up in San Francisco but started in Vaudeville in 1909 with her sisters as “The Four Colleens,” a dance act. And then George met Gracie. It was  1923 when Allen met Burns met at a vaudeville theatre in Newark. This time the chemistry was seismic. Billed as Burns and Allen, the two played off each other masterfully with Allen as the “Dumb Dora” character, and Burns as her straight man. Gracie Allen was so witty she ramped up the illogical logic patter to a level all audiences appreciated. The two became a long-running team with Burns writing their comedy, and Allen delivering lines with perfect timing. 

They married in 1926, and continued in Vaudeville until they launched their own radio show in 1932. Their characters were single, but when the audience found out the two were actually married, demand increased that the show reflect it. During the last 1930s, the couple also did several comedic films.
In 1941, The Burns and Allen Show adapted a situational comedy approach, complete with supporting actors. With the rising interest in television, The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show debuted on the CBS Television Network in 1950. The show now featured famous actors as guests, and playing local characters. Burns loved talking to the audience during the program, telling jokes and offering amusing asides about the other performers. The show lasted until 1958 when Gracie retired due to health reasons. 

Gracie Allen died in 1964 of a heart attack. Burns was bereft, but friends convinced him that work was the only answer. He toured nightclubs and performed at theatre venues around the country. Then, in 1974, his best friend, Jack Benny was dying of pancreatic cancer. Benny requested  Burns take over his part in a film called The Sunshine Boys. Benny died a few week later. A broken-hearted Burns stepped into the role, playing opposite Walter Matthau. Burns received an Academy Award for best Supporting Actor in the comedy. At the ago of 80, Burns was the oldest person to win an Oscar. With his newfound fame firmly in place, he ushered in a comedy film career for the later part of the century.

In 1977, Burns played opposite of John Denver in Oh, God! The film inspired two sequels, Oh, God! Book II, and Oh, God! You Devil where Burns played both roles of God and the Devil.
Burns went on to make appear on The Muppet Show, and starred in three more films: Just You and Me, Kid, Going in Style and 18 Again! Burns continued to do regular stand up gigs at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas, where he had a lifetime contract.

George Burns died on March 9, 1996 – 49 days after turning 100. He was interred in a mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale California next to his comedic and life partner, Gracie Allen. Their epitaph reads: "Gracie Allen (1902–1964) & George Burns (1896–1996)-Together Again." George felt that Gracie should be given top billing this time.
~ Joy

Friday, February 2, 2018

A Look Back at the 1971 Thiokol Chemical Plant Explosion

Location of Woodbine, Georgia
Woodbine, Georgia was selected as the place to build the Thiokol Chemical Corporation in the mid-sixties, thanks to its close proximity to Cape Canaveral where the space race was in full orbit. Situated on 7,400 acres, the company built and tested solid propellant rocker motors for NASA. The plant was comprised on 36 buildings that housed all types of fuels and chemicals produced here.

Devastation From Explosion
On Wednesday morning, February 3, 1971, one of those buildings known as the Woodbine Plant (Building M-132) exploded killing 29 and injuring close to 50 workers, most of them women. According to reports, the fire began in an area where ignition chemicals were added to other explosives including magnesium. The fire then spread to a storage area that contained 56,000 flares. The resulting blast leveled the building, killing 24. Officials were not sure of the immediate death toll due to victims being dismembered from the explosion, and bodies being blown from the building into a nearby forest. 

Building Destroyed
Three more buildings were heavily damaged and more than 50 workers were injured, five so severely, they died within days from their injuries. Nearby buildings sustained scorched and buckled aluminum walls, and charred utility poles. Another seven buildings received minor damage from the blast. One survivor said it was “like an atomic bomb” had gone off. Heavy smoke and dangerous fumes lay over the plant as a dismal rain began to fall on the wreckage.

Air Lifting Victims
At the time of the tragedy, the plant had an order to produce 758,000 trip flares for the Army’s use in Vietnam. The materials were originally given a Class 7 designation – the highest ranking for hazardous chemicals and materials. But in 1967, the Army had downgraded the classification to a Class 2 – which designated a fire hazard. The Army reissued the Class 7 designation in the fall of 1970. It reached the Thiokol Plant on February 25 … 22 days after 29 people lost their lives in the devastating explosion.

Today, children of survivors are working to develop the Thiokol Memorial and Museum to honor those killed and injured in the incident - most who were women. Thiokol was one of the few places in the late 60s and early 70s where a woman could get a full time job and be paid the same wages as a man. Due to the Army contract, the plant’s workforce at the time of the blast was close to 500 employees working round-the-clock to get the order filled. 
Tomorrow, February 3, is the anniversary of the explosion. A memorial service will be held to honor those who died and were injured 47 years ago.
~ Joy

Friday, January 26, 2018

Remembering the Apollo One Astronauts

Ed White, Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee
January 27, 1967 is a day many space buffs will always remember. It was on that tragic evening three U.S. astronauts, Ed White, Gus Grissom, and Roger Chaffee died on a Florida launch pad.
Apollo 1 Patch
The three astronauts were chosen for the Apollo Program, which was to be the first manned space flight. Grissom was to be the command pilot, (This would be his third space flight.) Ed White was designated as senior pilot because he had experienced two previous space flights, and Roger Chaffee was the pilot since this would be his first space flight.
The Arrival of the Apollo 1
But the Apollo spacecraft was plagued with problems from the beginning. In fact, when the craft was delivered to the Kennedy Space Center in August 1966, more than 630 engineering changes were done to the command module as it set on the launch pad. The crew didn't like the huge assortment of flammable materials located in the cabin. The men approached Apollo Space Program Office Manager Joe Shea and requested that all of the netting and Velcro be removed for safety’s sake. Shea issued the order to his staff but did not have the request supervised. Finally, on December 30, 1966, the craft was ready for testing. But Commander Gus Grissom was so annoyed by the continuous problems and headaches; he hung a lemon off the Apollo simulator - one week before tragedy struck.

Command Pilot Gus Grissom
In December, when asked by a reporter about the risks, Gus Grissom replied, “You sort of have to put that out of your mind. There's always a possibility that you can have a catastrophic failure, of course; this can happen on any flight; it can happen on the last one as well as the first one. So, you just plan as best you can to take care of all these eventualities, and you get a well-trained crew and you go fly.

Chaffee, White and Grissom Training in Simulator
It was Friday, January 27 1967, when the three men arrived at Cape Canaveral’s Launch Pad 34 ready to take part in pre-launch testing aboard the Apollo 1 command module. The test was not considered to be risky since there was no fuel on board, and any explosives had been disabled. But the testing was riddled with problems and concerns. The men were dealing with a situation that was growing worse. Grissom, White and Chaffee agreed that despite all of the problems plaguing the launch, all they could do was their best with what they had to fly - and fly they would on February 21.
Fire Blackened Command Module
Around 6:30 that evening, as nerves wore thin and the astronauts were ready to stop for the day, a flash fire broke out aboard the Apollo 1. In the pure oxygen environment, the fire burned quickly. So quickly that attempts to rescue the men were futile. A microphone that had remained on broadcast the dying words of one of the men into the control room: “We've got a bad fire—Let's get out ....We're burning up." All three astronauts aboard Apollo 1 died of asphyxiation. Once the craft was opened, it took 90 minutes to remove the astronauts due to the melted nylon inside the cabin that had fused to them.

Apollo Staff Testifying Before the Senate
The tragedy was investigated and the fire was blamed on faulty electrical wiring. But the men lost their lives because the pressure inside the cabin had sealed the hatch door shut making it impossible to open from either side. The capsule had become a deathtrap for the men inside. 
Launch Platform 34 Today
Tomorrow will be the 51 anniversary of the Apollo 1 tragedy. All that remains of Launch Complex 34 is the launch platform, which serves as a memorial to the crew of Apollo 1.
Attached to the structure are two plaques, which read, in part, “They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind's final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived. Godspeed to the crew of Apollo 1.”
~ Joy

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Tombstone Tourist Making a Difference in Chicago

Photo by Mike Gustafson
For Tombstone Tourists residing, or planning a visit to Chicago, there’s a new cemetery web site created by Barry Fleig that offers historical and contemporary graveyard resources for the Windy City. Plus a lot more!

 Fleig began the  Chicago and Cook County Cemeteries Cemetery Guide in August last year. His site has a listing of more than 800 Chicago area graveyards, plus numerous Native American burial grounds. The web site contains thumbnail sketches on 273 cemeteries, and more than 250 cemeteries have been cross-referenced for easier research. More than 300 Jewish cemeteries can be found in the Chicago containing more than 175,000 burials. According to Fleig, these small cemeteries make up a patchwork of burial grounds located mainly in Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park, a suburb west of Chicago.

Tracks leading into Rosehill Cemetery
Besides burial site information, Fleig has also written numerous blog posts detailing some of Chicago’s lesser known cemetery wonders including facts about daily funeral trains that ran through Chicago in the 19th century, information on three cemeteries located at O’Hare Airport, a cemetery that has a elevator, and a cemetery that held a liquor license. The Windy City has its share of history, and forgotten cemeteries abound under some of its most famous buildings and tourist sites.

Barry Fleig
Fleig, a cemetery historian, focuses on finding cemeteries that have disappeared. He was instrumental in the rediscovery of the Cook County Cemetery, the site of more than 38,000 burials on property that once belonged to the Chicago State Hospital on the city’s northwest side. To date, nine acres have been preserved under the Human Grave Protection Act.

Whether you’re planning a cemetery outing in Chicago, or just want to learn more, visit Chicago and Cook County
~   Joy

Friday, January 12, 2018

Remembering Dame Agatha Christie

Agatha Christie
She was considered the most popular author in the world when she died, having written more than eighty books during her lifetime. British author, Agatha Christie’s books have sold over 2 billion copies.  She wrote plays, short stories, poetry, and novels under her real name, and romance books under the pen name, Mary Westmacott.

Christie wrote her first detective novel in 1920, The Mysterious Affair of Styles, which featured her most famous detective, fastidious Hercule Poirot. She had learned about poisons and their affects while working as a volunteer aid detachment (VAD) at the Devon England hospital during WWI. By the end of the war,  she qualified as an "apothecaries' assistant,” someone who dispensed medications - a perfect side job for a mystery writer.

Known as “The Queen of Crime,” Christie wrote 66 mystery novels featuring Poirot, and her other famous detective, Miss Marple. Christie also published fourteen short story collections. And, she wrote the world’s longest running play, The Mousetrap, which opened in England in 1952, and is still playing after more than 25,000 performances. 

During the Blitz in WWII, she worked as a pharmacy assistant in London, finessing her knowledge of poisons. After the war, Christie was awarded the first Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America. She was also awarded an Edgar Award in 1955 for her play, Witness For the Prosecution.

Her best selling novel of all time, And Then There Were None, was published in 1939. In later years, Christie tired of her famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. But his popularity kept him in the forefront of her works. Determined to give the readers what they wanted, Christie continued to feature him throughout her books. 

Christie began to suffer from the effects of dementia in the early 1970s. Agatha Christie died on January 12, 1976 in Oxfordshire, England. She was 85. She was buried in St. Mary Churchyard. It was rumored that at the time of her death, she still had one Miss Marple novel that had not been published, but as yet, has not been released. However, one of Christie’s essays was discovered in 2012, and published in the UK amid much fanfare. Agatha Christie was made a Dame of the British Empire in honor of her contribution to writing in 1971.
~ Joy

Friday, December 29, 2017

Those Who Died in 2017 (Part 2)

Today, we continue our remembrance of those who died during the previous 12 months. Here are a dozen more who left a lasting imprint on our world.

Sam Shepard

He was born Samuel Shepard Rogers III but was known in the entertainment industry as Sam Shepard. Shepard was a playwright, actor screenwriter, director and author. He wrote 44 plays along with two novels and numerous essays. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Buried Child in 1979. He began publishing plays in 1964 and continued for 30 years. His last play was A Particle of Dread in 2014.

Shepard was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Right Stuff for his portrayal of pilot Chuck Yeager in 1983. He had also appeared in Steel Magnolias, Black Hawk Down and Bloodline.
Sam Shepard died on July 27, 2017 from complications of ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at his home in Kentucky. He was 73.

Martin Landau
Martin Landau began his acting career in the 1950s, landing his first major role as Leonard in Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest in 1959. He went on to play Rollin Hand, the Master of Disguise, on the Mission Impossible television series in the 1960s. 

Landau was nominated for an Academy Award for his performances in Tucker: The Man and His Dream in 1988, and Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989. He scored an Oscar for the film Ed Wood for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in 1994.
Landau took numerous supporting roles in television shows during the early 2000s.
Martin Landau died on July 15, 2017 after a brief hospitalization. He was 89. Landau was buried at Beth David Cemetery in Elmont New York.
Glen Campbell
Best known for his country music hits of the 1960s and 70s, Glen Campbell spent more than 50 years in the music industry. During that time, he released more than 70 albums and had 80 songs make the Billboard Country Chart, the Adult Contemporary Chart and the Hot 100.  His biggest hits included “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Dreams of the Everyday Housewife,” ”Galveston," “Rhinestone Cowboy" and “Southern Nights,”  a string of popular contemporary and country music songs that covered the mid-1960s through the early 1980s.
In 1968, he landed his own TV show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which ran on CBS until 1972. When his show was canceled, Campbell went on to appear on various other variety shows through the 1970s. This was the decade that made Campbell a household name. “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Southern Nights” both became Number One hits in the U.S. In fact, “Rhinestone Cowboy” sold over 2 million copies, making it his largest selling single.
Campbell was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Three years later, he released his Meet Glen Campbell album, which was followed by his final tour. In 2010, he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. By 2012, he was residing in a long-term care facility.
Glen Campbell died on August 8, 2017 of complications from Alzheimer’s disease in Nashville, Tennessee. He was 81. He was buried in the Campbell Family Cemetery in Billstown, Arkansas.

Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis was known for his slapstick comedy and his comedic partnership with Dean Martin. The two performed on television and in movies: Martin playing the straight man to Lewis’s slapstick goofiness. They starred in 16 films together and hosted The Martin and Lewis Show from 1946 to 1956 – the year their partnership ended.
From there, Lewis went on to perform solo in nightclubs, on television, and in movies, eventually earning himself the name, the “King of Comedy.” He even recorded an album, Jerry Lewis Just Sings, which made it to Number Three on the Billboard Charts.
Lewis was a popular guest on night talk shows and enjoyed going on them to promote his movies – several of which he wrote with Bill Richmond including The Ladies Man, It’s Only Money and The Nutty Professor. He also had two shows during the 1960s. The first, The Jerry Lewis Show ran for 13 week in 1963. But Lewis was back again with a one-hour variety show in 1967, which ran until 1969.
Lewis was well known for his efforts to raise money for muscular dystrophy. He began hosting MDA telethons in 1952. By 1966, the annual program was known as The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. He continued to anchor the annual event until 2010. During that period, he helped raise more than 2.6 billion dollars for MDA.
Jerry Lewis died on August 20, 2017 of cardiac disease at his home in Las Vegas. He was 91. Lewis was cremated and his ashes given to his family.

Basi, the Giant Panda, was the oldest known giant panda in captivity. She was born in the wild in 1980, and rescued from a frozen river in 1984. She is one of only three giant pandas that lived to be this old. The average age for a giant panda in the wild is twelve years; twenty in captivity.
Basi was listed in the Guinness World Records in January of this year for this achievement. She was also the model for the mascot PanPan for the first Beijing Asia Games held in China in 1990.
Basi died September 13, 2017 in Fuzhou, China. She was 37. (120 in human years.)

Monty Hall
He was the iconic game show host, always ready with a quip or a joke. Monty Hall was best known as the co-creator and host of the game show, Let’s Make a Deal.  Hall spent 22 years, from 1963 to 1986, chatting up contestants in crazy costumes as they decided whether to risk it all.
Hall began his television career in Toronto as a sportscaster. He then accepted a job in radio hosting a show in New York in 1955. From there, he went to Los Angles where he created the show Let’s Make a Deal with Stefan Hatos. It is estimated that Hall appeared in more than 4,500 episodes of the game show. Hall was one of the first to be inducted into the Game Show Hall of Fame, and was awarded an Emmy for lifetime achievement in 2013. Wayne Brady, the current host of Let’s Make a Deal, presented the award to Hall.
Monty Hall died September 30, 2017 from heart failure at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 96. Hall was buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Tom Petty
Tom Petty knew he was destined for a life in music when he saw The Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. Not long after he formed a band called The Epics, which later became Mudcrutch. The band was popular in Florida but Petty wanted more. In 1975, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was formed. It would take until their third album, Damn the Torpedoes, for the band to develop a real following, but the 1980 album went platinum with hit singles, “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee,” and “Here Comes My Girl.”
Petty released Full Moon Fever, his solo album in 1989 with “Free Fallin’” “Runnin’ Down a Dream,” and “I Won’t Back Down.”
In 1988, Petty joined the group The Traveling Wilburys made up of George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Jeff Lynne. Their first album, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1 was a success and the group went on to release another album.
Petty began hosting “Buried Treasure,” a show where he played music from his personal collection on XM Satellite Radio. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed for the Super Bowl halftime show in 2008. The following year, the band released the four CD Live Anthology compilation from live recordings from 1978 to 2006. The band continued to tour around the world and release albums. In 2015, the Tom Petty Radio channel began on SiriusXM. The 40th Anniversary Tour began earlier this year and wrapped up on September 25 – one week before Petty suffered a fatal heart attack.

Tom Petty died on October 2, 2017. He was found in full cardiac arrest at his home in Malibu, California. He was 66. Petty was buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Fats Domino
He was born Antoine Dominique Domino Jr., but the American singer and pianist, known as Fats, was a pioneer of Rock and Roll. Domino began performing in New Orleans bars when he was 14. By the age of 16, he was signed to a record label, but his real fame came with “Ain’t That a Shame” which appeared on the Billboard chart at Number 14 in 1955. He followed it up with “Blueberry Hill” in 1956, which went to Number 1 on the R&B chart ,and stayed there for three months. In fact, he had eleven songs in the Top Ten from 1955 to 1960. But in 1964 when The Beatles hit the US, musical tastes began to change.
In 1986, Domino was one of the first performers indicted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. One year later, he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. And in 2007, he was inducted into his home state of Louisiana’s Music Hall of Fame.
Fats Domino died on October 24, 2017 of natural causes at his home in Harvey Louisiana. He was 89.
Della Reese
Della Reese began her career as a jazz/gospel singer but became known for her television and movie roles. Reese released her first single “Don’t You Know?” in 1959. By the late 1960s, she was hosting her own talk show. Reese appeared on numerous television shows in guest-starring roles. 

 She also appeared in three films, Harlem Nights in 1989, A Thin Line Between Love and Hate in 196, and Expecting Mary in 2010. She is best remembered for her role of Tess on the television show Touched By An Angel, which ran from 1994 to 2003.
Della Reese died November 19, 2017 at her home in Los Angeles. She was 86.

David Cassidy
He was a teen heart-throb sensation the 1970s with his picture featured almost weekly on teen magazines Tiger Beat and 16. David Cassidy came to fame as Keith Partridge son of Shirley Partridge (actually his step-mother Shirley Jones) on the 1970s television show The Partridge Family. Cassidy was allowed to sing instead of lip sync to the music on the show, and his vocals led the group with such hits as “I Thing I Love You,” “Cherish,” and “How Can I Be Sure.” During the four-year run of the show, ten Partridge Family Albums were released along with five solo albums for Cassidy.
Cassidy dropped out of the television show in 1974 due to a tragic stampede at his London concert. According to reports, nearly 800 people were injured, 30 hospitalized and a 14-year-old girl was killed. He began writing songs and releasing albums for the remainder of the 70s.  By the 1980s, he was broke and playing guitar on other singers’ albums. During this decade, he also delved into musical theatre on Broadway.
During the next few decades, Cassidy released more solo albums and appeared on numerous television programs. At the beginning of this year, Cassidy told the media that he was suffering from dementia and was retiring from the stage.
David Cassidy died on November 21, 2017 of liver and kidney failure. He was awaiting a transplant at the time.  He was 67.
Clifford Irving
He was part of one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th Century. Clifford Irving was a writer and investigative reporter. His first novel was published in 1956, and his last in 2012, but his claim to fame was the alleged biography he wrote per Howard Hughes. Clifford Irving and Richard Suskind decided to “write” the autobiography of millionaire recluse Howard Hughes in 1970. Figuring that Hughes would not come forward and denounce them, the pair set up a book deal with McGraw-Hill, stating that Hughes had requested Irving ghost write his life story.  The publishers fell for it and eventually paid a total of $765,000 to “H.R. Hughes,” which his wife deposited in a Swiss bank account under the name of Helga R. Hughes. The story began to unravel in early 1972 when Hughes held a telephone conference with seven well-known journalists and denied knowing Irving or requesting his assistance in writing a book. Hughes then had his lawyer file suit against McGraw-Hill, Irving and Dell Publications.
On January 28, 1972, Irving and his wife confessed to the hoax. Irving served 17 months in prison, and voluntarily returned the $765,000 to McGraw-Hill. His wife served time in prison in the US, and in Switzerland.
In 2007, the film, The Hoax, based on the incident, was released in the US. Irving declared that the film distorted the real story.
Clifford Irving died on December 19, 2017. He was 87.

Rose Marie Mazzetta
Throughout her life, she went only by Rose Marie. Starting her life in Vaudeville at the age of three, Rose Marie’s singing and acting career spanned over nine decades.
At the age of five, she had a slot on NBC as a child singer, and appeared in several films. In her teens, she performed at nightclubs. In the 1960s, she played Sally Rogers for five years on The Dick Van Dyke Show. From there, she went on to play Myrna Gibbons on The Doris Day Show. She also appeared several times on The Dean Martin Show, and was a regular on the game show Hollywood Squares
From 1977 to 1985, Rose Marie toured with Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting and Helen O’Connell in the musical, 4 Girls 4. During her performing career, she received three Emmy nominations for her role in The Dick Van Dyke Show, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2001.
Rose Marie died December 29, 2017 at the age of 94.

And so a final toast to the famous, and infamous, that passed in 2017.
Best wishes for a grand and glorious 2018 to each of you!
Happy New Year!
~ Joy