They go in threes. They always go in threes.
All the President’s Men (and women): William Goldman (screenplay), James Karen (Hugh Sloan’s lawyer), Allyn Ann McLerie (Carolyn Abbott)
The art of the movies: Pablo Ferro (“Bullitt,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Thomas Crown Affair” titles), Bill Gold (“A Clockwork Orange,” “Casablanca,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “Funny Girl,” “Klute” posters), Robert Grossman (Airplane! poster)
Badasses: Barbara Cope (groupie known as “The Butter Queen”), Mary Ellis (British World War II pilot), Kitty O’Neil (stunt woman and race driver)
Baseball’s best: Oscar Gamble (that magnificent Afro, plus “They don’t think it be like it is, but it do.”), Willie McCovey (“Stretch”), Rusty Staub (“Le Grand Orange”)
Basketball pioneers: Willie Naulls (member of NBA’s first all-black starting lineup with Celtics in 1964), Dick Tinkham (ABA co-founder), Tex Winter (created triangle offense)
Beatlemania: Tony Calder (“Love Me Do” promoter in 1962), Geoff Emerick (sound engineer), Roy Young (keyboard player in 1962)
Behind the scenes: Rick Hall (FAME Studios, Muscle Shoals), Joe Jackson (Jackson family patriarch), Mitzi Shore (co-founded The Comedy Store in Los Angeles)
Black power: Rosanell Eaton (North Carolina voting rights advocate), Elbert Howard (Black Panther Party co-founder), James Wells (part of 1961 sit-in at South Carolina lunch counter)
Blues brothers: Lazy Lester, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Otis Rush
The Bucks stop here: Bill Alverson (negotiated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar trade to Lakers in 1974), Len Chappell (forward on first Bucks team in 1968), Robert Indiana (created memorable MECCA floor in 1977)
Burt Reynolds’ guest stars in “Hawk,” 1966: Philip Bosco, Peter Donat, Robert Mandan
By the book: Todd Bol (created Little Free Library), Philip Roth, Tom Wolfe
Cartoons: Stephen Hillenburg (“SpongeBob SquarePants”), Lee Holley (“Ponytail”), Mort Walker (“Beetle Bailey,” “Hi and Lois”)
Clint Eastwood’s co-stars: Bradford Dillman (“The Enforcer,” “Sudden Impact”), Sondra Locke (six films and his companion for 13 years), John Mahoney (“In The Line Of Fire”)
Covered: Andie Airfax (designer, Def Leppard, Metallica album covers), Gary Burden (designer, Neil Young, Doors, Eagles album covers), Robert Matheu (photographer, the Stooges, MC5)
Directors: Milos Forman (“One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest,” “Amadeus”), Warren Miller (ski/snowboard films), Hugh Wilson (“Police Academy,” also created “WKRP in Cincinnati”)
Elvis world: D.J. Fontana (drummer), Jeanie Greene (backup singer), Jerry Hopkins (biographer)
Fast company: Dan Gurney (Formula One, Indy cars, NASCAR), Tom McEwen (drag racing’s Mongoose), David Pearson (NASCAR)
Gone, country: Roy Clark, Freddie Hart, Billy ThunderKloud
Gospel voices: Clarence Fountain (Blind Boys of Alabama), Edwin Hawkins, Yvonne Staples
Heard, but not seen: Douglas Rain (HAL 9000 in “2001: A Space Odyssey”), Ray Szmanda (the Menards guy), Doug Young (Doggie Daddy on “The Quick Draw McGraw Show”, Grand Poobah on “The Flintstones”)
Inventive: Charles Harrison (helped design modern View-Master), Dorcas Reilly (created green bean casserole for Campbell’s), Glenn Snoddy (the fuzz pedal, quite by accident)
John Wayne’s co-stars: Michele Carey (“El Dorado”), Tab Hunter (“The Sea Chase”), Jerry Van Dyke (“McLintock!”)
Kids, just kids: Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gomez Alonzo, 8 (Guatemalan children who died in Border Patrol custody); Garrett Matthias, 5 (irrepressible cancer patient who ended his obit with “See ya later, suckas!”)
Legends: Aretha Franklin, Stephen Hawking, Burt Reynolds
Last laughs, the men: Marty Allen, Harry Anderson (“Night Court”), Will Jordan (impressionist who channeled Ed Sullivan)
Last laughs, the women: Nanette Fabray, Charlotte Rae (“The Facts of Life”), Greta Thyssen (’50s Three Stooges shorts)
Lombardi’s Glory Years champions: Ben Agajanian, Bob Skoronski, Jim Taylor
Mad men and women: Jane Maas (advertising trailblazer), Nick Meglin (Mad magazine editor), Dick Tuck (political prankster)
Marvels: Steve Ditko (Spider-Man, Doctor Strange), Stan Lee (helped create many Marvel characters), Marie Severin (Spider-Woman)
Nightclubbing: Vic Damone, Morgana King, Nancy Wilson
Now you know: Naomi Parker Fraley (the real Rosie the Riveter), Peggy Sue Gerron (inspired Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”), Nancy Grace Roman (NASA astronomer who was the “Mother of Hubble”)
Odd couplings: Penny Marshall (Oscar’s secretary Myrna), Carole Shelley (Cecily Pigeon), Neil Simon (playwright)
Outlaws: Tony Kinman (Rank and File), Ray Sawyer (Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show), Tony Joe White
Playboys: Russ Heath (drew “Little Annie Fanny”), Art Paul (art director, created the Playboy rabbit logo), Maurizio Zanfanti (Italian swinger who claimed to have had sex with 6,000 women)
#Resist, WWII style: Sonia Orbuch (she fought with the Polish Resistance as a teenager), Freddie Oversteegen (she fought with the Dutch Resistance as a teenager), Joachim Ronneberg (Norwegian Resistance fighter who skied in, helped sabotage German heavy water plant)
Score! Galt MacDermot (“Hair”), John Morris (“The Producers,” “Blazing Saddles,” “Young Frankenstein”), Patrick Williams (“The Streets of San Francisco” among many films and TV shows)
Session men: Joe Osborn (bass, Wrecking Crew), Melvin Ragan aka Wah Wah Watson (guitar, Funk Brothers), Eddie “Chank” Willis (guitar and sitar, Funk Brothers)
Sitcom sidekicks: Ken Berry (“F Troop,” “Mayberry R.F.D.,” “Mama’s Family”), Bill Daily (“I Dream of Jeannie,” “The Bob Newhart Show”), David Ogden Stiers (“M*A*S*H”)
Songwriters: Bob Dorough (first jazz, then “Schoolhouse Rock”), Ron Dunbar (“Give Me Just A Little More Time,” “Band Of Gold,” “Patches”), Tony Hiller (“United We Stand”)
Soul singers: Barbara Alston (Crystals), Dennis Edwards (Temptations), Denise LaSalle
Space, the final frontier: Alan Bean (walked on moon, Apollo 12, 1969), Donald Peterson Sr. (spacewalked, Challenger’s first mission, 1983), John Young (walked on moon, Apollo 16, 1972)
Sports voices: Bob Beattie, Keith Jackson, Lee Leonard
Star Trek, stardate 1967: Harlan Ellison (wrote “City On The Edge of Forever”), Roger Perry (Capt. John Christopher, “Tomorrow Is Yesterday”), Celeste Yarnall (Yeoman Martha Landon, “The Apple”)
Tall in TV’s saddle: Wayne Maunder (“Lancer,” “Custer”), Clint Walker (“Cheyenne”), Robert Wolders (“Laredo”)
Witness to history: Melvin Dummar (claimed to have saved Howard Hughes in Nevada desert in 1967), Ernest Medina (commanding officer at My Lai massacre in 1968, but acquitted), Juan Romero (hotel busboy who held the dying Robert F. Kennedy in 1968)
Wrestlers: Larry “The Axe” Hennig, Bruno Sammartino, Nikolai Volkoff
Gone in Threes, the band
Fronting: Marty Balin (Jefferson Airplane/Starship), Dolores O’Riordan (Cranberries), Pete Shelley (Buzzcocks)
On guitar: Nokie Edwards (Ventures), Ed King (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Lynyrd Skynyrd), Danny Kirwan (Fleetwood Mac)
On bass: Alan Longmuir (Bay City Rollers), Craig MacGregor (Foghat), Jim Rodford (Argent)
On drums: Leon “Ndugu” Chancler (Michael Jackson, many others), Mickey Jones (Bob Dylan, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition), John “Jabo” Starks (J.B.’s)
On sax: Ace Cannon, Big Jay McNeely, Charles Neville (Neville Brothers)
Orchestral section: Hugh Masekela (jazz trumpet, flugelhorn, cornet), Hugh McDowell (viola, Wizzard, Electric Light Orchestra), Ray Thomas (flute, oboe, keyboards, Moody Blues)
The stunner: There always is one death that takes your breath away. In 2018, it was a girl I dated long ago. She slipped away.
The last word
Some memorable obits: Kathleen Dehmlow from Minnesota (“She abandoned her children … She will not be missed.”), Rick Stein from Delaware (“Missing and presumed dead. … That is one story.”), Terry Ward from Indiana (“preceded in death by … a 1972 Rambler and a hip.”)
— This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who passed in 2018. This is my highly subjective list. Yours will be different.
— Each year, I use three prime sources for this list.
First, the Wikipedia contributors who compile month-by-month lists of prominent deaths. That’s where we start.
Second, our friend Gunther at Any Major Dude, who compiles lists of notable music deaths each month, along with a year-end roundup. Each of those is more thorough than this roundup. Highly recommended.
Third, the folks at Mojo magazine, whose “Real Gone” and “They Also Served” features are wonderful.
Other sources include Ultimate Classic Rock and the Washington Post.
Previous “Gone in threes” entries
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