They go in threes. They always go in threes.
In 2017, it hit home. My dad, at 91. My friend Dave, one of my mentors in the news biz, at 80. Plus the one that came out of nowhere.
Adventurers: Bruce Brown (“The Endless Summer” surf documentary), Jack O’Neill (invented surfers’ neoprene wetsuit), Robert M. Persig (“Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”)
Allman brothers: Gregg Allman (keyboards and vocals), Johnny Sandlin (engineer and producer), Butch Trucks (drums)
Angels among us: Jeanne Brousse (French resistance fighter who helped rescue Jews in Nazi-occupied France), Micheline Dumont-Ugeux (Belgian resistance fighter who helped hundreds of Allied troops evade capture by the Nazis), Kazimierz Piechowski (Auschwitz prisoner who led a daring escape in 1942)
At John Lennon’s side: Magic Alex Mardas (John’s friend and electronics guru), Pete Shotton (John’s close childhood friend and one of the Quarrymen, which evolved into the Beatles), Walter Smith (Liverpool tailor who made the Beatles’ first suits)
Badasses: Loren Janes (Steve McQueen’s stunt double in the “Bullitt” chase, and more), Haruo Nakajima (the original Godzilla), Harry Dean Stanton (pretty much everything he did)
Beatlemania: Alan Aldridge (edited “The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics”), Rex Makin (attorney who coined the phrase “Beatlemania”), Jack Mendelsohn (co-wrote “Yellow Submarine” film)
Beyond The Outer Limits: Dominic Frontiere (composer), Don Gordon, Martin Landau (2 episodes each)
Big in France: Johnny Hallyday, Jerry Lewis, Jeanne Moreau
Blues men: Lonnie Brooks, James Cotton, Sonny Knight
Bond, James Bond: Roger Moore, Clifton James, Daliah Lavi
Calling Mr. Anderson: John B. Anderson (independent presidential candidate in 1980), Richard Anderson (actor), Sam Shepard (Mr. Anderson in “In Dubious Battle,” his second-to-last film)
Country singers: Troy Gentry, Mel Tillis, Don Williams
Covered: Don Hunstein (Columbia Records photographer, “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,”), Bob Seidemann (photographer, “Blind Faith,” “Late for the Sky,” “On the Beach”), Chris Whorf (art designer, Casablanca, Warner Bros., Dot, Stax labels)
Creative types: Gilbert Baker (gay pride rainbow flag), Joe Harris (“Underdog,” “Tennessee Tuxedo,” Trix rabbit), Joseph Schmitt (helped create NASA’s first spacesuits)
Distinctive voices: Dick Enberg (‘Oh, my!”), June Foray (“The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show”), Dick Orkin (radio’s “Chicken Man”)
Divas: Barbara Smith Conrad, Carol Neblett, Roberta Peters
Double duty: Bernie Casey (NFL player turned actor), Gene Conley (played in MLB and NBA, won one World Series and three NBA championships), Rick Hader (high school teacher who became Myron Noodleman, Clown Prince of Baseball)
Elvis’ Memphis Mafia: Marty Lacker, Red West, Sonny West
Family ties: Dorothy Mengering (David Letterman’s mom), Barbara Sinatra (Frank’s widow), Roger Smith (Ann-Margret’s husband)
First ladies: Clare Hollingworth (scooped the world on the start of World War II in 1939), Sheila Michaels (created the Ms. pronoun), Lillian Ross (New Yorker writer who helped create literary journalism)
Gone too soon: Erica Garner, 27 (social justice activist); Tim Piazza, 19 (Penn State hazing victim); Otto Warmbier, 22 (North Korean prisoner)
Happier days: Erin Moran (series star), Rance Howard (3 episodes), Dick Gautier (1 episode)
Hasta la bye bye: Roger Ailes (Fox News), Hootie Johnson (kept women out of Augusta National Golf Club), Manuel Noriega
Hosts with the most: Chuck Barris (“The Gong Show”), Monty Hall (“Let’s Make A Deal”) Robert Osborne (Turner Classic Movies)
Inspirations: Blanche Blackwell (James Bond author Ian Fleming), Bruce Langhorne (Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”), Anita Pallenberg (Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones and Keith Richards)
In this corner: Lou Duva (handler), Jake LaMotta, Ferdie Pacheco (“The Fight Doctor”)
I saw them live: J. Geils (Jan. 30, 1982), Malcolm Young (May 11, 2001), Don Rickles (September 2004)
I saw them live, too: Charles Bradley (Dec. 3, 2008), Chuck Berry (May 31, 2009), Pat DiNizio (April 10, 2016)
It’s the Bat-Signal! Adam West, Dina Merrill (Calamity Jan), Francine York (Lydia Limpet)
Jazz men: Larry Coryell, Al Jarreau, Grady Tate
Last laughs: Shelley Berman, Bill Dana, Ken Shapiro (“The Groove Tube”)
Last Laugh-In: Chris Bearde (writer), Chelsea Brown, Patti Deutsch
Loose balls, or remembering the ABA: Steve “Snapper” Jones, Skeeter Swift, Fatty Taylor
Mannix boys: Mike Connors (series star), Jack Bannon (4 episodes), John Hillerman (3 episodes)
Mary Tyler and more: Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, Gwendolyn Gillen (designed Minneapolis’ Mary Richards sculpture)
Motown songwriters: Warren “Pete” Moore (the Miracles), Sylvia Moy (Stevie Wonder), Leon Ware (Isley Brothers, Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye)
My baseball cards from 1968: Ruben Amaro, Bill Hands, Paul Schaal
My favorite roles: Joseph Bologna (King Kaiser, “My Favorite Year”), Stephen Furst (Flounder, “Animal House”), Bill Paxton (Chet, “Weird Science”)
My football cards from 1968: Ken Gray, Tommy Nobis, Wayne Walker
Nightclub singers: Buddy Greco, Della Reese, Keely Smith
Notorious: Clifford Irving (Howard Hughes literary hoax), Christine Keeler (Britain’s Profumo affair), Charles Manson (Tate-LaBianca murders)
Record players: George Avakian (Columbia Records, championed LPs and live records), Ilene Berns (ran Bang Records), Nigel Grainge (founded Ensign Records)
Resist: Dick Gregory (comedian and activist), Willie Evans (University of Buffalo football star whose team boycotted 1958 Tangerine Bowl over Tampa stadium’s ban on black players), Liu Xiaobo (imprisoned Chinese Nobel Peace Prize laureate)
See you in court: Ed Garvey (NFL Players Association executive director), Norma McCorvey (“Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade abortion rights case), Edith Windsor (fought for federal recognition of same-sex married couples)
See you in court, too: Harvey Atkin (“Law & Order” judge), Barbara Hale (“Perry Mason”), Joseph Wapner (“The People’s Court”)
Soldiering on: Jim Nabors (“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”), Stanley Weston (created G.I. Joe), Jerry Yellin (fighter pilot in last World War II combat mission)
Soul brothers: Wayne Cochran, Bunny Sigler, Bobby Taylor (singer and producer also brought the Jackson 5 to Motown)
Space, the final frontier: Gene Cernan (last man to have walked on the moon, Apollo 17, 1972), Dick Gordon (flew Apollo 12 to the moon, 1969), Bruce McCandless (first untethered free flight in space from Challenger, 1984)
Standing tall: Orsten Artis (co-captain of Texas Western’s 1965-66 team, first with all black starters to become NCAA champions), Sid Catlett (starred for DeMatha Catholic of Maryland in legendary 1965 high school basketball game vs. Lew Alcindor’s Power Memorial team from New York), Connie Hawkins (New York playground legend, ABL, Harlem Globetrotters, ABA and NBA)
Sunny pop vocals: Clem Curtis (“Baby Now That I’ve Found You,” Foundations), Gary DeCarlo (“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” Steam), Sonny Geraci (“Time Won’t Let Me,” the Outsiders, and “Precious and Few,” Climax)
The in crowd: Hugh Hefner (Playboy), Mario Maglieri (Whisky A Go-Go, Rainbow Bar & Grill), Harold Pendleton (Marquee Club booker, British festivals)
This film is played at concert volume: Jim Burns (co-creator of MTV’s “Unplugged”), Jonathan Demme (”Stop Making Sense”), Murray Lerner (“Festival,” followed by others)
Trailblazers: Mamie “Peanut” Johnson (first female Negro League pitcher), Luis Olmo (first Puerto Rican MLB position player), Perry Wallace (first black SEC basketball player at Vanderbilt),
Wrestlers: Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, Ivan Koloff, George “The Animal” Steele
Writers: Jimmy Breslin, Frank Deford, Nat Hentoff
Gone In Threes, the band
Singers, the men: David Cassidy (Partridge Family), Bobby Freeman, Cuba Gooding Sr. (The Main Ingredient)
Singers, the ladies: Valerie Carter, Maggie Roche (the Roches), Joni Sledge (Sister Sledge)
On guitar: Tommy Allsup (the Crickets), Walter Becker (Steely Dan), Allan Holdsworth
On bass: Lyle Ritz (Wrecking Crew), Pete Overend Watts (Mott the Hoople), John Wetton (Asia, King Crimson)
On drums: Grant Hart (Husker Du), Sib Hashian (Boston), Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown)
On the keys: Goldy McJohn (Steppenwolf), Walter “Junie” Morrison (Ohio Players, Parliament-Funkadelic), Marvell Thomas (Stax session man)
The shocker: There always is one death that takes your breath away. Even in a year in which my dad died, it was not my dad. No, in 2017, that one was my friend Meat. Two years younger than I, he died while working out at the Y. Brian and I went to high school and college together, then worked together in the news biz. Gone is my strongest connection to back home, the guy who kept in touch with everyone and kept me updated on folks I didn’t know as well as he did.
— This is not intended to be an inclusive list of all who passed in 2017. 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.
This year, two additional sources: Ultimate Classic Rock and the Washington Post.
Previous “Gone in threes” entries
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