Eddie Van Halen, influential guitarist of rock band Van Halen, dead of cancer at age 65

October 6, 2020

by Carla Hay

On October 6, 2020, Eddie Van Halen, who is widely considered one of the most influential rock guitarists of all time, died at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California, after a long battle with lung cancer and throat cancer. He was 65. His son and only child, Wolfgang Van Halen, made the announcement on his official Twitter account. Wolfgang’s statement read: “I can’t believe I’m having to write this, but my father, Edward Lodwijk Van Halen, has lost his long arduous battle with cancer this morning. He was the best father I could ever ask for. Every moment I’ve shared with him on and off stage was a gift. My heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss.”

Born on January 26, 1955, Eddie and his older brother Alex Van Halen were Dutch immigrants whose parent settled in Pasadena, California, in 1962. Their father Jan was a musician, and their mother Eugenia was a homemaker. The Van Halen brothers (who eventually became U.S. citizens) formed their namesake band in Pasadena in 1972. By 1974, the band’s classic lineup consisted of lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen, lead singer David Lee Roth, drummer Alex Van Halen and bassist Michael Anthony. Eddie was a self-taught guitarist whose “fretboard tapping” style of playing was considered hugely influential to countless guitar players.

Van Halen’s self-titled 1978 album was an instant smash, yielding the hit singles “Runnin’ With the Devil” and a cover version of The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me.” The band went on to have numerous multiplatinum albums and hit singles for the rest of its career, most notably the “1984” album (which had the No. 1 single “Jump”) and 1991’s Grammy-winning “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge” album, which was best known for the chart-topping song “Right Now.”

Roth parted ways with the band in 1985, when he launched a solo career, and he was replaced by Sammy Hagar, who was fired in 1996. Van Halen announced a reunion with Roth in 1996, but that reunion did not turn into an album or tour, as Roth acrimoniously split with the band again. Gary Cherone was Van Halen’s lead singer from 1996 to 1999. Cherone recorded only one album with the band: 1998’s “Van Halen III,” which was a commercial disappointment, compared to other Van Halen albums.

Eddie underwent hip-replacement surgery in 1999, which led to the band Van Halen going on hiatus until 2003, when Hagar reunited with the band. Hagar was fired again in 2005. Bass player Anthony was fired in 2006, and he was replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang.

Eddie married actress Valerie Bertinelli in 1981. Their son Wolfgang was born in 1991. The couple officially divorced in 2007, after being separated since 2001. Eddie married publicist Janie Liszewski in 2009. In several media interviews, Eddie (who was a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict) credited Liszewski with helping him stay clean and sober since 2008. However, he still admitted to indulging in his addiction to nicotine.

In 2007, Van Halen was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and reunited with Roth for a successful tour that launched later that year. Roth stayed in Van Halen’s final lineup, which toured off and on until 2015. Van Halen’s last studio album of new songs was 2012’s “A Different Kind of Truth.” In 2012, Eddie was diagnosed with diverticulitis. His battle with cancer had been going on for several years before it was officially made public in 2019.

Chadwick Boseman dead at 43; acclaimed star of ‘Black Panther’ battled colon cancer

August 28, 2020

by Carla Hay

Chadwick Boseman (Photo courtesy of ABC/Image Group LA) 

Chadwick Boseman, the charismatic and critically acclaimed actor who starred in the 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther,” died of colon cancer at his Los Angeles home on August 28, 2020. He was 43. In a public statement issued by his family, Boseman had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016, but he never revealed this diagnosis to the public, according to the Associated Press.

In addition to starring in “Black Panther,” Boseman had roles in other Marvel superhero movies such as 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” 2018’s “Avengers: Infinity War” and 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.” He also starred as several African American icons in biopics, such as baseball player Jackie Robinson in the 2013 movie “42,” singer James Brown in 2014’s “Get on Up” and Thurgood Marshall in 2017’s “Marshall.” He also starred in the cop drama “21 Bridges,” which was his first movie in which he was a producer. Boseman’s last two film roles were for Netflix: He portrayed a Vietnam War soldier in the 2020 drama “Da 5 Bloods” (directed and co-written by Spike Lee) and co-starred with Viola Davis in the drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” which does not have a release date yet.

Born on November 29, 1976, in Anderson, South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University in 2000, with a bachelor of fine arts degree in directing. Two important mentors he had during his college years were Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington (who reportedly paid for Boseman’s college tuition) and actress Phylicia Rashad, who was one of his teachers at Howard. Boseman was also a graduate of Digital Film Academy and aspired to be a director.

Boseman made his film debut in 2008’s “The Express.” Before getting starring roles movies, he had roles in TV shows and in theater, most notably in the 2010 short-lived NBC series “Persons Unknown” and in a recurring role in 2008 and 2009 in the ABC Family series “Lincoln Heights,” which was on the air from 2007 to 2010. But he was best known for playing African king superhero T’Challa in “Black Panther,” which was the second highest-grossing film of 2018 in the world (with $1.3 billion in ticket sales), second to “Avengers: Infinity War,” which had worldwide ticket sales of $2 billion. Of the $1.3 billion that “Black Panther” had in worldwide ticket sales, $700 million were ticket sales in the U.S., making “Black Panther” the highest-grossing film in the U.S. in 2018.

“Black Panther” won numerous awards, including three Oscars: for costume design, production design and original score. Boseman and the rest of “Black Panther” stars won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding by a Cast in a Motion Picture, and the movie won several NAACP Image Awards. A sequel to “Black Panther” had been announced to be released in 2022, but had not begun filming at the time that Boseman passed away. As of now, it’s unclear what will happen to the movie because of Boseman’s death. Also in limbo is the movie “Yasuke,” in which Boseman had the title role, but the movie hadn’t begun filming at the time of his death.

The Boseman family statement says: “A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From ‘Marshall’ to ‘Da 5 Bloods,’ August Wilson’s ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ and several more—all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in ‘Black Panther.’”

Boseman is survived by his wife Taylor Simone Ledward and his parents Leroy and Karen Boseman.

Kenny Rogers dead at 81; Grammy winner was a legend in country and pop music

March 20, 2020

by John Larson

On March 20, 2020, Grammy-winning singer Kenny Rogers died of natural causes at his home in Sandy Springs, Georgia. He was 81. Rogers’ representative Keith Hagan told the Associated Press that Rogers had been under hospice care.

Rogers had a string of hits in the 1970s and 1980s, including “Lady,” “The Gambler,” “Lucille” and “Islands in the Stream,” his duet with Dolly Parton. Although Rogers first became known as a country singer in his solo career, many of his songs crossed over into the pop charts.

Born in Houston on August 21, 1938, Rogers’ first breakthrough in the music business was in the early 1960s, when he joined New Christy Minstrels, a folk group. The band reformed as First Edition and had a big hit with the rock song “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” which hit No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He began his solo career in 1976.

In addition to his music career, Rogers branched out into acting in movies and TV. He was also a co-founder of the restaurant chain Kenny Rogers Roasters. Rogers retired from touring in 2017.

Rogers is survived by his wife, Wanda; his sons Justin, Jordan, Chris and Kenny Jr.; two brothers; a sister; and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, according to Hagan. The family is planning a private service, while a public memorial will take place on a date to be announced.



Kirk Douglas dead at age 103; legendary actor was father of Michael Douglas

February 5, 2020

by John Larson

Kirk Douglas, the legendary actor who was best known for the movies he made in the 1950s and 1960s, died on February 5, 2020. He was 103.

His eldest son, Oscar-winning actor/producer Michael Douglas, issued this statement on his Instagram account: “To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”

Although Kirk Douglas appeared in more than 80 movies and was nominated three times for an Academy Award—for 1949’s “Champion,” 1953’s “The Bad and the Beautiful” and 1956’s “Lust for Life”—he never won an Oscar. However, he did received an honorary Academy Award in 1996. Other prestigious honors he received in his lifetime included a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute.

His other best-known movies included 1960’s “Spartacus,” 1954’s “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” and 1964’s “Seven Days in May.” It was for the movie “Spartacus” that he defied Hollywood’s blacklist of filmmakers who were suspected of being pro-Community, because Douglas openly credited then-blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo for writing the screenplay.

Kirk Douglas’ last movie was the 2003 dramedy “It Runs in the Family,” which co-starred ex-wife Diana Douglas (Michael’s mother); son Michael; and Michael’s son Cameron.

In March 2009, Kirk Douglas appeared in a one-man autobiographical show, “Before I Forget,” which played for four sold-out nights at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City, California. He also authored several books, including memoirs.

He also had two major brushes with death in the 1990s: In 1991, he survived a helicopter crash. And in 1996, he had a stroke.

Kirk Douglas was born into a Russian Jewish family in Amsterdam, New York,  on December 9, 1916. Before changing his name to Kirk Douglas when he became an actor, he went by the names Issur Danielovitch (his birth name) and Isidore Demsky.

Kirk Douglas is survived by second wife, Anne, whom he married in 1954;  his sons Michael, Joel and Peter; and several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Kirk’s youngest son, Eric, died in 2004, at the age of 46, from an overdose of alcohol, tranquilizers and painkillers.

Ric Ocasek dead at 75; The Cars singer was a pioneer of rock’s New Wave movement

September 15, 2019

by John Larson

Ric Ocasek
Ric Ocasek of the Cars at the 33rd Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Public Auditorium in Cleveland on April 14, 2018. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame)

Ric Ocasek, who was best known as the lead singer of The Cars, was found dead in his New York City apartment on September 15, 2019. He was 75. The cause of death has not yet been made public, and a medical examination will be conducted, according to the Associated Press.*

Ocasek was considered one of the pioneers of rock music’s New Wave movement that began in the late 1970s as a more melodic, synthesizer-heavy offshoot of punk music. Hailing from Boston, The Cars became an instant success with their self-titled 1978 debut album. Their hits included “Good Times Roll,” “My Best Friend’s Girl,” “Just What I Needed,” “Shake It Up,” “You Might Think,” “Drive” and “Hello Again.”

The Cars’ 1984 “You Might Think” video also holds the distinction of being the first to win Best Video at the MTV Video Music Awards. Ironically, the band’s biggest hit, “Drive” (which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984) , was not sung by Ocasek but by Cars bass player Benjamin Orr, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2000.

The Cars disbanded in 1988, and Ocasek went on to have a solo career. He also produced albums for bands such as Weezer, Black 47, Bad Religion, Guded by Voices, Nada Surf, Bad Brains, Possum Dixon and LeTigre. The surviving members of the Cars temporarily reunited with Ocasek to record the 2011 album “Move Like This,” and they toured in support of the record. The album and the tour got mixed reviews. The Cars were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. The band had its final reunion and performance with Ocasek at the ceremony.

Ocasek  is survived by six sons, two from each of his three marriages. His third marriage to former supermodel Paulina Porizkova was on the rocks at the time of his death. The ex-couple, who married in 1989, had been separated for about a year before making their separation public in 2018. Ocasek and Prozikova met on the set of the Cars’ “Drive” video, which co-starred Porizkova as a mentally disturbed woman.

*September 16, 2109 UPDATE: The Associated Press has reported that Ocasek died from heart disease, and he died in his sleep. He was also suffering from emphysema.

Peter Fonda dead at 79; ‘Easy Rider’ star was son of Henry Fonda, brother of Jane Fonda

August 16, 2019

by Lauren Jones

Peter Fonda, an actor whose counterculture image was cemented in his 1969 breakout movie “Easy Rider,” died of complications from lung cancer at his Los Angeles home. He was 79. Peter Fonda was the son of legendary Oscar-winning actor Peter Fonda and the sister of Oscar-winning actress Jane Fonda.

According to the Associated Press, Jane Fonda issued this statement: “I am very sad,” Jane Fonda said in a statement. “He was my sweet-hearted baby brother. The talker of the family. I have had beautiful alone time with him these last days. He went out laughing.”

The Fonda family also issued this group statement: “In one of the saddest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our hearts. As we grieve, we ask that you respect our privacy.”

Peter Fonda, who was one of the producers and screenwriters of “Easy Rider,” received an Oscar nomination for co-writing the screenplay. In the movie, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper (who directed the film) play two biker hippies. Peter Fonda also received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, his role as a beekeeper in the 1997 “Ulee’s Giold.” He had numerous roles in film and television. His other notable movies included the 199’s “The Limey”; the 2007 Western remake of  “3:10 to Yuma”; and the 2007 action film “Ghost Rider.”

In the last few years of his life, Peter Fonda (an unabashed liberal) was very critical of President Donald Trump and the Trump administration. In June 2018, Peter Fonda made several controversial anti-Trump remarks on Twitter. The most controversial was when Peter Fonda tweeted, in reaction to the Trump administration’s policy to separate families entering the U.S. illegally: “We should rip Barron Trump from the arms of First Lady Melania Trump and put him in a cage with pedophiles.” Peter Fonda later made a public apology for that tweet.

The controversy happened around the time that Fonda’s movie “Boundaries” (in which he had a cameo) was due to arrive in theaters. Some Trump supporters tried to pursuade Sony Pictures Classics from canceling the movie’s release, but those attempts were unsuccessful. (Click here to read Culture Mix’s interview with the stars of “Boundaries.” The interview took place before the controversy.)

Peter Fonda is survived by his third wife, Margaret DeVogelaere, and his two children: actress daughter Bridget; and son Justin, both from Peter Fonda’s first marriage to Susan Brewer. Peter Fonda’s last two movies are the war drama “The Last Full Measure” (due out in limited release on October 25, 2019) and the drama “The Magic Hours,” whose release date is to be announced.


Toni Morrison dead at 88; Nobel laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner was an influential author, activist

August 6, 2019

by Frances Dixon

Toni Morrison—the Nobel laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner whose works included the novels “Beloved,” “Tar Baby” and “Song of Solomon”—died after a brief illness at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City on August 5, 2019. She was 88. According to the Associated Press, her death was announced by book-publishing company Alfred A. Knopf, and her family issued this statement:

“Toni Morrison passed away peacefully last night surrounded by family and friends,. The consummate writer who treasured the written word, whether her own, her students or others, she read voraciously and was most at home when writing.”

Morrison (whose real name was Chloe Ardelia Wofford) was born in 1931, in Lorain, Ohio, as the second of four children. Her father was a welder, and her mother was a domestic worker.  Morrison graduated from Howard University in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in Englis, and she earned her master’s degree from Cornell University in 1955. She later worked in theater.  Morrison had two children (sons Harold and Slade) with Jamaican architect, Harold Morrison, whom she was married to from 1958 to 1964. Their marriage ended in divorce.

Her first book, “The Bluest Eye,” was published when she was nearly 40 years old. Her works usually addressed issues of racism in the United States. Although she was widely praised by most people familiar with her work, Morrison often received criticism from others because of her outspoken views on race relations.

In 1989, she received a Pulitzer Prize for “Beloved.” (The novel was made into a 1998 movie produced by and starring Oprah Winfrey. Danny Glover and Thandie Newton also co-starred in the movie.)  In 1993, Morrison became the first black woman to be awarded the Nobel prize in literature. Her other numerous accolades included the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she received in 2012. At the time of her death, she was a retired professor at Princeton University, where she worked in the humanities department from 1998 to 2006.

Morrison’s last book was 2015’s “God Help the Child.” She is the subject of the 2019 documentary “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” which received mostly positive reviews.

Dominican Republic tourist deaths: Find out why so many visitors are dying

June 25, 2019

by Kevin Lucas

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Punta Cana n Punta Cana, Dominican Republic (Photo courtesy of Hard Rock International)

The number of tourists suddenly dying in the Dominican Republic has hit alarming numbers. As of this writing, 11 U.S. tourists have died in the Dominican Republic from June 2018 to June 2019. Almost all of the deaths were reported as sudden. The people who died of ailments were those who had failure of internal organs, such as their heart or lungs. A few of the deaths were violent murders, while some passed away from car accidents. What all these tourists have in common is that they stayed at resorts in the Dominican Republic. The State Department has not released official information on U.S. citizens who died of natural causes in the Dominican Republic.

According to Business Insider, there has been a massive increase in complaints of tourists saying that they felt that they had been unintentionally poisoned while in the Bahamas. The website IWasPoisoned.com has received 1,600 complaints so far in 2019, compared to 10 in 2018. More than 700 complaints were traced back to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana.

Several of the people who suspected that they had been poisoned after consuming alcohol from their room’s minibars or by eating food served buffet style at these resorts.

A Hard Rock Hotel and Casino spokesperson told Business Insider: “The Ministry of Public Health in the Dominican Republic has released further information on the American tourists who passed away in 2019, including autopsy findings that reveal these deaths were unrelated and from natural causes and pre-existing conditions. We are deeply saddened by these unfortunate incidents, and extend our sincerest sympathy to the families of those affected. We will continue to respect the privacy of our guests and their families.”

According to CNN, the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Punta Cana has now removed alcoholic beverages from its minibars and started dispensing hand sanitizer for guests and face masks for staff members.

Gloria Vanderbilt dead at 95; heiress was a fashion mogul, author, mother of Anderson Cooper

June 17, 2019

by Daphne Sorenson

Gloria Vanderbilt, the fashion icon who was also known as the mother of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, died of stomach cancer in her New York home. She was 95.

According to the Associated Press, Cooper issued this statement: “Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms. She was a painter, a writer, and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife, and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they’d tell you, she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest, and most modern.”

Vanderbilt was an heiress whose father, Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, died when she was a 1-year-old. Her mother (Gloria Morgan) and aunt (Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, sister Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt) were locked in a custody battle over Gloria, with the legal conflict making headlines worldwide. The custody battle, which was eventually won by Whitney, led to Gloria being called a “poor little rich girl” in the media.

Gloria went on to become a successful fashion designer, who was best known for her self-titled brand of designer jeans, as well as her line of fragrances. Gloria Vanderbilt jeans are credited with launching the designer jeans craze in the late 1970s. (She sold her fashion brand in the 1980s.) She was also an actress, artist and author.

Married four times, her first three marriages (to publicist Pasquale di Cicco, orchestra conductor Leopold Stokowski, filmmaker Sidney Lumet) ended in divorce. Her fourth marriage to author Wyatt Cooper ended in 1978 when he died at the age of 50. She had four sons: Stanislaus and Christopher (from her marriage to Stokowski) and Anderson and Carter (from her marriage to Cooper). In 1988, Carter tragically committed suicide in front of her by jumping from a building. He was 23. Gloria and her son Anderson starred in the 2016 HBO documentary “Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper.” The documentary is available on HBO’s on-demand services. HBO will televise the documentary again on June 20, 2019, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Gloria was surrounded by friends and family when she died, according to her son Anderson, who gave an emotional tribute to her on CNN.

Burt Reynolds dead at 82; Oscar-nominated actor passed away of a heart attack

September 6, 2018

by John Larson


On September 6, 2018, Emmy-winning actor Burt Reynolds died of cardiac arrest at a hospital in Martin County, Florida, according to various reports. He was 82. According to the Associated Press, Reynolds’ death was confirmed by his agent Todd Eisner. Toward the end of his life, Reynolds was dealing with multiple health issues, including heart disease and arthritis, as well as financial problems that he openly discussed in interviews.

Reynolds was best known for his movies in the 1970s, such as”Deliverance,” “Semi-Tough,” “The Longest Yard” and “Smokey and the Bandit.” After a string of movie flops in the late 1980s and 1990s, he had a critically acclaimed big-screen comeback in 1997’s “Boogie Nights,” for which he received  a Golden Globe and his first and only Oscar nomination. Reynolds won an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for his starring role in the early 1990s comedy TV series “Evening Shade.”

He was a major sex symbol in the 1970s and 1980s, and often made headlines for his love life, including an on-again/off-again romance that he had with his “Smokey and the Bandit” co-star Sally Field. He was married twice: to actress Judy Carne (from 1963 to 1965) and to actress Loni Anderson (from 1988 to 1993). Reynolds and Anderson adopted a son named Quinton during their marriage.

Reynolds’ last movies were 2018’s “Shadowfighter” and “Defining Moments,” a film that will be released posthumously. He had been cast in the 2019 Quentin Tarantino film “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt, but Reynolds died before he could film any scenes.


Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix