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Stars to Whom We Said Goodbye in 2004

This article is by Emily Feimster for Netscape. I think the passing of the celebrities listed mark "signposts" for generational change. For example, I grew up with Bob Keeshan, who was known as Captain Kangeroo in the morning. Now, I can't think of a modern equivalent. Kids have such a wide range of choices on TV, and certainly more than was presented to me in the 60s. Plus, as a kid, shows like his help you form an understanding of the culture.

Then, there was Isabel Stanford of the Jeffersons. I think I saw every one of those shows. But they also gave the first American pop-culture real view of a modern, successful black couple.

Well, here's Emily's post, below.

With the end of 2004 in sight, we must bid farewell to some of our most beloved celebrities who passed on during the year. Though some deaths came too soon, many of these legendary entertainers were lucky enough to enjoy a long, full life.

The death of "Superman" actor, Christopher Reeve, 52, came as quite a shock to fans who had watched his progress since being paralyzed in an equestrian accident in 1995. The tireless advocate for spinal cord research went into cardiac arrest at his home after developing a serious systemic infection during treatment for a pressure wound. The computer-animated movie, "Yankee Irving," being made by Reeve at the time of his death, will be completed, producer Morris Berger has vowed, and released in 2006.

Movie star, governor, president - there wasn't much that Ronald Reagan did not do in his lifetime. The 93-year-old had been suffering from Alzheimer's disease for the last 10 years which caused him to live his post-presidency in quiet isolation. In June, he died of pneumonia, surrounded by his children and wife Nancy. Thousands lined the streets to pay tribute to "The Great Communicator" as his body was transported for a memorial service in Washington D.C.

One of the greatest actors of all time, Marlon Brando, 80, died in July from pulmonary fibrosis, a condition that involves scarring of the lungs. Over the course of his long career, including legendary performances in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "The Godfather," the intensely private actor was just as famous for his off-screen antics involving his eccentric behavior and sometimes outlandish salary demands.

However, it was the 82-year-old comedian Rodney Dangerfield who didn't get the respect he deserved until he died of heart disease in October.

Hollywood was dealt the loss of another legendary actor, Janet Leigh, 77, whose infamous shower slaying in Hitchcock's film "Psycho," sealed her place in movie history. She died of vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels. The one-time wife of Tony Curtis is survived by her actress daughters Kelly and Jamie Lee Curtis.

American music lost an icon in June with the passing of Ray Charles, who immortalized such songs as "Hit the Road Jack" and "Georgia on My Mind." His life continues on with the recent biopic, "Ray," in which actor Jamie Foxx delivers a performance that's expected to receive an Oscar nomination.

Another great music man, Ramones guitarist Johnny Ramone, died of prostate cancer at the age of 55.

We said goodbye to legendary women including Isabel Sanford, 86, who most notably moved into a deluxe apartment in the sky as Louise Jefferson on the TV series, "The Jeffersons," "King Kong's" Fay Wray who died in August at age 96, and chef Julia Child, who became an early star on PBS and popularized French cooking in America. She died of kidney failure in July at the age of 91.

This year didn't come without its share of mystery deaths as well. Rapper ODB, whose death in a Manhattan recording studio Nov. 13 - at age 35 -- sent shock waves through the hip-hop community, died accidentally of the combined effects of cocaine and a prescription painkiller, ruled the medical examiner. The Super Freaky Rick James, 56, who had dealt with drug addictions in the past, died of a heart attack in August. The actor best known as Murphy Brown's house painter, Robert Pastorelli, died at age 49 of drug-related causes in the same house of his girlfriend's mysterious shooting death five years prior. Spalding Gray's death was ruled a suicide by drowning. The 62-year-old actor/writer had disappeared on January 10, and likely died the same day, though his body wasn't found for nearly two months.

Fans of "The First Wives Club" were shocked when finding out that its author, Olivia Goldsmith, 54, had died of a heart attack during cosmetic surgery. Another writer, Arthur Hailey, best known for "Airport," died of a stroke at age 84 in November.

In 2004 we saw the loss of Tony Randall, 84, who became a first-time father when he was 77. The actor was best known as Felix on the TV series "The Odd Couple."

The 76-year-old Alan King, who had been a staple of the comedy scene since the 50s, died in May of lung cancer. He was the host of the legendary New York Friars Club's celebrity roasts.

Jack Paar, who is often credited with inventing the present-day late-night talk show when he took over as host of "The Tonight Show" in 1957 - died at age 85 in January. Critics often maintained that no talk-show host ever commanded the intelligence, sophistication and edge that Paar brought to an interview. He quit the show in 1962 and was succeeded by Johnny Carson.

Legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith, whose long career included some of the most famous themes of the last 50 years, died in his sleep at age 75 after a long battle with cancer. He had been nominated for 17 Academy Awards, winning his sole Oscar for "The Omen." Also, musician Jan Berry, 62, of "Jan & Dean" died in March of complications from a seizure.

In October, former ABC newsman Pierre Salinger, 79, died of a heart attack in France. He had also been press secretary to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and briefly served as a U.S. senator from California.

America lost a great soap star, Anna Lee, at the age of 90. She starred as Lila Quartermaine on "General Hospital" and "Port Charles." Earlier in her career, she had been paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident and acted in a wheelchair for more than two decades. She died of pneumonia in May - just a week before she was to have received a daytime Emmy award for "lifetime achievement."

We also said farewell to: Bob Keeshan, 76, (A.K.A Captain Kangaroo); "The Real World" co-creator Mary-Ellis Bunim, 57; "Sounder's" Paul Winfield, 62; "Diary of a Mad Housewife's" Carrie Snodgress, 57; MTV's first VJ, J. J. Jackson, 62; "Masterpiece Theatre's" Alistair Cooke, 95; '40's and '50's dancer/actress Ann Miller, 81; "Dallas" actor Howard Keel, 85; filmmaker Russ Meyer, 82; cosmetic queen Estee Lauder, 96; legendary character actor Sir Peter Ustinov, 82; Tony winner John Randolph, 88; "The Jackie Gleason Show" choreographer June Taylor, 86; "Hawaii Five-O" actor, Zulu, 66; singer/actor Carl Anderson, 58; "Walker, Texas Ranger's" Noble Willingham, 73; filmmaker Brian Gibson, 59.

And Mercedes McCambridge, the actress known for voicing the demon in "The Exorcist" and winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for "All the King's Men," died in March at age 85.

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