The Entertainers and Inspirations We Lost in July
When the people who inspire and entertain us pass away, it's like we've lost a member of our own family. These remarkable people will live on in our hearts and minds as we introduce the new generations to the legacies they left behind.
July 15, 2017 - Martin Landau
Martin Landau was born into a Jewish family in 1928. He attended both James Madison High School and the Pratt Institute and afterwards, found work at the New York Daily News as an editorial cartoonist for five years. At age 22, he quit the newspaper to focus on theater acting.
Martin auditioned for the Actors Studio in 1955 and, out of 500 applicants, only he and Steve McQueen were chosen. After studying for two years, he made his Broadway debut in Middle of the Night. His first major film appearance came in 1959 in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest. He continued on his path of success throughout the 60s with Cleopatra, The Greatest Story Ever Told, and Nevada Smith. His breakout role, however, came in 1966 as Rollin Hand in the smash-hit TV series Mission: Impossible. He originally didn't want to take the role because he was afraid the show would hurt his film career. He eventually signed on and was contracted on a year-to-year basis rather than the standard five-year contract.
After Mission: Impossible's 7 year-run ended, Landau joined another TV series entitled Space 1999. It was unfortunately cancelled after two seasons. After the failure of Space 1999, Landau joined the film The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island. It seemed he had hit his peak with Mission: Impossible and his run was finished. That is, until 1988 when he won an Oscar for Tucker: The Man and His Dream.
Martin's second Oscar followed in 1994 with Ed Wood in which he played Bela Lugosi. Martin thoroughly studied Lugosi's accent and mannerisms in order to perfect him. Not only did Landau win an Oscar for the role, but he also won a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Saturn Award.
From then on, Landau took supporting roles and voicework. He slowed down with projects and started teaching acting. Sadly, Martin Landau passed away at the age of 89 from multiple organ failure caused by an intra-abdominal hemorrhage.
July 18, 1817 - Jane Austen
Jane Austen was born in December of 1775, a month later than expected. Jane's father George was a rector (or pastor) of Anglican parishes in Steventon, Hampshire, England. Jane had a total of six brothers and one sister. Jane was primarily educated at home by her father and brothers and through her own reading but she also matriculated at St John's College, Oxford and was also sent to Abbey School in Reading, Berkshire for more education.
Throughout her young years, she began writing novels, It took her several years to finish but she finally completed Sense and Sensibility, Pride & Prejudice, and Northanger Abbey. In 1803, Jane sold the copyright of Northanger Abbey to a London publisher for £10. In today's currency and after taking inflation into count, that would be £968.50.
Jane tried several times to get her other works published but it was sadly unsuccessful. She thought about quitting writing but eventually regained interest and refused to back down. In 1810, Sense and Sensibility was finally published. In 1812, Pride & Prejudice was published. She was finally gaining recognition and her writing only increased. Even though her personal life was more than hectic, she still made time for her profession. Writing gave her an escape from her own problems.
In the spring of 1816, Jane began to feel ill. Her work slowed and eventually in summer of 1818, Jane passed away of tuberculosis.
July 20, 1973 - Bruce Lee
Bruce Lee was born November 27, 1940 to Lee Hoi-chuen (an East Asia native) and Grace Ho (half Chinese, half Caucasian). Bruce was the fourth of five children. Lee Hoi-chuen, Bruce's father, was one of the leading Cantonese film and opera actors of the time. He had been touring in the US but when Bruce was born, he moved his family back to Hong Kong. The Japanese invasion took place and the Lee family lived under Japanese occupation for 3 years and 8 months. After the war ended, the rebuilding years began and Hoi-chuen resumed his acting career, becoming more popular than before.
Because of his father's actor status and his mother's familial wealth, Bruce grew up in a privileged environment. Despite his family's wealth, the neighborhood where the Lees lived was overcrowded and filled with rival gangs mostly due to the influx of refugees trying to escape the Communist part of China. Bruce was involved in several street fights which encouraged his father to have Bruce trained in martial arts. Bruce was taught the fundamentals by his father, but continued his training under Yip Man, who was a highly respected teacher. Yip taught him the Wing Chun style.
Bruce was bounced around from school to school, but he could not stop getting into fights. This was mainly because his peers found out his heritage. Some students refused to spar with him because his mother was half-Caucasian and considered Bruce to be not 100% Chinese.
Bruce's family began to consider sending Bruce to the United States after he got into a fight with a man with an organized crime background. Both Lee's parents and the police feared there was a contract out on Bruce's life. Bruce was sent to the United States in 1959 to live with his older sister Agnes. Bruce lived in San Francisco for a while but moved to Seattle to continue his high school education. He also worked for Ruby Chow as a live-in waiter at her restaurant. Bruce finished his high school education and received his diploma from Edison Technical School.
In March 1961, Bruce enrolled at the University of Washington, majoring in drama. It was there that he met his future wife Linda Emery. They married in 1964 and had two children: Brandon Lee in 1965 and Shannon Lee in 1969.
Bruce had been teaching martial arts since he arrived in the US in 1959 and even taught and became friends with Judo practitioner Jesse Glover. Bruce opened his first martial arts school in Seattle named the Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu Institute. Bruce dropped out of college in 1964 and moved to Oakland and co-founded the second Jun Fan martial arts studio with James Yimm Lee (no relation). James introduced Bruce to Ed Parker, an American martial artist and organizer of the Long Beach International Karate Championships which was where Bruce would be discovered by Hollywood.
It was at the Championships where Bruce performed the "One Inch Punch". He would take a pose and hold his right fist literally one inch from his opponent's chest. Bruce was able to deliver the punch so hard and fast that it would send his opponent tumbling backwards. Fighter Bob Baker said, "When he punched me....I had to stay home from work because the pain in my chest was unbearable."
In 1964, the Chinese community issued an ultimatum which was an attempt to force Bruce to stop teaching martial arts and shut down his school. Bruce refused and was challenged in combat by Wong Jack Man. The arrangement was that if Lee lost, he'd have to shut down the school but if he won, he would be able to teach anyone he wished. Lee won the match.
During one of the Long Beach matches, Lee was invited by William Dozier for an audition. The show he initially auditioned for never aired but Lee went on to win the role of Kato in the TV show The Green Hornet. The show crossed over with Adam West's Batman for three episodes. After the show ended, Bruce continued to get work in Hollywood. He even choreographed fights on the film The Wrecking Crew, which starred Dean Martin and featured Chuck Norris in his first film role.
Bruce eventually returned to Hong Kong after finding no further success in America. To his surprise, The Green Hornet was a massive success in China and was even dubbed The Kato Show. Because of his recognition, he negotiated a contract with Golden Harvest studios for two films. The Big Boss was a massive success and Fist of Fury broke box-office records. Bruce opened his own production company called Concord Productions Inc and was given full control over his next film Way of the Dragon.
On May 10, 1973, Bruce collapsed and was sent to the hospital. He was suffering from seizures and headaches and was eventually diagnosed with cerebral edema. They were successfully able to reduce the swelling, however, two months later on July 20, the headaches returned. Colleague Betty Ting Pei gave him Equagesic which contained aspirin and the tranquilizer meprobamate. Bruce was allergic to meprobamate. He lied down for a nap as the tranquilizer took over. Later on, Bruce was unresponsive and unable to be woken. He was rushed to the hospital but was pronounced DOA (dead on arrival). He was 32 years old.
July 20, 2017 - Chester Bennington
Chester Bennington was born March 20, 1976 in Phoenix, Arizona to a nurse mom and a father who was a police detective who specialized in child sex-abuse cases. Chester's parents divorced when he was 11, his father gaining custody. After the divorce, Chester began abusing drugs such as cocaine, meth, and LSD. This may have also been a result of the sexual abuse he was put through from the age of 7 through the age of 13 by an older male friend. Chester eventually told his dad but didn't press the matter after they found out the friend had also been abused. The abuse and the divorce caused Chester so much mental trauma that he had thoughts of murder and running away. Instead of giving in to his demons, he drew pictures and wrote poetry and songs in order to comfort himself.
Chester and his friend Sean Dowdell formed a band and released a three track cassette in 1993. The two eventually formed a new band called Grey Daze. The band recorded three albums but Chester left in 1998, struggling to find a new band. he was ready to quit when Jeff Blue, vice president of A&R at Zomba Music in LA offered him an audition. Chester and vocalist Mike Shinoda performed well together, forming the new band Linkin Park. Jeff Blue helped them gain a record deal at Warner Bros. Records. Chester stayed committed to Linkin Park throughout his career but also helped out bands such as Dead by Sunrise and Stone Temple Pilots.
In his personal life, Chester faced his own blessings and troubles. During his relationship with Elka Brand, he had a son. They separated in 1995. Chester married Samantha Marie Olit in 1996 and had a child together. Their marriage deteriorated and they divorced in 2005. In 2006, Chester married again, this time to Playboy model Talinda Ann Bentley and had three children with her. Chester and Talinda were harassed by a cyberstalker for a year. He was eventually caught and imprisoned for two years.
On July 20, 2017, what would have been Chris Cornell's 53rd birthday, Chester committed suicide by hanging, the same method Cornell used. The two had been close friends and, it is possible that grief took over. There was no letter or explanation left behind, so we may never know why Chester took his own life.
July 22, 1934 - John Dillinger
Yes, this is an odd entry to add to an entertainers/inspirations article, but to many people in the Great Depression era, Dillinger was an inspiration. Many people blamed the banks for the financial turmoil America found themselves in and they looked at Dillinger as a hero for robbing said banks.
As a teenager, John was constantly in trouble for petty theft and fighting. He dropped out of school to work in an Indianapolis machine shop. His father moved his family to Mooresville, Indiana out of fear the city of Indianapolis was corrupting his son. Despite the new rural life, John's behavior was unchanged. In 1922, he was arrested for auto theft and his relationship with his father deteriorated.
John enlisted in the US Navy where he was a Fireman 3rd Class assigned aboard the battleship USS Utah. When the ship docked in Boston, John deserted and was eventually dishonorably discharged. He returned to Mooresville in an attempt to settle down but was unable to do so.
Unable to find a job, John planned a robbery with friend Ed Singleton. They robbed a local grocery store, taking $50. A minister spotted them and reported them to the police. Both men were arrested the next day. John confessed to the crime and was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison. He became bitter against society and struck a friendship with many notorious criminals while in prison. John was taught how to be a successful criminal and used what he learned throughout his life. Released at the height of The Great Depression, John immediately returned to crime.
On June 21, 1933, John robbed his first bank, New Carlisle National Bank in Ohio, taking $10,000. He robbed a second bank in Bluffton, Ohio. He was tracked down by the police and put in jail once again. John devised a plan for himself and six others to escape. His friends on the outside smuggled guns through the prison laundry and then into the cells of John's new friends. The seven men escaped four days after their initial capture. Throughout his criminal career, John pulled off twelve bank robberies, never once taking a citizen's money, only the banks' money.
John struck up a relationship with Evelyn "Billie" Frechette. She loved and aided him in any way possible.
Throughout his life, John was constantly in and out of prison, escaping each time. One time, he even carved a wooden gun and used it to escape, claiming it was real. It was only after the armory was opened and he obtained a real gun that he revealed the original "gun" was a fake.
John tried plastic surgery to throw off the cops, removing a few warts and his dimples. He even had his fingerprints obliterated, however, it was to no avail. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Special Agent Melvin Purvis always stayed hot on his heels.
While Billie was incarcerated for aiding Dillinger, John spent time with Polly Hamilton and Ana Sage, both prostitutes. He figured they were safe company to keep because they didn't like the cops any more than he did, however, Ana was being threatened with deportation. In order to avoid this, she struck a deal with the FBI. In exchange for her freedom to remain in the United States, she would give up John. The FBI agreed. She informed the FBI that she, John, and Polly would be going to the Biograph Theater the next night. Ana wore a red dress, which is how the FBI would be able to spot her. She infamously became known as "The Woman in the Red Dress". After the movie let out, the police ambushed John and shot him dead that night. Ana was deported regardless of her deal, probably because the FBI wanted the public to think they and only they had found and killed Dillinger. That didn't stop the truth from coming out though.
Dillinger's corpse was put on display, an estimated 15,000 people viewing it in just a day and a half's time. John's gravestone had to be replaced multiple times due to vandalism and the fact that people would chip off pieces of the stone just to say they had a piece of John Dillinger's gravestone.
Other Notable Deaths
- July 1, 1860 - Charles Goodyear
- July 1, 1896 - Harriet Beecher Stowe
- July 1, 1991 - Michael Landon
- July 1, 1997 - Robert Mitchum
- July 1, 2000 - Walter Mathau
- July 1, 2004 - Marlon Brando
- July 2, 1961 - Ernest Hemingway
- July 2, 1993 - Fred Gwynne
- July 2, 1997 - Jimmy Stewart
- July 3, 1971 - Jim Morrison
- July 3, 1989 - Jim Backus
- July 3, 2012 - Andy Griffith
- July 3, 2016 - Noel Neill
- July 4, 1826 - President John Adams
- July 4, 1826 - President Thomas Jefferson
- July 4, 1831 - President James Monroe
- July 4, 1840 - Karl Ferdinand von Graefe
- July 4, 1934 - Marie Curie
- July 4, 1995 - Bob Ross
- July 4, 1995 - Eva Gabor
- July 4, 2003 - Barry White
- July 4, 2008 - Evelyn Keyes
- July 6, 1971 - Louis Armstrong
- July 6, 1998 - Roy Rogers
- July 6, 2017 - Joan B. Lee
- July 7, 1930 - Arthur Conan Doyle
- July 7, 1967 - Vivien Leigh
- July 7, 2006 - Syd Barrett
- July 8, 2017 - Nelsan Ellis
- July 9, 1850 - President Zachary Taylor
- July 9, 2002 - Rod Steiger
- July 9, 2014 - Eileen Ford
- July 10, 2017 - Betty Dukes
- July 11, 1973 - Robert Ryan
- July 11, 1989 - Laurence Olivier
- July 12, 1804 - President Alexander Hamilton
- July 12, 1979 - Minnie Ripperton
- July 14, 1881 - Billy the Kid
- July 15, 1521 - Ponce de Leon
- July 15, 1997 - Gianni Versace
- July 16, 1999 - JFK Jr
- July 16, 2017 - George A. Romero
- July 17, 1978 - Thayer David
- July 17, 2009 - Walter Cronkite
- July 18, 1954 - George "Machine Gun" Kelly
- July 18, 1969 - Barbara Pepper
- July 18, 1973 - Jack Hawkins
- July 19, 1974 - Joe Flynn
- July 19, 2014 - James Garner
- July 21, 1967 - Basil Rathbone
- July 21, 2017 - John Heard
- July 22, 1979 - Hope Summers
- July 22, 2008 - Estelle Getty
- July 23, 1885 - Ulysses S Grant
- July 23, 1948 - D.W. Griffith
- July 23, 1961 - Esther Dale
- July 23, 1966 - Edward Montgomery Clift
- July 23, 2011 - Amy Winehouse
- July 23, 2012 - Sally Ride
- July 24, 1862 - President Martin Van Buren
- July 24, 1979 - Archie Duncan
- July 24, 1980 - Peter Sellers
- July 24, 2016 - Marni Nixon
- July 26, 1984 - Ed Gein
- July 26, 2015 - Bobbi Kristina Brown
- July 26, 2017 - Patti Deutsch
- July 27, 1998 - Shirley Mason
- July 27, 2003 - Bob Hope
- July 28, 1750 - Johann Sebastian Bach
- July 28, 2013 - Eileen Brennan
- July 29, 1890 - Vincent Van Gogh
- July 29, 1974 - Mama Cass Elliot
- July 29, 1983 - David Niven
- July 30, 1996 - Claudette Colbert
- July 30, 2007 - Ingmar Bergman
- July 30, 2017 - Sam Shepard
- July 31, 1875 - President Andrew Johnson
Such extraordinary people enter and leave our lives in a moment's notice. It's difficult to deal with the passings but the important thing is that their memory lives on in our hearts. They may entertain, they may inspire, but one way or another, they all leave a mark on our minds and hearts that remains through our own lifetimes.
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© 2017 Alec Zander