Sy Sperling, 78, New York businessman who helped bring the hair-loss industry into the mainstream with ubiquitous, self-effacing ads, died Wednesday at a hospital in Boca Raton, Florida. He achieved a kind of cult fame in the 1980s via a late-night commercial for his business, then called the Hair Club for Men. The son of a plumber from the south Bronx, he had no training as an actor, but a winning kicker, holding up an old photo of his own bald pate. “I’m not only the Hair Club president, but I’m also a client.”
Virginia Wright, 91, the art collector and philanthropist who radically changed Seattle’s cultural landscape, died of Hodgkin lymphoma on Tuesday. She lived for art — and dedicated herself to sharing it with others. The Seattle icon donated several well-known public sculptures to Seattle (including Barnett Newman’s “Broken Obelisk” in University of Washington’s Red Square and Jonathan Borofsky’s “Hammering Man” looming above Seattle Art Museum), while amassing the region’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art and donating much of it to Seattle Art Museum. Along with her late husband, Bagley Wright, they became known as “the Medicis of Seattle.”
In 2014, Mrs. Wright gifted 84 of the couple’s works to the museum (by Helen Frankenthaler, Roy Lichtenstein, Frank Stella and others), adding to the 144 they had already donated. “When the bulk of it came to SAM in 2014, forming the backbone of its modern and contemporary collection, SAM was transformed from a great institution into a truly remarkable one,” said Kimerly Rorschach, the museum’s director and CEO from 2012 to 2019.
Ja’Net DuBois, who played the vivacious neighbor Willona Woods on “Good Times” and composed and sang the theme song for “The Jeffersons,” has died. Her song “Movin’ on Up” provided a joyous intro to “The Jeffersons” during the show’s 10-season run. BernNadette Stanis, who played Thelma Evans Anderson on “Good Times” and remained close to DuBois, said she learned of her death Tuesday from the actress’ daughter. Police in Glendale, California, said they received a report about DuBois’ death late Monday. She appeared to have died of natural causes. No details, including her age, were available.
Charles Portis, 86, a journalist turned novelist — favorite among critics and writers for such shaggy dog stories as “Norwood” and “Gringos” — and a bounty for Hollywood whose droll, bloody Western “True Grit” was a bestseller twice adapted into Oscar nominated films, died Monday, in Little Rock, Arkansas.Portis had been suffering from Alzheimer’s.
Owen F. Bieber, 90, who as president of the United Auto Workers from 1983 to 1995 steered a proud former flagship of unionism through an era of declining bargaining power, falling membership and contracts limited by harsh economic realities, died Monday.
Lawrence “Larry” Tesler, 74, the Silicon Valley pioneer who created the now-ubiquitous computer concepts such as “cut,” “copy” and “paste,” has died Feb 16 at his home in Portola Valley, California.
“The inventor of cut/copy & paste, find & replace, and more was former Xerox researcher Larry Tesler. Your workday is easier thanks to his revolutionary ideas,” Xerox said in a tweet Wednesday. The gifted mathematician went on to work at a number of Silicon Valley’s most important companies, including Apple and Amazon, before turning independent consultant.
Kellye Nakahara, 73, the actress best known for her recurring role as Nurse Kellye Yamato on the hit television series “M*A*S*H,” died Feb.16 at home in Pasadena, California. The cause was cancer.
Her character in “M*A*S*H” carried a torch for Hawkeye, played by Alan Alda. “She was adorable and brilliant in the part,” Alda said. “She began as a background performer and worked her way up.” Nakahara appeared in 167 episodes.
Zoe Caldwell, 86, a four-time Tony Award winner who brought humanity to larger-than-life characters, whether it be the dotty schoolteacher Miss Jean Brodie, aging opera star Maria Callas or the betrayed, murderous Medea, died Feb. 16 at home in Pound Ridge, New York, of complications from Parkinson’s disease.
The Australian-born actress played in regional theaters around the English-speaking world before becoming the toast of Broadway in 1968, and winning her second Tony, for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Among her other characters were Cleopatra, Saint Joan, Mother Courage and authors Colette and Lillian Hellman.
Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, 86, longtime associate of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa who became a leading suspect in the labor leader’s disappearance and later was portrayed in the Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman,” died Feb. 13 in Boca Raton, Florida.
He was a constant companion to Hoffa in the decades when the labor leader developed the Teamsters into one of the largest and most powerful unions in the nation, from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. After Hoffa’s disappearance in 1975, Mr. O’Brien became a leading suspect when the federal government publicly accused him of picking up Hoffa and driving him to his death. He always denied having anything to do with Hoffa’s disappearance. The suspicions persisted, and made it into “The Irishman,” in which Mr. O’Brien was portrayed by Jesse Plemons.
Frank Anderson, 78, American spymaster who oversaw the CIA’s covert mission to funnel weapons and other support to Afghan insurgents fighting their Soviet occupiers in the 1980s, died Jan. 27 in Sarasota, Florida. During his nearly 27 years with the CIA, he served as Beirut station chief; was promoted to chief of the Near East and South Asia division of the agency’s Directorate of Operations, its covert branch; and directed the agency’s technical services division, a role similar to that of James Bond’s “Q.”