Gale Sayers, 77, the dazzling and elusive running back who entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame despite the briefest of careers and whose fame extended far beyond the field for decades thanks to a friendship with a dying Chicago Bears teammate, died Wednesday, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Relatives of Sayers had said he was diagnosed with dementia. In March 2017, his wife, Ardythe, said she partly blamed his football career.
Nicknamed “The Kansas Comet” and considered among the best open-field runners the game has ever seen, Sayers was a blur to NFL defenses, ghosting would-be tacklers or zooming by them like few running backs or kick returners before or since. Yet it was his rock-steady friendship with Brian Piccolo, depicted in the film “Brian’s Song,” that marked him as more than a sports star.
Harold Evans, 92, a British-born journalist who campaigned on behalf of thalidomide victims, battled press censorship and helped expose corruption and cronyism as the top editor of the Sunday Times of London, then remade himself as a book, magazine and newspaper editor in the United States, died Wednesday at his home in Manhattan. The cause was congestive heart failure, said his wife, journalist Tina Brown.
Raised in the industrial north of England, he attended neither Cambridge nor Oxford and lacked the upper-class pedigree of many of his peers in management. He built a hard-charging reputation, overseeing high-profile investigative work and journalistic campaigns on issues varying from the price of groceries to inadequate cervical cancer tests. At his career pinnacle in England, he edited the venerable Sunday Times from 1967 to 1981.
Michael Lonsdale, 89, a French-British actor and giant of the silver screen and theater in France, died Monday, at his home in Paris. From his role as villain in the 1979 James Bond film “Moonraker” to that of a monk in Algeria in “Of Gods and Men,” Lonsdale worked, often in second roles, with top directors from Orson Wells to Steven Spielberg.
Jackie Stallone, 98, matriarch of a celebrity family who became something of a celebrity in her own right as an astrologer, died Monday at home in Los Angeles. She was best known as the mother of Sylvester Stallone, who starred in the “Rocky” and “Rambo” movies, and of Frank Stallone, a musician, singer-songwriter and composer.
She had an entrepreneurial spirit, trying her hand at many careers — circus aerialist, chorus girl, wrestling promoter, gym owner — before gaining notice as an astrologer. She also is believed to have coined the term “rumpology,” which she defined on her website as “the art of reading the lines, crevices, dimples and folds of the buttocks” to understand a person’s character and predict one’s future.
Tommy DeVito, 92, an original member of the Four Seasons, the close-harmony quartet that rocketed to fame in the early 1960s with “Sherry” and other hits and earned new generations of fans when the Broadway musical “Jersey Boys” told a semi-factual version of the group’s story, died on Monday in Henderson, Nevada. Frankie Valli and Bob Gaudio, the two surviving original members of the group, announced his death.
Winston Groom, 77, writer who found a measure of belated celebrity when his 1986 novel “Forrest Gump” was made into the 1994 Oscar-winning film starring Tom Hanks, died Sept. 17 at home in Fairhope, Alabama.
Groom had published three well-regarded novels and been a nonfiction finalist for a Pulitzer Prize when he wrote the book that would define him as a writer and turn the Gumpian phrase “life is like a box of chocolates” into a modern-day proverb. He wrote 16 books, fiction and nonfiction. “Conversations with the Enemy,” about an American prisoner of war in Vietnam accused of collaboration, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Henry van Ameringen, 89, a low-key philanthropist who was an early and major donor to LGBTQ and AIDS causes, died on Sept. 9 at his home in Manhattan.
The van Ameringen family had a long history of giving, especially in the arts and mental health, and as a board member of the family foundation van Ameringen furthered that, but he also established his own foundations that departed from the family’s core interests, funding LGBTQ and AIDS-related organizations, both large and small, at a time before they enjoyed more mainstream support.
Kathleen Bruyere, 76, trailblazing Navy officer who was among Time magazine’s 12 Women of the Year — as Kathleen Byerly — in 1976 and helped pave the way for women to serve at sea, died Sept. 3 at a San Diego hospital. She had cancer.