Vangelis Papathanassiou, 79, the self-taught, Oscar-winning Greek composer who piloted a dashboard of synthesizers through the New Age and into the cinema, most notably with catchy, cosmic scores for “Chariots of Fire” and “Blade Runner,” died Tuesday at a hospital in Paris. The cause of death was not available.
“Chariots of Fire” (1981) was Vangelis’ first studio feature, and it won him an Academy Award — besting John Williams’ traditionally orchestral “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” Vangelis’ score — fronted by a buzzy anthem soaring over an insistently pulsing rhythm — defied the film’s period trappings with its space-age palette and poplike tunes. The score brought Vangelis international fame, and the soundtrack became the fastest-selling LP at the time. He cemented his cinematic legacy the next year with “Blade Runner,” drafting a grand, glacially advancing opus for Ridley Scott’s neo-noir sci-fi film that went on to become a classic and inspire a 2017 sequel.
John Aylward, 75, the veteran actor, perhaps best known as “ER” doctor Donald Anspaugh but well-loved in the Seattle theater scene, died Monday in his Capitol Hill home. According to Deadline, his death was preceded by a period of declining health.
Aylward appeared in 74 episodes of “ER” over the course of 12 years. TV fans also know the Seattle native for his role as DNC chairman Barry Goodwin on the NBC White House drama “The West Wing.” Aylward also appeared on episodes of “3rd Rock From The Sun,” “Ally McBeal,” “The Practice” and “Yellowstone.”
Urvashi Vaid, 63, a lawyer, author and longtime force for gay rights who championed a sweeping vision of social justice during the AIDS crisis and launched a super PAC to promote LGBTQ women in politics, died May 14 at a hospital in Manhattan. The cause was cancer.
Long before the concept of intersectionality was widely discussed, Vaid connected issues of race, class, gender and sexuality, drawing on her own experience as a lesbian immigrant from India who was often the only woman of color in the room — sometimes the only woman. From 1989 to 1992, Vaid was the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, leading the country’s oldest national LGBTQ advocacy organization during a tumultuous period when the AIDS epidemic was ravaging the community, same-sex marriage was not yet legal and sodomy laws were targeting gay intimacy. Much of her time was devoted to AIDS, a disease that was widely stigmatized and initially treated as a “gay plague” that was unworthy of serious study.
Rosmarie Trapp, 93, a member of the singing family made famous by the stage musical and film “The Sound of Music” and the last surviving daughter of Baron Georg Johannes von Trapp, the family patriarch, died May 13 at a nursing home in Morrisville, Vermont.
Trapp (who dropped the “von” years ago) was the daughter of Georg and Maria Augusta (Kutschera) von Trapp, the would-be nun who became a governess with the family and ultimately married the baron. Rosmarie is not depicted in “The Sound of Music,” which focused on the seven children Georg von Trapp had with his first wife, although she was in fact almost 10 when the family fled Austria in 1938 after that country came under Nazi rule. Among the many liberties “The Sound of Music” took with the family’s story was the timeline — Georg and Maria actually married in 1927, not a decade later.
Teresa Berganza, 89, a Spanish mezzo-soprano admired for her lithe, radiant, immaculately crafted performances in the operas of Mozart and Rossini, died May 13 at her home in the ancient city of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, now part of greater Madrid. Berganza, best known in the United States through her many recordings, appeared in several films including the 1979 box-office hit adaptation of Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” in which she sang the role of Zerlina. Revered in Britain and throughout Europe, Berganza’s personal appearances in the U.S. were few, beginning at the Dallas Opera in 1958, continuing in Chicago, San Francisco and eventually a single season at the Metropolitan Opera in 1967-68.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, 73, the United Arab Emirates’ long-ailing ruler and president, died May 13. He oversaw much of the country’s blistering economic growth and his name was immortalized on the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, after bailing out debt-crippled Dubai during its financial crisis over a decade ago. However, after suffering a stroke and undergoing emergency surgery in 2014, a decade after becoming president, he ceased having any involvement in the day-to-day affairs of ruling the country. The last several years of his life saw his half brother Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed rise to become the de facto ruler.
Robert C. McFarlane, 84, a former decorated Marine officer who rose in civilian life to be President Ronald Reagan’s national security adviser and then fell from grace in the Iran-contra scandal, died May 12 in Lansing, Michigan, where he was visiting family. McFarlane, who lived in Washington, died from complications of a previous lung illness.
McFarlane pleaded guilty in 1988 to charges of withholding information from Congress in its investigation of the affair, in which the Reagan administration sold arms covertly to Iran beginning in 1985 in exchange for the freedom of Western hostages in Lebanon. Profits from the arms sales were then secretly funneled to the contra rebels in Nicaragua, who were trying to overthrow the country’s Marxist regime, known as the Sandinistas. Both parts of the scheme were illegal; Congress had imposed an arms embargo against Iran and prohibited U.S. aid to the contras.
Marilyn Fogel, 69, a scientist dubbed the “isotope queen” for illuminating fundamental scientific questions through analysis of atomic isotope ratios, died May 11 at her home in Mariposa, California. The cause was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, said her husband, Chris Swarth.
Fogel spent much of her career at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C., where she helped develop the relatively new field of biogeochemistry and showed its power in making discoveries about nature, ecology, the long-term history of living things and the possibilities of life on other worlds.
Fred Ward, 79, veteran actor who brought a gruff tenderness to tough-guy roles in such films as “The Right Stuff,” “The Player” and “Tremors,” died May 8. No cause or place of death was disclosed per his family’s wishes. Ward earned a Golden Globe and shared the Venice Film Festival ensemble prize for his performance in Robert Altman’s “Short Cuts,” and played the title character in “Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.” He also reached new heights playing Mercury 7 astronaut Virgil “Gus” Grissom in 1983’s Academy Award-nominated film “The Right Stuff.”
Bruce MacVittie, 65, one of New York City’s quintessential character actors, who made his Broadway debut in David Mamet’s “American Buffalo” opposite Al Pacino in 1983 and was a mainstay on off-Broadway stages for more than 40 years, as well as a familiar face on television and in film, died May 7 in Manhattan. A cause had not been determined.
He broke into TV in a 1981 episode of the cop comedy “Barney Miller.” He went on to appear on multiple episodes of “Law & Order” — as more than a half-dozen characters — and “The Sopranos,” where he played a juror named Danny Scalercio, who in the show’s fourth season is badgered by the mob. In 2011, MacVittie set aside his acting career to train as a nurse.
Jim Murphy, 74, a prizewinning children’s author who immersed young readers in American history, using extensive research and firsthand accounts to humanize sprawling, chaotic events like the Battle of Gettysburg, the Great Chicago Fire and an outbreak of yellow fever that became the country’s first epidemic, died May 1 at his home in Woodstock, New York.
Awarding Murphy the 2010 Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime contributions to young-adult literature, prize committee chair Maren C. Ostergard said, “Jim Murphy’s excellence in writing gripping nonfiction allows readers to realize that young people do not stand by but actively participate in history.”