Category: Deaths

Tributes: Catwoman & ‘Santa Baby’ Star Eartha Kitt Dies at 81 on Christmas Day

Screen and song legend Eartha Kitt died Thursday at age 81.

The seductive icon broke barriers with her role as Catwoman in the 1960s TV series Batman, and jumped into every man’s heart with her 1953 Christmas song “Santa Baby.”

Dying on Christmas day, the legend will be remembered for her more than six decades in show business.

Condolences: Barack Obama’s Grandmother Madelyn Dunham Dies One Day Before Election

One day before his historic election, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama’s maternal grandmother Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise Obama from the age of 10 , died of cancer at 85.

“It is with great sadness that we announce that our grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, has died peacefully after a battle with cancer,” Obama said in a joint statement with his sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng. “She was the cornerstone of our family, and a woman of extraordinary accomplishment, strength, and humility.”

Blindie’s deepest condolences go out to the Obamas.

Color on the Cover: Jennifer Hudson’s Family Tragedy Detailed in People & Us Weekly

The family tragedy of one of America’s biggest rising stars, Jennifer Hudson, is the subject of both People and Us Weekly magazine’s latest issues.

Detailing the horrific events that have occurred in the last week, which took the lives of Hudson’s mother, Darnell Donerson, her brother Jason, and 7-year-old nephew Julian King, the magazines highlight Hudson’s agony and quest for answers.

Blindie applauds both People and Us Weekly for shedding light on this tragedy and making it a point to tell the story–for once–of a black family’s anguish.

Four Tops’ lead singer Levi Stubbs Dies At 72


The lead singer of legendary Motown group The Four Tops died on Friday at his home in Detroit. Stubbs had suffered numerous health problems including cancer and a stroke.

The baritone singer began his music career while in high school with friends Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton. The quartet originally called themselves The Four Aims and signed onto Chess Records in 1956. It wasn’t until the group signed with Berry Gordy’s Motown Records in the early sixties did they become chart-toppers with hit songs like ” I Can’t Help Myself (Suger Pie, Honey Bunch)” and “It’s The Same Old Song.”

Stubbs’ death leaves Abdul “Duke” Fair as the only living member of the original Tops line-up. Lawrence Payton passed away in 1997 and Renaldo Benson died in 2005.

PHOTO: REUTERS

1942-2008: Soul Singer Isaac Hayes Dies at 65

Grammy-winning singer Isaac Hayes died on Sunday after being found unconscious in his Memphis, Tennessee home, according to the AP. He was 65.

The soul singer, who won an Academy Award for his theme song for 1971′s Shaft and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will appear in the upcoming comedy Soul Men, with the late comedic actor Bernie Mac (who also died this weekend) and Samuel L. Jackson.

Hayes will also be remembered for his work on South Park, where he voiced ladies’ man and school cook James “Chef” McElroy. Hayes, a Scientologist, quit the risqué Comedy Central series due to the show’s consistent jokes about religion.

“There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry towards religious beliefs of others begins,” Hayes said in a statement in 2006. “Religious beliefs are sacred to people…As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices.”

1957- 2008: Comedian Bernie Mac Dies at 50

Actor and comedian Bernie Mac died Saturday from complications of pneumonia in his native Chicago. He was 50.

Mac, who was hospitalized last week, recently made headlines for making off-color and misogynistic remarks at a $2,300-a-head fundraiser for Barack Obama.

Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough in Chicago, Mac made his TV debut on BET’s Comic View and HBO’s Def Comedy Jam in 1992 with a crude, southern-style comedy routine that has been described by the New York Times as “part of an ancient, vaudevillian craft.” Others have simply dubbed his style coonery.

Mac found stardom as one of the comics in the 2000 Spike Lee-directed film The Original Kings of Comedy and segued from low-budget black films (Booty Call and How To Be a Player) to A-list fare (the Ocean’s Eleven franchise and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle).

His award-winning Fox sitcom The Bernie Mac Show was based on some of his earlier comedy routines (remember milk and cookies) and was applauded for Mac’s use of stand-up, in which he talks directly to the audience, as a device that broke the traditional “fourth wall” of sitcoms.

In a 2001 review of the show, Variety said, “The dial is littered with doofus dads and the women who adore them, but Mac reinvents the wheel here, using his warped sense of humor, buggy eyes and massive frame to intimidate and discipline some very bratty young’uns.”

While it may be surprising that a crude comedian, who jokingly lauded himself as a pimp, can rise to mainstream status as a TV family dad, no one was more confounded than Mac himself: ”Seven years ago, I was raunchy, I was blue. Now I’m the perfect father. Figure that out.”

Harold D. Russell, St. Louis’ First African American Magician Dies

Harold D. Russell, dubbed “The Divine Mind,” died Monday from complications of pneumonia. He was 86.

Believed to be the first black magician to join the prestigious International Brotherhood of Magicians and the Society of American Magicians, Russell performed for 20 years, entertaining crowds at the “Breakfast with Santa” event at Dillard’s and many nightclubs in the St. Louis area.

In a 2005 interview with the St. Louis Journal, Russell described practicing his early tricks on Bullet, the family dog, saying “If he went to the wrong hand when I tried a disappearing trick, I’d think, ‘Hmm, I did it good because I fooled Bullet.”

A World War II veteran, Russell took up magic while in his 40s and married with five children. He received the Gold Medal Award from the Society of American Magicians in 2005, one of only seven magicians to receive the honor since its inception.

PHOTO: Wiley Price