You may be aware of the passing of some very famous people in 2017 including Chuck Berry, Mary Tyler Moore and Tom Petty. Here are some other notables who passed away in 2017.

Music Legend
Tommy Allsup died of complications from a hernia operation at the age of 85. “Who the hell is Tommy Allsup?”, you ask. Tommy is the man who lost a coin flip with Richie Valens for the last seat on a private plane that would crash, killing Valens, Buddy Holly and J.P “Big Bopper” Richardson. Allsup was a rockabilly guitarist who played with Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison and Merle Haggard and was described by Paul McCartney as one of the world’s greatest guitarists. BTW, The Big Bopper was on that doomed flight because Waylon Jennings gave him his seat.

Judge Joseph Wapner of “The People’s Court” died at the age of 97. During World War II, Wapner received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for rescuing a wounded comrade under heavy machine-gun fire.

Dick Gregory was a well- regarded comedian in the 1960s when he chose to use his communications skills and humor to fight social injustice. Seeing Gregory speak while I was a college student remains one of my most memorable experiences.

Perry Wallace was the first black basketball player to play in the Southeastern Conference. Although he was appreciated by his Vanderbilt teammates, Wallace had to play in many hostile gyms. According to a Vanderbilt alum “he was “a pioneer under extraordinarily difficult and dangerous circumstances and was also one of the wisest, kindest, and forgiving people I ever met”. Wallace earned his law degree at Columbia in 1975 and served in the Justice Department, before becoming a law professor at American University.

Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega died of a brain tumor at 83. I find it remarkable that he lived to that ripe old age given that he was ousted from power in 1989 and had a long line of victims’ families itching to send him to his eternal dirt nap. In 1992, The U.S. sentenced him to forty years in prison for drug smuggling and racketeering. Meanwhile, Panama found him guilty in absentia for two murders, adding another forty years of prison.  Next, France convinced the U.S to extradite Noriega to serve ten years for money laundering. In 2011 the French extradited Noriega to Panama to serve one of his murder sentences. Obviously, Noriega’s death is a huge financial blow to the international legal community.

Omar Abdel-Rahman, AKA the Blind Sheik died at 78. Prior to coming to the U.S. and planning the first World Trade Center bombing (1993) the Sheik was imprisoned in Egypt for his role in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat. Due to a computer glitch and the negligence of U.S. intelligence, the Sheik was allowed into the U.S. and ceaselessly railed against his host country and plotted numerous terrorist attacks. I give thanks that my tax dollars are no longer used to support this miscreant.

Actors and Directors  

Roger Moore, the star of seven James Bond films died at the age of 89. Roger, I finally forgive you for replacing Sean Connery, but my wife will carry that grudge forever.

Adam West, who died at 88, will forever be remembered for his title role in the 1960s campy classic, “Batman.” Prior to becoming Batman, West’s biggest movie role was co-starring with the Three Stooges in their final feature film The Outlaws is Coming.  Batman propelled West to stardom but when the series was cancelled, West found it difficult to find work, forever typecast as The Caped Crusader. By all accounts he was a wonderful person and his congeniality helped him land roles in “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”.

John Heard and John Hurt both passed away in 2017. Between them they did great work in”The Elephant Man, “Midnight Express”, “The Sopranos” and “Home Alone” but I have never been able to figure out which John is which. Freaky that they both passed in the same year.

Haruo Nakajima portrayed Godzilla in the original 1954 classic and numerous sequels including “King Kong vs Godzilla”. Proving his versatility, Nakajima would go on to play the role of Kong in 1967’s “King Kong Escapes” When the studio decided in 1973 that the suit actor’s services were no longer required, he reportedly worked in the studio bowling alley. (“Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be suit actors”)

William Peter Blatty scared the bejesus out of us in the 1970s with “The Exorcist”. While he was a young college graduate in New York in the 1950s, Blatty become a successful contestant on Groucho Marx’s quiz show “You Bet Your Life”.  With his $10,000 in winnings Blatty quit his day job to focus on writing.  However, for many years, his best paying work was ghostwriting for the original “Dear Abby”. When the Exorcist was published in 1971, Blatty brought it to every Hollywood studio but since the book wasn’t an initial success, the studios refused. Blatty’s luck would change when he was asked to be a last-minute replacement guest on the Dick Cavett Show. The appearance generated interest in the book which would soon move to Number 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. Blatty said “I always believed in divine intervention”

 Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year

 Ted Curtin

Black Dot Messaging