Steve Eighinger

Saying farewell to celebrities we lost this year

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 18, 2019 10:50 pm

It's become a tradition at this time of the year to bid farewell to some of our favorite celebrities whom we have lost during the preceding 12 months.

And the past year has been especially painful for the baby boomer generation. Here are seven reasons why:

º Peter Tork: Tork and Davy Jones were always my favorite members of the Monkees, a group that skyrocketed to superstardom when I was in junior high. Tork was the bass guitarist of the foursome that gave us "I'm A Believer," "Last Train to Clarksville" and "Daydream Believer." Tork, who at 24 was the oldest member of the made-for-TV band when their show premiered in 1966, played the lovable self-described "dummy" of the group. In reality, he was a trained musician who left the Monkees in the late 1960s to tend to his solo career, though he regularly joined up with the band for reunion tours beginning in the mid-'80s.

º Peggy Lipton: About the same period "The Monkees" were starring on NBC, there was a hit show on ABC called "The Mod Squad," featuring Peggy Lipton, Clarence Davis III and Michael Cole. The counterculture police series earned six Emmy Award nominations, but those meant little to me. For six years (1967-73) I was in love with the detective character of Julie Barnes, portrayed by Lipton. She went on to other roles and awards, but to me none ever came close to her weekly heroic efforts with "The Mod Squad."

º Tim Conway: Few comedians have ever made me laugh simply by walking on stage, but Conway was always one. Best known for his efforts on "The Carol Burnett Show," few have ever reaped the rewards of a deadpan delivery like Conway. He once said, "I don't feature myself as being the head man. I would much rather stand in the background and make small funny things than be up at the head of the class." That's exactly what he did, and he was mighty good at it.

º Georgia Engel: There was always a lot to like about "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," and Engel's Georgette Baxter character was at the head of the list. She played the wife of the late Ted Knight, a supporting role that was accented by what was once best described as a "tinny-toned" voice. Engel possessed an uncanny ability to steal most scenes she was in, despite being surrounded by superstars the caliber of Moore, Knight, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper and Betty White.

º Marie Fredriksson: This is an extremely personal, rather off-the-wall selection. Frederiksson was the lead singer for the Swedish pop duo Roxette in the 1980s and 1990s. I always loved her gravelly voice, featured on such hits as "Listen to Your Heart" and "It Must Have Been Love." Frederiksson died at age 61 after living with cancer for 17 years.

º Valerie Harper: For years, she performed in the shadow of Mary Tyler Moore -- until she got her own lead role on "Rhoda." Harper was a gifted talent who during her career adapted to numerous roles, but to me -- and most others, I think -- she will always be Rhoda Morganstern.

º Peter Fonda: The son of legendary actor Henry Fonda and younger brother of actress/activist Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda was long known for his role in the iconic 1969 movie "Easy Rider." Many never knew he also co-wrote and produced the film. I'll be honest, I saw "Easy Rider" when it came out 1969 and felt like it was just another motorcycle movie from that tumultuous era. As the years passed, I realized the error of my ways.