Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek’s Pointy-Eared Icon

How powerful an impression has Leonard Nimoy’s Star Trek portrayal of Spock left on American culture? Hold up your right hand in the split-fingered Vulcan salute that Nimoy invented for his relentlessly logical, dispassionate half-alien starship officer, and odds are that just about everybody in the room will get the reference. >> Famous People We’ve Lost in 2015 Here are some facts about Nimoy, who passed away on Feb. 27 at age 83 in Los Angeles, and his relationship with …

Clark Terry: Master Jazz Trumpeter and Educator

The day before J.K. Simmons won an Oscar (best supporting actor) for his portrayal of a sadistic jazz teacher in Damien Chazelle’s pulsating, fictional movie Whiplash, legendary jazz trumpeter and educator Clark Terry died Feb. 21 at age 94 after a long battle with diabetes. Terry — known for his affable nature as much as his musical brilliance — was one of the main figures in another 2014 breakout film, Alan Hicks’ touching documentary Keep On Keepin’ On. That film …

Charlie Sifford: the Jackie Robinson of Golf

Struggling to break the color barrier in the Professional Golfers Association five decades ago, Charlie Sifford got a tip from Jackie Robinson, who had done the same thing for Major League Baseball. “You can’t be going after these people who call you names with a golf club,” Robinson told him. “If you do that, you’ll ruin it for all of the black players to come.” That was sage advice because Sifford, who passed away on Feb. 3 at age 92 …

Rod McKuen: 10 Things You Might Not Know About the Pop Poet

Literary critics never had much love for Rod McKuen, who passed away on Jan. 30 at age 81 in Beverly Hills. Not that it mattered to his legions of fans. McKuen’s volumes of poetry, including Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows and Listen to the Warm, sold 60 million copies. In addition, McKuen was a prolific songwriter whose lyrics were interpreted by performers ranging from Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand to Johnny Cash. His own gravelly, breathy recording of “Jean,” which he composed for …

Joe Cocker: Shakin’ Soul Shouter

As a singer, Joe Cocker was blessed with a magnificently raspy, soulful delivery that made him one of the most immediately recognizable vocalists in the history of rock music. But what really stuck in the public’s mind was his dancing: those flailing, knock-kneed, spasmodic movements that made it almost seem as if he was struggling with a demonic possession as he blew away the crowd at the Woodstock festival in 1969. As Cocker explained in a 2013 interview, even he …

Eli Wallach: The Good, the Bad and the Brilliant

Eli Wallach is burned into our memories as the “Ugly” in Sergio Leone’s 1966 spaghetti western, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. As Tuco Ramí­rez, the malevolent but clownish bandit who tangles with a bounty hunter (Clint Eastwood) and a cold-blooded killer (Lee Van Cleef) over a cache of Confederate gold, Wallach gave a performance that was lauded as “inspired” by critic Roger Ebert, who wrote that “Wallach took this low-rent role seriously and made something evocative out of it.” …