Polly Bergen: An Entertainer Who Did It All

Actresses and singers come and go, but Polly Bergen had a multifaceted entertainment career that stretched from 1949 to 2012 because she was a star at just about everything she tried. Bergen, who died on Sept. 20 at age 84 in Southbury, Conn., won an Emmy in 1958 for her portrayal of alcoholic torch singer Helen Morgan on Playhouse 90, and she made a lasting impression on the big screen as the terrorized wife of a lawyer (Gregory Peck) stalked by a …

Johnny Winter: Blues Legend

It says a lot about guitarist Johnny Winter that blues great Muddy Waters sang his praises. The first time Waters heard him play live, he was blown away by Winter’s blindingly fast thumb-picked electric slide work. “He plays eight notes to my one!” Waters reportedly exclaimed. Winter-who died at age 70 in Zurich on July 16, a few days after performing at a festival in Austria-was surprisingly humble about the virtuosity that earned him a spot on Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 …

Eileen Ford: She Created Supermodels

The beautiful women who display designers’ new fashions on the runway and grace magazine covers are more than just celebrities – they’re brand names in their own right.  We even have a word for them: supermodels. To a great extent, we can thank Eileen Ford for making all those models so super. Ford, who died on July 9 at age 92 in Morristown, N.J.,  in 1947 cofounded – with her late husband Jerry – Ford Models, the agency that became …

Louis Zamperini: Olympic Runner, POW Was Twice a Hero

In 1936, at age 19, Louis Zamperini was one of the best middle-distance runners in the world. He was good enough to be on the U.S. team in the Berlin Olympics, where he finished eighth in the 5,000 meters and stood close enough to Adolf Hitler’s box at the stadium to get a good look at the Nazi dictator. “I was pretty naí¯ve about world politics, and I thought he looked funny, like something out of a Laurel and Hardy …

Bobby Womack: Soul Man

Even if you didn’t know Bobby Womack by name, you probably dug some of his songs that helped make other performers into stars. Womack, who died on June 27 at age 70, was one of the pioneers of the soul sound – a singer, guitarist and songwriter who helped create the fusion of gospel, R&B and jazz that moved a generation to get out and groove to the music. Womack’s own roots stretched back to the great Sam Cooke, who gave …

Chester Nez: Last of the Navajo Code-Talkers

When Chester Nez attended boarding school in the 1930s, he risked having his mouth washed out with soap if he spoke in Navajo instead of English. But fortunately for America’s fortunes during World War II, he never forgot the language of his people. Nez, who