E.L. Doctorow: He Turned History Into Fiction

E.L. Doctorow took the art of historical novels a step beyond by reimagining historical figures as fictional characters. In his most famous work, the 1975 best-seller Ragtime, Doctorow, who passed away on July 21 in New York at age 84, set a cast that includes Harry Houdini, Sigmund Freud, Henry Ford and Booker T. Washington interact in scenes that never happened and yet reveal so much about the characters. Famous People We’ve Lost in 2015 » Here are some nuggets about …

Omar Sharif: Star in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Doctor Zhivago’

With his dark, dashing looks and commanding presence, Egyptian-born Omar Sharif dominated the big screen in such epics as Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965).  >> Famous People We’ve Lost in 2015 Sharif, who passed away on July 10 at age 83 in Cairo, was the biggest star of Arab ancestry to break through in Hollywood, with his versatility as an actor enabling him to play a wide range of parts of varying ethnicity, from an ancient Armenian king …

Burt Shavitz: Burt’s Bees Co-Founder Was Mr. Natural

If you’re a fan of the Burt’s Bees line of natural, environmentally friendly personal care products, you might have assumed that the Walt-Whitman lookalike on the label was a generic hippie dreamed up by marketing experts. >> Famous People We’ve Lost in 2015 But Burt Shavitz, who passed away on July 5 at age 80 in Bangor, Maine, was a real person and an actual beekeeper. Here are some intriguing facts about a man who was as wild and free-spirited …

Dick Van Patten: America’s Favorite Dad in ‘Eight Is Enough’

Actor Dick Van Patten might have been America’s favorite fictional dad in the late 1970s/early 1980s for his role on the TV sitcom Eight Is Enough: Tom Bradford, a widower who married his son’s tutor (Betty Buckley) and formed a chaotic but loving new family unit with her. >> Famous People We’ve Lost in 2015 But in a career that spanned seven decades, Van Patten, who died June 22 at age 86 in Santa Monica, Calif., played a wealth of …

Tom Verna: He Invented Instant Replay

There was a time when sports fans watching a live game on TV had no choice but to play close attention throughout. If they missed a spectacular play while reaching for the bowl of chips, they didn’t get a second chance to see it. TV sports director and producer Tony Verna changed that. Verna, who passed away on Jan. 18 at age 81, introduced the instant replay in 1963, basically videotaping the game and rerunning key moments to fill time …

In Memoriam — Al Martinez: More Than a Life Well-Lived

His voice was deep; his soul was too. His humor made you rock with laughter; his insight rocked your world. I never got to squeeze Al Martinez’s hand or give him a hug, though I often wanted to. We lived six hours apart, but when we talked by phone, Al, who died Jan. 12, was in my living room, sitting next to my desk. We laughed at each other’s jokes and exchanged sometimes thoughtful, sometimes silly emails about the topics …