In Memoriam: Playbill.com Remembers Those We Lost in 2009

By Robert Simonson
December 31, 2009

A Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. A legendary summer stock producer. A leading South African actor. Variety's most famous reporter. One of the most powerful agents of all time. The original Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire.

Respectively, Horton Foote, John Kenley, Zakes Mokae, Army Archerd, Sam Cohn and Karl Malden were among theatre people we lost in 2009. As 2010 dawns, Playbill.com now looks back to reflect on the contributions of theatre folk who died in the past calendar year.

Some names you know, some had no international profile. They all made an impact. Whether their contributions were felt locally, regionally, nationally or around the world, the writers, producers, advocates, actors, composers, musicians, lyricists, directors, technicians and designers of the following list contributed to the welfare of the art form.

This necrology was culled from the 2009 pages of Playbill.com, with most reporting by Robert Simonson. This tribute is not meant to be a complete list of the countless theatre people who left us — and left us inspired — in the past 12 months.

Full stories are archived in Playbill.com's Obituaries section.

Judy Kreston, 76, the daughter-in-law of Broadway lyricist Dorothy Fields who devoted herself to the songbook of American popular music (singing and running an NYC nightspot called Judy's), on Dec. 23, in Manhattan.

James "Mac" McCammond, 50, a Chicago-area Equity actor who shifted to backstage crew work, Dec. 22 in Chicago.

Arnold Stang, 91, who played a memorable array of comedic pests and lapdogs on radio, stage, television and film over a six-decade career, on Dec. 20 in Newton, MA.

Brittany Murphy with Gabriel Olds in A View from the Bridge
photo by Joan Marcus
Brittany Murphy, 32, an actress who starred in "Clueless" and A View From the Bridge on Broadway, Dec. 20 in Los Angeles.

Alaina Reed Hall, 63, a singer and actress best known for playing Olivia Robinson on "Sesame Street" for a dozen years, Dec 17.

Conard Fowkes, 76, a longtime secretary/treasurer of Actors' Equity Association, Dec. 14.

Gene Barry, 90, actor of theatre, film and television, who played Georges, half of the mature gay couple at the center of Jerry Herman's musical La Cage Aux Folles, Dec. 9 in Woodland Hills, CA.

Goldie Semple, 56, noted Canadian actress and veteran of the Stratford and Shaw festivals, Dec. 9.

Don Mayo, 49, a barrel-chested actor who put his commanding presence and deep bass voice to good use on the stages of Chicago and New York, Dec. 4.

Ardelle Striker, 80, artistic director of the Blue Heron Theatre/Arts Center Off-Broadway, Dec. 3.

Jay Barnhill, 62, a fixture in the box office at Off-Broadway's Public Theater for 17 years, Nov. 25.

Max Eisen, 90, a theatrical press agent who worked on hundreds of New York shows over a long career, Nov. 23 at his home in Manhattan.

Edward Woodward, 79, a respected British stage actor whose long career was accented by two famous television turns playing spies, in "Callan" and "The Equalizer," Nov. 16 in Truro, Cornwall, England.

Ron Sproat, 77, a television and stage writer who created the character of Barnabas Collins, the reluctant vampire, on ABC's "Dark Shadows," Nov. 7 in his Manhattan apartment.

Art D'Lugoff, 85, the owner of the famed downtown Manhattan club The Village Gate, which presented a wide variety of performance attractions over several decades, Nov. 4.

John Kenley, 103, a producer whose name was synonymous with large-scale regional and summer stock theatre in his adopted home state of Ohio and elsewhere, Oct. 23.

Michael Frazier, 72, a producer who presented Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music on Broadway, Oct. 23 in Great Barrington, MA.

Lou Jacobi, 95, an actor who performed in a wide range of projects on both the stage and the screen over several decades, Oct. 23 at his home in Manhattan.

Michael Buckley
Michael Buckley, 66, a lifelong arts journalist and the author of Playbill.com's monthly "Stage to Screens" column, Oct. 16 at St. Luke's hospital in Manhattan.

Bruce Wasserstein, 61, a prominent Wall Street investment banker, the brother of playwright Wendy Wasserstein, and guardian of Ms. Wasserstein's daughter, Oct. 14 in Manhattan.

Stephen Gately, 33, of the boyband Boyzone, who also starred in West End musicals, found dead Oct. 10 at his holiday apartment on the Spanish island of Majorca.

Douglas Campbell, 87, a leading figure in the Canadian acting community, Oct. 6 in the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal Hospital.

David Powers, a press agent who represented dozens of Broadway shows over a 40-year period, Oct. 4 at the Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey.

Grace Keagy, 87, a former housewife who made her Broadway debut in 1950s, appearing in a series of 1970s musicals, Oct. 4 in Rochester, New York.

Robert V. Straus, who worked on Broadway and off as a producer (Band in Berlin, The Food Chain), general manager (2001's Bells Are Ringing) and stage manager, Oct. 4.

Sonny Everett, 72, who became a Broadway producer in the final decade of his life, died Sept. 30 in New York City.

Douglas Watt, 95, a longtime critic for The Daily News whose career stretched from the Great Depression to the brink of the 21st century, Sept. 29 in Southampton, Long Island.

Patrick Swayze, 57, actor who boasted Broadway and West End theatrical credits but was best known for his work in several hit Hollywood films ("Ghost," "Dirty Dancing"), Sept. 14 in California following a battle with pancreatic cancer.

Pierre Cossette, 85, who won a Tony Award for producing The Will Rogers Follies, Sept. 11 in Montreal.

Zakes Mokae, 75, one of the most celebrated South African actors of his generation and regular collaborator with Athol Fugard, Sept. 11 in Las Vegas.

Larry Gelbart
Larry Gelbart, 81, a two-time Tony Award-winning librettist for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and City of Angels, who was also a playwright and a screenwriter for TV and movies and a renowned wit of his time, Sept. 11.

Army Archerd, 87, journalist who chronicled the projects and practitioners of show business for a half a century through his column in Variety, Sept. 8 in Los Angeles.

Keith Waterhouse, 80, British writer who made his name as a novelist with 1959's "Billy Liar," and scored a West End hit with Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell, Sept. 4 at his home in London.

Jack Manning, 93, a character actor who acted in countless plays, movies and television shows over a long career, Aug. 31 at his Rancho Palos Verdes home.

Chris Connor, 81, a jazz singer who was known for her cool and controlled delivery of the American Popular Songbook, Aug. 30 in Toms River, NJ..

Phil DiMaggio, 57, a New York theatre professional who worked as a casting director and stage manager, Aug. 14 in his home in Vermont.

Ruth Ford, 98, an actress and widow of Zachary Scott whose career was perhaps outshined in cultural circles by her role as a hostess to the famous and talented, Aug. 12.

Budd Schulberg, 95, writer who chronicled the corrupting mores of modern American life in works such as the novels "What Makes Sammy Run?" and "The Disenchanted," and the movies "On the Waterfront" and "A Face in the Crowd," and several stageworks born of those projects, Aug. 5 in Westhampton Beach, NY.

Claude Purdy, 69, a co-founder of St. Paul's Penumbra Theatre and an early supporter of playwright August Wilson, Aug. 3 near Washington, DC.

Merce Cunningham
photo by Joe Tabacca
Merce Cunningham, 90, the American choreographer who was one of the most important and influential forces in the dance world during the 20th century, July 26 at his home in Manhattan.

Robert Hilferty, 49, who wrote about music, theatre and the arts for a variety of publications, and was a noted AIDS activist, July 24 at his home in Manhattan.

Susan Gregg, 65, the associate artistic director of The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, July 21 at her home in St. Louis.

Donald Buka, 88, a veteran stage actor who toured with the Lunts and acted opposite the likes of Helen Hayes and Bette Davis, July 21 in Reading, MA.

Harry Edelstein, 91, a restaurateur who served matzo ball soup and blintzes to the likes of Neil Simon and August Wilson as the owner of the Edison Café, the most theatrical coffee shop in New York, July 13 in Englewood, NJ.

Neil Munro, 62, a longtime resident director at Canada's Shaw Festival Company known for challenging audiences with his ambitious, sometimes dark productions, July 13 at London, Ontario's University Hospital.

Harve Presnell, 75, who starred in the Broadway and film versions of The Unsinkable Molly Brown, and was known as Daddy Warbucks to generations of Annie fans, June 30 in Santa Monica, CA.

Karl Malden, 97, a respected Oscar-winning actor who created the role of Mitch in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire and played Herbie in the film of "Gypsy," July 1 at his Brentwood home.

Farrah Fawcett
Farrah Fawcett, 62, an occasional stage actress who became a cultural icon of the late 1970s as one of the original stars of the television phenomenon "Charlie's Angels," June 25 at Saint John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California.

Morton Gottlieb, 88, a Broadway producer whose career spanned three decades, beginning in 1954, June 25 in Englewood, NJ.

T. Scott Cunningham, 47, a simultaneous zany and empathetic performer of the Off-Broadway stage who originated roles in plays by Nicky Silver and Douglas Carter Beane, June 20 at NYU Medical Center in New York City.

Sheldon Gross, 88, a regional and Broadway producer who created a string of summer stock musical theatres across the country, June 19, in West Palm Beach, FL.

Mary Howard de Liagre, 94, who appeared in a handful of Broadway shows and Hollywood movies before retiring from show business shortly after World War II, June 6 in Manhattan.

David Marks, 49, a prominent actor in the Washington, D.C., area, who was nominated four times for the Helen Hayes Award, and won in 1990 for his work in Deborah Pryor's Briar Patch at Arena Stage, June 3 in Washington, D.C..

George MacPherson, 78, veteran theatre executive and general manager, June 3 in Orangeburg, SC.

David Carradine, 72, a member of the acting Carradine family who became a martial arts icon through his roles in the 1970s show "Kung Fu," and Quentin Tarantino's hyper-violent "Kill Bill" films, found dead June 3 in his hotel suite in Bangkok, where he was working on a movie.

Danny la Rue, 81, popular British drag cabaret entertainer, May 31 at his home in Kent.

Lee Solters
Lee Solters, 90, a press agent who represented hundreds of Broadway shows and personally handled such showbiz legends as Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Carol Channing and Frank Sinatra, May 18 died at his home.

Rodger McFarlane, 54, an activist in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights and HIV/AIDS causes, and former executive director of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, May 15 in New Mexico.

Brooks McNamara, 72, a professor and historian who helped to organize the invaluable theatre history resource known as the Shubert Archives, May 8 in Doylestown, PA.

Julian Patrick, 81, a baritone who began his career on Broadway performances in the 1950s but spent the bulk of his career on the opera stage, May 8 while on vacation in Santa Fe.

Sam Cohn, 79, one of the most powerful talents agents of the last quarter of the 20th century, and the forerunner of the game-controlling super agents that came into their own in the 1980s and 1990s, May 6 in Manhattan.

Dom DeLuise, 75, funnyman in dozens of film comedies and a handful of stage shows, May 4 at a Los Angeles hospital.

Stephen Craig Hayes, producer-singer-actor known professionally as Steve Gideon, who appeared in the original cast of Naked Boys Singing, May 1 in West Hollywood, CA.

Danny Gans, 52, a Las Vegas entertainer who made a brief appearance on Broadway in the '90s, May 1.

Beatrice Arthur
Beatrice Arthur, 86, the actress who originated the role of Vera in Mame and would later become better known as Maude (on TV's "Maude") and Dorothy Zbornak (on "The Golden Girls"), April 25 at her home in Los Angeles.

Marilyn Cooper, 75, actress who won a Tony Award in 1981 for her droll performance in the musical Woman of the Year, April 23 at the Actors Fund Home in New Jersey.

Tharon Musser, 84, who won Tony Awards for Best Lighting Design for the landmark shows Follies, A Chorus Line and Dreamgirls, April 19 in Newtown, CT.

Jack Wrangler, 62, an adult-film actor who went on to an improbable second act as a theatrical producer and husband of sophisticated singer Margaret Whiting, April 7 in Manhattan.

Elaine Cancilla Orbach, 69, the widow of actor Jerry Orbach and a former Broadway dancer, April 1.

Richard Akins, 62, the former producer and executive director of The Jupiter Theatre in Palm Beach County, Florida, March 31.

K.C. Ligon, 60, a dialect coach who worked with the likes of James Earl Jones, Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, March 23.

John Franklyn-Robbins, 84, a seasoned stage actor who appeared on both sides of the Atlantic, March 21.

Natasha Richardson
Natasha Richardson, 45, the actress who earned a Tony Award for the revival of Cabaret, met husband Liam Neeson on Broadway in Anna Christie and also appeared in Closer and A Streetcar Named Desire, March 18.

Molly Jessup, 66, a leading music director in the Kansas City theatre community, March 15.

Milan Stitt, 68, a playwright who wrote the critical hit The Runner Stumbles and ran the play development program at Off-Broadway Circle Repertory Company, March 12.

Horton Foote, 92, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of The Trip to Boutinful, The Man from Atlanta, Dividing the Estate and many more, who found a lifetime of drama chronicling the doings of the people in a fictional Texas town modeled after his own hometown, March 4 in Hartford, CT, March 4.

Sydney Chaplin, 82, the Broadway actor who won a Tony Award playing opposite Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing, and was nominated as Nicky Arnstein in Funny Girl, March 3 at his home in Rancho Mirage, CA.

Tom Cole, 75, a screenwriter, fiction writer and playwright who was nominated for a Drama Desk Award in 1976 for his Medal of Honor Rag, Feb. 23 in Roxbury, CT.

Alvin Klein, 73, a long-standing theatre critic for the Sunday regional sections of the New York Times that appeared in New Jersey, Connecticut, Long Island and Westchester County, Feb. 23 at his Manhattan home.

Robert Quarry, 83, actor who appeared with Katharine Hepburn in As You Like It on Broadway, and gained fame for his 1970s horror films, Feb. 20, in California.

Robert Anderson, 91, the American playwright and screenwriter whose popular plays included Tea and Sympathy, I Never Sang for My Father and You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running, Feb. 9 at his Manhattan home.

James Whitmore, 87, the Tony Award-winning, Oscar-nominated character actor with a thug's face and a way with words, who starred as Harry Truman in Give 'em Hell, Harry, Feb. 6.

John Mortimer, 85, creator of TV's "Rumpole of the Bailey," and a playwright whose works were seen on the West End and Broadway, Jan. 16.

Ricardo Montalban
Ricardo Montalban, 88, the Mexican-born actor who earned a Tony nomination for Jamaica, and who landed big on film and TV, Jan. 14 at his Los Angeles home.

Patrick McGoohan, 80, an actor best known for playing a mysterious character in the TV series, "The Prisoner," Jan. 13.

Allen Zwerdling, 86, who co-founded Back Stage, the weekly trade paper know for its casting notices, Jan. 12 at his home in Rosendale, NY.

Eileen Boevers, 68, a Chicago-area theatre educator and director who influenced several generations of theatre artists, and who founded Apple Tree Theatre in Highland Park, IL, Jan. 11.

John Mybeck, 68, senior vice president/chief administrative officer of Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, Inc., and leader of Theatre at the Center in Munster, IN, Jan. 6.

Janet Pavek, 72, an actress and singer who performed major musical theatre and opera roles in New York, London and regionally, Jan. 6 in New Port Richey, FL.

Pat Hingle, 84, the character actor whose career stretched back to the 1940s and whose credits encompassed copious roles in theatre (J.B., Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), film ("Splendor in the Grass," "The Grifters") and television, Jan. 3 at his home in Carolina Beach, NC.

Edmund Purdom, 85, a British actor who was a protégé of actor-director Laurence Olivier, Jan. 1 in Rome, Italy.