70. Clara Ann “Patti Page” Fowler, 85, November 8, 1927 – January 1, 2013:
Musician; American singer; natural causes
While her signature tune was “Tennessee Waltz”, she first shot to fame with the song “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming”. She had a string of hits in the 50s, such as the number one singles: “All My Love (Bolero)”, “I Went To Your Wedding”, and the novelty song that will make you wish you were deaf, “(How Much Is) That Doggie In The Window?” Her hits continued in the 60s with “Old Cape Cod”, “Allegheny Moon”, “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or A Rich Man’s Gold)”, and “Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte”.
I think my parents have every one of these recordings.
She was born into abject poverty and helped her family earn a living by picking cotton as a girl. She had a beautiful voice and became a featured singer on a local radio station in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1946. She would come to the attention of other musicians, tour with a small band, and ultimately sing with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, thereafter landing a record contract. And the rest is history.
71. Conrad Bain, 89, February 4, 1923 – January 14, 2013:
Actor; Canadian-born American actor; stroke
To the older crowd of the 1970s, he was the imperious Dr. Arthur Harmon, on the hit television series “Maude”. To the younger crowd of the 1980s, he was Park Avenue millionaire, Phillip Drummond, on the hit television series “Diff’rent Strokes”. Apart from those two series, he wasn’t seen much, other than the occasional guest star appearance on similar series, like “The Love Boat”.
72. Pauline “Abigail Van Buren” Phillips , 94, July 4, 1918 – January 16, 2013:
Columnist; American advice columnist; natural causes
She was otherwise known to the world as “Dear Abby”, the name of her advice column. She was the daughter of dirt-poor Russian Jewish immigrants, and the youngest of four sisters, including her twin, Esther Pauline Friedman, who would go on to become that other advice columnist, Ann Landers (who died in 2002). Her pseudonym was an odd combination of “Abigail”, the prophet from the Book of Samuel, and “Van Buren”, the eighth U.S. president (perhaps giving her a surname that sounded more sophisticated and regal).
Her family’s was the classic immigrant-makes-good story. Through enormous hard work, her father was able to become the owner of a chain of movie theaters in Iowa. She studied journalism and psychology and began writing an advice column, together with her sister, in college.
Abigail’s career as an advice columnist took off by being in the right place at the right time. As the story goes, she was new to the San Francisco area and phoned the San Francisco Chronicle that she could write a better advice column than the one they were currently running. The suspicious editor decided to call her bluff and sent her some letters in need of answers, directing her to send replies to all of them within a week. To his surprise, she answered them all and replied to the editor within ninety minutes. That is ambition!
Her columns were often classic for their wit and brevity, usually compassionate and sympathetic, and syndicated nationwide.
73. Leroy “Sugarfoot” Bonner, 69, 1944 – January 27, 2013:
Musician; American funk guitarist and vocalist; cancer
Bonner’s big claim to fame was as the guitarist for Ohio Players. Originally known as the Ohio Untouchables, having formed in 1959, they broke up when their vocalist left to pursue a solo career, in 1963. In 1964, the core members reformed the band and brought in Leroy Bonner as a guitarist. Over time, the band dropped the name “Untouchables” and added “Players”. The band disbanded and reformed again in 1970, and then went on to record several memorable hits like “Funky Worm” (1973), “Skin Tight” (1974), “Fire” (1974), “Sweet Sticky Thing” (1975), “Fopp” (1976), and “Who’d She Coo?” (1976).
However, their signature song, and a tune you could not avoid hearing, back in 1975, was the phenomenal “Love Rollercoaster”. One of the reasons this song was so huge, aside from its killer intro, was because of the urban legend that went along with it, namely a scream in the song being attributed to a girl falling to her death from a rollercoaster. And as any musician knows, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.