Jackie Gleason was the most famous television actor of his time and he was so hilarious that reruns of his shows and movies are still popular today. At age 33, he became Chester A. Riley in the television production "The Life of Riley". At age 36, he starred in "The Jackie Gleason Show" as a series of characters who yelled a lot and murdered the English language. One of his most popular characters was Ralph Kramden, a brash, blustering, bumbling bus driver who always bullied his wife, Alice. These sketches became Gleason's most popular show, "The Honeymooners."
In the year 2000, a C-SPAN Poll ranking all U.S. Presidents was conducted by 58 presidential historians and scholars. Harry S. Truman ranked fifth behind Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Washington and Theodore Roosevelt. I think that Truman and Winston Churchill were the two most influential people of the 20th century. Truman helped to prevent a third world war and to preserve the free world from communist oppression.
After the end of World War II in 1945, the U.S. military commissioned captured German doctor Erwin Giesing and six of Hitler’s other physicians to write a detailed 225-page report of Adolf Hitler’s medical records. They showed that while he was Chancellor of the Third Reich, Hitler was addicted to cocaine, took 28 different drugs for intestinal gas, had severe lack of libido, and was given drugs that contained strychnine, a poison that most likely caused his constant pain.
On April 18, 1994, Richard Nixon suffered a massive stroke at his home in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Four days later he sank into a coma and died at age 81. Famous people from all over the world, including five U.S. presidents, attended his funeral. President Bill Clinton's eulogy talked about Nixon's accomplishments in foreign affairs and did not mention his constitutional crimes.
Tony Siragusa, nicknamed "the Goose," was a defensive tackle for 12 seasons and a major player in the 2001 Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl-winning team. He also played for the Indianapolis Colts. From 2003 to 2015, he was Fox Sports’ sideline reporter for National Football League games. He also hosted several television shows. He died on June 22, 2022, from what appeared to be a heart attack that may have been associated with recent extensive weight loss (down from well over 400 pounds to 360 pounds).
Mikhail Gorbachev was the last leader of the Soviet Union before its break-up in 1991. He supported Marxist–Leninist Communism but moved towards social democracy in his later life. From his early thirties onward, he suffered from diabetes that caused him to be hospitalized many times for various complications of the disease. His diabetes caused kidney failure that required several years of dialysis.
Helen Reddy was an Australian-American singer, actress, and activist who won the Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist in the 1974 American Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In the 1970s, three of her songs reached #1 and 15 singles were on the top 40 of the Billboard Hot-100 list. Reddy is best remembered for "I Am Woman," which sold more than a million copies, reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1972, and earned a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
Olivia Newton-John was a British-Australian singer, actress, and activist, most famous for starring with John Travolta in the 1978 musical film Grease, whose soundtrack is still today one of the world's best-selling albums. Her recordings have sold more than 100 million records, and she won four Grammy Awards. In 1992, at age 44, she was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
Leonard Nimoy won three Emmy awards for starring in "Star Trek" ((1966-1969) as Spock, a 23rd-century space voyager from the planet Vulcan. He was known for his pointed ears and constant use of the word "fascinating." Nimoy was also an actor in many other film and TV roles, a director of films, a mediocre singer, a published poet and an accomplished photographer. He gave up smoking two packs of cigarettes a day more than 30 years before his death from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
Bill Russell, ranked by many as the greatest basketball player of all time, died in his sleep at age 88 on July 31, 2022. No cause of death was given, but a clue may come from his heart valve surgery more than ten years ago. When Russell played on a team, the team almost always won.
Amy Winehouse was a British jazz singer and songwriter who won five Grammy Awards and had an album, Back to Black, that became the best-selling album so far in 21st century Britain. On July 23, 2011, she died of alcohol poisoning.
Barry Wood won 10 varsity letters from 1929 to 1931 as one of Harvard’s greatest athletes ever, and was the last Harvard player to be named All-American in football at the time when Harvard football teams played the University of Texas, University of Michigan and some of the other best teams in the country.
Jerry Lewis, the fabulously successful comedian, actor and director who starred in movies, television, nightclubs and Broadway stage, died at age 91 at his home in Las Vegas. His manager said that he "passed peacefully at home of natural causes with his loving family at his side." Throughout his life he had suffered several serious medical conditions that were treated with medications and procedures that had many side effects.
Two hundred years ago, Reverend Sylvester Graham was treated by the scientific community as a nut because he claimed that white flour, meat and alcohol were poisons and that obesity was a sin. He inspired the development of graham flour, graham bread and graham crackers, vegetarian diets and prohibition of alcohol. He had no knowledge of nutrition, and vitamins had not even been discovered, so he was really a prophet.
Mark Shields was a political columnist, a television commentator, and an election campaign advisor to numerous democratic candidates. He was a regular commentator and analysist on the PBS NewsHour for 32 years from 1988-2020. He was one of CNN's Capital Gang for 17 years from 1988-2005, and was a regular on Inside Washington on PBS and ABC until the show ended in 2013. Shields died from kidney failure at age 85, on June 18, 2022.
In 1991, hikers in the Italian Alps discovered Otzi the Iceman, a man who was preserved in ice after his murder about 5,300 years ago. He was killed by a hard hit on his head and an arrow through his shoulder when he was about 46 years old. He is now entombed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy with a life-size statue of him as he may have looked standing nearby.
Robert Atkins was a cardiologist who wrote The Dr. Atkins Diet Revolution books, promoting his weight-loss program that severely restricts carbohydrates and recommends fats and protein as the primary sources of calories.
Orrin Hatch was an attorney whose 42 years in the U.S. senate from 1977 to 2019 made him the longest-serving Republican U.S. senator ever. He retired from the senate in 2019 and died at age 88 on April 23, 2022, one week after suffering a stroke.
Mickey Gilley was a country music legend who recorded 42 singles that reached the top 40 on the U.S. Country charts and 17 No. 1 country hits. His most famous songs include “Room Full of Roses”, “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time”, and “Stand by Me.”
Joe DiMaggio was one of the greatest baseball players of all time. His 56-game-hitting streak record still stands today. He played in 10 World Series and his team won nine times. He was a three-time American League most-valuable player and 2-time champion of the American League in batting, home-runs, and runs-batted-in.
Members of the Judd family wrote that famous country music singer, Naomi Judd, died on April 30, 2022 at age 76 from “the disease of mental illness.” She suffered from depression and "hideous panic attacks" throughout her lifetime and finally committed suicide.
Ancel Keys was a prolific American scientist who is best known for his early work on heart attack risk factors in the 1950s. His theory was that dietary saturated fats and cholesterol raise blood cholesterol and blood pressure to increase risk for heart attacks.. Also in the 1950s, John Yudkin was the leading spokesman for the theory that sugar and other refined carbohydrates were the main culprits. Yudkin and Keys argued continuously, in journals and at medical meetings, about whether sugar or saturated fats were the prime cause of heart attacks.
Early on the morning of July 2, 1961, sixty-one year old Ernest Hemingway, one of America's greatest writers and the winner of both the Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize, sat in the foyer of his home and shot himself in the head with a double-barreled shotgun. I believe that his suicide was caused by his doctors' complete failure to diagnose hemochromatosis, a hereditary disease that was so well known and so easy to treat that he could have had no suffering at all.
Bobby Rydell was a rock and roll singer and actor who was a “teen idol” in the 1960s. He recorded 34 Top-40 hit-records and sold more than 25 million records, including Volare, Wild One, We Got Love, Kissin’ Time, Swingin’ School, Wildwood Days, and Forget Him. In 1963, he starred with Ann Margaret in the musical film, Bye Bye Birdie.
On Thursday, March 18, 2022, University of Pennsylvania swimmer Lia Thomas became the first transgender woman to win an NCAA Division I swimming championship when she won the 500-yard freestyle with a season-best time of 4 minutes, 33.24 seconds. On February 1, 2022, the sport's governing body, USA Swimming, adopted an Athlete Inclusion, Competitive Equity and Eligibility Policy, and established a three-person medical panel to administer the policy and review applications for elite and non-elite categories.
William Hurt was a stage, screen and television actor who won an Academy Award for best actor for Kiss of The Spider Woman, was nominated three other times for Academy Awards and starred in many popular films including Children of a Lesser God, Body Heat, The Big Chill, and Broadcast News.
Scott Hall was a "bad-guy" wrestling superstar who was inducted twice into the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE, previously WWF) Hall of Fame: in 2014 as Razor Ramon, known for wearing gold chains and flicking a toothpick at opponents, and in 2020 as a member of the “New World Order” with Kevin Nash and Hulk Hogan.
Muhammed Ali was honored by presidents and kings as the most famous athlete in the world. He was an Olympic gold medalist and three-time heavyweight world champion. His ancestors were slaves in the pre-Civil War South with some Irish and English in their heritage. His mother, Odessa O'Grady Clay, was a domestic and his father was a sign painter. As a child, he suffered all of the indignities of segregation in the South and he told reporters, "I started boxing because I thought this was the fastest way for a black person to make it in this country."