Pete Smith began his career, humbly, as an aide on the vaudeville circuit. He soon found work with Louis B. Mayer as a publicity manager for Mayer’s studio. He was promoted to doing voice overs and editing on short subjects and sports-related newsreels. Based on his sense of humor, Pete was given his own series at MGM Studios. He narrated the Pete Smith Presents series, putting on a high-pitched nasal voice that became very familiar to the movie-going public. His shorts, some featuring animal actors, became popular and Pete was able to produce a series of nine-minute films he dubbed “Goofy Movies.”
Pete worked closely with actor-stuntman Dave O’Brien and his wife Dorothy Short. O’Brien became so familiar with Pete’s style that, after a while, he was able to fill in and mimic the style, allowing for the production of more films. Over the course of his career, Pete produced and narrated over 150 film projects and earned fourteen Academy Award nominations. He was given an honorary Oscar at the 26th annual event.
Pete suffered from poor health in his later years. He was admitted to a convalescent home in Santa Monica, California. On January 12, 1979, Pete climbed the stairs to the roof of the facility and jumped to his death. He was 86.
Nathan Sawaya attended and graduated from New York University with bachelor’s and law degrees. He began practicing law in Hollywood, California with the international law firm of Winston & Strawn.
In 2004, Nathan left his career in law to create sculptures out of Lego full-time. While not an employee of the Lego company, he has been officially recognized as one of the top Lego builders in the world and is endorsed as a Lego Certified Professional.
He maintains two working studios — one in New York and one in Los Angeles — where he creates Lego versions of famous objects, and original concepts as well as taking custom commissions. He has access to over 1.5 billion Lego bricks at any given time.
Nathan’s work has been displayed all over the world, including the popular “The Art of the Brick,” which has had numerous global presentations.
He still yells when he steps on one in the dark in the middle of the night.
Louise Harrison came to the United States from her native England in the 1950s. She settled in Illinois with her husband, a Scottish expatriate. She lived the unassuming life of a mid-Western housewife.
In the early 1960s, Louise’s younger brother George formed a rock band with two young men he had recently met. The pair — Paul McCartney and John Lennon — first called their band The Quarrymen and later The Beatles. They played small clubs in their hometown of Liverpool and eventually made a name for themselves.
Louise, as a proud sister does, began writing letters to local Illinois radio stations, singing the praises of her brother’s band. In 1963, one station in Illinois played “From Me To You,” becoming one of the first to play the Fab Four on American radio. Of course, the rest is — as they say — music history.
Louise remained close with her brother over the years. As a sort of “thank you,” George sent Louise a $2000 per month pension, a gesture he intended to last her lifetime. He said that, given his success and resulting financial situation, there is no reason Louise should ever be in need. However, in the 1990s, Louise gave her blessing to a bed-and-breakfast named “A Hard Days Night.” George did not approve of the business venture and he became estranged from his sister. They reconciled briefly just prior to George’s death in 2001. A short time later, at the behest of George Harrison’s widow and his son, Louise’s monthly stipend ceased. Louise’s name was also absent from her brother’s will.
In 2014, Louise published an autobiography to minimal success. She passed away in hospice care at a Florida assisted living facility in January 2023 at the age of 91.
This illustration was done for the Faces of Death Project, an internet-wide illustration project started by Michael Hambouz in 1997. This is my sixth year of participation.
As a student at Northern Illinois University, Cynthia Ann Cichorski took DJ duties at the campus radio station. She parlayed her communications degree as a reporter for a local radio station using the more “radio-friendly name “Morgan.”
After graduation, Cindy worked as the on-air weather forecaster at a Rockford TV station. Eventually, she made her way to Los Angeles, where her good looks landed her a stint as the “Irish Spring Girl” in a series of commercials.
In 1980, Cindy made her film debut in the raucous comedy Caddyshack. Cindy played “Lacy Underall,” the promiscuous niece of Ted Knight’s “Judge Smails” character. Two years later, she co-starred in Disney’s Tron, the first computer-generated film and future cult classic. Cindy made dozens of guest appearances on episodic television, as well as a regular role in later seasons of the nighttime soap opera Falcon Crest. Although she did not appear in the 2010 sequel to Tron, she participated in some promotion for the film with co-star Bruce Boxleitner.
Out of the spotlight for years, Cindy lived modestly with a roommate in Lake Worth Beach, Florida. On December 30, 2023, Cindy’s roommate returned home after a holiday trip. She smelled a “strong odor” coming from Cindy’s bedroom. She knocked on the door and received no answer. Worried, Cindy’s roommate called the local sheriff’s office. When law enforcement opened Cindy’s bedroom door, they found the actress dead. It was estimated that she had died several days earlier. Cindy was 69 years old.
On December 17, 2023, Cindy posted an unusual message the social media platform “X.” She refenced a call she received from a man claiming to be her agent. She also seemed to be concerned for her own safety and for her future living arrangements.
No additional information has been made public. Cindy’s death was determined to be from natural causes.
Much like Lou Costello, Tom Smothers was a character. His stammering naiveté was a concisely conceived and performed character. That’s right — a character.
Tom was a star competitor in track and field at San Jose State College, as well as a competitive unicyclist. Tom, along with his younger brother Dick, set out to be a folk musician. He didn’t think he was good enough, so he decided to introduce comedy into the act — something he though he was particularly good at.
After an unsuccessful sitcom on CBS, Tom negotiated a variety show as a vehicle for Dick and himself. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour premiered on the CBS network in 1967 and Tom fought with network censors for the entire run of the show. He slyly introduced controversial topics — like drugs, sex, the Vietnam War, politics — using his innocent, wide-eyed “Tommy” character, much to CBS’s chagrin.
Tom grew more and more politically active. He befriended John Lennon and even was featured on Lennon’s single “Give Peace a Chance” in 1969. Tom was an outspoken advocate for all things he considered to be worthy causes. He also was a harsh critic of his contemporaries not using their own fame for righteous causes. He once came to blows with now-disgraced comedian Bill Cosby after years of Tom’s needling over Cosby’s lackadaisical stance on political issues.
Tom maintained a keen head for business, managing his career to much financial success. He toured regularly with his brother and offered his comedic talents and recognition to promote a number of commercial products. He constantly strived to keep the Smothers Brothers live act fresh. In 2008, he became the tour’s opening act as “Yo-Yo Man,” almost silently demonstrating a heretofore unknown talent of yo-yo trickery. Tom even ventured into the winemaking business.
In early 2023, Tom announced that he was suffering for lung cancer. He succumbed to the disease in December of the same year. Tom Smothers was 86 years old.
In 1941, after a few roles in live-action films, Kent Rogers kicked off his career as a voice actor with a role in Goofy Groceries, a “Merrie Melodies” animated short directed by Bob Clampett. Just two months later, Kent’s talents were given a chance to shine, as he voiced 14 different characters in the famous short Hollywood Steps Out. In the acclaimed animated short, Kent provided dead-on vocal characterizations of James Cagney, James Stewart, Edward G. Robinson, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Peter Lorre and Groucho Marx. Kent continued to work on Warner Brothers cartoons, giving voice to numerous characters and becoming a favorite of director Tex Avery, as well as Bob Clampett.
In 1942, producer Leon Schlesinger adapted Dr. Seuss’s book Horton Hatches the Egg. This was the first time a Seuss book was brought to the screen. It was also the first time Warner Brothers licensed pre-existing source material that was still under current copyright. Kent was tapped to supply the voice of “Horton,” the title elephant.
Kent also provided the voice for such characters as “Henery Hawk,” “Beaky Buzzard” and “Junyer Bear,” as well as celebrity imitations, as needed. He also freelanced for Universal’s cartoon division, voicing “Woody Woodpecker” in five cartoon short subjects.
In 1943, Kent put his career on hold and enlisted in the US Navy. In July 1944, Kent was killed in a plane crash during a naval training exercise, just 22 days before his 21st birthday.