Whitney Houston, Tony Scott & More Celebrities Who Died in 2012 (PHOTOS)

Whitney Houston, Tony Scott, and more: The Daily Beast remembers some of the celebrities we lost this year.

AP Photo

AP Photo

By Mike Munoz


As we say goodbye to 2012 and welcome the new year, The Daily Beast remembers some of the luminaries we lost in the last 12 months, from the world of literature, to the streets of Broadway, to the Hollywood hills.

Matt Sayles / AP

Whitney Houston (1963–2012)

Born in New Jersey, Whitney Houston grew up singing gospel at a local church in Newark. Through her teen years, Houston did some modeling and appeared in such magazines as Glamour and Cosmopolitan. Her music career took off with the release of her debut, self-titled album in 1985, and she quickly became one of the most popular singers of the late 1980s. In 1992 she starred alongside Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard, which featured her trademark cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” Later in Houston’s career, her image took a hit due to rumored drug use, but she made a comeback in 2009 and released her final studio album, I Look to You. Houston also appeared in the film Sparkle, which was released after her death.

Kevin Winter / Getty

Tony Scott (1944–2012)

In the world of film, director Tony Scott and his brother Ridley Scott were two of the biggest names in the action-thriller genre. Born and raised in England, Tony Scott studied art at the Royal College of Art in London, where he began making short films. After graduating, Scott began making commercials for his older brother’s firm, Ridley Scott Associates. He eventually moved to the United States in the early ’80s and directed one of his first feature-length films, The Hunger. In 1986, Scott directed Top Gun, which was one of the highest-grossing films of the year and launched his career. He went on to work with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Denzel Washington and Jerry Bruckheimer, and directed such critically acclaimed films as Crimson Tide and Man on Fire.

Kevin Winter/ Getty

Michael Clarke Duncan (1957–2012)

Standing tall at 6 feet 5 inches, Michael Clarke Duncan had few fellow actors who were bigger. Before he got into acting, Duncan worked as a bodyguard in Hollywood for celebrities like Will Smith and Jamie Foxx. He was able to pick up small parts portraying bouncers in films before he eventually was cast in Michael Bay’s film Armageddon in 1998. A year later, Duncan played his breakout role of John Coffey in The Green Mile, which earned him both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actor. Duncan went on to have an illustrious acting career until he suffered a heart attack in July.

Reed Saxon / AP

Jenni Rivera (1969–2012)

Jenni Rivera was one of the most popular acts in the banda music scene and an icon in the Latin American community. In the mid-1990s, Rivera began recording music that received regular airtime on local radio stations in southern California. Over the next decade, her popularity grew, and she had great success with her 2005 album Parrandera, Rebelde y Atrevida. Rivera also had a career in television and was a coach on the Spanish spinoff of competition show The Voice, La Voz. In addition to her music and television career, Rivera was active in her Los Angeles community and was a spokeswoman for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Marcus Brandt / AP

Adam Yauch (1964–2012)

Better known by his stage name, MCA, Adam Yauch was one third of the hip-hop trio the Beastie Boys. Yauch and the Beastie Boys broke onto the scene in 1986 with the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, Licensed to Ill. Outside of the group, Yauch was a Buddhist and became heavily involved in the Tibetan-independence movement. He also was very vocal about his support of the feminist movement and apologized for some of the Beastie Boys’ early lyrics, which he deemed offensive toward women or homosexuals. Yauch battled salivary-gland cancer for three years.

Chris Pizzello / AP

Phyllis Diller (1917–2012)

Comedian Phyllis Diller began her career in 1952 at a radio station in Oakland, where she worked on a show titled Phyllis Dillis, the Homely Friendmaker. Diller began doing standup comedy in 1955 before making the move to movies. She starred alongside Bob Hope in a few films in the 1960s. Her work with Hope pushed her career to a new level, and she eventually landed her own, albeit short-lived, variety TV series on NBC titled The Phyllis Diller Show. Later in her career, she did voice work for animated series such as Hey Arnold! and Family Guy. Diller’s entertainment-industry career spanned more than half a century, and she is considered one of the most important female figures in comedy.

Ethan Miller / Getty

Donna Summer (1948–2012)

Known as the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer delivered a number of disco hits in the 1970s, including “Love to Love You Baby” and “Bad Girls.” Born and raised in Boston, Summer began singing at her local church and became involved in musicals in high school. After finishing school, she moved to Munich to work on a production of the musical Hair. Summer began recording music in Europe, and her songs quickly gained popularity at nightclubs back in the United States. Earlier this month, it was announced that Summer would be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.

Carlo Allegri / AP

Johnny Lewis (1983–2012)

Johnny Lewis began his acting career in the early 2000s, when he was in his late teens. He mostly had guest-starring roles in such TV series as 7th Heaven and Malcolm in the Middle. In 2004, Lewis made his feature-film debut in the musical Raise Your Voice. Lewis’s first starring role came in 2007, when he played Nolan in the independent film Palo Alto. He is perhaps best known for his role as Kio “Half-Sack” Epps in the first two seasons of the FX series Sons of Anarchy.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty

Neil Armstrong (1930–2012)

Born and raised in Ohio, Neil Armstrong became a global icon as the first man on the moon. Armstrong’s love of flying began at an early age. He started flight lessons at a local airport in high school and earned a flight certificate by age 15. He went on to study aeronautical engineering at Purdue University and earned his master’s degree in the same subject at USC. Armstrong served in the Navy during his college years and fought in the Korean War. After college he became an acclaimed test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California and in 1962 was invited to join the NASA Astronaut Corps. Armstrong and his Apollo 11 copilot Buzz Aldrin became the first men on the moon, with Armstrong uttering the storied phrase, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” He spent close to two and a half hours on the moon before returning to the spacecraft.

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Sally Ride (1951–2012)

In addition to being the year in which we lost the first man on the moon, 2012 also includes the death of Sally Ride, the first American woman to enter space. Ride earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. in physics at Stanford University and applied to the space program after graduation. In 1978 she joined NASA as a ground-based communicator and engineer. She became the first American woman in space in 1983 on the Challenger space shuttle and flew to space two more times before becoming the head investigator of the Challenger disaster in 1986. After her career at NASA, Ride became a physics professor at the University of California, San Diego, and in her later years coauthored five children’s books to encourage kids to study science.

Doug Pizac / AP

Andy Griffith (1926–2012)

Best known for the venerable sitcom The Andy Griffith Show, Andy Griffith was born into poverty in Mount Airy, N.C. Griffith’s love for entertainment was revealed at a young age. He became interested in music and got involved in his high school’s drama program. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he majored in music and was actively involved in plays and musicals. After college Griffith began doing comedy and appeared in a number of television specials before making his film debut in A Face in the Crowd in 1957. In 1960 he starred alongside Don Knotts in The Andy Griffith Show, which ran for almost eight years. He went on to star in the legal-drama series Matlock. In addition to acting, Griffith recorded several albums of comic monologues and hymns.

Frederick M. Brown / Getty

Sherman Hemsley (1938–2012)

Sherman Hemsley was born and raised in Philadelphia and joined the U.S. Air Force after dropping out of high school. After his service, Hemsley began studying drama at the Academy of Dramatic Arts before moving to New York, where he starred in the Broadway musical Purlie. In 1973 he joined the cast of All in the Family as the Bunkers’ neighbor George Jefferson, who often clashed with Archie and his conservative views. Hemsley’s character was so popular that he was given a spinoff series, The Jeffersons, which followed George and his family’s life in New York City and ran for 11 seasons.

Denis Poroy / AP

Junior Seau (1969–2012)

One of the most decorated defensive players in NFL history, Junior Seau was born in San Diego, but spent most of his childhood in American Samoa before his family moved back to California. Seau was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing football and basketball and participating in track and field. He played football at the University of Southern California and gained national attention in his final two seasons. Seau was drafted in 1990 by the San Diego Chargers and quickly became the face of the franchise due to his popularity and aggressive playing style. During his NFL career, Seau was selected for the Pro Bowl 12 consecutive times, and his number was retired. After Seau’s suicide this year, his family donated his brain to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to further research on possible brain damage sustained by football players.

Alex Brandon / AP

Dave Brubeck (1920–2012)

Jazz legend Dave Brubeck was raised in Ione, Calif., and was taught piano by his mother, a music teacher. Brubeck attended the University of the Pacific, where he studied veterinary science, but later changed his major to music. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942, though he didn’t see much combat, and returned to school at Mills College after four years of service. In 1951 he formed the Dave Brubeck Quartet with saxophonist Paul Desmond, whom he met in the military. The band recorded music for more than 60 years and released critically acclaimed jazz albums such as Time Out, which included one of their best-known tunes, “Take Five.”

Aijaz Rahi / AP

Ravi Shankar (1920–2012)

Born in Varanasi, India, sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar was perhaps best known for his association with George Harrison and the influence he had on the music of the Beatles. Shankar began studying the sitar in 1938 and also began composing classical Indian music. He began touring Europe and eventually found himself in the United States. Shankar shared the same recording studio as the Byrds, who incorporated his sound into their music and introduced their friend George Harrison to Indian classical music. In 1971, Shankar participated in Harrison’s charity Concert for Bangladesh, and two years later they recorded Shankar Family & Friends and toured North America together. Shankar is also the father of singer Norah Jones.

Tony Gutierrez / AP

Larry Hagman (1931–2012)

Larry Hagman is best known for his roles in popular television series such as Dallas and I Dream of Jeannie. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Hagman spent his teen years working with his father at the Antelope Tool Co., but he became interested in drama in high school. After high school he moved to New York City to pursue a career in acting, but in 1952, during the Korean War, he enlisted in the Army. In 1965, Hagman earned his breakthrough role as Maj. Anthony Nelson in the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie. Years later he was offered the role of J.R. Ewing in the show Dallas, a character he felt shared some similarities with a coworker of his at the Antelope Tool Co. Hagman earned two Golden Globe nominations for his work on Dallas.

David Livingston / Getty

Kathryn Joosten (1939–2012)

Chicago-born actress Kathryn Joosten started off as a nurse at Michael Reese Hospital. In 1982, Joosten switched to acting and became involved in a local theater company. She eventually moved to Hollywood and starting earning guest spots on TV series such as Roseanne, Seinfeld, and Just Shoot Me! Joosten landed a big roles in 1999, when she was cast as Mrs. Landingham in The West Wing. She later had a recurring role in the hit comedy series Desperate Housewives, which earned her four Emmy nominations and two wins for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series, in 2005 and 2008.

Charley Gallay / Getty

Ray Bradbury (1920–2012)

One of the most famous authors of the 20th century, Ray Bradbury is perhaps best known for the novel Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury was born in Waukegan, Ill., and began writing his own stories at age 11. In his teen years, he was heavily influenced by Edgar Allan Poe and H.G. Wells. In 1934, Bradbury’s family moved to Los Angeles, where he earned his first writing gig on the Burns and Allen Show. By 1942 he was a full-time writer and published his first collection of short stories, Dark Carnival. Bradbury eventually wrote Fahrenheit 451, which was interpreted as a commentary on censorship, though Bradbury has disputed this and explained that it actually is about society’s waning interest in literature. Outside of his writing career, Bradbury was an advocate for public libraries and donated money to California libraries in danger of being shut down due to budget cuts.

Jim Prisching / AP

Joe Paterno (1926–2012)

Joe Paterno, or JoePa, was on the Penn State football coaching staff for 62 seasons and led the Nittany Lions to two national titles. Born in Brooklyn, Paterno attended Brown University, where he played both quarterback and cornerback on the football team. He planned on pursuing a career as a lawyer, but instead signed on as an assistant coach at Penn State in 1950. When head coach Rip Engle retired in 1966, Paterno succeeded him. Over his career, Paterno coached the Nittany Lions to 298 victories—although 111 of his wins were vacated, and he was fired in 2011 due to his alleged involvement in the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal.

Charles Sykes / AP

Nora Ephron (1941–2012)

Writer, producer, and director Nora Ephron was born in New York City and grew up in Beverly Hills. Her first writing job was with the New York Post, where she was a reporter for five years. In the early 1980s she began screenwriting and crafted the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally ... Ephron got into directing in the early ’90s and directed such popular romantic comedies as Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. She was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay for her work on Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle.

Charley Gallay / Getty

Gore Vidal (1925–2012)

Reared in Washington, D.C., Gore Vidal began his writing career at age 21, when he wrote his first novel, Williwaw, in 1946. Vidal’s second book, The City and the Pillar, drew some controversy because the protagonist is openly gay, and his books were boycotted by The New York Times, which forced him to continue writing under the pseudonym Edgar Box. In the late ’50s he was hired as a screenwriter and helped rewrite the script for Ben-Hur in 1959. Vidal also wrote plays including The Best Man and Visit to a Small Planet, both of which were successful on Broadway. Throughout his career, Vidal contributed essays and articles to popular magazines such as The New Yorker and Esquire.

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Helen Gurley Brown (1922–2012)

Helen Gurley Brown’s career in journalism began at the Foote, Cone & Belding advertising agency (now known as DraftFCB), where she was a copywriter. In 1962, Brown published Sex and the Single Girl, a book that offers relationship advice to young women. The success of the book led to the release of a film of the same name two years later and helped Brown land the position of editor in chief of Cosmopolitan magazine in 1965. Brown helped turn around the then struggling magazine and was an outspoken advocate for women’s sexual freedom. In 1996, she was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors’ Hall of Fame.

David F. Smith/AP

Jack Klugman (1922-2012)

Jack Klugman holds his Emmy for his role in "The Odd Couple" presented at the 25th Emmy Awards Banquet for outstanding continued performance by an actor in a leading role in a comedy series in Los Angeles on May 20, 1973 file. Klugman, the prolific, craggy-faced character actor and regular guy who was loved by millions as the messy one in TV's "The Odd Couple" and the crime-fighting coroner in "Quincy, M.E.,".