Felix Silla, ‘Addams Family’ and ‘Star Wars’ Actor, Dead at 84
Felix Silla, the actor best known for playing Cousin Itt on The Addams Family, has died of cancer at the age of 84, the Associated Press reports. Silla was born in Abruzzo, Italy, the AP reports, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1955. Before he began working in Hollywood, both as an actor and stuntman, Silla toured as a bareback rider, trapeze artist, and tumbler with both the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The actor, who stood less than four feet tall, brought to life not only the most hirsute member of the creepy, kooky sitcom family, but also went on to play an Ewok in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. (Specifically, the AP reports the actor played the Ewok who rides in on a hang glider.) In an amusing twist, Silla also appeared in Mel Brooks’ spoof of the franchise, Spaceballs. (He played a Dink, the film’s parody of Jawas.)
Black Rob Former Bad Boys Records Rapper dead at 52.
Black Rob died Saturday in Atlanta, according to longtime friend and former labelmate Mark Curry, who said he was holding the hip-hop performer’s hand at the end. He’d been hospitalized and suffered multiple health problems in recent years, and died of cardiac arrest, Curry said.
“Rest in power, King,” Diddy wrote on Instagram. “You have made millions of people all over the world feel good and dance!”
Born Robert Ross and raised in Harlem, New York City, Black Rob started rapping even before he became a teenager. After signing to Bad Boy, he made striking guest appearances alongside labelmates in the 1990s and early 2000s, including Diddy’s “Bad Boy for Life” and remixes of Total’s “What About Us” and 112’s “Come See Me.”
He spun a 13-bar story of revenge on the 1998 posse cut “24 Hrs. to Live” alongside DMX, who died earlier this month.
Hester Ford, oldest living American, dies at 115 ... or 116?
A North Carolina woman who grew up picking cotton, got married at 14 and went on to become the oldest living American with more than 120 great-great-grandchildren has died peacefully in her home, according to her family.
Hester Ford was either 115 or 116 years old depending on which census report was accurate. Either way, she was the oldest living American when she died Saturday in Charlotte, according to the Gerontology Research Group, which tracks “supercentenarians.” They listed her age as 115 years and 245 days.
“She was a pillar and stalwart to our family and provided much needed love, support and understanding to us all,” said her great-granddaughter, Tanisha Patterson-Powe, in a statement emailed to news outlets.
Ford was born on a farm in Lancaster County, South Carolina, in 1905, if you accept the more conservative estimate of her age.
She married John Ford at age 14, and gave birth to the first of her 12 children at age 15.
The couple moved to Charlotte, where she remained for the rest of her life. Her husband died in 1963 at age 57, three years after the couple moved to Charlotte. Hester Ford then lived in the home on her own, without assistance, until the age of 108, when she bruised ribs in a bathtub fall and her family members insisted on moving in to help. She lived in the home with family until her death.
Her 12 children gave her 68 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren, and at least 120 great-great-grandchildren.
“She not only represented the advancement of our family but of the Black African American race and culture in our country. She was a reminder of how far we have come as people on this earth,” Patterson-Powe said.
In her final years, her family said her routine involved a breakfast that always included half a banana, a trip outside for fresh air, weather permitting, and sitting in her recliner looking at family albums, doing puzzles and listening to gospel music.
“I just live right, all I know,” she said when asked about the secret to her longevity.
Walter Mondale, Carter’s vice president, dies at 93
Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a liberal icon who lost one of the most lopsided presidential elections after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died Monday. He was 93.
The death of the former senator, ambassador and Minnesota attorney general was announced in a statement from his family. No cause was cited.
Mondale followed the trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, from Minnesota politics to the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency, serving under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.
In a statement Monday night, Carter said he considered Mondale “the best vice president in our country’s history.” He added: “Fritz Mondale provided us all with a model for public service and private behavior.”
President Joe Biden said of Mondale: “There have been few senators, before or since, who commanded such universal respect. ... It was Walter Mondale who defined the vice presidency as a full partnership, and helped provide a model for my service.”
Mondale’s own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan’s popularity. His selection of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate made him the first major-party presidential nominee to put a woman on the ticket, but his declaration that he would raise taxes helped define the race.
On Election Day, he carried only his home state and the District of Columbia. The electoral vote was 525-13 for Reagan — the biggest landslide in the Electoral College since Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon in 1936. (Sen. George McGovern got 17 electoral votes in his 1972 defeat, winning Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.)
“I did my best,” Mondale said the day after the election, and blamed no one but himself.
“I think you know I’ve never really warmed up to television,” he said. “In fairness to television, it never really warmed up to me.”
Years later, Mondale said his campaign message had proven to be the right one.
“History has vindicated me that we would have to raise taxes,” he said. “It was very unpopular, but it was undeniably correct.”
In 2002, state and national Democrats looked to Mondale when Sen. Paul Wellstone, D-Minn., was killed in a plane crash less than two weeks before Election Day. Mondale agreed to stand in for Wellstone, and early polls showed him with a lead over the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman.
But the 53-year-old Coleman, emphasizing his youth and vigor, out-hustled the then-74-year-old Mondale in an intense six-day campaign. Mondale was also hurt by a partisan memorial service for Wellstone, in which thousands of Democrats booed Republican politicians in attendance. One speaker pleaded: “We are begging you to help us win this election for Paul Wellstone.”
Polls showed the service put off independents and cost Mondale votes. Coleman won by 3 percentage points.
“The eulogizers were the ones hurt the most,” Mondale said after the election. “It doesn’t justify it, but we all make mistakes. Can’t we now find it in our hearts to forgive them and go on?”
It was a particularly bitter defeat for Mondale, who even after his loss to Reagan had taken solace in his perfect record in Minnesota.
“One of the things I’m most proud of,” he said in 1987, “is that not once in my public career did I ever lose an election in Minnesota.”
Years after the 2002 defeat, Mondale returned to the Senate to stand beside Democrat Al Franken in 2009 when he was sworn in to replace Coleman after a drawn-out recount and court battle.
Mondale started his career in Washington in 1964, when he was appointed to the Senate to replace Humphrey, who had resigned to become vice president. Mondale was elected to a full six-year term with about 54% of the vote in 1966, although Democrats lost the governorship and suffered other election setbacks. In 1972, Mondale won another Senate term with nearly 57% of the vote.
His Senate career was marked by advocacy of social issues such as education, housing, migrant workers and child nutrition. Like Humphrey, he was an outspoken supporter of civil rights.
Mondale tested the waters for a presidential bid in 1974 but ultimately decided against it. “Basically I found I did not have the overwhelming desire to be president, which is essential for the kind of campaign that is required,” he said in November 1974.
In 1976, Carter chose Mondale as No. 2 on his ticket and went on to unseat Gerald Ford.
As vice president, Mondale had a close relationship with Carter. He was the first vice president to occupy an office in the White House, rather than in a building across the street. Mondale traveled extensively on Carter’s behalf, and advised him on domestic and foreign affairs.
While he lacked Humphrey’s charisma, Mondale had a droll sense of humor.
When he dropped out of the 1976 presidential sweepstakes, he said, “I don’t want to spend the next two years in Holiday Inns.”
Reminded of that shortly before he was picked as Carter’s running mate, Mondale said, “I’ve checked and found that they’re all redecorated, and they’re marvelous places to stay.”
Mondale never backed away from his liberal principles.
“I think that the country more than ever needs progressive values,” Mondale said in 1989.
That year, Democrats tried to persuade him to challenge Minnesota GOP Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, but he decided against making the race, saying it was time to make way for a new generation.
“One of the requirements of a healthy party is that it renews itself,” he said at the time. “You can’t keep running Walter Mondale for everything.”
That paved the way for Wellstone to win the Democratic nomination, and go on to upset Boschwitz. Wellstone had been preparing to take on Mondale in a primary but would have been a heavy underdog.
The son of a Methodist minister and a music teacher, Walter Frederick Mondale was born Jan. 5, 1928, in tiny Ceylon, Minnesota, and grew up in several small southern Minnesota towns.
He was only 20 when he served as a congressional district manager for Humphrey’s successful Senate campaign in 1948. His education, interrupted by a two-year stint in the Army, culminated with a law degree from the University of Minnesota in 1956.
Mondale began a law practice in Minneapolis and ran the successful 1958 gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Orville Freeman, who appointed Mondale state attorney general in 1960. Mondale was elected attorney general in the fall of 1960 and was reelected in 1962.
As attorney general, Mondale moved quickly into civil rights, antitrust and consumer protection cases. He was the first Minnesota attorney general to make consumer protection a campaign issue.
After his White House years, Mondale served from 1993-96 as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Japan, fighting for U.S. access to markets ranging from cars to cellular phones.
He helped avert a trade war in June 1995 over autos and auto parts, persuading Japanese officials to give American automakers more access to Japanese dealers and pushing Japanese carmakers to buy U.S. parts.
Mondale kept his ties to the Clintons. In 2008, he endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for president, switching his allegiance only after Barack Obama sealed the nomination.
When Democrats came to him after Wellstone’s death, Mondale was working at the Minneapolis law firm of Dorsey & Whitney and serving on corporate and nonprofit boards. He returned to the firm after the brief campaign.
Mondale and his wife, Joan Adams Mondale, were married in 1955. During his vice presidency, she pushed for more government support of the arts and gained the nickname “Joan of Art.” She had minored in art in college and worked at museums in Boston and Minneapolis.
The couple had two sons, Ted and William, and a daughter, Eleanor. Ted Mondale served six years in the Minnesota Senate and made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for governor in 1998. William Mondale served for a time as an assistant attorney general. Eleanor Mondale, who became a broadcast journalist and TV host, died of brain cancer in 2011.
Joan Mondale died in 2014 at age 83 after an extended illness.
Jim Steinman, composer of hit records for Meat Loaf, dies at 73
Jim Steinman, a songwriter who composed chart-topping hits for Celine Dion and Bonnie Tyler, but was best-known for creating the grandiose music for Meat Loaf’s popular “Bat Out of Hell” recordings, died April 19 in Danbury, Conn. He was 73.
The death was confirmed by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of Connecticut, which did not provide additional details. A brother, Bill Steinman, told the Associated Press that the cause of death was kidney failure after strokes.
Mr. Steinman, nothing if not eccentric, woke up late in the day and worked all night, writing songs that combined the power of opera, Broadway extravaganzas and the rock-and-roll wall of sound of producer Phil Spector.
He was a protege of theatrical producer Joseph Papp, and his songs often had the dramatic presence of miniature plays, with lavish arrangements featuring keyboards, thundering guitars and, most memorably, the dynamic voice of Meat Loaf, a heavyset singer who rode Mr. Steinman’s songs to fame.
Tempest Storm, exotic dancer called ‘The Last Queen of Burlesque,’ dies at 93
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In the 1950s, when striptease artists such as Lili St. Cyr, Blaze Starr and Helen “Treasure Chest” West were regularly featured in tabloids and popular magazines, Annie Blanche Banks, most famously known as Tempest Storm, may have been the most famous exotic dancer of them all.
In 1956, Ms. Storm signed a 10-year contract that paid her a minimum of $100,000 a year. Her breasts were reportedly insured for $1 million. She caused a stampede of 1,500 male students when she appeared at the University of Colorado.
“They must have been shut up for months without women,” she said. “They rushed me like a herd of cattle.”
Her Hollywood friends included Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. Her many paramours, according to her 1987 autobiography, included Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy.
The death was confirmed by her manager, Harvey Robbins, who declined to cite a cause.
For more than 25 years, Ms. Storm’s name appeared on the marquees of a nationwide network of burlesque theaters, a relic of 20th-century entertainment now vanished into the past. In Washington alone, she performed at such places as the Casino Royale, Silver Slipper, Gayety Burlesk and Le Crazy Spot.
“I did a class act,” Ms. Storm told Portland’s Oregonian newspaper in 2014. “Beautiful wardrobe. Big band. Opening act. It was sexy, teasing, but nothing vulgar.”
She trained with a choreographer, sewed her outfits herself and dyed her hair a fiery red. She walked onstage wearing a full-length gown, long gloves and a mink stole — and left it wearing considerably less.
“You haven’t seen stripping till you’ve seen Tempest,” Gayety Burlesk manager Abe Attenson told The Washington Post in 1966.
Diana Miranda aka Paola Ferratti Trans Model and Stylist dead at 35
Diana Miranda turned 35 on Friday, her sister called during the day to congratulate her, but she never responded so yesterday she went to find her in her apartment, in colonia San Miguel Chapultepec. When she arrived she found her her in the bathroom with two knive wounds.
Until November Diana lived in Ecatepec, but for three months she had lived in department 201, on the corner of Avenida Jalisco and Gobernador José Guadalupe Covarrubias, Miguel Hidalgo. According to neighbors, they used to see Diana walking her Yorkie puppy and sheused to park her white Hyundai I-10 car in front of the home, where friends visited her.
Her sister went to the apartment, but no one opened the door to her even though the television was on. Then she looked for a locksmith and upon entering saw Diana lying in the bathroom. Next to her was her cell phone.
On March 11, 2019 Diana had been harassed by two subjects—Oziel AH and Juan Carlos BG, 23 and 25—when she was walking in the company of a friend over Rio Consulate. The friend claimed the compliments and in response the assailants broke the Hyundai I-10 car."
Shock G, Digital Underground frontman and 'Humpty Hump' rapper, dead at 57
His Digital Underground groupmate Chopmaster J. posted the news Thursday night to Instagram: "34 years ago almost to the day we had a wild idea we can be a hip hop band and take on the world through it all the dream became a reality and the reality became a nightmare for some. And now he's awaken from the fame long live shock G Aka Humpty Hump and Rest In Peace my Brotha Greg Jacobs!!!"
Rapper Ice Cube wrote, "RIP Shock-G/Humpty Hump. I remember when NWA's road manager Atron said he had a group called Digital Underground. He played DOWHATCHALIKE video & I went crazy. I had to sample DU on JACKIN FOR BEATS and WHO'S THE MACK. And nobody had a better stage show. A true Bay Area original."
Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins has died at age 90
An astronaut who flew on one of the most famous space missions of all time has died. Michael Collins, 90, was part of the three-member crew on Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission in 1969. Unlike Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, he never walked on the moon. Collins stayed behind and piloted the command module as it circled above. Because of that, Collins is often called the "forgotten astronaut."
Collins had been battling cancer. In a statement released by his family, "He spent his final days peacefully, with his family by his side. Mike always faced the challenges of life with grace and humility, and faced this, his final challenge in the same way."
NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk said the nation lost a true pioneer, "NASA mourns the loss of this accomplished pilot and astronaut, a friend of all who seek to push the envelope of human potential. Whether his work was behind the scenes or on full view, his legacy will always be as one of the leaders who took America's first steps into the cosmos. And his spirit will go with us as we venture toward farther horizons."
Anita Lane, Founding Member of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, Dead at 61
As a solo artist, Lane wrote dark, luscious chamber pop that owed a debt to Burt Bacharach and Serge Gainsbourg. Her light, airy falsetto had a knack for cutting through collaborator Mick Harvey’s arrangements. As a lyricist working with the Birthday Party and the Bad Seeds, she had a knack for writing the eerie and morbid lyrics that were the calling cards of Cave’s early work. Cave still performs some of the Bad Seeds songs Lane co-authored such as “From Her to Eternity” and “Stranger Than Kindness.”
As a member of the Bad Seeds, Lane helped write Cave’s signature song, the cacophonous, brooding “From Her to Eternity,” the title track of their 1984 album. The song describes a man obsessing about the girl who lives in the apartment above him over a clanging ostinato piano note. “Hot tears come splashin’ on down/Leaking through the cracks,” he sings, “Down upon my face/I catch ’em in my mouth.” They had written the words together late one night in their Brixton Hill flat in London.
Mouseketeer and 'The Rifleman' actor Johnny Crawford dies at 75
According to the actor's website, he died Thursday with his wife by his side after battling Alzheimer's disease and contracting COVID-19.
"It is with great sadness that we share the news of Johnny Crawford’s passing," the website posted. "We are grateful for the outpouring of love and support from friends and fans around the world."
Crawford rose to stardom after being cast in the ABC series "The Rifleman" which ran for five seasons. Crawford played the son of a western rancher Lucas McCain (Chuck Connors) who was also a union Civil War veteran. His role in "The Rifleman" led him to be Emmy-nominated for best supporting actor in a dramatic series.
"The Rifleman" actor Johnny Crawford has died. He was 75.
Before playing young McCain, Crawford was one of the first Mouseketeers on the Mickey Mouse Club. He also made appearances in many TV series aired in the 1950s including "The Lone Ranger," "The Count of Monte Cristo" and "The Loretta Young Show."
The actor also worked in music. In 1962, Crawford's song "Cindy's Birthday" peaked on the Billboard charts at No. 8. He is also credited with performing the song "Easy Come Easy Go" featured on 2004 film "Hellboy."
Friends in entertainment remembered Crawford on Twitter as an "inspiration" and a "dear friend."
"My dear friend #JohnnyCrawford just passed away. I pray for his wife Charlotte as she was by his side. Johnny was a real cowboy and will be greatly missed," wrote "Happy Days" actor Scott Baio.
"How the West Was Won" actor Bruce Boxleitner wrote: "@johnnycrawford was one of the kindest guys I ever met. I never heard a cross word pass his lips. An inspiration to me as a boy and a friend of mine since the 80s."
Olympia Dukakis, Oscar Winner for 'Moonstruck,' Dies at 89
Dukakis died in New York, her brother Apollo wrote on Facebook. "After many months of failing health she is finally at peace and with her [husband] Louis."
The late-blooming star also was known for her turn as Clairee Belcher, a woman of fiber and the elegant widowed friend of Ouiser Boudreaux (Shirley MacLaine), in Herbert Ross' Steel Magnolias (1989), and she portrayed a personnel director in Working Girl (1988) and a principal in Mr. Holland's Opus (1995).
Away from the big screen, Dukakis taught drama at NYU for more than 15 years and was a founding member of two regional theaters: The Charles Playhouse in Boston and the Whole Theater in Montclair, New Jersey.
Her husband of 55 years, stage and character actor Louis Zorich (Paul Reiser's father Mad About You), died in January 2018 at age 93.
She was a first cousin of former Massachusetts governor and 1988 U.S. presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.
After years toiling on the stage, Dukakis, then in her mid-fifties, turned heads as the nagging Sicilian wife and mother Rose Castorini in Norman Jewison's Moonstruck (1987). She also won a Golden Globe and top honors from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review for her career-defining performance.
"My daughter was going to college on credit cards when Moonstruck hit," she said in the 2013 documentary Olympia Dukakis: Undefined. "I didn't know about acting, I didn't know about anything."
Cher paid tribute to her movie mom on Twitter:
Olympia Dukakis Was an Amazing,Academy Award Winning Actress.Olympia Played My Mom In Moonstruck,& Even Though Her Part was
That Of a Suffering Wife, WeALL The Time.She Would Tell Me How MUCH She Loved Louis,Her”Handsome Talented,Husband”.I Talked To Her 3Wks Ago. Rip Dear One pic.twitter.com/RcCZaeKFmz
— Cher (@cher) May 1, 2021
Dukakis made something of a career playing irritating moms, doing just that opposite Kirstie Alley in the three Look Who's Talking films released in 1989, '90 and '93 and then taking Ted Danson to task in Dad (1989).
"The fun part is that people pass me on the street and yell lines from my movies," she said in a 1991 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "For Moonstruck, they say, 'Your life is going down the toilet!' Or from Dad, they say, 'How much are those pork chops?' They say, 'Do you know who you are?' It's real funny."
In 1986-87, Dukakis starred on Broadway as a Jewish octogenarian (and Marlo Thomas' mother) in Mike Nichols' long-running comedy Social Security. (Jewison saw her on stage in that and then hired her for Moonstruck.)
She also appeared on the big stage in The Aspen Papers, Abraham Cochrane, Who's Who in Hell and in the one-woman show Rose, about a Holocaust survivor.
She revered the great classical roles of the theater, reflected in off-Broadway credits like Electra, Titus Andronicus and Peer Gynt (the last one came opposite Stacy Keach with the New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park).
Dukakis also won Obie Awards for her work in Bertolt Brecht's A Man's a Man and Christopher Durang's The Marriage of Bette and Boo and starred in The Memorandum and Sam Shepard's Curse of the Starving Class.
Her final New York stage role was as Flora Goforth, the wealthy widow who spends her dying days at her Italian seaside villa with a seductive young man of mystery in Roundabout Theatre Company's 2011 revival of Tennessee Williams' rarely produced play The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore.
A three-time Emmy nominee, Dukakis played the transgender landlady Anna Madrigal on Armistead Maupin's four Tales of the City miniseries/series (the most recent one premiered in June 2019 on Netflix).
In a 2015 interview with The A.V. Club, she said she asked to speak with "a human being who's gone through this" when she arrived to play the character the first time.
"They found someone," Dukakis recalled. "She came, and when she opened the door, she was, like, 6-foot-2, with hands that could wrap around a football, but a soft voice. Lovely breasts. She walks into the room, she sits down, and … she was a sex therapist, and she evidently helps people with these transitions. And I asked her, 'What was it that you wanted so much that made it possible for you to go through this incredible journey?'
"And this is what she said to me: 'All my life, I yearned for the friendship of women.' And I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I don't know what I expected her to say, but not that. And that I knew. And I totally understood. To have your voice silenced, to not be able to be able to speak and be who you are … Who doesn't know about that? So that’s how I was able to play Anna Madrigal."
Olympia Dukakis was born June 20, 1931, in Lowell, Massachusetts. Her father, a Greek immigrant, launched a drama club to stage the classic Greek plays. After graduating from Boston University, where she was a New England fencing champion — she also was pretty good at basketball, tennis, pingpong and riflery — she worked as a physical therapist to earn money to get her masters in theater arts.
After attaining her degree, Dukakis came to New York in 1958 and taught drama at NYU while pursuing parts. In summer stock, she panicked during her first onstage performance, unable to speak for an entire act.
Her first TV performances came in 1962 on episodes of The Nurses and Dr. Kildare. In Peter Yates' John and Mary (1969), she portrayed Dustin Hoffman's mom, and she was a mother again, this time Joseph Bologna's, in Made for Each Other (1971).
Her body of film work also includes Jules Dassin's The Rehearsal (1974), Death Wish (1974), Rich Kids (1979), The Wanderers (1979), The Idolmaker (1980), The Cemetery Club (1993), Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult (1994) — in a cameo as herself at a chaotic Academy Awards telecast — Mighty Aphrodite (1995), 3 Needles (2005), Whiskey School (2005), Jesus, Mary and Joey (2005), In the Land of Women (2007), Cloudburst (2011) and The Infiltrator (2016).
Dukakis was a regular on the daytime drama Search for Tomorrow in the 1980s — taking the job to make ends meet when her husband was injured in a car accident and sidelined for many months — and had guest-starring stints on many TV series, including The Equalizer and Bored to Death, on which she had a torrid affair with Zach Galifianakis.
She met Zorich, a Chicago native, during an audition for an off-Broadway play. Neither got the part, but they did get each other. He gave her a 98-cent wedding ring that he purchased at Woolworth's, and they got married at City Hall.
"I remember her eyes, she was very sexy, and I said, 'Oh, my God, this woman …," Zorich said in the Undefined documentary. "And she wasn't a shrinking violet; she never was."
Survivors include their children, Christina, Peter and Stefan.
Frank McRae, Actor in ‘Licence to Kill’ and ‘Last Action Hero,’ Dies at 80
McRae died in Santa Monica, Calif. on April 29 as a result of a heart attack, his daughter-in-law confirmed to Variety.
The NFL player-turned-actor was born in Memphis, Tenn. A star athlete in high school, he went on to Tennessee State University as a double major in drama and history. McRae had a brief career as a professional football player and was the defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears and Los Angeles Rams.
Making the pivot to a new kind of stage, McRae found his calling in the entertainment industry. In his 30-plus years as a character actor, he appeared in over 40 movies. Standing at approximately six-and-a-half feet tall, McRae took advantage of scooping up tough guy roles in movies like “Hard Times,” “Big Wednesday” and “F.I.S.T.” with Sylvester Stallone. McRae would go on to appear in three more films with Stallone in the ’70s and ’80s, including “Paradise Alley,” “Lock Up” and “Rocky II.”
In the 1973 gangster film “Dillinger,” McRae played Reed Youngblood, a grinning inmate who helps Warren Oates’ titular John Dillinger escape. According to IMDb, he got the role by standing in a production executive’s parking space until granted a meeting. McRae also appeared in the 1989 James Bond film “Licence to Kill” as Sharkey, a close friend of Bond (Timothy Dalton) and Felix Leiter (David Hedison).
Not to be tied down to just playing tough guys and authority figures — he played a police captain four separate times from 1982 to 1983 — McRae was also featured in comedies like “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” “Batteries Not Included” and “Used Cars.” He even parodied his own role in “48 Hours” with a performance in 1993’s “Last Action Hero” alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger.
McRae is survived by his son Marcellus and his grandchildren Camden, Jensen and Holden. Donations in his memory can be made to Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, an orphan elephant rescue and wildlife rehabilitation program in Kenya.