British spy who worked as a double agent for the Soviet Union. He became a Communist and decided to work for the MGB while a prisoner during the Korean War. Discovered in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison, he escaped from Wormwood Scrubs prison in west London in 1966 and fled to the Soviet Union. He was not one of the Cambridge Five spies, although he associated with Donald Maclean and Kim Philby after reaching the Soviet Union.
Date of death: December 26, 2020
Age at death: 98
Cause of death: Not disclosed
By the way:
Blake died in Moscow. The RIA Novosti news agency first reported Blake's death, citing Russia's SVR foreign intelligence agency. “We received some bitter news – the legendary George Blake passed away,” it said. Russian President Vladimir Putin, himself an ex-KGB agent, expressed his "deep condolences" to Blake's family and friends. In a message published on the Kremlin website, the Russian leader noted Blake's "invaluable contribution to ensuring strategic parity and maintaining peace on the planet." Putin also said of Blake, "Colonel Blake was a brilliant professional of special vitality and courage."
In an interview with NBC News in 1991, Blake said he regretted the deaths of the agents he had betrayed.
He remained a cmmitted Marxist–Leninist. Blake denied being a traitor, insisting that he had never felt British: "To betray, you first have to belong. I never belonged."
Australian politician who served as leader of the National Party of Australia[a] from 1971 to 1984 and was Deputy Prime Minister under John Gorton (1971), William McMahon (1971–1972) and Malcolm Fraser (1975–1983). Apart from being a minister under six prime ministers, he was Australia’s longest-serving deputy prime minister. He won the seat of Richmond in 1957, which had been held by his father Hubert, a Gallipoli veteran, and was later held by his own son Larry during the Howard government.
Date of death: December 20, 2020
Age at death: 90
Cause of death: Not stated.
American singer, guitarist, and professional baseball player. His greatest musical success came in the early to mid-1970s, when he was the best-selling performer for RCA Records since Elvis Presley. During the peak years of his recording career (1966–1987), he had 52 top-10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, 30 of which made it to number one, and won the Entertainer of the Year award at the Country Music Association Awards in 1971. He was country music’s first black superstar.
Date of death: December 12, 2020
Age at death: 86
Cause of death: Pride died in Dallas of complications related to COVID-19.
JOHN LE CARRE
British author of espionage novels. During the 1950s and 1960s, he worked for both the Security Service (MI5) and the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6). His third novel, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1963), became an international best-seller and remains one of his best-known works. Following the success of this novel, he left MI6 to become a full-time author. His books include The Looking Glass War (1965), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), Smiley's People (1979), The Little Drummer Girl (1983), The Night Manager (1993), The Tailor of Panama (1996), The Constant Gardener (2001), A Most Wanted Man (2008) and Our Kind of Traitor (2010), all of which have been adapted for film or television.
Date of death: December 12, 2020
Age at death: 89
Cause of death: Pneumonia
English actress, known for her appearances in the Carry On films and for playing Peggy Mitchell in the BBC One soap opera EastEnders. She joined the cast of EastEnders in 1994 and won the 1999 British Soap Award for Best Actress, before ultimately leaving the show in 2016 when her character was killed off. Between 1964 and 1974, she appeared in nine Carry On films, including Carry On Spying (1964), Carry On Doctor (1967), Carry On Camping (1969), Carry On Henry (1971) and Carry On Abroad (1972). She also co-presented the 1977 Carry On compilation That's Carry On!. Along with Jim Dale, she was one of the last surviving regulars on the series.
Date of death: December 10, 2020
Age at death: 83
Cause of death: Alzheimer’s
Australian political journalist and commentator. He was the son of Mungo Ballardie MacCallum (1913–1999), a journalist and pioneer of television in Australia, and Diana Wentworth, a great-granddaughter of the Australian explorer and politician William Charles Wentworth (1790–1872). MacCallum's father, grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather were also called Mungo MacCallum. He was a nephew of William Charles Wentworth IV (1907–2003), who was a Liberal member of the House of Representatives (1949–1977) and a strident anti-communist. MacCallum and his uncle, while agreeing on certain questions, were fundamentally of different political inclinations. He was once described by Gough Whitlam as a "tall, bearded descendant of lunatic aristocrats".
Date of death: December 9, 2020
Age at death: 78
Cause of death: He had throat cancer and prostate cancer and also suffered from a heart attack before his death
Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles “Chuck” Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier, in 1947, and setting a number of other flight records in a long military career. Yeager was a decorated World War II pilot, shooting down 13 German planes in 64 missions. After the war he became an Air Force test pilot, working in aeronautics programs that led to the space program. He set numerous flight speed records, once flying a X-1A military plane more than 1,600 mph. Yeager returned to serving as a combat pilot during the Vietnam War and also served in several Air Force command positions. Yeager won numerous military honors, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom of 1985.
Date of death: December 7, 2020
Age at death: 97
Cause of death: Not disclosed.
David Lander, front
American actor, voice actor, comedian, composer, musician, activist, and baseball scout. He also worked as the Goodwill Ambassador for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Lander was best known for his portrayal of Squiggy on the sitcom Laverne & Shirley.
Date of death: December 4, 2020
Age at death: 73
Cause of death: Complications from multiple sclerosis, from which he had suffered for 37 years.
Pro wrestling trailblazer who began his career in 1958 and who was the first openly gay wrestling star, coming out in the 1970s. He continued to work for World Wrestling Entertainment after retiring from the ring. playing an integral role in helping it become a global phenomenon.
Date of death: December 2, 2020
Age at death: 79
Cause of death: Liver failure.
American decathlete and film actor. Jihnson was the 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, having won silver in 1956. He had previously won a gold in the 1955 Pan American Games. He was the USA team's flag bearer at the 1960 Olympics and lit the Olympic cauldron at the Los Angeles Games in 1984.
In 1968, Johnson, football player Rosey Grier, and journalist George Plimpton tackled Sirhan Sirhan moments after he had fatally shot Robert F. Kennedy.
After he retired from athletics, Johnson turned to acting, sportscasting, and public service and was instrumental in creating the California Special Olympics. His acting career included appearances in The Sins of Rachel Cade (1961), the Elvis Presley film Wild in the Country (1961), Pirates of Tortuga (1961), None but the Brave (1965), two Tarzan films with Mike Henry, The Last Grenade (1970), Soul Soldier (1970), Roots: The Next Generations (1979), the James Bond film Licence to Kill (1989), and Think Big (1990).
Date of death: December 2, 2020
Age at death: 86
Cause of death: Stroke.
Maradona after winning the 1986 FIFA World Cup with Argentina
Argentine professional football player and manager, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time Maradona's vision, passing, ball control, and dribbling skills were combined with his small stature, which allowed him to manoeuvre better than most other players.
Maradona was nicknamed "El Pibe de Oro" ("The Golden Boy"), a name that stuck with him throughout his career. His troubled off-field life resulted in bans in both 1991 and 1994 for abusing drugs.
In his international career with Argentina, he earned 91 caps and scored 34 goals. Maradona played in four FIFA World Cups, including the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, where he captained Argentina and led them to victory over West Germany in the final, and won the Golden Ball as the tournament's best player. In the 1986 World Cup quarter final, he scored both goals in a 2–1 victory over England that entered football history for two different reasons. The first goal was an unpenalized handling foul known as the "Hand of God", while the second goal followed a 60 m (66 yd) dribble past five England players, voted "Goal of the Century" by FIFA.com voters in 2002.
See the Goal of the Century, with the famed commentary by Victor Hugo Morales (I kid you not, that is the commentator’s name) by clicking on:
See the Hand of God Goal by clicking on:
Six minutes into the second half of the match, Maradona made a run at England and passed. England’s Hodges sought to clear but miskicked and sent the ball into the goal area where Maradona, who had continued his run, jumped at the air ball. He beat the much taller English goalkeeper Peter Shilton to the ball where his left fist sent it into the goal. The referee, Tunisian Ali Bin Nasser, allowed the goal, not having seen the illegality. Maradona later said, "I was waiting for my teammates to embrace me, and no one came... I told them, 'Come hug me, or the referee isn't going to allow it.'" At the subsequent press conference, Maradona said that the goal had been scored “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God”, thereby coining the phrase Hand of God. English manager Bobby Robson stated instead that the goal had been scored by “the hand of a rascal.” The win by Argentina knocked England out of the World Cup.
Date of death: November 25, 2020
Age at death: 60
Cause of death: A source from the Argentinian Justice Ministry who was present at the time of Maradona's autopsy said the cause of death was an "acute secondary lung edema to exacerbated chronic heart failure."
American civil rights leader who inspired the Freedom Riders movement and advanced the cause of racial equality by a landmark supreme court case Boynton v. Virginia.
In 1958, Boynton ordered a cheeseburger while sitting in a whites only part of a restaurant at a bus station in Richmond, Virginia. He was arrested for trespassing after he refused to leave the restaurant and spent one night in jail. He was a law student at Howard University at the time, and decided to fight his arrest in court. At trial, he was represented by Martin A. Martin. He lost his case, but decided to appeal, until finally his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. His case, known as Boynton v. Virginia, was argued by Thurgood Marshall, who later became a justice of the Supreme Court. The court overturned Boynton's conviction, affirming that racial segregation in public transportation was illegal.
In 2018 U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson said of Boynton: "He did something that very few people would have the courage to do. He said no. To me he's on par with Rosa Parks," referring to the Black woman who did not give up her seat in the front part of a segregated bus to a white man. Summarizing his impact, Thompson went on to say, "All he wanted was a cheeseburger, and he changed the course of history."
Boynton's actions inspired the Freedom Rides in 1961, where activists rode interstate buses through the Southern United States to protest segregated bus terminals. While the Freedom Riders were arrested in a few southern states, including Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina, the actions prompted the then President John F. Kennedy to pass orders for a strict enforcement of the federal anti-discrimination laws.
On the day he died, the Dallas County Commission of Alabama voted to rename an annex of the Dallas County Courthouse in Selma in honor of Boynton and another prominent black lawyer, J. L. Chestnut, Jr.
Date of death: November 23, 2020
Age at death: 83
Cause of death: Cancer
Lucille Bridges was the mother of Ruby Bridges (who recently featured in Bytes), the first Black student to attend William Frantz Elementary School after a federal judge ordered the Orleans Parish School Board to desegregate as a result of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision.
In an interview several years ago, Lucille explained that before her daughter's first day of classes on Nov. 14, 1960, the Orleans Parish school superintendent "explained to me and my husband that ... we had to pray because things were going to get really worse." She said that when they "drove up right by the school, they had so many United States marshals, so many people just standing, screaming and hollering 'Two, four, six, eight, we don't want to integrate.'" The crowd tossed eggs and tomatoes at them and even followed them home. "And when they followed us home, they started pitching bottles and things." The families of many of the white students subsequently pulled their children out of the school. Lucille and her family lived under armed guard from federal marshals for the whole school year.
Ruby’s father, Abon, lost his job, local grocery stores refused to sell to Lucille, and Ruby's grandparents were evicted from the farm where they had lived for years. Abon had been reluctant to have her attend an all-white school, it was Lucille who insisted. "I wanted it better for my kids than it was for us, so that my kids could go to school and learn," Lucille stated in a later interview.
Date of death: November 10, 2020
Age at death: 86
Cause of death: Cancer.
Scottish actor who gained recognition as the first actor to portray fictional British secret agent James Bond in film, starring in seven Bond films between 1962 and 1983. Originating the role in Dr. No, Connery played Bond in six of Eon Productions' entries and made his final appearance in the Jack Schwartzman-produced Never Say Never Again.
Connery’s films include Marnie (1964), The Hill (1965), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), A Bridge Too Far (1977), Highlander (1986), The Name of the Rose (1986), The Untouchables (1987), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), The Hunt for Red October (1990), Dragonheart (1996), The Rock (1996), and Finding Forrester (2000). Connery officially retired from acting in 2006, although he briefly returned for voice over roles in 2012.
Funnily enough, one of my favourite films, which also has Sean Connery before he was famous, is the 1959 flick Darby O’Gill and the Little People. See a clip from the film of Scot Sean Connery singing about his darling Irish girl by clicking on:
Date of death: October 31, 2020
Age at death: 90
Cause of death: Pneumonia and heart failure,
JAMES “THE AMAZING” RANDI
Canadian-American stage magician and scientific skeptic who extensively challenged paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. He was the co-founder of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and founder of the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF). Randi began his career as a magician under the stage name The Amazing Randi and later chose to devote most of his time to investigating paranormal, occult, and supernatural claims, which he collectively called "woo-woo". Randi retired from practising magic at age 60, and from his foundation at 87.
Although often referred to as a "debunker", Randi said he disliked the term's connotations and preferred to describe himself as an "investigator". He wrote about paranormal phenomena, skepticism, and the history of magic. He was a frequent guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, famously exposing fraudulent faith healer Peter Popoff, and was occasionally featured on the television program Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Randi was also a denounver of the claims and activities of alleged Israeli psychic Uri Geller.
Before Randi's retirement, JREF sponsored the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, which offered a prize of one million US dollars to eligible applicants who could demonstrate evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event under test conditions agreed to by both parties. In 2015, the James Randi Educational Foundation said they will no longer accept applications directly from people claiming to have a paranormal power, but will offer the challenge to anyone who has passed a preliminary test that meets with their approval.
Bytes has previously (and admiringly) written about Randi, it being worthwhile to have a look again at the time US tonight show host in Oz, Don Lane, became pissed off with Randi and threw a hissey fit for denouncing Lane’s friend Doris Stokes, who used to come on the show and speak to the dead. See the incident by clicking on:
Uri Geller, Doris Stokes and broadcaster Kevin Arnett regularly appeared on The Don Lane Show discussing psychic and paranormal themes. On one occasion in 1980, the skeptic James Randi was a guest on the program. After Randi criticised one of the show's regulars [Doris Stokes], a heated exchange occurred at the end of the interview, which led to Lane saying, "we're going for a commercial break and you can piss off. We'll be back with Diana Trask". Lane then walked off the set, sweeping the props from the small table, to audience applause. The aftermath of the event led to a national and personal apology to Randi, which was televised on the Nine Network.
James Randi had a follow up in an interview:
"Years later they did a commemorative program where they invited Don to come back. They invited me to be on it. I had a very busy schedule and couldn't get to Australia, but I said I could do it by phone. So I called him on air. I said, 'Hi, this is James Randi and I was asked to call you, Don.' He didn't seem very happy about it. So we had a short conversation, in which he said only 'yes' and 'no', very grumpy. Then I said, 'Well, it's time for me to say goodbye, but before I do – Don, piss off.'
Date of death: October 20, 2020
Age at death: 92
Cause of death: Announced as “age related causes”.
Welsh singer and musician who founded The Spencer Davis Group, a band that had several hits in the 1960s including "Keep On Running", "Gimme Some Lovin'", and "I'm a Man", all sung by Steve Winwood. Davis subsequently enjoyed success as an A&R executive with Island Records.
Clip for Gimme Some Lovin’ (ignore the foreign subtitles):
An AC/DC clip of the same song:
Date of death: October 19, 2020
Age at death: 81
Cause of death: Pneumonia