One of the most bittersweet things about the changing of the year is looking back and reflecting on the celebrities who left us in 2020. There are simply way too many to mention, but we’ve chosen 11 important figures who made a huge impact in the entertainment industry, sports, or pop culture.
1. Sean Connery, 90
The legendary Scottish actor is best known for his role as James Bond in seven movies from 1962 through 1983, but hey, don’t forget that he also played Indiana Jones’s dad! And he was in Highlander! The winner of an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Untouchables, Connery received all sorts of accolades through the year, including being knighted by the Queen in 2000 and being voted “Greatest Living Scot” in 2004. He died on October 31 of pneumonia and heart failure. Fun fact: He turned down the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy because he couldn’t make sense of the plot.
2. Paul “Bear” Vasquez, 57
His name might not immediately ring a bell, but if the expression “full-on double rainbow whoooooooo” is something you’re familiar with, then there you go! You know exactly who we’re talking about. Back in January 2010, Vasquez began filming an unobstructed view of a double-rainbow in his backyard in the Yosemite Valley and began freaking out about it in the happiest, emotional way possible. After the video was featured on Jimmy Kimmel Live, it went viral and Vasquez became something of a celebrity. He died on May 9 after several days of a fever and breathing difficulties.
3. Roy Horn, 75
Half of the entertainment duo Siegfried & Roy, the stage acts featuring magic and big cats were huge in Las Vegas for more than two decades. Unfortunately, their performances came to an abrupt end in 2003 when Horn was attacked and nearly killed by his white tiger Montecore. Although he ended up with a severed spine, he managed to walk and talk again. He died on May 8 from complications related to Covid-19.
4. Chadwick Boseman, 43
After starring as Black Panther in several movies, Boseman appeared to be the next huge, breakthrough actor. But sadly, he had privately been battling illness since 2016 when he was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer. It eventually advanced to stage IV, but he continued to work even as he underwent surgery and chemotherapy. His final movie, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, was released posthumously in December.
5. Terry Jones, 77
Jones, one of the six cast members of Monty Python, directed the comedy’s most notable movies Holy Grail and The Life of Brian. He was active in entertainment for 50 years, retiring in 2016 when he began suffering from a form of dementia that caused him to lose his ability to speak and communicate. He succumbed to the condition on January 21.
6. Eddie Van Halen, 65
Van Halen is considered one of the greatest guitarists in the history of rock. Search for “Eruption guitar solo” on YouTube to see what we mean. Along with his brother Alex, Mark Stone and David Lee Roth, they founded the legendary rock group Van Halen in 1972, and while they went through multiple lead singers, the group never disbanded and they were constantly on tour. Eddie died on October 6 after a six-year battle with throat cancer.
7. David Stern, 77
The NBA has been around since 1946, but as the league’s commissioner it was Stern who turned it into the multi-billion dollar, international juggernaut of a sport that it’s become today. NBA games are now broadcast in 200 different countries/territories and in 40 languages. He retired in 2014 after 30 years in his role. Stern died on January 1 after suffering a brain hemorrhage.
8. Jerry Stiller, 92
Father to Ben Stiller, most people these days remember Jerry as the high strung, short-tempered Frank, father to fictional George Costanza on Seinfeld. But Stiller’s comedy career actually spans all the way back to the 1950s when he formed a comedy team with his wife Anna Meara, who performed on Ed Sullivan and had a huge following. Stiller died on May 11 from natural causes.
9. Regis Philbin, 88
Holder of the Guinness World Record for the most hours on television, there was a time when it seemed like Philbin was everywhere. For nearly three decades he co-hosted a daytime talk show, first with Kathy Lee Gifford and then with Kelly Ripa. In 2001, he was the face behind the wildly successful prime time game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, leading to a bunch of lame imitators that didn’t fare as well. He died of a heart attack on July 24 after years of heart problems.
10. Kobe Bryant, 41
18-time NBA All-Star and 5-time champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, Bryant was settling nicely into retirement when a helicopter crash took his life, along with that of his 13-year old daughter Gianna and seven others. At the time of his death, he was running the Mamba Sports Academy to help underprivileged athletes and women, and he was coaching his daughter’s basketball team. He died on January 26.
11. Alex Trebek, 80
The host of Jeopardy for almost 4 decades, Trebek was beloved by trivia buffs whether they were 10 years old or 100 years. In 2019, he had announced that he had stage iv pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest types. But he kept charging along, continuing to host the game show even as he suffered through the incredible pain. He died on November 8.