World figures we farewelled in 2017

(Australian Associated Press)

The world lost a colourful cast of characters in 2017. Whether killers or crooners, actors or astronauts or pioneers in entertainment, food or sport, each of them leaves a legacy that has changed the world.

ASTRONAUT GENE CERNAN (March 14 1934 -Jan 16 2017)

Gene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon, died on January 17 at the age of 82. Cernan commanded NASA’s Apollo 17 mission and became the last person to leave footprints on the moon on December 14, 1972, tracing his only child’s initials in the dust before climbing into the lunar module for the last time.

“FATHER OF ROCK’N’ROLL” CHUCK BERRY (Oct 18 1926-March 18 2017)

Chuck Berry established the template for rock’n’roll with his subtly humorous, rhythmically driving hits, such as Maybellene, Roll Over Beethoven and Johnny B Goode. Despite a stint in a juvenile jail, Berry went on to launch his hugely successful music career in the 1950s. He died on March 18 aged 90.


Stanislav Petrov, known for saving the world from from a nuclear disaster in 1983, died in Moscow at the age of 77. Petrov had been in charge of a Moscow early warning radar system when he received a satellite report indicating the approach of US nuclear missiles. He correctly concluded that the report was a false alarm and advised military heads not to act on it, avoiding what would almost certainly have been a catastrophic nuclear war.

MOORS MURDERER IAN BRADY (Jan 2 1938-May 15 2017)

One of the world’s most notorious killers, Ian Brady and his accomplice Myra Hindley tortured and murdered five children in the Yorkshire Moors in the 1960s. He died in a high-security psychiatric hospital in the UK at the age of 79 and was buried at sea in the middle of the night almost six months later after a secret cremation.

007 STAR ROGER MOORE (Oct 14 1927-May 23 2017)

Actor Roger Moore will forever be synonymous with secret agent O07 from the Bond movie franchise. His 12 years as the British agent with a voracious appetite for danger and sex made him a millionaire and a heart-throb the world over. Moore starred in seven Bond movies including Live and Let Die, The Spy who Loved Me and Octopussy. He died of cancer at the age of 89.


Although some dispute it, Sam Panopoulos was widely credited with inventing the pineapple-topped pizza. Panopoulos was born in Greece and emigrated to Canada in 1954. He claimed he made his first “Hawaiian” pizza in 1962 at the Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, after wondering if canned pineapple might make a tasty topping.

BATMAN, AKA ADAM WEST (Sept 19 1928-June 9 2017)

Adam West was known for his deadpan portrayal of the Caped Crusader in the high-camp 1960’s Batman TV series. Together with his sidekick Robin, West’s Batman battled an array of henchmen with graphics that filled the screen: Bam! Whap! Pow! He was associated with the role until his death from leukemia at age 88.


Glen Campbell, the superstar singer of Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman, forged a lasting bridge between country and pop music. He won six Grammy Awards and had nine No.1 songs in a career of more than 50 years. As a session player Campbell recorded with Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Monkees and Nat King Cole. He died in an Alzheimer’s facility in Nashville aged 81.

FUNNYMAN JERRY LEWIS (March 26 1926-Aug 20 2017)

Lewis rose to fame as the goofy foil to suave partner Dean Martin and cemented his place as the high prince of low-brow comedy on stage and in movies. He starred in more than 45 films in a 50-year career and although his antics often drew scorn from critics, for a time he commanded one of the biggest salaries in Hollywood. He died of natural causes at his home in Las Vegas aged 91.

BOXING LEGEND JAKE LAMOTTA (July 10 1921 – Sept 19 2017)

Boxing champion Jake LaMotta’s memoir inspired Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film Raging Bull. Born in the Bronx to Italian immigrant parents, his career was highlighted by a rivalry with Sugar Ray Robinson which led to a six-fight series, of which LaMotta won only one. He did, however, win the world middleweight title in 1949. He died from complications of pneumonia at the age of 95.

PLAYBOY FOUNDER HUGH HEFNER (April 9 1926-Sept 27 2017)

When he founded Playboy magazine in 1953, Hugh Hefner built a brand that defined the sexual culture of the second half of the 20th century and challenged what he derided as America’s “puritanical” attitudes towards sex. Despite his death at age 91 he will live on as the pipe-smoking, silk-pyjama-wearing main player in a never-ending fantasy party.

ROCKER TOM PETTY (Oct 20 1950-Oct 2 2017)

Tom Petty, best known for his roots-infused rock music, carved a career as a solo artist as well as with his band The Heartbreakers and as part of supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. Petty and the Heartbreakers were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. Petty died aged 66 after being found unconscious and in cardiac arrest.

ROCK’N’ROLL PIONEER FATS DOMINO (Feb 26 1928-Oct 24 2017)

Fats Domino brought his brand of rolling New Orleans boogie-woogie piano to early rock’n’roll in chart-topping hits such as Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That a Shame. Born Antoine Dominique Domino in New Orleans, he sold 65 million records and dominated the charts during the 1950s with a sound that combined blues, country and Cajun music. After surviving Hurricane Katrina in 2007 he died of natural causes at the age of 89.

MAFIA BOSS TITO RIINA (Nov16 1930-Nov 17 2017)

Salvatore “Toto” Riina was a fearsome killer who terrorised Italy for a quarter of a century as he rose through the ranks of the Sicily’s Cosa Nostra mafia to become the so-called “Boss of Bosses.” Under his command, Cosa Nostra killed dozens of high-profile figures including the brother of a sitting Italian President and top anti-mafia prosecutors. He died in a prison hospital aged 87.

MASS KILLER CHARLES MANSON (Nov 12 1934-Nov19 2017)

Maniacal hippie cult leader Charles Manson orchestrated the slaughter of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six other people over two August nights in Los Angeles in 1969. His deeds turned him into the personification of evil and ended the mood of wishfulness and illusion that marked the 1960s. He died of natural causes aged 83 after being taken to hospital from Corcoran State Prison where he had been serving nine life sentences.

TEEN IDOL DAVID CASSIDY (Apr 12 1950-Nov 21 2017)

Teen heart-throb and 1970s pop culture idol David Cassidy died of complications from dementia aged 67. Cassidy played the role of Keith Partridge in the sitcom the Partridge Family. After his hit singles I Think I Love You and Cherish took off, Cassidy regularly sold out stadiums – including in Australia – sparking what became known as “Cassidymania.”

MODEL CHRISTINE KEELER (22 Feb 1942-4 Dec 2017)

Christine Keeler was the central and seductive figure in a searing story of sex, intrigue and espionage that became one of the biggest political scandals of recent history. Keeler, who died aged 75, will forever be associated with the 1963 Profumo affair, in which she shared her favours with both British War Secretary John Profumo and Russian spy Eugene Ivanov, ultimately leading to the downfall of the Tory Government.


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