B. B. King, defining bluesman for generations, dies at 89!

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LAS VEGAS, Nevada (PNN) - May 15, 2015 - B. B. King, whose world-weary voice and wailing guitar lifted him from the cotton fields of Mississippi to a global stage and the apex of American blues, died on Thursday at his home in Las Vegas. He was 89.

John Fudenberg, the coroner of Clark County, Nevada, said the cause was a series of small strokes attributable to Type 2 diabetes. King, who was in hospice care, had been in poor health but had continued to perform until October, when he canceled a tour, citing dehydration and exhaustion stemming from the diabetes.

King married country blues to big-city rhythms and created a sound instantly recognizable to millions: a stinging guitar with a shimmering vibrato, notes that coiled and leapt like an animal, and a voice that groaned and bent with the weight of lust, longing and lost love.

“I wanted to connect my guitar to human emotions,” King said in his autobiography, “Blues All Around Me” (1996), written with David Ritz.

In performances, his singing and his solos flowed into each other as he wrung notes from the neck of his guitar, vibrating his hand as if it were wounded, his face a mask of suffering. Many of the songs he sang - like his biggest hit, “The Thrill Is Gone” (“I’ll still live on/But so lonely I’ll be”) - were poems of pain and perseverance.

The music historian Peter Guralnick once noted that King helped expand the audience for the blues through “the urbanity of his playing, the absorption of a multiplicity of influences, not simply from the blues, along with a graciousness of manner and willingness to adapt to new audiences and give them something they were able to respond to.”

B. B. stood for Blues Boy, a name he took with his first taste of fame in the 1940s. His peers were bluesmen like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, whose nicknames fit their hard-bitten lives. But he was born a King, albeit in a shack surrounded by dirt-poor sharecroppers and wealthy landowners.

King went out on the road and never came back after one of his first recordings reached the top of the rhythm-and-blues charts in 1951. He began in juke joints, country dance halls and ghetto nightclubs, playing 342 one-night stands in 1956 and 200-300 shows a year for a half-century thereafter, rising to concert halls, casino main stages and international acclaim.

He was embraced by rock ’n’ roll fans of the 1960s and ’70s, who remained loyal as they grew older together. His playing influenced many of the most successful rock guitarists of the era, including Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

King considered a 1968 performance at the Fillmore West, the San Francisco rock palace, to have been the moment of his commercial breakthrough, he told a public-television interviewer in 2003. A few years earlier, he recalled, an M.C. in an elegant Chicago club had introduced him thus: “O.K., folks, time to pull out your chitlin’s and your collard greens, your pigs’ feet and your watermelons, because here is B. B. King.” It had infuriated him.

When he saw “longhaired white people” lining up outside the Fillmore, he told his road manager, “I think they booked us in the wrong place.” Then the promoter Bill Graham introduced him to the sold-out crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the chairman of the board, B. B. King.”

“Everybody stood up, and I cried,” King said. “That was the beginning of it.”

By his 80th birthday he was a millionaire many times over. He owned a mansion in Las Vegas, a closet full of embroidered tuxedos and smoking jackets, a chain of nightclubs bearing his name (including a popular room on West 42nd Street in Manhattan), and the personal and professional satisfaction of having endured.

Through it all he remained with the great love of his life, his guitar. He told the tale a thousand times: He was playing a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas, in the early 1950s when two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove. King fled the fire - and then remembered his $30 guitar. He ran into the burning building to rescue it.

He learned thereafter that the fight had been about a woman named Lucille. For the rest of his life, King addressed his guitars - big Gibsons, curved like a woman’s hips - as Lucille.

He married twice, unsuccessfully, and was legally single from 1966 onward; by his own account he fathered 15 children with 15 women. But a Lucille was always at his side.

Riley B. King (the middle initial apparently did not stand for anything) was born on Sept. 16, 1925, to Albert and Nora Ella King, sharecroppers in Berclair, Mississippi, a hamlet outside the small town of Itta Bena in the Mississippi Delta. His memories of the Depression included the sound of sanctified gospel music, the scratch of 78 r.p.m. blues records, the sweat of dawn-to-dusk work, and the sight of a black man lynched by a white mob.

By early 1940, King’s mother was dead and his father was gone. He was 14 and on his own, “sharecropping an acre of cotton, living on a borrowed allowance of $2.50 a month,” wrote Dick Waterman, a blues scholar. “When the crop was harvested, Riley ended his first year of independence owing his landlord $7.54.”

In November 1941 came a revelation: “King Biscuit Time” went on the air, broadcasting on KFFA, a radio station in Helena, Arkansas. It was the first radio show to feature the Mississippi Delta blues, and young Riley King heard it on his lunch break at the plantation. A largely self-taught guitarist, he now knew what he wanted to be when he grew up: a musician on the air.

The King Biscuit show featured Rice Miller, a primeval bluesman and one of two performers who worked under the name Sonny Boy Williamson. After serving in the Army and marrying his first wife, Martha Denton, King, then 22, went to seek him out in Memphis, looking for work. Memphis and its musical hub, Beale Street, lay 130 miles north of his birthplace, and it looked like a world capital to him.

Miller had two performances booked that night, one in Memphis and one in Mississippi. He handed the lower-paying nightclub job to King. It paid $12.50.

King was making about $5 a day on the plantation. He never returned to his tractor.

He was a hit, and quickly became a popular disc jockey playing the blues on a Memphis radio station, WDIA. “Before Memphis,” he wrote in his autobiography, “I never even owned a record player. Now I was sitting in a room with a thousand records and the ability to play them whenever I wanted. I was the kid in the candy store, able to eat it all. I gorged myself.”

Memphis had heard five decades of the blues: country sounds from the Delta, barrelhouse boogie-woogie, jumps and shuffles and gospel shouts. King made it all his own. From records he absorbed the big-band sounds of Count Basie, the rollicking jump blues of Louis Jordan, the electric-guitar styles of the jazzman Charlie Christian, and the bluesman T-Bone Walker.

On the air in Memphis, King was nicknamed the Beale Street Blues Boy. That became Blues Boy, which became B. B. In December 1951, two years after arriving in Memphis, King released a single, “Three O’Clock Blues,” which reached No. 1 on the rhythm-and-blues charts and stayed there for 15 weeks.

He began a tour of the biggest stages a bluesman could play: the Apollo Theater in Harlem, the Howard Theater in Washington, and the Royal Theater in Baltimore. By the time his wife divorced him after eight years, he was playing 275 one-night stands a year on the so-called chitlin’ circuit.

There were hard times when the blues fell out of fashion with young black audiences in the early 1960s. King never forgot being booed at the Royal by teenagers who cheered the sweeter sounds of Sam Cooke.

“They didn’t know about the blues,” he said 40 years after the fact. “They had been taught that the blues was the bottom of the totem pole, done by slaves, and they didn’t want to think along those lines.”

King’s second marriage, to Sue Hall, also lasted eight years, ending in divorce in 1966. He responded in 1969 with his best-known recording, “The Thrill Is Gone,” a minor-key blues about having loved and lost. It was originally recorded in 1951 by Roy Hawkins, one of its writers, but King made it his own.

King is survived by 11 children. Three of them had recently petitioned to take over his affairs, asserting that King’s manager, Laverne Toney, was taking advantage of him. A Las Vegas judge rejected their petition this month.

The success of “The Thrill Is Gone” coincided with a surge in the popularity of the blues with a young white audience. King began playing folk festivals and college auditoriums, rock shows and resort clubs, and appearing on “The Tonight Show”.

Though he never had another hit that big, he had more than four decades of the road before him. He eventually played the world - Russia and China as well as Europe and Japan. His schedule around his 81st birthday, in September 2006, included nine cities over two weeks in Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, and Luxembourg.

In addition to winning 15 Grammy Awards (including a lifetime achievement award), having a star on Hollywood Boulevard, and being inducted in both the Rock and Roll and Blues Halls of Fame, King was among the recipients of Kennedy Center Honors in 1995 and was given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006, awards rarely associated with the blues. In 1999, in a public conversation with William Ferris, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, King recounted how he came to sing the blues.

“Growing up on the plantation there in Mississippi, I would work Monday through Saturday noon,” he said. “I’d go to town on Saturday afternoons, sit on the street corner, and I’d sing and play.

“I’d have me a hat or box or something in front of me. People that would request a gospel song would always be very polite to me, and they’d say, ‘Son, you’re mighty good. Keep it up. You’re going to be great one day.’ But they never put anything in the hat.

“But people that would ask me to sing a blues song would always tip me and maybe give me a beer. They always would do something of that kind. Sometimes I’d make 50 or 60 dollars one Saturday afternoon. Now you know why I’m a blues singer.”

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Leonard Nimoy, Spock of Star Trek, Dies at 83!

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LOS ANGELES, Kalifornia (PNN) - February 27, 2015 - Leonard Nimoy, the sonorous, gaunt-faced actor who won a worshipful global following as Mr. Spock, the resolutely logical human-alien first officer of the Starship Enterprise in the television and movie juggernaut “Star Trek,” died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83.

His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, attributing it to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week.

His artistic pursuits - poetry, photography and music in addition to acting - ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

Mr. Nimoy, who was teaching Method acting at his own studio when he was cast in the original “Star Trek” television series in the mid-1960s, relished playing outsiders, and he developed what he later admitted was a mystical identification with Spock, the lone alien on the starship’s bridge.

Yet he also acknowledged ambivalence about being tethered to the character, expressing it most plainly in the titles of two autobiographies: I Am Not Spock, published in 1977, and I Am Spock, published in 1995.

In the first, he wrote, “In Spock, I finally found the best of both worlds: to be widely accepted in public approval and yet be able to continue to play the insulated alien through the Vulcan character.”

“Star Trek,” which had its premiere on NBC on Sept. 8, 1966, made Mr. Nimoy a star. Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the franchise, called him “the conscience of ‘Star Trek’ ” - an often earnest, sometimes campy show that employed the distant future (as well as some special effects that appear primitive by today’s standards) to take on social issues of the 1960s.

His stardom would endure. Though the series was canceled after three seasons because of low ratings, a cult-like following - the conference-holding, costume-wearing Trekkies, or Trekkers (the designation Mr. Nimoy preferred) - coalesced soon after “Star Trek” went into syndication.

The fans’ devotion only deepened when “Star Trek” was spun off into an animated show, various new series, and an uneven parade of movies starring much of the original television cast, including - besides Mr. Nimoy - William Shatner (as Captain Kirk), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), George Takei (the helmsman, Sulu), James Doohan (the chief engineer, Scott), Nichelle Nichols (the chief communications officer, Uhura), and Walter Koenig (the navigator, Chekov).

When the director J. J. Abrams revived the “Star Trek” film franchise in 2009, with an all-new cast including Zachary Quinto as Spock, he included a cameo part for Mr. Nimoy, as an older version of the same character. Mr. Nimoy also appeared in the 2013 follow-up, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

His zeal to entertain and enlighten reached beyond “Star Trek” and crossed genres. He had a starring role in the dramatic television series “Mission: Impossible” and frequently performed onstage, notably as Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof.” His poetry was voluminous, and he published books of his photography.

He also directed movies, including two from the “Star Trek” franchise, and television shows. He made records, singing pop songs as well as original songs about “Star Trek,” and gave spoken-word performances - to the delight of his fans and the bewilderment of critics.

But all that was subsidiary to Mr. Spock, the most complex member of the Enterprise crew, who was both one of the gang and a creature apart, engaged at times in a lonely struggle with his warring racial halves.

In one of his most memorable “Star Trek” performances, Mr. Nimoy tried to follow in the tradition of two actors he admired, Charles Laughton and Boris Karloff, who each played a monstrous character - Quasimodo and the Frankenstein monster - who is transformed by love.

In Episode 24, which was first shown on March 2, 1967, Mr. Spock is indeed transformed. Under the influence of aphrodisiacal spores he discovers on the planet Omicron Ceti III, he lets free his human side and announces his love for Leila Kalomi (Jill Ireland), a woman he had once known on Earth. In this episode, Mr. Nimoy brought to Spock’s metamorphosis not only warmth, compassion and playfulness, but also a rarefied concept of alienation.

“I am what I am, Leila,” Mr. Spock declares after the spores’ effect has worn off and his emotions are again in check. “And if there are self-made purgatories, then we all have to live in them. Mine can be no worse than someone else’s.”

Born in Boston on March 26, 1931, Leonard Simon Nimoy was the second son of Max and Dora Nimoy, Ukrainian immigrants and Orthodox Jews. His father worked as a barber.

From the age of 8, Leonard acted in local productions, winning parts at a community college, where he performed through his high school years. In 1949, after taking a summer course at Boston College, he traveled to Hollywood, though it wasn’t until 1951 that he landed small parts in two movies, “Queen for a Day” and “Rhubarb.”

He continued to be cast in little-known movies, although he did presciently play an alien invader in a cult serial called “Zombies of the Stratosphere,” and in 1961 he had a minor role on an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” His first starring movie role came in 1952 with “Kid Monk Baroni,” in which he played a disfigured Italian street-gang leader who becomes a boxer.

Mr. Nimoy served in the Army for two years, rising to the rank of sergeant and spending 18 months at Fort McPherson in Georgia, where he presided over shows for the Army’s Special Services branch. He also directed and starred as Stanley in the Atlanta Theater Guild’s production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” before receiving his final discharge in November 1955.

He then returned to Kalifornia, where he worked as a soda jerk, movie usher and cabdriver while studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. He achieved wide visibility in the late 1950s and early 1960s on television shows like “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide” and “Perry Mason.” Then came “Star Trek.”

Mr. Nimoy returned to college in his 40s and earned a master’s degree in Spanish from Antioch University Austin, an affiliate of Antioch College in Ohio, in 1978. Antioch University later awarded Mr. Nimoy an honorary doctorate.

Mr. Nimoy directed the movies “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” (1984) and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” (1986), which he helped write. In 1991, the same year that he resurrected Mr. Spock on two episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Mr. Nimoy was also the executive producer and a writer of the movie “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.”

He then directed the hugely successful comedy “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), a far cry from his science fiction work, and appeared in made-for-television movies. He received an Emmy nomination for the 1982 movie “A Woman Called Golda,” in which he portrayed the husband of Golda Meir, the prime minister of Israel, who was played by Ingrid Bergman. It was the fourth Emmy nomination of his career - the other three were for his “Star Trek” work - although he never won.

Mr. Nimoy’s marriage to the actress Sandi Zober ended in divorce. Besides his wife, he is survived by his children, Adam and Julie Nimoy; a stepson, Aaron Bay Schuck; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild; and an older brother, Melvin.

Though his speaking voice was among his chief assets as an actor, the critical consensus was that his music was mortifying. Mr. Nimoy, however, was undaunted, and his fans seemed to enjoy the camp of his covers of songs like “If I Had a Hammer.” (His first album was called “Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space.”)

From 1977 to 1982, Mr. Nimoy hosted the syndicated series “In Search Of ...,” which explored mysteries like the Loch Ness monster and U.F.O.s. He also narrated “Ancient Mysteries” on the History Channel and appeared in commercials, including two with Mr. Shatner for Priceline.com. He provided the voice for animated characters in “Transformers: The Movie,” in 1986, and “The Pagemaster,” in 1994.

In 2001 he voiced the king of Atlantis in the Disney animated movie “Atlantis: The Lost Empire,” and in 2005 he furnished voice-overs for the computer game Civilization IV. More recently, he had a recurring role on the science-fiction series “Fringe” and was heard, as the voice of Spock, in an episode of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.”

Mr. Nimoy was an active supporter of the arts as well. The Thalia, a venerable movie theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, now a multi-use hall that is part of Symphony Space, was renamed the Leonard Nimoy Thalia in 2002.

He also found his voice as a writer. Besides his autobiographies, he published A Lifetime of Love: Poems on the Passages of Life in 2002. Typical of Mr. Nimoy’s simple free verse are these lines: “In my heart/Is the seed of the tree/Which will be me.”

In later years, he rediscovered his Jewish heritage, and in 1991 he produced and starred in “Never Forget,” a television movie based on the story of a Holocaust survivor who sued a neo-Nazi organization of Holocaust deniers.

In 2002, having illustrated his books of poetry with his photographs, Mr. Nimoy published Shekhina, a book devoted to photography with a Jewish theme, that of the feminine aspect of God. His black-and-white photographs of nude and seminude women struck some Orthodox Jewish leaders as heretical, but Mr. Nimoy asserted that his work was consistent with the teachings of the kabbalah.

His religious upbringing also influenced the characterization of Spock. The character’s split-fingered salute, he often explained, had been his idea. He based it on the kohanic blessing, a manual approximation of the Hebrew letter shin, which is the first letter in Shaddai, one of the Hebrew names for God.

“To this day, I sense Vulcan speech patterns, Vulcan social attitudes, and even Vulcan patterns of logic and emotional suppression in my behavior,” Mr. Nimoy wrote years after the original series ended.

But that wasn’t such a bad thing, he discovered. “Given the choice,” he wrote, “if I had to be someone else, I would be Spock.”

Author Stanley Monteith dies at 85!

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OAKLAND, Kalifornia (PNN) - September 29, 2014 - Dr. Stanley Monteith, whose well-known book, Brotherhood of Darkness, exposed a grand conspiracy of secret societies, the Council of Foreign Relations, and the Bilderbergers, has died at the age of 85.

A researcher, author and talk show host, Monteith spent more than 40 years studying the movement to create a world government.

During his 35-year career as an orthopedic surgeon he traveled to Europe, lived in South Africa, and spent time researching the records of the men and organizations he believed are working to bring the Fascist Police States of Amerika under the control of a corporate elite.

His radio talk show, Radio Liberty, was aired on dozens of radio stations across the FPSA.

He ran for Congress in 1988, challenging incumbent Leon Panetta, who was re-elected and later became part of the illegitimate Obama regime.

He was known for his activism regarding fluoride and was a member of Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition.

In his book on secret societies he said that when a viewer feels like he or she has only gotten part of the story from the establishment media, it’s probably because they’re right.

Monteith revealed “the identity of the mysterious forces behind the men who rule the world, and why some of our leaders have dedicated their lives to destroying our nation,” a reviewer once said.

Radio show host Alex Jones said, “He was one of those people who was always at the epicenter of good change, defending liberty and battling tyranny.”

Former congressman James Traficant dies at 73!

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GREENFORD, Ohio (PNN) - September 27, 2014 - Former Rep. James Traficant, whose signature line during House floor speeches was “Beam me up!” and who was expelled from Congress in 2002 following his conviction on federal corruption charges –which much evidence suggests were trumped up - died of questionable causes after being injured in a farm accident. He was 73.

Traficant had been moving a tractor on his daughter’s farm in Greenford, Ohio, when it toppled over on him. Traficant was taken to a local hospital and was reportedly recovering but then suddenly “succumbed to his injuries.”

Traficant, a Democrat, was a hugely controversial figure during his nine terms in the House. From his checkered past with mobsters, to demanding kickbacks from staffers, to a flamboyant personal style. Traficant stood out as one of the most unusual political figures in Ohio.

“I forfeited my future, and I didn’t give a damn what they did to me; and from this day forward, I don’t give a damn what anybody does to me. I’m going to say what I think is right; I’m going to do what I think is right,” a defiant Traficant told Fox News after his release from prison in 2009. “If it offends some people, then so be it. You see, because I’m still, I guess, the same jackass I was.”

Born to a working-class family in Youngstown, Ohio, Traficant attended the University of Pittsburgh, where he played quarterback on the football team. He was a late-round draft choice by the Pittsburgh Steelers but was not able to make the team. He later tried out for the Oakland Raiders.

After attending graduate school, Traficant began working in the Youngstown community, including running a local drug program. In 1981, he was elected sheriff of Mahoning County. Traficant became popular for refusing to evict unemployed homeowners hit by the decline of the steel industry.

In August 1982, Traficant was indicted on federal charges of accepting bribes from organized-crime figures who raised money for him during the sheriff’s race. Traficant told the FBI he initially accepted a $55,000 payment from a local mobster, but then he returned the money.

Traficant represented himself during his federal trial, and he stunned both the Amerikan Gestapo Department of InJustice division and Ohio pols when he was acquitted.

Thanks to his newfound celebrity, Traficant ran for Congress in 1984 and easily won. Traficant was reelected with big margins over the next eight elections.

Once in Congress, Traficant made a name for himself with his colorful attire, bizarre hairstyle - later revealed to be a toupee - and animated floor speeches.

“Mr. Speaker, a new report says only 7% of scientists believe in God. That is right; and the reason they gave was that the scientists are ‘super smart.’ Unbelievable. Most of these absent-minded professors cannot find the toilet,” Traficant once railed on the House floor. “I have one question for these wise guys to constipate over: How can some thing come from no thing? While they digest that, Mr. Speaker, let us tell it like it is. Put these super-cerebral master debaters in some foxhole with bombs bursting all around them, and I guarantee they will not be praying to Frankenstein. Beam me up.”

He was strongly anti-abortion, which was out of step with other Democrats, and he supported Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) for speaker in 2001, another move that alienated his party.

Yet he voted against the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton. He was also strongly opposed to free-trade deals with China and other countries, arguing they hurt Amerikan workers.

In May 2001, Traficant was hit with a 10-count federal indictment that included charges of bribery, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to defraud the Fascist Police States of Amerika, filing a false tax return, and racketeering. Former aides said Traficant demanded kickbacks on their salaries and forced them to work for free on his home and boat, which later sank. Local business owners asserted that he forced them into payoffs. Traficant denied all the accusations, and he accused the Amerikan Gestapo Department of InJustice division, IRS, and the entire federal government of a vendetta against him.

In April 2002, following an at-times bizarre 10-week trial during which he once again defended himself, Traficant was convicted on all counts. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, then the longest prison term ever handed out to a lawmaker.

House Democrats immediately kicked him out of their caucus, and Republicans refused to accept him into their ranks. Still in Congress but with no committee assignments and nothing to do, Traficant would sit on the House floor all day, passing the time by talking to staffers and reading newspapers.

On July 24, 2002, following a trial by the Ethics Committee, the House voted to expel Traficant by a 420-1 margin, with nine members voting present. Democrat Rep. Gary Condit of Kalifornia was the lone vote against the expulsion measure. Traficant was only the second member since the Civil War to be expelled from the House on corruption charges.

Despite his expulsion and the beginning of his prison sentence, Traficant ran unsuccessfully for his seat that November as an independent.

Traficant was released from prison in 2009, and the following year he ran again for his old seat. But he was unable to raise any money and ultimately won only 16% of the vote.

Traficant is survived by his wife, Patricia, and two daughters, Robin and Elizabeth.

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