Stardom is no safeguard against the global coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past two weeks, the list of celebrities revealing COVID-19 infections grew to include A-listers ranging from legendary actor Tom Hanks, 63, and England’s Prince Charles, 71, to Brooklyn Nets player Kevin Durant, 31, and late-night talk show host Andy Cohen, 51.
Now, much like the rest of the population, the number of musicians, thespians, comedians and writers succumbing to the novel coronavirus is beginning to mirror the more than 42,100 deaths reported so far around the world.
The following is a growing list of high-profile celebrities whose deaths were confirmed to be related to coronavirus complications.
Jazz singer and saxophonist
Manu Dibango, best known for his 1972 B-side hit “Soul Makossa,” died on March 24.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on 24th of March 2020, at 86 years old, further to COVID 19,” according to a statement on the jazz great’s official Facebook page. “His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible.”
A “world music” pioneer in the 1970s, Dibango was a leader in the Afro-jazz movement and also fused funk with traditional music from Cameroon. His biggest hit was the B-side of a recording made to support the Cameroon soccer team in the Africa Cup of Nations, but it went on to score radio play by influential New York DJs.
The singer and saxophonist died in a hospital near Paris, his music publisher Thierry Durepaire told Agence France-Presse.
Mark Blum, best known for playing opposite Madonna in the iconic 1985 film “Desperately Seeking Susan,” passed away March 26. He was 69.
The New Jersey native also co-starred in the 1986 hit “Crocodile Dundee,” followed by guest roles on a string of TV series, including “NYPD Blue,” “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing.” Most recently he appeared as bookseller Mr. Mooney on the Netflix cult hit “You.” He was also a veteran of the Broadway stage.
“With love and heavy hearts, Playwrights Horizons pays tribute to Mark Blum, a dear longtime friend and a consummate artist who passed this week,” the theater company tweeted. “Thank you, Mark, for all you brought to our theater, and to theaters and audiences across the world. We will miss you.”
His “Desperately Seeking Susan” co-stars Rosanna Arquette and Madonna also shared their condolences via social media.
“I’m so deeply sad for his family and for his fans,” Arquette tweeted. “He was a wonderful actor and a very good and kind man. May you Rest In Peace and power mark. God bless you.”
Terrence McNally, a prolific playwright whose love of opera and compassion for human frailties wove their way into many of his works, died March 24 in a Sarasota, Fla., hospital. He was 81 , and had lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for some time.
Starting out with 1965’s “And Things That Go Bump in the Night,” the St. Petersburg, Fla., native went on to win five Tony Awards in total, two of them back to back: for 1995’s comedy-drama “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and the following year’s “Master Class,” in which Audra McDonald, 49, starred as a tormented opera student of a fictionalized diva Maria Callas. Tonys also went to his books for the musicals “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993) and “Ragtime” (1998).
“A huge part of me is gone,” said Chita Rivera, 87, who starred in McNally’s “The Rink,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “The Dancer’s Life” and “The Visit,” in a statement. “He helped to make me who I am as a person . . . Only God knows how much I will miss him.”
McNally is survived by his husband, Tom Kirdahy, 57, whom he wed in 2003 in Vermont.
Floyd Cardoz, the man behind acclaimed NYC restaurants Tabla and Bombay Bread Bar, died March 25. The Mumbai, India-born chef was 59.
Cardoz was admitted to a New York hospital, according to a recent post on his Instagram account, following his return from a trip to India on March 8. He told his followers that a fever had prompted him to see a doctor. A statement on social media from his hospitality group, Hunger Inc., confirmed the news of his hospitalization March 17.
The Season 3 winner of “Top Chef Masters” made his name with the groundbreaking Tabla, opened in 1998, as one of the few Indian fine-dining establishments in NYC. In partnerships with Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group, the restaurant enjoyed an instant buzz after receiving three stars in the New York Times. Tabla closed in 2010 but remains one of the city’s most groundbreaking restaurants to this day, known especially for its bread.
He also worked with Meyer in opening North End Grill, then went on to open several other eateries in India and New York.
“Love you so much @floydcardoz,” Meyer tweeted.
Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like “Home” and “Pickup Man,” died March 29. He was 61.
Diffie announced two days prior that he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis. Diffie’s publicist Scott Adkins confirmed that the singer died in Nashville, Tenn., due to complications from COVID-19.
The Tulsa, Okla., native was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years. His hits included “Honky Tonk Attitude,” “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” “Bigger Than the Beatles” and “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).”
Diffie’s mid-’90s albums “Honkey Tonk Attitude” and “Third Rock From the Sun” went platinum and scored 18 top 10 singles — with five going all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
He is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from his four marriages.
Beloved Japanese comedian Ken Shimura died March 27, a week after contracting the coronavirus. He was 70. The Tokyo native was revered in his home country, where he is a household name and has been called “Japan’s Robin Williams.”
“He was popular among a wide range of generations and was the No. 1 source of pride for locals,” Minoru Hasegawa, 69, a fellow native of Shimura’s home city, told the Japan Times.
Shimura was hospitalized on March 20 after developing a fever and being diagnosed with pneumonia. He tested positive for the virus on March 23, becoming the first Japanese celebrity to announce his infection, and to pass from the disease.
Shimura was known for his parodies and slapstick comedy bits, including the “mustache dance,” and a song about his home city of Higashimurayama in western Tokyo. Following his high school graduation, he joined the well-known Japanese comedy group the Drifters in 1974. Among Japan’s best-known comedy troupes, the group had opened for the Beatles when they performed in Japan in 1966. The group’s surviving members were too shocked to yet issue statements regarding Shimura’s death.
“I am sure he was working hard with a sense of mission to deliver laughter to people,” a representative from Shimura’s agency says. “I don’t think he imagined he would die a death like this.”
The funnyman was set to run the Tokyo Olympic torch relay representing Higashimurayama in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until they were postponed until next year.
Alan Merrill, who co-wrote the Joan Jett banger “I Love Rock and Roll,” died March 29 at 69.
“I was given 2 minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out,” his daughter Laura Merrill wrote in a heartbreaking Facebook post. “How could this be? I was just at his show a couple of weeks ago. I had just photographed his portrait for his new album. Texted with him earlier. He played down the ‘cold’ he thought he had. I’ve made a million jokes about the ‘Rona’ and how it’ll ‘getcha’… boy do I feel stupid.”
The Bronx-born rocker penned “I Love Rock and Roll” for his band The Arrows and recorded it in 1975 — but it became legendary when former Runaways frontwoman Jett covered it in 1982.
“I’ve just learned of the awful news that Alan Merrill has passed,” Jett, 61, tweeted Sunday. “My thoughts and love go to his family, friends and music community as a whole. I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me. With deep gratitude and sadness, wishing him a safe journey to the other side.”
Jack starred in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” as Resistance General Caluan Ematt. He also worked as a dialect coach on films such as “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and many Marvel films, as well as the upcoming Batman movie starring Robert Pattinson.
His agent, Jill McCullough, confirmed his passing to the Evening Standard, saying that he passed in a hospital bed while his family was stuck in quarantine in Australia.
“Andrew lived on one of the oldest working houseboats on the Thames, he was fiercely independent but madly in love with his wife; also a dialect coach: Gabrielle Rogers,” said McCullough. “Andrew was full of life, he was tall and striking with flowing white hair. You wouldn’t miss him if he walked into a room.”
Wallace Roney, a trumpeter renowned for his interpretations of Miles Davis’ iconic jazz compositions, died at 59, his fiancée Dawn Felice Jones confirmed on April 1.
Roney passed at a hospital in Paterson, NJ, where he was admitted last week, the Guardian reports. The Grammy winner — a leader in a post-bop or fusion style — trained at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Howard University and Berklee College of Music.
After working clubs in New York City, Roney was recruited by the Jazz Messengers, a famed hard bop band led by Art Blakey. He was later hired by Tony Williams, the drummer who played alongside Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter in Miles Davis’ second great quintet. Roney went on to perform with Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz legends.
He is survived by two children, Barbara and Wallace Jr., from his marriage to late pianist Geri Allen.
Adam Schlesinger, 52
Adam Schlesinger, a member of Fountains of Wayne and songwriter, died April 1. He was 52.
The singer-songwriter for the acclaimed ’90s group known for the hit “Stacy’s Mom” died at a hospital in upstate New York, his lawyer Josh Grier said. The 51-year-old father of two received three Grammy awards for his songwriting credits on several television shows.
Schlesinger was also nominated for an Academy Award for penning the song behind the 1997 movie “That Thing You Do,” about a fictional one-hit wonder band from the 1960s. Tom Hanks, who directed the movie, tweeted about the musician: “Lost him to COVID-19,” Hanks wrote on Twitter. “Terribly sad today.”
Actress and talent agent
Julie Bennett, known as the voice of Cindy Bear in “The Yogi Bear Show,” died March 31 at 88, her talent agent Mark Scroggs confirmed to Fox News.
Bennett passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, having received her coronavirus diagnosis last week, according to Scroggs. She was best-known for her voice work, reprising her role as Cindy for several television shows based on Yogi Bear, including the 1988 TV movie “Yogi & the Invasion of the Space Bears.”
Most recently, Bennett lent her voice to “Garfield and Friends,” “Spider-Man: The Animated Series,” as well as a Spider-Man-themed video game released in 2000. Her live-action roles include appearances in the TV series “Moonlighting” and “Crossings.”
Bennett was born in Manhattan before her family relocated to Los Angeles when she was a child. After college, she returned to New York to appear in radio soap operas and TV dramas. In the 1990s, Bennett entered her second act as talent agent, representing clients under the pseudonym Marianne Daniels.
Legendary footwear designer Sergio Rossi died April 3. He was 84.
Rossi was hospitalized for a few days in Cesena, Italy, prior to his passing, according to Footwear News.
“Sergio Rossi was a master, and it is my great honor to have met him and gotten to present him the archive earlier this year. His vision and approach will remain our guide in the growth of the brand and the business,” Riccardo Sciutto, CEO of the Sergio Rossi Group, wrote on the brand’s Instagram account on Friday to announce the news.
“He loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way, creating the perfect extension of a woman’s leg through his shoes. Our long and glorious history started from his incredible vision and we’ll remember his creativity forever.”
Countless celebrities wore Rossi’s sexy styles, including Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Paris Hilton, Priyanka Chopra, Kylie Jenner, Laura Dern, Ariana Grande and more. In March, the company announced that 100 percent of its online sales would go towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rossi is survived by his son Gianvito, who followed in his father’s footsteps with his own shoe brand.
Actor Jay Benedict, who appeared in “Aliens” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” died at 68.
“It is with profound sorrow that we must announce Jay’s death on the 4th of April due to complications arising from a COVID-19 infection,” reads an announcement on his website. His agency, TSG, also shared the news “with great sadness,” saying, “Our thoughts are with his family.” No further details were given.
Benedict appeared in a number of major films, including roles as Newt’s father in James Cameron’s “Aliens,” and as “rich twit” in the final film of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The California-born actor had moved to Europe as a child and conceded that he sounded “more English than American.” In the UK, he found fame in one of the biggest TV soaps, “Emmerdale,” as well as TV detective drama, “Foyle’s War,” and was married to actress Phoebe Scholfield.
His voice was as famous as his face, he conceded in his bio, having provided audio for documentaries, ads and video games.
“The irritatingly soothing voice requesting that you take your seat and switch off your mobile phone is quite probably him: so now you know who to blame,” his bio said of his voice-over work in announcements.
Actress and teacher
Lee Fierro, best-known as Alex Kintner’s mom in Steven Spielberg’s 1975 shark attack classic “Jaws,” died April 5. She was 91.
The actress was residing at an assisted living facility in Ohio when she died from COVID-19, the Martha’s Vineyard Times reports.
“The one word I would think of when I think of Lee is dedication. I’ve watched her as a performer, director and businesswoman and then we became friends. She was my teacher and mentor,” according to Kevin Ryan, artistic director and board president for Island Theatre Workshop, a program Fierro supported during her 40-plus years living on Martha’s Vineyard.
In her iconic scene from “Jaws,” an enraged Fierro confronts Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and slaps him in the face.
“I just found out that a girl got killed here last week and you knew, you knew there was a shark out there. You knew it was dangerous, but you let people go swimming anyway,” her character says, sobbing. “You knew all those things and still my boy is dead now, and there’s nothing you can do about it. My boy is dead.”
Fierro went on to reprise her role in 1987’s subpar “Jaws: The Revenge” opposite Michael Caine.
During her time with the Island Theatre Workshop, Ryan estimates Fierro taught more than 1,000 students and directed over 100 live productions during her time as artistic director.
Fierro is survived by her five children, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. A small service is planned by her family in Ohio with a memorial service in Martha’s Vineyard at a later date, Deadline reports.