The next time a flight attendant reminds you there's no smoking or you witness a teenager getting carded at a liquor store, think of Frank Lautenberg.
The liberal Democratic senator from New Jersey left his mark on the everyday lives of millions of Americans, whether they know it or not. In the 1980s, he was a driving force behind the laws that banned smoking on most U.S. flights and made 21 the drinking age in all 50 states.
Contact information ( * required )
Lautenberg, a multimillionaire businessman who became an accomplished -- if often underestimated -- politician, has died at 89.
He was the oldest person in the Senate and the last of 115 World War II veterans to serve there.
Possessed with neither a dynamic speaking style nor a telegenic face, he won his last race in 2008 at age 84, becoming the first New Jersey politician ever elected to five Senate terms.
He was in the headlines in December 2008 -- this time as an apparent victim. After Bernard Madoff was accused of a $50 billion fraud scheme, Lautenberg's family foundation said the bulk of its investments were managed by him.
As a teenager, Esther Williams dreamed of Olympic glory on the U.S. swim team.
She had to settle instead for becoming a movie star.
The self-described "Million Dollar Mermaid," whose wholesome beauty, shapely figure and aquatic skills launched an entire genre of movies -- the Technicolor "aqua musicals" -- has died at 91. She was remembered for her Hollywood fame but also her influence on fashion and on synchronized swimming, the Olympic sport inspired by her cinematic water ballet.
Williams followed in footsteps of Sonja Henie -- who went from skating champion to movie star -- and became one of Hollywood's biggest moneymakers after she lost the chance to compete in the Olympics when they were canceled due to the onset of World War II. She appeared in glittering swimsuit numbers that featured towering fountains, waterfalls, pools, lakes, slides, water skis and anything else that involved water.
"The girl you will dream about!" raved the 1944 trailer for "Bathing Beauty," the first big aqua musical. It showed a smiling Williams posing in a bright pink one-piece suit with the pointy chest popular at the time, a matching pink bow in her hair.
Co-starring Red Skelton, the show was first called "Mr. Coed." But MGM executives changed the title when they realized how big the actress was going to be during filming, according to a biography on Williams' website.
"No one had ever done a swimming movie before," Williams said later. "So we just made it up as we went along. I ad-libbed all my own underwater movements."
Willi Sitte, one of East Germany's most eminent artists and a key representative of communism's preferred socialist realism painting style, has died at 92.
The psychiatrist who opened the Oregon State Hospital's doors to filming of the 1975 Academy Award-winning movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" has died.
Dr. Dean Brooks, 96, had been in declining health for several weeks after a fall.
Brooks' daughter Dennie Brooks said the film's producers were turned down by all the other mental hospitals they approached. But her father, who was the Salem hospital's superintendent, saw the value of the movie in starting a national discussion about mental health and the responsibility of institutions to do no harm.
Nearly 90 patients ultimately had parts in the movie, or jobs behind the scenes, said Brooks, who also worked on the film as a location coordinator.
David "Deacon" Jones, the original sackmaster, has died.
The Hall of Fame defensive end credited with terming the word sack for how he knocked down quarterbacks, was 74. The Washington Redskins said that Jones died of natural causes at his home in Southern California on Monday night.
"Deacon Jones was one of the greatest players in NFL history. Off the field, he was a true giant," said Redskins general manager Bruce Allen, whose father, George, coached Jones with the Los Angeles Rams. "His passion and spirit will continue to inspire those who knew him. He was a cherished member of the Allen family and I will always consider him my big brother."
Because sacks didn't become an official statistic until 1982, Jones' total is uncertain. His impact as a premier pass rusher and team leader is not.
Jones was the leader of the Rams' Fearsome Foursome unit from 1961-71 and then played for San Diego for two seasons before finishing his career with the Redskins in 1974. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1980 and made the league's 75th anniversary all-time squad.
Longtime Miami (Ohio) basketball coach Charlie Coles, the school's all-time leader in victories, died Friday in Oxford, Ohio, the school said. He was 71.
Bob Lyons, who covered Philadelphia sports legends from Bob Clarke to Reggie White during 35 years as a freelancer for The Associated Press, has died. He was 73.
Tom Sharpe, a late-blooming British writer known for his riotously satirical novels about misguided characters ensnarled in preposterous circumstances, has died in northern Spain, where he lived. He was 85.
During 40 years, he published 19 satirical novels, many of them bestsellers.
, that spoofed British education, politics and social customs.
In "Porterhouse Blue" (1974), Sharpe spoofed the clubby world of the University of Cambridge -- his alma mater. In another of his well-regarded books, "Blott on the Landscape" (1975), he skewered British developers, bureaucrats and scheming politicians.
Former Jefferson Airplane drummer Joey Covington has died in a Palm Springs car crash.
A Riverside County coroner's report says the 67-year-old Palm Springs resident wasn't wearing a seat belt when his car hit a retaining wall last Tuesday. He died at the scene.
Covington replaced Spencer Dryden as the Airplane's drummer from 1970-72. Before that, he was with the Airplane offshoot Hot Tuna and played congas on the 1969 Airplane album "Volunteers."
Covington co-wrote several Airplane songs, including "Pretty as You Feel" and the 1976 tune "With Your Love."
William T. Cartwright, an Emmy-winning filmmaker who helped save the landmark Watts Towers in Los Angeles, has died at age 92.
Cartwright won or shared three Emmys for editing or producing documentaries, including two about the 1960 and 1964 presidential campaigns.
Marvin Junior, a founding member and the lead singer of the Dells, a Chicago doo-wop and soul group whose songs appeared on the rhythm-and-blues charts in five decades and included such hits as "Oh, What a Night" and "Stay in My Corner," has died at his home in Harvey, Ill. He was 77.
The Dells, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004, had one of the most stable lineups among R&B vocal groups and served as a model for the 1991 film "The Five Heartbeats."
Junior sang lead on the group's first hit, "Oh, What a Night," which he co-wrote with the original Dells tenor Johnny Funches. The song, now considered a classic of doo-wop balladry, reached No. 3 on the pop charts in 1956, right behind Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" and Fats Domino's "Blueberry Hill."
A family member says Ed Hotaling, a network news journalist and author of several books including "They're Off! Horse Racing at Saratoga," has died at age 75.
Alixa Naff, an early and pioneering historian who documented the lives of the first wave of Arab-American immigrants a century ago, has died after a brief illness. She was 93.
The Rev. Will Campbell, a white minister who drew acclaim for his involvement in the civil rights movement, has died at the age of 88.
Chen Xitong, who as Beijing's mayor backed the military crackdown on the Tiananmen Square democratic movement but later expressed regret for the loss of life, died days before its 24th anniversary, according to media reports and a family friend.
Musician Ben Tucker performed with stars from Quincy Jones to Peggy Lee before he settled in the 1970s in Savannah, where the jazz bassist became one of the Georgia city's best-known working musicians.
He was killed in a car crash Tuesday at age 82.
Chicago blues piano player Piano C. Red, who performed with Muddy Waters, B.B King, Fats Domino and Buddy Guy before being paralyzed in 2006, has died at 79.
Red's son, James Britton, said his father's health had been deteriorating since the shooting that paralyzed him. Red was shot during a robbery.
Richie Phillips, a tough-talking Philly lawyer who became a negotiator for Major League Baseball umpires and NBA referees, has died. He was 72.
Former Gary Mayor Rudy Clay, a tireless champion of his gritty, violent industrial city, has died, two years after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He was 77.
Mandawuy Yunupingu, the former lead singer of Australian indigenous band Yothu Yindi and one of the country's most famous Aborigines, has died at 56.
Officials haven't released a cause of death, but Yunupingu struggled for years with kidney disease.
Bill Austin, who became head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1970 as the handpicked successor of the ailing Vince Lombardi, and who later returned to the team as offensive line coach, has died at 84.