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Gary Gygax, who co-created the fantasy game Dungeons & Dragons and helped start the role-playing phenomenon, died March 4 after a long illness at his home in Lake Geneva, Wis. He was 69.

Gygax and Dave Arneson developed Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 using medieval characters and mythical creatures. The game known for its oddly shaped dice became a hit, particularly among teenage boys, and eventually was turned into video games, books and movies.

Gygax also was a prolific writer and penned dozens of fantasy books, including the Greyhawk series of adventure novels.



Sidney Beckerman, a noted Hollywood producer of the 1960s and '70s, died Feb. 25 in Los Angeles. He was 87.

Beckerman produced such films as "Marathon Man," "Kelly's Heroes," "Joe Kidd," "Raid on Entebbe," "Red Dawn," "Marlowe" and "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai."

As president of Allied Artists, he also was responsible for bringing "Cabaret" to the screen in 1971.



Charles Smith Jr., a longtime radio and television executive, died Feb. 15 at his home in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. He was 85.

Smith served for more than 30 years at ABC Television and had become vp of ABC Broadcast Group when he retired in 1986. He also served as treasurer of Strauss Broadcasting group for several years in the 1960s.

His four children followed their father's path: Robert is an audio engineer with ABC's "All My Children"; Brian is a station executive at WPVI-TV Philadelphia; Michael is a news and documentary producer; and Lisa is a veteran producer of soap operas, most recently NBC's "Passions."



J. Michael Bloom, an actor, director, talent agent, acting coach and businessman, died Feb. 21 at his Los Angeles home of complications from pneumonia after surgery. He was 68.

After a brief stint as a talent agent in New York, he opened J. Michael Bloom and Associates in 1974. It grew into a full-service talent agency representing artists in most areas of performance. He also represented writers for plays, television and feature films.

In January 1980, he opened an office in Los Angeles that represented artists in film, television and literary projects. He sold his company in 1998 and opened Meridian Artists, a smaller boutique agency.



Ben Chapman, whose life was never the same after he played the title character in the 1954 horror film "Creature From the Black Lagoon," died Feb. 21 at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu. He was 79.

A Tahiti native, Chapman got the Gill Man part because of his 6-foot-5 frame. He wore a foam rubber suit that defined his character: part amphibian, part man. "Creature" was released in 1954, when Chapman was a contract player at Universal.

The role made him a darling on the collectibles and sci-fi circuit throughout the world.



Richard Baer, a prolific television writer who contributed to the hit sitcoms "Bewitched," "That Girl" and "The Munsters," died Feb. 22 at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica from complications after a heart attack. He was 79.

Baer's first credit was for NBC's "The Life of Riley" in 1953, and his career spanned three decades.

He wrote for almost two dozen shows, ranging from a single episode of "Have Gun — Will Travel" to 34 for "Hennesey." He received an Emmy nomination for one episode of the latter show.

His final TV script was an episode of the 1980s sitcom "Who's the Boss?"
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