EmptyThe Rev. Jerry Falwell, an evangelist who used the power of television to transform the religious right into a force in American politics, died May 15 in Lynchburg, Va. He was 73.
Driven into politics by the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established the right to an abortion, Falwell founded the Moral Majority in 1979. One of the conservative lobbying group's greatest triumphs came just a year later, when Ronald Reagan was elected president.
The rise of Christian conservatism — and the Moral Majority's full-throated condemnation of homosexuality, abortion and pornography — made Falwell perhaps the most recognizable figure on the evangelical right, and one of the most controversial ones, too.
The 1980s marked the religious conservative movement's high-water mark. In more recent years, Falwell had become a problematic figure for the GOP. His remarks a few days after Sept. 11, 2001, essentially blaming feminists, gays and liberals for bringing on the terrorist attacks, drew a rebuke from the White House, and he apologized.
Curtis Harrington, a one-time experimental filmmaker who earned a reputation in the 1960s and '70s as a master of the macabre with such films as "What's the Matter With Helen?" and "The Killing Kind," died May 6 at his home in the Hollywood Hills. He was 80.
Originally known for his short experimental films in the 1940s and early '50s, Harrington was working as an associate producer for producer Jerry Wald at 20th Century Fox when he took time off in 1960 to direct and write his first feature film, "Night Tide," released in 1961.
The low-budget independent film starred Dennis Hopper as a sailor who falls in love with a girl who works as a mermaid in a sideshow water tank. A tagline for the film asks: "Was she human? … Sensual ecstasy becomes supernatural terror!"
Among Harrington's films are "Games" (1967), a psychological thriller with Simone Signoret, James Caan and Katharine Ross; "What's the Matter With Helen?" (1971), a horror film co-starring Debbie Reynolds and Shelley Winters; "Killing Kind" (1973), an exploration of a psychopath's mind starring Ann Sothern and John Savage; and "Ruby" (1977), a horror film with Piper Laurie and Stuart Whitman.
Fulton Burley, the wisecracking Irish tenor who entertained millions of Disneyland guests for 25 years as the popular star and master of ceremonies at the long-running Golden Horseshoe Revue, died May 7 of cardiac arrest at the Sunrise Assisted Living facility in Carlsbad, Calif. He was 84.
Burley provided the voice of the Irish parrot, Michael, for the Enchanted Tiki Room attraction at Disneyland and toured the country on numerous occasions hosting live shows to promote theatrical reissues of such popular Walt Disney films as "The Jungle Book" and "Cinderella." He was honored as a "Disney Legend" in a special ceremony at the studio in 1995.
Carey Bell, a blues harmonica player who performed with such legendary blues figures as Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, died May 6 of heart failure in Chicago, according to Alligator Records, which released several albums by Bell. He was 70.
A transitional figure between such early blues players as Marion (Little Walter) Jacobs and Big Walter Horton, he was performing professionally with his godfather, pianist Lovie Lee, by the time he was 19.
Bell spent 1971 traveling and recording with Waters and can be heard on his "London Sessions."
Lois Gibson, a writer and story editor who worked in television, contributed pieces to the Los Angeles Free Press and the Los Angeles Times magazine and was the wife of actor Henry Gibson, died May 6 at their home in Malibu after a long illness. She was 77.