Olivia Newton-John, singer and actress, dies 73

Dame Olivia Newton-John AC DBE (26 September 1948 – 8 August 2022) was a British-Australian singer, actress and activist. She was a four-time Grammy Award winner whose music career included five number one hits and another ten Top Ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100, and two Billboard 200 number one albums, If You Love Me, Let Me Know (1974) and Have You Never Been Mellow (1975). Eleven of her singles (including two Platinum) and 14 of her albums (including two Platinum and four 2× Platinum) have been certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). With global sales of more than 100 million records, Newton-John is one of the best-selling music artists from the second half of the 20th century to the present.

In 1978, Newton-John starred in the musical film Grease, whose soundtrack remains one of the world’s best-selling albums of recorded music. It features two major hit duets with co-star John Travolta: “You’re the One That I Want” – which ranks as one of the best-selling singles of all time – and “Summer Nights”. Her signature solo recordings include the Record of the Year Grammy winner “I Honestly Love You” (1974) and “Physical” (1981) – Billboard’s Top Hot 100 Single of the 1980s. Her other major hit singles include “If Not for You” (1971), “Let Me Be There” (1973), “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” (1974), “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975), “Sam” (1977), “Hopelessly Devoted to You” (also from Grease), “A Little More Love” (1978) and, from the 1980 film Xanadu, “Magic” and “Xanadu” (with Electric Light Orchestra).

Newton-John was an activist for environmental and animal rights causes, and advocated for breast cancer research.

Illness and death

In May 2017, it was announced that Newton-John’s breast cancer had returned and metastasised to her lower back. Her back pains had initially been misdiagnosed as sciatica.

Newton-John subsequently revealed this was actually her third bout with breast cancer, as she had privately battled a recurrence of the disease in 2013 in addition to her initial 1992 fight. With the 2017 recurrence, the cancer had spread to her bones and progressed to stage IV.

Newton-John experienced a great deal of pain from the metastatic bone lesions and had openly spoken of using cannabis oil to ease her pain. She was an advocate for the use of medical cannabis; her daughter Chloe owns a cannabis farm in Oregon.

On 8 August 2022, Newton-John died of her disease at her home in California, aged 73.

Nichelle Nichols, Lt. Uhura on ‘Star Trek,’ dies 89

Nichelle Nichols (December 28, 1932 – July 30, 2022) was an American actress, singer, and dancer best known for her portrayal of Nyota Uhura in Star Trek and its film sequels. Nichols’ portrayal of Uhura was groundbreaking for African American actresses on American television. From 1977 until 2015, Nichols volunteered her time to promote NASA’s programs and to recruit diverse astronauts, including women and ethnic minorities.

In June 2015, Nichols suffered a mild stroke at her Los Angeles home and was admitted to a Los Angeles–area hospital. A magnetic resonance imaging scan confirmed a small stroke had occurred, and she began inpatient therapy. In early 2018, Nichols was diagnosed with dementia, and subsequently announced her retirement from convention appearances.

Following a legal dispute over the actions of her manager-turned-caretaker Gilbert Bell, her son Kyle Johnson filed for conservatorship in 2018. Before a court granted his petition in January 2019, Nichols’ friend Angelique Fawcette, who had already expressed concern in 2017 over Bell’s control of access to her, pressed for visitation rights, including by opposing Johnson’s petition. That dispute and a 2019 court case by Bell over being evicted from the guesthouse on Nichols’ property were both ongoing as of August 2021.

Nichols died of heart failure in Silver City, New Mexico, on July 30, 2022, at the age of 89.

Peter Robbins, ‘Charlie Brown’ voice actor, dies from suicide, 65

Peter Robbins (born Louis Nanasi; August 10, 1956 – January 2022) was an American child actor. Robbins gained national fame in the 1960s as being the first actor to voice Charlie Brown in the Peanuts animated specials.

Legal problems

On January 20, 2013, Robbins was arrested by San Diego County Sheriff’s Department deputies at Homeland Security’s Port of Entry in San Ysidro, California, while re-entering the United States, and charged with “four felony counts of making a threat to cause death or great bodily injury and one felony count of stalking.” The four counts involve four victims, including a San Diego Police sergeant, whom Robbins reportedly threatened with bodily harm on January 13, 2013. He was held on $550,000 bond. On May 8, 2013, he was sentenced to a year in jail for threatening his former girlfriend and stalking her plastic surgeon, but he was allowed to log time in treatment instead. After release, he was sent to a residential drug treatment center.

In 2015, Robbins was arrested for multiple probation violations, including drinking alcohol and failing to complete mandatory domestic violence classes. On June 5, 2015, he was ordered to undergo a mental health exam after an outburst during a court proceeding in San Diego.

On December 7, 2015, Robbins was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison as part of a plea agreement for sending threatening letters to a manager and his wife of the mobile home park in which he lived in Oceanside, California. Robbins has stated at previous hearings that he suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoid schizophrenia. Robbins was incarcerated at the California Institution for Men in Chino, California, and was transferred to a psychiatric hospital because of his mental state. He was released on parole in 2019 after serving 80 percent of his sentence, on the conditions that he did not drink alcohol or take any illegal drugs.

Personal life

Robbins had a lifelong battle with mental illness. Despite his personal struggles, he remained attached to Charlie Brown and even had a tattoo of Charlie Brown and Snoopy on his arm.

Death

On January 25, 2022, it was announced by Robbins’ family that he died by suicide during the previous week.