DIED The Southerner made a splash as a 12-year-old in 1994, as a tough kid who witnessed a mob-related suicide in The Client opposite Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. That mature, soulful performance was, sadly, the peak of actor Brad Renfro's career. Though he went on to roles in Sleepers and Ghost World, he was battling drug addiction and in 2006 spent 10 days in jail for drunk driving and attempted heroin possession. His death is under investigation. He was 25.
Will Ferrell's cocky, bimbo-loving character Chazz (an "ice-devouring tornado of sex") in the figure-skating spoof Blades of Glory would have found a soulmate in Christopher Bowman, a star of the sport in the 1980s and '90s. "Bowman the Showman," a former child actor, improvised routines at the last minute, winked at the cameras and flirted with female fans. He won the men's nationals in 1989 and '92, but his fights with coaches and off-rink habits—drinking, cocaine, women—began to overshadow his talent. At the time of his death from unknown causes in a Los Angeles hotel room, Bowman weighed more than 260 lbs. (118 kg) and was said to be depressed over the end of his marriage. He was 40.
He was gastronomic royalty. As the elegant, unflappable owner of the venerated Paris eatery Taillevent, Jean-Claude Vrinat was pleasantly old-fashioned. The food, while superb, was not trendy; unlike his peers, Vrinat and his chefs stayed out of the limelight. But the perfectionist Vrinat made the kings, film idols and awestruck tourists who ate there welcome, remembering names and hometowns, even opening taxi doors. Once, after Salvador Dalí had dined with his cat, the tactful and kind Vrinat offered, "Perhaps next time it would be best if your friend didn't come. I had the sense he didn't particularly enjoy himself." Vrinat was 71 and had lung cancer.
In 1971, when his findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine, cancer researcher Judah Folkman's peers dismissed his idea that cancer tumors were dependent on a growing network of blood vessels. The now widely accepted theory that blocking angiogenesis, or vessel growth, will inhibit tumors has led to a dedicated field of research and at least 10 drugs currently on the market. Folkman was 74 and died of an apparent heart attack.
Chicago has its lovable losers the Cubs. Brooklyn, in the 1950s, had its Dodgers. The team reached the World Series five times from 1941 to '53 but always lost to the Yankees, hence their slogan: Wait 'til next year. That changed in 1955, when pitcher Johnny Podres, an unknown on a team that included Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, took Brooklyn to its first and only World Series win. By holding off the Yankees with his fastball and signature change-up, Podres earned the nickname "Mr. Clutch" and won the first ever World Series Most Valuable Player. He was 75.
Before Elvira, before Morticia Addams, there was Maila Nurmi, the pioneering queen of sexy, spooky goth. She developed a following as Vampira, host of a short-lived namesake weekly 1954 TV show in which she introduced horror movies. Nurmi, who had a cameo in the classic Ed Wood film Plan 9 from Outer Space, faded from view, earning money by selling handmade jewelry. In 1989 she lost a $10 million lawsuit alleging that actress Cassandra Peterson, appearing as Elvira, had pirated her character. Nurmi was 85.