Three who touched our lives in many ways
They made us laugh, they made us think and they were a part of changes in our society. That’s how we’ll remember the three stars — Peggy Lipton, Doris Day and Tim Conway — who have left us in the last week or so.
Lipton, who died May 11 at the age of 72, will long be remembered for her role as Julie Barnes in the mid-1960s television show “The Mod Squad.” Running for five seasons on ABC, it featured three young undercover police officers, was among the first to examine the counterculture that grew in that decade and included an interracial cast, which was promoted with the phrase “One black (Clarence Williams III), one white (Michael Cole), one blonde (Lipton.)”
The show did not shy away from controversial topics, including abortion and anti-Vietnam War protests, and its producer, Aaron Spelling, successfully fought for a friendly interracial kiss between Williams’ character, Linc, and Lipton’s Julie to be included in one episode. Her real-life marriage to the great musician Quincy Jones made her the target of a racist backlash, she wrote in her 2005 book “Breathing Out.”
Some likely remember Day, who died last Monday at the age of 97, for the wholesome roles she played in a series of sexless sex comedies of the 1950s and early 1960s that helped perpetuate the myth that the period was a time of innocence. Her body of work showed how versatile an entertainer she really was, allowed her to star in dramatic roles and, of course, provided a showcase for her abilities as dancer and a singer.
After her last film was released in 1968 and her television show ended its five-year run in 1973, Day turned her attention to helping animals, forming what’s now known as the Doris Day Animal Foundation, which is designed to help animals and the people who love them. Through that work, she became a leading voice in the fight against cruelty to all animals.
In 1985, her first guest on the animal-related television show “Doris Day and Friends” was her longtime friend and co-star Rock Hudson, who was suffering from the ravages of AIDS and would die not too long afterward. His appearance offered Americans a different perspective about those who had the disease.
Conway, who died Tuesday at the age of 85, is one of those rare entertainers whose work was able to remain fresh across several generations.
To some, he will be remembered as the incompetent Ensign Charles Parker on “McHale’s Navy” in the 1960s. Others will forever think of his work as a member of the ensemble cast of “The Carol Burnett Show” in the mid-1970s. And, still others will remember the vocal talents he brought to the role of Barnacle Boy on the animated “SpongeBob SquarePants,” a cartoon that producers might say is merely a show for children, but in reality is every bit as appealing and meaningful to adults.
Their styles and their roles — in the movies, on television and in life — were all different, but Lipton, Day and Conway worked to entertain us, while helping us to look at life in different ways.