Coco Chanel (Lipnitzki/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)
Coco Chanel did no less than change the way the women of the world dress, offering a sporty, casual look that a generation of corseted women was eager to embrace. So widely accepted was her new approach to fashion that Chanel is included in Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century – the only fashion designer so honored. Even today, more than 100 years after her first designs debuted, the Chanel name is everywhere, on beloved perfume, sought-after handbags and more. We remember Chanel's life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
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2014: Larry Speakes, U.S. press spokesman for the White House during President Ronald Reagan's terms, dies at 74.
Speakes became Reagan's acting spokesman after Press Secretary James Brady was wounded during an assassination attempt on Reagan in 1981, according to Speakes' obituary by The Associated Press. Republican Haley Barbour, who served as Mississippi governor from 2004 to 2012, was political director of the Reagan White House when Speakes worked there. He said it wasn't unusual to have tension between the political office and the press office, but he and Speakes had a good working relationship. Read more.
2013: Evan Connell, U.S. author who wrote the novels Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge, dies at 88.
Connell was the author of 19 books, including two book-length poems, a biography of Spanish painter Francisco Goya and a historically detailed novel about the Crusades, Deus Lo Volt! According to his obituary by The Associated Press, Connell wrote often of seekers and doubters, world travelers through the ages and conventional folks who secretly yearned to break out. The author himself was blessed with a curious and unpredictable mind, his subjects including alchemy, Antarctica, Nordic tales, Marco Polo, Mayan sculpture and the quest for gold in the New World. Read more.
2011: Margaret Whiting, U.S. singer of pop and country music, dies at 86.
It was Johnny Mercer who had coached the teenage Whiting through her first recording, of her father's "My Ideal," and although Maurice Chevalier and Frank Sinatra had already recorded the tune, her version sold well, according to her obituary by The Associated Press. She followed it with a remarkable procession of million-sellers: "That Old Black Magic," "It Might As Well Be Spring," "Come Rain or Come Shine" and her biggest-seller and signature song, "Moonlight in Vermont." Read more.
2008: Christopher Bowman, U.S. figure skater who won two medals at the World Championships, dies of an accidental drug overdose at 40.
Bowman, a former child actor, was one of figure skating's bigger personalities in the late 1980s and early 1990s, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Immensely talented, with a gift for performance that few others could match, he won the U.S. men's figure skating titles in 1989 and 1992, and was runner-up in 1987 and 1991. He also won a silver medal at the 1989 World Championships and a bronze the next year. He skated in the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, finishing seventh in 1988 and fourth in 1992. Read more.
2007: Carlo Ponti, Italian film producer of more than 140 films and the husband of actress Sophia Loren, dies at 94.
He produced more than 140 films, including Doctor Zhivago, The Firemen's Ball and The Great Day, which were nominated for Oscars, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. Other major films included Blow-Up, The Cassandra Crossing, The Verdict and The Squeeze. In 1956, La Strada, which he co-produced, won the Academy Award for best foreign film, as did Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow in 1964. But it was his affair with the young ingenue Loren that captivated the public, rather than his work with such top filmmakers as Dino De Laurentiis, Federico Fellini, Jean-Luc Godard, Peter Ustinov, David Lean and Roman Polanski. Read more.
2005: James Forman, U.S. civil rights leader active in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, dies at 76.
A Chicago native who grew up in Mississippi, Forman was a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and the Freedom Rides in which blacks rode across the South to make sure buses were integrated as ordered by the courts, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. In 1961, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was elected its executive secretary one week later. Although both the student group and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference were fighting the same struggle, there was friendly competition. Often the students organized demonstrations and took positions that went beyond those advocated by King. Read more.
2004: Alexandra Ripley, U.S. author known best for writing Scarlett, a sequel to Gone With the Wind, dies at 70.
2004: Spalding Gray, U.S. actor and screenwriter known for his monologue, Swimming to Cambodia, dies of an apparent suicide at 62.
Gray's greatest success was his Obie-winning monologue, Swimming to Cambodia, which recounted in part his movie role opposite Sam Waterston in The Killing Fields. The monologue, developed over two years of performance, became a film directed by Jonathan Demme, according to Gray's obituary by The Associated Press. In the theater, he starred as the stage manager in the 1989 revival of Our Town, a production that won a Tony Award for best revival. Read more.
2000: Sam Jaffe, U.S. talent agent who represented such actors as Humphrey Bogart and Richard Burton, dies at 98.
1994: Charles "Chub" Feeney, U.S. president of Major League Baseball's National League from 1969 to 1986, dies at 72.
1989: Herbert Morrison, U.S. radio reporter known best for his dramatic report, "Oh, the humanity ...," while covering the Hindenburg passenger-zeppelin disaster, dies at 83.
1987: Marion Hutton, U.S. singer and actress who was a vocalist for the Glenn Miller Orchestra, dies at 67.
1982: Paul Lynde, U.S. actor known for his roles in the movie Bye Bye Birdie as Harry MacAfee and as Uncle Arthur in the television hit Bewitched, dies of a heart attack at 55.
1981: Richard Boone, U.S. actor who starred in the TV Western Have Gun: Will Travel, dies at 63.
1980: Bo Rein, U.S. college football head coach for North Carolina State University from 1976 to 1979 who had just been hired as head coach at Louisiana State University, dies in a plane crash at 34.
1980: George Meany, U.S. labor leader, dies at 85.
1976: Howlin' Wolf, highly influential Chicago blues singer-guitarist known for such blues standards as "Killing Floor" and "Back Door Man," dies at 65.
1971: Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, French fashion designer and founder of the Chanel brand, dies at 87.
The casual knits in Chanel's boutiques were new and exciting for a generation of young women raised in corsets but eager to live active lives. Coco Chanel herself was the epitome of what these women sought to be: independent, dynamic, slim and sporty. Her cropped hair and boyish figure became the ideal for many young women, and the straight lines and boxy silhouettes of her designs were tailor-made for that figure. Her own taste in color also was a key element in Chanel's fashion design: In her home and her dress, Chanel looked toward classic blacks, whites and beiges. Those colors were the cornerstone of the House of Chanel – particularly the "little black dress," a wardrobe staple that she made famous. Read more.
1968: Howard Smith, U.S. actor who appeared in many movies and TV series including a recurring role in Hazel, dies at 74.
1968: Basil Sydney, English actor who appeared in Hamlet and Around the World in 80 Days, dies of pleurisy at 73.
1961: Dashiell Hammett, U.S. author of such detective novels as The Thin Man and The Maltese Falcon, dies at 66.
1951: Sinclair Lewis, U.S. writer whose books include Elmer Gantry and who was the first American author to win the Nobel Prize in literature, dies at 65.
1917: Buffalo Bill Cody, one of the most colorful figures of the American Wild West who was an Army scout before he became a showman, dies at 70.
1862: Samuel Colt, U.S. inventor of the Colt revolver, dies of gout at 47.
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