Other Notable Deaths


September 11, 2006

Dorothy Harmsen, 91, who was a co-founder of the Jolly Rancher Candy Co., the maker of tangy, slowly dissolving bricks of fruit-flavored candy, and the owner of one of the nation's largest private collections of art of the American West, died of a heart attack Aug. 29 in Denver.

Over a career in confections that spanned 50 years, Mrs. Harmsen and her late husband, William, created scores of original candies on their farm in Colorado, including chocolates, fruit chews, jelly beans and lollipops.

But it was the Jolly Rancher, an unembellished rectangular hard candy, that became the couple's biggest contribution to the candy aisle.

Willi Ninja, 45, the star of the documentary Paris is Burning who was considered the godfather of the dance art form voguing and who inspired Madonna's Vogue music video, died of AIDS-related heart failure Sept. 2 at a hospital in New York City.

Inspired by Fred Astaire, Great Performances on PBS, Asian culture and Olympic gymnasts, he was a self-taught performer who stitched together a patchwork of a career that extended into the worlds of dance, fashion and music.

Mr. Ninja, whose real name was William Leake, performed with dance companies, worked under renowned choreographers and instructed models and socialites how to walk and pose for the paparazzi with frisson. But it was for the magic he worked on the ballroom floor and in the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning that he was probably best known.

John Conte, 90, an actor who worked in television, radio, films and on Broadway for decades before going behind the cameras and founding his own TV station, died of natural causes Sept. 4 in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

He appeared in numerous TV shows, including episodes of The Untouchables, Perry Mason, Bonanza, Your Show of Shows and Studio One. He also appeared in The Carpetbaggers and the classic Frank Sinatra film The Man with the Golden Arm.

He founded the NBC affiliate KMIR-TV in the Palm Springs-Rancho Mirage area in 1968. He sold the station in 1999.

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