The Top 10 Cool Dudes Who Died in 2010
5. Tony Curtis
Source: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
If you were looking for a classic example of an American life well lived, you could do a lot worse than Tony Curtis'. He grew up in the rough and tumble Bronx of the ‘50s, narrowly avoided a life of crime, served on a submarine in WWII, had a long and storied career as an actor in classic flicks like The Defiant Ones, Some Like it Hot, and The Boston Strangler, was a serious painter whose works sold for tens of thousands of dollars, and married five drop dead gorgeous women - including one who was 48 years younger than him at the time. But his life wasn't all starlets, fat paychecks, and cherry pies. Curtis had his share of battles with drugs and alcohol, nearly died a couple times, and lost a son to drug addiction. But he persevered, and lived his life the way he wanted to no matter what anybody said. He hit the highs and the lows with class and will always be remembered as an American icon. Oh yeah, he also was Jamie Lee Curtis' old man, which is pretty cool in its own right.
4. George Steinbrenner
Source: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
There may be some baseball fans who question George Steinbrenner's inclusion on any list except world's greatest jerks, but it's pretty hard to argue with his career as a Major League Baseball owner and manager. Despite his legendary temper and revolving door policy towards employees, Steinbrenner was the architect behind one of the winningest sports franchises in history. Sure, he was a megalomaniac who slagged his own players in the press. Sure, he was paranoid, broke every rule in the book, and was once banned from managing. And yes, he did once give money to Richard Nixon. But he was a character and half of the fun of the big leagues is watching the larger-than-life nutjobs and gasbags who run it. Even if you disagreed with every decision Steinbrenner ever made, you had to agree the guy had style. Maybe he was a jerk, but he was an original. And in the final analysis, that's what he'll be remembered for.
3. Dino De Laurentiis
Source: Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage/Getty Images
Another guys' guy we lost this year was Dino De Laurentiis, the legendary film producer. Born to a humble spaghetti salesman in Italy, he rose to the heights of movie producerhood, bringing the world such bro classics as Serpico, Death Wish, Conan The Barbarian, King Kong, Maximum Overdrive, and even the greatest horror comedy of all time Evil Dead 2. De Laurentiis produced a lot of junk, too, but it was always good junk. Less interested in making Academy Award-winning dramas and more interested in getting people in the theater, he wasn't afraid to crank out cheapie sequels and throwaway genre pics to make a fast buck. He may not have always been the high-falutin' critics' favorite, but odds are if you've ever spent a hungover Sunday watching a cheesy but cool action flick made between 1968 and 2005, you owe De Laurentiis a debt of gratitude. Or at least a high five.
2. Dennis Hopper
Source: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images
What do you say about Dennis Hopper? One of the last great originals in a business that loves conformity and safety, Dennis Hopper built an amazing career on his own terms. From his start as a whacked out filmmaker and actor who captured the surreal, drugged out madness of the sixties to a respected character actor, Hopper did great work, and perhaps more importantly, he always looked like he was having a great time doing it. He did what he wanted, indulged himself to the limits of human capacity, and made a bundle in the process. Sure, he starred in his share of duds (anyone remember the Super Mario movie?) but he always seemed above petty considerations like success or failure. He was a guy who just did what he did, and if people dug it, cool. No compromises, no regrets. We bet he died with a big fat smile on his face.
1. Leslie Nielsen
Source: George Rose/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
At the beginning of his career, Leslie Nielson used his good looks and authoritative voice to play a series of boring yet serviceable hero types. He puttered along for several years, putting together a solid, but unremarkable string of roles. That is until the Zucker bothers (creators of the Airplane movies and the premier smartasses of their generation) cast him as the doctor in Airplane! Using his considerable straight man talents for comedy, Nielson discovered that he may have been a pretty good actor, but he was a kickass comedian. From then on, he became a huge star playing a series of oblivious boobs who only sound like they know what's going on, most famously in the Naked Gun flicks. Neilson was hilarious, totally willing to make fun of himself, and everyone else, and by all accounts was a stand up guy offscreen too. Surely, he was one of the funniest actors of his generation. Just don't call him Shirley.