PASSINGS: Nick Charles, Don Diamond, Eric Swenson, Jack Reidling, F. Gilman Spencer

Nick Charles

CNN's first sports anchor

Nick Charles, 64, CNN's first sports anchor, died Saturday at his home in Santa Fe, N.M., after a

the cable network announced.

Charles began at Atlanta-based CNN on the network's first day, June 1, 1980, and was a fixture on the

for 17 years, paired for most of that time with Fred Hickman.


For CNN's sister network


, Charles was host of its studio show for the 1992 and 1994 Winter


and the Pan-Am and Goodwill Games in the 1980s and '90s. He also covered a range of sporting events, including horse racing's

Triple Crown

events, Wimbledon and boxing matches.

After leaving CNN in 2001, he mainly covered boxing for



Nicholas Charles Nickeas was born June 30, 1946, in Chicago and worked late-night jobs in high school to help support his family. He studied communications at

Columbia College

in Chicago and drove a taxi to help pay his tuition.

He was still driving taxis in 1970 when he landed his first gig with WICS in Springfield, Ill. That's when he adopted the name Nick Charles at the urging of his news director, CNN said.

Charles later left Springfield to work at local stations in Baltimore and Washington before joining CNN.

Don Diamond

Veteran character actor

Don Diamond, 90, a veteran character actor best known for playing the sidekick El Toro in the 1950s TV series "The Adventures of Kit Carson" and Crazy Cat in the 1960s TV sitcom "F Troop," died June 19, his stepdaughter Fortuna Israel said.

Diamond, a Woodland Hills resident who had Parkinson's disease and other ailments, died as he was being taken by ambulance to a hospital.

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., on June 4, 1921, Diamond graduated from the University of Michigan, where he studied


and Spanish. He served in the Army Air Forces during

World War II


Besides his memorable sidekick roles, Diamond played Cpl. Reyes on "Zorro" in the late 1950s and the character Goldmouth in the

He appeared in dozens of other TV shows from the 1950s through the '80s and did voiceover work for animated programs and commercials, including "Tijuana Toads" and "The New Adventures of Zorro."

Eric Swenson

Co-founder of skateboarding magazine

Eric Swenson, 64, a co-founder of the skateboarding magazine Thrasher who reinvigorated the sidewalk surfing craze in the late 1970s with his Independent Trucks equipment firm, shot himself to death Monday in front of a police station in San Francisco.

Independent Trucks made a high-quality truck, the metal connector between the skateboard and its wheels, that enabled moves necessary for jumps and tricks.

Swenson, a San Francisco native, and his friend Fausto Vitello opened the manufacturing company in San Francisco in 1978.

Three years later, Swenson, Vitello and Kevin Thatcher co-founded skateboarding's Thrasher magazine.

Vitello died of a

heart attack

while bike riding in 2006.

Jack Reidling

Jazz and classical music pianist

Jack Reidling, 73, a versatile pianist who performed jazz and classical music at a host of Orange County venues, died Thursday at his home in Costa Mesa after battling cancer, said his sister, Janice Larsen.

A regular at the annual Orange County Musicians' Festival bashes, Reidling would typically provide accompaniment to jazz vocalist Karen Gallinger, take a turn with Tom Kubis'

big band

and then play classical duos with saxophonist Leo Potts.

Besides playing piano in local clubs on his own, with jazz combos and big bands, he also appeared with symphony orchestras and was the featured soloist in a jazz band arrangement of Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" at the Hollywood Bowl in 2000.

Reidling was born Aug. 15, 1937, in Fremont, Ohio, and began playing piano at an early age. He studied at the Baldwin Wallace College Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio, and moved to California in 1965.

Over a long career, Reidling played with the big bands of

Tex Beneke


Les Brown


Harry James

, Jack Sheldon and others.

He and his wife of 52 years, Beverly, had four sons.

F. Gilman Spencer

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist

F. Gilman Spencer, 85, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former editor of the Denver Post, the Daily News in New York and the Philadelphia Daily News, died Friday at

New York University

Langone Medical Center in New York City, where he had been undergoing treatment for a persistent infection.

Gil Spencer served as editor of the Post from 1989 to 1993, capping a four-decade career at newspapers in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. His editorials on political corruption in New Jersey for the Trentonian won a Pulitzer in 1974.

Spencer served as editor at the Philadelphia Daily News for nine years, and in 1984 he moved to New York's Daily News. He joined the Post in 1989 and retired in 1993.

Born Dec. 8, 1925, in Philadelphia, Spencer served in the Navy during World War II. He got his start in the newspaper business in 1947 as a copy boy for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports