PASSINGS: Norma Zimmer, Dick Walsh, Robert F. Ellsworth, Robert Traylor, Burt Reinhardt

Norma Zimmer

Singer was Welk ‘Champagne Lady’

Norma Zimmer, 87, the “Champagne Lady” of television’s “The Lawrence Welk Show” and a studio singer, died Tuesday at her home in Brea. Her son, Larry, did not give the cause of death.

Zimmer performed on Welk’s network and later syndicated show from 1960 to 1982 as the “Champagne Lady,” the title Welk traditionally gave to his orchestra’s lead female singer. Zimmer sang solos, sang duets with Jimmy Roberts and waltzed with Welk to the strains of his effervescent dance tunes tagged “champagne music.”

Norma Zimmer: A brief obituary of singer Norma Zimmer in the May 12 LATExtra section said her son did not give the cause of death. That reference should have been to Larry Welk, son of the late orchestra leader Lawrence Welk. —

She appeared on the orchestra’s public TV specials that have aired (along with repeats of the series) since 1987. Zimmer took part in a tribute to Welk and his show held earlier this year at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills.


Welk, who stopped performing in 1989, died in 1992.

Zimmer, born in 1923 in Larson, Idaho, grew up in Seattle. The petite blond sang with the Girlfriends, a quartet that performed with Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby, including on Crosby’s famous recording of “White Christmas.”

Zimmer made several film and TV appearances and was the voice of the White Rose in the 1951 Disney film “Alice in Wonderland.”

Dick Walsh

Sports exec worked for Dodgers, Angels

Dick Walsh, 85, a sports executive who served as vice president of stadium operations for the Dodgers in the 1960s and general manager of the Angels from 1968 to 1971, died Friday at his home in Fullerton of natural causes, family spokesman Brent Shyer said.

Walsh also had a stint as commissioner of the North American Soccer League from 1966 to ’68 and was general manager of the Los Angeles Convention Center from 1973 to 1997. He later managed convention centers in Hawaii, Alaska and Ontario.

Richard Bishop Walsh Jr. was born Oct. 30, 1925, in South Bend, Ind., and moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1937. An All-City third baseman at Los Angeles High, he enlisted in the Army in 1943 and served in the Pacific during World War II. After his discharge, he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as a front office employee in the team’s farm system.


When the Dodgers moved west to Los Angeles in 1957, Walsh was assistant general manager overseeing baseball operations at the Coliseum and then supervised construction of Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine for owner Walter O’Malley. He eventually rose to vice president.

In September 1968, Angels owner Gene Autry hired Walsh to replace Fred Haney, the team’s general manager. Three years later Walsh was fired as general manager and executive vice president after a lackluster stretch of mid-division finishes.

He became general manager of the Los Angeles Convention Center in 1973 and resigned in 1997 after clashing with the City Council and then-Mayor Richard Riordan over plans for construction of Staples Center and revelations by The Times that Walsh had been moonlighting as a consultant for the Hawaii Convention Center Authority.

He then went to work full time for the Honolulu center and later for others in Alaska and Ontario. He retired in 2005.


He and his wife of 62 years, Roberta, had three children.

Robert F. Ellsworth

Former congressman and aide to Nixon

Robert F. Ellsworth, 84, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, U.S. ambassador to NATO and advisor to President Nixon and Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, died Monday at a hospital in Encinitas of complications from pneumonia and organ failure. He and his wife, the Rev. Eleanor Ellsworth, lived in La Jolla.


Ellsworth was born June 11, 1926, in Lawrence, Kan., and attended the University of Kansas. He also received a law degree from the University of Michigan.

A Navy veteran, Ellsworth served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1961 to 1967. He was appointed to be Nixon’s ambassador to NATO in 1969 and served in that capacity until 1971. Ellsworth was also deputy secretary of defense in the 1970s.

He later served as a close advisor to Dole, a fellow Kansan, and helped lead Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign.

“Bob Ellsworth and I were close friends since we came to Congress in the early ‘60s,” Dole said in an emailed statement. “As an expert on defense and foreign policy he was helpful to me over the years. On a more personal note, he was ‘Best Man’ at our wedding in 1975. He had a keen intellect, a warm personality and a moderate conservative approach to politics.”


Ellsworth had recently served as chairman and founding director of Hamilton BioVentures in Solana Beach and was on the board of directors of the Nixon Foundation in Yorba Linda.

Robert Traylor

Former NBA player

Robert “Tractor” Traylor, 34, a 6-foot-8, 300-pound former NBA and University of Michigan basketball player, was found dead Wednesday at his apartment in San Juan, Puerto Rico, police said.


Police and Traylor’s team, the Bayamon Cowboys, said he had been missing for a few days and apparently died of a heart attack. He was injured and had not been playing, the team said.

Traylor was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the sixth pick in 1998, but they traded his rights to Milwaukee in a major deal that sent Dirk Nowitzki to Dallas. Traylor played for the Bucks in the first two seasons of a seven-year NBA career that included stops in Cleveland, Charlotte, N.C., and New Orleans.

A Detroit native, he got his “Tractor” nickname in high school for his girth. Doctors had operated on his aorta in 2005.

Burt Reinhardt


Television pioneer helped launch CNN

Burt Reinhardt, 91, one of CNN’s first presidents and a television pioneer who is credited with helping to build the global news network in its formative years, died Tuesday at his home in Marietta, Ga., after suffering a series of strokes, his family said.

“Without Burt Reinhardt, it is doubtful that CNN would exist today,” said Tom Johnson, the former Times publisher who in 1990 succeeded Reinhardt as the 24-hour network’s chief.

Reinhardt joined CNN in 1979 as the start-up network prepared to launch. Turner Broadcasting founder Ted Turner named Reinhardt as president in January 1982. During his tenure, he oversaw the beginning of “Larry King Live,” which ended its run late last year, and much of the network’s expansion. Reinhardt stayed with the network until retiring in 2003.


Reinhardt was born April 19, 1920, in New York and began his journalism career as a World War II combat photographer in the Pacific. He later became managing editor of Fox Movietone News, which screened news at movie theaters.

He also spent time as executive vice president of UPI Television News and supervised the establishment of UPI’s global television operations in the 1960s.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports