PASSINGS: Al Martino, Donna Mae Mims, Steve Ferguson, Stephen Gately

Al Martino's character in "The Godfather" is a Frank Sinatra-type singer and occasional actor. Though he died in Pennsylvania, Martino had been a longtime Beverly Hills resident.
(Associated Press)

Al Martino

Singer had role in ‘The Godfather’

Al Martino, the singer who played the role of Johnny Fontane in “The Godfather,” died Tuesday at his childhood home in suburban Philadelphia. He was 82.

Martino died in Springfield, Pa., publicist Sandy Friedman of Rogers & Cowan announced. A cause of death was not given.

Starting in 1952, Martino was known for hit songs including “Here in My Heart,” “Spanish Eyes,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Volare.”

Besides acting in the Marlon Brando classic “The Godfather,” he sang the 1972 film’s title score, “The Love Theme From the Godfather.” His Fontane character is a Frank Sinatra-type singer and occasional actor.

Martino was born Oct. 7, 1927, in South Philadelphia as Alfred Cini (SEE'-nee). He was a longtime resident of Beverly Hills.

Donna Mae Mims

Champion race car driver

Donna Mae Mims, 82, the first woman to win a Sports Car Club of America national championship and a participant in the original “Cannonball Run” that became the subject of a 1981 movie starring Burt Reynolds, died Oct. 6 from complications after a stroke, said officials at a funeral home in McMurray, Pa. Mims was known as “the Pink Lady” for driving mostly in pink cars and often wearing pink.

Mims said in a 1964 Times article that she started racing after working on a friend’s pit crew in Pittsburgh and asking to take a practice lap. “That did it, I was hooked,” she said. She won the Sports Car Club of America national championship in 1963.

In the 1972 cross-country Cannonball Run, her 1968 Cadillac limousine was wrecked with a teammate behind the wheel.

“I psych myself. I remove all my makeup. I think stern. I bristle. I don’t talk to anybody. You cannot think nice,” she told The Times’ Jack Smith in 1969. “Chivalry is dead on the racetrack. You’re out there only for one thing. To win. Nobody remembers second place.”

Following her wishes, her body was seated behind the steering wheel of a 1979 pink Corvette for visitation hours at the McMurray funeral home.

Steve Ferguson

Guitarist, NRBQ co-founder

Steve Ferguson, 60, a guitarist, singer and songwriter who co-founded the group NRBQ, died Oct. 7, said a spokeswoman at the Highlands Funeral Home in Louisville, Ky. A resident of Louisville, he had been suffering from cancer.

Ferguson, who was born in Louisville in 1948, founded the New Rhythm & Blues Quintet in the late 1960s with keyboardist Terry Adams, playing what the Louisville Courier-Journal called “a crazy mix of roll ‘n’ roll, R&B and jazz.”

The group’s first album, “NRBQ,” in 1969 included songs by rocker Eddie Cochran and jazz musician Sun Ra. The second album, “Boppin’ the Blues,” in 1970 teamed NRBQ with rockabilly legend Carl Perkins.

Ferguson left the group after the second album but returned several times while continuing on a solo career.

Stephen Gately

Boyzone singer who came out

Stephen Gately, 33, a singer with the Irish boy band Boyzone who made headlines when he came out as gay a decade ago, “tragically died” Saturday while visiting the Spanish island of Mallorca, the band said in a brief statement /. The cause of death was not immediately clear.

Gately and his partner Andrew Cowles, who were wed in a civil union in 2006, were in Mallorca together, the band’s statement said.

Boyzone was a U.K. hit-maker in the 1990s and announced a comeback tour at the end of last year. Gately also had released several solo singles and appeared in stage musicals, including “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Gately was born in Dublin, Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1976. He revealed his sexual orientation to a British newspaper in 1999.

Boyzone was one of the biggest acts to come out of Ireland in the 1990s. The band sold millions of records and topped the British charts with six No. 1 singles during the 1990s, including “All That I Need” and a cover of the Bee Gees’ “Words.”

-- times staff and wire reports