PASSINGS: Mae Laborde, Richard Bruno, Hulett C. Smith


Mae Laborde

Acting career began at 93

Mae Laborde, 102, an energetic senior citizen whose outgoing personality landed her in several Steve Lopez columns and launched a late-blooming acting career, died in her sleep Jan. 9 at an assisted living facility in Santa Monica.


A longtime Santa Monica resident, Laborde was approached for TV and commercial roles after Lopez featured her in his Points West columns in The Times beginning in 2002, when she was 93. She became a regular guest on “Talkshow With Spike Feresten,” and a spoofing public-service announcement that the late-night TV program made about television’s digital conversion process featuring her became an Internet sensation.

Born May 13, 1909, in Fresno, she moved to Southern California after attending business school. She worked as a department store clerk and as a bookkeeper for “The Lawrence Welk Show.”

She attributed her long and full life to staying active and having a positive outlook.

“I like to keep in touch with things. I just keep busy, and I have fun doing it,” she told a Times reporter in 2000. “You have to have a sense of humor and keep happy thoughts. I keep thinking of the nice things that are going to happen.”

Richard Bruno

‘Goodfellas’ costume designer

Richard Bruno, 87, a costume designer who created the distinctive mobster wardrobe for “Goodfellas” and worked with director Martin Scorsese and star Robert DeNiro on a number of other films, died of kidney failure Wednesday at a hospital in Port Townsend, Wash., the Costume Designers Guild announced.

Bruno also designed costumes for Scorsese’s “The Color of Money,” “The King of Comedy” and “Raging Bull,” as well as “Heaven Can Wait,” “Gorky Park,” “The Karate Kid” and other films.

The first DeNiro film Bruno worked on was 1977’s “New York, New York,” as a costumer. He went on to help create wardrobes for the actor on “Once Upon a Time in America,” “The Untouchables” and “Mistress,” and he was the lead costume designer for “Falling in Love,” “Guilty by Suspicion” and “Night and the City,” all starring DeNiro.

For “Goodfellas,” Bruno drew notices for the exaggerated, steep-pointed shirt collars with tabs worn by the male cast members.

“I think in my former life I may have been a gangster,” he joked in a 1990 Los Angeles Daily News story.

Along with tailor Henry Stewart, Bruno helped create an authentic 1930s wardrobe for DeNiro’s Al Capone character in the 1987 blockbuster “The Untouchables,” whose costumes were overseen by Marilyn Vance-Straker. Bruno did extensive research to fine-tune the costumes; he tracked down old hats at Capone’s favorite shop in Chicago and had them fashioned into new ones for DeNiro, and he had Capone’s monogram embroidered on wardrobe items, including silk socks and underwear.

Bruno retired in the late 1990s and moved to Port Townsend.

Hulett C. Smith

Former W.Va. governor

Former West Virginia Gov. Hulett C. Smith, 93, who signed bills in the 1960s that abolished the state’s death penalty and implemented its first strip mining laws, died Sunday at an assisted living facility in Arizona, his family announced.

Smith, a Democrat, was elected governor in 1964, when governors were limited to a single term. During his tenure as the state’s 27th governor, the Legislature enacted measures to control air and water pollution and to protect human rights.

When he signed the bill ending the state’s use of the death penalty, Smith noted that West Virginia was the ninth state to do so and said it would prevent executions based on wrongful convictions.

Born in Beckley, W. Va., on Oct. 21, 1918, Smith was the offspring of a political family. His father, Joe L. Smith, served eight terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1929 to 1944.

Hulett Smith graduated with honors from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance and Administration, where he majored in economics. He worked in the insurance business and at his family’s radio station. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Navy.

-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports