Actress Deborah Raffin, who became well-known relatively late in her life for launching a successful audio book company, has died of leukemia. She was 59.
Raffin was diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago, her brother William told the Los Angeles Times on Friday. The actress and audio book publisher died Wednesday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
Raffin’s death was mourned by many in the entertainment world.
“Lovely lady -- too young to die. RIP,” tweeted actress Morgan Fairchild.
“Very sad to hear of the passing of my dear dear friend Deborah Raffin. Although I know life is eternal, my heart is heavy,” tweeted Shawn King, wife of Larry King.
A Los Angeles native, Raffin got her start in acting in the 1970s with roles in “Forty Carats” and “Once Is Not Enough.”
During her acting career, she was most recognizable for her roles in television miniseries, including “Haywire” and “Noble House.”
Raffin achieved her greatest success when she and her husband at the time, Michael Viner, launched Dove Books-on-Tape in the 1980s.
The fledging business was first run out of the couple’s garage and grew to a multimillion-dollar company, publishing such diverse titles as physicist Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” (the first bestseller from Dove Books-on-Tape) and “The Naked Face” by Sidney Sheldon.
The audio book company started after Sheldon lost $8,000 to Viner in a backgammon game. Instead of taking the money, Viner produced two of Sheldon’s books on audio tape, the Times reported.
Raffin’s role at the company included getting celebrity friends to lend their voices to audio books.
The actress got Jason Robards Jr. to voice “Anatomy of an Illness” and William Conrad to voice “The Healing Heart.” The books were written by Norman Cousins.
Raffin’s company also published “Sharing Christmas,” a 1990 audio book compilation that included stories from Margaret Thatcher, Kermit the Frog and Mother Theresa, the Associated Press reported. Proceeds from the book went to groups aiding the homeless.
Other celebrities who read books for Raffin’s company include actors Burt Reynolds, Elliott Gould, Ruby Dee and Roger Moore, according to the Times.
Raffin and Viner sold Dove Books-on-Tape in 1997. They divorced in 2005, and Viner died of cancer in 2009, according to the AP.
The couple sold the audio book company in 1997 after a company expansion did not go as planned and controversy hit Dove Books-on-Tape.
Some critics said the company should not have published sensational titles about the O.J. Simpson murder case, including “Nicole Brown Simpson: The Diary of a Life Interrupted,” by Faye Resnick in 1994, the Times reported.
Raffin is survived by her brother, William, her sister, Judy Holston, and her daughter, Taylor Rose Vintner.
A funeral for Raffin is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Hillside Memorial Park in Culver City Calif., according to the Times.