Q. Can you recommend a reference for checking whether a famous person is living or dead?
Yes. The website Dead or Alive? lists (as of July 5) 7845 famous (and semi-famous) people from various walks of life - entertainment, politics, sports, music, law, ... and others. You can search by name, date, field or combine searches incorporating various criteria. You can also search by birthday, sex, cause of death, etc.