A New Year! I hope it is better but I do have concerns. I want to take a minute and remember the celebrities and some heroes we lost last year. It’s not a complete list but these are some people I wanted to single out. They’re not in any particular order just as I thoughtof them. For me, the month of November was hard as we lost family friends and then December saw the death or many famous people I grew up watching. I’m going to focus on my icons who left their legacy behind this year.
David Bowie — David Bowie was a musical genius. Not only did he offer a reinvention to rock and roll, he also brought together a style to embody the stages of his style. From “Space Oddity” to “Modern Love” to his latest “BlackStar”, David put his life out there for all to see. While there may be an artist who matches him, I doubt they will do it with such style and grace.
Prince — It seemed we were still reeling from Bowie’s lost and we got hit with Prince’s death. Prince left us also too soon and left his image forever on pop music. From “Purple Rain” to “Little Red Beret,” his style of playing the guitar and music won’t die. It will survive and live on.
Gene Wilder — I always enjoyed Gene Wilder. He was funny. He was serious. And I was very lucky to see him live on stage in London. When he looked at the audience, he grabbed you and all you saw was his bright blue eyes. His life with Gilda seemed to be a comic match made in heaven. Of course, he lost Gilda and seemed to become sadder. He will always be remembers for Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, and his films with Richard Pryor.
Alan Rickman — Everyone knew him as Snape in the Harry Potter series but Alan made very good villains through out his career. I remember him well as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and the villain in the first Die Hard movie. Everyone said the person was different from the character which shows what type of actor he was.
Debbie Reynolds — As a child, I wasn’t allowed to go to movies except those approved by my parents. There was no G or PG rated movies. Debbie Reynolds was allowed and Singing in the Rain is one of my all time favorites. Debbie had a troubled life but like her Molly Brown character in the Unsinkable Molly Brown she never gave up.
Carrie Fisher — I returned to science fiction with Star Wars. I remember thinking I was too old for it but Carrie and company drew me back to a love of space travel. She was the leader of my dream women’s movement. She was strong, brave, and stood up to every many she met in the original Star Wars movie. She also wasn’t afraid of admitting how rough her life was in her books.
Speaking of Star Wars, we also lost our little R2 D2 actor this terrible 2016 also. Kenny Baker, the poor man who rolled around in the computer suit also passed away this past year.
Leonard Cohen — Leonard wrote the song “Hallelujah” which has become such an anthem in every generation. I had to include him on this list.
Robert Vaughn — Was there ever a better secret agent. Robert was part of the team that made spies sexy and carried on the legacy of Bond. Man from U.N.C.L.E became a staple viewing of mine but I found him hilarious also. Who can forget him as CC Babcock father on The Nanny.
Florence Henderson — Florence will always be mom to many of my generation. The Brady Bunch was the nice family that everyone likes (even if they are strange). She was even amazing on Dancing with the Stars.
Garry Marshall — Garry Marshall was everything. He was Laverne’s father on Laverne and Shirley. He produced/directed such films as Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries (one and two), Runaway Bride, Beaches, A League of Their Own, just to name a few. Without him, we wouldn’t have laughed or cried.
Doris Roberts — Many remember her only as the brass mother of Everybody Loves Raymond, but before that she was a private investigator on Remington Steele. She had class, style and wit. She also was the ultimate “Girl Friday” and mom.
Alan Thicke— If Florence was the ultimate mother, Alan was an ultimate father. While not of my generation, he did comes across as the calm center of an otherwise chaotic 80s/90s home. With his understanding he mentored and taught. He gave advice and skill. In later days, we’ll always remember him trying to get us to visit Las Vegas.
George Michael — What can I say about George? In some ways, he was like David Bowie, reinventing himself. I loved him in Wham. His solo career was mixed. He wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind, telling the truth, and trying to create new things.
William Christopher — William will always be the ultimate religious leader. As Father Mulcahly, he offered advice and put with the crazy doings of a camp of misfits on M*A*S*H. He never forgot that people came first.
Patty Duke — What can you say about the ultimate twin? Patty Duke was a 60s character that I was allowed to watch. Even though she got into trouble, she always had an excuse (usually her sister). I may best remember her though for her portrayal of Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker. She couldn’t speak and had to play anger and did a wonderful job at it.
Just as we lost stars, we lost two of my heroes this past year. John Glenn thrilled me as a child for going into space. His life continued that path with a seat in the Senate and another trip into space on the shuttle. While I didn’t agree with Nancy Reagan’s husband politics, she was inspirational in the White House. A survivor, she stood up for people’s rights.
As an English major, I saw two of my favorites die this year. Elie Weisel, who wrote Night, I heard speak before. Pat Conroy wrote of the South and the Charleston area. Both brought an unique voice to literature and their ideals.