In Memoriam 2018: Film, Television, Music, Sports, Literature, the Arts”¦
As we say hello to another year as 2019 still has that fresh paint on it that hasn’t dried yet, we also take the time to say one final goodbye to the luminaries of stage, screen, record, and more who touched us in many ways and will continue to till the end of eternity. A tip of the cap to the following:
A round of Milk & Pepsi held high for this beloved television icon, who played the sassy Laverne DeFazio on the successful sitcom Laverne and Shirley, Penny Marshall was also an esteemed director of such smash hit films as A League of Their Own and Awakenings. Like her late brother Garry, a producing maverick of TV, Penny Marshall also left her indelible mark on that medium as well with her irresistible spirit and endless wellspring of charm. She was 75 when she died on December 17th.
Almost universally remembered for her portrayal as the tough yet vulnerable inside Lois Lane in the original quartet of Superman films with Christopher Reeve in the titular role, Margot Kidder also appeared in films as diverse as the early Brian De Palma shocker Sisters and with Richard Pryor in the semi-serious Some Kind of Hero. Like the aforementioned Penny Marshall or Carrie Fisher, Margot Kidder also had a kind of tomboy-styled spirit that instantly endeared you to her. She passed away on May 13th at the age of 69.
The creator of Spongebob Squarepants and an accomplished marine biologist, Stephen Hillenburg and his prolific team melded the wacky inanity of some of the best Tex Avery/Ren and Stimpy-styled animation and humor with an underwater motif. For just about two decades now, the program remains one of the most iconic TV shows in the world, enjoyed by all ages. Hillenburg died at the age of 57 on November 26th.
Arguably the biggest motion picture star of the mid 1970s, Burt Reynolds was a man for all women and a man’s man to boot. Both genders ate up what Reynolds had to offer: for women, he was a Tom Selleck before Tom Selleck-styled alpha male, with a personality and laugh that gave him an accessible soft center; for men, he was the man a lot of them couldn’t be, a fun, reckless, vain stud who got the girls in the film and the best of the authority figures. But lest one forgets, Burt Reynolds could also act, and his performances in Deliverance and Boogie Nights showcased his flair for intense charisma and his turns in the Smokey and the Bandit films showcased his penchant for comedy. Reynolds died on September 6th at the age of 82.
One of the most prolific writers in literary history, Neil Simon displayed a proclivity for warm, dialogue-driven stage and screen comedies that more often than not hit the target constantly with audiences. Some of his work is rather legendary, as evidenced by his collaborative efforts as a young writer during TV’s original Golden Age of the 1950s, penning sketches for Your Show of Shows, to his stage and screen versions of The Odd Couple and The Sunshine Boys. Simon, who had a career of making people laugh, cry, and think for over 60 years, died at the age of 91 on August 26th.
Rightfully named “The Queen of Soul,” the great Aretha Franklin had a voice, career, and music catalog that remains larger than life. With a voice one part gospel, two parts R&B and all parts soul, Franklin took command of the genre early and never let go, and became the role model for all who followed, to this very day. While she had a bumpy road here and there during her over 50-year career, she remained an absolute icon of the world, and near the autumn years of her life, an absolute living legend. No reason to list key songs here, you’d be hard-pressed to find a soul in the world who didn’t know most iconic highlights of her wonderful catalog. Franklin died at the age of 76 on August 16th.
Known to most of the ’80s generation at Ms. Garrett on the girls boarding school sitcom The Facts of Life, Charlotte Rae had also been an accomplished comedic character actress for decades prior to her late years success on TV. There wasn’t a sitcom to be had that ran during the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s that didn’t at least sport one appearance from Rae in an episode, as she was perfectly skilled at playing uppity tight wad type characters who always acted as straight woman foils. Rae was 92 when she died on April 22nd.
With his starring role on Night Court, which was a perfect showcase for him, Harry Anderson became a star during the 1980s, thanks to his kind of huckster comedic style. An acclaimed magician, Anderson would use all his skills in his career successfully, sometimes mixing them together and although he had a quiet career after Night Court and almost vanished from the public eye in recent years before his death on April 16th at the age of 65, Anderson was still a familiar face and presence to all who remembered his antics.
Anthony Bourdain was a kind of rebel chef if you will, with his style, look, and attitude, not to mention a wicked sense of humor that was right at the surface. But make no mistake, the man was upper echelon, could cook with the finest chefs in the world, and even perhaps teach them a thing or two also. His various programs, which showcased him around the world looking for culinary delights also delighted fans around the world, many who are still puzzled by the tragic manner in which Bourdain’s life ended. He was 61 when he was found dead on June 8th.
R. Lee Ermey was introduced to mainstream audiences as the booming and wickedly sadistic drill sergeant in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket and he was able to use that characterization in most of what he did after that film for the rest of his life. Ermey would always seem to pop up in roles that required a firm authority figure who pulled no punches and took no prisoners. But he also seemed to have a twinkle in his eye at all times too, and you could clearly see his larger than life presence on screen also was in the man himself off camera. Ermey was 74 when he died on March 24th.
An accomplished director, who helmed such iconic films as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus, as well as adventurous film adaptations of Hair and the story of Hustler mogul Larry Flynt in The People vs Larry Flynt, not only did Milos Forman have an expert eye and vision in most of his masterpieces, but he also knew how to glean spectacular performances from his leading actors, as the Academy Award-winning performances by Jack Nicholson and F. Murray Abraham in Cuckoo’s Nest and Amadeus respectively attest. Like a Scorsese or Coppola, Forman remains a director’s director of the highest order. Forman died on April 13th at the age of 86.
An absolute mandarin of American television, Steven Bochco wore many behind-the-scenes hats during his long career in TV and most of them successfully. Starting out as one of the writers for the detective drama Columbo and then going on to create shows like Hill Street Blues and LA Law, Bochco almost had the same magic touch as a Norman Lear in terms of home run program after home run program. And while he wasn’t above failure (the notorious Cop Rock fiasco), he still batted with an average that put him in an all-star rating at the top of his league. Bochco died at the age of 74 on April 1st.
Best known to contemporary audiences as the ill-fated Hershel Greene on AMC’s The Walking Dead, Scott Wilson was also a veteran actor whose career spanned decades and included appearances in top notch classic films as In the Heat of the Night and In Cold Blood. Wilson appeared on over 30 episodes of The Walking Dead over four years. He was 76 when he died on October 6th.
The co-founder and drummer of Pantera, Vinnie Paul Abbott enjoyed musical success for decades, peaking with the band’s Far Beyond Driven album, which debuted at number one back in 1994. Paul’s brother Dimebag Darrell Abbott, who had played guitar with him in Pantera and Damageplan, was assassinated on stage during a performance in 2004. The impact the Abbott Brothers had on their respective genre is immeasurable and continues to this day by legions of fans across the globe. Paul died on June 22nd at the age of 54.
One of the most beloved and influential figures in the entire comic book thread of history, impact and overall influence, Stan Lee stands as a titan alone, metaphorically as big and powerful as any of the superheroes he thought up, either on his own or with storied collaborators such as Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby. It’s an endless list of talent that, with Lee at the helm of the ship, created an endless list of superheroes and fantastical words and narratives that right up until Lee’s death at 95 on November 12th, has become a multi-billion dollar level global media enterprise full of franchises which sees no signs of letting up. And although advanced age in recent years kind of turned Lee into a elder statesman spokesman for Marvel and its past laurels, Lee was active right until the end, still filming cameos for each of the Marvel productions; in fact, the upcoming Captain Marvel will reportedly sport his last one. Excelsior and a fond farewell and thanks to one of the great entrepreneurs of our time and imaginations.
We also remember the following who passed in 2018, for their contributions to the entertainment industry and to the arts:
Ursula K. Le Guin: (Fantasy author, The Earthsea Cycle) Bob Dorough: (musician and composer, Schoolhouse Rock) Harlan Ellison: (science fiction writer) Robby MÃ¼ller: (Dutch cinematographer) Paul Allen: (Microsoft’s co-founder) “‹Stephen Hawking: (Cosmologist, author A Brief History of Time) Bob Einstein: (aka “Super Dave Osborne”, comedian, actor Curb Your Enthusiasm) “Mean Gene” Okerlund: (WWE interviewer) Frank Adonis: (actor, Goodfellas) Nancy Wilson: (Singer) John Mahoney: (Actor, Frasier) Sondra Locke: (Actress, The Outlaw Josey Wales, Sudden Impact) Pete Shelley: (lead singer, guitarist of Buzzcocks) President George H.W. Bush: (41st president of the United States) Barbara Bush: (First Lady of the United States, wife of George H.W. Bush, literacy advocate) John McCain: (U.S. Senator, former U.S. Presidential candidate, author) Winnie Mandela: (activist and politician, wife of Nelson Mandela) Philip Bosco: (Actor, The First Wives Club) Ken Berry: (Actor, F Troop, Mama’s Family) Philip Roth: (Pulitzer Prize-winning author, American Pastoral Bernardo Bertolucci: (Oscar-winning director, The Last Emperor) Gloria Katz: (writer, producer, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) Ricky Jay: (magician, actor, Boogie Nights) Roy Clark: (musician, host of Hee Haw) Gary Burden: (artist, cover artist on Neil Young’s After the Gold Rush, ) Andie Airfax: (artist, cover artist on Def Leppard’s Hysteria) Mike Harrison: (singer, Spooky Tooth) Joe Jackson: (manager, patriarch of the Jackson family) William Goldman: (screenwriter, The Princess Bride) Alan Longmuir: (bassist, Bay City Rollers) Ed King: (guitarist, Lynyrd Skynyrd) Kim Porter: (model, actress, partner of rapper Sean “Diddy” Combs) Ray Thomas: (musician, founding member of the Moody Blues) Jim Rodford: (bassist, The Kinks) Jerry Hopkins: (author, wrote bestselling Doors biography No One Here Gets Out Alive) Chris Tsangarides: (music producer) “Fast” Eddie Clark: (guitarist, Motorhead) Dolores O’Riordian: (singer, musician, the Cranberries) Jim Rodford: (bassist, Argent) Dave Holland: (drummer, Judas Priest) Marty Balin: (musician, co-founder of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship) Pat Torpey: (drummer, Mr. Big) Craig MacGregory: (bassist, Foghat) Pegi Young: (musician, wife & long-time collaborator of Neil Young) Josh Martin: (guitarist, Anal Cunt) Nick Knox: (drummer, The Craps) Paul Curcio: (music producer, Metallica’s debut Kill ‘Em All) Jimmy Farrar: (singer, Molly Hatchet) Robin Leach: (TV host, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous) Mac Miller: (rapper, singer, and music producer) Kate Spade: (fashion designer) Jerry Van Dyke: (actor, Dick Van Dyke Show, Coach) Katherine MacGregor: (actress, Harriet Oleson on Little House on the Prairie) Verne Troyer: (actor, Mini-Me in the Austin Powers films) David Ogden Stiers: (actor, M*A*S*H, Star Trek) Reg E. Cathey: (actor, House Of Cards) Mickey Jones: (musician, actor, Home Improvement)