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Thursday, September 06, 2012

2012 - The Year Of The Celebrity Death?

Just to let all of you know, I am still taking submissions and ideas for a brand new theme day for Thursdays.  I hope to have a more permanent idea in place for October 2012 to replace the Thursday Confessional, but I can’t think of any ideas on my own.  So, I’m asking all of you out there to float me some suggestions.  I’ll take any idea...well, provided that it has at least a PG-13 rating, that is.

For today’s blog entry though, I thought I would offer up a bit of a personal commentary about the past year.

Have you ever heard of the saying “Death comes in threes?” 

I imagine that quite a few of you have.  I did attempt to try and find out the origin of this phrase/superstition, but unfortunately I was unable to pinpoint an exact source.  The phrase is often used in pop culture references in regards to celebrity deaths.  Some seem to believe that when one famous person passes away, two more will soon follow.  Many people have dismissed this theory as superstitious old wives tale, if you will.

But for whatever reason this year, celebrity deaths seem to come in more than threes.  In fact, I’m almost thinking that the year 2012 is one of the deadliest years to be famous, celebrities dropping like flies.

The latest celebrity to join the 2012 Celebrity Death Club (a rather direct name, but the only one I could come up with spur of the moment) was Michael Clarke Duncan, who passed away just three days ago at the age of 54.  Many of you remember Michael Clarke Duncan from his role as John Coffey in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s “The Green Mile”, but he also starred in a variety of other film projects as well.  He appeared in “Armageddon”, “The Whole Nine Yards”, “The Scorpion King”, and “Kung Fu Panda”. 

His death from a heart attack absolutely still shocked me, even though he was recovering from another one that he sustained two months prior to his death (well, that, plus the fact that his girlfriend was Omarosa from The Apprentice).  He was a brilliant actor, and he deserved every accolade that people could have bestowed upon him.  He will be greatly missed.

But Michael Clarke Duncan was not the first famous face to enter into rest during 2012.  As I said before, we lost a lot of high-profile people during the first eight months of the year, and unlike other years, it seemed as though the celebrity deaths happened one right after the other!

So, I thought that I would devote this space to the stars we loved and lost in 2012 so far, why we loved them (or not), if they could have been saved, and the legacy that they have left in the world of pop culture.  Most of these ones have already had a feature written about them in some manner, but since it’s been a few months since their deaths in some cases, my opinions may have shifted a bit.

I suppose the first high-profile celebrity death that we had was “At Last” singer Etta James, who passed away on January 20, just a few days shy of turning 74.  During her lifetime, she ended up winning six Grammy Awards and 17 Blues Music Awards!  Despite battling a drug addiction, James went on to achieving great success as a singer, and she single-handedly helped bridge the wide gap between two popular styles of music...R&B and rock and roll, earning her a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

I am sure that Etta James helped inspire a lot of people all over the world to become singers.  I am not sure if Whitney Houston ever cited Etta James as an influence, but certainly Whitney had her own success with music, as well as a slew of personal demons that for whatever reason ended up sticking with her during her whole life.  Her death on February 11 at the age of 48 probably didn’t shock a lot of people, but I admit that it was still sad to hear.  If only she had taken the help that she was offered, perhaps she would still be here.  However, Whitney Houston still managed to make an impact six months after she died when her last film, “Sparkle” was released nationwide in the summer of 2012.  I suppose one could call it her last hurrah.

And then on the last day of February 2012, we said goodbye to former Monkee Davy Jones, whose death at the age of 66 broke the hearts of many women of all generations.  I admit that of all the celebrity deaths that occurred in 2012, his was probably the one that left me open-mouthed in astonishment the most.  By all accounts, Davy Jones was the pinnacle of good health, and it just seemed unbelievable that he was here one moment and gone the next.

March was a rather slow month for the Grim Reaper, although we did say goodbye to comic book artist Jean Giraud on the tenth, and Earl Scruggs on the twenty-eighth.

But then in April, we ended up losing two television legends in less than two weeks.

The April 7 death of longtime 60 Minutes correspondent Mike Wallace was a huge loss to the world of journalism, but when you consider that he lived to be 93 years old, he had a long, fulfilling life and career. 

And just eleven days later, on April 18, the world of entertainment lost a legend in Dick Clark, host of American Bandstand, dozens of Rockin’ New Years Eve parties, and the various incarnations of “Pyramid” during the 1980s.  He was 82 years old.

In May, we said goodbye to three legends.  On May 8, “Where the Wild Things Are” author Maurice Sendak passed away at the age of 83.  One day later, on May 9, famed British stylist Vidal Sassoon lost his battle with leukemia at the age of 84.  

And on May 17, Donna Summer danced her last dance, succumbing to lung cancer at age 63.

May 20, 2012 was the final day for Bee Gee Robin Gibb, who bravely fought to continue “stayin’ alive” to the end, passing away at age 62.  And former Beastie Boy Adam Yauch lost his battle with cancer on May 4 at the age of 47.

As June 2012 arrived, we lost “Desperate Housewives” and “The West Wing” actress Kathryn Joosten on the second of the month.  She was 72.  On June 5, American author Ray Bradbury died at the age of 91.  Rodney King (the figure at the center of a police brutality case which sparked the Los Angeles riots of 1992) died on June 17 at the age of 47, and on June 26, the world said farewell to 71-year-old director/screenwriter Nora Ephron, who was responsible for such films as “Sleepless in Seattle”, “You’ve Got Mail”, and “Julie & Julia”.

In July, Hollywood lost three major players in the world of classic film.  First, Andy Griffith, star of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock” died on July 3 at the age of 86.  Ernest Borgnine passed away on July 8 at age 95 of renal failure.  And Celeste Holm passed away on July 15, also at 95.

We also said a fond farewell to Sylvester Stallone’s son, Sage, who was found dead at the age of 36 on July 13, astronaut Sally Ride, who succumbed to cancer at the age of 61, as well as Irish author Maeve Binchy, who passed away at the age of 72 on July 30, and writer/playwright Gore Vidal who died on July 31 at age 86.

And just last month, we had three celebrity deaths in a row.  Scott McKenzie, who had a hit with “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in your Hair)” lost his life on August 18, aged 73.  On August 19, the world was shocked over the suicide of director Tony Scott, who was 68 at the time of his death.  And then on August 20, 95-year-old Phyllis Diller laughed her last laugh.

Finally, on August 25, the first man to walk on the moon became a star in the sky, as Neil Armstrong breathed his last breath.  He was 82.

Is that not a lot of celebrity deaths for 2012 or what?  By my count so far, there have been 27 celebrity deaths for this year alone...and we’ve still got four months left to go.  I honestly don’t even know if I covered everybody here!

It most likely isn’t the year with the most high-profile deaths, but there certainly have been quite a lot of them.  And certainly the music industry, film industry, and New Years Eve will never quite be the same now that we have lost these figures. 

But on the other hand, death is just a part of life, and it is something that we all have to face sooner or later (though I am hoping that my lifespan is more like Phyllis Diller’s than Sage Stallone’s).  It’s certainly sad to think that these people are no longer with us, but at the same time, the contributions that they made to the world of entertainment are nothing short of remarkable.  And, that goes to everyone here who has lost a loved one in 2012.  As long as you keep the good memories of these people close to your hearts, and never forget who they were and how much they meant to you, then they don’t really fade away, do they?

This post is dedicated to everybody who has lost a loved one in 2012, as well as anyone who has ever lost a loved one. 

May the families of Michael Clarke Duncan and all the others who passed away so far this year be able to find comfort and peace.

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