This year, many cried out into the ether as their favorite celebrity or idol was taken from us in what seemed like a clean sweep of the Hollywood sector. There’s an admitted lack of tact coming from those whose dissonance concerning pop culture comings and goings clashed with those of us who still considered Carol Brady (Florence Henderson) to be the foxy, yet wholesome TV mother our parents grew up with and in turn taught us to love. While 2016 is technically just a construct of time, there seemed to be a resounding mass exodus when it comes to those who helped shaped us into the little mongrels we are today, and that’s something to mourn, openly and heartily.
In the age of the everyday, hour, and really second of using the internet to connect us to those around us, it should come as no surprise that we suddenly feel completely immersed in the life of a complete stranger as though they are our best friend. And why shouldn’t we? Consider for a moment the loss of Carrie Fisher, fresh and still hurting as it is. A generation fell in love with her at 19 for portraying the unabashedly badass Princess Leia, and subsequently grew up along side with her as her film and writing career took off. Pop culture thrives because we crave the nostalgia of our past, of what made our parents, and their parents. And so, Star Wars was passed down generation to generation, where a whole new breed would learn to love the Princess and her work, the same way those before us had done.
New imaginings and incarnations of the past have us dwelling in the past, present, and future, simultaneously yearning for what we knew, while leaning on what we know, and trying to catch a peek at what’s to come. Hopping onto another galaxy, Star Trek is a perfect example of this. Unfortunately, 2016 took 27 year old Anton Yelchin. A surprisingly prolific actor for his age and catalog, Yelchin’s performance was on always on point, even if he stayed just slightly away from the leading role. His loss will lead to a huge hole in the Star Trek film franchise if it continues. And while writers could send him away to a new fleet, or kill him off screen for posterity’s sake, we would still know what could have been.
Starman and demigod David Bowie led the charge to the grave this year, followed closely behind by the always known yet never given enough credit Abe Vigoda (Godfather). David Bowie wasn’t supposed to die, he was the man. And yet the year continued, and Alan Rickman (Die Hard, Harry Potter) wandered off into the veil of shadows, leaving a wake of talent and sorrow. Doris Roberts of Everybody Loves Raymond and pretty much every mother/mother in law role to ever come across a producer’s table made her exit at 90. Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), snarky TV father to us all and real life father to twat Robin Thicke was suddenly gone before we knew we would miss him.
Pioneering trans actress Alexis Arquette (Wedding Singer) slipped through our fingers, while Jon Polito silently stowed away his talents once and for all.Gary Marshall (Happy Days) followed suit, and then suddenly it was Gene Wilder. We lost Willy fucking Wonka. Ron Lester (Varsity Blues) played so many static characters to the lead, it was hard not to find him in a teen based drama in the early 2000’s. Alan Young of Mister Ed almost became a centenarian, while Madeleine Lebeau reunited with her Casablanca costars.
Dabbling actor, sex god, and ethereal being Prince took his last bow. Actress and wrestling star Joan ‘Chyna’ Laurer departed without so much as a goodbye. Patty Duke (The Patty Duke Show) made a graceful exit, while Garry Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show) was taken from us in what seemed like mid conversation. Tough guy George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke) slipped through along with athlete turned actor Tony Burton (Rocky). We had to say goodbye to the wonderfully funny George Gaynes (Police Academy), along with the voice of Donald Duck and Bugs Bunny Joe Alaskey. Then of course, there was our beloved Fisher who was quickly followed by her mother, Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain) who undoubtedly died of a broken heart.
The sad truth is, this is the norm now. The people we worship and idolize are only people, and unfortunately part of what makes their talent so immense is the fact that it surpasses their own stay on this earth by eons. As we move into 2017, remember those we have lost, seek out their work. But also indulge yourself with a quick immersion into the work of those who are still here, still pushing out more to make the world a better place.
We will miss those we lost, but we will never, ever forget them.