Death is a natural part of life. Without one, the other cannot exist. And in 2012, many heavyweights of the entertainment world were lost. Sometimes death can be a moment to mourn those we've lost, but also celebrate their achievements.
Perhaps the most notable death of 2012 was that of Whitney Houston. Houston passed away at age 48 in February of this year, and with her the world mourned. Houston was a true icon in every sense of the word: her voice was like none other in the world, and her death served as a wake-up call to the real dangers of narcotics. It is said that "despite her past personal troubles, she still became one of the most successful and award-winning female artists of all time." Whether on-screen in The Bodyguard and Sparkle, or on-stage at the Grammy Awards, Houston made every moment shine with her golden vocal chords, and her loss will be felt far beyond her 48 years of life.
In August we lost iconic and barrier-breaking female comedian Phyllis Diller. Diller was "often cited as a pioneer of comedy, helping establish women in Hollywood as legitimate stand-up talent." Her work as a female comedian started "in radio in the 50s, before leveraging the appearances into television spots and a full touring career." A feat, no doubt, impressive at any time, but especially while Diller was doing it. During the 60s, Diller starred alongside Bob Hope in 23 television specials and three films.
Another female icon gone too soon was Nora Ephron, a woman who wore many hats, including director, writer, journalist, and more in her impressive career. In our obituary for Ephron, we discussed the "surprisingly diverse and fantastic career," of hers, one "with nary a creative miss on her IMDb page." She wrote and directed some of the most classic romantic comedies out there, including Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, and Julie & Julia, Heartburn, and When Harry Met Sally. "What separated Ephron from her counterparts was not only her distinct sense of humor, but the way that she could create original, complex female characters and put them in traditional movies without making them seem simple or pandering." It is a universal truth that the name Nora Ephron "was a hallmark of the quality that she brought to all of her work."
Hero to space nerds and humans everywhere was Neil Armstrong, who lost a battle with complications from a heart bypass surgery in August. His first steps on the moon were "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" even though, in the end, Armstrong fancied himself "a reluctant American hero who always believed he was just doing his job."
A shocking loss was the unexpected death of Green Mile actor Michael Clarke Duncan, who was especially known for his booming voice and hulking stature. But not only that, Duncan was a comedy man. "Duncan's comedic timing coupled with his action-star prowess made him a staple in other films," including Daredevil, a remake of Planet of the Apes, Sin City and animated kids' film Kung-Fu Panda.
One of the longest-running careers in Hollywood was cut short in July when Ernest Borgnine passed away. The charismatic 95-year-old had a career that spanned decades. Six, in fact, "making him an icon of the business, beloved and respected by many." He was mostly-known for his work as a character actor, where "Borgnine made the Hollywood scene his playground, making a name for himself with generally villainous roles. His career-bucking role as a lovelorn butcher in 1955’s Marty won him an Oscar for Best Actor." Other highlights of his career included 1953's From Here to Eternity, and his long-standing run on TV's McHale’s Navy as the title character Quinton McHale.
Author and political and gay activist Gore Vidal left us in July, and with him an iconic voice of truth-telling and honesty in writing. From the plays (and screenplays) of Paris is Burning to his work on Ben-Hur, "Vidal was considered many things outside of his writerly pursuits" and one of his most famous works, The City and the Pillar, is said to be one of the first mainstream American novels to feature overtly gay characters at its center." It was so controversial at the time that The New York Times refused to review it in 1948. His passion for Hollywood and his interests never wained.
Another author, Ray Bradbury lost his life in 2012. Best known for works like Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and The Illustrated Man, "Bradbury gained notoriety around the world as one the 20th century's most important voices in science fiction."
In May, the children's literature world lost the iconic creator of Where The Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak, the wildly imaginative voice of growing up everywhere. He was considered "a defining voice in children's literature as both an author and illustrator."
This December, we lost Jenni Rivera, the world-renowned Mexican-American singer and reality star. Rivera had "a wildly popular career as a singer and reality-television star and has sold over 20 million albums worldwide in addition to her mun2 reality series I Love Jenni." Millions of fans the world over mourned her untimely passing in a plane crash. Other iconic musicians to leave too soon included the and-you-don't-stop, intergalatic party-rights-fighter Adam Yauch of The Beastie Boys lost his battle with cancer in May. Fans the world over mourned the shocking loss of such a huge player in music and movies, as his Oscilloscope Laboratories is "now one of the most important distributors in the film landscape."
These two heavyweights weren't the only losses in music, which also included such big names as "sitar master and Oscar winner" Ravi Shankar, The Monkees' own lead dreamboat and television star Davy Jones, The BeeGees' founding member Robin Gibb, and At Last crooner Etta James. All of whom made huge marks within their respective genres. The loss of disco diva Donna Summer after a battle with cancer also shook the music world to its core.
In a tragic turn of events, director Tony Scott took his own life in August. Scott "rose to prominence in the 80s with Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II," He had recently co-produced the summer's alien blockbuster Prometheus with his brother," as well as several TV production credits including The Good Wife and NUMB3RS.
Others, including television actors Jack Klugman and William Windom of The Odd Couple and Murder, She Wrote also passed on in the past year. The men were 90 and 88, respectively. Dallas star Larry Hagman died of cancer complications in November, leaving behind a career that included I Dream of Jeannie, numerous stage productions, and several films like 1972's The Blob, and Oliver Stone's Nixon and Primary Colors. The comedian and actor Sherman Hemsley — star of movin' on up The Jeffersons passed away in July.
Sesame Street also lost two of its performers, director Emily Squires and puppeteer Jerry Nelson. Tom Cruise's mother in Risky Business, Janet Carroll also lost a lengthy battle with illness in May.
In the end, death will always be what comes after life, but the contributions of those we lost this year will reverberate within the industry for years and years to come. May they all rest in peace.
[Photo Credit: CHP/FameFlynet Pictures; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Carrie Devorah/WENN; Joseph Marzullo/WENN; WENN]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
Fontella Bass, "Rescue Me" Singer, Dies at 72
Charles Durning, Veteran Character Actor, Dead at 89
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Long-time film actor Harry Carey, Jr. who appeared in more than 90 films and multiple TV series has passed away at 91.
The character actor starred in many Westerns, such as The Searchers and Wagon Master, as well as more mainstream films like Gremlins and Back to the Future Part III. His daughter, Melinda Carey, said her father passed away on Thursday of natural causes, and was surrounded by his family at a hospice facility in Santa Barbara, Calif. "He went out as gracefully as he came in," she said.
Carey was the son of silent-film Western star Harry Carey, Sr. and actress Olive Carey. He was survived by his wife, two daughters, sons, three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
Fontella Bass, 'Rescue Me' Singer, Dies at 72
Larry Hagman, 'Dallas' Star, Dies at 81
Ravi Shankar, Sitar Master and Oscar Winner, Dies at 92
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It is said that the best way to fight fire is, well, fire. And NBC News journalist David Gregory has unleashed a firestorm following his appearance Sunday on Meet The Press, where the newsman brought an empty high-capacity ammunition magazine to use while discussing gun safety with National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school killings, where the gunman used such a magazine to attack. Since the appearance, speculation is growing over whether or not Gregory will be arrested for his actions (it is being reported that DC police said just the display of a gun magazine of that nature—even when empty, as it was—is illegal in DC), or if his flaunting of the law was a necessary evil to emphasize the importance of stricter gun control across the country.
No surprise to anyone, the media has erupted with opinions and solutions on the matter: ranging from a call to have Gregory arrested, to gun enthusiasts proclaiming his actions proof of the bias against the country's second amendment rights. Others still believe that Gregory was doing a service—and freedom of the press is one of our certain inalienable rights as a nation—to bring attention to the severity of the crimes committed at Sandy Hook. TMZ has reason to believe that NBC News got approval from government authorities at the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Politico is reporting that DC area police first denied Gregory's request to display the ammunition.
For most journalists, the conflicting information and subsequent media blitz brought quite a few opinions to the forefront of discussion. "If only David Gregory hadn't watched so many Hollywood movies where news anchors confronted guests with facts and evidence..." tweeted writer Ana Marie Cox. And she wasn't alone in her opinions, either.
Fox News (yes, even Fox News joined the hunt for journalistic integrity) anchor Greta Van Susteren took to her blog to discuss the ramifications on our police force to investigate the matter, explaining "I don’t know if NBC’s David Gregory violated the law or not by showing what appeared to be a 30 round magazine during Meet the Press last Sunday….but is it really worth the time to investigate him? How much time and money is going to be spent (wasted) investigating him? Can you think of a sillier use of investigative resources?"
Madder still was The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who tweeted "Excellent use of DC police resources, investigating Meet the Press for committing an act of journalism." Seems as though journalists on both sides of the political spectrum are calling into question the necessity of such an investigation. Though there are still folks outside of the media fold that believe this proves the silliness of gun control activists. Mediaite reports that in an interview with CNN, NRA President David Keene explained it thusly: "I really think what David Gregory did, while he was inadvertently flouting the law, was illustrate in a graphic way … just how silly some of these laws are."
In the end, the hullabaloo will die down and Gregory either will or will not be charged for what may or may not have been a breaking of the law, but the question remains: is it worth it? Is it warranted? And in the end, will a bigger discussion of gun control on the US come from Sandy Hook tragedy, or will this country continue to sit and bicker rather than achieve real, effective change when it comes to protecting children from firearms?
[Photo Credit: NBC]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
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Fontella Bass, the R&B singer most well known for her 1965 hit "Rescue Me," died Wednesday at 72 years old, according to USA Today.
Family members told the publication the singer passed away in St. Louis following complications from a heart attack.
Though most renowned for "Rescue Me" — a song the singer had co-wrote — Bass parlayed her musical last name into a successful career in the industry beginning with her 1965 duet with Bobby McClure, "Don't Mess Up a Good Thing." Despite her gospel roots (Bass was the daughter of the Clara Ward Singers' Martha Bass), the singer found stardom in the R&B genre, following up "Rescue Me" with chart-friendly hits like "Recovery" and "You'll Never Know."
After splitting ways with her label over royalties (beginning a feud over rights that continued with the song's increasing appearance in advertisements), Bass swam across the pond to France, where she released two albums, Les Stances a Sophie and Art Ensemble of Chicago with Fontella Bass, in 1970. In 1995, she returned to gospel with the Grammy-nominated No Ways Tired.
Following her move and subsequent return to the states, Bass was never able to match the success of "Rescue Me," but regularly collaborated with artists like David Bowie. And the industry often paid tribute to the singer as well — Cher, Pat Benatar, and Linda Ronstadt are among those who have covered "Rescue Me."
Watch Bass during her performance of "Rescue Me" on NBC's 1960s variety series Shindig! below: [Image Credit: Getty Images]
Actor and war veteran Durning passed away on Christmas Eve (24Dec12) at the age of 89, and on Thursday (27Dec12) his stage successes in such shows as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Boom Boom Room, and Inherit the Wind will be remembered when each New York City theatre goes dark for one minute as a sign of respect.
Klugman, who earned a Tony Award nomination for his role in Gypsy, died on the same day and fans will pay tribute to the 90 year old's memory when the lights are dimmed for him on Friday (28Dec12).
Other notable Christmas deaths this year (12) include soul star Fontella Bass, puppeteer and filmmaker Gerry Anderson and Mothers of Invention co-founder Ray Collins.