We’ve lost quite a lot of good people over the years, but the industry has sustained substantial losses this 2016. Let’s face it, people age and many of the good people we know will pass on sooner or later. But with many celebrities, their larger than life status makes them sort of larger than life, that we wish death doesn’t overtake them. But when he does, their deaths become big, sometimes devastating news for fans. These are people who have made waves in pop culture in terms of film, TV, music and sports. Let’s celebrate their lives and contributions to their respective arts.
Carrie Fisher – Need we say more? The one and only Princess Leia Organa of the Star Wars franchise. The princess of sci-fi. We’ve seen her really age in The Force Awakens and then felt refreshed with her youth in Rogue One and thought we could keep her forever. She’s also known for her roles in When Harry Met Sally, The Blues Brothers and Hannah and Her Sisters. She passed away too soon at the age of 60 on December 27, 2016, four days after she went into cardiac arrest.
Debbie Reynolds – Just a day after the passing of Carrie Fisher, her mother Debbie Reynolds died on December 28, 2016. There are times when people who love each other dearly face death in short intervals of each other. The circumstances of her death are unclear as of this writing. Debbie Reynolds was a superstar in her own right. She starred opposite Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain. She also starred in many films including How the West Was Won and The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She also had TV stints in Will & Grace, Disney’s Halloweentown series, and her own The Debbie Reynolds Show. She and Carrie Fisher will be buried together.
Alan Rickman – Movie villains are people we love to hate, but he was perhaps the most lovable villain of all. Everyone knows him as Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard; the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves and his career reached its peak starring as Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films where he was actually a tragic hero instead of a villain. He was a talented award-winning actor who starred in various villain or supporting roles. He died of Pancreatic cancer at the age of 69 on January 14, 2016.
Muhammad Ali – Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. Who doesn’t know Muhammad Ali? Born Cassius Marcelius Clay Jr., he’s one of the greatest boxers of all time. He’s as flamboyant as Floyd Mayweather during his prime and maybe even more so, but with more principle. He wasn’t just a boxer; he was an entertainer known for his trash talk during his fights. He’s as outspoken about civil rights outside of his fights as well as inside the ring. Muhammad Ali is also a talented singer and musician. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease as a complication to his boxing-related brain injuries, he retired and focused on charity work. He died on June 3, 2016 at the age of 74 due to septic shock following a respiratory illness.
Anton Yelchin – Just as the Star Trek Abrams-verse has taken off with the successful Star Trek: Beyond, the franchise loses one of its key actors. Anton Yelchin played Pavel Chekov, a role previously held by Walter Koenig. Anton was also known for his roles in the Fright Night remake, Terminator Salvation and Alpha Dog. In honor of Yelchin, the franchise will not replace the character with a new actor. The Enterprise will have to do without him in future Star Trek installments as he’s busy off-screen on the Reliant. Anton Yelchin’s death was, unfortunately, tragic due to a freak accident. He was pinned between a brick pillar and his Jeep Cherokee just outside his home on June 19, 2016.
Alan Thicke – was best known as the patriarch of the Seaver family of the 80s TV sitcom Growing Pains alongside Kirk Cameron, Tracey Gold and Leonardo DiCaprio. Thicke was also a talented host for game and talk shows. He had his own show, The Alan Thick Show in Canada and also hosted for a wide variety of events including Miss USA, Miss Universe and Celebrity Cooking Showdown. He also starred along with Anton Yelchin in Alpha Dog. He died of Type A aortic dissection on December 19, 2016 at the age of 69.
Robert Vaughn – This author will forever know him as the creepy guy (Hunt Stockwell) who saved The A-Team from being executed on the show’s fifth season. He was also the villain (Ross Webster) who temporarily replaced Lex Luthor in the panned Superman III alongside Christopher Reeve and Richard Pryor. Other roles Robert Vaughn was well-known for included gunman Lee in The Magnificent Seven, Napoleon Solo in The Man from UNCLE. He died on November 11, 2016 after a year-long battle with Leukemia a few days short of his 84th birthday.
Gene Wilder – is the original Willie Wonka and immortalized in countless condescending memes. Gene Wilder was a comedian with a colorful career. He’s also a talented author, screenwriter and director. Due to those internet memes, he’s best known for his role in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Silver Streak, Blazing Saddles and The Woman in Red. He died on August 29, 2016 at the age of 83 due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.
Gary Shandling – many of us know him now as Senator Stern in Iron Man 2 and Captain America Civil War where he and Jason Sitwell popularized the Hail Hydra meme. This author also well remembers him as Verne in the enjoyable animated film Over the Hedge where he starred alongside Bruce Willis. Like Allan Thicke, he’s also a talented host on shows like SNL, the Grammy Awards, the Primetime Emmy Awards and his own Garry Shandling Show. He died on March 24, 2016 at age 66 due to a blood clot in his heart.
John Glenn – a different type of celebrity, NASA astronaut John Glenn is the first American to orbit the Earth and the fifth person in space. He earned the NASA Distinguished Service Medal and Congressional Space Medal of Honor and was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame. He later served as US senator for 24 years from 1974 to 1999. He died on December 8, 2016.
David Bowie – 2016 greeted us with the loss of talented musician David Bowie. His hit songs include Under Pressure, Let’s Dance, Moonage Daydream, Rebel Rebel, Dancing in the Street and Heroes. He’s also a very good actor and is best known for his role as the Goblin King in The Labyrinth and as Nikola Tesla in the 2006 film The Prestige. He died on January 10, 2016 from liver cancer at the age of 69.
Prince – Like David Bowie, Prince is one of the best-selling artists of all time selling over 100 million records. His hits include Purple Rain, I Wanna Be Your Lover, Little Red Corvette, You Got the Look, Nothing Compares 2 U and Alphabet Street. Prince is known for his wide range of vocals, talent for songwriting, instrumentation and style integration as well as a staunch advocate for copyright which put him at odds with studios and other parties. Prince died at the age of 57 on April 21, 2016 due to an overdose of the painkiller fentanyl.
George Michael – Another talented celebrity musician lost to us was Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou a.k.a. George Michael. He’s the other half of the popular music duo Wham! and known for the hit songs such as Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Careless Whisper and Last Christmas. Like Prince and David Bowie, he sold over 100 million records earning him various music awards in his 30-year career. He was an active LGBT rights campaigner, coming out as gay in 1998. He died Christmas Day of 2016 at age 53 credited to heart failure, making 2016 his last Christmas.
What made 2016 seem to stand out was the number of shocking deaths from artists that were taken way too soon. Here’s hoping that the grim reaper takes a smaller break with our celebrities and artists in 2017.