Thursday, April 18, 2013

Grim Reaper…Stop. You've Already Met Your Quota

Wow.  I just looked at what was trending on Yahoo, and I noticed that Pat Summerall died.  Sad.  I remember Summerall from my youth in the 70s, a saavy guy who did sportscasts for the National Football League.  Most Sundays, I tried to avoid Mr. Pat and his jovial sidekick John Madden, since their pre-game appearance simply meant that my dad was going to watch sports on TV for the remainder of the afternoon  I’d rather been outside playing.

But, Holy Moley!  In visiting the CNN site to read the details of Summerall’s death, I came across a page entitled “People We Lost in 2013.”  And it’s only mid-April.

The biggest shock?  (And this may speak to how gay I am) Bonnie Franklin, the actress who portrayed Ann Romano on the 70s sitcom “One Day at a Time.” the strong single mom to Mackenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli.  I watched that show religiously.  I always wanted to be the kid brother to Julie and Barbara.

It is only mid-April, and here are some of the losses so far this year:

  • Jonathan Winters – The lovable, goofy comedian.  “If God had really intended man to fly, He’d make it easier to get to the airport."
  • Annette Funicello – One of the original Mouseketeers in the Mickey Mouse Club, and the babe from many 60s Beach Party movies.  Made familiar in a quote from the movie Grease: “"Nobody's jugs are bigger than Annette's”
  • Margaret Thatcher – Former British Prime Minister (Morrissey probably smiled at that news – she finally answered his question "When will you die?")
  • Roger Ebert – I grew up taking movie viewing advice from him and Gene Siskel.  “Two Thumbs Down” for the loss of them both.
  • Phil Ramone – Famous record producer, who worked with Billy Joel on one of my all-time favorites, The Stranger.  No, Phil did not die of a heart attack-ack-ack-ack-ack-ack.
  • Hugo Chavez – One of the most bizarrely entertaining U.S. adversary presidents ever.  You know…he’s the guy from such insanity as his “Life on Mars” theory, his assertion of the “Army of Voodoo Witches” set upon him by his political opponents, and his role as “sadistic butt-kicking soccer player” (literally...he'd kick opponents in the rear, if they dared score against him).
  • Van Cliburn – A classical musician, who stepped into pop culture after winning, in 1958 (during the height of the Cold War), the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow.  He even got a ticker-tape parade upon his return to the States.
  • Ed Koch – The larger-than-life former New York City mayor, the "How'm I doin'" politicial, who was in office for more than ten years from late 70s throughout the 80s.  In addition to being a political figure, he also make appearances on Sex and the City, Saturday Night Live, and in the movie The Muppets Take Manhattan.  Quite a CV.

While I was busy being surprised by the passing of people who had always been figures in my life, it didn't dawn on me until later that people, say of my son's generation, may not know who most of these icons were.  It only makes sense that as I get older, many of the people who were in the public eye, when I was at such an impressionable age, are going to pass on.

Regardless.  I remember seeing Jonathan Winters on a number of 70s TV variety shows (which themselves, have gone the way of the dinosaur). In 1983, Roger Ebert gave The Outsiders a bum review (which pissed off the 19 year-old me).  I didn't even notice when Koch was no longer the mayor of New York City.  I thought he was at a royalty level, and would die in office.

I'm sure that I'll continue to be surprised as 2013 moves along, and we lose more famous public figures.  These losses hit the public conscience, hopefully reminding us that we only have so much time on this Earth.  And we should take Jonathan Winter's advice:

"If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to meet it."

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