We know we’ll miss them when they’re gone, but they’ll always be there in the cultural fabric of our lives and for future generations to rediscover through the timelessness of film, TV, song, and literature.
1. Carrie Fisher
No motive is pure. No one is good or bad but a hearty mix of both. And sometimes life actually gives to you by taking away.
The sudden passing of Carrie Fisher is sobering. (Pun intended. I think she’d even appreciate it). Seeing her return as Princess Leia last year in The Force Awakens was heartwarming and inspiring. For those of us who saw the original Star Wars movies in the theaters in the late 1970s – early 1980s, it was especially poignant.
Fisher is of Hollywood royalty. Her dad was singer Eddie Fisher and her mother is actress Debbie Reynolds. Fisher made her big screen debut in 1975 with the movie Shampoo starring opposite Warren Beatty. In 1977, she filmed the first Star Wars film in what would become her iconic role of Prince Leia. She also appeared in the film The Blues Brothers.
Her list of accomplishments also includes authoring 7 novels including Princess Diaries, Wishful Drinking, Shockaholic, Postcards From The Edge (which turned into a screenplay), The Best Awful, Delusions of Grandma, and Surrender the Pink. Fisher was also an advocate for mental health issues.
In 2005, Fisher was recognized by the Women In Film & Video -DC with the Women of Vision Award.
2. Debbie Reynolds
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life.
Sadly, just as I was putting this list together of pop icons that have had a profound influence, I heard of the passing of Debbie Reynolds, just one day after the passing of her beloved daughter, Carrie.
Reynolds spent over 40 years singing and acting on film, stage, and television. in 1964, Reynolds received an Academy Award Nomination for her role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. She starred in a number of musicals including Singing in the Rain in 1952.
In later years, she starred in television with The Debbie Reynolds Show and What’s the Matter With Helen as well as several guest spots on shows such as Alice, The Love Boat, and Hotel. Reynolds authored Debbie: My Life, Unsinkable: A Memoir, and Make ‘Em Laugh: Short-Term Memories of Longtime Friends.
3. George Michael
You’ll never find peace of mind until you listen to your heart.
Michael was a singer, songwriter, record producer, and gay rights advocate who was thrust into the spotlight when he and his classmate, Andrew Ridgley, formed the group, Wham! In the 80’s and 90’s, he was one of the leading pop stars culminating in him winning a Grammy for Album of Year in 1987 for Freedom.
The mere mention of his names brings his catchy pop tunes such as Wake Me Up, Faith, and Freedom, to mind as if I just heard them and now he is gone at the young age of 53. It’s truly difficult to believe.
Michael is a nominee for the 2017 Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
4. Florence Henderson
I started in live television and I’ve done a lot of live TV and that’s really the thing that I love best. I love flying by the seat of my pants.
As Carol Brady, actress Florence Henderson was America’s mom. To this day, whenever I channel surf and happen upon The Brady Bunch, I stop and watch the show for a while. There’s comfort in the familiarity of not only the actors and actresses, many grew up watching in the 70s, but all the reminders of the time period in styling from set design to fashion.
To create something from nothing is one of the greatest feelings, and I would – I don’t know, I wish it upon everybody. It’s heaven.
The April passing of Prince, aka Prince Rogers Nelson, struck a chord with many who grew up listening to his hits, including myself, that I wrote a blog post, When Doves Cry + Fans Too, describing the impact of the loss of icons to their followers.
Prince was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN where he continued to live throughout his career. Prince found worldwide success with the release of his 1982 album, 1999, and the 1984 release of the film Purple Rain, with the soundtrack of the same name, that he earned Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and numerous No. 1 and No. 2 Billboard Hot 100.
6. Garry Marshall
Never underestimate the power of your sister.
Actor, writer, and producer, Marshall is responsible for bringing us the television classics The Odd Couple, Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Joanie Loves Chachi.
If you remember crying while watching Beaches (with Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey) or remember seeing Julia Roberts for the first time in Pretty Woman, then you have watched a Garry Marshall film. Marshall also brought us Frankie and Johnny, Runaway Bride, The Princess Diaries, and more.
7. Harper Lee
Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.
Imagine writing a Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller (To Kill A Mocking Bird) in 1959 portraying the Finch family that was brought to the silver screen and captured the hearts’ of millions and your second novel (Go Set A Watchman) being released in 2015! Talk about a long awaited follow up!
A mere mention of the name Scout and instantly one thinks of the beloved, precocious daughter of Atticus Finch. So revered by the character, I named one of my late pups after Scout. A name she lived up to.
8. Alan Thicke
Fitness needs to be perceived as fun and games or we subconsciously avoid it.
I say #retweet to that, Alan!
While the 70’s brought us America’s favorite TV mother, the 80’s ushered in America’s favorite TV dad, Jason Seaver. Not sure about you, but just seeing Thicke’s name or picture cues the hit television show Growing Pains theme song… “Show me that smile again. Show me that smile. Don’t waste another minute on your troubles..”
Speaking of theme songs, Thicke was also a producer and composer of many Television theme songs including Diff’rent Strokes, The Facts of Life (now I have that ditty in my head), The Wizard of Odds, The Joker’s Wild, and more.
9. Zsa Zsa Gabor
A man in love is incomplete until he has married. Then he’s finished.
Zsa Zsa conjures the following: Calling everyone darling (because she couldn’t remember their name), white fur, and divorce ( 9 times). Am I right or am I right?
The Hungarian-American actress, beauty queen, and socialite starred in the films Lovely To Look At, We’re Not Married! (with Ginger Rogers and Fred Allen), Moulin Rouge, Death of a Scoundrel, and Orson Welles’ classic Touch of Evil.
Gabor also made guest TV appearance on The Life of Riley, Playhouse 90, Matinee Theatre, Burke’s Law, Gilligan’s Island Batman, and various game shows.
10. David Bowie
I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.
Bowie was a rock and roll chameleon whose musical transformations were matched by his ever changing appearance such as when he took on the character Ziggy Stardust.
Bowie also starred in the films The Man Who Fell To Earth, Labyrinth and starred on Broadway in The Elephant Man. In 1996, Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
11. Leonard Cohen
There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.
Canadian singer, songwriter, musician, poet, novelist, and painter, Cohen was a prolific creative force whose work touched upon a wide range of subjects including religion, politics, sexuality, and much more. His recording career spanned nearly 5 decades with his most notable being Hallelujah.
12. Bobby Vee
I once thought losing my confidence was the worst thing that could happen, then I lost my faith.
The day after the tragic plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper in February 1959 near Clear Lake, Iowa, it was decided that the show must go on the following night in Moorhead, Minnesota. To read more about the last performance of Holly, Valens, and The Big Bopper at the historic Surf Ballroom click here.
According to the Official Bobby Vee Website, promoters asked for local talent to fill in and so kicked off an illustrious career consisting of 38 songs on the Billboard top 100 charts, 6 gold singles, 14 Top 40 hits, and 2 gold albums.
13. Gene Wilder
When your mother gives you confidence about anything that you do, you carry that confidence with you.
Author, actor, and comedian, Gene Wilder will forever be remembered by the role that made him famous: The lead in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory by Mel Brooks. To further cement his as a comedic icon were his roles in Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein. Wilder made film acting debut in the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde while landing his first major film role in The Producers.
In 2005, Wilder published a memoir, Kiss Me Like a Stranger: My Search for Love and Art and went on to write two more novels as well as a collection of short stories.
14. Alan Rickman
It would be wonderful to think that the future is unknown and sort of surprising.
You likely most notably know Rickman as his role as Professor Snape in Harry Potter. However, Rickman has also acted in roles in Die Hard, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Truly, Madly Deeply, Love, Actually, Sense and Sensibility, Galaxy Quest, and Dogma. Alan Rickman was a beloved actor of the stage, screen, and TV.
In 1986, Rickman was nominated for a Tony award for his role as Valmont, Christopher Hampton’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
15. Patty Duke
It’s toughest to forgive ourselves. So it’s probably best to start with other people. It’s almost like peeling an onion. Layer by layer, forgiving others, you really do get to the point where you can forgive yourself.
Patty Duke was an activist, actress, and television producer. For the first two years of her acting career, she performed on Broadway. At the young age of 16, she won the Academy Award for portraying Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker and later starred in the cult classics Valley of the Dolls and Me, Natalie.
In 1962, Duke starred in The Patty Duke Show for which she earned an Emmy nomination. Later she became known for her roles in made for tv movies.
Duke also authored Call Me Anna and A Brilliant Madness: Living With Manic Depression Illness which led her to become a staunch advocate for mental issues and support for the same.
16. Doris Roberts
Love them for who they are, and what they are they are; they are not you. Good stuff, isn’t it? You have to live 73 years to get that.
Doris Roberts graced her audience with six decades of work from acting, to writing, and philanthropy. She became known for her roles on television shows including Angie, Remington Steele, and Everybody Loves Raymond.
She took to the Broadway stage and the silver screen as well as authoring a novel, Are You Hungry, Dear? Life, Laughs, and Lasagna in 2005 which landed her on the New York Times Best-Seller list. She was a supporter of numerous causes, including Puppies Behind Bars and the Children with AIDS foundation
17. Muhammad Ali
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.
Boxing’s celebrated champ, Ali won the gold medal in boxing in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing championship in 1964. Ali was also an activist and devoted a lot of time to philanthropic work and earned the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.
18. Arnold Palmer
The most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.
Palmer was known as “The King” of Golf by his avid followers aka Arnie’s Army not just for his golfing talent, but for his kind demeanor. In 1954, Palmer won the U.S. Amateur Championship. Between 1960 to 1963 when he landed 29 of his titles and the Masters Tournament 4 times. Palmer was also a successful business executive and aviator.
They will all be dearly missed and remembered always. Let them inspire you with their unique talents. RIP.
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