In thinking about the year soon to pass, I can’t help think about some famous people who died that had some significance for me, such as Sir Edmund Hillary, who climbed Everest the year I was born, or Suzanne Pleshette, who appeared on a TV show ending screwed up b7y our local affiliate. An inordinate number of them were black musicians who passed in the latter part of the year. Isaac Hayes, who I wrote about in this piece last year; Miriam Makeba, Mother Africa; Odetta; the underappreciated Norman Whitfield, and of course, Levi Stubbs.
For Gordon and Tom the Mayor
Hey, if you have a chance, would you go to Dead or Alive and petition for the inclusion of Norman Whitfield and/or Odetta, please?
Then there were iconic characters such as Paul Newman and George Carlin, Tim Russert and Jim McKay. In an obit for McKay, it indicated that he made even the most “minor” of sports seem as important as the Olympics, and that’s why I appreciated him so.
A number of folks died this month I didn’t mention, such as Sammy Baugh, the first star quarterback of the NFL; Bettie Page, pin-up extraordinare; Mark Felt, who just didn’t look that much like Hal Holbrook who played Deep Throat in All the President’s Men; Majel Barrett, Gene Roddenberry’s widow, who played nurse Chapel in the original series as well as Deanna Troi’s mother in The Next Generation, and the voice of the Star Trek computer throughout the ST universe; Eartha Kitt, who sang rings around Madonna in her performance of Santa Baby, but who had a much more interesting bio than I had been aware of; possibly best known as a Catwoman in the old Batman series; and playwright Harold Pinter, whose death was sort of mentioned in the new movie Synecdoche, New York.
A few of folks died too young for my comfort: Hayes (65); Gene Upshaw (63), Hall of Fame football player for the NFL Oakland Raiders and later Executive Director of the NFL Players Association; Bobby Murcer (62), the Oklahoman stuck following Oklahoman Mickey Mantle as Yankee centerfielder; Russert (58); Bernie Mac (50); and, of course, Heath Ledger (28).
I also recall someone you don’t know. Tom Siblo was a Socialist Worker’s organizer
on the campus of the State University College at New Paltz (NY) during the Vietnam war. Unusually for men at the time, he’d taken his wife’s name (as Siblo-Landsman)
and was permanently disabled because of a diabetic-related coronary condition. He was around my age.
I will remember.