Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

This page has a list of those who didn't make it this far. They are mostly luminaries of varying brightness. You won't see Karen Marie Knapp on the list, for example, but the list is not exactly the Book of Life.

Nor will you see the names of any dead soldiers who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, but there is a page that honors them by sharing their names and photos.

But I guess it's all right to be sorry to see anyone go, even celebrities, especially if they've been around all your born days, and even more especially if they are beautiful women whose screen personas cast an attraction impossible to resist. Gals like Yvonne De Carlo, who died at 84 and made a great wife for Moses in The Ten Commandments. Or Deborah Kerr, who played the most charming nun ever in Heaven Knows Mr. Allison, and a governess in The King and I. Don't forget Jane Wyman, Ronald Reagan's first wife. She played the icy mother whose heart needed melting in Hayley Mills' film debut as Pollyanna.

Some writers passed away, like Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut. I tried reading Mailer's Armies of the Night, found some of it compelling, but couldn't finish. Started Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions and the same thing happened, though for different reasons. I couldn't understand how writing of that quality had found a publisher. I never read Mark Harris' Bang the Drum Slowly, but I saw the movie adaptation and knew a real story when I saw one. "Bang the drum slowly and play the fife lowly...I'm a young cowboy and I know I must die." See it if you haven't, starring a very young Michael Moriarity and Robert DeNiro in a tale of an athlete dying young. Art Buchwald, longtime friend of William F. Buckley, finally went at 81. So did Arthur Shlesinger, Jr. court historian to the Kennedys and whose stuff I had to read in college, and rather less of a historian, David Halberstam (The Best and the Brightest), whose stuff I did not. More entertaining than either was Ira Levin, 78. I read the book before seeing the movie, and both creeped me out: Rosemary's Baby.

But as a college freshman I did have to watch certain films directed by Michaelangelo Antonioni (L'Aventura) and Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal). I preferred the latter, and felt considerably more cultured walking out of the theater, but would have taken a James Bond entry over either.

Can Joey Bishop really be gone?

Merv Griffin? He could play the piano, too.

Don Herbert, television's Mr. Wizard? A series of excerpts from his show can be found here.

Athletes? One entry caught my eye, that for Max McGee, Green Bay Packer. I watched him in my teen years. An article says that McGee, 75,

died in October when he fell while clearing leaves from the roof of his home in Deephaven, Minn., a Minneapolis suburb. He was remembered as a talented but quirky Packers receiver who caught the first touchdown in Super Bowl history and later became a radio voice of the Packers.

McGee is part of Super Bowl legend, too, for staying up all night partying before Super Bowl I in 1967, believing he would play little. But starter Boyd Dowler separated his shoulder, and McGee finished with 138 yards receiving and two touchdowns as Green Bay beat the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10.

Gotta love it.

Some that I miss most are The Voices. Teresa Brewer was just cute as a bug. Here she is 27 years ago singing a medley of her hits, most all of which you will recognize.

I saw Barbara McNair in a film or two but never thought she could act. She could sing, though. McNair "died on February 4, 2007 after developing a skull based tumor that was originally overlooked. By the time it was diagnosed it was inoperable." She was in her 70's.

Frankie Laine sang "Rawhide" on that old Clint Eastwood western. He was 93.

Beverly Sills, operatic coloratura, was 78.

Robert Goulet was 73. He died waiting for a lung transplant. Came to the fore in Camelot. ("If Ever I Should Leave You"). Here's a medley, and his last TV performance. I had hoped his marriage to the delightful Carol Lawrence would last, but it didn't. She had two children with him, and is still with us. She's in her 70's, but in younger days was the original Maria in Broadway's West Side Story.

The death of Dan Fogelberg at the mere age of 56, and of one of the more treatable cancers, prostate, was a big surprise. Here he sings "Leader of the Band," the voice going and probably already sick. But it's still good. Just his voice on "Longer."

Lastly we have one of the great voices of all time singing perhaps the greatest song of all time - Pavarotti and the Nessun Dorma from, I believe, Turandot by Puccini. And, of course, Shubert's Ave Maria.

Still, I wish he hadn't left his wife.

Nevertheless, requiescat in pace to all.


There's a cold wind blowing through my window tonight. The temperature's plummeting from the 70's to the 30's. I'll be cold to the bone, but 'tis no omen for the New Year, I trust. Good health to you all.


TS said...

I was really surprised by Fogelberg's death too. Walker Percy died of the same disease. I recently read contradictory studies - one said that having frequent sex cuts down the risk of prostrate cancer and another that said the opposite.

William Luse said...

When two studies contradict each other, follow the one that says "more of it."

MamaT said...

A blessed 2008 to you and yours, Bill.

It gets weirder, the closer to my age all these people get. Wonder how that happens?

TS said...

follow the one that says "more of it."

Unless it's something like "drink more castor oil".

William Luse said...

Where you been, Terry? Same to you.

I've never in my life tried castor oil, and never will. Not sure what it is even. All I know is that, if the doctor says, "Take a laxative," I will assume he means Guiness.

Lydia McGrew said...

Happy New Year, Bill. Wow, you really know about these people. I wouldn't know any of this stuff if it weren't for you.

Close your window. You don't have some sort of principle about always having the window open at night or something, do you? Not a good principle. The English are strange that way. I'm always reading in English novels, "So-and-so awoke in the dark of dawn and shivered. He padded across the floor in his bare feet and found the curtains flapping wildly and water on the floor. It was snowing outside. He shut the window, which had been healthfully open a crack." So-and-so is definitely odd.

So, while you're telling us about people, is Dean Koontz any good as a novelist? I just found out he's a friend of Wesley J. Smith.

William Luse said...

Hey, Lydia. Your excerpt is hysterical.
I leave the window open with a fan running to blow out the cigarette smoke. Now that I have to keep it closed, I can't smoke back here. Argh. Might be in the 20's tonight.

You'd have to ask Terry or TSO (or anybody but me) about Koontz. I've always assumed he was one of those hack horror-suspense writers, but maybe I'm wrong.

alicia said...

Breakfast of Champions is not a good place to start with Vonnegut. The forst I read was Slaughterhouse-5 (I was, I think, around 12 or 13) and the next one was Cat's Cradle. I think that Cat's Cradle is a better starting place. Vonnegut is definitely an acquired taste, and his more recent stuff is not as good as his earlier work.
They did not mention one of my favorite authors who died in 2007 - Madeleine L'Engle. Have you read any of her work? Though she got more publicity for her juvenile fiction, I actually liked her non-fiction better. Too bad that she never quite became Catholic although she had a quite Catholic incarnational theology - her Anglicanism was just enough to immunize her, I guess.
30 years ago I worked with a guy named Ron Goulet, who was a relative of Robert. Maybe a brother or a cousin? It has been so long that I don't remember the details, just the name.
All in all, it was a somber year. At least USC won the Rose Bowl.

smockmomma said...

all of our sweeties seem to be passing. what a crap year. i lost both of my step-parents this year and it just seems like everyone is getting older. bleh.
...and on that peppy note, sir, happy new year!

William Luse said...

I haven't read Madeleine L'Engle. I think I've heard of her. Not sure.

Micki, it doesn't seem that everyone's getting older. Everyone actually is. Happy new year to you too.

Hey, TS, what's "prostrate" cancer. Is that the kind you get from lying down too much?

TS said...

Dang that's another word I always mispell (intentional sic).

But seriously, prostrate cancer is a concern for couch potatoes everywhere!

William Luse said...

Well, you also have to be prostrate (or ought to be) when having sex, so the spelling actually makes sense.