Tag Archives: obituary

So Shines a Good Man in a Weary World — Gene Wilder-1933-2016

169139004Another sad page added  to the list of farewells  to pieces of my youth that gave me joy.

I loved this guy.  The most wondrous, funny, brilliant Gene Wilder has passed away.   It was a even sadder and shocking to see that his passing was from Alzheimer’s disease.  But when I read the statement from Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman  in regards to why Gene kept his diagnosis a secret, it  made perfect sense. The statement read:

“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”

How beautiful is that? Gene’s heart was bigger than Alzheimer’s.  It didn’t deprave him of his family recognition, and he wouldn’t let deprive his admirers of their joy.

And what joy he brought! Willy Wonka, Dr. Fredrick Fronk-en-Steen, and The Waco Kid. One moment he was a screaming neurotic, the next a gentle loving soul.  Whether he was the drunken gunslinger or a magical candy man, you believed every moment, even it his character was untrustworthy.

There’s a famous scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Wonka makes his first entrance.  Gene would only do the movie if he could act this scene a certain way:  Wonka limps down to the gate with his cane, which gets stuck in the cobblestones just before the entrance.  Wonka starts to fall forward but it evolves into a perfect forward somersault, from which he springs up triumphant.   This was important for the character, for as Wilder noted “You’d never know if he’s lying or telling the truth.”

Gene understood his characters and always let their humanity shine through.  Again in Wonka, when he first has to chastise Charlie to see if Charlie will return his Everlasting Gobstopper, he is a frightening, livid firestorm. When Charlie gives back the candy, his joy cannot be contained.  Both of these traits are the real Wilder, who took his stage name from playwright Thornton Wilder (Born Jerome Silberman) but he was much more the gentle soul in real life than the volcano he’d portray.  Growing up with a mother who ailed from a heart condition, Wilder make her laugh to ease her worries.  He considered this his greatest gift, although he didn’t think of himself as funny.  “I make my wife laugh” he said,  and that was good enough.

I cannot add much to love and accolades I’ve seen everywhere, but I’m just glad we were fortunate enough to enjoy his talents in our lifetime. To paraphrase his line in Wonka:  “So shines a good Man in a weary world.”  He’ll be greatly missed and forever loved. Good Night Herr Doctor. ❤

Gene with Teri Garr and Marty Feldman in 'Young Frankenstein'

Gene with Teri Garr and Marty Feldman in ‘Young Frankenstein’

Gene with Leonard Nimoy – Nimoy directed Gene in ‘Funny About Love’. They were good friends.

Gene with beloved  wife, comedian Gilda Radner. She passed from ovarian cancer in 1989

Happiness with wife Karen Boyer in 2007 – together 25 years until the end.

geneolder_large

Gene in later years.

 

Blazing-Saddles-Little-Wilder

With Cleavon Little in ‘Blazing Saddles’

Gene with Peter Ostrum (Charlie) in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Doves are Crying: Prince – 1958-2016

prince-purple-rain-ws-710Sigh.   Between David Bowie and now Prince, it’s turning into a rotten year for lovers of incredible pop music. So sorry to hear of the sudden passing of pop legend Prince today.   I had heard he was sick recently and was treated and released from a hospital, so hearing that he had passed was a sad shock.

I remember being mildly intrigued by Prince when he first appeared on the scene in the 80’s.   He was a bit odd, and had a defiant but flirtatious sensuality in his music. I wasn’t much into the casual and sometimes dirty sex references in his songs, but his psychedelic/blues/rock style of playing and his metallic Beau Brummel style and James Brown moves were so alluring.  In time he drew me in more and more. And the guitar shredding!!  Jimi Hendrix was surely smiling down from heaven when Prince first tore the opening chords of When Doves Cry? And who could resist a fine young, slightly androgynous man seductively crawling out of a bathtub to invite you in?

Prince was a prolific writer; not only songs for himself, but for many others. Remember “Love, Thy Will Be Done” by Martika, or Stand Back by Stevie Nicks? Just a small sample.   A  brilliant musician, Prince could play 27 instruments,  and in his genius he knew precisely which ones to use and combine to make a perfect melody.  But in the cloud of his techno-funk, one forgets that all he needed was a guitar.  You’ll love this simple unplugged acoustic set he did for MTV; I love how he plays off the audience.

Prince was a private person, not out of arrogance or pride, but just because he felt (and rightly so) it was his music that mattered.  When  asked if it was okay for him to sing in the pouring rain at Super Bowl LXI, he  said “Can you make it rain more?”    This is an astonishing performance, and couldn’t have been better if the rain has been specially ordered.

You might have noticed there that Prince riffed some Jimi Hendrix there, for he was an apostle of all types of music; funk, r& b, soul, rock, reggae, pop, jazz, everything.  When he played, he was the instrument.  And here, he made a surprising and blistering solo for While My Guitar Gently Weeps at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame ( It starts at  3:33)  Look at Dhani grin!

He is gone way too soon.  His catalog of music is unfinished; there are purported over 100 unfinished songs).  In the next few days you’ll hear many of his songs from nearly 4 decades of musical genius.  It may make you sad now to know that there will be no more.  But there’s no better way to honor his memory than to crank up the following and dance, dance, dance!

Good Night Sweet Prince. ❤   I hope you’re jamming with Jimi.

prince-purple-rain-ws-710

 

 

 

 

 

David Bowie -Farewell Major Tom (And So Much More)

David-BowieShocked. Another hero ascends to heaven.  David Bowie.  Major Tom has escaped the bonds of Earth.

I first became aware of David Bowie in the early 70’s when, as a young teen I was just getting acquainted with music outside the realm of The Beatles and The Monkees.  Bowie was surely an oddity, and I didn’t know what to make of him.  He was a man, but why did he wear make up? Did he want to be a woman?

When I reached high school, I began to appreciate how unique he was as a performer and artist.  When he sang, he had a quavering, aching voice that could sink to a husky bass or rise to a silky high tenor.  Those eyes. One was bright blue, one was greenish brown and permanently dilated, adding to his other-worldliness.  He was strange, but mesmerizing, massively cool and undeniably sexy.

My passing interest in him was solidified in 1977, when he appeared, on all things, a Bing Crosby Christmas Special.  He and Bing duet-ed on ‘Little Drummer Boy/ Peace On Earth.  Nice to know this hipster was appealing to old guys like Bing too.  https://youtu.be/wjNToRlUen8

Later on the show, when he performed ‘Heroes’, I was hooked.

I didn’t get to buy any of his albums until the early 80’s, and I got an 8-Track of Young Americans.  On the cover he stares out from a smoky haze, with his best Marlene Deitrich gaze, inviting you in.   It was one of the first albums I bought cold, not knowing if I’d like it, but I knew he had collaborated with John Lennon on “Fame” and he made John’s Across the Universe uniquely his own.  Well, I wore that tape out, especially listening to the funky nirvana of Fame, imagining him walking away singing “Fame…” then snapping back toward you  demanding “What’s your name, what’s your name, what’s your name?” and walking away again, as a friend told me he did in concert.  So damn cool. I loved Modern Love and China Girl.  Later I took the invitation when he sang  Let’s Dance.

But aside from his glamour and flash, you could always hear his soul.

At the 9/11 concert, he opened the show.  No glitz or glamour. Just sitting cross legged on the stage with nothing but a tiny keyboard, he began playing a carousel waltz, and sang Simon & Garfunkel’s “America” It’s a beautiful moment of raw love for the city he made his own.

And on top of commanding a concert stage, he was an actor too!  His television performance as The Elephant Man was so poignant.  Wonderful, wonderful actor, and again, his soul was laid bare.

As he identified with the alienated, the misfits of the world like me felt a kinship with him. He was known for his ever changing appearance, a true chameleon who channeled everything from Ziggy Stardust to Kabuki.  Some may have thought this was to hide who he really was, but really it just proved that he was so comfortable in his own skin, that he was willing to explore any possibility.  He was truly every-man (or woman if he preferred).  If more people explored their inner selves as Bowie did, it would probably be a happier world.

That being said, he was naturally private.  Which is why the news of his cancer and death came as such a shock.   But he never quit working, creating, and just being David Bowie, achieving his final dream of a Jazz fusion album just before he passed.  If we can all strive to complete our creative pursuits as he did, it will be a life well spent.

Enjoy the music and immense talent of Mr. Bowie. There will never be another.   Rest in Peace Major Tom.

everything_s_better_with_bowie__star_trek_by_eatsshootsandleaves-d6nl7iw

 

 

 

 

James Horner – Master Composer – 1953-2015

james-horner_vert-1f1ea932844a5195c9646df8875061b3850596d3-s400-c85So very sad to report the tragic passing of Master Composer James Horner, who was killed in a single engine plane crash in California.

Known for many iconic scores of Hollywood films, Trek fans remember and admire his seafaring, strong and touching score for Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan, and its follow up themes in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.

 https://youtu.be/KWf4M-F5SvQ

The theme for Kirk and Spock is particularly poignant, (especially when Spock dies) and now sounds all the more sad knowing that we’ll never have another score by Mr. Horner.

James explains the score of Star Trek II, The Wrath of Khan here, and the themes of Khan, the Enterprise, and the bond between Kirk and Spock:

Mr. Horner also composed soaring themes for so many memorable movies, among them  Titanic, Avatar, Field of Dreams, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Braveheart, Glory, and countless others.

The movies have lost a great maestro.  I add my deepest sympathy to his family and friends.  May the magnificence of his music bring you comfort at this sad time.  I invite you take a little time today and listen to the work and empathy that are so magical here. Here are several of his memorable soundtracks:

Kaliedescope of  Mathmatics from A Beautiful Mind totally sounds like my  butterfly brain:   https://youtu.be/mZI3VWSu0nM

The beautiful theme to Cocoon                                                                  https://youtu.be/AmpLx6UcynY

The soaring theme to Glory (hearing this now makes me very sad)

Rest in Peace, Mr. Horner.   Your music belongs to the ages.

Grace Lee Whitney — 1930-2015

Friends, I’m sad to confirm that indeed, Grace Lee Whitney has passed at the age of 85, at her home on May 1st.  I’ll be writing a longer post soon — sorry about the confusion. Rest in Peace, Sweet Grace. ❤    http://www.nbcnews.com/pop-culture/tv/grace-lee-whitney-yeoman-rand-original-star-trek-dies-n353001

charliexhd076

Davy Jones – Gone Too Soon.

I heard today the very sad news that singer, actor,jockey, and former Monkee Davy Jones passed away from a heart attack in his home today, he was only 66.  Long before Davy was a Monkee, he was a child actor on British soap operas and played The Artful Dodger in Oliver! on Broadway.  Ironically, the night that The Beatles performed on The Ed Sullivan Show, Davy was backstage with the cast of  Oliver! waiting to perform; little did he or the screaming hordes in the theater know that he’d become as idolized as Paul McCartney in just two years.

I had the great pleasure of seeing Davy perform with Peter Tork and Mickey Dolenz  when they  did a Monkee reunion in 1996. It was a great show and you could see that Davy LOVED performing.   My sister and I had 7th row seats and at one point, Davy  walked up and down the side aisles, touching hands with fans. I found myself calling “Come here Davy!”  (just like a tween again).  Alas we were too far in the aisle, but man, what a fun show!  I recall it once said of Davy that “..if a fridge door opened, he’d do five minutes!” and I could just see him performing for the milk and mayonnaise.  He had one of the most unique, warm, yet seductive voices I’ve ever heard. Behold several of my favorites:

And here’s the funny scene from The Brady Bunch Movie (1995) where Davy sings  Girl at the school dance –looking a bit confused at the grunge influence,but so fun! The teachers are turned on and the students eventually realize that this guy was cool! (not the best quality, but the only copy I could find)

A commenter on YouTube wrote today: “A part of my childhood passed away today.”   I think many American women in my generation (1960’s) would sadly agree. Farewell Davy. Thanks for the joy.