Who did we lose in 2016?

Entertainer Debbie Reynolds dies at 84, one day after her daughter's death

The year 2016 has seen a number of high profile celebrity deaths. Many talented, wonderful people, who greatly contributed to arts, entertainment, and science have died this year. Let’s take a look at who we lost (in no particular order, to keep it interesting):

bowie-davidDavid Bowie – known for his innovative musical approach, and a pioneering androgynous style, David Bowie rocked multiple generations, starting with the Baby Boomers in the 1960s. His early works, like Ziggy Stardust and the Spider from Mars, were ground-breaking, and his range was impressive, as exemplified by his moving Christmas duet with Bing Crosby.


prince-2Prince – The consummate performer of the 1980s, Prince, like Bowie, transcends the generations. His album Purple Rain exemplifies his artistry. A popular musician, his work is also subtle and intelligent.



mohamed-aliMuhammad Ali – One of the greatest heavy-weight champions that ever lived, Ali touched millions. His mastery in the ring, and his long-lived career, started at the Olympics, where he won gold, and moved seamlessly to the professional circuit, where he dominated the sport. Ali, born Cassius Marcellus Clay, converted to Islam in the early 1960s, influenced by Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad. Ali embraced non violence outside of the ring, denouncing the Vietnam War, and refusing military service as a conscientious objector. After his boxing career, he faced a long and valiant struggle with debilitating Parkinson’s disease, and helped to gain awareness of the condition.

shandling-gary Garry Shandling –
 A first class comedian, he starred in two major comedy shows during his long career, delighting his fans with self-deprecating, sarcastic, and subtle humor.



duke-patty1Patty Duke – She wowed a generation, playing a pair of twins on “The Patty Duke” show, when she was a teenager. She was also the poster child for Bipolar, from which she suffered, helping to spread understanding about the condition, and mental illness in general, and reduce the stigma experienced by those who suffered.


howard-kenKen Howard – a beloved actor known for his dignified portrayal of a young Thomas Jefferson in the smash musical hit “1776,” when he was a young man, and his gripping portrayal of a dedicated high school basketball coach in “The White Shadow” television show.



yelchin-antonAnton Yelchin – Just starting out, this young actor died in a freak car accident outside his home. He rose to fame portraying the lovable Russian-accented Ensign Chekov, in the movie reboot of the Star Trek Franchise. Star Trek fans were already mourning the loss of Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock, one of the series most well-known characters.


safer-morleyMorley Safer – A veteran television journalist, who covered the Vietnam war (the first truly televised war in American history) Safer is best known for his long run for his role on 60-Minutes, the TV news magazine renowned for its tough, “gotcha” interviews, investigative journalism, and interesting personality profiles.


reagan-nancyNancy Reagan – The First Lady of the United States throughout most of the 1980s, and second wife of President Ronald Reagan, she got her start as an screen actress during Hollywood’s Golden Age. She worked on an anti-drug campaign characterized by the slogan “Just say no to drugs.”



rickman-alanAlan Rickman – A first class British Actor, best known for his portrayal of Professor Snape, in the Harry Potter films. Rickman’s character was complex, tempted by the dark side, but ultimately choosing righteousness, discourteous and rude, but acting in the best interests of his students—-a character befitting the skills of this highly competent thespian.


roberts-dorisDoris Roberts – One of America’s queens of comedy, she’s best known for portraying the mother on the hit comedy series “Everyone Loves Raymond,” in which she gave her on-screen daughter-and-law, and son, considerable grief.



glenn-johnJohn Glenn – Astronaut and long-serving United States Senator, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the earth is the nation’s fledgling manned space program. He served in WWII and Korea as a combat pilot, and then a military test pilot, before joining the space program.


castro-fidel1Fidel Castro – He lead the Cuban Revolution, an initially nationalist revolution, but ultimately embraced communism, and worked with his benefactor, the Soviet Union, to promote the cause of international socialism world-wide. He instituted universal health care and a successful educational program for his people, but his country suffered under the harsh economic sanctions imposed by the U.S.

wilder-geneGene Wilder – one of the most beloved comedians and film personalities of the 70s and 80s, and husband of Gilda Radner, the smashingly good comedienne who died tragically young, Wilder was a best known for his roles as the mysterious Willy Wonka in the colorful and fantastical “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” and Mel Brooke’s hilariously funny  classic “The Producers.”

glass-ronRon Glass –
an actor best known for his suave, sophisticated, three-piece-suit wearing character on the 70s sitcom “Barney Miller.” He portrayed an archetypal yuppie before the term became a popular expression.



palmer-arnoldArnold Palmer – Known by legions of adoring fans as “The King of Golf,” he is widely considered the greatest golfer of all times. And he invented a tasty beverage, “The Arnold Palmer,” (half iced tea, half lemonade) that remains a refreshing favorite, and a lucrative commercial venture, to this very day.


henderson-florenceFlorence Henderson – One of televisions most recognized actresses, she enjoyed a successful run in musicals, particularly her role in “Oklahoma!,” and is best known for her portrayal of Carol Brady, the archetypal TV Mom on the hit television show “The Brady Bunch,” which lives on in syndication. She also enjoyed an entertaining run on “Dancing with the Stars,” in recent years.


gabor-zsazsaZsa Zsa Gabor – sister to Eva Gabor (of Green Acres fame) Zsa Zsa was born in Hungary, and found success in Hollywood. In youth she had exquisite beauty and an exotic brand of European charm. She’s best known for her part in John Houston’s 1952 “Moulin Rouge.” Later in life, her exaggerated persona, and the fact that she slapped a cop during a routine driving stop, gave her the reputation of someone who was “famous for being famous.”

thicke-alanAlan Thicke – A good-natured, likable and multi-talented entertainer, Thicke played one of the most loved TV Dad’s in television history, starring as Jason Seaver on ABC’s “Growing Pains.” Thicke was also a successful song writer and author.



michael-georgeGeorge Michael – a popular musician with a string of enjoyable hits, Michael’s was known for a smoldering sexuality and a vivacious, high energy performance style. He was also an avid and secretive philanthropist, quietly giving millions to worthy charities, and hosting benefit concerts for worthy causes.


fisher-carrieCarrie Fisher – An actress and author born to Hollywood royalty, Fisher will always be remembered for her iconic role as Princess Leia in George Lucas’s Star Wars Saga. Fisher battled substance abuse and mental illness, writing about her struggles in books and a a live performance, and raising awareness for these conditions.


reynolds-debbieDebbie Reynolds – Best known for her roles in “Singing in the Rain,” opposite Gene Kelly, and “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” she was a triple threat, able to sing, dance, and act, during the Golden Age of Hollywood. She shifted her career from films to the stage, starring on Broadway, and made millions collecting and selling classic Hollywood memorabilia. She passed away just one day after her beloved daughter, Carrie Fisher.


Photo: San Francisco Chronicle / SFGATE.com



Entertainer Debbie Reynolds dies at 84, one day after her daughter’s death

Entertainer Debbie Reynolds dies at 84, one day after her daughter's death

In a tragic turn of events, Debbie Reynolds, one of the great American entertainers of Hollywood and Broadway, has died, just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher, passed away. Reynolds was 84. Little is known about the cause of death, though early reports suggest she was rushed to the hospital with the symptoms of a stroke. Reynolds loved her children, and was highly supportive of them. She always spoke proudly and openly of Carrie Fisher’s great talent, and writing ability. Friends describe Reynolds as kind, loving and charitable. She was known to use her fame and good fortune to help others.

Watch 2011 Oprah Interview with Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher (Youtube)

Reynolds, a strikingly beautiful young woman with considerable talent, was discovered in 1952 by scouts while participating in a beauty contest. She was a triple threat as a singer, dancer and actress. Her first movie, ‘Singing in the Rain’, with the great Gene Kelly, was an enormous success, and catapulted her to stardom. She’s best known for her excellent work in ‘Singing in the Rain,’ and her outstanding performance in ‘The unsinkable Molly Brown,’ which earned her an Oscar nomination.

In 1959 she endured a public humiliation with great dignity when her first husband, Singer Eddie Fisher, left her for Elizabeth Tailor, who was one of her closest friends at the time. This and other breakups left her in difficult financial straits, but over the years her love of collecting Hollywood memorabilia paid dividends, earning her millions in auction sales.

As her career developed, she turned away from an active movie career, but enjoyed a long run on broadway, along with television appearances, including a recurring role on ‘Will and Grace.’ And she never stopped singing. Always the consummate entertainer, the multi-talented Reynolds was also known for outstanding impressions of popular celebrities, including Barbara Streisand, Catherine Hepburn, and Betty Davis.

Learn more about the life of Debbie Reynolds (CNN)



Photo: San Francisco Chronicle / SFGATE.com

Carrie Fisher dies at 60

Carrie Fisher dies at 60

There’s very sad news from Hollywood. Actress and author Carrie Fisher has passed away at 60. Fisher suffered a massive heart attack in the air, enrout from London to Los Angeles, on December 23, and finally succumbed to her condition on Tuesday.

Fisher was a dynamic, charismatic force in popular culture. She was born into a show business family—- her mother is super star actress Debbie Reynolds. She made her film debut in Shampoo, opposite Warren Beaty, in 1976. But she’s best known for her spirited portrayal of the dignified and rebellious Princess Leia in George Lucas’s Star Wars franchise, making a name for herself playing opposite Harrison Ford in his own break out role as Hans Solo, the seemingly brash, selfish smuggler with redeeming qualities. The chemistry between the two was palpable, as the success of the Star Wars films rocketed Fisher to stardom in the 70s and 80s.

However, fame often comes with a price. Fisher struggled with substance abuse and mental illness for years, very openly writing about her bipolar diagnosis and chemical dependency issues in her books. She penned the semi autobiographical novel ‘Postcards from the edge,’ which follows a fictitious actress, based on Fisher, rebooting her life and film career following a stint in drug rehab.

She also presented a poignant one woman show, ‘Wishful Drinking,’ which she turned into an autobiography. In total she wrote 6 books, which were emotionally honest, clear-headed critiques of society, Hollywood, and her own life. She was returning from a book tour visit in London to publicize her final work, ‘The Princess Diarist,’ based on diary entries she made while filming the first Star Wars film as a young woman, when she suffered her heart attack.

Fisher struggled with addiction, as many artists and actors do, though of course, these issues affect people from all walks of life. Perhaps the norms of show business life, particularly in the 70s, and the easy availability of money and drugs among the film industry crowd, make it particularly easy for young actors like Fisher to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

Also, people who endure serious bouts of depression often self-medicate, which provides some temporary relief but spells trouble down the road. In any event, it’s clear that some very talented and capable people, like Fisher, can fall victim to drug and alcohol dependency, and more medically-based treatment programs are needed to assure that they get adequate help, so they can continue living and working as productive members of society.

Learn more about Carrie Fisher’s life and career (New York Times)



Photo: By Riccardo Ghilardi photographer (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons



Pop star George Michaels dies at 53

Pop star George Michaels dies at 53

90s pop star George Michael died over the weekend, of heart-failure, at 53. He rose to fame as a member of the pop group Wham, then enjoyed a long solo career. He garnered much buzz in the tabloids over his sex life and drug use, but the press largely ignored his humanitarian work, which we are now learning was substantial. Regarding his musical work, fans remember him for his charisma, sex appeal, joyful musical delivery, and a string of pop hits with catchy tunes that many people grew up listening to.

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And perhaps most important of all, Michael was also a quiet but dedicated philanthropist, which may be his greatest contribution to his fellow man. He volunteered at homeless shelters, made many large donations to charities, and direct contributions to help specific individuals in need. But he always did his best to keep his generosity out of the public eye. Over the years he donated millions to charities benefitting children and contributing to the fights against cancer, AIDS, and much more.

Michaels often put on free concerts to help causes he valued, like one benefitting nurses, after his mother died, whom he felt were undervalued in our society. Reports of George Michael’s epic kindness are rolling in, now that he has passed away.

Learn about George Michael, and his great generosity (NPR)



Photo: By insasse (This photo is my own work.) CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

The Pope’s Christmas Eve Mass – 2016

The Pope's Christmas Eve Mass - 2016

Pope Francis delivered his annual Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, in Vatican City. He started by emphasizing the plight of children around the world (NBC News), encouraging the faithful to celebrate the birth of Jesus by thinking of disadvantaged children in war-torn regions, and those living in poverty while the wealthy enjoy lives of waste. And he warned of the commercial dangers of the modern Christmas season.

Watch as Pope Francis leads the Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (RUPTLY):

Photo: RUPTLY / youtube

A renewed nuclear arms race under President Trump?

A renewed nuclear arms race under President Trump?

In a bizarre double whammy, the week before Christmas ends, Donald Trump offered great praise for Vladimir Putin’s warm holiday greeting card, while also threatening to restart the nuclear arms race. This dangerous and disturbing posturing comes after the noteworthy progress of the last three decades, when the size of the nuclear arsenals of both countries declined from cold war peaks. Sadly Putin has also expressed an interest in refurbishing Russia’s nuclear capability. It seems the stage is set for a massive arms race between the two nations, fueled by the egos of their charismatic leaders.

If this comes to pass it would be, of course, a giant step backwards. We must remember that the super powers have come to the brink of nuclear war before, most memorably during the cold war’s Cuban Missile Crisis. During that frightening ordeal the Kennedy Administration blocked an attempt by the Soviet Union to install Nuclear ICBMs on the tropical island, making for a tense October stand-off that had Americans literally heading for their backyard bomb shelters.

This sort of brinksmanship is dangerous, totally unnecessary, and should remain a thing of the past. And the more it happens the more tensions will escalate between the U.S. and Russia, as if the ordinary ebb and flow of world politics doesn’t provide enough fodder for conflicts to arise. And the greater the tension, and larger the number of thermonuclear weapons available for both sides, then the greater the chances of a catastrophic event. And a catastrophic event of a thermonuclear nature would spell the end of mankind. Mistakes do happen, after all, and thermonuclear mistakes are the mother of all mistakes.

Political leaders in Congress, as well as state and local governments, must rise to this challenge, and put their collective feet down in opposition to this policy. The American People must write to their congressional representatives, and organize to prevent a new nuclear arms race from starting. We have little to gain, and literally everything to lose, by pursuing this policy.

Perhaps Trump is using this as a negotiating tactic. Perhaps he has no intention of rekindling the madness of the cold war era, and that ever present, looming threat of global thermonuclear war. In that case, the nuclear arsenal is just another chip in a grand negotiation. It’s a big game between these two nations, that’s been playing out in one form or another over many generations. If so, the President Elect is playing a most dangerous game. Let’s visualize a scale, with concrete, pragmatic, useful diplomatic gains on one side, and the total destruction of life on earth on the other side. It’s hard to imagine any diplomatic gains worth a risk of that magnitude.

Learn more about Trump’s call for a new nuclear arms race (New York Times)


Photo: By Cookkiemonster123Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Beloved actress Carrie Fisher suffers heart attack in flight

Carrie Fisher suffers heart attack

Beloved screen actress Carrie Fisher, best known for her role as the heroic and indomitable Princess Leia in the Star Wars Franchise, suffered cardiac arrest on a flight from London to Los Angeles.

She’s currently in stable condition at an LA hospital, and is reported to be on a respirator, but the situation was critical. The heart attack struck while the plane was airborne, 15 minutes before it was due to land. An EMT who happened to be traveling on the same flight rendered assistance, administering CPR while the pilot made an emergency landing.

Carrie Fisher, who’s now 60, was traveling on a tour to promote her new book, A Princess Diarist, based on diaries she kept as a young actress working on the first Star Wars movie. Now a successful writer, she’s penned several books inspired by her life, her battle with addiction, and her path to recovery, as well as movie making and the Hollywood experience.

Learn more about Carrie Fisher’s condition (BBC)


Photo: By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Carrie Fisher, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Michelle Obama / Oprah interview on President Obama’s Legacy

Michelle Obama / Oprah interview on President Obama's Legacy

Watch Michelle Obama discuss President Obama’s Legacy with Oprah Winfrey. She has a unique perspective as First Lady. Many people on the right have not been kind to the First Lady, who is a highly accomplished lawyer and activist, as well as a devoted wife and mother. But how will history treat her?

Watch Michelle Obama’s interview (youtube / Media House)



Photo: youtube (screen capture) / Media House / CBS

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