Saturday, July 28, 2012

Personal Reflections On Dead Celebrities: Since June 14, 2012

The last time I did one of these posts, I ended it with "TO BE CONTINUED...", because I knew that more notable people would continue dying whom I might would want to write about at a later date. I can't think of anything else to write about today, so here goes. As it turns out, quite a few famous people have died in the past month-and-a-half, so I actually have something to work with here.

1)  RODNEY KING:  One of the few people ever to achieve notoriety for getting the crap beat out of him. LAPD officers pulled King over for a routine traffic stop. Whether or not King actually resisted arrest is still up for debate, but what happened next was clearly uncalled for. Four officers pummeled King relentlessly, while three others looked on, not trying to stop it from happening. King suffered a broken facial bone, a fractured ankle, and numerous bruises and lacerations. The officers were later charged with excessive force -- three were acquitted. King sued the city of Los Angeles, and was awarded $3.8 million in damages. Over the ensuing years, King got into his own share of trouble with the law, including speeding tickets, car crashes, and driving under the influence. King drowned in his own swimming pool earlier this year. He was 47 years old.

Rodney King

2)  NORA EPHRON:  I fully own up to the fact that I am not your typical boy, and that's alright. Case in point: I actually know who Nora Ephron was, and have seen most of her movies. Ephron was a screenwriter, producer, and director of primarily romantic comedy films. She's best known for writing the scripts to hit movies such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless In Seattle, You've Got Mail, and Julie & Julia (the latter three which she also directed). Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia, which she'd been diagnosed with having since 2006. Ephron was 71 years old.

Nora Ephron

3)  ANDY GRIFFITH:  A television icon and North Carolina native, Griffith was a legend in his time. I grew up watching reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and first-run episodes of Matlock (which, in its later seasons, was filmed just a few hours down the road from here in Wilmington, North Carolina). The 1960s sitcom that bears his name still feels fresh after all these years, and the success of Matlock paved the way for other long-running legal dramas like Law And Order. I've always heard that Griffith was an irascible, grumpy old man in real life. That may well be. But on our TV screens -- then, and now -- he was, and is, everybody's favorite sheriff. And lawyer. Griffith was 86 years old.

Andy Griffith

4)  VINZENZ GUGGENBERGER:  Okay, so this guy's not that famous. So sue me (hire Matlock). I picked him for this list because, frankly, he had the most ridiculous name. Sorry, but I'm twisted like that. To give him his due, Guggenberger (snicker, snicker) was the Roman Catholic titular bishop of Abziri, as well as the auxiliary bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Regensburg, Germany. Vinzenz (LOL!) was a bishop for 51 years prior to his retirement in 2004. Guggenberger was 83 years old.

Vinzenz Guggenberger

5)  ERNEST BORGNINE:  This guy had a very long, very successful career. While I may not have seen most -- or even many -- of his films or TV shows, in the limited examples of his work I was exposed to, I know he was a great actor. One of the films I did see him in was Marty, for which he won an Oscar. I haven't seen it in a long time, so I can't fairly summarize it, but I remember that it was good. Borgnine also appeared in classic movies such as From Here To Eternity, The Dirty Dozen, and The Wild Bunch, and starred in the TV series McHale's Navy. The younger generation may recognize his voice, but not his face: Borgnine was the voice of "Mermaid Man" on the TV series SpongeBob SquarePants. Borgnine was still working as an actor at age 95 when he passed away.

Ernest Borgnine

6)  DOLPHY:  Born Rodolfo Vera Quizon, Sr., this comedian/actor was known as "The King of Comedy" in his native country of The Philippines. Personally, I'd never heard of him, but doing my research and watching a few clips of his work on YouTube made me realize that there are many truly important people (in varying degrees, of course) whom we may never know about until they're gone. Dolphy enjoyed great success on stage, radio, television, and movies. Some of Dolphy's most memorable roles came in films such as Jack en Jill, Dolpinger (a James Bond spoof), Facifica Falayfay, Home Along da Riles, and Nobody Nobody But...Juan. Dolphy was 83 years old.


7)  DONALD J. SOBOL:  One of my favorite series of books growing up was the Encyclopedia Brown mystery stories. I loved these pleasant little mysteries, but I was never that good at guessing the solutions (which were provided in a different part of the book, so you could guess "who dun it?" for yourself). Sobol wrote 28 Encylopedia Brown books in all, spanning from 1963 to 2011. I didn't know this before, but Sobol wrote quite a few other books as well -- 65 in total. Some were nonfiction books not aimed at children, and some were written under pen names. But I'll always remember him for those simple mysteries that I could never quite crack. Guess I was never meant to be a boy detective. Or an adult detective, for that matter. Sobol was 87 years old.

Donald J. Sobol

8)  SALLY RIDE:  I was only five years old when Sally Ride became the first American woman to enter into low Earth orbit in 1983, but I remember it. I think I do, at least. Either that, or I was told about it very shortly thereafter, and I remember that. But that wasn't Ride's only distinction during her career at NASA. Sally was (and still remains) the youngest American astronaut to be launched into space. She was also on the investigative panels for two space shuttle disasters, the Challenger and the Columbia -- the only person to serve on both panels. She is also the first astronaut known to have been in a long-term same-sex relationship. Ride was very private about her personal life during her life, but it was made known after her death that not only had she been battling pancreatic cancer for some time, but that she was survived by her female partner of 27 years. Ride was 61 years old.

Sally Ride

9)  RICHARD ZANUCK:  Zanuck was a hugely successful American film producer. He was credited for producing such modern classics as The Sound Of Music, Jaws, and Driving Miss Daisy, among many others. Zanuck worked with some of my favorite directors, like Steven Spielberg (Jaws, The Sugarland Express), Ron Howard (Cocoon), and Tim Burton (Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Sweeney Todd, Alice In Wonderland, and Dark Shadows). Zanuck was 77 years old.

Richard D. Zanuck

10)  SHERMAN HEMSLEY:  Best-known for his role as "George Jefferson" on first All In The Family then its spinoff The Jeffersons, Hemsley was a funny, funny comedian. I loved The Jeffersons growing up, and was happy to see Hemsley cast in a new series when it ended. Amen wasn't on par with Hemsley's earlier series, but his "Deacon Frye" character was almost as memorable, and easily as deftly portrayed by the actor. On the short-lived sitcom Dinosaurs (which I also loved), Hemsley was the voice of the main character's boss, "B.P. Richfield." Hemsley got spotty roles in TV and films after his earlier successes, but he was never able to fully shake the "George Jefferson" character and probably missed out on some good opportunities because of it. An intensely private man, who never married and never had any children, Hemsley was 74 years old when he died.

Sherman Hemsley

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