As promised, here are some of the notable passings of the second half of 2011. To see the January through June folks who are no longer with us, check the previous post.
Substance abuse isn’t funny, but it is at the very least ironic that former First Lady Betty Ford and troubled singer Amy Winehouse, whose biggest hit was a song called “Rehab,” would die in the same month. Mrs. Ford made it okay for famous people to admit to their addictions and seek help.
Trivia fans know the name Sherwood Schwartz. He produced TV shows like “Gilligan’s Island” and “The Brady Bunch,” and wrote their theme songs. I think we should forgive him.
In August two important musicians passed away. Nickolas Ashford performed with Valerie Simpson, but also wrote great songs for Ray Charles, Diana Ross and others. “Reach Out And Touch Somebody’s Hand” was their song. Jerry Leiber wrote with partner Mike Stoller. Among their hits: “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand By Me,” and “Is That All There is?” That’s all there was.
Cliff Robertson died in September, 88 years and one day after he was born. He won an Oscar for his role in “Charly,” and also appeared in “Spiderman,” with many dozens of film and TV roles in-between. Bob Hope’s wife Delores lived to be 102, recording albums in her 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
Steve Jobs of Apple Computers died in October. He had pancreatic cancer, which seems to take many celebrities for some reason. He apparently decided to forego conventional treatment in lieu of alternative medicines until the cancer had progressed too far.
November’s roster of deceased people is quite varied. Andrea True, who was both a disco diva and a porn star died, as did physicist Norman Ramsey who worked on the Manhattan Project and also invented the atomic clock. CBS commentator Andy Rooney died just after he retired. Some people wanted to punch him, which is also true for Joe Frazier, former heavyweight boxing champ.
Bill Keane entertained us for a long time with his cute characters in “The Family Circus.” Lee Pockriss wrote “Itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, yellow polka-dot bikini,” “Teen Angel,” and others. It was a simpler time.
It seems that a lot of people – famous and regular – die in December each year. I’m not sure why, but they do. Harry Morgan died at age 96. He was in lots of movies and even more TV shows, including “M.A.S.H.” and the classic Jack Webb program, “Dragnet.”
Christopher Hitchens wasn’t a household name in most households. He was a brilliant intellectual and an avowed atheist. Vaclav Havel was a writer and the first president of the Czech Republic. He was a true champion for peace and freedom.
If you lost someone close to you in 2011, I’m very sorry. Famous people’s friends and families don’t suffer any more or less than the rest of us. It’s interesting, though, to observe their passings as markers for our own lives.
Here’s hoping I’ll be around to write next year’s summary of those who have left us, and that you’ll be around to read it!