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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

In Memoriam: Remembering stars we lost in 2016

by Lisa Dinkins
Those of us that are Baby Boomers or part of The Greatest Generation have had to endure some major gut punches due to the number of notable souls that left us in 2016. I wanted to mention a few who’ve left their mark on me; Hopefully I will not be alone in my choices.

 I heard the song Tammy the other day, performed so beautifully by Debbie Reynolds in the movie Tammy and The Bachelor. I broke out crying.

“I hear the cottonwoods whispering above, Tammy, Tammy, Tammy’s in love.”  

I never met Debbie Reynolds, never saw any of her live shows, but I felt I knew her.  She was funny, sassy, smart and cute. All the qualities I hoped I possessed. I’d sit on my twin bed watching Tammy on my black and white portable TV and sing along with her, all the while hoping when I was her age I’d hear the cottonwoods whispering to me.  I loved her.  And I loved her even more in How the West Was Won, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, The Singing Nun and of course, Singing in the Rain.  She moved me and held a special place in my Boomer heart, even more so than her daughter Carrie Fisher, who was my generational contemporary.

Carrie Fisher first got my attention as Princess Leia in Star Wars.  It was the first time I remember seeing a woman portraying a…what are the kids saying now…ah yes, a BAD ASS. She was cool, and as I was a sci-fi comic book nerd, she carved a space right in my heart.  As we both got older, her film role in When Harry met Sally and her book Postcards from the Edge impressed me even more. But, although I was sad she passed, I didn’t cry.

We lost Harper Lee, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Read the book. Saw the movie. Loved it.  A love story between a father and daughter, which stressed honor, truth, respect and tolerance, told in a way that was part adventure, part mystery.  My life was forever changed.

Mohamad Ali.  Heavyweight champion of the world & activist. I wasn’t a big fan of the boxing genre during his Cassius Clay days, or on into his name change, but I knew who he was.  I knew my uncle loved him, and I know he made an impact on the world.

Patty Duke.  Who didn’t know the words to The Patty Duke Show theme song:
“They laugh alike, they walk alike, 
At times they even talk alike — 
You can lose your mind, 
When cousins are two of a kind.” 

Who doesn’t remember seeing Patty (real name Anna Marie) portray Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker, or as Neely O’Hara screaming for her drugs in Valley of the Dolls.  Patty Duke was one of a kind.

Zsa Zsa Gabor.  I was never quite sure why she was who she was.  But she was always provocative, unique and interesting.

David Bowie.  I became a fan a bit late in his career.  I wasn’t able to appreciate his earlier work, but after he sang Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby on the 1977 Christmas TV special, I was hooked.

Arnold Palmer.  Not that I followed golf anymore than I followed boxing, but I knew who he was. And of course, I loved to order his namesake drink at restaurants.  Made me feel like an adult when dining with my parents.

Florence Henderson. The Brady Bunch.  Momma Brady.  'Nuff said.

Robert Vaughn.  Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. television series, which I loved.

Alan Young. Mr. Ed. "Awww Wilbur."

George Kennedy.  More often than not playing the heavy rather than the hero, as evidenced by his indelible portrayal of the convict Dragline in Cool Hand Luke. However, as Patroni, the head of maintenance operations in the movie AIRPORT, he finally got his chance to play against type, later flexing his comedic chops in the Naked Gun films.

Noel Neill, who’s initial career goal was to be a journalist like her father, got to play one as Lois Lane in The Adventures of Superman series from 1953-58. There were two Lois Lane's in the TV series. She was my favorite.

Gene Wilder.   “Hold your breath. Make a wish. Count to three.” These lines begin the wonderful song Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka, the film that introduced me to and made me fall in love with this brilliant actor.

Earl Hamner Jr.  The prolific writer who created among other things, The Waltons television show. I had the honor of meeting him at a barbecue once and he couldn’t have been more charming. Goodnight Earl.

There are so many more, and MeTV has done a lovely job of listing them on its website:

Here’s hoping 2017 allows us to celebrate our cultural icon's longevity and reminisce with them, not just about them.

By the way, I’m Lisa.  I’m new here. Thanks for hanging out.

Lisa Dinkins is a Los Angeles based actor, model, and writer, as well as a Baby Boomer and lover of American Pop Culture nostalgia. Lisa is a contributing writer, reporter, and co-host for Galaxy Nostalgia Network. Her impressive acting career can be found at IMDB (click here)

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