The Lives We Loved: the List Goes On
Just the other day, Washington Times editor, editorial writer, former child actor, Newt Gingrich aide, and literate, witty, sharp-tongued and erudite conservative panelist on the McLaughlin Group as well as husband and father Tony Blankley died of stomach cancer at the age of 63.
Around here, if you were interested in politics and liked hearing intelligent people talk even if you disagreed with them, Blankley’s passing is a loss. He had smarts and style, and passed on mean talk for its own sake, qualities rare in politics and it’s an election year at that.
Life—or rather death—goes on in the new year of 2012. People we know, have heard of, miss or not, people of achievement, and just plain old celebrities pass on and we will too in some year or another. How you view the losses depend almost entirely on who you are, what your interests are, and how old you are. Every year, artists, movie stars, athletes, heads or near-heads of government, people in power, CEOs and inventors die, alongside saints and monsters. We memorialize, remember, celebrate, and grieve for a minute or for years on end. It all depends. The passing of Mikey Welch, a bassist for the rock group Weezer, meant nothing to me, but the death of the lead singer of the Coasters, a 1950s African American rock group who churned out hits like “Yakety Yak” and “Get a Job,” did. So did the passing of Jerry Leiber who co-wrote “Hound Dog,” a signature hit for Elvis.
We all know Steve Jobs, the founder, and found again of Apple, passed on much too soon, and was mourned perhaps beyond reason, but his marketing, if not entirely invention of our daily technology of iPads and iPhones and operating systems changed the world.
I already miss Christopher Hitchens, and not just because it leaves Bill Maher all alone to claim the title of prominent, if not-so-smart, atheist.
The art world lost a lot, including right here in our own back yard—Helen Frankenthaler, for a time an honored and distinguished member of the colorist school of painters whose on genius in the drip world is a permanent contribution to a generation of artist passed away. So did the evocative, eccentric, and quite unforgettable as artist and personality Manon Cleary as well as Rockne Krebs, innovative pioneer in laser, sculptor and technology artist. Nationally, there was Lucian Freund, in-your-face portrait painter and Cy Twombly, enigmatic to the end.
Landscape architect Wolfgang Oehme died of cancer less than a month ago. With James van Sweden, the German-American founded Washington-based Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, which advanced its innovative landscaping they called “the New American Garden,” evocative of American grasslands and prairies. The team’s projects included the National World War II Memorial, Freedom Plaza and Francis Scott Key Park.
Here with a list:
Charles Percy—U.S. Senator from Illinois, Georgetown Waterfront Park booster and pioneer, and honored citizen of the village.
Sargent Shriver—Peace Corps leader and founder, one of the best of the Kennedy generation of leaders and fathers.
Elizabeth Taylor—The woman who defined what it was to be a movie star through great films and bad, numerous husbands, scandals, illness and steadfast support for helping the cause of fighting AIDS. And, oh yes, she was stunning, a Cleopatra, a cat on a hot tin roof, and making Montgomery Clift swoon in “A Place in the Sun”.
Duke Snider—The Brooklyn Dodgers’ classy heart, one of the Boys of Summer
Al Davis—Before Dan Snyder, there was Al Davis, the difference being that Davis won Super bowls and knew football.
Harry Morgan—Colonel Potter to the core and the definition of character actor.
Willie “Big Eyes” Smith —The blues
Jack Lelanne—The man that almost lived and looked good forever.
Kim Jong-il, Osama bin Laden—Still dead.
Ferlin Husky—A Country singer who still lives on those Time-Life record promotions, singing “On The Wings of a Great White Dove”.
Sidney Harman—Entrepreneur, optimist, Sidney Harman Hall and philanthropist.
Vaclav Havel—The words in his plays—were mightier than the sword and helped create the Czech Republic of which he became president, an odd turn to say the least.
Sidney Lumet—Prolific, gritty and genius-level movie director, he gave us ‘Network,’ ‘Dog Day Afternoon,’ ‘Twelve Angry Men’ and others.
Frank Kameny—Our own, enduring pioneer of gay rights.
Nick Ashford—Soulful, wonderful land charismatic writers of soulful songs with his wife .
Bill Clements—Texas governor before the ones we know.
Anette Charles—You might ask, “Who?” And I’ll tell you this: Cha Cha Di Grigorio, dancing with John Travolta in ‘Grease.’
Russ Barbour—The last of “The Four Freshmen.”
Linda Christian, Elaine Stewart, Susannah York, Mary Murphy, Diane Cilento—Memorable in their youth in the movies. Ditto for Farley Granger.
Clarence Clemons—The E Street Band’s saxophone and sound, and the boss says so, too.
James Arness—He was Marshall Dillon to Chester on ‘Gunsmoke’ and the first ‘The Thing,’ too.
Betty Ford—First Lady as down to earth and classy.
Bill Keane—The Family Circus
Geraldine Ferraro—The first female vice presidential candidate.
Reynolds Price—“A Long and Happy Life” for an enduring Southern novelist and writer.
Joe Frazier—Foil for Ali, but one of the greatest heavyweights ever, nonetheless. Just ask Ali.