If you Google “stars who died in 2016” you’ll find plenty of articles listing credentials and ages (some far, far too young) of those famous folk who left us in 2016. There’s also musings on why so many stars died in 2016 and attempted explanations. And then there’s the social media responses — people the world over devastated, and noting the fragility of life. Why is this? I wondered, when people die every day of the year.
To me, I think this strange phenomenon has been so hard to take because artists are like friends: they entertain us, they provide us a glimpse into their glamorous lives so different to our own and in return, it’s like we know them. Like they are indeed friends. To me, at least, I think the loss of so many “stars” has been emotional because on some level, it’s akin to losing many friends in short succession.
So what I want to do in this post is list those dearly departed stars whom I considered friends and allow myself a brief reminiscence about how our lives intersected.
Carrie Fisher— Star Wars was the first video my dad rented for us kids when VHS machines were the height of technology. I can still picture that video shop and the awesome 1970s jacket cover of that beloved movie. My younger brother and cousin would watch the Star Wars trilogy over and over in our lounge room, and what I remember most about those long ago days is the feeling of camaraderie, of all the family together watching Luke and Hans Solo and Princess Leia save the universe. And of course those buns and that gold bikini will forever be burnt onto the retinas of this 80s kid!
George Michael —Wham! brought my mum and I together musically for the first time when I was eight and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go hit number one. Mum loved Wham! probably even more than I did and for years, I bought her their albums (including the Christmas compilations!) cause it made me feel connected to her. Years later, his nineties hits were amongst my favourite songs and I spent many a morning dancing in front of Rage wishing I was one of his elite Supermodel pack. (Still hoping…) When his untimely death was announced a few days ago, I went through my CD collection and found a “best of” double album I’d purchased for $35 in 1998. That’s about a million bucks in today’s money, but gosh he was worth it.
David Bowie—Iconic super-weird, spooky-looking genius. My younger sister has a denim jacket with his face on the back that she’s owned for years and wears it everywhere. Any mention of Bowie makes me think of my sister who is also a super genius, but luckily for her, not in a spooky-weird way.
Alan Rickman—Boy did this guy play an amazing villain. I use Die Hard extracts in some of my writing courses and Hans Gruber was just the ultimate 80s action bad guy. I tear-up every time I hear him say “Ho, ho, ho,” during class now, almost like he were reaching out from the other side to cut my heart out with a spoon (Sherriff of Nottingham reference for those who don’t get it.)
Gene Wilder – Willie Wonka. Need I say more?
Prince — On New Year’s Eve 2000, did anyone not hear Party like it’s 1999? I recall that NYE party and his iconic hit being played all night. Years before, I danced to songs from his Diamonds and Pearls album underage in Bali nightclubs. Oh god, the fun! (I will be far stricter with my children than my parents ever were with me.) Prince was awesome. Absolutely awesome.
Leonard Cohen —Ah, Leonard, I’ve left you till last my friend. My husband introduced me to you. He’s been a fan forever and when I got him, I got you too. So much does Gavin love you, that I incorporated some of your lyrics into my wedding speech: “There is a crack, a crack in everything. It’s how the light gets in.”
And perhaps that’s a fitting place to leave this post. There’s been plenty of cracks in 2016, but lots of light, too.
Vale my friends. You’ll be missed, but remembered often. Thanks for everything you did, you were amazing and I hope you know you were loved.