A list of the dead. Macabre. Maybe. But our need to hear their names stated over and over isn’t necessarily morbid fascination. If anything, it’s an odd form of collective mourning. Shared grief. Celebrities, public figures – they are locations on our own mortalities timeline, cities in the emotional landscape we inhabit, constellations that have a strange sense of permanency to them.
Although most of us wouldn’t equate the loss of a stranger with someone we know and care for personally, it doesn’t take a disturbed sycophant or a teenage groupie to feel effected by news of a figure one grew up suddenly existing no more.
Whether we admired, hated, loved, or felt indifferent to the respective people, we are jolted by the information that they’ve died. They’ll no longer be a country to be visited, settled in or avoided. We won’t hear what splendid or repugnant thing they’ve just been up to. They won’t be making headlines with box office sensations or odd arrests on charges of DWI or carrying drugs. Though their work may be spoken about from time to time, some unknown masterpieces even discovered, they won’t be clogging up our TV sets by being the toast of the town or the absurd clown who sold out.
Perhaps the singer who had died was someone your grandmother liked and hearing her name reminded you of her. Perhaps it was someone you and your brother collectively hated and made fun of throughout your teen years and hearing his name made you recall fond memories of home. Or it could have been a writer whose work moved you during different stages of your life, one you took for granted would guide you in the years to come. No matter what the reason, their names were part of the world we lived in, part of the things we went through. For good, bad or neutral, they were there.
It’s only been 6 months into 2018, but this is what our collective book of the dead already looks like:
Suicides are a touchy issue among dead celebrities. First, and foremost, because it’s both dangerous, and stupid to glamorize the tragedy by painting it with some misaligned romanticism since it could easily inspire other depressed copycats. If there’s one place that poetry should be avoided – even when dealing with ‘suicide poets’ like Sylvia Plath – and it’s in the case of people who take their own lives. This year the list of those who were found dead by way of suicide includes, Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain was a celebrity chef and travel documentarian with a formidably dynamic and literary style. A lifelong supporter of LGBT rights, Bourdain was there for many but allowed few close enough to be there for him. Having been in a very fulfilling open relationship with the director/actress Asia Argento, he was great help to her in times of a deep depression. Unfortunately, however, he did not avail himself of her or anyone’s help for that matter when it came to wrestling with his own demons.
Verne Troyer, famous as Mini-Me in the Austin Powers film franchise, was recently found dead. He was an actor, comedian and stuntman who suffered from chronic alcoholism and it’s suspected that his death by way of alcohol poisoning was a diliberate suicide.
Talented and notably clever, Patrick Doyle died at the young age of 32 after having struggled for years with what he himself described as issues with mental health. He was a top-notch musician who played in Veronica Falls and his death remains an unconformed suicide. As a lifelong proponent for the LGBT community, a message on his other music site entitled Boys Forever asks that all donations in lieau of his memory be given to the Los Angeles LGBT Center – an organization noted to have been “an invaluable support for Patrick”.
Tim Bergling, aka DJ Avicii, was likewise found dead. He killed himself at the age of 28 while on holiday in Oman. The Swedish DJ, musician, remixer and record producer was a known perfectionist who collaborated with everyone from Robbie Williams to Coldplay and created a pop masterpiece by reviving and remixing Nina Simone’s classic Feeling Good. In 2016 he retired from touring. Following his death, his family announced that ‘Tim was not made for the business machine he found himself in.’ He was a ‘sensitive and fragile man’ who hated the spotlight. “our beloved son was a seeker,” his family stated, “an artistic soul searching for answers to existential questions. He wanted above all to find peace.”
UK Radio DJ and TV presenter, Dale Winton, made revelations about both his mother’s suicide and his own homosexuality in an autobiography he released in 2002. His father had died on the day of his bar mitzvah and Dale had ongoiung bouts of depression throughout his life. He took his own life at the age of 62. He was found dead on April 18 2018.
Actor and Comedian, Alex Beckett, was a main character on BBC TV”s comedy series Twenty Twelve. His life ended at the young age of 35. Though suicide was suspected, details surrounding his death remain officially unconfirmed.
Katherine Noel Brosnahan was a fashion icon renowned for reinventing the stature of the ‘accessory’ as a fashion statement. Renowned for her handbags and her comment, “I think that playing ‘dress up’ begins at age five and never truly ends,” Spade was not only a fashion guru throughout the mid to late 1990’s but became indicative of a certain ‘Manhattan look’ that would define the classy, sassy, New York woman-on-the-go woman-in-the-know. Having suffered from severe depression throughout her life, Spade hung herself on June 5 2018 and was found dead soon after.
Canadian-American actor and activist, Margot Kidder, became famous in her role as Lois Lane in Superman. She would remain close friends with Christopher Reeves throughout his life. She starred in films like The Great Waldo Pepper opposite Robert Redford as well as Terrence Malick’s scripted film,The Gravy Train, and the highly awarded Canadian production, A Quiet Day in Belfast, totalling 65 films, and 57 TV apperances. Kidder was also an activist who supported the demicratic party and was devoted to social change and liberal causes. She was discovered dead after having died in her sleep on May 13, 2018 of undisclosed causes.
“A Jewish man with parents alive is a fifteen-year-old boy, and will remain a fifteen-year-old boy until they die!,” wrote Philip Roth, the groundbreaking novelist who redefined the Great American Novel with Portnoy’s Complaint and went on to write literary masterpieces the likes of Pulitzer prize-winning works such as American Pastoral. He died two years after declaring his retirement on May 22 2018.
Tom Wolfe, the eloquent journalistic author of Bonfire of Vanities gave us a detailed account of the emergence of the yuppies and the culture void that took form in America of the 80’s. He died May 14 2018.
Former first lady Barbara Bush, though having a dubiuous history in terms of personal prejudices did support Pro-Choice and the Equal Rights Ammendment. She died April 17 2018.
Pamela Gidley, American actress and model dies of undisclosed causes at the age of 52 on April 16 2018.
World renowned French fashion designer, Hubert de Givenchy dies on March 10 2018. Dressing everyone from Audrey Hepburn to Grace Kelly, Jaqueline Onasis and the Duchess of Windsor, Givenchy remains inextricably tied to the history and development of haute couture.
Sir Roger Bannister was the British middle-distance athlete who ran the very first sub-4 minute mile in the 1952 olympics.
Billy Graham, minister and lifelong crusader, friend to many Presidents was a true believer in the most antiquated sense of the term: he believed “Jews owned the media,’ ‘Feminism was a sign of our decadent permissive society,’ and ‘homsexuality was a sin and a sinister form of perversion.’ A true MAN of God.
The Singer of Temptations, Dennis Edwards, dies after years of crooning and a legacy of R&B legendary hit singles like the early My Girl.
Rapper young and old, Fredo Santana and Craig Mack both die of health related reasons leaving a long line of devoted fans behind.
Theoretical physicist, cosmologist and author, Stephen Hawkings, dies on the March 14 2018 at the age of 72 beating all the odds in terms of achievement and ability to function at his best even with a lifelong struggle of battling Lou Gherig’s disease. His book a Brief History of Time created a popular interest in black holes and the way our universe functions.
David Astori, renowned Italian Footballer, dies of cardia arrest at the age of 31.
The last of the “great music hall performers,” comedian, singer, stadup comic, Sir Ken Dodd dies at the age of 90.
Hugh Dane renowned for playing Hank the security guard in the US version of Office as well as being deliciously funny in Bridesmaids dies at the age of 75.
Emma Chambers who played in films like Notting Hill died of ‘natural causes’ at the age of 53.
Renowned for his role in the TV sitcom Frazier as Martin Crane ‘the dad,’ one of America’s most loveable characters – incidentally born in the UK – dies at the age of 77 after a long and fruitful career.
Jessica Falkholt, Asutralian rising star, dies from complications in a car accident that took her parents just days earlier.
The actor Reg E Cathey, known for his role in the Wire, Oz and the Fantastic Four dies at the age of 59 from lung cancer.
Having starred in Sons of Anarchy, the highly talented Irish actor, Alan O’Neill died at the age of 47 from what can best be described as a life of heavy smoking and drinking.
These are but some of the names to have effected many. Names that appear in 2018’s book of the dead. Their death lives within all of us. It lives within all who continue to go on in their absence.