On Christmas Day Eartha Kitt passed away and when I heard the news I was cryin' in my coffee, having felt the loss of yet another icon in the entertainment industry that had passed this year. The day that I heard the news that Paul Newman had died I was in my car and was thankful for once to be stuck in traffic so my tears wouldn't obstruct my ability to drive. As an actor and a lover of classic films, losing Paul Newman felt like the industry lost a very big piece of it's soul...the good part. By the time Eartha passed, I was musing on the great losses that the entertainment community lost this year and I just can't help but reflect. We have to know where we've been to understand where we're going and a good entertainer knows who carved that big path before them. Let's hope that their hard work and integrity doesn't fade into the pavement. In no particular order, and with respect to those lost who did not make the list:
What else can a girl say about Paul Newman? He was the perfect man. A force of nature, a passionate love for his wife of 50 years, a well liked guy, damned good looking and devoted to both his family, his art and his philanthropy. Distancing himself from the “Hollywood” of Hollywood, he was still a true movie star...you know...the kind they don't make anymore. Theater, Film, Directing and of course an Acting Career, Paul was a Giant. His silly salad dressing idea that blossomed into a funnel for hundreds of millions in donated cash, he set quite a precedent and might well be the toughest act to follow, ever. Bravo Paul. Those blue eyes will always have a place in history.
Aside from being one of my favorite comedian of all time, the guy was just fucking funny. Second on Comedy Central's List of 100 greatest stand-up comedians, his influence is best understood in the Supreme Court case of F.C.C. v. Pacifica Foundation which featured his Seven Dirty Words routine as one of the corner-stones of their case. A champion for our amendment rights to curse at will, I might not be able to say whatever the fuck I feel like says right now if it weren't for Carlin. Respected and revered by his peers, were it not for Carlin...would Carlos Mencia even have a TV show with which to pay his respects to you?...Probably not. Damn it George! Damn you! I hate that fucking guy!
Okay so looking past the gun toting whack-job look he had mastered there in his later years, he's an amendment defender as well and I have to give the guy credit. How else will we defend ourselves from those damn dirty apes when they get here?! A true movie star and a giant, without whom, so many of our favorite quotable lines might not have resounded in our ears as so quotable. That voice, that gristle, that shiny brow. I hope they let you hang out in hell for a few hours a week so you can get your ass kickin' on!
How poetic that we loose this exotic purring beauty on Christmas Day? Known best for her recording of the holiday classic Santa Baby, she was also Julie Newmar's replacement as Cat Woman, and that's just the layman's stuff. Orson Wells once referred to Eartha as “the most exciting woman in the world”. Being born of a variety of nationalities she was one of the first mixed race sex symbols in entertainment. Her distinctive voice and sexy purr set her apart from other actors as well making her truly one of a kind. The White House branded her a social Pariah after she publicly voiced her disgust with the Vietnam War while attending a luncheon there and fled to Europe, where her American career virtually extinguished (much like Josephine Baker not too many years before). Eartha, had things been different, I can assure you that everyone would know your name, and the American entertainment industry truly missed a great opportunity to utilize your talent.
Yves Saint Laurent
Though maybe not considered entertainment by some, for Fashionistas, Yves Saint Laurent is like the Opera. The French Designer that achieved tremendous accolades at a very young age, he practically reinvented fashion, bringing us “ready to wear” first, and revolutionizing fashion introducing Le Smoking tailored tuxedo, the beginnings of androgynous fashion for women. Class, beauty, Couture, and complexity. Like all good artistic geniuses, he struggled, but the world of fashion will benefit always from his eye for beauty.
Shaft!!!! Oh yeah and a humanitarian and honorary king in Ghana, who helped establish the Southern Soul Record label Stax, that gave us such greats as Otis(THE MAN) Redding, and wrote some of the most recognized songs of a generation. Proving to also be a big freakin' dork like the rest of us he got to be the voice of Chef on South Park. DUDE! Issac was awesome! Shaft!!! He won an Academy Award for that song (and was the first African American to receive an Academy Award of that variety)! I was kinda hoping that he would get another for Chocolate Salty Balls, but no dice..still....Shaft!!
Oh Bettie we loved you...but I already did a whole article. Don't be such an attention whore!
Having been a stage actor for many yearsI can tell you that the fabled sound of “a Pinter play” is an actors wet dream. I never got that lucky, but I still hold out hope. Screenwriter, Actor, Director, Poet, Political Playwright and activist, Pinter was considered by some to be "the most influential and imitated dramatist of his generation". A Tony Award for Best Play, two Academy Award nominations for screenplays begins to make him sound impressive until you dig deeper and discover that he also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005 and was fiercely politically active throughout his career. Festival upon festival has been held in his honor and he has won a great many honorary degrees. The guy was no joke. If you have a penchant for absurdest theater or Samuel Beckett, learn more about the late great Harold Pinter.
I didn't forget you Sidney, you didn't win all those Academy Awards for nothin'! Tootsie, Out Of Africa, The Way We Were, They Shoot Horses Don't They? I love your movies and your cameos always make me smile. I would have loved to work with you. I don't want to regurgitate Wikipedia for filler, so instead I'll just say...be proud.
You know Bo...you just might not think you do. The Bo Diddley beat turned rock on it's awesome fucking ear and said "I'm Bo Diddly Beeeotch!" Countless!...okay maybe not countless but a TON (collective weight easily!) of artists have employed the beat to produce some of their biggest hits. The Rolling Stones, Elvis, The Smiths, David Bowie, U2, Tom Petty and The White Stripes...just to name a few. Rock got a little more roll the day Bo Diddley walked into the joint.
If you're a fan or not, he did give us Jurassic Park, the beloved book and film franchise and EVERYBODY read that book including people who usually don't read. The Dino craze may never have become such a craze sparking an important scientific peak had it not been for Crichton. Among other film projects such as The 13th Warrior (based on Eaters Of The Dead) and Twister, he was also the creator of ER for those of you living under the who's who rock. Going into it's 14th season, I think it's safe to say that he wrote a great premise and the story took off. Emmys, Oscars, PGSs, WGAs, Razzies, most any award for writing Sci-Fi one can receive, one of People Magazine's 50 Most Beautiful People and he even had a dinosaur named after him. Well loved, and continually inspired by the human condition.
Bernie Mac & Heath Ledger
Props as well to both Bernie Mac and Heath Ledger both of whom were taken too early. Though Mac said he was retiring, I can't help but believe that his influence in the industry would still continue to bring us great entertainment. Heath showed us all what he was really capable of in The Dark Night and it's heartbreaking to see such a talent go unexplored. Hopefully he will inspire future actors that struggle with their demons...to seek help.