Thursday, December 29, 2016

Countdown to 2017: Who we lost in 2016, Part 1

The deaths of Carrie Fisher and Richard Adams, the author of one of my favourite books, Watership Down, reminds that 2016 was a bad year for losing the famous and people you didn’t necessarily know were famous. Or maybe it’s like any other year but was just more widely reported.

Here are some of those who shuffled off the mortal coil this year. Until I prepared the list I didn’t know that some people were in fact on the list.

For the benefit of overseas readers, I have denoted the Australian celebrities with an Australian flag.


Mortal coil is a poetic term that means the troubles of daily life and the strife and suffering of the world. Back in the 15th century “coil” meant “troubles”

Shuffling off the mortal coil, meaning to abandon the burdens and bustles of daily living, was coined by Shakespeare in the “To be or not to be” soliloquy by Hamlet:

To die, to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.”

Not sure if I should claim this as an Australian celebrity but why not, he was born here, moving to England when he was 21).

Robert Stigwood:

Date of death: 04.01.2016, aged 81.

Cause of death: Not disclosed.

About: Robert Stigwood was an Australian-born British-resident music entrepreneur, film producer and impresario, best known for managing Cream and the Bee Gees, theatrical productions like Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar and film productions including the hugely successful Grease and Saturday Night Fever.

David Bowie:

Date of death: 10.01.2016 aged 69.

Cause of death: Bowie died of liver cancer two days after the release of his final album, Blackstar. He had been diagnosed 18 months earlier but had not made the news of his illness public

About: David Bowie was a figure in popular music for over five decades, regarded by critics and musicians as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970's. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his works being influential on popular music. His record sales, estimated at 140 million worldwide, made him one of the world's best-selling music artists. If you’ve never watched Labyrinth, do so to see him as the Goblin King (see pic above), wonderful. 

Alan Rickman:

Date of death: 14.01.2016, aged 69.

Cause of death: Pancreatic cancer

About: Alan Rickman was an English actor and director known for playing a variety of roles on stage and on screen. Rickman trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing in modern and classical theatre productions., but is today best remembered for his film performances as Hans Gruber in Die Hard and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series. He was also the guy who cheated on Emma Thompson in Love Actually (Booo!).

Abe Vigoda:

Date of death: 26.01.2016, aged 94.

Cause of death: It was reported that Vigoda died in his sleep of “natural causes”.

About: Abe Vigoda was an American actor and comedian who was best known for his portrayals of Salvatore Tessio in The Godfather, Phil Fish in Barney Miller from 1975 to 1977 and Fish from 1977 to 1978.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali:

Date of death: 16.02.2016, aged 93

Cause of death: Unknown. He died in hospital after being admitted for a broken pelvis.

About: Boutros-Ghali was an Egyptian politician and diplomat who was the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1992 to December 1996. An academic and former Vice Foreign Minister of Egypt, Boutros-Ghali oversaw the UN at a time when it dealt with several world crises, including the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Rwandan Genocide. 

Harper Lee:

Date of death: 19.02.2016, aged 89.

Cause of death: Not disclosed.

About: Nelle Harper, better known by her pen name Harper Lee, was an American novelist widely known for “To Kill a Mockingbird”, published in 1960. Immediately successful, it won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize and has become a classic of modern American literature. Though Lee had only published this single book, in 2007 she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature.

George Kennedy:

Date of death: 28.02.2016, aged 91

Cause of death: The only information is that he died of a "heart ailment".

About: George Kennedy was an American actor who starred in “Cool Hand Luke,” “Airport” and “Naked Gun”. He appeared in more than 200 film and television productions and won an Academy Award as best Supporting Actor for portraying "Dragline" opposite Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967). Kennedy was the only actor to appear in all four films in the Airport series and was also widely recognized as Police Captain Ed Hocken in the Naked Gun series. At the time of his death, Kennedy was the oldest living Oscar winner in the Best Supporting Actor category. Coincidentally, he died the day of the 88th Academy Awards ceremony.

Nancy Reagan:

Date of death: 06.03.2016, aged 94

Cause of death: Congestive heart failure.

About: Nancy Reagan was an American actress, and the wife of the 40th President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. She served as the First Lady of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Mrs Reagan founded the "Just Say No" drug awareness campaign to curb recreational use of drugs and was widely acknowledged to have a profound effect on her husband’s decision making as President.

Jon English:

Date of death: 09.03.2016, aged 66.

Cause of death: Post-operative complications following surgery for an aortic aneurysm.

About: Jon English was a British-born Australian singer, songwriter, musician and actor. He emigrated to Australia with his parents in 1961. He was an early vocalist and rhythm guitarist for Sebastian Hardie but left to take on the role of Judas Iscariot in the Australian version of the stage musical Jesus Christ Superstar from May 1972, which was broadcast on television. English was also a noted solo singer; his Australian top twenty hit singles include "Turn the Page", "Hollywood Seven", "Words are Not Enough", "Six Ribbons" and "Hot Town". English was also acclaimed for his starring role in the 1978 Australian TV series Against the Wind.

Keith Emerson:

Date of death: 11.03.2016, aged 71.

Cause of death: Self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The medical examiner ruled his death a suicide and concluded that he had also suffered from heart disease and from depression associated with alcohol. According to Emerson's girlfriend Emerson had become "depressed, nervous and anxious" because nerve damage had hampered his playing, and he was worried that he would perform poorly at upcoming concerts and disappoint his fans.

About: Keith Emerson was the keyboardist who founded Emerson, Lake and Palmer, one of the early progressive rock supergroups. His bandmate Greg Lake, 69, who was also a founding member of King Crimson, died Dec. 7. 

Garry Shandling:

Date of death: 24.03.2016, aged 66.

Cause of death: Heart attack.

About: Garry Shandling was an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and producer, best known for his work in It's Garry Shandling's Show and The Larry Sanders Show.

Patty Duke:

Date of death: 29.03.2016, aged 69.

Cause of death: Sepsis from a ruptured intestine.

About: Patty Duke was an American actress of stage, film, and television. She first became known as a teen star, winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress at age 16 for her role as Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker (1962), a role which she had originated on Broadway. The following year she was given her own show, The Patty Duke Show, in which she played "identical cousins”. Duke was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1982, after which she devoted much of her time to advocating for and educating the public on mental health issues.

Bob Ellis:

Date of death: 03.04.2016, aged 73.

Cause of death: Liver cancer.

About: Robert Ellis was an Australian writer, journalist, filmmaker, and political commentator. Readers may recall the defamation action instituted by Australian politicians (Tony) Abbot and (Peter) Costello against Ellis and his publisher in respect of comments in his book “Goodbye Jerusalem”. The following is from Ellis’s obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald:
In 1997, Neville Wran launched Ellis's memoir Goodbye Jerusalem but it was pulped within days due to an unfounded anecdote about the pre-marital sex life of Tanya Costello, treasurer Peter Costello's wife. His publishers paid $277,500 damages to the Costellos and the then new Liberal minister, Tony Abbott, and his wife Margie.

The court case was an amusing spectator sport for all with the exception of Mrs Costello.

The day the Federal Court rejected his publisher's appeal, Ellis sat in Aussies Cafe in the federal Parliament unrepentant: "Mate, you've got to wonder what sort of man would make his wife or former girlfriend discuss her sex life in front of a judge. In any event, the judge decided Tanya Costello's hymen was worth the price of two new Porsches."

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