Today we were saddened to hear of the passing of Nichelle Nichols, a.k.a. Lieutenant Nyota Uhura from Star Trek, life-changing inspiration and role model of millions. Millions of actors, creators, celebrities, fans, and news sites are online to explain who she is or what she meant to so, so many. For me as a youngster who caught the OG Enterprise crew in reruns, she was an integral part of a stellar interstellar ensemble who showed us, despite innumerable obstacles in their path, that theirs was a potential future for humankind, in which everyone works, lives, and succeeds side-by-side in forging new paths together.
The year 2020 is an incorporeal super-villain mastermind and everyone’s list of grievances against it is longer than a protest march and bitterer than black coffee tinged with chicory and herbicide. I’ve tried to work through several of my own fears and anxieties here throughout the course of the year, but one nagging thought has escaped articulation for months. It’s the sort of riddle that drives a thinker nuts if they dwell on it too long. Every faith and/or philosophy has a response to it, but not necessarily an answer. “All is within God’s Plan.” “Everything will make more sense in the end.” “The universe works in mysterious ways.” “Perhaps we’ll never know.” “Everything is meaningless and we’re all doomed so why worry about it.” Or put it out of mind and distill it into Kurt Vonnegut’s black-humored humanist shrug of “So it goes.”
Faith notwithstanding, it bugs me anyway. I’m 48 and counting. I am who and what I am. I have my uses, but I’m just me. Why did Chadwick Boseman only get to make it to 43?
I caught the news about the passing of Jeopardy!‘s own Alex Trebek an hour after it hit the mainstream press. An hour after that, I had to be the one to inform my wife. I let her finish her nap first rather that spring a rude awakening upon her. If there’s any emotion that should never be associated with Trebek, it’s rudeness.
Once upon a time the phrase “director Joel Schumacher” was a handy punchline and/or an unpleasant flashback trigger in many geek circles. Y’know, after what happened with the one (1) film. Never mind that he amassed over three dozen other credits over the course of his career, quite a few of which were eminently watchable and in some cases even respectable. Granted, that most notorious failure derailed a beloved film franchise for several years, hobbled a zillion-dollar merchandising machine for about ten minutes, and was a ludicrous betrayal to those of us who were perhaps a bit too unyielding in our stoic allegiance to Super Serious Super-Heroes.
I let that go years ago. Sooner or later all punchlines gets tired upon incessant repetition, most grudges get pointless as time passes, and some axes don’t need any more grinding.
I was sorry to hear of Schumacher’s passing on June 15th at age 80 after a year-long battle with cancer. Cancer sucks. Much as I’d love to write a definitive summation of his career, that’s best left to professional websites who underpay collaborative teams to compile such listicles from their combined viewing experiences. The following is a personal recollection of my encounters with his works from my teenage years to two months ago. It’s not a long list, or a logically organized or comprehensive one, but it’s mine.
Sunday was not a kind day for our favorites in the entertainment world. Mere hours after the passing of Caroll Spinney, the kind soul behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, we were further saddened to hear about the passing of actor Rene Auberjonois from lung cancer at age 79. Many a youth cackled at his small but lively role in Disney’s The Little Mermaid as the French chef who tries to turn Sebastian the crab into an appetizer, but he’s been around since I was a kid. His repartee with Robert Guillaume on ye olde sitcom Benson (among other fine costars including Star Trek: Voyager‘s Ethan Phillips) taught me the comedy value in sparring opposites and well-timed barbs. It probably also taught me that haughty, no-nonsense stuffed shirts had much to learn about being kinder to coworkers, so there’s that value.
Sunday morning I was saddened and shocked to learn of the unexpected passing of Caroll Spinney, that dear absolute giant from the original cast of TV’s Sesame Street who brought to life two of that avenue’s great yet opposite creations: the childlike Big Bird, patron saint of friendly innocents; and the ornery Oscar the Grouch, a benign symbol of our selfish dark sides. He threw himself into both roles with gusto and aplomb for decades, and left his imprint on millions of kiddos.
I didn’t hear the news till earlier today of the September 21st passing of actor Aron Eisenberg. We didn’t realize he wasn’t that much older than us. Age 50 is far, far, far, far too young. Really, all ages are far too young, but you know what I mean. I’m not sure my thoughts run more deeply than “This really, really sucks,” but we do have a few mementos for our remembrances.
Fans grieved hard enough years ago when Chewbacca died in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, crushed by a moon. Hearing today of the death of Peter Mayhew, the man who brought George Lucas’ original Wookiee to life, was far more sorrowing. Everybody loves Chewbacca. Not even The Star Wars Holiday Special could damage him or our appreciation for the heart and muscle and loyalty he brought to the other, much shorter heroes of that faraway galaxy.
I knew something had gone wrong with the day when two coworkers approached and interrupted met at lunch. They usually know better, but they felt it was their duty to break the news to me that the legendary Stan Lee himself had at long last passed away at age 95. In many ways I’m glad they were the messengers, as opposed to finding out by stumbling into random, cryptic retweets from strangers.
I’ve been offline most of today, but upon returning late Saturday night was saddened to hear of the unexpected death of actor Scott Wilson at age 76. Most folks today know him as Herschel from seasons 2-4 of The Walking Dead, the kindly farmer and sage of the ensemble, often the conscience during the toughest of times when he wasn’t dealing with critical injuries, grieving the loss of teammates and family, or suffering the cruelty of the Governor. Barely an hour before his passing, news had broken at this weekend’s New York Comic Con that he would be returning this coming season for a flashback, most likely in connection with Andrew Lincoln’s farewell episodes and hopefully not as his surprise twin brother Murschel.