Here’s the most compact way I can describe 2016.
2016 truly has been a year of things changing forever. In pop-culture, in world government, world economics, and in our hearts. So much loss. Loss of life and loss of identity. So many changes happening so quickly one after the other that we’re not even given a moment to process one before the other one hits. Suddenly we’re all face-to-face with an avalanche of self-awareness.
I was reminded over and over that our childhood heroes are not immortal. That our world is changing faster than anybody can comprehend or realize. And that in the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Death doesn’t discriminate between the sinner and the saints. He just takes and he takes and he takes.”
Sadly, I don’t have the time to give proper homage to everything deserving of 2016, but I will mention a handful of them and share what these changes personally mean to me.
R.I.P. (In no particular chronological order or order of importance)
Craig Sager: Sideline reporter and color wheel improvisor, Craig Sager spent over forty years as a sports reporter. But I will always remember him as the NBA sideline guy whose sense of humor and spirit spoke louder than any color he ever wore on the sidelines. ESPN put together a beautifully touching tribute to Sager on SportsCenter. Sager died of leukemia at the age of 65.
Muhammad Ali: Former heavyweight champion boxer and Civil Rights activist suffered from Parkinson’s Disease for most of his life after boxing. Dan LeBatard said that Ali became a beloved figure to all the minute he lost his ability to speak. But even as the disease deteriorated his brain and body till the bitter end, Ali managed to bring awareness to crucial social issues of today and reminded us how parallel (and often identical) they are to the issues plaguing the world today. Ali was 74.
Alan Thicke: Father of Robin Thicke, 80’s sitcom dad, Canadian, and celebrity prognosticator on The Dan LeBatard Show, Alan Thicke died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 69 while playing hockey with his son. Throughout his time as a guest on LeBatard, we learned that he wrote theme songs to other sitcoms of the 70s and 80s, the Tampa Bay Lightning fight song, and inspired us all to google whether or not turtle wax was still a booming business in his final and possibly funniest appearance on the show. You can hear his final appearance here that was less than a week before his death.
Doris Roberts: Best known as Marie Barone from “Everybody Loves Raymond,” for which she won four Emmys. Doris was a hilarious and vital piece to the cast. Even though the show was cancelled in 2005, Doris remained working consistently as a professional actress until her death in April at the age of 90.
Carrie Fisher: Passing away on December 27, 2016, after suffering a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles, this one hurt more than I thought it would. 60 years old is quite young in 2016, and insult to injury was that there were so many reports of her recovering and in stable condition. I took my dad to see Star Wars: Rouge One only to come out of the theater to the news of her passing. Not that it matters now in the grander scheme of things, but it was also reported that she had finished all her filming for Star Wars: Episode VIII scheduled to release in December 2018. May the Force always be with her.
Debbie Reynolds: Because, you know, 2016. Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, died THE DAY AFTER her daughter. They say it was a stroke, and that may have been true. But the reality of it was that she died of a broken heart from losing her daughter. I remember Reynolds (even at my age) as the mother Grace Adler in “Will & Grace” and the voice of Charlotte in the late 70’s animated adaptation of “Charlotte’s Web.” Reynolds was 84.
David Bowie: English rock star and actor, David Bowie was a musical and overall artistic genius. His androgynous sense of style was not so much for shock value or a “Look at me” intention, but rather to break barriers of what was expected or identified as masculine and feminine and their labels. In the infant days of MTV, he pointed out the hypocrisy of its prejudices the network showed against musicians of color. Things quickly changed soon after. But for me, I will always remember him as Jareth in the 1986 cult classic “Labyrinth” and as Nikola Tesla in Christopher Nolan film, “The Prestige.”
Prince: “Purple Rain” mastermind and musical icon, Prince (with all due respect) didn’t have a big impact on me or my musical tastes while he was alive. The best memory I have of his was actually a story told by Charlie Murphy on “The Chappelle Show” involving Prince and his crew playing basketball and then serving everyone pancakes. Prince’s musical style and fashion sense influenced a whole new generation of artists. His talent was other-worldly. Gone too soon, Prince died at the age of 57 from heart failure.
Gene Wilder: Back in August of 2015, I wrote about a reported rumor that Steven Spielberg was trying to coax Wilder out of retirement to play a primary character in the upcoming “Ready Player One” movie (now set for a March 2018 release.) I don’t know if Spielberg was able to convince Wilder or not, but Wilder died in August 2016 before production for the film began. A comedic genius that will be immortalized as Willy Wonka but also remembered for a library of other films and comedic roles. I’m sure he’s in the best place for pure imagination.
Fidel Castro: ¡Que se va pal carajo ese hijo de puta que ha causado 60 años de sufrimiento a mi familia y a miles de otros Cubanos! El único persona que celebré a noticias de su muerte. I won’t go into 60 years of Cuban history and the history of USA’s relationship with Cuba or how the embargo removal was celebrated (or at least apathetic) to most people in this country except for Miami where the opposition is literally dying out. That’s a post for another day.
“Brexit”: Clearly not the death of a person, but rather a geopolitical identifier simply meaning the United Kingdom’s decision to withdrawal from the European Union. A very surprising, sudden, and complicated concept to wrap your head around. Especially for me from all the way over here. But according to friends of mine who now live in the UK, this is disastrous. I’ll just leave it at that for now until I have read up more on it.
Donald Trump: Not dead. I don’t do politics. At least not vocally on my page. That’s not what my site is for. I’ll just be as vague as possible (or not) by saying, “The beginning of the end,” which is actually an accurate way to close this post and the year 2016 as a whole.
So I’m gonna keep with my New Years tradition of the 12 grapes and cider. I will not take empty luggage around the block; I already know how much traveling I have ahead of me in 2017. I just hope in all seriousness that my loved ones stay healthy and have good fortune in the new year. Stay safe, everyone! Bring on 2017!