I am in mourning.
For so many people. For so many things.
So many of the singers and musical artists who enhanced my life from childhood on were muted in 2016. David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Prince, Maurice White, Merle Haggard, Leon Russell, Pete Fountain, Juan Gabriel, Leonard Cohen, George Michael. And Bobby Vee.
Robert Velline of North Dakota was one of the many pop stars and teen idols of my adolescence who triggered my yet understood attractions to men. When he sang “Take Good Care of My Baby,” I wanted to take care of him. He had the voice of a scrumptious dessert and a face that begged to be savored on a silver fork.
Other celebrities and important people died, too, in 2016, people who made a difference, people who made history. Muhammed Ali, Harper Lee, John Glenn, Arnold Palmer, Janet Reno, Gary Marshall, Elie Wiesel, Pat Summitt, Gene Wilder, Gwen Ifill, Gordie Howe, Patty Duke, and dear Carrie and darling Debbie. And Doris Roberts.
Most people, today, think of Doris Roberts as Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond. How many Emmys did she win for that performance, for bringing that complex character to life? But I have loved Doris Roberts since the mid-1970s when she appeared as faux faith healer Dorelda Doremus on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. Doris Roberts made me laugh then. But she also made me feel. When Doris Roberts died I felt sadness.
But the celebrity death that touched me the most, that had a personal connection, was that of Zsa Zsa Gabor. The mediocre actress with the stunning face and amplified personality and my mother had been school mates for one year as teenagers. As a result, I grew up well aware of Ms. Gabor and followed her career and life as if she were a distant cousin. Mom’s impressions of Zsa Zsa were not positive. But the qualities she harped on were qualities she, too, had. So, in hindsight, I often wondered how fair an assessment’s Mom’s comments were. When Zsa Zsa died recently, I grieved for an era, an era in Hollywood and an era in my family history. But I also grieved for the suffering Ms. Gabor endured over the last years of her life and how she fell short of her hundredth birthday by just three months. For years, I had pulled for her to reach that milestone; it would have seemed so appropriate for that glamorous larger-than-life woman.
The 2016 deaths for which I grieve the most, however, are the deaths of civility, journalism, truth, America, and Democracy as we know it. I knew the latter two were coming as early as the Shakespearean tragedy election of 2000 when hanging chad and other issues in Florida elected George W. Bush president. I knew it was coming in 2004 when The Apprentice became a hit TV show, catapulting Donald Trump’s success and notoriety beyond business. I just didn’t know how or when these events would intertwine and strangle America to death. The date, we learned this year, was November 8, 2016.
You may now close the casket.