Saturday 31 December 2016

My Celebrity Mourning

Normally, upon hearing of the death of a celebrity I do not feel grief let alone cry. This year, after hearing of the passing of Carrie Fisher I actually cried - and I am not one who cries easily or often. I suppose the passing of so many famous folk who have had an impact on my life in a relatively short period has taken its emotional and spiritual toll.

Hundreds of celebrities have died this past year, some globally recognised like Bowie and Prince. However, I am not just taking a look at the big names, but rather those who have had some impact on my life. Therefore, my apologies if a star who has affected the reader is not included below.


Dame Zaha Hadid was an (Iraqi-born) British architect with an inspirational design-æsthetic. My significant other & I often discussed her work and whenever she was featured on the cover of a magazine we would purchase and lap up her interviews. As prophets, she never really succeeded in her home country, probably due to local authorities being afeared of their conservative populaces. Hadid was so prolific that even post mortem, buildings will be constructed up to at least 2022.

Cinema, Television & Theatre

[Image description: Leia feeding R2-D2 the hologram; ©]

Yesterday evening I went to the cinema to view Rogue One. The audience ranged from young children accompanied by parents to several elderly couples. The Star Wars saga is now truly intergenerational, so the loss of Princess Leia Organa and R2-D2 has been felt by very many.
I recall queuing at the soon-to-be-demolished ODEON cinema in Manchester and not getting in the first showing, though at the front of the queue for the second, and being amazed and thrilled that a princess could be so gutsy and feisty. Carrie Fisher was perfectly cast and throughout her life she never disavowed the fans. I loved her also in The Blues Brothers (1980) as Jake's vengeful ex, The Man with One Red Shoe (1985), The 'Burbs (1989), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Charlies Angels: Full Throttle (2003), and more recently appearing as a parody of herself on The Big Bang Theory (2014).
Whilst R2-D2 will undoubtedly live on in one form or another in future Star Wars tales, the death of the actor who originally brought 'him' to life, Kenny Baker, as well as the designer of the costume by prop-designer Tony Dyson in the same year does rather suggest R2's passing. That is how it seems to myself anyway.

For many she is remembered for rôles and voice-overs which mean nothing to me personally for Caroline Aherne to me will always be the acerbic Mrs. Merton, who used to regularly have me crying and in pain from laughter in the 1990s.

[Image description: Caroline Aherne as Mrs. Merton; ©]

The Lady Chablis was the drag-queen persona of transgender Brenda Dale Knox who performed brilliantly, outrageously and wittily in one of my all-time favourite films (movies) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (1997). I think this film was the first time I had seen an actual transgendered person on screen and, along with Jude Law and Kevin Spacey playing gay men, illustrated non-heterosexual lives in a convincing fashion.

I cannot recall a time from my childhood when Ronnie Corbett was not on the television. My parents both enjoyed The Two Ronnies. However, I liked him most in the BBC sit-com Sorry in which he played the rôle of eternally harassed Timothy Lumsden, a stay-at-home, unmarried son and librarian. Again I used to cry laughing at the show.

[Image Description: cover of Sorry! series one DVD; © BBC]

Burt Kwouk for me will always be Cato in the Pink Panther films opposite Peter Sellers' incompetent Clousseau. I loved the scenes of the fights whenever Clousseau arrived home to his manservant's partly unexpected attacks. Hysterical! I am chuckling now just at the recall! Nonetheless he was a stalwart of cinema, TV and theatre and played across the board.

Carla Lane wrote several television series that aired during my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood: inter alia The Liver Birds (1969-1978), Bless This House (1971-1976), Butterflies (1978-1983) & Bread (1986-1991). In a sense she was the mother of all these shows.

Alan Rickman whilst fun and scary as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter franchise, for me quintessentially he is the hysterically pompous theatrical Alexander Dane playing Dr. Lazarus in the sci-fi spoof Galaxy Quest (1999). Just an eyebrow raised, a turn of the head or a Look causes me to fall about laughing. Whilst I loved him in many things, the other stand-out part for me was as the cellist dead husband, Jamie, in Truly, Madly, Deeply (1991), a film guaranteed to have me sobbing into sodden tissues. He was a great talent and has bequeathed us all a fabulous legacy.

Sir Peter Shaffer was a playwright and a screenplay-writer. The two that most effected me were star-studded Equus (1977) and Amadeus (1984). The former stirring something in my developing sexuality at the sight of naked Peter Firth. The latter finally led me to an appreciation of Mozart's music, which I continue to enjoy.

[Image description: naked Peter Firth and white-grey horse from Equus; ©]

Liz Smith has been in work I think every year from 1971 until her death whether on the big or little screens. In other words, I have not known a year without her in some rôle or other. However, the part that I love her for most is as the dotty Letitia Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley (1994-1996). The reader has probably gathered by now that I do rather like my comedians/comediennes!

Gareth Thomas appeared in very many television parts, but for me the seminal rôles occurred in 1976, 1977 & 1978 respectively: as Shem in Star Maidens; as Adam Brake in Children of the Stones; and, as Roj Blake in Blake's 7. They were all cheap science-fiction series; but in my late childhood I simply lapped them up.

Victoria Wood felt like someone one knew, a neighbour or acquaintance. She was unafraid to reference her Northern (-English) roots in her comedy or for that matter any of her works. I actually got to see her in the flesh several times, standing a couple of metres from me, when I attended the première of That Day We Sang (2011) at the Manchester International Festival. And whilst she is chiefly known for comedy, her part as the eponymous Housewife, 49 (2006) and her perfectly researched script were heart-breaking.

[Image Description: beermat from 2012 with image of Victoria Wood
advertising a photographic exhibition at © The Lowry]


was a novelist and writer. For me the novels Nothing Natural (1986), Like Mother (1988) and Then Again (1990) stand out and are retained on my bookshelves.

[Image description: novels "Then Again" (© Vintage) & "Nothing Natural" (© Minerva)]


Black also known as Colin Vearncombe was a musician. His album Wonderful Life (1987) is still on my regular play-list, bringing back the Angst from my teenage years and nostalgia for those formative years.

Sir Neville Marriner was a violinist, but it is his career as conductor with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields which touched me. No doubt there are critically acclaimed "better" renditions of Mozart's opus, but it is their collaborative interpretations that brought me into the fold of Mozart enthusiasts. And for that, who would not be eternally grateful!

George Michael I was never a fan of Wham! with the exception of Careless Whisper and Last Christmas (both 1984). It was not until a good friend introduced me to the album Older (1996) on a journey by car from Manchester to Brighton that I fell in love with his music and heart-felt singing. I have purchased all his albums since, but Older remains on my permanent play-list. I was fortunate enough to see him live in concert with some very good chums who are also fans, and he came across as having much less ego than most other pop-singers I have experienced live. Discovering about his philanthropy since his death makes him more likeable (likable) to my mind.


I was brought up with Radio2 always playing in the background, except for my father's forays into Radio4 for the Archers and cricket commentary. Breakfast was hosted by Sir Terry Wogan and mid morning to early afternoon by Sir Jimmy Young. On Saturday mornings we listened to Radio1's Ed "Stewpot" Stewart who also hosted the Friday afternoon BBC1 show Crackerjack. All three broadcasters sadly passed away this year. I suppose though that it is Sir Terry I shall miss most as he had a separate career as a host & compère of television shows. For me his annual (quite possibly tipsy) commentary of the Eurovision Song Contest was the sole reason for watching the often dire show - though in recent years the quality has vastly improved.
Once I moved out of the familial home, I switched in the 1980s to Radio3 the BBC's classical & serious music channel.

[Image description: a photo of Rabbi Blue for an article from © The Independent
and a copy of his book "Blue Horizons"]

Then in the 1990s I switched to Radio4 for current affairs and early-evening comedy shows. During the mornings I would listen to the Today programme which included a daily Thought for the Day slot, approximately five minutes when a religious figure would give a short homily. My favourite was always the kind and affable Rabbi Lionel Blue who invariably seemed to be able to see the good in any situation. He had an infectious chuckle. But it was his rare humanity - which also permeates his books - that was his true gift.


Sir Harry Kroto was a renowned chemist (and graphic artist too) and Nobel prize-winner. He was a great orator which made him an excellent proponent for talking up science to both young people and the media. I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at Manchester Town Hall in front of a packed audience in the noughties. The audience was so enraptured that no-one noticed or minded that he went way past the cut-off time for his presentation. A truly interesting and fascinating person.


Apologies for the font sizing. Blogger has decided that I cannot alter the sizings nor the font in this blog-post for reasons no doubt known only unto itself! %/// If anyone knows how to alter, please let me know the secret!

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