Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year of Hell

In 1975, Billy Joel wrote a song titled "Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out On Broadway)." It might have been understandable if 2017 were to have it in for us.

What did we do to 2016 to make this year hate us so much?

In 2008, Joel C. Rosenberg published Dead Heat, a thriller in which Washington, D.C. is hit by 2 nuclear warheads, killing millions, including the President, and nearly all of Congress. New York and Los Angeles are also wiped out.

I'd never heard of it. It hasn't been made into a feature film.

2012 was. But when the year in question came, it wasn't so bad, and on the day in question, December 21, not only did the world not come to an end, but nothing much happened.

So why did 2016 have such hate for humanity? I don't know.


January 7: Kitty Kallen dies at age 94. She was one of the top singers of the 1940s and '50s.

January 10: David Bowie dies of cancer, 2 days after his 69th birthday. While he had his issues, he was one of the truly liberating performers in the history of music. And also a very good actor.

The best thing I've ever seen written about any musical personality was comedian Margaret Cho's essay about him in 2004, while he was still very much alive and creating. I wasn't much of a fan of his before. She made me understand what he meant.

January 11: Monte Irvin dies at age 96. He was a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame for his performance with the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues (winning the Negro World Series in 1946) and the New York Giants of the major leagues (winning the World Series in 1954). Before Jackie Robinson was signed, Irvin was frequently cited as the man who might break baseball's color barrier.

January 14: Alan Rickman dies of cancer at age 69. He was a good guy in Galaxy Quest, a bad guy in Die Hard, and drifted between the two in the Harry Potter films.

January 18: Glenn Frey dies at age 69, from pneumonia and colitis, brought on by the drugs he was prescribed for arthritis. Not exactly what we think of when we think of "rock stars who died from drugs," but, clearly, his doctors blew it.

He was the first member of The Eagles to die, having co-written and sung lead on "Take It Easy," "Tequila Sunrise," "Lyin' Eyes," "Life In the Fast Lane" and "Heartache Tonight."

Already, people were saying that 2016 has taken too many good people.

January 23: In a campaign speech in Sioux City, Iowa, Donald Trump, incompetent businessman, all-around blowhard and candidate for the Republican Party's nomination for the office of President of the United States, says, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot people, and I wouldn't lose voters, okay? It's, like, incredible."

In so doing, he showed his love of violence, his disrespect for the law, his megalomania, and his 8th grade vocabulary.

This was after he had already, in 2015, called Mexican immigrants "rapists;" said that Senator John McCain of Arizona, the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee, was "a war hero because he was captured"; gave out the home phone number of a nomination rival, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina; and made a reference to a feminine bodily function of debate moderator Megyn Kelly -- from Fox News, no less, essentially the propaganda arm of the Party whose nomination he was trying to win.

At this point, the American media should have done whatever it took to say that Trump was mentally unstable, and too dangerous to be trusted with the office of the Presidency.

They didn't, because he meant big ratings for them. It wasn't just his outrageousness, it was that they had a vested interest in the election being close. They didn't want a landslid win by either party's nominee. By the time he began bragging about being a rapist, the very thing he accused Mexican immigrants of being, it was too late.

January 26: Abe Vigoda dies at age 94. He played Corleone caporegime Sal Tessio in The Godfather, went to the other side of the law to play Detective Sergeant Phil Fish on Barney Miller, and did "character actor" roles for most of the rest of his life.

Some of us thought he died years ago; indeed, it became a running gag. Some of us thought he'd live forever.

January 28: Paul Kantner dies from the effects of a heart attack. The Jefferson Airplane guitarist was 74.

January 28: The World Health Organization announces an outbreak of the Zika virus, endangering pregnant women and their children.

February 3: Maurice White dies at 74 from the effects of Parkinson's disease. He was the guiding force behind 1970s funk band Earth, Wind & Fire.

February 4: Edgar Mitchell dies at age 85. He was the pilot of Antares, the lunar module on Apollo 14, and walked on the Moon.

His death leaves 7 of the 12 men who walked on the Moon still alive: Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11), Alan Bean (Apollo 12), David Scott (Apollo 15), John Young, Charles Duke (these last 2 on Apollo 16), Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt (the last 2 on Apollo 17).

February 7: North Korea launches a long-range rocket into space, violating multiple United Nations treaties, and prompting condemnation from around the world.

February 9: Donald Trump wins the Republican Party's New Hampshire Primary with 35 percent of the vote, nearly as much as the next 3 candidates combined. There were times when his own party could have stopped him. This, after Ted Cruz had already beaten him in the Iowa Caucuses, was probably the best time to do it.

February 12: Johnny Lattner dies at 83 from Mesothelioma. The Notre Dame quarterback won the Heisman Trophy in 1953, and played the 1954 season with the Pittsburgh Steelers, before entering the Air Force and suffering a career-ending injury.

February 13: Antonin Scalia, one of the most damaging Justices in the history of the U.S. Supreme Court, dies of a heart attack at age 79. That wasn't a bad thing. The Republicans would not accept President Obama's nominee to replace him, Merrick Garland. They wouldn't even hold hearings on whether he would be confirmed, much less a vote on it. That was.

February 19: Harper Lee dies at age 89, shortly after being manipulated into publishing her manuscript for Go Set a Watchman, a sequel to her only previous novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.

February 20: Trump wins the South Carolina Primary, with 32 percent of the vote. Cruz and Marco Rubio each got 22 percent. It was now clear that the only way Trump was not going to get the nomination was if the Party coalesced around a single candidate against him. But Cruz, Rubio and John Kasich all refused to drop out. Had any 2 of those 3 gotten behind 1, it could have been different.

February 28: George Kennedy dies at age 91. He won an Oscar for playing a prisoner in Cool Hand Luke, and starred in all 4 Airport films. He showed a penchant for comedy, both as a panelist on Match Game and in the Naked Gun spoof films.

February 28: Delmer Berg dies at age 100 in Columbia, California. He was believed to be the last survivor of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, Americans who fought for the Spanish Republic in the Spanish Civil War.

February 28: Trump is endorsed by David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a group that is "credited" with killing over 4,000 people over its blood-soaked history. Asked to disavow the leader of this anti-black, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic terrorist group, he refuses.

Asked about it on CNN, he said, "Just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke, okay?" This was quickly proven to be a lie, as a search of Trump's idiotic Twitter account showed.

This is a signal to racists and other bigots -- white nationalists, and even neo-Nazi groups -- that he is one of them, and that, since he is the Republican frontrunner, it is now okay to be openly bigoted again. The Era of Black President is over.

March 8: George Martin, the Beatles' producer, dies at age 90.

March 11: Keith Emerson shoots and kills himself, depressed over heart trouble. The keyboard player for The Nice, and for Emerson, Lake & Palmer was 71.

March 22: Three coordinated bombings in Brussels, Belgium, kill 32 people, and injure at least 250 people. "The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) claims responsibility.

March 23: Ken Howard dies of a heart attack at age 71. He played 2 Presidents: Thomas Jefferson in the 1972 film version of the musical 1776, and John F. Kennedy in a 1971 play titled JFK. However, he is best remembered for playing an NBA player turned high school basketball coach on the late 1970s TV series The White Shadow.

March 24: Johan Cruijff dies of cancer, shortly before his 69th birthday. Perhaps the greatest soccer player that Europe has ever produced, he made Amsterdam club AFC Ajax a world legend, brought FC Barcelona back to prominence, gave the North American Soccer League a dash of credibility, and then revolutionized Barcelona again as manager. Alas, he lost the 1974 World Cup Final with the Netherlands, and controversially didn't play for them in 1978, when they lost in the Final again.

March 24: Comedian Garry Shandling dies of a blood clot at age 66.

March 27: A suicide bombing in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Park, Lahore, Pakistan kills 75 people and injures around 340 others. A militant Sunni Islamic organization claims responsibility, saying they were targeting Christians for celebrating Easter.

March 29: Patty Duke dies of a ruptured intestine at age 69.

April 2: Clashes between the armies of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh kill 193 people, the heaviest breach of the 1994 ceasefire between the countries.

April 6: Merle Haggard dies from long-term pneumonia at 79. He had long looked his name, haggard, but it was a surprise that he lasted as long as he did. And it's a shame, because he was one of the few country singers to call out his peers for supporting conservatives who kept poor people, white and black alike, poor.

April 17: Doris Roberts dies of a stroke at age 90. One of those actors you always remembered by face, if not by name, until she played family matriarch Marie Barone on Everybody Loves Raymond.

April 20: Joanie Laurer dies from a mix of alcohol and prescription drugs. The former wrestler known as Chyna was only 46

April 21: The artist usually known as Prince dies from an overdose at age 57. He had taken opioids for pain in his legs. He should have had transplants for both hips, but he didn't get them -- not because he couldn't afford them, like some people, but because, as a Jehovah's Witness, his religion prohibited blood transfusions.

April 24: Billy Paul dies of cancer at age 81. He was born Paul Williams, but reversed his name because there was already a major white songwriter and a member of The Temptations, both named Paul Williams. Although he has been lauded for pro-civil rights songs, he is mainly remembered for his 1972 Number 1 hit "Me and Mrs. Jones."

May 19: EgyptAir Flight 804, heading from Paris to Cairo, crashes in the Mediterranean Sea, with 66 people on board.

May 19: Alan Young dies at age 96. He was the first actor to play the superhero Mr. Terrific (in a 1966 attempt to piggyback on the fame of Batman and The Green Hornet), voiced Keyop and 7-Zark-7 on Battle of the Planets and Scaredy Smurf on The Smurfs, and did a lot of Disney cartoon voices from the 1980s onward, including Scrooge McDuck. However, he'l always be best remembered as Wilbur Post on Mister Ed.

June 3: Muhammad Ali dies from the long-term effects of Parkinson's disease, at age 74. Had he merely been the best boxer of his time, that would have made him a legend. But because of the force of his personality, and the causes he took up, he made himself something more. There will never be another like him. There couldn't be, because of the times. And he is still... The Greatest... of All Time!

June 10: Gordie Howe dies from the effects of a stroke. "Mr. Hockey" was 88.

June 10: Christina Grimmie is shot and killed. The Voice contestant was 3 years into what should have been a long musical career. She was only 22s.

June 12: A gunman shoots over 100 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, killing 49.

June 19: Anton Yelchin dies in a freak car accident at his Los Angeles home. The actor who played Pavel Chekov in the new Star Trek movies -- and, unlike Walter Koenig on the original show, actually was born in Russia -- was only 27.

June 23: Great Britain, by 52 to 48 percent, votes to leave the European Union -- the "British Exit" or Brexit." Even as the votes are being counted, the pound loses 1/8th of its value. Eventually, it loses 1/5th of its value. Many people voted for Brexit because the money the U.K. was paying to the E.U. would then go back to the National Health Service. The Conservative government announced that it wasn't going to spend the money on the NHS anyway, but rather to cut the taxes of rich people. As with the Trump campaign, the Leave side of the Brexit vote was a total con game.

June 28: Scotty Moore dies at age 84. Elvis Presley's original guitarist, along with Chuck Berry he practically invented rock and roll guitar playing.

June 28: Buddy Ryan dies at age 85. One of many great defensive (and offensive, for that matter) coordinators that turned out not to be good head coaches, he built the most famous defense in football history, the "46 Defense" of the 1985 Chicago Bears.

June 28: Pat Summitt dies from Alzheimer's disease. The woman who made women's college basketball a big thing, coaching the University of Tennessee to 8 National Championships, was only 64.

June 28: ISIL claims responsibility for attacking Atatürk Airport in Istanbul, killing 45, and injuring around 230.

July 2: Michael Cimino dies at age 77. He famously directed The Deer Hunter -- and infamously directed Heaven's Gate.

July 2: Elie Wiesel dies at age 87. His books, including Night, made him the face of Holocaust survivors. In 1985, he received an award at the White House, but pleaded with President Ronald Reagan not to go to the SS cemetery at Bitburg, Germany. Reagan didn't listen. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and the Mets invited him to throw out the ceremonial first ball at one of their World Series games.

July 2: Trump tweets a photo of a campaign poster citing a Fox News poll (which only a goddamned fool would take seriously, anyway), calling Hillary the "most corrupt candidate ever!"

Those words, not only ridiculous but true about Trump himself, are printed in white on a blue six-pointed star. A blue six-pointed star is synonymous with Judaism. The star was put next to her face, over a pile of money.

This was on the same day that Elie Wiesel died. Not that Trump or his supporters gave a damn. I wonder if Trump even knows who he was.

July 3: Noel Neill dies at age 95. She played Lois Lane in the 1948 and 1950 film serial versions of Superman, and replaced Phyllis Coates (now the only surviving major performer of the series) as Lois on the TV series The Adventures of Superman. She returned to the mythos as Lois' mother in the 1978 film Superman and again in the 1990s TV series Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, and played a brief but key role at the beginning of the 2006 Superman Returns.

July 16: Nate Thurmond dies of leukemia. Named to the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, he was 74.

July 19: Garry Marshall dies of pneumonia at age 81. He developed The Odd Couple for television, created Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley (starring his sister Penny), and directed Pretty Woman, Runaway Bride, and the Princess Diaries films. When Penny directed the baseball film A League of Their Own, she returned the favor, and cast Garry as the founder of the women's league, based on Chicago Cubs owner Phillip K. Wrigley.

July 22: Japan makes the last video casette recorder (VCR). The end of an era.

July 24: Marni Nixon dies of cancer at age 86. You may not know her name or her face, but you know her voice: She dubbed the singing in film versions of legendary Broadway musicals, for Deborah Kerr in The King and I, Natalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady.

July 26: Youree Dell Harris dies of cancer at age 53. Known as the TV psychic Miss Cleo, she did not foresee the collapse of her TV empire, or her illness.

July 30: Gloria DeHaven dies at age 91. She was a big film star in the 1940s and '50s, and became a character actress on TV after that.

August 2: David Huddleston dies at age 85. He played Olson Johnson in Blazing Saddles, Santa Claus in Santa Claus: The Movie, and the man that The Dude was confused with in The Big Lebowski.

August 5: The Olympic Games begin in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Its scandals range from Russian doping to bad behavior by an American swimmer.

August 13: Kenny Baker dies after a brief illness. The 3-foot-8 Brummie, who played R2-D2 in the original Star Wars films, before CGI made a more animated R2 possible, was 82.

August 14: Fyvush Finkel dies at 93. After a career in Yiddish theater in New York -- yes, that actually was a thing once -- he played a lawyer on Picket Fences and a teacher on Boston Public, both David E. Kelley series.

August 28: Mexican singer Juan Gabriel dies of a heart attack while on tour in Los Angeles. The icon of Latin music was 66.

August 29: Gene Wilder dies at age 83. Known for his roles in Mel Brooks films and co-starring with Richard Pryor, he was steady as a rock. But he shot with the other hand.

August 30: Věra Čáslavská dies of cancer at age 74. A winner of 3 Gold Medals at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, the gymnast won 4 more at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, and won the hearts of the world when she bowed her head as the Czech National Anthem was played, in defiance of the Soviet Union's crushing of the Prague Spring 2 months earlier.

September 5: Hugh O'Brian dies. The actor best known for starring in the 1950s TV series The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was 91.

September 9: The government of North Korea conducts its fifth and reportedly biggest nuclear test. World leaders condemn the act, with the South calling it "maniacal recklessness."

September 11: Alexis Arquette dies from heart disease, a complication of HIV. Born Robert Arquette, the transgender actor was 47.

September 16: Edward Albee dies. The playwright, best known for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, was 88.

September 16: W.P. Kinsella dies, with a physician's assistance (legal in his native Canada), after years of suffering with diabetes. The author of the baseball novel Shoeless Joe, which became the film Field of Dreams, and many other novels about baseball, and about Native (North) Americans, was 81.

September 23: Two months after telling the Republican Convention, "Vote your conscience" and refusing to endorse Donald Trump, and several months after Trump called his wife ugly and suggested that his father was part of the conspiracy to kill President John F. Kennedy, Ted Cruz endorses him. So much for conscience, if he ever had it.

September 25: Arnold Palmer dies of heart trouble at 87. The golfer known as "The King" won 4 Masters, 2 British Opens, and a U.S. Open. My generation knows him best from his commercials for Pennzoil motor oil and Hertz car rentals. The generation after me knows him best from his endorsed Arizona Iced Tea products.

September 25: Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernández and 2 others are killed in a boating accident off Miami Beach. The pitcher was only 24, was already 38-17 in his career, and had just announced his impending fatherhood 5 days earlier.

September 28: Shimon Peres dies at 93. He was a leading figure in Israel from independence in 1948 until his death, including twice serving as Prime Minister.

September 28: International investigators conclude that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by a Buk missile that came from an area controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

September 28: Global carbon dioxide levels exceed 400 ppm at the time of year normally associated with minimum levels. A 400 ppm level is believed to be higher than anything experienced in human history.

September 30: The Carnegie Deli, a New York food service icon, announces that it will close its legendary location on December 30. It does.

October 7: An Access Hollywood tape from 2004 is released, showing Trump bragging to interviewer Billy Bush -- a cousin of George W. -- about grabbing women by various body parts. Essentially, the Republican nominee for President of the United States is bragging about committing multiple acts of sexual assault.

Incredibly, predictions of a "meltdown" in Trum support does not happen. This does not motivate women who are Republicans, independents or disaffected Democrats to turn away from him -- or, if it did, it did not motivate them to vote for the 1st woman nominated for President by either major party.

October 15: Having survived a paralyzing football injury to walk again, former New York Jet Dennis Byrd dies in a car crash in his native Oklahoma. He was only 50.

October 23: Pete Burns dies of a heart attack. The leader of the British band Dead Or Alive was 57.

October 24: Bobby Vee dies. The singer, best known for his 1961 Number 1 hit "Take Good Care of My Baby," was 73.

October 25: Carlos Alberto Torres dies of a heart attack at 72. He was the Captain of the Brazil team that won the 1970 World Cup, and later starred for the New York Cosmos.

November 3: Kay Starr dies from complications of Alzheimer's disease at 94. She had 2 Number 1 hits: "The Wheel of Fortune" in 1952, and "The Rock and Roll Waltz" (perhaps a parody of early rock) in 1956. She was also the singer on the version of "The Hucklebuck" played in a 1956 episode of The Honeymooners.

November 7: Janet Reno, the 1st female U.S. Attorney General, dies from the long-term effects of Parkinson's disease. She was 78.

November 8: The Presidential election. Hillary Clinton beats Donald Trump by 2.8 million votes. But close votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin throw the Electoral Vote to the most unsuitable Presidential candidate in American history.

Counting up all the other left-of-center votes, opposition to Trump won 54 percent of the popular vote. But that's not the way that our country decides Presidential elections. Trump wanted the affirmation of being the people's choice as President. Instead, he gets the massive responsibilities of the office, with no mandate -- indeed, a flat-out rejection -- and not the slightest bit of preparation.

We have long heard that our country should be run by a businessman. We are about to see just how goddamned stupid that idea is. Trump won't know what the hell he's doing. Maybe that's for the best: Can you imagine someone with his tendencies who does know what he's doing? As Winston Churchill would say, If it is a blessing in disguise, then it is very well disguised.

November 10: Leonard Cohen dies at 82. The legendary Montreal-born songwriter, long resident at the Chelsea Hotel in New York, had moved to Los Angeles. Cancer weakened him to the point where a fall at his home ended his life.

November 13: Leon Russell dies of a heart attack. One of rock's leading keyboard players since the late 1960s, he was 74.

November 14: Gwen Ifill dies of cancer at 61. She was one of America's leading TV journalists, regardless of race or gender.

November 23: Ralph Branca dies at 90. The Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher was the last survivor of Jackie Robinson's original 1947 teammates. That year, he won 21 games at age 21, but that was his career peak. He founded and ran the Baseball Assistance Team (BAT), aiding indigent ex-baseball figures. That's more important than the home run he gave up in 1951.

November 24: Florence Henderson dies of a heart attack at age 82. She played Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch, and became known as "America's Mom." She also famously appeared in Weird Al Yankovic's spoof video "Amish Paradise," taking the Michelle Pfeiffer role.

November 25: Fidel Castro, dictator of Cuba since 1959 (officially leaving office in 2008, but who's kidding who), after decades of rumors about his health and attempts to kill him, dies of undisclosed causes at age 90. No, 2016, it's too late to get on our good side.

November 25: Ron Glass dies of respiratory failure at 71. He played Detective Sergeant Ron Harrison on Barney Miller, although the character might have been happier serving on the Fashion Police. So that's 2 members of the cast of Barney Miller in the same calendar year. I understand he was also on a short-lived science fiction show called Firefly.

November 26: Fritz Weaver dies at 90. One of those "Oh yeah... him!" guys, he may be best remembered as the Chancellor of the fascist government in the Twilight Zone episode "The Obsolete Man." Let's just say he was a much nicer guy in real life. I often thought he was the father of actor Sigourney Weaver, but that was longtime NBC executive Pat Weaver (who lived to be even older, 93).

"This is not a new world," Rod Serling said in his opening narration for that June 2, 1961 episode. "It is simply an extension of what began in the old one. It has patterned itself after every dictator who has ever planted the ripping imprint of a boot on the pages of history since the beginning of time. It has refinements, technological advances, and a more sophisticated approach to the destruction of human freedom. But like every one of the super-states that preceded it, it has one iron rule: Logic is an enemy, and truth is a menace.

In his closing narration, Serling said, "Any state, any entity, any ideology that fails to recognize the worth, the dignity, the rights of Man, that state is obsolete. A case to be filed under 'M,' for Mankind... in The Twilight Zone."

November 28: Van Williams dies of kidney failure at 82. He had played private detective Kenny Madison on 2 ABC series in the late Ike Age: The New Orleans-base Bourbon Street Beat, and the Miami Beach-set Surfside 6.

But he's best remembered as the title character in the 1966-67 series The Green Hornet, based on the 1930s and '40s radio series: Wealthy newspaper publisher Britt Reid, who fights crime from the inside out, pretending to be a masked gangster when he's actually a good guy, working with the District Attorney. Bruce Lee was launched to North American stardom by playing his aide (I won't say "sidekick," despite the pun on the kung fu master's abilities) Kato. Williams was the only member of the main cast to live beyond 1997.

December 2: Sammy Lee dies at age 96. He was already a doctor (an ear, nose and throat specialist) when he won Gold medals in platform diving at the 1948 and 1952 Olympics.

December 2: A fire at an Oakland warehouse converted into a dance club kills 36 people.

December 5: Rashaan Salaam shoots and kills himself. The 1994 Heisman Trophy winner was 42, and had dealt with alcohol and drug problems, depression, and, it was rumored, football-related head trauma. We won't know that for sure, since his Muslim family forbade an autopsy.

December 6: Peter Vaughan dies at 93. One of the leading British actors of the late 20th Century, American audiences knew him as Maester Aemon Targaryen on Game of Thrones.

December 7: Greg Lake dies after a long battle with cancer. The King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer guitarist was 69. This leaves drummer Carl Palmer as the only surviving member of ELP.

December 8: John Glenn dies. A Marine fighter pilot in the Korean War, the 1st American to orbit the Earth in 1962, a U.S. Senator from 1975 to 1999, a Presidential candidate in 1984, the oldest astronaut ever in 1998, and the last survivor of the Mercury 7, he was 95.

December 12: Jim Lowe dies. A disc jockey, he was working at New York station WCBS (the AM one at 880, not yet an all-news station, rather derided by jazz and rock fans for being square) in 1956, when he decided to become one of the many deejays who could make records as good as the ones he was playing. For most of them, it didn't work. For him, it did: "The Green Door" hit Number 1.

He later spun records at WNEW and WNBC, and spent his last few years in The Hamptons region of eastern Long Island, dying at age 93.

December 13: Alan Thicke dies of a heart attack while playing hockey with his son. The former talk show host, singer, star of Growing Pains and father of singer Robin Thicke was 69.

December 15: Craig Sager dies after a long battle with leukemia. He was 65. He was one of many ESPN personalities who graduated from Northwestern University in Chicago, but his connection to the school was deeper, as he had played the mascot, Willie the Wildcat. Perhaps the school's color, purple, inspired him to follow in the footsteps of legendary broadcaster Lindsey Nelson, and wear garish sportsjackets, endearing him to his viewers.

December 17: Henry Heimlich, inventor of the anti-choking maneuver that bears his name, dies of a heart attack at age 96.

December 17: Louis Harris dies at age 95. He started taking polls for the Roper organization, became the 1st Presidential campaign pollster when John F. Kennedy hired him in 1960, and Louis Harris & Associates surpassed Roper to be right up there with Gallup as America's leading polling company.

December 17: Gordon Hunt dies at 87. He specialized in directing animated TV shows, and directed an episode, and guest-starred on another, of Mad About You, which featured his daughter, Helen Hunt.

December 18: Zsa Zsa Gabor dies, 44 days before what would have been her 100th birthday. She had been in very poor health the last few years. How many times was the last surviving Gabor sister married, Ed Rooney? "Nine times!"

December 19: Andrei Karlov, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, is assassinated in the capital of Ankara. He was 62, and had previously been Russian Ambassador to North Korea. His son Gennady is also a Russian diplomat. The assassin, who cited Russian atrocities in Syria, was also shot and killed.

December 19: Dick Latessa dies at 87. He was a Broadway legend, but since most Americans never get to see a Broadway play, his TV appearances led him to be one of those actors who's "on every show," but you only know him as "Oh yeah, him!"

December 22: Miruts Yifter dies of respiratory failure at age 72. In the 1972 Olympics in Munich, he won the Bronze Medal in the 10,000 meters, then missed the final for the 5,000 meters because he spent too much time in the bathroom. He missed the 1976 Olympics in Montreal because his homeland of Ethiopia was one of several African countries boycotting, due to a controversy connected to apartheid South Africa.

But in Moscow in 1980, despite being 36 years old, he won the Gold Medal in the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters. At least, we think he was 36: Like Satchel Paige, Archie Moore and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, his age was uncertain. He said, "Men may steal my chickens, men may steal my sheep, but no man can steal my age."

December 23: Carrie Fisher -- actress, screenwriter, novelist and licensed psychotherapist, best known for her role in the Star Wars films -- has a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles. She was taken to UCLA Medical Center. The Internet broke out in a collective, "No, 2016, you cannot have Princess Leia, too!"

December 24: Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, dies at age 96.

December 25: That bastard year 2016 decides, "Okay, if you won't give me Carrie Fisher, I'll take someone else. I'll take... hmmmm, let me see... George Michael!"

December 25: A Tupolev Tu-154 crashes near Sochi, Russia, killing all 92 people on board, including 64 members of the Alexandrov Ensemble, the official choir of the Russian armed forces.

December 26: George S. Irving dies at age 94. While he did commercials in the 1970s for White Owl cigars and Gillete Trac II razors, he's best remembered as the voice of Heat Miser (a.k.a. Mr. Green Christmas") on the 1974 Rankin-Bass holiday-season special The Year Without a Santa Claus (with Mickey Rooney as the voice of Big Red).

December 27: 2016 decides, "Fuck you, I'm takin' Carrie Fisher anyway."

December 28: And Carrie's mother, the legendary actress Debbie Reynolds, who had looked great for her age (84) until now, is taken from us as well.

December 29: LaVell Edwards dies at age 86. The legendary football coach at Brigham Young University had broken his hip on Christmas Eve. A lot of old people suffer broken hips and never recover.

December 29: Cyril D. Tyson dies from a series of strokes at age 89. One of the leading anti-poverty crusaders of the 1960s, he deserves to be remembered in his own right, and not just as the father of physicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

December 29: Néstor Gonçalvez dies at age 80. A midfielder, he won 9 Uruguayan league titles and 3 Copa Libertadores (South American club tournament) titles for Peñarol, and represented his country at the 1962 and 1966 World Cups.

December 31: A man dressed as Santa Claus -- made all the more poignant, because the original Saint Nicholas was a bishop in present-day Turkey in the early 4th Century AD -- shoots 70 people, killing 39 of them, at an Istanbul nightclub. The Year of Hell went out with a bang. Literally, several bangs.

December 31: William Christopher dies at 84. He played Father John Patrick Francis Mulcahy on the entire 11-season run of M*A*S*H. Even America's favorite clergyman wasn't immune to 2016.

It has been joked that the last thing to die in 2016 is 2016 itself. Good riddance.


Steve said...

It was a year of hell, and I'm already expecting 2017 to be as bad as Billy Joel envisioned. At least we'll have a solar eclipse to entertain us. Nice blog - I use the same template! :-)

Uncle Mike said...

You're right about the eclipse. I remember the fuss made over the one on February 26, 1979, telling us to see it, because the next one wouldn't come until 2017. But it was cloudy and rainy in New Jersey that day, and I was very upset.

Well, the next one is on August 21. I've gotten this far. Unless I get sick, fall victim to a tragic accident, or Trump's goons eliminate me, I'll be ready for it.

Three Sounds said...

You forgot Mexico's Juan Gabriel...for some of us, only Bowie compared to the loss.

Uncle Mike said...

Unfortunately, I'd never heard of him. I'm guessing most Anglophone Americans hadn't. Having looked him up, I see I should add him.

Ken Dick said...

I was expecting to see promising young Marlins pitcher José Fernández on your list. 2016 was extra hellish for me, with a boatload of health problems and hospitalizations. When I heard the news about the boat accident, and the snuffing out of such a young and promising talent, I uncharacteristically cried over someone I never knew.

Anyway, I'm glad I found your blog. I particularly like your lists of baseball players who are still alive from certain teams, your team championship banner displays, and your political commentary.

You could lay off the Mets-bashing, but hey, it's your place. Keep up the good work.

--Ken D.

Uncle Mike said...

Not including Juan Gabriel was understandable, since I don't listen to Latin music. Not including Fernández was inexcusable, since I'm a baseball nut and it was a huge story. I have now included him.

Ken Dick said...

Same here...political junkie and sports (especially baseball) nut. I've been reading your site for some time and will continue to do so. No worries about the oversight.

--Ken D.