By John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer –
Some believe that in 2011, the world lost its most beautiful woman.
When Elizabeth Taylor, 79, took leave of this life in March, hers joined many celebrated names now in the possession of memory and history. Her beautiful face, and the Everyman face of Harry Morgan (“M*A*S*H” and much else), who passed away at 96, led a cavalcade of lives completed this year.
—Newsmakers. By far the biggest newsmaker to die this year was Osama bin Laden, 54, terrorist leader of al-Qaida. Apple innovator and visionary Steve Jobs, 56, moved on to the next vision. Moammar Gadhafi, 69, deposed leader of Libya, was joined by North Korean totalitarian Kim Jong Il, 69, who left things to his son. On the freer side of things, poet, president, and peacemaker Václav Havel was 75. Jack Kevorkian, known as “Dr. Death” for his championship of suicide, met his own end at 83. If there was a “Dr. Life,” it may well have been jumpsuited exercise evangelist Jack LaLanne, 96.
—Politics. Many names from U.S. political history bowed out, including vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, 75, once-U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagelberger, 80, and and diplomat Warren Christopher, 85. Remarkably accomplished Sargent Shriver, who helped launch the Peace Corps, Head Start and the Special Olympics, took his rest at 95. It was a year when political families lost important members, including beloved Betty Ford, 93 (wife of Gerald); Kara Kennedy, 51 (daughter of Ted); Eleanor Mondale, 51 (daughter of Walter); and Dorothy Rodham, 82 (mother of Hillary Rodham Clinton). Longtime political columnist David Broder, 81, has joined the celestial press box. And brave, indomitable civil-rights pioneer Fred Shuttlesworth, 89, has the best reward of all.
—Sports. Many were the gamesters and sports people who departed the field this year. The pugilistic arts were especially hard hit, with “Smokin’” Joe Frazier leaving the ring at 67, promoter Butch Lewis at 65, fighter Ron Lyle at 70, and wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage at 58. Football owner Al Davis, 82, doesn’t have to growl any more. Grete Waitz, 57, has broken the tape in the greatest marathon of all, and brilliant soccer star Socrates has found the ultimate goal. Baseball lost three wonderful players and people in Duke Snider, 84, Harmon Killebrew, 74, and Matty Alou, 72, among many others. Basketball lost creative, classy Walter Hazzard, 69. And both football and film lost Bubba Smith, 66.
—Music. The already fabulous Celestial Band gained many new members. Cesária Évora, 70, barefoot diva of Cape Verde, now sings forever. Sylvia Robinson, hip-hop pioneer, was 75, and Milton Babbit, electronic music pioneer, was 94. Nick Ashford, 70, of Ashford and Simpson, can now sing to the sax of Clarence Clemons, 69, of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and the uncanny, spectacular stylings of George Shearing, 91, who can see fine now. Rapper Heavy D was 44, Nate Dogg was 41, and Slim Dunkin was 24. Bluegrass royalty Hazel Dickens was 75. Gerry Rafferty, 63, is no longer stuck in the middle, and the soul of Dobie Gray, 71, is now forever free, as are those of rock ‘n’ roll pensmiths Jerry Ragovoy, 80, and Jerry Lieber, 78. Paul Motian, 80, can now bring his coolest of drum sounds to the highest level. Two poets, rap godfather Gil Scott-Heron, 62, and Phoebe Snow, 60, can match beats, while Hubert Sumlin, 80, and David “Honeyboy” Edwards, 96, play sweet blues guitar, and Pinetop Perkins, 97, shows what it’s all about on keys, and TV on the Radio’s Gerard Smith, 36, plays bass. Bill Tapia, historic ukulelist, 103, can accompany R&B man Howard Tate, 72, while Roger Williams, 87, plays those rolling glissandos. The tragic Amy Winehouse, 27, brings her voice to a perpetually appreciative audience, along with Teena Marie, 54. And Don Kirschner, 76, can manage the whole show.
—TV/Film. James Arness, 88, has holstered his last six-shooter, and Jackie Cooper, 88, was a baby face to the last. Speaking of beautiful faces, Susannah York, 72, had one of the loveliest, and Michael Sarrazin, 70, had two of the most soulful eyes. Maria Schneider, 58, can compare notes on arrival with Marlon Brando. Ryan Dunn (“Jackass”), 34, can compete with Peter Falk, 83, to see who’s most mischievous, while Anne Francis, 80, looks on. Handsome Farley Granger was 85. Andy Whitfield, 39, and Dana Wynter, 94, will be on hand as Dolores Hope, 102, finds husband Bob waiting for her, and Arthur Laurents, 93, and director Sidney Lumet, 86, can trade good ones. David Nelson, 74, can tell stories about his parents, Ozzie and Harriet, to Pete Postlethwaite, 64, and Cliff Robertson, 88, while Andy Rooney, 92, complains that heaven ain’t what it used to be. Jane Russell, 89, stood out among Technicolor babes, as did Ken Russell, 84, among directors. Sherwood Schwartz, 94, can hang out with Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Jim Backus and other “Gilligan’s Island” alums. And Yvette Vickers (“Attack of the 50-Foot Woman”), 82, doesn’t have to worry about her height anymore.