After 2021 concluded with one last stunning blow – the death of legend Betty White – everyone hoped 2022 would be a kinder, gentler year. But it has only been a week and a half and already the new year is packing a punch – taking another legend in Sidney Poitier. CELEB takes a look at the celebrities we’ve lost already this year; the good and the bad alike.
Those We Have Lost
The year has started off with a bang – but not the good kind. Already, just 10 days into 2022, we have a handful of big-name celebrities and famous people who have shuffled off this mortal coil, and some really hit us where it hurts. Here’s a look at three names that may be gone but never forgotten:
- Bob Saget (65): Saget’s name is usually known to people from one of two places: as Danny Tanner from Full House, or the host of America’s Funniest Home Videos as himself. But of course Saget’s life was a rich and impressive parade of movies, TV shows, and more importantly to Saget – comedy. The “America’s Dad” actor was known on screen for being wholesome and fatherly, but off screen he was a raunchy, dirty, definitely-not-for-kids stand-up comedian with a fiery act. Much of America remained blissfully ignorant of this fact until a 2008 Comedy Central Roast brought together comedy’s heavy hitters to roast the actor/comedian, and to say some people were shocked is an understatement. At the time of his death in an Orlando hotel at the young age of 65, Saget was re-launching his stand-up career after the pandemic ground it to a halt. He was feeling good about making people laugh and getting back to his true passion. In the wake of Saget’s death, friends, colleagues and loved ones left messages of sorrow and shock – expressing what a kind person they all found him.
- Peter Bogdanovich (82): Filmmaker and director Bogdanovich was often considered as instrumental at driving the industry in the ’70’s as more famous names like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Bogdanovich, who was also an accomplished actors with appearances in The Sopranos and other beloved films and shows, has hits like The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon in his portfolio. Bogdanovich is known for famously feuding with Cher (which resolved peacefully) and the controversial decision to make a film called Targets which featured a sniper picking off innocent viewers at a drive-in movie. Bogdanovich later expressed regret for making the film, citing the reality of shootings in public places and the heartbreak he felt, especially in the wake of the Aurora movie theater shooting. Bogdanovich said he felt that the kind of violence shown in his own movie wasn’t good for society – an impressive self-reflection. Not everything he touched turned to gold, but he had a knack for reinventing his approach and trying again.
- Michael Lang (77): One of the most influential individuals you’ve probably never heard of, Lang was one of the co-founders of Woodstock. The very first Woodstock helped create a gathering point for the free and hurting souls of the world and change the way people come together to celebrate music. The music festivals we know and love today wouldn’t be what they are without co-producer and co-founder Lang. So next time you head to a festival, pour one out for Lang.
- Meat Loaf (74 – 01/20/2022): Marvin Lee Aday, known by fans as Meat Loaf, is one of the best known artists to come out of the ’70’s and ’80’s. His 1977 album, “Bat out of Hell,” is one of the best selling albums in history. Some of his best known songs include “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad” and probably the most quoted song in the word (anecdotally), “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” The Grammy-award winning artist has long spoken about struggling with physical ailments, but that didn’t stop an impressive and lengthy career that included appearances in several films such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “Fight Club” and “Wayne’s World.” No cause of death was shared, but Meat Loaf passed at home surrounded by loved ones.
Unfortunately, 2022 hasn’t finished with us yet. The end of 2021 and beginning of 2022 have both been end capped with the deaths of absolute legends in their time: Sidney Poitier and Betty White.
- Sidney Poitier (94): Poitier, a Bahamian-American who holds the forever title of first Black movie star, started his life in poverty in the Bahamas. In the ’50’s and ’60’s when Poitier was starting his career, Black people were often type-cast and limited in opportunity. Poitier softened his Bahaman accent and forged a career despite the odds, winning an Oscar in 1963 for Lillies of the Field. Although Poitier was still type-cast with disturbing regularity, his educated (self taught) bearing introduced a myopic South to the Black people who lived around them but they never actually saw – helping to open up opportunities. But Poitier wouldn’t take just any role, turning down several he felt didn’t fit with his morals or that portrayed Black people in an unflattering light. CNN writes, “At the same time, as the lone Black leading man in 1960s Hollywood, he came under tremendous scrutiny. He was too often hailed as a noble symbol of his race and endured criticism from some Black people who said he had betrayed them by taking sanitized roles and pandering to Whites. ‘It’s been an enormous responsibility,’ Poitier told Oprah Winfrey in 2000. ‘And I accepted it, and I lived in a way that showed how I respected that responsibility. I had to. In order for others to come behind me, there were certain things I had to do.'” Poitier attended in the 1963 March on Washington and helped rally Civil Rights movements. Before his death, Poitier turned to directing and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by former president Barack Obama. A titan in the industry, Poitier’s name will leave ripples for generations.
- Betty White (honorable mention – 99): Although she didn’t die in 2022, we have to say something about this particular legend’s death. And it’s fitting she should be near Poitier who fought against racism, because White was known throughout her life to fight against racism as well. The former Golden Girls star grew more popular as she aged, her acerbic wit and charm making her the golden child of several generations. But back in the 1950’s, White put her entire career and future on the line at a very tumultuous time to stand in the gap with Arthur Duncan, a comedian on The Betty White Show who happened to be Black. Racial tensions were high and execs – bowing to pressure from a roiling South – demanded she fire him. White famously replied, “Live with it.” Humble, driven, and kind to a fault, White loved animals, people and making them laugh. Her death just days shy of her 100th birthday is a bittersweet blow – but she lived long enough to leave us all with a lesson on how to treat one another.
Of course, death doesn’t only come for the legends and the saints – those people we will dearly miss. It comes for the good and wicked alike. And in 2022, one of those wicked famous people to die was Robert Durst. Durst was a fascinating figure to many; an eccentric millionaire who was convicted in killing his best friend and indicted on killing his wife.
Kathie McCormack Durst went missing in 1989, and her body has never been found but she was declared legally dead in 2017. CNN writes, “Prosecutors said [former classmate Susan] Berman knew that Durst had killed his wife, and he shot and killed his former UCLA classmate to keep her from incriminating him in a scheduled interview with investigators.
He repeatedly denied killing Berman, but also swore for years he did not write a highly publicized so-called ’cadaver note’ that pointed police to Berman’s body. Durst’s lawyers would later concede their client did write the ‘cadaver note.’
His multimillion-dollar defense team asserted their client found Berman’s body, panicked, and ran because he thought no one would believe he did not kill his friend. Durst ran far from that crime scene and other troubles, eventually winding up in Galveston, Texas, where he lived in a shabby apartment in a converted house.
Durst disguised himself as a woman, pretended to be mute and befriended his across-the-hall neighbor, Morris Black.”
Unfortunately for Black, Durst was suspected of murdering Black. Although the real estate heir was later acquitted of that murder, Durst was never cleared of the specter of the bizarre trail of bodies following him. By the time he was convicted of First Degree murder, Durst was frail and ill – dying of cancer – but justice rolled forward anyway.
If the glimpse we’ve gotten of 2022 so far is a hint of things to come, we should all buckle up and get ready for a tough year. Here’s hoping though, that we’ve lost enough, and the rest of the year will be gentle. One can always dream.