With 2016 still in its early stages. We’ve sadly had to say goodbye to some showbiz big shots already including the passing of actor and legendary villain Alan Rickman and Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey. The news channels should be rolling with continuous items about their lives and careers. Unfortunately for them, they had the misfortune of dying just after one of music’s most iconic stars, David Bowie, who, like the giants of the industry before him, will no doubt be filling the news for years to come. So with Bowie taking the spotlight in celebrity deaths, who else has been sidelined by a bigger star?
Although people die everyday and it’s tragic when they do, celebrities are slightly different. These people, by definition of their jobs, effect our lives. It could be a movie that changed our outlook on the world; a song that defines who we are and adds a soundtrack to those moments that shape us; world leaders and trail blazers who want nothing but the best for humanity; or it could simply be someone who entertains us and allows us to forget life’s problems, even if it’s only for a moment. Whatever their talents are, they are part of our culture and our lives.
So we look back over the years and remember some of those people who were overlooked in their final performance.
10. Brad Renfro/ Heath Ledger
Death: January 15, 2008
A faint echo of a certain River Phoenix, here, who died from substance abuse in his 20s, ending the life and career of someone who’s remarkable talent was only just starting to show. Both Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro suffered the same fate as Phoenix. Forever immortalized as what might have been and what should have been. But it’s Renfro’s death that got overlooked here. The 1990’s started out well for the child actor as he scored box office hits with The Client and Sleepers. He quickly moved up the fame ladder. But the end of the 90’s saw his first run in with the police and first arrest over drugs. He was only 15. After that, he made a few straight to video movies, but never really reclaimed any of the fame he had as a child. When he was found dead from a suspected drug overdose on the 15th of January 2008, he wasn’t the star he once was. But maybe with time, people may have revisited his earlier works and appreciated what a talent he was and could have been if given the chance.
Death: January 22, 2008
However, a week later, Ledger had sadly passed away. This overshadowed any coverage Refro might have had and placed Ledger in with the tragic icons as he became this generation’s River Phoenix and James Dean.
9. Orson Welles/ Yul Brynner
Death: October 10, 1985
This was a same day death. Both Oscar winners and both associated with a generation defining moment. Yet it was poor Orson Welles that took the back seat on this one. With his notorious fall outs with studios over ‘creative control,’ it meant that Orson didn’t reach the heights of fame as we would have expected. Nowadays he is remembered for Citizen Kane – for which he won his Oscar – and that guy that made people believe aliens were invading!
Yul Brynner, with his distinctive shaven-headed look and career defining performances in such films like The King and I, Westworld and The Magnificent Seven, stole the limelight. Maybe this one was all down to the death itself. With Brynner dying of lung cancer, this could have been the chance anti-smokers were looking for especially with Brynner himself speaking publicly before his death about the dangers of smoking.
8. Johnny Cash/ John Ritter
Death: September 12, 2003
An example here of a shock death trumping an otherwise more famous death.
Johnny Cash will forever be remembered around the world as ‘the man in black.’ With his ‘romantic outlaw’ image – even playing gigs in prison to inmates – Cash was one of the early country music stars to cross the boundaries into the mainstream. With his hits such as “Ring of fire,” “I walk the line,” and the hauntingly brilliant cover of Nine Inch Nails song, “Hurt,” he was one of music’s greats. However, his ill health was well-documented. So although his death was sad, it wasn’t sudden.
Death: September 11, 2003
With that, it left the spotlight on American comedy star John Ritter. Although Ritter wasn’t as well known around the globe as Cash, his surprising death – which happened while he was filming his latest sitcom 8 Simple Rules – meant that he took the lion’s share of the media coverage. He is remembered most for the sitcom Three’s Company, the film Problem Child and many other parts in established TV such as Scrubs, Buffy The Vampire and Ally McBeal.
7. Groucho Marx/ Elvis
Death: August 19, 1977
With his trademark mustache, eyebrows and comical walk, the quick-witted Groucho Marx bursted onto the Hollywood comedy scene along with his siblings, The Marx Brothers who made several movies and TV show – “Duct Soup,” “A Night At The Opera” and “Monkey Business” are probably the best known. Groucho also had solo success with the game show “You Bet Your Life.”
Death: August 16, 1977
Some celebrities have such power that they completely eclipse anything else that happens. If you ask most people what happened in 1977, the first thing, and sometimes only thing, that comes to mind is that was the year Elvis Presley died.
So when you are an infamous comedian like Groucho and the face of one of the most popular comedy troops in history, you might be a bit peeved to learn that your death had been forgotten.
Although he had retired from public life by the time he died, there is no doubt that Groucho Marx would have gotten a lot more appreciation and media coverage, if it wasn’t for Elvis. They say that comedy is all about timing and it’s unfortunate that Groucho just mistimed his final punchline.
6. Federico Fellini / River Phoenix
Death: October 31, 1993
Another same day death here. When the young River Phoenix collapsed from an overdose outside Johnny Depp’s The Viper Room, there was no doubt that the world’s media would go into over-drive. We all did. Mourning the shocking news of the 23-year-old actor, with his incredible raw talent, Phoenix had the world at his feet.
On the same day, we lost another creative talent in the form of Frederico Fellini. Although Fellini wasn’t even close to having the same level of fame as Phoenix, he still had an extraordinary back catalogue of work that should have made his death a bit more noteworthy.
The Italian-born director and writer was well respected and admired among his peers. Although he didn’t make what some people would call ‘mainstream films,’ his distinct style of film-making got him nominated 12 times for an academy award with four of his directed pictures winning in the best foreign language category.
With a career spanning nearly 50 years, he was awarded an honorary lifetime achievement Oscar.
5. Ray Charles/ Ronald Reagan
Death: June 10, 2004
When Ray Charles sadly passed on, a true genius was lost to us. Blind by the age of 7, Ray Charles didn’t let that stop him from mastering the piano. He became a pioneer; crossing through the boundaries of music and making soul, blues and R&B part of the mainstream playlist. Not only loved by fans and critics, but highly regarded by his peers, which led to his affectionate nickname ‘The high priest of soul.’ Charles also made a mark on civil rights. Becoming one of the first African-American artists to gain some creative control from the mainstream record companies.
Death: June 5, 2004
But with all the ground breaking life that he had, his death unfortunately passed a lot of people by. Dying as he did just five days after former U.S president Ronald Reagan. If more time had passed then Charles would have had the media coverage he deserved.
4. Lauren Bacall/ Robin Williams
When a star takes their own life, ripples and shock waves are felt around the world. On August 11, 2014, comedy superstar Robin Williams did just that. A man who made a generation of people howl with laughter, with an array of unforgettable characters, it was no wonder that Williams got all the headlines.
Death: August 12, 2014
Because of this, not many people noticed that the very next day, Hollywood icon Lauren Bacall had also died. Although almost 90 when she passed – it may not have come as a shock to anyone – she still deserved some attention. The Tony Award winning actress, famed for her distinctive voice and sultry looks, shot to stardom in the 50’s and 60’s with memorable films such as “How To Marry A Millionaire,” “The Cobweb” and “Applause” to name a few.
As you missed your last curtain call, take a bow Ms. Bacall.
3. Farrah Fawcett/ Michael Jackson
Death: June 25, 2009
Another same day death and like the entry before, a death that was completely eclipsed by something so very unexpected.
After being diagnosed with cancer in 2006, The Charlie’s Angels star Farrah Fawcett finally lost her ongoing battle in 2009 and passed away. The world’s media was preparing itself with tributes, interviews and bulletins about the 70’s pin up. With her acting credits, Fawcett was nominated four times for an Emmy award and six times for a Golden Globe. She was much more than just one of Charlie’s Angels. So the media was set.
Little did the world know what was about to happen, within a few hours, news of Michael Jackson’s health came flooding in. It wasn’t long before the king of pop was pronounced dead. With that, Fawcett got sidelined and then forgotten about as all of the world was focused on Jackson.
2. Mother Teresa / Princess Diana
Death: August 31, 1997
This is a story that could have come straight out of a Brothers Grimm fairy-tale. We have a princess, her lover, a horrific accident and a bucket load of conspiracies.
A country, and the world, stood still in shock as the tragic events about Diana started to unfold. A humanitarian and ambassador for so many good causes, she touched the hearts of so many. With round-the-clock news updates, this was in the days before rolling news! Diana was the only story that people were talking about.
Death: September 5, 1997
A few days later another figure of human kindness, died. Mother Teresa. The Albanian born missionary received many accolades and awards in her life – including a noble prize. But she couldn’t compete with the attention Diana received in the media. So much so that many people didn’t realize Mother Teresa had passed on until months later.
1. C.S Lewis and Aldous Huxley/ JFK
Death: November 22, 1963
The number one spot on this list couldn’t really go to anyone else. As this is the undisputed trump of a more famous death.
With two heavyweights of the literary world both dying on the same day, you would think that would be a surprising, and maybe even shocking, news day. Just how shocking that day would become, no one could have foreseen.
C.S Lewis passed away at his home an hour before the events in Dallas. He was the creator of the much loved and adored children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia, which had been adapted for TV and screen many times. In particular the most popular of the series – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Then there was Aldous Huxley – another author and renowned intellect. Being nominated for the Nobel prize in literature in seven different years; his most acclaimed piece of work was the novel, Brave New World.
On any other day, either Lewis or Huxley would have no doubt made the front pages. But with the John F. Kennedy assassination – the original ‘where were you’ moment- it is understandable that no other news would have reached the public on that day, or even that year.