2014 & 2015 were years of big personal loss for me but this year it was the year people my age who grew up in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, we lost our touchstones because the people that died this year weren’t just icons, they were the touchstones we remember out life by.
Growing up in LA before TV became a truly national 24/7 thing we had local tv and that was KTLA 5, KCOP 13, KTTV 11 and KHJ now KCAL 9 and what they showed was mostly kids shows like Engineer Bill, Sheriff John and Chucko the Clown and black and white movies when it wasn’t the news. It started with the Star Spangled Banner and the farm report and ended with the test pattern with the Indian and grey and white boxes.
So I watched black and white movies with my dad a lot. Saturday morning was Mighty Mouse and Heckel and Jeckel and Buster Keaton and Laurel and Hardy and then it switched to movies like “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Tammy” which my dad loved. So I learned to love Debbie Reynolds.
I remember my dad ranting about Cassius Clay changing his name to Mohammed Ali and ranting about his refusing the draft and my beginnings of political awakening and arguing against the draft which my dad, the WWII vet thought was sacrilege but he did think women should be drafted to which I found horrifying especially after passing most of the ARMY battery tests they gave us in school at 100% because guys my age were being sent to Vietnam. I got letters from all the military services for years after that. I beat all the boys. The only one I would have considered was the Coast Guard and I get sea sick.
We watched all the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo shots as a family. My mom was obsessed with NASA and the space program. I think she would have been an astronaut in a heartbeat. She would get us out of bed and o dark hundred to watch every launch and every landing because we had to see history being made and we held our breaths waiting to see John Glenn get rescued not knowing if he was alive or not.
I remember becoming aware of pop music since my family was a classical/musical theater sort of family and learned to play the guitar and finding my friends in love with Space Oddity and David Bowie, he was in the background of 1969 and 1970 so much.
Having to read To Kill a Mockingbird in high schools by Harper Lee, it was one of the few required books I actually enjoyed. George Kennedy was on tv prime time in the cop shows my mom loved.
Summer music was listening to the Eagles and the Beach Boys out here and someone better wrap Brian Wilson in bubble wrap for the next few days.
Young Frankenstein, Willy Wonka, nights in the dark movie theater and laughing with Gene Wilder and falling in love with Willy and his sweet imagination.
Star Wars came out 1977 and we fell in love with the whole cast and this year we lost R2D2, Kenny Baker and Princess Leia, the amazing and wonderful, Carrie Fisher. And we lost the voice of Admiral Akbar, Erik Bauersfeld.
When I came out to the lesbian discos we had Prince and George Michael. So many dances and memories to “Wake me up before you gogo” and “Little Red Corvette”.
My dad loved to watch golf and he made us watch Arnie, he loved Arnold Palmer and would have joined Arnie’s Army in a heart beat.
I learned about Leonard Cohen by listening to Judy Collins and learning to play and sing Suzanne at camp on my guitar.
And Laura who died in 2014 introduced me to the wonder and joy of Harry Potter when she brought me lent me her copy of Philosopher’s Stone from a trip to London and told me I HAD to read it. She knew I would fall in love. It wasn’t available here yet and I was so frustrated when it finally was published here under the Sorceror’s Stone and they had removed a lot of the Britishisms. I thereafter always ordered a copy of the Harry Potter books when they came out on Amazon US and UK which primed me for the first movie. Laura loved Alan Rickman so if you were at her house you watched Alan Rickman movies but when Harry Potter came out, I fell in love with Snape. He really imbued the character with life.
So many milestones and touchstone moments in my life are gone this year. Moments captured in amber of memory and somewhere on vinyl, celluloid, film and digital but the ones etched in amber? There the ones left in my brain and heart. I think that’s why it hurts so much. I’ll never have the chance to make those moments in real time again. General Leia will be in the next film but the essence behind the General will never make more kick butt moments.
So a huge chunk of my life’s memories are gone in one year and it hurts.
Someone protect Julie Andrews, Dick van Dyke and Carol Burnett, please?