2016 has been a year of loss. David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey…. I mean the list feels endless this year. As someone obsessed with pop culture and music, it has been tough. We may not have known these people but they do become important to us. They are the soundtracks of our lives, our heroes, our inspirations, our childhood. So when they leave it’s hard not feel a sense of loss.
In an attempt to deal with my own sadness, I began to look into other cases of public grief in response to celebrity deaths.
The death of Valentino in 1926 caused mass hysteria, with some women even killing themselves in their grief. There was worldwide shock when John Lennon was murdered. This wasn’t just any singer, this was a Beatle…The Beatle for a lot of people. You can’t watch the footage of the thousands of people standing outside The Dakota singing ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and not see how intense the public grief was. And of course, we practically broke the Internet when Michael Jackson died in 2009. So, I realized grief at the death of a celebrity is really nothing new, it’s been around for as long as celebrities have. It was strangely comforting to know that I wasn’t alone.
I also began to realize something else. Many celebrities have died in circumstances that are weird, unusual or just plain mysterious. Here are a few interesting ones:
Jeff Buckley was a rising star, certain to take over the world. I listen to his album Grace and actually get angry, angry because he was so damn good and he never really got a chance to show his full potential.The somewhat mysterious nature of his death has become something of a rock’n’roll myth. One night, Jeff decided to go swimming in Wolf River Harbor with his boots and clothes still on, singing a Led Zeppelin tune. He then vanished and his body was found a few days later. Though his death was ruled as an accidental drowning, many people still find the whole thing strange.
Leslie Howard was an incredible actor, in my opinion one of the best of the early 20th century and sadly, one that is often forgotten. Sure, anyone whose seen Gone with the wind may know him as Ashley but beyond that, it seems not many people even know who he is…or how how he died.
During the second world war, Howard offered his services to the British Government, where he was involved in propaganda broadcasts. He was killed in 1943 when the Luftwaffe shot down the civilian plane he was flying in.
Natalie Wood was an incredibly gifted child-actress who grew up to be one of Hollywood’s most beautiful leading ladies. Natalie drowned in 1981, while out on a yacht with her husband Robert Wagner and friend Christopher Walken. Natalie’s body was found one mile away from the boat and the autopsy report revealed that she had bruises on her body and arms as well as an abrasion on her left cheek. The true nature of her death is still being investigated to this day.
Brandon Lee was the son of martial arts legend Bruce Lee. He was just at the beginning of his own career in film when he died. I truly believe that Brandon could have been a big star. He was handsome, athletic, talented in martial arts and had a wonderful stage presence. Unfortunately he died way too young, just like his talented father. He died of a gunshot wound at the age of 28, after an accidental shooting on set of cult-classic The Crow. If you haven’t seen it…. go do that now. You won’t regret it. One of the best performances I’ve ever seen. If Brandon had to be remembered for only one of his performances, I’m glad it was one as iconic as this one. I must admit, I am definitely a little iffy about them remaking this one.
Natalie Wood’s Rebel without a cause co-star Sal Mineo was stabbed to death
David Carradine died from auto-erotic asphyxiation
Jayne Mansfield was partially decapitated in a car accident
Marvin Gaye was shot and killed by his own father
Steve Irwin was stabbed in the heart with a sting-ray barb
Sonny Bono died in a skiing accident
Brian Jones was found floating in a swimming pool
Florence Lawrence killed herself by eating ant paste
Bob Crane was found bludgeoned with electrical cord wrapped around his neck
Marie Prevost drank herself to death and her body was found half eaten by her Dachshund and Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson family…. I mean the list goes on and on and on …..