Like everyone else, I had my share of ups and downs in 2016. Hey there were some wonderful moments for me. I released my debut novel and my first grandchild was born. Not too shabby. But I’m also glad 2016 coming to an end. There was too much negativity for me.
We lost many iconic figures, political titans and sports giants, famous musicians and Hollywood greats in 2016. More than you would expect for one calendar year. I just want to touch on a few that were most meaningful for me.
Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, was probably the most famous global athlete we have ever seen. More so than even Usain Bolt. I never enjoyed boxing. Too brutal of a sport for me. Yet, Ali drew me and many others to the sport. Not only was he an incredible athlete but he had a magnetic personality. He was a better promoter than any professional. He was also a polarizing figure with his anti-war stance, his conversion to Islam, and his activities in civil rights movement. Sadly, MS forced him to withdraw from public life. He deserved the title of the greatest athlete of the 20th Century.
I was never a fan of Fidel Castro. I could never understand Pierre Trudeau’s (and his son’s) attraction to Castro. He was a despot. He clung to Marxist-Leninist model of Communism well after it was abandoned by the Russians. Many of his programs failed. But he was the last of the great revolutionaries. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Although quite young at the time, I remember it was a scary time. We had drills at school in the event of a nuclear attack. Castro was also responsible for fomenting communist revolutions in countries around the world.
Harper Lee was an author who shunned the spotlight. But her novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was one of the classics of the 20th Century. It was published in 1960 and that was pretty much all we heard from her for 55 years until her second novel, “Go Set a Watchman” was released shortly before her death. I recently reread “To Kill a Mockingbird” and it still stands out as a great work.
Gordie Howe, many argue, was the all-time greatest hockey player. My sentimental favourite will always be Bobby Orr. It’s so difficult to compare players from different eras since the game continually evolves. He was certainly the most complete hockey player to have played the game. He was a prolific scorer, a leader on the ice, a ferocious checker and a feared fighter. His strength and longevity were legendary. The man played over five decades to the age 52. Along the way he won four Stanley Cups, six Art Ross Trophies as the league’s top scorer, six Hart Trophies as the league’s MVP, and twenty-three All-Star team selections.
David Bowie was a musician who defied categorization. He was always redefining himself and his music, continually experimenting with new musical styles and looks. Bowie liked to keep fans and critics guessing. He claimed he was gay and then introduced the pop world to Ziggy Stardust. Then he suddenly abandoned the garish costumes and makeup. In addition to his twenty-five studio albums, he also appeared in twenty-four films. My favourite Bowie song is “Space Oddity” which is mentioned in my next novel, “Loved Mars, Hated The Food”.
There was quite a reaction to the death of Carrie Fisher. Her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series made her a huge star. And her metal bikini in “Return of the Jedi” made her a sex symbol as well. But the passing of Gene Wilder (born Jerome Silberman) was a bigger loss for me. He appeared in my favourite film, the 1968 “The Producers” written by Mel Brooks and co-starring Zero Mostel. He received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Leo Bloom in that film. Comedy is tougher gig than drama. Some of his films were duds but in most cases he pulled it off. He calaborated with Mel Brooks and in several films then worked with Richard Pryor in a number of other ones. He starred in three films with his third wife Gilda Radner until she sadly passed away at a young age. But I will always remember Wilder as Leo Bloom.
Have a healthy, safe and happy new year!