In Memoriam — From Aretha Franklin to John Mahoney, some celebs we lost in 2018
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At the close of each year, it’s customary to recall the celebrities we lost over the course of the year.
2018 was particularly tragic on one level, as suicide was ruled the cause of death for several big names in movies, music, fashion and food, all of whom left us much too soon. The silver lining? Their deaths helped raise much-needed awareness about mental health issues.
While it’s impossible to list every notable who passed away, here are a few of the stars we bid farewell to in 2018:
Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul, who changed the face of rock and roll and R&B and defined soul music, passed away on Aug. 16 at her Detroit home after a battle with pancreatic cancer. With hits that included “Respect,” “Think,” “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” and “Chain of Fools” among so many, many others, Franklin was in a league of her own when it came to music. She was 76.
In a 2017 interview with the Sun-Times, Franklin said, “You couldn’t be more blessed than being able to do what you love most and make a living at it as well. No one loves music more than me.”
John Mahoney: He was British-born, but he became a huge star in America, where his beloved characters in film (“Moonstruck,” “Say Anything”) and television (“Frasier”) endeared him to audiences across the country and the globe. He also made his mark on the stage, especially his work in Chicago theater, where he appeared in more than 30 productions at Steppenwolf Theatre alone (he was a company ensemble member), including “Orphans” (directed in 1985 by ensemble member Gary Sinise who also co-starred) and “You Can’t Take it With You” (directed by ensemble member Frank Galati and co-starring Sinise, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perrry and Rondi Reed).
“John loved Chicago, he loved Chicago theater and he really was of our community. When he had the opportunity to move to Los Angeles or New York he chose to stay here because he loved working here,” said his longtime friend and Northlight Theatre artistic director BJ Jones. “He was the essence of a Chicago theater creature. He defined it. He was very good to me, to our theater and he was great to Chicago audiences.” Mahoney died in Chicago on February 4. He was 77.
Kate Spade: The fashion designer was a maverick with her chic styles (with a touch of her hallmark whimsey) and use of color — clothing and sleek purses that dressed many a career woman starting in the 1990s. Her line soon expanded to include accessories, furniture and home decor. Always smiling in public, Spade had struggled with depression for years.
“I grew up in the Midwest, where you have to have [a fashion item] because you like it, not because you’re supposed to have it,” she told the AP in 2004. “For our customers, fashion is in the right place in their life. It’s an adornment, not an obsession.” Spade committed suicide in her New York apartment on June 5. She was 55.
Mac Miller: The hip-hop dynamo was known as much for his music as he was for his two-year volatile relationship with girlfriend Ariana Grande, with whom he shared the 2013 hit duet “The Way.” His debut album, “Blue Side Park” topped the Billboard charts. Miller struggled with substance abuse for a long time, which came to light publicly after his breakup with Grande. He played Lollapalooza in 2016, and was scheduled for a gig at the Aragon on Dec. 3, 2018. The rapper died of an apparent overdose on Sept. 27. He was 26.
Stan Lee: A writer extraordinaire, he created or co-created some of the biggest stars in the Marvel Comics firmament, including Spider-Man, the Incredible Hulk, the X-Men, Fantastic Four, and most recently Black Panther. Lee was an accomplished author as well, having penned several best-selling books.
“I think everybody loves things that are bigger than life. … I think of them as fairy tales for grown-ups,” he told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. “We all grew up with giants and ogres and witches. Well, you get a little bit older and you’re too old to read fairy tales. But I don’t think you ever outgrow your love for those kind of things, things that are bigger than life and magical and very imaginative.”
But it was his cavalcade of superheroes that touched pop culture in immeasurable ways. The characters would gain even greater notoriety as they moved from the pages of comic books to the big and small screens, thrilling audiences across the globe and earning billions for Hollywood studios. A bitter battle over his estate consumed Lee’s final days as he battled illness. He died Nov. 12. He was 95.
Stephen Hillenburg: His most famous cartoon creation “lived in a pineapple under the sea.” Of course, as fans of Nickelodeon will tell you, that creature was SpongeBob SquarePants, and his namesake TV series set in the underwater world of Bikini Bottom appealed to adults as well as kids. Debuting in 1999, the show to date has aired nearly 250 episodes and won four Emmy Awards. Hillenburg died on Nov. 26 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 57.
Anthony Bourdain: The celebrity chef, food writer and travel enthusiast “achieved celebrity status after the publication in 2000 of his best-selling book ‘Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly.’ The book created a sensation by combining frank details of his life and career with behind-the-scenes observations on the culinary industry,” Associated Press wrote of Bourdain. It was that frankness that endeared him to his culinary world counterparts and audiences-at-large who couldn’t get enough of his keen insight and stinging criticism when it came to food across the globe and its cultural influences.
In 2012, he spent 43 hours in Chicago taping an episode of “The Layover with Anthony Bourdain” (just one of his many cable TV series over the years) and in an interview with the Sun-Times he dissed the city’s most famous culinary export thusly: “In spite of their general excellence in food, drink, music — everything really — their most famous cultural export is the appalling deep dish pizza. Irony being, in a town where everything is great, they’re most famous for something that sucks.”
Bourdain died on June 8 in France. The cause of death was ruled a suicide. He was 61.
Margot Kidder: As Lois Lane, she stole Superman’s heart beginning in the 1978 movie “Superman: The Movie” (it continued in three sequels). Kidder also gained a following among horror film aficionados after co-starring in the 1979 cult classic “The Amityville Horror.” After a highly publicized nervous breakdown in 1996 during which she was declared missing and later found by Glendale, California, police “frightened and paranoid and hiding in bushes,” Kidder sought treatment and soon became a voice for mental health awareness.
Kidder later said her issues were rooted in manic depression. “It’s very hard to convince a manic person that there is anything wrong with them,” Kidder told People. “You have no desire to sleep. You are full of ideas.”
Her death on May 13 at her Montana home was ruled a suicide. She was 69.
Neil Simon: The successful Broadway playwright’s work included “The Odd Couple,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Barefoot in the Park.” A winner of three Tony Awards, Simon also won a 1991 Pulitzer Prize for drama for “Lost in Yonkers.” Simon died from complications from pneumonia on Aug. 25. He was 91.
DuShon Monique Brown: The Chicago actress was perhaps best-known for her television roles as Connie, Chief Boden’s assistant, on the hit NBC series “Chicago Fire.” She had also starred as Nurse Katie Welch on the Chicago-based Fox hit “Prison Break.” She previously had worked as a school counselor and head of the Drama Starz acting program at Kenwood Academy High School on Chicago’s South Side. Brown was familiar to Chicago theatergoers, with credits that boasted productions at Steppenwolf, the Goodman Theatre, Chicago Dramatists and Piven Theatre. Brown died on March 23 at an Olympia Fields hospital. The cause of death was ruled sepsis of unknown etiology. She was 49.
Penny Marshall: The co-star of the iconic ABC television sitcom “Laverne & Shirley,” Marshall was also a critically acclaimed director whose films included “Big,” “A League of Their Own,” “Jumping Jack Flash” and “Awakenings.” According to Variety, “Marshall was the first woman to direct a film that grossed more than $100 million, the first woman to direct two films that grossed more than $100 million, and she was only the second woman director to see her film Oscar-nominated for best picture.” She died December 18 from complications from diabetes and heart failure. She was 75.
Bill Daily: He was born in Iowa, but grew up in Chicago, which was the setting for “The Bob Newhart Show,” one of the television series on which Daily co-starred. Before heading off to Hollywood, Daily attended Lane Tech High School and studied for a time at the Goodman Theatre School. He also worked behind the scenes at WGN’s Cubs game broadcasts for a period of time and at WMAQ, the local NBC affiliate. Daily also was known for his turn as bumbling Air Force Major and astronaut Roger Healey on the 1960s TV sitcom “I Dream of Jeannie” opposite Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden. He died of natural causes on Sept. 4. Daily was 91.
Avicii: The Grammy-nominated EDM DJ made a profound impact on the genre in his short life. Born Tim Bergling, the artist was found dead in Muscat, Oman on April 20. He had retired from touring in 2016 due to health issues including severe stress and mental health concerns. His cause of death was ruled a suicide. He was 28.
Burt Reynolds: The Oscar-nominated actor (“Boogie Nights,” 1997) made his mark on both the small and large screens, with TV credits that boasted “Gunsmoke,” “Dan August” and “Evening Shade.” His film work included his breakout role in the controversial “Deliverance” (1972) and the 1974 football/prison comedy “The Longest Yard.” But it was his turn as the cowboy-hat wearing truck driver in “Smokey and the Bandit” (1977) that endeared him to millions.
He also made headlines in April 1972, posing naked for the centerfold of Cosmopolitan (something he later said he regretted).
“It’s a tough business. Very tough,” Reynolds told USA Today in March. “But I always tried to leave a good impression wherever we shot, and I didn’t leave any buildings burning or anything. And I’ve had a good time through it all.”
Reynolds died following cardiac arrest at a Florida hospital on Sept. 6. He was 82.