Not wanting to hijack the John Lennon thread: I don’t know where I was when I heard of his death. It didn’t mean much to me.
What celebribity deaths did make such an impression that you’ll always clearly remember where you were when you heard?
I was five and we were in the neighborhood drug store on our walk home from my kindergarten when my Mom and I heard that JFK had been shot.
I was still in my childhood home, in the kitchen, when my mother told me Walt Disney had died. And it was from lung cancer from smoking.
The clock-radio woke me up with the sound of a local station playing Kermit the Frog singing “The Rainbow Connection,” which was followed by the announcement that Jim Henson had died.
I’m younger than you, the ones that really stand out are **Thurman Munson ** dying in his plane crash.
**John Lennon ** being Gunned down by a madman.
Strangely enough Jim Henson, I was born in ’66 and literally was the first generation to grow up on Sesame Street & the Muppet Show.
**Robert Heinlein ** passed away while I was in the Navy.
I actually went to bed just after watching the news report of the crash, and woke up to see the news report of her death.
All cut down before their time. With the exception of Zappa’s, which followed a long illness, they were all shocking, out-of-nowhere deaths, which makes the circumstances more memorable. George Harrison’s death, in contrast with Lennon’s, had been rumored to be imminent for months, and I can’t remember now how I heard it had finally happened.
Kurt Cobain. I was driving home from class freshman year of college and heard it announced on 98.7 WLLZ in Detroit. I wasn’t broken up about it or anything, but I was pretty stunned.
Being old, I remember the news of the death of Marilyn Monroe.
This surprised just about everybody because she was so young and so damned gorgeous.
John Lennon: I was watching The Carol Burnett Show with my mom when the local station (KTTV, Los Angeles) broke in with the announcement. They said he had been shot in his home so I was imagining a burglar had done it.
Pope Paul VI: The pontiff had been ailing for weeks. I was floating in our pool when my dad came out and casually remarked as he walked past, “Pope’s dead.”
Hubert Humphrey: Confusing the former VP with Howard Hughes (??) I blurted out to my mom, “Hubert Hughes just died!”
I hadn’t looked at the John Lennon thread, but “John Lennon” is really the only answer, for me.
I mean, I remember when Elvis died – but that was just something that happened. Mainly I remember my next-door neighbors’ reactions to it. (Big Elvis fans.)
When Lennon was killed, it was different. I remember that the way you remember things that happen to you. I remember a tone creeping into the news that I had never seen before-- Lloyd Robertson reading the news and looking like he could hardly believe it himself, and wasn’t quite sure how to tell us. I remember needing to be alone in my room. I remember crying “like a little girl,” as the saying goes. I have a very vivid mental snapshot of that – the position my body was in, the way the room was arranged, how quiet it was, all that. It was scary and confusing, more than just sad.
Every other “celebrity” death that’s meant anything at all to me has been recent enough that they don’t really warrant mentioning in this context, since of course you remember – except maybe Spalding Gray. His death felt like the passing of an old friend.
Only 22, so for much of my life I was oblivious to celebrity deaths.
Princess Diana**. I woke up the following morning and saw the news on CNN.
Joe Strummer**. Sitting in my kitchen reading the newspaper when I heard it on the radio.
Christopher Reeve. On three hours sleep, I went out for brunch with friends. Driving home I remember hearing the news. I was barely awake behind the wheel and this was a jolt that I’ll remember.
Gianni Versace**. I was in a small village in Greece at the time and we only got the newspaper on Wednesdays. Unfortunately, it was published on Thursdays so the news was already a week old. I remember being shocked at the time, especially realizing that his death had already happened almost two weeks earlier.
Hunter S. Thompson. I found out about while surfing this board. I remember my response. “Fuck.”
I vivdly remember hearing about Jim Henson’s and Freddie Mercury’s deaths. I was down about Mercury’s death, and broken up about Henson’s.
I also have a pretty clear memory of Magic Johnson announcing he was HIV+.
I remembering hearing about Phil Hartman on the radio while I was at work at Hallmark. The first reports said that two people were dead at his home, but they weren’t sure if he was one of them. I prayed that he wasn’t, but just a few minutes later they confirmed it. It was very sad.
I also remember when John Ritter and Johnny Cash died within a day of each other.
Another one I just remembered: I was working in Illinois when Sen. Paul Simon died. Someone at work said “Paul Simon died today.” I immediately thought of the singer, and I was like, “Get the fuck outta here! Of what??” They were like, “I don’t know, old age?” And I was like, “Dude, he’s not that old. He’s my dad’s age.” Looks of confusion all around.
The first death I really remember was probably Dan Blocker/Hoss Cartwright’s (May 1972) when I was five. I watched Bonanza every week and in reruns as a little boy and that was probably the first time I was old enough to understand at all what death was approximately. I also remember Agnes Moorehead’s death (April 1974) when I was seven because I was a huge Bewitched fan (I remembered the first run a little but by then it was already in syndication).
Chris Farley. I halted finals prep and watched Tommy Boy.
My first “celebrity death.” (I have the nickname of “Angel of Death” among my friends, as I always seem to break the news)
My mother was a huge Elvis fan. I saw it on TV (I was when he died), and told her. She thought I was kidding, until my father came home and told her the same thing.
Phil Hartman’s. I was sleeping on my mother’s couch (recovering from the flu), and woke up to the news story. I thought I was hallucinating.
John Ritter’s still makes me teary.
For some reason, Richard Nixon’s death fascinated me. He was president when I was born, and I’d always felt that, while every president is involved in scandal, Nixon had the misfortune to get caught. I’d even gone so far as to inquire of my high school government teacher as to whether Nixon would be eligible to become vice president.
I won’t say that Nixon’s death had a profound effect on me, but it certainly made me think more than most.
The aforementioned Freddie Mercury.
While I wasn’t a fan of his music (or his band’s, until later), bassist Cliff Burton’s death startled me.
One more big one. I was driving home listening to WNEW and they announced the Eric Clapton’s Helicopter went down. No word who was on it. “Oh Shit” I thought.
A few minutes later they announced that Eric Clapton was not onboard but Stevie Ray Vaughan was.
I started crying in my car. It wasn’t just the death of a favorite musician, but the way it happened and the way it was announced.
Which reminds me:
In the liner notes of the MTV Unplugged CD with Stevie Ray on it (doin’ “Pride & Joy”), they mention that, at the end of the set, he didn’t stick around to play an encore. The announcement made was that “Stevie Ray has a plane to catch.” Vaughn died (I think, though I could be mistaken) before the episode aired, and they had to edit that line out.
I remember Princess Di because I was idly watching TV while getting a blowjob when it was announced. I didn’t stop, though.
This may seem strange but years ago I was in a band that was country country/rock. My favorite country singer was Marty Robbins. We were on stage when a band member said “Let’s do one for Marty” I said no thinking we needed something more up tempo. “Oh comon’ One for Marty”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked.
“Marty Robbins died today” he said
I was dumbstruck.
I think we can end this thread right here. We have a winner.