Several people in the entertainment world passed away in 2008, individuals who made a tremendous impact with their talents. In some way, each of them had an influence on our culture and will be greatly missed by the fans who love and remember them.
It is impossible to include every notable person who died in 2008, but I have listed some of them whom I personally admired.
George Carlin was a popular standup comic, best known for his irreverent humor. He embodied the questioning cynicism of the “hippie” generation. His career first hit its stride during the 1960’s and 70’s, when he pushed the envelope by making jokes about previously taboo topics, like religion and obscene words. He continued to perform in comedy tours, appear in films and star solo in his own comedy specials, up to the time of his death.
He died on June 22, 2008 of heart failure. Carlin was 71-years-old.
Anyone who is a fan of classic Hollywood movies knows that the statuesque, long-limbed Cyd Charisse was one of the best dancers in Hollywood musicals. She danced with legends Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and appeared in musical films, including Ziegfeld Follies, The Band Wagon, Brigadoon, Silk Stockings and Singin’ in the Rain.
The still elegant Charisse died at the age of 86 on June 17, 2008.
Eartha Kitt, was an African-American singer and actress, best known for her sultry, sexy style. She began her entertainment career as a dancer in the Katherine Dunham Company, was featured in theatrical productions on Broadway and had roles on television, most notably the part of Catwoman on Batman.
Kitt also appeared in films, including Casbah, St. Louis Blues, Anna Lucasta, Friday Foster, Boomerang, Fatal Instinct, Holes and Preaching to the Choir.
Never one to keep her opinions to herself, she caused controversy with anti-war statements she made during the Vietnam War era. This derailed her career in the U.S. for several years, until she starred in the Broadway musical Timbuktu! in 1978.. Kitt became a favorite of the nightclub set and even recorded a hit disco tune-Where Is My Man? in the 1980’s.
Eartha Kitt died on Christmas Day in 2008.
The bigger-than-life film superstar garnered both praise and controversy throughout his long life. Charlton Heston was known for his swaggering, masculine character portrayals, some of them based on real-life historical figures. Among his list of films are The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, Touch of Evil, 55 Days at Peking, The Agony and the Ecstacy, The Greatest Story Ever Told and Planet of the Apes. His later embrace of extreme conservative political views brought him criticism from the more liberal members of the Hollywood community.
Charlton Heston died on April 5, 2008, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, at the age of 84-years-old.
Harvey Korman made millions of fans laugh with his comedic performances in films and on television. He was a cast member on The Carol Burnett Show, where he created a number of hilarious characters and participated in skits with Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Tim Conway and Lyle Wagoner.
He also appeared in popular comedic movies, such as Blazing Saddles, High Anxiety and History of the World, Part I.
The funnyman died of a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm on May 29 at the age of 81.
Bernie Mac was a popular African-American stand-up comedian and actor who never forgot his Chicago South Side roots.
He starred in his own successful sitcom The Bernie Mac Show, loosely based upon his real life, in which he played a married comic who helps to raise the three children of his drug-addicted sister. He also appeared in the trend-setting Original Kings of Comedy tour with fellow comics Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley and Cedric the Entertainer.
Mac’s film work includes House Party 3, Get On the Bus, Friday, Life, Bad Santa, Charlie’s Angels-Full Throttle, Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, Ocean’s Thirteen,Mr. 3000 and Soul Men.
Bernie Mac died, unexpectedly, of pneumonia on August 9, 2008.
Paul Newman was a legendary film actor who came out of the famous Actor’s Studio. He first appeared on Broadway, then began starring in films in 1954.
His films include The Silver Chalice, Somebody Up There Likes Me, The Long, Hot Summer, From the Terrace, The Young Philadelphians, The Hustler, Hud, Cool Hand Luke, The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Towering Inferno, The Verdict and The Color of Money.
Newman was nominated nine times for an Oscar and won for Best Actor for his part in The Color of Money in 1986. Additionally, he received a special Oscar in 1994.
He also founded Newman’s Own, a company that made and sold salad dressing, spaghetti sauce and the like, with the profits strictly going towards charitable purposes.
Married for 50 years to actress Joanne Woodward, Newman was a highly-respected professional and inspiration to a new generation of actors.
He died on September 26, 2008.