My mother and I have a somewhat morbid tradition. Whenever a celebrity dies, whoever hears the news first texts the other with just the name; the recipient immediately knows what it means.
We do it regardless of if either of us were fans of the deceased celebrity. Our reactions range from empathetic indifference to ambivalence to sadness, just like anyone might feel on their own upon learning about a celebrity death, except we share that moment with someone we know won't judge that reaction. Sometimes it's just a way to share news, and sometimes, if the celebrity did have an impact on one of us, it's a way to say, Oh no, how sad, do you feel like talking about it? without actually having to say it.
On average, my reactions to celebrity deaths have hovered somewhere around sincere but distant sympathy. Even in the case that I've met the celebrity who has died, grief isn't necessarily the natural response. But just because a famous person isn't a friend doesn't mean their loss can't have a profound impact on us. After all, many celebrities are talented artists, and their art may be a huge part of our lives.
Or maybe you just think someone's really hot and you get sad when a really hot person dies. Whatever. Grief shouldn't be judged.
I already know that I will be devastated when certain famous musicians die -- especially those that had influence on my love of music when I was kid.
I owe my ability to sing, in large part, to listening to Billy Joel throughout my childhood. The Beatles covered my bedroom walls like a forcefield during my super-bummed-out high school years, even though I graduated in 1997 (as opposed to 1967), and much of Paul McCartney's solo stuff gives me goosebumps on the inside of my skull. And Ben Folds and Jenny Lewis are among the more contemporary singer-songwriters that I'm pretty sure have altered my brain chemistry in a major way.
I, for one, will lose my innermost shit when I learn about their eventual deaths. OH GOD, I HOPE THEY DON'T ALL GO AT ONCE. Please don't carpool, guys.
I asked my fellow xoJane regulars which future celebrity deaths will no doubt make them cry as though they've lost a good friend, because I like forcing people to face the unavoidability of mortality when they casually check their inboxes. Here's what they told me.
Dolly Parton is the only one I will never get over. (Loretta Lynn will be rough, too.)
This literally happened TODAY: I called my dad to cry because I imagined Dolly Parton dying. She means so, so, so much to me. I look up to her and depend on her.
I also cry when I think about Garth Brooks dying, because I grew up on Garth and I associate him with my dad. There are a lot of male celebrities who remind me of my dad (awkward, dorky, goofy dad types) who I need to live forever because I also need my dad to live forever.
Stephen Hawking. Also John Waters.
When Leonard Cohen goes I will need a week in isolation.
Madonna and Morrissey -- because no other celebrities had such a crazy profound effect on making me who I was then, and am today. STEVIE NICKS. Because she's fucking everything. I used to literally see her when I tried to imagine God. Liv Tyler, because she is everything perfect, sweetness and light. Kathleen Hanna because. Just because. No explanation necessary.
I cry really easily over death, so I'll keep it short by naming the big ones: Mick and Keith, probably Charlie Watts as well. Bowie will also be tough. As will Stevie Nicks. Oh fuck. Leonard Cohen, too.
I echo all David Bowie, Stevie Nicks, and Leonard Cohen sentiments. And I add Prince, because he is just everything.
Dustin Hoffman, as I adore "The Graduate." And anyone who dies young. That always gets me even if I barely know the person.
This question has got me STRESSED. Missy Elliott, Pharrell, and Gwen Stefani.
I CAN'T EVEN THINK ABOUT ANGELA LANSBURY DYING WITHOUT GETTING REALLY UPSET.
Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner.
Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. Despite their "brutal love affair," I'm obsessed with them both (separately) as actors. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "The Royal Tenenbaums" are two films that had the strongest impact on me when I started writing fiction (as an angsty pre-teen, of course). Sad!
Steve Martin. I had a crush on him AND I wanted him to be my dad. It was complicated. Also Martin Short. I saw him in "The Goodbye Girl" musical when I was a kid and I memorized all his songs. And "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is my favorite movie ever, so Chevy Chase can't die either.
I really don't want any of the Three Amigos to die.
Your turn! Which celebrities are you saving tears for upon hearing of their demise?