Headlines like these seem to happen with far too much regularity these days. I guess it's because, like me, my silver screen heroes are aging too.
Some hit harder than others. This one? Well, it stings.
He was part of some seriously formative years.
Yes, Gene will forever shine brighter than Depp as Willy Wonka. In fact, I refused to even entertain the idea of seeing Depp's turn as the chocolate maker. Some movies simply do not need dicked with. And Gene's turn as Wonka was iconic. I was 5 years old when it was released. It was magical. HE was magical. And handsome. And crazy. And amazing.
I was a tiny tot, but an instant fan. Through the years I gorged on his movies the way Augustus gorged on his chocolate. Blazing Saddles never fails to make me laugh. Young Frankenstein is a black and white marvel. Silver Streak paired him with Richard Pryor and the chemistry was explosive. The movies piled up as did the laughs.
He braved loss in his life, disappearing to absorb the pain of Gilda's passing, then bravely re-emerging to lift the corners of our mouths yet again. He seemed to innately understand and channel that Willy Wonka line, "A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men."
83. In terms of years lived, that is a good run. Using those years to bring pleasure to others makes it a memorable run.
His nephew released this statement regarding his passing: “We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him “there’s Willy Wonka,” would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world."
He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
83 years. Billy Joel is wrong. Sometimes the good die old. And we are so grateful for their years.
Now, excuse me, but I must go, "So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. Thank you. "
Thank you, Gene, for helping to create my smile lines. Now go - Gilda's waiting...