Reflections of 2017

By Jeff Gates - Guest Columnist

While the guitars gently weep.

In October, the music world — and music lovers — mourned the loss of Tom Petty. One of the greatest performers/entertainers of a generation, Petty’s music touched the hearts of so many, symbolized when he performed The Beatles’ classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” with Prince, another artist taken from this world too soon.

As the end of each calendar year comes to a close, many look back on those who we have lost throughout the past 12 months. For most it is a melancholy reflection period of those who have impacted our individual lives — whether it be family, friends, or others in the cultures/genres with which we identify.

While we keep those friends and loved ones up front in our minds, it those whose names are known that allow us to reflect with one another.

Here are just a few remembrances of those — some known as well as not-so-known — who caused me to pause this year when I heard of their passing.

To me, there will only be one Batman. With a matter-of-fact, almost Shatner-esque cadence in his voice, no one will ever top Adam West as the best Caped Crusader of all time. While the 30 minute show was campy and quirky, that was a big part of its charm. West was not the muscular, deep-talking macho man, but the Bam-Biff-Pow regular guy-looking superhero we all rooted for.

As a college kid — and fraternity member — in the 1980s, “Animal House” was a part of the culture in which I temporarily lived. With the VHS tape seemingly on an endless loop in the Sigma Tau Gamma house at Buffalo State College, we breathed in that movie non-stop. As a pudgy, awkward non-stereotypical fraternity guy, I identified with Stephen Furst, who played Flounder.

There will always be controversy when hallmark roles are played by multiple actors throughout time (example — Batman, above). Another such part is James Bond. Suave, charismatic, and even comedic when he needed to be in the classic confrontations with Jaws (aka Richard Kiel), Sir Roger Moore was the perfect 007.

Although there are others who are iconic (Jerry Lewis, Mary Tyler Moore, Chuck Berry, Dick Enberg), controversial (Hugh Hefner, Charles Manson) or underappreciated (Al Jarreau, J Geils, Miguel Ferrer, Richard Anderson), I would like to just point out some lesser-known (but in my mind, impactful) passings of this year.

Dressed as a Jerry Lewis-esque nerd-type character, Myron Noodleman (real name Rick Hader) paraded the foul lines of baseball stadiums and entertaining crowds everywhere as the most recent installment of the Clown Prince of Baseball.

Bob Givens was the animator who brought such characters as Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd to life. Similarly talented, political caricaturist Gerry Gersten was published in Time, Newsweek, and Sports Illustrated, but he really knew he made it big when his drawings graced the pages of MAD Magazine.

World Champion Dart player Stacy Bromberg reached the pinnacle of her sport, as did wrestler William Myers — better known as George “The Animal” Steele.

Serving as an inspiration to us all, Ana Maria Vela Rubio lived to the ripe age of 116, a record for her native Spain. Not to be outdone, Mbah Gotho, an Indonesian man, was said to be 30 years her senior (although unverified) at his passing in April.

While master song artist Bob Dylan is thankfully still with us, folk musician Bruce Langhorne is not. Langhorne was the inspiration for Dylan’s classic “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

Finally, as we remember those who passed away, let us ultimately recall the joys they have given us during our lives, and in most cases, the legacies they have left so we can enjoy the fruits of their labors for years to come.

So in the words of the Rhinestone Cowboy himself — Glen Campbell — who also left us this year, let us hope that they all are celebrated on the “road to their horizons” by symbolically “riding out on a horse in a star-spangled rodeo.”

By Jeff Gates

Guest Columnist

Jeff Gates has been a freelance writer for The Madison Press since 1996.

Jeff Gates has been a freelance writer for The Madison Press since 1996.