The other day a friend of mine passed away from complications after surgery for cancer. She had a brain tumor on her frontal lobe, but it didn’t stop her from being her. She didn’t wallow in self-pity or dwell on the negative. She was full of life right until the end. That is why when her friends heard of her passing, it was a great shock to us. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.
There are many people in this world who seem to have left us way too soon, even if they were very old and lived a long, happy life. And the following list is 4 famous people I think should have lived forever. Are any of your favorites on the list? Is there anyone you would add? Let me know.
1. Helen Keller
When Helen Keller was two years old, she lost her sight and hearing to a brain fever. With the help of her teacher Anne Sullivan, Helen learned to communicate, and eventually became the first blind/deaf person to receive a bachelor’s degree. She traveled the country giving lectures and establishing institutes for the blind and other organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union in 1920.
2. Howard Zinn
Howard Zinn was born in New York to poor Jewish immigrants. When he was a young man, he became involved in radical leftist politics. When World War II came along, Zinn happily signed up to fight fascism as a bombardier. After the war, he became a pacifist and huge critic of all wars.
With the GI Bill, Zinn was able to go to college and become one of the most renown professors and historians in the United States, authoring many books including A People’s History of the United States.
3. Stan Laurel
Stan Laurel was born into a theater family in the United Kingdom in 1890. 20 years later, Stan began touring with Fred Karno’s comedy troupe, which eventually led him to the United States and a career in motion pictures.
Stan’s early career was rather unsuccessful—unlike his friend Charlie Chaplin (who came to the U.S. with Stan and the Karno troupe) who became the most famous silent clown in history. Stan made more than 50 short subjects throughout the late teens and 1920s before he hit the jackpot with Oliver Hardy. He found his calling as an onscreen dope who was always getting the genteel, tie-twiddling Ollie into “another fine mess” in short subjects, guest appearances, and feature films from the late 20s well into the 1950s. “The Boys” still live on today thanks to film restoration and preservation—and the international fan club, The Sons of the Desert, which has tents all over the world named after Laurel and Hardy films.
4. Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton began his acting career at the age of three in his family’s Vaudeville act, The Three Keatons. In this act, Keaton’s father Joe would often take young Buster by the seat of the pants and throw him around the stage and into the scenery, disciplining him for some childish prank. The act lasted nearly 10 years until Joe Keaton’s drinking and abusive behavior broke up the act.
In 1917, Keaton met Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and entered into a motion picture career that would make him one of the most famous clowns in history. He was second only to Charlie Chaplin. (If I had any say in it, he would be the most famous…but, unfortunately I don’t have a say….)
Buster was known for his great physical comedy. He would leap over mountains, outrun falling boulders (and angry brides), and emerge unscathed from buildings that collapsed on top of him.
By the late 1920s, Buster gave up control of his work to the big studios, which lead to a decline in his popularity and his fortune—and an increase in his drinking. The worst hit was when his first ex-wife, Natalie Talmadge, took his two sons away from him and changed their last name to Talmadge.
Buster’s life had a happy ending, though. In 1940 he married Eleanor Norris who helped him quit drinking and got his career back on track. Buster regularly got work in television shows, commercials, the big screen, and on stage. He and Eleanor had a popular act in Paris as a part of the Cirque Medrano. Buster’s later career paled in comparison to the genius of his silent pictures, but he was happy.
All four of these people have had a huge impact on my life and the way I think and act in any situation. It saddens me that they couldn’t have lived a thousand years or more. I can only hope that their legacies live on for years to come—that people never forget who and what they were.
Please let me know what you think about this topic by leaving a comment below. And if you would like to receive updates about future posts on this blog, don’t forget to subscribe via RSS or e-mail. I look forward to hearing from you.
- Need a laugh? Watch these Buster Keaton classics (classicfilmexaminer.wordpress.com)
- Happy Birthday, Stan Laurel!!! (kidzrockinc.co)
- Heroes of Sustainability: Howard Zinn (dolphinblueinc.wordpress.com)
- Helen Keller: 12 memorable quotes (csmonitor.com)