Friday, December 31, 2010

In Memoriam 2010: 8 People and Their Impact

As 2010 comes to a close, I wanted to post something about the year as a whole - a Top 10 list, or a retrospective of some of my favorite things from this year.

Well, I couldn't for the life of me put anything together.  So instead, I'm going the slightly depressing route and honoring a few of the pop culture-related people who passed away this year.  Being relatively young, I'm still in a place where a lot of celebrity deaths don't impact me that much, and it always makes me feel a touch disrespectful.  But I don't want to pen some generic praise to people who weren't on my radar, just for the sake of it.  So instead, I give you a collection of eight people who passed away in 2010 who had a true impact on my life, through the magic of pop culture and entertainment.


I. JAIME ESCALANTE (March 30, 2010)
Inspiring teacher movies can get a bit schmaltzy and trite, but Stand and Deliver (1988) wormed its way into my heart and refuses to leave.  It's the true story of a teacher in a Los Angeles barrio who gets his failing math students to pass the AP Calculus exam, with only "ganas" on their side - sheer determination.  

The man who inspired the story, Jaime Escalante, passed away in March of this year after struggling with bladder cancer.  I still cry when I watch the above video clip.  The movie had a profound impact on my youth, and I wholeheartedly subscribe to the philosophy of "ganas."  I cannot even think of this man's actions without tearing up.  He took each of his students' lives and changed every single one of them for the better.  Rest in peace, Kimo.

II. DIXIE CARTER (April 10, 2010)
I only have vague memories of watching Designing Women growing up, but after revisiting Dixie's role on the show, I can wholeheartedly say that I wish I could be the age I am now and watch the show as it aired.  Julia Sugarbaker is an imposing tower of a woman, and it seems every episode she was delivering a long-winded rant defending her point of view and verbally dressing down her opponent.  She was opinionated, sharp-tongued, and unapologetic - in short, a great lady to have on TV.  

Dixie Carter took a character who was boorish and rambling on the page, and made her a hilarious and loveable woman who you always rooted for, no matter what.  She also must have had lungs of steel.  I wish I could deliver a biting diatribe like this lady.  Just, genius.

If you haven't seen A League of Their Own, stop reading this right now and go fix that situation.  Starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Madonna, it tells the story of a women's baseball league in the 1940s while the men were at war.  The film centers around Dottie Hinson, a naturally gifted catcher who's wise enough to understand that some things, like family, are more important than baseball.  

Oh, I love this movie with all my being.  So when I heard that Dottie Kamenshek, the real-life inspiration for Dottie Hinson, passed away this year, a little piece of my heart broke.  Kamenshek played for the women's league for ten seasons with amazing stats, and was actually recruited for a men's team as well, but turned them down. I have a massive amount of love for her simply for a) kicking ass in a man's sport, and b) inadvertently inspiring one of my favorite movies of all time.

IV. RUE MCLANAHAN (June 3, 2010)
There is no way I can explain how awesome Rue McLanahan is.  And, thanks to Golden Girls reruns resurfacing for my generation, I don't think I have to.  Have some Blanche, and be thankful for this divine woman having graced our televisions.

V. MITCH MILLER (July 31, 2010)
I think I may be the only person under the age of 50 who knows who Mitch Miller is.  For everyone reading this who is not a subscriber to AARP, I'll fill you in: he's a band leader who conducted an all-male choir in the 50s.  His albums always encouraged you to "Sing Along with Mitch!" and, being a very vocal child, this was right up my alley.  So, every Christmas consisted of at least one spin of the Mitch Miller album and my poor 8-year-old brain trying to remember all the lyrics so I could properly belt them out.

VI. TONY CURTIS (September 29, 2010) 
Some Like It Hot is perhaps the best comedy of all time.  It seriously is still hilarious, even though it's over 50 years old now.  Part of the hilarity is Tony Curtis playing a saxophone player who dresses in drag and joins a women's band to avoid being caught by the mob.  His turn as both "Joe" and "Josephine" while simultaneously trying to woo Marilyn Monroe's character is just fantastic.  I highly recommend the movie, even if you shy away from black-and-white films.  This one's great.

VII. IRVIN KERSHNER (November 27, 2010)
Kershner took Star Wars out of Lucas' somewhat incapable hands and made sure Empire Strikes Back kicked the ten kinds of ass that it does.  His work on the film makes me love him for giving Star Wars fans a shred of hope for the objective quality of the saga.  Star Wars was a big part of my introduction into pop culture nerd-dom, so I owe it to Irvin Kershner for giving me one of the best sequels I could ever watch. 


VIII. BLAKE EDWARDS (December 15, 2010)
I love Blake Edwards for having directed to the screen Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Pink Panther series, and Victor/Victoria.  His sense of humor is impeccably silly, and even though it's been ages since I've seen the original Pink Panther movies, I still quote the part about the minkey.  

There you have it.  These fine individuals, through the simple power of pop culture, had a great impact on my life, and I'm proud to honor them here.  They may be gone, but their imprint on the world of entertainment is immortalized forever.

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