Before turning the page to close the old chapter and start a new one with hopes of a better year, let’s take a moment to remember some of those celebrities who have left us this year.
AceShowbiz -Many would agree that 2020 sucks. As if the COVID-19 pandemic that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands in America, caused families to hang by a thread financially and ripped off freedom for months wasn’t suffocating enough, many, particularly black community, were enraged by the racial injustice that cost more victims and eventually led to social unrests across the nation.
To make matter worse, public have many times shared common grief due to the death of some important figures in show business and entertainment industry. Whether it was of natural causes or tragic accidents, the immeasurable losses have greatly affected not only their closed and loved ones, but also everyone who knew them and admired their works.
Therefore, before we turn the page to close the old chapter and start a new one with positive minds and fresh spirits, let’s take a moment to remember some of those celebrities who have left us in 2020 and left a big hole in our hearts.
1. Pop Smoke
Many hip-hop stars became the victims of gun violence this year and Pop Smoke was just one of them. Unlike some who were caught in gang feud, the “Welcome to the Party” spitter was shot and killed during a home invasion in Hollywood Hills, California on February 19. He suffered from multiple gunshot wounds and eventually succumbed to his injuries despite medics’ attempt to revive him. He was only 20 years old.
The Brooklyn native was interred at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, but 50 Cent wouldn’t let his music be buried with him. The former G-Unit member decided to executive produce the slain star’s debut full-length studio album “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon”, which was posthumously released in July 2020 and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. So immense the response was that all 19 tracks from the album charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
2. Kelly Preston
Youngsters nowadays may know Kelly Preston as John Travolta‘s wife, but back in her heyday, the late actress had made her name in Hollywood with a career that spanned more than 60 television and film productions, including “Twins” (1988), “Jerry Maguire” (1996) and “For Love of the Game” (1999). In her later years, the mother of three reunited with her husband onscreen in 2018’s biopic “Gotti“, after previously starring together in 1989’s comedy film “The Experts”.
The family gained public’s sympathy following the death of their son Jett Travolta, who was suffering from Kawasaki disease as an infant and had a history of seizures in 2009, but little did people know that Kelly was later also dealing with her own health issue. The 57-year-old actress died on July 12, two years after she had been diagnosed with breast cancer, which she fought quietly, according to her husband John in a statement announcing her passing. After taking a break from social media to grieve, the “Grease” star has returned to Instagram and shared several tribute posts to his late wife.
3. Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013 not without a reason. Particularly popular with country audiences, he also had more than 120 hit singles across various music genres, and topped the country and pop album charts for more than 200 individual weeks in the United States alone. He additionally sold more than 100 million records worldwide during his lifetime, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.
After over six productive decades, the “That Crazy Feeling” crooner announced in 2015 his plan to retire from touring after completing his farewell tour titled “The Gambler’s Last Deal”. Initially planned to go on through 2018, the tour was cut short on April 5 of that year as advised by doctors due to a series of health challenges. He passed away on March 20 “peacefully at home” and “surrounded by his family,” so his family said in a statement, as his frequent collaborator Dolly Parton admitted his death caught her “by surprise.”
4. Kirk Douglas
Before Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, there was Kirk Douglas. One of the last surviving movie stars from Hollywood’s golden age, he charmed audiences with his rugged good looks and muscular intensity through films like “Lust for Life”, “Spartacus” and “Paths of Glory”. His celebrated career was marked with three Academy Award nominations, an Academy Honorary Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
After spending his retirement in private and being surrounded by his loved ones, the Hollywood icon died on February 5 at age 103. The sad news was announced by his son Michael Douglas, who remembered him as “simply Dad” to him and his brothers, Joel and Peter, “a wonderful father-in-law” to Catherine Zeta-Jones, a “loving grandfather” to his grandchildren and great grandchild, and “a wonderful husband” to his wife Anne Buydens. “Kirk’s life was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come,” the 76-year-old actor added.
5. Naya Rivera
Naya Rivera‘s list of acting credits may not be that long, but she undeniably made a great impact, particularly among the LGBTQ+ community, with her portrayal of Santana Lopez on FOX’s once popular musical comedy-drama series “Glee“. Many gay fans of the show credited the actress for saving their lives with her performance as the bisexual cheerleader, who became a queer icon.
Thus, her sudden passing came as a huge shock to all who were familiar with “Glee” and her character. Making it more heartbreaking, the 33-year-old actress died from accidental drowning when she and her 4-year-old son Josey swam at Lake Piru, Ventura County, California on July 8. She reportedly saved her son by putting him back on the boat, but failed to save herself. After her body was found five days later, her former co-stars reunited in Lake Piru and joined Rivera’s family to bid their final goodbye, while fans set up a makeshift memorial at the site.
6. Diana Rigg
Diana Rigg was another acting vet who left this world in 2020. An Emmy, Tony and BAFTA award-winning English actress, she was best known for her roles as Emma Peel on the TV series “The Avengers” (1965-1968), Countess Teresa di Vicenzo, wife of James Bond, in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969), and Olenna Tyrell on HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones” (2013-2017).
A heavy smoker from the age of 18, she was still smoking 20 cigarettes a day in 2009. She only quit smoking in December 2017, after a serious illness led to heart surgery, a cardiac ablation, two months earlier. While her heart didn’t give out at the time, she eventually succumbed to lung cancer, which might be attributed to her smoking habit, on September 10, aged 82. Her daughter Rachael Stirling revealed the actress received the diagnosis in March, but didn’t share it with the public until her death.
7. Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen wasn’t just a rock star. The main songwriter and guitarist of the rock band Van Halen, which he co-founded in 1972, is regarded as one of the all-time greatest guitar players in rock history, who was recognized for his massive impact on guitar playing. He was well known for popularizing the tapping guitar solo technique, allowing rapid arpeggios to be played with two hands on the fretboard.
Van Halen died of a stroke at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California on October 6 after battling throat cancer for years. He was saluted by his peers during the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame virtual induction ceremony in November, with fellow guitarist Slash gushing about the late musician, “Eddie Van Halen was a tremendously gifted musician. His style and his sound were completely unique to him.” In the same month, his bandmates announced that Van Halen would not continue as a band, saying, “You can’t have Van Halen without Eddie Van Halen.”
8. Regis Philbin
Though he had retired as the host of nationally syndicated talk show “Live!”, which he had hosted for more than two decades, in 2011, TV viewers still could not forget Regis Philbin. Rarely appearing in public since his departure from the daytime show, the TV presenter was gone forever on July 24, 2020 after being plagued with a number of health issues in the years prior.
In March 2007, he underwent triple bypass surgery because of plaque in his arteries. Later in December 2009, he had a hip replacement surgery. Philbin, who was once called “the hardest working man in show business,” eventually died from a heart attack due to coronary artery disease on July 24, a month before his 89th birthday. His friend and former colleague Kelly Ripa honored her former “Live!” co-host on the show, “We are beyond saddened to learn about the loss of Regis Philbin. He was the ultimate class act.”
9. Sean Connery
Another star in Hollywood dimmed when Sean Connery passed away. Having enjoyed his retirement since 2006 after receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute, he had a successful career which was brought with his breakout role as James Bond in seven Bond films between 1962-1983, becoming the first British actor to portray the fictional 007 agent. His other notable films include “The Hill” (1965), “Murder on the Orient Express” (1974), “The Man Who Would Be King” (1975), “Highlander” (1986), “The Untouchables” (1987) and “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” (1989) just to name a few.
Connery died in his sleep at his home in the Lyford Cay community of Nassau in The Bahamas, two months after his 90th birthday. While the cause of death was not disclosed immediately, his wife Micheline Roquebrune said he had dementia in his final years. Connery’s death certificate, which was obtained by TMZ a month after his death, showed that he died of pneumonia and heart failure. Following news of his passing, tributes came from fellow stars and figures from the entertainment industry, including Robert De Niro, Tippi Hedren, George Lucas, current 007 depicter Daniel Craig, the Bond film producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli as well as his longtime friend Michael Caine.
10. Chadwick Boseman
Chadwick Boseman was perhaps at the highest of his career and still had so much left to do when cancer claimed his life. Much to everyone’s surprise, the actor passed away on August 28 at 43 years old, after quietly battling colon cancer since 2016. Months leading up to his passing, the “Black Panther” star sparked concern with his gaunt look, but his friends and colleagues had not suspected of his illness as he kept his condition private and continued to act in between receiving treatment for his cancer.
Tributes poured in from fellow celebrities, including his MCU co-stars, as Marvel Studios president and CCO Kevin Feige called Boseman’s death “absolutely devastating.” Governor of South Carolina Henry McMaster, meanwhile, ordered the Statehouse flags be lowered to half-staff on August 30, in honor of Boseman, who was born and raised in the state. On what would have been his 44th birthday (November 29), Marvel Studios further honored him with new opening credits for his movie “Black Panther” on the Disney+ streaming version.
11. Alex Trebek
Alex Trebek was the host and unofficially the face of “Jeopardy! ” since its revival in 1984, and he remained committed to his job even after he was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in March 2019. Determined to be hosting the game show for as long as he could, he continued taping new episodes while receiving chemotherapy treatments during production break. Two weeks after undergoing surgery related to his cancer treatment in October 2020, he returned to the show and was able to film five episodes, which later would be his last. He died at his home in Los Angeles on November 8 at age 80.
A native Canadian before he became a naturalized United States citizen in 1998, he received tribute from the likes of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “Wheel of Fortune” stars Pat Sajak and Vanna White as well as singer Don McLean among others. Meanwhile, “Jeopardy!” executive producer Mike Richards opened the November 9 episode with a statement in which he described Trebek’s death as “an enormous loss for our staff and crew, for his family, and for his millions of fans.” The lights on the set then dimmed blue in remembrance.
12. Kobe Bryant
January 26, 2020 was supposed to be the day of celebration for many musicians at the Grammy Awards, but it turned into the day of mourning for most Americans. A helicopter that Kobe Bryant was a passenger on along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and six family friends crashed in the hills above Calabasas, killing all nine people aboard it, including the pilot.
The tragedy struck not only family and friends, but also people all over the world. Fans gathered in front of Staples Center, home of Kobe’s former team L.A. Lakers, on the day of his death, which greatly affected the likes of LeBron James and Rihanna. A public memorial service was held on February 24 at Staples Center, with speakers including his wife Vanessa, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal, while the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce Knowles, Stephen Curry and Ayesha Curry were among the attendees.
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