The caves of Yahoo had a list up this morning of 10 other well known celebrities in their day that fell before the age of 30; I now present that list for you:
• James Dean, 24, died Sept., 30, 1955, after an automobile crash on the highway near Paso Robles, Calif.
• Sharon Tate, 26, was murdered Aug. 9, 1969, by followers of Charles Manson in Los Angeles.
• Freddie Prinze, 22, died Jan. 29, 1977, after shooting himself in Los Angeles.
• Jon-Erik Hexum, 26, died Oct. 18, 1984, after accidentally shooting himself with a prop gun in Los Angeles.
• Rebecca Schaeffer, 21, was murdered July 18, 1989, by stalker Robert John Bardo in Los Angeles.
• Brandon Lee, 28, died March 31, 1993, after accidentally being shot on the set of “The Crow” in Wilmington, N.C.
• River Phoenix, 23, died Oct. 31, 1993, from a drug overdose outside of a night club in Los Angeles.
• David Strickland, 29, died March 22, 1999, after hanging himself in a hotel room in Las Vegas.
• Jonathan Brandis, 27, died Nov. 12, 2003, from injuries he suffered after hanging himself in Los Angeles.
• Brad Renfro, 25, died Jan. 15, 2008, the day after reportedly spending the previous evening drinking with friends.
It always sucks when a beloved celebrity is taken from us, but especially hard when they were young. People like to grow up with celebrities, they are the famous faces of the era in which we live, and in a way represent our own place in history. When the gods of the screen go on before us, it is a harsh reminder of our own mortality and the loss can hit devout fans especially hard.
Looking over the above list River Phoenix is the one that I remember being the most startling (up until yesterday). Girls had his picture in their lockers, and then word came out and shocked the hell out of everybody. The high school hallways were abuzz with the news and no one could believe it.
Dying young seems to catapult a star into a special place of remembrance; they become like a patron saint of youth that forever understands and intercedes for the young. I don’t want to say that people remember those that die young more or less than those that die late in life; but they certainly do seem to be remembered with a different kind of reverence. James Dean still sells pictures, and I think this is a testament to the remembrance of eternal youth.
Heath Ledger joined the list yesterday and to say that this was a shock would be an understatement. He was beloved around these parts and all the comments on the message board are a testimony to his ability and legacy. So many of you shared your thoughts, and it is good to remember our fallen heroes together. We now wait to see what could be his best performance to date in Batman: The Dark Knight, if there is a better opportunity for a last hurrah – I cannot think of one.
At this point I would like to quote one of the greatest men to ever walk the earth on the matter – Dr. Seuss. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”