By Jesse Utz 

Remembering stars that went out in 2018

Jess, shut up!


Every year I like to look back at the celebrities we lost the year before. As we focus on the blessings of the future, it is good to remember the ones we lost and the foundation on which we are building the next generation. These stars went out last year, but their memory is engrained our thoughts. These are the people that had some sort of impact on me, even though we never met.

Penny Marshall, or Laverne as I first knew her, was an icon in comedy. I can remember as a kid watching Shirley, her, Squiggy and Lenny get into all kinds of trouble on the TV show “Laverne and Shirley.” But Penny evolved as she aged and maybe became better known for her directing skills. “A League of Their Own,” “Big,” “Awakenings” and the TV series “Bones” are just a small list of her huge accomplishments, but I will always remember her for her large cursive L on all her clothes in her first big hit on TV. She made being awkward and funny cool as a kid, and I will always remember her for that.

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Aretha Franklin may not have been on my playlist, or even on my top artists of all time that influenced me, but every time one of her songs comes up, I seem to be singing every word. “Natural Woman,” “RESPECT” and “Chain of Fools” are all iconic tunes to go with her hundreds of other hits. Her voice was one of those to which all others are compared, but never live up to.

Keith Jackson may not be a household name to everyone, but his name is synonymous with college football. I can still hear the cool tone of his voice saying something similar to “He is rumbling, stumbling and bumbling his way into the end zone.” I can still recall listening to his voice and expertise on Saturday afternoons and during any important bowl game. A legend in college sports.

Stan Lee has probably influenced more people than any musician, actor/actress or other mentor. He did this by simply creating comics and characters and giving them life. Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and many more comic book heroes and villains came to existence under the pen and pencil of this man and his team. In the last 10 years, we have seen these figures come off the pages and onto the screen to bring joy to the masses. His secret was to make superheroes that people could relate to on their own level, and he was able to do that time and time again.

Vern Troyer. OK, this one might just be for me and my friends. Mini Me, as he became famous for in the Austin Powers franchise, has become a punchline over and over again for this bigger-than-life character. Vern was only 2 feet, 8 inches tall because of cartilage-hair hypoplasia, but that did not stop him from being successful. Vern overcame the odds and became a star.

Roy Clark, Katherine MacGregor, Charlotte Rae, Harry Anderson and Jerry Van Dyke all were a part of television shows I watched growing up. Hee Haw, The Facts of Life, Different Strokes, Night Court, Little House on the Prairie and Coach all had characters played by the actors and actresses listed above. They each hold a special place in my childhood.

But the one I will remember the most: Burt Reynolds. I loved the “Smokey and the Bandit” movies, “The Cannonball Run” franchises and other comedic things done by Burt. I will always remember that mustache and his laugh. He made me laugh as a youngster and I loved watching him drive those fast cars and trying to escape whomever was chasing him at the time. But he was also in the first movie to scare me and give me nightmares. “Deliverance” scared me for its portrayal of realism of the world when I was young and was only afraid of things Stan Lee had created. “Deliverance” showed me what real fear was. But Burt and that Trans Am will always be a memory of mine, a good one.

So, so long to all of those stars that went out in 2018. Scott Wilson, Anthony Bourdain, Steven Bocco, Robin Leach, Margot Kidder, Neil Simon and all the others. You will be missed, and thank you for sharing a part of yourselves with us.


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