From the big screen to the TV screen to the playing field, New York City lost some of its most famous residents, natives and fans in 2010. A sad farewell to —
George Steinbrenner, longtime owner of the New York Yankees, who helped make baseball an international pastime. He was known simply as “The Boss”, bigger than life, bigger than Yankee Stadium. And he loved the Yankees more than anybody else in the world. In 2010 the Yankees also lost two other legendary members of the team family, Ralph Houk, the manager who guided the team to two World Championship Series in the 1960s, and Bob Sheppard, the famous and memorable voice of Yankee Stadium’s public address system for more than fifty years.
Lena Horne, the spectacularly beautiful and talented actress, singer and dancer, who helped break down racial stereotypes in Hollywood but never forgot her Harlem roots, where she got her start in the legendary Cotton Club. Her signature song — Stormy Weather.
Tony Curtis, the Bronx boy who was equally adept at playing dramatic roles and comedy. He won awards for his roles in “Spartacus” and “The Defiant Ones”. But his most famous role was as a female impersonator in “Some Like it Hot“, the hilarious, classic 1969 comedy with Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe. It is one of my top five personal favorite movies of all time. Maybe yours, too.
Eddie Fisher — He was one of the most popular entertainers of the 1950s, with his own TV show, but his career crashed and burned after he left his wife, Debbie Reynolds, for Elizabeth Taylor, who later dumped him for Richard Burton. And you think today’s celebrity gossip is unique! I lost my dad when I was twelve, and Fisher’s signature song, “Oh, My Papa” brought tears to my eyes then, and still does, whenever I hear it.
Elaine Kaufman — Her restaurant, Elaine’s, on the Upper East Side, was the second home for celebrities, writers, sports figures and politicians from Frank Sinatra to George Steinbrenner. Many a deal was ‘done’ here over a drink or a steak sandwich. Or both.
The Broadway theater world also lost two of its most enduring stars. We lost Jerry Bock, composer of “Fiddler on the Roof” and other classic musicals, including “Fiorello“, about former NYC Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia. And, we lost Joseph Stein, the librettist for “Fiddler” and other musicals.
The world of broadcast journalism also lost two giants. Edwin Newman and Daniel Schorr were giants at CBS. Their intelligence, fairness and professionalism are sadly missing from much of TV news these days. They were part of the same class as Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite at CBS, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley at NBC, and Peter Jennings and Harry Reasoner at ABC, before happy talk and hysteria turned much of TV news into a game show.
They weren’t celebrities by their own doing, but by their family connections. Yet the deaths of Mark Madoff, son of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, and Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson were still sad losses, one by suicide, the other by too much drugs and alcohol.
New York City will miss you all. The words of one of my favorite songs, “Sunrise, Sunset”, from Stein and Bock’s “Fiddler” says it all — Sunrise, sunset, switfly fly the years; one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.