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Chris Fordney: Feels like the close of an era

By Chris Fordney -- cfordney@nvdaily.com

With the death of Ted Kennedy and the passing of our last immediate link to Camelot, this year is shaping up as a big one for prominent deaths.

Kennedy's passing was sad, but without the shock and dismay that came with the deaths of his brothers.

Ironically, it was the Kennedy brother we knew least who was supposed to carry the family's ambitions into the presidency. Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., two years older than President John F. Kennedy, died in a secret World War II operation.

Just two weeks before Teddy Kennedy died, his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, passed away.

Yes, it was the end of an era.

Others who passed:

Les Paul, the guitar legend. Just a couple of weeks before his passing, I heard him play early electric guitar in a recording at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. Primitive, but you could hear the roots of every garage band in that audio clip.

Corazon Aquino. She must have been one of bravest political leaders ever, taking office as president of the Philippines after her husband was shot.

Frank McCourt. His book "Angela's Ashes," about his deprived childhood in Ireland, took me back like nothing else to the two Dickensian years I spent as a day student at a boarding school in Dublin.

Walter Cronkite. My father, a Foreign Service officer, once escorted Cronkite around Saigon during the Vietnam War. He said Cronkite was very easy-going and gracious, not the case with a lot of other big-time reporters.

Robert McNamara. He was the symbol of the American faith in technology that ran aground against a peasant army in Vietnam.

Karl Malden. I liked him best as Dad, the bandit-turned lawman who betrayed Marlon Brando in "One-Eyed Jacks." That movie would have been a classic if director Stanley Kubrick hadn't bailed on the project.

Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and David Carradine, all in June. Jackson defied gravity with the moonwalk, Carradine did an amazing impersonation of a Chinese monk in "Kung Fu," and Fawcett dazzled us with her cascading locks and then knocked us out with that one-piece swimsuit.

Dom DeLuise. We remember him for comedy, but he had a deeper range, shown by his role as a nervous Air Force sergeant in the nuclear thriller "Fail-Safe." Also passing away in May was Jack Kemp, who won respect on both the football field as an NFL quarterback and as a congressman on Capitol Hill. He was the kind of moderate Republican we don't see too often these days.

Marilyn Chambers. I forget what she was famous for.

John Updike. When we were teenagers, we thumbed through our parents' copies of his novels for the good parts, and as we grew older we read the rest of them and understood something of his genius.

Andrew Wyeth. His incomparable paintings made us fall in love with small places called Chadds Ford, Pa., and Cushing, Maine.

Ricardo Montalban, of the 1970s television show, "Fantasy Island." He appeared in Chrysler commercials and admitted that "Corinthian leather" was just a made-up term for the car's interior.

Patrick McGoohan, the actor. That big, bouncing white ball from "The Prisoner" pursued me through many a dream when I was a kid.

* Contact Chris Fordney at cfordney@nvdaily.com

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