2020 has been a difficult year, between the wildfires striking in Australia, mass protests in the United States, oh, and that global coronavirus pandemic still raging on for much of the world. Compounding what has been a year of grief are the celebrities whose lives were lost along the way. It’s almost hard to believe that the year is only half over.
Rocky Johnson, father of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and trailblazer in the Canadian professional wrestling world, passed away on January 15 of this year. His son, who famously followed in his father’s footsteps and launched his own successful wrestling and acting career, eulogized his father beautifully and generously shared the video of his speech honoring his father to his Instagram page. In the caption for the emotional video, the Rock wrote in part, “You trail blazed and even harder, you changed people’s harsh behaviors toward a man of color. Paving the way for me, my family and generations to come.” Strong words from an incredibly proud son.
A little over a week later came the devastating news that Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna (Gigi) Bryant died in a helicopter crash on January 26th. Seven other people on the aircraft, including the pilot, also lost their lives. Though the exact cause of the crash is unknown, it is generally assumed that the pilot was experiencing visibility issues due to fog in the area and was flying too low. The nation was understandably shocked and grieved by the loss of so many lives, especially because several of the passengers were Gigi’s basketball teammates or those teammates’ parents. While most media outlets went out of their way to be respectful towards the memory of the people who lost their lives that day, some tabloids tried their best to exploit a grieving family to make a quick buck.
Kirk Douglas, father of actor Michael Douglas and a legendary actor himself, passed away on February 5 at the age of 103. Kirk proved himself to be multi-talented over his decades-long career in show business as an actor, director, writer, producer, and philanthropist. Though he never wanted any of his children to follow in his footsteps and pursue an acting career, he couldn’t help but be proud of the career his son Michael forged for himself. “I didn’t want Michael to be an actor,” he once told People. “I wanted him to be a lawyer or a doctor, like many fathers. But he’s a good actor, he’s my favorite actor.” That’s high praise indeed coming from the star of Spartacus.
In February, British TV and radio presenter Caroline Flack took her own life on February 15. Flack was the host of the immensely popular reality show Love Island until December 2019, after Flack was charged with assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton. Already a popular tabloid target after dating a 17-year-old Harry Styles when she was 31-years-old, this assault charge was simply more fodder for unscrupulous publications to feed on. Though it’s impossible and unwise to assign any one reason for a person’s suicide, many fans of Flack blamed the media’s harsh writing’s for Flack’s death. The negative attention couldn’t have been a positive experience for Flack, but it likely wasn’t the only reason for her tragic decision.
Pop Smoke was a rapper who many in the industry were eyeing as the next big act. Unfortunately, the 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Bashar Barakah Jackson, was murdered on February 19. His life was taken from him before even being able to release his debut album, "Shoot For the Moon, Aim For The Stars," which was eventually released posthumously. Pop Smoke was staying in a Hollywood Hills rental home that night when a group of young men broke in, ostensibly to burglarize the mansion. Pop Smoke was later found by police officers and transported to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where he died. Since the rapper’s death, several suspects have been arrested in connection to his death, with two of those involved possibly facing the death penalty as a result of the crimes.
Another musical legend was lost in 2020 in the form of the great Kenny Rogers. The singer, songwriter, actor, entrepreneur, and record producer, not to mention photographer and philanthropist, left quite the void behind when he died on March 20. Happily, he also left proof of not only his considerable musical talents but the positive impact left behind as a result of his philanthropic work. This is especially evident in the Kenny Rogers Children's’ Center, so named for the man who not only raised money for the organization but encouraged other performers to do the same.
Roy Horn, one half of the iconic Vegas duo that was Siegfried and Roy, lost his battle with COVID-19 on May 8 at the age of 75. Horn’s big cat Vegas show catapulted both him and his longtime business partner Siegfried Fischbacher to pop culture icons, though their famous big cat show almost proved deadly for Horn in 2003. During a show on Horn’s birthday, the act went wrong somehow, leading to Horn being dragged off the stage by a 7-year-old tiger named Montecore. The attack nearly killed Horn, though he insisted afterward that the tiger was not to blame and had instead saved his life after he suffered a stroke onstage.
John Prine, celebrated singer, songwriter, and composer, was another person lost to COVID-19 this year. Known for his often humorous songs with messages of protest and social commentary, Prine passed away at age 73 on April 7 of this year. Prine leaves behind his wife, Jody Whelan, and the couple’s three children.
Nick Cordero lost his long, struggle-filled battle with COVID-19 on July 5. Cordero was diagnosed initially with a severe case of pneumonia on March 20, but it was later discovered that the Broadway star had contracted coronavirus instead. During his battle with the novel virus, Cordero had his right leg amputated due to complications from the illness. His widow, Amanda Kloots, documented much of his medical battle on social media and has since used social media as a way to process her grief and captivated America with Cordero's brave battle with the deadly illness.
Naya Rivera was reported missing on July 8 after she and her 4-year-old son, Josey, went boating on Lake Piru. While the boy survived, thanks in large part to his mother’s final heroic moments, the currents of the manmade lake proved deadly. After six long days, during which Rivera’s family came to assist in the search, it is believed that Rivera’s body has been found. Though, of course, the body will still need to be positively identified and an autopsy will need to be performed. Although some people think Rivera might have killed herself, authorities have indicated that the actress’ death was purely accidental, with no foul play evident.
Kelly Preston, wife of actor John Travolta and star of Twins, died July 12 after a two-year-long battle with breast cancer. Travolta had the difficult task of announcing his wife’s death to the world, writing on Instagram, “It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that my beautiful wife Kelly has lost her two-year battle with breast cancer. She fought a courageous fight with the love and support of so many.” The actor went on to thank the medical staff at the hospital where Preston received her treatment. Preston leaves behind a son, Benjamin, and a daughter, Ella Bleu.
Son of Lisa Marie Presley and singer-songwriter Danny Keogh, Benjamin Keogh took his own life on July 12. Benjamin, who is also the grandson of the legendary Elvis Presley, was the only son in the family and leaves behind his sister, Riley, as well as 11-year-old twin sisters. Although his older sister Riley has made a career for herself by acting, Benjamin preferred to stay out of the public eye. He was 27-years-old.
Grant Imahara, one of the hosts of the very popular show Mythbusters, died suddenly on July 13. Soon after, it was revealed that the electrical engineer, roboticist, and television host had suffered a sudden brain aneurysm at the age of 49. Imahara’s former Mythbusters castmates penned touching tributes to their fallen friend, with his former co-host Adam Savage writing on Twitter, “I’m at a loss. No words. I’ve been part of two big families with Grant Imahara over the last 22 years. Grant was a truly brilliant engineer, artist, and performer, but also just such a generous, easygoing, and gentle PERSON. Working with Grant was so much fun. I’ll miss my friend.” A truly sad loss during a year that’s seen so much grieving.
Tabloids definitely have a bad reputation when it comes to reporting on the death of celebrities, especially when these shameful outlets insist on reporting on the death before it happens. The Globe, an outlet known for their shoddy reporting, claimed friends of actor Johnny Depp feared he would be dead before Christmas. Obviously, Depp survived Christmas, not that Gossip Cop believed the phony story for a moment to even be worried.