When pop and film stars die unexpectedly, the tragedy seems to be multiplied. For many of us, hearing the sad bad news constitutes one of those ‘flashbulb’ memories. We will forever recall what we were doing and where we were when the news was broadcast. A key part of it must be the thought of lost talent and work not completed.
As a key front person of the R&B band TLC, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was renowned for her wonderful performing persona. Who could forget the inimitable condom eyepatch she sported over her left eye. It comes second to recollections of her death in April, 2002, when the pop diva’s, rental people carrier, overshot a highway in La Ceiba, Honduras. Seven of her friends were injured but survived the crash, Lopes was the only fatality. At just 30 Lisa’s death was a big blow to the R&B community. How much more great music could have come beyond the 21,000,000 albums already sold by TLC.
Can you remember where you were, when they announced Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a crash in Paris, while trying to outrun the papparazzi? Car crashes wrench us out of our childhood and make us face the reality of unhappily ever after. The instant she let it be known that she was to marry the frog, rather than the prince, Diana became the most photographed and haunted of fairy-tale princesses. She was more popular than any other royal, including her husband Charles. It continued like this even after they separated. By then she had transformed before our eyes into the beautiful Madonna icon to her sons Harry and WIlliam. Independant and wonderfully anti-establishment, she was mourned by a nation after the crash in August ‘97. She was just 36. Many still can’t accept that she is gone and conspiracy theories abound as a way of holding on to the fairy tale.
Another famous fairy tale with no happy ending was the life and times of Grace Kelly, or princess Grace of Monaco. Grace Kelly had everything! The most beautiful of women, a fashion icon, fame through her movie career and fortune. Star of the Hitchcock masterpiece ‘Rear Window’ and heroine to Cary Grant in ‘To Catch a Thief’, she left her fans bereft when she retired to marry Prince Rainier of Monaco, at the tender age of 26. She became a true princess of the principality of Monaco. September 13 ‘82 her heart broke, literally. She had a stroke while driving to her home, crashed and died from her injuries. She was just 52.
How could someone so alive and charismatic as Jayne Mansfield be snuffed out like a candle flame? She was the ultimate Hollywood sex symbol all through the ‘50s. With her sensational body and animal magnetism she was the star of many films. And not a bad actor, she won the Golden Globe in 1957 as the floozy on The Wayward Bus. Off screen she was a magnet for the rich and powerful, counting both John and Robert Kennedy among her admirers. But at 34 she was shown to be as frail as us all, when she died instantly in a crash with the back end of a tractor-trailer.
Pop stars and celebrities live life in the fast lane, in the glare of publicity and public adoration. It is not surprising then, that so many seem to die in it too. But when it happens, it is always shocking, always memorable and always a little piece of us dies with them.