When the Stars Go Out

It’s been a sad week here in Rerun Junkie Land.
In the last few days we’ve lost both Markie Post (less than a month after her Night Court co-star Charles Robinson at that) and Alex Cord, as well as observing the anniversary of Robin Williams’s death.
It’s a strange thing when celebrities die. It’s a given that their family and friends will mourn them (unless they are absolute pricks, but it never seems like an asshole dies). But they also end up being mourned by strangers who thought of them as friends and/or family because by virtue of technology they became important and familiar.
However, even more curious is how -when you really stop to think about it- they aren’t really gone in the way that fans know them. Yes, they’ve gone beyond the horizon to have some new adventures, but the way that we as fans know them best is left behind. They’re gone, but they’re not.
It sort of ends up being this weird grief echo that surrounds that person.
Take Davy Jones and Peter Tork, for example. I was devastated when both men died. We’re talking straight up disbelief followed by heartbreak that lasted for days. Understandable given that I’ve been a huge Monkees fan since I was six. But my access to them hasn’t changed. I can listen to them whenever I want, watch episodes of the show whenever I want. They’re gone, but they’re not. And sometimes, I forget that they’re gone. It’s always for a brief moment and then I remind myself, but it’s always a disconcerting sort of feeling. Like, oh yeah. They’re gone.
I know that happens to people when someone they know personally dies, too. They have that brief bliss of forgetting that their loved one is gone before the reality comes crashing down. But the very nature of celebrity makes this a default. It’s so easy to forget that they’re gone because they’re always there.
And that echo reverberates differently for different people, and not always in a way that makes sense.
I was understandably heartbroken when two of my TV boyfriends, Martin Milner and James MacArthur, passed away, but the reminders that they’ve beyond the horizon don’t hit me as hard as you would think they would. In contrast, I was also sad when Ron Glass and David Ogden Stiers died, but for some reason, the reminders of them being gone are much harsher. I have no explanation for this.
I have no real point to any of this. Only my own observations on a phenomenon that might only exist in my head. But it’s something that I think about every time an old favorite takes that horizon ride.

I guess what I’m saying is that some stars never really go out.

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