Happy New Year! Another new year brings another chance to revisit my running list of celebrities who are still alive but whom we might have thought were dead. As I’ve said in years passed, my goal with this commemoration is to enjoy the “I didn’t know s/he was still alive” thought without having to read the obituary of the celebrity in question.
First, we should mark the passing of a few folks who have been spotlighted in years passed. Charlotte Rae died in 2018 at the age of 95. So did Jerry Maren, former member of the “Lollipop Guild” and the last (verified) living “Munchkin” from The Wizard of Oz. He was 98 years old.
Now for the good news. A whole host of stars from the stage and big screen are still with us in 2019. The legendary Carol Channing is 97; Doris Day is 94; and Hal Holbrook is 93. Though he may not be as well-known as that bunch, the iconic (to me) Henry Silva is now 90.
They all seem to be spring chickens compared to Olivia de Havilland and Kirk Douglas, both of whom turned 102 in 2018. One of the leads in Gone With the Wind, de Havilland is the oldest living Oscar winner. Douglas, the star of Spartacus and Paths of Glory the greatest living celebrity of Hollywood’s “Golden Era.”
Two music legends deserve mention. The legendary Little Richard is 86 and Jerry Lee Lewis is 82. Both men are the last of the greats of the founding generation of rock ‘n roll. With the passing of Aretha last year, they may be the most significant living musical artists, too.
Finally, television was the creative home to a slew of nonagenarians. Producer Norman Lear (96) is still doing well. Actors Larry Storch (95) and William Daniels (91) are still alive. Comedic legends Carl Reiner (96), Dick Van Dyke (93), and Mel Brooks (92) continue to thrive. Van Dyke even had a role in the recent Mary Poppins movie. Comedian Bob Newhart is 89 right now, but he’ll turn 90 in September.
And, of course, Betty White is still with us. At 96, White isn’t the oldest on the list, but she might be the most well-known senior citizen of the bunch. She is often an internet meme for her longevity, as well as for her rumored (or feared) passing. She’s also occasionally still seen on TV, lately in simple appearances rather than in acting roles.
Here’s to good health and a happy 2019 for each and every one on this year’s list!