A few years ago there was overwhelming heartbreak over Brittany Murphy's sudden death. Even people who usually moan about social media were jumping onto Twitter to mourn with the masses. I was moved — and I admit, surprised. She wasn't a typical acclaimed movie star. Her most ambitious roles weren't mainstream. Yet, people from every walk of life were sharing their favorite memories of her in everything from Boy Meets World to Sin City.
Not everyone thought the outpouring of grief was a good thing. One woman felt compelled to use her blog to chide us for grieving over a celebrity while soliders were dying in combat. It boggled my mind how this blogger, an artist herself, could not appreciate the connection an audience makes with those who create art in cinema. These artists bring characters to life by being so genuine in their craft, we begin to feel we know them.
Although I was just about to turn seven, I remember the night in November of eighty-one like it was yesterday. Our multi-generational family was gathered in the living room talking jovially (in a Sicilian household, it sounds like arguing). I happened to glance over at the TV and see Natalie Wood's face and name come up on the screen: "Her body was found in the waters off Catalina Island." It was like someone flipped the OFF switch in the room.
The sadness felt by everyone around me in that moment is still part of my memory thirty-two years later. And we all had our memories of Natalie. My grandparents literally watched her grow up in the movies. When I was young and sang along with Maria in West Side Story (and pretended to be Puerto Rican too), mom would tell me about how she saw it on the big screen. During the years we lived in Corona del Mar, Marissa and I would see Catalina Island and the Catalina Flyer nearly every day and often wondered what really went down out there. Even my new obsession with Inside Daisy Clover has mom telling me stories of how she went to see it at the drive-in. Natalie just always seems to be there in our lives.
And it's not just Natalie.
For as long as movie stars play a role in our lives, whether it was seeing a River Phoenix movie on your first date, or your Nana teaching you to swim by imagining to be Esther Williams, or wishing Corey Haim had been your BFF (sorry, Feldman!), fans will come together when they pass away to say thanks for the memories. And memories live forever.