Sic Transit Kate O’Mara – 1939 – 2014

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

She has died, but the sneer lives on.

I sometimes make jokes that when anyone cancels out on appearances at the Gallifrey One convention, it means that they’re probably going to be dead shortly. This came up after that happened with Mary Tamm and a couple of other actors.

This year, Kate O’Mara, best known to Doctor Who fans for her role as the Rani, cancelled out on Gallifrey, and today we learned that she died at the age of 74.

O’Mara was born in Leicester in 1939. She began her career as a stage actress in 1963, the year Doctor Who first aired. She then went on to several appearances on British TV in shows such as Z-Cars and The Avengers.

O’Mara reached international fame when she started appearing on the American soap opera Dynasty, where she played the sister to Joan Collins’ character. She then went on to sci-fi fame by appearing in two stories for Doctor Who; both times playing the renegade Time Lord scientist, the Rani. She later reprised the role for the rather horrible 30th anniversary special, “Dimensions in Time”. Then in 1995 and 2003, she appeared in two episodes of Absolutely Fabulous, playing Paty’s older sister.

O’Mara was fairly active on Twitter, leaving behind one final Tweet on March 17.

“Thank you so much for your kind tweets. It’s both humbling and completely overwhelming to read all of your messages. Much Love x”.

She is survived by her son, Christopher, and her sister, actress Belinda Caroll.

Sic Transit Fred Phelps – 1929 – 2014

Fred Phelps, 1929 - not fucking soon enough!

Fred Phelps, 1929 – not fucking soon enough!

Not too many people really do the world a massive favor by dying, but Fred Phelps has accomplished just that. He is finally dead, and I come not to praise him, but to bury him. He was a horribly unpleasant person who may, or may not, have been abusive toward his children, who certainly abused the system that guarantees our liberties, and who, merely by existing, made the world a slightly less wonderful place.

Now he is dead. He died earlier today, and did so estranged from much of his family and possibly from his own church, though there are conflicting messages there. Apparently his daughter posted up something on her Twitter feed last week about how he was a “fag-loving whore” and would be in Hell soon, so that’s pleasant.

I really don’t have too much to say about this guy. But I do have something to say about the media. Ignoring Phelps and his outrageous and stupid behavior was always an option, and it’s often struck me as unfortunate that the media didn’t do that as as often as they should have. He was an attention-seeker, and we all gave him what he wanted. In return, we got a villain so repulsive that I’m sure he was instrumental in moving some people toward the gay rights movement, lest they appear to be like him.

Anyway, the dick is dead. If I believed in a god, I’d be thanking him.

Sic Transit Harold Ramis – 1944 – 2014


Harold Ramis, one of the larger figures from my youth, has died at the age of 69. He’s famous as an actor for such roles as Egon Spangler in Ghostbusters and as the director of such films as Ghostbusters. His work also includes classic films like Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation and many other greats.

Ramis was born in Chicago. His career in comedy began taking off when he started working for Second City Television and began doing joke editing for Playboy (yes, it really is possible to enjoy that magazine for reasons other than the obvious). He then went on to work for National Lampoon, creating the script for what would become National Lampoon’s Animal House. This success led him on to doing Vacation and then onto the wildly-successful Ghostbusters.

Ramis, to quote Wikipedia, “…contracted an infection that resulted in complications from autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis.” It was that that eventually killed him.

Ramis hasn’t had a popular or successful movie in a while. His last film, Year One, was hated by audiences and critics alike, and that’s a real shame. But on the plus side, at least we have a great body of his to look back on, and I can think of worse legacies that someone can leave the world than the creation of a character whose primary hobbies include the collecting of various spores, molds and fungi.

Sic Transit Philip Seymour Hoffman, 1967 – 2014


So apparently I’m the only person who was unaware that Philip Seymour Hoffman had a drug problem. This became a very serious problem today, when he was found dead of an apparent drug overdose.

Hoffman first came to the public eye in a big way in 1997 when Boogie Nights was released. From there his career slowly, steadily, improved, culminating in his 2005 Oscar win for Best Supporting Actor in the title role in Capote. He also received numerous other awards and nominations, including three more Oscar nominations.

Hoffman was known for a largely quiet acting style. His characters seldom screamed or acted out. Even his villain characters, such as Owen Davian in the under-rated Mission Impossible III, tended to be quiet characters.

But that quiet apparently hid some serious demons. Hoffman went public with drug problems last year when, after a long span of sobriety, he checked into a rehab center. It seems, sadly, that the rehab was ineffective, as it is believed he died from a heroin overdose.

Hoffman was a brilliant and talented actor who will be severely missed.

Sic Transit Cal Worthington, 1920 – 2013

For this man, I can think of no better obituary than this.

Sic Transit Margaret Thatcher – 1925 – 2013


One of the towering figures of my youth has died. Margaret Thatcher has passed away from a stroke at the age of 87.

Born in the era between the wars, Thatcher originally studied chemistry and had a successful career in the field before going into politics. She eventually worked her way up through the Conservative Party ranks until, in 1979, she became the first female Prime Minister and the longest-serving PM of the modern age.

While in office, Thatcher was known for disempowering the trade unions, privatizing industries, helping to end the Cold War, bolstering morale at home, and waging a war abroad, retaking the Falkland Islands after Argentina’s ill-advised invasion. She helped bring the United Kingdom out of the doldrums of the “ex-empire” era and to a huge extent laid the groundwork for what the modern country has become.

I only feel so qualified to talk about her. I’m not British, after all, and wasn’t an adult during her time in office. So I’ll quote from Andrew Sullivan’s obituary of the Iron Lady.

To put it bluntly: The Britain I grew up in was insane. The government owned almost all major manufacturing, from coal to steel to automobiles. Owned. It employed almost every doctor and owned almost every hospital. Almost every university and elementary and high school was government-run. And in the 1970s, you could not help but realize as a young Brit, that you were living in a decaying museum – some horrifying mixture of Eastern European grimness surrounded by the sculptured bric-a-brac of statues and buildings and edifices that spoke of an empire on which the sun had once never set. Now, in contrast, we lived on the dark side of the moon and it was made up of damp, slowly degrading concrete.

I owe my entire political obsession to the one person in British politics who refused to accept this state of affairs. You can read elsewhere the weighing of her legacy – but she definitively ended a truly poisonous, envious, inert period in Britain’s history. She divided the country deeply – and still does. She divided her opponents even more deeply, which was how she kept winning elections. She made some serious mistakes – the poll tax, opposition to German unification, insisting that Nelson Mandela was a terrorist – but few doubt she altered her country permanently, re-establishing the core basics of a free society and a free economy that Britain had intellectually bequeathed to the world and yet somehow lost in its own class-ridden, envy-choked socialist detour to immiseration.

Regardless of ones’ politics, Thatcher’s place in the annals of history cannot be denied. She was a force of nature that will be sorely missed.

Sic Transit Roger Ebert – 1942 – 2013


This is a hard obituary to write. Unlike with previous obits I’ve written, this one is for someone with whom I was, at least vaguely, acquainted. I had an infrequent email relationship with Roger Ebert; one that mostly consisted of my sending him links to things that, more often than not, he’d tweet or send out on Facebook. I even solicited his advice on what restaurants to go to while visiting Chicago last year, advice he was happy to provide.

Roger Ebert has died of cancer at the age of 70. This was a return of cancer which he, and everyone else, had hoped was long gone. Instead it returned with an apparent vengeance, ending his life only two days after he’d posted up a very cheerful, upbeat article that seemed ironically optimistic about the future.

Though I’d only recently started writing to him, I’d been aware of Roger Ebert since I was a child. At the Movies, under its various titles, was something my mother always seemed happy for me to watch. Seeing him and Gene Siskel sparring with each other was a fascinating exercise, and I loved the way that they constantly seemed to be pushing directors to make better films than they were.

It was through Roger Ebert that I’ve discovered directors like Lang, Murnau, Herzog, Wilder, and others. It was through him that I experienced films I’d never heard of before, like Ace in the Hole, M and Sunrise. His audio commentary on Citizen Kane remains one of the best commentaries I’ve ever heard, and his collections of writings, most notably a memorably-titled collection of reviews of bad films, were always incredibly good reading for me.

Ebert’s death leaves a real hole in the film criticism business, and it’s worth noting that, from now until my own death, anytime someone says the words “film critic”, Roger Ebert will be the first image that comes to mind.

Sic Transit Neil Armstrong – 1930 – 2012

A man who stepped small and giant for all of humanity.

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon and one of only a handful of humans in our entire history to do so, has died from complications resulting from heart surgery. He was 82.

Armstrong was born in Ohio, as were an insanely large number of other astronauts and aviation types.He served in Korea and then worked as a test pilot. In 1962 he became an astronaut and in 1965, he was commanding Gemini 8 when the vessel had technical issues. Armstrong was able to bring it back safely. He then did not travel into space again until 1969 when he commanded Apollo 11, and, on July 20 of that year, became the first person to walk on the surface of the Moon. Day later, he, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin returned to Earth and a hero’s welcome.

Life after NASA wasn’t especially easy for Armstrong, a man whose career basically peaked when he was 38. He spent time teaching and largely avoided the public eye. Whereas Aldrin seemed content to rake in piles of cash exploiting his visit to the Moon, Armstrong seemed to shy away from money and fame. He was out doing things in 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the landing, and that’s the only time I personally recall seeing him out in the public eye.

Armstrong’s come about because of the efforts of thousands of people around the world. To one extent he was “just” the one who got lucky enough to be picked as the man who stepped on the Moon first. I don’t doubt that there were dozens of others who were equally qualified and could have done the job just as well; Aldrin for one.

But while he was “just” that lucky one, he was, indeed, that very lucky one. He was the first human being to stand on the surface of a planetary body other than Earth, and that made him one amazing man indeed. Godpseed, Neil Armstrong.

Sic Transit Mary Tamm – 1950 – 1920

Last month the Doctor Who world was rocked by the death of Caroline John. Last year we lost both Elisabeth Sladen and Nicolas Courtney. Today comes the news that Mary Tamm, best known for her role as the first Romana in “The Key to Time” series, has died at the age of 62.

Tamm was born in the UK and started performing on stage in 1971. She then appeared in various small film roles, but became most famous for her role in the season-long Doctor Who story arc, “The Key to Time”.

Despite being a major Doctor Who fan, I hadn’t seen the entire KTT series until just a few years ago. I was pleased by it for several reasons, and one of the most notable was Mary Tamm, who brought a wonderful energy to the character of Romana. Her ability to appear completely bored by the antics of whatever enemy was capturing/menacing her was truly priceless. She returned to the role in 2005 for Big Finish audio in their Gallifrey series, and earlier this year recorded a series of stories with Tom Baker, reuniting her with the Fourth Doctor after all these years.

Tamm had been scheduled to be at last year’s Gallifrey convention, but had dropped out due to illness. Now we know what that illness was. She is survived by her husband and family, and shall be deeply missed.

Sic Transit Andy Griffith – 1926 – 2012

Actor and singer Andy Griffith has died at the age of 86. He was best known for his role in The Andy Griffith Show and later in Matlock and also fairly well-known as a singer.

Griffith was born and raised in North Carolina to a decidedly blue collar family. He discovered the performing arts in high school, and merged those with his love of religion when he became active in his church’s band. From there it was a few short steps to acting, and soon he was performing locally. It wasn’t too long after that that he began performing for larger audiences and soon was getting more and more attention, leading to numerous roles on TV.

He began his role on The Andy Griffith Show in 1960, and it was a role that would provide for him until 1968, which is a pretty good run by anyone’s standards. He returned to his most famous role on a couple occasions in reunion shows. Then in 1986, he began his role as a lawyer in Matlock, which ran until 1995.

Personally I’ll always remember Griffith for his impressive performance as Lonesome Rhodes in A Face in the Crowd. There he plays a convict and singer who is discovered by a radio reporter. Soon he’s singing for larger and larger audiences and, in short order, has his own TV show. Then he begins to dabble in politics and styles himself as something of a king maker. Things get ugly fast. It’s a great movie and he’s great in it. If nothing else, it’s fascinating seeing him play a villain.

Griffith was by all accounts a hell of a nice guy, in addition to being a great actor and singer. He will be missed.


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