Where Hope Lives

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Burt Reynolds, the star of “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Deliverance,” died from a heart attack on Thursday, September 6, 2018. He was 82 years old.

Reynolds had heart problems for a number of years and underwent major heart surgery in February 2010. The surgery was a success that left Reynolds with “a great motor with brand new pipes.” Unfortunately, that motor eventually ran out of gas. He was transported to a Florida hospital after going into cardiac arrest and died surrounded by his family in Jupiter, Florida.

Burt Reynolds got his first big break in “Deliverance” in 1972, and continued to build up his credentials as a rising start with “The Longest Yard” in 1974 and “Smokey and the Bandit” in 1977. His popularity soared, and he became well known for his mix of post-modern macho posture and wry self-awareness. Both of these traits were put to good effect repeatedly in both action films and comedies. Unfortunately, he also had a streak of bad films which led to the decline of his career. Reynolds also turned down several roles that could have ended up defining his career such as the ex-astronaut in “Terms of Endearment.” The role was eventually taken by Jack Nicholson.

Acting was not always Reynold’s first choice of career. He originally attended Florida State University on a scholarship as a running back. A car crash, however, cut his promising career short when his knee was injured. Unable to play football, Reynolds turned his attention to acting. He appeared in films, TV shows and on Broadway.

In the early 1990’s Reynold’s popularity was a shadow of what it once was. A messy, public divorce, custody battle and tell all autobiography titled “My Life” finally pushed away all but the most fanatical of fans. He did, however, get one brief comeback with his performance in “Boogie Nights.” The role earned him an Oscar nomination for supporting actor.

Fans of both his movies and his work on TV will miss Reynolds greatly. The star is survived by his adopted son, Quinton, from his second marriage.

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Wikimedia Commons

United States Senator John McCain passed away on Saturday, August 25, 2018, from an aggressive form of brain cancer known as glioblastoma. He was 81 years old.

McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2017. Doctors discovered malignant tumor when McCain underwent a procedure to have a blood clot removed from above his left eye. He appeared to remain in good spirits following the diagnosis and quipped that he would be returning to Washington for the Senate’s health care debate mere days after his surgery. “Unfortunately for my sparring partners in Congress,” McCain tweeted, “I’ll be back soon, so stand-by!”

Dedication to his role and position was nothing new for McCain. Born in 1936 in the Panama Canal Zone, McCain followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the United States Navy following his graduation from the Naval Academy in 1958. He was then stationed in Vietnam. In 1967, his A4 Skyhawk was shot down over Hanoi, and McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese. He was beaten, tortured and kept in solitary confinement for more than five years. Despite this, he refused to accept his captors’ offer of an early release. Instead, McCain insisted he would not leave before the other prisoners. He was eventually released in 1973, but the injuries resulting from his imprisonment were visible for the rest of his life. The most noticeable of these injuries was his restricted movement in his arms.

Three short years after his return to the United States, McCain began serving as the Navy’s liaison to the Senate. In 1982, he was elected to the House of Representatives, and he joined the Senate in 1986 after winning the race to replace Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. In 2000, McCain set his eyes on serving in the nation’s highest office. He won the New Hampshire primary but lost the presidential nomination to George W. Bush. In 2008, McCain once again aimed for the presidency. This time, he defeated a host of Republican candidates and became the official presidential nominee. He introduced Sarah Palin, then the governor of Alaska, to national audiences when he tapped her as his running mate, but the McCain-Palin ticket was defeated in the general election.

Following the end of his presidential ambitions, McCain returned to the Senate as the chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. He continued to serve the nation until the very end. Arizona Doug Ducey has refused to announce who he will appoint to fill in McCain’s now empty seat until after the late senator’s burial as a sign of respect for McCain and his family. Newspapers across the nation placed tributes to McCain on their front pages, and the flags at the White House flew at half-mast in recognition of his death. The decisions that led McCain to be known as a “maverick” senator endeared him to some and infuriated others, but in a nation that recently has been so determined to focus on divisions, it is good to see that Americans on both sides of the aisle are capable of putting aside their differences to mourn a man so many respected.

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Robin Leach, the entertainment journalist best known for his work on TV’s Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, died early Friday morning. He was 76.

The cause of death wasn’t announced, but it was reported that Leach had been hospitalized since November, when he suffered a stroke in the Mexican resort city of Cabo San Lucas.

Leach’s family issued a statement to the Review-Journal.

“Despite the past 10 months, what a beautiful life he had. Our Dad, Grandpa, Brother, Uncle and friend Robin Leach passed away peacefully last night at 1:50 a.m.,” the family said in a statement. “Everyone’s support and love over the past, almost one year, has been incredible and we are so grateful.”

Leach joined the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2016 as an entertainment columnist to beef up the newspaper’s celebrity and lifestyle coverage across all platforms. Before this, he worked on the syndicated TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, which ran from 1984 to 1995.

Here are some of his most famous interviews.

Aretha Franklin, the undisputed “Queen of Soul,” passed away on the morning of Thursday, August 16, 2018. Franklin had been battling pancreatic cancer and finally succumbed to the disease. She was 76 years old at the time of her death.

A statement from Franklin’s family confirmed her cause of death. The statement said, “Franklin’s official cause of death was due to advance pancreatic cancer of the neuroendocrine type, which was confirmed by Franklin’s oncologist, Dr. Philip Phillips of Karmanos Cancer Institute… In one of the darkest moments of our lives, we are not able to find the appropriate words to express the pain in our heart. We have lost the matriarch and rock of our family. The love she had for her children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and cousins knew no bounds.”

Franklin had been struggling with her health for several years and announced her retirement from touring last year much to the disappointment of her many fans. Franklin had been a professional singer and accomplished pianist since her late teens and was a superstar before she was 30. She was a multi-octave mezzo-soprano filled with gospel passion and tastes that were both sophisticated and eccentric. She recorded hundreds of tracks including 20 that topped the R&B charts. The peak of Franklin’s career, however, came during the late 1960’s with some of her most iconic hits including “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “Chain of Fools” and the classic “Respect.” Such was her vocal prowess that it has been considered the height of stupidity for other singers to try and tackle her songs. They will inevitably be compared to Franklin, and they will almost inevitably come up short.

Though she is best known as one of the greatest singers of all time, Franklin was more than simply a superstar. Political and civic leaders saw her as a friend and a peer. She was a longtime friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and she sang at the dedication of his memorial in 2011. Franklin was also not afraid to use her talents to help advance her causes. “Respect” was described as “an appeal for dignity…a call to action” by Rolling Stone magazine, and Franklin herself stated that “Respect” was more than just a catchy tune. “[‘Respect’] was a battle cry for freedom and many people of many ethnicities took pride in that word,” Franklin said. “It was meaningful to all of us.” In 1968, she was pictured on the cover of TIME magazine.

Franklin’s overwhelming popularity began to fade in the 1970’s, but she managed to make a comeback in 1980 after switching record labels and continued to perform and record through the 1990’s and into the new millennium. “Music is my thing, it’s who I am,” she said. “I’m in it for the long run. I’ll be around singing, ‘What you want, baby I got it,’ having fun all the way.”

Aretha Franklin is the sort of talent that will be missed for generations. Her vocal skills were nearly unparalleled, and she smashed through gender and racial barriers without hesitation. There is no doubt that even many years after her passing she will continue to reign as “Queen of Soul” in many people’s hearts. In fact, this is one crown that may never truly be passed on to be worn by another.