THE BEST SELLERS’ LIST- Legends of 2021: From all walks of life, the year bids farewell to many leaving legacies

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From left are Cloris Leachman, Hank Aaron and Larry King.


By Thomas Sellers Jr.

Death can strike at any moment or time.

We’re born to one day leave this planet physically. So the main question is, will your life have a lasting impact on others to stand the test of time. With one more day left in 2021, another prominent, significant or well-known person might pass away.

But this week’s The Best Sellers’ List will celebrate the lives and honor the memories of 15 important figures in my life. Yes, I am taking on the task of ranking them on the impact each person had in my life.

Here are a few honorable mentions: Tanya Roberts, Rush Limbaugh, Walter Mondale, Suzzanne Douglas, Michael Collins, Jessica Walter, Mary Wilson, Willard Scott, Bobby Unser, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Don Everly, Dean Stockwell, Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas, Dusty Hill, Adolp “Young Dolph” Thorthon Jr., Samuel E. Wright, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, Lee Evans, Christopher Plummer, Melvin Van Peebles, David Patten, Demaryius Thomas, Stephen Sondheim, Lee Elder, Paul Westphal, Elgin Baylor, Michael K. Williams, Joseph “Dusty” Hill, Sam Huff, Paul Mooney, Phil Spector, John Chaney, Tommy Lasorda and Marion Ramsey.

15. George Holliday

Sept. 19, 2021

Living his everyday life as a plumber, George Holliday’s life changed forever on the night of March 3, 1991. With his video recorder, Holliday filmed the beating of Rodney King. With a police helicopter waking him up, Holliday stepped outside his San Fernando Valley home to record the beating by four white police officers of a black man after a traffic stop. Holliday recorded nine minutes of the confrontation and turned over his videotape to a local TV station, which later shared it with CNN.

This footage was the prelude to all the viral recordings we have today between citizens and police officers. Holliday was a pioneer of “citizen journalism.”

14. Phyllis Gould

July 20, 2021

This pioneer for women’s rights passed away at the age of 99. Back in the 1940s, Phyllis Gould and other women stepped into the workforce when men were sent off to fight in World War II. The symbol of women taking on those responsibilities was a woman in a polka-dotted bandana rolling up her sleeve: “Rosie the Riveter.” Among the 6-million women in the workforce was Gould. She was a welder helping to build warships at the Kaiser-Richmond Shipyards just outside of San Francisco.

After the war, Gould became an interior decorator. She was twice-divorced and had five children before settling down in Fairfax, Calif.

She and other “Rosies” met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in 2014, pushing for the observance of National Rosie the Riveter Day.

13. Charles Grodin

May 18, 2021

He is just one of those faces that would always pop up in my movies. Finally I learned his name, Mr. Charles Grodin. Some of the movies he delivered his serious, dead-pan comedic delivery were “The Heartbreak Kid,” “Heaven Can Wait,” “Real Life,” “Seems Like Old Times,” “The Woman in Red,” “The Lonely Guy,” “The Great Muppet Caper,” “Movers & Shakers,” “Ishtar,” and “Dave,” as well as “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Catch-22.” But the two films that made Grodin earn a spot in my heart were “Beethoven” and “Midnight Run.”

12. DMX

April 9, 2021

His government name was Earl Simmons but the world knew him as D! M! X! His passing earlier this year made me realize I am getting old and musicians from my youth are leaving this earth.

DMX was a Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist behind the songs “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem” and “Party Up (Up in Here).”

DMX had an original sound that was a combination of a dog’s growl and an angry man. He lived a fast-paced life from making music and movies to living up to industry standards. It was time for him to rest and get away from all the demons that plagued him.

11. Bob Dole

December 5, 2021

A political icon left us toward the end of 2021. Senator Bob Dole is also an American legend coming from the Midwest state of Kansas. Dole was an All-American playing high school sports and then participating in World War II. An Army Captain, Dole was advancing against Nazi fortifications in Italy when he was hit by gunfire. He lay on the battlefield for 10 hours. His terrible wounds, from which he spent three years recuperating, would cost him the use of his right arm.

That ailment didn’t stop Dole from serving his country through politics. He even ran for president back in 1996. With a sense of humor just as strong as his will to service, Dole endured a lot to become an American icon. Thank you Sir for your service until the end.

Among the honors presented to Dole were the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

10. Ed Asner

August 29, 2021

Here are some notable highlights of Ed Asner career involving more than 400 film and TV appearances, “El Dorado,” “Kid Galahad,” “Change of Habit,” “Route 66,” “The Untouchables,” “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour,” “The Virginian,” “Dr. Kildare,” “The Outer Limits,” “The Defenders,” “Slattery’s People,” “The Satan Bug,” “The Rat Patrol,” “Gunsmoke,” and “The Fugitive.”

Asner is mostly known for his role in “They Call Me Mister Tibbs,” which led to a popular TV series in the 1990s. Speaking of television, Asner’s biggest moment of fame came as Grant on the legendary”The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He became the iconic boss figure for all TV sitcoms with his work in the newsroom of WJM-TV.

Toward the end of his career, Asner did voice work including the “Boondocks.” He was not afraid to take on any role and push the limits.

9. Biz Markie

July 16, 2021

Being 40 years old, rap music was a huge part of my youth. Before we got all this harmful, drug-infested, murder hip-hop of today, we had enjoyable acts like Marcel Theo Hall. Hall was better known as Biz Markie. The rapper, DJ, and record producer gave us fun tunes like “Just a Friend.”

That was Biz Markie’s best known hit coming in 1989. “Just a Friend,” was a smash in several countries ranking high in the top 40. In 2008, “Just a Friend” made No. 100 on VH1’s list of the 100 greatest hip hop songs of all-time. If you go look up over Markie songs, you will smile and enjoy the human beat-box.

8. Richard Donner

July 5, 2021

The “blockbuster movie” became synonymous with the name Richard Donner. The top-notch movie and television director’s resume’ speaks for itself.

Joining “Superman” and “Lethal Weapon” are Donner classics like “Wanted: Dead or Alive,” “The Rifleman,” “Wagon Train,” “Have Gun, Will Travel,” “Combat,” “Perry Mason,” “Gilligan’s Island,” “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” “The Fugitive,” “The Wild Wild West,” “The Sixth Sense,” “Ironside,” “Cannon,” “The Streets of San Francisco” and “Kojak.”

Donner was magical because he challenged our imaginations with his creativeness and daring directing style. His first feature film was a horror movie called “The Omen.” Next came the foundation for his career, “Superman” in which he was paid $1 million.

7. Olympia Dukakis

May 1, 2021

I fell in love with this actress because she reminded me of a sweet auntie. Olympia Dukakis just had the ability to steal any scene. The two roles I will forever associate with Ms. Olympia will be her Academy Award winning performance as the mother of Cher in “Moonstruck.”

Then after her Oscar winning role 1987, Dukakis took on the part of Claire Belcher in the magnificent “Steel Magnolias.” Clairee was a quote machine throughout the movie. “She can’t be more than 18. She hasn’t had time to have a past.” Dukakis just had that funny aunt vibe.

6. Cicely Tyson

January 28, 2021

In the black community, Cicely Louise Tyson is an American icon. She was the female Sidney Poitier. 

Tyson’s career spanned more than seven decades, with her portraying strong African-American women. Some notable roles are “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” “The Help,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” “A Woman Called Moses,” and “Roots.”

Tyson had an elegance to all her roles and commanded a camera with her presence. Her voice was dignified and she was a champion for the human race.

5. Cloris Leachman

January 27, 2021

Cloris Leachman is one of my favorite sitcom actresses of all time. I discovered her back in the late 1980s as a co-star on the Facts of Life. Then I found out her distinguished career had major highlights before her stop in Peekskill, New York.

Leachman was not afraid to take on challenging roles and push the envelope of what women could do in comedy. She could be innocent one moment, then vilgor in the next scene.

She is a comedy legend. The actress and comedienne whose career spanned more than seven decades racked up the awards like eight Primetime Emmy Awards out of 22 nominations.

4. Colin Powell

October 18, 2021

Gen. Colin Powell is a real American hero. The child of Jamaican immigrants grew up in New York City and embarked on a military career. That choice led to him knocking down multiple barriers.

Powell spent 35 years in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of four-star general. He was one of more than 16,000 military advisors sent to South Vietnam by President John F. Kennedy, receiving a Medal of Valor for going back into a burning helicopter to rescue others. Powell was the first Black chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, overseeing the 1991 U.S. invasion of Kuwait led by President George H.W. Bush.

Later he became the nation’s first Secretary of State under President George W. Bush. Powell’s list of achievements are numerous. But one of his biggest accomplishments can’t be written on a piece of paper. Powell proved black men can hold and handle those tough positions and put America first.

3. Norm Macdonald

Sept. 14, 2021

One of the best imports from Canada to the United States was Norm Macdonald. He was just simply funny. Whether he was a writer on a show, doing stand-up or starring on the screen, Macdonald had a way of stealing the show and making you laugh at his trademark delivery.

One of the best storytellers of all-time, Macdonald just had a way of capturing your attention. Most remember him from his stent on “Saturday Night Live.”

After sharpening his skills on the stage and writing for the hit sitcom “Roseanne,” it was off to New York for Macdonald in 1993.

He would become known for his impressions of Bob Dole, Larry King, David Letterman and Burt Reynolds. “Weekend Update”was the perfect platform for Macdonald to shine. Normally O.J. Simpson was his favorite target.

His voiceover work was phenomenal including “The Mike Tyson Mysteries.” Norm will live on in many forms to keep generations laughing.

2. Larry King

January 23, 2021

As a journalist I truly appreciate the example Mr. Larry King provided to the industry. In today’s social media and commercial journalism, we just want to shout out information without proof and sources. Larry King brought the newsmakers and the people behind them on his longtime CNN show.

He asked the tough questions and gave those celebrities, accused and trendy folks a chance to share their thoughts, views and case.

Larry King became an American icon through those interviews. “Houston, Hello.” You looked forward to him calling out your city when a caller would phone into his show to contribute to the interview. King was an American television and radio host, whose awards included two Peabodys, an Emmy and ten Cable ACE Awards. He hosted more than 50,000 interviews.

1. Hank Aaron

January 22, 2021

Henry Louis Aaron ranks No. 1 on this list because he is a piece of Americana. His life and baseball career is mythical to the likes of Babe Ruth, Wilt Chamberlain or Wayne Gretzky. Nicknamed “Hammer” or “Hammerin’ Hank,” Aaron overcame racial doubts and tension to shatter many baseball records. The right fielder played 23 seasons in Major League Baseball, from 1954 through 1976. He set a then MLB home run record of 755 career home runs, breaking Babe Ruth’s record. He achieved this goal in the Deep South in Atlanta. And that evening in 1974, whites and blacks cheered the amazing feat of Hammerin’ Hank. Mr. Aaron continued to be a goodwill ambassador until his passing. A real American legend departed this world but his legacy and impact will last forever.

 THOMAS SELLERS JR. is the editor of The Millington Star and both the sports editor and a weekly personal columnist for West 10 Media/Magic Valley Publishing. Contact him by phone at (901) 433-9138, by fax to (901) 529-7687 and by email to thomas@magicvalleypublishing.com.

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