There were a number of major personalities whose lives ended in 2013, the last being Nelson Mandela earlier this month.
Margaret Thatcher and Hugo Chavez were also two world leaders who passed on this year. Mrs. Thatcher sadly spent the last decade of her life with dementia. The oh-so controversial Chavez, 58, who loved poking at the U.S (remember when he called George W. Bush the "devil" at the U.N. General Assembly one September back in the mid-aughts?), died of cancer in the spring.
In terms of journalists, no death hit harder than the passing of Michael Hastings at the extremely young age of 33 in a car crash in L.A. He became famous for "The Runaway General," the Rolling Stone piece that ended the career of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, commander of the Afghanistan war. As the L.A. Weekly described him, Hastings had "built a reputation as a fearless disrupter of the cozy ways of Washington, gleefully calling bullshit on government hacks and colleagues alike. He was loved and admired, hated and feared."
Helen Thomas also died this past year at the age of 92. The longtime White House reporter for the Associated Press ended her career in somewhat ignominious condition, after she "retired " from the Hearst Newspaper Syndicate in 2010 after a video caught her blasting the Israeli government.
Former British talk show host David Frost also died this past year. Thanks to playwright Peter Morgan, his career got a second wind a few years ago with the play and subsequent film "Frost/Nixon," the story about how he was able to secure the first interview with Richard Nixon after he resigned from office in 1974.
We also lost one of the greatest American film critics this year when Roger Ebert died at the age of 70 after a long bout with cancer of thyroid and salivary gland. He had already had one of the greatest careers of any reporter/critic when back in 2006 he lost part of his lower jaw and with it the ability to speak or eat. Instead of then walking away from the public arena he found a whole new voice on the Internet. He also wrote an amazing memoir about his life, called My LIfe, back in 2011.
The sportscasting world lost one of its all time great NFL play-by-play men when Pat Summerall passed away earlier this year. From my time first watching pro football in the 1970's up until his retirement after the January 2002 Super Bowl, you always knew it was a big game either on CBS or Fox when Summerall was broadcasting it, in his classic spare tones. Nobody ever sounded more authoritative saying, "Second down and one," than Pat.
And lastly we mourn the loss of poet and musician Lou Reed, who past away on the last Sunday in October due to complications from a liver-related ailment at the age of 71. Nicknamed the Godfather of Punk, his legacy was cemented decades ago, yet he kept on until he couldn't do it any longer. I was lucky enough to see Reed perform twice (In 1989 during the "New York" tour and again in 1996), and both were memorable shows. He was actually on the bill this past April to perform at the Coachella Festival but only canceled days before when his liver problems compelled him to get a transplant. Like Woody Allen and Martin Scorcese, Lou Reed was a quintessential New Yorker, and he, like the others, will be missed.
Back to the news...On Monday the Tampa Bay Times reported that majorities in both Pinellas (56 percent) and Hillsborough Counties (51 percent) support paying higher taxes to support light-rail. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told the paper that he may try to cajole lawmakers into supporting a bill that would allow cities like Tampa to hold referendums on sales taxes (currently only counties can do so). However one Hillsborough area Republican House member doesn't the support the idea.
Happy New Year to you all! See you in 2014.