Happy 2017! Just a quick reminder, 2016 wasn’t that far away, and despite the ‘new year, new me’ euphoria, here’s a heavy grain of salt to add to your hangover. Sorry.
Hello all and welcome to this week’s Current Affairs Wrap. The last week of 2016 saw the fatwah on the world’s favourite celebrities reach a crescendo, Putin taking the high ground from Obama and the in-fight we’ve all been dreaming of within the Liberal Party.
I shouldn’t have done it, dear readers. I shouldn’t have tempted fate. In last week’s Current Affairs Wrap, I all but challenged 2016 to take Carrie Fisher from us…and I really wish I hadn’t as this week saw the celebrity bloodlust hit fever pitch.
The world woke on Christmas Day to news that one of the world’s most prolific pop stars, George Michael, had passed away in his home at the age of 53.
Michael, born Georgio Kyriacos Panayiotou, was first thrust into the spotlight as one half of Wham!, a duo formed by him and school friend, Andrew Ridgeley. What followed was a four decade long career and one hundred million record sales as the prodigious Michael reinvented himself and his writing, over and over again like few could.
His solo career surpassed the enduring fame of Wham!, with Michael writing seven number one singles in the UK, winning three Brit awards and two Grammys. His life outside of the microphone, unfortunately, began to dominate the headlines.
Following years of speculation regarding his sexuality, Michael publicly disclosed his homosexuality following an arrest in 1998 for engaging in a lewd act in a public toilet in Beverly Hills. In the years that followed, he had a number of run-ins with the authorities for a number of drug related charges. Whilst his public reputation hit the skids, his private life continued to be one of secret philanthropy, donating to and supporting a number of causes without ever chasing publicity.
A renaissance of sorts appeared to be in the offering in recent years with a documentary film, Freedom (named after one of his many hits), being announced, as well as talks of a new album with producer and songwriter Naughty Boy.
Some of the most well known artists and celebrities in the world were quick to pay tribute following his untimely passing including close friend, Elton John, who tweeted “I am in deep shock. I have lost a beloved friend – the kindest, most generous soul and a brilliant artist. My heart goes out to his family, friends and all of his fans”. John followed this up with a tribute performance of Don’t let the sun go down on me during a concert in Las Vegas, a song that the two famously performed as a duet in 1990.
Also on The Big Smoke
- Current Affairs Wrap: Berlin Christmas attacker closure, Leia’s trip to the dark side and our take on the tinsel
- TBS Wake: Remembering those we lost in 2016
Two days later, beloved actor, activist, screenwriter, author and icon, Carrie Fisher, passed away at the age of 60. As reported in the Current Affairs Wrap last week, Fisher had suffered a heart attack on a flight from London to Los Angeles and was rushed to hospital. Unfortunately, she never recovered.
Fisher was famous for many things, but for most, it was for her depiction of heroine Princess Leia in the Star Wars movie franchise. A handful of cameos and roles kept her on our screens in the decades to come however her talent as a writer saw the focus shift to behind the keyboard rather than in front of the camera. From her book, Postcards from the Edge and the movie that followed it, to her uncredited script work on Lethal Weapon 3, Outbreak, The Wedding Singer and Stop! Or my Mom will shoot, Fisher’s influence and legacy grew as she quickly became one of the top script doctors in Hollywood.
She also spoke and wrote openly about her issues with mental health and drug addiction, often satirising them during one-woman plays such as Wishful Drinking or her memoir, The Princess Diarist.
Her passing sent shockwaves around the world, with tributes coming in from everywhere, including a statement from Star Wars creator, George Lucas: “Carrie and I have been friends most of our adult lives. She was extremely smart; a talented actress, writer and comedienne with a very colourful personality that everyone loved. In Star Wars she was our great and powerful princess – feisty, wise and full of hope in a role that was more difficult than most people might think. My heart and prayers are with Billie, Debbie and all Carrie’s family, friends and fans. She will be missed by all.”
The saddest, came from Carrie’s mother, another icon of stage and screen, Debbie Reynolds, who said: “Thank you to everyone who has embraced the gifts and talents of my beloved and amazing daughter. I am grateful for your thoughts and prayers that are now guiding her to her next stop. Love Carries Mother.”
There isn’t much worse than a parent outliving a child, but only one day later, Reynolds also passed away.
The 84-year-old suffered a stroke in the wake of Carrie’s death, with her son Todd describing the stress of Carrie’s death simply being “too much” for Reynolds. Todd also disclosed that just before she passed, she poignantly remarked, “I want to be with Carrie”.
Reynolds burst on to the scene as Gene Kelly’s partner, Kathy Selden, in the classic Singin in the Rain in 1952. Her career saw her become one of Hollywood’s leading ladies in the ’50s and ’60s which included an academy award nomination for her role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown as well as her other biggest role, Tammy and the Bachelor.
Her success on the stage equaled her Hollywood success, with a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical for Irene in 1974, and a nomination for a Primetime Emmy for her guest role in Will & Grace. She was also awarded an honorary Academy Award last year and has her own star on the iconic Hollywood Walk of Fame.
This is a beautiful love story to witness in my 58 years. I miss them both so much. Love is everlasting pic.twitter.com/AeIVGaGl9k
— Todd Fisher (@tafish) December 29, 2016
Outgoing US President, Barack Obama, has continued to escalate his war of words with Russian President Vladimir Putin by announcing that 35 Russian diplomats have been given their marching orders from the US due to their alleged involvement in hacking and interference in the recent US election.
“These actions follow repeated private and public warnings that we have issued to the Russian Government, and are a necessary and appropriate response to efforts to harm US interests in violation of established international norms of behaviour,” Obama said. “These actions are not the sum total of our response to Russia’s aggressive activities.”
Putin was not too perturbed, appearing to take the high ground by indicating that Russia would not retaliate in the same fashion promising not to remove US diplomats from Russia. He went on to indicate that he regretted that Obama was ending his term “in such a way” and extended his New Year’s congratulations to Obama and his family. He then went on to say “Moreover, I am inviting all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas parties in the Kremlin.”
Perhaps his bromance with President-elect Donald Trump has warmed his heart. Trump certainly thinks so, responding to the situation with a Tweet saying “Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!”
Whilst all is quiet on the western front as far as AusPol is concerned, it looks like we might be able to settle in with a big bowl of popcorn and watch what could be the most entertaining feud in modern politics erupt.
Rumours have been rife for some time that Liberal far, far, far-Right winger, Cory Bernardi, might be planning to split from the coalition and form his own party. Well, these rumours hit overdrive this week following the news that Bernardi is launching a new website, www.am.org.au, believed to be the website for a new political party called “Australian Majority”.
Throwing more weight behind the gossip, former PM Tony Abbott has publicly criticised his former colleague in an article for The Australian this week, saying “Not a single Liberal MP would be in the parliament without the party” and that “If we think the party is headed in the wrong direction or is making a big mistake our duty is to try to fix it, not to leave it.”
While most on break only person talking up division in Lib Party this past week is @TonyAbbottMHR. Always back the horse named self-interest
— Cory Bernardi (@corybernardi) December 30, 2016
And here little ol’ naive me thought the Australian public had some level of involvement in putting people in Parliament…
Abbott didn’t specifically mention Bernardi in the article, however, there is little doubt that it was directed at him, particularly given how quick Bernardi was to respond, accusing Abbott of self-interest in encouraging speculation about a Liberal party split.
Bernardi took to Twitter, saying “While most on break only person talking up division in Lib Party this past week is @TonyAbbottMHR. Always back the horse named self-interest”.
Abbott has predicted that a hypothetical new party started by Bernardi could take 10% of the popular vote, mostly at the expense of the Libs. Whilst it’s very much a case of “watch this space”, it is expected that other controversial Lib right wingers, George Christensen and Eric Abetz, could join Bernardi in the coup.
A Liberal party without Berardi, Christensen and Abetz? C’mon, jump on board, Tony! If you go with them then 2016 might actually be redeemed!
Wacky and wonderful
The inordinate number of artists and celebrities lost this year has certainly been a talking point. So much so, that many have postulated and shared their worry about other potentially vulnerable stars that might bear the brunt of hurricane 2016.
One man is determined to do something about it. South Carolina resident, Demetrios Hrysikos, launched a crowdfunding campaign called “Help protect Betty White from 2016”, with the tagline “Help 2016 catch these hands if it goes anywhere near Betty White! If she’s okay with it I will fly to wherever Betty White is and keep her safe until Jan 1, 2017”.
It appears that many other share Hrysikos’ love and fear for the welfare of the 94-year-old fan favourite. The campaign has raised $11,505 and continues to garner support. There has been no official word from Betty White regarding the offer of protection however Hrysikos has promised to donate the takings to the Spartanburg Little Theatre should White not “want a strange Greek standing guard outside her door”.
Happy new year, TBSers. I hope your celebrations were great, and here’s to a better 2017!