Celebrity deaths affect us all

Tamrah Johnson



Merle Haggard, Prince, Nancy Regan and Michael Jackson are a few of the many celebrity deaths that we have encountered. It is common for people to develop a parasocial relationship towards a celebrity due to the feeling that the celebrity is talking directly to them or for them, or due to the feeling that the celebrity is portraying mutual feelings or ideas that they have.

I asked three staff members and three students from the Antelope Valley campus if there was any celebrity whose death greatly impacted or affected their lives. Here is what they had to say.

Faculty Answers:

Matthew Woodman, English Professor

“Jim Harrison. He was a writer who just died so I was strongly affected by his death. Since his death, I found a couple of his interviews that were published right before he died so I read those, and I reread one of his books. His writing spoke to me. It wasn’t necessary the same style of writing that I do but the writing kind of reflected the same thoughts that I have about life. It was kind of like he was, well, I did feel like ‘well, he’s not writing to me,’ and I know that but it felt like he was.”

Melissa Ackerley, English Administrative Support Coordinator

“Martin Luther King. His philosophy was incredible. He was a leader who led by action and peaceful protest and nonviolence. Yeah, him and Gandhi, not only his messages but the way he lived. There are a lot of people with messages, but you find out about how they lived and you are like humm. I have never heard anything that has stained his reputation and even if I had to pick a role model, it would be him. He was right on, I mean, he was speaking to us. He was speaking to everyone. He was not speaking to just blacks, no, no, he was speaking to me; he was speaking to my mom. Yeah if I have to go with someone who has passed, it would be Martin Luther King; otherwise, it’s Kenny Loggins!” She said that one of Kenny Loggins’ songs helped her through a divorce.

Dr. Randy Schultz, Intern Dean at CSUB-AV

“Yes, John Lennon. It was during my first year in grad school, and it was also my first year of marriage. We were in a brand new city in Minneapolis, Minnesota and my neighbor was downstairs watching Monday Night Football, and he called me and said, ‘You like John Lennon, don’t you?’ I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ Then he said, ‘Well, he’s dead!’ and I was just devastated. I remember going to school the next day, and there were a lot of us just totally devastated. It was just a sad way for him to go. He spoke to me, and he was my favorite Beatle. I loved him as a Beatle and his solo career. My wife had just gotten me his new album for my birthday, and he died right afterwards. I just remember listening to it afterwards and just feeling so sad.”


Student Answers:

Diana Ansora, Sociology Major, Senior at CSUB-AV

“Martin Luther King. I admire him for all of the work that he did. I saw how he never gave up on the rights about equality and yes, that’s what I like too. I don’t like inequality at all, and I am like one of those people like him. Like he will fight for the right things to do – to be equal about everything no matter what race or gender you are.”

Thomas Prothro, MGA Student in the Business Program, CSUB-AV

“With Prince just passing, you realize how young he was and as an older student over 40 years old, you realize that even someone who is famous and wealthy, life is definitely not a guarantee. Everyone is human.”

Selene Valencia, Sociology Major, Senior at CSUB-AV

“I think if I can relate to anyone, it would probably be Robin Williams. He was just a really funny character so I think just his humor is something that I can relate to just smiling and trying to laugh and enjoy life. He passed away due to suicide, and it was very sad because he presented himself as this really comical person but there was issues there that made him commit suicide. I forgot what disease they said he was dealing with, and I think he was ashamed of it or there wasn’t enough awareness about it where he didn’t want to come out to the public and say that he had it. I think that resulted in him committing suicide. If he just had someone who he could have told about his condition, he might have still been with us and just hung in there.”