As you know, this past week, we lost Eileen Brennan. A multi-talented human amazement machine, Brennan dominated film, television and theater throughout her career, and also conquered personal struggles—including breast cancer, and a 1985 car accident which crushed her legs and eye socket, ultimately succumbing to bladder cancer at age 80. She will be remembered for her humor, her talent and for being a goddamn boss.
Brennan’s death evoked a nostalgia in me for the great character actresses that once seemingly filled Hollywood. So, in her honor, let’s celebrate some of the best—some we’ve lost to above, some we just wish we saw more of these days.
We are luckily still lousy with great funny females. But, these are the women who begat the Feys and Poehlers, and we will love them forever.
If people still hold onto that ridiculous notion that hot women can’t be hilarious, then they’ve never heard of Teri Garr. I mean, what knockers. But she’s also a fighter—she took her battle with MS public in the early 2000s, and, after suffering a brain aneurysm, appeared on David Letterman without a wheelchair, because fuck you, illness, that’s why. That was her last public appearance, but we know she’s fights on still.
I already did this post. Read it again. Because Shelley Long is a goddamn greatness fountain.
Like I said when we discussed the standup performances that made us who we are today, Gilda was my first real exposure to the idea that we, as women, were allowed to do that. We were allowed to be loud, and funny, and ballsy. Gilda is my absolute hero for so many reasons, but, most of all, because she taught me what women are capable of—that there are no rules, no “girl” comedy. Just pure funny.
Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper
While these talented women have done so much throughout their careers, to me, they’re a package deal. As the world is ever nearer to losing Valerie Harper—though she’s fighting till the end—it’s nice to be reminded of one of the best female friendships ever to grace television.
For seven decades, Bea Arthur eschewed the idea of a demure female and instead gave us strength. No shock from a damn Marine. Through her work and her personal life, she championed the rights of women, gays, animals—hell, anyone who needed a voice, Arthur was proud to fill that role.
Cathy Moriarty is a true dame, in the best sense of the word. An Irish Catholic continually cast as an Italian mafiosa, Moriarty has personified blonde, bold and brash throughout her career.
Kane has actually been seemingly everywhere this year, appearing on “Girls” and in Sleepwalk with Me. But that’s still not enough Kane for me, only whetting my whistle for more.
Now peel me like a grape so I can get outta here!
Cloris Leachman and Betty White
Yes, these two icons are still working like crazy, arguably more visible now than they were years ago, but it didn’t feel right not to include them.
Sigh. Just the best. What more is there to say?