Year in celebrity: The highs and lows of 2016

From David Bowie to Terry Wogan Kelly O’Brien looks back on a year in which we lost an unprecedented number of celebrities

Year in celebrity: The highs and lows of 2016

Many years from now, when people recall 2016, they will still, inevitably, remember it as the year of celebrity death.

A mere ten days into January, the first major death shocked music lovers all across the globe — that of beloved artist David Bowie.

Lauded a musical genius, and as one of the most influential artists of our time, Bowie had just released his last album, Blackstar, on what was to be his final birthday — just days before his passing. It was hailed his parting gift to the world.

We didn’t know it at the time, but the floodgates had been opened, and more death was yet to come.

January also saw the passing of Die Hard and Harry Potter star Alan Rickman, Eagles frontman Glenn Frey, and beloved broadcaster Terry Wogan.

In light of the deaths, the masses christened January a freak month, a once off, a mense horribilis, if you will.

But, as the months continued to pass, the celebrity death toll continued to rise. We lost Prince, we lost Muhammad Ali, we lost Zsa Zsa Gabor, Leonard Cohen, Gene Wilder, and many, many more.

While the frequency of such high profile deaths shocked the commonality, tinseltown did indeed continue to turn, however. As such, 2016 also saw its fair share of celebrity break-ups and make-ups, gossip and gongs.

James Cordon continued to hook the world on his wildly popular Carpool Karaoke bit, while Donald Trump became the celebrity presidential candidate nobody ever thought would actually win.

In a shocking turn of events, this was also to be the year that Hollywood royalty Brad and Angelina called it quits, that Carrie Fisher dropped her Harrison Ford affair bombshell, and also the year Leonardo Di Caprio finally bagged his Oscar.

It was the year that only three movies broke the $1m mark at the worldwide box office — Captain America: Civil War, Finding Dory, and Zootopia.

This benchmark set to be broken next year, however, with the hotly anticipated released of films such as Star Wars: Episode VIII and the new Transformers, Resident Evil, Pirates of the Caribbean and Alien movies.

In the meantime, here’s a month-by-month recap celebrity news as it happened in the year gone by.


Leo, Matt, J-Law and Brie grab Globes:

Brightening up the cold, bleak month of January, this year’s Golden Globes attracted the usual amount of A-list glitz and Glam.

The main winner on the night was, somewhat predictably, Leonardo Di Caprio for his role in critically acclaimed film The Revenant. Leo took home the award for best lead actor in a drama while actress Brie Larson took home best lead actress in a drama for Room.

Matt Damon won best actor in a comedy or musical for The Martian, while Jennifer Lawrence bagged the best actress in a comedy or musical award for her lead role in Joy.

The starman takes his leave:

Singer David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of his era, died of cancer on January 10 at the age of 69.

A statement was issued on his social media accounts, saying he “died peacefully, surrounded by his family” after an 18-month battle with cancer.

Tributes from around the world flew in for the “extraordinary artist” whose last album, Blackstar, was released on what was to be his final birthday — just days before his death. Paul McCartney described him as a “great star” who “played a very strong part in musical history”.

The artist’s hits include Let’s Dance, Changes, Space Oddity, Starman, Modern Love, Heroes, Under Pressure, Rebel Rebel and Life on Mars. He was also well known for creating his flamboyant alter ego Ziggy Stardust.

Actor Alan Rickman bows out:

Alan Rickman, one of the best-loved and most warmly admired actors of the past 30 years, died in London on January 14 aged 69.

His family said that he died “surrounded by family and friends”. Rickman had been suffering from cancer.

A star whose arch features and languid diction were recognisable across the generations, Rickman found a fresh legion of fans with his role as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films.

Cast and crew on those movies were among the first to pay tribute to the actor. In a lengthy post, Daniel Radcliffe wrote that Rickman was “one of the greatest actors I will ever work with” as well as “one of the loyalest and most supportive people I’ve ever met in the film industry”.

Eagles frontman dies:

Eagles guitarist Glenn Frey died on January 18 at the age of 67.

He died in New York City from complications arising from rheumatoid arthritis, colitis and pneumonia.

“Words can neither describe our sorrow, nor our love and respect for all that he has given to us,” his family and fellow band members said.

The Eagles were one of the most successful bands of the 1970s, with multiple hit singles, including Hotel California in 1976.

Broadcaster Terry Wogan signs off one last time:

Much loved TV and radio host Terry Wogan died on January 31 aged 77, after a short illness.

He had been battling cancer.

BBC director general Tony Hall said: “Terry truly was a national treasure.”

The Limerick man had a 50-year career on radio and television, including presenting Wake up to Wogan on BBC Radio 2 and the Wogan chat show on BBC1.

He was also the voice of Eurovision in the UK for many years and had been involved in the Children in Need appeal since it began in 1980.


Queen Bey makes SuperBowl statement:

Beyonce wowed the crowd at the half-time superbowl show at the start of February this year, using the prime slot to make a huge statement about race.

The superstar brought the dancers from her new single, Formation, which is being widely touted as a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

At one point during the song, the supporting performers formed an ‘X’ on the field — thought to reference black rights campaigner Malcolm X — and then raised their arms in the air in a gesture referencing the black power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

Author Harper Lee passes away:

Harper Lee, whose 1961 novel To Kill a Mockingbird became the defining text on the racial troubles of the American deep south, died on February 19 at the age of 89.

Lee, or Nelle as she was known to those close to her, had lived for several years in a nursing home less than a mile from the house in which she had grown up in Monroeville, Alabama — the setting for the fictional Maycomb of her famous book.

Father Ted actor Frank Kelly dies

The actor Frank Kelly, best known for playing foul-mouthed priest Father Jack in Father Ted, died on February 28 at the age of 77.

Kelly was a veteran of stage and screen for 60 years and was best known for his much-loved, scene-stealing turn as Father Jack from 1995 to 1998.

Kelly passed away exactly 18 years since the death of his Father Ted co-star Dermot Morgan, who also died on a Sunday.

Leo finally bags his Oscar:

Awards season came to a close on February 28 with yet another star-studded Oscars ceremony.

One of the main talking points of this year’s Academy Awards centred on Leonardo Di Caprio who finally won his first Oscar for his role in the film The Revenant.

Brie Larson won best actress for Room, best film went to Spotlight, and best documentary went to Amy, the biopic about Amy Winehouse.


Steve-O and Kat Von Dee call it quits:

Former Jackass star Steve-O and celebrity tattooist Kat Von Dee broke up at the start of March this year after a three-month romance.

It is unclear what led to the split but both the 41-year-old daredevil and the 34-year-old LA Ink star took to social media in the immediate aftermath to delete social media pictures they took together.

Magician Paul Daniels dies:

Internationally acclaimed magician Paul Daniel passed away on March 17 at the age of 77.

Daniels achieved worldwide fame through his BBC series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran from 1979 to 1994.

He had been suffering from a brain tumour.

Comedian Ronnie Corbett passes:

Funnyman Ronnie Corbett died on March 31, aged 85.

He was best known for his comedy sketch show The Two Ronnies, alongside Ronnie Barker.

The British comedian passed away in hospital, surrounded by his family.


David Gest dies:

Reality TV star and music producer David Gest was found dead in a London hotel on April 12.

He was 62-years-old.

Tributes for Gest poured in from friends and family.

Close friend Imad Handi said: “David was truly larger than life. He was not just a huge talent and a dear friend but a showbiz icon.” He had recently won over huge sections of his public thanks to his stint in Celebrity Big Brother just months before his death.

Victoria Wood passes away:

Comedian, singer and writer Victoria Wood, died on April 20 after “a short but brave” battle with cancer.

Like David Gest, Wood was also aged 62.

Her publicist said the star “died peacefully at her north London home with family”.

Wood found fame in the 1980s and was best known for her BBC sketch Acorn Antiques and comedy Dinnerladies.

She won five Baftas including two for her one-off ITV drama, Housewife, 49.

Prince bids farewell:

The hugely popular, acclaimed and influential musician Prince died on April 21 at his home in Minnesota at the age of 57.

Police were summoned to his Paisley Park estate and found his body in a lift.

Prince became a global superstar in the 1980s, with albums such as 1999, Purple Rain and Sign O’ the Times.

His innovative music spanned rock, funk and jazz. He sold more than 100 million records during his career.

Stars shine at the Irish Film and Television Awards:

The stars were out in force at this year’s IFTAs which saw celebrities such as Liam Neeson, Natalie Dormer, Amy Huberman, Bob Geldof and Van Morrison grace the red carpet outside Dublin’s Mansion House.

In terms of the awards, Neeson received the most prestigious accolade on the night — the Outstanding Contribution to Cinema Award.

It was presented to him by President Michael D Higgins.

Actress and producer Roma Downey, best known for her role as Monica in TV series Touched by an Angel, received the inaugural Irish Diaspora Award from Bob Geldof.

The other big winner was Room. The Oscar-nominated flick won seven awards, including Best Film, Best Director for Lenny Abrahamson and Best Script for Emma Donoghue.


Johnny Depp suffers death and divorce:

May was a fairly tumultuous month for Pirates of the Caribbean star Johnny Depp.

His mother, Betty Sue Palmer, died on May 20 in Los Angeles after a long illness. She was 81-years-old.

That same month, wife Amber Heard accused Depp of hitting her during a fight in their Los Angeles apartment and filed for divorce. She also instigated a domestic abuse case against him, which was eventually settled in August.

Ozzy and Sharon break up:

In one of the biggest celebrity break-ups of the year, Sharon and Ozz Osbourne called time on their relationship just shy of their 34th wedding anniversary.

The rumour mill turned, and tinseltown was awash with cheating allegations and rumours that the split was a publicity stunt.

After a few months apart, the couple were spotted together and appeared to have put their troubles behind them. Watch this space.


Taylor and Calvin break up:

Known for her high profile break ups, 2016 was another year of heartbreak for singer Taylor Swift.

About a week after her boyfriend Calvin Harris was hospitalised after a car accident, news emerged on June 1 that the celeb couple had called it quits.

Sources confirmed Harris ended the relationship due to “ongoing issues”.

Less than two weeks later, Swift was pictured kissing heart throb actor Tom Hiddleson in Rhode Island.

Boxing champ Ali leaves the ring:

Boxing legend Muhammad Ali - one of the world’s greatest sporting figures - died on June 3 at the age of 74.

The former world heavyweight champion died at a hospital in the US city of Phoenix, Arizona.

He had been suffering from a respiratory illness, a condition that was complicated by Parkinson’s disease.

Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, Ali shot to fame by winning light-heavyweight gold at the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Nicknamed “The Greatest”, the American beat Sonny Liston in 1964 to win his first world title and became the first boxer to capture a world heavyweight title on three separate occasions.

He eventually retired in 1981, having won 56 of his 61 fights.

Star Trek actor dies after crash:

Star Trek actor Anton Yelchin died on June 19 aged just 27.

He died following a car accident.

The Russian born thespian died a month before the release of the third film in the sci-fi franchise, Star Trek Beyond.

His other films included Terminator: Salvation, Alpha Dog and Fright Night.


Actress Caroline Aherne dies Comedy writer and actress Caroline Aherne died on July 2 at the age of 52.

Aherne, star and writer of The Royle Family and The Mrs Merton Show, had suffered from cancer.

The actress said two years ago that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer, having previously had bladder and eye cancer.

Aherne was also the narrator of Gogglebox and appeared in The Fast Show.

Postman Pat voice actor dies:

Ken Barrie, the voice of children’s TV favourite Postman Pat, died on July 29 at the age of 83.

Barrie, who was born Leslie Hulme, provided the voice for Pat and many of the other characters in the animated series.

He also famously sang the show’s theme tune, which was released as a single and spent 15 weeks in the top 75.


Gene Wilder dies:

Acclaimed actor Gene Wilder died on August 29 aged 83.

The thespian died as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

Wilder had a long and storied movie career but is by far best known for his role as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The film adaption of Roald Dahl’s classic childhood book has stood the test of time since it was released in 1971 and continues to touch each generation time and time again.

The Rock tops Forbes list:

Dwayne Johnson topped Forbes magazine’s list of the highest paid male actors, earning $64.5m in the last year alone — nearly $20m more than his female counterpart, Jennifer Lawrence.

The former wrestler, also known as the Rock, more than doubled his earnings from the previous year thanks to lucrative roles in the Fast and Furious franchise and the disaster movie San Andreas. Second in 2014, he bumped Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr from the top, who had topped the list for three years running.

Forbes’s annual best-paid actors lists, which are divided between men and women, also highlighted the huge pay gap between genders.


Brangelina is no more:

In the most shocking split of September, Brad Pitt and Angelia Jolie announced they were ending their 12 year relationship.

The couple, who were married for two of those years, have six children together.

Jolie, 41, filed for divorce from Pitt, 52, in the Los Angeles Superior Court, citing irreconcilable differences.

Taylor and Tom part ways:

Taylor’s second high-profile relationship of the year was her very public romance with Thor actor Tom Hiddleson.

Fans dubbed their union ‘Hiddleswift’ and fantacised about how this could finally be the one for Tay Tay.

Alas, it was not to be.

Naomi leaves Liev:

Liev Schreiber and Naomi Watts also called time on their relationship this month.

On September 28, the pair announced they had ended their 11-year union, maintaining that they would remain on friendly terms for the sake of their two sons, Alexander, nine, and Samuel, seven.

“Over the past few months we’ve come to the conclusion that the best way forward for us as a family is to separate as a couple,” the statement read.

Alexander Skarsgard hits the streets of Dublin:

True Blood and Tarzan hunk Alexander Skarsgard hit the capital on the last day of September, for the premiere of his new film, War on Everyone.

He was joined by co-star Michael Pena for the red carpet premiere at the Lighthouse Cinema.


Pete Burns passes away:

Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns died on October 23 aged 57 after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Burns had a hit with You Spin Me Round in 1985 and appeared on Celebrity Big Brother in 2006.

Burns also appeared on reality television shows Celebrity Wife Swap and The Body Shocking Show in recent years

Kim’s jewels are robbed:

Kim Kardashian was back in the headlines in October, but not for her usual antics.

The star was held up at gunpoint by a group of men who took millions of dollars worth of jewelry from her.

The reality-TV star was visiting Paris for its biannual fashion week and was staying in a private residence in the French capital’s eighth arrondissement when a group of five armed men reportedly forced the building’s concierge to open her private apartment. Two of the men then entered the residence, where they tied Kardashian West up and locked her in the bathroom before running off with the star’s jewelry box said to have contained valuables collectively worth more than $10 million.

A statement from Kardashian West’s spokeswoman said the incident left her “badly shaken but physically unharmed.” Her husband, rapper Kanye West, first learned of the robbery during a performance at New York’s Meadows Music and Arts Festival, which prompted him to end the show mid-song, citing a family emergency.


Leonard Cohen dies:

Canadian singer, songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen died on November 11 aged 82.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led tributes to the singer, who was known for hits including Hallelujah and Dance Me to the End of Love.

“It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of the legendary Leonard Cohen,” Mr Trudeau said in a statement.

“He will be fondly remembered for his gruff vocals, his self-deprecating humour and the haunting lyrics that made his songs the perennial favourite of so many generations.”

The Montreal-born singer’s hits included Suzanne, Bird on the Wire and I’m Your Man.

He released his 14th album, You Want It Darker, just a month before his death.

Man From UNCLE star dies

Actor Robert Vaughn, best known as the secret agent Napoleon Solo in The Man from UNCLE, died on November 11, aged 83.

Vaughn was also famous for his role as Lee in The Magnificent Seven, and television roles in Hustle and Coronation Street.

The actor died after a battle with acute leukaemia.

Vaughn died in New York surrounded by his family.

The Rock is cooking:

It has been an extremely high-profile year for Dwayne Johnson and next year is set to be even bigger what with the May release date of his new Baywatch film.

The Rock rounded off his year by being named People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. He is the first non-white man to receive the title.

Kanye breaks down:

At the end of the month, news emerged that rapper Kanye West had suffered a break down resulting in his hospitalisation. Reports emerged that the star was behaving “erratically” at his Harley Pasternak home, leading to someone calling 911 about him. It was reported that West resisted paramedics when they arrived to help him, and had to be handcuffed to a gurney.

He later cancelled the 22 remaining dates of his US Saint Pablo tour.

Carrie Fisher drops affair bombshell:

Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher revealed she had an affair with co-star Harrison Ford when the two were filming on set.

At the time, Fisher was 19 and Ford was 33, and married with two children. Fisher, who makes the affair claims in her new book based on diary entries she wrote at the time, said the tryst lasted three months.


Fawlty Towers actor dies:

Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs passed away on December 1, 2016 aged 86, following a four-year battle with dementia.

Sachs found fame playing bumbling waiter Manuel in the BBC comedy series alongside John Cleese.

Enjoying a host of other roles on stage, screen and radio — Sachs will also be remembered for his stint on the cobbles of Coronation Street as Ramsay Clegg.

Game of Thrones actor dies:

Game of Thrones and Porridge actor Peter Vaughan passed away on December 6, aged 93.

Vaughan was best known for his roles as Maester Aemon Targaryen in the HBO fantasy drama and Harry Grout in the BBC sitcom.

Throughout his 75 year career the actor worked alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins, Frank Sinatra and Ronnie Barker.

AA GILL dies:

Writer and renowned food critic AA Gill died on December 10, aged 62.

His death came just weeks after he announced he had the ‘full English’ of cancer in one of his review columns.

AA Gill with his partner Nicola Formby
AA Gill with his partner Nicola Formby

He was diagnosed after he started losing weight over the summer and felt a pain in his neck.

Doctors told him it was a smoking-related cancer that had spread from his lungs.

Zsa Zsa Gabor dies:

Hollywood actress and socialite Zsa Zsa Gabor passed away on December 18 following a heart attack, aged 99.

As well as her movie career, the former Miss Hungary was also known for being married a total of nine times.

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