The Departure Lounge: We Lost Some Great People in 2016

We were so traumatized by the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen and George Michael (maybe less so by Fidel Castro’s) that passings that might have attracted attention in a normal year failed to get the attention they deserved. Like America’s greatest astronaut, John Glenn, or the fifth Beatle, George Martin. Or Gene Wilder.

Jazz great Bobby Hutcherson died at his home in Montara, near Half Moon Bay. David Bunnell, the founder of PC, PC World, Macworld and Upside magazines, who helped shape the personal computing revolution, died in Berkeley. Author Thomas Steinbeck, son of John, who presented awards annually at San Jose State’s Steinbeck Center, had his ashes spread in Big Sur.

San Jose’s retired planning director, Joe Horwedel, was remembered fondly, and with the demise of Santa Clara’s colorful ex-Mayor Eddie Souza, local journalists have less to write about. Monsignor Eugene Boyle was a longtime local champion of social justice.

Silicon Valley said goodbye to longtime Intel CEO Andy Grove and Bill Campbell, who had run Intuit and filled key roles at Apple and its spinoff Claris. We lost the creator of email’s “@” symbol, Ray Tomlinson, and Henry Heimlich, who invented that maneuver.

Eye patch-wearing editor Warren Hinckle, who helped introduce gonzo journalism to the world, succumbed in San Francisco. Fellow new leftie turned California politician Tom Hayden, who stopped by Metro’s office for a chat when he ran for governor in 1994, slid off the coil in Santa Monica, the same place where Mexican musical treasure Juan Gabriel took his leave.

Also in that city, synthesizer great Keith Emerson exited the stage, followed by fellow band member Greg Lake, leaving Carl Palmer as the sole survivor of the once formidable ELP. Nine Inch Nails keyboard player James Woolley died after a ladder fall, 25 years after his unforgettable Lollapalooza performance at Shoreline Amphitheatre. Parliament/Funkadelic, Talking Heads and Mos Def keyboardist Bernie Worrell met the Great Spirit. And electronic synthesizer pioneer Don Buchla, who engineered the sound system for Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters’ Further bus, fell silent.

Other noteworthy musicians who played their final notes included Rob Wasserman, bassist with Bob Weir’s Ratdog, Lou Reed and Elvis Costello, Merle Haggard, who wrote Grateful Dead staple “Mama Tried” and Paul Kantner, who began his Jeffersonian journey in the South Bay.

Crack-smoking former Toronto mayor Rob Ford died of cancer at 46 and Harambe the Gorilla was fatally shot a day after his 17th birthday at the Cincinnati Zoo after he fished a three-year-old boy out of a moat.

Natalie Cole, who had an unforgettable voice, came to San Jose for Cinequest four years ago and wanted to see the city’s nightlife. After a doorman at Fahrenheit turned her away because it was past what San Jose considers late, er 11pm, we apologized as we walked a block in the chilly night to the only nearby open spot, The Loft. “That’s okay. I’ve been thrown out of nicer places than that,” she graciously assured us.


  1. Debbie Reynolds, Princess Leia, John Glenn, Obi Wan, are all dead, sad. Who are all these other people?

  2. All entertainers. If you want to measure impact helping others, none of them could carry Bill Campbell’s jock.