July 2004
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Remembrance Through Memorable Statements: America, in Mourning, Looks at the Death of Three Icons

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Remembrance Through Memorable Statements
America, in Mourning, Looks at the Death of Three Icons

by Craig Froehlich
Ronald Reagan, 1911-2004   Marlon Brando, 1924-2004   Ray Charles, 1930-2004

n the period of a month, a trio of American icons stepped off this mortal coil. Ronald Reagan left us in the early days of June. He was quickly followed by the passing of the practically indefinable musical genius, Ray Charles. The first breath of July saw the last breath of the irreplaceable Marlon Brando, who we didn’t even know was sick. This succession of losses serves as the only explanation as to why flags flew at half staff for so damn long. With Reagan’s death, President Bush apparently declared a trimester of national morning. Half the car dealerships and banks in town still mourn for the passing of “Pruneface,” as the former and deceased Mayor of Detroit, Coleman Young, described the ex-president.

Now, only personal introspection can truly weigh the impact of each death. With that in mind, let us reflect on the words from the mouths and the admirers of our dead American greats.

“The voice of a lifetime,” Aretha Franklin said of Ray Charles.

“Ronald Reagan was the greatest president of the twentieth century.”—Rush Limbaugh

“I came out here with one suit and everybody said I looked like a bum. Twenty years later Marlon Brando came out with only a sweatshirt and the town drooled over him. That shows how much Hollywood has progressed.”—Humphrey Bogart

“The only reason I'm in Hollywood is that I don't have the moral courage to refuse the money.” Marlon Brando

“Affluence separates people. Poverty knits ‘em together. You got some sugar and I don't; I borrow some of yours. Next month you might not have any flour; well, I'll give you some of mine.”—Ray Charles

“Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders.”—Ronald Reagan

“My music had roots which I'd dug up from my own childhood, musical roots buried in the darkest soil.”—Ray Charles

“To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication.”—Marlon Brando

“The United Sates has much to offer the third world war.”—Ronald Reagan

“I never considered myself part of rock ‘n’ roll. My stuff was more adult. It was more difficult for teenagers to relate to; my stuff was filled with more despair than anything you’d associate with rock ‘n’ roll.” Ray Charles

“An actor's a guy who, if you ain't talking about him, ain't listening.”—Marlon Brando

“Facts are stupid things.”—Ronald Reagan

“I was the Marlon Brando of my generation.”—Bette Davis

“All other nations are drinking Ray Charles beer and we are drinking Barry Manilow.”—Dave Barry

“I believe that Ronald Reagan will someday make this country what it once was; an arctic wilderness.”—Steve Martin

“If you've seen one redwood, you've seen them all.”—Ronald Reagan

“Love is a special word, and I use it only when I mean it. You say the word too much and it becomes cheap.”—Ray Charles

“The power and influence of a movie star is curious: I didn't ask for it or take it; people gave it to me. Simply because you're a movie star, people empower you with special rights and privileges.”—Marlon Brando

“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing will begin in five minutes.”—Ronald Reagan

In summation, the greatest impact that these three souls had on us begs personal subjectivity. Keep in mind that Charles gets extra affirmative action points for his initial poverty, his disability and for the color of his skin. I’m sure Reaganites will be down with this since they stake a claim on “forward thinking”  men.  Reagan eradicated the plague of welfare mothers in fur coats, pulling up to the free cheese line in a Cadillac loaded with seven kids. His efforts saw that boys like Charles would never again watch a baby brother drown in a wash tub only to be stricken blind in short order. He made it clear that the self-deprecating humility of talents such as Brando was truly un-American.

They were all contemporaries and all tried their hand at entertaining the masses. Charles assimilated many musical styles into a style of song that will likely never be replicated. Brando introduced the ‘50s status quo into the strange world of lust, rebellion and unhindered emotional expression. His eccentric march through life left in its wake a string of genius performances. Reagan’s movie career petered out and he started barking ideology for General Motors.

But still, you made him president.

Let us salute the greatest showman of the past century: Ronald Reagan.

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