Yesterday 2016 took Juan Gabriel, and today we learn that it has taken another legend, Gene Wilder. At this point, everyone should take a carton of protein bars and a gallon jug of vodka to a cave and hibernate until it’s 2017. Because 2016 keeps finding the terrible ways to prove that it’s the worst. The producers of the Oscars are going to have to give the sad In Memoriam section its own 3-part series.
Gene Wilder’s nephew Jordan Walker-Pearlman confirmed the soul-hurting news to The Associated Press. Gene reunited with Gilda Radner in the after life on Sunday night when he died at his home in Stamford, Connecticut as a result of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 83. Jordan said in a heartbreaking and beautifully written statement to Variety that Gene was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s three years ago, but decided to keep it private because he didn’t want to disappoint any of his young fans. 🙁
“We understand for all the emotional and physical challenges this situation presented we have been among the lucky ones — this illness-pirate, unlike in so many cases, never stole his ability to recognize those that were closest to him, nor took command of his central-gentle-life affirming core personality. The decision to wait until this time to disclose his condition wasn’t vanity, but more so that the countless young children that would smile or call out to him, ‘there’s Willy Wonka,’ would not have to be then exposed to an adult referencing illness or trouble and causing delight to travel to worry, disappointment or confusion. He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.
He continued to enjoy art, music, and kissing with his leading lady of the last twenty-five years, Karen. He danced down a church aisle at a wedding as parent of the groom and ring bearer, held countless afternoon movie western marathons and delighted in the the company of beloved ones.”
Gene Wilder could never disappoint. The only way he’d disappoint is if he was okay with that CGI’d diarrhea puddle of a Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory remake, which he wasn’t.
On top of being the only Willy Wonka who matters, Gene was also in a bunch of other classics like Blazing Saddles, The Producers, Young Frankenstein, See No Evil, Hear No Evil, The Woman in Red, The Frisco Kid, Stir Crazy and Silver Streak. Mel Brooks tweeted this about his frequent golden-haired collaborator:
Gene Wilder-One of the truly great talents of our time. He blessed every film we did with his magic & he blessed me with his friendship.
— Mel Brooks (@MelBrooks) August 29, 2016
Rest in peace, Gene Wilder.