In a week when we've already shed tears over the tragic loss of a young pitcher, Angels rookie Nick Adenhart at the hand of a drunk driver, now comes sad news of the loss of two other icons in the entertainment world, both of them also gone far too soon. Earlier this afternoon came reports that Marilyn Chambers was found dead yesterday in her Canyon Country, California home. She was 56. Many of my generation of late-blooming baby boomers were introduced to hardcore pornography by seeing Chambers' performance in the Mitchell Brothers' notorious X-rated classic Behind the Green Door (1972). Released the same year as Deep Throat, BTGD rode a brief crest of a wave of cultural chic for porn films, but it didn't necessarily help Chambers' more high-profile efforts. When it was discovered the star of this popular hardcore movie was also the face of Ivory Snow (Chambers had posed for the painting used on the detergent box and her cheery, fresh-scrubbed image here was well-known), she had to forfeit her contract. But just as many probably also knew Chambers for her attempt to carve a niche for herself in the mainstream world of B-movies as the unfortunate victim of a surgical blunder whose appetites cause the outbreak of a horrifying disease which turns its victims into viral vampires in David Cronenberg's Rabid (1977). It was a performance that seemed to promise a new phase in her career, but despite her good reviews for Cronenberg's film that new phase never really came to be. She spent the years in between Rabid and the end of her life cultivating a persona as a torch singer and as an unrepentant participant in one of the more public aspects of the sexual revolution that galvanized this country some 40 years ago. A family friend reports that the cause of Marilyn Chambers' death is as yet unknown.
Mark Fidrych, the 1976 American League Rookie of the Year also known as The Bird, had been living life as a low-profile retiree for many years, a Massachusetts farmer who thrived a world away from the spotlight. But according to reports from the Worcester County district attorney's office, Fidrych was found dead this afternoon around 2:30 p.m., the victim of an apparent accident involving a truck upon which he was working at the time of his death. Those who followed baseball in the '70s, or read the occasional copy of Rolling Stone, knew Fidrych as a happy-go-lucky eccentric, a pitcher of phenomenal talent who lied the life of a rock star. The Bird went 19-9 in his rookie year with a 2.34 ERA, and he spent all five of his major league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, compiling a 29-19 record and a 3.10 ERA. At the time of his passing he was 54 years old.
If the shocking deaths of these two figures, as well as the losses of Nick Adenhart and Natasha Richardson earlier, all beloved in their own ways and living life happily when their own was cut short, can serve for anything, it must be simply to remind us of the tenuousness of the circumstances for all of us. This is not to promote nervousness and paranoia, but simply to recognize that fragility is a quality which is all too clearly a part of what living means. If we can read of the passing of these people and, through our sadness and tears for them and their families, renew our own resolve to try to make sure those around us more clearly know how much they mean to us, then maybe there can be meaning in losses such as these. I will be giving those I love a deeper embrace than usual today and trying to remember never to take their presence for granted. Rest in peace, Marilyn and Mark.