Celebrity Members of "The-Club-That-No-One-Wants-to-Belong-To" . . .
"My dad died of a sudden heart attack when I was 15 and he was 45. It happened in our home, ten days before Christmas, and it was the single most devastating event of my lifetime."
Stephen was 10-years old when his father and two brothers tragically died in a plane crash. "The world didn't make any sense." "I didn't really feel the loss until I was in college." "Then, I was in bad shape . . . I was just so sad about it." Colbert confessed he would cry privately. "I’d go off by myself someplace, very rarely, I don’t know, once a year or something like that. It would take me by surprise and I would just go be by myself for a long time.”
Long Island's own Rosie O'Donnell was only 5 days short of her 11th birthday when her mom died from breast cancer. “It was the defining moment of my life, without a doubt. And, it was like all of the color got sucked out of the movie and it went to black and white. It was life-altering."
Prince William was 15-years old when his mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a car crash in Paris. "I remember just feeling completely numb, disorientated, dizzy. You feel very, very confused. And you keep asking yourself, 'Why me?' All the time, 'Why? What have I done? Why? Why has this happened to us?'" "I still have shock within me. You know, 20 years later. People go 'shock can't last that long' but it does. You never get over it. It's such an unbelievably big moment in your life that it never leaves you, you just learn to deal with it."
Prince Harry was 12 when his mom died. "I can safely say that losing my mum at the age of 12, and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years, has had a quite serious effect on not only my personal life but my work as well." "I wonder every single day what it would be like having her around."
Long Beach, NY's Billy Crystal was only 15 when his father suddenly died from a heart attack. "The impact of that belted me in the face over and over again, year after year: the empty seat at the dinner table; no smell of his shaving lotion in the morning; walking down the aisle with my mom at my wedding; not being there when my babies were born. Gone. The hurt kept finding its way into my life. Like a red wine stain on a white tablecloth, it would fade, but you always knew it was there."
Madonna was just 5-years old when her mom died from breast cancer. "My mother's death left me with a certain kind of loneliness, an indelible longing for something. Madonna addresses the devastating loss in her song, Mother and Father.
My mother died when I was five
And all I did was sit and cry
I cried and cried and cried all day
Until the neighbors went away
They couldn't take my loneliness
I couldn't take their phoniness
My father had to go to work
I used to think he was a jerk
I didn't know his heart was broken
And not another word was spoken
He became a shadow of
The father I was dreaming of
I made a vow that I would never need
Another person ever
Turned my heart into a cage
A victim of a kind of rage
Finding it hard to grasp at the time, Madonna has blamed her self-disciplined, uptight persona on her childhood pain and referred to it as “one of the hardest things I've faced in my life”.
New Jersey native, Chelsea Handler was 10-years old when older brother, Chet, died in a tragic hiking accident. "That experience was a defining moment in my life,” “I was only 10, so my brother and sisters were, like, ‘Don’t even worry about her. She doesn’t even know what was going on.’ But of course I knew what was going on. I was so close with my brother.” Handler fondly recalls taking care of Chet when he would come home from engineering school. “I was, like, 7 or 8, and I would make him cereal when he would come home late from school, from college, and I would put it in a bowl and act like I made him dinner, and look after him.” “He would always come upstairs to my mom’s bedroom and be like, ‘Where is she? Where is she?’ I would be under the bed and he’d grab me and he’d drag me down the stairs while I was kicking and screaming. We played that game all the time.” “You have all these beautiful memories, and that’s enough sometimes.”
Blake was 14-years old when his older brother, Richie, died in a car accident. Shelton looked up to him. "And I would be sitting there going, 'Man, that guy's my hero. That's the coolest guy. He’s my big brother.' About a week after his death, "I was picking up the phone to call him, to tell him something I just saw on TV, and it was like constantly a shock to me that he was dead." Blake's song "Over You", recorded by his ex-wife Miranda Lambert, was inspired by his brother. Shelton refers to it as one of the proudest moments of his career. Some of the lines from the song came right from Shelton's experience, like the part about getting his brother's record collection. "That's one of the things I got when my brother was killed," "The family gave me all his albums and things like that. I just listened to them over and over again to feel like he was there."
Maya, a Saturday Night Live alumni, was two weeks shy of her 7th birthday when her mom, well-known singer Minnie Riperton, died from breast cancer.
A native of Flushing, New York, Jon was 13-years old when his mother, an elementary school teacher, died from leukemia. You may recognize him best as "Mike" from the movie "Swingers" ("You are SOOO money"), but did you know he is also the Executive Producer for such mega Hollywood hits as The Iron Man films and The Avengers?
Former NY Islander and current Calgary Flame hockey player Travis Hamonic was only 10 years old when his dad died from a heart attack. "I would trade in every that I ever played, every game that I ever WILL play in the NHL just for one shift of him being able to watch me play . . . and for me to be able to talk with him after the game about it." See Travis' grief story documented in the E:60 profile, "In the Name of the Father."
Grammy and American Music Award-winning artist, Marc Cohn, blasted onto the music scene in 1991 with his Grammy-nominated hit "Walking in Memphis." What most people don't know about him is that Marc was parentless while still in middle school. His mom passed away when he was 2 and his dad died when he was 12. Said Cohn, “I was an orphan, basically in a way no-one ever could have expected. I think that’s quite clearly why all these ghosts, literally ghosts, appear in my music. I feel like I never really knew the most important people in my life.”
Child actor turned writer, Mara Wilson, was only 8-years old when her mother, Suzie, died from breast cancer. In her autobiography, Where Am I Now?, the Matilda, Mrs. Doubtfire and Miracle on 34th Street star writes, "No one knows what to say to a child when a parent dies. In a best-case scenario, the child will know it's ok for them to feel whatever they feel. But no one mentions how it will affect the rest of his or her life. No one told me I'd spend the rest of my life living with a ghost." Mara reflects on her Matilda movie parents, Danny Devito and Rhea Pearlman, "While my mom was sick and in the hospital, they would invite me over and take care of me and get my mind off things. I felt very familial."