Beth Howland, who played the “vulnerable and insecure” Vera on the 1970s sitcom “Alice,” passed away from lung cancer, her husband Charles Kimbrough announced. She was 74. The shock of the announcement is the fact that Howland died December 31st, 2015. The reason behind the announcement is respecting the wishes of the late actress, who according to her husband, “didn’t want to make a fuss.” He went on to include that this was due to her “Bostonian personality.” Like Howland, David Bowie also did not want anyone to make a fuss over his death.
What is the mentality behind a Bostonian personality? And why would that be a reason to announce the death of the late Howland? For those of us who aren’t familiar with Boston, this may be a structural insight into one of America’s most controversial , historical, and oldest cities.
Bostonians have received the rap for being snobbish, but the reason behind that is because some believe in being antisocial as a sign of respect for privacy. Bostonians tend to value honesty and tact over displaying emotions. In other words, they would rather show you their tough skin than reveal their vulnerability. This plays a big part as to why perhaps Howland did not wish to follow through with the public knowing about her sudden death from lung cancer.
Another public figure who also died from lung cancer like Howland was the late Bowie. His reason to not disclose his illness was similar to Howland’s in that he did not want to make a fuss. The reason was not so much due to his British personality, but rather he wanted to protect the privacy of his family.
Does society make bigger deals when celebrities, like Howland, die from such common causes like cancer than regular people? Or how about viewing the sidebar on websites and seeing only a fraction of a not so famous public figure who died from the same cause? Is it because the bigger the celebrity, the bigger the news? If society paid more attention in raising cause and awareness to the bigger picture, which is the cause of cancer, rather than the big celebrity it affects, like Howland, society maybe could shift in a different direction.
There are many independent websites raising awareness for their loved ones’ cancer so that others may help with donations to help pay for their medical bills because of medication, hospital visits, or chemotherapy. While, there are charity events that help raise cancer awareness for all, there is still not a definite cure. Perhaps another reason celebrities, like Howland or Bowie, wish to conceal their fate is because it means they’re indestructible. Besides Howland’s fame and success, their life-threatening disease enables them to be destructible, like a human who faces an uncertain future. One cannot say for sure, but one thing is for sure that behavior changes when one learns if another has cancer. Empathy, encouragement, and even a mood or voice change. Some affected by it may not desire to face that alternative and conceal their disease, whether famous or not.
The biggest hope for human kind is that for generations past and upcoming, we continue to fight as a whole against this disease. Certain factors that are well-known relate to stress, mentally, physically, and emotionally.
As a society, people can create a world where simplicity and truth reign over fame and success. No amount of money can rid a person of the disease when plagued with it. What can help conquer the battle of cancer is being surrounded by optimism and love, which ultimately may have been the fate of Howland. Bowie and Howland’s optimism might have been the reason they did not want a fuss made over their deaths.
Opinion by Andrea Lopez
Us Weekly: ‘Alice’ Star Beth Howland Dead at 74
Robin Abrahams: The Bostonian Personality
METRO: David Bowie’s close friend reveals why the music legend didn’t want a fuss after his death
Image Courtesy of CBS Television’s Wikimedia – Public Domain License