Home / General / Gene Wilder, RIP

Gene Wilder, RIP


Big loss, although not unexpected.

[SL]: Great tribute from Roy.

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  • Fighting Words

    I’m hysterical! I’m having hysterics! I’m hysterical! I can’t stop when I get like this. I can’t stop. I’m hysterical. Oh my god. Ah-la-la-la.

    This year just keeps getting worse…

    • Don’t worry. Next year will be worse. And then the year after that. And then one of those years, it’ll be my turn or your turn.

      • (((Hogan)))

        Thank you, Marvin.

        • wjts

          The first ten million years were the worst, and the second ten million years, they were the worst too. The third ten million I didn’t enjoy at all. After that I went into a bit of a decline.

          • So is it a coincidence that today is also the day on which the Working Group on the Anthropocene presented the International Geological Congress with its “30 to three” vote (with two abstentions) “in favour of formally designating the Anthropocene” (precise start date to be determined soon, 1950 a favorite; chicken bones loom large in the decision)?

            • Ken


          • Steve LaBonne


    • wjts

      “I want everything I’ve seen in the movies!”

    • benjoya

      I’m in pain. And I’m wet. And I’m still hysterical!

  • Origami Isopod

    Goddamn it, 2016. >:(

    • N__B

      “That goes without saying.”

  • efgoldman

    Put. Ze kendle. Beck.

    • We have taught my daughter to say that.

      • efgoldman

        We have taught my daughter to say that.

        I suggested to my daughter, the movie grad student, that she play a Wilder/Brooks binge-watch for granddaughter.
        Daughter thinks she’s just a little young, at three.

        ETA: It was lots of fun watching daughter get each successive layer of jokes as she got older and familiar with the original source movies.

    • wjts

      “He. Vas. My. BOYFRIEND!

      • The Dark God of Time

        Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Love is the only thing that can save this poor creature, and I am going to convince him that he is loved even at the cost of my own life. No matter what you hear in there, no matter how cruelly I beg you, no matter how terribly I may scream, do not open this door or you will undo everything I have worked for. Do you understand? Do not open this door.

        Inga: Yes, Doctor.

        Igor: Nice working with ya.

        [Dr. Frederick Frankenstein goes into the room with The Monster. The Monster wakes up]

        Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Let me out. Let me out of here. Get me the hell out of here. What’s the matter with you people? I was joking! Don’t you know a joke when you hear one? HA-HA-HA-HA. Jesus Christ, get me out of here! Open this goddamn door or I’ll kick your rotten heads in! Mommy!

        • wjts

          Inga: Werewolf!

          Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Werewolf?

          Igor: There.

          Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: What?

          Igor: There, wolf. There, castle.

          Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: Why are you talking that way?

          Igor: I thought you wanted to.

          Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: No, I don’t want to.

          Igor: [shrugs] Suit yourself. I’m easy.

  • Karen24

    “Are we sober?”

    “That depends. Are we . . . black?”

    And the obvious “It’s Frahnk en STEEN.”

  • (((Hogan)))

    I lost track of him after Silver Streak, but damn. Willy Wonka, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein are a better career than a lot of people manage.

    “My name is Jim, but most people call me . . . Jim.”

    • Nobdy

      The Producers alone is a better career than most actors ever manage.

    • “Another You” 1991, his last film and Pryors last I think is under apreciated and has some brilliant scenes albeit a weak Hollywood cliche ending.

  • kped

    Apparently had Alzheimer’s, terrible disease. 83 is a good run, I hope his last years out of the spot light were mostly good.

    • Warren Terra

      His family has released a statement saying, more or less, that he hid his Alzheimers and his terminal decline from the world because he wanted children to remember a vital, energetic Willy Wonka.

      • kped

        Yeah, I read that. Sad way to spend your last few years. His Willy Wonka was such an iconic role for so many. I didn’t understand the need for the remake, and Depp’s portrayal was nowhere near Wilders.

        • Nobdy

          You don’t understand the need to remake perfectly good classics with mediocre slick productions that have no artistic vision but merely exist to cash in on a name?

          Why next you’ll tell me we didn’t need a new version of Ben-Hur! In theaters now!

          • kped

            God…at least i could understand the commercial prospects of the new Willy Wonka…don’t get me started on that Ben-Hur. The number of people under 40 years old who even watched the original is probably under 2% of people in that age bracket. I cannot fathom how that movie not only got made, but had more than 100M poured into it, before marketing costs!

            • Nobdy

              What do you mean? The kids are wild for Ben-Hur. The only film they like more is the Jazz Singer but we mustn’t redo that one because of the ackfaceblay.

              In all seriousness I assume someone was targeting the religious market that came out for the Passion of the Christ and then someone else saw that the Spartacus TV series was mildly popular and wires got crossed between religious epic and slick swords and sandles movie and they hired a visionless director who achieved neither.

              Presumably the guy who green lit it is due for a promotion, because that’s how America works these days.

              • Honoré De Ballsack

                The only film they like more is the Jazz Singer but we mustn’t redo that one because of the ackfaceblay.

                The Movie Pedant says: It was a while ago, but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jazz_Singer_(1980_film)

                • (((Hogan)))
                • N__B

                  That was Laurence Olivier’s seventeenth consecutive role as an old Jewish man, presumably in atonement for having been such a good Dr. Mengele.

                • Chuchundra

                  My mom loved that movie. Big Neil Diamond fan.

                • Captain Oblivious

                  Aren’t we overdue for a remake of A Star is Born?

                • LeeEsq

                  I thought it was Gregory Peck that played Dr. Mengele.

                • The Dark God of Time

                  The Marathon Man.

          • LeeEsq

            If they wanted to make a Jewish themed Roman movie than they could have made an epic about the Great Jewish Revolt that resulted in the destruction of the Second Temple and the siege of Masada or the Bar Kcchba Rebellion and end it with the martyrdom of Rabbi Akiva. Lots of action, drama, and pathos in both historical events. They could even make a movie about the Maccabee Revolt and release it in time of Chanukah so we can get real Chanukah movie.

        • (((Hogan)))

          It wasn’t a remake so much as a reimagining. (Yon know there was a book, right?) I don’t think they were expecting fans of Wilder to line up for their version.

          • Nobdy

            Come with me and you’ll see a world of pure re-imagination…

            Yes it was a book but you can’t make a Charlie and the Chocolate factory without keeping Wilder’s version in mind. It is a towering classic, still seen today.

            Burton and Depp didn’t have a great idea for a new fresh take they just made a darker Tim Burtony version like working on an assembly line (and indeed they did the same to Sweeny Todd, which I liked okay, and Alice and Wonderland soon after.)

            You need a reason to make a new movie that treads the same ground as a classic. Or at least you should.

            Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is also the beginning of Burton’s sharp decline, unless you want to count Big Fish as an anomaly after Planet of the Apes.

            • advocatethis

              Wow, I didn’t know Big Fish was Tim Burton. I’m definitely in the corner of that being an analogy.

              • jeer9

                Anomaly. Analogy. Let’s call the whole thing off.

                Big Fish is indeed a great film exploring Melvillean themes.

                What is the first word in Moby Dick? And please don’t say “Call.”

                Wilder was such a great talent, especially for a certain kind of role. Hadn’t realized until today that he actually wrote a good portion of YF‘s screenplay.

                • Recently I has a change of name probate case, the guy wanted to officially change his name from his birth certificate name to the name he had been using all his life “Ishmael”, the case literally was “Call me Ishmael” so I said “Oh, like the first line in Moby Dick?” He responded “Huh, what do you mean?”

            • (((Hogan)))

              Stuart Heisler directed an iconic version of The Glass Key that is still seen today. That doesn’t mean the Coen brothers shouldn’t have made the very different Miller’s Crossing.

              And arguably Tim Burton’s version is closer to the original material.

              • Nobdy

                I didn’t say classic movies should never be remade, I said that you need a reason to do it.

                And yes Burton made an adaptation that was closer to the original book but it was lifeless and flat. It felt logical from a studio perspective (“Burton’s weird and whimsical, Willy Wonka’s weird and whimsical, let’s put ’em together.”)

                Maybe I am wrong and it was a passion project that just came out with no apparent passion but it felt crassly commercial and not much more.

                It’s their property they can do what they want with it, but what they did was kind of boring and does not capture the imagination like the 70’s film.

                It’s fine. We still have the Wilder movie so whatever.

              • Matt McIrvin

                The Burton/Depp version had two plot threads. One was an adaptation of Dahl’s book that was, textually, closer to it than the 1973 movie; the other was a wholly unnecessary exploration of Willy Wonka’s childhood trauma and daddy issues. And Depp’s Wonka was much further from the heart of the book than Gene Wilder’s, so in that sense it was less faithful.

                It has its moments, but it pales in comparison.

                • brad

                  Whoops, misread the comment, pointless response.

          • A remake of “Citizen Kane” directed by Michael Bay.

            • I’m still waiting for the “The Muppets: 12 Angry Men”

            • mds

              “It turns out ‘Rosebud’ was the name of the fighter jet.”

  • wjts

    Of all the Big 2016 Deaths, this is the one that hit me most. Merle Haggard and Prince, I didn’t care. Bowie, even though Ziggy Stardust is one of my personal Top 5 albums, I was OK. Gene Wilder, though, I cried on the street and had to explain to a total stranger why. I think the first time I saw him was watching Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein on Channel 2 in Denver when I was a kid. I taped those flicks and watched them over and over and over again. I laughed my ass off, and when I started performing comedy my own self, I realized what made him such a goddamn genius: he was never afraid to let someone else carry the scene. He could take the spotlight when he needed to, but he was also perfectly happy to feed lines and gags to someone else if the scene called for that, happy to step back and let someone else take the spotlight. He could steal the show, but he was also able to stand back and, so quietly and unobtrusively that you’d never know unless you looked, help another actor be as funny as he or she could be. He was brilliant. I teach an anatomy class tomorrow. I’m sorely tempted to conclude my lecture with, “I am a scientist, not a philosopher! You have more chance of reanimating this scalpel than you have of mending a broken nervous system! MY GRANDFATHER’S WORK WAS DOODOO! I am not interested in death – the only thing that concerns me is the preservation of LIFE! Class… is… dismissed.”

    • N__B

      I teach an anatomy class tomorrow. I’m sorely tempted to conclude my lecture with,

      “Give him an extra buck.”

    • Nobdy

      I loved Gene Wilder’s work but I can’t get too sad when old strangers die (can’t help it with close personal friends or family.) He lived the expected lifespan and his death was inevitable. It is a terrible tragedy that people die but a peaceful death in old age is the best possible outcome.

      Prince was only middle aged and Bowie was on the verge of being old but had a teenage daughter. Those hit me harder for that reason. Both artists were also still producing (if not at their creative peaks.)

      • wjts

        Nothing any of those guys did was important to me as Blazing Saddles or Young Frankenstein. Those are up there with The Shining (movie and book), A.S. Byatt’s Possession, everything Douglas Adams ever wrote, Richard Russo’s Empire Falls, the collected works of M.R. James, Something Else by the Kinks, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus in terms of my own personal canon.

        • Nobdy

          The Producers is an essential film for me, and Young Frankenstein is also a favorite. But my reaction isn’t really about the work. I just respond more strongly to premature death than to old people dying, because dying old is the best available option.

          I think I’ll feel the same when Mel Brooks goes (he’s 90) even though to me he is even more essential than Wilder.

          • wjts

            No, I get it – dying young or younger is worse than dying old or older. And Gene Wilder had, I think, a pretty good life. But still, I cried for Gene Wilder and God knows I shall cry even harder for Mel Brooks.

        • CrunchyFrog

          everything Douglas Adams ever wrote

          Don’t want to hijack the thread, but having read most of his stuff I thought he had 1 1/2 great books and one great article taking down Bill Gates in time for the release of Windows ’95.

          • Nobdy

            Disagree. Mostly Harmless was mostly meh, but the other four hitchhiker’s books were great and Dirk Gently was good to the point that if someone less accomplished wrote it you’d call it great.

            I will also speak in favor of the game Starship Titanic, which was hysterically funny, if not actually a very good game.

            Terry Jones and John Cleese both do (amazing) voices for it.

          • leftwingfox

            If the one great book isn’t “Last Chance to See” I think you’ve miscounted.

          • wjts

            Nope. At least 3.5 out of the five novels in the Hitchhikers‘s Trilogy were great, plus two good to great Dirk Gently novels plus two brilliant radio series plus a number of great essays plus Last Chance to See.

            • CrunchyFrog

              Ok, glad some people liked them. My opinion – and the same for most of the HHGTG fans I know – is that the books started at a very high level but got progressively less funny and harder to slog through, and that the Dirk Gently novels started at about the funniness level of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish and stayed at that level. But if some people thought they were great, that’s cool.

              I’ll grant the radio series and also the BBC TV version – but I’ll point out that those were based mostly on book 1 and the best bits of book 2.

              Somehow I missed Last Chance to See – I will look that up.

              • Warren Terra

                I’ll grant the radio series and also the BBC TV version – but I’ll point out that those were based mostly on book 1 and the best bits of book 2.

                This is of course backwards. The radio series preceded the books.

                • Nobdy

                  My understanding was that the two sets of works were actually unconnected in any way and the fact that they shared so much (plot, characters, much dialog) was simply an extremely improbable coincidence.

                • skate

                  ISTR that the liner notes to the record album said that to understand the relationship between the BBC show, the books, etc., you should first warm up your brain with some quantum physics and some tax code. In other words, it was complicated.

      • heckblazer

        Last I heard it looked like Prince’s overdose was an accident due to him taking counterfeit pills containing fentanyl. So his death was preventable, and unfortunately happened right when his staff was staging an intervention.

    • Peterr

      [Jim the Waco Kid has just shot the guns out of the hands of a dozen henchmen]

      Bart: Well, don’t just stand there looking stupid, grasping your hands in pain. How about a round of applause for The Waco Kid?


    • I have to say that this is hitting me about as hard or as Bowie. Which is a lot. The Producers and Young Frankenstein were among my top 5 movies growing up. And, well, ah hell, this just sucks.

    • Also a flawless sense of timing.

      • wjts

        Oh, yes.

  • Nobdy

    Shocking that Trump hasn’t tried to capitalize on this like he did Dwyane Wade’s cousin. Maybe something about how Hillary had alzheimer’s too?

    I didn’t know Wilder had Alzheimer’s. Was it public? From time to time I’d see people ask why he didn’t work anymore.

    I feel bad for his widow seeing all the “now he’s with Gilda in heaven” comments too. I understand them but his marriage to Radner was (tragically short) and ended over 25 years ago. He was married to his last wife for 5 times as long.

    • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

      Shocking that Trump hasn’t tried to capitalize on this

      Less shocking that you tried to capitalize on this.

      • Pseudonym

        As we speak, Nobdy is putting the finishing touches on the TV ad he’s running for the pro-Hillary super-PAC he’s in charge of!

  • Bootsie

    I will assume that he died fighting Islam Karimov and they both went out Reichenbach Falls style.

    Ride on, Waco Kid.

    • wjts
      • Cheap Wino

        Beat me to this exact line. Blazing Saddles would have been funny if somebody else had played that role but Wilder made it iconic. He and Mel Brooks worked some magic together.

        He skirted the line of caricature at times — for comparison Jim Carrey crosses that line as a matter of course — but never did it interfere with him giving his roles a humanity that not only added to the humor but consistently imbued the film(s) with whatever makes them timeless (the humanity of the characters, I suppose).

        • John Revolta

          You reminded me of what Richard Pryor said: “I thought Clevon did a good job. But I know what kind of job I would have done.”

          • Warren Terra

            It would have been interesting. Maybe it would have been great. But it wouldn’t have been the same film, or at least I can’t see Pryor playing it as straight, or for that matter having the square jaw and general heroic demeanor Cleavon Little had.

    • wjts

      Ride on, Waco Kid.

      I believe you mean, “Don’t just stand there looking stupid, grasping your hands in pain – how about a round of applause for the Waco Kid!”

      ETA: Beaten to it by Peterr above.

      • Peterr

        Great minds, etc.

        But thinking back to Blazing Saddles has made me realize that Donald Trump’s political role model appears to be Hedy Hedley Lamarr. For instance, doesn’t this sound like what Donald probably said when recruiting his crack campaign staff?

        Hedley Lamarr: I want rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists.

        Lewandowski pushes reporters around, Manafort takes “consulting fees” from dubious Eastern Europeans, and Bannon ran Breitbart. . . .

        Then there’s the Hedley pledge, that went like this:

        Hedley Lamarr: Repeat after me: I…

        Men: I…

        Hedley Lamarr: …your name…

        Men: …your name…

        Hedley Lamarr: [to himself] Shmucks.

        [continues aloud]

        Hedley Lamarr: …pledge allegiance…

        Men: …pledge allegiance…

        Hedley Lamarr: …to Hedley Lamarr…

        Men: …to Hedy Lamarr…

        Hedley Lamarr: THAT’S *HEDLEY*!

        Men: That’s Hedley!

        Hedley Lamarr: …and to the evil…

        Men: …and to the evil…

        Hedley Lamarr: …for which he stands.

        Men: …for which he stands.

        Hedley Lamarr: Now go do… that voodoo… that YOU do… SO WELL…!

        [Men shoot at the sky in joy and ride off]

        That’s not a transcript from a Trump rally, but boy it’s close.

        There’s more, but it’s best to just leave it here and tell you to go watch Blazing Saddles again with this insight in mind.

        • I think the words “authentic frontier gibberish” have already appeared in the August New York Times.

          • skate

            Also the August LGM from time to time.

        • The Lorax

          “We thought you was hung” fits, too.

  • Todd

    Maybe the funniest member of the impressive list of great American filmmakers from Wisconsin: Welles, Hawks, Ray, Losey, Zwigoff, and the other funny guys – Zucker/Zucker/Abrahams.

  • NewishLawyer

    It wasn’t his most famous movie but I will always have a soft spot for the Frisco Kid in my heart.

    Gene Wilder as a rabbi going to San Francisco! Harrison Ford as his outlaw buddy. What’s not to love?

    • wjts

      Another Channel 2 staple of my youth. Not, I think, an especially good movie, but certainly a charming one.

    • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

      It’s definitely a Jewish thing. There weren’t a lot of options back then.

      The trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncdgaqhkiSw

    • cdevine

      Yes, I’ve always liked the Frisco Kid too. Although when I’m in a completely foul mood, I watch Blazing Saddles.

    • LeeEsq

      John Wayne was originally supposed to play the Harrison Ford role.

  • CrunchyFrog

    You stupid, ignorant son of a bitch, dumb bastard. Jesus Christ. I’ve met some dumb bastards in my time but you outdo them all.

    Wilder once commented that his success was because he was a failed serious actor. He usually was the straight man who complemented comedians (Zero Mostel, Marty Feldman, Clevon Little, Richard Pryor) and when he did his best stuff he was playing it serious, not for laughs, but it came across as funny given the context.

    • Nobdy

      A lot of people are saying how generous he was as a comedian and that’s true, but then again Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka. Two roles where he was not playing a straight man (maybe to some degree in Frankenstein but he was also the pompous incompetent comedic trope there) and they’re both fantastic movies.

      Wilder may have been humble but he wasn’t just a great straight man.

      • wjts

        See my comment above. You can be generous as a comedian without being the straight man.

        • CJColucci

          I think there is a good book to be written about the great straight men.

      • CrunchyFrog

        I’ll agree he wasn’t *just* a straight man – and Willy Wonka is a great counter-example – but Young Frankenstein was nothing but playing it serious and letting the talent around him do the comedy work. And the Producers. And most people would consider those his greatest roles.

        Or consider Silver Streak. The film was at its best when he was playing it serious, and most cringe-worthy during the slap-stick black-face scene.

        • Cheap Wino

          I feel the black-face scene works in Silver Streak because of Pryor. In character he is, I think, so uncomfortable with Wilder’s absurdly (cringeworthily) overplaying it that, it manages to overcome the inappropriateness. Remember, Wilder’s character is such that he isn’t supposed to be able to ‘pull it off’ at all. So his character overplays it, albeit in a ’70’s way that you can’t remove. But you can see the OMG I’m stuck going along with this, wtf!, look in Pryor’s demeanor that carries it through.

          Then again, Silver Streak is one of those movies that just missed and that scene kind of epitomized that. I’ll still always remember, “I left my Jag in Kansas City,” though.

          • BobBobNewhartNewhartSpecial

            The black-face scene.

        • LeeEsq

          The social changes of the 1950s and 1960s made for some very interesting comedy during the 1970s and early 1980s. American society was at a mid-way point. You couldn’t make the most racist or sexist jokes anymore but you could still get away with a lot of race, gender, or sexuality based humor that would not fly today without pissing anybody off.

          I think the “you want me to have an abortion” scene at the beginning of Airplane really captures the mood at the time. Despite Reagan being elected, social conservatives and pro-life forces were at something of a low ebb in power. Since a woman’s right to abortion was rather strong at the time, you could make abortion into a joke in a movie and not massively offend that many people on either side of the issue. You can’t get away with the joke now.

  • leftwingfox

    You’ve got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know… morons.

    The mantra that helped me survive the Bush administration.

  • CrunchyFrog

    No one has mentioned yet that Wilder conceived of and wrote – mostly with Mel Brooks – Young Frankenstein.

    • Aaron Morrow

      Wilder had to work hard to convince Brooks to make that movie. I’ll never know how much of the final film was Brooks and how much was Wilder, but if you watch the extras on the Young Frankenstein disk, it sure started out as Wilder’s baby. People talk about how willing he was to share the laughs onscreen, and Wilder was just as determined offscreen to share the credit to give his creation LIFE!

      (Even today where so much entertainment can be available at your fingertips, Wilder was right in those extras: Son of Frankenstein is worth your time in a way that the later Universal Monsters Frankenstein sequels are not. I never got that impression previously, so in addition to his other considerable skills, I consider Wilder an intelligent reviewer as well.)

  • econoclast

    OMG, I just recognized where the screenshot was from. That is one of the funniest comedy shorts ever. The bit with Wilder and the sheep eating dinner was so ridiculously funny.

    • econoclast

      I found the first half of it on Youtube. Wilder’s reaction shot at about 1:10 is so hilariously awkward.

  • Breadbaker

    Please don’t forget Quackser Fortune Has a Cousin in the Bronx, one of the sweetest little comedies every made. Fresh Dung!

    • Saw it in a theater (I.e., paid money!) in 1970 or ’71. Little memory of it, but what I remember isn’t bad.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother had always had a place in my heart, even though it’s not as amazing as some of his other movies, and doesn’t get cited as often, but still has several wonderful scenes and a lot to recommend it. Wilder actually wrote and directed it – a comedy where he plays a character (Sigerson Holmes) who has a lot of the same issues of ego and familial jealousy as Froyderick Fronkensteen. It has a really wonderful cast including Marty Feldman, the immortal Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Leo McKern and many others. Despite not achieving as many highs as his Brooks movies (or the one pictured above), one thing it does have going for it it – it is deeply imbued with Wilder’s personality, that unique and wonderful mix of zaniness, sweetness and absurdity, and was clearly a labor of love for him. Worth seeking out.

    Rest in Peace, Gene.

    • CrunchyFrog

      I haven’t seen that since it was in theaters originally. I’ll see if I can look it up somewhere.

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  • CJColucci

    I had an idea for a sequel to Blazing Saddles. Bart and the Kid set up a spread somewhere out there, and 40 years later, former Governor LePetomaine seeks their help. The title would be Brokeback Saddles. LePetomaine, being as dim as ever, would never catch on.

  • brad

    Find, and watch, Rhinocerous. It stars Wilder in a world where everyone is turning into a rhino. It’s more a filmed play than film, and fucking glorious insanity.

    I can’t even process him being gone.
    This fucking year…

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