Managing editor Jess Cagle discusses celebrites that left us in 2012

By Jess Cagle
Updated December 14, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

Like most of you, I remember where I was last February when Whitney Houston died. It was a Saturday night, and I was sitting in a theater waiting for The Woman in Black, the horror movie with Daniel Radcliffe, to start. During one trailer or another, I got bored and checked email — and saw a dozen from my EW colleagues spreading the word of Houston’s death, reacting to the news, and strategizing how to cover it both online and in the coming week’s issue. I left the movie and got to work tearing up the magazine (we bumped a Billy Crystal Oscar cover till the following week). But the news didn’t really sink in until early Sunday morning when I showed up at Good Morning America to discuss Houston’s career. During the interview, the producers played clips of Houston in her prime, and there were tears in Robin Roberts’ eyes. I spent the rest of the morning at home watching the news and special reports, seeing her sing the national anthem over and over. Her death still feels sad and infuriating and strangely shocking, even though the woman with the voice of an angel had for so many years seemed hell-bent on following her demons.</

In our annual Late Greats package in this issue, senior editor Thom Geier and his crew have gathered a dream team of contributors to pay tribute to the creative talents we lost this year. Stevie Nicks recalls meeting Houston at a hotel and sharing a moment not because they were both music legends, but because they both owned Yorkies. Brad Paisley praises Andy Griffith’s ability to ”find the charm in things we usually dismiss.” (The same could be said of Paisley.) Tom Cruise remembers the joy of working with Tony Scott; they were planning a Top Gun sequel when the director died. Prince recalls that Dick Clark ”seemed 2 genuinely like me, and Eye liked him also.” (Prince insisted we stick with his spelling, and we obliged.) Each of the artists here — from Adam Yauch to Gore Vidal to Nora Ephron to Maurice Sendak — had a tremendous impact on pop culture in their day; the entertainers writing about them remind us of their legacies. ”It’s important to remember,” says Kathy Griffin in her tribute to one of the great comedy trailblazers, ”that when you’re laughing at one of my shows or at Whitney Cummings or Tina Fey on TV, it’s because of Phyllis Diller.”

The Woman in Black

  • Movie
  • PG-13