As I was searching the web today for news items concerning Alzheimer’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia I ran across this item regarding the passing of publicist Norman Winter:
“Norman Winter, a veteran Hollywood publicist who crafted successful campaigns for such music superstars as Elton John, Neil Diamond and Michael Jackson, died of Lewy body disease Thursday in Las Vegas, publicist John Thompson said. A New York native who began his career as a teen fanzine photographer, Winter played a key role in helping John become a household name in America and guided the publicity for Jackson’s bestselling “Thriller” album. He was 85.” (Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2013, link)
This brief bit of news quickly grabbed my attention and made me somewhat curious. I wondered whether there have been other celebrities who have been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia or whose deaths have been attributed to LBD. A search of the web came up with the following: Estelle Getty (Sophia on The Golden Girls TV series, died in 2008); Mervyn Peake (author and illustrator, died in 1968); and Otis Chandler (publisher of the Los Angeles Times, died in 2006). There is also apparently a television character, played by Kelsey Grammer on a series called Boss, who suffers from Lewy Body Dementia. I’ve never seen the series (it’s on Starz) but I’m curious as to the origins of the character and the background of his dementia.
There have been many “faces” of Alzheimer’s Disease: Ronald Reagan, Charlton Heston, Charles Bronson, Rita Hayworth, James Doohan, Jack Lord, Burgess Meredith, Sugar Ray Robinson, Norman Rockwell, Perry Como, and most recently Glen Campbell and Pat Summit. Parkinson’s Disease also has its “faces”: Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, Jim Backus, Janet Reno and Billy Graham just to name a few. Perhaps sometime soon Lewy Body Dementia will also have a public face that can be associated with the disease. That may sound somewhat grisly, but it seems that many times it takes the diagnosis of a famous person to increase public awareness of a disease, to increase the amount of research put into finding a cure for a disease, and to increase the amount of charitable contributions to fund such research. This happened with Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, AIDS and Diabetes. Hopefully it will also happen with Lewy Body Dementia.