Famous people you didn’t know had Parkinson’s

_Gold Squad, April, 2022

Many people are familiar with the fact that actor and activist, Michael J. Fox, as well as boxing champ and international icon, Muhammad Ali, are and were notable figures afflicted with Parkinson’s. And both are and were inspirational figures in the fight against this terrible disease.

It got us to thinking: who else is living with Parkinson’s and serving as important ambassadors for research and treatment?

Pierre Elliott Trudeau

The Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, and the source and focus of Trudeaumania in the late 60s, endured many health challenges late in life, one of them being Parkinson’s. Montréal-born Trudeau was a flamboyant figure on both the national and international stage his entire life.

Alan Alda

Actor, director, screenwriter and author Alan Alda, best known for playing Hawkeye Pierce in the television series M*A*S*H*, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015. He made his diagnosis public in 2018, saying ““I was diagnosed three-and-a-half years ago and I’ve had a full life since then.” Alda tweeted from his verified Twitter account in July, 2018:

“I take boxing lessons 3 days a week, play singles tennis twice a week, and take a mild pill – all Dr. recommended. I even juggle a little. And I’m not entering dementia. I’m no more demented than I was before. 

Maybe I should rephrase that. 

Really, I’m good.”

Neil Diamond

Diagnosed in 2018, the internationally renowned singer and songwriter of popular songs like “Sweet Caroline” and “I’m a Believer” went public with his diagnosis after he announced his cancellation of the third leg of his 50th Anniversary tour in January 2018. Fans of the Golden Globe and Grammy winning Hall-of-Famer donated their tickets to Parkinson’s research on his behalf. Diamon still plans on making music.

As recently as last year, Diamond gave a surprise live performance, when he took to the stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, as part of the annual Keep Memory Alive Power of Love Gala benefit, where he was being honoured.  

Neil performed some of his greatest hits like “Hello Again,” “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Love on Rocks,” “I Am…I Said” and “September Morn.”

And of course, what show would be complete without Neil Diamond performing his classic “Sweet Caroline” alongside Billy Ray Cyrus, Sammy Hagar, Chris Isaak, Katlyn Nichol and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds — which, of course, he did!

Rev. Jesse Jackson

The influential and outspoken civil rights leader who strived for equality since the 1960s and marched alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., announced his Parkinson’s diagnosis in November of 2017. The retired CNN host hopes to use his voice to find a cure. 

Jackson was even diagnosed with COVID-19 in August, 2021 — and beat that as well. Rev. Jackson has always been — and remains — a key figure in the U.S. who has guided the modern civil rights movement on issues such as voting rights. He has remained active in the fight for voting rights, and was even arrested outside the U.S. Capitol during a demonstration calling for the end of the fillibuster just before his hospitalization.

Astronaut, Michael “Rich” Clifford

Former United States Army officer and NASA astronaut, Michael R Clifford, spent over 665 hours orbiting the globe during his three space flights – one of them whilst dealing with Parkinson’s. The American astronaut hid his sickness for years, but eventually decided to share his story after realizing that Parkinson’s had never stopped him from reaching his goals. In 2014, he collaborated on The Astronaut’s Secret, a documentary film about his career. 

“When I got diagnosed with Parkinson’s I thought it was over and NASA asked me what I wanted to do,” Clifford told Dr. Ray Dorsey, co-author of Ending Parkinson’s Disease: A Prescription for Action. “I said, ‘You mean it’s up to me?’ and they said, ‘Yeah, we consider you still qualified for flight.’ I said, ‘Well, I’ll go fly again.’ And it was as easy as that.”