A Page One Death

 

CelebWith the death of Prince, Friday’s London Telegraph echoes our own James Lileks in asking about the plethora of celebrity deaths in 2016. Are people really dying off at a faster rate? Or has the bar for celebrity status been so lowered that more people are written about, Tweeted about and generally gossiped about than ever before?

I favor the latter theory above everything else. With the rise of the Internet and social media, we have given birth to new classifications of “stars.” Forbes now runs a list of the richest YouTube Stars. People whose passing may not have even merited much more than filler on the agate type pages 20 years ago now get links on Drudge Report and hundreds of comments on TMZ.

GestDavid Gest, whose primary claim to fame seems to be that he was Liza Minnelli’s abused fourth husband generated 600 comments on TMZ when he passed on April 12.

Beyond the business celebrity of The Donald, there’s “reality” television. At one time the aforementioned Mr. Gest had, not one, not two, but three programs on prime-time British TV at once. Here in the States all one has to do is look at the current lineup on “Dancing with the Stars” to understand just how much luster the word “star” has lost.

Finally, a word or two on the subject of our perceptions. Once you get north of 50 one becomes achingly (and I mean achingly) aware of one’s own mortality. We become a little bit more cognizant of the passing of others.

Then there is the nature of the era of those now passing. Fame, fortune, and temptation took its toll on the stars of mass media throughout the 20th Century but the rock ‘n’ roll era brought a level of self abuse never before seen. These people were abusing their bodies way before they were famous. A little help to get you up in the morning (Okay, afternoon), a little help to bring you back down at night, and maybe a little something to round off the edges during the day. Even when they found sobriety in their 40s the damage had been done. Now, as they reach their 60s and 70s, they’re dropping like flies.

Most of us, of course, will die in anonymity. There will be no AP wire copy. (“Mr. X, who Photoshopped under the name EJ Hill, passed this morning after a brief illness. Hundreds that camped out in a quiet vigil on his front lawn sobbed openly and rended their garments when news of his passing was announced,” will not be running on any front page anywhere near you — ever.) But may we all be remembered for how we lived and what we created in this life than for how we died or what we destroyed.

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  1. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Mr. X!  I knew you were Mr. X!!!

    • #1
  2. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Btw, you made me feel better.  I keep hearing about how 2016 is so awful because all of our favorite stars are dying.  And I’m thinking “Really?  Like who?”

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Thanks a lot for makin’ me look at David Gest again

    • #3
  4. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    ‘Cause when you’re a celebrity
    It’s adios reality
    You can act just like a fool
    People think you’re cool
    Just ’cause you’re on TV
    I can throw a major fit
    When my latte isn’t just how I like it
    When they say I’ve gone insane
    I’ll blame it on the fame
    And the pressures that go with
    Being a celebrity.

    Brad Paisley – Celebrity

    Seawriter

    • #4
  5. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Another tragic update from the music world.  Kanye West is still alive.

    • #5
  6. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    I know. You see a death notice for some third rate actor given a front page story, and then you compare it to the guy who fought on Omaha Beach whose passing went unnoticed.

    I soothe myself with Jesus’ words: “… do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

    There’s celebrity and then genuine honor. The difference is that you can have honor without anyone knowing about it.

    • #6
  7. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    Ball Diamond Ball:Another tragic update from the music world. Kanye West is still alive.

    Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 2.56.53 PM

    • #7
  8. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    EJHill:

    Most of us, of course, will die in anonymity. There will be no AP wire copy. (“Mr. X, who photoshopped under the name of EJ Hill, passed this morning after a brief illness. Hundreds that camped out in a quiet vigil on his front lawn sobbed openly and rendered their garments when news of his passing was announced,” will not be running on the front page or on any web page anywhere near you – ever.)

    EJ, hopefully they will be rending their garments, not rendering them.

    • #8
  9. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    David Knights: EJ, hopefully they will be rending their garments, not rendering them.

    It’s a computer graphics thing. The rendering time on clothes is a bear.

    The open air editing of articles is our great strength around here. (Spellcheck and autocorrect being our great weaknesses.)

    • #9
  10. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    There is no conceivable amount of money worth telling the world that you were beaten up by Liza Minelli.

    – Jon Stewart

    • #10
  11. David Knights Member
    David Knights
    @DavidKnights

    I hadn’t thought about that.  Given your ninja Photoshop skills, a bunch of Photo-shoppers rendering garments makes sense.  I withdraw my objection. :)

    • #11
  12. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    EJHill:

    David Knights: EJ, hopefully they will be rending their garments, not rendering them.

    It’s a computer graphics thing. The rendering time on clothes is a bear.

    The open air editing of articles is our great strength around here. (Spellcheck and autocorrect being our great weaknesses.)

    f98018591806cb132f3ec29ff4619c9a-copy

    • #12
  13. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @skipsul

    f98018591806cb132f3ec29ff4619c9a

    • #13
  14. No Caesar Thatcher
    No Caesar
    @NoCaesar

    While I agree with your point about lowering the bar, I disagree that’s why 2016 seems to be a lethal year for greats.  Not even 4 months into the year and already we have seen the death of people who would be considered great in any age: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Glenn Fry, Prince Rogers Nelson, Merle Haggard, etc.

    • #14
  15. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    No Caesar: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Glenn Fry, Prince Rogers Nelson, Merle Haggard, etc

    Ah, that helps…

    I hold almost no connection with celebrities.  I find it interesting for a day or so and then whoosh… gone and forgotten.

    • #15
  16. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    No Caesar: Not even 4 months into the year and already we have seen the death of people who would be considered great in any age…

    Much more of it is emotional attachment rather than the acknowledgment of greatness.

    I’ve seen greatness pass in short order. In the 20th Century there were 5 pillars that you can use to delineate seismic changes in the culture of music: Jolson, Crosby, Sinatra, Presley, The Beatles. In 1977 two of those passed away within 3 months of each other. If Bing and Elvis had anything in common other than a mediocre movie set in Hawai’i, it was that both of their deaths were announced by bulletin break ins to network programming.

    That doesn’t happen anymore. Tweet it out, go wall-to-wall on cable, but it barely registers anywhere else.

    Beyond the duet with Crosby I’ve never heard a David Bowie song beginning to end. Wouldn’t know Purple Rain if rained, well, purple. But if it represents your youth then it’s more significant.

    • #16
  17. Frozen Chosen Inactive
    Frozen Chosen
    @FrozenChosen

    EJHill:

    No Caesar: Not even 4 months into the year and already we have seen the death of people who would be considered great in any age…

    Much more of it is emotional attachment rather than the acknowledgment of greatness.

    I’ve seen greatness pass in short order. In the 20th Century there were 5 pillars that you can use to delineate seismic changes in the culture of music: Jolson, Crosby, Sinatra, Presley, The Beatles. In 1977 two of those passed away within 3 months of each other. If Bing and Elvis had anything in common other than a mediocre movie set in Hawai’i, it was that both of their deaths were announced by bulletin break ins to network programming.

    That doesn’t happen anymore. Tweet it out, go wall-to-wall on cable, but it barely registers anywhere else.

    Beyond the duet with Crosby I’ve never heard a David Bowie song beginning to end. Wouldn’t know Purple Rain if rained, well, purple. But if it represents your youth then it’s more significant.

    Just how old are you, EJ?

    • #17
  18. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    Frozen Chosen: Just how old are you, EJ?

    I found some video from his last birthday party.

    • #18
  19. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Prince aside (he was 57), most of the guys dying off this year were just old (late 60s and up*).  It’s not really that shocking that old folks die.  The baby boom was a big bulge in the population, you have to expect that the volume of deaths of people you’ve heard of will be increasing for the next several years.

    *Yes, late 60s is old.  At least its old enough that death can’t be unexpected – cancer, heart disease, or other causes.

    • #19
  20. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    RightAngles:Thanks a lot for makin’ me look at David Gest again

    I thought he went by “Liza’s Beard”

    • #20
  21. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Whiskey Sam:

    RightAngles:Thanks a lot for makin’ me look at David Gest again

    I thought he went by “Liza’s Beard”

    He never fooled me. Wait she was his beard

    • #21
  22. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Frozen Chosen: Just how old are you, EJ?

    I confessed here.

    • #22
  23. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    EJHill:

    Frozen Chosen: Just how old are you, EJ?

    I confessed here.

    Young whippersnapper.

    Seawriter

    • #23
  24. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Merle Haggard’s death is the only one I really noticed.

    • #24
  25. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    EJHill:

    Frozen Chosen: Just how old are you, EJ?

    I confessed here.

    A mere stripling of 56. Cry me a river, little boy.

    • #25
  26. Matt Upton Inactive
    Matt Upton
    @MattUpton

    The only celebrity death I remember really feeling was Steve Jobs. At the time I listened to a lot of tech podcasts, read Apple news blogs, and worked with a group of people fairly obsessed with Apple products.

    I think mourning is compounded by number people you know who had some sort of connection to the person, however fleeting. Bowie and Prince’s deaths didn’t affect me because neither I nor anyone I am close with particularly cared for their music. If Willie Nelson died, I would feel it more because a lot of my family loves his music, even though I’m not a big fan.

    Now multiply that effect by Facebook.

    • #26
  27. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    Global warming  Climate change is killing all the famous people!

    • #27
  28. DialMforMurder Inactive
    DialMforMurder
    @DialMforMurder

    No Caesar:While I agree with your point about lowering the bar, I disagree that’s why 2016 seems to be a lethal year for greats. Not even 4 months into the year and already we have seen the death of people who would be considered great in any age: Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Glenn Fry, Prince Rogers Nelson, Merle Haggard, etc.

    I’ve only heard of two of those people, and only Bowie I could call “great”. Rickman was pretty good I suppose. But maybe I just don’t have enough respect for actors as artists. Those guys are mostly just chess pieces if you ask me.

    • #28
  29. Kim K. Inactive
    Kim K.
    @KimK

    The odds of dying are currently running at 1:1. I understand the loss of talent some of these people represent. I also understand the loss of a person who was an integral part of one’s formative years. However, most of the people who seem so devastated by the loss of actors and musicians did not know them and so the outpouring of emotion baffles me. People die – did you really expect them to live forever?

    • #29
  30. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    DialMforMurder: only Bowie I could call “great”.

    Interesting. I was pretty surprised by the reaction to Bowie. I never realized people were so fond of him.

    • #30
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