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. Pugshot Inactive
    Pugshot
    @Pugshot

    Miffed White Male

    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.

    Speaking as a guy turning 66 in a few months – Jeez, you’re being kind of brutal to us old geezers!!

    • #31
  2. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    RightAngles:

    EJHill:

    Frozen Chosen: Just how old are you, EJ?

    I confessed here.

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

    I’ll be 41 on Monday. What does that make me?

    • #32
  3. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Mike LaRoche: I’ll be 41 on Monday. What does that make me?

    39b.

    • #33
  4. Doctor Robert Member
    Doctor Robert
    @DoctorRobert

    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.

    It s all chance. Poisson’s rule.  Random events occur in clusters.  Four birds have flown into my office window this month.

    • #34
  5. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    My first thought was…Give me one good reason why I should care about another celebrity drug-overdose death.

    • #35
  6. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    The Telegraph headline is one of the dumbest ever. That’s the sort of thing one says to a colleague at the water cooler, but it’s not a serious question. As a matter of fact, it would be odd if celebrity deaths were always evenly distributed over time. Inevitably, they will be bunched up from time to time. For the Telegraph to ask why is to mistake randomness for non-randomness.

    • #36
  7. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Mike LaRoche:

    RightAngles:

    EJHill:

    Frozen Chosen: Just how old are you, EJ?

    I confessed here.

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

    I’ll be 41 on Monday. What does that make me?

    A tiny baby.

    • #37
  8. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Mr. X?

    mrx

    • #38
  9. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Kim K.: I also understand the loss of a person who was an integral part of one’s formative years.

    Grukh the caveman is dead? Oh, no!

    • #39
  10. Steve C. Member
    Steve C.
    @user_531302

    It’s not about them. It’s about us.

    Maybe they are markers of our youth. Or sign posts of our own passage through this vale of tears. Regardless, it’s our relationship to them. I miss my parents. I will never miss some public figure the same way.

    • #40
  11. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    No Caesar: Prince Rogers Nelson

    Is this one name or two?

    • #41
  12. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    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.

    Cretin.  What about “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars?”

    • #42
  13. Ball Diamond Ball Inactive
    Ball Diamond Ball
    @BallDiamondBall

    Randy Webster:

    No Caesar: Prince Rogers Nelson

    Is this one name or two?

    SVO.

    • #43
  14. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I remember the Great Royal War when Prince Nelson had to defend the castle from the army of the younger Prince Fielder. Guitar and baseball bats were flying everywhere. They were pouring boiling hair conditioner from the parapets.

    • #44
  15. Mr. Dart Inactive
    Mr. Dart
    @MrDart

    EJHill:I remember the Great Royal War when Prince Nelson had to defend the castle from the army of the younger Prince Fielder. Guitar and baseball bats were flying everywhere. They were pouring boiling hair conditioner from the parapets.

    It was all so sad too since Fielder’s mother had named him Prince in honor of the musician.

    • #45
  16. Casey Inactive
    Casey
    @Casey

    EJHill: They were pouring boiling hair conditioner from the parapets.

    That’s no way to treat animals.

    • #46
  17. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    In case anyone was wondering (and even if you weren’t), there were 748 baby boys given the first name of Prince in the US in 2014. That’s the most recent year available on the Social Security database.

    No word on how many pitbulls and rottweilers got the same treatment.

    • #47
  18. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

    EJHill:I remember the Great Royal War when Prince Nelson had to defend the castle from the army of the younger Prince Fielder. Guitar and baseball bats were flying everywhere. They were pouring boiling hair conditioner from the parapets.

    You ever try to get that stuff out of chain mail?

    • #48
  19. Whiskey Sam Inactive
    Whiskey Sam
    @WhiskeySam

    13087716_480803085440518_1033145353470964555_n

    • #49
  20. Mike LaRoche Inactive
    Mike LaRoche
    @MikeLaRoche

    Rocky the squirrel kicked the bucket a few days ago here in my neighborhood. Didn’t think to take a pic.

    • #50
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