before i get into the proceedings this week, i just want to make it clear that this week’s title is a) topic-appropriate and b) a callback to a conversation i had with the Irishman about rock bands with ridiculous song titles (possibly inspired by 3 Inches Of Blood), in which we discussed how Blue Ã–yster Cult is a championship contender when it comes to crazy song titles. “Cities On Flame With Rock And Roll?” “Transmaniacon MC?” “Workshop Of The Telescopes?” “Flaming Telepaths?” “This Ain’t The Summer Of Love (obviously)?” “Tattoo Vampire” (and, to a lesser extent, “Godzilla”)? “Golden Age Of Leather?” “Veteran Of The Psychic Wars?” these guys are/were insane, and i rest my case. i think they also did a song about the Marshall Plan. BUT I DIGRESS.
anyway, with summer having finally ended, we’ve surely all noticed the large number of celebrities (including minor celebrities and pseudo-celebrities) that have dropped off over the summer. people are very emotional about this, since the more money some makes, the better they are (as Worthington’s Law tells us, more money = better than), and so there have been a lot of tears and emotional statements and internet articles about some kind of celebrity summer of death.
i am now going to take this to the next level of classiness by rating some of the deaths of consequence this summer. let’s put this on a scale of 1-5 stars of sadness.
JANKLOW’S RANKINGS OF HOW SAD WE SHOULD BE OVER THE DEMISE OF VARIOUS PEOPLE WHO DIED IN THE SUMMER OF 2009
but first, a note: David Carradine died on June 3rd, which is not summer 2009, and thus he should never be included on lists like this. i’m just saying.
all i’m saying is that when you’re appearing next to desks with gold toilets on them, it may just be time to pack it in
Ed McMahon (June 23rd)
okay, he seemed like a fairly lovable guy, and a lot of people loved Star Search and the Tonight Show (not me, but i admit it’s true), but let’s be honest: his life had taken kind of a downward turn as of late. he somehow broke his neck in 2007, he spent the entire year of 2008 having ridiculous financial trouble, and i’m pretty sure i saw the man pitching one of those “cash for gold” sites in television ads. in some respects, this may have been for the best. 3 stars.
Michael Jackson (June 25th)
part of the problem here is that people got SO worked up over this and did SO many ridiculous things (let’s use as a prime example the fact that LA spent good money on his funeral while simultaneously carping about budget issues) that it feels like we’ve been too sad about this. and then there were the sexual abuse allegations and, more proven, decades of flat-out weird behavior; when you live so ridiculously, people start expecting your death at any moment. but all that being said, the man made Thriller. THRILLER. this album is worth any amount of ridiculous behavior. 5 stars.
Farrah Fawcett (June 25th)
so there’s a small group of people out there that feels it’s unfair that a) Fawcett died on the same day as Michael Jackson and b) that her death was overshadowed by said death. they may not admit to the former, but i suspect that deep down they think it, because they hate creepy MJ and love their precious Farrah. but here’s the thing: she DESERVES to be overshadowed. what the fuck did Farrah Fawcett ever do? one season of Charlie’s Angels? posed for some posters? it’s claimed she was critically acclaimed for her work in some off-Broadway plays, which is just sad. 1 star.
Billy Mays (June 28th)
this is a tough call, because i legitimately know many people who seem affected by Mays’ demise, but at the same time, i’m not sure why. the man made ridiculous television ads (this is probably the most likely cause for the esteem) in which he sold, among other things, putty that i object to on the grounds that i hear it doesn’t work. where do you get off selling putty that won’t actually allow me to pull a truck, Mays? you can’t rip people off for their hard-earned putty cash and expect kind and loving memorials on the internet! 2 stars.
Alexis ArgÃ¼ello (July 1st)
i’m going to admit this: this has nothing to do with his solid boxing career, and this has nothing to do with his political career in later life. this has everything to do with his name reminding me of that Warren Zevon song “Boom Boom Mancini,” and so when i hear it, i smile a little, and then i get a little sad. and you should too, because that’s a pretty cool song. plus, Ring Magazine ranked him #20 on their list of 100 greatest all-time punchers. 4 stars. that also brings us to:
Arturo Gatti (July 11th) and Vernon Forrest (July 25th)
they had solid careers and all, but let’s be honest: unless you’re a boxing fan, you mostly remember they because a) they’re part of a trio of boxers that died this July and b) they had weird deaths, what with Gatti possibly being choked to death with his wife’s purse strap and Forrest being shot after a robbery and weird chase. this is unfortunate, because no one should really be most notable for the weirdness of their death, but it happens. 2 stars for each of them.
what can you say about a man like Karl Malden? probably something like “well, he just wasn’t very good-looking, now was he?”
Karl Malden (July 1st)
he had a solid career (A Streetcar Named Desire, On The Waterfront, Patton), but ultimately, he was not a very good-looking guy, and that’s what really gets you the outpouring of sadness from the older ladies when you finally die. Dean Martin and Marlon Brando? outright tragedies (although in the case of Dean Martin, his religious status does affect that), whereas Karl Malden most gets remembered these days as the guy Family Guy made fun of for having a massive nose. still, very good in Patton. 3 stars.
Steve McNair (July 4th)
on the one hand, he’s a classic tough-guy football player and he was known for ridiculous things, such as being on fire at a young age and not being fazed (whoa) or going out of his way to purchase the sword used by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart (double whoa). but here’s the thing: even if i was a massive Titans or Ravens fan, and i’m neither, i’d still have to temper my sadness with the fact that you got yourself into the situation whereupon your crazy young girlfriend shot your married ass to death. not too classy. 2 stars.
Walter Cronkite (July 17th)
he’s an icon of the broadcasting world, but honestly, how old is the youngest person from the generation(s) that really saw him on television and was affected by it? i mean, i’ve obviously heard of him and i can think of reasons we he’s well-regarded and noted… but it’s not like he’s the voice of the news i grew up on, and i’m no spring chicken anymore. so i think some of this sadness is sort of forced, and so i want you all to know that it’s okay to not be THAT sad about it. at this point i’m just trying to remember if Rather and Brokaw are still alive. 4 stars.
Frank McCourt (July 19th)
i didn’t read Angela’s Ashes and i have no real stance on whether or not McCourt was actually a good reader. i’m not sure if anyone i know has actually ever read anything by him. still, this is part of my campaign to point out that writers contribute as much to the creative and/or entertainment world as actors and directors do, and so i’m going to make a note of his death here. all that being said, i still can’t think of anyone i know who really felt depressed about his death. 1 star.
Corazon Aquino (August 1st)
i’ll keep this short: what do you think the percentage of Americans who could tell me who this is without looking it up on the internet is? i’m guessing 4%. 3 stars.
John Hughes (August 6th)
this one was sort of overlooked: i do recall some tributes in the wake of his death (some legitimately touching, actually), but at the same time, his lack of recently output seems to have doomed him to the B-list of celebrity deaths, despite the fact that his filmography was stacked with hits (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Uncle Buck) and that EVERYONE loves Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. seriously, that film is a classic and i don’t know anyone who’s watched it and disliked it. 5 stars.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver (August 11th) and Ted Kennedy (August 25th)
it wasn’t really surprising that brother and sister both died in the same month (they weren’t young and, especially in Ted’s case, they weren’t well), but it IS surprising that Ted Kennedy died in the same month as some guy named Ted Kennedy who was a major star for the Toronto Maple Leafs died (on August 14th). i mean, come on, i think we all know that that is just plain weird. anyway, i wasn’t a major fan of Ted’s, but i guess Eunice did some good (Ted probably did too, but he just makes it so easy to dislike him). 3 stars for Eunice, 2 stars for Ted.
all right, kids, sing along: “those are people who died, died, those are people who died, died, they were all my friends, and they died”
Les Paul (August 12th)
apparently, he’s one “of a handful of artists with a permanent, stand-alone exhibit in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” and it’s probably clear to the average guy that the man had something to do with the guitar as we know it in the modern world, and i KNOW the guitar aficionados were all broken up about this death. plus, i hear he made “rock-and-roll possible” with his innovations, so even if i dispute that and give most of the credit to that Marty McFly guy i saw in that documentary about travel, it’s still pretty sad. 4 stars.
Robert Novak (August 18th)
well, the man was a big-time conservative, and even embraced the nickname “Prince Of Darkness,” for crying out loud. so he probably wouldn’t want us to shed many tears over him… which will work out nicely, because again, find me some average Americans who even know who he is. man, i will never, ever get tired of making fun of the intelligence of the average American; the jokes practically write themselves, and damned if they’re not satisfying. 1 star.
Kashin (August 24th)
it’s sad when famous elephants die, because elephants are awesome. 5 stars.
Dominick Dunne (August 26th)
for a long, long time, i thought Dominick Dunne was a woman. and i don’t mean “a long, long time” as in “when i was a kid, i thought that, but then i learned the truth,” i mean it as in “i’m pretty sure i still thought he was a woman up until the moment of his obituaries hitting the papers.” and i feel kind of bad about that, so even though i can’t claim to be a connoisseur of the man’s work, i’ll force out a fake tear or two. 2 stars.
Adam “DJ AM” Goldstein (August 28th)
i guess some kids like him and feel strongly about his death, but they have to compete with the fact that a) old people don’t consider DJs to be people of consequence and b) the man was in Crazy Town. CRAZY TOWN. it’s probably more surprising that someone hadn’t already killed him by now. does no one else remember that “Butterfly” song? terrible, just terrible. i mean, i don’t want to pile on now, because the man has died and we shouldn’t be too harsh… but that song was TERRIBLE. 2 stars, which brings us to:
Anthony “Roc Raida” Williams (September 19th)
for some reason, this death matters a lot less to people than that of DJ AM, probably because AM appeared in numerous gossip magazines every now and then, while Roc Raida just won a DMC World Championship and also made a bunch of excellent records. well, i feel a little sad about it, even if part of the reason for that is to drive J.Miles crazy that i worked a hip-hop death into this update and he probably didn’t even see it coming. ha! 4 stars.
Jim Carroll (September 11th)
i’m not a massive fan of the Basketball Diaries, but i know some people who are, so that’s got to count for something, right? but i do think this: a guy who’s well-known for making a song called “People Who Died” has just died, and while that song might know be seen as ironic (all though it’s not like we’re not ALL going to die at some point), it’s mainly just sad because that song is awesome and now the guy responsible for it has died. 5 stars.
9/14 NEVER FORGET
Patrick Swayze (September 14th)
very tragic, and we already talked about this in detail, and i think i’ve already rambled on long enough this week. 5 stars.
so there it is. if anyone else of consequence dies, it won’t be in the summer of 2009! and remember, kids: you could wake up dead tomorrow. good night.