The last two months have been horrible for celebrity death watching. Since Paul Newman died at the end of September, virtually nobody notable has passed away. Sure, there was Mitch Mitchell and Odetta and Mr. Blackwell, but they're minor. They're no Charleton Heston or Tim Russert or Estelle Getty. I had such high hopes for the fourth quarter of 2008 when Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes went on the same day in August. Ah, but just like on Wall Street, celebrity deaths are in a bear market.
Why, you may ask, am I so pissed about the lack of recent notable deaths? Well, celebrity death watching is my sport. It's what I think about while most other men are thinking about baseball or NASCAR. I don't watch ESPN, I watch the obituaries on Yahoo News. I'm not a member of fantasy football leagues, I'm a member of dead pools. Yes, it's morbid, but it beats following sports I'll never play. I can tell you with absolute certainty that, one day, I will die.
I've always been a fan of celebrity death watching, but it truly became my passion in September of 2003. Within 24 hours, both Johnny Cash and John Ritter died. When I called my Dad, he so eloquently said, "Well, I made it longer than Ritter, but not as long as Cash." I enjoyed his quip. When Gordon Jump died a week later, I called him again and he said he'd rather be dead than be in Cincinnati (Gordon Jump was on WKRP in Cincinnati). Good stuff!
From then on, anytime anybody famous died, I would call my Dad. Soon my mother got in on the act. And then my sister (who, by the way, lives in Cincinnati). The four of us would compete to be the first one to let the others know when a famous death had occurred. By phone or by e-mail or by text, we would broadcast the information and hope that nobody else had heard it. Not exactly The Cosby Show, but it bonded my family and gave me a reason to check CNN.com at four in the morning.
Our rules are pretty simple. The dead person has to be somebody we all know. You get extra points if it's somebody beloved like George Carlin. You get even more points if it's unexpected like Heath Ledger. You get even more points if it's scandalous like Anna Nicole Smith. You get even more points if it's particularly brutal like Jam-Master Jay. And you get the maximum amount of points if it's Osama Bin Laden. I love this game!
Celebrity death watching isn't actually as morbid as it seems. When famous people die, it's our last chance to appreciate them. They could be disgraced or go insane and we'll still memorialize them. I can't wait until Michael Jackson dies. They could be old, fat, and disgusting and we'll still memorialize them. I can't wait until Elizabeth Taylor dies. They could be irrelevant and into Jesus and we'll still memorialize them. I can't wait until Stephen Baldwin dies.
Celebrity death watching also helps us realize how lucky we are to be alive, or at least not be dead. One of the things I pride myself on is that I'm not afraid to die (hey, it'll put me out of my misery). Still, I can't help but question my mortality when Jennifer Hudson's mother gets shot.
So yeah, I'm upset that nobody good has died recently. Where are the Phil Hartmans and Chris Farleys? Where are the Frank Sinatras and James Browns? Where are the Benazir Bhuttos and Nicole Brown Simpsons? In the new year, it is my hope that we'll have some solid celebrity deaths.
I hope for the expected deaths - Fidel Castro, Patrick Swayze, Amy Winehouse, and Jeff Conaway. I hope for the needed deaths - Paris Hilton, Dick Cheney, Martha Stewart, and Mario Lopez. I hope for the holy shit surprise deaths - Todd Palin, Miley Cyrus, and Michael Phelps. I hope they all die. For me, death makes life a whole a lot better.