They’re dropping like flies. The formerly famous among us are dying. Lately, it’s been epidemic.
One morning a few weeks ago, my radio announced that yet another “use to be famous” person had just died.
“Jeez,” I said to myself, “that was the third one this week!” (I have it on good authority that death always “comes in threes.”) Every day it seems that it’s another one — i.e. some formerly famous person — who’s gone.
I must admit that the recent revelation of the demise of Jack B. Famous caught me really off-guard. It was like a “bolt out of the blue,” totally unexpected and quite frankly, more than a little surprising. Heck, I thought Famous died ages ago — I thought that he had “… been dead.” Imagine my shock at learning that he had been walking around on the planet for all of that time.
I first remember seeing him when I was a child and he was the star of the Uncle Jackie Show. He wore a clown suit, squirted people with water, acted silly and hosted cartoons for kids. About ten years later, Jack B. Famous was given his own prime time, network TV show. On that show, Famous played a priest who was also a crime fighting superhero. (“Father Dominic” often changed into his crime fighting uniform in a confessional booth. Before he turned evil doers into the authorities, he even heard their confessions, as it were.) After about a two year run as the TV priest, Famous had a hit TV show in which he played a singing cowboy, who also doubled as a Mafia hit man. After the TV series was canceled, you could hardly turn on a TV without seeing Famous staring right back at you. If he wasn’t on Merv Griffin or Johnny Carson or some other talk show, or making a guest appearance on somebody else’s dramatic show, he was singing the national anthem at a baseball game or otherwise trying to make a comeback. I remember seeing Famous hawking something on the Shopping Network and for awhile he had become a TV evangelist. The last time that I saw him, he was making a guest appearance on that game show, “People Who Used To Be Famous.” Then Pfft! — nothing.
Until a few days ago, I hadn’t heard Famous’ name in ages — not on a TV rerun, not on an old movie, not on a reality show and not even on one of those infomercials where some marginally still famous person is trying to sell you RVX – 97 gravity shoes, that for three easy payments of $29.99 allow you to simultaneously walk upside down on the ceiling, grow your own tomatoes, and tone your flabby abdominal muscles.
In a spirit of full disclosure, I must admit that the other morning was not the first time that I had “rushed someone’s demise” — ‘rushing their obit as it were. It’s getting to be a nasty habit. Most of the time, the person that I have prematurely killed off is a celebrity but occasionally I have managed to knock off a real person, someone who is actually still living. In these instances, it is usually someone that I “used to know,” but haven’t seen or heard from since say, the Nixon Administration. It is very disconcerting to be at a barbecue and all of a sudden a person that you most assuredly knew was dead shows up. It’s a total shock to the system and leaves one bewildered, befuddled, at a loss for words and with the hair standing straight up on one’s head.
I must give myself a little credit though by saying that on the occasions that one of the undead has surprised me at a barbecue or cocktail party, I have, after nearly passing out, been able to compose myself enough to stammer out a “You look good.” ( I am pretty sure that these are world-wide code words for “Omigod, I thought that you were dead!”) One of my more memorable meetings with an “undead” person was with Elvis at my neighbor’s backyard barbecue, but I am also pretty sure that I’d also had one too many cocktails that night. (I am “pretty sure” about this anyway.)
The real problem is that I can’t keep up with everyone who hasn’t been heard from in years. I’ve thought about it and have concluded that it’s the moral obligation of the “formerly famous” to let the rest of us know that they are still alive. If they are not going to continue to be famous they should at least occasionally do something really stupid to get their name in the paper or at least on CNN. Maybe the formerly famous should be required to post an “Undead Notice” in the newspaper: “Hey, world, believe it or not, I’m still kickin’.” Maybe this requirement should even be put in the U.S. Constitution.
Lastly, I offer my apologies to Jack B. Famous. I am truly sorry that I killed you off long before you really did go. My bad! I didn’t mean to rush your obit. They have been showing your picture and some of your old TV clips all over the news in the past few days. If it’s any consolation to you, “You look good.”
©Copyright 2009 Will Cantrell