Take Five: Pop Culture Celeb Deaths That Would Bring Our Country To Its Knees
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on August 6, 2008
Woo-oo-oo now baby please don’t go
Ever since the invention of Facebook group The Celebrity Death Pun & Conundrum Society, celebrity death has always been a great cause for joy amongst my college friends. Some wait by the internet all day, constantly refreshing newswire sites, in order to get the drop on the rest by making bad jokes about the noteworthy recently deceased. A positive fury was caused by the passing of Estelle Getty a few weeks ago, for being the first of the four Golden Girls to die–a tontine that, by all rights, seemed like it should’ve started slimming down years ago. Even the death of someone like Heath Ledger, as shocking and tragic a celebrity death as we’ve had in recent years, still attracted a number of groan-worthy responses (“Croakback Mountain,” “Why So Dead Serious?”).
Still, when I first heard about Morgan Freeman’s recent car accident–leaving him in serious, if not critical, condition–I had to wonder if anyone would be able to make light of the situation had Freeman not survived. For Freeman belongs to a class of celebrity that the public simply needs–not necessarily because they love them and enjoy their work so much, but because they just need to know that they’re out there to feel safe at night. Freeman has, over the course of the last ten years or so, become our nation’s surrogate grandfather, teaching us about religion (Bruce Almighty), guiding us through disaster (Deep Impact), keeping our deepest, darkest secrets (Batman Begins) and telling us plenty of nighttime stories (March of the Penguins). To have lost him at this point would have been like a national death in the family.
So I started to think–what other celebrity deaths would our nation simply be unable to weather? Here’s what I came up with:
- Dick Clark. We’ve already had a close call or two here, especially with the stroke that Dick suffered in 2005, threatening to prevent Clark from hosting New Year’s Rockin’ Eve for the first time since he started in 1972. Sure enough, the evergreen Clark rebounded enough to at least appear on the special, once again leaving back-up host Ryan Seacrest–promised the host spot once Clark is finished–relegated to being the Aaron Rodgers of New Years’ telecasting. I’m not sure if any replacement would do, however, since Clark has become so firmly intertwined with the prospect of turning over a new calendar to this nation that without the sight of him on Dec. 31st, we might not be capable of moving into the new year at all.
- Paris Hilton. This might have been truer a couple years ago–especially for the paparazzi / tabloid industry, which would’ve been a ghost town without her–but I still believe that the existence of Paris Hilton is about as important to this country’s mental health as anyone. Basically, she is the one celebrity for which just about anyone in America can feel like a more productive member of society by comparison. If you put stamps and return addresses on your mail today, and put the little mailbox flag up for the postman, you can already feel like you’ve done more than Miss Hilton will do all day. She’s also generous enough not to confuse people (well, most people) by making it seem like she’s trying particularly hard with any of her movies, TV cameos or albums, leaving America to feel as smug and superior as it likes upong the sight of the vacant-eyed starlet. Without her, who do we evaluate ourselves against? Even Tara Reid had The Big Lebowski to justify her existence.
- Keith Richards. OK, so most people reading this blog have probably, at some point in their life, faced up to the fact that we’re all going to die some day. But admit it, there’s a part of you–small, maybe, but it’s definitely there–that secretly suspects that this is all just a myth. True for most, perhaps, but not for a select few, possibly including yourself. And you know why it is that you hold on to this sliver of hope for immortality? That’s right–Keith Richards. The man seems like he should’ve died at at least seven or eight different points in his career–especially considering how many of his peers, including fellow Stone Brian Jones, did end up checking out on schedule. But Richards continues to truck on, falling out of trees, snorting the ashes of his relatives (maybe), and living to tell about it. It’s hard not to think that if he were ever going to die, he certainly would have by now. His death would confirm all our worst fears about man in fact being decidedly mortal, and collectively send the nation straight under their covers and crying for their mommies.
- Dennis Haysbert. As with Hilton, this might’ve been truer a few years ago, when Haysbert was still playing the national voice of reason as President David Palmer on 24. But the man still commands authority like no other, especially as exemplified by his seirous of All-State ads that make the Above the Influence and Truth.com dudes seem like a bunch of pussies. If Morgan Freeman is the nation’s surrogate grandpappy, then Haysbert is the nation’s surrogate elementary school principal–stern, strict, and a little bit intimidating, but fair, idealistic, and positively necessary for preventing the entire system from breaking into anarchy.
- Josh Hamilton. I’m sure that the MLB’s golden boy, the veritable phoenix rising from the ashes, had enough pressures of expectaiton in his life before this year’s Home Run derby. But then the ex-junkie turned revitalized baseball superstar hit 28 home runs in the first round of the competition, prompting sportscaster/writer/asshole Rick Reilly to comment, “It’s a bad night to be an atheist.” It seemed like a relatively innocuous (if somewhat boneheaded) comment at first, but then the implications of it became clear–Josh Hamilton’s success must continue for God to exist. If the man should suddenly die in a car crash, get struck by lightning, or far worse, suffer a drug relapse and OD, ESPN losing its most uplifting story of the year would be the least of it–the athiests would have finally won. And Rick Reilly would almost certainly be out of a job.