It’s a fake!

14Feb19

I’ve been thinking about deactivating Facebook, but I’m falling in love with that website all over again.

A conservative Facebook friend posted an obviously photoshopped Time magazine cover with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau behind bars and the headline “Canadian Traitor!” So, I just replied “FAKE,” like I thought he thought it was real.

He replied that I must not have seen that it said “Angus Memes” on it. So I said I just didn’t think he knew that Angus Memes isn’t the publisher of Time magazine. In fact, Angus Memes isn’t even a real person!

Then he replied, “You got caught not paying attention, so you have to attack me personally. I’m not surprised, given your condescending, arrogant tendencies.”

So, then I told him that I went out to the newsstand and it’s not even there. Now who looks dumb?

He said that obviously I was the one who looked dumb, because if I’d known what a meme was, I wouldn’t have been dumb enough to even go to the newsstand.

I replied that I was calling the real publisher of Time magazine, Marc Benioff, to tell him about this Angus Memes impostor, and that this guy was going to be in a lot of legal trouble. But then I was unable to post the comment because I was blocked.

I’d actually been trying to get this guy to block me for a long time by just making well-reasoned arguments against his political views. I can’t believe that this is what did it. But it turns out that just posting “FAKE” when conservatives post obvious parodies really sets them off. (Especially the ones who like to boast about being in Mensa.) Because he’s not wrong! I actually was being condescending and arrogant. I was also going for “patronizing.”

Fortunately my wife is still Facebook friends with this guy, since she likes to know that the far right is up to so she knows if the shit is going down, and having him on her Facebook feed means she doesn’t have to watch Fox News ever. I’m trying to her to continue the conversation, asking him what he’s done to me, because now I’m on the phone with Time magazine, yelling.


More people died this year! These are the ones that are so dead that even the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia admits it.

10. Stan Lee

Stan-Lee

Face front, true believer! Stan Lee had such a flair for self-promotion that it just makes sense that the timing of his final Marvel Cinematic Universe cameo was so perfect, as we can just assume that the old man got disintegrated by Thanos’ snap. Of course, that’s assuming that it was his final cameo. Given that his cameos are invariably cutaways from the main action that don’t involve any of the films’ stars, there’s no reason they can’t separately film Stan Lee cameos well in advance of the next 100 years’ worth of Marvel Cinematic Universe films. Fifty years from now, there’ll be a film for a Marvel character who doesn’t even exist yet. And look! There’s his creator, Stan Lee! Not only that, but because of future corporate mergers, a century of Stan Lee cameos will create confusion of the historical record, inevitably leading him to be credited as creator of Batman. And not only would it be what Bob Kane deserves, but it would be the way Stan Lee would have wanted it. His Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko also died in 2018, they say, but don’t believe it. It was all Stan the Man, baby, all the way.

9. Joe Jackson

Joe-JacksonThey say if there’s a rock and roll heaven, well, you know they’ve got a hell of a band (band, band). And just from 2018, you’ve got Pantera’s Vinnie Paul (hell, yeah!), Motörhead’s “Fast” Eddie Clarke (awesome!), Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchinson (uh, okay, it could work), Microsoft’s Paul Allen (yeah, he sucks, but he’s paying for all the studio time and equipment), Avicii, Mac Miller and XXXTentacion (huh?), and, firing all of them from the band, The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. But managing the band? That sounds like a job for Joe Jackson. Not that Joe Jackson could ever get into a rock and roll heaven, not with that satanic, cartoonishly evil-looking pencil mustache (literally a pencil mustache; it appeared to have been drawn on with an eyebrow pencil). Oh, and not with the way he used to whale on his many children with switches, belt buckles and electrical cords. Or the way he made fun of the young Michael’s nose so relentlessly that he tried to turn himself into Diana Ross, though he had to settle for Tycho Brahe. While Joe may have died just short of seeing his daughter Janet get elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, not to worry; he, along with Murry Wilson and Marvin Gay Sr., is a charter member of the Asshole Rock Dads Hall of Fame.

8. The Dynamite Kid

Dynamite-Kid

Bill Cosby might have been stripped of his Kennedy Center Honor, TCA Career Achievement Award, and Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2018 for drugging and raping women, but on the bright side, he’s now an honorary member of the British Bulldogs. Yeah, they did that too. As innovative as Tom “Dynamite Kid” Billington was in the ring—he was a technical wrestler par excellence, with the most devastating finishing move in the business, a diving headbutt so deadly it (indirectly) killed Chris Benoit’s entire family—he was equally inventive in finding ways to be a world-class asshole outside the squared circle. He woke his wife up by pointing a shotgun in her face. He smashed his best friend’s daughter’s kneecaps for the insurance money. He put laxatives in people’s drinks, slipped them roofies before they got behind the wheel, and swapped his own tag-team partner’s steroids out for milk, just to see if it would do a body good. He was a locker-room bully to the point of pushing Jacques Rougeau to deal him a sucker punch that cost Dynamite four teeth and Jacques $1810 ($10 for the roll of quarters Rougeau concealed in his fist while performing the dental work, $1800 for a follow-up appointment from an actual dentist). He deserved it and more. And he got more: Dynamite’s punishing wrestling style resulted in him sitting in a wheelchair and pissing in an old tin can for the last twenty years of his life, and it was well-earned karma, if only for the kneecap smashing thing.

7. Anthony Bourdain

Anthony-Bourdain

With respect to all of the greats who were crossed off the Alive Wrestlers List this year—and there were many, such as Larry “The Axe” Hennig, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, and Charles “The Kraut Hammer” Krauthammer—the most famous name hailing from Parts Unknown was Anthony Bourdain. He had a professional wrestler’s flair for feuding, as well. He called Paula Deen “the worst, most dangerous person to America,” Sandra Lee “the hellspawn of Betty Crocker and Charles Manson,” and Guy Fieri the result “if Ed Hardy fucked a juggalo.” This guy was awesome. And this dude would eat anything, no matter how disgusting—fermented shark, maggot fried rice, unwashed warthog anus, even Chicken McNuggets—because he was as courteous to his hosts during his travels as he was caustic to his fellow TV chefs. If the food gave you the heebie jeebies, his musical tastes ran to CBGB; he was called the original rock star of the culinary world for good reason. He declared playing Billy Joel in his restaurants a firing offense, although he did claim to like Billy Joel’s old two-man heavy metal band Attila, though, which has been reviewed as “colossally stupid” and “the worst album in the history of recorded music.” Anthony Bourdain used to do a lot of drugs, you see.

6. Stephen Hawking

Stephen-HawkingSpeaking of rock stars, that is in fact not theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking on Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier.” That’s just Thom Yorke using the same speech software Hawking used. But that is Stephen Hawking on Pink Floyd’s “Keep Talking” from 1994’s The Division Bell, so his place in rock history is assured. He was the only person smart enough to understand both the actual big bang theory and the appeal of the Big Bang Theory, which he graced on seven occasions with his cheeky comedic delivery (his speech-generating device being operated via a single cheek muscle). Hawking insisted on keeping that same robotic voice for 32 years, a longer commitment than either of his two marriages (yes, he left his first wife for another woman, although, awkwardly, this probably consisted of the second woman wheeling him away from the first ), even though any Waze user could get a Morgan Freeman, Terry Crews or Mr. T voice. He could have been dropping bad-ass lines like “I pity the fool who says ‘God does not play dice with the universe.’ Consideration of black holes suggests not only that God does play dice but that he sometimes confuses us by throwing them where they can’t be seen.” Honestly, if he was so smart, why didn’t he even have a catchphrase? Some genius.

5. Aretha Franklin

Aretha-Franklin

There’s a reason Aretha Franklin’s signature song demanded R-E-S-P-E-C-T. The Queen of Soul would not permit challenges to her throne, and tore a strip off Beyoncé for introducing Tina Turner as “the queen” at the 2008 Grammys. She shrugged off both her furs and criticism from PETA, and she clapped back thunderously by telegram at columnists who dared to criticize her copious display of bosom. Not only did she demand payment in cash, but she wouldn’t perform anywhere that had air conditioning, and was known to stop singing mid-song, say, “I feel air,” and walk offstage. She’d halt phone interviews if a favorite soap opera came on. She sent a fax to the Associated Press five years after Whitney Houston’s funeral to clarify that she was not Houston’s godmother and that Dionne Warwick was a liar for saying so. (Franklin covered Warwick’s hit “Walk on By” twice: once on record and another time right to her face, when her archrival tried to tried to hug her after making this very libelous statement.) Was Aretha Franklin a prima donna? In every sense of the term! And she proved it by stepping in for opera superstar Luciano Pavarotti at the Grammys when he called in sick a half hour after the show had already started to sing the aria “Nessun Dorma” in a supreme display of titanic talent and supreme self-confidence. Was Aretha Franklin a diva? No, she was not. Aretha Franklin was the diva.

4. Burt Reynolds

Burt-Reynolds

It’s hard to explain now what a big star Burt Reynolds was in his heyday. He was the number one box office star five times, a distinction achieved by only Reynolds, Tom Hanks, Clint Eastwood and Bing Crosby. (Only Tom Cruise has more wins, with seven.) And he could have been even bigger. He turned down the roles of James Bond (wisely), Han Solo (less wisely; Han making the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs is just Cannonball Run in space), and Michael Corleone (very unwisely; while Marlon Brando may have—understandably—threatened to walk if Reynolds were hired, Reynolds had actually once been rejected for a part for looking too much like Brando, so the casting of father and son would’ve been brilliant). He turned down Richard Gere’s part in Pretty Woman, even though his main criteria for taking on projects was right there in the title. He even turned down his own role in Boogie Nights seven times, out of habit. The movies he did do were mostly garbage, mere excuses to hang out with his pals and clown around, as if the Rat Pack had made Six Pack. But he was having so much fun that audiences did too, just watching Burt Reynolds be Burt Reynolds, wearing a sweet mustache and a cowboy hat, chomping on a wad of gum, and acting like a smart aleck, with a twinkle in his eye that let them know they were in on the joke, as dumb as it was.

3. John McCain

John-McCain

John McCain was a maverick, they said. But what did that mean? Well, if being a maverick means being a hot dog U.S. Navy pilot with a reputation for crashing planes, then John McCain was a real Tom Cruise in Top Gun. If being a maverick means joking that teenage Chelsea Clinton was so ugly because Janet Reno was her father, then John McCain was a maverick. If being a maverick means being ill-tempered enough to furiously respond to his wife’s playful jibe about his thinning hair, “At least I don’t plaster on the makeup like a trollop, you cunt!” then John McCain was a maverick. And if being a maverick means cavalierly riffing on “that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran’” in response to a question about military action in the Middle East, well, then John McCain was a maverick, as well as an ignoramus who didn’t even know that “Barbara Ann” was written by Fred Fassert of the Regents and was only covered by the Beach Boys. It’s ironic that he was called a maverick, however, as the term derives from Sam Maverick, a Texan rancher who refused to brand his cows, while John McCain was, quite simply, all hat and no cattle. He was a war hero, no question, but he coasted off that rep for decades. While some may prefer heroes who weren’t captured, a lot of us prefer ones who don’t turn into gutless, grandstanding old windbags who lack the courage of their convictions and constantly put on theatrical shows of disagreement with their party’s policies, only to fall in line and vote along party lines almost every single time.

1. George Herbert Walker and Barbara Bush (tie)

George-Herbert-Walker-and-Barbara-Bush

Often called America’s First Grandmother, Barbara Bush once infamously let that nice old lady facade when she called Democratic vice-presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro something that “rhymes with rich,” though she later clarified she meant “witch” rather than “bitch.” Good save, Bar, but it’s classic projection. It really says something that she was so privately cold and cruel as to be considered the “bad cop” in a partnership with someone who helped South American dictators torture and murder their political foes as director of the CIA.

As vice-president, George Herbert Walker Bush had the distinction of being the first of his office to serve as acting president during an eight-hour surgery to remove polyps from Ronald Reagan’s colon. Not only that, but a polyp from Bush’s own colon later went on to become president too. As a president, however, Bush deserves more than to be remembered as a one-term mediocrity. For instance, he deserves to be remembered as a son of inherited wealth whose father had demonstrated ties to a white supremacist regime. As a serial groper who put an underqualified sexual harasser on the Supreme Court. And as someone who used ugly, racist dog-whistle political ads to get elected. And as someone who used a flurry of political pardons to protect his shady dealings with foreign governments. Does any of this sound familiar? Let’s hope the “one-term mediocrity” thing does.


44

08Apr18

Well, well, well. I’m back, you chumps, or more to the point, I never went away. Oh sure, it’s been a while since I’ve written, but that’s because I’m too busy living.

Live, live, live! That’s all I do! It’s what I’m about: continued existence. I just keep on being alive, just respirating and ingesting and defecating, while other chumps just keep on getting dead!

It ain’t no thing getting to be 44 years old in this modern age, yet look at all these fools who just haven’t got what it takes. John Holmes didn’t have the balls to do it, and Junior Seau and Lyle Alzado didn’t have the brains.

And hey, speaking of dumb-ass football players, here’s what I know about you, Knute Rockne: You looked like Ronald Reagan, people called you “The Gipper,” and you are way too dead to correct me on either point. Oh, and you died on the way to make the movie The Spirit of Notre Dame (thus becoming the title character) because you got into a rickety piece-of-crap airplane that (like the Fighting Irish versus the North Carolina State Wolfpack during Hurricane Matthew) literally fell apart in the rain. Yay, good job!

I bet you didn’t see your early death coming, did you, Louis Braille? But you know who did have a bit of foresight? You, wrestler Brian Adams, variously repackaged as a Road Warrior ripoff, a laid-back surfer dude, and a white nationalist biker, but always known as Crush. Because your real gimmick was crushing your vertebrae and developing a lethal painkiller addiction. Yay, good job!

How about you, Andrew Breitbart? As everyone knows, you died of an aneurysm while taking a rage shit. You were the first person ever to yell the words “libtard cucksucker!” at Twitter so loud that you squirted a turd halfway out your butt and died. Yay, good job!

Speaking of floaters, Natalie Wood, the old joke is that you are the only kind of wood that doesn’t float, but that’s totally unfair—not only because your corpse was in fact found floating near Catalina Island after Robert Wagner murdered you in a fit of jealousy over your relationship with Christopher Walken but also because mahogany, ironwood and old-growth pine have a higher specific gravity than water.

And you, Lisa Robin Kelly: How do you take so many drugs that you get Second Becky-ed off a show about drug-taking teens? Personally, I think That ‘70s Show would have been a better title for The Golden Girls, but you clearly had no place near a cast of septuagenarians either.

And you, John Candy: Your problem can be summarized via three of your film titles: Canadian Bacon, Going Berserk, and It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time. It wasn’t.

And what about you, Dutch master Johannes Vermeer? Your oeuvre—“Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “Girl with the Wine Glass,” “Girl with a Red Hat”—sounds like if Stieg Larsson wrote Sex and the City episodes. Hard pass.

Now you, guitar whiz Django Reinhardt: If I’m looking for a great musician whose name begins with DJ, Jazzy Jeff is very much alive, thanks.

And then you, Antarctic explorer Robert Falcon Scott: You’re the polar opposite of being alive.

What a bunch of eternally 43-year-old jerks, creeps and losers you all are. I’m literally laughing out loud right now about what a bunch of weak, useless, inessential, frail little nerds you all are. There you go, you chumps, slipping this mortal coil and shuffling off the surly bonds of earth, and me, I just keep on trucking. I keep on keeping on. I take a licking, and I keep ticking. And what’s more, I’m never going to stop. I’m tempting fate, I’m racking up bad karma, and I’m spitting in God’s face and daring him to strike me down, because the fact of the matter is, you’re dead, I’m alive, and believe you me, that’s—just—the—freakin’—way—it—is!


After the carnage of 2016 claimed so many beloved celebrities, it was a good bet that 2017 would be even worse. And it was! This year dealt mortal blows not just to people but to the very foundational principles of western civilization, such as democracy, objective truth, and patriarchal power structures. Okay, that last one is hanging on, but it was pretty satisfying to see entertainment and politics undergo a sort of reverse Rapture with the sudden vanishing of scores of creepy old perverts. But of course, lots of people did die too. And not just any people, but famous people, whose deaths just matter more. People like the lovable patriarch of TV’s Huxtable family (Earle Hyman, who played grandfather Russell Huxtable, not the vicious serial rapist who played his son). People like the “Raging Bull,” Jake LaMotta, famed for knocking out opponents in 30 professional boxing matches and seven marriages. People like wrestler/murderer Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, who was infamously hit by “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in the back of the head with a coconut and who infamously hit his girlfriend, Nancy Argentino, in the back of the head with a Pennsylvania highway. On one hand, wow, we’re onto something with demolishing the patriarchy. Kill all men! But on the other, we’ll miss them when they’re gone, because, well, because we knew who they were. The larger you loom in life, the bigger a hole you leave in death. The greater your fame was, the more keenly felt is your absence. You are, quite simply, deader than ordinary non-celebrity garbage. But who, this year, is the deadest of all?

10. Don Rickles

DonRicklesWith apologies to the late Zarley Zalapski, Don Rickles was the last word in taking shots at hockey pucks. And as the acknowledged master of insult comedy, nothing would have pleased him more than being eulogized in the form of a roast. Therefore, it’s not happening here. Let not a bad word be said about this prince of a man. Moving on.

9. Roger Ailes

RogerAilesWell now, this guy, he was a real skunk. No name was more synonymous with “fake news”—apart, perhaps, from actor Joe Bologna—than the mastermind behind Fox News. That’s “fake news” not in the co-opted “true but unflattering reporting” sense of the term, but in the sense of wild, fantastic bullshit. And Ailes was the Ray Kroc of bullshit, serving a steady diet of ignorance, hate, and fear to millions for decades, from the War on Christmas to the Seth Rich murder conspiracy to birtherism. Ailes gave Donald Trump first a platform for raving, racist nonsense, later an unabashed propaganda network, and, during his campaign, debate-prep advice, no doubt personally coaching the candidate in how to make a woman uncomfortable by looming threateningly over her and breathing hotly, wetly and noisily down her neck. Broadcasting Two Minutes Hate 24 hours a day, no one has done more to split America in half than Ailes since the Confederacy. Perhaps that’s why Fox News personalities protested the pulling down of monuments to those traitors; they recognized kindred spirits. Ailes built an empire on raging against elites, yet this loathsome bastard child of Charles Foster Kane and Jabba the Hutt was personally worth $100 million, treated female employees like a medieval lord exercising the right of droit du seigneur, and suffered from hemophilia. Thank god for the last bit, as it contributed to his death after a fall in his bathroom resulted in a subdural hematoma—a fitting end for a monster who slammed America’s head against a toilet until it died of brain damage.

8. Chuck Berry

ChuckBerry

Although he was a beloved American icon who played at presidential inaugurations and White House command performances, Chuck Berry had a dark side. He was surly, he was violent, and he had a serious drinking problem. Not alcohol, of course—he swore that off after getting sick on whiskey as a teen—he had an insatiable craving for urine. Although, that sounds presidential in itself; Berry operated a sophisticated surveillance apparatus to capture women and girls using the washroom in his Missouri restaurant, and his own personal pee tape sounds much like the one allegedly being kept to blackmail fellow teetotaler Donald Trump, except with a better beat; on the other hand, Berry actually went to prison for his tax evasion and statutory rape, so perhaps the similarities end there. Nevertheless, “Bo Piddley” was an inspiration to generations of musicians as diverse as R. Kelly, Ricky Martin and fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, proving there was much more to “Johnny Pee Goode” beyond his constant faking of jellyfish stings; the rock and roll icon was also a pioneer in the genre of scat. Indeed, his appetite for poo play was so voracious that at age 90, one almost hopes he was still getting groupies to empty their colostomy bags into his mouth.

7. Bill Pullman

BillPullmanWhat a career Bill Pullman had. From early films such as the psychological thriller Brain Dead (alongside actor Bill Paxton), Pullman went on to become the first actor to be killed by a Terminator, Predator, and Xenomorph and Hollywood’s go-to guy for playing brothers of lead characters named Wyatt. (See Weird Science and Tombstone—no, actually see them; they’re great movies.) An old friend of filmmaker James Cameron from their days working together on a martini ranch, the two worked together on the film Titanic and later went on an documentary expedition to the actual Titanic. (Pullman and Cameron also went on a trip together when a disgruntled crew member slipped PCP into their soup during filming on the blockbuster.) It’s fitting that Pullman should succumb to human frailty so close together with another frequent collaborator, Powers Boothe; the two were on opposite sides in both the Hatfield/McCoy feud and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Pullman had personal experience with the assassin’s bullet, as well; he went to the same high school as Lee Harvey Oswald and was on the scene the day JFK was assassinated. What was Pullman’s involvement? Hard to say, but isn’t it an interesting coincidence that he died just before the unsealing of the official files?

6. Monty Hall

MontyHall

Here’s the famous probability puzzle known as the Monty Hall Problem: Suppose you are on a game show and are given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is 96-year-old former Let’s Make a Deal host Monty Hall, who is in very poor health after a recent heart attack; behind the others are goats. You pick a door, say number 1, and the host (say, Billy Bush; he’s not doing anything better these days), who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say number 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door number 2?” While you deliberate whether it’s to your advantage to switch your choice, Monty Hall exists in a state of being simultaneously both dead and alive.

5. Tom Petty

TomPettyAny time you heard one of his classic hits, Tom Petty evoked strong memories, such as the first time you ever saw a 500-year-old corpse miraculously mummified by its arid mountain climate. However, despite—or perhaps because of—his dessicated appearance, Petty seemed younger than his 66 years, so his death came as a blow. (Petty was actually a year younger than unsettling-looking former teen idol David Cassidy, if you want to compare the merits of plastic surgery versus sleeping in a smoker full of applewood chips as a means of preservation.) Even crueler than Petty’s premature demise, of course, is that when 76-year-old Bob Dylan goes, Jeff Lynne is going to have to hear over and over about how sad it is that all the Travelling Wilburys are gone. It’s kind of like how, after Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell was added on to the hod rod death toll, people mourned that Eddie Vedder was the only major remaining grunge singer, when—hello—Courtney Love is still right here. Also, how crazy is it that Cornell’s pal and one-time Stone Temple Pilots replacement frontman Chester Bennington got what was coming in the end seven years younger than the infamously troubled Scott Weiland? Anyway, the point is that Petty died too young—not as young as, say, Malcolm Young of AC/DC or George Young of the Easybeats, both of whom died as young as one can, but he won’t come around here no more, and ain’t that a shame?

4. Fats Domino

FatsDominoHere’s another heartbreaker: losing the beloved artist behind Richie Cunningham’s post-coital anthem, “Blueberry Hill.” But isn’t it kind of amazing that a guy nicknamed “Fats”—he really was named Domino; he was dubbed “Fats” after fellow pianists Fats Waller and Fats Pichon, but also because he ate like a pig—lived to be 89? Admit it; you thought Fats Domino was already dead. And why wouldn’t you? Fats Waller died at 39. Fatty Arbuckle died at 46. And Fat Albert? Well, he is a cartoon, but he’s morbidly obese and spends a lot of time putting his mouth on an old radiator he found in a junkyard, so you do the math. His secret? Not really being that fat. As he explained in his early signature hit single, “The Fat Man,” “They call me the fat man ’cause I weigh 200 pounds.” (For reference, the average weight of an American man in 2017 was 195.7 pounds.) So he wasn’t really fat, just a little chubby. And speaking of which: Chubby Checker? How was that allowed to happen? It’s outrageous gimmick infringement. Was this normal? Were obscure regional labels abounding with names like Tubby Backgammon, Blubbery Chess, and Avoirdupois Acey-Deucey? It’s taking advantage of the man’s gentle, genial nature. No way would a mean son of a bitch like Jerry Lee Lewis have tolerated that shit. That chubby little bastard would have had a buck knife sticking out of his fat back.

3. Jerry Lewis

JerryLewisOn that note, how did the Killer coexist with this guy, who people found barely tolerable as it was? Fine, the French supposedly loved him (although that seems like something they came up with to troll Americans), but Jerry Lee Lewis seems the type to hate most people generally, the French specifically, and Jerry Lewis murderously. Why did Jerry Lee Lewis (real name!) let the former Joseph Levitch (impostor!) run around calling himself “Jerry Lewis”? Maybe he just decided, “Hey, I’m the Killer. And be they assassins or serial killers, killers go by three names,” and that was that. Anyway, Lewis’s punchably obnoxious shtick was just exhaustingly zany. Silly faces and voices: We get it. He was a braying, screeching, rubber-faced man-child on-screen, except when hosting the annual muscular dystrophy telethon, when he was maudlin and mawkish. Off-screen, he was a miserable jerk, rude to fans and prone to offensive comments about gay and disabled people. He was a big influence on some of today’s comic minds, such as Adam Carolla, Two and a Half Men co-creator Lee Aronsohn, and T.J. Miller, with his classic “women aren’t funny” bit. Half the reason his former partner Dean Martin’s drunk act was so convincing was that you couldn’t conceivably be around the excruciating Lewis without turning to the bottle to cope.

2. Charles Manson

CharlesManson

One of rock music’s first big plagiarism cases took place after the Beach Boys got carried away turning Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen” into “Surfin’ U.S.A.,” which got them a slap on the wrist but evidently taught them nothing too serious can come of ripping off a violent former reform school boy named Charles, because they did it again just five years later. And they were right! The next time it happened, Dennis Wilson beat the living daylights out of the complainant and made him cry like a baby in front of everyone. Then the Beach Boys went back to happily suing each other for their rest of their career. Meanwhile Dennis’ erstwhile pal grew so disenchanted with the music industry that he gave up his show-biz dreams, marking his retirement by having his small but devoted fan base go to the former pad of Dennis’ pal, record producer Terry Melcher, and slaughter everyone in sight. But it didn’t have to be that way. Let’s compare Charles Manson to the actual worst person ever to write a Beach Boys song, Mike Love. In terms of songwriting, both display a kind of “Hitler’s watercolors” competence. Mike’s voice is infamously thin and nasal; Manson had more of a Cat Stevens thing going, plus he could play guitar. As for mental stability, it takes a megalomaniac to think Mike Love is the most important Beach Boy and should own the band’s name. Plus, ever see his unhinged Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction rant? It’s a push. Here’s where Manson really pulls out in front: First, he had a magnificent head of hair, whereas the only thing keeping Mike Love from covering his baldness with a MAGA cap is that he has too much ego to wear one without his own name or that of his band. Second, no bad songs about transcendental meditation; in fact, Manson once objected so much to Hare Krishna chanting that another inmate set him on fire. Third, charisma as a frontman: Charles Manson is absolutely unassailable on this point, and you can’t argue with that.

1. Hugh Hefner

HughHefner

Publishing magnate Hugh Hefner famously lived a life of leisure in a big mansion perpetually at the height of 1980-style opulence and and refused to put on pants. The late John “Higgins” Hillerman would have set his doberman pinschers on him in an instant. The Playboy founder was a complex figure. The whole enterprise smacks of sexism, yet he also proclaimed himself a feminist and advocated for women’s reproductive rights (which wasn’t totally selfless; it’s easier to get women to have sex if they don’t have to worry about getting pregnant). He also fought racism. He gave Black comic Dick Gregory his big break and funded his efforts to recover the bodies of three murdered civil rights workers in Mississippi. (On the other hand, he also let good pal Bill Cosby do a little freelance bartending at the Playboy Mansion, where he did his famous Spanish Fly routine with at least a dozen bunnies.) Hef also inspired the 1960s Batman series with a theme party he threw in 1965; thus, he’s also responsible for dooming Adam West to be typecast as Batman forever (unlike Val Kilmer, who played the role only once, in Batman Forever). Contrary to what you might expect of a key figure in the sexual revolution, Hef was a virgin until 22; later in life, his orgies basically consisted of his watching porn and jerking off while Playmates cavorted around him, simulating lesbian lovemaking. (Which master of horror terrified the most people with his grisly resurrections of the dead? The late zombie film auteur George A. Romero, or the pharmacist who prescribed a geriatric Hugh Hefner’s boner pills?) Although Hefner owed his empire to Marilyn Monroe, whose nude photos he published in the first issue of Playboy, he never actually met her in life. Not that she was able to avoid him entirely; he bought the burial plot next to hers to spend eternity together. Creepy, huh? At least it’s not as bad as entrepreneur Richard Poncher, who bought the crypt above Marilyn’s from Joe DiMaggio during their 1954 divorce and had himself buried upside down. Ugh, men.


Cars 3

19Jun17

I started out my very first Father’s Day a couple of years ago by being awoken by a Chris Benoit-style diving headbutt from my son. (Happy Father’s Day to the late Chris Benoit, by the way). So, to commemorate the anniversary of my concussion, the idea of sitting in a dark room for a couple of hours sounded just about right.

“It’s Father’s Day! Maybe we should all go see a movie,” my wife suggested to my son, laying on the theatricality. “What movie would you like to see, Daddy?”

“Why, Cars 3, of course,” I said, defeatedly.

Here’s some things about kids. First, they all wear those shoes that light up whenever you take a step and absolutely cannot stay still, so a theatre full of kids these days is like being in a discotheque. Second, they’re total front-runners. And third, they don’t know the time-worn conventions of sports movies. So my son heard throughout the entire movie that this hot new challenger named Jackson Storm was unbeatable and decided, “Well then, that’s my guy. Sign me up for Team Storm. I’m putting all my chips on a winner.”

Spoiler alert (because racecars have spoilers): In the end, the dickhead hotshot bad guy lost the final race to a nice yellow car. And in turn, my son lost his shit, standing up and shouting, “I don’t like the yellow car! Jackson Storm is nice!

Well, let me tell you something about Jackson Storm, folks: He isn’t nice. He’s arrogant and condescending, and he was just constantly negging Lightning McQueen and psyching him out with politely worded but mean-spirited backhanded compliments. So, I tried to calm my son down by explaining to my son how Jackson Storm was actually a bit of an asshole and said some kind of shitty things to the red car. And also, come on, who did he really think was going to win in the end? The point-of-view character who we accompany on a hero’s journey through his crisis of confidence about a seemingly insurmountable challenge? Or the guy we don’t see in any scenes by himself, ever? But he wasn’t having it.

So, instead, I just shook with laughter throughout his public tirade, and I imagined  the other formulaic sports movies I could use to break his heart. He’d definitely be cheering for the rich preppie jerks in any snobs-versus slobs comedy, for example, and he’d have to be carried screaming out of a showing of Rocky IV when the invincible Russian juggernaut Ivan Drago loses the final boxing match.

Like, that’s more fun at least than the poor guy I saw carrying his kid out of the theatre who was screaming “I hate you, Daddy! You are dumb!” Happy Father’s Day to that guy.


After work, I went to the doggy daycare to pick up Gracie, my reddish brown goldendoodle. I pulled into the parking lot right after a woman and her son, and let them go in first, even though I could’ve beaten them to the door.

“Here to pick up Copper, huh?” asked the woman behind the counter. She picked up a walkie talkie. “Bring Copper out front.”

“Is Copper coming?” asked the boy.

“Copper’s coming,” his mom answered, handing over her credit card.

The machine didn’t work. “Is Copper coming?” asked the boy again. Yeah, I thought, Is Copper coming?

“Yes, Copper’s coming,” she assured him, retrying her card.

It went through this time. “Is Copper coming?” the boy asked. Where the hell is Copper? I thought.

“That’s the third time you’ve asked that,” she said. “Go wait in the car. Copper is coming.” He went to wait in the car, for Copper, who was coming.

Just then the door opened. And out came …

… a black dog.


43

08Apr17

Hey, quick, what’s the significance of the number 43? “Well, that’s easy,” you say. “It’s the atomic number of technetium, Richard Petty’s racecar number, and the largest non-McNugget number—that is, the largest number of Chicken McNuggets that can’t be ordered by adding together any combination of 6-, 9-, or 20-pack boxes.” Wrong, idiot! The significance of 43 is that it’s the age that I am, and that a bunch of 42-year-old creeps and jerks and losers never got to be!

Elvis, for instance, was a hero to most but he was a guy who died taking a shit to me. Seriously, King, what are you really remembered for today? Having a brand synonymous with dying on the toilet, hanging out with a corrupt president in the Oval Office for reasons no one understands, and being a fat, bloated corpse. You’re basically the ’70s version of Breitbart honcho Steve Bannon. Go shoot a TV, hillbilly.

Why so furious, Billy Fury, you store-brand British Elvis knockoff? Are you furious that you dropped dead of a heart attack at only 42? You mad, bro? Didn’t see that coming? Your stage name might as well have been Billy Hypertension. A little on the nose, innit? It’s like Shakin’ Stevens dying of an epileptic seizure or Jimmy Nail dying of tetanus or Cliff Richard falling off a rocky precipice.

But I have to hand it to you, Ratt guitarist Robbin Crosby. You may be the only person ever to get AIDS and a heroin addiction and still somehow balloon to 400 pounds. Is it true the song “Round and Round” was written when someone asked you to describe your physique in two adjectives?

Kimbo Slice, you sound like some other country’s refreshing citrus fruit soda and you looked like a homeless Rick Ross. I liked your backyard brawling act better when it was called Bumfights. I’m not scared of you.

When Randy Savage died, people kept saying, “At least he’s with Miss Elizabeth now.” Boy, I hope that isn’t true, lady. Every time a dead wrestler so much as glances at you, he must angrily grab you by the wrist and yank you to another cloud. And there are a lot of dead wrestlers, so basically you’re in hell.

Speaking of dead wrestlers, Bruiser Brody, if you just had to get stabbed to death in a shower so badly, it really should have been by Nailz, that big guy in the orange prison jumpsuit who feuded with the Big Boss Man, not some masked, interchangeable tag-team jabroni named Invader 1. If Invader 1 had to murder anyone, it should have been Peter Tosh, who actually was killed in a home invasion. Do I really have to write your storylines for you dummies?

Louisiana governor Huey Long, you were an egomanical huckster salesman turned demagogue politician with delusions of grandeur, yet also a big dumb baby who couldn’t stand criticism from the newspapers and allied yourself with anti-Semitic, fascist-leaning talk-radio-style media to push your half-baked ideas. You were a foul-mouthed, boorish braggart with a penchant for body-shaming chubby ladies. Boy, am I ever so sorry someone shot you a month after you announced you were running for president. Am I ever. No one totally should have done that.

Speaking of presidential candidates getting gunned down, you’re always the runner-up, Robert “Bobby” Francis “RFK” Kennedy. Ever notice how in “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” Billy Joel sings “JFK! Blown away! What else do I have to say?!” and then doesn’t mention you at all? Wow, right? He couldn’t squeeze you into the rest of the song somewhere in between punk rock, Wheel of Fortune, and the rock and roller cola wars?

Don’t take this the wrong way, John Cazale, but I’m really, really, really glad you’re dead. I’m glad for me to outlive you, of course, but as I said, that’s the wrong way. I’m also glad for you that you’re dead. You did five films in six years that all got nominated for Best Picture—a couple of Godfathers, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter. If you were alive today, your chinless rat face would still be popping up alongside your pals Pacino and De Niro in awful crud like Jack and Jill and Dirty Grandpa. You’d break my heart, Fredo.

Gary Coleman, for you, I’ll keep it short. The only thing smaller than you was your bank account statement. The only thing shorter, your marriage. The only thing cuter, Emmanuel Lewis. My god, you must have shat your little diaper when he came along, a smaller, cuter, and soon to be more alive version of you. But at least you had the recurring catchphrase that continually delighted America: “I declare bankruptcy.”

Prince Albert, you got a lot of places named after you, such as Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, which I think is pretty cool because clearly I like insulting the dead. Know what else got named after you, though? A penis piercing. Penis piercing. All anyone thinks of now when they hear your name is a penis piercing, you penis piercing.

True story: When my wife was in Grade 8, she liked Married with Children and told her teacher she thought Ted Bundy was really funny, and her teacher got really mad. My wife getting yelled at is the only good thing about you.  Screw you, Ted Bundy, you lousy pain in the butt!

Okay, real quick now because unlike you dead chumps, I have a life to live: In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes and Ernie Kovacs dying without paying any of his taxes. You sure don’t see me sticking it to my widow like that. Queen Mary I of England, they called you “Bloody Mary” because you were bloody awful, and if I look into a mirror and say your name three times, you still appear to be dead. Gilda Radner, the raddest thing about you is how alive you make me look by comparison to you. Pretty friggin’ rad! And cheer up, Rashaan Salaam, Orlando Thomas, Godfrey Myles, Lew Bush, Antonio Armstrong, and Chester McGlockton. For NFL players, you all got to reach late middle age.

Once again, unlike you stupid dopes, you are just such losers and suck so bad, and I’m a winner and suck either very good or not at all. You wretched sad-sack wretches. As usual, very much in contrast to you poor, dumb suckers, I’m too fast for the Grim Reaper and I will never get what’s coming to me!


I rediscovered this in the archives of a long-dead website, and I am not proud of it!

 

2000 Flushes inventor Al Eisen was, for a time, considered an unofficial member of the Rat Pack that consisted of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood possesses the unusual ability to split herself into three separate and identical physical entities, and exist tri-locally.

Danny Wood, a former member of teen heartthrob vocal combo New Kids on the Block, currently serves his nation under the relatively-anonymous guise of Paul H. O’Neill, 71st Secretary of the Treasury of the United States of America.

Actor Christopher Walken and media mogul Rupert Murdoch briefly wrestled as Masked Invader #1 and #2 in Verne Gagne’s Minnesota-based American Wrestling Association during 1977.

Camryn Mannheim, star of The Practice, performed background vocals on “Slice of Your Pie,” from the 1989 Mötley Crüe album Dr. Feelgood.

Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst possesses a single shred of goodness, which is guarded by large Rottweilers.

Prior to becoming Prime Minister of Canada in 1984, The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney tested for the part of President of the United States of America. His pal, Hollywood veteran Ronald Reagan of course got the role.

Blonde Baywatch beauty Erika Eleniak has evolved into a being of pure energy.

In 1985, Dr. Henry Kissinger was briefly considered as a replacement for the departed David Lee Roth as lead vocalist for Van Halen.

Sixth Sense star Haley Joel Osment was the unknown “Green River Killer” who slew up to 49 women in the Greater Seattle area of Washington State between 1982 and 1984.

Edward James Olmos, who portrayed Lieutenant Castillo on Miami Vice, once extorted a sizable salary increase from producer Michael Mann by threatening to consume the Earth with something he called a “cloud of death.”

Flamboyant Virgin Records tycoon and balloon adventurer Richard Branson was never anything more than a rumour.

River Phoenix gave his last performance in a Japanese-made production, the 1968 film Destroy All Monsters, in which he portrayed Gamera.

Richard Gere was once secretly rushed to an emergency room in L.A. where it was discovered that he had acute appendicitis.

Comedienne Margaret Cho had a child out of wedlock with Harald Bluetooth, 11th century king of Norway.

Sir Alec Guinness auditioned for, and failed to get, the role made famous by Tony Danza in the popular situation comedy Who’s The Boss?.

Alaskan songbird Jewel believes herself to be the reincarnation of a milkmaid who lived in Hertfordshire, England during the 1980s.

Gun-toting record producer Sean “Puffy” Combs led a heroic expedition to King Solomon’s Mines, where he and a band of three other adventurers recovered the Spear of Destiny from Nazis in 1934.

Keanu Reeves is a good actor.

Morrissey, fey frontman of British pop band The Smiths—despite being a public proponent of vegetarianism and animal rights—was inexplicably spotted eating bacon and eggs at a truck stop north of Cardinal, Ontario in 1991.

Saved by the Bell hunk Mario Lopez was married to Jim Nabors in a secret Hollywood wedding ceremony.

Lou Diamond Phillips made his first screen appearance in a small, non-speaking part in the Warner Bros. animated short Bully for Bugs.

Rhea Perlman is an underdeveloped fraternal twin who was removed from Warren Beatty’s shoulder shortly after birth.

Mookie Wilson was the last man on earth.


Well, that was some year. Lots of things ended abruptly and permanently, such as Brangelina, Fox sci-fi crime drama Second Chance (after its first and only season, ironically), and, of course, American democracy. And, as always—or seemingly way moreso—many celebrity lives. As celeb after celeb died, again and again the cry was raised: “Fuck this horrible year.” Except, as much as people blamed 2016 as a personified, spree-killing annus horribilis, it’s not 2016. It’s the natural aging curve of celebrities from the apex of mass media, before the fragmentation of monoculture. In other words, for the next little while, this is just what’s going to happen to people who got famous when we all watched the same thing, between when TV started and when we all got the internet. 2017 will be even worse, and so will every year until we’ve fully put behind us the golden age of fast-food media that served billions but offered a few basic menu choices. This will play out slowly and you’ll be screeching at whatever year it is until the cast of Friends dies. After that, it’ll seem okay again. There are more celebrities now, but they’re much smaller, so it’ll be like stars winking out rather than supernovae exploding. When former American Idol contestants die, you’ll barely be sad. By the time PewDiePie dies, you won’t even blink. See? You feel better already. So, let’s get to ranking, who exactly, the most dead people are this year.

10. Alan Rickman

alanrickmanAmong 2016’s first dead celebrities to make fans ululate in despair, Alan Rickman is particularly missed at this time of year as the villain of the greatest Christmas movie of all time, Love Actually. Rickman played a lot of great villains, such as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, and Ronald Reagan in The Butler. And as Hans Gruber, ruthless mastermind of the Nakatomi Plaza heist in the second greatest Christmas movie of all time, Die Hard, he stole every scene he was in, thanks to his skills as the second most exceptional thief associated with luxury towers that the German race has ever produced. Rickman’s presence in not one but two great Christmas movies immeasurably improves both (in ways that never get old and won’t bother your significant other). When cold English wife Emma Thompson opens her new Joni Mitchell CD in Love Actually, you can pretend the inscription reads “Benefits of a classical education,” and when she peeks at the card from her philandering husband, you can pretend it says “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.” Similarly, when Rickman misquotes Plutarch in Die Hard, you can pretend he adds “To continue your emotional education,” and when he examines the note attached to the dead terrorist tied to a chair in the elevator, you can pretend it says “Sorry I’m such a grumpy bugger.” Oh, his presence also arguably improves both movies because he was a really good actor. And an attractive one, it would seem; amazingly, Rickman was ranked #34 by Empire magazine’s list of the 100 Sexiest Stars in history. No offence, but wow, really? And with respect to the late Leonard Cohen, researchers found a blend of Rickman and Jeremy Irons’ voices to be the perfect male voice. Boy, are people attracted to total creeps or what?

9. Rob Ford

robfordOf course not. That’s why reptilian sociopath Doug Ford, like the Jim Belushi of municipal politics, shamelessly furthers his own ambitions by trading off the memory of his popular brother, infamous crack mayor and big fat party animal Rob Ford. Let’s not mince words. Rob wasn’t evil like his brother, but he was a mean, petty, ignorant, foul-mouthed bully. He was a rich man who was able to somehow paint himself as a common man through sheer crudity. He was a child of privilege who presented himself as a self-made man, although his own acumen as a private businessman was wildly overstated. He wasn’t above using his office to further the interests of his own company, and it was painfully clear he didn’t even understand what a conflict of interest was. He was fond of having his ego stroked at large rallies and prone to having his security rough up people. He conducted a startlingly dishonest war on the media for reporting the true facts about him. He was capable of shockingly inappropriate behaviour with women, though his demure Eastern European wife said little about it. A self-avowed racist, he was even prone to hobnobbing with neo-Nazis (okay, just one time, but the guy was in uniform). He was somehow capable of getting away with scandal after scandal that would end any normal political career, but make no mistake, he was grossly unsuited to wielding political power even on the municipal level, and it boggles the mind to think what might happen if someone like that ever somehow became the leader of a nation, as Rob fantasized about doing. (Can you even imagine that nightmare scenario?) No, Rob Ford was not a good man, but he was a man who nevertheless did try to do good, even if it was rooted in a need to feed his own ego—but to feed his inferiority complex rather than any kind of malignant narcissism, because he was at heart an insecure little boy who just wanted to be told, Good job, Rob. You are special. So, in that spirit, Rob, you were actually honest at the end about having cancer, when the natural assumption was you were shamelessly faking it to drop out of your race for re-election to avoid certain defeat. Good job, Rob.

8. Garry Shandling

garryshandlingSpeaking of alcohol abuse, if you somehow haven’t had your fill of dead celebrities, throw on an early season episode of Garry Shandling’s talk-show parody The Larry Sanders Show and drink when a now-deceased person is seen or mentioned. By the time you get to season 2’s Warren Zevon/Gene Siskel/John Ritter episode, the death toll is incredible, a freaky, morbid viewing experience like watching an old WrestleMania. (Speaking of which, this is a good place to slip in a mention of some prominent names crossed off the Alive Wrestlers List: Chyna, Mr. Fuji, and—with due respect to Lou Marsh Trophy winner Penny Oleksiak, Canada’s Greatest Athlete, “Iron” Mike Sharpe.) And sadly, although costar Rip Torn should by all rights have predeceased him—probably violently—it’s worse now that Garry Shandling himself has passed away. Shandling’s satire of the ‘90s talk-show wars was like a blend of two shows it greatly influenced, crossing 30 Rock’s inside-show-biz perspective with The Office’s mockumentary cringiness. But let’s not hold it against Shandling that he made Ricky Gervais’s career possible. He also gave a big career boost to Jon Stewart, who, before playing a voice of sanity on the Bush-era Daily Show, played the guest host and potential successor threatening to push Sanders out of the big chair in the show’s All About Eve-esque final seasons (with Sanders attempting to undermine the new kid by slipping him C-list guests), and if he’s not going to be relevant in these turbulent times, he could do worse than to jump back in there for a Netflix sequel.

7. Muhammad Ali

muhammadaliWe skipped over a no-longer-extant name from one of those early WrestleManias, though it’s a mere referee rather than a wrestler: main-event special guest referee Muhammad Ali. He was known a little for his boxing as well, and with respect to the great pugilists who died in 2016, such as Kimbo Slice, Gordie Howe, and the guy who trained Apollo Creed, Ali may have been a hair above them all. In fact, save for adult film star Amber Rayne, no one who died this year was more skilled with their fists than Ali. Ali was for a considerable length of time probably the most famous person on Earth. To try to explain his level of fame, Muhammad Ali was kind of like the Elvis of the sporting world, except with a personality. Imagine if The Rock were to cross over from wrestling to movie stardom to then become president (hey, he’s mused about it, and stranger things have happened). Next to Muhammad Ali, he’s still a chump. Not only was Muhammad Ali the greatest, he was also the second greatest. Everyone else is fighting for third place. There’s a golden plaque traveling to the outer cosmos attached to the space probe Voyager 1 with a picture of Muhammad Ali as the archetypal example of a human, and if that isn’t true, it ought to be.

6. Zsa Zsa Gabor

zsazsagaborThree notorious man-eaters met their end in 2016: a great white shark that killed an Australian surfer, a tiger that killed three Indian villagers, and Zsa Zsa Gabor. You can tell a lot about Zsa Zsa by the other women in the lives of her many husbands. One of said husbands invented the Barbie and Chatty Cathy dolls; another was great-grandfather of the equally lifelike if less articulate Paris Hilton. Yet another went on to have a decade-long affair with Anna Nicole Smith. And yet another went on to briefly marry Zsa Zsa’s older sister, Magda, after which he quite understandably began drinking heavily and killed himself. She also had a husband in common with her great rival in serial monogamy, Elizabeth Taylor, the above-mentioned Conrad Hilton. (This makes him sort of the Ian McKellen of his time: He made all-too-brief appearances in two of the great Hollywood franchises, alternately playing the part of a lord of the rings and an ex-man.) But, enough of her husbands, as Zsa Zsa herself frequently said. Zsa Zsa was more than a Larry Sanders Show C-list guest, and she was far more than, say, a mere Eastern European beauty queen turned wife to a billionaire hotelier and stepmother to his son, Barron (though she was all those things, at one time). She was also, for instance, someone who once escaped life under a Nazi regime. And she was, to many in 2016, an aspirational figure who lived out the American dream—as an immigrant, no less!—of bitch-slapping a traffic cop without getting summarily executed and having evidence planted on her. If John Lennon were alive, he’d have to add a verse to “Imagine” about that.

5. Fidel Castro

fidelcastroRemembered as the Cuban revolutionary leader whose face doesn’t adorn T-shirts and dorm-room posters, Fidel Castro is thus barely remembered by the younger set at all, except maybe as the guy who stole the trillion dollar bill from Mr. Burns. But this guy was a big deal. On one hand, he was an authoritarian strongman who clamped down on free speech, denied America’s greatness and allied himself with Russia, and brought the world closer to nuclear war. On the other, he championed universal education and health care for his people. So we can all agree half that stuff sounds pretty good, anyway. He also made an enemy of the CIA, which no one in his right mind wants to do. Where the CIA successfully assassinated that other great Caribbean revolutionary—Bob Marley—Castro constantly survived the intelligence agency’s attempts to remove him: the exploding cigar, the booby-trapped conch shell, the tunnel entrance painted onto the side of a desert cliff. Yet, he hung on for nearly six decades after the 1959 coup by which he seized power, the most infamous show of force against an unpopular leader named Bautista¹ until Roughned Odor’s brawl-inciting sucker punch in the final Rangers/Jays game of the 2016 season. Speaking of baseball, Castro was supposedly no slouch as a pitcher, although he was obviously far more effective as a left-wing political figure, making him sort of a Mirror Universe Curt Schilling. Could he have been a more successful video game developer than Curt Schilling, in another life? Yes, but that’s true of everyone on this list.

4. Nancy Reagan

nancyreaganParticularly after the Zsa Zsa Gabor entry, it feels wrong to define the only other woman² on this list by her spouse(s), but not only is this inevitable for a First Lady, it’s also how Nancy Reagan defined herself. Following her “meet-cute” with future president Ronald Reagan, in which she enlisted his help to avoid blacklisting due to the Red Scare, the then-actress selflessly decided to put her undistinguished onscreen career on hold in favour of helping him chase political power. (The scurrilous rumors, publicized in Kitty Kelley’s unauthorized biography, of her much more distinguished offscreen career as the reigning blowjob queen of Hollywood shall not be dignified here.) As his First Lady, she was technically his Second Lady because of his previous marriage to fellow actress Jane Wyman (ironically, a registered Republican who left him over political differences when he was still a Democrat, which is still only the second-biggest marital mistake by someone named Wyman, thanks to Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman somehow becoming his own step-grandfather-in-law without the aid of time travel). Nevertheless, she hearkens back to an era when the First Lady was actually the wife of the president rather than some other female blood relation, although Ronald often called her “Mommy” for some gross reason. Known to the public (and a chortling Kitty Kelley) for the phrase “Just Say No,” Nancy Reagan was also known for her tireless advocacy for stem-cell research following her husband’s diagnosis for Alzheimer’s. A cynic might wonder why she deserves so much praise for only doing good on an issue that personally affected her, but then again, she personally refused to help close friend Rock Hudson get potentially life-saving treatment when he was dying of AIDS, so she’s above reproach, really.

3. Gene Wilder

genewilderWhether it’s due to the human brain’s natural inclination toward pattern seeking or because Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, the psychiatrist who proposed the five stages of grief, was one of a set of identical triplets, death is said to follow a rule of threes. (So is comedy, which is no coincidence to those who regard the two as the same thing.) Three times five equals fifteen stages of grief, which sounds about right to describe the collective mourning of a trio of fey, puckish imps. There was Gene Wilder, the eccentric fudge-packer who ruled the Oompa-Loompas. And there was Prince, the tiny elfin sex god. And there was David Bowie, the bisexual alien rock star and goblin king. But let’s get back to Wilder. Oh, the guy who played Condescending Wonka died? you say. Please tell me more. First, stop being a jackass. And second, sure. For starters, he was more than a wearisome internet meme. He also starred in Blazing Saddles, about titans of industry enriching themselves at the expense of small-town Americans by exploiting their racism. And The Producers, about a fraudulent scheme involving a theatrical “love letter to Hitler.” And Young Frankenstein, about the creation of an imbecilic monster with poor impulse control. While these old-fashioned and far-fetched premises may seem to have little to offer the American public in 2016, they had some pretty good dick and fart jokes.

2. Prince

princeAnd now, dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to talk about the artist called Prince—or, as he is once again properly called, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince. The flamboyantly coy androgyne known by an unpronounceable symbol came to an unspeakably early end, dying at a mere 57 years of age when it was assumed he’d rule in funky purple splendor over his court of session musicians and vaults of musical treasure at Paisley Park for centuries. He was as insanely competitive as he was ludicrously gifted (and not just at music; The Chappelle Show understated his gifts as a basketball player and trash-talker, if anything, and he regarded himself as the Serena Williams of ping-pong). He slept with—and feuded with—Madonna, because of course they did. He fist-fought Sinéad O’Connor. He dismissed George Michael as “ain’t shit.”³ He refused Michael Jackson’s offer to sing “Bad” as a duet because of the line “Your butt is mine.” Prince demanded that the world know that he owned our asses. So he did, and yet, beneficent ruler that he was, he returned the gift, shaking that skinny little thing for the world like the sexy motherfucker that he was.

And now we come to the final entry, the deadest person of the year. And look, a lot of people died this year. Narrowing it down to the deadest was no easy task. Each of the nine listed above battled stiff competition to make it into the top ten. But which stiff could make it into the final spot? John Glenn? Glen Frey? Glenn from The Walking Dead? Or is it someone else that you’ve already guessed? In the end, the choice was clear.

1. Harambe

harambeWith apologies to David Bowie, the one dead person this year who truly gave people the permission to be first weird and then tedious was Harambe, the dead gorilla turned dead horse. After his death in a wild gunfight at the Cincinnati Zoo, the late silverback became comedy gold to an internet still mourning a certain supercilious chocolatier. The instantly tiresome meme became so popular that the zoo was forced to delete its social media (RIP to the Most Dead Twitter Account of 2016), and Harambe at one point actually polled ahead of Green party candidate Jill Stein as a write-in candidate in the US presidential election.

Well, hold on. That’s kind of interesting. Could Harambe actually have become president, had he lived? At first, obviously the answer is no, he was just a gorilla. But the rules merely state that the president must be a natural-born citizen over the age of 35. Let’s take that in parts. First, he was definitely natural-born. Despite the conspiracies that doubtlessly would have sprung up about his African ancestry, he was born in Brownsville, Texas, so despite his funny name, he was not only American but a red-stater at that. But was Harambe a citizen? Whereas citizenship and political participation were once exclusive to white males in the US, the franchise has been gradually extended, and now that the movement to grant legal personhood to non-human great apes is gaining steam, who knows? It would have been up to the courts. Lastly, Harambe was barely 17, an ideal age to be gawked at as a Miss Teen USA contestant, but far too young to be US president, right? But that’s in human years. As gorilla life expectancy is only 35 to 40 years, compared to humanity’s threescore and ten, they get two-for-one credit. By Inauguration Day, Harambe would have been nearly 17 years and 8 months old in human years, or 35 years and four months in gorilla years. So, yes, it’s possible that Harambe could have become president, had he not been assassinated.

The question is, in a year when Western democracy seemed so fundamentally broken as to allow “Boaty McBoatface” to win a poll to name a new UK research vessel, would enough dummies have been rushing to back a brutish, surly, low-browed, semi-intelligent primate accustomed to putting down challengers to his alpha status using only monosyllabic bluster, primitive displays of dominance, and sheer sexual aggression? We may never know.

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¹Close enough.
²And this wouldn’t even be a problem if Carrie Fisher hadn’t suffered a heart attack on a transatlantic flight just before the end of 2016 (the lousy prequel to the death of her mother, Debbie Reynolds, the following day). You knew Fisher would be carried off an airplane someday; you just figured she’d be screaming and spitting. Her death caused a great disturbance in the Force and an even greater disturbance in this top-ten ranking.
³George Michael, for his part, lived long enough to dismiss Prince as “ain’t alive” before he went-went to his eternal reward on December 25, the “Last Christmas” headlines his final gift to us.


One headlight

25Nov16

I stopped at the day care a couple of days ago and ran into my neighbor, who was loading his son into his car. “How are you?” he asked as I got out of my car and yelped as an arc of electricity jumped from the door to my finger.

“Ow! Goddamnit!” I quipped.

“Heh,” he said. “Winter. Hey, did you know your headlight’s out?”

Well, I was floored. I’d been so smug. I judge people who drive around with one headlight burned out. Get your life together, I’d always mentally sneered. You look like a damn motorcycle.

I got my son and put him in the car. He noticed the burned-out light quickly, since we often like to play a game where I switch on my high-beams in the eyes of oncoming drivers. “Don’t worry,” I assured him, “we can make it home on one headlight,” which was the start of two consecutive days with that Wallflowers song stuck in my head.

That aside, I found that I actually kind of liked driving around with only one headlight. I think it made me look crazy. I imagined that other cars gave me more room, so as to avoid whatever the unpredictable lunatic might do next. It was better than urinating in your pants on public transit, which a lot of things are, but it was both similar and better, by virtue of not taking place on public transit.

Still, I thought I’d better get it taken care of on the weekend. I thought often while driving of an old high-school classmate who’d gotten his eye poked out while fencing with ski poles, and concluded two things:

First, if you were that guy, wouldn’t you go right out and get glasses even if you had perfect vision in the remaining eye, just to protect it? A monocle, at least? I would.

And second, this is why you have two eyes and why car-makers give you two headlights, so that you have a backup. But assuming both were installed at the same time, they’d tend to stop working around the same time. (I’m still talking about both headlights and eyes here, which reminds me that for years, my wife has been boasting about her “more than perfect” 20:10 vision only to discover that she now needs glasses. I was pretty smug about this for a while, but now she lies in bed and holds her phone at arm’s length to read it, jamming it into the side of my body.)

The point is that I’m getting increasingly paranoid, and Jakob Dylan’s continued assurances are no longer working. So I want to take care of it post-haste.

My blind wife said that since I need an oil change anyway, I could just get them to put a new headlight for about a ten-dollar service fee. But on the other hand, my neighbor had said that it was easy to do yourself, and you could look at a YouTube video to see how to do it, which costs less than ten dollars. And it’s not like I’m not handy with cars. A few weeks ago, I changed the winter tires and my left wrist almost doesn’t hurt anymore from torquing the lug nuts. And just the other day, I cleaned all the windows with a squeegee at the gas station. And I have to open the hood of the car to put some winter windshield washer fluid in there anyway, so while I’m in there, how much harder can it be to swap out a simple electrical automotive part?

Well, quite a bit harder, according to some forum posts I read. “Well, this is quite a bit harder than you’d think,” said some posts. “Why would they make it this way? It almost seems like they want you to come into the dealership so they can charge you an exorbitant amount of money to perform what should be a simple task.” Other posters complained about their hands getting all scratched up in the process of changing a headlamp. “Ow,” commented one poster. “Goddamnit.”

That’s not good, I thought, because my hands are my fortune. I used a few of my million-dollar fingers to type in “YouTube” and some car-related words and found the video my neighbor had promised. I watched in increasing dismay as the guy in the video went through a simple process of unlocking a complex sequence of clips and bolts, removing the bumper, and bleeding profusely. But what made up my mind conclusively was that the video started during broad daylight, and then midway through, there was a jump cut, and then it picked up again at dusk. Now, the video itself only lasted about five minutes, but I suspect there was some Hollywood magic taking place there.

So, here’s my pro tip: If you watch a how-to video, and it goes from day to night over the course of it, hire a pro.