Jack Palance: Finally dead


Although he has a legacy of over fifty years of television and film work playing cold-blooded gunfighters and assorted badasses, my generation mostly remembers Jack Palance as the old guy who did one-handed push-ups on the Oscars. Except for me and my friend Barry Price. Barry remembered him as the old guy who was dead, and I remembered him as the old guy who wasn’t. Obviously, one of us was right, and the other was wrong. Now, following his death of natural causes on Friday, it’s the other way around.

When I first started working with Barry, he was engaged in an ugly moustache-growing contest with a fellow co-worker (kind of like I am now, in fact; click here to make a pledge to my cancer-fighting moustache-growing drive), so I knew he was my kind of guy. But that didn’t stop us from quickly developing a bitter disagreement over a burning issue: Was Jack Palance dead? Or was it James Coburn? One tough-guy screen legend was recently deceased. But who? His recurring tuxedo-clad presence in those commercials hawking a video claiming to contain the secrets of slot machines notwithstanding, I knew it was Coburn. But Barry insisted it must be Palance. After all, a healthy man doesn’t crap things bigger than Billy Crystal, as Palance had once claimed to do.

How would manly men such as Coburn and Palance themselves settle such a disagreement? By duking it out until one man was in fact dead and could no longer pull himself up from the dusty street or pull his head out of the water trough. Barry and I just made a bet. If it turned out I was wrong, I’d wear a T-shirt emblazoned with the image of Jack Palance to the office on casual Friday, and if he was wrong, he’d get one with James Coburn’s and do the same.

A quick Google search proved what I already knew: Jack Palance hadn’t actually died, and moreover, Billy Crystal hadn’t actually searched for and eventually found his lost gold. A resigned Barry set about finding&#8212or, more likely, making&#8212his James Coburn shirt.

Weeks passed. No James Coburn shirt. Barry claimed he’d scoured the internet, but he just couldn’t find an image of the right size and resolution to have silkscreened onto a shirt. So we renegotiated the deal to allow for an appropriate substitution: He could simply wear a T-shirt bearing a picture of our similarly named co-worker from New Zealand, James Comber. It’d be worth it for the look of pure confusion when James arrived at work and caught sight of the thing, not to mention the uncomfortable conversation sure to follow, with a creeped-out James trying to raise the subject of Barry’s wearing a T-shirt with his face on it and attempting to draw out some explanation as to why, and Barry insisting that it is perfectly acceptable business etiquette in Canada to wear a T-shirt with a well-liked co-worker’s face on it. Sadly, this never ended up coming to pass either. It turns out that finding an image of James Comber of the right size and resolution to have silkscreened onto a shirt is even harder than finding one of James Coburn.

Anyway, rest in peace, Jack Palance, even though this post ended up not having that much to do with you.

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