The 10 Most Dead People of 2007

08Jan08

I should have posted this a week ago. But what’s the difference? I was busy and these people are still dead.

Boris Yeltsin

PhotobucketLittle-known fact about former Russian president Boris Yeltsin: He was missing the thumb and index finger of his left hand owing to a childhood mishap while disassembling a grenade stolen from a Red Army depot. However, his missing digits can be seen in a brief close-up as he operates the transporter to beam up Captain Kirk in the Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within”, though a “stunt hand” would be used in similar shots in later episodes. (On second thought, maybe that was James Doohan.) The spooky thing was that “Monster Mash” singer Bobby “Boris” Pickett died only two days after Yeltsin, so, knowing how these things come in threes, the few other celebrity Borises must have been looking both ways twice before crossing the street for the next while. Thankfully, tennis legend Boris Becker, fantasy artist Boris Vallejo, and Phoenix Suns forward Boris Diaw all lived out the year. But we did see the last of Yvonne De Carlo, who played the wife of a guy who looked like Boris Karloff on The Munsters. And Sacha Baron Cohen officially killed off his character Borat, so maybe that’s enough to shake the curse.

Joey Bishop

PhotobucketNot only did the late-night talk shows come to a juddering halt for two months with the writer’s strike, but three talk-show titans signed off permanently in 2007: Merv Griffin, Tom Snyder, and Joey Bishop. It’s Bishop who gets the spotlight here because, while George Clooney’s revived Oceans franchise celebrated its thirteenth successful installment this year, Bishop was the last surviving member of the original Rat Pack, which also included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and, for a brief, strange stint, Three’s Company‘s Mr. Roper, Norman Fell. Now that these icons of cool are gone, we’re basically left with the Frat Pack to take their place, and, considering Owen Wilson tried to off himself this year, who knows how long we’ve got them either? Before you know it, it might well be up to the stars of Superbad to set the standard for drinking, womanizing, and Hollywood superstardom for their generation. Weird.

Johnny Hart

PhotobucketSome of Christendom’s more cartoonish evangelists passed on to their final reward in 2007. The heavily mascaraed Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Bakker) often bore close resemblance to cartoon raccoon Ranger Rick, for example. And Jerry Falwell took on a cartoonishly evil aspect back when he blamed the 9/11 attacks on pagans, abortionists, feminists, homosexuals, gargoyles, psychics, and the ACLU. But the most cartoonish evangelist of all was, naturally, cartoonist Johnny Hart, who took a mystifying turn in his later years by incorporating explicit Christian references into his strip about cavemen, B.C., the title of which of course stands for “before Christ”. Hart’s influence lingers, his body of work having apparently provided the necessary documentation behind the startling claims by The View‘s resident Fat Broad, Sherri Shepherd, that Christianity predated the Greeks, the Romans, and everything else on God’s flat earth.

Chris Benoit

PhotobucketBrian “Crush” Adams, Mike Awesome, Bam Bam Bigelow, Bad News Brown, Karl Gotch, John Kronus, “The Big Cat” Ernie Ladd, the Missing Link, “Sensational” Sherri Martel, and the Fabulous Moolah are just a few of the names crossed off the rapidly dwindling “Alive Wrestlers” list this year. But the most shocking was that of “The Canadian Crippler” Chris Benoit, who won his final handicap match by fatally choking out his wife and former valet Nancy and his undersized son Daniel before disqualifying himself from existence by hanging himself from his weight machine. Not funny, Chris. The violence is supposed to be fake.

Robert Jordan

PhotobucketKurt Vonnegut passed this year. So did Norman Mailer. And the world of letters will really, really miss these literary giants. But you know who the world will really miss? Robert Jordan, author of giant literature, who had been stringing readers along since 1990 with volume after voluminous volume of his epic Wheel of Time fantasy series. Originally planned as a trilogy, the tale grew in the telling and the plot of each thousand-page installment slowed down until those readers still left after 17 years began to increasingly worry that Jordan would die before he wrapped it up. And, to their horror and frustration, he did just that. Don’t worry, though — the twelfth and final novel will be completed posthumously by a handpicked collaborator. Then, true to the series’ conceit of history as cyclical, the world will be destroyed and made anew and Jordan will be reborn again as the most frustrating literary windbag of the next age. See you then!

Luciano Pavarotti

PhotobucketThis spot was going to go to French mime Marcel Marceau, but there was really nothing to say. Instead, let’s remember a big man with a big voice, Luciano Pavarotti, whose death was only surprising insofar as it came from pancreatic cancer rather than a gluttony-induced abdominal explosion like that of Mr. Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. This was a man who demanded hotels install industrial meat slicers in his room so he could prepare snacks from his traveling meat supply. He once necessitated the widening of the door to his hotel suite so he could squeeze in and out. In one case, he demanded a hydraulic jack be used to lift his limo to the stage so he could avoid walking. Thanks to decades of gourmandizing, he ballooned to a peak weight of nearly 400 heart-stopping pounds. All that said, when he collaborated with U2 to record the song “Miss Sarajevo”, he still wasn’t the largest thing in the studio. That, of course, was Bono’s ego.

Evel Knievel

PhotobucketRemember how when “The Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray last year, his death seemed tragic, but totally inevitable in retrospect? Evel Knievel was the Crocodile Hunter of the 1970s. He didn’t actually hunt crocodiles, mind you; he just jumped his motorcycle over tanks filled with them and everything else from rattlesnakes to Snake River Canyon. Well, he almost made it over Snake River Canyon. Millions tuned in regularly, expecting the daredevil to be killed before their eyes. Yet, somehow, despite breaking almost every single bone in his body, he strutted around for another three decades with the aid of a hollow walking stick that doubled as a flask, his fiery attitude undiminished. Up until just days before his death, Knievel was embroiled in a beef with hip-hop star Kanye West, and if not for his age, he’d likely have settled it by breaking West’s arm with a baseball bat, rather than through the courts — and it wouldn’t have been the first time he’d done that. With his star-spangled wardrobe, can-do spirit, and superhero image among legions of small boys, Knievel had only one peer, and he also passed into legend this year: comic-book supersoldier Captain America.

Ike Turner

PhotobucketMaybe it’s not fair for Ike Turner to be saddled with the image of pop culture’s most notorious wife-beater. After all, according to Ike, he and Tina were never actually married. Tijuana weddings don’t count, right? So, all those times he got high on cocaine and smacked Tina around, that wasn’t his wife — just some woman he lived with for 13 years and had a son with. It’s a fine distinction, but not one that would have been beyond Ike. After all, as he claimed in his autobiography, “Sure, I’ve slapped Tina … There have been times when I punched her to the ground without thinking. But I never beat her.” But really, it wasn’t Ike’s fault. It’s just that sometimes Tina made Ike get so crazy. But crazy though Ike might have been, he still invented rock and roll, which is why his former collaborator and fellow lunatic Phil Spector delivered a spirited defence of his legacy at his funeral, though that probably hurts more than it helps. What, O.J. Simpson wasn’t available?

Floyd Red Crow Westerman

PhotobucketYou may remember Floyd Westerman for his roles in Walker: Texas Ranger, Northern Exposure, and the X-Files or for his appearances solemnly intoning “La-ko-ta” as a stereotypical native chief in commercials for the Lakota brand topical pain reliever. What makes his death truly tragic is that he failed to live to see that medicine’s namesake tribe secede from the United States and set up its own sovereign nation only one week later. So it’s not Westerman who’s dead here so much as the very idea of America. Where the United States set up its own government with a document beginning “We the people,” after two centuries of being corralled into miserable rural ghettos, there are only three words with which to declare the independence of the Lakota: Fuck this shit.

Benazir Bhutto

PhotobucketBenazir Bhutto was a progressive voice in the Muslim world. She also happened to be the most attractive world leader of the 20th century. But what about Princess Diana? one might ask. Forget that. The only thing Diana actually ever led was a speeding pack of paparazzi into a horrific tunnel crash. Bhutto, on the other hand, was not only the first elected female leader of a Muslim state, but also a stone fox. Had only she been blonde, Elton John and Bernie Taupin would have been obligated to rewrite the lyrics to the Marilyn Monroe tribute “Candle in the Wind” yet again upon her passing. Of course, that’s reserved for Britney Spears’ upcoming fatal drug overdose, so, unlike Bhutto herself, they dodged a bullet there.

Oh right — speaking of dead blondes, Anna Nicole Smith also died this year, although you might not have heard much about it.



7 Responses to “The 10 Most Dead People of 2007”

  1. 1 Scott

    Now I’m sad. I didn’t know that Mike Awesome had died.

  2. I pray for GOD for all these personalities!

  3. 3 John M

    Wow that was a nice top ten… Tough call leaving out Ian Stevenson. But, there’s always hope he’ll somehow make the list next year. 🙂

  4. 4 Peter Lynn

    But Ian Stevenson isn’t one of the most dead at all, simply by virtue of his belief in and research into reincarnation.

    Of course, that argument out to take Robert Jordan off the list too, shouldn’t it?

  5. Luciano Pavarotti was the best tenor.

  6. 6 Eric

    ought

  7. Jordan used to come into my library. He always checked his shelf of books to see how they were circulating. I’m told that he checked out a lot of non-fiction.


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