The 10 Most Dead People of 2011


Many things came to an end this year, including the marriage of Will and Jada Smith (though he’ll likely just recast the role of Jada with Daphne Maxwell Reid), the band R.E.M. (oh, is it New Year’s Eve, 1999 already?), and, ironically, the HBO dramedy How to Make It in America (henceforth to be more accurately known as How to be Canceled After Two Seasons in America). Another thing that ended this year: People. Lots of people. But most notably, these people:

10. “The Macho Man” Randy Savage

Fate was unusually kind to professional wrestlers this year, claiming (aside from a few no-names) only Sir Oliver Humperdink and the left foot of Kamala the Diabetic Headhunter. (Kamala joins other prominent names such as “The Texas Tornado” Kerry Von Erich, Zach Gowen, and Maurice “Mad Dog” Vachon in being crossed off the “Alive Wrestlers with Two Feet” list.) Oh, and there was one other big one: Who would have guessed that “Macho Man” Randy Savage would have been the first one called home by Jesus in the much-rumored Rapture predicted for the day after he died? One would have pictured Savage’s end coming in a cocaine-fueled rampage of Macho Mania, like Tony Montana at the end of Scarface. Instead, much like the late Junkyard Dog, his end came from crashing into a tree after suffering a heart attack while driving; medical examiners said that his aortic valve snapped like a Slim Jim. But while Macho Maniacs mourned, they looked forward to their hero’s reunion with the lovely Miss Elizabeth in heaven. That, and to hearing his brother “Leaping” Lanny Poffo deliver the greatest rhyming eulogy of all time.

9. Dr. Jack Kevorkian

The world of arts lost oil painter and jazz musician Jack Kevorkian this year. Of course, the world lost a lot of other people courtesy of Dr. Kevorkian, in his better-known guise as the world’s foremost encourager of suicide prior to T-Pain’s introduction of Auto-Tune to mainstream music. It’s interesting that Kevorkian died the same day as Gunsmoke actor James Arness and Andrew Gold, composer of the Golden Girls theme “Thank You for Being a Friend”; the whole thing stinks of a suicide pact, really. It’s also interesting that the euthanasia advocate notoriously known as “Dr. Death” managed to outlive the wrestler “Dr. Death” Steve Williams before finally exercising his own right to die, despite being 32 years older than him. And, his death was followed only three weeks later by that of NFL cornerback Alonzo Thomas, surely the only man in history to be nicknamed both “Skip” and “Dr. Death”. At least Osama bin Laden’s presumed successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is still out there to carry on the “Dr. Death” nickname.

8. Clarence Clemons

To those excellent adventurers Bill and Ted, he was one of the Three Most Important People in the World. To Bruce Springsteen, he was affectionately known as “The Black Man”. To many of the rest of us music lovers, he was none other than Clarence Carter. Let’s clear up the confusion about that right now: Clarence Carter wrote “Strokin'”; E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons died of a stroke, most likely one induced by his fury at being mistaken for Clarence Carter one too many times. Clarence Clemons is dead. Clarence Carter won’t die until he knows you’re sas-ified. And he can always tell when you get sas-ified. ‘Cause when you get sas-fied, you start calling his name. You’d say, “Clarence Carter, Clarence Carter, Clarence Carter, Clarence Carter, ooooh shit! Clarence Carter.”

7. Amy Winehouse

Clarence Carter—sorry, Clemons—wasn’t the only loss to the music world. Rock-and-roll hitmaker Jerry Leiber ain’t gonna rock and roll no more (yakety yak, heart attack). Gil Scott-Heron is dead (the funeral will not be televised). Rapper Heavy D abruptly lost his qualifications to rap the theme song for the impending revival of In Living Color. (Which rapper will be next to succumb to his unhealthy lifestyle? Big Fat? B-Runch? Ice Cream? The Morbidly O.B.E.S.E.?) And, in memorial of Warrant frontman and “Cherry Pie” composer Jani Lane, stripper poles were at half mast. But the biggest, though certainly the least unexpected, loss was that of soul songstress/crack cocaine enthusiast Amy Winehouse, which was followed by a predictable round of jokes about how she should have gone to rehab after all. Guess what, dummies? Winehouse outlived former first lady/drunk Betty Ford by over two weeks, thus proving rehab wouldn’t have helped.

6. Andy Rooney

As usual, lots of old people died, because that’s what they do. “Just no more things,” reads the tombstone of Peter Falk, TV’s beloved detective Columbo. (Condolences to his wife, if she ever actually existed.) Family Circus cartoonist Bil Keane joined Dead Grandpa in one-panel heaven in what might have been foul play; police have narrowed their suspects down to Not Me and Ida Know. (Those taking part in his funeral procession were advised to check their maps and follow the circuitous route marked by a dotted line.) M*A*S*H actor Harry Morgan moved on to a spin-off called AfterLIFE. And Len Lesser, better known as Seinfield‘s Uncle Leo, said “Goodbye!” after presumably catching something off a bathroom book. But the oldest and fogiest of them all was Andy Rooney. Let’s hear from the famed curmudgeon himself:

You know what I hate? Heaven. You’d think walking around on a cloud would be soft and fluffy, but it’s cold and damp. And harps. Have you heard these? For my money, the only stringed instrument worth a darn is the banjo. Why can’t angels play banjos, instead of harps? And another thing: wings. I never needed wings before, and I certainly don’t need them now. You can barely walk through the pearly gates without catching your wings and having to stop and turn sideways. I don’t like heaven, but I suppose it’s better than the alternative.

5. Elizabeth Taylor

With due respect to fitness guru Jack LaLanne, boxer “Down Goes” Joe Frazier, and tough-guy actor/space hippie Charles Napier, the manliest man who died in 2011 was unquestionably Major Richard “Dick” Winters, the inspiration behind WWII miniseries Band of Brothers. But who was the womanliest woman? With her death, singer/dancer Lena Horne left behind an uncompleted autobiography entitled Me So Horney (probably). Mourning breast men raised their penises to half-staff after a cruel February that claimed both Hollywood bombshell Jane Russell and Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! star Tura Satana. Linda Christian, the original Bond girl, passed on, albeit from colon cancer rather than being painted gold. And the sun set for Anne Francis, star of Honey West. But, although many of us knew her only during her “Fat Elvis” period, Elizabeth Taylor was the Angelina Jolie of her day, in that she was called the most beautiful woman in the world, had multiple marriages under her belt, was a notorious homewrecker, and famously adopted a small black child (sadly, she is predeceased by Michael Jackson). Put it this way: Anyone who could appear opposite James Dean, Montgomery Clift, and Paul Newman and still be considered the most beautiful thing onscreen has to take the prize, and she did.

4. Kim Jong-il

With the passing of Kim Jong-il, let’s remember that his father, Kim Il-sung, remains Eternal President of North Korea and is still technically in charge. Seriously. (Fact: All political decisions in North Korea are made by standing by the grave of Kim Il-sung and asking things like, “If you want us to feed all the peasants, just say so.” “Hey, if you want us to fix the power grid, just give us the word.”) Nevertheless, good luck to third-generation despot Kim Jong-un on succeeding his father and supreme leader. Those are one big pair of elevator shoes to fill. Speaking of which, what is going to become of Kim Jong-il’s 2700 pairs of elevator shoes, his collection of Elizabeth Taylor movies and the Elephant Man’s bones? And won’t it be awkward when Corey Feldman shows up to Kim Jong-il’s funeral dressed just like him?

3. Muammar Gaddafi

The only error a howling mob committed by pulling the late Libyan dictator out of a sewage pipe, sodomizing him, and summarily executing him was that they didn’t just toss him back in the sewage pipe when they were done. While a bit of a headache for the guy charged with engraving his tombstone (who likely agonized over whether to spell it “Gaddafi”, “Khadafy”, “Qadhafi”, “Cydypheigh”, or “Q’daffEE” before eventually just electing to dump him into an unmarked grave), his death is a victory against the perpetrators of human suffering, if only because it means seeing one fewer regular Fred Armisen character on Saturday Night Live. Come to think of it, Armisen also played the late Steve Jobs, so considering these things come in threes, Barack Obama should be seriously worried. But while we’re killing off Fred Armisen characters, let’s get that political comic Nicholas Fehn guy next, whoever he is.

2. Osama bin Laden

Let’s all thank President Obama for finally doing in May 2011 what should have been done long before: knocking the royal wedding out of the news cycle. Seriously, though, Osama bin Laden’s death is more satisfying than that of any movie villain—not least because the evil terrorist mastermind actually went down using a woman as a human shield—so kudos to Obama for doing what neither George W. Bush nor Morgan Spurlock could accomplish. Of course, he still could have done it better in a few ways. For instance, why wouldn’t Obama avoid the whispers of conspiracy theorists by just releasing bin Laden’s death photo, rather than just filing it in his secret wall safe next to his birth certificate? Why didn’t his press conference announcing bin Laden’s death consist simply of Obama declaring “This is a song Hulk Hogan stole from the U.S. Express. I’m stealing it back,” then blaring “Real American” while performing a posing routine amid a display of pyrotechnics. And, rather than burial at sea—actually a pleasant change of scenery for bin Laden, who spent much of the last decade buried in a hole in the ground—his body should have been dumped in an old mine shaft with a toilet seat installed at the top and enough velvet theatre rope for a line three hundred million people long.

1. Christopher Hitchens

As we’ve seen, some powerful dictators had their cults of personality decisively snuffed out this year: Kim Jong-il, Muammar Gaddafi, Osama bin Laden, Steve Jobs … the list goes on. It looks pretty good for President Obama to have had all this happen on his watch, but if he really wanted to win favor with Bible belt voters, he’d claim to have killed vociferous atheist Christopher Hitchens with a predator drone. (It would have kind of served Hitchens right, given his forceful support of the misguided invasion of Iraq, although he did put his money where his esophageal cancer was by volunteering to be waterboarded to prove it constituted torture.) His utter conviction in the lack of an afterlife justifies his ranking as the single deadest person of 2011, and now Hitch is finally in a position to know if he was right all along about that, though it is certain that he never doubted it. Of course, if Hitch is in a position to know anything at this point, it would logically have to be that he was wrong. But that ornery, drunk son of a bitch would argue that point with God himself.

3 Responses to “The 10 Most Dead People of 2011”

  1. It’s nice to see some traditions never die. I think that Columbo bit was the best one in the article, you must have been itching to use that for ages.

    Great stuff!

  2. 2 Matt Hilburn

    At least it wasn’t me. I just…kinda dealt with cancer this year. Not to sound melodramatic or anything.

    Good to be catching up on your writing again.

  1. 1 furry house guest | furiousBlog - in my diatribe

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