Michael Jackson, Ed McMahon, Farah Fawcett, Walter Cronkite and probably a few other famous people we haven’t noticed yet recently died just a few days apart. The line of star-studded coffins seemed backed up all the way from 30 Rock to Ventura Boulevard. But since then, the Los Angeles County coroner’s had his feet on his desk. No one famous has died this week. Why?
In checking the website Celebrity Deaths, I was reminded that one of my favorite actors, Karl Malden just died at 97. A woman who tried out for American Idol was hit by a car. Gidget the Taco Bell chihuahua also succumbed. The old saying goes “they always come in threes.” If you believe Celebrity-Deaths.com, they’re coming in threes all right. Every three minutes.
Why people who are not famous seem so interested in the lives and deaths of famous people has always perplexed me. When I was young and even thicker than today, I was lead to believe from adult behavior that it was because famous people were better than people like me and my family. When I got into the news media as an adult, I came to believe that non-famous people liked seeing famous people die because it was a form of cosmic equalization. “Ah, ha Mister Einstein! Let’s see your fancy speed of light theory save you now!” When I got fed up with the news media and ultimately got out of it, I had settled on the belief that it is the news media who are obsessed with celebrity deaths, not people in general. It wouldn’t be much different if the American news media were obsessed with food stories. If a new pie was invented and the news media attacked it with the same ferocity as the demise of a former guest star on “Bewitched”, we’d all be glued to our screens waiting for the recipe.
Celebrities have proliferated with the number of venues for them: TV, the Internet, feature films, amateur porn sites. So it seems that our daily TV newscasts and newspapers have become steroid-injected obituaries. This has been a quiet week for famous death. You know what that means. With the law of averages and human mortality being what they are, next week looks like it’s going to be tough for celebrities on- or in- the bubble. Patrick Swayze, Elizabeth Taylor and others in their “brave final days” better get their hospital rooms ready for their closeups. Of course, a “bad week” for celebrity deaths really depends on how famous you are.
Given how summer viewership ratings are usually in the toilet, I’ll bet Celebrity-Deaths.com and the network news operations are praying for a really “bad week.”