Celebrity Deaths: Three's Company?

This past Sunday night the world lost comedy legend Leslie Nielsen, and just yesterday The Empire Strikes Back director Irvin Kershner joined Alec Guinness and Peter Cushing in the big Star Wars convention in the sky.

That makes two big celebrities that have died in two days, and we all know that high-profile celebs and public figures die in groups of three. It's a weird phenomenon, and it's being going for decades. The only question is now who will be the third, if the man upstairs decides to draft a trio into his ranks on some ethereal red carpet.

A Twitter scare was started late Sunday night when someone posted a false B.B. King obit on a less-than-reputable music site. Thankfully the bluesman and Lucille are still in good health. That would have made four, counting Kershner Monday morning.

Still others state that they do not come in threes, and that we all just stop counting when we get our three bodies. It seemed like in the summer of 2009 we were losing everyone, from Billy Mays to Michael Jackson, in the span of two weeks.

Is three a magic number, like they told us on Schoolhouse Rock? Three is the first odd prime number, the triangle is a stable shape, in our base 10 system, the fraction 1/3 is .3333333..., ZZ Top is a power trio. That one alien hooker had three boobs in Total Recall. The list goes on.

This year we had Gary Coleman, Rue McClanahan, Dennis Hopper, and Art Linkletter all passing on in the same span of a week, as did Howard Zinn, J.D. Salinger, Corey Haim, and Alexander McQueen. The latest quartet was Greg Giraldo, Tony Curtis, Stephen J. Cannell, and Gloria Stuart back in September.

Some famous death threesomes over the years:

1967- Spencer Tracy, Jayne Mansfield, Vivien Leigh

1977- Elvis Presley, Groucho Marx, Sebastian Cabot

1980- Colonel Sander, John Lennon, Darby Crash

1982- Henry Fonda, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman

1985- Rock Hudson, Yul Brynner, Orsen Welles

1992 - Audrey Hepburn, Arthur Ashe, Andre The Giant

1993 - Vincent Price, Federico Fellini, River Phoenix

1994 - John Wayne Gacey, George Peppard, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

1995 - Wolfman Jack, Eva Gabor, Bob Ross

Burl Ives, Howard Cosell, Ginger Rogers

1997- Robert Mitchum, Jimmy Stewart, Gianni Versace

1999 - Dusty Springfield, Stanley Kubrick, Joe DiMaggio

2000 - Tom Landry, Jim Varney, Charles Schulz

2002- Milton Berle, Dudley Moore, Billy Wilder

Joe Strummer, George Roy Hill, Herb Ritts

2003 - Johnny Cash, John Ritter, Warren Zevon

2004 - Rick James, Fay Wray, Julia Child

2006 - James Brown, Saddam Hussein, Gerald Ford

Don Knotts, Dennis Weaver, Darren McGavin

2007 - Heath Ledger, Brad Renfro, Suzanne Pleshette

2009- Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson

2010- Bob Guccione, Tom Bosley, Barbra Billingsley

Leslie Nielsen, Irving Kirshner, ___________

("Three Is a Magic Number,"

Schoolhouse Rock


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