Every year around this time, it's not uncommon to stumble across a retrospective of some sort that pays tribute to those who have passed away, typically those with some modicum of celebrity status. I'm always amazed at actually how few deaths there are most years. I mean, I'm no actuary, but when you consider the thousands of people in this world who would be considered "celebrity" on some level, the math seems to favor more deaths each year. Weird. (These are the things I think about in my spare time; it's not easy being me.)
Well, 2009 is a year where the gods were playing "catch up" on this whole celebrity death thing. It culminated in late June when Farrah Fawcett lost her bout with cancer (two days after Ed McMahon left us), and just as we were all mourning her death, Michael Jackson's card gets pulled the SAME DAY. It's almost as if Farrah Fawcett got cheated; I mean, if you're the Fawcett family doesn't it feel like firguratively you were getting all of the attention and then when Jacko died, everyone ran over to the Jackson house and left you high and dry? Billy Mays leaving us three days later was the icing on the June Death Cake.
So in this week of Top 10 lists for nearly everything, here are the list of 2009 deaths that had the biggest impact on me personally. Without further ado...
10. ED MCMAHON (1923-2009)
I never knew if that whole Publisher's Clearing House thing where McMahon showed up on your front door with a check was real or a myth. And now I'll never know. McMahon gave hope to every working octogenarian that they would continue to find good work. To wit, his final salvo -- freecreditreport.com Gangsta commercial....
9. MICHAEL JACKSON (1958-2009)
The king of pop passing away probably ranks a lot higher on most lists (like eight spots higher), but for me it only reaches ninth place. And if it weren't for the televised funeral and hearing everyone tell someone named "Blanket" how much his dad loved him, it may not have shown up on my list at all. Sorry, but this is MY list.
8. FARRAH FAWCETT (1947-2009)
Is there any way we could get an accurate count on how many loads of dirty laundry were caused by the sexy "Farrah Fawcett in bathing suit" poster back in the late `70's? A million? A trillion? In celebration of Farrah, here is one of the great intro's to a `70's show ever...
7. JAMES WHITMORE (1921-2009)
You all are probably saying "Who?" Understandable. But Whitmore makes this list for three reasons. First, he played Brooks in The Shawshank Redemption, famous for the suicide where he reminded everyone via wood etching "Brooks was here." Second, he played Ken Reeves father in The White Shadow, and anything Shadow-related makes the list. Third and most amazingly, he was married to Audra Lindley for many years; she played Mrs. Roper in Three's Company. For years, it was clear very few men could keep up with Mrs. Roper's libido, but this guy managed to do it in real life! Kudos! Good enough for 7th place..
6. BILLY MAYS (1958-2009)
I'm almost hesitant to put Mays on the list because through the magic of late night infomercials, his legacy morbidly lives on. Yes, that's right, you can still stumble across a dead man shilling for Poly Seam Seal and, in a bit of delicious irony, HEALTH INSURANCE. For me personally, I'm hoping the loss of Billy Mays means a bump up in the infomercial pitchman pecking order for my pal, Joe Fowler (even if the steam cooker thing I bought from him back in 2002 worked about as well as a submarine with screen doors).
5. THE QUIZNO'S AT SAGE AND ALABAMA
Quizno's has the best Cobb salad of any chain. I was actually on my way to making progress with my eating habits with a Quizno's right across the street from the studio where I work. And literally a day after I had devoured another delicious bed of lettuce, bacon bits and soft-boiled egg at the Quizno's on Alabama, I went over there for my next day's lunch and the place was locked up with just tables and chairs strewn about and the wall fixtures, cash registers and appliances all gone. This all happened in twenty four hours, like a mob bust out. And now I'm back on fast food. Damn you, Quizno's. Pay your bills!!
4. MARILYN CHAMBERS (1952-2009)
See reasons for Fawcett, Farrah in Number 8, but add nudity and make it really pornographic. And enjoy this video where someone has laid down "Candle in the Wind" as a tribute to the delicate flower that was Marilyn Chambers:
3. JOHN HUGHES (1950-2009)
Patriarch of the cheeseball `80's high school movie, John Hughes will forever be remembered as the one responsible for giving Molly Ringwald, Judd Nelson, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Emilio Estevez, and Andrew McCarthy 98 percent of the income and exposure they received in their entire lives.
2. LOU ALBANO (1933-2009)
I could probably write 2,000 words about the good Captain, what he meant to wrestling, and how a dude with rubber bands hanging out of his grill was must-see TV for me from about 1979 until he retired in 1986. Most remember him as part of the whole Rock and Wrestling Connection in 1985, when WWF went mainstream with Cyndi Lauper and MTV, but I prefer to remember Captain Lou as a borderline obese maniac who would stab anyone in the back...because borderline obese maniacs are cool. Case in point....
1. GIBBY THE BETTA FISH (2009-sometime later in 2009)
I'm not a big "pets" guy. My three kids (ages 11, 11, and 10) live in Chicago with their mother and visit me in Houston a few times a year. This past summer, my daughter (pictured here) wanted me to get a pet so that they would have something to fawn over when they come to visit. She lobbied hard for a dog or a cat, but after I explained to her that the other eleven months out of the year when she and her brothers are not here I would have to care for said animal, thus making its target for survival a year at best, we agreed that something more simple and low maintenance would be better.
We settled on a betta fish, purchased at Petsmart for the tidy sum of $4.99. My daughter decided to name him Gibby after some fat kid on *iCarly*who apparently is best known for taking his shirt off in public. Over the course of the next few months, I got to experience the exhilaration of being a betta fish owner, which as best I can tell consists of feeding him once a day and cleaning the fish crap out his bowl once a week. Veeerrry fulfilling.
Apparently, betta fish are quite violent and it is not recommended that you put them in a bowl with other betta fish. The thought crossed my mind on more than one occasion to just go ahead and toss a second fish in there to watch them duke it out, maybe even start my own betta fish fighting ring and become the Michael Vick of the betta fish world. But the last thing I need right now is PETA up my ass.
This week, my kids came in town for their annual Christmas visit. Last night, poor Gibby went to that "big bowl full of fake rocks and fish crap" in the sky. Circle of life, I guess. We eulogized him by each telling our favorite Gibby memory. I talked about the time that I...um, cleaned out his bowl. Judy Anne talked about the time she....um....uh....fed him. The boys lamented that they didn't know him long enough to feed him or clean up his shit. It was quite emotional really. We all said a prayer and then....FLUSH.
Good bye, Gibby. Don't kick too much ass in betta fish heaven.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 3-7PM weekdays on the Sean & John Show, and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.