Harvey Pekar died yesterday. What was lost in the usual exercise of macabre one-upmanship -- as everyone rushed to update Twitter and Facebook in an effort to be the first to break the bad news to all their friends -- was the fact that most of them were only aware of Pekar's existence thanks to the 2003 film based on his uncomfortable American Splendor comic, which few ever bothered to read.
Ronnie James Dio died two months ago. There was a similar jostling for eulogy primacy among the social media elite, regardless of if they were actually conscious of the metal legend's career beyond "Rainbow in the Dark."
Celebrities die all the time, and we inevitably scramble to associate ourselves with them, because that's our way of paying our respects/attaching meaning to our insignificant lives. Even given that, there are a few of the famous whose passing will have a universal effect beyond that of even Gary Coleman's.
Celebrity: Jerry Lewis Why We'll Miss Them: Because very soon we won't have be able to use the convenient excuse of the MDA Telethon to avoid watching television on Labor Day. And just wait until the unfinished version of The Day The Clown Cried is released on DVD.
Celebrity: Kirk Cameron Why We'll Miss Them: Because he finally made the banana comprehensible to all of us, and because we're going to have to go back to using Todd Bridges as the best living example of fucked up former childhood TV actor syndrome.
Celebrity: Oprah Why We'll Miss Them: Who else will tell us what books are acceptable to read on airplanes? Who else can so enthusiastically endorse yo-yo dieting and weight-related self-loathing? Who else will give medical experts like Jenny McCarthy a platform? Finally, who will answer for the monstrous, Frankensteinian horror that is Dr. Phil?
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Celebrity: Brad Pitt Why We'll Miss Them: If the coverage of his beard shaving is any indication, Mr. Jolie's demise may end up leading to the implosion of the entire tabloid media industry. Then again, maybe that won't be such a bad thing.
Celebrity: Mel Gibson Why We'll Miss Them: Admit it, you'll be sad to see him go. In a funny way, the release of his appalling audio tapes was the perfect way to revitalize interest in an acting career that's been on the schnide since 1990. Shit, I've been keeping my copy of Mad Max warming up in the DVD player for memorial viewing in anticipation of his spectacular suicide. I just hope he doesn't take any innocent people out with him when he goes.