This Day in Death

7.28.14: NPR Journalist Margot Adler – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 1:46 am July 30, 2014

MARGOT_ADLERPfft! Speak for yourself, sign; I always pictured myself as more of a werewolf fan, mainly because all that body hair would really go a long way towards covering up a pretty unmanageable outbreak of chest acne. Plus, I bet nobody gives werewolves shit about eating pigeon meat.

 

Being a journalist is hard, not least of all because nobody takes my fedora with an index card labeled “PRESS” on it seriously. It’s an endless cycle of gathering information and writing it down and then changing it all because it turns out you made most of it up and your boss isn’t cool with that for whatever reason. It’s why I like doing this blog all by myself; sometimes you just know a story’s true, and no cartoonish caricature of what I assume an editor looks like can shake that faith. Although I will admit that, after 300-plus posts, there may have been, like, maybe two or three pieces of information I possibly reported without vigorously fact-checking. Sorry about that. However, when I stated that getting a crown put on your tooth legally makes that tooth the king of your mouth… well, I’ll stand by that one til the day I die.

Oh yeah! Dying! It turns out that Margot Adler, journalist for NPR since the late 70s, has done just that. Died, I mean. See, haters? I can journalist!

Margot joined the NPR staff as a general assignment reporter in 1979. She went on to cover everything from the beginnings of the AIDS epidemic to confrontations involving the Ku Klux Klan in Greensboro, N.C., to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

I’m just gonna note here that it seems awfully suspicious that she was always around when these terrible things went down. I’m just saying. Moving on.

Margot had a long-standing interest in the occult. “Margot was not only a brilliant reporter, she was also a Wiccan priestess and a leader in the Pagan community,” Low Smith notes. “That was deeply important to her, and she wrote a seminal book about that world: Drawing Down the Moon. She also wrote a memoir called Heretic’s Heart.”

It may seem startling that someone in an industry as traditional as broadcasting would be so deeply invested in the counterculture, but keep in mind that Edward R. Murrow used to be the High Priest of the Church of Satan (alright, fine: that’s four things I haven’t looked up). I’ve also heard rumors that Sam Donaldson’s face is made of Silly Putty, but that’s not really relevant so I’m going to go back and edit that part out later if I don’t forget.



Source: NPR

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7.11.14: Tommy Ramone – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 4:04 am July 14, 2014

TOMMY_RAMONESo cool you can barely tell they were invented by Hot Topic in 2004 to sell t-shirts to idiots. After so many years of Big Dog I think we were all ready for a change, though.


Most people don’t know this about me, but I used to be in a pretty sweet punk rock band. We were called Johnny Quesadilla and the Caramelized Onions, and we could’ve been huge if we’d decided to sell out. Instead, we remained virtual unknowns during our brief but explosive tenure because we didn’t wanna be part of the mainstream corporate bullshit machine, and also because we never wrote any songs. But honestly, our brand of music wasn’t about the songs or the… music. We weren’t about to go down that road like the fucking Carpenters or some shit. No, we were all about three things: Copying VHS tapes for private use without either expressed or implied consent, wearing comfortable shoes even when socially inappropriate, and generally breaking whatever rules we could find as we hung around the hard streets of our gated community, just trying to survive in a world that looked down its nose at our upper-middle class privilege.

Which brings us to the death of Thomas Erdelyi, aka Tommy Ramone, drummer and producer for seminal punk rock outfit the Ramones. Tommy was the last surviving original member of the band, and his passing most likely means the Ramones’ legacy will have to be protected by the alternates the band recruited when interpersonal friction began to make their break-up an inevitablity. So get ready for the acceptable rock power of Curly Joe Ramone, Gallagher 2 Ramone, George Lazenby Ramone, and RC Cola Ramone. They’re okay. They’re not great, but they’re mostly okay.

Right about now is when I’d usually throw in some pithy block quote and try to add some gravitas to whatever the hell it is I think I’m doing around here. This time, though, in the spirit of honoring the Ramones’ contribution to modern music, let’s instead reflect on the time in 1989 when Dee Dee Ramone inexplicably released a hip hop album under the name Dee Dee King. It was called Standing in the Spotlight, and was seemingly recorded in the half-hour span of time between someone explaining to him what “hip hop” was and his actually hearing a hip hop song for the first time. Let’s listen:




I’m the master of hip hop!
-Dee Dee King, Mashed Potato Time

Some claims are just bulletproof, gentle prince.


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6.2.14: Alexander Shulgin, the ‘Godfather of Ecstasy’ – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 12:48 pm June 11, 2014

ALEXANDER_SHULGINJust spitballin’ here, but maybe it would take some of the stigma out of recreational drug use if your lab didn’t look like the set of Edward Scissorhands.

 

Medicinal chemist Alexander Shulgin, commonly known as the Godfather of Ecstasy (still my least favorite Godfather sequel, by the way), died last week. Mainstream news reports are saying it was due to his declining health over the past few years, but that’s probably just a conspiracy, if my buddy Sketchy Lou’s Facebook page about shapeshifting lizard people from outer space is on point. And it usually is!

Shulgin developed and synthesized hundreds of chemical compounds, but the drug that made him a household trailerpark name was MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, also known as E, also known as Molly, also known as X, also known as the Devil’s Dishrag. That last one is probably regional. The drug became commonplace in the rave community, and Shulgin’s death brings up a touchy subject: How do ravers grieve? I’m guessing they just turn into goths.

According to the psychedelic-research website Erowid, which broke the news of his death, Shulgin’s health had been on the decline since 2010, when he suffered a stroke.

In fairness, he’s only dead if you can’t see beyond the 3-dimensional constructs of our brains and realize that, divorced from the concept of “time,” we’re all joined together as a single tenth-dimensional creature, always both alive and dead, floating heedlessly through a universe where the length of a lifespan is of no more significance than a person’s height. At least, that’s how it seemed while I was dealing with a pretty scary Melatonin addiction a while back. Rollin’ on that Melly got me feeling slightly sleepier than I otherwise would’ve, yo.

The adverse effects of MDMA quickly ruled it out as a therapeutic tool, however, and instead the drug forged an intimate connection with dance music and modern rave culture. This reporter first learned about Shulgin while researching a 2013 story on MDMA and American electronic dance music. At that time, the drug was the subject of intense media scrutiny. Two college students had died at, or shortly after, the Electric Zoo music festival in New York City; the killer, several media outlets insisted, was a strange new drug called Molly (as MDMA came to be colloquially called in the U.S.).

America, you’re never gonna win the war on drugs when the drugs you’re fighting have awesome names like Ecstasy and Angel Dust and Matanuska Thunderfuck. What unsuccessful blogger wouldn’t wanna leave his woes behind and enter into a land called Ecstasy, a realm bumpin’ with nonstop house jams and raver chicks brandishing glow sticks like some kind of Psychedelic Knights Templar? You can’t go legit and expect to compete with that. It’s the reason the global pharmaceutical industry only manages to scrape together a paltry… $85 billion a year in profit?! Whoa. I bet if Sketchy Lou was pulling in that kind of scratch he probably wouldn’t still be dealing out of his ’95 LaBaron. Just when you think a guy’s got everything going for him, you know?



Source: Time

 

 

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5.12.14: A Couple of Cartoon Voice Actors – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 10:21 pm May 12, 2014

LEE_MARSHALL_EFREM_ZIMBALISTIn a Class-Off, I’m giving this to Alfred in a walk. Granted, a neckerchief adds a touch of sophistication, but that lead shrinks pretty significantly when it’s literally the only thing you’re wearing. Also, stitching your name onto it? What are you, in third grade? Who wants to steal some mountain biking tiger’s sweaty neckwear anyway?

 

Animation: It’s kind of bullshit. Loosed from the constraints of reality that the rest of us are slavishly beholden to, animators get to just go around drawing any damn thing, things which may not even really exist, and we’re supposed to be impressed. Wow, vast landscapes of the imagination and delightfully colorful characters, huh? What do you expect me to do with that? Why don’t you get back to me when you’ve drawn something real, like… a loveless marriage of convenience? Or student loan debt? Teachers don’t get to make up which facts they’re going to teach. Surgeons don’t get to just freestyle crucial labia-enhancement procedures. Yet we let animators just make shit up and nobody’s policing any of it. I mean, there’s the FCC, but they’re tied up doing God’s work of making sure I don’t accidentally hear an f-word at 11:30 PM on a Tuesday, because apparently I live in a Sear’s catalog from 1956.

Today we’ve got a double-shot from animation’s saving grace, the clothing-optional world of voice acting: First up is Lee Marshall, the voice of Frosted Flakes’ sugarpeddling mascot Tony the Tiger, who had spent decades accompanying ethnically-diverse youngsters on whitewater rafting trips like everything was just totally normal there. HOW DID HE GET OPPOSABLE THUMBS!?

Marshall began voicing the Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes mascot in 1999, filling in for the original actor, Thurl Ravenscroft.

Marshall got his first full-time radio job at the age of 14 in Phoenix. He had a prematurely deep voice and lied about his age. His career included radio newsman, rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey, sports broadcaster and wrestling ring interviewer.

Well, I can’t imagine the ring itself has all that much to say in an interview, but then again I’m not a sports fan.

Next up is fellow voice actor Efram Zimbalist, Jr., who portrayed Alfred Pennyworth in the seminal Batman: The Animated Series… uh, series. At least it means I get to talk about Batman, which, frustratingly, was at least half the reason I started this stupid blog in the first place. Did you know Burt Ward is still perfectly healthy? Guy doesn’t even have a wasp’s nest on his property or anything. It’s horseshit is what it is.

Zimbalist found a whole new generation of fans through his voice roles on several animated TV series, including as Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man, Justin Hammer on Iron Man, and as King Arthur on The Legend of Prince Valiant. But it was as Bruce Wayne’s droll butler and confidante Alfred Pennyworth on Batman: The Animated Series that he may be best known to IGN readers.

Also of note to IGN readers: “Efram Zimbalist, Jr.” is what it sounds like when you say “X-Men symbolist fever” with tape over your mouth. Really surprised that didn’t make the article. There must have been a word limit or something.


Source: USA Today and IGN

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4.20.14: Rubin “Hurricane” Carter – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 4:46 pm May 5, 2014

RUBIN_CARTERCarter, seen here being visited in prison by Bob Dylan. Man, 70s-era Dylan could’ve taught even Johnny Depp a thing or four about the accessory management game. For instance, if the flower in your Panama hat is a spring-bloomer you really should flip your top-most scarf in the same direction, but for summer and fall flowers (like, say, a Cottage Apricot Chrysanthemum, which is just lovely, by the way) you’re going to want to do a full-wrap with one of your mid-level scarves, which, obviously, should be a light cotton along the lines of a Roberto Cavalli triangle wrap. Anyway, #rockandroll, #prison, #hardguys.

 

As you all should be thoroughly aware of by now, I don’t bother following sports. That’s largely because ESPN is right next to Bravo on my cable box, making it a level 3 “accidental Andy Cohen viewing” threat. But prizefighter Rubin “Hurricane” Carter is dead, and I have a duty to keep writing this blog until someone calls me a genius and puts my face on a series of commemorative plates, so let’s just get on with it.

In 1967, Carter was convicted of murdering three people in a bar in New Jersey. The case became a tangled mess of racism, questionable legal and police procedures, media buffoonery, and bitchin’ protest songs. Amidst the confusion, Carter became a symbol of all that’s wrong with our legal system, and a painful reminder of how far we still have to go when it comes to healing our racial divides. After 19 years, his conviction was overturned and he would spend the rest of his life fighting for others whom he believed had been falsely imprisoned. It’s a harrowing story of prejudice, perseverance, and, ultimately, justice. Certainly something we should all take some time to reflect on, except that, yeah, he probably did kill those people after all. That kinda puts a heavy “do the ends justify the means?” stank on this story, which this blog is absolutely not up to the task of addressing. It’d be a lot easier on me if Carter had just slung worthless grills like George Foreman or something. I like him, you can tell he’s one of the good ones. I’m talking about boxers, not… you know. What? Oh whatever, fuck you guys. I can’t be racist, I had three Busta Rhymes albums in high school, so there.

BLOCK QUOTE SQUAD IS DANGEROUS!

His ordeal and its racial overtones were publicized in Dylan’s 1975 song “Hurricane,” several books and a 1999 film starring Denzel Washington, who received an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal.

In a statement issued Sunday, Washington praised Carter’s “tireless fight to ensure justice for all.”

Point, Washington. Counterpoint:



HEART_CONDITION

You made this. This would not have existed without your active and willing participation, and a small handful of people ended up seeing it. Carter lost 19 years, those people lost 100 minutes each, adding up to somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 total hours, gone. You tell me, where’s their justice? So, you know, I guess there are two sides to every story, huh? Case dismissed!



Source: The Huffington Post

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12.18.13: Chicago DJ Larry Lujack – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:17 am December 22, 2013

 LARRY_LUJACKLujack, back center, poses for a picture with the “This is Why We’re Not in a Visual Industry” players. Not sure how an attractive lady ended up in the mix. See, this is why I’m against Affirmative Action, it really throws off the chemistry of a group like that.

 

Chicago radio legend Larry Lujack, considered the precursor to the modern shock jocks that have kept us so thoroughly entertained with a steady stream of fart-centric hilarity lo these last couple decades, died on Wednesday of esophageal cancer. This after the Chicago Tribune corrected its originally reported cause of death, which was “the pungent, creeping atrophying of all things related to radio, as the final desperate vestiges of a once relevant industry shambles, vacant-eyed and culturally impotent, towards the spiraling oblivion of total and complete obsolescence.” Good call on the rewrite, Tribune. That shit got pretty dark, even by Chicago standards.

That’s right, we’re mocking radio today: The medium of choice for people who desperately need to know what the roads looks like in the morning but would rather wait through a Twofer Tuesday Doubleshot of Van Halen classics instead of checking their phone. Because traffic and weather on the 8s after an ad for discount carpet treatment is the real information superhighway!

[Lujack and co-host Tommy Edwards] started doing their signature bit, “Animal Stories,” at WLS in the late 1970s. “Uncle Lar” would read offbeat news about animals to his sidekick, “little snot-nosed Tommy,” who would be hearing them for the first time. Their spontaneous chemistry made the live bits a hit with listeners, and an enduring chapter in Chicago radio history.

Despite what unscrupulous bloggers like me from earlier in this post like to imply, Lujack didn’t really engage in the crass put-em-on-the-glassisms of later shock jocks, usually opting to pull out of a tailspin before things got particularly tasteless. He even half-joked that he’d like to personally buy back every copy of his autobiography Superjock, largely because he found the vulgar language embarrassing in retrospect. Of course, that’d be borderline impossible. Lujack would’ve had better luck just trying to remove the offensive bits from future printings, like they did with all the racist stuff in Huckleberry Finn. Or the time Gabriel Garcia Marquez had to rewrite part of One Hundred Years of Solitude after he erroneously implied that the Muisca people were conquered by Gonzalo Jimenez de Quesada in 1536, when every backwoods, inbred hick knows that the Spanish Empire didn’t make their way to Colombia’s Cordillera Oriental until 1537. Ha! See you on the shortbus, Marquez, you clueless dolt! Also, I heard that the second printing of the Bible took out a whole passage about Job calling God an “ass bucket.” In that light it really looks like he was bringing shit on himself if you ask me.


Source: The Chicago Tribune

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10.25.13: Stuntman and Director Hal Needham – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:22 am November 5, 2013

HAL_NEEDHAMAnd to think that dog had a B.F.A. from Juilliard. Sure, maybe an M.F.A. would’ve opened a few more doors, but when you consider that he only lived 11 years it’s downright miraculous.

 

Legendary Hollywood stuntman Hal Needham, the man with the passion for crashin’, the Michael Caine of the shoulder sprain, the Eric Schmidt of falling onto shit, has died at the age of 82. Well, not to sound callous, but what did you expect? An 82-year old shouldn’t be performing stunts in the first damn place. Just let today’s young idiots do it, they’re practically invincible anyway. What with their Monster energy drinks and their parkour and their pumpable sneakers those kids are just about superheroes now, pass the torch already.

Needham helped design a number of devices aimed at making stunts both safer and more spectacular, including a pressure-plate gizmo that could hurl an actor into the air as a car seemed to hit him or an explosion went off nearby. In 1986, he and collaborator William L. Frederick received the academy’s Scientific and Engineering Award for developing the Shotmaker Elite camera car and crane, an invention used for more efficient shooting of action sequences.

Despite contributing his own technological innovations to filmmaking, Needham remained a staunch opponent of the rise of CG special effects up until his death. It’s arguably a little hypocritical, and I have to imagine that he would’ve changed his tune had he been following the Transformers franchise. I mean, in some scenes you can kinda tell Megan Fox isn’t a real person, but how the other actors pretend they’re not just talking to a dude in a green suit is pretty impressive. It’s Andy Serkis’ best work, if you ask me.

Needham would go on to direct such films as Smokey and the Bandit, The Cannonball Run, and Stroker Ace, the only film that shares its name with its own porn parody.

 

Source: The LA Times

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7.28.13: Eileen Brennan – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:25 pm August 5, 2013

 EILEEN_BRENNANA lady sergeant? Huh. That must’ve been pretty groundbreaking, like Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, or that video of the owl that successfully mated with a duck. Viva la progress!

 

So it looks like comedic actress Eileen Brennan died last week of bladder cancer. God, this is getting time consuming. If I’d known that so many people died, like, *all* the time, I would’ve just stuck with my original plan for this website; Cataloging Love Is… comics in order of inspirational power.

Among Brennan’s most notable roles were her parts in Private Benjamin, Clue, and The Sting, in which she starred opposite Paul Newman. Oh, Newman… Now THERE’S a guy who could fill out a wifebeater! It looks like today’s Vin Diesels could still learn a thing or two from Old Hollywood after all.

But stories of career achievements don’t pay the hosting mafia I’m in deep with, so here’s a concentrated double-shot of the kind of horrific tragedy you vultures come here for:

In 1982, Brennan was involved in a horrific accident, struck by a car as she exited a restaurant with “Benjamin” co-star Goldie Hawn. She suffered broken bones in her face, an eyeball pulled from its socket and two broken legs. Even after recovering physically — a process that took years — she suffered from an addiction to painkillers and entered the Betty Ford Clinic in 1984.

A few years later Brennan would contract (and beat) breast cancer as well. And then, I dunno, her soul was stolen by a troll or something. Jesus, this lady really earned her peace. It’s a stark contrast to my plan of swallowing this cyanide pill at the first whiff of physical illness. I once had that bastard on my tongue because my leg was asleep slightly longer than I was comfortable with.


Source: CNN

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7.22.13: Dennis Farina – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 11:54 pm July 25, 2013

DENNIS_FARINAThe man liked consistency.  I heard a photographer once tried to put just one olive into his prop martini. We’re all praying for his family’s safe return someday.

 

Actor Dennis Farina, who is still not my cool dad despite multiple prayers and sacrifices to the Incan god Inti, is dead this week due to a blood clot in his lung. In his 3-decade acting career Farnia portrayed over a dozen exasperated police sergeants who were sick and tired of that cocksure detective O’Malley playing by his own rules all the time. Goddammit, you’ll bring the Benito crime family down by the book or it’ll be your badge this time, capice!?

The mustachioed Farina was accustomed to playing characters on either side of the law, such Lt. Mike Torello on TV’s Crime Story as well as mobsters like Jimmy Serrano in 1998′s Midnight Run and Albert Lombard on Miami Vice. He had a fruitful partnership with that show’s creator, Michael Mann, having also starred in his films Thief and Manhunter.

I don’t know why everyone’s always so down on typecasting. What’s the big deal? You get really good at a single role and just as soon as you start contemplating eating a bullet from boredom the world at large gets sick of you anyway and the phone stops ringing. Then you open up a putt-putt golf course, do a couple of “Where are They Now?” segments on VH-1, and sit back waiting for some director to pull a Tarantino and remember you from their youth, subsequently casting you in a major motion picture or television show, at which point the internet gets all ironic about you, and BAM! Late-career renaissance. It worked for Neil Patrick Harris and Betty White. Irony even gave Chuck Norris a nice new coat of paint, and that guy’s practically a cartoon supervillain in real life. It’s a decent paycheck for some cakewalk work, and that’s a pretty tender deal if you ask me. Oh, yeah; I’m using the word “tender” now in place of “cool.” Start saying that from now on.

 

Source: USA Today

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6.16.13: Second City Co-Founder Bernie Sahlins – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:26 pm July 1, 2013

BERNARD_SAHLINSSahlins poses with lighthearted 70s comedy troupe Zanytown, whose playful skewering of societal norms inadvertently resulted in the wrongful imprisonment of more than 400 legal immigrants. It’s a pretty funny story, I’ll tell you guys about it another time.

 

Over its 54-year history Chicago’s Second City theater has given birth to countless brilliant and talented comedic legends, as well as Rachel Dratch. It’s become a comedy lynchpin, like pushing a diabetic down a staircase. It’s just something all us comedy folk go through at some point. Sadly, Bernie Sahlins, co-founder of the theater, died last month of pancreatic cancer. You know, they say the best humor comes from real life, so if cancer gets your sides all asplittin’, congratulations: You’re not actually a cruel human being with no sense of empathy, you’re a cruel comedy visionary with no sense of empathy.

“This was still the Beat generation, and we started out to found a coffee house where we idlers, including the actors whom we had with for years, could loll around and put the world in its proper place.”

But The Second City caught on within months of opening, despite some early money problems and other issues, and it became instrumental in the growth and development of improvisational and sketch comedy.

“Improv.” We in the industry just call it “improv,” as we don’t have time for a bunch of extra syllables nobody’s gonna read anyway. Improv combines the visual thrill of watching people knock on doors that aren’t there with the narrative cohesion of just flat-out making shit up on the spot. It’s like watching a five-year old trying to get out of trouble for knocking over a houseplant. I mean, sure, I don’t preplan anything around here either, but that’s because of good old sturdy, tried and true American laziness, not some kind of postmodern experimental fartsniffing. Way too heady, if you ask me. What was the problem with slurs against the Irish and a simple spinning bowtie? That was comedy everyone could get behind. Except the Irish, I guess.


Source: Variety

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