This Day in Death

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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6.9.13: Author Iain M. Banks – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 6:00 am June 18, 2013

IAIN_BANKSSeriously, man? The *same* gloves? Just throw your clothes away after wearing them once, like a normal person. This looks like some sort of Howie Mandel-esque OCD issue, and if there’s one thing me and my inexplicably skyrocketing wardrobe budget know, it’s dangerous sociological habits.


Sad news for people who own books that aren’t just hollowed-out decoys used to hide drug paraphernalia, as Scottish author Iain Banks died last week of gall bladder cancer. In 1987, after publishing several mainstream fiction books, Banks began writing darkly comedic sci-fi novels under the name Iain M. Banks. The decision was made after his publisher told him that Not Terry Pratchett wasn’t a viable pseudonym. Alright, sorry, I guess I shouldn’t mock him. Dude could afford a superfluous ‘I’ in his first name, he must’ve been doing *something* right.

Banks announced his illness on his website on 3 April, writing “I am officially Very Poorly” . With trademark black humour, he said he had asked his partner Adele “if she will do me the honour of becoming my widow”.

Man, European writers sure love their clever wordplay. It always comes off so haughty and judgmental. I bet a guy like Banks wouldn’t even be interested in hearing about all of the Limp Bizkit songs that I ghostwrote, but if you put the third verse of “Nookie” up against any random passage from Catch-22 you’d have your work cut out for you trying to figure out which was which.


Source: The Guardian

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5.20.13: Doors’ Keyboardist Ray Manzarek – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:14 am May 22, 2013

RAY_MANZAREKThe Doors were generally accepted as the finest Aldous Huxley-referencing band of their time, even beating out fellow famed 60s rock icons Johnny Humanist and the Three-Day Mescaline Benders.


Ray Manzarek, keyboard player for The Doors (the band, not the popular entry mechanism) is dead today after a long struggle with bile duct cancer. That’s right; Cancer can even strike parts of your body that you assumed only sea monsters in Clive Barker novels had. By way of tribute, USA Today cranked their usual USA Todayedness up to new, borderline autistic levels with an article that could only be headlined, “Ray Manzarek’s Keyboards Opened Musical Doors.” You just know one lucky cub reporter is gonna have some serious smiley face sticker action on their Achievement Board this week.

“I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend and bandmate,” said Doors guitarist Robby Krieger in a statement. “Ray was a huge part of my life and I will always miss him.”

I dunno, rock stars really aren’t supposed to make it to 74 to begin with. They’re supposed to teach us new and exciting ways to inject mind-altering substances into our bodies until no later than the age of 34, so as not to risk letting the whole thing start to become embarrassing. To wit: In an alternate reality a 46-year old Kurt Cobain is tirelessly writing jingles for Verizon as part of a cross-platform synergestic advertainment strategy. The fact that Manzarek got as old as he did without playing the “Light My Fire” solo to a hibachi in a Kingsford Charcoal commercial should be counted as a goddamn miracle.



Source: USA Today

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3.24.13: Sex Retreat Pioneer John Williamson – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 8:52 am May 7, 2013

JOHN_WILLIAMSONAlright, fine, I’ll admit this is making me pretty envious: Those linens look soft as hell. What are those, like, 600 thread count or something? That’s gotta feel like dragging your scrotum across a river of applesauce.


I try not to brag too much around here, but I’ve seen upwards of several women naked, in person. Most of them were even aware of it at the time, so I think it’s safe to say I have a very sophisticated attitude about sex. And it’s that sophistication that makes me eminently qualified to report on the death of John Williamson, who co-founded the controversial “free love” Sandstone Retreat with his wife in 1968, with the proper level of maturity.

Williamson actually died way back in March, but it seems that the press waited until last week to report on it. It was actually a pretty thoughtful approach, gradually easing us into the rather painful news, instead of just ramming the story down our throats, only caring about increasing circulation until they just carelessly spray ink all over our masthead. Wait, I said something about maturity back there, didn’t I? Shit. Alright, well… This sudden feeling of shame that I can’t seem to understand is really making me want to just ignore what just happened and move on. So let’s get Block Quote in here while I try to clean this place up.

[The Sandstone Retreat] offered seminars on human bonding, relationships and sexuality, but its Sandstone Retreat, where as many as 500 people would gather on weekends to frolic in the nude, swap spouses and engage in group sex, quickly made its existence in the bohemian canyon notorious.

After an effort to build a tribal community in Montana foundered, the couple moved to the San Francisco Bay area, then to Nevada. There they began to take in big cats whose owners wanted to get rid of them.

Huh. So I guess that old proverb is true: “It doesn’t matter if you’re the founder of a swinger’s resort or a frumpy spinster in her early 30s, you’re still gonna end up childless and living with a bunch of cats.” I had always just kinda assumed that was supposed to be metaphorical.

Source: Yahoo! News

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4.4.13: Film Critic Roger Ebert – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 5:14 pm April 5, 2013


ROGER_EBERTYou know, in ancient Roman times, thumbs up actually meant that the judged person was to be put to death, while thumbs down meant they had performed well and deserved to live. I guess meanings change over time, like when your girlfriend says she’s leaving you but it’s obvious that she means you should break into her new boyfriend’s house and threaten him with a tire iron. Message received, baby.


Film critic Roger Ebert is dead today, only two days after declaring that he would be putting his writing duties on hold to address his resurgent thyroid cancer. Genuine tragedy, or odious conspiracy by Rob Reiner to sneak a North sequel in while nobody’s watching the gate? Ugh. If there’s a North reference that doesn’t fall flat I haven’t found it yet. Let’s… let’s just do the block quote thing already. I’ll have something better to end on.

It would not be a stretch to say that Mr. Ebert was the best-known film reviewer of his generation, and one of the most trusted. The force and grace of his opinions propelled film criticism into the mainstream of American culture. Not only did he advise moviegoers about what to see, but also how to think about what they saw.

I like to believe we’ve started thinking more critically about our viewing options since Ebert’s success, and it’s really shifted the landscape for the better. Sometimes my friends and I will walk out of an Adam Sandler movie and debate for hours if Kevin James farting on Rob Schneider was a metaphor for the oppression of the working class in America and, if so, was it too subtle? I know, I know; Happy Madison Productions would rather we just focus on the transcendent narrative prowess and rich characterizations that are their hallmark, but you simply can’t prepare a feast for the senses and tut-tut us beggars for gorging a bit! Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go pick up the 1996 Chateau La Mondotte Saint Emilion I’ve purchased for tonight’s 2 Fast 2 Furious viewing party. To film!

Source: The NY Times

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3.28.13: Sabian Cymbals Founder Robert Zildjian – DEAD!

Filed under: Dead —James @ 10:57 am April 1, 2013

 ROBERT_ZILDJIANHey, it looks like they finally fired that Mr. Magoo guy. Seriously, who thought he was a good choice to work in a cymbal factory? Every day was like a goddamn indoor thunderstorm with him around.


Get ready to break some hard news to the third most important member of your Megadeth cover band, because Robert Zildjian, the founder of Sabian Cymbals, died last week at the age of 89. Sabian is, of course, not to be confused with infamous female masturbatory saddle the Sybian. That’s probably not a very common misunderstanding, but I just felt the need to make sure my lady readers were aware of how sensitive I am to their self-pleasuring needs. This blog is very feminist, deal with it.

Zildjian founded Sabian in 1981 after a legal battle with his brother, Armand, over their inheritance of the family business, Avedis Zildjian Co., a major cymbal maker. The companies remain competitors.

I’m really not sure what the big deal is here. Instant Rimshot is pretty much gonna put all of these companies out of business anyway. It’s all I ever use when people hire me to host their company roasts, and I never hear anyone complaining. Well, except for Tina in payroll, but if she didn’t want people making jokes about her abortion she shouldn’t have used her real name at Planned Parenthood. It’s like you’re asking people to find out, Tina!


Source: Billboard (Photo from this guy’s MySpace)

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