We lost a lot of celebrities this summer, some of whom passed quietly away to whatever awaits us after all is said and done, and others whose deaths were as outrageous or mysterious as their lives. Some were clearly at the end of their mortal coil, others were rumored to have been shuffled off prematurely. Here, Iíll commemorate just a few.
On June 25, not two hours after Michael Jacksonís death was announced, one of the guys I was working with got a text that said when Farrah Fawcett died earlier that morning, St. Peter granted her one wish. She wished that all the children of the world be safe, so he snatched up Michael Jackson. Tasteless jokes aside, itís worth considering that perhaps the King of Pop truly died back in the late 80ís, when the strain of being raised from his early childhood as a celebrity caught up to him. You never know, though, the whole thing might have been faked as a marketing scheme to sell posthumous albums and turn Neverland Ranch into a public theme park, though the fuzz is currently conducting a manslaughter investigation of his physician. If nothing else, his death had MTV playing videos again for at least a little while.
Even more shrouded in mystery than Jacksonís alleged overdose is the death of David Carradine of ìKung Fu” and ìKill Bill” fame. Various faked photos and reports have circulated about his death in Bangkok while working on a new film ìStretch.” Photos vary from him with a shoelace tied around his neck to hanging with his hands behind his back. Rumors about the cause of death range from autoerotic asphyxiation to killed by ìlady boys” who would rob anyone and didnít realize he was a celebrity. Iím leaning toward the rumor that he was assassinated by monks who begrudged him for bringing Shao Lin secrets to the western world.
The man who will be most missed among this summerís losses is not one who was famous for movies, music or TV shows, but whose work informed our culture more than any other television star. I am, of course, referring to that advertising icon, that veritable demi-god of direct-response sales, the venerable William Darrel ìBilly” Mays, Jr. You know, the OxiClean guy. Billy shouted us about the merits of many valuable tools that could change our lives, like the Awesome Auger, the EZ Crunch Bowl, and the Ding King. In the end, it seemed his greatest asset, his penchant for shouting everything he said, was his greatest enemy, as Billyís autopsy revealed evidence of hypertensive heart disease. Maybe if he relaxed a bit off camera, heíd still be shouting at us today. Weíll miss your charm, Billy. The ShamWow guy will never be able to replace you.
Weep no longer for the dead, my fellow students, for the work of all those famous people that died this summer lives on through us, their loving fans and the DVDs and other merchandise they left behind. I myself will be building a shrine held together by Mighty Putty.
Marten is an Arts and Entertainment editor for the Voice. He can be reached for comment at MDollinger10@wooster.edu