Saturday, January 1, 2011

Who The Hell is Ke$ha?

Every year I stay up late to watch Dick Clark's ball drop. Maybe I was distracted by Ke$ha's declaration to Ryan Seacrest that her 2011 resolution was "not to be a douchebag", but I never saw the ball drop last night. I think that means she's a douchebag.

Happy New Year. Being naturally morbid, every New Year's Day I think to myself - who has just celebrated their last New Year's Day? That is, which celebrities out there don't realize it yet but they will die sometime during this next year? Of course, it doesn't just have to be celebrities: often I'll wonder, 'Is this it? Is this the last year for me?' I told you: morbid.

So, on this first day of another year that no doubt holds something bad in store, here's a look back on all of those who rung in the New Year 2010 - most not knowing it was their last New Year.

While his public career died over 50 years ago, author J.D. Salinger died on January 27, 2010 at the age of 91. That's a pretty good run, 91 years. Since he hasn't had to work in 50 of those years, I'd say that's a damned good run, indeed.

One of the oldest Klansmen in the country died, too. A United States Senator by hobby, racist Sen. Robert Byrd [D, W Va.] died on June 28, 2010 at the ancient age of 92. Yes, Salinger was also ancient - but no one's seen him since the 1950s. Byrd refused to go away. I'm not sure if he was buried in his Klan gear, although it would have been fitting [well, if not, I'm sure they could've taken it to a tailor to get it properly fitted].

Also in politics, one convicted and one convicted-overturned politician no longer have to worry about raising campaign cash. Former Sen. Ted Stevens [R, Alaska] died in a plane crash - the second of his life - on August 9, 2010 at the age of 86. Stevens - as I've written about before - was convicted in 2008 only to have it overturned the next year. Unfortunately for him, that was too late, because he'd already lost his 2008 reelection campaign. The old fashioned convicted pol - former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski [D, Ill.] - died two days later, on August 11, 2010 at the age of 82.

From the history/government department, President Kennedy's speechwriter and great Camelot propagandist Theodore Sorensen died on October 31, 2010 at the age of 82. Someone who declared himself 'in charge' - but who was not President - also died. Alexander Haig - who served his country with distinction as a military officer, presidential aide, and [to a lesser extent than in the previous roles] Secretary of State - died on February 20, 2010 at the age of 85. Just recently, diplomat Richard Holbrooke died, on December 13, 2010, at the age of 69. The woman who had the great misfortune to dedicate the best years of her life to a scoundrel like former Sen. John Edwards [D, N.C.] also lost her life; Elizabeth Edwards died on December 7, 2010 at the age of 61.

Participants in America's Civil Rights movement continue to disappear as those tumultuous years fade further into the past. Former head of the NAACP, Benjamin Hooks, died April 15, 2010 at the age of 85. [EDITOR"S NOTE: I'm definitely noting the pattern of dying in the mid-80s. If our average span of life in this country reaches 85, then those of us working today have about as much chance of seeing money left for our Social Security as we do seeing any of the people in this post appearing on Dancing with the Stars...although I think I just hit on a new TV show: Dancing with the Dead Stars!]. Another great Civil Rights leader, Dorothy Height - who led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years (1957-1997) - died on April 20, 2010 at the age of 98. One of the nine African American students who helped integrate Arkansas public schools in 1957, Jefferson Thomas, died September 5, 2010 at the age of 67. Finally, Ronald Walters - a pioneer in the Civil Rights movement who organized the sit-ins at drug store counters in Wichita, Kansas and Greensboro, North Carolina - died on September 10, 2010 at the age of 72.

Hollywood - as usual - provided the most noted deaths. From behind the camera, director and screenwriter Blake Edwards - whose works ranged from The Pink Panther to Days of Wine and Roses - died on December 15, 2010 at the age of 88. Director Arthur Penn - whose films included Bonnie and Clyde and The Miracle Worker - died on September 28, 2010; ironically, also at the age of 88. Another noteworthy death was that of producer Dino De Laurentiis [Serpico, Three Days of the Condor], who died on November 10, 2010 at the age of 91.

From in front of the camera, actor Tony Curtis [and his toupee], died on September 29, 2010 at the age of 85. Father of actress Jamie Lee Curtis, the Some Like it Hot star's real name was Bernard Schwartz. Good choice on the name-change, Tony. A sister of one of the great anti-Semites of our day died, when actress Lynn Redgrave died on May 2, 2010 at the age of 67. While her career took a hit when sister Vanessa rallied to the Palestinian Liberation Organization's cause in the 1970s and 1980s, Lynn still managed to maintain her career and her sanity. The movie Airplane! lost two of its central characters as Peter Graves died on March 14, 2010 at the age of 83; while Leslie Nielson died on November 28, 2010 at the age of 84.

From the world of music came the death of a legend: the incomparable Lena Horne died on May 9, 2010 at the age of 92. Teddy Pendergrass - whose career was largely destroyed after a horrific car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed - died early in the year on January 13, 2010 at the age of 58. The man who tried to turn Frank Sinatra into Fabian, producer Mitch Miller, died on July 31, 2010 at the age of 99. Since there is no category for Dead Food Producers, we'll slot Jimmy Dean here under music. The singer of "Big Bad John" died on June 13, 2010 at the age of 81.

Television - a medium that was popular from roughly 1950-2000 - also lost some from its family. Art Linkletter, the long-time host of Kids Say the Darndest Things, died on May 26, 2010 at the age of 97. The second Trapper John M.D., Pernell Roberts, died on January 24, 2010 at the age of 81. The white half of the dynamic interracial television paring in I Spy, Robert Culp, died on March 24, 2010 at the age of 79. In addition to his role with Bill Cosby on that show, Culp was a genius as Ray Romano's father-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond. Finally, nearly exactly 174 years after his death at The Alamo, Davy Crockett died again , this time with the passing of actor Fess Parker, who portrayed the legend in the miniseries Davy Crockett in 1955 [alongside co-star Buddy Ebsen for your trivia buffs]. Parker died on March 18, 2010 at the age of 85.

In sports, a number of legends passed. The man almost universally considered the greatest coach in the history of basketball, John Wooden, died on June 4, 2010 at the age of 99. Two baseball Hall of Famers died: manager Sparky Anderson - who captured World Series titles in both the National [Cincinnati Reds] and American Leagues [Detroit Tigers] - died on November 4, 2010 at the age of 76; and pitcher Bob Feller died on December 15, 2010 at the age of 92. A man who should be in the Hall of Fame, iconic Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, died on July 13, 2010 at the age of 80. While from the world of football, Hall of Famer George Blanda - whose unbelievable career lasted from 1949 to 1975 - died on September 27, 2010 at the age of 83.

Undoubtedly, I've missed folks. It was a long year, remember. And, as 2011 begins, we know that next year - assuming I'm not one of them - I'll be writing a blog post about those who are here today celebrating New Year's, unaware in most cases that it will be their last.

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