I have many odd fascinations; bizarre deaths, the 70’s, fabulous funerals, bovine beauty pageants, UFOs, Honey Boo Boo, harems, true crime tales and zombies to name a few. But with all of those to keep me entertained, I still find myself freakishly drawn to celebrity deaths. Even stranger is my need to turn their deaths into something that directly affects me. My love of the dead and famous is fierce and seems to have grown even stronger in the past week. Perhaps I’ve recently been triggered by the wealth of year-end retrospectives that were shown over and over last week in the hopes of reminding society of just who we’ve lost. Perhaps it’s the fact that as time ticks on and my better parts begin to sag with age, the greats from my youth are dropping like flies. Or perhaps I’m just some kind of whack-job that will eventually end up hosting tours of dead celebrity homes in Hollywood, but regardless of the reasons, I feel moved to offer up my year end ode to the top dead celebrities of my world for 2012, even if it is a week late.
Don Cornelius: Back in February when the news of Don’s demise hit, I was thrown back to my own years of sashaying down a make-shift soul train back in Iowa. For a visual of my antics in my grandma's living room, check it out again - Before There Was MTV, There Was Soul Train
Whitney Houston: I will admit that Whitney had a talent unlike many others, but I was never a big fan of her screechy crooning. Ok, there is probably somewhere poof of my bobbing along to a little “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” back in high school and the Bodyguard Soundtrack certainly served as backdrop to a large chunk of my life in the college dorm, but Whitney never fully won me over until she married Bobby. Bobby and Whitney’s reality show back in 2005 exposed their train wreck of a marriage and sucked this here classy gal right in. I really thought that when she finally kicked Bobby to the curb she was getting back on track but clearly, I was wrong. RIP Whitney.
Davy Jones: Yes, I was a young Monkee lover. Back in the early 80’s VH1 played the original episodes regularly and sucked in an entirely new generation of crazed adolescents with a thing for shaggy haired boys in striped pants. (Ironically my husband the Turk is not shaggy haired and owns no striped pants but he has chicken legs that would rock them if he was so inspired.) But even before then, Davy won my heart when he serenaded Marsha Brady before escorting her to her prom. “Girl, look what you’ve done to me. Me and my whole world. Girl, you brought the sun to me with your smile, you did it girl. And it’s good to feel that way girl. Thank you girl.” What a wordsmith that Davy Jones.
Dick Clark: While I related more with Soul Train, my ridiculously young mother often flipped on a little Bandstand to serve as the soundtrack to her Saturday cleaning. She was hip but not hip enough for Soul Train so I succumbed and got my occasional groove on to the tunes of Bandstand. I just remember thinking, “Who is this incredibly nerdy white dude and why do they let him host this show?” He didn’t have the cool of Don Cornelius nor did he have a groovy catch phrase, but regardless, he was an innovator and he introduced me to Bon Jovi long before they were cool.
Adam Yauch: The simple fact that a Beastie Boy could die of something virtually unrelated to the wild party-life of an aging rapper utterly blew my mind. Back in ’86 I spent every Friday night awaiting the three unattractive young men clad in ridiculous rapper gear (back then white boys in baggy pants and giant gold chains were still considered ridiculous) to appear on my late night television screen and issue that call, “You gotta fight, for your right, to paaaaarrrtayyyy!” Every week the Beastie Boys were one of the top acts on Friday Night Videos and every week at 11:00 I was there to sing along- too young too earn any right to party but still utterly willing to fight for my right. And in the years to follow, they just kept getting better. Party on MCA.
Donna Summer: When Donna died, I wept. Read all about it. Donna Summer and a Few Hundred Gay Men Made Me Fabulous.
Robin Gibb: I desperately longed to be a Gibb. They needed me. Though they all sang like girls, they had no actual girls and in my young opinion, they desperately needed one. Not to mention that I wanted to live in Australia and loved polyester pants – we were a match made in heaven. Robin was my favorite next to Andy but Andy didn’t count if you were measuring Bee Gees. I liked Robin’s hair. Barry was too hairy and that other one was creepy looking, like someone's dad showing way too much chest hair. Robin also always had cool glasses. I'm certain that if the internet had existed back in ’78 when I was determined to become a Bee Gee and I had the ability to wage an appropriate social media campaign, I would have been the 4th Bee Gee.
Sherman Hemsley: I was a chubby white girl on a farm in Iowa, yet for the much of the 70’s and early 80’s I begged my father to watch only two shows – Good Times and the Jeffersons. For many years I wanted to be JJ Walker then I moved on to George Jefferson. I would strut through our house swinging my harms behind me shouting “Weezy! Weezy!” I was short, stout and mouthy- it only made sense that George was my go-to role model. All these years later I can still pull off an uncanny George Jefferson and I never met a Louise in my life that I didn’t call, “Weezy!” at least once.
Alex Karras: Webster. You were Webster’s dad. What is not to love?
Gary Collins: Hour Magazine was the precursor to Oprah. I hope you remember that Ms. O. Where was your tribute to Gary Collins in O Magazine. Exactly. You are a selfish woman Oprah.
Larry Hagman: Oh Larry. When the news came that you passed on to the grand Southfork in the sky, I wept. I wept as if my own personal mortal enemy had died. I can’t imagine that I will ever find another that I will be able to hate in the way that I hated you. Imagine my joy when they remade Dallas and you were the same evil bastard you were 25 years before. Oh JR, I spent an entire summer of my childhood choreographing crime scenes in the backyard hoping to determine who shot you before the season resumed in September. I hate you JR, I will always truly, truly hate you. You will be forever missed.
Jack Klugman: My first older man. Quincy showed me that those pimply faced boys were nothing compared to a salt and pepper haired man of mystery. Long before Dr. Oz, you made scrubs the look of a hard working sex symbol. Once a week, my grandmother and I would kick back in our marabou sling-backs and satin robes, munching popcorn and hoping to solve the mystery of the bikini-clad hooker’s death before my bedtime came around. While other Medical Examiners would simply pack the body off to the funeral home, Quincy would dig deeper until he found, “foul play.” Quincy, you paved the way for CSI, NCIS and all those other cleverly lettered shows that now dominate the airways and live on in reruns for decades. I hope that in the end, someone thoroughly examined your corpse for signs of “foul play.”
There were so many others that passed on to greater things in 2012 that I couldn’t mention them all. But to all of those mentioned above, fret not, I will add each and every one to my soon to be compiled map of dead celebs homes. As for 2013- hang on Bobby Ewing and JJ Walker, the Grim Reapers is closer than ever.