2008 Deaths — Those Who Will and Won’t Be Missed
December 29, 2008 | Lists
It’s customary when marking the end of another year to take time to reflect on all that’s happened over the past 12 months — the environmental disasters, wars, and celebrity break-ups that kept us patronizing the mainstream media like the self-loathing John who’s found a call girl particularly adept at delivering a verbal dressing down. And of course, there’s the yearly round-up of those who won’t be here next time roll call at the Breathing Society of Earth is taken. Yes, the famous — beloved, despised, and silently tolerated — who left us over the past year.
Well as a public service, we are going to save you from having to wait for that somber moment during the Oscars when they play Beethoven over footage from the life and times of Gregoire, Africa’s oldest chimpanzee, and offer you our 2008 Death round-up. First, those we will miss without tongue in cheek, but with bottle in hand (click on name for Shark Guys obit).
George MacDonald Fraser: The year got off to a miserable start — even worse than it normally does following a New Year’s hangover — with the news that George MacDonald Fraser had died. His ballsy, skillful and hilarious writing will be missed. These days book series tend to be for children, but Fraser’s signature character Flashman spent more time in brothels than he did castles and the series of books based on his exploits during Victoria-era Britain make for damn entertaining reads.
George Carlin: The groundbreaking comedian who went to war with the gormless unquestioning couch potato, we’ll miss Carlin’s riffing on the absurdities of life, particularly unquestioning faith. (He also added a nice layer of irony to parents stuck watching the Thomas The Tank Engine series when he hosted that program for a season).
Paul Newman was among those who died this year who we didn’t blog about. He gave the movies its coolest pool hustler in Fast Eddie Felson and played the role of hardened washed-up hockey tough in Slap Shot so well that he brought the locker room lingo home with him. “Ever since Slap Shot, I’ve been swearing more,” he said. “I knew I had a problem one day when I turned to my daughter and said, ‘Would you please pass the fucking salt?”
Far more unexpected than any of these, of course, was the death of the talented actor Heath Ledger.
But we’re starting to get a bit smashed and sentimental from all the toasts we’re raising to these people whose absence diminishes our world. What about all those whose deaths nobody but their immediate relatives — barring a trust fund — would mourn? This past year also saw a good number of right tossers get flushed out into that great sewer system in the sky. These are folks not worth dirtying hankies over. They say it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, but we disagree as they are far less likely than the living to sue you or kick your ass. Put on some comfortable shoes, because we have a bit of grave-dancing to do:
THOSE WHO WON’T BE MISSED
Jesse Helms: Bidding Helms farewell, Christopher Hitchens called him both “a senile racist buffoon” and a “venomous hick”, and that seems about right. He campaigned against the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and in the early 1970s took a Senate seat that he would use for the next 30 years to attempt to quash any piece of legislation deemed progressive that passed in front of him — he went on a 16-day filibuster in an attempt to block the bill establishing Martin Luther Day — and spread his bigotry over to homosexuals for good measure. Oh, did we mention that 2008 also saw the election of Barack Obama to the presidency? So long, Jesse.
Yves St. Laurent: Alright, we’re not really sure that this guy merits inclusion on this list. He seems to have been a respectable enough sort according to Wiki, but certainly a guy who popularized handbags as expensive as Volkswagens deserves some subterranean stick?
Bobby Fischer: In 1993, a movie was released called “Searching For Bobby Fischer“, well chances are they would have called off the hunt if they knew what kind of a screw-loose tinfoil-hat-wearing nutter was at the end of it. Bobby Fischer was America’s greatest chess player, but in later life he was also a kook. He rejoiced in the 9/11 attacks and became the sort of intensely paranoid nutter who would blame abundant nose hair on a Zionist conspiracy.
Adi Da: Shortly after we published our list of the Top 10 Horniest Cult Leaders, #3 on that list — Adi Da, Da Free John, or any other of the innumerable names that Franklin Albert Jones used to get laid — went to that big snake-oil salesman convention in the sky. We’re sure though that others will pick up where he left off and carry on in his proud tradition of spinning mystical gibberish in the hopes of liberating the earthly clothes of the gullible.
Suharto: In 2004, former Indonesian dictactor Suharto topped Transparency International’s ALL-TIME list of corrupt world leaders. This is not as surprising when you consider that he had 32 years at the golden teat, ruling Indonesia with an iron fist and wreaking a hell in East Timor from which it is still recovering. He was credited with modernizing Indonesia, and indeed, reports are that the nightlife in Jakarta is great, but when you think that the coup that brought him to power cost nearly half-a-million lives in an anti-communist pogrom, well we can’t say we hope to see his likes again.