Thursday, December 29, 2011

Celebrity Death Brackets 2011, Part 1

You can't let the year wind down without taking stock of the well-known people who died. This is the creepiest thing we as a culture do every December, and it brings us together as a people. A people consumed by celebrity, obsessed with death, and addicted to the cheap sentimental adrenaline of mourning people we didn't know personally from a safe distance.

But yeah, we're going to do it here at Always Drunk, too. I'm no better than anyone else, and if I can prove it by operating at the level of the lowest common denominator, I'm game.

But I'm going to do it a little differently. I'm not just going to celebrate the lives or mark the passing of prominent individuals. I'm going to stick 'em in brackets NCAA-style and make them compete for my favor in death. Dance, celebrities, dance for me. Bailan como el muerte en el viento.

Sorry. I didn't have lunch, and I'm a little giddy. It will pass.

Anyway, I pared down the list of 2011's dearly departed to 32 names, matched them up, and put them through their paces of regard and respect. Mine, of course. Everyone is entitled to bracket his own contenders. That's what the free market is all about. And working with only 32 dead celebrities, I had to make some tough choices. Dolores Hope didn't make the cut, and neither did Smokin' Joe Frazier or Len Lesser, who played Uncle Leo on "Seinfeld." But I think I have a good field here for your consideration. Respect to all, and may the best stiff win.

Let's take a look at our brackets:

Kim Jong Il, North Korean dictator
Osama bin Laden, leader of Al Qaida
In a year studded with the welcome deaths of myriad big-name oppressor bastards, I don't think any loss was bigger or more roundly hailed than Osama. But he never appeared in marionette form in a major motion picture, and besides I'm not letting that asshole win anything, so fruitcake Kim takes the win.
Winner: Kim Jong Il

Sol Saks, television producer, creator of "Betwitched"
Sherwood Schwartz, television producer, creator or "Gilligan's Island"
I love me some Elizabeth Montgomery, but Sherwood Schwartz is the guy responsible for the musical version of Hamlet as performed by Bob Denver and Jim Backus. Not to mention "The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan's Island."
Winner: Sherwood Schwartz

Harry Morgan, actor
Peter Falk, actor
It's Col. Potter vs. Columbo. Love 'em both. But when you toss in The In-Laws, Murder by Death, and The Princess Bride, and the fact that I didn't have to sit through preachy Alan Alda monologues to enjoy his, Peter Falk wins by a glass eyeball.
Winner: Peter Falk

Geraldine Ferraro, first female U.S. Vice President candidate
Betty Ford, widow of Gerald Ford
Both made enormous contributions to society, and both were intelligent, gracious women. Still, in terms of the personal impact of their respective legacies, I'm much more likely to check into the Betty Ford Clinic someday than I am to run for Vice President of the United States.
Winner: Betty Ford

Andrew Gold, singer/songwriter
Gerry Rafferty, singer/songwriter
Icons of laid-back 70s pop. Unfortunately, Andrew Gold recorded two of my least favorite songs on the planet: "Lonely Boy" and "Thank You for Being a Friend." On the other hand, Gerry Rafferty recorded two of my most favorite: "Stuck in the Middle with You" (as part of Stealer's Wheel) and "Baker Street." Rafferty's personal story is also enormously interesting, sad, and compelling. And I really, really hate "Lonely Boy."
Winner: Gerry Rafferty

Suze Rotolo, onetime girlfriend of Bob Dylan
Barry Feinstein, rock photographer
I like this bracket. Here we have two people who were enormously influential on the history of rock and roll without actually being musicians. Suze Rotolo was Dylan's muse early in his career and appeared on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. Barry Feinstein shot myriad legendary album covers, including Janis Joplin's Pearl, Gram Parsons' Grievous Angel, and Dylan's own The Times They Are A-Changin'. I owed Suze a shoutout because I feel you can never underestimate the power of a good muse, but Feinstein's body of work is stunning (check out a tiny sample at his website here).
Winner: Barry Feinstein

Bil Keane, cartoonist
Cheetah, chimpanzee
Yeah, this is a little strange. Bil Keane of course created "The Family Circus," that endearing, horribly unfunny single-panel cartoon about a family of disgusting little children and their resentful parents. Cheetah was the ape who appeared in the early Tarzan movies and lived (if you believe the stories) for 80 freaking years. I mean absolutely no disrespect to Mr. Keane or his family, but I laughed more at Cheetah's antics and thought he was a better artist (see below).
Winner: Cheetah

Joe Morello, jazz drummer
Snooky Young, trumpeter
Joe Morello was the drummer for the Dave Brubeck Quartet during its heyday. That's him on "Take Five" and "Unsquare Dance." Snooky Young was a big-band hornblower before playing for many years in Doc Severinsen's Tonight Show Orchestra. Both amazing musicians. But I have a soft spot for drummers.
Winner: Joe Morello

"Macho Man" Randy Savage, pro wrestler turned actor
Charles "Bubba" Smith, pro football player turned actor
Both awesome, but it all comes down to the nicknames, doesn't it?
Winner: "Macho Man" Randy Savage

Mikey Walsh, bassist
Gerard Smith, bassist
Two talented musicians dead before their time. Mikey Walsh played bass for Weezer during the band's Green Album glory days. He quit when he had a nervous breakdown and devoted himself to an art career. Gerard Smith played incredible bass for TV on the Radio, which was an integral part of the band's sound. Both are great losses, but Gerard Smith was still at his craft and probably had decades of brilliance ahead of him.
Winner: Gerard Smith

Amy Winehouse, singer
Yvette Vickers, actress
I matched these two up because their deaths were both very sad. The phenomenally talented Amy Winehouse joined the 27 Club by finally succeeding in drinking herself to death after years of substance abuse. Yvette Vickers starred in 1950s B-movies, most notably Attack of the 50-Foot Woman. When her body was found in her California home, she had been dead, unnoticed, for as long as a year. Sad.
Winner: Amy Winehouse

Patrice O'Neal, comedian
Charlie Sheen, train wreck
Ironically, just a few months before he died of a stroke, stand-up comic Patrice O'Neal skewered Charlie Sheen in a legendary performance at the latter's roast. Charlie Sheen, meanwhile...oh, wait, he ended up not actually dying this year.

Who would have thought?
Winner (by default): Patrice O'Neal

Nick Ashford, singer/songwriter/producer
Jerry Leiber, songwriter/producer
This one is very, very tough. Nick Ashford, with his wife Valerie Simpson, wrote soul classics like "Let's Go Get Stoned" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Jerry Leiber, with his writing partner Mike Stoller, wrote rock and roll classics like "Hound Dog" and "Kansas City." I have to give Mr. Leiber just a few bonus points for co-writing "Stand by Me."
Winner: Jerry Leiber

Christopher Hitchens, writer
Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder
This is the bracket of guys whose deaths apparently meant a hell of a lot more to other people than they did to me. I find the extensive and ingratiating coverage of their respective deaths more than a little annoying. But at least in the case of Steve Jobs, I had fucking heard of him.
Winner: Steve Jobs

Jeff Conaway, actor
Annette Charles, actor
Two stars of the 1978 movie Grease left us this year. Jeff Conaway played Kenickie and went on to star in "Taxi" and become a hopeless drug addict whose decline we all uncomfortably witnessed on reality TV. Annette Charles played Cha Cha DiGregorio, and by all accounts led a pleasant and productive life until she passed away in August. But that's not what captures the celebrity death bracket.
Winner: Jeff Conaway

Elizabeth Taylor, actor
Dolores Fuller, actor
Obviously, Elizabeth Taylor was a huge movie star, an AIDS activist, a style icon, and a lady who really liked to collect jewelry and ex-husbands. Dolores Fuller was director Ed Wood's girlfriend and starred in his Glen and Glenda and other awful films. But Ms. Fuller damn near takes this bracket because she also wrote "Do the Clam" for the Elvis Presley movie Girl Happy, which is more than Elizabeth Taylor can say.

Rest in peace, Ms. Fuller.
Winner: Elizabeth Taylor

OK. That makes our Celebrity Death Brackets Sweet 16 as follows:

Kim Jong Il vs. Sherwood Schwartz

Peter Falk vs. Betty Ford

Gerry Rafferty vs. Barry Feinstein

Cheetah vs. Joe Morello

"Macho Man" Randy Savage vs. Gerard Smith

Amy Winehouse vs. Patrice O'Neal

Jerry Lieber vs. Steve Jobs

Jeff Conaway vs. Elizabeth Taylor

All right, people, place your bets. Tomorrow we take it down to the Final Four. Who will win? Who will lose? Who will still be dead? Well, all of them, actually. But come back tomorrow anyway!

1 comment:

  1. Here are my elite 8:


    After that, it gets ugly.


You're thinking it, you may as well type it. The only comments you'll regret are the ones you don't leave. Also, replies to threads make puppies grow big and strong.