Saturday, December 31, 2011

Celebrity Death Brackets 2011, Part 3

For the complete starting 32, click here.

To see how we got to the Final Four, click here.

OK, sports fans, on this, the final day of 2011, let's see who nabs top honors as the Celebrity Death of the Year. It's been an intense competition with plenty of drama and surprises and...oh hell, these are dead famous people. They're beyond the excitement. It's not even an honor to be nominated at this point. So let's just take a closer look at our Final Four.

Peter Falk, Lieutenant Freaking Columbo

Peter Falk was one of those actors whose talent was easy to underestimate because he made it look so easy. When you think about the central premise of "Columbo" - an apparently bumbling detective catches murderers that the audience already has seen committing their crimes - not just any actor could pull it off, and make it interesting and brilliant, for 30 years. Of course, he was much more than just Columbo; check out his films with John Cassavetes and his work in Wings of Desire. Peter Falk told marvelous stories with the slightest of inflections and the subtlest of gestures. He brought great joy to his work, and his fans.

Joe Morello, Dave Brubeck's drummer, for Christ's sake

Some have expressed surprise that Joe Morello made it this far in the rankings. To them I say, suck it, it's my blog. Also that Mr. Morello was an amazing and inventive musician who kept time on some of my favorite jazz tunes ever. I likely would have little interest in jazz if it weren't for the Dave Brubeck Quartet, and for that the entire group deserves mention. Since Mr. Brubeck himself is still kickin' at 91, the place of honor here goes to Joe Morello.

Amy Winehouse, singer

When Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, I felt overwhelming anger that someone so young and so talented couldn't provide himself a vessel strong enough to stay intact. When Amy Winehouse died this year, I felt mostly sadness that yet another mortal shell had proved unworthy of the gifts it contained. Two sides of the same coin, I suppose. To say I was a huge fan of hers would be an overstatement. But it was hard not to admire that amazing voice and fear the obvious streak of self-destruction behind it. Tony Bennett, who recorded with her before her death, thought she was destined for greatness. That's an endorsement that carries some weight. She's in the Final Four because of the untapped potential she left on the table and the sparkling clues to that potential she left us before leaving far too soon.

Elizabeth Taylor, actor/activist

They say she was the most beautiful woman in the world. And, with the exception of my beautiful sister, I agree. Elizabeth Taylor was a star in every sense of the word: She was out there in the cosmos, outshining everyone. Besides being stunning, she was talented and generous and funny and chic and brave. She was a Teflon diva, someone who couldn't stay out of the tabloids to save her life but who never succumbed to scandal or ridicule. Because to the end, she was bigger than anything we could imagine her to be. They truly do not make celebrities from this mold any more.

With all due respect to the musicians on this list, it's our two deceased actors who go head-to-head in the Finals. Peter Falk and Elizabeth Taylor get the nod. And the champion - the Always Drunk Celebrity Death of the Year for 2011 - is...

Thanks, Liz, for a lifetime of wonderful memories and great performances. I'll bet you've got St. Peter wrapped around your little finger by now.

That's it, folks. Be safe in your revelries tonight. I hope you give 2011 a decent burial and go into 2012 with high hopes, clear eyes, and love in your heart. Have a drink for me - for the first time in many years, I'm on the wagon for New Year's Eve. It's a funny story, if by funny you mean well no, not really funny per se. Anyway, thanks for a great year, thanks for reading, and thanks for not calling me rude names. I love you all. Happy New Year!

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