James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, February 21, 2005

Celebrities die in Threes

That was the urban legend. Sandra Dee, John Raitt, and Hunter Thomspon can't hardly be called A-list, but the reality is that this is the typical balance. If you are as well-known as John Raitt, or, say, the great CSO conductor Georg Solti (who died at the same time as Princess Diana and Mother Theresa), you are a celebrity. If your death is newsworthy, you are a celebrity.

The greatest trifecta was Johnny Cash, John Ritter, and Warren Zevon. They averaged out to B-list celebrities. Today's news brings us C-list celebrities. But far too often, this "dying in threes" doesn't materialize. Ronald Reagan and Ray Charles died in the same week. Did there need to be another? I don't recall trifectas when Jimmy Stewart, Katherine Hepburn, or Bob Hope died. Or Johnny Carson.

The irony is that celebrities people would genuinely miss, like Ritter or Jerry Orbach, were actually working on television at the time of their death. But they didn't attain the level of fame that, say, Elizabeth Taylor attained. So her death, when it happens, will become a bigger deal, even though she hadn't made a movie in nearly forty years.

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