The Dead Pool
It’s Wednesday night and I’m lying on the couch bored out of my mind. Seeking diversion I flip through the television channels. Nothing good is on. I activate the on-screen menu and tab over to the pay-for-view movie section. Nothing there either.
When in doubt about what to watch, my advice is to stick with the classics. I notice my my television provider’s offering a selection of Clint Eastwood movies so I toggle over to that screen and view my choices. Unforgiven‘s a great movie, but heavy cinematic cuisine for this late hour. The same goes for Million Dollar Baby. I look for some lighter Clint fare, but Every Which Way but Loose is not being offered. Dirty Harry‘s among the choices but I watched that on Netflix a few weeks ago. I’d be in the mood for Magnum Force or The Enforcer but they’re not on the list either. The Dead Pool, the last movie featuring the iconic San Francisco cop Harry Callahan, is my only choice. I seem to remember that movie was the weakest installment in the series, but I press SELECT anyway.
Made in 1988, the movie was as bad as I remembered it. Clint seemed to be dialing in his performance, probably because he was disgusted with the dialogue. Still, it was kind of fun to watch to watch Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey hamming it up in some early roles. Besides, the movie’s romantic interest, the reddish-blond Patricia Clarkson, was a supreme hottie back then.
The movie’s plot is simplistic and not very well thought out. Several San Francisco celebrities end up dead and, as the movie plods on, it’s revealed that all the victims were on a list called “The Dead Pool.” The list started as a game played by members of a film crew headed by a volatile horror film director named Peter Swan – played with a whiny English accent by a pony-tailed Neeson. The premise is simple. The crew picked several celebrities they thought would die during the year and made a list. The person whose list had the most fatalities won the game. Of course you hear the old saw about “celebrities always dying in threes,” several times during the movie. But when Callahan’s name appears on the list the laconic inspector straps on his .44 Magnum and starts handing out some heavy caliber whoop ass. In the end it’s just some schizod horor movie fanboy who thinks he’s the real Peter Swan trying to make his sick mark on the world. (Confused yet?) And even though he comes close to killing Dirty Harry with a model car rigged with plastic explosives, Callahan eventually impales the one-dimensional killer with a whale harpoon cannon while uttering the words, “You’re shit out of luck.” Not exactly “Do you feel lucky, punk?” or “Go ahead, make my day.” And lets not get into the whole whale harpoon as penis analogy. I guess Clint needed the money.
As the electric synthesized music fades and the credits stop rolling, I shut of the T.V. and go to bed. As I slip under the covers I think about the old adage that celebrities always die in threes. Ed McMahon, Johnny Carson’s longtime sidekick, died the day before. As sleep clouds my mind I idly wonder who’s next. The next day brings the answer.
As I sip coffee while watching the morning news I learn Farrah Fawcett died. Even though her passing was expected the news still comes as a shock. Back in 1976 I thought girls were gross creatures who lived to pull my hair and give me purple nurples, so I didn’t have Farrah’s famous poster on my wall. But I remember watching Charlie’s Angels as a kid and it’s weird when someone from your childhood memories dies. When Mr. Rogers passed away I was a wreck. When Roger Moore goes I’ll be inconsolable for a week.
Late that afternoon I’m at the dog park with Buster, my joint custody pooch. As I’m chatting with a dog owner about how Buster would never like going to the beach, a lady sitting on a picnic bench shouts “Michael Jackson just died.”
Indicative of the wired world we live in, all the dog owners, including myself, whip our our internet connected cell phones to confirm the news for ourselves Sure enough, Michael Jackson, the “King of Pop,” is dead of cardiac arrest at the age of fifty.
“Who gives a shit?” one of the dog owners, a burly man in his mid-thirties, says. “He was a child molester.”
“Don’t be a jerk,” the man’s girlfriend says. “You shouldn’t talk ill of the dead.”
“I won’t miss him.”
Buster starts yipping and clawing at my pant’s leg. That’s his way of saying he’s had enough social interaction with his fellow canines. I leash Buster up, get into my car, and head home. Of course all the radio stations are talking about Michael Jackson and playing his music. Many of the DJ’s talk in somber tones about how great Jackson was and how they were hoping his upcoming concert series in the UK would be his ticket back to the big time. I also remember that these very same DJ’s made fun of the singer’s epidermal adventures, made crude observations about his sexuality, and had great fun skewering the man over his legal and financial troubles. Fame is a two headed motherfucking demon bitch.
I was never a Michael Jackson fan. His music never did much for me. But during my high school and college years in the 80’s Jackson’s impact was immense. Thriller was a monster hit, and even though some of my prep school chums would be loathe to admit it, many of them ran out and bought off-the-rack copies of the cheesy red leather jacket Jackson wore in the video. The Eighties were to me what the Fifties were to my parents, so hearing a major figure from that era died is quite a shock. Besides, the man was only fifty. That’s nine years older than me.
As I pull into my driveway I remember watching The Dead Pool the night before and ponder that maybe there’s something to the old maxim that celebrities die in threes. Ed McMahon, Farrah, and Jackson all died within 48 hours. I’m sure some statistician will explain this coincidence away by tomorrow, but part of me wonders if there’s some kind of Dead Pool operating in our universe. Besides, one day all our names will be on that list.
And then we’ll be shit out of luck.