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.

37 thoughts on “The Dead Pool”

  1. Suzanne says:

    “Fame is a two headed motherfucking demon bitch.”

    SO true.

  2. Suzanne says:

    Oh and…


    and second!

  3. DABCT says:

    In all cases it’s a loss of talent that we all enjoyed. Sorry to see them go.

  4. Jan says:

    Emily Dickenson wrote,

    Fame is a bee.
    It has a wing.
    Ah too, it has a sting.

    Godspeed, Michael Jackson. Rest in peace.

  5. karen says:

    you should really let people know when you’re going to give the whole movie away- even if the movie is terrible!

  6. Debbie Gibson says:

    I was deeply emotional at Farrah Fawcett’s death and shocked but not suprised at Michael Jackson’s. In trying to find a good picture of Michael to post, their weren’t any! Thanks for the write. Now I know not to watch the Dead Pool. Did you ever watch the Serial Killer?

  7. Debbie Gibson says:

    I don’t care if I hear the whole movie. I usually forget it before I watch the movie anyway and while I watch it; it’s like de ja vu.

  8. Amy says:

    Thanks for the Roger Moore reference! No one ever understands when I say how much I loved him as Bond. They always give me the Connery argument. Yes, I hear you, but Moore was exactly the right Bond for the time, my time, and I will always love his smooth, wry delivery.

  9. Vi | Maximizing Utility says:

    I loved how you so seamlessly incorporated all three deaths in this post and tying it all together with The Dead Pool. It’s not a movie I’ve ever watched, but I truly appreciate your writing and ability to string all these events together in a simple and meaningful way.

  10. Cate says:

    Thanks for the post. It is so good to have you back on a regular basis. I miss you when you’re away.

  11. Liddle-Oldman says:

    My assumption about why things happen in threes, including clebrity deaths — we count one, two, three, nod knowingly, and then start again.

    Sky Saxon (lead guitar for The Seeds) went yesterday as well — not in the same class, perhaps, but a once well-known musician nonetheless. So, this time celebrities went in fours — but we have no meme to process that, so we skate over the extra death.

    That’s my theory, at least.

  12. Anonymous says:


  13. fuzzarelly says:

    I don’t remember how I found your blog, but I want to say how much I enjoy your blogging voice. Like Vi wrote earlier, you were able to tie the three deaths together with a movie in a neat manner.

    Also, after not hearing you for awhile, I am glad you are back on a regular basis.

  14. CM says:

    Actually, with Carradine so recent we are now at number 4 so we should expect 2 more very soon.

  15. Rachel says:

    My husband and I were talking about the trio thing yesterday also. But then we wondered if David Carradine might count, which would make this four Or if Michael Jackson and Farrah Faucett counted as one becaue they occured on the same day. Superstition is a mysterious thing.

    Thanks for another great post. Always looking forward to more!

  16. Søren says:

    Believe it or not, you can make a statistical argument that celebrities die 2.718 at a time …

  17. Jack says:

    I think Little-Oldman has a little but new point there.

  18. Scully says:

    My personal feeling is that whatever contribution Jackson made was negated with his later ‘troubles’ involving acts against children. There’s a lot I can overlook – this however, is not one of them.

    I may be alone in this – but good riddance to Mr. Jackson.

  19. David says:

    The Dead Pool is notable for the best car-chase scene ever — every Hollywood car-chase visual cliche enacted with that 14″ RC car.

  20. Aerin says:

    I actually posted a note to my Facebook talking about how dishonest I feel all these memorials are, and how most of them seem to wrap up their eulogies around the mid-’90s. Michael Jackson was a trainwreck, but he seemed comfortable with who he was, and simply ignoring the person he became instead of the person we remember more fondly does him a deep disservice. The Michael Jackson everyone’s eulogizing died about ten years ago.

  21. manglish says:

    “But I remember watching Charlie’s Angels as a kid and it’s weird when someone from your childhood memories dies.” – DITTO!

  22. dane says:

    due to the fact that michael jackson is 99% plastic, he will be melted down and formed into lego blocks so that little boys can play with HIM for a change.

    and yahoo had the reader’s digest list of “13 things your waiter won’t tell you” excerpted from your book. was fun to read again.

  23. dane says:

    –“In all cases it’s a loss of talent that we all enjoyed. Sorry to see them go.”–

    not sure i agree with that. farrah was nice to look at back in the day, but i don’t really remember any “talent”. ed had NO talent that i could recall. mike? yeah, he had talent.

  24. Kayte says:

    When I was in my early teens I witnessed three members of my family die within a month. My grandmother, who was inclined to frequently tell me secrets about senses she had that no one else did, pulled me aside. She told me to pay attention to death- that people always pass in three’s. I listened for reasons as simple as loving my Grandma and reasons as complex as her knowing that someone was walking up the long hidden driveway before they passed the trees. When you pointed out the same thing- I jumped. I didn’t dare mention the idea to anyone in fear that they would think me as crazy as they thought her. But it does not fail. In my world, we lost Harry Kalas- Philles broadcaster, Gara Papa- newsreporter, and M.J. In my personal life I lost an old friend, a coworker, and a family member.
    There is a pattern to life and death… and it always hits in three’s.

  25. Sumsky says:

    I don’t know where I first heard it…..almost a given that death comes in 3’s……Maybe an old wives tale….none the less…….. Farrah,Michael,and Ed were a big part in alot of our lives……They shared who they were and what they wanted to give in their own way….May they rest in peace……

  26. Hannah-Moon says:

    So Blockbuster is doing a promotion where you can pay $10 and get unlimited movie rentals for a week. The problem is, you can only take one out at a time. Well, I made a list of movies and for the last four days it has consumed my life. I’ve watched four movies a day so far, and I’m really amusing the Blockbuster employees by coming in so many times a day.

    No shortage of movies…unfortunately, there’s no Clint on my list.

  27. april says:

    Ha I noticed the 3 of them died too. Great minds think alike I suppose. Mike was a great entertainer but he was also a pedophile and I wonder if “his” kids are feeling more relived than sad today.

  28. dane says:

    and now where does billy mays fit in?

  29. ShaolinTiger says:

    Yah so many people have been so hypocritical about this whole MJ thing, when he was alive they were putting him down, accusing him of vile things and demonizing him.

    Now he’s dead, he’s the greatest thing that ever happened to music and curse you if you say anything bad about him.

  30. Cherry Hatrick says:

    I feel sorry for Farrah Fawcett – she’s the new Mother Theresa. Oh yeah, Mother Theresa died the same day as Princess Diana.

  31. Simon says:

    Possibly inspired by the rule of 3, there was a rumour created on the same day that Jackson and Fawcett died that Jeff Goldblum (the environmentalist hacker from Independence Day?) had also died on set.

    It wasn’t true – he’s still alive – but it goes to show that when celebrities are dropping like flies, people start thinking about who’s next.

  32. Veron says:

    Waiter, I’m glad that while you weren’t a Michael Jackson fan, you didn’t chastise him like a few of the commentators here did.

    It’s sad that so many people still believe that he was a child molester. It just goes to show how easily we get influenced by the media and believe everything that is reported. Headlines often get sensationalised and truths bent or untold because this way they can sell more copies.

    Did he touch any kid inappropriately? The answer lies in this 5-min video:

  33. Jay says:

    Ed McMahon??? Naaaaah, no way. Jackson and Fawcett were big, McMahon was just a local nonentity. Nobody outside the US would have an idea who he was.

  34. Booply says:

    It was actually four, the oxyclean spokesman Billy Mays also passed away that week.

  35. Melissa says:

    Hey Waiter. Long time fan, first time commenter. Just to clarify, Patricia Clarkson was a hottie when she was 10 years younger than you. But now that she’s ten years older than you? Blech? That’s interesting.

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