Unmasking the Hollywood Mortality Conspiracy

(Originally ran on September 29th, 2003)

This just in: celebrities dying at alarming rates!

It seems like every time I see the MSN homepage these days, somebody famous is dead. A while back it was Katharine Hepburn. The Barry White kicked the bucket. Bob Hope died and left a gap that may never be filled. A couple of weeks ago it was Johnny Cash, John Ritter, and Warren Zevon. Then the Maytag guy died.

Now I hear that Robert Palmer (that guy that was in all of the MTV videos with the girl clones) is dead too. What's going on here? What's with this whole mortality thing?

Sounds like a conspiracy to me.

Now, I realize that a large portion of my audience won't know who Warren Zevon or Katharine Hepburn are. Most of you will remember Barry White as the big sexy bearded guy, and Gordon Jump (Maytag-guy) from Singles Ward, but you're just going to have to trust me: something is up.

This whole situation reminds me of when I was in the fourth grade and the Transformers movie came out. Back then, I was a toy connoisseur, having mastered the likes of Star Wars, GI Joe, He-Man, and even M.A.S.K. But for some reason, I never saw the Transformers movie, and had to hear about it at school.

What my friends told me was horrifying. They told me that all the characters died. Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, all gone. They were either blown up or "re-born" as new characters.

New characters, with new names, features, and styles.

Years later, I realized that this was one of the greatest marketing cons of all time. The folks at Hasbro decided that everyone had already bought all of the old characters, and they needed a way to introduce some new ones.

But they didn't just introduce a few new ones; they brought in a whole new line. And to justify it, they killed off all of the old guys.

Suddenly Sideswipe and Hound were obsolete. I couldn't play with them anymore. Megatron wasn't technically dead, but he wasn't the guy that turned into the gun anymore. He was some other guy.

Those swine. Those malicious, reprehensible swine.

Of course, at the time it was pretty cool. The buzz about the Transformers was infinitely more interesting and fascinating than what was going on in the real world, even though Ronald Reagan was pretty funny to listen to. We all flocked to our parents, demanding our new toys, and eventually they all gave in.

Just like the Hasbro guys planned.

Now Hollywood is doing the same thing. I think they're trying to get rid of all of the cool celebrities so we're stuck with the crappy new lame ones. They think they can replace Barry White with Eminem. They think they can replace Johnny Cash with the Dixie Chicks. Baloney.

Gordon Jump was a classic. He was well known as the Maytag guy, but his best stuff was on WKRP in Cincinnati, a TV show set at a radio station that featured the greatest Afro of all-time, courtesy of DJ Venus Flytrap.

If you watch David Letterman much, you'll remember Zevon as the guy that sat in with Paul Schaffer and the band from time to time. That guy oozed cool. Some people might even know his song "Werewolves in London."

I'll be honest: I never liked Three's Company much. It was cool to see Don Knotts parading around in the worst of the 1970's wardrobes and all, but for me it just didn't stack up. But that's nothing against John Ritter, and I'd take him over anything "reality" television has given us any day. Every time we think that the networks have exhausted the Bachelor and Bachelorette twists, they pull another idea out of the trash. These shows are starting to resemble Jerry Springer themes.

I could try to illustrate why Bob Hope is superior to pretty much any comedian today, but to even bother trying would be an insult to Bob.

I know you could probably just accuse me of being an old fogie that likes all of the old stuff and hates the new. Truth is, lots of the old stuff sucked, and there is a lot of new stuff that I like. But overall we're going in the wrong direction. Fast. And all in the name of a quick buck.

Rest in peace, guys. Eat my shorts, Hasbro.