Legendary opera singer Luciano Pavarotti died of pancreatic cancer today in Italy, at the age of 71. I imagine the New York Times will print something worth reading about his life. He was a colorful, generous character, and it will be a vivid read.
This news made a little ripple in my world, mostly because I wondered how my mom, a classically trained music major would react to the news. I am not an avid opera fan, but the life story here is of a great deal more interest, than say, Anna Nicole’s contributions.
Not to speak ill of the dead.
But it’s hard not to, sometimes, when modern media turns celebrity death into a three ring circus, cramming details and coverage down the throats of people who would rather hear some actual news.
The Anna Nicole goop seemed so ludicrous, because no one gave a dingo’s turd about the insipid blonde bombshell the day before she passed away. The phoniness of the coverage, the mawkish spin they put on a woman who wasted her life and her opportunities, it was just hard to take. News organizations today will try to milk drama from a bone.
But what of other celebrities? Like Kurt Vonnegut- his death earlier this year actually meant something to me. I wish I’d focused my attention his direction the day before he died. I was a fan, and while it seems that his passing made him more important than his life, that isn’t the case. Death just forces the focus dramatically toward it’s object. The final siren call of a titan.
Death should, rightfully, involve those people nearest and dearest to the dead person’s ticker. My favorite interview of all time was an ‘in-your-face’ account given by Adam Duritz when he spoke of the passing of John Entwistle, bass guitarist of ‘The Who’ the night before the Counting Crows were slated to open a show for them. Duritz lied when questioned for details, and told fans and media outlets that as far as he knew, all the band members were fine. The reason he gave? “It was nobody’s fucking business except John’s family and friends. Fans think because they love our music that they get a front-row ticket to our lives. They don’t. I’d lie again in the same situation.”
I liked his attitude, particularly because it wasn’t really his news to share; I respect that he kept the other artist’s privacy. But I don’t necessarily agree that celebrities are owed privacy. When artistic endeavor leads to fame, that is kinda personal. A song or a performance can touch people and affect them deeply. Celebrity elite live a certain lifestyle specifically because they appeal to a wide audience, and receive money and services on account of this fan-base. An artist should expect that their fans will feel and respond to them on a personal level.
That’s like, the price of celebrity, y’know?
I really would have liked to have known Kurt Vonnegut.
So I made a list. It’s morbid Thursday, I guess. This list consists of famous people whose death would affect me on more than just a superficial level. I’m jotting them down in advance so as not to join the pathetic proselytizing of stardom, and the pimping of every aspect of a story when a well-known personality kicks the bucket.
Get the pimping and exploiting over with ahead of time, that’s the key. Here goes:
Micheal J. Fox
Any regular actor from The West Wing or Gilmore Girls
Robert Downey Jr.
anyone on my blogroll
Chris Van Allsburg
Gail Carson Levine
So don’t die, any of you; but if you do, make it interesting, ok? We don’t wanna hear that you choked on your dentures. Wrestle an alligator. Go a little loopy and play chicken with a commuter bus. Stand on a beach and dare the lightning.
Do something interesting if it’s time to go. We’ll want to remember your last hurrah fondly.