The Plastic Hippo

February 1, 2016

White rabbits

Filed under: History,Media,Music,Society — theplastichippo @ 4:00 am
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After a busy January, show business editors, arts correspondents and the poor souls buried in film archives will be looking through their fingers at an approaching February and the next tranche of celebrity demise. Even the most imaginative authors of obituaries must be struggling to construct an original sentence containing mandatory terms of deferential respect such as icon, legend, national treasure, hugely influential and never to be forgotten. There are times when “person of advancing years with a health condition dies after an illness” simply will not do.

In this information technology age, smart eulogists could simply set up a template, load in a bunch of algorithms and the piece will compose itself well before the print deadline or broadcast. Age (veteran, popular, up and coming), occupation (actor, musician, entertainer, politician,); cause of death (drugs, drink, terminal medical condition, the discharging of a firearm) and a few vintage photographic images guarantees immortality for the sadly deceased and a job well done by the busy hack. Age is perhaps the most important factor in putting together a really good send off. Veteran means anyone remotely famous who manages to live beyond 50 and popular relates to celebrities who for various reasons are no longer at the centre of public awareness. Regardless of talent, ability, wealth or fame, if the up and coming corpse is under 30 then they will be remembered for what they might have gone on to achieve with untimely death acting as a warning against adopting an unruly lifestyle. It seems strange that in life the media searched for dirt but in death the target becomes a saint.

Some years ago, when popular culture became obsessed with spooky coincidence, various charlatans suggested the existence of something called the 27 Club. This nonsense came about due to the spooky coincidence that any half decent “rock star” died at the age of 27 between 1969 and 1971. Brian Jones (drowning), Jimi Hendrix (asphyxiation), Janis Joplin (heroin overdose) and Jim Morrison (heart failure) all croaked before a 28th birthday. Decades later, when Kurt Cobain mishandled a shotgun and then Amy Winehouse mishandled her entire life; legend was confirmed. Desperate for a book deal, shysters postulated that Robert Johnson (poisoning – 1938) should also join the club. There are enough dark myths and bogus superstition surrounding Robert Johnson without the need to invent any more.

Having exhausted the mother lode of suggesting that 27 is a dangerous age for rockers, we can now expect various theories that warn us that January is a dangerous month for any still living soul not buried in obscurity.

The month started badly with record producer Mark B going on the first. The next day, Nimr al-Nimr was beheaded in Saudi Arabia. Robert Stigwood, Pierre Boulez, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Black, Frank Finlay and Terry Wogan followed the grim reaper to the gates of the spookily coincidental January Club. Such a remarkable cluster of national treasures passing away into the beyond cannot be explained away by mere illness or age. For goodness sake, Pierre Boulez was only 90 and had so much more to give.

Also tragically dead at a mere 84 is former disgraced cabinet minister Cecil Parkinson. He fought a long and noble battle to finally disassociate his good name with the terrible words “former” and “disgraced”. Such was the humble humility of the man that he said, in later life, that if he had been born short, fat and ugly, things might have been different. Now a former human being but unfortunately still disgraced, Cecil leaves a daughter who he never met or even acknowledged. It seems that not only the bad die young.

Lots of people died in January 2016, mostly of natural causes, but no passing bells for those who died of starvation or drowned attempting to escape the monstrous anger of the guns. There are no memorials or obituaries or even the simplest remembrance of a name that could have gone on to achieve something more than fleeting notoriety.

Paul Kantner, co-founder of an Airplane that turned into a Starship, died on January 28th aged 74. As Pete Townshend, now aged 70 once or twice remarked; hope I die before I get old.

Imagine the outpouring of global grief when Rupert Murdoch (84) finally pops his clogs.

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