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Posts tagged ‘death’

RIP Leslie Nielsen

They say that somewhere between birth and death, if you can make people smile you’ve done a good thing. If that’s true, then Leslie Nielsen did a very good thing, and he’s now come to the end of his journey.

Nielsen came from his native Canada to Hollywood in the fifties, and was cast as your typical leading man – check out his performance as the heroic lead in the classic sci-fi flick “Forbidden Planet”. By any measure, he was very successful, with dozens of films and hundreds of television episodes on his resume’. But it was his turn as the straight-laced doctor on a doomed flight in the comedic disaster sendup “Airplane” that introduced a different Neilsen to a new generation.

Dr. Rumack (Nielsen): Can you fly this plane, and land it?
Ted Striker: Surely you can’t be serious.
Rumack: I am serious… and don’t call me Shirley.

“Airplane” was followed by the short-lived series “Police Squad,” where Nielsen’s Rumack was reborn as Detective Frank Drebbin. The series may have tanked after 6 episodes, but it begat three “Naked Gun” movies, and a whole new comedic career for Nielsen.

Leslie Nielsen died of complications from pneumonia in Fort Lauderdale, FL. He was 84.

You Sure His Name Wasn’t “Bob”?

Many of us who have spent much of our lives on the sea dream of having it be our final resting place. The idea of our loved ones being able to stand on a beach, look out over the blue waves and feel close to us is a wonderful thought. The idea of having our corpse wash up on said beach after a botched burial, however, is not so wonderful.

Daniel Lasky loved the ocean, and when he passed away at the unfortunately young age of 48, his family and friends gathered in Ft. Lauderdale to honor his wishes to be buried at sea. Friends, family and clergy joined the late Mr. Lasky for his final voyage onboard the fishing vessel MARY B III to his offshore gravesite, after which they proceeded to go fishing in honor of his memory. The story should have ended there – but it didn’t.

The following morning, a boater discovered Lasky’s body floating in the water about 4-1/2 miles off the Hollywood, Florida coast. A police report noted that the “white male victim” was found “floating face down and completely nude with the exception of a sock on his left foot.” Cops subsequently determined that Lasky was not a crime statistic, just the victim of an ocean burial gone bad.

I have participated in burials at sea in the past, always with cremated remains, and it can be a difficult experience – lots of things can go wrong. Mourners unfamiliar with the motion of the ocean can find themselves sick, ashes can blow back in one’s face, and there’s just something unnerving about the sound of the teeth plopping into the water. I can’t imagine the challenges with the burial of an intact corpse, and frankly I’m amazed it’s legal.

Once could surmise what exactly happened to Lasky’s clothes – or whatever was used to encase the corpse when launched – but I’ll leave that for the more morbid-minded. I’ll just remind everyone that there’s a reason the term “concrete galoshes” came into existance … 😉

RIP Laurent Fignon

If you’re the average sports fan, or even a casual cycling fan, the name Laurent Fignon may not ring a bell. But if your love of the Tour de France pre-dates the arrival of Lance Armstrong, then you will join me in grieving the passing of this noted French rider.

Laurent Fignon leads Greg LeMond up a climb

Professional cycling in the 1980’s was a sport in transition. Still little-known outside Europe, Americans were making their first impact on the sport with the 7-11 cycling team and home-grown riders like Alexi Grewal and Andy Hampston (and some whippersnapper named Lance …). At the same time, a young American rider named Greg LeMond was beginning to make a name for himself riding for a series of European teams. He won his first Tour in 1986, and after a two-year absence due to injury, returned in 1989 to try and reclaim his title.

Meanwhile, Laurent Fignon has enjoyed a successful professional cycling career that had begun in 1982 and included back-to-back Tour victories in 1983 and 1984, afterwhich he was hailed as the country’s newest sporting superstar. Injuries slowed Fignon in the mid-80’s, and he, too, looked to 1989 for redemption.

The 1989 race quickly became a two-man contest, and Fignon and LeMond traded the lead through the weeks. The peloton entered the final stage of the race, a 24.4 km individual time trial, with Fignon enjoying a 50-second lead over the American cyclist. The contrast between the two couldn’t be more apparent as they entered the start house: Fignon, the classic French cyclist with professorial glasses and a ponytail, rode a bike with standard handlebars and spoked wheels; Lemond, representing the future direction of cycling, wore a teardrop-shaped helmet and rode a bike with triathalon-inspired “aerobars” and a disc wheel to decrease air resistance.

In cycling, fifty seconds is a huge lead, particularly to try and overcome in an individual time trial. Fignon, ponytail blowing in the breeze, rode secure in the knowledge that the maiilot jaune awaited him at the finish line – the French media were convinced of his inevitable victory that they had already printed memorial editions of the newspapers. But LeMond, riding ahead of the Frenchman, pedalled furiously and used his aerodynamic tools to full advantage. Word reached Fignon that LeMond was eroding his lead and he put the hammer down, but it was too late. In the end, LeMond beat Fignon’s overall time for the three-week race by eight seconds – the closest finish in Tour history. Upon crossing the finish line and realizing he had lost, a distraught Fignon simply released the handlebars and allowed himself to crash to the ground – one of the most memorable images in cycling history. It was a race for the ages, and helped cement the legend of LeMond – and American cycling.

Laurent Fignon was 50 when he lost his fight with intestinal cancer last week.

Deep Fried Death

Perhaps it’s rebellion against the diet whackos or maybe just a plot by underemployed cardiologists, but there seems to be a spate of incredibly unhealthy fast food items hitting the market these days.

First it was KFC’s Double-Down, a bacon-and-cheese sandwich where the bread is replaced by a pair of deep-fried chicken breasts. That was topped by the Grilled Cheese Burger Melt from Friendly’s – a gut bomb of a burger with the usual trimmings, save the twin grilled cheese sandwichs that replace the bun. But those are culinary lightweights compared to the newest entry in the field.

Homer Simpson Approved, no doubt ...

Denny’s is revamping their Value Menu as part of their “$2 $4 $6 $8” advertising campaign, trying to breath life into a franchise that is seen primarily as a breakfast stop. Most of the items are pretty straightforward – cheese quesadilla, nacho salad, fried shrimp platter and the like. But one item in particular has caught the public’s eye – and not necessarily in a good way.

The Denny’s Fried Cheese Melt at first appears to be your typical grilled cheese sandwich – a guilty pleasure to be sure, but not the end of the dietetic world. But the staff back in the kitchen weren’t satisfied with your normal pan-fried delicacy, so they kicked it up a notch – by adding four deep-fried mozzarella cheese sticks into the mix. Denny’s isn’t discussing the calorie count, but the folks at DietsInReview.com did their best to try and figure it out:

The restaurant chain announced that the Fried Cheese Melt will cost $4.00, but has not released its caloric content. Here’s our best estimate, with data provided by Denny’s:

  • 750 calories for an 8-ounce serving of Denny’s mozzarella sticks, without condiments (Denny’s does not disclose how many pieces they consider a serving)
  • 650 calories in Denny’s three cheese melt,
  • Totals 1,400 calories

The meal will also come with a serving of fries, and a serving of marinara sauce. The french fries have 425 calories per 5-ounce serving, and the average 1/2 cup of marinara sauce has 93 calories.

Our estimated calorie count for the meal is 1,918 calories. That’s about as many calories as one should eat per day. It’s not hard to imagine why America has an obesity problem when restaurants serve things like this an appropriate meal.

Lord knows, I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff. My weights tends to rise and fall like the tides – often, as defined by the availablity of McDonald’s own gut-buster, the McRib sandwich – but I at least have choices in my diet, even if I opt to avoid the right ones. One of the reasons community activists hate to see fast food joints moving into the inner city is because their menus are traditionally filled with high-calorie, low-nutrition crap that only makes difficult lives even harder. Denny’s, however, is supposed to be family-friendly, sit down fare – theoretically, exactly the kind of stuff you’d like to see come to those same tough neighborhoods. But if this is their idea of a wholesome, nutrition rich meal, they can keep it.

RIP Ronnie James Dio

Back in my college days, heavy metal was just starting to take hold.  Sure, the seventies had seen some metal bands, but they were plodding at best – decent music if  you were stoned, I suppose, but nothing to really bang your head to.  But there was one voice that cut through the  mist … or smoke … like a scalpel – Ronnie James Dio.  As the diminutive front man for Blackmore’s Rainbow, he’d helped the former Deep Purple guitarist establish a new, higher energy sound for heavy metal.  When Ozzy Osbourne was fired from … er, quit … Black Sabbath, Dio breathed new life into an old band, resulting in the classic album “Heaven and Hell”.  And as the leader of his own band Dio, he showed the rest of the industry how to kick ass and rock hard.

At a time when most of his peers had been forced to the recliner, rehab or reality TV, Dio soldiered on.  It took a diagnosis of stomach cancer to slow this rock god, and now that massive voice has been silenced forever.  Ronnie James Dio died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 67.

Wouldn’t you just love to be a fly on the wall when RJD met St. Peter? I’m just sayin’ …

Rock on, my brother … rock on!

More Dangerous Than Anyone Thought

If you make your living on the sea, you put your life at risk every time you leave port. That’s just an unavoidable fact of working on the ocean, and one that every commercial fisherman knows all too well. Certainly that is well-known by all the crabbers working the Bearing Sea crab grounds, the fishermen whose lives and livelihood are documented in The Discovery Channel’s hit series, “The Deadliest Catch”.

Long before television make some of them into rock stars, rugged crews drove their boats into harm’s way on the wrong side of the Aleutian Islands in search of the bounty of crab that lives there. All too often, someone didn’t come home, and it was that “roll the dice” mentality that brought the cameras north in the first place. The change from the winner-take-all “derby” fishing to a more sedate – and safer – quota method drained a lot of the drama out of “Deadliest Catch” after a couple of seasons, and focus turned to the people who ran the boats and took the risks. We learned more about the men of the fleet, and what made them tick.

One of those men was Phil Harris, captain and co-owner of the crabber CORNELIA MARIE, and audiences got to know an awful lot about Phil and his crew. We learned that he was a prankster, a lifelong crabber, and a proud father to Jake and Josh, his two sons who served on his crew. We also learned that he was a short-tempered, chain-smoking, Red Bull-swilling advertisement for how not to live a long life, a stroke or heart attack just waiting to happen. In 2008, that vision nearly came to pass, as a blood clot forced Harris off the boat and into the hospital for treatment. When he returned in the spring of 2009 to once again run the CM we hoped he’d be a changed man, someone who had cheated death and learned a valuable lesson. Alas, that was not to be.

On January 29th, while the CORNELIA MARIE was tied up at remote St. Paul Island to offload catch, Harris suffered a stroke. He was rushed to Anchorage and placed in a medically-induced coma, and seemed to be making progress. The coma was ended, and he appeared to be on the mend when he died unexpectedly on Tuesday.

Aa television viewers, we saw Harris as the editors wanted him to be seen, but the townsfolk of Dutch Harbor saw him every day for many years. Here is how the local newspaper remembered Captain Harris:

Their pain is so new that people in Dutch Harbor talk about Harris in the present tense, like he’s about to walk through the door any minute amid a cloud of cigarette smoke and colorful language.

He was “friendly,” “honest,” “strong,” “hardworking” “caring.” He was the kind of guy who took “Deadliest Catch” T-shirts to sick children in the hospital.

“He was a one-of-a-kind person,” said Al Mendoza, fleet manager for Unisea, where the Cornelia Marie landed millions of pounds of crab over the years. “I don’t think he had an enemy over the years I knew him. Not one enemy, ever.”

All say he loved his sons, Josh and Jake Harris, more than life itself.

Then they tell how he used to joke about why lions eat their cubs. The words “brash,” “macho,” “loud” and “impatient” pop up. By all accounts, he could be a pain in the patoot, but that doesn’t mean they loved him less.

It’s been a tough opilio season for the boats of “Deadliest Catch” – deckhand Jake Anderson of the NORTHWESTERN lost his father only days before Harris was struck down. It is a reminder that a life on the ocean can be a very remote one, and time spent on the beach with loved ones is all the more precious.

Phil Harris was 53 years old.

RIP Rory Markas

Let me be clear – I’m a baseball fan, which is why I’m not an Angels fan. To me, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim represent pretty much everything that’s wrong with America’s pastime all wrapped up in one pathetic package. An out of town owner trying (in this case, successfully) a championship, a complete lack of respect for the home town (Anaheim should have evicted the bastards for the whole “LA of A” thing … ), a long string of ugly uniforms and, of course, the designated hitter. All in all, not much to recommend them.

If there’s been one saving grace over the years, it’s been their announcers. Homers, to be sure, but at least entertaining – none so much as Rory Markas. Yeah, he coined the schmaltzy “just another halo victory” line, but you could hear in his voice that there was a genuine passion and a childlike love of the game, and that made it all worthwhile.

Shocking, Rory Markas has died of a heart attack at the frighteningly young age of 53. Everyone is doing their own tributes, but none have been as touching and obvously heartfelt as the one by former colleague Keith Olbermann on his “Countdown” show:

Ironically, the Angels had recently announced a cutback in their on-air staff, with Steve Physioc and Rex Hudler leaving the staff. Rory was scheduled to handle the play-by-play duties on radio, but now will regrettably require a replacement.

RIP Soupy Sales

Another icon of the early days of television has been lost with the death yesterday of comedian Soupy Sales.

Born Milton Supman in 1926, Sales became famous for his children’s show in the ’50s and ’60s, “Lunch with Soupy Sales”. Two things set his show apart from all the other kids shows of the time. While it was made by adults for kids, they never talked down to the audience – many of the jokes were as funny to the adults, and as a result many famous people wanted to guest star on the show. And then there the pies. Soupy Sales made the comedic gag of a pie to the face into an art form. By his own estimation, he was hit by 25,000 pies over the years.

After the end of his show, Sales was a familiar sight as a game show participant, where he never failed to bring certain cool to the set. Sales died in New York at the age of 83.

Somewhere, White Fang is crying.

RIP Jim Carroll

I’m feeling particularly old today … Jim Carroll has died.

Carroll was best known as a poet, with his work “Basketball Diaries” having been turned into a movie in 1995 by Leo DeCaprio. But for I and my college friends, Carroll was the underground rocker who created the classic “People Who Died,” a litany of friends who had passed to the Great Beyond by increasingly bizarre methods.

Less singer than spoken word artist, Carroll’s vocals were in many ways reminiscent of The Doors’ Jim Morrison, and his lyrics were equally deep and twisted. He had a way of turning a phrase – among my favorite: “It’s too late … to fall in love with Sharon Tate.”

Carroll himself had a description of his unique performance style:

“There ain’t much time left, you’re born out of this insane abyss and you’re going to fall back into it, so while you’re alive you might as well show your bare ass.”

My friends from Bannockburn are mourning today. Jim Carroll was 60.

A Different Kind Of Eye Candy

Every Friday, we like to run a little eye candy to make up for taking the weekend off from posting. In the past, that’s always been in the form of some kind of pretty girl in a topically relevant pose, but there’s more than one way to be sexy. With the passing yesterday of guitar legend Les Paul, we’ve decided to honor his memory with a different kind of eye candy – that sexy beast of a guitar that bore his name. May we present the Gibson Les Paul

Just as sexy whether posing or shredding

Just as sexy whether posing or shredding

Les Paul might have been just another footnote in the history of popular music had he not been so frustrated. Performing first with Mary Ford and later on his own, it irritated Paul that he couldn’t play loud enough for a large audience to hear. Beginning in 1941, he experimented with different prototypes for a solid body electric guitar. His experiments culminated with the 1952 release of the Gibson Les Paul, a guitar that continues to set the standard for electric guitars and has been used by a half-century of guitar greats.

But Paul didn’t stop there. Four years later he designed the first eight-track tape recorder, a device that changed the way music could be recorded in the studio. All the while, Paul continued to release Grammy-winning albums; just last year he released “Les Paul and Friends,” an album of duets with some of the greatest guitarists of all time.  Those touched by his life commented on his passing:

“Les Paul was truly a ‘one of a kind.’ We owe many of his inventions that made the rock ‘n roll sound of today to him, and he was the founding father of modern music,” B.B. King said in a statement. “This is a huge loss to the music community and the world. I am honored to have known him.”

Joe Satriani said in a statement: “Les Paul set a standard for musicianship and innovation that remains unsurpassed. He was the original guitar hero and the kindest of souls. Last October I joined him onstage at the Iridium club in [New York], and he was still shredding. He was and still is an inspiration to us all.”

In a statement, Slash said, “Les Paul was a shining example of how full one’s life can be; he was so vibrant and full of positive energy.”

Others might have made their own impact on the electric guitar (Leo Fender among them), but few can boast such a game-changing life as Les Paul. Scary to think what the music scene might sound like today had he not acted on those frustrations so long ago. Les Paul was 91, and will be missed by every sore-fingered guitarist – and their fans.

LesPaul2