Dead Pool 23rd October 2022

Alas no points to award this week, but plenty to read if you feel so inclined. 

Look Who You Could Have Had:

In Other News

In a very sad development, Carly Simon lost both of her sisters this week, with Broadway composer Lucy Simon dying of breast cancer Thursday and former opera singer Joanna Simon passing from thyroid cancer on Wednesday. Both deaths were confirmed by a source close to pop superstar Carly. Lucy Simon was 82, Joanna Simon was 85. Born into wealth and a rarified atmosphere of celebrity and literati to Simon & Schuster publisher Richard Simon and wife Andrea, the Simon sisters – their brother Peter was the youngest sibling – would all find their ways to success in professional music careers. Carly Simon would become one of pop music’s most successful and commercially viable of the era’s singer-songrwriters, with hits including “That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and “Anticipation” in 1971, and, the following year, her smash signature tune “You’re So Vain,” which endures on classic pop radio and as an object of debate over the mystery man of the lyrics. Lucy and Joanna Simon were predeceased by their brother, the photographer Peter Simon, who died of cardiac arrest at age 71 in 2018 after battling cancer. 

Where and when you die certainly elevates your newsworthiness it seems. Actress, director and writer Josephine Melville has died backstage after performing in a play. Nottingham Playhouse said Ms Melville died on Thursday after appearing in a production of Nine Night. The venue said she was treated by paramedics and a medically qualified audience member but died at the scene. Her acting credits included parts in EastEnders, The Bill and Casualty along with several theatre roles. She portrayed Tessa Parker – girlfriend of Kelvin Carpenter – for eight episodes of EastEnders in 1986 and earlier this year appeared in the video for Ella Henderson’s single Brave. 

Not to be outdone, singer and music producer Mikaben has tragically died after video footage surfaced showing him suddenly collapsing mid-show in Paris. Michael Benjamin, affectionately known as Mikaben, died at the age of 41. The singer had been performing onstage in Paris with the Haitian konpa band CaRiMi when he reportedly collapsed. The incident unfolded live on Twitter, with Frantz Duval – editor of a Haitian newspaper – first alerting fans that something was wrong. Singer Mickael Guirand then told fans to clear out. “End of the concert. We must evacuate the room,” Guirand said. “It’s very complicated. We need prayers.” Video footage from the concert shows Mikaben walking offstage when he suddenly collapses to the ground. The venue was cleared while he was being tended, with reports indicating that he was given CPR. An official cause of death has not been revealed.    

Robbie Coltrane’s cause of death has been revealed. The Harry Potter, James Bond and Cracker actor died on 14th October, aged 72. His agent of 40 years, Belinda Wright, announced the news, thanking the medical staff at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, near Falkirk in Scotland, for their “care and diplomacy”. According to multiple reports, Coltrane died from multiple organ failure. According to the actor’s death certificate, the actor, who played Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter franchise, had been suffering from sepsis, lower respiratory tract infection and heart block. News of the actor’s death led to tributes from the world of Hollywood, including his co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint. Harry Potter fans also shared a poignant clip from the film series’s 20th anniversary, Return to Hogwarts, which aired in January 2022. While discussing its legacy, a tearful Coltrane said: “I just think it’s the end of an era, 10 years of my life. My children have grown up during it, of course. The legacy of the movies is that my children’s generation will show them to their children. He added: “So, you could be watching it in 50 years’ time, easy… I’ll not be here, sadly… but Hagrid will, yes.” Coltrane, who was born Anthony Robert McMillan, is survived by his sister Annie Rae, his children Spencer and Alice, and their mother Rhona Gemmell.

On This Day

  • 1989 – An explosion at the Houston Chemical Complex in Pasadena, Texas, which registered a 3.5 on the Richter magnitude scale, kills 23 and injures 314.
  • 2001 – Apple Computer releases the iPod.
  • 2002 – Chechen separatist terrorists seize the House of Culture theatre in Moscow and take approximately 700 theatre-goers hostage. Doesn’t end well…


A nice night out at the Theatre

The Moscow theatre hostage crisis was the seizure of the crowded Dubrovka Theatre by 40 to 50 armed Chechen terrorists on 23rd October 2002, which involved 850 hostages and ended with the death of at least 170 people. The attackers, led by Movsar Barayev, claimed allegiance to the Islamist separatist movement in Chechnya. They demanded the withdrawal of Russian forces from Chechnya and an end to the Second Chechen War.  

Due to the layout of the theatre, special forces would have had to fight through 30 metres  of corridor and advance up a well-defended staircase before they could reach the hall in which the hostages were held. The attackers had numerous explosives, with the most powerful in the centre of the auditorium. Spetsnaz operators from Federal Security Service (FSB) Alpha and Vympel, supported by a Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) SOBR unit, pumped an undisclosed chemical agent into the building’s ventilation system and began the rescue operation. 

The Chechens, some of whom were equipped with gas masks, responded by firing blindly at the Russian positions outside. After thirty minutes, when the gas had taken effect, a physical assault on the building commenced. The combined forces entered through numerous building openings, including the roof, the basement, and finally the front door.

When the shooting began, the terrorists told their hostages to lean forward in the theatere seats and cover their heads behind the seats. Hostages reported that some people in the audience fell asleep, and some of the gunmen put on respirators. As the terrorists and hostages alike began to fall unconscious, several of the female terrorists made a dash for the balcony but passed out before they reached the stairs. They were later found shot dead. Two of the Spetsnaz Alpha Group were also overcome by the gas.

After nearly one and a half hours of sporadic gun battles, the Russian special forces blew open the doors to the main hall and poured into the auditorium. In a fierce firefight, the federals killed most of the hostage-takers, both those still awake and those who had succumbed to the gas.

According to the Russian government, fighting between the troops and the still-conscious Chechen fighters continued in other parts of the building for another 30 minutes to one hour. Initial reports stated that three terrorists were captured alive (the BBC reported that a “handful of surviving fighters were led away in handcuffs”) and two of them managed to escape. Later, the government claimed that all hostage-takers had been killed in the storming.

Alpha team troops said that “this is our first successful operation in years”. Moskovskij Komsomolets cited a Russian special forces operative saying that “if it were a usual storming, we’d have had 150 casualties among our men, added to the hostages. 

All 40 of the insurgents were killed, an estimated 130 hostages died during the siege, including 9 foreigners, due to the toxic substance pumped into the theatre. The identity of the gas was not disclosed at the time, although it was believed by some to have been a Fentanyl derivative, such as Carfentanil. 

The number of estimated casualties varies widely because many hostages remained unaccounted for and were not included in the official list. Some estimates have put the civilian death toll at more than 200 with 204 names on one list, or even 300, including people who died during the year after the siege from complications from the poison gas. Some former hostages and relatives of the victims claim that the death toll from the chemical agent is being kept secret. According to official numbers, 40 terrorists and about 130 hostages died during the raid or in the following days. 

Last Week’s Birthdays

Ryan Reynolds (46), Emilia Clarke (36), Sam Raimi (63), ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic (63), Christopher Lloyd (84), Bob Odenkirk (60), Jeff Goldblum (70), Saffron Burrows (50), Catherine Deneuve (79), Derek Jacobi (84), Jesse Tyler Ferguson (47), Andrew Scott (46), Everett McGill (77), Kim Kardashian (42), Ken Watanabe (63), Viggo Mortensen (64), Danny Boyle (66), Snoop Dogg (51), Rebecca Ferguson (39), John Lithgow (77), Jon Favreau (56), Zac Efron (35), Jean-Claude Van Damme (62), Felicity Jones (39), Matthew Macfadyen (48), Michael McKean (75), Mark Gatiss (56), George Wendt (74), and Eminem (50).

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