Dead Pool 29th October 2023
The shocking news this week is the passing of Matthew Perry. Although he had his personal demons, I don’t think anyone expected to wake up this morning to hear of his death. As the outpouring of grief unfolds, we can at least look back at his career with great joy.
Look Who You Could Have Had:
- Dave Courtney, 64, English gangster, writer, and actor (Triads, Yardies and Onion Bhajees, The Dead Sleep Easy, Killer Bitch), suicide by gunshot.
- Bill Kenwright, 78, English theatre producer (Blood Brothers), film producer (Broken) and football administrator, chairman of Everton (since 2004), liver cancer.
- Richard Roundtree, 81, American actor (Shaft, Se7en, Speed Racer), pancreatic cancer.
- Richard Moll, 80, American actor (Night Court, House, Batman: The Animated Series).
- Adam Johnson, 29, American ice hockey player (Pittsburgh Penguins), neck cut during match.
- Matthew Perry, 54, American-Canadian actor (Friends, The Whole Nine Yards), drowned.
In Other News
The world’s oldest dog ever has died at the age of 31 years and 165 days. Guinness World Record holder Bobi, a purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo, passed away at his home in Portugal on Saturday. His death was announced on social media by a veterinarian who met Bobi several times. “Despite outliving every dog in history, his 11,478 days on earth would never be enough, for those who loved him,” wrote Dr Karen Becker. Bobi became both the world’s oldest living dog and the oldest dog ever in February, beating an almost century-old record for the latter title. The previous oldest dog ever was Australia’s Bluey, who died in 1939 at the age of 29 years and five months. Bobi’s grand old age was validated by the Portuguese government’s pet database, which is managed by the National Union of Veterinarians. The identity of Bobi’s successor to the title of world’s oldest living dog has not yet been revealed. Bobi lived his whole life with the Costa family in the village of Conqueiros, near Portugal’s west coast, after being born with three siblings in an outbuilding. Leonel Costa, who was eight years old at the time, said his parents had too many animals and had to put the puppies down, but Bobi escaped. Mr Costa and his brothers kept the dog’s existence a secret from their parents until he was eventually discovered and became part of the family, who fed him the same food they eat. Apart from a scare in 2018 when he was hospitalised after suddenly collapsing due to breathing difficulty, Mr Costa said in February that Bobi had enjoyed a relatively trouble-free life and thought the secret to his longevity was the “calm, peaceful environment” he lived in. However, he had experienced trouble walking and worsening eyesight prior to his death. Bobi was not the only dog owned by the Mr Costa to live a long life. Bobi’s mother lived to the age of 18 while another of the family’s dogs died at the age of 22.
Comedian Rhod Gilbert has received his first clear cancer scan after undergoing treatment. The 55-year-old Welshman announced in July that he had cancer and was being treated at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, where he had been a fundraising patron for a decade before the diagnosis. He underwent surgery for metastatic cancer of the head and neck, followed by sessions of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Gilbert told the Flying Monkeys discovering his cancer hadn’t spread was “the best day of my life”. “I was back on the road earlier this year, I got a call to say my latest scan had shown the cancer was in the areas they knew about, but it wasn’t in my lungs or my brain,” he said. The news was later followed by his first clear scan, to which Gilbert said: “The best thing was that the tumour had gone, and it was once again an ordinary blood vessel.” Days before his treatment was set to begin, Gilbert approached a documentary team to film his experience. “I was lying in bed on the Friday, with my treatment due to start the following Monday, I rang the team I knew – there was no broadcaster on board, it was all on spec – and I asked, ‘How would you fancy joining me on this journey?’ It was partly for me. I’d cancelled all my TV work and tours, and I wanted to have something other than ‘cancer’ in my diary. I knew I wouldn’t be well enough to go on stage or TV, but I thought I might be well enough to lie in bed and talk to a documentary team about how ill I was. I thought, ‘It will give me something to do’.” Gilbert said it all began when “a tumour popped up on my neck” on the day of a fundraising walk for the Velindre Cancer Centre, and the following months of treatment meant he “wasn’t well enough even to read or watch television”.
Russian tyrant Vladimir Putin may have suffered a “cardiac arrest” on Sunday evening according to a statement posted on a Telegram channel which regularly says the war-mongering leader is terminally ill. The channel – General SVR – suggests all recent appearances by the Russian dictator, including foreign visits, have been carried out by a body double or doubles. It claimed that doctors had to resuscitate Putin before taking him to a special intensive care facility located within his official residence. “Doctors performed resuscitation, having previously determined that the president was in cardiac arrest,” reported the channel. “Help was provided on time, the heart was started and Putin regained consciousness.” There was no immediate response from the Kremlin to the claim but officials have previously strongly denied Putin, 71, suffers from health problems. The post on General SVR – which claims, without having ever provided any proof, to have an inside source on his entourage – continued: “At about 21:05 Moscow time, security officers of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who were on duty at the residence, heard noise and sounds of falling coming from the president’s bedroom. Two security officers immediately followed into the president’s bedroom and saw Putin lying on the floor next to the bed and an overturned table with food and drinks. Probably, when the president fell, he hit the table and dishes and knocked them onto the floor, which caused the noise. Putin convulsively arched while lying on the floor, rolling his eyes. The doctors who were on duty at the residence and located in one of the adjacent rooms were immediately called.” The channel alleged that “the president was moved to a specially equipped room in his residence, where the necessary medical equipment for resuscitation had already been installed”, adding that the president’s condition was “stabilised” and he is “under constant medical supervision”. It said: “We have already repeatedly talked about the deterioration of Putin’s health due to oncology and a number of other diseases. This case of cardiac arrest seriously alarmed the president’s inner circle, despite the fact that the attending doctors had already warned that Putin was very ill and was unlikely to live until the end of autumn. Recently, all official meetings and events have been conducted by the president’s double. After news of the evening incident, several people close to Putin contacted each other by telephone and agreed to hold consultations on Monday regarding possible actions if the president dies in the coming days.” Adding weight to the claims, footage of an unexplained late-evening dash to the Kremlin – the seat of Russian power – by Putin’s motorcade on Sunday evening, have surfaced. The president normally resides outside of Moscow and not in his official apartment in the vast government building. The channel is supposedly run by a former Kremlin lieutenant-general, known by the alias Viktor Mikhailovich. It claims his top apparatchiks and security henchmen control the activities of the doppelgängers. A recent Japanese TV report used AI to analyse Putin’s face, walk and voice in multiple appearances, and concluded that he does use body doubles. The head of Ukrainian military intelligence Lt-Gen Kyrylo Budanov has made the same claim, alleging the real Putin has not been seen since June 2022. He alleged last month: “The one, who everyone used to know, was last seen around June 26, 2022.” Putin was recently reported to have made trips to Kyrgyzstan and China, and to have been unusually active in travelling inside Russia. Last week he visited Perm, and held talks with his war commander General Valery Gerasimov in Rostov-on-Don after making a “detour” to visit the military headquarters. The channel says all these are by body doubles who underwent plastic surgery and years of training by Russian secret services to perform as Putin stand-ins. The claims were reported by the Ukrainian media.
On This Day
- 1618 – English adventurer, writer, and courtier Sir Walter Raleigh is beheaded for allegedly conspiring against James I of England.
- 1901 – In Amherst, Massachusetts, nurse Jane Toppan is arrested for murdering the Davis family of Boston with an overdose of morphine.
- 1969 – The first-ever computer-to-computer link is established on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet.
- 1618 – Walter Raleigh, English admiral, explorer, and politician, Lieutenant Governor of Jersey (b. 1554).
- 1911 – Joseph Pulitzer, Hungarian-American publisher, lawyer, and politician, founded Pulitzer, Inc. (b. 1847).
- 2011 – Jimmy Savile, English radio and television host, nonce (b. 1926).
The Godfather of Bungee
Born in 1945 as the eldest of seven children, David Kirke birthed the worldwide phenomenon some 34 years later on April Fool’s Day, when, dressed in a top hat and fresh from all-night party, he and his friends decided to bungee jump from Bristol’s Clifton Suspension Bridge.
Describing Kirke as an “anarchic buccaneer” who was “Byronesque in thrall of living life to the full”, a friend of the family told The Independent that the septuagenarian “would have been shocked that he died quietly in his own bed”.
But while undoubtedly his most influential exploit, bungee jumping was but one extraordinary stunt pioneered by Kirke and his friends in the name of good fun.
Against the bleak backdrop of 1970s Britain, Kirke and several friends co-founded the Dangerous Sports Club, a group largely based in Oxford and London that gained notable attention in the ensuing decade for their daredevil activities, often donning top hats and coattails, and swigging champagne.
The idea for their bungee jump had been inspired by a rite of passage on the island of Vanuatu known as “land diving”, which saw young men leap from high towers and use vines to break their fall before landing on the ground.
While a demonstration of land diving for the late Queen during her visit to the Pacific island in 1974 went fatally wrong, that same year Kirke and his friends decided to attempt a similar feat, instead using elastic ropes used to help fighter jets land on aircraft carriers.
“We hadn’t tested it, or anything like that,” Kirke told the Bristol Post in 2019. “We were called the Dangerous Sports Club, and testing it first wouldn’t have been particularly dangerous.
“I was confident though. We had some very clever guys with us – Alan Weston went on to be head of development at Nasa – and they told me it was going to be okay, they had worked out the false extension curves of these ropes.”
Being the first of his friends to jump that morning, while police officers staking out the bridge on the advice of concerned friends and family members had briefly “wandered off”, Kirke later recalled to ITV: “When the other guys came down, I thought, ‘whoopee, nobody’s dead’.
“It was a sort of fairly casual easy-going recklessness. American novelists would call it the insouciance of youth, but there it was.”
While police arrested the group and took them to the cells, Kirke recalled that the “bemused” officers had “brought us in the half-drunken bottles of wine we’d left at the bridge, and we were fined or something”.
Soon afterwards, the Dangerous Sports Club carried out bungee jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and performed a televised jump from the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge in Colorado.
Never lacking in imagination, Kirke and the growing membership of the Dangerous Sports Club would go on to perform a host of mind-bending stunts in locations across the world.
These would include Kirke sliding down the slopes of Saint-Moritz on a grand piano and an aborted bid to fly a car across Tower Bridge’s open drawbridge.
“The DSC began when I went with a fellow Oxford graduate chum, called Ed Hulton, to Switzerland to watch the Cresta Run and the bobsleigh,” Kirke told The Flying Monkeys in 1998.
“We’d previously built a hang-glider from a 1903 design, which had crashed and smashed to pieces so we wanted to try the Cresta and the bobsleigh. We found they were a bit exaggerated so we thought we’d start something new.”
Members of the group catapulted themselves off cliffs, jumped off Cheddar Gorge, and hang-glided into 5,000ft of cloud over Mount Kilimanjaro.
“It was all just a giggle. We were the first people to ever fly off Mount Olympus on a hang glider,” said Kirke, whose father was a schoolmaster and mother was a concert pianist.
“It was amazing. We were standing at the top of the home of the Gods and as I flew down I asked myself, ‘Is this better than sex?’ It possibly is but may not be quite as good as the best passage in a Joseph Conrad novel’.”
While the club’s membership peaked in the 1980s, Kirke and his friends continued to push boundaries. In 1986, he was sponsored by Foster’s lager to fly across the Channel tied to a kangaroo-shaped cluster of helium balloons, leading to him being prosecuted for flying without a pilot’s licence.
In a more tragic turn of events, two of Kirke’s friends were charged with manslaughter and later acquitted over the death of 19-year-old Oxford biochemistry student Kostadin Yankov, who died in 2002 after volunteering to be launched from a trebuchet and missing the safety net.
While not personally involved in the case, Kirke told the Flying Monkeys in February 2004 that it was “an extraordinary test case, about the right to experiment, at personal risk, versus social responsibility”.
Himself a student of psychology and philosophy, Kirke said: “We’re interested in new things. You make a fool of yourself, your girlfriend leaves you, you lose money, but you may have advanced things a tiny little half-inch. It’s a vocation, strangely enough, not that different from a Catholic priest.”
On Sunday, a friend of the family told The Flying Monkeys: “David upturned apple carts, always. He wanted to do things that diverted and disrupted and stretched imagination. He dared and he sometimes dare-devilled and paid the price.
“What was non-negotiable was loyalty to his friends, and an unmovable desire to make art and literature pivotal to adventure and life.
“He was an anarchic buccaneer who left the world suddenly but he bequeathed a high bar for stretching imagination and adventure; he was Byronesque in thrall to living life to the full. He would have been shocked that he died quietly in his own bed.”
Last Week’s Birthdays
Winona Ryder (52), Rufus Sewell (56), Cleopatra Coleman (36), Ben Foster (43), Richard Dreyfuss (76), Dan Castellaneta (66), Joaquin Phoenix (49), Annie Potts (71), Julia Roberts (56), Gwendoline Christie (45), Matt Smith (41), Caitlyn Jenner (74), John Cleese (84), Robert Picardo (70), Kelly Osbourne (39), Cary Elwes (61), Seth MacFarlane (50), Jon Heder (46), Tom Cavanagh (60), Keith Urban (56), Katy Perry (39), Glynis Barber (68), Nancy Cartwright (66), Kevin Kline (76), F. Murray Abraham (84), Ryan Reynolds (47), Emilia Clarke (37), Sam Raimi (64), and ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic (64).