Dead Pool 2nd April 2023
As more celebrities hit the soil this week, we can at least rejoice in that the passing of Paul O’Grady has raised fuckloads for Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, because lets face it, we all hate people and love animals. And I’ll tell you now, trying to find a usable picture of Max Hardcore has probably put my name on a list somewhere!
Look Who You Could Have Had:
- Max Hardcore, 66, American pornographic actor, pneumonia.
- Paul O’Grady, 67, English comedian, drag queen, and television presenter (Blankety Blank, The Paul O’Grady Show, Paul O’Grady: For the Love of Dogs).
- Bernadette Hunt, 59, British television personality (Gladiators), cancer.
- Ken Buchanan, 77, Scottish boxer, dementia.
In Other News
Linda Nolan has given fans a sad update on her health as she revealed her cancer has spread to her brain. The singer, who celebrated her 64th birthday last month, appeared on Good Morning Britain on Monday morning to speak about her treatment. Nolan was first diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in 2005 and went into remission the following year. But she was diagnosed with a secondary cancer in her hip in 2017, which spread to her liver in 2020. Speaking to hosts Susanna Reid and Richard Madeley, Nolan said she is remaining “positive” despite the news and will be undergoing chemotherapy again. “I’ve always been hopeful with my treatment and what’s going on in my life,” she said. “I just want to tell you unfortunately for me, my cancer has spread to my brain and that’s obviously frightening because there isn’t much treatment for brain cancer except for chemotherapy. I’m not giving up. I’m positive. I’m going to lose my hair again for the fourth time.” Nolan also revealed that she has moved into her sister’s home due to the cancer affecting her balance and leading to “three quite nasty falls”. “So, as usual, my amazing family – I’m back living with my sister Denise and her partner. Maureen has been looking after me for the past few weeks,” she continued. “I’ve bought a wheelchair, we’re getting stuff ready for the inevitable really. It’s a scary trip to be on.” Nolan reflected on not knowing how much time she had left, adding: “That’s not me being morbid or anything, but I don’t know. None of us know, really. So for me, it’s about making the most of every day and spending it with people I love. Just being positive… I’ve been fighting it since 2005 originally and then I’ve beaten it before, so hopefully I can do the same again. Obviously, with the great help I’ve always had from the NHS.” Nolan shared that she was hopeful a “new drug for brain cancer” that has been in use for around a year could help her in chemotherapy. Nolan rose to fame as part of girl group The Nolans alongside her sisters Anne, Denise, Maureen, Bernie and Coleen.
Paul Burrell has opened up about undergoing radiotherapy to treat his prostate cancer, after receiving the diagnosis last year. The former butler to Princess Diana and former footman to Queen Elizabeth II told Lorraine on Monday morning that he was “very tired” and “emotional”. Asked how he has been feeling, Burrell told the TV presenter: “I’m tired, Lorraine, I’m very tired. I’ve got five more sessions of radiotherapy to go. I’m very emotional, as you can see. But I’m looking forward to getting to the end of it and then I can go on a little break with my husband Graham, and we can just be thankful that it’s been found. In a few months’ time, I’ll find out whether it’s clear or not, and then I get on with the rest of my life. There’s a lot to live for.” Burrell, 64, first shared his diagnosis in January and explained he had gone for a full medical examination for a ITV programme last summer. “Out of that came a surprisingly high PSA test [a chemical released by the prostate gland],” he told Lorraine at the time. “I had no idea what a PSA test.” His GP sent him for an MRI scan and they found a shadow on his prostate. A biopsy revealed that Burrell had cancer. He has since gone on to raise awareness of prostate cancer and urged all men to get checked. “You realise that there are thousands of men like me that had no symptoms, I didn’t realise what was happening and it could be too late,” he said.
Pope Francis joked “I’m still alive” moments after being discharged from hospital following a three-day stay for treatment for a respiratory infection. “I wasn’t frightened, I’m still alive,” he told reporters in a light-hearted remark before being driven away. The 86-year-old was discharged from Rome’s Gemelli Hospital on Saturday morning after being admitted on Wednesday for treatment for bronchitis. The pontiff embraced a couple whose daughter had died on Friday night at the hospital and signed a boy’s cast before leaving the site. The Vatican seemed keen to quickly dispel any worries about the pope’s physical fitness to carry on fully with his duties. Spokesman Matteo Bruni said the Pope will be in St Peter’s Square for Palm Sunday Mass at the start of Holy Week, although he did not say if he would deliver the homily. It was also announced he will meet the prime minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina on Monday in a private audience at the Apostolic Palace. Francis had already largely stopped celebrating Mass at major Catholic Church holy days because of a chronic knee problem. During Wednesday’s hour-long public audience, Francis at times appeared visibly in pain when he moved about and was helped by aides. In July 2021, Francis underwent surgery at Gemelli Polyclinic after suffering from a narrowing of his colon. As a young man in Argentina, Francis had part of a lung removed.
On This Day
- 1982 – Falklands War: Argentina invades the Falkland Islands.
- 1992 – New York Mafia boss John Gotti is convicted of murder and racketeering and is later sentenced to life in prison.
- 2015 – Four men steal items worth up to £200 million from an underground safe deposit facility in London’s Hatton Garden area in what has been called the “largest burglary in English legal history.”
- 2020 – COVID-19 pandemic: The total number of confirmed cases reach one million.
- 1872 – Samuel Morse, American painter and academic, invented the Morse code (b. 1791)
- 1974 – Georges Pompidou, French banker & politician, 19th President of France (b. 1911)
- 2005 – Pope John Paul II (b. 1920)
Curses & Conspiracies in Celebrity Deaths
I was at a house party when I found out that Amy Winehouse had died. Somebody announced it, and someone else turned the music down low. I remember sitting and reading the news on my phone, incredulous. She was so young. It was all so tragic. But then someone tutted. “She was 27,” they said, as if an explanation had just dawned on them. “She’s joined the 27 Club.” Oh, we all nodded in unison, as if now it all made sense.
But does it? The 27 Club is just one symptom of a rather bizarre malaise we have when it comes to celebrity deaths. We like to affix some cosmic reasoning to them, as if Winehouse had been “chosen” to join a morbid hall of fame alongside Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain – rock stars who all died at the same, cruelly early age. As sad as it was that a woman not yet 30 had died so tragically, it was as if we were arguing that it had a silver lining of sorts – she made the cut for an elite club. At times of collective grief for a famous person, we seem to fixate on patterns like these. Think the “Rule of Three”; a quasi-supernatural configuration that claims stars always meet their makers in threes – it’s believed to have started when Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper died together in a plane crash in 1959. The “pattern” has borne out many times since. In 2016, for instance, we lost George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds within days of each other.
One of the more recent examples of this morose mathematics is the “Glee Curse”, a phenomenon dissected in the Discovery Plus documentary The Price of Glee. The three-part series focused its lens on the untimely and tragic deaths of three – see, three! – stars from the Noughties teen musical series. Cory Monteith, who played jock Finn, died of a drug overdose at the age of 31 in 2013, while the show was still on the air. Mark Salling, who played school bully Puck, died by suicide at the age of 35 in 2018, just before his scheduled sentencing in a child pornography case. Naya Rivera, who stole scenes as cheerleader Santana, accidentally drowned in 2020 at the age of 33. Three young, creatively linked people dying in relatively quick succession led many to insist the cast of the show was cursed. Is the resulting documentary sensationalist, alarmist and odd? Absolutely. Is it captivating viewing? Err, also yes. We must know that a TV show can’t curse a bunch of actors, so why are we so fixated? However far-fetched an idea, there’s clearly a pronounced willingness to believe it might be possible.
Belief in curses fulfils a need “to make sense of an otherwise senseless tragedy,” says psychologist Natasha Tiwari. “The narrative of curses can be quite compelling; they can offer a coping mechanism in uncertain times, or in scenarios which otherwise are sources of sadness and anxiety.” Uncertainty, she says, is a not uncommon byproduct of a public death, but in particular the deaths of young people – these patterns far more commonly deployed to explain losses that occur too early. We don’t, after all, have anything called the “87 Club”. “Something like this is really about premature death,” adds clinical psychologist Dr Roberta Babb. “This is a way of trying to grieve for people who’ve died way before their time. People who we think have so much more to give.”
Our focus on patterns like this owes a lot to the fact that we don’t typically have the right vocabulary to discuss death. This is particularly true in the white, Western and increasingly secular world, which tends to lack the collective rituals around grief which exist in other cultures – think sitting Shiva or Diá de Muertos. “I think because we don’t have these existing rituals, and we also live in a world where death is not as pervasive as it would have been even 100 years ago, we feel like we can avoid thinking about it,” says Relate counsellor Josh Smith. “As with any avoidance, it will catch up with us. Celebrities can provide a way of talking about death and loss that allows us to be more observer than participant, giving us a bit of a safe distance.”
It can also be a way of developing our own rituals of collective mourning. Dr Babb points to the communal grief around Princess Diana and, more recently, The Queen, as examples of a need to grieve as a community. “What we’ve lost is this idea of collectivism,” she says. “I think grief, unfortunately, will bring people together. Look at how people queued for The Queen, she meant so many different things to so many different people. Yet it is important to note that some people will be grieving for the loss of the individual and other people might be grieving through the loss of that individual.”
Dr Babb’s point is that we frequently use celebrities as avatars for our own feelings. They provide a means to understand and work through our grief, while also being distant enough that we don’t feel it too personally. Think of it as a dummy run for when we experience real tragedy. “Princess Diana is a great example of how we use famous deaths to grapple with our feelings about death,” Babb explains. “It will happen to us all, but death is also one of the experiences we can’t talk about from a place of knowing. So to try and access it, we obsess over the meanings of a famous person’s death. It’s all to understand death, but it’s also a way, strangely, to immortalise them – to prolong our grief and keep them alive longer.”
Music biographer James Court, author of The 27 Club, says he feels as if the “inductees” are kept alive by their very inclusion. “Think of the main six: Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones. They were at their absolute peak when they died, and I think that is a significant thing,” he says. “They never get to retire, or decline. Instead they’re legends frozen in time. It makes it all seem weirdly glamorous and makes the club more fascinating for people to look into.”
In writing his book, Court waded through many of the “mad” online conspiracies surrounding the 27 Club – including the theory that one of the earliest “members”, 1930s bluesman Robert Johnson, had made a deal with the devil. Did bartering his soul for great musical talent kickstart the club? It sounds similar to the speculation that snakes through The Price of Glee. What caused Cory Monteith to die at the peak of his success? How did Naya Rivera drown so shockingly? Surely there must be an explanation? Some kind of cosmic or earthbound conspiracy behind it all rather than something crushingly mundane? But what the docuseries and Court’s book both appear to confirm is that these people’s deaths weren’t the product of a mystical, malevolent force at play. Merely they died due to the cruelties of fame and pressure.
“What all the main six members of the 27 Club have in common is immense fame really early in life, a crazy amount of pressure, people around them making bad choices and all of them having unhealthy coping mechanisms,” Court says, sadly. “The Club is not so much a conspiracy theory or a curse, as it is a real-life cautionary tale.”
We cling, though, to these strange theories as a coping mechanism. And perhaps there’s no real harm in that when it’s done in small doses. Because when we lose young, talented people who still have so much more to give, it’ll always feel inherently senseless.
Last Week’s Birthdays
Pedro Pascal (48), Emma Myers (21), Michael Fassbender (46), Christopher Meloni (62), Linda Hunt (78), Penelope Keith (83), John Thomson (54), Mackenzie Davis (36), Asa Butterfield (26), Annette O’Toole (71), Ali MacGraw (84), Michael Praed (63), Ewan McGregor (52), Christopher Walken (80), Rhea Perlman (75), Richard Chamberlain (89), William Daniels (96), Daniel Mays (45), Donna D’Errico (55), Warren Beatty (86), Céline Dion (55), Eric Clapton (78), Brendan Gleeson (68), Lucy Lawless (55), Marina Sirtis (68), Ed Skrein (40), Christopher Lambert (66), Elle Macpherson (59), Eric Idle (80), Vince Vaughn (53), Julia Stiles (42), Dianne Wiest (77), Lady Gaga (37), Nick Frost (51), Chris Barrie (63), Quentin Tarantino (60), Nathan Fillion (52), Julian Glover (88), Mariah Carey (54), Fergie (48), Jessie J (35), and Romesh Ranganathan (45).