Bring Out Your Dead
Mark Twain was traveling in Europe when he received word that the American newspapers were printing stories that he had died. Twain sent back the telegram: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
Despite improvements in communications, or maybe because of them, such things still happen. Near Christmas 1997, for example, a rumor spread through Hollywood that actor Scott Baio had died. It happened to be the same day (December 18) that actor Chris Farley died. For some reason, Baio’;s name also was spread around. Baio, who was out of town at the time, returned to Los Angeles to find his answering machine innundated with messages from mourners (but if he was dead, why would they think that … oh, never mind).
On January 24, 1999, NBC struck out Joe DiMaggio, who didn’;t actually die until March 8, 1999. And the usually authoritative Leslie Halliwell’;s
Okay, okay, these things happen. Celebrities “of a certain age” are frequently asked by newspapers (notably the
Polly Want a Hoover?
There are several renderings of this story, none of which is verifiable. A woman is vacuuming her house and decides that the birdcage is dusty. She sticks the nozzle inside and accidentally sucks her parakeet into the hose. In one version, she manages to reverse the machine to “blow,” sailing the budgie across the room where it lands dazed and ruffled, but alive. In another version, she stops the machine and finds the bird safe in the receptacle bag. In a third version, she finds the bird in the receptacle bag, which, in this machine, is on the other end of the fan.
False reports of death can have international repercussions. There’;s a long-lived legend that Soviet leader Josef Stalin once faked his own death to see which of his underlings would rejoice most; then he could purge the merrymaker. Stalin’;s fraud could not have been far from the mind of other world leaders when, in the early 1950s, erroneous reports leaked out that then-premier Nikita Khrushchev had died. Hours later, an update “corrected” the report by insisting that Khrushchev was alive, but a
Of course, there was the “Paul is dead” rumor that circulated in 1969, insisting that Paul McCartney had died in 1965 and that George, John, and Ringo had been including secret messages in Beatles records ever since.
What’;s it like to be dead? The utterly charming actor Patrick McNee, best known as John Steed on TV’;s
An actor called Patrick Magee died a few years back. I was in Australia at the time. They announced on U.S. TV that Patrick Magee, star of
She said, “But I was talking to him 12 minutes ago in Australia.”
They said, “No, he’;s dead, it’;s just the time difference.”