The celebrities! They are dropping like flies!

Farah, MJ, Ed McMahon, and now Billy Mays. If I were prone to conspiracy theories I might start to think something was afoot. Two of the four deaths—Farah and Ed—aren’t unexpected and, honestly, Michael’s isn’t a huge surprise given all the surgery he’s subjected himself to over the years. May’s death may be the result of a head injury after a rough landing when the plane he was on lost its front wheels during a landing.

In all honesty none of these passings stirs any deep feelings in me. I’m probably one of the few guys who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s who didn’t have that iconic Farah poster on his wall. I didn’t watch the Tonight Show enough to care about Ed McMahon so most of my exposure to him was through those stupid Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes ads. I’ll confess to singing along with a couple of Michael Jackson’s songs back in the 80’s, but I was never enough of a fan to buy an album and while I have nothing personal against Billy Mays I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it’s somewhat of a relief that he won’t be making commercials anymore.

So, yeah, lots of folks dropping dead out there and the only real emotion I’ve experienced so far is annoyance at all the networks falling all over themselves to do Michael Jackson memorial shows. Though those are probably going to be less annoying in the long run than all the kiss-and-tell exposes that I’m sure we’ll be hearing about now that he’s dead and can’t sue the hell out of people he was paying to keep quiet. Already we’ve got his baby momma telling the tabloids that Michael isn’t the biological father of his kids and she doesn’t want to take custody of them. Next up will probably be the Nanny. Oh joy!

So I probably won’t be watching much television until this all dies down, if you’ll pardon the expression.

“Mr. Whipple” kicks the Charmin.

It’s a sad day for toilet paper obsessives everywhere as Dick Wilson, best known as the neurotic grocer who defended Charmin bathroom tissue from the groping clutches of lonely housewives, has passed away:

The man famous as TV’s “Mr. Whipple” died of natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, said his daughter Melanie Wilson, who is known for her role as a flight attendant on the ABC sitcom “Perfect Strangers.”

Wilson made more than 500 commercials as Mr. George Whipple, a man consumed with keeping bubbly housewives from fondling toilet paper. The punch line of most spots was that Whipple himself was a closeted Charmin-squeezer.

The first commercial aired in 1964 and by the time the campaign ended in 1985 the tag line and Wilson, a former Canadian airman and vaudeville veteran, were pop culture touchstones.

Seriously though, what the hell was up with those housewives? I mean, check this out:

The second woman in that first commercial looks like she’s on the verge of having an orgasm or something. Which just shows that people in commercials come from an entirely different planet.

New York’s Queen of Mean has kicked the bucket.

Say, do you guys remember Leona Helmsley? Seems she just shuffled off her mortal coil:

Helmsley died of heart failure at her summer home in Greenwich, Conn., said her publicist, Howard Rubenstein.

Already experienced in real estate before her marriage, Helmsley helped her husband run a $5 billion empire that included managing the Empire State Building. She became a household name in 1989 when she was tried for tax evasion. The sensational trial included testimony from disgruntled employees who said she terrorized both the menial and the executive help at her homes and hotels.

That image of Helmsley as the “queen of mean” was sealed when a former housekeeper testified that she heard Helmsley say: “We don’t pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes.”

She denied having said it, but the words followed her for the rest of her life.

Hell, I didn’t even realize she was still alive, but then I didn’t get that caught up in all the media coverage at the time either.

Tammy Faye Messner succumbs to cancer.

So many things I had intended to blog about over the weekend before the power decided to take a two day vacation and this bit of news was one of them.

It took a couple of years, but Tammy Faye has lost her battle against cancer:

(CNN)—Tammy Faye Messner, the former televangelist and Christian singer who battled drug addiction and later inoperable cancer, died Friday morning, CNN’s Larry King said Saturday night. He said the family had asked him to make the delayed announcement.

She was 65.

Messner was a guest on “Larry King Live” on Thursday. She told him she couldn’t swallow food, and weighed only 65 pounds.

I caught that CNN interview by chance while at work as The Automotive Company™ has a number of televisions scattered around the various lunch areas and break rooms in their buildings that periodically switch to CNN over the lunch hours. When I first looked up I thought I was seeing a promo for a new zombie movie or something because I would’ve sworn the skeletal figured smiling at me from the TV had to be a product of some Hollywood special effects shop, but no. It was Tammy Faye:

Click to embiggen. If you dare.

Tammy holds a unique spot in my heart because an entry I wrote about her getting cancer was one of the first ones to earn me a rebuke from more than one of my regular readers. My entry was mean-spirited because I had no real sympathy for the woman considering all the damage I felt she’d done over the years to so many other people.

When I saw her on Larry King the other day I have to admit that I finally felt a pang or two of sympathy for her. As you can see she looked absolutely terrible and I gotta give her credit for sitting there and doing her best to have a positive attitude given the state she was in. I still can’t say that I’m sorry to see her leave this world behind, but I can say that I do have a little sympathy for her after all. I’ve watched a number of people grow sick with cancer and I have a good idea of what she probably went through. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Not even Tammy Faye.

Mr. Wizard has passed away.

Science lost one of its best ambassadors yesterday with the death of Don Herbert, better known to countless numbers as Mr. Wizard:

It is with deep sadness that we regret to announce the passing of Don Herbert – the one and only “Mr. Wizard”. Don lost his battle with cancer today, June 12, 2007, at 9 AM Pacific Daylight Time – slightly more than one month shy of his 90th birthday. He was lovingly surrounded by his family, who are at once, saddened by his passing, and relieved that he is no longer suffering.

I can remember watching Mr. Wizard’s World as a kid back in the 80s on the Nickelodeon channel, but older folks will probably remember him from his original series Watch Mr. Wizard on NBC in the 1950’s and 60’s. He’s part of the reason I had any interest in science and I often duplicated the experiments he demonstrated in his show. At least one of them left me with singed eyebrows, though, and I decided that perhaps being a scientist wasn’t the career path I should undertake. Mr. Wizard deserves some of the credit for keeping me interested in science over the years and he paved the way for other kid’s science shows to come such as Bill Nye and Beakman.

Crikey! Steve Irwin is dead!

The man known as “The Crocodile Hunter” has kicked the bucket, but interestingly enough it wasn’t a croc that got him:

The naturalist and television star Steve Irwin has died in a diving accident in far north Queensland. He was 44.

Police say he was stung through the heart by a stingray while diving off Port Douglas.

He was filming a documentary when the accident occurred around midday AEST near the Low Isles.

A helicopter arrived with paramedics on board to try to resuscitate him, but it was too late.

A more detailed account is available through The Sydney Morning Herald:

Friends believe he may have died instantly when struck by a stingray as he filmed a sequence for his eight-year-old daughter Bindi’s new TV series.

Irwin’s friend of 20 years, Ferre De Deyne said Irwin had been struck by the stingray while filming. “The stingray just happened to be swimming around and out of the blue whacked his tail at him,” he said.

“It is absolutely tragic. I have dived so many times with stingrays and they are usually very placid things,” he said.

Irwin had been filming a new documentary called Ocean’s Deadliest with friend and manager John Stainton at Batt Reef, off Port Douglas about 11am.

“He came over the top of a stingray and the stingray’s barb went up and went into his chest and put a hole into his heart,” Mr Stainton said.

“It’s likely that he possibly died instantly when the barb hit him, and I don’t think that he … felt any pain.

“He died doing what he loved best.”

That he did. I wasn’t a big fan of Irwin myself, but I did find him at least slightly amusing in how much he seemed to annoy everyone else. One thing that can’t be denied is how he had become a pop icon all around the world.

Big thanks to LJ19 for sending this in via email.

Chief Justice Rehnquist has passed away.

Looks like Bush will get to pick two new supreme court justices sooner than anyone thought. CNN is reporting that Chief Justice William Rehnquist is dead at the age of 80. His battle with thyroid cancer came to an end around 11PM this evening.

OK, perhaps now it’s time to be a bit worried.

Good night, Mr. Jennings. And thanks.

I was saddened to hear that journalist Peter Jennings has passed away. It was Jennings’s work that first got me to start watching TV news and his broadcast was usually the first I’d turn to during any of the major crisis’s that occurred over the years. His work largely speaks for itself so there’s not a whole lot to say other than there’s one less reason to watch major network news broadcasts now.

A Moment of Silence For The Late, Great James Doohan

That’s right folks, “Scotty”, the chief engineer aboard the USS Enterprise, died Wednesday. Granted, some might say we shouldn’t morn his passing as he was only an actor but he was, in reality, much more. A WWII veteran, James Doohan joined the Canadian Army just prior to the outbreak of war and even landed at Juno Beach as an artillery lieutenant with the first assault wave. He and his unit fought their way up the beach and through an anti-tank minefield were he was later machine-gunned taking six hits: four in the leg, one severing his right middle finger(which he managed to hide onscreen), and one to the chest which was stopped only by his silver cigarette case. Pretty cool huh? Anyway, it sucks that he’s dead and I thought he deserved more than just a blip on the news.

‘Superman’ Christopher Reeve Dies at 52.

Christopher Reeve, best known for his role as Superman, passed away yesterday at the age of 52.

I’ve never been a big fan of the Superman character, but I have to admit that Reeve did a good job of bringing him to life and making him believable—at least for the first two movies before the series took a turn for the ridiculous. Reeve’s later advocacy for stem cell research after the accident that left him paralyzed is what really made him a hero, though.