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1998 Verde/NYPD Death Pool: Updates

Every week or so I feebly attempt to update Pool participants and observers on the progress (or lack thereof) of the Pool, passing along also information concerning celebrity-related mortality, attempted sick humor, and anything else I believe may tickle the collective fancy. Material is presented here in Last In/First Out order, which is to say the most recent updates will be at the top of the page...




12/18/98: Seraglio

A short, six-part, sadly unfunny update:

1. DiMaggio is alive, and he's PISSED! Like some sort of berserk 84-year-old Terminator, he popped up out of his coma, reassembled himself, and set about to hunt down the doctors who've been flappin' their jaws to the media, and make them PAY! Fortunately, Mike A., Lorraine, and SHPOD seem to have communicated to the Clipper that the President of Iraq was the source of the leaks, and since Wednesday RoboJoe has been hurling himself every sundown at greater Baghdad in an attempt to squelch Saddam. Who do you think he'll go after once he's dispatched the docs? Maybe the gasbags on Capitol Hill, but Walt, you'd best put a call in to Linda Hamilton...

B. Carmen Electra, who's either awfully dim or in hilariously deep denial, claims that "everything is fine" in her marriage to Dennis Rodman, while allowing that in the middle of the ceremony, "The priest was going on an on about life and how you have to trust each other and be together forever, and Dennis asked, 'Would you just hurry it up, please?'"

III. I received three kick-butt lists from Francesca this week, along with her request to change her nom d'pool to Mistress of Doom. Whoa. Just two weeks till New Year's -- enter early and often! Remember, you'll get to replace anybody you pick who can't hold off dying before December ends. FY has expressed some displeasure at the haiku portion of the entry form. You can ignore it if you wish (though I hope you won't -- Francesca didn't, and her haikus rock). And don't forget to vote for your favorite '98 lists.

4. No Pool deaths this week, pending post-attack reports from Saddam's seraglio, the possibility that Republican ill will may make Clinton implode, and my fond hope that his permanently furrowed brow may somehow slay Dan Rather.

Who we missed:

E. Our unchanged standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 176 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. Bipartisan John Kerr: -18 points

6. Happy winter solstice, all. I hope things lighten up from here on in.


12/11/98: Klaxon

Gosh, I hope Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra can find a way to work things out, as I'm of the opinion he should take her surname. "Dennis Electra" has an excellent ring to it.

I waited till the last possible moment to actually send out this update in order to determine whether DiMaggio can keep his 56-day living streak going. (Credit this joke to Walt and his vested interest.) He's in a coma, he's out of a coma, the pneumonia's worse, they're draining his lungs again, the pneumonia's better, he's in another coma... If they have to defibrilate him, will his nickname be changed to Jolted Joe? Adam passed on AP reports throughout the day while the NewsHour stood by, ready to run an obituary. Kiss of death though this may be (never mind reports that Ken Keltner is en route to the hospital), I was duty-bound to withhold awarding Walt the points that will vault him into fourth place until the Clipper's EKG is as flat as a Zebra Room draught. Then at 4:20, an AP wire report: "DiMaggio Health: URGENT" The Yankee Clipper... had awoken from his coma! He lives! Well, I'm guessing that if anything can put a stop to it, it will be my hitting the "send" button on this missive. Incidentally, is Joe's physician aware that most people sleep part of every day? I'm wondering if the good doctor has an overly aggressive definition of what constitutes a coma. Lots of 84-year-olds take naps, after all.

Wednesday's Boston Globe reported that cafes in San Francisco (Mr. Monroe's hometown; a better writer than I would have effected a smoother transition) were unable to brew coffee (Mr. Coffee? Dang, I think I missed a transition *and* a stupid joke here) due to the Bay area power outage Tuesday. I hadn't realized matters had got to so serious a pass, so I leapt (well, leaned forward, taking ergonomic care) to my computer and e-queried our left-coast Poolsters, Alex and Francesca, concerning their travails.

Alex replied Thursday:

You will be relieved to know that in Menlo Park, the java flow was uninterrupted. The only consequence I suffered was a momentary flickering of the lights, followed by the loss of public radio's signal. I was thus deprived of several stultifying minutes of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the inquiry into the exploits of the irrepressible first johnson and its owner.

Once they were back on line, the local news outlets found themselves torn between covering the power outage or covering the impeachment idiocy. Mercifully, they chose the former. There was one fatality, an elderly pedestrian run over by a big rig.

Alex

Why is it never the likes of Ratko Mladic getting run over by big rigs?

Francesca, with an enviable amount of time on her hands, responded about three minutes after I e-inquired:

Thanks for your concern. It certainly made all the news, huh? Unfortunately I made it to work OK -- since it takes me an hour to get from SF to Berkeley, I leave pretty early in the morning, and the power outage occurred in SF after my train had already made it to the east bay. I heard that the *whole* SF public transportation system was shut down.

Someone said that this is what Y2K is going to be like, if not worse. Got your Spam ready?

-francesca

PS: Who's Michael Zaslow? And why did Dan know that he was going to die? His prophesying is getting a little creepy.

"Unfortunately I made it to work OK." Need I mention that Francesca is my hero?

Speaking of Y2K, Friday morning I arrived at work to this e-mail, headed "Y2K preview," from Stan, Real Time's weeknight Supervisor:

At approximately 7:10 PM (Thursday), all our computers froze up, and I mean ALL, including the Macintoshes... I was at a bit of a loss, but I stayed cool, calm, and collected (that six-pack I drank must have helped), and took a stroll over to David Olson's office in IS, who was having a nervous breakdown. I mean, one of his computers was literally sounding a klaxon! It was kind of comical. Turns out he routed something he shouldn't have and actually had to go physically yank the plug, but he restored our network capability at around 7:30ish.

SC

P.S. For those of you who are humor-challenged, I didn't really drink a six-pack.

Stan's more a whisky-straight-up guy, I can attest.

All the calamitous predictions concerning Y2K and the depredations to be visited upon our friable infrastructure, combined with the Bay Area and Real Time outages, plus my Tuesday night ride home in the dark when my commuter train's lights failed, have redoubled my determination to continue stockpiling Kit-Kats over the coming 55 weeks.

Doubling back to Francesca: As Real Timers and select other get-a-lifers know, Michael Zaslow was an actor who portrayed Roger Thorpe, a particularly great (i.e., loathsome) character on "The Guiding Light," a CBS soap opera we caption. There was an office-wide awareness that he'd left the show due to bad health (ALS, as it turned out -- hey, Lou Gehrig was DiMaggio's teammate! I've missed another transition!), but only Dan glommed to the fact that the condition was life-threatening. The office currently is of two minds concerning Dan: either that he should be avoided, for fear that he is himself the Grim Reaper, or that he should himself be put on a list (to what effect, I'm not clear).

For his part, Dan responded to my request for answers to four post-Zaslow e-puzzlers:

1. When and how did you learn of your triumph?

By Olympia screaming and ranting at me on the phone, and calling me "Satan" and "Evil!"

2. Who's next?

Olympia.

3. Teach us your ways, Master. How should we prepare our '99 lists?

Just hand the money over to me now and get it over with. I guess if your aim is to get the vote for "Most Creative List" (the Death Pool version of the "Miss Congeniality" and/or "Most Improved" backhanded compliment award), you might have a shot at that portion of my pool. Unless I decide to get greedy and win that, too.

4. Time to trash talk!

It's bad form for someone SO far ahead of everyone else to rub their noses in it, so I won't say anything about how I've got more points than everyone else in the entire pool combined, or how if I gave ALL the points on my BACKUP list to the top three contenders, I'd still be a couple of McCaughey septuplets ahead of any of them. That would be wrong.

Whoa. As if we collectively lack incentive to do better in '99. Not to unfairly adumbrate, but already lists for the '99 Pool are wending their way to Verde World Headquarters, including this very first entry, which may prove among the least likely to win, but nonetheless possesses entertainment value, both for Dan Archetto, its owner (and, obviously and alas, an incurable Yanqui fan), and the rest of us:

Theme: BOSOX

  1. El Tiante
  2. Pudge
  3. Bill Buckner
  4. Bobby Doerr
  5. Butch Hobson
  6. Johnny Pesky
  7. Ted Williams
  8. Dom DiMaggio
  9. Hawk Harrelson
  10. John McNamara

A haiku that reflects upon the list:

O! Mo is no mo'.
Hardly matters: '99
BoSox doomed to fail.

Tie-breaking cataclysmic event in '99: Yankees win "only" 110 regular season games en route to another World Series victory -- Boss fires Torre.

Single most despicable celebrity whom you'd like to see leave this earthly plane in '99? Wil Cordero

Predicted date of the first 1999 celebrity death to generate points for this Pool: April 13 (Fenway home opener)

You know, the five-through-eight slots in this list aren't too shabby. Maybe Dan A. can provide the challenge Dan D. has so noticeably lacked in '98. To wit, our post-Roger Thorpe standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 176 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. Joltin' John Kerr: -18 points

Dan saw Zaslow's departure coming, and Walt awaits the Great DiMaggio, but we all missed the other of the week's notable deaths:

I have a new set of people to hero-worship. A group called The NEA Army has submitted a grant proposal requesting the entirety of the NEA's budget. The following explanation is excerpted from their web site:

In April 1997, we applied for a grant from the NEA. In fact, we requested $99.5 million--the NEA's entire annual budget. More than a grant request, this is an invitation to a coup. As our only weapons, we wield stealth art, epoxy, our wits and a spatula, yet we expect that this Federal government agency will gladly hand us the keys to its castle, just barely escaping with its life. Why would the NEA give us all of its money? Here's what the NEA Army proposes to do:

1. Procure a portion of a B-2 Stealth Bomber. With an NEA grant of $99.5 million, we estimate that we will be able to procure approximately one-twentieth of a single B-2 aircraft. This ought to be enough for part of one of the wings. If the annual budget further shrinks as a result of Congressional action, so be it. We'll just start with the tailpipe and inch our way forward until the remaining money is gone.

2. Hand-carry this aircraft piece across the country, in a manner reminiscent of Jesus Christ and the Stations of the Cross. On its journey, the B-2 portion will be borne by various members of the American community: retirees, passionate supporters of our nation's military, and other arts groups who can use their participation in the processional to raise funds directly from the public.

3. Display the B-2 object on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., over a plaque that reads "Priorities." The plaque will also credit this fiscal year's NEA, whose funds will have made this B-2 Stealth Monument possible.

The web site also contains a number of interactive features, including a design-your-own-national-mall feature and entertaining reader feedback, such as:

I have to tell you that this has got to be one of the stupidest f*cking ideas that I have ever heard of. Could you not find anything better to waste your precious time on? I mean come on what in the hell were you thinking when you came up with this idea, better question, what in the hell were you SMOKING?... P.S. You are some stupid motherf*ckers. -Cosmo, Tahlequah, OK

Cosmo, dude, check your ritalin dosage.

Finally, I feel compelled to note that I made the mistake of renting "The Horse Whisperer" last weekend. It's still unspooling in all its high hooey, I think -- didn't realize its running time was measured in days, not minutes.

This is a film that should have been made, at a fraction of the expense and running time, and no net loss of entertainment value, as a made-for-TV movie with a cast headed by Robert Urich and Valerie Bertinelli.

Or, better yet, as an interactive web site, "www.HoarseWhisperer.com," with a cast led by Bobcat Goldthwait and Judy Tenuta. (You can't have too much Judy Tenuta.)

All right, that's all for me. I'm looking forward to all your lists, except Trish G's. Drop me a line if you need a copy of the entry form, or would like me to forward it to someone.


12/8/98 -- Special update: [Sound of gnashing teeth]

Our Prince of Darkness strikes again.

Word today that actor Michael Zaslow on Sunday lost his battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. Zaslow's death at age 54 elevates Dan's point total on his number two list to 176, and gives him a 121-point lead over his nearest competitor, Mike Allen.

Our updated standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 176 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

Zaslow is the fifth person on Dan's #2 list to shuffle off to Buffalo. As Jessica describes it, Dan has changed the nature of his victory to a thoroughgoing whupping. (For her part, Jessica is vowing to take her list-making for '99 to a whole new, much more serious level.) Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Dan's achievement is that, pending proof of Joe DiMaggio's inability to hang on till New Year's, nobody else in the Pool has managed to predict a death that Dan didn't also. Sheesh.

A full update Friday!


12/4/98: >> Talking Dead Jenna:

Is everyone as torn as I concerning whom to root for in the big Army-Navy game?

Two weeks since the last update, so the celebs have been piling up like cordwood:

None did wee see coming, so our standings remain unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

The British Journal of Sports Medicine gives us hope, however forlorn, for overtaking Dan's lead, in a study documenting the danger posed to skiers by winter lightning. In Vail (ever the popular celebrity hangout), a 38-year-old was struck and killed by lightning after getting off a ski lift. That would have been good for 124 points had the victim been famous and listed and... Oh, never mind.

Checking the e-mailbag...

Andrew writes/shamelessly flatters, "Jack, you make coming in to work till midnight on Friday almost fun. I think that if I didn't have your pithy, prodding prose to look forward to I would have to sdd my name to the death pool-- only on Fridays that is."

I would add only that it's a short trip from prodding to plodding.

The Killer writes, "I love, platonically, Barney Frank and wish I could vote for him." And asks the question on all minds: "When does this Boris meteor shower hit?"

(Speaking of Bad Boris, Yeltsin was hospitalized recently with pneumonia and a fever, but insisted on holding a scheduled tete-a-tete with Tiananmen butcher Jiang Zemin. Alas, no microphones were allowed, his handlers not knowing what addled, vodka-flavored utterances Boris might emit. Subsequently the speaker of Russia's upper house of parliament abandoned his support of our man's government, which he described as "squishy as cabbage." Excellent.)

Department of D-oh: After I mistakenly sent out praise to the Death Pool list for Real Time's 60 Minutes team's work on the November 23 broadcast, JS (among others) caught the error, and wrote:

Wasn't that the Kevorkian episode? Did you mean to send this to the Death Pool list? For inspiration, perhaps?

It was indeed Dr. Jack's episode, and if it inspires, splendid (albeit unnecessary: Lorraine already has Kevorkian on her number two list), but it was sent out of plain old cluelessness and fumble fingers, though Freud certainly would credit my subconscious with working overtime. (Separately, JS notes that "paid or not, you really do watch too much TV." I'd be insulted if (a) this weren't so self-evidently true and (b) I weren't so beyond insult.)

Dependably, Alex responded: "Thanks, Jack, it was nothing. And I mean that sincerely." Ken wasn't so much the wisenheimer, but also pointed out my goof while accepting the accolades.

WPIX-TV in New York reported (and his people, taking a cue from the Sinatras, vehemently denied then subsequently admitted) that Joe DiMaggio is afflicted with lung cancer and suffered a heart attack a couple weeks back. A nation turns its lonely eyes to the Clipper while Walt stands by, wondering what to be thankful for after being deprived of a point by the Joltin' One's birthday the day before Thanksgiving. Further ill augury: Baseball Weekly just devoted a cover story to a reminiscence of DiMaggio's life and times. Whoa, KOD!

Kipp wasn't exaggerating: The New York Times reports poll results indicating that on any given day 53% of the population of France hasn't bathed, 40% is not wearing clean underwear, and 50% is not using deodorant. Perhaps most disturbing, 40% do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom. On behalf of the rest of the continent, a Times of London headline summed it up: "It's True: The French Really Are the Smelliest in Europe." I pine for the days when this kind of headline would cause armies to amass and diplomatic glove-slapping to ensue.

On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of JFK's assassination, and in the spirit of regularly reopening a generational psychic wound and ensuring that we boomers of a certain age and beyond never be permitted to fully get over it, the Kennedy library last week released some more tape recordings made by Our Jack in the Oval Office. In one excerpt I heard on the radio, he's reciting a desultory philippic concerning Ngo's assassination, geez, maybe not the best suggestion ever Henry Cabot Lodged, and he Maxwell Taylors and Bob McNamaras a bit about the 'Nam, all this three weeks in advance of his own demise, and then suddenly little Caroline comes tearing into the room, squealing and giggling, to discuss visiting the Cape... It hurt to listen. I'm first to acknowledge he wasn't a great president by any stretch, just better than all the mediocrities to follow. He wasn't much of a husband at all, either, it would seem, arguably better than only one of those who followed. He sounds like a pretty good dad, though, judging from the tape.

Turkey Day Vignette: All in all I enjoyed a splendid holiday weekend in Vermont, visiting FY's sister BY. Excellent repast, including as much apple pie as I could shovel down, and as happy an in-gathering of family as could be wished for. So Saturday night, Hannah in bed, we're gathered around the video hearth, too lazy to turn away from TBS' Movie for Morons, or whatever's the rubric given to describe presentations including The Blues Brothers, a film even more ineptly slapped together than I'd remembered (I managed, as ever, to underestimate the degree to which the hack hand of John Landis spoils all it touches), though intermittently interesting for its unexpected cameos (Whoa, Pee Wee Herman! Hey, Twiggy!). In attendance are FY, BY, BY's incarnate cyberbeau of the moment, myself, and FY's and BY's aunt, Version 3.0 (after the successive ministrations of her (now ex-) husband the plastic surgeon). Average age just under 40. As it tends in Version 3.0's shallow presence, the conversation turned to a consideration of Who's Beautiful, as ever a potential minefield for husbands and beaus, cyber or elsewise. Even doped up on turkey, cyberbeau and I were sufficiently in possession of our wits to avoid giving anything approaching an honest answer to the question of Whom We Find Attractive (Oh, yeah, Meryl Streep! Did I mention Joan Cusack?). BY suggested that Michelle Pfeiffer is beautiful. Incredibly, Version 3.0 disputed this. By dint of prodigious exertion of self-control, I kept to myself any number of smart remarks concerning the inarguable status of Ms. Pfeiffer's beauty. Pause in the conversation. Then there flashed a promo of upcoming TBS presentations, and on screen briefly appeared Scott Hamilton, featured performer in yet another soon-to-air figure skating extravaganza. Even as I was thinking to myself, Hey, not a bad Pool pick there, Version 3.0 stage-whispered, loud enough for all present to hear, "He had testicular cancer." A moment of stunned quiet, as we all tried to figure out why exactly V.3 was whispering: To protect the ears of the sleeping four-year-old two flights of stairs away? Because naming a disease in a normal tone of voice makes it infectious? My best guess was that Version 3.0, unclear on the physics of television transmission, was worried that Scott might hear.

Speaking of television viewing run amock, Ken writes of news gleaned from the San Francisco Chronicle:

Have you heard about Wolfgang Dircks, a German gent from Hamburg whose spirit will live as long as there are electricity and Chee-tos? Herr Dircks, the Reuters news agency reports, appears to have settled down for a long evening in front of his TV set on Dec. 5, 1993. He was still there last week. Unfortunately, he was, um, dead. For five years.

Herr Dircks' TV listings magazine was on the lap of his skeleton, turned to that night in 1993. The lights were still blinking on his Christmas tree. The TV, sad to say, had joined Herr Dircks in a permanent nonoperable condition. The late, great Herr Dircks was described as a loner -- duh! -- and a former toolsmith who had threatened to whip anyone who inquired about him.

I've been loving the tale of the Texas death row inmate escapees who set up their attempt by stuffing clothing into their bunks to fool the guards into thinking they were asleep in their beds, a diversion I would have thought worked only for Hogan's Heroes. Martin Gurule, the one guy to actually make it beyond the walls, has reportedly been found drowned, but I'll wait a few more days to see whether prison officials belatedly discover that the body they recovered was actually a mannequin dressed in striped clothing.

Coolio, whom I'm liking as a possible '99 pick, was convicted at the Mercedes (well, Daimler/Chrysler) test track in Stuttgart, Germany, this week of swiping $940 worth of clothing. He got probation and a fine, so he's free to run amock some more. I've got to wonder about the common sense of the owner of the boutique that got ripped off in the wake of Coolio's personal appearance. As Coolio's band's name is The 40 Thevz, what did Mr. Boutique imagine he was getting himself into?

All righty, kids, it's time to talk about submitting your lists for the 1999 pool, as well as voting for 1998's best list. Below is a handy, if not dandy, form for the purpose. (Be sure to forward copies to sufficiently thick-skinned friends, relatives, coworkers.) A quick conspectus of Pool rules:

(Incidentally, I've already submitted my '99 lists to Shannon so as to keep the playing field level, as it were, as well as prevent needless worry that I'll pilfer others' bright notions.)

(You know, if you're really at a loss for ideas, I've got a couple of unused lists I'd be happy to give away. Let me know.)

(Have I mentioned what a great gift a '99 list makes? I just gave one to my pal Danny Archetto for his 40th birthday. Dan now has a rooting interest, so to speak, in a number of former Boston Red Sox. It really is a gift that keeps on giving.)

1999 Verde/NYPD Death Pool Entry Form

Hi, kids! The '99 Pool is ready to accept your entries! Copy the form below and e-mail me via this link! Good luck in '99!

1998 business first:

Please vote for the best (#1) and second-best (#2) of the 1998 lists. These are the lists you judge to be wittiest or funniest or best-themed or most interesting or whatever. They do *not* have to have been particularly prophetic! No voting for your own list! Sheesh! (If you wish to review the 1998 lists, check the Participants' lists page of this web site.)

1.

2.

1999 business:

Were you a 1998 participant/onlooker?

If you had a '98 list that did *not* produce points, you may renew it in '99 for just a dollar. Wanna?

For a buck you can take a flyer on the Consensus List: if the list comprised of the ten-most-chosen celebrities generates more points than any participant's list, you'd win $10. Want in on this?

Your list's theme (optional):

Your 1999 list* (additional commentary welcome):

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

* You may submit as many lists as you like! Copy out this form and submit away!

Please compose a haiku that reflects upon your list. (Remember the haiku format: 3 lines of 5/7/5 syllables.) (A limerick constitutes an acceptable alternative.)






Your tie-breaking prediction of a cataclysmic event in '99:

Of all the world's celebrities, whether you listed him/her or not, who's the single most despicable whom you'd like to see leave this earthly plane in '99?

Your prediction for the date of the first 1999 celebrity death to generate points for this Pool (closest guess wins a free list in the Year 2000 Pool):

If you wish to be referred to pseudonymously on the Verde web site, please give me your nom d'Pool:

Want to link the Pool web site to another? Gimme an URL.

Send your payment by January 15 to: Jack Spellman, 17 Ocean Street, Beverly, MA 01915.

Rates:

Jenna is a recently deceased character on Guiding Light (killed in a car crash rendered with all the gritty realism of a Saturday Night Live skit starring Toonces the Driving Cat) whose spirit returns to guide her still-living loved ones, or some such silliness. Real Time decided to ID her as >> Jenna's spirit:, much to my disappointment. If not a perfect ID, Dead Talking Jenna at least is an excellent name for a band.

Happy House Judiciary Committee Hearings, All!


11/20/98: Leonids

What a week.

Release of her tape-recorded conversations with Monica Lewinsky pretty much cuts off at the knees any competition Linda Tripp may have had in her bid to become the most despised human being on the planet. While the transcripts are really quite something -- as if Beckett had been hired on a per-word commission to rewrite "Othello" as an episode of "Dawson's Creek," though neither Sam nor Shakespeare ever created a character so irredeemably loathsome as Ms. Tripp, nor one so exasperatingly dense as our Mon (not the brightest bulb in the Christmas display, if you get my drift) -- you absolutely have to hear her theatrical sighs and how she artfully leads Monica on to appreciate the banal insidiousness of Linda's betrayal.

Sample Beckettian exchange:

Estragon... I mean Monica: Linda, I can't take it anymore.

Vladimir... no, sorry, Linda: I know. I know.

Monica: (Crying) It's just too... It's too much for one person.

Linda: Oh, it is too much for one person.

Clueless girl: I go to work every day, and I just... I'm trying to keep it together, and I just can't. I'm gonna throw up.

Friend from Hell, speaking for us all: No, don't throw up.

Another highlight, I thought, was when Saint Monica of Phrenesis, thinking maybe her phone was tapped, said, "You know what's really weird? I keep hearing these double clicks on the phone line," and Linda reassured her, "That's my gum."

To lift from "King of the Hill," I don't know if there's a God, and I don't know if there's a Heaven, but Linda Tripp is going to Hell.

All of which was but prelude to the spectacle that was the 96-hour appearance of Kenneth "The Schoolmarm" Starr before the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. Where to begin? What literary antecedents can possibly be invoked? What began as Restoration comedy or perhaps "Tartuffe"-style farce (and who would have complained, given the inexcusable dearth of fops in contemporary American culture, had Kenbo appeared before the Committee in frilly collar and 18th-century powdered wig?) morphed all too quickly into Punch & Judy as scripted by Kafka to be filmed by Fassbinder, "DC Alexanderplantz" on steroids, with a cameo appearance by that jowly Congressman who looks more like Jabba the Hutt than anything Industrial Light & Magic has ever sent down the pike. I had to keep switching over to "Teletubbies" to more firmly ground myself in reality. Incidentally, what in the name of all that is holy is with David Kendall's right eyebrow?

There. I feel better.

Evidently Dan hasn't wished anyone dead this week, as our standings are unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

It's been a busy week on the we-missed-it front:

Test pilot Tex Johnston, 84, died on October 29.

Negro league star Bob Thurman, who made it to the majors as a 38-year-old rookie, died at 81 on November 7.

British actress Valerie Hobson, 81, who was also the loyal wife of Brit Prime Minister John Profumo, died November 13, no doubt regretting that her hubby's sex scandal predated the era when you could cash in on such things.

Kwame Ture, leading Black Power activist of the 1960's, when he went by the name Stokely Carmichael, died at 57 on November 15.

Esther Rolle, leading African American actress of the past quarter century, when she went by the name Esther Rolle, died at 78 on Tuesday.

Film director Alan Pakula, 70, died in a bizarre car accident on the Long Island Expressway Thursday while en route to work on his screenplay adaptation of Pool pick Doris Kearns Goodwin's FDR/Eleanor history "No Ordinary Time." The director of "All the President's Men," "The Parallax View," and "The Pelican Brief" would surely recognize the implicit conspiracy.

And it's been a tough patch for sports Hall of Famers with championship credentials:

Hall of Fame basketball coach Red Holzman, 78, winner of two NBA championships, died November 13.

Hall of Fame boxing promoter Chris Dundee, 91, manager of three champions, and older brother of Angelo, died November 16.

Hall of Fame football coach Weeb Ewbank, 91, winner of two NFL championships, died November 17.

(Pool picks currently looking over their shoulders (or, in DiMaggio's case, up from his sick bed) in search of Brad Pitt: Heavyweight champ/boxing Hall of Famer Muhammad Ali; multiple Yankee World Series champs/baseball Hall of Famers Joltin' Joe (who deserves his place in the Hall) and Scooter Rizzuot (who does not); Super Bowl or NFL champs/football Hall of Famers Mike Ditka, Frank Gifford, and Joe Namath; multiple Canadian Football League champ/B.C. Hall of Famer Doug Flutie; multiple NCAA hoops champion/college basketball Hall of Famer John Wooden.)

Tracking some other dirt nap nominees:

Gab pick Ted Turner disclosed this week that he's considering running for President. Ted says Jane opposes the notion. And then Thursday he turned 60 and deprived Gab of a (potential) point. To crib Ignatius Reilly: Oh, Fortuna, you capricious sprite!

From the Associated Press Friday: "DES MOINES - The McCaughey septuplets piled into their big white van yesterday and headed for the hospital where they made history to celebrate their first birthday with doctors and nurses. En route, their dad Kenny drove the vehicle over an embankment and delivered 693 points to Verde/NYPD Death Pool beneficiary Alfonso Villanueva, now destined for Hell." Actually, I made that second sentence up. The septuplets are fine, Alfonso's hope for a 700-point payoff a dashed dream, though I suspect he may still be rooting for a spectacular, if improbable, post-Christmas skiing mishap to net him 1,386 points.

Per the Globe, my personal bete noir Mike Barnicle is scheduled to undergo multiple bypass surgery early next month. Maybe he'll get an ethics implant, too, though either way you've got to like him as a pick for '99. Mike's planning on returning to work on WCVB-TV's Chronicle, where honesty and truthfulness evidently just don't matter, soon after the new year.

Theresa writes:

Hey, just so everyone out there knows my husband is not a rocket scientist: he stole MY prediction regarding the obliterating of Baghdad -- the rat!!!! (Its the Leonids meteor shower that's in the way -- chance of hitting a milsat just wrong is slim, but the JCS won't take the chance). Not to mention, the 2nd carrier and all the big-boy aircraft don't arrive middle of the week.

theresa

Ah, the whole thing proved a non-starter, anyway. That's not a complaint. It's good that Bill Clinton on our collective behalf did not order the death by air strikes of thousands of Iraqis. Hurrah for the diplomatic solution. Knowing that we'll be revisiting this a few weeks or months hence, and never getting to hear the other shoe drop, does exasperate. And the burning question remains: How did Brezhnev rate getting a meteor shower named after him?

Francesca writes [and I provide running commentary]:

Jack--

Thanks for the great recent dp e-mails. [Whoa, flattery!] Now that Alex is back in Berkeley, we talk about the death pool every chance we get (when we're not reveling in our beloved statistical tables)! He is shamefully unprepared for the '99 death pool, while I have more than enough names for next year. (Don't tell anybody, but I think I may go with a Swing-themed list--I listen to a great radio station here in SF that features swing, standards, and big band music, and those artists are one lindy hop away from the big cocktail lounge in the sky.) [Apologies, Francesca, for outing your theme, but the lindy hop comment had to be shared.]

I've been meaning to write with ideas for the dp updates ever since your vacation, when you seemed to be losing steam. [D-OH! Though undeniably true.] Even though you've gotten a second wind [Oh, sure, now I feel better], still thought I'd write.

So I went to an anagram site on the web which automatically produces all possible anagrams with any words you enter. I entered some of the dp-related names. Some good ones:

Jack Spellman:
Smell Jack nap
[I would not wish this on anyone, even Linda Tripp.]

Frank Sinatra:

A star in Frank
As in, rank fart
Frank, as in rat
Tsarina Frank
Artisan Frank
Stink ran afar

Verde Death Pool:
Delve poor Death
Oh, led to deprave
Dare! Do help vote!
Old harp devotee
Or, help vote dead

Maybe you can use some of that material! Gotta go!

-f

"Dare! Do help vote!" That'll be the rallying cry next month when I organize the choosing of the 1998 Pool's List of the Year (winner to receive a quarter of the Pool's humungous proceeds). More details on this after Thanksgiving, when I'll next update, unless of course someone scores some points in the interim.

Speaking of which, happy Turkey Day to all. See you in December!


11/13/98: Mephitic Potatoes

Guess what? We've been collectively shut out again, with Dan just sitting on his seemingly insurmountable lead. Here's who we missed this week:

Our unchanging standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

Banana peels

Someone in the Japanese government this week described Boris Yeltsin during his visit to Japan as resembling "a drunken robot." This from the excruciatingly polite culture that has umpteen gradations of the phrase "I'm sorry." Yikes. I keep thinking Boris is tap-dancing on a layer of banana peels atop a sheet of thin ice covering a freshly dug grave, but...

For Pool Eyes Only

Bess this week was ruminating on what it would take to whack Saddam Hussein, who's been picked by Lorraine, SHPOD, and Mike A. I believe Bess has a plan. It involves a polite request. Normally I disapprove of Poolster involvement in assassinations of listees (the non-picked, of course, are fair game), but Saddam is such an ongoing annoyance that I'll let it go this time. Incidentally, is Tariq Aziz not a mephitic lick-spittle? Somebody put him on a list for next year, please.

He's Super Freaky

Not meaning to do anybody's '99 list research for them, but did you see that Rick James suffered a stroke this week? The Super Freak's doctor (who I assume is the kind of physician you don't take home to mother) said that his patient is suffering "rock-and-roll neck," an actual syndrome that's the result of violently swinging one's neck about while performing. It's one more thing the guidance counselors at Rock 'n' Roll High School never mention when they're herding you into your post-grunge pen.

Mail

Speaking of research, Jon Alper, on whom I'm counting to recruit the entire staff of Nova to participate in next year's pool, writes:

Hi Jack,

A friend sent me to the following URL last night. It struck me that it might be of interest to you and the other poolers: http://www.deathclock.com/

One would hope that a tool like this wouldn't replace more ephemeral predictive tools... Of course the site may also explain Dan Davis's unnaturally commanding lead in the standings. ; )

-Jon

More mail

Ed writes (and makes me laugh): "The following letter was forwarded by someone who teaches at a junior high school in Memphis, Tennessee; the letter was sent to the principal's office after the school had sponsored a luncheon for the elderly. This story is a credit to all humankind. Read it, soak it in, and bask in the warm feeling that it leaves you with."

Dear Reyer School:

God bless you for the beautiful radio I won at your recent senior citizens' luncheon. I am 84 years old and live at the county home for the aged.

All my people are gone. It's nice to know that someone thinks of me. God bless you for your kindness to an old forgotten lady. My roommate is 95 and always had her own radio, but would never let me listen to it, no matter how often or sweetly I asked.

The other day her radio fell and broke into a lot of pieces. It was awful. She was very upset. She then asked if she could listen to mine, and I said fuck you.

Sincerely,

Edna Johnston

Election redux

Finally, let me quote Fred Tuttle, a great American, concerning his election day activities: "I voted for the other guy. Now I still got some more potatoes to dig." Fred pulled 23% of the vote, as Senator Patrick Leahy won reelection, and about my only disagreement with Mr. Tuttle would be concerning his opinion that those 23% wasted their votes.

Mark your calendars

Adam's predicting the Clinton administration will hold off bombing Baghdad till the middle of next week, after the planet's clear of the comet debris that's threatening to obnubilate the satellites used to target cruise missiles. (I'd be grateful for the obnubilation of Ken Starr on Thursday coming.) I'll update the moment I learn of Saddam's, or any other pick's, demise. Till then, take care.


11/6/98: Ixnay Alfonse

There are a number of things I miss about living in New York City. I miss ditching work to take the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty. I miss Prospect Park on a sunny Saturday afternoon. I miss pounding margaritas with SHPOD. But perhaps above all else I miss the glorious sense of moral superiority engendered by voting against Alfonse D'Amato. What a splendid feeling it is to say ixnay to America's most noxious, repugnant, nasal politician, the anti-McCain. Other subsets of Americans can get a kind of watered-down version of this epiphany. If you live in Providence, you can vote against Buddy Cianci; Louisiana voters usually have multiple choices aside from Pool pick David Duke; and voters in the Carolinas can rejoice at their opportunity to ding either of Pool picks Helms or Thurmond. But none of these can compare to the deep-down feeling of well-being you get, no matter your own personal shortcomings, when you ensconse yourself in a New York voting booth and do the right thing by blowing Alfonse a raspberry. The entire East Coast was awash in the contented sighs Wednesday of millions of Empire State voters basking in their glory.

As I write this Friday night, Newt Gingrich's Speakership is apparently going down in flames. What a swell week it has been.

Now let me talk about a wasted vote. (No, not for Jesse "Steroid Spice" Ventura.) On election day morning I cast for William Galvin for Massachusetts Secretary of State, a more or less innocuous Democrat practically indistinguishable from his Republican opponent, Dale Jenkins. They're both 48, went to Boston colleges and law schools, and are exceedingly whitebread. Imagine my dismay on getting to work, perusing the Globe's voter guide, and realizing I'd blown my chance to vote for The Naked Guy, David Atkinson, Libertarian from Provincetown (whoa!), owner of Picture Perfect Tree Surgery in that town, graduate of Leland Powers School of Radio, Television, and Theatre, who in his Globe photo was, at a minimum, shirtless. It's true that an uninformed voter is a dangerous voter.

Department of Puh-leeze: Russia's highest court ruled this week that Boris "Drinking on Borrowed Time" Yeltsin cannot legally run for a third term. Oh, that was going to happen.

The Yankee Clipper's wings have been clipped: His physicians have ordered that Walt pick Joe DiMaggio be sedated in order to ensure he keeps to his bed as he fights off a relapse in his battle versus pneumonia. Joe kept getting out of bed all week, presumably attempting to deliver flowers, and undid all the good his hospitalization has done. (I'd bet anything that, when it comes to listening to the doctor, better than his brother Joe is Dominic DiMaggio.) On hearing the news (kindly delivered by a certain hawkeyed watcher of the wires at the NewsHour), Walt wasted no time sprinting over to Dan Davis to engage in a little unjustified trash talk. If DiMaggio cashes his chips before November 25, Walt's foresight will net him all of 17 points and undisputed possession of, whoa, fifth place; a later departure will cost Walt a point and leave him 117 points behind Dan, which, let's face it, is a minimum of two Axl Roses.

Speaking of trash talk and our possessor of first-place, Dan responded to last week's update thusly:

">It has occurred to me that Dan is to the
>'98 Pool as the New Yawk Yanquis are to
>'98 Major League Baseball.

somehow, I'm honored yet really insulted.

You're welcome.

>In what amounts to an expansion year...

ha! excuses, the refuge of losers! McGwire hit 70 home runs, and I'm kicking everyone's butt, so deal with it! Actually, it being an expansion year in the death pool makes it LESS likely that I'd have such a huge, insurmountable lead over everyone else, not more likely. I should actually get extra accolades, since there's more "competition" that I'm trouncing.

> both Dan and this edition of the Yanks are
>pretty likable, if you can subtract out
>Steinbrenner from the latter.

wow, more likable than Steinbrenner-- what a sweet thing to say.

You're welcome.

I'd say that Michael Zaslow would be the Shane Spencer of my list: from out of nowhere, late in the season, the guy nobody counted on who'll help run up the score, when the only thing left to decide is how big my record-setting margin of victory will be.

Other things I have in common with the Yankees: All the Bostonians who care about my field of expertise (and death pools would probably pretty much cover it) are jealous of me.

Also, just like the Yankees, it's my year, and I'm destined to win, even if others try harder; root against me; have more loyal, less obnoxious supporters; and are more deserving of winning.

Like Camper Van Beethoven once sang, "Wyoming makes me nervous." Um, I mean, "Life is Grand."

(wow, it's like I'm on trash-talk highway and can't find an off-ramp)

Dan"

Department of D-oh!: In addition to my own trash talk, last week's update (as ever) featured the usual high percentage of flat-out bad information. (Bear in mind my personal motto: "Often in error, never in doubt.") Newest Pool voyeur Kate O'Brian graciously writes:

"Hey, Jack...
Where ya been? ABC is now a corporate plaything of the mighty Disney organization. (Cap Cities was bought a few years back.) So your nefarious plot to subsume the media now has more extensive possibilities... movies, toys, even theme parks. (Hmmm..a Death Pool ride at Disneyland?)
K
ps: I'm getting my list together."

Nobody will believe me now, I know, but I actually was aware of Disney's buyout of Cap Cities. I continue to hold out hope that a bidding war for Death Pool distribution rights will soon ensue among Disney, DreamWorks, (personal fave) Microsoft, Telemundo, (number-two choice) MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, and every other content provider on the planet, leaving me a fabulously wealthy plaything myself and living off the interest. I'll no doubt use my free time to chart the progress of Yeltsin's third term and DiMaggio's recovery. The Disneyland Death Pool Flume is tempting, but I'll hold out for getting gobbled up by MacNeil/Lehrer, as it will only be under the condition that they add Dan Davis and Jack Spellman to the Shields & Gigot Collection of Flapping-Jaw Action Figures, plus provide me an unlimited supply of Tickle-Me-Kwame dolls. (Real Time denizens will recognize this as recycled humor I've stolen from Dan. Faith's opinion notwithstanding, I feel that if a joke's funny once, it's worth beating to a bloody pulp.)

Kate's working her list, SMK's told me she's ready to go... It's all so heartening to me. I had an idea for next year, and I'd like to hear what you all think. For those who may not want to make a list of their own, or who want to supplement their rooting interest, you could for a dollar invest in the Consensus List of the Top Ten Most Chosen Celebrities for '99. You wouldn't know until all the lists had been submitted and tallied who the picks would be, though you'd probably be able to hazard a pretty fair guess. If the Consensus List outscores all individual lists, it would pay off, say, $10 to each person who invested, the remainder of Pool proceeds getting divvied up along our standard 75-25 split between winning list and most-popular list. (If too many people go in on this and win, I might have to lower the payoff to a maximum of, say, half the amount of the Pool, max.)

Speaking of the Pool, there's not much to speak of, as our standings remain unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

A paucity of top-level celebrity deaths this week, too. Here's the skinny on who we missed this go-round:

Taking exception to my Geezerpalooza comment, Theresa writes:

"Hey, no dissing John Glenn!!!. He's the best PR NASA's had in ages. Even if he croaks. You're just jealous that they wouldn't let you up in the Space Shuttle, even at 35. As the French say, Pfffft!
(The author once was an intern in John Glenn's office, and has nothing to regret.)
love, t"

Actually, I believe it's Dan Rather who has provided NASA the best PR its had in ages. From what I've seen, I'd have to say he and CBS are a fully owned subsidiary of Space Travel Is Swell, Inc.

Speaking of Senator Spaceshot, and finally, a reminder: If you're going to be seeing John Glenn after his Saturday return from space, remember to wear an ape suit.

Happy birthday, Hannah! Happy Veterans Day, all!


10/30/98: Dynasties

Another week passed, and nothing doing on the Death Pool front, Dan sitting on his immense lead:

Our current and unchanged standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

Even among the non-listed famous there's been scant action:

It has occurred to me that Dan is to the '98 Pool as the New Yawk Yanquis are to '98 Major League Baseball. In what amounts to an expansion year, both put in play operations that were well constructed, fundamentally sound, and not terribly flashy but efficient in the extreme; and both saw their squads, as it were, thrash the opposition. Additionally, both Dan and this edition of the Yanks are pretty likable, if you can subtract out Steinbrenner from the latter. There are other parallels. Dan leadoff pick Pol Pot is a sort of Kampuchean Chuck Knoblauch. James Earl Ray was a Strawberryesque figure who throws the niceness of others into sharp relief. Sinatra scored points for Dan; his version of "New York, New York" plays at the end of every Yanqui home game. And of course each "team" has an excellent closer who ices the victory: Mariano Rivera for New York, and Quisenberry for Dan. On deck for Dan, but resisting his role, is Milton Berle, who's kind of like Tino Martinez in his not being dependable in the clutch, if you ask me. Dan has listed Julia Child; David Wells sure does like to eat. Strom Thurmond is on Dan's list; he kind of resembles David Cone. Dan listed Ronald Reagan, who has thrown out the first pitch on Opening Day and has forgotten more than Don Zimmer actually knows. And completing Dan's list are Michael Zaslow and the Reverend Billy Graham, equivalent to the Yanquis' Jorge Posada and Chad Curtis in that I can't think of anything ridiculous to say of them.

(Speaking of Quisenberry, after he, as the French say, stopped eating, Shannon e-mailed something I've been meaning to pass on: "Somehow this latest report has taken all the fun out of it for me. Not as much fun, of course, as has been taken from Dan Quisenberry, but still...")

As we enter the final two months of this year, and our Dan's point total appears unto us a receding target, I will note that, in ways helpful to those of us bringing up the rear, every new year is essentially an expansion season in the death pool game, as new players will, we hope, be submitting lists, perhaps as ill-prepared as were ours last January. To that end, I encourage you all to forward these updates, and the web site address (as ever, http://members.tripod.com/~Verde_Death_Pool/index.html), to anyone you think (a) might like to participate in next year's Pool and (b) won't be too grievously mortified by the whole business. And of course I'm more than happy to add new addressees to the mailing list -- just let me know.

Meanwhile, we '98 participants are a year wiser and wilier, and I've no doubt our lists for '99 will reflect our ongoing, if in many cases newfound, avidity regarding celebrity mortality. I have several ideas about next year's pool; I'll float a couple now and more as we near year's end, and strongly hope you'll let me in on any brainstorms you may have. I'm thinking that for next year I'm going to offer a couple of deals for '98 veterans. If you're on the '98 mailing list, as either a participant or a viewer, your price per list for '99 will remain a measly two bucks. We'll soak the newbies by charging them three dollars a list. (All the more incentive for the lurkers out there to come forward and be officially acknowledged by, say, December 1.) And if you have a '98 list that did not have a single correctly predicted demise, you can re-submit that list for just one dollar if you also submit a second, all-new list for $2. (Such a deal!)

More to come, and, again, suggestions for further innovation are welcome.

Gosh, how many of us Poolsters were thinking morbid thoughts of Challenger and Apollo I as John Glenn lifted off Thursday on his combined Geezerpalooza/Egopalooza tour?

Boris Yeltsin, that incorrigible Slavic tease, has checked himself into a sanitorium and "temporarily" passed governmental decisionmaking powers into the hands of his Cabinet. I believe the man has made a conscious decision to schedule his appearance on "Guinness' Biggest Thrombsoses on Tape!" for about a minute after midnight on New Year's Eve, just to annoy us all.

You know, if there's peace in the middle east, my hopes of scoring with Yasser Arafat go by the boards. Then again... I'll quote Dave Barry:

They can hold all the peace talks they want, but there will never be peace in the middle east. Billions of years from now, when Earth is hurtling toward the Sun and there is nothing left alive on the planet except a few microorganisms, the microorganisms living in the middle east will be bitter enemies.

Hey, Laura Azevedo, tan, married, rested, and ready, is back at 'GBH! Hurrah! The best thing to happen to me at this place all week was running into Laura first thing Monday. (Uh, no personal denigration implied to everyone else I've seen since Monday.)

Also joining us, observing through December and (I hope) jumping into the pool for '99, is Kate O'Brian, our ABC/Cap Cities correspondent/minion (as we further our nefarious plot to subsume planetary media operations).

A spooky, safe, chocolatey Halloween to all.


Hey, Kids! It's the lost update of 10/23/98: Susurrus

Nothing to report on the Death Pool this week, all quiet but for our impatient shifting about as we await Boris Yeltsin's next goofy attempt to prove he's a healthy guy on the go.

Just three deaths of note:

Our standings are unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

Byron Looper, a candidate for the Tennessee state senate, has been arrested and charged with the murder of his opponent, incumbent state Senator Tommy Burks. Apparently Byron lacked confidence in the electorate's decision-making. Looper, who was already facing trial on corruption charges, has actually changed his middle name twice, from "Anthony" to "Byron" to "No Tax." I'm looking forward to his next change, to "Incarcerated."

According to an article in the journal Science, rhesus monkeys can count to eight. Pretty cool.

Dan, back from vacation, responds to Mike Allen (who'd written, regarding who might be next to go, "Well, let's see... If Dan has some type of accident before year's end, then technically doesn't that mean that I win?") Dan writes:

I actually HAD an accident a few days before this was sent to you. Did this Mike Allen character secretly build a cement staircase on the Charles River bike path, knowing I'd come flying along in the dark and smash into it? Well, his nefarious plot failed-- I'm still alive. But I just wanted to point out that if I DO win this contest but DO happen to croak before I can collect, my winnings would be part of my estate, which would be in big, red, negative numbers. Therefore the money should go to my family, so they can use it to pay off a little of my Mastercard debt, or for a pine box or an urn, whichever's cheaper. Unless this Mike person wants to try to take the money away from my hopefully grief-stricken family, in which case my ghost will haunt him for years, and make sure that no one on his death lists of the future ever dies at the right time ever again.

Happy Standard Time. Look for an update when Dan scores more points.


10/16/98: Death Pool Takes a Holiday

Liz came up with the excellent title for this inexcusably footling update. I could make excuses, but they'd all be lame, possibly even as lame as the "humorous" topics I considered and rejected for this go-round:

Slim pickings, I'm sure you'll agree.

Four pretty famous people died this week, and we missed 'em all:

I continue to expect Boris "The Slavic Weeble" Yeltsin to expire any minute. He about took a public header earlier this week, the Kremlin subsequently pooh-poohing his unsteadiness as the result of "bronchitis" (Old Church Slavonic word for "plastered to the gills"). Until he (or somebody) does complete the keeling over process, our standings remain unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. John Kerr: -18 points

Jessica, awesomely unbothered by my insensitive notification of her petlessness, writes:

Jed will be missed... come visit Guthrie, who I bought to take his place the day after I found out Jed passed away. Thanks for memorializing him in the Death Pool. Here is a haiku that I think is fitting. It's titled:
FOR THE SIAMESE FIGHTING FISH THAT USED TO LIVE IN MY SUITE AND WHO DIED WHILE I WAS HOME WITH PNEUMONIA BECAUSE HE MISSED ALL THE ATTENTION AND BECAUSE HE WAS GETTING OLD AND SIAMESE FIGHTING FISH ONLY LIVE A YEAR OR TWO ANYWAY AND THOSE YEARS ARE SPENT IN A DISTORTED GLASS EXISTENCE SEPARATED FROM HIS OWN KIND FOR THE PLEASURE OF OTHERS:
Rainbow head and tail
Swim no more on planet earth:
Farewell, Jed, Farewell.

(Eerily, both the title and the haiku itself could be applied equally well to Boris Yeltsin, if you substitute "Russian President" for "Siamese Fighting Fish.")

The Killer writes concerning Roddy McDowall and my faulty memory of "Planet of the Apes":

It's "damn, dirty ape" by the way.

Ed writes:

"An actual converstion held earlier today:
Dad: "Maddie, you're famous! Your song is all over the internet!"
Maddie: "Yeah. Do you want to play with me?"
Obviously she's keeping a level head about the whole thing, although later in the evening she did volunteer to sing it over the phone for a friend. This is, of course, the same girl who walked to the microphone at her preschool play as her classmates were politely leaving the stage and told the crowd (in her best Elvis) "Thank you, thank you all very much". It's the truth.
Thank you for encouraging her behavior - Ed
PS - there are two more songs on the Semisonic CD which are equally catchy, if you can believe it."

Even with generous layout, I'm not providing much in the way of quantity, am I? (A problem when I've completely foregone providing quality.)

Must...

fill...

space...

Hey, here's something:

>TITANIC VIDEO: $9.99 on Internet.
>CLINTON VIDEO: $9.99 on Internet.

>TITANIC VIDEO: Over 3 hours long.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Over 3 hours long.

>TITANIC VIDEO: The story of Jack and Rose, their forbidden love, a subsequent catastrophe.
>CLINTON VIDEO: The story of Bill and Monica, their forbidden love, a subsequent catastrophe.

>TITANIC VIDEO: Villain: White Star Line.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Villain: Ken Starr.

>TITANIC VIDEO: Jack is a starving artist.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Bill is a B.S. artist.

>TITANIC VIDEO: In one part, Jack enjoys a good cigar.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Ditto for Bill.

>TITANIC VIDEO: During ordeal, Rose's dress gets ruined.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Ditto for Monica.

>TITANIC VIDEO: Jack teaches Rose to spit.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Let's not go there.

>TITANIC VIDEO: Rose gets to keep her jewelry.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Monica's forced to return her gifts.

>TITANIC VIDEO: Behind the scenes: Leonardo DiCaprio is wildly popular.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Behind the scenes: Bill Clinton's approval rating is at 70%.

>TITANIC VIDEO: Jack surrenders to an icy death.
>CLINTON VIDEO: Bill goes home to Hillary.

Okay, here's something else:

Go Padres.


10/9/98: Brainlauch

"Maddie knows what I need in my veins..."

It's been an emotional week for the New York Yankees. First they got collectively verklempt about teammate Darryl Strawberry's being diagnosed with (and operated on for) colon cancer. As if they didn't have sufficient carrot (monetary reward) and stick (having to suffer George Steinbrenner if things end badly) to propel them through the playoffs, now they have the added incentive of winning one for the Gipper, or at any rate their drug-sniffing, tax-evading, talent-wasting, bad-defense-playing, dogging-it-to-first-on-groundballs, always-got-an-excuse, giving-the-intelligence-of-geological-entities-a-bad-name teammate. But David Cone's tears were nothing compared to the bawling we heard from Chuckie Knoblauch as he whined about the umpire's call Wednesday night in lieu of picking up the dang ball and throwing out the go-ahead run. If Jeffrey Maier were dead, he'd be spinning in his grave. If Knoblauch (subsequently renamed "Brainlauch," "Blauch Head," and "Chucklehead" by the ever-senstitive New York tabloids -- man, am I loving it) had played for my Little League team, Coach Cavanaugh would have been on the first shuttle to La Guardia to (a) reinforce the drills he instilled in all his ten-year-old charges and (b) sit Chuck's behind on the bench for the remainder of the post-season.

Hey, what is it with major league baseball and the grim reaper? In addition to the recently departed Dan Quisenberry and Strawberry's diagnosis, we learned this week of the deaths of Gene Autry and Mark Belanger (more below on these) as well as the illness of Cal Ripken, Sr., and the very serious auto accident involving the historically luckless Herb Score. To quote Ned Martin, "Mercy."

Due to my own tardiness, I failed to complete an e-interview with Pool leader Dan Davis after he scored with Quis, but before he started his vacation/victory lap. (Dan may be riding high now, but I'd counsel against overconfidence, lest he resemble Enrique Wilson in the home stretch.) Mike Allen, newly installed in second place, graciously and quickly replied to my Quis quiz:

1. When and how did you learn of your triumph?

I was on vacation in Nags Head, N.C. when I relized I had hit the death pool lottery. Considering the content of the news clip, my reaction frightened the other couples so much that I fear they do not want to vacation with us again. I am not a monster, I am only wishing harm on 10 individuals out of billions in the world.

Hmm, "I am not a monster, I am only wishing harm on 10 individuals out of billions in the world." It seems to me I've heard those words before. Pol Pot, perhaps? Shannon Doherty?)

2. Who's next?

Well, let's see... If Dan has some type of accident before year's end, then technically doesn't that mean that I win? Is this thinking outside the spirit of the contest?

Not at all. Though I am a little concerned by the absence of quotation marks around "accident" above. Then again, it's Dan, not me, who's in line for it.

3. Travis Fryman: legitimate baserunning ace or interfering cheater?

What goes around comes around. I seem to remember it was OK with New Yorkers several years ago when Reggie Jackson stuck his butt out to interfere with a ball, but now it's wrong.

4. Any thoughts concerning Darryl Strawberry?

Hey, cancer is a terrible thing and since he is not on my list I hope he fully recovers. But the outpouring for this jerk is nauseating. Just look at what he has done in the past and even if he has changed didn't he sucker punch at least two other players this year?

5. Time to trash talk!

Following on the New York theme I am going to borrow some lyrics from rapster LL Cool J (happen to have the CD from my college days):

"Don't call it a comeback
I've been here for years
Rockin my peers
Puttin suckers in fear
Making the tears,
rain down like a monsoon
listen to the bass go boom
explosion
overpowering
over the competition, I'm towering
brake to a stop
when I drop,
these lyrics are gonna make you call the cops
don't you dare
stare
you betta move, don't ever compare
me to the rest that will all get sliced and diced
competition payin the price

I'm gonna knock you out
momma said knock you out...."

If I had any sense of rhythm myself, I might attempt a rap update. Fortunately (for me -- unfortunately for my readers), there remains the last refuge of the literarily impaired: the haiku. Through which format I present this week's list of celebrity departures:

Perennial duckpin champion Elizabeth "Toots" Barger, 85, died September 28. She was Baltimore's preeminent athlete until Johnny Unitas came down the pike:

Queen of the Duckpins,
Elizabeth Barger's dead.
We love dames named Toots.

British actor Marius Goring, 86, and chanteuse Quebecoise Pauline Julien, 70, both died September 30:

Goring, Julien:
Famous in foreign lands, but
Unknown to us Yanks.

Former California Angels owner Gene Autry, 91, joined a different group of angels on October 2:

Singing Cowboy dies:
Gene Autry will never be
Back in the saddle again.

Get your paws off me, you dirty ape: Roddy McDowall, 70, the rare child actor able to achieve adult success, died October 3:

Lassie come home now
To the Planet of the Apes:
Rowdy Roddy's dead.

Myron Scott, 91, creator of the Soap Box Derby, and the guy who named the Chevy Corvette, died October 4:

Crazy Buckeye coot
Thought up the Soap Box Derby;
Named the Corvette; croaked.

Margaret Mary Ray, 46, David Letterman's and Story Musgrove's stalker, committed suicide this past Monday:

Mary Ray, you can
Stalk Letterman, Musgrove; you
Oughtn't stalk a train.

And on Tuesday Mark Belanger, defensive shortstop supreme for the 1965-81 Baltimore Orioles, died of lung cancer at 54:

Birds' Mark Belanger:
Latter-day Maranville and
Tobacco victim.

And on Wednesday there was, if not a celebrity death, then at a minimum the passing of one who was much admired in the Real Time office. All Death Pool participants who have a Siamese fighting fish named Jed take one step forward. Uh, Jessica, not so fast. Or, to express it poetically...

Step up if you own
A Thai fighting fish named Jed--
Jessica, step down.

(Sorry, I know the above is lame, but consider the alternative, never-completed version:

Come and listen to a story 'bout a fish named Jed,
Poor Thai fighter whom we barely kept fed
While Jess for a week was sick and throwin' up.
Then Jed started swimmin' with his belly side up...)

Anyway, our post-Quisenberry standings remain unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. Emulous John Kerr: -18 points

It's at best only tangentially related to the Pool (our President is a pick), but I feel obliged to at least note Clinton's ongoing difficulties, the most astonishing comment on which that I've seen was on the NewsHour Wednesday from William F. Buckley, who said, with scarifying avidity, "If something of equal gravity had happened in...Japan, there would have been a suicide." In quite the disappointed tone, he continued, "We don't engage in that culture." I was sad that Elizabeth Farnsworth was so stunned by this that she failed to ask the obvious follow-up question: Is William F. Buckley counseling the President of the United States to commit suicide? Anyway, hearing stuff like this puts my mind at ease concerning any qualms I might have that I personally am debasing the political dialogue of our great nation.

A merry Columbus Day to all (and Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian friends). Go Tribe.


9/30/98: Quisenberry Watch

Like the Royals reliever himself, the vigil has ended. The Associated Press reported Dan Quisenberry's death early this afternoon. Not mentioned in the AP obit was that this gives our Dan Davis 130 points for the year, and leaves him 85 points ahead of his nearest competition, co-Quis-picker Mike Allen, who supplants Tom Kenney in the number-two position. Dan's thoroughgoing pre-pick research now leaves the rest of us a tough row to hoe as we look to the final quarter of '98. Our updated standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 130 points
  2. Mike Allen: 55 points
  3. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  4. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  5. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  6. Submarining John Kerr: -18 points

It's been a rough patch for sports celebrities. On Sunday, football great Doak Walker, a key member of the Kennedy/Bono bipartisan caucus to promote safe skiing, died at 71; and Viljo Akseli Heino, last of the Flying Finn track stars, died Monday at age 84.

Other recent deaths:

Apologies for this week's truncated update -- I'm heading shortly to New York City, Death Pool point of origin, for high-level consultations (i.e., a birthday party) and to check in with Big Apple correspondent SHPOD.


9/25/95:

Hey, I didn't understand that Olympia was working with the Julian calendar, not the Gregorian! Her prediction of a major sports-related demise has come true in triplicate this past week: Cal Ripken's consecutive-games-played streak ended at 2,632 on Sunday (at least Cal is free now to concentrate on his tell-all insider's biography of Robbie Alomar, reportedly entitled "Great Expectorations") (dang, I've been sitting on that joke for almost two years); this past Monday Olympic champion Florence Griffith Joyner died of heart attack at 38; and finally, and perhaps most tragically, a notable former major league relief pitcher died, taken away long before his time by the vagaries of illness. Yes, Red Hoff, the oldest former major league baseball player (well, not anymore), died at age107 on the 17th. Ol' Red claimed that in his first major league appearance he fanned Ty Cobb. (On a related note, I claim that Bill Gates stole all my good ideas.)

Actually Dan Davis and Mike Allen (out of their own list-related self-interest) and I (as list overseer) have been keeping the watch for former big-league pitcher Dan Quisenberry, who's been suffering from tumors in the brain, and was admitted to a hospital Tuesday. His family reported that the 45-year-old Quis was "resting in God's peace." (Am I alone in thinking that, if I were sick, that's about the last thing I'd want to hear from a member of my family?) If this Dan goes, our Dan may well have wrapped up first place in this year's pool (barring, say, travel-related mishaps involving the McCaughey family and, subsequently, Alfonso's departure from London for Hades), as the hurler's 55 points would put our Dr. Doom 85 points ahead of current second-place-holder Tom Kenney, who's position would be usurped by Mike, who actually e-mailed me from the road yesterday with word of Quisenberry's demise:

"Jack,
This death pool produces some strange feelings/reactions when news of a possible death arises. Upon hearing the news on the TV I clinched my fist and cheered, only to look around the lobby I was in, at the astonished faces of unknown people. I am in a fantasy football league and my reaction was similiar to someone scoring a touchdown, but in this case it is the big touchdown in the sky."

Nothing wrong with that, I say.

The announcement apparently was premature, as I've been unable to confirm it via web, broadcast, or print media. In fact, one media insider who's connected with our Pool (well, Adam) immediately claimed Mike had been hoaxed, though I'm guessing the 'dam man just doesn't like the idea of falling 130 points behind the Dan man while maintaining his own Bob Hope/Boris Yeltsin vigils.)

Moving on, permit me to thank heaven above for the Real World and the plentitude of material provided therein for an imagination-bereft sod such as I. Specifically I give thanks for Mike Barnicle. Mi amigo Miguel this week sought to take out a full-age ad in the Boston Globe in order to defend himself from the paper's charge he fabricated his column about the two boys with cancer, one white, one black. Mike sold $36,000 worth of stock, for goodness sakes, only to have the Globe decline to run the ad. He claims the story he wrote was essentially true and just (I promise I couldn't make this part up) "flawed in the retelling." Barnicle traveled to Maine, where he met Pat Shairs, who said the story was her family's.

An aside here: as a rule I have a low opinion of the quality of the writing on television news programs generally, and local news particularly, but I have to give voluminous credit to whomever the wiseacre was at WCVB, Boston's ABC affiliate, who wrote the following: "Her son had died of heart disease, not cancer as Barnicle reported, after befriending a white girl, not a black boy, with heart disease, not cancer, whose grandmother, not parents, sent $5,000, not $10,000, to her impoverished family."

Said Barnicle, "The root of that story, in its essence, is fairly close to mine." Well, gosh, yes! Except for the actual facts, the stories are one and the same! Apparently Mike's relationship to the truth is closely equivalent to Ken Starr's relationship to justice, Henry Hyde's relationship to fairness, and Bill Clinton's relationship to forthrightness. Finally, WCVB reported that the loss of his column has left Barnicle with "a brooding sense of injustice." Whoo-hoo! Boo-boo feelings! Goodness gracious but I love this world.

Speaking of (a) Ken Starr and (b) boo-boo feelings, I saw it reported this week that Starr's office is investigating Linda Tripp for possibly having lied under oath after the FBI determined that some of the tapes she'd made of conversations with Monica were recorded on a machine other than the one she claimed. (Gosh, Linda might have been fibbing? Knock me over and beat me senseless with a hummingbird feather.) So let's see, the soap opera synopsis of our constitutional crisis would be: Ken uses Linda's tapes to strong-arm Monica into testifying against Bill. Maybe I am, to borrow the paleoanthropological description of Australopithecines vis-a-vis its humanness, insufficiently encephalized, but doesn't this kind of throw into some doubt the means by which Starr got the goods on Clinton? (Not that it matters, what with the President's approval ratings back up to the high 60s after the broadcast of his grand jury testimony. As Bess, Alice, and I were discussing, we now have only to await Clinton's confession that, yes, he his own bad Presidential self actually murdered Vince Foster with his bare hands in order to see his ratings rocket into the 80s. The baby boomers will be saying, "Heck, Vince wanted to end it -- Bubba was just doing a pal a favor!") Anyway, I've got to be careful about mean-talking the Office of the Special Prosecutor, because it is a fact (I admit, tremblingly and whilst I chew my lower lip), that in the way distant past I had girlfriends with whom I broke up in a way that left them with, it is true, boo-boo feelings, boo-boo feelings that were altogether and solely my fault. The report recommending my impeachment is nigh-on imminent. (Incidentally, if you'd like to plead the case for or against me directly to Mr. Starr, a contact inside the national media (well, Adam) informs me that his address is 6455 Madison Court, McLean, Virginia. I'm sure Ken would love to hear from you.) (Hey! I do believe I hear the sound of Constitutional Framer James Madison spinning in his grave at the proximity of his good name to Starr's.)

That's in the future, however, much like our 1999 lists. (Dude! Way cool transition!) I would guess that Tripp and Starr, among other Monicagate principals, will be much-chosen, though perhaps more as a result of the animosity they engender than out of any particular actuarial likelihood. (The Boston Herald reports that Tripp discouraged Monica from wearing the infamous blue dress by asserting that it made her "look fat." Is she not the greatest girlfriend in the history of the world? If you'd like to tell her this yourself, you can write to her at 6258 Cricket Pass, Columbia, Maryland. I'm sure Linda would love to hear from you.) (A DC-based source (well, Adam) passed on the address.) (Hey! Crickets are preparing a trans-species class-action lawsuit to force Linda to disassociate herself from them.)

A couple other promising picks for '99 have been in the news this week: Zany Bo Gritz, distraught that his most recent wife had left him, shot himself in the chest last Sunday. He survived. (Let the picking begin.) I've also got to like the chances of Salman Rushdie getting popped in the year to come, now that Iran's lulled him into a false sense of confidence by "rescinding" (yeah, sure) Khomeini's fatwa. And Olympia, rejuvenated by her reclaimed psychic prowess, is organizing a November outing to see the stand-up comedy stylings of Emmanuel "Webster" Lewis. Olympia writes that "contrary to rumors, Gary Coleman is not the opening act." In any event, is a Death Pool list complete without at least one washed-up child-actor-turned-disgruntled-adult-non-entity?

For now, and pending a resolution to the Quisenberry vigil, our current standings remain unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. Unimpeachable John Kerr: -18 points

Other notable recent deaths:

I drove in to work (as opposed to my standard train/bicycle commute) twice this week, and as the crummy tape player in my crummy car isn't working, I've listened to more radio the last three days than I had the last three months. Evidently the FCC has mandated that all commercial radio stations must play a three-song rotation consisting of that goofy rap by Barenaked Ladies and two insanely catchy songs by Semisonic. I was in my own endless loop of humming the one song incessantly until hearing the other and switching over, when I was saved by our own Ed Coates, who e-mailed me a .WAV file (click here to listen!) of his astonishingly talented daughter Maddie singing her own splendid composition, entitled "Ice Water," which I hereby decree is the Official Song of the NYPD/Verde Death Pool. Appropriately, it is a blues, and in the blues tradition has a lyric that is at once simple and working on multiple levels. Maddie's style is a mix of Michael Stipe (though less obtuse and more clearly enunciated), Joan Osborne (but with superior lyrics), Whitney Houston (yet with more depth of feeling), and Bjork (minus the umlaut) -- as Ed describes it, "quite rare in white suburban girls who have not yet turned five." Since my first listening it's all I've had in my head (a distinct improvement, you'll agree).

Finally, as major league baseball begins its post-season, do remember to focus your mental energies on the necessary opening-series sweep of the Yankees that will obviate their whole ridiculously successful season.


9/18/95: Corley

The soul of George Wallace, the most important Southern politician of the past half-century (I would argue) was segregated forever from his body on September 13 at the age of 79. There are other Southern politicians currently afield who could take some lessons from Wallace on the possibility of repenting and asking forgiveness and making, if not right, at least better, some awful behavior. Something to think about as we approach the high holidays. Thoreau wrote, "It is easier to sail many thousand miles through cold and storm and cannibals than it is to explore the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one's being alone." So there you go. In any event, I'm taking an eraser to my '99 Dixie Demagogues list-in-progress.

Wallace's was preeminent among a host of celebrity leave-takings of that past week-plus:

Our standings remain unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. Philoprogenitive John Kerr: -18 points

Hey, so what if I've used up all my good comedy ideas -- I can always just cut-and-paste! In that spirit...

1998 DARWIN AWARDS

The Darwin Award is an annual honor given to the person who provided the human gene pool the biggest service by getting killed in the most extraordinarily stupid way. As always, competition this year has been keen again. Some candidates appear to have trained their whole lives for this event.

DARWIN AWARD CANDIDATES

  1. In September in Detroit, a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18-inch-wide sewer grate to retrieve his car keys.
  2. In October, a 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker, who "totally zoned when he ran," according to his wife, accidentally jogged off a 200-foot-high cliff on his daily run.
  3. Buxton, NC: A man died on a beach when an 8-foot-deep hole he had dug into the sand caved in as he sat inside it. Beachgoers said Daniel Jones, 21, dug the hole for fun, or protection from the wind, and had been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom Thursday afternoon when it collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand. People on the beach, on the outer banks, used their hands and shovels, trying to claw their way to Jones, a resident of Woodbridge, VA, but could not reach him. It took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him while about 200 people looked on. Jones was pronounced dead at a hospital.
  4. In February, Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed in Lompoc, CA, as he fell face-first through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burgling. Death was caused when the long flashlight he had placed in his mouth to keep his hands free) rammed into the base of his skull as he hit the floor.
  5. According to police in Dahlonega, GA, ROTC cadet Nick Berrena, 20, was stabbed to death in January by fellow cadet Jeffrey Hoffman, 23, who was trying to prove that a knife could not penetrate the flak vest Berrena was wearing.
  6. Sylvester Briddell, Jr , 26, was killed in February in Selbyville, Delaware, as he won a bet with friends who said he would not put a revolver loaded with four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger.
  7. In February, according to police in Windsor, Ont, Daniel Kolta,27, and Randy Taylor, 33, died in a head-on collision, thus earning a tie in the game of chicken they were playing with their snowmobiles.

DARWIN AWARDS HONORABLE MENTIONS

  1. In Guthrie, Okla , in October, Jason Heck tried to kill a millipede with a shot from his 22-caliber rifle, but the bullet ricocheted off a rock near the hole and hit pal Antonio Martinez in the head, fracturing his skull.
  2. In Elyria, Ohio, in October, Martyn Eskins, attempting to clean out cobwebs in his basement, declined to use a broom in favor of a propane torch and caused a fire that burned the first and second floors of his house.
  3. Paul Stiller, 47, was hospitalized in Andover Township, NJ, in September, and his wife Bonnie was also injured, by a quarter-stick of dynamite that blew up in their car. While driving around at 2 AM, the bored couple lit the dynamite and tried to toss it out the window to see what would happen, but they apparently failed to notice that the window was closed.
  4. Taking "Amateur Night" Too Far: In Betulia, Colombia, an annual festival in November includes five days of amateur bullfighting. This year, no bull was killed, but dozens of matadors were injured, including one gored in the head and one Bobbittized. Said one participant, "It's just one bull against [a town of] a thousand morons."

If only our listees could inject such shenanigans into their daily routines.

A happy autumnal equinox and splendid high holidays to all.


9/11/98: (Man with a Plan) X 6

1: The First and Foremost

Time and again over the course of this nation's history, in moments of grave political crisis, the Republican party has offered up a man who's not merely a politician, but a healer, even a sort of savior. Lincoln saved the Union. Vermont's Calvin Coolidge repaired damage done the body politic by the corruption of the Harding administration. When a felonious President wreaked havoc with the Constitution, Gerald Ford... Uh, bad example -- never mind. And now, as we wallow in the unfathomably tawdry ickiness of another Presidential scandal, again it is Vermont and the Grand Old Party which offer us a beacon of hope, a political talisman to cling to as we search for a better way. I refer of course to Fred Tuttle, winner handily this week of Vermont's GOP primary contest for the right to lose in November to incumbent Senator Patrick Leahy. Fred, who played the title character in the movie "Man with a Plan," beat Jack McMullen, a millionaire flatlander who relocated to Vermont less than a year ago. Fred spent about $200 on his campaign, most of that amount on rental of port-a-potties for the nickel-a-plate fund-raising dinner he held in his house. Key moment in the campaign came in a debate on Vermont Public Radio, during which the candidates were allowed to ask each other questions. Fred stumped McMullen with questions like What is a tedder? (farm tool for drying hay), and How many teats on a cow? (four; McMullen guessed six), and then handed McMullen a list of Vermont towns and asked that he read them aloud. Poor Jack (something he'd never been considered before) mangled, among others, his attempts at Calais and Leicester. (Calais, pronounced Cal-iss, not Cal-lay, subsequently voted 162-41 for Fred.) All of which is an object lesson on why Vermont remains the butt-kickingest of the 50 of our United States of America, and should serve to remind us to keep political hope alive.


2: The Man: Bill Clinton

The Problem: manifest and self-evident. (Avoid the traffic jam at CNN and visit http://www.pbs.org/newshour/starr_report)

The plan: Sorrypalooza '98! *


3 and 4: Two egomaniacal zillionaires in a gondola at 25,000 feet: what could go wrong?

Absolutely the best Pool-related news of the week has to be that Richard Branson and Steve Fossett, flinging aside all common sense, have decided to attempt, together, a global circumnavigation by balloon. Jill and Deb would seem to have been auditioning for Lord of the Dance, such was their joyous jigging at the announcement.


5: Yours truly

In the wake of recent literary parodies, more than once I've been asked something along the following lines (this from sis-in-law Theresa): "Are they PAYING you at 'GBH? You obviously have WAY too much idle time (the devil makes work....) on your hands." That these comments come from people who've known me a long, long time (thank you, SHPOD, for your variation on the theme) might worry someone less inured to such assaults. Fortunately, I have the lovely FY perkily interrogating me re: what goes on in Real Time, and she is never shy concerning her recurring conclusion ("You have an ass job.") Anyway, I thought I'd tell you all exactly what goes into creating these updates:

Understand for starters that all the work is done at home, on my own time. I get up in the middle of the night, or never go to bed at all, so as to take advantage of lower phone rates when connecting to the Web in order to keep abreast of celebrity departures from this mortal coil. I scribble my notes on pathetic scraps of napkins gleaned from the bagel shop when all eyes there are fixed upon Elizabeth's berobed boyfriend. Consultations with Hannah precede any serious decisions concerning content. I cobble together my pathetic attempted comedy, growing wild-eyed and mussy-haired (in the diminishingly hirsute areas of my cranium, the encroaching male-pattern baldness accelerated by my despairingly tearing at the few sad remaining wisps) as the Friday deadline approaches. I key into my home computer the final version, shooting pains drag-racing through my carpal tunnels like Jersey-bound stolen cars through the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, if not like bad similes through tortured syntax. (You get the drift.) When I arrive at work Friday, I selflessly slave the day away, only at its conclusion, after every itsy-bitsy responsibility has been dealt with, stealing away to my Mac to paste my text file into an e-mail and send the weekly update on its way. Guilt-ridden at the 20-plus seconds I've taken from my labors for WGBH Beloved Educational Foundation, I invariably stay an extra three hours to make good the time, never thinking once to add it to my timesheet.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


6: Kipp

I'm turning over responsibility for actual humor in this update to SMK's brother Kipp. Let me note first, however, that I deeply regret not having had the foresight to be drinking a glass of milk when first I read what follows, because I would have done a world-class spit take, as should you all. As part of my own personal Sorrypalooza *, I'll be showing up on the doorstep of each recipient of this update to personally apologize in an exaggerated Arkansas accent.

Got milk? SMK writes:

"A little background info is in order for you to fully appreciate the following. My sister, CiCi, recently relocated to LA from Savannah, GA. Her friend Luke (full name: Pandora Lucretia Wander, who, unbelievably, SURPASSES her name) was getting married in August. CiCi, who has been working at CalTech and is a generally happy-go-lucky kind of kid and so makes friends pretty easily, was accompanied to the travel agency by her new friend/acquaintence Mathieu, a researcher in her department. When learning the fare to Savannah was $800, CiCi jokingly said to Mathieu, "So, feel like driving me to Savannah?" Well, the guy actually said okay and promptly arranged to take two weeks off work.

I need to add here that Cici and I already drove from Savannah to LA in April/May. She must have really wanted to attend that wedding.

Now, I don't know if Mathieu said yes because he was interested in seeing the US (he arrived here about eight months ago) or because he has designs on my admittedly pretty sister or both. I also don't know if his car has air conditioning. I DO know that (1) he stunk to high heaven, and (2) the temperature in the Southern US has been in the triple digits. This could not have been a pleasant 2,500-mile trip to Georgia. I don't know if you have ever visited Savannah, but it is VERY hot and VERY VERY humid. And that's in January.

On the way back to LA, the two stopped to visit my brother Kipp, his wife Julie, and their daughter Nevada (no apologies for the strange names in my family) in the INCREDIBLY dull Atlanta suburb of that NRA-stronghold, Smyrna, GA. They had been there for three days when Kipp finally broke down and told Mathieu that he was going to have to take a shower. Kipp had begun to worry that the smell (a la a Seinfeld episode where Jerry has to abandon his BO-infested car) was going to permeate the house permanently and he had been hoping to sell it this fall. (He did not tell Mathieu this.)

Okay, now that the stage is set, let the lights dim..."

Date: 09/08/98 10:19 AM

From: Kipp

I'm using MAT* cause I don't know how to spell the spitting sound made when you correctly pronounce that 2nd part of his name. This is a good exercise because it helps me with screenplay format and putting tension into a scene. The major dramatic question of this screenplay is: will MAT*'s ODOR survive?

PEPE LE PEW GOES TO SMYRNA
by Kipp Koenig
INT: KIPP's living room --- Evening
KIPP
(holding drooling BABY for suitable diversion)
Mat*, have you got a second? Come on outside.
(KIPP, MAT* and MAT*'s ODOR exit the living room)
CUT TO:
EXT: KIPP's back porch. --- Evening
MAT*'s ODOR
What do you think he wants?
MAT*
I do not know. Relax.
KIPP
Well, Mat*, I just wanted to say that Julie and I are glad to have you. You're welcome to stay in our house but you see, it's.....
(Incredibly long and very awkward pause. KIPP, BABY, and BABY's drool freeze in place while ....)
MAT*'s ODOR
Uh-oh! I've seen this before. Remember the mother of that woman in New Jersey we dated briefly while on summer holiday?
MAT*
Yes! She tried to blame the discoloration of her walls on you! I would not have it! The least she could have done was thank you for causing all of her nose hair to fall out.
MAT*'s ODOR
You don't think he's going to ...
MAT*
Be strong, my friend. Like they were in Les Miserables. I am Jean Val Jean and You are Marius.
MAT*'s ODOR
Is it ok if I think of myself as Fantine? "I dreamed a dream..."
MAT*
But of course!
(MAT* and MAT*'s ODOR embrace. Meanwhile, KIPP, BABY, and BABY's drool unfreeze. As the drool hits the porch, KIPP is now ready to finish his sentence.)
KIPP
... the odor.
MAT*'s ODOR
Oooh!
KIPP
Yes. You stink.
In a rage, MAT*'s ODOR attacks the BABY's drool on the porch. It fizzes away into some chemically spectacular cloud of toxic gas.
MAT*
Oh my God! I am so embarrassed.
KIPP
And Deodorant, man! Use Deodorant.
(BABY, who has never spoken before, does so now.)
BABY
Deodorant!
MAT*
I am a lonely man in a foreign country who has driven a strange woman 3000 miles and only now I find out.
KIPP
My child's first word was "deodorant."
MAT*
(he speaks now to MAT*'s ODOR)
You silly bastard! You have betrayed me for the last time!
(now to KIPP)
I go now to the wash room.
KIPP & BABY
Yayyyyyy!
MAT*'s ODOR
I will not go that easily.
(singing)
"I dreamed a dream of days gone by..."
(MAT*'s ODOR flies away through the trees. All living things - Bugs, Trees, Birds - die as it flies by. We FADE OUT as KIPP & BABY empty cans of air freshener in all directions)
THE END.


Need I bother to mention that I consider Kipp to be as a god who walks among mere mortals? For verily he makes fun of the French, yet never once employs the words "Jerry Lewis."

A postscript from SMK, responding to my request to make use of this material: "Jack, Kipp would be thrilled to be immortalized in the Verde update, website or whatevah, so go ahead and quote, esp. if it's a slow week and you're stuck for material." [This last comment leads me to believe SMK hasn't been reading these updates very carefully.]
smk
"p.s. she *did* bring him to the wedding."

Clearing the decks, we still wait for news of some change in our standings, which remain:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. Caption Center Savior John Kerr: -18 points

Here's the honor roll for the two weeks past:

That's all for now. Take care, all.

* Sorrypalooza is a registered and copyrighted wisecrack, property of Wiseacre/Death Pool Productions, Inc. Unattributed, unpaid-for use of this joke, an actual (that is to say, extremely rare) Spellman original, coming soon to a t-shirt near you, is expressly encouraged unless your name is Mike Barnicle.


9/7/98: Buddy

Having been on vacation this week past, the sum of all information gleaned concerning The World has been what I've overheard or observed at the bagel shop around the corner:

  1. Buddy the Reagan dog died at 13 (91 in Lorne Greene years). I'd have put some doughnuts down on his outliving Ronnie.
  2. If you get goggle-eyed at the appearance of a major piercing halfway between the lower lip and chin of the college student who serves you your bagel, not even a relatively quick recovery and the comment "Cool piercing" will (a) fool your server or (b) keep at bay the sad realization that you're getting wicked old. .
  3. The coolest, most attractive guy at the Montserrat College of Art in Beverly, Mass., the one dating Elizabeth in the bagel shop, habitually wears what can only be categorized as either a heel-length skirt or robe. .
  4. Corollary to both 3 and 2b above, any inclination you have to discuss with Elizabeth what (if anything) her boyfriend wears in addition to/beneath the skirt/robe is further and final confirmation that you're a hopelessly old relic.

No change (that I'm aware of) in the Death Pool standings. A full update to come at the end of this week, or whenever a listee does us the favor of making our competition more interesting.


8/28/98: Ragged Claws Scuttling

I'm sorry: I'm running late and poorly inspired on this, my last day before a week's vacation. On the other hand, I'm better at apologizing than the President of the United States.

It's been an interesting week, but without movement in the Death Pool. Here's who's gone:

Eddie Shipstad, 91, co-founder of Ice Follies, died on August 20.

Legendary horse trainer Woody Stephens, 84, broke his ankle and, tragically, had to be put down on August 22.

On the 24th, actor E.G. Marshall, 84, Grand Ole Opry comedian Jerry Clower, 71, and former U.S. Representative Charles Diggs, Jr., 75, all died.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., 90, former Colorado Senator Floyd. K. "Eddie" Haskell, 82, and songwriter Marshall Barer, 75, who wrote the Mighty Mouse theme ("Here he comes to save the day!") all died this past Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Dr. Frederick Reines, 80, discoverer of the neutrino, completed his second half-life.

My e-mail bag is bursting with blush-inducing compliments:

RE>Papa
Date: 8/17/98 11:12 AM
From: Alex McCormick

You are a gifted and deeply troubled fellow. And you seem to have a tad much time on your hands. How lucky I am to be on the death pool list.

8/25/98
From: Gay Chanley
re: It is proven

I have been thinking that it certainly was a ballsy move on your part to dare to set up a death pool--what with all the death that afflicts our species and the well-established record that beings much like ourselves have for dying. I guess I though that you were tempting fate a bit to focus so intently on the deaths of others. But now I know that it is not true. You can tempt fate because you are a higher power. How else can one explain the close temporal relationship between your (amusing) screed on Barnicle and his ultimate demise--at least as a Globe columnist. I bow down before you and worship--not that this is anything new, I have worshipped you for years. By the way if anybody had Barnicle in the pool, would you give them points for career death?

Has anyone got David Brinkley? I saw him in an airport recently and am sad to say that he is looking mighty old and mighty fragile these days. If he goes, JS will fit in neatly into his vacated curmudgeon at large role at ABC.

This was in Tuesday's paper, courtesy of the AP (and should have been titled "You Can't Fire Me, I Quit, Redux"): "The Maine Press Association Monday retracted a speaking invitation to former Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle, saying his appearance at a function to honor journalists would be inappropriate. Barnicle was scheduled to speak at the group's annual dinner on September 11. Barnicle took the decision in stride. "Good, that's the night of the Yankees-Red Sox game," he said, adding that he had planned to cancel the speaking engagement."

Barnicle's got a lot in common with our President, actually, including an unhealthy fondness for doughnuts and an inability to say out loud the words "I'm sorry." (Incidentally, any truth to the rumor that the President eats moldy doughnuts thinking they're chockful of penicillin?)

How did Brinkley go from being 70 to being 95 without any stops in between? Gay is right about JS, except that someone as coherent as he could never make it on network television.)

Speaking of the great JS:

8/25/98
From: JS
re: "don't look back ..."

Yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ("One of America's Great Newspapers," as its masthead proclaims in yet another example of a claim whose mere existence is the most convincing other proof of its falsehood - akin to, but less interesting than, the question of truth in a statement like "I never tell the truth," which somehow reminds me of "I am not a crook" or "I did not have sexual relations ...") had (remember the P-G? that's the subject) almost an entire page devoted to the following site: www.city-net.com/~lmann/dps The site is replete with self-promotion and testimonials, on a scale that makes the Verde site (just visited for the first time) look shabbily tasteful: you've got to do tackier that this.

I expect, nay, require, an appropriately intemperate flame to follow. If you don't trash the competition, who will?

Ess

Um... Bad web site. Go away. No, that's no good. I know, I'll say what Hannah says when she gets p.o.'d: "Stupid knock-down web site! You're not the boss of me! [Blows multiple raspberries]"

Hey, "shabbily tasteful"-- I like that. I was afraid getting into this whole death pool thing that I might wind up attracting mean comments or something.

Finally, this from Adam:

8/28/98
re: I Smell Death

Boris the spider, creepy crawly, creepy crawly..... Oh, I DO see his ticker just blowing up over the latest Russkie crisis, I do I do I do! Oh, come on Boris, get me on the board with some points. I've given up hope on Hope, that old bag is gonna beat George Burns' Hollywood longevity record. I plead with you Boris, bring it on home to PaPa!

love, satan

Liz passes this along from the AP:

A British man will spend half a year entombed in the garden of his pub as a tribute to his dead mother, a former record-holder in the sport of being buried alive. Geoff Smith, 37, plans to enter a coffin-shaped box Saturday that will be lowered into a hole near the Railway Inn pub in Mansfield, northern England. He hopes to stay underground 180 days, long enough to beat the record-holder. In 1968, Smith's mother, Emma, spent 101 days buried alive in Skegness, setting a world record that stood until 1981, when an American reached the 141-days mark.

I predict Geoff's record will be disallowed after the Guinness folks discover he's been using androstenecelinedion borrowed from Mark McGwire.

All this, then, is prefatory for the following, what you suffer for having collectively encouraged previous literary desecrations:

"The Death Song of Judge Lewis Powell" (abridged and senseless, with all due apologies to T.S. "Cats" Eliot, spinning in his grave alongside twin sister Mama "Cass" Elliott)

Let us go then, Lew and I,
When the evening is blowing raspberries against the sky
Like the Dow Jones etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through stupid knock-down streets,
The muttering retreats
Of E.G. Marshall in shabbily tasteful hotels
And Woody Stephens with oyster shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious ice folly
Oblivious in a tent
To lead you to an overwhelming question...
Oh, do not ask, "Were they listed?"
Let us be like Papa, wicked two-fisted.


In the room the women come and go,
Talking of Joe DiMaggio.

(Condensed boring verse:)
Yellow fog...
Yellow smoke...
Curled once about JS and fell asleep.

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the curmudgeon;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that Boris Yeltsin fired;
There will be time for relationships inappropriate,
And time for all the unattributed jokes and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you not to be the boss of me,
And time yet for burying oneself alive
Like your crazy mother Emma in Skegness
Before the taking of a toast and tea.


In the room the women come and go,
Talking of (better than his brother Joe) Dominick DiMaggio.


And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I resign?" and, "Do I resign?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
(They will say: "Dang! Brinkley's hair is growing thin!")
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
http://members.tripod.com/~Verde_Death_Pool/index.html,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin,
(They will say: "But Dude! Brinkley's arms and legs are thin!")
Do I dare
Disturb the Maine Press Association?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions that Gay Chanley will reverse.

(Four boring verses condensed:)
I have measured out Dan Davis' second-list lead with coffee spoons,
So how should I presume to count his 75 points?
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my ways,
California dreamin' on such a winter's day?
And how should I wag the dog?
And how should I then dog the wag?

(Whoops! A good part! Best leave it be:)
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.


(Cut to the chase in a long verse:)
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the nation to its crisis?
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, Dunkin Donuts, and tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of Killer (45 points) Kenney,
Would it have been worthwhile,
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed a neutrino (it has mass) into a ball,
To roll it towards some overwhelming question,
To say, "I am Barnicle, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all," --
If Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, Shannon, Debra, and Mike S., with 18 points each, settling pillows by their heads,
Should say, "That is not what we meant, at all."
"That is not it, at all."

(Yadda yadda yadda boring verse...)

No! I am not Floyd Haskell, nor was Eddie meant to be;
Am everyone else with zero points, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Come to save the day; no doubt, a Mighty Mouse,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Jumping from a plane like Jill, and meticulous;
Bolting for a new job, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous,
Almost Marshall Barer, the Fool.


I grow old... I grow old...
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers like Vince DiMaggio.

Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall gobble androstenedion, and my toothbrush shall be a Reach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, to Ulrich (Screech).

I do not think they will sing to John Kerr (-18 points).

I have seen Doc Reines riding seaward on the waves,
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When Bonnie blows over the water white and black.
We have lingered like cartoon tuna of the sea,
By Charley Diggs wreathed in seaweed, red and brown,
Till Jerry Clower's voices wake us, and we frown.

8/21/98: Persis Khambatta

Dang, what's it take to kill someone on one of our lists (aside from decades of hard living as an icon of popular culture or a resume chock full of accomplishments like murdering millions of your countrymen or, alternatively, your nation's moral touchstone)? Jill's favorite balloonist, Steve Fossett, earlier this week survived a sequence of events that included his balloon getting hit by lightning and then falling 29,000 feet, depositing him in shark-infested waters hundreds of miles from land. About ten minutes later he was waving for the cameras and saying, "No problemo." We should all join Jill in hoping that Steve shortly either attempts another global circumnavigation or, at a minimum, crosses against a don't-walk sign. Meanwhile, Jill's going to be pursuing her own skydiving career with even more reckless abandon than heretofore displayed.

I've been waiting all week in vain for the death of a listed sports figure so we can celebrate Olympia's clairvoyance, but Jim Murray's been it (see below), and a non-listed, uninteresting, 78-year-old LA-based sports columnist doesn't cut it. When I asked Olympia how it was her prediction washed out, she secured network air time and said:

"I must take complete responsibility for all my actions, both public and private. It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible. At no time did I ask anyone to lie, to hide or destroy evidence or to take any other unlawful action. I know that my public comments and my silence about this matter gave a false impression. I misled people. I deeply regret that. I can only tell you I was motivated by many factors. First, by a desire to protect myself from the embarrassment of my own conduct. This has gone on too long, cost too much, and hurt too many innocent people. It is time to stop the pursuit of personal destruction and the prying into private lives and get on with our national life. Our country has been distracted by this matter for too long, and I take my responsibility for my part in all of this. That is all I can do. Now it is time -- in fact, it is past time to move on. We have important work to do -- real opportunities to seize, real problems to solve, real security matters to face. And so tonight I ask you to turn away from the spectacle of the past seven days, to repair the fabric of our national discourse, and to return our attention to all the challenges and all the promise of the next American century. Thank you for watching. And good night."

Serves me right for asking smartypants questions.

Hey, if I'm Bill Clinton, one thing I'd be careful about over this vacation is, oh, avoiding photo ops in which I'm embracing beautiful women wearing low-cut blouses, like Carly Simon, say, as pictured mid-bear-hug on the front page of Wednesday's Boston Globe. Then again, is it such a grand idea, after Monday's events, to be heading for a getaway in Teddy Kennedy's backyard? Our own Peg Loftus has to be cheered by the prospect of her presidential listee being ensconced once again in a Martha's Vineyard bungalow/doghouse with a spousal unit possessing the access, means, and motive to end his party-hearty days for good. Bubba surely did take quick advantage of an excuse to get off that island Thursday, didn't he? "Whoops! International-crisis-sorry-honey-gotta-go!" I'm stunned he returned as soon as he did.

Speaking of the Globe, Mike Barnicle's erstwhile employer's also having a heck of a week, isn't it, what with the revelation that Readers Digest's fact-checkers are more on the ball than those of New England's paper of record. Gosh, who'd've thunk Mike was even more talented at fiction writing than at proper attribution?

Well, there's no escaping the fact that another no-news August week has passed, leaving me nothing much to comment on. Our unchanging standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else (including Jill -- oh, so close!): 0 points, except...
  5. John "Wag the Dog" Kerr: -18 points

As ever, we've missed a slew of celebrity deaths:

On July 31 another Boomer TV icon, Sylvia Field, who played Mrs. Wilson on Dennis the Menace, died at 97. (Okay, we're talking a decidedly second-tier icon.)

On August 14, retired US Representative Chalmers Wylie died at 77.

On the 16th we lost two writers, one overrated, one not: sports columnist Jim Murray, not so great as he and many others supposed, died at 78; and Harlem Renaissance mainstay Dorothy West, a very fine writer indeed, died at 91. Also on the 16th, comic actor Phil Leeds, 82, a classic example of a character actor you recognized instantly by face but maybe not in a zillion years by name.

Three deaths on Tuesday: Czech chemist Otto Wichterle, 84, inventor of soft contact lenses; art dealer/film producer Stuart Regen, 39; and Persis Khambatta, 49, known to even the most rabid Trekkers not by name but as The Bald Babe from the First Star Trek Movie.

Finally, many thanks for the kind words proffered in the wake of last week's bad literary parody. While I know it's going to disappoint a rabid, conspiratorial few, I promise you that no time soon will I be assaying the likes of Faulkner, Fitzgerald, or Joyce -- that is, really talented writers with distinctive styles that involved commas. I'm considering cummings, though, while bearing in mind Gay Chanley's admonition concerning "THAT LOWER-CASE CRAP."


8/14/98: Papa

Nick sat at the table outside the cafe. Rain fell. Nick remembered the Death Pool and thought about the rain. Nobody had died since the great Sinatra three months before. It had rained then. It always rained before or after somebody died. It rained when they died.

Nick thought about Dan Davis and his second list and his 75 points and knew that with no one dying there could be no change in the standings. It was a waste and a shame. Killer still had 45 points. Belen and Tom B. and Ed and Dan on his other list and Lorraine on her third list and SMK and Debra and Mike Sullivan all had 18 points. Nobody else had points. Belen was from Barcelona and that was a fine place. Nick remembered the bullfights there and the hot sun. John Kerr sat down with Nick and they had an aperitif and Nick told John that betting against the great Sinatra was futile and now he was 18 points in the hole and John took offense and then they boxed and John punched Nick in the nose and then they had another aperitif and it rained and they sat in the rain.

Is there a present participle in the house?

Nick remembered the dead. On July 27 the baseball player Bill Tuttle died of the chewing tobacco addiction he had crusaded against. Tuttle was just 69 and now he was dead and it rained. On August 5 Eldon Shamblin died. Nick remembered that Shamblin was a guitarist and also a gerund for the Texas Playboys. Shamblin was just 82 and now he was dead and it rained. On August 9 the football player Tony Baker died. Baker was just 53 and now he was dead and it rained. The next day the baseball player Raymond Moss died. Moss was just 96 and was the oldest surviving Boston Brave and maybe knew the great DiMaggio's older brother Vince but now he was dead and not the oldest surviving Boston Brave anymore and it rained. On Tuesday the sax player Benny Walters died. He also was just 96 and in the 1920s taught the fellows in Duke Ellington's orchestra how to play clarinet but now he was dead and it rained.

A silly person.

Olympia sat down with Nick and told him not to be sad and that perhaps some person in the sports world would die tomorrow and Nick said Yes. It is nice to think so. They had an aperitif and Nick thought that maybe the great DiMaggio might die and he was on Walt's list and Nick remembered the old Cuban guy fishing from the boat and how he would never shut up about the great DiMaggio but that was a different novel and not as good a novel and Nick not in it and Nick was sad again. Nick told Olympia Evan Dando was a silly person and Olympia punched Nick in the nose and it rained.

Walt was to marry and Mike was to marry but not to each other or to SMK and Nick remembered Mike and Gay Chanley and sitting in Easy Jeff Hart's lecture hall talking about the 1920s and Paris and the quizzes and their simple answers and the good books except the bad books and Gay Chanley signed Jack's book and ordered him to be terse and then they drank many aperitifs but called them beer and wished they could punch Wolozin in the nose. Nick remembered that when he looked at the web site Gay Chanley and SMK had different names and he was sad some more and it rained.


8/7/98: Lambchop places ad: 'Seek hand (inquire within)'

The missing update from 7 August 1998!

Televisionland lost a much-heard (if dubiously talented) voice this week, one perhaps best known for assuming a persona that by turns could be rude, challenging, imploring, very occasionally educational, somewhat less occasionally humorous, a sort of underdog figure best related to by children and others with relatively undeveloped moral systems. I speak of course of Mike Barnicle, who, while he's not physically defunct, certainly seems to be in the midst of professional death throes.

Where to begin with Mike's tale of woe? If you haven't heard, Mike got himself in trouble by writing a column in which he basically stole a bunch of jokes from George Carlin's latest book, putting them forward as his own hi-larious musings. It was a ploy even dumber than it initially seemed (George Carlin's a pretty well-known comic, and I believe his book sold pretty well -- did Mike think that no one in metro Boston would glom onto the similarities?), because Barnicle had actually made an on-air recommendation in June on the local news magazine "Chronicle" of this very book as excellent summer reading. "A yuk every page," he said, holding up the tome. This might indicate to the non-chuckleheaded among us that Mike had read the book. When asked about this, Mike said, very firmly, that no, in fact he has not read the book. While Mike did not explicitly state on the air that he'd read all the books he recommended, he surely did imply so. We're left to think that Mike, like Lucy, has got some serious 'splainin' to do: Either he read Carlin's book and lifted from it without attribution (which is okay if you're Pool picks Milton Berle and Bob Hope; not okay if you're even a pseudo-journalist); or he didn't read Carlin and misled us concerning his familiarity with his book recommendations. The Globe doesn't think his explanation washes, and they've requested his resignation. Me, I think Mike's lying and crying.

Mike has boo-boo feelings now, you see, because he heard of the Globe's request he resign via a report in the New York Times. Mike thinks his editor at the Globe owed him the courtesy of contacting him directly. Interestingly, Mike doesn't seem to think he owed his audience the courtesty of attributing the jokes in his column or, alternately, informing his viewers that he hadn't actually read the books he recommended on Chronicle. But then, Mike's on a different ethical plane from the rest of us, as evidenced by his assertion that what he's done is a far different, morally defensible thing than what fired Globe columnist Patricia Smith did. See, Patricia used her imagination and made up stuff that she put in her columns. Mike, on the other hand, trolled somebody else's imagination for material for his column. Plagiarism's less ethically problematical in Mike's galaxy, I guess, though when I say he's on a different plane from us, I do not mean to say that we're craning our necks and looking up. Anyway, Mike's going to fight tooth and nail the Globe's wish for him to go away, you see, because he's ethically in the right. It has nothing to do with, oh, I don't know, the truckloads of money the Globe pays him. An upstanding guy like Mike wouldn't be looking to extract a settlement from the Globe.

Which reminds me, I have to amend my oft-expressed gripe about Barnicle, that he frequently gets paid two times for one piece of work, by writing a column for the Globe and then recycling it for Chronicle. I've seriously underestimated the man. In fact, he's found a way to get paid two times for no work! Mike's my hero! He's discovered the ultimate ass job!

Here are just a few examples of what Carlin wrote compared to what Barnicle "wrote":

Carlin: "Here's something I can do without: People ahead of me in the supermarket line who are paying for an inexpensive item by credit card or personal check. People! Take my word for this: TicTacs is not a major purchase."
Barnicle: "I hate it when the person ahead of me in the 12-items-or-less line decides to pay for a pack of TicTacs by writing a check." (Sheesh, Mike's too lazy to change the product's name.)
Carlin: "If cockpit voice recorders are so indestructible, why don't they just build an airplane that's just one big cockpit voice recorder?"
Barnicle: "How come planes aren't made with the same indestructible material used to assemble those black boxes that always survive crashes?"(Dang, Mike couldn't find his thesaurus, and then couldn't think up a different way to say "indestructible.")
Carlin: "I think you ought to be able to lease a dog."
Barnicle: "I think you could get awfully rich even more quickly by inventing a business where people could lease dogs rather than buy them." (Carlin is admirably succinct. Harder to be brief when you're stealing, I guess.)
Carlin: "People who should be phased out: Guys who wear suits all day and think an earring makes them cool at night."
Barnicle: "I don't get it when guys over 40 think they're cool because they wear an earring." (Mike was fazed by "phased.")
Carlin: "Someday I want to see the Pope come out on that balcony and give the football scores."
Barnicle: "Someday I'd love to see the Pope appear on his balcony and announce the baseball scores." (Mike put a lot of hard work into his decision to change "football" to "baseball," which is why he's paid the big bucks.)

Gee, why would I doubt that Mike's assertion that he never read George's book?

Incidentally, an unnamed source (well, Adam) at the NewsHour predicts that Barnicle "will go postal (or maybe global)" sometime this week.

All right, we've got a Death Pool to update... Oops. Well, no, we don't. Barnicle's good name is not a Pool pick, so another week passes with no change in our standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. Nobody's plagiarist John Kerr: -18 points

We have had a bunch of celebrity deaths this week-plus past, just nobody we saw coming.

The biggest name departing was bad ventriloquist Shari Lewis, 65, who died on Sunday. (As it turns out, it was a song that did end.) (By "bad," I mean talent-impaired, not evil. Then again, maybe she was evil. She always sent me running from the room, fleeing a kind of multiple-personality-disordered distaff Dick Van Patten.) It's been a rough patch for fictional Boomer TV icons: Marcus Welby, Howdy Doody, Lambchop, and... well, Roy Rogers was actually more or less a real person. Captain Kangaroo is checking the rear-view mirror, and I'm telling you, Barney's number will come up soon, and John's going to fall even further behind the rest of us.

The world of baseball broadcasting lost two play-by-play announcers this week. Longtime Cubs broadcaster Jack Brickhouse, 82, died Thursday, and former Red Sox radio broadcaster Bob Starr, 65, died this past Monday.

Also on Monday, Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, 63, and Leslie B. Worthington, 96, President of U.S. Steel in the 1960s, both died.

Designer Fabrice Simon, 47, died on July 29.

Environmentalist Ernest Dickerman, 87, died on July 31.

Actress Eva Bartok, 72, former NBA referee Richie Powers, 67, died on August 1.

'98 continues to be an enjoyably tough year for despots: on Wednesday Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria's longtime communist dictator, was finally purged at age 86.

This guy wasn't really a celebrity, but I have to note, as did the New York Times, the death of Eugene Aserinsky, 77, described by the Times as "a pioneer in sleep studies." He died July 22 when his car hit a tree. Excuse me for wondering, but do you think he fell asleep at the wheel?

Andy, Lorraine, and SMK lost a possible point each Tuesday as the Queen Mother celebrated her 98th birthday with a bungee jump off the tower of London. Girl Power!

Also celebrating a birthday Tuesday was Yasser Arafat, so if the guy at some point this year finally uses up all nine of his lives, Dan (on his first list) and I will have been shorted a point, alas.

Speaking of nine lives, how many left can Vaclav Havel have? The guy's had, what, a dozen major surgeries in the last six months? He gets tracheotomies more often than Barnicle breaches ethical codes. Or something.

Hey, it's never too early to start planning your '99 lists: Gary Coleman's gone nuts.

Something to look forward to: We're just a week away from Olympia's prediction of a mid-August sports death. I reviewed the Pool's master list to see whom I should be looking out for, and was stunned at the number of sports-related picks we've made, including (alphabetically): Muhammad Ali, former amateur baseball pitcher Fidel Castro, Joe DiMaggio, Mike Ditka, Emilio "Mighty Ducks" Estevez, Doug Flutie, Frank Gifford, John Goodman (played a football player in "Everybody's All-American," and reportedly and unrelatedly did a riotous Linda Tripp impersonation on Saturday Night Live), Doris Kearns Goodwin ("Wait Till Next Year" is a splendid memoir of growing up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan; I highly recommend it, although Mike Barnicle hasn't read it), Jeff Gordon, Kate "Pat and Mike" Hepburn, noted duffer Bob Hope, noted Brit soccer aficionados Mick Jagger and Elton John, Tommy Morrison, Joe Namath, Lakers fan Jack Nicholson, polo/fox hunting enthusiast Camilla Parker Bowles, weightlifter Joe Piscopo, Bob Probert, Dan Quisenberry, play-by-play announcer/college footballer Ronald Reagan, Robert Redford ("The Natural" and "Downhill Racer" -- hey, double points for the ski-related movie!), Phil Rizzuto, Picabo Street (double points!), Ted Turner, Mike Tyson, Mo Vaughn, and John Wooden.

Hey, with odds like this, I'm thinking Oly's a psychic ringer.

Take care!


7/31/98: That's a man, baby!

There's something I want everyone involved with the Death Pool to know: I am you. I am just like you. I am an average American who found herself in a situation not of her own making. To cast me in the role of the villain, they have enlisted legions of paid prevaricators. Not surprisingly, many in the entertainment industry have chosen to ridicule me as well, going so far as to even make fun of my appearance in a manner so cruel that I pray none of you is ever subjected to it. For all these reasons, and because I'm angling for a book deal, I've been secretly tape-recording your conversations and feeding them to the Office of the Special Prosecutor, who'll be leveraging the least discrepancy into the threat of perjury charges in order to strong-arm you into furthering his agenda. That's how average Americans treat their friends, right? Thank you. Be sure to buy my book.

Whoo-ee, "The Office of the Special Prosecutor": Proof positive that it's Kafka's world, and we're just extras in a new miniseries version of "The Trial."

Moving on, the other day I saw "Saving Private Ryan." Pretty good movie -- wicked graphic violence, though, so don't bring your three-year-old unless you're Adam, and nephew Nicholas has already been sufficiently prepped/desensitized by his viewing of "Small Soldiers." Anyway, at one point in the film the eponymous Ryan, remembering his newly deceased brothers, tells a story that involves a woman he describes as having taken "a nosedive from the ugly tree, and she hit every branch on the way down." In my mind's eye I immediately pictured LInda Tripp. So am I also part of the entertainment industry, or is it just Spielberg on the hook for Linda's boo-boo feelings?

Special for the web site only! How ugly can you make Ms. Tripp?

In any event, July's over, and still no change in our standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. Unindicted co-conspirator John Kerr: -18 points

That we're lousy prognosticators doesn't mean the celebs haven't been dropping like flies, just that we're lousy prognosticators. Well, except for Dan and Tom anyway.

Here's a listing of the famous who have most recently departed:

The final third of July saw the passing of a trio of musicians, each esteemed highly in his particular circle. On the 20th, violinist Tossy Spivakovsky, who created a special bowing technique for the performance of the solo Bach suites, and who gave the first American performances of Bartok's Second Violin Concerto, died at 91. Last Saturday, jazz guitarist Tal Farlow died at 77. And, most tragically, Sha Na Na singer/bassist Chico Ryan died at 50 last Sunday. (Bowser remains in seclusion.) I can understand not anticipating the Americans, but dang, how do we keep missing guys like Spivakovsky?

On July 24, Tazio Secchiaroli, the original paparazzo, and inspiration for Fellini's "La Dolce Vita," died at 73. See above re: Spivakovsky.

Four deaths to report from this past, deeply lousy Monday. Boxer Cody Koch, 25, died following an argument at a bar. His nickname happens to be his punch line: The Arkansas Assassin. Also hating Mondays were former Fed Chairman William McChesney Martin, 91; British-born actress Binnie Barnes, 95; and novelist/screenwriter/producer Noel Behn, 70.

Oh, no! Another Eastern European poet takes a dirt nap! Polish master Zbigniew Herbert died at 73 on Tuesday.

Hey, kids, what time is it? Time to bury Bob and Jerome! Choreographer Jerome Robbins of "West Side Story" fame, 79, died Wednesday, and Buffalo Bob Smith of "Howdy Doody" fame, 80, died Thursday. Is there a better definition of the divide between, on the one side, early Baby Boomers, and viewing us/them, appalled, from very far away on the other side of an immense yawning chasm, everyone born before the Big War or after the Korean Police Action, than one's opinion concerning who was culturally the more significant figure, Robbins or Buffalo Bob? Jim Lehrer, 62, declared his generational allegiance by giving Jerome an extended remembrance on the NewsHour Wednesday, and then completely ignoring Bob on Thursday (had to make room for Roger Rosenblatt's musings concerning Powerball).

As Bess notes, Robbins and Smith also stand on opposing peaks of the high culture/low culture divide (my continuing tortured metaphor, not Bess'), which I guess is a contributing factor to Lehrer's snub. (Rosenblatt sniffed that he didn't buy a Powerball ticket because "appearing on the NewsHour is riches enough," needing to make abundantly clear to us how far above the unwashed mass of lottery players is the plane on which he exists.) (Doesn't matter, Rog: you were still on the wrong side of the ramparts at Columbia in '68.) (By the way, my theory concerning Capitol shooter Russell Weston, Jr., is that he was confused about the city and building, thought he was storming WNET in New York, and was looking to cork Rosenblatt, as it were. It's just possible I'm projecting, however.)

Incidentally and unfortunately, Bess' landlord is neither famous nor listed, so nobody gets points when Bess goes postal.

That about does it for me. Happy dog days, all.


7/24/98: Vanishing Lung Syndrome

News this week of the death of a man, aged 74, of undaunted courage, whose intellect melded science and poesy, a pioneer who made known to us the earthbound worlds we can scarce imagine, much less hope to view. You no doubt have guessed that I refer to Czech poet/immunologist Miroslav Holub, who died July 14. The New York Times says he was known for his "ironic wit, impatience with irrationality, and his knifelike poetry full of scientific imagery." Mercy. He authored such poems as "Haemophilia/Los Angeles" from his collection "Vanishing Lung Syndrome." And now we are left to contend with a very major gap in the lines of immunologically savvy Eastern European poets.

Gotta say, though, that I'm finding it hard to be critical of Poolsters for not having anticipated Miroslav's demise. On the other hand, how could we have missed all the other of the week's-plus famed departures? Here they are in reverse order of entry into the celebrity composter:

On Wednesday, Lunar Linkster Alan Shepard, a pioneer who made known to us the earthbound worlds we can scarce imagine, much less hope to view (hey, wait a minute...), one of the original seven Mercury astronauts and the first American in space, died of leukemia at 74. Also moving on that day were comedian Corbett Monica, 68, and sportscaster Don Dunphy, an inimitable announcer of boxing, at 90.

There passed on Tuesday an epistemologically vital celebrity, the disconnect between his private and public personae having served as a template for and guarantor of our fin-de-siecle cynicism concerning all things famous: Robert Young, a.k.a. Marcus Welby and the dad in "Father Knows Best," died at 91. Toward the end of his life it became public knowledge that ol' Bob was an abusive suicidal alcoholic jerk, news that scarcely surprises any longer when it surfaces concerning more recent iterations of famous folk. (Hello, OJ? Just wondering: how goes your investigation into your wife's murder?) But, gosh, kindly Doc Welby? Heaven forfend. Whom can we trust? Maybe Matt Groening.

Also on Tuesday Bob McAllister, host of the '70s children's TV show "Wonderama," died at 63. I don't know that he was anything but a prince of a guy, but would I be surprised to hear differently? What do you think?

"What is it, Lassie? What's wrong? What? Pa's stopped breathing and he doesn't have a pulse? What, girl? He has no brain activity and his vital signs all register zero? Quick! Go tell everyone in the Death Pool! Huh, girl? You want some Kibbles 'n' Bits first? Sure, if you'll squelch that rumor I was fragged in 'Nam." On the 17th, Hugh Reilly, Timmy's adoptive dad on "Lassie" in the '60s, died at 82, the same day as actor Joseph Maher, 64.

See A. Sterl Artley.
A. Sterl created the Dick and Jane books.
See A. Sterl keel over.
Do not resuscitate A. Sterl!
A. Sterl Artley was 91.
Apparently the only one who saw coming the July 7 death of the progenitor of cryptofascist primary readers was that little skinhead-punk-in-training Dick.

And so our standings remain unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. Epidemiologist/Magyar poet John Kerr: -18 points

(Come to find out John likes the meager attention I foist upon him. Let the abuse resume.)

Fidel Castro is denying reports that he was treated for a brain disease last year. Lorraine, Tom, and SHPOD await with bated breath further denials leading up to (and probably beyond) El Muerte del Caudillo.

Hey, Lorraine's got e-mail! Welcome aboard!

Venturing onto Sylvia Browne's turf, Olympia writes: "Jack, I just had a premonition. The next big death... won't happen until the week of August 15th, and it will then involve a major sports hero. Just trying to see if that will come true, since my list goes nowhere. Damn, Screech should have been dead by now."

I don't know, I think Bobby Brown's not a bad bet, actually. As for Psychic Sylvia, I'm gazing into my own crystal ball... Gosh, not a single Pool participant or observer is sufficiently gullible and/or intellectually wanting to actually view Montel Williams voluntarily. Bingo, bango, bongo: You guys rule.

Dan writes concerning my Red Bagro/Neon Deion rant that I forgot about Bo Jackson-- "although he preferred fastballs, he could crush hanging curves." True, and he did hit 141 homers and slug .474 for his career (my quickie web search reveals), definitely not shabby; but he also struck out 841 times in under 2400 at bats, and finished a .250 hitter. Football was where Bo's true talent lay. I stand by my rant.

Dan additionally points out baseball's superiority not just to football, but also "basketball, or hockey, or ice dancing, or soccer, or extreme games sky-surfing." Also tiddlywinks with manhole covers.

Hey, our newest observer, Francesca, won herself a free list for '99 when she became the first person, about three weeks in, to respond to a Java script message I put on the web site by way of checking to see whether anyone's bothering to look at it. I'm gratified Francesca did, and wonder about the rest of the universe.

"Last one to the beach is a rotten liberal interventionist!"

A source of dependable Friday anxiety for me is the thought that some Pool listee will kick the bucket about a nanosecond after I hit the "Send" button and distribute the weekly update. As I've finished this up, news has broken of "a lone gunman" (dang, the network anchors love that designation) shooting up the Capitol. So far as I can tell, DC-based listees Senators Helms and Kennedy, President Clinton, ex-Rep. Rostenkowski, and one-third of the Supreme Court Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas all are alive and continuing their World's Scariest Beach Volleyball Game over on the eastern Maryland shore of Chesapeake Bay. I'm stunned to learn that a bunch of powerful middle-aged men cut out of work early on a mid-summer's Friday afternoon.

Take care, all.


7/17/98:Fans of Kevorkian

Today, as Russia's last Czar, Nicholas II, and family are reburied in sunny St. Petersburg, I find myself asking: Is "Yelts" the slavic cognate for "weeble"? I'm starting to think President Boris, as evidenced by his Rasputin-like indestructibility, may never die, no matter the quantity and quality of fiendish stress tests strewn in his path.

For that matter, maybe no more of our many chosen celebrities are going to die, ever, even those living in Texas, Florida, and other bastions of blazing weather, as yet another week passes with no change in our standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points, and wishing his car had been both famous and picked
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points.

(You know, John K. never signed up for the abuse I've been ladling on him. So now I'm going to stop.)

Not a whole much doing in the Land of Should've-Seen-It-Coming:

E-mailbag:

  1. Dan writes concerning last week's update:
    I'd have to put put Roy Rogers, along with Hunter S. Thompson and that old lady from the Titanic, on my list of "people who I assumed had been dead for years." If I had one. Reminds me of the old game show on MTV, "Remote Control," which had a segment called "Dead or Canadian," where they would name celebrities and the players had to try to guess whether the celebrities were either dead or Canadian (but not both-- Lorne Greene, Phil Hartman, & John Candy.)
  2. And JS reports from Pittsburgh:
    Speaking of has-beens, here's one more for the obit list: David's goldfish, also named David. (When we bought the original 3 fish, David named them all David "so that, when the Weebers [friends with father and son of same name] come over, there'll be 6 Davids in the house"). From internal injuries, or something. Seen weakening Monday. Gently removed from tank Tuesday and stored in freezer by a local member of the Fans of Kevorkian. Buried Wednesday by your friendly undertaker and correspondent.

Why is it the gold die young?

Dude Looks Like an Octogenarian

Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer was lucky to escape with just second-degree burns on his arms and legs when his new Ferrari went up in flames at a self-serve pump yesterday. Aside from his predictable lack of verbal dexterity -- the guy's a drummer, after all -- what amazed me in watching him on the local news was how aged he looks. Pal Joey turned 48 last month, but decades of livin' hard, fast, and large have exacted their toll. Whoo! Nobody listed him this year, but I'd be, as Steve Tyler might say, wicked surprised if Cosmo's older brother doesn't find his way onto the master list for '99.

Dan's pool-leading list lost a potential point this week when Milton Berle celebrated his 90th birthday. Dang. In attendance was Bob Hope, whose eagerness to par-tay can't be a good sign for the scores of us who've listed him. Double dang.

Mike Allen pick Tommy Morrison was arrested early Thursday in the splendidly named town of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on suspicion of drunk driving, destruction of private property, and running a red light. Tommy's continuingly unclear on the concept behind "The Cocktail" that his doctors keep trying to explain to him.

Finally, I see (and am confused) that Marv Albert has found work at the MonoSodium Glutamate Network. Well, you go, girl.

Cool, pleasant, breeze-filled weekends to all.


7/10/98:Mongering

In a week rife with rumors, denials, and mis- and disinformation, not to mention a notably ugly photo spread in People of Babs' wedding, the one thing missing is any movement within the Pool, where the obstinate refusal of a select 188 of this planet's celebrity herd to allow themselves to be culled leaves our standings unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points, and wishing his car had been both famous and picked
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except of course...
  5. Soon to be exacting his revenge on Laurie, John Kerr: -18 points.

So who did we miss this week?

Whoa, brace yourselves for some Davis-level trash talking and Clinton-quality denial mongering:

First:

Jack, could you please see that this circulates to the proper channels.
To the Chicagoland Killer, et al:
While I am delighted to see my name in (cyber)print on virtually any occasion, and my mother would be overjoyed at the happy news of my ensuing nuptials, I must report that Mr. Sullivan and I are not even "good friends." I have never sat in a tree with him (lip-locked or otherwise), nor would I know him from an orangutan. [Ouch.] Please keep in mind that I plan to wipe the floor with my fellow Death Pool competitors, not marry them. [Ouch again.]
Sincerely,
smk

And then this:

Jack/Killer, I must confess: I am, in fact, getting married in October. But not to SMK. (Hell, I don't even know who SMK is.) [Ouch -- hey, quit it, that hurts!] Having been "outed" over a passing mention of Mac Culkin, I must for the record declare that my betrothed is of age and needs no parental consent. And I'm still predicting the death of the Taco Bell chihuahua any day now.
Mike

Ooh-whee, such enmity! Good thing SMK and Mike are not seeing each other (if they're not -- who really knows?), else I'd have to Question Whether This Relationship Can Be Saved.

Hey! Get your wish-you-were-Ernie-Pyle-and-Wallace-Shawn asses off this web page!

Incidentally, in order to steer clear of lawsuits in the wake of last week's misreporting, I've fired Peter Arnett, something I've always wanted to do anyway, with the happy consequence that Tina Brown has quit as publisher.

Ukrainian lick-spittle/future Pool Pick Kennit Starenko threatens us with a subpoena.

In other Pool-related news, Boris Yeltsin is reported by Kremlin insider Kennit Starenko to be "fatigued" and "in failing health," as well as "a wicked perv" who is spending "his few remaining vertical hours" "chasing Uzbeki interns around the office," all of which is further teasing the 11 Poolsters, none of whom are Dan, and nine of whom await their first points, who have listed the Russian President.

Hot celebrity couple of the week: Charles Barkley and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The London tabloids report that Prince William inadvertently crossed paths this week at St. James Palace with Camilla Parker-Bowles as she was paying a visit to the Chuck Who Would Be King. Nobody died (sorry, Peg and Anne), and England's leading bookmakers announced they've cut the odds of Charles and Camilla marrying by the end of this year from 10-1 to 5-1, for what little it's worth to us.

And speaking of annoying Brits who give less than a damn about kids, terminal strumpet Louise Woodward declines to oppose the wrongful death civil suit brought against her. Swell. I'm even more comfortable now in assuming she's guilty.

World Cup Guide for Uncaring Americans (which, let's face it, is practically all of us): We wish Holland had upset Brazil. We didn't know whether to root for the Croatian War Criminals or the French Snootynoses. Now that it's Brazil and France in the final, we definitely are rooting for the Western Hemisphere's Representatives. Wake us in four years.

A splendid weekend to all.


7/3/98: Self-promotional eructation

We're at '98's halfway mark, and Dan holds his solid (but not insurmountable) lead, as we wait and wait and wait some more for the next addition to the Verde Death Pool's compost bin.

    Our unchanging standings:
  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except of course...
  5. Superpatriot John Kerr: -18 points.

Two notable e-mails this week:

1. Dan responds to my passing along last week that LeAnn Rimes is being treated for "weakness." Says our own Dr. Death, "Actually, she's being treated for 'lameness.' It's pretty similar."

2. And The Killer, faithful Chicagoland correspondent, writes: "You forgot to mention the United States Men's National team suffered an ignoble death at the World Cup, placing last out of 32 teams. Beat out by such soccer powers as Iran, Japan, South Korea, and Tunisia. (By the way, tomorrow I'm going to see the United States Women's team against Germany at Soldier Field.) " [Name-dropper!] "The Alonzo Spellman saga just gets sadder and sadder as does that of the White Sox. What is Karl Malone thinking? Makes me wonder whether he and Rodman were faking a lot of their antics during the championship. Makes me wonder if he won't get calls for flopping like he has in the past. Another death, the era of Phil Jackson. I went to the Berto Center to see the Bulls embark for the Grant Park celebration. Steve Kerr definitely is the classiest. It was sad though as an era seems to be coming to a close. Embedded in your message was a suggestion that Mike is associated with SMK. Did Mike get married?"

Gosh, Tom, where do I begin?

1. Go Iran.

b. Lay off my brother Alonzo.

· Shed no tears for da Bulls. Rejoice in the ascension of Saint Larry to NBA Hall of Fame Valhalla.

iv. Mike and SMK? This was news to me, but I'm happy to report it as stone-cold true. Here at Death Pool World Headquarters, after all, we are Often in Error, Never in Doubt. Of course, the lovebirds both are sticking to their story of being "just good friends," and we all know what that means.

Haiku Reinterpretation of a Childhood Rhyme (for Mike and SMK):

Mike and S-M sit,
Arboreally lip-locked:
Death Pool rumor's true!

Speaking of the World Cup, I found myself against all expectations getting moderately excited by the Malvinas/Falklands grudge match between Argentina and England. Good as the game itself was, I was even more fascinated at seeing the Alfonso-fingered Mick Jagger in attendance, looking like he was singlehandedly drinking on behalf of his entire pasty-faced (or pasted and 'faced) nation. Makes me wonder, bearing in mind that the Stoned Rolling is one of his just three non-McCaughey picks, whether Alfonso, quite the futbol aficionado, knows something we don't.

Another reason I choose to root for Argentina is the hope that his countrymen's success will drive Maradona further along la Avenida Narcotica, possibly tightening/shaking up Pool standings. If Diego El Loco won't come through for him, Tom's going to be depending on the likes of Siegfried and JonBenet Ramsey's mom (! -- see above re: berserk celebrity relatives!) to assist in overcoming Dan's lead.

Theresa pick Barbra Streisand, a.k.a. Horrific Spice, got hitched Wednesday night to longtime beau James Brolin. Actually, what's been hitched is an immense and terrifying ball and chain to Mr. Brolin's person. Does anyone believe anything but that this is much more likely to impact negatively on Jimbo's actuarial chart than Babs'?

Ladies and gentlemen, Menudo!

Paid (as I am) to watch Dan Rather, one of Anne picks, I frequently find myself thinking the guy must be the world's most arrogant, self-important, irredeemable blowhard. Ah, but then Tom Brokaw makes an appearance on Letterman (I'm paid to watch that, too -- what a life), and I have to rethink my position as the NBC News Chief Coxcomb gives Danno a run for his bloviating money. As we get set to celebrate our nation's birthday, all that keeps me from bursting my buttons with jingoistic pride at our land's awe-inspiring plentitude of home-grown egomaniacal network news anchor yahoos is the realization that Peter Jennings, no slouch he when it comes to self-promotional eructation, is from north of the border. Dang that NAFTA.

Welcome to new Pool observers Alex McCormick (reporting from the north country) and Francesca Tussing (Bay Area correspondent).

let me wow you with this statistic: the Pool has now been Viagra-free for two updates.

Happy Independence Day weekend to all!


6/26/98: Dearth of Death

We're just about halfway through 1998, and except for the one-month period from Tax Day through the Ides of May have been suspiciously death-free.

Our standings board remains unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except of course...
  5. Ever-sanguine John Kerr: -18 points.

As solid as Dan's lead may appear, the game's far from over. For one thing, Macauley Culkin got married this past Sunday. SMK and Mike Sullivan have to be optimistic about the 83 points (and a leap into a first-place tie) that are just a well-placed rolling pin/frying pan blow away. Mac's just one of a number of young picks who have six months left in which to terminate their organic functioning in order to justify Poolsters' faith in them. Just a for-instance: LeAnn Rimes is being treated for "weakness." She's not a '98 pick, but the point remains, no lead is safe. (Or, if you prefer enthusiasm in your reportage, No Lead Is Safe!)

Meanwhile, here's the weekly roll call of the celebrities moving on and reminding us of our prognosticatory deficiencies. Nobody saw coming the deaths of:

Elsewhere in the news, shameless baby-killing doxie Louise Woodward is talking tough about the Eappens and the American justice system an ocean's length away. Apparently Weezy harbors boo-boo feelings from her experience, the more compounded, no doubt, by her startling inability to land baby-sitting gigs on the other side of the pond. I wonder if her feelings hurt as badly as if she'd been violently shaken on a hard surface by someone ten-plus times her size.

While on the subject of horrible bullies, let me note that Pool pick Jesse Helms is looking at double-knee-replacement surgery. Just wondering: how does one go about bribing an anesthesiologist?

According to a New York Times headline, "China Agog at Clinton Visit." I have nothing to add. I just love any use of the word "agog."

It was reported this week that Boris Yeltsin, ever on the alert for problems to tackle, "decries the fascist befuddlement of Russia's youth." Whatever.

Speaking of Yeltsin, here's something I found in (and now shamelessly lift from) Steven Brill's Content. In the continuing spirit of evading work by letting others do it for me, I give you two pudgy, high-strung, petty despots, one modus operandi; Steinbrenner and Yeltsin, twin sons of different mothers:

Separated at birth? You decide...

Both...

Gosh, has anyone noticed I have nothing to report? I failed last week to wish all dads a happy Father's Day, and everybody north of the equator a splendid summer solstice. And to all a wacky World Cup.


6/19/98: Boiled sweet

A dishearteningly quiet week on the Death Pool front. Not only were we once again shut out, but I've found that the automobile of funniness is parked in a non-humor zone, blocked in place by a tortured and ineffective metaphor. Dang. Can't draw water from the haiku well again so soon, and rereading "A Confederacy of Dunces," while it's making me laugh a lot, is also instilling an inferiority complex. ("Oh, Fortuna, blind, heedless goddess, I am strapped to your wheel," Ignatius belched. "Do not crush me beneath your spokes. Raise me on high, divinity.")

Anyway, Pool standings are unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, Shannon, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except of course...
  5. Courageous John Kerr: -18 points.

Newsworthy but non-point-garnering deaths of the week include:

Liz valiantly passes along the following:

"Unfortunately, I set them off accidentally while looking for a boiled sweet on a rush hour train. They were crushing everybody in the carriage until someone stabbed them with a pencil."
--Tokyo commuter Katsuo Katugoru, 48, after causing havoc on a crowded tube train when his inflatable underpants accidentally went off. The rubber drawers, which Katugoru himself invented, are designed to inflate to 30 times their size in the event of a tidal wave.

Thank you, Liz.

I see where New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani wants to build a $15 million crisis-management bunker deep in Gotham's bowels. You go, girl.

Finally, no need to name tardy names, but I will note that with less than half the year gone it has come to pass that every participant has paid (or has had paid) the fee and earned the Maris asterisk: the Verde Pool is deadbeat-free. I'm looking forward to retiring on the interest the $58 is currently accruing.

Hope your weekends are funnier, as well as drier, than this.


6/12/98: Fugitive materials

Gosh, we missed a raft of now-dead famous people this week-plus past, with Pool standings remaining unchanged:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. The ineffable John Kerr: -18 points.

Here's who we didn't see leaving:

RAF pilot/World War II escape artist Lorne Welch, 81, died on the Ides of May.

Legendary Cold War spy Lucien Conein, 79, died June 3.

Influential literary critic Alfred Kazin, 83, and actress Jeanette Nolan, 86, Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles' film of the play, both died June 5.

Sprockets

Any (self-imposed) pressure I feel to be funny is lifted when I read a New York Times obit like the one that recently appeared for Dieter Roth, "Reclusive Artist and Tireless Provocateur," who died last Saturday at 68. Permit me to quote at length:

Mr. Roth was a sculptor, performer, book designer, poet, graphic artist, publisher, and musician, sort of. The son of a sugar beet farmer, he began to exhibit in 1958. He did improvisatory concerts of cacophonous music. He staged a concert of howling dogs. Once he collaborated with Richard Hamilton, the English artist, on an exhibition for dogs (the pictures, of sausages and other images he thought would be of special interest to them, were hung at dog-eye level). In 1975 he founded the Zeitschrift fur Alles, a journal that published anything submitted to it. In Los Angeles, he conceived an installation of 40 suitcases filled with different types of cheese. He often made sculptures out of fugitive materials like baked dough, chocolate, mayonnaise, and rabbit droppings (fortunately, not all at the same time). Their natural deterioration, which he equated with his own death, became an integral part of his art. He was perhaps best known as a maker of multifarious artist-books, hundreds of them. (One was as small as the eraser on a pencil; another, "Literaturwurst," consisted of various periodicals chopped up, mixed with lard and spices, and stuffed into a sausage casing.) He was famously reclusive and difficult. Asked how he would like to be remembered after his death, Mr. Roth said, "Here lies the carcass of a man who didn't know who he was and where he was heading."

Pretty obviously he was a model for Mike Meyers' Dieter of the SNL "Sprockets" skits. He was dead almost a week before I ever heard of him, and now I miss him terribly.

I'd like to help you, son, but you're too dead to vote

Jerry Neil Capehart died Sunday at age 69. He was co-writer with Eddie Cochran of "Summertime Blues," and, more importantly to my Riddler-obsessed mind, was Frank Gorshin's manager.

Sani, yesterday my heart was full of joy...

Nigerian dictator General Sani Abacha, 54, died Monday of a "heart attack" (I have my doubts that it wasn't, say, lead poisoning in the form of a large-caliber bullet lovingly administered by one of his many and loyal compatriots). The Nigerian military moved quickly to assure all and sundry that, notwithstanding Abacha's unexpected... retirement, depriving his nation of decades of brutal oppression, political terror, senseless violence, and the clockwork theft of notable fractions of the country's wealth, a brand-new scummy tinpot dictator would be installed forthwith to continue the grand tradition without missing a beating. Still, we can look forward to Cher's funeral oration, and then of course her subsequent and inevitable CBS special, "Sani and Me: The Early Years."

Former Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, a.k.a. Monsignor Perestroika, died at 83 Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Oak Ridge Boy Steve Sanders, 45, committed suicide.

And yesterday British novelist Dame Catherine Cookson died at 91.

Suppuration

SMK points out that Dan Quayle said on CNN's "Inside Edition" last week that whomever the GOP nominates for President in 2000 "will beat Bill Clinton." It's goofy and inexplicable, and certainly unjustifiable, but I miss Dan Quayle's suppurative presence on the body politic.

The FDA reported this week that the number of Viagra-linked deaths in the US has reached 16. It all constitutes more proof, I suppose, as if it were needed, of the hilarious and utter impossibility of gauging the depths of male stupidity.

Finally, JS e-mailed this last week:

"Probably didn't happen during the pool period, but wanted to know if you'd heard of the death of Larry Waters, who tragically killed himself. See George Plimpton's piece in one of the recent New Yorkers - about May 25th I think. For his feat with weather balloons and a lawn chair, Waters was a recipient of a recent Darwin award ("survival of the ..."), one of the few who lived through the accomplishment that earned him that honor. A real hero."

Dang, I missed this. The guy was tremendous. I dug through my e-mail archives and found the following:

DARWIN AWARD WINNER FOR 1997 ANNOUNCED
You'll recall a Darwin Award winner not long ago where a former Air Force sergeant decided to strap a cargo plane rocket booster to his car to see how fast it would go and ended up killing himself (hence the "Darwin" award...in the struggle for survival only the fittest survive....) when his car didn't negotiate a curve in on the road in northern New Mexico where he had set up this experiment. The car smashed into the side of a cliff several hundred feet above the roadbed.
Here's the 1997 winner: Larry Waters of Los Angeles. Larry is one of the few to win the award and still be alive.
Larry's boyhood dream was to fly. When he graduated from high school, he joined the Air Force in hopes of becoming a pilot. Unfortunately, poor eyesight disqualified him. When he was finally discharged, he had to satisfy himself with watching jets fly over his backyard.
One day, Larry, brightened up. He decided to fly. He went to the local Army-Navy surplus store and purchased 45 weather balloons and several tanks of helium. The weather balloons, when fully inflated, measured more than four feet across. Back home, Larry securely strapped the balloons to his sturdy lawn chair. He anchored the chair to the bumper of his jeep and inflated the balloons with the helium. He climbed on for a test while it was still only a few feet above the ground.
Satisfied that it would work, Larry packed several sandwiches and a six-pack of Miller Lite, loaded his pellet gun - figuring he could pop a few balloons when it was time to descend - and went back to the floating lawn chair, where he tied himself in along with his pellet gun and provisions. Larry's plan was to lazily float up to a height of about 30 feet above his back yard after severing the anchor and in a few hours come back down.
Things didn't quite work out for Larry. When he cut the cord anchoring the lawn chair to his jeep, he didn't float lazily up to 30 or so feet. Instead he streaked into the LA sky as if shot from a cannon. He didn't level off at 30 feet, nor did he level off at 100 feet. After climbing and climbing, he leveled off at 11,000 feet. At that height he couldn't risk shooting any of the balloons, lest he unbalance the load and really find himself in trouble. So he stayed there, drifting cold and frightened for more than 14 hours, when he found himself in the primary approach corridor of LAX.
A Pan Am pilot first spotted Larry. He radioed the tower and described passing a guy in a lawn chair with a gun. Radar confirmed the existence of an object floating 11,000 feet above the airport. LAX emergency procedures swung into full alert and a helicopter was dispatched to investigate.
LAX is right on the ocean. Night was falling and the offshore breeze began to flow. It carried Larry out to sea. Right on Larry's heels was the helicopter. Several miles out, the helicopter caught up with Larry. Once the crew determined that Larry was not dangerous, they attempted to close in for a rescue, but the draft from the blades would push Larry away whenever they neared. Finally, the helicopter ascended to a position several hundred feet above Larry and lowered a rescue line. Larry snagged the line, with which he was hauled back to shore, a difficult maneuver, flawlessly executed by the helicopter crew.
As soon as Larry was hauled to earth, he was arrested by waiting members of the LAPD for violating LAX airsapce. As he was led away in handcuffs, a reporter dispatched to cover the daring rescue asked him why he had done it. Larry stopped, turned, and replied nonchalantly, "A man can't just sit around."

Interestingly, a current major life goal of mine is to just sit around, at least until the next awarding of Pool points, at which time I'll update you at once.

Happy Gaspee Days, all.


6/5/98: Neutrinos

Neutrinos have mass. I knew it.

Until a sudden flurry of goofy celebrity-related news hit the wires late today, it had been a very slow week, Death Pool-wise, and even with today's variegated goings-on there's been no change in our standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, Shannon, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. The ever-reliable John Kerr: -18 points.

The big piece of actually confirmed news today is that former LA mayor and Presidential aspirant Sam Yorty died at 88. Notice how these old politicos-- last Friday Goldwater, today Yorty-- wait till late in the week to kick the bucket? They're just trying to screw over the press and end-of-week pundits one last time by befouling Friday deadlines. Power to them.

The big rumor making the rounds, however, was the (allegedly premature) announcement that Bob Hope had finally died. My sources tell me some Arizona Congressman spilled the beans at a press conference, only to retract said beans several seconds later, which was seconds too late, as the misinformation had already been promulgated worldwide. Hope's daughter said she was having breakfast with Bob when she heard the news. I'm not clear on how she could be so sure it wasn't true.

Scott Weiland picked up on heroin possession charges! Charlie Sheen bungee-ing in and out of rehab! The last American is getting ready to flee the Mir space station! Michael Zaslow isn't looking good! Are these people all just teasing us?

Charlton Heston, another Pool Pick in the News, puts the pedal to the metal on his journey to Hades this weekend, when he will be chosen President of the NRA. I guess this won't affect the actuarial tables, but it certainly causes me to root the harder on Andy Bowers' behalf.

Were the stars oddly aligned Tuesday? Sylvester Ritter, pro wrestling's Junk Yard Dog, died at age 45 in a highway accident late that night as he was transporting a repossessed car in central Mississippi. Setting aside my intense curiosity to know more about the circumstances, the rhetorical question immediately raised is, Does this death require a punch line? Also Tuesday, Peter Anderson, author of the Boston Globe's consistently fine "Off the Road" column, died at 63; and Colonel Oran Henderson, whose acquittal in the My Lai case showed us that "not guilty" and "innocent" are very different things, died at 77, as did writer/editor William Abrahams, 79. None of us saw any of it coming.

Last night Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich died of a heart attack at 92. He started at the Post as a teenager, during the Coolidge administration, covered Walter Johnson, among others, and could string a sentence together. Very much on the downside, however, he was Maury's dad.

Speaking of bright literary lights (whoa, Dude, smooth transition!), I believe we all received Dan's trash-talking haiku reply to last week's update:

Bob Hope's on my list
When he croaks, I get points, too
Give it up, suckers.

It generated this haiku from JS:

Thanks very much, Dan.
Was worried we were getting
Too high-brow, Spellman.

Check out this web site's brand-new feature/final update transition, Haiku Korner.

Happy interleague play!


5/29/98: Haiku mania

1. Haiku for Deceased Funny Man

We mourn the comic,
Risible expatriate.
Wolf Mankowitz: Dead.

Yes, writer Wolf Mankowitz, 73, author of the screenplay for "Casino Royale" and several very funny novels, died May 20.

Another funny expat, Canadian Phil Hartman, died horribly yesterday at age 49. I'm glad we didn't see this coming. On the other hand, first Sinatra, now Hartman... dare we hope that Piscopo might be next to go?

2. Haiku for Deceased Extremist Politico

"Wait a minute, Leon. Shouldn't I be on the right?"
"Extremism in the defense of the worldwide revolution of the Proletariate is no vice, Comrade Barry."

Ever on the fringe,
Trotskyism's last, best fan:
Frank Lovell's been purged.

Frank Lovell was one of the last of the old-line Trotskyists, a writer and editor who died May Day (of course) at age 84. There were never many of of these guys to begin with, and now there's one fewer.

Tuesday the wires reported that Barry Goldwater was near death. Wednesday his wife vociferously denied the reports. Today he died at 89. I look forward to the widow's apology (or explanation -- Walt thinks she mixed up the phrase "He's healthy" with "He has less than 24 hours to live"). Goldwater's politics aren't mine, but I have immense respect for anybody who, as did Barry, describes Richard Nixon as "the most dishonest man I ever met."

3. Haiku for Bo & Linda's Better (?) Half

Husband/svengali
To talent-bereft women:
John Derek's defunct.

Who will tell Bo that John died last Friday at age 71? And will she understand? "10" is her IQ, right?

4. Birthday Haiku for Bob Hope

Now you're 95.
How can we catch Dan Davis
If old guys don't croak?

Hey, check out the mail page for Dan's excellent trash-talking haiku response!

    As the above indicates, no change this week in the Death Pool standings:
  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, Shannon, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. John Kerr: my hero at -18 points.

5. Not a haiku

The Associated Press reported a story Wednesday headlined "Viagra ban generates fervor in Arab states": "The male potency pill Viagra sells for $100 a tablet on the black market in Kuwait and has become the subject of wishful cartoons and religious debate as word of its efficacy spreads through the Arab world."

Pakistan isn't Arab, but it is Islamic, and I'm thinking politicians there and in India, evidently obsessed with performance anxiety vis-a-vis one another, should be given lifetime supplies of Viagra in exchange for signing the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

6. Plumb wore out

Those haikus really take it out of you, what with each one taking many seconds to compose. The most splendid of weekends to all.



5/22/98: Bob Dole: Man of Steel

There's both no news and lots of news this week. It's been slow in the wake of Sinatro's sign-off, with no change in the Death Pool standings:

  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. John Kerr, steadfast at -18 points

Even among non-listees it's been a bit Non-Who Was Who of those we didn't see leaving the premises:

While we haven't had any point-generating deaths this week, there has been quite a bit of news concerning various Verde Pool listees.

John Paul II celebrated his 78th birthday Monday, a milestone which may deprive eight desperate Death Pool listers of a precious point in their struggle to catch up to Dan.

Likewise, Bob Hope's in a race with the Grim Reaper, with nine Poolsters (anti-Jacksonians whose motto is "Don't Keep Hope Alive") wishing for the latter to take down Skislope Nose before his upcoming 95th birthday. I mark it as a... hopeful sign (sorry) that, first, Hope's birthday party was celebrated nine days ahead of the event, and, second, that the guest of honor didn't actually show up, reportedly due to "a nasty cold." (Nice euphemism.)



"Happy birthday, Your Holiness."
"Happy birthday, Your Ski-nosiness."
"Ah... ah... AH-CHOO!"
"Argh! Are you trying to kill me?"


Jill and SHPOD have to be taking as a good omen a quote this week from Luciano Pavarotti that "(t)he idea of singing a duet with the Spice Girls is intriguing." This must be a symptom of advanced dementia, as well as an inducement to a higher power to strike dead Luciano and, as if any inducement were necessary, Baby Spice.



Ed, fresh off his Sinatra points, and FY, still bitter I allowed Dan and Tom to cash in on Pol Pot, must be happy to hear that Charlie Sheen was hospitalized after a drug overdose this week. (Hookers worldwide are holding a candlelit vigil.) That's a significant bunch of points, folks.

Elsewhere in SoCal, Robert Downey, Jr. managed to survive his prison term; we'll see how he does back in the world. The next Death Pool candidate for an incarceration-related mishap would be Olympia/Jessica fave Tommy Lee, who was sentenced Wednesday to six months in the slam for kicking Pam and abusing Soul Asylum by employing sans permission that band's song "Misery" as a soundtrack to his infamous home video.


Now starring in the remake of "In and Out"

Does a week pass without some horrendous stress-inducing series of events in the life of Boris Yeltsin? This week he's been dealing with railroad-paralyzing strikes by Siberian coal miners and the occupation by hundreds of gunmen of a government building in the Caucasus region Dagestan, which borders the breakaway regions of Blondestan, Ditherestan, Herbwoodleyestan, and any number of minorcomicstripcharacterestans.


Washington, D.C., mayor/world-renowned crackhead Marion Barry announced he will not be seeking a fifth term, which should free him up to pursue all those life-threatening hobbies he's had to put aside the last four years -- good news for Lorraine. On the other hand, outgoing Postmaster General and Lorraine Pool Pick Marvin Runyan appeared Thursday on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Lorraine, the guy looks great! I think once he's stepped down he'll take over for James Whitmore in "Give 'em Hell, Harry!"


Sometimes all that's involved in generating these updates is managing to wake up in the morning. To wit: There's a subliminal-suggestion cassette entitled "Erection Vision" (I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried) that's being marketed as a companion product for Viagra. Listen with your mind's ear to Bob Dole repeating this actual audio:


"I am a man of steel. I will not be afraid of failure. My erection will be successful even though I have failed before."

Another frightening sign of impending apocalypse: Jewel's book of poetry.


And speaking of my not doing any actual work, I received five responses to my e-interview requests to those who picked Sinatra. As if I didn't already know you people are collectively an astonishingly bright, smart-mouthed bunch, I get these answers to a bunch of random questions. (Especially great is what was elicited from number six, in which I asked for an opinion favoring either A or B, and received not a single straight or unfunny answer.) (Answers are presented in the order they were received. Like you care.)

1. Sinatra: heaven, hell, purgatory, or limbo?

Tom Kenney: Chicago, more particularly Comiskey Park, worse than Hell.

Dan Davis: I predict he'll be doing the limbo, from here to eternity.

Mike Sullivan: No question about it: hell. Anybody who ever hung out with Joey Bishop -- once described as principally "famous for being famous" -- will pay the ultimate price.

SMK: For singing in South Africa back in the bad old days he's going to have to spend some time in purgatory listening to a record skip right on the words "I did it my way" oh, about 2 billion times.

Ed Coates: Some otherworldly replica of Las Vegas would be fitting.

2. When and how did you learn of your triumph?

Tom: Yesterday morning as I awoke on NPR. It actually evoked a lot of memories of my father playing Frank tunes on the organ. I thought about the impact he must have had on my Father, somewhat akin to Elvis for a later generation.

Dan: The radio played two Sinatra songs in a row, so I knew he must've croaked.

Mike: On CBS Radio news. Half awake at 6:30 AM, I first thought they said that Ronald Reagan had died overnight, but then I remembered that he already was dead.

SMK: When my mom called me a little teary-eyed because this anchor of her generation had died and all I could think was "how many points are coming to me?"

Ed: Changing stations on the way to work and finding nothing but Sinatra tunes. I assumed he'd either finally taken complete control of the airwaves or finally checked out.

3. Why didn't EVERYBODY see this coming?

Tom: Just one of those mysteries of Life/Death.

Dan: They got greedy and turned their noses up at 18 free points to pick younger people.

Mike: I dunno. Then again, I'm the only entrant who correctly picked McCauley Culkin's untimely demise, so maybe I've just got the knack.

SMK: What do you mean, "Why didn't EVERYBODY see this coming?" It's bad enough I have to share the honor with ten other people.

Ed: It's the obvious that is most often overlooked.

4. Who's next?

Tom: Although I didn't pick her, Liz Taylor.

Dan: Bob "no" Hope.

Mike: Probably the Taco Bell Chihuahua. But Viva Gorditas!

SMK: Well, I was going to say Suharto until he cried uncle. I think one day soon the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens is going to catch up with Salman Rushdie, who--darn--I didn't think to put on my list.

Ed: (Who's Next: A pretty fair album as I recall). My money is on Hope.

5. Seinfeld: heaven, hell, purgatory, or limbo?

Tom: Syndication.

Dan: Master of the domain of purgatory.

Mike: Limbo. Still waiting for a table at that Chinese restuarant.

SMK: Who's Seinfeld?

Ed: Limbo - it's all about nothing.

5A. The Finale: funny or not?

Tom: Not. It just confirmed I hadn't missed much by not watching the show for the last couple of years.

Dan: More of Geraldo Rivera than Newman or Puddy? What was that all about?

Mike: Definitely not funny. But maybe if they re-run that final episode backwards I'll change my mind.

SMK: N/A.

Ed: Not one of their best, but nowhere near as awful as the reviews suggested. Jerry's prison standup routine was a choice closing.

6. India or Pakistan?

Tom: Sri Lanka.

Dan: Pakistan, easily. You WERE talking about men's field hockey, weren't you?

Mike: Split doubleheader: India 6-6, Pakistan 4-7 (second game 10 innings).

SMK: Bangladesh-- for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ed: Pakistan in the 2nd on a DQ when India bites off a chunk of ear.

7. Given the collective nature of the call, you may have one sentence worth of trash talk. (Dan, having called it twice, gets a second sentence.)

Tom: Yeah, whatever.

Dan: I probably shouldn't point out that my BACKUP list is kicking most of your butts. So I won't.

Mike: No trash talk from me. But look out, Louie Anderson -- you're next.

SMK: I'd like to remind the interviewer that I REALLY HAVE PAID MY TWO BUCKS ALREADY. REALLY. DAMMIT. (That's three sentences, but I'm thinking I'll let it go.)

Ed: Jilly, get the limo ready, I'm coming around one more time.

And on that note, a very merry Memorial Day to all.



5/15/98: Yada, yada, yada...

A deathless android

If I'd known Sinatra was just holding out to see the Seinfeld finale, I would have picked him, too. My theory had been that irascible bastards hold out forever in light of their deep-seated understanding that when their time is nigh, they're hellbound. Imagine my shock that Ol' Blue Eyes' heart imploded at the realization that he'd never again see Silvio the Super.

So start spreadin' the news: the Chairman, shot down in May, is stiff as a board from here to eternity. He's been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a corpse. He died it his way. Et cetera.

Frankie was on ten lists (Belen's, Tom Baier's, Ed Coates', both of Dan Davis', Lorraine's #3, the Killer's, SMK's, Deb's, and Mike Sullivan's), making him number two on the consensus list, plus John Kerr mistakenly identified the faded crooner as a deathless android. With so many people to e-interview about their glorious prognosticating talents, it's probably going to take me a week to get together all the trash-talking responses. When I do, I'll start spreading the views.

Twist the shiv

    Here are the current standings:
  1. Dan Davis #2: 75 points, threatening to leave us all in the ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
  2. Tom Kenney: 45 points, hanging tough.
  3. Belen, Tom B., Ed, Dan #1, Lorraine #3, SMK, Debra, and Mike S.: 18 points
  4. Everyone else: 0 points, except...
  5. John Kerr: -18 points. (John's been perpetrating practical jokes at Real Timers' expense, so I feel obliged to twist the shiv.)

(Click here to see our Current Standings page.)

Tenebrae

Clark:Superman = Boris:Fabio?

I'm thinking Boris Yeltsin simply has to be the next consensus pick to go. The New York Times earlier this week reported on Yeltsin's internet chat session, which included this exchange:

Elizabeth from Ireland:"You have wonderful hair, Irish have wonderful hair. Do you have any relatives in Ireland?"
Boris N. Yeltsin: "My hair does not deserve so much attention. I am taking care of my hair. It is just that the women in my family look after me so well."


Here's my question: Have Boris and Fabio ever been seen in the same place at the same time?

Nuclear volleyball

Notably, nobody chose as their 1998 earth-shattering tie-breaking event the possibility that India and Pakistan may play nuclear volleyball this summer. Nor did we anticipate the melting down of civilization in Indonesia. On this side of the International Date Line we're more concerned with critically assessing a sitcom's ending episode, and with the news that Bob Dole was a test case for Viagra. (I'm loving this factoid.)

As ever, check in regularly at the web site for the way-cool, graphically enhanced version of the Death Pool news: http://members.tripod.com/~Verde_Death_Pool/index.html


5/8/98: Quiet... too quiet

I returned from vacation with high hopes for interesting doings on the Death Pool front, but aside from the tragicomic melodrama that is the life of Oksana Baiul, the scene has been, if you'll pardon the expression, moribund, excepting the parade B-level celebrities moving on. Here's two weeks' worth of deaths we didn't see coming:

I have nothing funny to say, and would be forced to close here were it not for Theresa's merciful forwarding proclivities. She passes on from the Darwin Awards people these signs of an impending apocalypse of stupidity :

  1. The average cost of rehabilitating a seal after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska was $80,000. At a special ceremony, two of the most expensively saved animals were released back into the wild amid cheers and applause from onlookers. A minute later they were both eaten by a killer whale.

  2. Two animal rights protesters were protesting at the cruelty of sending pigs to a slaughterhouse in Bonn. Suddenly all 2,000 pigs escaped through a broken fence and stampeded, trampling the two hapless protesters to death.

  3. And finally, Iraqi terrorist Khay Rahnajet didn't pay enough postage on a letter bomb. It came back with "Return to sender" stamped on it. Predictably, he opened it and bade a fond farewell to his face.

At first hint of a Death Pool pick's demise, I'll update again. In the meantime, you can always amuse yourself at the web site: http://members.tripod.com/~Verde_Death_Pool/index.html

Happy Mother's Day!


4/24/98: Doomsday Davis, Part Deux

James Earl Ray, three decades and three weeks too late, died horribly of kidney disease and liver failure on Thursday, and Dan Davis took over first place in the Pool with 57 points, Ray's 30 added to Pol Pot's 27.

Karmically Challenged or Differently Ethicized?

If, like me, you harbor doubts about the existence of Hell, you probably share my regret that his doctors were unable to further prolong Ray's agony. If you're a believer, of course, you're probably high-fiving at the thought of James Earl joining Pol Pot in the Great Fry-o-later Down Below.

Dan has scored big with the karmically challenged, and we have some cause to be worried about the rest of his excellent number-two list, which includes not only people who are differently ethicized (e.g., Strom Thurmond and Frank Sinatra), but also folks who are sick (Ronald Reagan, Sinatra, Michael Zaslow, and Dan Quisenberry) and elderly (Thurmond and Reagan, Milton Berle, Julia Child, Billy Graham, and of course Sinatra, finishing off quite the trifecta). Don't despair, though: The year is young, and just one twenty- or even thirtysomething Hollywood doofus running sufficiently amock can wipe out Dan's lead in a flash. Plus we'll have a couple months' worth of skiing at year's end to boost the point totals.

Revisiting Rico Suave

For now, though, Dan doth rule. I've e-interviewed him again, hoping against hope for some insight or, barring that, to fill space:

To what do you owe your continuing perspicacity?

It was obvious to me that James Earl Ray, the famous African-American character actor, better known as the voice of Darth Vader, and for announcing "This is CNN," would not live out the year.

When and how did you learn of your triumph?

I got the word via shoe phone from Raoul, my operative in Montreal, who had been keeping close tabs on James Earl Ray, for reasons that I cannot divulge in this forum.

What's the deal with Linda McCartney?

I keep telling people, those damn vegetables will kill you dead. Everyone who eats broccoli dies, sooner or later. If only she had balanced her diet with beef ribs and scotch (a healthy part of a balanced breakfast), the world wouldn't have been cheated out of her tone-deaf backup vocals.

And what was up with that drug plane landing in Detroit?

I know nothing about it. Really. Officer, I've never seen that man before in my life.

Who's next?

Take it to the bank: by the time you read this message, Generalissimo Francisco Franco of Spain will be dead.

More trash talk?

I see no need to taunt the less fortunate. Some people are just gifted with talents in certain important areas. Like Picasso in painting, Michael Jordan in basketball, or that Rico Suave guy in singing, I've been blessed with a rare talent in a field that truly matters to a lot of people: picking which celebrities will die next. I'm sure that several other people in this pool have been gifted with certain special talents of their own, such as digging ditches, driving taxicabs, or stacking boxes in warehouses. So there's no need for anyone to resent my success in the death pool, as each of us has our role in life. My role is to be victorious, and everyone else's role is to lose.

Prayer for Linda

On that uplifting note...

It was a busy week-plus of celebrity culling by the Grim Reaper, hardly a day passing without a passing, and none of us save Dan having seen any of it coming:

April 15: American abstract painter William Congdon dies at 86.

April 16: Amelia Earhart's mechanic, Ruckins "Bo" McKneely, Jr., dies at 89.

April 17: Linda McCartney dies at 56.
Here's a prayer for Linda, appropriated from somewhere on the World Wide Web:

"Oh Lord, bless the spirit of your daughter Linda and accept her into heaven. Father, we pray that you do not also take Yoko from us in this our time of need. Neither take from us Ringo, lest we have to think up some other name to call British guys when we want to piss them off. Oh Lord, won't you buy us a Mercedes Benz? Amen."

April 18: Tennessee politician Terry Sanford dies 80.

April 19: Mexican writer/candy dispenser Octavio Paz dies at 84, and golfer Gardner Dickinson dies at 70

April 20: Anti-apartheid activist Archbishop Trevor Huddleston dies at 84.

April 22: Former Greek President and Prime Minister Constantine Karamanlis dies at 91

Loving Jerry Lewis

Finally, a nice week for the political culture in France, n'est pas?

First a bunch of French politicos got all pissy that people are assigning them some measure of responsibility for the '94 Rwandan genocide. Said Agriculture Minister Camembert Malodereaux, "How could it be so? Don't people remember the many days we bravely fought the Nazis in 1940 before rolling over and collaborating? (Almost as many days as weeks the Poles singlehandedly fought Germany in '39 while awaiting the help we were sadly unwilling to lend!) Don't they recall how thoughtfully we planted trees along the Champs D'Elysees so the Germans could march in the shade? Have they forgotten how eagerly the Vichy government lent assistance to its Jewish citizens? Have they no memory of our splendid human rights history in Algeria and Indochina? Merde et sacre bleu! I swear upon a stack of original Jerry Lewis screenplays and Mickey Rourke autographed 8 x 10 glossies, we are being impugned!"

And this was before the world learned of the French NATO officer who'd been hanging (and no doubt comparing Genocidal Maniac Trading Card Collections: "Merde! My autographed Milosevic is worth 50 of your steenkin' Mladices!") with, rather than, say, arresting, noted Bosnian social butterfly/war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

Gosh, what a lovable bunch of galoots! So how come they don't like us?

Plug the Bookmark; Bookmark the Plug

Hey, don't forget to pay an occasional visit to the web site:
http://members.tripod.com/~Verde_Death_Pool/index.html

To the Left Coast

I'm on vacation this week coming; hence the non-response till May 4 to any Pool-related demises. You'll all be in my thoughts (sure, you betcha) while I catch rays in San Diego.


4/23/98: Thwack!

That sudden kick we received on our collective backside this morning was Dan "Dr. Death" Davis bootin' behind as James Earl Ray followed Pol Pot down, down, down, giving Dan on his number-two list 30 more points and sole possession of first place in the Death Pool.

    Current Standings:
  1. Dan with 57 points
  2. Tom Kenney with 27 points
  3. 27 shutout also-rans wondering how we could have missed James Early Ray.

A complete update tomorrow!


4/17/98: One Dead Despot

It seems like old news already, but on Wednesday April 15, world-class genocidal tyrant Pol Pot died at age 73 of an IRS-induced heart attack, having been struck by the simultaneous realizations that (1) he wasn't going to get his return US-postmarked by midnight Wednesday, and (B) the Revenooers weren't going to allow him to claim his two million political assassination victims as dependents.

Dan Davis and Tom Kenney have vaulted into a 27-point first-place tie ahead of the clueless rest of us (click here for our current standings), though not without some measure of disputation, as FY has challenged the actuality of Mr. Pot's demise. She suggests the Kampuchean Angel of Death decamped for Argentina ahead of a UN crimes-against-humanity tribunal, no doubt utilizing the Khmer Rouge's Underwater Railroad to join the ever-growing Cambodian expat community in Buenos Aires. But seeing as all the major media outlets, including CNN, the Times, and the BBC (no link -- it was a radio broadcast, trust me), have reported him a goner, I'm going to count the points; if it turns out by year's end we've been hoaxed, I'll rescind them.

Here's an e-mail from Theresa that sums up what pretty much all of us must be feeling:

"All I can say is, no one could more deserve the honor of being the Death Pool's first score. Here's to Pol Pot, in hopes he reaps what he sowed."
The most common concern/squeamishness I encounter in the (tiny) portion of the population that wants nothing to do with death pools is that of "Oh, but it'll bring me bad karma!" (See my response in the Death Pool web site's Frequently asked questions page.) Well, I don't think any bad karma's going to come down from wishing the likes of Pol Pot dead. This was a guy who claimed to have a clear conscience concerning the millions of people he ordered murdered. Amazingly enough, my conscience is clear, too.

Speaking of e-mail, here's some e-Q & e-A with leading Poolsters Dan Davis and Tom Kenney, and with sub-Pool winner Ed Coates (who responded to my interview request with "Thank you, thank you. I'm always delighted to aid the fifth estate (or was that plead the fifth amendment?)"):

1. To what do you owe your astonishing perspicacity?

Dan: My connections in Phnom Penh tipped me off about Pol Pot. I have many sources located throughout the People's Republic of Kampuchea.
Ed: People really do win on MTV.
Tom: Dumb Luck. Actually, I thought it was a safe bet because I thought he was already dead.

2.When and how did you learn of your triumph?

Dan: I'm on the Maniacal Despots E-mailing list. (I signed up for the list because I thought it was about an obscure punk band.)
Ed: Much in the same way Ingmar Bergman learned of his jury prize at Cannes in 1955 -- reading the news while sitting on the throne. The Elvis parallel is not lost on me.
Tom: About 10 minutes ago when I read your message. To be honest, I forgot he was on my list. I have been somewhat busy handling a mobile 15 month old. Sorry I missed your publication deadline.

3. How did you feel?

Dan: I reveled in the triumphant glee one feels after vanquishing one's colleagues in meaningless competition. I think I might have high-fived somebody.
Ed: Like a rolling stone.
Tom: Tired, it's Friday.

4. If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Dan: The kind of tree that kicks everyone else's butt in the Death Pool, and then revels in the glee. (Isn't that the Larch?)
Ed: I've already told Ms. Walters -- I hate repeating myself.
Tom: Kokabura[sp?]

5. Any predictions on who's next to go?

Dan: Sinatra's already dead, but it won't be announced till they're done making the corpse look presentable. (This is also true of Keith Richards, but he's not on my list.)
Ed: All ten on my list, in numerical order.
Tom: I concur with the Frank Sinatra theory. Despite the reports of him doing well, reminiscent of the old Moscow reports, the dirge is being warmed up or cooled down, whatever.

6. Care to trash talk?

Dan: see number 4 above.
Ed: I'd rather use this platform to promote world peace.
Tom: Die Yankee pig dog stadium. Bulls win, Bulls win.

Many thanks to Tom, Dan, and Ed for doing my job for me.

There was only one other high-profile death this week that I'm aware of, the departure on Tuesday of Nixonian moneyman Maurice Stans, 90. The Space Cowboy didn't like being lumped together with all the other Watergate slimeballs, but if you sleep with dogs, you wake up with fleas. We none of us saw his 10 points coming. I'm thinking Kissinger might be next, given his apoplexy at every mention of his personal responsibility for engendering the Killing Fields.

Don't forget to bookmark this ever-changing and now Pol Pot-enhanced web site!

Finally, let me note that Yanqui Stadium is falling to pieces. This has nothing to do with the Pool, of course. I'm just loving it. Pol Pot and Babe Ruth are already plotting how they're going to razz Rizzuto and Steinbrenner about it when Scooter and the Boss join them in Hades.

Happy weekend!


4/16/98: '98 Death Pool's First Points!


How great is it that the reinstituted Mike Verde/NYPD Death Pool's first points are awarded upon the death of one of history's worst mass murderers? And is it not doubly great that scoring first in the Pool is the appropriately monikered Killer Kenney, along with Real Time's Dan "Doomsday" Davis?

Pol Pot grabbed the express "down" elevator yesterday, and Dan and Tom are 27 points the richer and sharing first place for his exit. Ed Coates wins the date-of-first-Death-Pool-death sub-pool with his April 19 prediction, and receives a free '99 list.

Full details, including e-interviews with the winners, in tomorrow's end-of-week update!


4/10/98: Dirges

Quite a week for the music business, as a slew of personalities came to the near-simultaneous realization that the '80s are over:

Rob "Milli" Pilatus was found dead of overdose Thursday April 2. It's probably just as well none of us saw his 68 points coming, since more likely than not we'll be told later this year that it was some other, more accomplished drug-taker who actually died.

April 5 was a Black Sabbath indeed, as drummer Cozy Powell, 50, died in a car crash.

And then Monday April 6 was so awful as to have Bob Geldof checking for guns in schoolyards, the day seeing the passing of a woman who challenged the status quo of the music business, attempting and succeeding where so few women had before her, speaking to a generation theretofore used to men's voices and viewpoints: McCulloch spokes-punk Wendy O. Williams was a 52-point suicide.

Oh, and Tammy Wynette died of blood clot, taking her 45 points, leaving her five ex-husbands.

WARNING: CURSE WORD AHEAD!
ABANDON HOPE, YE OF SENSITIVE BOO-BOO FEELINGS!
In the wake of Tammy's death, rebroadcast a couple of times that I saw was Hillary ("I'm smarter than you, and will spend my entire adult life reminding you of it") Clinton's infamous "60 Minutes" sound bite in which she declares herself to be not some Tammy Wynette standing by her man. I had forgotten the contempt in her voice when she says "Tammy Wynette," like it's a particularly icky form of bubonic plague. You have to respect the abilities of Carville, et al, for having managed to spin Hillary's way out of a comment that unequivocally proved her to be a D'Amato-level asshole. It's incredible to me that Tammy was gracious enough to subsequently sing for the Clintons. Would that I had such equanimity.

Anyway, I'm hoping Shane MacGowan, Paul Westerburg, and all other talented (and non-listed) alcoholic musicians will have the good sense to take it easy over the Easter weekend and stay away from Fenway Park after today. Because this year's home opener was on Good Friday/Passover, the Red Sox didn't sell beer at Fenway today. Saturday is Family Day, however, and the taps will be open, ensuring that all the eight-year-olds and their dads who were forced to abstain on their religious holidays can make up for lost time and get properly blotto.

Speaking of the Sox, another, non-music-related death this week was that of '67 "Impossible Dream" Red Sox closer John Wyatt, 63, who succumbed to a heart attack on Monday. So far as I know, Sparky Lyle's okay.

Sad, sad e-news from JS on April 9: "Not sure of the point count on this one, but I will report with a heavy heart the end of the pizza brick after 10 years of faithful service. It had developed a suspicious crack a couple of pizzas ago, and tonight it finally broke in two, giving its all in the line of duty. The brick saw a lot of pizzas and loaves of bread in its career. Thanks a lot, fella."

Noooo! Why oh why is it the best of us who go young?

Finally, I received nine sub-pool guesses on the date for the Initial Death Pool Death:

A free 1999 list goes to whomever comes closest.

Best to all this solemn weekend.


4/8/98: Death Pool reminder

Deadline is Friday, 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time, for placing a guess as to the date of the first Death Pool death for 1998. Whoever comes closest wins a free 1999 list. This sub-pool is open to all, not just '98 participants, providing a perfect introduction for that special (or not) someone you think might want to participate in (or anyway observe) the Pool in the future.

One guess per person, and the whole thing's trashed if we get a Pool death in the next 50 hours. Looking forward to more entries...

- Jack


4/3/98: Death Pool held hostage: Day 93


1. It's a lame quarterly report I'll be submitting to our stockholders: three months into 1998, and not a single celebrity death predicted by a group of people of self-evidently immense intellectual capabilities. In hopes of either forcing the Grim Reaper's hand or staving off universal indifference and ennui (you decide which), here's an interest-inducing sub-pool: I'll grant a free 1999 list to whomever comes closest to guessing the correct date of the first 1998 Verde Death Pool death. This offer is open to one and all, not just '98 participants, so pass the word. E-mail your guess to me by next Good Friday, April 10. (If someone dies in the interim, which in a very sick way is my fervent hope, this deal is void.)


2. Whose demises didn't we see coming this week?

Beverley Cross, British playwright and husband of Dame Maggie Smith, died on March 20, taking his 34 points with him.

A trio of deaths on March 27: JFK majordomo David Powers, 85; car-maker/Nazi largesse recipient Ferdinand Porsche, Jr., 88; and Joseph Sobek, 79, inventor of racquetball.

And the week's most notable departure on the 31st, when Bella Abzug, 77, died of complications after heart surgery.


3. Channel 18 redux:

If this hadn't been dated March 31 by Reuters, I'd have been sure it was an April Fool's Day thang: "Garland, Texas - A Taiwanese spiritual sect said God descended to Earth just outside Dallas yesterday, but dozens of observers who gathered for the big event saw and felt little evidence of such a miracle. The sect's leader, Hon-Ming Chen, had said God would land at his home in the Dallas suburb of Garland, reproduce himself hundreds of times [cool! - js], shake hands with all those present, and talk to each of them in their native languages. When there was little indication of any divine arrival, Chen had an explanation: God had entered the bodies and souls of all those present, and anyone who did not see him was denying their identity as humans."

Actually, I'm of a mind to deny Mr. Chen's identity as a human.


4. I'm wishing I (or someone) had listed 1994 Singapore caning recipient/perennial unintelligent guy Michael Fay, arrested for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia Tuesday in Florida. According to the AP, Mike after his caning returned to the US of A and suffered burns to his hands and face in September '94 consequent to his sniffing butane. Given the possibility, however remote, that stupidity might be contagious, I'm hoping Michael's now in for a serious and ongoing quarantine.


5. And a Merry Daylight Savings Time to all.


3/27/98: Channel 18

A tough week for religious cults, though I suppose that's the nature of the calling. First, Gilbert Bourdin, 74, head of the secretive Golden Lotus religious cult based in Provence, died on March 19. When he founded the cult in 1969, he insisted he was immortal (wrong) and meant to save the world (wrong again). Then God obstinately refused to show up on Channel 18 at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, contravening the predictions of Chen Heng-ming, leader of the Zhen Dao, True Way, cult in Garland ("It sounds like God-land"), Texas. Gotta respect Mr. Chen's take on the turn of events:

"My predictions of God arriving on March 31 can be considered nonsense."

While I think we can credit ourselves with having seen coming the Creator's cable-access no-show, we had less success with our own celebrity picks (we remain collectively goose-egged for '98) and with this week's departures, to wit:

When the points finally start to accumulate, count on a quick update. Splendid vernal weekends to all.


3/20/98: Two-verse Ode to Spring and Our Pool

Spring is swell.
I like it a lot.
The flowers smell
And it ain't hot.

Baseball's coming,
And soon April Fool.
Celebrities will die,
Enlivening the Pool.

Anyway, I think celebrities may die, though I have to admit that the sight of Boris Yeltsin back behind his Kremlin desk kind of depressed me.

Benjamin Spock, 94, died on the Ides of March. At the end of his remarkable life the good doctor was bald, toothless, broke, in diapers, and totally dependent on others to take care of him, thus proving that what goes around comes around. Nobody saw his six points coming.

Killer points out that I missed JT Walsh, actor and URI alumnus, who died a couple weeks back at age 54. I saw that he'd died, but couldn't confirm the date of his demise, and then lost track of it all. (So sue me.) Anyhoo, JT died on February 27.

Also add to the archives avant-garde photographer Ilse Bing, grandmother of Chandler, who shuttered off to that dark room in the sky on March 10 at age 98, nobody having seen her two points coming, and writer Anne Sayre, 74, who died on Friday the 13th, her 26 points unrealized.

Latest Pool participants to receive what Mike S. describes as the Roger Maris Asterisk ("Maris me!" commanded Mike) are Ed, Tom B., Lorraine, and Mike his own bad self, leaving but a handful of (suspiciously Caption Center-centered) deadbeats yet to cough up a Jefferson to cover their dues.

From the Department of Duh, two headlines in the March 19 Boston Globe: "Nixon, aides were hostile to press, documents show"; and "Pentagon still overpays for items, audit finds." I'm thinking that, given competition by real life, my attempts at being a smart ass are but futility.

Hey, am I alone in being within a couple dozen listens of the Amigo theme song of a seriously violent psychotic episode?

Lots of new mail has been posted, plus my own unsolicited and unnecesary commentary, and I've been assiduously adding links to the Master List, hoping to up the entertainment quotient. Actual non-text imagery is in the offing. Surf over to http://members.tripod.com/~Verde_Death_Pool/index.html

Speaking of e-mail and links, I've been at pains to give folks the option of web anonymity, but I can just as easily accommodate anyone who wants me to add a link to their e-mail, home page, other web site, or any dang thing. Let me know.

Happy Spring!


3/13/98: Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum! Mandelbaum!

When I heard a Bridges had died, I thought we might have some points to award, but I misremembered: Tom B., going for the points, picked Todd, not Lloyd. Dang. So great on Seinfeld, greater in the Airplane! movies, and absolutely magnficent in Sea Hunt, maybe (and here I'll show my age by admitting how much I loved the program) the last great pre-Vietnam action/adventure show, Lloyd Bridges died Tuesday at 85.

The week's other notable deaths were likewise unforseen by Poolsters, who remain in 29-way deadlock. (Keep hope alive, however: Pool picks James Earl Ray and Liz Taylor have been bungee-ing between home (well, prison for Jimbo) and hospital, and, ever the tease, Boris Yeltsin canceled meetings and appearances due to a "respiratory infection," which I believe may be a Russian euphemism for "vodka-induced myocardial infarction.")

Titanic survivor Eleanor Shuman, 87, died Saturday March 7.

Two practitioners of contact sports died of heart attacks March 8: Green Bay Packer great Ray Nitschke, 61, and Whitewater figure/political victim James McDougal, 57, in federal prison.

Also on the 8th, Broadway singer Laurie Beechman, 44, succumbed to ovarian cancer.

And on March 12, Beatrice Wood died at age 105. She was known as the Mama of Dada for her laisons with the likes of Marcel Duchamps and other Dadaists, and was in her own right a renowned ceramics artist. It makes me sad that all the good nicknames are taken.

Ad(sp)am Sp(am)ellman's got e-mail! Spam him early and often at aspellman@newshour.org

Bookmark this Web page! As I mentioned before, if you don't want your real name used in the site, let me know, and I will pseudonymize you, as I've done three participants already. Even minus anesthesia, I don't think it hurt them much.


3/10/98: Shameless plugging

1. Hey, kids, we've got a web page! Visit our site at:

http://members.tripod.com/~Verde_Death_Pool/index.html

It's decidedly text-heavy and image-bereft, but I hope to be improving it. Suggestions are decidely welcome.

1A. If you don't want your name/list/involvement in the Pool splashed all over the Web, I understand. Let me know, and I'll modify the site to conceal your identity.

2. Poolster Dan Davis runs the annual Real Time NCAA basketball tournament pool, the supreme and reigning trash-talking taking-on-all-comers capitalized Champion of which is yours truly. If you'd like to lose to me again this year, fill out a form, pony up two bucks, and send it on to Dan, who can be e-mailed Dan_Davis@wgbh.org. Deadline is Thursday morning.



3/6/98: Another no-news update

Quite the week for the intersection of jurisprudence and professional sports. First Mo Vaughn walks, notwithstanding having failed EIGHT sobriety tests (not including the Breathalyzer he refused to take -- who knew so many variations on the theme existed?), and then Latrell Sprewell got his job back, giving hope to all of us planning on throttling our bosses without having to suffer consequences. In any event, Debra certainly has to be pleased that Mo's looking to get his license reinstated. Remember, though, no Pool member is allowed to disable Mo's seatbelt. (Well, technically, you're allowed, but I won't count the points.)

No Pool-predicted deaths yet, though I hold out hope for the Ides of March. The week did see the demise of a quartet of old guys:

On February 24, Antonio Prohias, 77, died. He was the artist who originated "Spy vs. Spy."
On the 28th, Todd Duncan, 95, first black singer to join the NYC Opera, and originator of the role of Porgy, died.
On March 2 historian Henry Steele Commager, 95, became history.
And on the 3rd former CBS News President Fred Friendly, 82, tuned out.

Liz Taylor was hospitalized after a fall at home, and reportedly suffered a fractured bone. Courage, Belen and Jill and Lorraine.

The last two McCaughey septuplets were released from the hospital. Alfonso assures me this actually increases his chances of accumulating an insurmountable number of points by way of highway collision or "wicked aggressive dingo." (Actually, those are my words, not Alfonso's.)

And, most promisingly, Tommy Lee reportedly is very upset over a court order to stay away from his children after he'd abused Pamela and their baby. Said Tommy, "I love and miss them very much, and want them to know how much this time away from them is killing me." We, especially Jessica and Olympia, now have clear guidance concerning whom to root for in the coming custody battle.

Finally, I have a request: can anyone direct me to World Wide Web resources where I might download a picture of Yeltsin on the snowmobile?

A happy weekend to all.




2/27/98: "Ella quiere Taco Bell"

And still we wait.

Just a quick update this time.

Three notable deaths in three days this week that nobody anticipated: On Sunday, Senator/Governor/Secretary of HEW/Great American Abraham Ribicoff died at 87; on Monday New England Patriots founding president Billy Sullivan, by no possible definition a great American, died at 82; and on Tuesday Henny Youngman died at 92. I can't believe none of us saw this last one coming. Henny was a perennial NYPD consensus pick in the 1980's.

Killer informs me I missed the death last week of the mother of Chicago Cardinal Bernandin. I'm thinking this person may have been one step removed from true celebrity.

Jessica passes along this wondrously tasteless item from the online 'zine The Onion:

SINATRA, HOPE, REAGAN DEADLOCKED IN RACE TO GRAVE: LOS ANGELES-- Frank Sinatra's recent hospitalization has pulled the aging crooner into a virtual dead heat with comedian Bob Hope and former president Ronald Reagan in their hotly contested race to death's door, it was reported Monday. "We feel good about Mr. Sinatra's prospects in this competitive graveyard derby," said Dr. Ben Ellis, Sinatra's personal physician. "He is largely incoherent and responds poorly to bathing and feeding." Despite Sinatra's rapidly deteriorating condition, officials for Hope and Reagan are confident. "Apart from one or two public appearances in the past year, Mr. Hope has been unable to function in any meaningful capacity outside his home," a Hope publicist said. Reagan, meanwhile, is proving a strong contender with a progressive neurological disease eroding his very wits. Las Vegas oddsmaker Danny Sheridan has Sinatra a slight 5-3 favorite to depart first, with Reagan second at 2-1.

Shannon points out that PBS' Great Performances is doing a Frank Sinatra retrospective (which Offline is now captioning). Career retrospectives are always a reliable leading indicator. Next I'm looking for the faxed obituary from CBS News to Real Time, which is always El Beso de la Muerte. They got us Mickey Mantle two weeks in advance of his demise, and Nixon a full month and a half ahead of his.

Nobody in the Pool listed her, so I was surprised at the disappointment I heard expressed that Oprah was allowed to walk. Dan for one actively rooted for the death penalty, and you'd think that Texas would be the one place where you might get popped for slagging beef, but no. Bess pointed out that if Oprah got the death penalty in the People's Republic of China, she'd get shipped back here minus her liver.

Finally, and apropos of nothing except that it's funny (in my opinion, anyway), last week Cecelia described Tara Lipinski as "a chihuahua in skates."



2/20/98: Six days, six deaths, no points:

It's amazing to me that we still haven't had a Pool-predicted death in '98, though the rumors do fly concerning the likes of Robert Downey, Jr. (beaten up in prison for not paying protection money), Sarah Ferguson (injured skiing -- gotta love it), Babs Streisand (cat-fighting outside a Hollywood restaurant), James Earl Ray (having a tough time recovering from hernia surgery), and of course consensus pick Sinatra (one sick hepcat).

Which is not to ignore the Grim Reaper's very busy week.

It was a rough patch for (among others) century-old European veterans of World War I.

Lord Granville of Eye died on Valentine's Day, two days after his 100th birthday. His Lordship thought until last week he was approaching his 99th birthday, and probably gave up the ghost when he realized he couldn't give the NYPD pool any points. He was a survivor of the Australian defeat at Gallipoli. Dang, I never got to ask him if Mel Gibson really ran so fast.

And Ernst Juenger, a militant nationalist German writer, died at age 102 on President's Day. His first book, "In Storms of Steel," glorified the horrors of the First World War, which, if you think about it, is quite an accomplishment. Nobody saw his -2 points coming.

Speaking of the Great War, did you know that at that time sheep clubs for boys and girls were organized by the USDA in sheep-raising areas? Other rural areas featured hog and cattle clubs. A feeling of support for and involvement with the troops overseas was imparted to the young people who participated. I gleaned this from the card SHPOD sent me with her dues.

It was reported Tuesday that Martha Gellhorn, pioneering female war correspondent who was Hemingway's third wife, had died at age 89.

Two notable deaths on the 17th: Civil Rights leader Arnold Aronson, 86, and songwriter Bob ("How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?") Merrill, 74.

Take Me Out of the Ballgame: Harry Caray, 78, the most overrated announcer in baseball history, died on Wednesday the 18th. Holy cow, he made the Scooter look like a clear-eyed, objective journalist.

What's for supper? Yesterday Grandpa Jones died. We'd all assumed his points (16, as it turned out) were long since cashed in.

Attached are two entertaining files forwarded our way by Killer Kenney. I meant to pass them along last week; sorry. Tom sent along his dues this week with a short letter in which he notes how "in a sick way, I am following the news, as it is, about deaths" and "find myself coming up with other candidates..." As should we all -- never too early to start planning your 1999 lists.

Finally, I got flamed the old-fashioned way this week, by hand-written letter delivered through howling nor'easter by my US mailman from JS, announcing the excellent news of the safe birth of his and Paula's daughter Mary: "This is for you, shameless profiteer of death, gleeful scorekeeper of mortality, crass publicist of Charon (who was never recorded as wanting an agent): like the cross before the vampire, I show you... NEWBORN BABY! Crawl back cowering into your monitor, you fiend, while the TV-less of the world rise in heroic self-righteousness! Plague the Earth no more with your macabre reports! (That is, until the next interesting or irritating personage pops off. Thanks.)"

The Dictionary of Mythology says Charon guarded the gate of the underworld, blocking Orpheus' attempt to re-rescue Eurydice (it's a long myth), and sure enough, he *didn't* want an agent. Dang. I'm still going to publicize crassly, however, though I do like the idea of cowering before the tubeless self-righteous. A splendid weekend and week ahead to all.



2/13/98: Don't cry for us, Shevardnadze

As of Friday afternoon, another deathless week for the Verde/NYPD Pool.

Tuesday morning the BBC reported a rocket-propelled-grenade assassination attempt on former USSR Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, an auspicious bit of news methought, but I saw no subsequent reference to it anywhere, which leads me to think that either the BBC was hoaxed or the Georgian Secret Service was spooked by a flying squirrel.

Possibly a good harbinger for our Walt is that Axl Rose was arrested Tuesday night on charges of cursing out an airport security officer who wanted to inspect his bag. Rose spent a few hours in jail before being released early Wednesday.

Later on Wednesday, Frank Sinatra was hospitalized. The "Washington Post" gave hope to ten Poolsters when it reported he may have bladder cancer. Alas, he was released from the hospital today.

Also Wednesday, Picabo Street won a Gold Medal, disappointing our Debra, though I'll point out that the year is young and trees are numerous.

From CNN's web page: "Buddy the Wonder Dog, the golden retriever star of the 1997 feature film "Air Bud," died in his sleep Tuesday evening from complications of synovial cell sarcoma. A stray, he was believed to have been 9 1/2 to 10 years old. Buddy could sink regulation-size basketballs into an NBA regulation-high rim. He had more than 14,000 career baskets. Buddy was also adept at stopping soccer and hockey goals, catching baseballs, and running pass patterns in football." Buddy will be missed, especially by the person (envied by us all) who was paid to count his baskets. Nobody anticipated his points, 90 canine or 14 human.

The week's most significant human death came Sunday, when Icelander Halldor Laxness, 95, according to the "New York Times," "Iceland's foremost literary figure and winner of the 1955 Nobel Prize in Literature for his bardic epics and sharp social commentary, died in a nursing home northwest of Reykjavik." Though we can scarce afford to lose any source of bardic epics, nobody saw these five points coming.

As to Monica Lewinsky I wish to you all the most patriotic of Valentine's Days and the most romantic of President's Days.



2/9/98: Conspiracy Theories and Pandemic Imbecility

1. "Oh, my God, they paralyzed Doak! The bastards!" It's been a busy week for The Trees. First they paralyzed 1950's football great Doak Walker on Friday 1/30; then, pinning the blame on a Marine chopper (ask any Okinawan: could a US Marine possibly be guilty of testosterone-induced stupidity?), they brought down an Italian cable car, killing 20 skiers on 2/3. I've got to think malicious monocotyledons and dastardly dicotyledons must have gotten (bad) information concerning the occupancy of those cars: I'm guessing they were hoping for Alberto Tomba, the Pope, Dario Fo, somebody.

2. Billy Baldwin cocaine OD/hotel rampage on 2/2: Downey, Jr.'s safe in the slam while Baldwins run amok, to the forehead-slapping frustration of all those counting on young Hollywood screw-ups. No actual conspiracy here; epidemic idiocy can't be planned.

3. Friday 2/6: Carl Wilson dead of cancer. [Insert morbid Beach Boy-lyric-inspired pun.] Nobody saw his 49 points coming.

4. Falco: vehicularly dead in the Dominican Saturday 2/7. Rock me, Amadeus: nobody saw that bus (and the resulting 60 points) coming. Too early to be certain, but it smells of chucklehead to me. In related news, Nena is rumored to be checking her blind spots.

5. As anyone who viewed last night's X-Files knows, Stephen King must be dead. Either he's died from shame at his hapless ripping off of a 35-year-old Twilight Zone episode (Telly Savalas and Talking Tina: "I want to play," indeed), or he's long gone and been replaced, McCartney style, by a talentless lookalike who'll spend the next few decades cashing in on the franchise. The Truth is Out There (Ka-Ching). Can't wait for William Gibson's episode next week.

5A. What will happen if we learn sometime after January 1, 1999 that a chosen celebrity actually died in '98? Will I arrive on the announced Pool winner's doorstep demanding first prize be returned so I can re-award it? Not hardly. Maybe I'll grant a dispensation to the aggrieved for the next year's Pool, though.

5B. Obversely, we have the Andy Kaufman Syndrome, whereby a celebrity declared and widely accepted to be dead actually lives. Any advice to me on how I should handle such a situation?

6. Incredibly and suspiciously, our 29-way first-place deadlock is intact. Bob Hope is rumored to be up for knighthood, though, and Ronnie's gotten an airport named after himself, so you've got to believe we'll be seeing the deliverance of some points before too long. The moment we do, count on update.

7. Nag, nag, nag: If you haven't sent your entry fee, please do so soon!



2/2/98: Still no score

1998 one-twelfth gone, and our tie is intact. The Queen Mother just had hip replacement surgery, always an ominous sign; those three points could boost Andy, Shannon, and suspiciously on-top-of-the-news Lorraine above the rest of our pack.

On Thursday, former San Francisco Mayor Joseph Alioto and Navajo code talker Carl Gorman died; nobody saw their respective19 and 10 points coming

Thanks to Killer, SHPOD, and Anne for forwarding the message from the trees:

"StoP tHE LoGGiNg oR wE WiLl coNtInUE To KIll oNe CeleBrITY EacH WeEK. theRe ARe nO SkIinG 'aCciDenTS.'" Signed, THE TREES

Thanks to all and sundry for passing along Clinton/White House/Intern jokes beyond counting. (My favorite: Hillary's new book is entitled "It Takes a Village to Watch My Husband." A tome ready to take its place on the shelf next to Salman Rushdie's latest, "The Dalai Lhama is a Big Fat Idiot.")

I've particularly enjoyed vitriol directed at Linda Tripp and rumor-mongering concerning the First Lady's extracurricular activities and sexual orientation; these latter were particularly delightful news to me.

JS suggests we run a pool on the time until the sequel to Primary Colors; Theresa wants us to guess which Clinton administration member yet goes down in a sex scandal.

Happy Winter Olympics to all!



1/23/98: Slow news week

Gosh, hardly anything happened.

Carl Perkins (35 points) and Jack Lord (23 points) died [insert Blue Suede Shoes/Book 'em, Danno jokes here], but nobody in the Verde/NYPD pool picked them, so we're still in a 29-way deadlock for first.

The big story, I think, has to be Marvin Runyan announcing his resignation as Postmaster General. We all have to be wondering what Lorraine knows that the rest of us don't.

Unabomber (on four lists) copped a plea, won't be executed.

John Paul II (on eight lists) met Fidel (on three lists); neither pulled a weapon, alas.

John Gotti, Jr. and Denny McLain were co-indictees. I'll be choosing Denny in '98.

Oprah's in a legal cowpie for giving cattlemen boo-boo feelings because she trash-talked bovines (it's okay to slaughter them, not to talk mean of them), but we none of us listed her, either.

Oh, and I heard something about President Clinton dating Tara Lipinsky. George Lombardi, esteemed Verde/NYPD voyeur, suggested to me Bill's woes must provide us "with another golden opportunity for a pool." Frankly, I was appalled! Appalled that it took me almost two minutes to come up with these possibilities:

  1. Guess the date Clinton is removed/removes himself from office.
  2. Guess the number of months Vernon Jordan spends behind bars.
  3. Guess how many millions of dollars Kenneth Starr finally costs taxpayers.
  4. Guess how many days pass after Bill leaves office before Hillary files for divorce.

    POLITICAL CORRECTNESS ALERT!
    OFFENSIVE MATERIAL AHEAD!
    YE OF DELICATE SENSIBILITY, SKIP THIS ITEM!

  5. Guess how many times Linda Tripp's been poked with the Ugly Stick.

Oh, and not a single one of you failed to read that, did you? I'm very proud of you.

Does anybody have any interest in pursuing this? (Not number five, though -- can't be scientifically established.) It's clearly a longer-term, less yuk-intensive project than a Death Pool. Maybe at a dollar a guess, with a bunch of months to let the pool accumulate interest...

A happy, safe weekend to all.



1/16/98: The Weather Outside is Frightful...

...but Junior Wells doesn't care. The great bluesman died last night at 63. He would have been good for 37 points had anyone seen it coming, which nobody did. We're still collectively shut out (or, if you're a glass-half-filled type, are in a 29-way tie for first place).

And how many of you are kicking yourselves for not taking an orbiter on John Glenn?

Anyway, I'm officially closing off the Pool to late submissions. Sharon Berke's the final entrant, her pick of Russian President Yeltsin giving Boris the dreaded pole position on the '98 Consensus List.



1/9/98: The Final Curtain

Three people I'm guessing, by dint of Mike Verde/NYPD Death Pool consensus, you won't be inviting over for your big 1998 bridge tournament: Frank Sinatra, Boris Yeltsin, and Robert Downey, Jr.

A gratifying number of entries have been submitted. I'll accept any entries made by the end of business on the East Coast on Monday, so all you procrastinators get the weekend to contemplate Dan Quisenberry's grip on this mortal coil. Monday night I'll compile it all and, if sufficiently organized, e-mail this year's participants and interested observers. If you'd like to be among the latter and haven't informed me, do let me know. Elsewise this is the last you'll hear from me on this subject.

Thanks to all for your indulgence, not to mention notable kindness and civility. I've not been flamed once.



1/8/98: Boxers or briefs?

I can't begin to imagine how many of you are hoping Ted Kaczynski will wait till after midnight Friday to make his next attempt.

This is a reminder that your Mike Verde/NYPD Death Pool '98 entries are due to me tomorrow.

Truth be told, I'm not going to disqualify anyone for being late by a couple days. (It's not a drop-deadline.) But I do plan on compiling and distributing the lists early next week, so if you wish to participate, do get your picks to me as soon as you're able. Anybody you choose who meets his/her maker before I see your list is going to be disqualified, though, and let's face it, the famous are disappearing as fast as canned hams at Oprah's house. (I stole that line from Gentry.)

If you do not wish to participate, but would like to remain on the pool mailing list, like Lisa and Mario (Lisa I think could have done a great list, based on her suggestion that Christie Brinkley is an obvious pick for this year), let me know. Elsewise, I'm going to stop spamming non-participants with these missives.

Thanks to those who've already made their submissions!



1/6/98: Product Liability Warning; other matters

1. Participation in the NYPD/Mike Verde Death Pool does not confer immortality upon participants.

2. I daresay disappointment over Sonny Bono's timing is universal.

3. A unilateral rules change, at the risk of inciting a run (as it were) on Alberto Tomba: for 1998, any listed celebrity whose death is skiing-related will have his/her point value doubled. (If Bob Hope expires on the slopes instead of the links, he'll be worth over ten points! A slalom-slain McCaughey septuplet would be worth 200!)

4. Deadline for lists is Friday! Don't miss out!



1/5/98: Shameless marketing ploy...

1. Already I've gotten the '98 Mike Verde/NYPD Death Pool's first list, courtesy the inimitable Anne Kern:

  1. Nancy Kerrigan
  2. Charles, Prince of Wales
  3. Jane Fonda
  4. Madonna
  5. Barney
  6. Yanni
  7. Clarence Thomas
  8. Woody Allen
  9. Nancy Reagan
  10. Dan Rather

(Anne senses increased morbidity among One-Named Celebrities, obviously, but clearly her theme is People We Wish Would Die.)

2. Ed Coates writes: "Jack, you are a very sick individual." (True enough, but flattery won't help you in this pool.) "Count me in... May I pass this along to some non-internet friends who will surely derive great pleasure from this enterprise? I'm looking forward to this a little too much. PS I wish I had known about this last year; Farley was a shoo-in. Also, do you remember the National Lampoon contest to guess the date of Mamie Eisenhower's death to win a lifetime subscription? It ran for a couple of years, and the winning entry was submitted by a nurse at Walter Reed Hospital whose guess was: 'In about five minutes.'"

Ed, and everyone, please do pass this along to anyone who may be interested and of sufficiently dark bent.

3. Jessica Bewsee adds, speaking on our all our behalves: "Damn Michael Kennedy for not waiting until January."

4. Deadline is Friday! Still plenty of time to cogitate and enter!



1/2/98: 1998 NYPD/Mike Verde Death Pool

Due to popular demand, I'm resuscitating the NYPD/Mike Verde Death Pool.

1. Apologies in advance to any and all whose sensibilities I injure.

2. A quick summary:

Mike Verde, New York's finest, godfathered the pool in the 1980's. Each pool participant ponies up $2 (two measly bucks! we're keeping this low-key!) and creates a list of up to ten celebrities for 1998. Each celebrity who dies this calendar year earns his or her chooser(s) points by the simple formula of 100 minus the celebrity's age at death. (Any one Hanson would be good for 80+ points!) The participant with the most points at midnight December 31, 1998, wins first prize, 75% of the total pool money. Second prize, the remaining 25% of the pool money, is awarded by vote to the participant who submits the most imaginative, funniest, best-themed, or elsewise best regarded list. In the event of a tie, I will either split first prize or award it on the basis of the best prediction of a horrible event for 1998.

3. To participate:

Submit your list to me by Friday evening January 9. Get your $2 to me when you can. (You can combine these activities by writing your list on a Jefferson bill and mailing it to me at 17 Ocean Street, Beverly, MA, 01915.) IÕll compile a master list of participants and their picks and distribute it to all the following week.

4. The rules:

Entrance fee is $2 per list. You may enter as many times as you wish, but I would encourage you to have a life outside of this.

First prize, awarded to the pool's point winner, will be 75% of total pool entry money; second prize, awarded to the best list, will be the remaining 25% of pool money.

Lists of up to ten Celebrities Marked for the Grim Reaper must be submitted to me by Friday evening January 9. (Any deaths occuring between January 2 and 9 will be disregarded; choosers of celebrities who meet their demise this week will be allowed to replace the choice.) Include with your list a prediction for a Notable 1998 Horrific Event, to be used partly as a tie-breaker, mostly to entertain me.

"Celebrity" is defined as anyone I think qualifies as a celebrity. The good news is, I have low standards in this area. Someone whose obituary appears in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Entertainment Weekly, or the like is probably going to be okay by me.

I reserve the right to disallow picks whose celebrity is based on their being in the process of dying. (CanÕt think of any offhand, but if I do, IÕll let you know.)

You do not receive credit for those picks you kill yourself or arrange to have killed. (A remnant of the pool's NYPD origins, I think this rule is a good one to keep in effect in order to discourage unhealthy competition.)

Each celebrity pick who dies in 1998 earns his or her chooser(s) points by the formula of 100 minus the celebrity's age at death.

The participant whose list has earned the most points at midnight December 31, 1998, wins first prize. In the event of a tie, I will either split first prize or award it on the basis of the best prediction of a horrible event for 1998. (In the unlikely event I'm involved in a first-place tie, I disqualify myself in advance.)

At some point in 1998 I'll organize the vote for Best List, the winner to receive second prize.

5. Please feel free to pass this information on to anyone you think might be interested in participating.

6. Good luck to all (except certain celebrities).



Enough's enough!