Though there were some proto-forms, celebrity as we know it began with the careful cultivation of image by the cinema studio system during the 1930s. From there, the idea of celebrity spread to music and a new technology, television. The increase in the amount of media produced led to a proportional increase in the number of celebrities; the new medium of the internet led to a vast surge in known celebrities. In short, the number of celebrities has been increasing rapidly for almost a century now. The rate of increase shows no signs of slowing.

What all this is leading to, eventually, by sheer weight of numbers, is a state where every day some celebrity will die. Whatever the current media are, they will broadcast some version of “Today’s Dead Celebrities,” and the general populace will drop in for their daily dose of melancholy nostalgia. There will be dedicated, constant forums for eulogy. Celebrity death will be expected and anticipated.

I’ve been making this prediction for almost two decades now, and I have to say I think we’re on the verge of seeing it realized. After David Bowie and Alan Rickman passed on, there were a lot of people looking for “the third,” and sure enough Glenn Frey went. But celebrity deaths don’t come in threes, they come in an ever-constant and increasing drip. So I urge some web site (perhaps the Onion AV Club) to jump the gun and start this feature immediately. There is no surer form of clickbait. Today’s Dead Celebrities beckon from beyond the Great Wall.




This isn’t particularly Christmasy, but hey, the weather’s more Halloweeny anyway…

One of the most frightening incidents of my childhood occurred on a trip to a nursing home. I was about 11 years old at the time.  Our Sunday School maintained regular ties with the home, and on this occasion we were all being trotted over there to show the residents our Halloween costumes.

That year I had chosen to cut two holes in a sheet and be a ghost. This reason for this odd, defiantly unfashionable costume was that I had a deep affection for Peanuts, not to mention a compulsive anachrophilia. My peers informed me at great length that it sucked, but I took that as a badge of pride.

When we arrived at the home, we were separated into groups of four or five and escorted from room to room by nursing aides. I could barely see out my eyes holes, and nodded into the vague direction of the old folks. After a few minutes, we were hustled out to another room. I stumbled along at the end of the line, trying to catch up. Looking around for my group, I saw an tiny, hunched old woman sitting in a wheelchair in the middle of the corridor, alone.

And she saw me. And screamed.

I froze. She was quite obviously screaming at me, because of me. A moment later, I found myself propelled down the corridor towards her by a nursing aide, who was simultaneously removing my sheet. “See, it’s not real!” the aide said, but the old woman was having none of it. “Don’t take me, don’t take me!” she yelled. Terrified, I could say nothing.

Looking back, I try to find a cause for my terror. Was it because I thought she might attack me? Nonsense, this was a feeble old woman. Was it because I was afraid I had done something wrong and might get in trouble? No, not this time.

It was because She thought I was Death. She thought I was literally the Grim Reaper. You could tell from her shouts and the way she tried to hide, huddling in her wheelchair. She thought I was there to carry off her beyond the Great Wall.

And I could see why. In a moment of vivid empathy, I could imagine myself an elderly woman, trapped in my dotage, alone and forgotten in a nursing home corridor and seeing this doom coming at me. A ghost, coming to make her a ghost, an idle metaphor suddenly horribly real.

For her I was Death.

It was scary, being Death.