It was a list of about 50 “famous” figures from the sports world that have died thus far in 2008. Here we are, barely half-way through the year, and 50 famous sports people have died??!! How did I miss this story? Is there a failed athlete turned serial killer out there? So I had to page through the list. Most of these folks, I’d never heard of, but in fact, there were about a dozen familiar names, including no less a personage than Sir Edmund Hillary (who even knew he was still alive, fer chrissakes?).
So by my own subjective assessment (i.e., the people I’d heard of), that makes a dozen dead sports celebrities so far in 2008, which extrapolates to over 20 by year’s end. Not to wish ill upon anybody, you understand; I’m just your humble statistician.
So let’s keep going – I next thought of the annual Oscar night montage of movie folks who’ve died during the past year. Most of the time, it’s people I’ve never heard of (e.g., “Shlomo Bechstein, caterer for Last Tango in Paris” or “Yolanda Piltch, pyrotechnics for My Dinner With Andre”). No disrespect to their achievements, but I can’t include them on my own list of celebrities. Still, by the time the montage is done running, I’ve usually seen about a dozen familiar names. So once again, in my subjective world, we can add a dozen more names to the annual tally of dead celebrities.
On top of all that, we have the annual list of dead celebrities who weren’t in the movies and weren’t athletes, e.g., TV stars, politicians, businesspeople, architects, authors, and the like. Let’s arbitrarily hang another dozen or so as the annual number there. By the time we’re done, we’ve got a theoretical list of about 50 celebs a year dying.
All right, it’s no revelation to say that people die. A friend of mine once defined the term “death rate” as “one per person per lifetime.” The point is this: If celebrities are dying at a rate of 50 or so per year, that means we must be CREATING celebrities at about the same rate! People who, if they die 30 years from now, we will remember as celebrities!
It’s strange to think that about once a week on average, we’re being introduced to a new celebrity whose name/face/reputation will stay with us for years. Now of course, they don’t actually trickle in at that rate; they often show up as groups, e.g., the cast of a new hit TV show or movie, or the military and political leaders of a new war. Still, it’s a lot to assimilate. It’s no wonder that if one stops reading the papers or watching TV for just a few months, one comes back to a feeling of being really out of it!
My other thought is that this realization of the sheer annual output of the celebrity mill kind of dulls the sheen on the whole prospect of celebrity. Personally, I’d rather be filthy rich and be able to walk down the street without being recognized. But maybe that’s just me.