Thursday, September 30, 2010

Death Trifecta

Tony Curtis
Originally uploaded by david haggard
I have mentioned it many times on this site and it bears repeating: famous people die in threes. Threes, people. It happened last year when Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon died within days of each other and it has happened again this week with the passing of Tony Curtis, Gloria Stuart and Greg Geraldi.

This year's death trifecta, though, gives us an interesting glimpse into Hollywood's many incarnations: the former golden boy, the comeback and the could-have been.

The first, Tony Curtis was a Hollywood fixture of the highest order. He starred in more than four dozen films, Some Like it Hot, most famously, bedded famous starlets and then callously wrote about them, sired famous children (Jamie Lee Curtis) and pretty much abandoned them and in his later years, managed to annoy most of Hollywood's new guard when he announced on Larry King Live that he, like many of his old Hollywood friends, would never dream of voting for Brokeback Mountain as Best Picture. Why you ask? Because the film was about homosexuals and quite frankly, that was something he just couldn't get behind. These were his words, by the way. Not mine. It was a full life.

Gloria Stuart, on the other hand, didn't get to taste Hollywood success until she was well into her eighties when she starred in Titanic as an older version of Rose (Kate Winslet played the younger version). She had spent her early years on contract to the studios and when she grew tired of playing the girlfriend ditched town to become a graphic designer. She hadn't ever intended on acting again until James Cameron came calling and invited to join the cast of Titanic. Now, everyone remembers her as the old version of the lady who got to pop Leonardo DiCaprio in the hold of a ship. You could do worse in this life, non?

Finally, Greg Giraldo, was a funny, funny, dude who could have been huge had he not gotten in his own way. A former lawyer who gave up a job at a law firm to pursue comedy, Giraldo became a wildly successful stand-up comic who specialized in dispensing his own brand of sharp and often brutal humor. Like Lewis Black, his routines tended to clever and exasperated rants. The best of which, to my mind, was one I caught last year on Comedy Central at roast in which he excoriated that douche, Larry the Cable Guy.

“Some people say Larry’s only successful because he’s pandering to the lowest common denominator,” Mr. Giraldo said. “Don’t listen to these people, Larry. They’re just bitter and jealous and right.”

Mr. Geraldi, I think I will miss you most of all.

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