Friday, March 25, 2011
On the Days of Deaths
Everybody died, the known and unknown. Perhaps some of us are remembered by friends and relatives until they go, a few are recalled by their life achievements beyond generations. Then there are some who remain indelibly impressed in the memory of many; people who's death for some reason, whether sudden, shock, surprise or sadness of loss remains within our memory.
Rudolph Valentino was such a one for many, he was only 31 at death, but not for me. He was before my time. Once I would have said: "well before my time", but truthfully, his death was much closer to my birth than my last birthday and 15 years doesn't seem like much time before anymore.
For my friend, Ron, at Retired in Delaware when Elizabeth Taylor died on Wednesday, March 23, 2011, she was such a person for him. "I will remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard," he said and he wrote about a list of people who he can say the same about. Most of those he listed, perhaps all, were memorable deaths, that probably those of us alive for each do remember well. I can't claim I remember exactly where I was or doing when each passed, except perhaps John F. Kennedy. However, I may recall it because I wrote a long essay about what happened that November day at the time.
Anyway, here is my brief recall of those deaths on his list.
I was on my computer early that Wednesday morning, as usual. I receive my local paper online and had just read the obituaries. They made no mention of Elizabeth Taylor yet. I was contemplating another's death, John J. O'Toole at age 83. A few minutes later I saw a blurb on the web that Taylor had passed. My first thought was, "Poor John, you picked the wrong day to die." If you have some minor celebrity you may receive some coverage on your death, but not if a mega-star dimmed at the same time.
Now I doubt thirty years from now I will remember where I was or doing when O'Toole or Taylor died. I doubt thirty years from now I will be around. Will you remember where you were when you hear the news of my death? But here are the people who I do remember even if I had to put on spurs and dig a bit to recall where I was at the time.
While we are on Elizabeth Taylor we probably should mention three people not on Ron's list, but who's parting did grab the same type of attention. I even remember very well where I was and doing when word came on one of these. All three also had close ties to Elizabeth Taylor.
Oh, the picture on the left is me in 1958 attempting to look my most James Deanest.
Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen), a film producer best know for "Eighty Days Around the World" and being Elizabeth Taylor's third husband. I suppose there is a certain irony that Todd was killed in a plane crash in Grants, New Mexico on March 22, 1958 and Elizabeth on March 23, 2011. She had very much wanted to be on the trip with Todd, but because she had a cold he insisted she stay home; otherwise, she would have died with him at age 26. Todd was 48.
I recall the news of Todd's dead because his plane had been effected by the bad weather that week. A great blizzard had hit the country on March 20 and on Saturday, March 22 my family and I were still snowbound in a house with no electric, heat or water. The news came over a little transistor radio I had.
Holly was tired of the tour bus and paid for a seat on this charter. There was room for two others. Dion didn't want to pay the $36 fee and Ritchie Valens flipped a coin with another member of the group for a seat. Waylon Jennings was to take the third seat, but J. P. Richardson felt he was coming down with the flu, so asked if he could go on the plane. Jennings relented, thus sparing him for a long and distinguished career.
Given it was 2:00 AM where I was on a Tuesday morning and I had school the next day, I guess I was asleep in my bed.
My wife and I were on vacation at the time. We had first spent six days touring Virginia by car, but on Sunday, August 5, we were on our third and last day staying in New York City. We first heard the news while walking down a street looking for a restaurant to have lunch.
Speaking of the Kennedys, they are on the list and chronologically, President John F. Kennedy was the next to go. He died on a Friday in Dallas, Texas at 12:30 PM Central time (1:30 here) on November 22, 1963. I was at work when rumors circulated the president had been shot. I tried to call home, but you couldn't get a line. That confirmed it for me. I remember this death vividly, but as stated earlier, this may be because I wrote about the day it happened. You can read my full account of that day by clicking here - "Reflections on a Friday".
Kennedy was to hold a rally in front of the Democratic Headquarters on Chestnut Street around lunchtime one day. I walked down there on my own lunch break and the place was mobbed. Kennedy was late arriving and the mob just kept growing and were somewhat restless. The police were all about and they were pushing everyone up off the street and cursing at us none too flatteringly. I was along side a stone building on what, 15th or 16th Street. I had a good view of where Kennedy did finally come and stand in his open top car to speak. It didn't hurt that I was taller than most around me. However, the constant compression of the people was threatening the well-being of a young woman in front of me. She wasn't all that big and she was being crushed into the stone wall of the building. I stepped up and put myself between her and the crowd, because I wasn't as easy to push.
Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel where he had made his victory speech after winning the California primary. He died just around 24 hours later at age 42. He was shot at 11:30 Pacific time on June 4, 1968. It was 3:30 of the morning of June 5 where I was, but we were watching the telecast of the speech in our living room, and then the chaos that erupted.
I was working in the headquarters of that oil company at the time. We came to work the next day, but then they sent everyone home early because their was rampant fear of riots breaking out in the city.
Anyway, that is my take on this memorable death list, sort of a ghoulish exercise. Besides these particular people, I am certain there are others whose death remained strong in peoples minds for a long time, perhaps forever. I took Ron's list, added a couple and this is mine.
That was, of course, was the brutal slaying of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman.