January 20, 2018

Have a smile — Below the beltway

Thursday, April 13, 2017

How I jinxed Joan Rivers, the latest in a long series

By Gene Weingarten
The Washington Post
WASHINGTON — When Joan Rivers died suddenly a few years ago, I didn’t write about it. It was too painful for me. I liked and respected Joan, and, as it happens, I killed her.

Technically, Joan died from complications after throat surgery, but that was just what the public was told. Joan died because I had written about her just a few weeks before. In fact, I mentioned her in the context of a column about how I kill famous people by mentioning them in my columns. At the time, I wasn’t taking my terrible power seriously and facetiously chose Joan as a test case because she was in fine health, as far as I knew.

This has been going on for years. What is particularly odd is that I am not a celebritologist. I don’t ‘get‘ the allure of celebrity and seldom mention famous people. But when I do, it is almost always fatal. There is only one long-in-the-tooth celeb I can remember writing about who did not immediately die, and she is still alive, and I’m not going to tell you who she is, for obvious reasons.

My first hit was Teddy Kennedy. I made a joke about his womanising, and then, right away, he was diagnosed with the brain tumour that would kill him. Then Tim Russert, whom I made fun of for apparently farting on the air. Bam, dead at 58. Then, Andy Rooney. Then Gabriel García Márquez. Killed them all. You don’t even need to be technically alive for me to kill you. Topps bubble gum decided to terminate Bazooka Joe just days after I joked about the eye-patched king of the groaners.

Sometimes, mercifully, I merely maim people. I once wrote about Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka, and literally before the end of the day his elbow exploded and he was gone for the season. My hits don’t even have to involve words. One of my columns was illustrated by a drawing of Mr. Spock. Leonard Nimoy was dead within four hours of it going online.

It’s creepy. It has gotten to the point where my editors flag any references to people of any renown in what I write, wondering if I really want to go there. I try to stay away. But sometimes I slip up.

Just a few weeks ago, in a comic strip I co-write named “Barney & Clyde,” I had an extended joke referencing that cheesy ‘70s show, “The Dating Game.” What could possibly go wrong?

Two days later, the show’s creator, Chuck Barris, died.

I’m not really quite sure where to go with this. Any direction I take could lead to trouble. So I will just point out that in my researching the life of Chuck Barris, the self-proclaimed “King of Schlock,” a fine man with a good sense of humour who once claimed he had been a CIA hit man and never really took it back, I discovered some game-show lore I’d always heard about but assumed was an urban legend. It just had to be. But it turns out it was true.

Chuck Barris also produced “The Newlywed Game.” Asked by the host of the show “Where specifically is the weirdest have ever gotten the urge to make whoopie?” a newlywed bride responded, “In the (highly personal anatomical place.)” It aired. I’ve seen it. (Her hubby thought she’d say “in the car.”)

Chuck was not the host of that episode. The host was someone else. That man is still alive. And, no, you’re not getting the name here.


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