First of all, RIP Andy Griffith. Iconic star and from most accounts, as warm a man as his public persona.
My buddy Kyle and I recently set up a friendly wager with a celebrity Dead Pool. When I say recently, we drafted late last night. Dead Pools are quite popular, actually, and quite common. Rules vary, but generally each person picks a roster of famous people who they feel are most likely to move into the great beyond within the next year. You collect points for each one on your roster who goes, and the person with the most points at the end of the Pool year wins. Our year will go from 7/2/12 to 7/2/13.
Kyle and I opened it up to several other friends, but were surprised and disappointed at how skittish some were about the whole thing. (To be fair, one of them was already involved in another one and he felt that two Dead Pools was a bit much.) But these others are people who are generally not uptight about most anything. I guess we all deal with death in different ways. It is inevitable, it is coming for us all. We can fear it, we can hold it with some religious reverence, we can try to ignore it, we can face it with a little humor...or some combination thereof. I have a great deal of fear about death, in part because I am still conflicted on my own religious beliefs. That is one of the primary issues addressed by religion, so since I am unsettled in that arena I find death unsettling as well. But that is a different conversation.
We've all lost people close to us at some time or another (I've lost a brother, an aunt to suicide, and others), so I do understand the magnitude of the milestone. And I think if you read my obituaries that I write here, I do have a certain reverence for the memory and accomplishments of those who have moved on. Being a historian, I am naturally a bit obsessed with the past to begin with. I teach it for a living, afterall. But at the same time, it is fun to speculate on those in the public eye. So, with one friend already involved in a Dead Pool, another not agreeing with our rules, and the rest not wanting to participate, it ended up being the two of us.
So, we draft last night. The rule was that you can draft any person whose demise would be noted in the national media. Here are our rosters, in draft order:
Dez: Hosni Mubarak, Bhumibol Adulyadej, Nelson Mandela, Jerry Lewis, Fidel Castro, Andy Griffith, Pope Benedict XVI, Harper Lee, Bashar Assad, Eli Wallach, Nancy Reagan, Herman Wouk, Stephen Hawking, Lindsey Lohan, Hugo Chavez, Olivia de Havilland, Todd Bridges, Bob Dole, Robert Mugabe and Dick Cheney.
Kyle: Kirk Douglas, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Billy Graham, Margaret Thatcher, Henry Kissinger, Mickey Rooney, Abe Vigoda, Prince Philip, Judge Joseph Wapner, Dick Van Dyke, Chuck Berry, Andy Dick, Queen Elizabeth, Ernest Borgnine, Fats Domino, Jimmy Carter, Stan Lee, Angela Landsbury, Courtney Love and Bobby Brown.
First, who do you think has the "better" roster? Now that Griffith is gone, I have added Aretha Franklin to take his slot.
Mubarak was an obvious first pick for me, as he is in a coma. I like my Assad pick too, I really feel that he will go the way of Qadaffi if the Syrian people can get their hands on the sonofabitch. And he is under 50, which is worth more points than people 50 or over. We have to have at least 3 people under 50 on each of our rosters. Kyle's first three picks are really solid, I think.
Imagine my surprise when I look at the news and not twenty four hours after our draft, Andy Griffith has left us. Griffith was much more, by the way, than a friendly sheriff of Mayberry or a lawyer in powder blue suits. Check out 1957's 'A Face in the Crowd' for a pretty amazing performance from Griffith.