Friday, March 03, 2006

The terrible toll tobacco takes

We've lost some really cool celebrities in the last week or so -- everybody knows Don Knotts, the immortal Barney Fife, who passed away on February 24th at the age of 81, you should know Dennis Weaver who played Chester Goode on "Gunsmoke" and starred as "McCloud," (although you may not remember that he had a minor hit record called "Prairie Dog Blues.") Some of you probably know that Peter Benchley (who died on February 12th) scared the hell out of everybody back in '73 with a book called "Jaws" and you probably know Darren McGavin either as the furnace-fighting father in "A Christmas Story" or as Kolchak, the Night Stalker.
But how many of you know who I'm talking about when I say Jack Wild died ? Not many, I'll wager. Mr. Wild is famous for two things: He played the Artful Dodger in the award-winning film "Oliver!" and he played Jimmy, the kid with a magic talking flute named Fweddie on the no-doubt-about-it trippiest kids show ever "H.R. Pufnstuf." Mr. Wild died on March 2nd at the age of 53. He'd have probably been with us for another twenty or thirty years had he not been such a heavy smoker. The last few years of his life he suffered from mouth cancer and had his voice box and various other pieces of his facial palatte removed. He couldn't talk (or swallow either) which makes it hard to get work as an actor, and he lived with constant pain.
But it was worth it, right? Cuz smoking is so darn fun.
Actually, I can't think of many things less fun than lighting a noxious weed on fire and inhaling the foul fumes.
(By the way, you'll always know as soon as a prominent person perishes if you do like I do and subscribe to the Celebrity Death Beeper. I used to also subscribe to "Good-Bye, the Death Zine" but it's no longer being published, although if you want to read some really cool obituaries check out their archives here.)

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