Been famous at some point over the last 30 years? Watch out – your number may be up. This year has seen close to 50 stars who no longer shine so bright bite the bullet. With another two long days to go to the end of 2016, has-been celebrities are taking nothing for granted.
Unconfirmed sources say that Tom Selleck refuses to drive his Ferrari, Sean Connery has doubled his life insurance and Cyndi Lauper has sworn off professional wrestling. Things are so out of hand that even Jackie Chan has stopped performing his own stunts.
Looking for answers I hit The Ivy, a faux-celebrity haunt near LA’s Sunset strip, in the wee hours of a Tuesday morning. There I meet Anthony, a self described B-list papparazzi. The telephoto lens slung from his shoulder offers obnoxious confirmation of that fact.
“It’s the quietest holiday season ever,” he complains over a Mojita after a fruitless day trolling Malibu. His European colleague, D (not his real name) who has had a Jim Beam or two too many adds,
“It’s the same in London. They’ve all been spooked and won’t come out to play. Not that that can save them. Most of them have taken to dying indoors. Where is the scandal? It’s extremely inconsiderate of us working stiffs!” A sentiment to which they raise their glasses in agreement.
Indeed, music icons like Prince, Bowie, George Michael and Leonard Cohen, actors like Zsa-zsa Gabor, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher and Robert Vaughan, as well as boxing legend Muhammad Ali have all been taken from us in unspectacular style. It seems all you need is to have achieved some popularity in the latter part of the last century to be a sitting duck. As past idols, ironically, scramble to avoid the worst kind of attention, Beverly Hills psychotherapists and mystics report a booming trade.
“Why is this happening?” I ask them. Anthony edges closer to me. His obnoxious lens brushes against my trousers. He’s clearly been waiting for someone to ask him this question for a while.
“ I know how this is gonna sound, but hear me out. It’s open season on once-were’s. They’re dropping like flies. But there’s one glaring B-list exception,” he says, his voice growing conspiratorial. With his tumbler he motions to the dart board which is covered by a punctured orange photo of the POTUS elect. This is LA, let’s not forget.
“While all the other has-been’s fortunes have plummeted, this guy has risen like a meteor. It’s almost as if the heroes of yesteryear are being sacrificed to redress some imbalance in the force.”
He knocks back another one and let’s the Rogue One reference sink in. It’s as good a theory for Sunset strip at 2 a.m as any, but its almost instantly quashed.
“That doesn’t make any sense”, says D. “It can’t be right because you’re not comparing like with like. Every single one of the people who died in 2016 was talented!”
“I suppose it’s one way of getting out of performing at the inauguration.”
They take a moment, nod in bitter agreement, and toast 2017, which can’t come soon enough for any of us.