Gosh, I thought s/he was already dead!

When the links to news stories about the deaths of elderly famous people appear on Facebook, a fair number of people say, “Gosh, I thought s/he was already dead.” Apparently, once an old celebrity is no longer in the public eye, people tend to assume they are “dead, dead, and gone” as the phrase in the 1969 Blood, Sweat & Tears song says.

Most people didn’t say that when Kirk Douglas and Olivia de Haviland died in 2020 because both of them had been around for so long that the media mentioned their birthdays every year. So, once you’re over a hundred, people keep checking and saying, “Yep, still here.” We assume Clint Eastwood isn’t dead since, at 90, he’s still making movies and chalking up Oscar nominations.

One of my aunts lived about 104 years as well, was happy to get a letter from the President when she reached a hundred, and I think got a news story in the local paper.

Sometime between 70 and 100, we lose track of well-known people if they’ve retired. When Sophia Loren starred in “The Life Ahead” last year, people had to reassess, deciding that (a) she’s not dead, (b) “out of it,” and (c) “still has it.”  Good for her, people were saying.

For every actor or author who performs or writes when they are old and gets a “good for him” or “good for her” response from the fans, there are hundreds who are still working. The actors are, perhaps appearing in so-called character-actor roles, and the authors are turning out books and stories the critics like but that don’t make the bestseller lists (which means most prospective readers never hear about them). Day to day, these productive people who were once well known still see the life ahead and plan to make good use of it.

It would be nice, I think if more people noticed their ongoing work and watched it or read it and talked about it so that these folks don’t become isolated and unknown in their later years. Sure, if they make it to one hundred, we’ll take notice of them again as though they weren’t doing anything during their 80s and 90s. Sadly, if they make a BIG FILM or write a BIG BOOK during those two decades, we’ll say, “Gosh, I thought s/he was already dead.”

If you’re not dead, hearing that has got to be a real downer.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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2 thoughts on “Gosh, I thought s/he was already dead!

  1. “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Even happened to Mark Twain!

    Over here, while we were having wall-to-wall mourning for Prince Pip (and why not) Dame Shirley Williams and Paul Ritter, two very different but very talented people in their respective fields, both died with almost no fanfare at all. Williams was 90. Ritter was 54.

    When Mary Tyler Moore died I was apprised of this by a FB friend. I posted “I thought she’d been dead for years – she was ancient!” and he unfriended me on the spot, so I couldn’t even ask him what was so awful about what I’d said.

    Death, eh: complicated business.

  2. I’ve noticed that one good way to get in trouble on social media is to say something untoward about a person’s favorite actress or actor. Meanwhile, like Williams and Ritter, some people die with little public fanfare. Yes, a coimplicated business.

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