The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, September 13, 2003

It's been a big week for celebrity death. The death of any man or woman deprives us all, of course. But let's face it, the passing of the rich and famous is what grabs the headlines. So it was with Leni Riefenstahl (age 101), Warren Zevon (56), John Ritter (54) and Johnny Cash (71).

I've said before that high-profile passings tend to come three at a time, and I confess that, based on that belief, I held off on posting anything about Riefenstahl's and Zevon's deaths earlier in the week. I didn't expect the body count would increase to four!

Well, enough morbid talk; even I have some scruples. Just some brief notes on my impressions of those lost:

- Riefenstahl: No offense to the other three, but she's easily the most historically significant of the bunch. I couldn't believe she was still alive, and super-active in photography and film-making, when I saw The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl ten years ago (can't believe it was that long ago!). In fact, I was more shocked that she hadn't been locked up after World War II, as she was such a prominent member of the Nazi regime (naturally, she spent the rest of her life denying just how deeply she was involved with Third Reich policies, often contradictorally). Her life was a good example of the general difficulty most people have in separating the artist from her artwork, as Triumph of the Will and the Olympia films still shine as examples of masterful film-making.

- Zevon: I'm not a big music fan in general, so I can't say that I was a fan of Zevon's. Still, I liked his popular ditties, like "Werewolves of London", although I think the less-played "The French Inhaler" is my favorite. The circumstances of his death, where he was diagnosed terminal a year ago, made the time leading up to his demise noteworthy. His appearances on David Letterman made him more memorable to me.

- Ritter: This one was a total shocker. When I saw the obit report early Friday, I was waiting for its revelation as a hoax. Alas, the guy I grew up watching on "Three's Company" truly did meet an untimely end.

- Cash: Much of what I said about Zevon applies here, both because they were musicians and their ends were foreseeable. I did, just this morning, just see the video for his cover of "Hurt"; it was very well-crafted.