Established A.D. 2000, March 19. Now in our fourth calendar year!
Number 184 (Vol. 4, No. 40). This edition is for the week of September 29--October 5, 2003.
|• Death March in Hollywood continues as suddenly Robert Palmer, Donald O' Connor, George Plimpton, and Elia Kazan join Johnny Cash, John Ritter and Charles Bronson|
• Hell On Earth's in-concert suicide plans
• Call/Do Not Call telemarketers' setbacks
• XP upgrade update
• The Lettercol
Ashley Lauren said it a couple issues ago: seems like every issue of PCR lately starts with the announcement of more celebrities who have died. We had just come off the funeral march of Charles Bronson, Johnny Cash, and John Ritter, even seeing magazine covers devoted to the latter two, when starting sometime last Friday, the Hollywood celebrity obit section experienced a sudden populaton explosion.
First came the news that rock star Robert Palmer ("Addicted to Love") died of a heart attack at age 54 -- coincidentally the same age and cause of death as John Ritter barely two weeks before, and WAY too young for both to die.
If I remember my weekend chronology right, I believe author/coulmnist George Plimpton ("Paper Lion") was next, of natural causes at 76. Plimpton wasn't so much a regular sight in Hollywood anymore, but his Pulitzer Prize-winning work had made him famous in previous decades as a journalist who actually temporarily lived the roles he wrote about. He was an inspiration to gonzo-journalists everywhere.
Having barely recovered off that came the news that legendary dancer-entertainer Donald O'Connor, co-star of Singin' In The Rain, among dozens of others, died at the age of 78, also of natural causes. O'Connor's "Make 'em Laugh" song-and-dance number from "Rain" is an all-time classic bit of musical performance.
Over yet? Oh no, the final "kill" of the weekend came early Monday morning (I believe), with the passing of legendary Hollywood director Elia Kazan (On The Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire) at age 94. Kazan ran afoul of his Hollywood contemporaries during the '50s as he succumbed to the McCarthy thugs by naming names of perceived Commmunist sympathizers. During an Academy Awards broadcast years later, he received a special award only to get booed off the stage. Despite these mishaps, his contributions to the cinema remain among the most inmportant ever (save for the McCarthy thing).
Our own Mike Smith does great justice to these modern pop culture folk heroes in this week's Rant. I'm still reeling from how much of old Hollywood we've lost this year -- a generation so special as I can safely say we'll never see its like again. To say nothing of baby boomer age celebs like Ritter and Palmer who remind us that centenial-age celebrities may be a thing of the past.
Hell On Earth and the right to public suicide
I guess Halloween is certainly the season for morbidity, and death is very much in the news. But St. Petersburg-based shock-rockers Hell On Earth have taken it one further: during a live concert sometime in the very near future, one of the band members, who is dying of a terminal illness, will commit suicide on stage, sometime during the band's live performance.
Correction (10-04-03). Somewhere I got the idea that the suicide was going to be by a band member. Apparently it's a friend and fan of the band with which bandleader Billy Tourtelot made a solemn oath to carry out this deed. I apologize for any confusion this caused. --Nolan
Originally scheduled for October 4th at the atmospheric State Theater, pressure from authorities and lawmakers resulted in an investigation whch resulted in the State Theater cancelling the show -- the Hell On Earth website went down temporarily as well. Other venues turned the band down soon after as well and most scheduled out-of-town tour dates were suspended. When the band's website went back online, however, it announced the show would go on, but at an "undisclosed location" somewhere in St. Pete territory known only to club members (I guess) and broadcast live over the internet on their website, absolutely a must-view, at www.hellonearth.net, Saturday, October 4th at 7:30pm. An "emergency session" of the City Council was called to officially ban any "live performance of a suicide for profit" or some such nonsense in time to pull the plug on any gig at a reputable hall, and presumably, anywhere in St. Petersburg at all. It is also important to keep in mind that assisted suicide is illegal in Florida, as it is in most other states. The surviving band members could be prosecuted for "assisting" their friend out of this world. The entire band is scheduled to appear before a judge this Friday (10-03). I'm not sure what that's supposed to be about, but presumably he wants to make sure these are soundly-minded individuals, then prohibit everything. (The event, if it happens, will be close to the date Terry Shiavo is scheduled to have her feeding tube removed allowing her to starve to death, another local life-and-death case constantly in the news. October is shaping up to be an especially grim month this year.)
To say this raises questions is an understatement. More information regarding details of the band are frustratingly vague at the moment. The members' real non-stage names are currently undisclosed, altho the real name of the dying member will be announced the day of the show. Video clips and music samples can be found on their website as well as what little biographical information there is. They have posted all relevant news regarding the controversy surrounding them conveniently on their homepage.
What is his illness? Why is he terminal? Is he in any pain? Can he not afford the treatments? Is this all some ghastly hoax? (Couldn't rule that out -- lots of publicity to be had here.) Let's say for the moment this is all for real (the City Council is impressed enough to act on it) and there is a band member who intends to kill himself onstage. As I asked that question to several people over the last few days, I was surprised at the variety of reactions I got. Some say they're all simply crazy, or this is for publicity (quite successful too), or that a real suicide cheapens the man's life as opposed to martyring him. Others are concerned that mentally-challenged youngsters will take this as a cue that public suicide is cool or something, and we'll see a slew of copy-cat capers.
My opinion, and this may shock readers far and wide who don't know me that well altho it will not surprise those close to me, but I am in an unusual position to relate to all of this. I've been in bands, I've been suicidal, I've seen close family members die horrible lingering deaths and I've personally known people who have commited suicide and I've felt the pain of regret not seeing it coming. I think this band is very brave to be standing their ground and risking a lot for their friend. I'm not so crazy about their public relations tactics, but, in general, I support what they're doing and I'll try to explain why. First, I'm assuming that there is zero chance his health will improve and there is no hope. That said, when one forms or joins a rock band, the general goal is fame and fortune (Terence and I had it out over this alone, but anyway...). If this young man with no future and no hope felt he was without recourse but to end his pain by ending it all, I can see how he'd want to go out with a bang--no pun intended--ending his pain, helping his bandmates achieve notoriety (dubious as it may be), and making a name for himself where he had none before and wouldn't otherwise. Is that so impossible to sympathize with? According to the bands' website, he is a member of the Euthanasia Society (formerly the Hemlock Society), which supports physician-assisted suicide. He already made his plans. He'll do it with or without public support. And keep in mind this wasn't illegal before two days ago, and only then in St. Pete. What do you think?
Do Not Call
Looks like millions of telemarketers may have to find other work in an already strapped economy as the "do not call" registry is in place as of today (Wednesday, Oct.1). Or should I say should be in place as there's still much uncertainty regarding the new laws. First, telemarketers filed suit against the FTC saying it violated their "free speech" rights, and further, that the FTC lacked the authority to enforce the law, that it should be an FCC protocol. Congress bent over backward to appease millions of worried constituents that they would make sure the FTC is so authorized, and moreso, that the FCC would get equally involved.
For such a simple thing like "don't f&*%king call me", this case leeches into nearly every department of government, making it very complicated to sort out who protects who and who enforces what. Most telemarketing firms agreed to abide by the law regardless (likely to forestall more serious gov't intervention), yet others want to test the waters more aggressively (I smell Supreme Court here).
One central issue in the new law is the requirement that telemarketers purchase a list from the gov't with the "do-not-call" phone numbers on it. While they can be fined and prosecuted for violating this list, it's only prosecutable if they prove they have the list to start with. That sounds like a major loophole already.
That there is a certain freedom of speech thing happening here is debatable, it's more about the freedom to continue to employ millions(?) of full-time telemarketers who are otherwise unemployable. (Despite the fact I hate being called by them as well, I tried it myself on at least two occasions while between other jobs and I sucked at it.) Where do they go now? Don't care? Not your problem? It will be if and when you lose your current job and find yourself in the unemployment line with hundreds of out-of-work telemarketers.
XP Upgrade update
Although I was scheduled to have the main machine back by today (Wednesday, October 1), my computer-tech was unexpectedly called back in to work on The Punisher. Looks like it will be Thursday (10-02) at the earliest, barring more setbacks. However...word has it that everything is functioning well, and things will be back to normal soon enough.