By Mike Nettleton
They say a sign of getting old is knowing more dead people than those who are living. I don’t know if I’ve gotten there yet, but I find myself inexplicably drawn to the obituaries these days.
The local newspaper just ran the yearly list of notable who passed away in 2013. Some of them, I knew about. Others came as a surprise. I’d either skipped reading the paper or watching the news that day, or it had slipped what’s left of my mind.(A regular occurrence)
Some of the deceased were important players on the world’s stage, like Nelson Mandela, a man of incredible courage, intelligence and capacity for forgiveness. Or, long-time UPI White House correspondent Helen Thomas, whose blunt and penetrating questioning could make even the most poised world leader sweat bullets. But the names that caught my attention this year were somewhat lesser figures, but whose contributions had an impact on my life in some way, shape or form.
Annette Funicello. 70-Mouseketeer turned sex symbol. As teenaged boys, we flocked to the next “Beach Party” flick to see if she’d finally hear our psychic pleading and wear a two-piece swimsuit.
Andre Cassagnes 86-The guy who invented the “Etch-a-Sketch". Just one of the many toys, I never got the hang of, along with erector sets, Mr. Potato Head and paddle ball. (The rubber ball kept hitting me in the head).
Jonathan Winters 87-Wild man comedian who could, without fail, make me blow a recent mouthful of Coke up through my nose. He could take any ordinary object and improv on it with hilarious results.
Charles, “Chuck” Foley 82-The inventor of the game “Twister.” Genius, really, a way to legitimize groping one another in the name of good clean fun. An ancestor of twerking.
Lou Reed. 71-He didn’t exactly sing, he just kinda talked rhythmically. Who can stop smiling when they hear: “and the colored girls sing doot-dee-doot-de-doot-de-doot-doot,” from “Walk on the Wild Side?
Peter O’ Toole. 81-One of my all-time acting faves. His scenes with Katherine Hepburn in A Lion in Winter rank as the state of the art hilarious on-the-screen most creative bitchiness ever filmed. Nominated 8 times for an Oscar and never won.
Honorable mentions include Chrissy Amphlett, lead singer of the punk group Divinyls, famous for “I Touch Myself,” James Gandolfini “Bada bing-badda-boom," and C. Everett Koop, the Amish-looking surgeon general who helped nag me into stopping smoking.
That’s the list. I’m ready to stop looking back and leap into 2014. Chief among my resolutions, “stop procrastinating (a holdover from last year), Take singing lessons and audition for the Metropolitan Opera, and finally, master paddle ball and the etch a sketch.