2007 sees the twentieth anniversary of the DeathList so let’s hope for a particularly successful year. For those unfamiliar with DeathList, here is a quick recap of the idea: A list of 50 celebrities is selected by the DeathList committee before the start of each calendar year for their likelihood to die during that year. Candidates must have a certain level of famousness, which is basically that their demise must be expected to be reported by the UK media. Candidates are ineligible if their only claim to fame is their likely death in the near future. Also, no more than 25 celebrities that appeared on the previous year’s list can be selected. 2006 finished with a solid score of 13 successes, but the 2003 record of 14 deaths remains intact.
|2||Ariel Sharon||79||Ex-Israeli Prime Minister|
|3||Ruby Muhammad||110||Mother of the Nation of Islam|
|5||Albert Hofmann||101||Creator of LSD|
|12||Tim Johnson||61||US Senator|
|13||Rowdy Roddy Piper||53||WWE Wrastler|
|15||Ernest Gallo||98||Wine maker|
|16||Lady Bird Johnson||95||Former first lady|
|18||Mark Felt||94||Deep Throat|
|19||Tammy Faye Messner||65||Evangelist|
|22||Les Paul||92||Guitar maker|
|23||Yitzhak Shamir||92||Ex PM Israel|
|24||Dom Mintoff||91||Ex Malta PM|
|26||Olivia De Havilland||91||Actress|
|31||Betty Ford||89||Clinic owner|
|32||Dino de Laurentiis||89||Film Producer|
|33||Ian Smith||89||Ex-Rhodesian PM|
|34||Ingmar Bergman||89||Film Director|
|35||John Forsythe||89||Blake Carrington|
|39||John Demjanjuk||87||Nazi Collaborator|
|40||Al Molinaro||88||Happy Days Al|
|42||Suharto||86||Ex President of Indonesia|
|45||George Melly||81||Jazz Man|
|47||Jack Kevorkian||79||Dr Death|
|50||Clive Dunn||87||DeathList Favourite|
Ian Smith, former Prime Minister of Rhodesia, has died aged 88, to give Deathlist 2007 its tenth success of the year. Smith perpetuated minority white rule in Rhodesia for many years against international pressure before changes finally took place in 1980 when the country was renamed Zimbabwe and in a "frying pan and fire" manoeuvre Robert Mugabe took over as Prime Minister. This was Smith’s first appearance on DeathList, being picked in the number 33 slot.
Nonagenarian British Journalist and former politician, Lord Bill Deedes, has written his last column and thus continues DeathList 2007’s hot streak. The well-respected, 94 year old Deedes was appearing on DeathList for the fifth time and this year was the number 17 selection. Another easy pick maybe, but he proved to be a tough nut to crack. The former editor of the Daily Telegraph was also a cabinet minister in Britain in the 1960s, securing a one of those “Minister without Portfolio” roles. So like a good wine, with nine successes, it appears DeathList 2007 is maturing well with age. The next four or so months will tell if it is to become a vintage champagne.
105 year old philanthropist and socialite, Brooke Astor, has passed away to give DeathList 2007 its eighth success. Astor was famed for her philanthropic work as head of her third husband’s foundation, although hit the headlines in 2006 when her grandson accused her son (his father) of abusing her and plundering her estate. This was Astor’s third appearance on DeathList, this year at number 11 and sees DeathList 2007 continues the excellent run of form that has seen seven deaths in the last two months.
Swedish Film Director, Ingmar Bergman, has passed away to chalk up the seventh success for DeathList 2007. During his 89 years, Bergman produced some 40 or so movies, five wives and nine or so children. In only his second appearance on the DeathList, Bergman was 2007’s number 34 selection and his passing continues the impressive sequence of deaths in recent weeks.
Tammy Faye Messner/Bakker, former wife of corrupt TV evangelist Jim Bakker, has succumbed to cancer to continue DeathList 2007’s summertime hot streak. Tammy Faye was 65 and had generously alerted death watchers to her imminent demise some time ago. Her 19 July appearance on Larry King Live provided further evidence that the title of her second autobiography published in 2003, “I Will Survive” was somewhat tongue in cheek. Tammy Faye was DeathList 2007’s sixth success and the fifth in the space of six weeks, firmly putting things back on track and now perhaps quietening down some of those critics about the quality of this year’s candidates.
Lady Bird Johnson, wife of former president Lyndon B Johnson, has died, aged 94, giving DeathList 2007 its fifth success of the year, but more importantly its third hit in the last 7 days. As with Charles Lane, Lady Bird Johnson was only making her second appearance on DeathList and was this year’s number 16 selection. So now we wait to see if the long-awaited hot streak can continue and squeeze a respectable score from 2007’s worryingly healthy list of celebrities.
Veteran actor, Charles Lane, has passed away at the ripe old age of 102 to give DeathList 2007 its fourth success. Lane appeared in a vast number of movies from the 1930s onward but this was only his second appearance on DeathList, often being left off for being too old and too soft a target. His selection this year in the number four slot perhaps sees a change in fortune for DeathList 2007, being the third success in the last month.
British Jazz celebrity, George Melly, has improvised his last to give DeathList 2007 its long overdue third success of the year. 80 year old Melly had been in bad health and was making his third appearance on DeathList, this year sneaking in at the number 45 slot. Like all good Jazzmen, Melly was finally taken down by lung cancer and presumably moves on to a long booking at the star-studded Ronnie Scott’s in the Sky. The slow start to the year for DeathList continues to cause concern but surely the drought will end soon.
So finally DeathList 2007 gets its second hit of the year and what a pleasing one it was. Kurt Waldheim, former Austrian president, UN General-Secretary and (allegedly) lifelong Nazi, finally ceased his denials at the age of 88. 2007 was Waldheim’s eleventh appearance on DeathList, this year elected in the number 36 slot. So DeathList 2007 is well behind championship pace at this stage, but it’s a marathon and not a sprint and the smart money should be on an exceptional second half to the year.
Ernest Gallo, veteran Californian wine producer, has squeezed his last grape to give DeathList its first success of the year. 97 year old Gallo has been a near permanent fixture on DeathList in recent years and this year has finally justified his selection in the number 15 slot. A worryingly slow start for DeathList 2007 though…but surely the quality of the selections will shine through sooner or later.
DeathList 2007 has been selected with the usual careful consideration and now we wait to see if 2006's end of year momentum can carry on into the new year.