Let’s get this out in the open right now. This post is done very tongue-in-cheek and I don’t honestly think I have any sort of special powers. It’s nothing more than coincidence and I know it. But ever since I’ve been going on vacation as an adult, this weird thing has happened roughly 85% of the time that I go out of town.
At least one celebrity dies.
It’s true! Starting in 1989, when I went to Los Angeles to go to a Monkees convention (don’t judge) and see Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike get their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Mel Blanc died, there has been a death knell, more often than not, for some celeb or another while I’m out of town. I distinctly remember how mad I was that Mel Blanc died on the same day the Monkees got their star, because all of the entertainment-based TV shows like Entertainment Tonight gave most of their “top headline” time reporting on that, instead of the hard-won honor that was bestowed upon pre-fab four.
But yeah, ever since that faithful day, my vacations have often been marred by the death of a well-loved/well-known movie, TV or Broadway celebrity, sports star, political figure or others who are famous in their own right.
Fast forward to September 1991 – my first trip to Walt Disney World as an adult! My first visit since 1983! Mickey Mouse! The Haunted Mansion! Epcot Center! And…Ben Piazza (The Blues Brothers, The Bad News Bears, etc.) died.
In April 1994, I was staying at my friend’s house in Yokohama when she told me that Richard Nixon had just died (my first political figure death while I was out of town!). Yeah…try to explain “famous people die when I go on vacation” to someone who doesn’t have a super duper command of the English language (or, for that matter, a dark sense of humor).
Timothy Leary died when I was in Disneyland Paris. Mary Martin (1990), Frank Zappa (1993), Edna Manilow (Barry’s mom) (1994), Burl Ives (1995), Ted Bessell (That Girl) (1996)…yep, all mine.
And then my powers apparent spiked and while I was in Cape May NJ, I “double dipped” for the first time and “killed” BOTH Princess Diana AND Mother Teresa during the same vacation in 1997.
My “legacy,” if you will, continued through the end of the 20th century, with Lloyd Bridges (1998), Pee Wee Reese (1999), and another “double dip”: both Allen Funt and Catfish Hunter while I was at Walt Disney World in Sept. 1999.
Apparently I was much more powerful that I thought. 😉
By this time, my co-workers and online friends were starting to look at me a little warily. Some suggested I didn’t go away as often. Others warned me to, “keep my hands off” well-loved celebrities who they wanted to keep safe. I told them I would do the best I could.
The early 2000s, of course, brought on more vacation deaths – Pierre Trudeau and Gwen Verdon in 2000, George Plimpton and Dorothy Loudon in 2003, and June Allyson and Steve Irwin in 2006, just to name a few of the many.
I used to joke that certain (really old) celebrities should watch out, take their vitamins, live in a bubble, etc. because “Sharon was going on vacation again.” I guess it must have worked because not only did Abe Vigoda and Zsa Zsa Gabor hang on for YEARS and years and years, I am happy to say that although they both eventually died (wait, that didn’t come out right…I’m not happy that they died, I promise!), neither of them did so while I was out of town. Or, as I’m often heard to say, “Not one of mine.”
By the time I joined Facebook circa 2008, Joe and I were well entrenched in multiple vacations a year; usually just long weekends, but with some longer getaways, as well. But now my “legacy” was exposed to all of my Facebook friends, and some of them, in a short period of time, apparently somehow came to the conclusion that every celebrity who died was my fault, whether I was out of town or not. So it got to the point that EVERY time someone famous died, at least 1 person would post it on my wall and blame me. And that just wouldn’t do; after all, they weren’t ALL “mine.” Many were, “not mine.” So I had to make up some ground rules:
- The celebrity can ONLY die while I am actually on my way to, on, or coming home from vacation for him/her to be “mine.” Someone dying the day before we leave, or once our plane has landed and we’ve driven back home, doesn’t count (this has brought on some odd discussions about what time someone died [vs. when it was announced] and if that time of death was Eastern or Pacific time – because all of that could make all the difference in the world. Case in point, Don Rickles. We’re still not sure if he died before or after we were on our way to Key West. I guess he’s in Sharon Vacation Purgatory???
- I have to actually be on vacation. A quick trip to the supermarket or even a day at a local theme park doesn’t count. A hotel room has to be involved during my time away.
- I have to know who the person is for it to count. This was important, because as the internet and its users became more sophisticated, just about every death could be found/reported. And although I would be sorry about the world losing, say, the bat boy of the 1952 Philadelphia Phillies, I couldn’t, in good consciousness, count him as a “celebrity death.” The “Sharon has to have heard of the person” rule has actually hindered my “legacy” because as I’ve gotten older, I’ve lived more and more under a rock and paid less attention to who’s famous nowadays – so the pool of celebrities is smaller.
I’ve had to explain more than once that I don’t “take requests” (trust me, I have a list in my own head of people who I would LOVE to cause “death by vacation”). And I’m doing my best to keep my powers off Queen Elizabeth, Patrick Stewart, Betty White, Dick Van Dyke and George Takei but there’s only so much a girl can do. So for the future, IF any of them happen to become “mine,” I apologize in advance.
Some of my “hits” have really hit home. Case in point, I “killed” Davy Jones (of the above-mentioned Monkees, and my first ever big crush) while Joe and I were on our 10-year anniversary trip to Hawaii in 2012. And some of them have just been weird. i.e. it was not lost on me that Charmian Carr (Leisl in “The Sound of Music”) passed away while we were on a vacation that included Salzburg, Austria (where they filmed parts of The Sound of Music). And can anyone else “boast” that their “legacy” includes both Frank Sinatra (1998 – I was in WDW) AND his son, Frank Sinatra Jr. (2016 – I was in NYC)? I think not!
The list has continued over the years, with more recent additions of Arnold Palmer, David Rockefeller, Chuck Barris, Roger Ailes, Billy Graham, Vern Troyer, Stephen Hillenburg, Kellye Nakahara and Ja’net DiBois, among others. And (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it [especially if you’re a celebrity]) we still have at least 8 more trips planned in the next year or so, one of which will be over a week long, so who knows…maybe I’ll get to have my first triple-dip. Hey, it’s good to have goals, right? Wish me luck.
On second thought, probably better if you didn’t, huh? XD
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary