Quote of the Day: "The only thing more frequent than celebrity deaths lately, is the amount of fake celebrity death stories." -- Robert Dougherty, AssociatedContent.com
I'm sure all the Criss Angel haters out there will have a field day cracking jokes about the fact that the reported death of the creator of Mindfreak has been greatly exaggerated. I, for one, love illusionists, and am a big fan of Criss Angel's levitation and walking-on-water tricks, so I'm glad the rumors that he died, which were reported on America Online and other sources, turned out to be untrue. It was just another recent example of phony stories about the untimely deaths of celebrities.
I've noticed two phenomena lately: one is the morbid rise in fake celebrity death announcements. Jeff Goldblum, Britney Spears, Harrison Ford, and many other famous folks, are alive and well despite rampant gossip that they have slipped this mortal coil and left us for the Great Beyond. The other is the growth in conspiracy theories that legitimate celebrity deaths have somehow been faked. Have any of you heard the outrageous tale that Michael Jackson only pretended to die as part of an elaborate scheme to revive his career and sell billions of new albums? I don't know what's sadder -- the fake death stories or the people out there who actually believe them.
Pardon the pun, but stories about famous people faking their own demises have been done to death. (I even wrote a short play on the topic called "Jackie the Giant Killer," part of my Dream Fragments anthology, coming soon to a Manhattan stage.) Heroic resurrection stories have been part of myths as long as stories have been told. Who can forget the great scene in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer when young Tom is believed to be dead and witnesses his own funeral? Sightings of Elvis Presley, Tupac Shakur, and other dead celebrities have become part of pop culture lore.
What's the fascination with such misinformation? The obvious answer in the case of "they're still alive" legends is the hope that the deaths of beloved celebrities who were taken away from us too young never really happened. It's a denial of the bitter truth that they're really dead and gone. (The next stage in the delusion is that there was foul play in the death -- murder rather than just a tragic accident.) The answer to the "fake death" reports of the living is a bit more difficult to explain. I suppose that people have a morbid sense of humor for the most part (as is evidenced by all the "celebrity death watch" groups out there who in some cases actually wager on which famous person will be the next to kick the bucket).
In some cases, I suspect that fake death gossip might be an intentional publicity stunt on the part of the celebrity or his/her team to rejuvenate a slagging career and get the public talking.
So if you see Elvis or Tupac or Michael Jackson at your local mall, odds are that it's just a celebrity impersonator. But if you see Criss Angel, hey, it might be the real deal.