Marilyn Monroe Color Photograph, Circa Late 1940s

Beautiful Marilyn Monroe Color Photograph, Circa Late 1940s

I don’t know the date on this Marilyn Monroe color photograph, but I’m going with late 1940s. Regardless, it’s a stunner.

Marilyn Monroe Color Photograph, Circa Late 1940s

The reason I say late ’40s is that Marilyn appears to be a little older than when she shot this series of fishing photos in 1946, but she’s doesn’t look to be in full 1950s glamour mode yet. As I’ve stated before, this is my favorite era for her. She just looks so happy and full of life.

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert At the Movies

RIP Roger Ebert (1942 – 2013)

Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert At the Movies

Better writers than I will doubtless be weighing in shortly on the passing of legendary film critic Roger Ebert. It would probably be a waste of your (and my) time to try and add my own paltry two cents. So instead I want to remember Roger and his old partner Gene Siskel in happier days, on the set of their timeless syndicated review program At the Movies. These outtakes represent the unique bond and vicious senses of humor the two shared.

Warning: This is definitely not for the easily offended.

Al Davis

Remembering Al Davis (1929 – 2011)

Al DavisYou need to know two things about me to get some context for this post. One, I’ve been an Oakland Raiders fan for just about 30 years, which means I’ve seen some sweet highs and a lot of dismal lows. Two, I am not a professional journalist and so I haven’t had an Al Davis tribute ready to go for years — which means these are my unedited, unprepared thoughts about the man in the minutes immediately after I heard about his death at age 82.

I’m sure there are other articles and tributes that can properly frame Al Davis’s legacy in a way I can’t, but it needs to be said — if you have even a passing interest in the National Football League, take five seconds right now and thank Al Davis. He, along with men like Wellington Mara, Pete Rozelle, and Lamar Hunt, was one of the titans of professional football in North America and deserves every bit adulation he gets for his contributions to the game.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with Al over the years. While I could never deny that the Oakland/Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders became one of the great franchises in pro sports under his direct leadership, I struggled to reconcile the swashbuckling, iconoclastic Al Davis with the Al Davis who left loyal Oakland fans in the lurch in 1982, banished great players like Marcus Allen to the bench because of petty disputes, blamed everyone from puppet head coaches to referees for the team’s losses, and (most egregiously) continually failed to adjust his approach to an ever-changing and increasingly complex game from about the mid-1990s onward.

As season after season of mediocrity began to obscure the Raiders’ past accomplishments, I grew to resent Al. I saw him as the biggest roadblock standing in the way of the team’s chances for success. I became especially despondent after Jon Gruden was traded away after the 2001 season, seemingly ending a period of renewed relevance for the team. Watching Gruden’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers crush the Raiders in Super Bowl XXXVII the next season was my absolute lowest point as a fan.

Eventually I stopped hating Al and started feeling sorry for him. As he trotted out coach after coach in the post-Gruden era — and kept uttering hollow cliches about “Commitment to Excellence” and “Just Win, Baby” — I saw him as nothing more than a fragile old man with absolutely no clue how to run a successful sports franchise anymore. And yes, I cracked my fair share of jokes about Al’s mental and physical state over the years. The thing is, they were always borne out of frustration with the team’s fortunes rather than over any personal animosity towards the man.

Al Davis (Super Bowl XVIII)And now that he’s gone, I have no earthly idea what’s next. Few other franchises in sports were as uniquely tied to one person as the Raiders have been for 40 years. I’ve never known a world without the Raiders as Al’s team. Despite all the times I thought and said that the team would never really improve until he was gone, I feel no relief or happiness over his death. I knew this day was coming and yet I can’t believe it’s here now.

So now what? Do the Raiders fall into line and become just another NFL franchise, just one of thirty-two? Will I still feel the same allegiance to the Raiders if they lose their outlaw appeal? Will I relish Raiders wins as much if some anonymous GM is running the show instead of Uncle Al? For non-Raiders fans these sound like stupid questions I’m sure, but if you’ve bled silver and black like I have then you surely understand where I’m coming from.

I would have loved nothing more than for Oakland to win one more Vince Lombardi trophy for Al, just for a chance to stick it one last time to uptight empty suits like Roger Goodell and the bevy of owners who are business men, not football men. The people running the league now may know how to turn a profit, but is it really a good thing that the future of the NFL is in their hands? For whatever else you want to say about Al, he was a Football Man first and foremost. There will never be another like him.

Happy 65th birthday Freddie Mercury

You have been and always will be missed, Farrokh Bulsara (aka Freddie Mercury). Has it really been almost twenty — that’s 20 — years since you left us?

Well thanks to awesome tributes like the latest Google doodle — featuring the Queen classic “Don’t Stop Me Now” from the Jazz record — you will also always be remembered.

This is so cool I won’t even quibble over the fact that Freddie didn’t sport a mustache when this song was released, and therefore the part with him riding the tiger is incorrect. Aren’t you glad I didn’t bring that up?

On a more serious note, please take a minute today to at least stop by the website for the Mercury Phoenix Trust — helping in the fight against AIDS.

Game Over for Muammar Gaddafi

Game over for Gaddafi?

Yeah, I’d say so. The rebels are knocking on his door, and NATO is blowing it off. I wonder if a sequel to Commando Libya is in the works?

Game Over for Muammar Gaddafi

Whoever takes over from Col. Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, I hope it’s easier to agree on a spelling for their name.

(image created in part thanks to C64 Yourself)

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Jimi Hendrix

“Hope I die before I get old” — Do famous musicians really die young?

Jimi Hendrix

With her tragic and untimely death, Amy Winehouse became the latest member of a grim group — the so-called Club 27, whose only entrance requirement is to be a famous musician and to die at age 27. The club also includes legends such as Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. This got me to thinking — is it really true that the brightest stars burn out the earliest? Or does it just seem that way because of our fascination with stars who die young?

Curious, I decided to conduct a little research so I compiled a list of famous and influential dead musicians. Of course that list could be limitless, depending on your standards for fame and influence. I ultimately opted to use Rolling Stone‘s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, first published in 2004/05 and updated in 2011. So yes, it focuses heavily on rock and pop, leaving out a ton of worthy artists from country, jazz, hip hop, and other genres. No Patsy Cline, no Biggie Smalls, not even Miles Davis. So if you want to complain that your favorite musician was left out, take it up with Rolling Stone. Sorry!

That means this data includes solo artists from Rolling Stone‘s list, as well as members of groups that made the list. And believe me, for some of those Motown and southern rock groups, it was not fun collecting that data.

What I Found

Here are some interesting facts I picked up from this list:

Sid Vicious

Sid Vicious

Youngest to die — Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols), age 21. On the evening of 1 February 1979, Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie) overdosed on heroin at his new girlfriend’s (Michele Robison) New York City apartment. He was reportedly revived by those in attendance, and went to bed with Robison at approximately 3am the next morning. On the morning of February 2 his body was discovered. No autopsy was ever performed.

Oldest to die — Bo Diddley, age 79. Diddley was one of the most influential guitar players in history, and his trademark shuffle is instantly recognizable to this day. His career spanned more than six decades, until a stroke and heart attack in 2007 put an end to public playing days. He finally died of heart failure on June 2, 2008, with more than 30 family members at home with him. His grandson, Garry Mitchell, stated that a gospel song was sung at Diddley’s bedside and afterwards the legendary musician’s last words were, “I’m going to heaven.”

Age with the most deaths — You guessed it, 27. Eight members of the RS 100 (Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Dave Alexander, and Rudy Lewis) died at 27, twice as many as any other age.

Most lethal age groups — Bolstered by the members of Club 27, the 26-30 group had 15 members. After that there is a pretty big dropoff until things pick up again in the 46-50, 51-55, and 56-60 ranges.

Lynyrd Skynyrd (1977)

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Group with the most deaths — Due in no small part to a tragic 1977 plane crash that claimed the lives of three members, seven members of Lynyrd Skynyrd have died since the group’s inception in 1964. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and Cassie Gaines (as well as assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick, pilot Walter McCreary and co-pilot William Gray) were killed in the crash.

Since then four other members of Skynyrd have passed — Allen Collins died in 1990 from chronic pneumonia, a complication from paralysis suffered in a 1986 car accident; Leon Wilkeson died in 2001 after suffering from suffering from chronic liver and lung disease; Billy Powell died in January 2009 of a suspected heart attack, but no autopsy was performed; Hughie Thomasson died in September 2007 of a heart attack; and Ean Evans died in May 2009 from cancer.

Collins, Wilkseon, and Powell were survivors of the plane crash in ’77, incidentally.

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Bubba Smith

So long, Hightower

Bubba Smith

NFL and movie great Charles Aaron “Bubba” Smith, who has died at age 66, is now free to crush quarterbacks and Honda Civics in heaven. Let’s take a look at some of his most memorable work, both in the NFL and in his post-football career.

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment

Until It Hurts (Bubba’s exercise video)

Married… with Children (Al Bundy vs. Spare Tire Dixon)

Baltimore Colts vs. Oakland Raiders (AFC Championship — January 3, 1971)

Smith (#78) knocked Raiders starting QB Daryle Lamonica out of the game (skip to the hit), and the Colts went on to a 27-17 victory. They advanced to Super Bowl V and beat the Dallas Cowboys, 16-13. Incidentally, it’s a proven fact that hits in the NFL are twice as vicious when narrated by John Facenda.

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