I’ve been confused recently when watching the news other than the normal confusion I experience when they talk about the stock market being down or up and how that’s a good thing or bad thing or an insignificant thing or especially the weather when they give a number to the air quality index, and I don’t even know if the number is a good quality or a bad quality to have...and I don’t know what an air quality index even is.
But that confusion is nothing compared to the announcement of a celebrity death on television.
It used to be simple.
“Orson Welles died yesterday. Now onto sports...”
Then they started to lighten that blow a bit, but you still knew that someone died because the clues were pretty easy to follow, even for a moron like me.
“Sad news [someone died] out of Hollywood [an actor, director, producer, screenwriter, key grip, etc.] today [this happened today]...”
Or they’ll do something like, “People are mourning [someone died] the life of a sports legend [an athlete or a coach or a towel boy, etc.]
However, they try to break the sad news so gently that I don’t know what to think, and I don’t know how to think or feel things unless the television clearly tells me.
The best example is the recent death of James Lipton where the television anchors started the segment by saying, “Celebrating James Lipton” or “Remembering James Lipton”.
Full disclosure: while I know of James Lipton and enjoyed watching him on “Inside the Actors’ Studio,” I honestly thought the guy died years ago.
So, when I’m being told I have to remember him or celebrate him, I’m thinking, “What are they doing to remember James Lipton?” or “We’re celebrating James Lipton today. Is it a federal holiday or something?”
I remember way back when — like eight months ago — they would start off such stories with “Celebrating the life of…” or “Remembering the life of…” and now they took the life out; maybe it was a metaphoric thing which I didn’t understand, but, hey, why make it easy to understand? It’s only the news, which I thought was the clear presentation of information to the masses, but I can’t remember everything I learned in journalism class behind the dumpster of the community college.
Anyway, the television story highlights the dead celebrity’s life and accomplishments, and that should be the clue that the celebrity has died, but it’s still not the obvious clue, especially for me as I was half paying attention because I was trying to figure out how the air quality index works on my phone’s weather app.
So, throughout the news segment on James Lipton, I’m saying to the TV, “So did he die or what? Was there a grave robbing? I wonder if James Lipton was an heir to the Lipton Tea fortune. I really would like to drink tea now, but it’s early, and I’m drinking coffee, and I hate hot tea, but love iced tea, but not a fan of iced coffee. Sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong with me and why I’m confessing all of this to a television set.”
All doubt is erased, however, when the anchor will say something like, “James Lipton was 92” or they do a soft-transition to a photo with the year of birth to the year of death, so you get the confirmation, but at the end of the segment when you should have received it at the beginning.
That’s what we call in the journalism industry, burying — no pun intended — the lead...or even the headline.
The whole thing is further proof of society being too coddled as if we can’t accept the fact that someone has died. So we remove death, we replace mourning with celebrating, and we even remove life from the equation.
If you’re wondering what’s next, then wonder no more because it will start with removing anything indicating past tense and end with removing any other words than a person’s name and one positive word about them.
In the near future, prepare to hear bad news about your favorite celebrities in the following ways: “Jon Voight Spectacular” or “Helen Mirren Wonderful” or “Keith Richards Astounding.”
Well, I think that last one was a typo that didn’t happen yet because that guy will probably never die, but you get the point.
There’s not much more we can do at this point other than celebrate and remember those who have shuffled off this mortal coil before we start blurting out names with positive adjectives attached.
With that, I’ll be old school and say, “RIP, James Lipton. Now onto sports…”
According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. He co-hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.