FROM JASON’S PROGNOSTICATION — No, it’s not the title of a new James Bond movie. Just a simple statement of fact: Whether you’re Bernie Mack, Paul Newman, Elvis, or Jesus, everybody dies eventually.
You will too, someday, and so will I. So it goes.
That’s why my wife and I have had clear consciences for the past five years now playing a game that has disgusted our family and shocked our friends: Each New Year’s Eve, we make our Death Lists.
1. Patrick Swayze — The Swayze was diagnosed last January with pancreatic cancer, the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related fatalities in the US (33,370 deaths in 2007). Most people diagnosed with the disease do not live a year –and some doctors say cancer of the pancreas has the shortest average survival time of all cancer types.
2. Fidel Castro — The Cuban dictator hasn’t actually been in power since transferring authority to his brother in 2006. The 82-year-old has been in poor health for more than a decade, and is rumored to have undergone several intense surgeries in the past few years, including one for “acute intestinal crisis with sustained bleeding.”
3. Kirk Douglas — The screen legend and father of Michael Douglas is 92, but he’s looked 132 since appearing in Greedy in 1994. He suffered a stroke two years later.
4. Nancy Reagan — The former First Lady is 87 and is a breast cancer survivor. She is one of just six surviving First Ladies. Though not life-threatening, she did suffer two falls in 2008, the later in October resulting in hospitalization for a fractured pelvis and sacrum.
5. Ed McMahon — He survived a 2002 battle with toxic mold, but the 85-year-old former Tonight Show co-host isn’t looking so good these days. It was reported last spring that he’d broken his neck.
6. Billy Graham — America’s most celebrated televangelist (con artist) is 90 years old and has retired from his Bible-thumping crusades due to frail health. He survived a bout in 2007 with intestinal bleeding and later in the year was not healthy enough to attend Lady Bird Johnson’s funeral.
7. Zsa Zsa Gabor — The Hungarian film star, now 91, suffered a massive stroke in 2005 and a leg infection in 2007.
8. Nelson Mandela — The first democratically-elected president of South Africa is 90. He was diagnosed in 2001 with prostate cancer and he was accidentally announced dead in 2003 when a pre-written obituary was posted to CNN’s website.
9. Walter Cronkite — “The most trusted man in America” is 92, but he’s still extremely active and outspoken in regard to journalistic ethics (blasting Fox News, in particular). In my opinion, he’ll probably outlast everyone else on this list.
10. Betty Ford — Like Nancy Reagan, the former First Lady, now 90, is also a breast cancer survivor and has the distinction of being the oldest living former White House resident. She fought blood clots in 2006 and 2007.
11. George Steinbrenner — The 78-year-old Yankees ballclub owner fainted in 2003, leading then to speculation about his declining health.
12. Les Paul — The guitar legend is 93. After a heart attack and bypass surgery in the 70s, and has since been the victim of stroke and severe arthritis.
13. Christopher Lee — The man who was both Count Dracula and Count Dooku is 86, and he’s starting to look undead. He’s a wildcard on this list.
14. Jack Klugman — At 86, Quincy is ailing. He lost a vocal cord to cancer in the late 80s. He remarried early this year and seems fine… but I have a gut feeling.
15. Ted Kennedy — The senator has battled alcoholism, a blocked artery, and earlier this year was diagnosed with a brain tumor. His illnesses manifested again in September as seizures. Most news reports have him as a walking corpse, with surgeries only able to extend his life a matter of months.
16. Nate Dogg — Hip hopper Nathaniel Dwayne Hale is only 39, but I think he won’t be Regulating much longer after suffering two strokes in the past year. Word is that he is on a breathing machine.
17. Dear Abby — Pauline Phillips, the longtime feel-good quackery columnist, has been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease more than a decade.
18. Jerry Lewis — What isn’t wrong with him? He’s looked ready to pass during any of his last 20 telethons. He’s wrestled with prostate cancer, diabetes, pulmonary fibrosis, and has had two heart attacks.
19. James Garner — The original Maverick, now 80, had quintupple bypass surgery in 1988 and a stroke last May.
20. Amy Winehouse — Clarification: I wouldn’t know who this was if it weren’t for the wife’s terrible taste in music. At 25, she’s younger than me, but I’m voting her Most Likely to Overdose on Something You Normally Wouldn’t Huff.