Right Opinion

Careers to Die For

Burt Prelutsky · Jan. 12, 2019

Normally, you wouldn’t think a career that only called for the man or woman to sing, act or play a musical instrument, would be so wrought with peril.

But, after seeing Walter Slezak playing a feature role opposite Dick Powell in a 1945 release, “Cornered,” on TCM, I thought I recalled that he had committed suicide. So, I checked. He had, at the age of 80, when he was suffering from a number of diseases and decided to pull the plug.

That got me to thinking about all those people who seemingly had exactly the sort of lives that hundreds of millions of people wished they had, but who chose to end them. Many of their deaths were officially ruled suicides by the medical examiners; others were the result of drug overdoses, which is suicide by another name.

The cast of characters includes, but is not limited to: George Sanders, dead by his own hand at the age of 65; Maggie McNamara, 48; Pier Angeli, 39; Everett Sloane, 55; Richard Jeni, 49; Margaret Sullavan, 50; Jean Seberg, 40; Albert Dekker, 62; Spalding Gray, 62; Diana Barrymore, 38; Herve Villechaize, 50; Gia Scala, 38; Marie McDonald, 42; John Belushi, 33; Robin Williams, 63; Dana Plato, 34; Freddie Prinze, 22; Michael Jackson, 51; River Phoenix, 23; George Reeves, 45; Gig Young, 64; Carole Landis, 29; Inger Stevens, 35; Bella Darvi, 42; Lupe Velez, 36; Prince, 57; Rachel Roberts, 53; Margaux Hemingway, 42 (Grandpa Ernest, 61); Amy Winehouse, 28; Chris Farley, 33; Jim Morrison, 28; Philip Seymour Hoffman, 47; Heath Ledger, 29; Scotty Beckett, 39; Anna Nicole Smith, 40; Dorothy Dandridge, 43; Keith Moon, 32; Jimi Hendrix, 28; Judy Garland, 47; David Carradine, 72; Hank Williams, 30; Lenny Bruce, 41; Whitney Houston, 48; Marilyn Monroe, 36.

There are those who might disagree with me when I state that those who die of drug overdoses are suicidal, but I once heard John Phillips (of the Mamas & Papas) and his teenage daughter, Mackenzie (of TV’s “One Day at a Time”) being interviewed by Dick Cavett.

Father and daughter were self-proclaimed druggies and I still recall their chilling reply when Cavett asked them if it didn’t give them pause when they’d hear that a friend of theirs had died of an overdose. They both insisted that their initial reaction would be that it must have been a very pure form of heroin or cocaine, and they wondered if they could track down the drug dealer and make a connection.

It later came out that Papa John had been having sex with his daughter for years, and that it was he who had gotten her addicted when she was 11.

Oddly enough, he made it all the way to the age of 65 before dying in 2001. Mackenzie Phillips is still alive at 59, but I can’t begin to imagine what sort of dreams she has.


As if the field of contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination wasn’t already at the bursting point, Angelina Jolie has announced she’s considering a run for the presidency.

In the good old days, over-the-hill actresses would write their memoirs, burnishing their reputations as former sex bombs by bragging about the scores of famous men with whom they’d canoodled. Now, apparently, they get into politics.


Speaking of reputations, David Sorensen, a former Trump speechwriter, lost his job along with his reputation when he was falsely accused of having committed domestic violence. While speaking to Tucker Carlson, he shared a few memorable words befitting a presidential speechwriter: “Your reputation is something that is gained by the raindrop and lost by the bucketful.”


The man, Gustavo Perez Arriaga, 33, who stands accused of recently murdering police officer Ronil Singh, is not only an illegal alien who had no business being in this country, but a member of the Sureños Gang. Up until now, the only gang I kept hearing about was MS-13. But, apparently, the punks in Sureños number 30,000 nation-wide and are actively involved in murder, extortion, narcotics trafficking, prostitution, human smuggling, rape and robbery.

Not exactly the jobs that Americans won’t do.

Apparently, the gang is affiliated with the Mexican Mafia, so even if you arrest them and toss them in jail, it’s less a punishment than un reunion familiar.

I can’t help wondering if Gustavo remembered to register his gun.


Arthur Hershey, who makes Calabasas, California, the garden spot it is, sent me a photo of the bug-eyed hope of the Democratic Party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, with a caption reading: “Never Let Someone Who Has Done Nothing Tell You How to Do Anything.”

The one thing that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has learned from her mentor, Bernie Sanders, is that if you’re a Socialist who doesn’t want to work, politics is the answer. Sanders was so lazy, he even got kicked off the commune he joined in Vermont. So, at 39, reading the writing on the wall, he ran to be the mayor of Burlington. He won, and he hasn’t worked since.


Robert Mueller explained away the missing thousands of texts exchanged between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his honey bunny, FBI lawyer Lisa Page, as the result of a technical glitch.

I wonder how witch-hunter Mueller would have reacted if Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort or Michael Cohen, had told him that they hadn’t erased damaging texts, and that it was a mysterious glitch, doggone it, that had caused all the evidence to vanish.

I can just hear Mueller now, gazing at them from on high, looking like Cotton Mather on a bad hair day, sneering: “Are you sure your dog didn’t eat it?”


Joe Neuner sent me a bunch of exchanges between UPS pilots and the mechanics whose job is to deal with the mechanical problems.

The “P” is the pilot, the “M” is the mechanic, in the following.

P: “The left inside main tire almost needs replacement.” M: “Almost replaced left inside main tire.”

P: “Something loose in cockpit.” M: “Something tightened in cockpit.”

P: “Dead bugs on windshield.” M: “Live bugs on back-order.”

P: “Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.” M: “Evidence removed.”

P: “DME volume unbelievably loud.” M: “DME volume set to more believable level.”

P: “Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.” M: “That’s what friction locks are for.”

P: “IFF inoperative in OFF mode.” M: “IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.”

P: “Suspected crack in windshield.” M: “Suspect you’re right.”

P: “Number 3 engine missing.” M: “Engine found on right wing after brief search.”

P: “Aircraft handles funny.” M: “Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right and be serious.”

P: “Mouse in cockpit.” M: “Cat installed.”

P: “Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.” M: “Took hammer away from midget.”

And here I’ve been thinking the readers who write in to correct my occasional mistakes were sarcastic!

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