On June 25, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Jeff Goldblum died, shaking the entertainment industry. After Ed McMahon’s death on Tuesday, June 23, the show biz world reeled at the suddenness of it all. Then Harrison Ford, George Clooney, Natalie Portman, Miley Cyrus, Britney Spears, Billy Mays, and Fred Travelina died within the next few days. English 80’s pop star Rick Astley would die to end the month of June and then the great Karl Malden passed on July 1. What in the world was going on? Was it something in the Beverly Hills water system?
Actually, it was something in the internet…
First of all, all of those stars did not die. It is sadly true that Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson both died on June 25 (and no doubt thousands of people not as famous), just two days after famed Johnny Carson sidekick Ed McMahon, but the added shock sent via Twitter that Jeff Goldblum had died while filming in New Zealand was a Twitter hoax. And although it is unfortunate that the world lost a comedic great Fred Travelina on June 29, the incomparable pitchman Billy Mays the day before, and acting legend in Karl Malden two days after Mays, the world did not lose Harrison Ford, Miley Cyrus, Natalie Portman, George Clooney, and/or Britney Spears in between.
Nor did Rick Astley (“Never Gonna Give You Up”) die on June 30. His death was created by someone on CNN’s iReport using a fake Associated Press story, according to a San Francisco Examiner article.
It seems that death begets death, especially in the electronic world. And while internet sites and cellphone services were so inundated with traffic that hundreds of servers were overloaded the day that Michael Jackson died, someone still found a way to make the day seem just a little worse. It started as a Twitter that said that Jeff Goldblum had fallen from a cliff while shooting a film in New Zealand. By the time Michael Jackson had died (5:26 EST), the world was in triple mourning.
That same night, Stephen Colbert spoofed the Jurassic Parkstar’s death by “confirming” that he had died. Jeff Goldblum showed up (he had been in Los Angeles the entire time) to reassure Colbert that he was very much alive, and to prove it, he sent Stephen a ‘tweet.’ Colbert answered his cellphone and broke the news that “The dead can Twitter.”
And just to prove to Jeff Goldblum that he was indeed dead, Stephen Colbert showed real footage of the news of Jeff Goldblum’s death from “The Today Show: Australia,” where the co-anchors “broke” the news that New Zealand police were saying that Jeff Goldblum had died in making a movie there. While the news is “breaking,” images of the news of Michael Jackson’s death plays in the background.
Convinced that he was actually killed that morning in New Zealand, Jeff Goldblum delivers his eulogy, heavily structured around the fact that he was good in bed.
Before the day was over, though, and before “The Colbert Report” aired that night on Comedy Centrial, Harrison Ford was regarding eternity, George Clooney had made peace with his maker, and Natalie Portman had left for a galaxy far, far away.
By the next day, Miley Cyrus had joined Jeff Goldblum in death. A little later, Britney Spears died for about the 30th time since her 25th birthday.
And on June 30, possibly because someone anticipated that there would be a day’s lapse in actual celebrities’ deaths before Karl Malden would pass, an internet rumor began that Rick Astley, the noted 80’s singer, had died.
This is all a truly sad testament to the power of possibly the greatest informative tool the world has ever known. It has become the disseminator of vast amounts of misleading and outright false information.
And it is terrible that some of our most valued celebrities have actually left us in the past two weeks, but it is even worse that these terrible hoaxes seem to proliferate around the time of a true death. Why do people do it? What could possibly be gained? What sort of vicarious thrill or sense of power could possibly be had by being able to anonymously say that an internet hoax that fooled an untold amount of people was orchestrated by you? Or is there an amusement quality about it all, watching people react to the news that one of their favorite celebrities had died?
It must be godlike to kill someone off… or perhaps it’s the Lazarus effect the hoaxer is looking for. Either way, how video game-ish or cartoonish it seems for those you spammed or tweeted to death to appear again moments, hours, or days later, so ambulatory and life-like — like Jeff Goldblum, who, by the way, died the same day as Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.
A ‘tweet’ said so. It was on the news in Australia. And his eulogy appeared on “The Colbert Report.”
Watch “dead” Jeff Goldblum on “The Colbert Report.”
“The Colbert Report,” Comedy Central Network