They say famous people die in threes. It appears this week is no exception:
- Leni Riefenstahl died Monday at 101 of old age
- Johnny Cash died Thursday at 71 of complications from diabetes
- John Ritter died Thursday at 54 of a previously undetected heart condition
The real tragedy is that two of these people where just experiencing real resurgences in their careers — Cash was being rediscovered by a new generation of young people thanks to his deeply moving cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” (a performance for which, just two weeks ago, he won an MTV Video Music Award), and Ritter, after decades of typecasting thanks to his lead role in the iconic 70s TV series “Three’s Company”, was finally coming into his own again as an actor with roles in the movie “Tadpole” and the TV series “Eight Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter“. For both to be struck down just as fate smiled on them again seems cruel even for this vale of tears — especially for Ritter, who was a relatively young man with no idea he had a ticking time bomb in his chest.
As for Riefenstahl — well, she’s another kettle of fish altogether. She’s the documentarian who made such epic Nazi propaganda films as “Triumph of the Will” and “Olympia“, and then spent the rest of her life violently denying that she was a Nazi and claiming that she was just a working filmmaker who was doing her job (which, as it happened, was to glorify the Nazi state). Was she telling the truth, or retroactively trying to wriggle out of the noose that was prepared for Nazism at Nuremberg? Who knows? (The documentary film “The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl” does a good job of examining both sides of the argument.) Now she’s gone, and she gets to be judged by someone who can’t be fooled by retroactive justifications. It’s just too bad we don’t get to find out what the verdict is.
UPDATE: Well, it appears the “famous people die in threes” trope didn’t hold true, at least for this particular week — I forgot when I posted this that singer/songwriter Warren Zevon died of lung cancer last Sunday at age 56. Sorry for the omission.