Trawling the newspapers at lunchtime today I saw two little bits of news. Both Vaclav Havel, ex-prime minister of Czechoslovakia, and Kim Jong Il - supreme ruler of North Korea, have shaken this mortal coil. They have kicked the bucket. They are no more. They have ascended to him on high. They have fallen off the perch. They are food for worms. They are no longer breathing or doing anything else for that matter because they are now dead.
My first comment on the news of Kim Jong Il passing was that the world has just got that little more interesting. The second was who on the world stage was going to provide the Elvis impersonations.
My third thought was to wonder who might have had them on their list.
Their list? Yeah, their Dead Pool list.
I used to work for this company a few years back that ran an annual "Dead Pool".
Look, this is all a bit macabre, but to be a member of the Dead Pool what you did at the start of the year was submit a list of people you thought were going to die during a calendar year to the Dead Pool Undertaker or Mortician.
Our Dead Pool at this particular company was run by Ralph, a recalcitrant journalist come doco dude. (Is there any other sort?). It wasn't a company wide initiative - in fact entry was pretty selective - basically this guy selected all the dark-humoured, unhinged, ragtag reprobates in the company to be a member of this club - no idea why I got chosen to join...
Anyway, I ended up running the Dead Pool after he left the company.
The rules were simple. Everybody paid $20 for the privilege of being in the Dead Pool - this was placed in trust. A list was submitted to the club Mortician, who ran a spread sheet with everybody's selections on who was going to "Pass through the Curtain" in that calendar year. If a person on your list croaked, it was your prerogative to supply to the club Mortician two obituaries from national newspapers to prove the death had occurred - if you didn't do that, you weren't assured of getting your points.
You were not allowed to nominate your nana who was in the midst of end-stage emphysema - the people on your list had to be public figures - celebrities, leaders of state, films stars. People who were and are worth an obituary or write up in a national newspaper.
By placing these people on your Dead Pool list didn't mean that you wanted to see them dead - though I know that there were a few who had Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden high on their lists being so wanted at the time - and there would be no love lost if they did depart the earth.
You got a point for each person who pops their clogs in that year, You got two points if that person was under forty - which is a bit of a bummer that I didn't get my list in this year as I've had Amy Winehouse on my list for years. I think Lindsay Lohan might have to replace her now that Britney Spears has cleaned up her act a bit.
At the end of the year, the person who had collected the most points got the cash kitty.
You get the drift - you find a list of people you think have a probability of dying over the year. It's not like you wish them dead - you just think that there number might be up in the fairly near future. Normally you'd pick people who were old and infirm. As I said, you don't want them dead - it's more you think they're going to cark it over the year.
There was always some hemming and hawing when names such as Nelson Mandela made the list - then again - he's in his nineties.. but you don't want to see him dead. Rove McManus's first wife was an unfortunate inclusion on somebody's list - tragic, but not unexpected. Patrick Swayze was another who you'd never want dead - but he had pancreatic cancer for years. I remember when Steve Irwin fell on that stingray - I could hear Ralph's booming voice from the other end of the office yelling, "Crap - I wanted to put him on my list! Andybody who shoves a finger up a crocodile's arse regularly is pushing their luck!" He had a similar reaction when Kerry Packer croaked late in the year - he was top of his list for the following year.
It's just another game of chance.
So who is on my list for 2012?
Well, my ten names are as follows - with reasons:
1. Margaret Thatcher
Ex-Prime Minister of the UK. pushing 90. Had a number of strokes. She's been wobbly for a long time.
2. Nelson Mandela
Another one in his nineties who can't be too much longer for the planet - though I certainly don't want to see him gone. Living in a prison for thirty years can't help the state of your health, though it appears he has kryptonite in his veins.
3. Jim Steynes
Melbourne football legend. In his forties. Undergoes regular surgery for brain tumours. Another one I certainly don't want to see go but you have to wonder how much dicking around in ones brain one can take.
4. Kirk Douglas
A few of you might be asking, "Is he still alive?" Well he is. A testement to the restorative powers of plastic surgury and what happens when you replace your blood with formaldyahyde. I give his son a few more years, but Spartacus must be due to fall off the chariot soon.
5. Lindsay Lohan
My token under 30's name, especially now that Amy Winehouse is no longer with us. She's been a train wreck waiting to happen. I just wonder how bit the splat will be when she goes - then again, we've watch Britney Spears reform. Kate Moss's Ex Pete Doherty was another possible inclusion, but he's been keeping his name out of the press for an age now - possibly means he's cleaned up his act.
6. Dame Elisabeth Murdoch
Mother of Rupert (possibly worth inclusion just for this fact) but as a philanthropist and patron of the arts she's done wonders. She's also over a hundred. Her time can't be that extensive.
7. Zsa Zsa Gabor
Another one being help alive with a foot pump, formaldehyde and a mad husband. Probably should have gone years ago. She's not too far off a hundred - if this would to happen it might be considered a small mercy.
8. Gough Whitlam
Last time I saw him in the public arena, Gough was looking pretty frail. He's my hero - I don't want to see the old bugger go.
9. Ariel Sharon
Ex-Prime Minister of Israel - this poor guy has been on life support in a Tel Aviv hospital for a number of years. If he was my parent I think I'd have asked to let him go years ago, poor love. (My parents have left strict instructions on this thing anyway - no heroic measures if there is no quality of life to be had)
10. Nancy Reagan
She's in her 90s - can't be too long now before she stops saying 'No".
11. Keith Richards
A bit of a surprise inclusion just for good measure, but anybody who's lived that sort of life for so long - well something's going to happen sometime. Besides, the lines on his face are about to go through the back of his head - there isn't enough spakfilla around to keep them plump.
Who would be on your list?