#8. May 13: A Bank Robber Too Badass to Be Real (Almost)
Mondadori Portfolio UIG / Rex via The Telegraph
Luciano Lutring, an Italian criminal who mistook real life for a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Wouldn't you like to know.
He was one of those flamboyant criminals that just don't exist in real life; his hobbies included writing and painting but his day job was committing large-scale robberies. Oh, and Lutring was also known as "the submachine gun soloist" (il solista del mitra), since he KEPT HIS GUN IN A VIOLIN CASE. IT'S THAT GUY. THAT WAS A REAL THING NOT JUST A MOVIE THING.
Luciano Lutring/Facebook via TG-COM 24
He kept his violin tucked in his waistband.
Back in the 1960s, Lutring carried out hundreds of robberies in France and Italy, stealing millions from banks, jewelry stores, and other places that have served as locations in heist movies (again, for Lutring those films were indistinguishable from his day-to-day life). At one point he served 12 years in prison in France, where he began to write and paint.
He also had a strange number of friends in high places; he was pen pals with Sandro Pertini, Italian President of the Chamber of Deputies, and his is the only recorded case in history of being pardoned by two presidents, Georges Pompidou of France and Giovanni Leone of Italy. Oh, he's also had two movies based on his life.
Olycom via Il Giorno
"I get a pardon, they make a movie. I get a pardon, they make a movie."
But, hey kids, crime doesn't pay. Remember the end of (SPOILER ALERT) Breaking Bad.
#7. June 24: Spy, Expert Lie Detector, Loon
Discovery Science via Vimeo
Cleve Backster, CIA polygraph expert.
Old age (89).
It was all going so well for Backster. He was the go-to Lie-Detector Guy, America's primary polygraph expert, and an interrogation specialist for the CIA. But things began getting a bit strange in 1966, when Backster started attaching polygraph electrodes to plants. He claimed that plants could feel pain and had telepathic powers, which if true would be awful. In just, so many ways.
"Kill ... me ..."
But, unsurprisingly, these findings were rejected by the scientific community and Backster became a laughingstock among his peers. You do realize this is exactly how mad-scientist-supervillains get started, right?
#6. July 2: The Inventor of the Computer Mouse
Chris O. via The Examiner
Doug Engelbart, engineer who created at least one thing you're probably touching right now.
Kidney failure, at home, peacefully in his sleep. It's unconfirmed whether anyone tried to revive him by jiggling him before pressing any key.
Beside creating that thing that we all use every single goddamn day (or trackpad -- yes, yes, you're very modern) Engelbart's role in the personal-computing revolution was huge: His work contributed to technologies like hypertext, networked computers, and the graphical user interface.
Spike Mafford/Photodisc/Getty Images
Naturally, he's rather vilified among human sperm.
But it was 1964 when Engelbart was trying to find a better way to interact with his computer monitor, foreseeing a future when such a thing would be crucial for downloading pornography. He had been a radar operator in the Navy during World War II and used their setup as a starting point (the radar featured a stylus to move a cursor around the screen). So he went to work -- his original mouse prototype was made of wood and named "X-Y Position Indicator for a Display System."
Unofficially, Engelbart and his cronies called it a "mouse" because its cord looked like a tail or something. He was quoted as saying, "We thought that when it had escaped out to the world it would have a more dignified name ... but it didn't." Well, sir, that's because your original name sucked.
#5. July 20: The Creator of the Supermodel
John Casablancas via Models.com
John Casablancas, modeling agent and Julian Casablancas' dad.
Cancer, age 70.
John Casablancas founded the Elite Model Management agency in Paris in 1972 and made the careers of some models you might have heard of: Cindy Crawford, Naomi Campbell, Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer, Andie MacDowell, Iman, Heidi Klum, and Gisele Bundchen. He was also a massive playboy. Casablancas had a public affair with Stephanie Seymour in 1983, but hold your applause until you realize she was only 15 at the time (he was 41). He wound up getting divorced over it (note that his wife at the time, Jeanette Christjansen, was a former model and had won Miss Denmark).
He had married Christjansen in 1978, and the couple gave birth to Julian, as in Julian-from-The-Strokes. After the affair with the 15-year-old, he married his fourth wife, 17-year-old Aline Wermelinger, whom he'd met when she participated in Elite's Look of the Year contest.
"I had the understanding of a guy who loved beautiful women, and above all who liked the sensuality of it all," Casablancas said in a 2010 video interview with the blog Modelinia, possibly while stroking a pre-oiled mustache. "All of the other agents were either women or gay guys. They had their own approach, which in certain instances was probably superior to mine, but I had something I thought was unique. I looked at my models as women." Meaning he tended to bang most of them.
Studio Fernanda Calfat/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
A truly unique perspective among heterosexual men regarding beautiful women.
He was largely responsible for glamorizing the business and turning models into celebrities and idols. "One of my biggest regrets is that I created the supermodel," he said in 2000. "They can be impossible. Elite single-handedly brought modeling rates to a peak no one could have imagined, but the girls never thanked me for it. I've had enough."
Because attending wildly lavish parties, picking and choosing which of the world's most beautiful women to marry/bang, and being thrown millions of dollars while doing it? Yeah, that'd get tedious if you're not thrown an "Atta boy!" every so often. Poor guy.
#4. July 22: A Guy You've Seen in Probably a Dozen Different Crime Movies
Dennis Farina, real-life policeman turned movie policeman/gangster.
A pulmonary embolism, age 69.
Farina was a bona fide Chicago police officer when Michael Mann hired him as a police consultant -- you know, to tell all the pussy actors how cops get shit done in the real world. No doubt Farina saw how much easier and more lucrative life could be in show business, and so he became a full-time actor, mostly playing cops and/or gangsters.
Trish Lease/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The "not getting shot at" part was nice, too.
If that sounds dismissive, we don't mean it to be. We mean literally Farina's most famous roles were for Law & Order (cop), Manhunter (cop), Midnight Run (gangster), Get Shorty (gangster), Striking Distance (cop), Snatch (gangster), Out of Sight (gangster), and Luck (gangster). And give the guy credit: He was equally plausible in every role.
#3. Aug. 15: Laurie From That '70s Show
Actress Lisa Robin Kelly, who played Laurie, the promiscuous older sister of Topher Grace's character on That '70s Show.
Died in rehab, specific cause still under investigation, Age 43.
Let's just say that the intervening years after That '70s Show were hard on Kelly:
Iredell County Detention Center
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department
How would you react if the most successful cast member ended up being Ashton Kutcher?
There were drunk-driving charges in 2010, domestic violence charges in 2012 (that is, Lisa was charged with assaulting her ex-boyfriend), more assault charges later that year (this time versus her 61-year-old husband), and more drunk-driving charges in June of 2013. She finally checked herself into rehab in August, which is great, but then passed away a few days later for reasons that aren't totally clear.
In an effort to try to keep things lighthearted in the wake of what was a short and tumultuous life, we're going to look at her list of character names on IMDb and see if we can spot any similarities. In the course of her 18 years of acting, she played characters named Debbie, Sherrie, Brandi, Jenny, Ashley, Patty, Kristy, Terri, Debbee, Angie, Molly, Daisy, and Laurie.
#2. Sept. 12: The Man Who Changed What Entertainment Sounds Like
Ray Dolby via The Mirror
Ray Dolby, American audio pioneer and inventor of surround sound.
Alzheimer's and acute leukemia, age 80.
Everyone has heard the word "Dolby" and knows it has something to do with sound systems and movie audio, but how many of you even knew if that was a guy's name, or just the technical term for the speakers or something? Well, it was a man: Specifically, it was a humble inventor and audio engineer named Ray Dolby who started with a really simple invention in 1965 -- a device to remove the hiss from audiotape recordings -- that wound up ushering in an era where audio quality in movies actually matters. The next time you blast your surround-sound system at home, or feel the floor shake in a movie theater, thank Dolby.
Or hear that persistent ringing in your ears. That's Dolby too.
After his noise-reduction tech became an industry standard, Dolby started working with Hollywood, and by the 1970s, blockbusters were being blasted from Dolby equipment. The sounds of Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were thundered from crystal-clear Dolby stereo systems (Dolby would go on to win an Oscar for his work), and 1978's Superman featured early surround sound, splitting the signal into multiple channels to play around the audience and give the illusion they were in the middle of the action. There's a good chance many of you reading this have never gone to see a movie that wasn't in surround sound.
From that point on, no cinema was complete without a sound system that would hammer the audience from all sides with every explosion and gunshot. This is presumably also why when you play a DVD or Blu-ray at home, you have to crank up the sound to hear the dialogue and turn it down again when the explosions start.
Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images
And brace yourself when the sound-system promo plays.
Dolby would have gone down as the most influential inventor to pass away in 2013, if not for ...
#1. Dec. 3: The Man Who Gave Us the Doritos Locos Taco
Team Todd via NPR
Todd Mills, the random guy who created the most sweeping fast-food phenomenon in a generation.
Brain cancer, age 41.
Yes, the guy who came up with the idea of a taco shell made out of Doritos -- an item that Taco Bell would sell more than 500 million of in one year and that would make more than a billion dollars for the company -- wasn't even an employee. He wasn't a cook, or even one of the scientists in the lab where Taco Bell grows its "beef."
Nope, he was just a guy in Arkansas who used to make taco dishes out of Doritos and couldn't figure out why restaurants weren't doing it. In 2009, he started a Facebook page begging Taco Bell to adopt the idea. He'd probably forgotten all about it when, three years later, the company called and offered to fly him out to their test kitchen, which hopefully is not the den of unimaginable horror we're picturing.
They told him they were launching his idea, and when the product exploded (utterly changing the fortunes of the chain in the process -- they wound up hiring 15,000 new employees to keep up with demand), Mills didn't ask for a penny. He came down with cancer shortly after, and his family set up a website to take donations to cover his medical expenses (they're still taking donations, by the way). When the CEO of Taco Bell heard about their plight, he happily donated ... a thousand dollars. Which is nice, we suppose, but by our count his company makes that amount in Doritos Locos Tacos sales every three minutes.
Taco shells made from Doritos movement / Facebook via LA Times
To be fair, that doesn't include the required cost of upgrading the nation's sewage systems.
But that's the point: There was no lawsuit or demand for credit. Mills wasn't that type of guy. He just wanted a goddamned taco shell made of Doritos, and he wouldn't stop until he got it. Most of us can only hope to have that kind of impact.
Paul Rasche is the author of the darkly bizarre Smudgy in Monsterland.
Related Reading: Did you know Aerosmith nearly died in the same plane that killed Lynyrd Skynyrd? That could've changed everything. For a look at some musicians who predicted their OWN deaths, click here. Bummed out? Cheer up and reminisce about the best celebrity movie deaths in film history.
As 2013 draws to a close, be sure to check out Cracked's year in review because, well, we know you don't remember it half as well as you think.
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