Where Aren't They Now? 11 Overlooked Deaths of 2014 (Pt. 1)
It was an awful year for great talents dying before their time, from Phillip Seymour Hoffman to Robin Williams. But in between those headline-grabbers, we lost other great and fascinating people who you knew when they were famous, but whose deaths probably didn't trend on Twitter for more than a few hours. So, every year at this time, Cracked likes to stop and memorialize the less famous deaths that probably flew under your radar:
Note: Due to the sheer number of the dead this year, we have split this list into two parts. The scythe of the Reaper is never still, friends.
January 16: That Japanese Soldier Who Refused to Stop Fighting WWII
Hiroo Onoda, who if nothing else, was no quitter.
Onoda was an intelligence officer in the Imperial Japanese Army in WWII. In 1944, he was sent to Lubang Island in The Philippines with orders to hamper all enemy attacks and, above all, not to surrender. Onoda took that order very, very seriously. Dude didn't surrender until 1974.
"I think I've made my point."
Yes, your math is correct -- he spent 30 goddamned years running around in the jungle killing locals like the freaking Predator, decades after the war was over. When the Japanese government found out about Onoda's overtime, they tracked down his original commanding officer and sent him to officially relieve Onoda of his duty. When he was found, Onoda's gun still worked, and he still had 500 rounds of ammo, some hand grenades, and the dagger his mother had given him to kill himself with if he was captured (ah, this guy's attitude makes a whole lot more sense now).
Upon his return to Japan, he refused his back pay and refused to run for local government, despite his newfound fame. Instead he quietly became a farmer, and we're guessing no one ever, ever dared cross him.
January 29: The Internet's Other Grumpy Cat
Colonel Meow (aka "the Colonel," "the angriest cat in the world," "a prodigious Scotch drinker") holds the 2014 Guinness world record for longest fur on a cat.
How long was his fur, you ask? Nine inches, pal. However, he was more well-known in the land of the magical Interwebs for his famous "evil scowl."
We weren't kidding about that scotch thing, by the way.
Unfortunately, in order to achieve a scowl so evil, The Colonel had a heart full of hatred -- a heart that caused him serious medical problems and ultimately, his death ... all before he could even get his own movie deal. But don't worry, the Colonel will live on forever, in meme form:
"He's just saying what we're all thinking." --Cats
February 3: A Female Porn Pioneer
Gloria Leonard, porn star and publisher.
A divorced single mother who had worked as a publicist and a broker on Wall Street, Gloria Leonard started in porn and also directed several of her own films. If you don't appreciate what kind of multitasking skill that takes, the next time you're watching porn, try to simultaneously send an email confirming a work meeting. Impressed and/or fired now? Also you misspelled bukkake.
And now your next annual review will grade your money shot as "needs improvement."
Then in 1977, she was hired as publisher of men's magazine High Society, a job she held for over a decade while still acting in and directing porn. And then Leonard pioneered one of the first phone sex lines in 1983 -- every day, she got 500,000 to 700,000 callers to pay to listen to dirty recorded messages on answering machines.
Why the hell are we just now hearing about this woman?!? She should have a statue somewhere. We guess she didn't take a particularly feminist path to the top, but as she put it, "The whole point of the women's movement is for women to choose whatever they want to do. Why should my choice be considered any less or more valid than your choice?"
"And did I mention my method has way more boobs and dicks?"
February 17th, June 24th: Two Different Members of Devo
Bob Casale & Alan Myers.
2014 was the year Death got himself a taste for new wave and iconic headwear (hey, no obituary of anyone from Devo is complete without a reference to those goddamned hats).
Alan Myers, known as "the Human Metronome," had long quit Devo, in a tale as old as the '80s themselves. The band were all, "How cool are drum machines?" and the human drummer they had was all, "Well, fuck me then, right?"
Bob Casale continued with Devo and worked in movies and TV, doing the music for Devo-ish projects like Happy Gilmore, Rugrats, and The Royal Tenenbaums. Myers, meanwhile, still dabbled in music post-Devo, working with his wife and daughter on some projects, but he mostly worked as an electrical contractor in LA. He probably had people asking him, "Hey, where's your hat?" right up until the day he died.
February 27: A Prolific Star Wars Writer (You've Never Heard of)
Aaron Allston, game designer and author of Star Wars storylines J.J. Abrams will probably disregard.
Heart failure, while at a convention.
While most of the world's Star Wars lovers eagerly await a new film to find out what happened after Return of the Jedi, millions of hardcore fans are like, "Uh, we already know what happened -- it's a little thing called the expanded universe, guys." They're referring to the huge piles of Star Wars novels that were written by people like Aaron Allston. He alone cranked out 13 novels to quell the fans' need for non-canonical fixes of the Space Opera That Won't Die.
"And for Episode 28, the Death Star comes back again, I guess."
Allston was also a role-playing game designer, editor of Space Gamer magazine, and co-designed the games "Justice, Inc" and "The Savage Empire." Oh, and he was an honorary member of the 501st Legion, but we're too scared of the Rule 34 implications to Google the details on that.
March 23rd: The Internet's Grandpa
Peter Oakley, geriatric YouTube sensation.
The very-much-aged Mr. Oakley (AKA "geriatric1927") was the most-subscribed user on YouTube back in 2006 when everyone completely lost their shit at the very concept of an OLD MAN talking ON THE INTERNET. His oddly endearing first video, in which virtually nothing occurs, racked up 3 million views (it's still worth it, just for the Spinal Tap-esque moment at the start where he waits for his theme music to kick in):
Mr. Oakley's subsequent autobiographical videos were about as interesting as listening to your grumpy grandpa talk in real life (he was a mechanic in WWII! He likes motorbikes! He is a pensioner and lives alone!), which makes us think that a whole lot of those YouTubers were subscribing ironically. It doesn't matter, of course -- he loved his brief window of fame, and the guy kept making videos right up to the end. His last video, just weeks before his death, ended with, "In conclusion I would say my possibly final goodbye. So, goodbye."
Oh, and he was in a rock band that made it onto the UK charts ... when he was 79. If you want a role model for your golden years, there you go.
Related: Well, It's March Again
March 24th: A Dungeon Master With a Mysterious Life
David Trampier, cult artist and probable weirdo.
Cancer, age 59.
David Trampier had it all. Well, all you need to be a geek demigod, anyway. He was an artist who created many iconic works for the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons rulebooks back in the '70s, including the cover of the original Players Handbook ...
"I really wanted to make something that players could appreciate when the book was flung at their head out of frustration."
... and a shit-ton of interior art for the Monster Manual and the Dungeon Master's Guide. He also created "Wormy," a comic strip that ran in Dragon magazine for 10 years. Yessir, Trampier's life was looking sweet. Then, at the height of his fame in 1988, Trampier just up and disappeared.
No one, including his own family, knew where he was. His royalty checks were returned, unopened. Everyone thought he was dead.
Flash-forward to 2002: Trampier is rediscovered accidentally, when his name and photo appeared in a local paper on an unrelated matter, driving a taxi in Carbondale, Illinois. He was immediately swamped with offers to start drawing wizards in chainmail bikinis again, but refused and was generally super-grumpy.
"And get your level 12 paladins off my goddamn lawn!"
Flash-forward again to 2013 -- a bad year for Trampier. He had a stroke, lost his job, and got cancer. He needed money bad, and sold some of his old original paintings. He agreed to appear at a gaming convention, but died a couple of weeks before it started. And now there's a new star in geek heaven: David Trampier, sitting at the right hand of Gary Gygax, rolling a natural 20.
March 28th: The Writer Behind Campy 1960s Batman
Lorenzo Semple Jr., bat-writer.
Lorenzo Semple Jr. was a screenwriter back in the '60s when he was asked to write a pilot episode for something called Batman. This was back when Batman wore powder-blue spandex and hung out with his "teenage ward" a lot. The campy, screwball show was a smash-hit, and Semple wrote a bunch of episodes and served as "Executive Story Editor." If you've ever seen the show, you'll know that "Executive Story Editor" means, "Guy Who Comes Up With Ridiculous Villains, All of Whom Own Very Slow Conveyor Belts."
"You think those Robin puns just wrote themselves?"
Oh, and Semple also wrote the 1976 version of King Kong, Flash Gordon, and the James Bond film Never Say Never Again.
But you can see the effects of his Batman legacy to this day: If they had never made the wacky, colorful version of the dark knight back in the '60s, there'd have been no need for the darker Tim Burton reboot or the even darker Chris Nolan films. Maybe if the guy had lived another decade, he'd have seen the world cycle back around to wacky Batman again. You know it's coming.
April 8: The Ultimate Warrior
1980s wrestling superstar.
Heart attack at age 54, as seems to be typical of men in his line of work.
Pro wrestlers do not live long -- throw in a tape from an old WrestleMania from the early '90s, and there's a good bet at least a third of those dudes are no longer alive, if not more.
"Sorry, but it says very clearly in your policy that we do not cover chair shots to the head."
The Ultimate Warrior would spend his later years as a motivational public speaker, having retired from body slamming other greased-up men back in 1998. He joined the hard right-wing speaking circuit and spent his final years denouncing the gay agenda. But what else would you expect from someone who spent his life in what is scientifically the least gay line of work possible?
All the oiled-up, heterosexual frottage you can handle.
May 12th: The Father of Alien
H.R. Giger, famed goth artist and creator of one of the most iconic fictional monsters of all time.
We know, we know -- some of you are saying, "Overlooked death? I freaking took the day off work the day H.R. Giger died! The man was a god!" But let's face it -- the man who designed the alien from the movie Alien (also seen in Aliens, Alien 3, Alien vs. Predator and that other one with Winona Ryder that will remain nameless) was never as famous as the actors who shared the screen with his monster. This is despite the fact that the franchise is still chuggling along 35 years later with his iconic xenomorphs still front and center while the rest of the cast is swapped out for younger models.
Go ahead, you tell her that you're looking for someone "a bit younger."
Not that this is the only famous creation to his name -- Giger also designed the supercool Batmobile from Batman Forever, a bunch of stuff from Prometheus, and according to IMDb, worked on a film called Killer Condom. We'll get back to you on that one.
And, let's not forget his awesome album cover art for Celtic Frost, Carcass, Danzig and Dead Kennedys (which led to the famed Dead Kennedys obscenity trial):
Giger was also commissioned by Jonathan Davis (from preposterous nu-metal band Korn) to design an "erotic" microphone stand. But that's a whole other story.
Lisa-Skye is Australia's favourite Sparklepuppy comedian. Find more of her on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. Paul Rasche does Twitter things sometimes and his novel Smudgy In Monsterland is ju-uuu-st about to be published, honest.
For more celebrity facts you probably never knew, check out 11 Celebrities Who Were Secretly Total Badasses. And then check out The Off-Screen Deaths of 26 Famous Fictional Characters.
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