2004 – Dimebag Darell is shot and killed

Darrell Lance Abbott – better known to fans as “Dimebag Darrell” – was born on August 20, 1966. He was not yet thirty years old when he was shot dead onstage at the Alarosa in Columbus, Ohio on December 8, 2004. At the time, he was playing with Damageplan, although he was best known for his work with Pantera (who had recently broken up).

The shooter was Nathan Gale. He shot Dimebag six times, killing him instantly. He then fired another nine shots, killing four other people and wounding seven more. Gale was shot dead by police at the scene.

Dimebag was buried in a Kiss Kasket donated by Gene Simmons, and buried with him was Eddie Van Halen’s guitar Bumblebee, also donated.

Referenced in:
Dimebag — Watcha
Aesthetics of Hate — Machine Head
Dimebag — Cross Canadian Ragweed
The Android of Notre Dame — Buckethead
Tribute to Dimebag — Michael Angelo Batio

2005 – Chris LeDoux dies

Chris LeDoux was best known for his career in country music, which included 36 albums worth of material, a large portion of which he released himself. A good buddy of Garth Brooks, LeDoux was also a bronze sculptor and a one-time world bareback rodeo riding champion – in fact, his musical career began as a means of paying the bills while touring the rodeo circuit, and his first album was sold exclusively from his trailer.

But his star rose over the years, peaking with a duet with Brooks entitled “Whatcha Gonna Do with a Cowboy?” which reached #7 on the US Country Music charts. However, in 2000, LeDoux’s doctor advised him that he had developed primary sclerosing cholangitis. This condition necessitated a liver transplant later that year (Brooks volunteered his, but was unfortunately incompatible). LeDoux recorded two more albums after the transplant, but the disease and its treatment took a toll on him. He died of complications arising from them on March 9, 2005.

Referenced in:
Good Ride Cowboy — Garth Brooks

2005 – Johnnie Cochran dies

Cochran was perhaps the most famous lawyer of the 1990s, primarily for his defence of O.J. Simpson in Simpson’s murder trial. Cochran’s refrain of “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” (the it in question was a glove that was a key piece of evidence for the prosecution) eventually swayed the jury, and Simpson’s acquittal was forthcoming.

However, despite Cochran’s habit of defending rich celebrities, he also prided himself on representing those whose circumstances were less happy. Even before his defence of Simpson, Cochran had a reputation for taking on cases of police brutality, and his 2001 civil suit representing Abner Louima (who was sodomised with a toilet plunger by members of the NYPD while under arrest) resulted in a settlement of US $8.75 million being paid to Louima, a record that still stands more than a decade later, and years after Cochran’s death from a brain tumour.

Referenced in:

Spooky Mormon Hell Dream — “The Book of Mormon” original Broadway cast

2005 – Frank Gorshin dies

Best known for his many appearances as ‘The Riddler’ on the Batman TV show, Gorshin was an actor who rarely got lead roles, but frequently stole the show anyway. Indeed, his performance on Batman resulted in an Emmy nomination, the only one that series received for acting. He was also nominated for his appearance as Bele on Star Trek’s original series.

Gorshin never stopped acting, getting good reviews for a supporting role in 12 Monkeys in particular, and his last acting role was as himself in an episode of CSI which aired, dedicated to him, two days after his death. He was 72 years old, a victim of lung cancer. No one writes songs about him, but they do write them about the Riddler, so I’m bending the rules to pay tribute to one of my all time favourite actors:

Referenced in:
The Riddler – Nightwish
The Riddler – Method Man
The Riddle – Nik Kershaw

2006 – Pluto is demoted from planetary status

Originally discovered in 1930, Pluto was at that time classed as a planet, and named for the Roman god of the Underworld. However, as the years went by, evidence mounted that it was not truly a major planet. Although it did have moons of its own, it also had an eccentric orbit (which crosses that of Neptune, the next furthest out planet) and a lower mass than any other planet.

The discovery that Pluto was just one of a number of bodies in the Kuiper Belt, many of them with comparable size and mass, also weakened the arguments for considering it a planet. Finally, a new definition of what a planet issued by the International Astronomical Union on August 24, 2006, excluded Pluto. On September 13, Pluto was named a Dwarf Planet, alongside Ceres, Haumea, Makemake, and Eris – all of which, other than Ceres, are also Kuiper Belt objects.

Referenced in:

7 8 9 — Bare Naked Ladies

2007 — Evel Knievel dies

One of the greatest – and definitely one of the nest known – daredevils of all time, Evel Knievel (born Robert Craig Knievel, but far better known by his stage name), was most famous for his motorcycle jumps – he attempted more than 30 between 1965 and 1980, the peak of his career. A staunch patriot, his standard costume was white leathers with red, white and blue trim in a stars and stripes motif. But it the was man himself who became the icon.

Knievel was 69 years old and long since retired at the time of his death. He had broken 35 bones in the course of his career (earning the Guinness Book of Records citation for most bones broken in a lifetime), and endured numerous surgeries. But his death came as a result of diabetes and pulmonary fibrosis, albeit complicated and worsened by the strain he had placed on his body over the years.

Referenced in:
The Skycycle Blues — B. Dolan

2008 — Heath Ledger dies

Heath Ledger was riding high as 2007 ended. The gossip about his performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” was that it was nothing short of a revelation, and even though the film was still months away from release, people were openly speculating about Ledger’s chances of winning an Oscar for the role.

Ledger himself was working on his next film, “The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus”, directed by Terry Gilliam, but he was having trouble sleeping. And he was taking pills to deal with his insomnia – pills that, on the night of January 21, he seems to have taken for too many of them. Ledger was found dead in his room early the following morning By his housekeeper and his masseuse.

He was later awarded the 2008 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, posthumously (only the second actor ever to win in that way).

Referenced in:
Vlad the Impaler — Kasabian

2009 – Cartoon Network starts showing non-cartoon programming

I wouldn’t ordinarily include advertising here, but some things are just too cool to miss. And Andrew W.K. is definitely one of those. But rather than try to summarise, it’s simpler just to show you:

Referenced in:

Hearing What I Said — Andrew W.K.

2009 – Harry Patch, the last veteran of the Trenches of World War One, dies

At the time of Harry Patch’s death, he was aged 111 years and 38 days. The last surviving World War One veteran to have fought in the trenches of the Western Front, he was nicknamed “the Last Fighting Tommy.”. His great age made Patch the third-oldest man in the world, the oldest man in Europe and the 69th oldest man in history (at least, history since reliable records were kept).

In his later years, Harry Patch was deeply cynical about his experience of war, and the politicians who start but never fight in these wars. Patch was a passionate opponent of war for most of his life, and did not hate his former enemies; rather, he pitied enemy and ally alike. As he put it:
Irrespective of the uniforms we wore, we were all victims.

Referenced in:

Harry Patch (In Memory Of) — Radiohead

March 25, 1990 — The Happy Land nightclub in New York is torched

Happy Land nightclub had been ordered closed for building code violations during November 1988, including the lack of fire exits, alarms or sprinkler system. These faults were never remedied, and fire exits were later found to have been deliberately blocked (to prevent people entering without paying).

The evening of the fire, Julio González had argued with his former girlfriend, Lydia Feliciano, a coat check girl at the club, urging her to quit. She told him to leave, and when he refused, she called the bouncer. González tried to fight back into the club but was ejected by the bouncer. He was heard to scream drunken threats in the process. Later that night, González returned to the establishment with a container of gasoline which he spread on the staircase that was the only access into the club.

In the resulting fire, 87 people lost their lives. González was convicted of 87 murders and 87 charges of arson, and sentenced to 25 years to life on every charge (a total of 4350 years), although he will be eligible for parole in March 2015 (the sentences for multiple murders are served concurrently under New York state law).