Poor Jan Michael Vincent. Yesterday a rumor swirled on the web that he had suddenly passed away. As it turned out, Vincent was more surprised than anyone that he actually still is, indeed, very much alive and well.
It’s not the first time it’s happened to him either. The rumor mill had him moving on once before, in 2003. Since then it’s been confirmed that it was merely his acting career that had taken a dive.
False celebrity death reports are nothing new to mass media. Newspapers, radio, television – all have had their share of snafus that lead to some famous person reading, hearing or seeing their own obituary. When it happened to James Thurber in the 1930s he famously called the newspaper in question and castigated the poor overnight Editor. After a moment the harried fellow asked, “Where are you calling from?”
But nothing must be more unnerving than to fire up the laptop and realize the whole world thinks you’re dead. That kind of news travels through cyberspace at the speed of light. Much faster than any other form of reporting before.
Here are a few more notable examples of when the interwebs got it wrong.
Oprah Winfrey (2009) Allegedly Oprah was found dead in her apartment. A local Chicago group later admitted to spreading the rumor to protest the dumbing down of television. It didn’t work.
Miley Cyrus (2008) Supposedly, Cyrus was in an automobile accident rushing to the set of Hannah Montana. But she arrived alive and well. It was later found that the car crash rumor was the result of an audio engineer’s off the record remarks about the duet with John Travolta being recorded that day.
Paris Hilton (2007) Hilton was reportedly killed in jail serving time for a DUI. Instead, she was famously released the next day to a homecoming Nelson Mandela would have been proud of. Too bad she didn’t serve the full sentence. I might have saved 10 bucks on “Hottie and the Nottie.”
Will Ferrell: (2006) Ferrell purportedly crashed and burned in a para-gliding accident. In reality, the false report got mixed up with a stunt being filmed for a good Andy Samberg movie. Only the footage was lost.
John Goodman (2005) Goodman allegedly succumbed to a heart attack after Thanksgiving dinner. It was actually the sound of Lorne Michaels choking on the phone when he was forced to call Goodman, asking ask if he could be an emergency replacement host on SNL.