And in the end…
So 2017 has drawn to a close and we reach the end of an era in more ways than one. After eight years as host, I have stepped aside to make way for a new man with a familiar team name. More on that later.
Just as last year, the Grim Reaper gave up tryin’ after Peter Carrie (which inspired a rather apt valedictory pun I think!) and produced no more scoring stiffs, with film actress Peggy Cummins and Coronation Street’s Doreen Keogh failing to get the requisite UK obit in time…
GOLDEN SLUMBERS CARRYS THE WEIGHT OF VICTORY
So in 2017 we welcome a new champion, the 14th in the history of the DDP and the first that wasn’t The Living End or David Quantick’s Showbiz Pals since 2010.
Golden Slumbers took the lead early in February after a blitz of hits and weathered the onslaught from the leading contenders with a steady trickle of hits thereafter. The death of King Michael of Romania on December 5th proved decisive as otherwise it would have led to a tie-break situation with 4-time and defending champion DSQSP. It’s the 3rd time in 5 years that the winning hit has occurred in the final month of the competition, testament to the ongoing quality of death predictions we are having. And another sign of quality is the new points record of 168 which Golden Slumbers bagged, albeit helped by the new Drop 40 points bonus. 16 hits (joint 2nd best of all-time) isn’t to be sniffed at either. In all it was a fine victory.
Still Life almost made history as the youngest ever winner but had to settle for runner-up, also with 16 hits but scoring 164 points. The ever-consistent Thomas Jefferson Survives grabs a second podium finish in three years with 15 hits and 162 points. As for the defending champion, he had to settle for 4th…
In the Theme Team League, the controversial Shameless won again with an even better performance. Pity poor Star Wars theme team Wretched Hive Of Scum and Villainy who finished bottom of both the Theme Team League and the overall competition. So the force was not with them on this occasion!
HITS AND MISSES
2017 pretty much continued where the sensational 2016 left off although the figures and the obits will prove that 2017 didn’t quite reach the heights (or depths depending on your point of view) of the previous year. The total number of hits was 254, 2nd best of all time, with the Drop 40 bonus boosting the points of most teams, with 35 reaching three figures.
After so many great people died in 2016, it’s comforting to know that Death is indeed the great leveller and 2017 saw a few “villains” bite the dust, including murderers Ian Brady and Charles Manson as well as controversial media irritants Roger Ailes, Darcus Howe and Max Clifford, dictator Manuel Noriega and arch knee-smasher cum peace posturing politician Martin McGuinness. Can’t say any of those will be missed.
Still, the Grim Reaper didn’t skimp when it came to family favourites either, topped off with the death of entertainer Bruce Forsyth. Gone were kids TV greats Brian Cant, John Noakes and Keith Chegwin as well as British sitcom stars Peter Sallis, Hywel Bennett, Keith Barron, Rodney Bewes and Gorden Kaye – that’s five 1970s/80s sitcom leads for a kick off as well as character actors Geoffrey Blaydon, Janet Freeman, Ann Beach and Roy Barraclough. USTV also suffered with the departures of Rose Marie, Adam West, Robert Guillame, Martin Landau, John Hillerman, Mary Tyler Moore and Monty Hall. Cinema passings included Roger Moore, John Hurt, Jerry Lewis, Harry Dean Stanton, Jeanne Moreau and Roy Dotrice. The music world lost 1950s icons Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Johnny Hallyday, AC/DC’s Malcolm Young, 70s stars Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman and David Cassidy and alternative picks Holger Czukay, Daisy Berkowitz and Gord Downie. Sporting picks included boxers Jake Lamotta and Errol Christie, Liverpool FC “Boot Room” stalwart Ronnie Moran, All Blacks legend Colin Meads and fellow egg-chaser Joost van der Westhuizen.
Misses included musician Al Jarreau, actors Tim Pigott-Smith and Moray Watson, ‘Doctor Who’ luminaries Deborah Watling, Victor Pemberton and Dudley Simpson. Film seems to be a blind spot in 2017 with film directors John G. Avidsen, George A. Romero and Jonathan Demme all not included as well as the man who reviewed all their films (probably), Barry Norman. Last but not least there was the former Watford, Aston Villa and England manager Graham Taylor, did we not like that!
And then the ones who completely evaded us, with music again prominent: Tom Petty, Jaki Liebzeit (Can), J. Geils of the J. Geils Band, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell as well as writer/actor Sam Shepard, tennis star Jana Novotna, footballer Ugo Ehiogu, actress/model Anita Pallenberg and actors John Heard, Stephen Furst and Bill Paxton (no, not Bill Pullman!).
INTRODUCING… SPADE COOLEY
So after 8 years, 331 updates, 1,738 announced deaths and fuck knows how many puns, my time as host is at an end. But the Derby Dead Pool is in good hands. First entering in 2010 under the unwieldy team name of Fuck A 40oz, You’ll Be Dumping Out Whole Kegs Of Brew, he became better known as David Quantick’s Showbiz Pals, named after the comedian/writer with whom Spade had an online spat with over this whole deadpooling business. He’s never looked back, winning an unprecedented four DDP titles in a row, often in dramatic late circumstances (see 2015) or with a late run of hits (2013,14). In short he’s been superb and after a brave stab at a 5th title, Spade Cooley (his DeathList forum name) will be a fine host, although he says he’s only doing it for the two years before coming back as a competitor. So make the most of his absence from competing, folks!
Before Spade Cooley kicks off his era, I’m going to allow myself one final indulgence and have a look back over my time as host. As with last year’s anniversary special, I have roped in Pan Breed (msc) to assess the best and worst of the eight competitions I have hosted, plus a little commentary from myself. Enjoy!
The Man in Black Years: From Worst to Best
#8 – 2012
This was The Living End’s third title (and last to date). It was achieved with fewer points, and a smaller gap, than in 2011, but he never felt truly threatened for the title at any point (despite an underdog run by a previously – and since – unknown team). This was a year high in quality deaths, but not so much quality competition. A score of 60 or higher would have secured a team a top twelve finish.
2012 was also the year of TMIB’s April Fool’s joke that the DDP was going to be pay per entry from now on. Some people believed it…
Day of the Year: 21st May. Al-Megrahi and Robin Gibb die within hours of each other, cashing in hundreds of jokers. One of those “you remember where you were” days in deadpooling…
Pivotal Hits: 22 points from Jock Hobbs and Jim Stynes were pivotal for The Living End in a year that his joker (Xolile Mngeni) lived.
Best Unique Pick: Bert Sugar.
Worst Pick: Lee Evans (still alive as of 2018 – TMIB). (Lee Evans died in May 2021…)
Quote of the Year: “I feel like Richard Dunn clambering into the ring to face Ali.” (‘Arry Kiri, 23rd March, going joint top with The Living End briefly)
Could Have Been a Contender: Philip Gould and “Smoking” Joe Frazier would have been heavy favourites, if not for their deaths in November 2011.
They Didn’t Get An Obit? Lina Haag fought Nazis so you’d have thought that’d give a qualifying obit. Apparently not.
[TMIB: Didn’t get off to the best of starts, with a Romanian celeb causing page generating problems which meant a delay in uploading the teams. Still, it was the first year of the blog-style updates on the front page as you see now, albeit with the eye-stinging white-on-black typeface…]
#7 – 2014
As the fireworks ran out on January 1st 2014, the contenders for the DDP lined up, each of them boasting that year’s “certs”. That is, the celebrities who are a lock to die due to terminal illness. As such, all of the contenders had the holy trio of Sam Simon, Valerie Harper and Wilko Johnson. All three of which promptly survived into 2015! Sam died in 2015, Valerie is still defying medical science (msc’s note – alas she lost her battle in 2019), and Wilko Johnson survived pancreatic cancer! Drunkasaskunk led the DDP from May, then Spade (David Quantick’s Showbiz Pals) took it back, then Drunkasaskunk took it back again, and then the lead changed 3 times in October, before Spade took a comfortable lead in early November, and even a late show from the boozy Glaswegian couldn’t stop DQSP’s second title…
This was also the year TMIB tried to hand the reins of power over, only to find everyone going “err, I think I left the gas on...”
(I admit I was worried this would happen in 2021!)
Pivotal Hits: Mike Burney’s bonus for dying on the 13th, and several unique hits powered Spade through.
Best Unique Pick: Yosra El-Essawy being unique was just bad research on the part of everyone else.
Worst Pick: Wilko Johnson (for happy reasons though!).
Could Have Been a Contender: Ray Price (more on him later), Phil Chevron, Araucaria…
They Didn’t Get An Obit? Ronnie Masterson!
[TMIB: In contrast to 2012, the start was a breeze (8th January), although DDP fans were having to get used to the phrase “Details to Follow”, with an at times overwhelming number of new celebs bios and pictures to find…]
(msc, 2021 – I tried to get rid of the new celeb pictures to save time, but DDP fans love them and track them down themselves. No point in being Scrooge!)
#6 – 2010
2010’s Derby Dead Pool was a sedate affair with a low number of hits by modern standards. You have to feel for The Man in Black, casually wondering if they’d all be like this… Then, after a deadline extension, some team tried stealing all of They’re Dead Y’Know’s (TMIB’s team – 6th in 2006 don’t you know!) unique picks. Naughty, naughty. The very first death of the TMIB era was multiple nuclear bomb explosion survivor Tsutomu Yamaguchi. I wonder who the last one will be? (we know now, it was a Chelsea pensioner!) The lead changed several times. In the end, deadpooling’s own James Bond, the Octopus of Odstock, won the title, a year after standing down as DDP host. He took the lead in August with the death of cyclist Laurent Fignon, his first DDP lead since April 2005! Malcolm Allison threatened to make it tight, but the death of Norman Wisdom days later was a title-winning hit for the former host. “Crumbs, I may actually win it” said our winner.
Pivotal Hits: Dr Willie Stanton, Sir Norman Wisdom.
Best Unique Pick: Chef Rose Gray and novelist Paul Quarrington (an example of a known illness only one DDPer took a qualifying obit punt on) were close, but it has to be academic Brian Flowers, 8 points for whom were pivotal to the champ.
Worst Pick: Those who picked John Hartson (brain, lung and liver cancer) cursed as he made a miraculous recovery and still works as a pundit today. (one of my favourite pics though! – TMIB)
They Didn’t Get An Obit? Reality TV star and famous for having cancer Jennifer Lyon died in January without an obit. Imagine the Mail or Mirror passing on that one nowadays…
[TMIB: As described above with the re-opening shenanigans, a somewhat naïve start, topped off by forgetting that fat pedo Cyril Smith was picked!]
#5 – 2011
Or, as it’s known in this house, the slaughter of the DDP innocents. The Living End went 47 points clear of 2nd place at one point. To call it a one horse race is to insult one horse races. A whelk had more chances in a supernova than the rest of the field did against The Living End, and to make it worse, he did it in plain sight. Every single one of his picks was widely known to be ill, but many were widely ignored by other deadpoolers. He also ignored the circus surrounding Michael Douglas, instead focusing on the lack of updates surrounding Brian Haw’s alternative cancer treatment. 34 points, more than the final winning margin, were picked up on pancreatic cancer sufferers, and half the team were dead by May 31st.
Pivotal Hits: By the time Charlie Louvin died (26th January), The Living End had a nearly unsurpassable lead already!
(msc, 2021 – This is a maths error from 2017 as Living End only took the lead a week later. It was clear even before hand that the team were looking ominously good though…)
Best Unique Pick: To look beyond The Living End for two seconds, Bishop Michael Evans was a good spot. As was the team in 7th that had Pete Postlethwaite, presumably one of the Postlethwaite family in disguise? (That team was better known as Godot’s Waiting List – one of the great unheralded DDP teams IMO – TMIB)
Worst Pick: 2011 was defined by top picks who got better: Michael Douglas, Al Megrahi, Aretha (Spade’s joker)…
Quote of the Year: “I think in future years we’ll talk about The Living End 2011 in the same way we talk about Brazil 1970 or AC Milan 1994 or the first year of Johnny Vaughan and Denise van Outen on the Big Breakfast.” (Spade Cooley, 8th May 2011)
They Didn’t Get An Obit? Maurice Goldhaber’s lack of a proper obit so surprised yours truly that I wrote to the obits editor of a major newspaper to complain. “Maurice Who?” was the reply.
[TMIB: Theme Team League and Drop 40 introduced in 2011…]
#4 – 2015
2015’s DDP was a tale of three contenders: the American with the explosive start; The Living End, determined to make a mark on the competition after a few off year by his own standards; and David Quantick’s Showbiz Pals. All three led, but the entire competition is remembered for the events on Christmas Day…
“You know“, said Spade Cooley (DQSP), “I’ve always found the Party Pooper bonus to be utterly ridiculous, but now that Sadhana has died on Christmas Day… Seven plus five plus eighty-six equals 98.” (The Living End had led for months on 96 points!)
“Unbelievable Jeff!” cried our host. “This is injury time stuff!“
Pivotal Hits: Sadhana. Who else? For some of us, that news on Christmas Day 2015 was the DDP equivalent of “where were you when JFK got shot?”!
Best Unique Pick: Anas al-Liby looked to be crucial for much of the year.
Worst Pick: Jacques Villeneuve Sr.
Could Have Been a Contender: Lynda Bellingham.
They Didn’t Get An Obit? Any pro-wrestling Hall of Famer dying without a British obit now is rare, but one such case was Nick Bockwinkel in November 2015.
#3 – 2017
The year in which hegemony was threatened. Golden Slumbers had always been a strong DDP side, so their run was perhaps not a huge surprise, but a well-chosen team burst into life in the first month of the year, and held the top spot in the DDP through most of the year.
Pivotal Hits: Technically, it was King Michael of Romania on December 5th. But in reality it was ex-tennis player Jérôme Golmard in July that proved decisive in Golden Slumbers clinching the title.
Best Unique Pick: Les Mutrie’s death meant The Living End has had a successful unique hit in every single Derby Dead Pool since 2008, a sensational run.
Worst Pick: Anna Holmlund.
Could Have Been Contenders: Carrie Fisher, Piers Sellers, AA Gill, Debbie Reynolds, Craig Sager, etc etc. (Well, this is 2016 we’re talking about…)
They Didn’t Get An Obit?: Ronald Hines was one of the finest British TV character actors of the 20th Century, Nicolaas Bloembergen a Nobel Prize winner, and Luis Bacalov an Oscar nominated composer. Yet none of them got a QO, but half of Team Shameless did!
[TMIB: Spade’s little cameo in November announced 21 hits, almost as much as 1996 & 1997 combined! A measure of the huge job ahead…]
#2 – 2016
The year in which every single contender for the DDP throne launched a nuclear bomb into the mix. And at the end of carnage, who was left standing, after the fallout? Spade Cooley’s Showbiz Pals, as if to say “only a flesh wound”.
Pivotal Hits: Before she kicked the bucket, Rowena Kincaid produced a bloody good TV documentary. After she kicked the bucket, Rowena Kincaid decided the 2016 DDP.
(msc, 2021 – I still recommend that documentary. Though maybe not if you are of a sentimental mind, like me…)
Best Unique Pick: Suzanne Wright was the best sort of unique pick. No one else went for her, she died, and she turned out to be younger than expected. All bonuses for TJS in 2016, what more could he have wanted? Other than to win, of course.
Worst Pick: However, TJS picking a movie as one of his 20 was a brave and, alas, foolish move.
(This was a reference to John Wicks, who was a musician and not the Keanu Reeves film. The musician Wicks died in 2018.)
Could Have Been Contenders: Howard Davis Jr, died on Hogmanay. Pavel Srnicek at least went on the 30th!
They Didn’t Get An Obit?: There were some obvious snubs (Zara Nutley, Piet de Jong, Kitty Kallen) but the winner here has to Majestik Magnificent. Who? Michael Jackson’s personal clown, who died in February. A no hoper, surely, but then later that year the Mail mentioned that another person was doing a tribute album to the clown. Alas, the pivotal phrase “has died” never appeared, so what should have been the punt of the year was undone by bad sub-editing.
[TMIB: A quite extraordinary year in celebrity death…]
#1 – 2013
2013 is the best of the TMIB DDP years, because it is the DDP with three overriding narrative stories. First up, you had newcomer Thomas Jefferson Survives, with an explosive first six months of the year, culminating with a lead on Independence Day. Like 2015, however, TJS ran out of hits in the crucial winter months. Secondly, we had Octopus of Odstock, former host, former winner, who had a very strong team. He had left out some “certs”, but made up for it in his specialist subjects. Case in point, joker points on Christopher Martin-Jenkins on New Year’s Day itself. And finally, we had Spade Cooley, a man who conceded the title in early March. Fair enough, he was nearly 50 points behind, after all. He was also nobbled by the fact his joker (Sandy Jardine) survived into 2014. And yet, slowly, bit by bit, he began to produce the single greatest deadpooling comeback of all time.
Pivotal Hits: Bruno Metsu was a huge one in October. OoO and TJS ran out of hits in the summer, and with the death of Nelson Mandela, David Quantick’s Showbiz Pals moved within 2 points of the leader. Then came the news that Ray Price, who had looked for all the world a bad pool pick for most of 2013, had relapsed with pancreatic cancer and quickly went from hospital into a hospice. Every deadpooler was watching the clock on time left in the year when Price died on the 16th December. The death of Kalashnikov a few days later was merely the icing on the cake.
Best Unique Pick: Can’t be anything other than Andrew Millwall. Who’d heard of him? That was title winning specialist knowledge.
Worst Pick: Scott Thorson, so legendary “a Scott Thorson pick” has fallen into deadpooling vernacular.
Could Have a Been Contender: Tony Grieg would have been a popular pick if not for jumping the gun late in 2012…
They Didn’t Get An Obit?: Nobel Prize winner John Cornforth, though he did die on the same day as Peter O’Toole, which probably swamped obituary desks.
Quotes of the Year: “I’m already taking a Liverpool-esque “there’s always next season” approach to this year’s DDP.” (Spade, 13th March)
“The thing is, even though I have 12 hits and 95 points, I don’t feel at all confident about winning or even finishing in the top 10, such is the strength this year.” (OoO, 11th June)
“Oddly fitting that I take the lead on the 4th of July, given what my team name references… Certainly has been a remarkable year, and still almost half of it to go.” (TJS, 4th July)
“A photo finish would put the cherry on a fine competition this year…” (TMIB, 5th Dec)
“So yes, I will now take all your plaudits.” (Spade, 16th Dec)
“This has been a classic year for the Derby Dead Pool, the best in my time as host I think…” (TMIB, 15th Dec) – Well, I’m not arguing with him.
“I suppose the next major “four minute mile” barrier for the DDP is being the first person to break 120 points. An impossible dream?” (Spade, 24th Dec)
*checks 2017 scoreboard* No, not at all. But 200? Watch this space…
[TMIB: 2013 is where it all came together: a close contest decided in record fashion in the last month of the year and a stunning comeback to boot! Throw in some of the most iconic deaths in DDP history (Thatcher, Mandela, Biggs], a record numer of competitors (588) and the emergence of the next host and you have the best competiton in my time as host…
(msc, 2021 – I’d like to note that when TJS finally won the Derby Dead Pool in 2019, she exercised those 2013-2015 demons with pivotal hits in the winter months deciding the outcome. Also we haven’t done Octopus of Odstock’s joker pick enough justice here, as they were dead by 10am on New Years Day. No contender or pretender has come close to that level of skill since.)
So that’s it! Finally I’d like to thank all those teams/ DeathList forum members who have helped me in my time as host: My predecessor Octopus of Odstock and his predecessor (and much better at the technical stuff than I am!) Rude Kid for their guidance, WEP 2.0 for his ceaseless searches for obscure pics and bios, YoungWillz for his on-the-ball updates on who’s dead and getting an obit, MSC (that’s Pan Breed, folks) for his analysis, Bibliogryphon, Unknown Man, Death Impends and anyone else who have contributed to the DDP. Finally thanks and good luck to the new host, Spade Cooley, who I know will do a fine job. Now tell me, how do you play this game again?
(msc, 2021: alas, that final line turned out to be the DDP equivalent of John Sedgwick’s infamous final words: “they couldn’t hit an elephant at that distance!”)
Written by The Man in Black and msc on 9th January 2018