This week, both Robert Novak and Don Hewitt died. And while everyone noted the passing of both with the appropriate amount of due solemnity, anyone who's been paying even marginal attention to the news this summer surely asked themselves, What the hell is going on here? Is this summer particularly deadly? You can make all the jokes you like about this being the Summer of Death™, but there really is something about the warm-weather months of 2009: Since May, we’ve been rattled by the deaths of no fewer than 21 notable members of society. And according to Daily Intel's research, no other summer in the last decade has been so deadly.
It all started when Dom DeLuise passed away on May 4 — but hey, famous people die all the time, right? Two and a half months later, the summer has robbed the world of some of its greatest leaders and innovators — Michael Jackson, Walter Cronkite, Gidget the Chihuahua. Just take the eight days between June 23 and July 1, when six high-profile Americans died in almost as many different ways: Ed McMahon, Ed Thomas, Farrah Fawcett, Jackson, Billy Mays, and — how many weepy Americans even noticed at this point? — Karl Malden.
Yes, 2009 is indeed the Summer of Death™. Daily Intel looked as far back as 1997, and found that no other year has seen as many famous deaths during the period of May through September. For the sake of defining the significance of the deaths, those that weren't mentioned on at least one of the three major nightly news broadcasts were not included in the Daily Intel tally. Pop a Celexa and reflect on the facts:
Deaths in the Summer of 2009
May: Dom DeLuise, Chuck Daly.
June: Ed McMahon, Ed Thomas, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Billy Mays, David Carradine.*
July: Karl Malden, Steve McNair, Robert McNamara, Dash Snow, Walter Cronkite, Frank McCourt, Merce Cunningham, Gidget the Chihuahua.
August: John Hughes, Les Paul, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Robert Novak, Don Hewitt.
The only summer that has come close to 2009 in terms of deadliness was 2003 — that year, over the course of May to September, saw the loss of fifteen big names, from Gregory Peck and Katherine Hepburn to Barry White and Johnny Cash.
Deaths in the Summer of 2003
May: Robert Stack, June Carter Cash.
June: Donald Regan, Gregory Peck, Hume Cronyn, Leon Uris, Strom Thurmond, Katharine Hepburn.
July: Barry White, Bob Hope.
August: Charles Bronson.
September: Warren Zevon, Johnny Cash, George Plimpton, Althea Gibson.
For those of you keeping count, 2009 is already up six on Summer ’03 — and we’ve still got five weeks to go.
*This post has been updated. There were so many deaths this summer that at first we forgot a few!