I have to admit, I never heard of Ryan Dunn prior to his tragic death on Monday morning; although I vaguely had heard of a show called “Jackass” on MTV (a network I have not watched in twenty years).
Yet, after having observed the media clamor surrounding Dunn’s death, I am impressed by his popularity and the grief and sorrow his passing has elicited.
Also, at the risk of overstepping the bounds of good taste (a la Roger Ebert), something else occurred to me: Dunn died the way a real rock star/celebrity should.
I realize Dunn was not a musician or anything like that, but he seemed to have had a hold on his fans the way rock stars of my youth used to have.
When I was a kid and teenager, it seemed that many rock stars perished in ways that eluded normal, ordinary people.
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison all died of heroin overdoses (seemingly around the same time), each before reaching the age of thirty.
John Lennon was murdered by a deranged fan; Elvis Presley died from complications of drug abuse; Freddie Mercury died of AIDS; and long before my time, Buddy Holly and several others died in a plane crash in a field in Iowa.
Isn’t that what the ethos of rock is all about? Living life at full-tilt and then dying relatively young? Isn’t it all about celebrating youthful excess and risk-taking and bypassing the whole dreary concept of aging and retirement and Medicare?
A premature death also seems to guarantee a special type of immortality (see James Dean and even John F. Kennedy).
Ryan Dunn died while flooring the gas pedal of his Porsche 911 GT3 at a speed of 130 miles-per-hour after (allegedly) getting drunk in a bar. If that’s not a true rock-and-roll way to go, I don’t know what is.
And another thing… rock stars ain't what they used to be.
Paul McCartney recently turned 69; his fellow Beatle Ringo Starr will turn 71 in a few weeks (both are grandfathers and serious property-owners). The two front-men of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and Keith Richard, are deep into senior citizenship (despite their long-held image of being rock-and-roll “outlaws”). Pete Townshend, who once wrote the infamous words “hope I die before I get old” – is still alive, and very very old.