June 15, 2006 in Miscellaneous

Deathstyles of the Rich and Famous

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A reason to be thankful that I’m merely middle-class (aren’t we all??) and not rich or famous.

Deathstyles of the Rich and Famous: The upper class has its problems, too.
Slate, By Jacob Weisberg, Posted Wednesday, June 14, 2006, at 3:45 PM ET
There are diseases of poverty, such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS. There are diseases of affluence, such as lung cancer, high blood pressure, and type-2 diabetes. And then there are the hazards of extreme affluence, such as being thrown off a polo pony, flipping your Cigarette boat, or succumbing to altitude sickness on a vanity expedition to the Himalayas.
. . .
If you survive paycheck-to-paycheck, you can also rest easy about dying while fleeing paparazzi (Princess Diana); at the hand of a servant jealous of your other servants (Edmund Safra); at the hand of the president of your fan club (Selena); at the hand of a lunatic stalker (John Lennon); at the hand of an impatient heir (the royal family of Nepal); from a face lift (Olivia Goldsmith); in your Porsche, while drag racing (basketball player Bobby Phills); in pursuit of a speed-boat record (Stefano Casiraghi, husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco); while diving off your yacht (Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys); after fighting with Christopher Walken (Natalie Wood); while trying to buzz Ozzy Osbourne’s tour bus (Randy Rhoads); from injuries sustained in a cross-country riding event* (Christopher Reeve); in staged violence on a film set (Brandon Lee); as a former vice president, atop your mistress (Nelson Rockefeller); or of a disease that subsequently gets named after you (Lou Gehrig). Given the increasingly democratic nature of the game, middle-class people as well as corporate executives are occasionally struck dead by lightning on the golf course. But relatively few are victims of less-democratic ego-sports like off-piste skiing (which killed 25 people in the French Alps this year), yacht racing, hot-air ballooning, or trying to set various speed records with test vehicles. If you aren’t worried that the Senate might not fully repeal the inheritance tax for estates above $5 million, you probably don’t need to be worrying about these perils, either.
The problem of having more money than sense also drives fatality statistics in the world of high-end travel. Given the cost of a tour to the top of Mount Everest (between $10,000 and $40,000), it’s safe to assume no one collecting the Earned Income Tax Credit was among the 10 deaths there last season. Similarly, while the poor of Africa are sometimes eaten by wild animals, it is only the well-to-do from other continents who face the risk of being mauled by lions or trampled by hippopotamuses, which surprisingly kill more people than any other animal in Africa.
The next frontier for extravagant death is, of course, space. Richard Branson is taking reservations for his Virgin Galactic airship, which promises “the world’s first affordable space tourist flights” to view the aurora borealis, possibly as soon as 2008. Affordable, in this context, is somewhere around $200,000. Let us hope it will be a round trip.

To read the full article, go here.

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