Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Funeral Friday

Illustration for article titled Funeral Friday

Congratulations on making it to the end of another week! Unfortunately, these people didn't. Light a candle for Funeral Friday.

Nothing against Pat Sajak and Alex Trebek—it's just that their demographics skewed decidedly older—but to children of the ’80s, there were really only two game show hosts that really mattered: Marc Summers of Double Dare and Ken Ober of Remote Control. The latter was a special kind of game show host we’d rarely seen before—flippant, sarcastic bordering on surly, and unafraid to mock everything from the deliberately pointless questions he was asking, to the contestants who nevertheless failed to answer them correctly, to his own role as the ringmaster of a show that not only celebrated junk culture but unabashedly reveled in it. Remote Control may have only lasted five seasons, but it managed to cram in an awful lot of living, coming up with unique, irreverent ways to turn hoary old trivia into something that felt fresh and even borderline rebellious. A lot of that had to do with its supporting cast of characters—including future stars Denis Leary, Adam Sandler, and Colin Quinn—who would act questions out in signature skits like “Stud Boy” and “Sing Along With Colin,” and other generally weird shit that would probably never make it past a board of producers these days. Like “Beat The Bishop,” where a contestant had to solve a math problem before a guy dressed as a bishop could run around the studio, or the “Snack Break,” where Ober fed contestants by dropping stuff like frozen egg rolls on their heads.

But it was Ober himself that best defined Remote Control, and it was his personality that made the show’s rampant silliness seem both cool and smart. In fact, Remote Control was framed as an extension of Ober himself, as anyone who listened to the opening theme song could tell you: It supposedly took place in his basement at 72 Whooping Cough Lane—hence the washer-and-dryer hanging out on set, and the occasional interruption from “Ken’s mother”—and its back story was a sort of King Of Comedy play on Ober’s lifelong idolization of game show hosts like Bob Barker and Bob Eubanks (whose smiling heads could be seen in every episode, adorning the wall just over Ober’s shoulder). That much was true; Ober really had grown up worshipping game show hosts, although he got his first big break as a stand-up contestant on Star Search before MTV handpicked him to captain its very first nonmusical show. (Not that Ober should be blamed for stuff like Room Raiders or Real World/ Road Rules Challenge, by any means, but he did pave the way.)


Ober’s Remote Control gig also earned him some unexpected friends—like Blues Traveler, who cast him in three of their videos—and landed him a plum series of commercials for Jenga, but it also more or less caused his career to hit a premature creative peak. He spent much of the ’90s into the early part of this decade hosting lesser fare like Comedy Central’s revival of Make Me Laugh and ESPN’s Perfect Match, as well as a short-lived L.A. radio show that oddly paired him with former Brady Bunch star Susan Olsen. In recent years, he had moved entirely behind the scenes, working as a producer for his old partner on Tough Crowd With Colin Quinn, consulting on The New Adventures Of Old Christine, and finally, writing and producing 36 episodes of Mind Of Mencia. Earlier this week, Ober became the subject of a sudden Internet rumor denying his death; it was the first time the modern, usually wrong “crowdsourcing” method of gathering information has been used to spread a rumor denying a celebrity’s passing. Sadly, those rumors of Ober’s death turned out to not be greatly exaggerated. He had complained of flu-like symptoms to friends before disappearing over the weekend; on Sunday, his body was discovered in his Santa Monica home. Ken Ober was 52 years old, and sadly he’s now dead—not Canadian.

South Korean model Daul Kim was a favorite of designers like Karl Lagerfeld, Vivienne Westwood, and Alexander McQueen, but even those who weren’t familiar with her work on the runway may have known her through her popular blog, “I Like To Fork Myself.” More than the usual tales of hobnobbing and self-promotion, Kim regularly used her blog to discuss the art that she loved—including, among other things, minimalist techno and Shel Silverstein—and muse in oddly poetical ways about her life. Much of what fascinated her readers was her brutal honesty about her frustrations with the world of modeling, which she found dehumanizing and isolating. This dovetailed, too, with her overwhelming depression, something she was equally candid about—and most disturbingly, this often led to talk of suicide and self-mutilation. In April 2007, for example, not along after threatening to smash her face with a hammer and leave modeling behind, she posted some of her own paintings, including a self-portrait of Kim stabbing herself in the head with a bloody fork. Needless to say, many of her fans often worried that she would legitimately hurt herself, something Kim would repeatedly deny. In recent weeks, Kim seemed to have lightened up somewhat, posting some of her favorite house tracks and part of an essay from Ralph Waldo Emerson on the importance of self-reliance and avoiding conformity. On Wednesday, she posted an entry simply titled “Say hi to forever,” featuring a Jim Rivers track that she felt was the “best track forever.” Sadly, it’s now become an unintentional epitaph: The very next day, her body was found hanging in her Paris flat. As part of a disturbing trend, Kim became the ninth South Korean celebrity to commit suicide this year. She died at the age of 20.

Since the early ’60s, the name “Christo” has been synonymous with staggeringly ambitious, bafflingly ambiguous works of public art that often involved covering entire buildings in cloth or creating huge towers out of industrial materials. But as was finally admitted in 1994, this solo attribution was solely in the interest of creating a recognizable brand; in reality, “Christo” was the work of both the Bulgarian-born artist and his wife, Jeanne-Claude, who was behind nearly all of his city-sized compositions. With the help of paid assistants, Christo and Jeanne-Claude set out to transform giant swaths of the world with their unusual art—valuing spectacle above all else, some critics dismissed them as nothing but theatrical grandstanding—including wrapping Paris’ Pont Neuf, Berlin’s Reichstag, and a million miles of the Australian coast in fabric, all because (as Jeanne-Claude once said in a 2002 interview) they believed it would be beautiful.

Besides their signature wrapping techniques, they also drew attention for large-scale projects like 1991’s “The Umbrellas”—which involved erecting thousands of giant umbrellas in both California and Japan (and got an unfortunate bit of publicity when one of them came loose, crushing a tourist)—and 2006’s “The Gates,” where they erected more than 7,000 16-foot vinyl gates throughout Central Park. After coming clean on the collaborative nature of their work, Christo admitted that Jeanne-Claude was the sole driving force behind some of his most successful projects, including a 1983 undertaking that found them surrounding eleven islands in Miami’s Biscayne Bay with pink floating fabric. In recent years, they had continued to develop the “Christo And Jeanne-Claude” signature with still-in-progress concepts involving Colorado’s Arkansas River and the United Arab Emirates; sadly, Jeanne-Claude will never see their completion. She died of a brain aneurysm this Wednesday at the age of 74, leaving Christo to carry on alone, no longer in name only.

Have a super weekend!


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