Mark Twain, an early victim of a death hoax, once was reported to have said that “reports of my death has been greatly exaggerated.” The actor who played Newman on the Jerry Seinfeld Show fell victim recently to a similar false report. The truth is Newman lives! Wayne Knight is the latest of many celebrity death hoaxes.
The Seinfeld actor was falsely said to have been killed in an automobile accident near the borders of New York state and Pennsylvania. But the comedic actor responded by Tweeting “Newman lives,” to his many followers.
Knight is just the latest celebrity victim of a false death report. There have been many through the years. One of the most famous was the Paul McCartney death report in 1969. In the fall of that year, rumor flashed around the world that the Beatles bassist, singer and songwriter had been killed three years before in a fiery automobile accident, and had been replaced by a lookalike known as William Campbell. To stoke the publicity that sprang from the reports, the rock group denied the rumor, but decided to plant clues in their subsequent albums. “Cluesters,” fans who were dedicated to tracking down these clues bought the albums by the score, eventually discovering hundreds of them. Articles sprang up in magazines in America and Europe debating the reality of Paul’s death. The rumor persists to this day, as a few die-hard “cluesters” insist that McCartney died in 1969.
Of course, like McCartney, Newman lives, Wayne Knight is just the latest of many celebrity death hoaxes. Some, like Mark Twain’s, have resulted in humorous responses to the false rumors.
But Mark Twain was misquoted, according to the Oxford University Tumblr. His actual statement published in the New York Journal’s June 2, 1897 edition read: “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” Twain, whose real name was Samuel Longhorn Clemens had been confused by reporters with his cousin James Ross Clemens who was ill in England at the time.
Hugh Hefner was never known for humor, but when the Internet reported he had died of a heart attack in 2011, he responded with a Tweet that read “I’m happy to see how many people are pleased that I’m not dead. I’m pleased, too.”
That same year Jon Bon Jovi countered rumors of his death by pasting a picture of himself on his band’s Facebook page. In the picture, he held a sign that posted the day’s date and read, “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey.”
Jeff Goldblum’s demise was falsely announced back in 2009. Bogus online reports said that he had fallen off a cliff in New Zealand. As Stephen Colbert pretended to read a ligament news story about the accident, the actor walked on the Comedy Central set saying, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, my friend Stephen, but look, I’m not dead. In fact, last week I was not even in New Zealand.”
Colbert told him that the New Zealand police had confirmed his death and Goldblum replied, “No one will miss Jeff Goldblum more than me. He was not only a friend and a mentor, but he was also … me.”
Following that train of thought, Wayne Knight would no doubt be pleased to read, “Newman lives! Wayne Knight is the Latest of Many Celebrity Death Hoaxes.”
By B. David Warner