Celebrity deaths usually come in threes, so I'm constantly bracing myself for the news that another trio of my favorites has gone up to that red carpet in the sky. But there are certain stars who I've decided must never pass on in any combination -- not unless you want to rip all sense and meaning out of my life and stomp on it, then toss it to the gutter. They are:
1) Liza Minnelli
Liza is an old-school, good-time celebrity who's always on and who thinks everything's terrific, everyone she meets is her best friend, and maybe Tuesday will be her good news day. That kind of razzmatazz in the face of some of the horrors she's had to deal with is fabulously uplifting and desperately needed at all times. Bottle this woman now!
The one-named legend has been doing her farewell tour for about 30 years now, and I hope it continues for centuries to come. Cher, 68, is a unique and exciting life force who's conquered all media (and a lot of men) and who can dart her tongue as dexterously as she did in the "I Got You, Babe" days. If you've never seen her enter in concert atop a papier mache elephant, dressed in elaborate Indian garb, you haven't lived. People always quip, "After the apocalypse, there will only be Cher and cockroaches." I think she'll even outlive the bugs.
3, 4) Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr
The remaining half of the ultimate rock group, the Beatles, these two are a living embodiment of the cultural earthquake that happened when rock 'n' roll electrified the world and changed hairstyles forever. In honor of what they brought, they must never depart this life. To quote one of the Beatles songs, "You say goodbye and I say hello." Similarly, old crooners like Tony Bennett must never say "Ciao" (because of the rich history of showmanship that they represent), nor should punk icons like Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop ever croak, because they've already proven that creative angst doesn't need to be self-destructive and they should be allowed to keep doing so, screaming all the way to the bank. Oh, and David Bowie should always stay here, and Tina Turner and Patti Smith and...I'll shut up now.
5) Dame Maggie Smith
Currently telling scat jokes at Escuelita every Tuesday...No, wait, that's my introduction for Lady Bunny. Sorry, I get my titled ladies confused. As for Dame Maggie, she's class personified and adds a witty luster to everything she appears in (like Downton Abbey). This is not the kind of actress that can be replaced via assembly line--or via anything. I'd love to see her perform at Escuelita, actually.
6) Diana Ross
The 1960s Motown star of the Supremes (the original Destiny's Child), Diana went on to solo superstardom in the '70s, en route to a permanent station in the stratosphere of dazzling entertainers. Di's skinny, pretty face and bulging eyes have always represented the quintessence of show biz sparkle. I'll never forget when it rained on her Central Park concert in 1983 and everyone stampeded out of there to safety, while I sat still for a few seconds more, just to watch my lady in action. ("Don't be afraid of the rain! It helps the flowers to grow!") She's survived the weather, losing the Oscar to Liza, and some other mishaps, and I pray she'll keep shimmying into eternity, always "The Boss."
No, I don't even need to put the last name. And by any name, we need this icon to stick around until the day after forever. We somehow managed to let Bette, Kate, and Joan get away, but surely a world without Meryl would implode, devoid of her infinite artistry and wonderful acceptance speeches. As she advances to thousands of years old and then some, Meryl's range would get even wider and she'd start to play all sorts of wizened men, aged extraterrestrials, and frisky armadillos. Her work will never die, and she shouldn't either.
8) Luise Rainer
The oldest living celebrity I can think of, Rainer, 104, is the German-born Austrian actress who won back-to-back Academy Awards for 1936's The Great Ziegfeld and the next year's The Good Earth. She was dubbed "the Viennese teardrop," but found that winning two Oscars was a curse because expectations were too high and audiences could only be disappointed. She was sort of the original Hilary Swank. Anyway, if Luise ever passes, the next oldest living celebrity would be Eli Wallach, and I'm not sure he could withstand that kind of pressure.
9) Laverne Cox
Because I want the world to eventually evolve enough so we can finally have our first female President.
10) Betty White