Have You Seen This Millionaire?
Steve Fossett, America's fastest dead guy
By Eric Shulte
years ago, I begged the heavens to spit the fresh corpse of millionaire,
pretend-adventurer Steve Fossett back to earth. It was meant as a humorous
article and I never expected that this human being would actually die
while at play. Now that he has, I feel mirthful. My only regret on this
front is that I have not picked him in my local dead pool.
I haven't bothered to read up on the specific nature of the stuntFossett
was pulling this time. All I know is that he was in the air above the
Nevada desert piloting some sort of contraption—be it a wish powered
blimp or a hand glider framed with the bones of John Marrick—and now
whatever parts of him the scavengers didn't want are strewn about the
Nevada dessert. I'm the type of person who generally avoids rotten.com,
but the idea of a coyote and a vulture pulling on opposite ends of Fossett's
intestines is genuinely funny to me. It's not a case of celebrating
the death of a hated villain, like Jerry Falwell. My feeling is more
akin to amusement at the predictable death of a cartoon character. I
wish The Simpsons still had the brains or balls to base an episode of
Itchy and Scratchy on Fossett.
American newsmen will surely mourn this death: "Steve Fossett,
we hardly blew thee." Fossett was one of the kings of the slow
news day. We have corruption morphing into theft in our own, wish-powered,
Iraq adventure, a prison population exceeding China's, personal and
public debt looming disasters and so forth, but none of that is fit
to print. Something, then, must fill the gaps between opportunities
to feel superior to celebrities and solicitations of illicit, gay sex
on Capitol Hill. Fossett, perhaps benefiting from political connections
of his own, seemed to know just when these spaces would open. Note that
he probably would have touched down this time just between Senator Craig's
outing and resignation. Usually he would attempt to be the first man
to circumvent the globe in a long obsolete mode of transportation. Each
endeavor would receive days of news coverage, although it is difficult
to pin down exactly why. At any given time, some imbecile is attempting
to ride a Segway up Mount Fuji or break the world watching-300-without-laughing-derisively
record. So Fossett's projects were not at all unique. And Fossett was
racing into the record books against no one. Few, if any had an interest
in competing for the preposterous titles he invented and accumulated
and so, luckily for him, there was no qualitative measure of his achievements.
The man was no Joey Chestnut.
Fossett's stunts and the media attention they received did, however,
effectively lampoon the values favored by the mainstream of power. Here
was a very rich man who chose to invest his wealth and energy in acting
out diluted versions of boyhood fantasies. He is on record as having
done nothing in the way of charity towards the less fortunate. His contraptions,
although he could easily afford them, were underwritten by sponsors
so that the hype could draw attention to beer manufacturers rather than,
say, medical research. Few have ever done so little with so much so
actively, yet Fossett was celebrated as a man of courage. He brings
to mind Rex Rexroth, from the Coens' most underrated film, Intolerable
Cruelty. A bloated "silly man" who's wealth fueled his
passion for model choo-choos; the biggest clown in a farce. Now, the
time has finally come to openly laugh at Rexroth's real-life counterpart.
The selfish millionaire has at last contributed, at least a joke.
Erich Shulte writes for ruthlessreviews.com