In the past week I've seen news items about a couple of people I didn't realize were still walking the planet. I always feel guilty about that, so consider this post a public apology. If you feel the need to apologize to anyone else who isn't dead yet, feel free to do so in the comments section.
1. Manuel Noriega, b. 1934. Military dictator of Panama from 1983 to 1990, he was sentenced in 1992 to 40 years in U.S. federal prison, later reduced to 30 years and then cut to 17 years of time served for good behavior. Although his U.S. sentence ended in 2007, he remained in custody pending extradition to France, where he faces money laundering charges. The extradition to France happened earlier this week, and it was startling to see his face on television again. I hadn't thought about Manuel Noriega in at least 15 years.
2. Jerry Lee Lewis, b. 1935. The man has packed enough living for several lifetimes into his 75 years, and he's still touring. He's been a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1986, and Rolling Stone called his box set one of the 500 greatest albums of all time. Well-publicized health and legal problems in the last decade seem to have been resolved, so I haven't seen him in the news for a while — but he is very much alive.
3. Doris Day, b. 1922. She made her last feature film, With Six You Get Eggroll, in 1968; a TV series called "The Doris Day Show" ended in 1973, and she made her last TV special in 1975. Except for a short-lived talk show in 1985, she has been a private citizen since then, working hard for various animal welfare organizations. "The Doris Day Show" is now available on DVD, and Ms. Day recorded an audio commentary for the fifth season in 2006. Divorced three times and widowed once, she lives outside Carmel, California.
4. Noam Chomsky, b. 1928. Linguist, philosopher, political activist and still a professor emeritus at MIT; I just read an interview in which he compared the rise of the far-right in the U.S. to political developments in Weimar Germany. Yes, it sounds far-fetched, but in the light of the new Arizona immigration law, it's hard to disagree with this: "There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation . . . I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime."
5. Joe Namath, b. 1943. "Broadway Joe" was elected to the Professional Football Hall of Fame in 1985, in honor of a spectacular 12-year career with the New York Jets (and one last season with the L.A. Rams). I don't know why I didn't realize he was still with us, but the fact that he got his lifetime achievement award 25 years ago probably has something to do with it. He had short stints in television and sports broadcasting, and was notoriously overserved at a Jets game in 2003, where he propositioned a female sports reporter on live television. He lives in Florida.