How to Die in Three Easy Steps.
By Wil Forbis
September 16, 2002
I can't say I was ever a huge Warren Zevon fan. I'm mean, sure, I dug his hit song "Werewolves of London" as much as the next lycanophile, but it was never enough to make me go out and buy the CD. (1978's "Excitable Boy" for those of you keeping track.) When I'd come across Zevon's albums in the $3.99 bin of the local record store I was never inspired to part with my hard earned dollars. For that matter, I've just never found much appeal in the whole of the "70's singer/songwriter" acts. I primarily think of Jackson Brown as the guy who beat up Daryl Hannah. Bruce Springsteen didn't show up on my radar until the eighties. And Warren Zevon was just a guy emitting sarcastic howls over a bluesy chord progression.
Still, when I recently caught wind of the fact that Mr. Zevon had terminal lung cancer my curiosity perked up. You can't help but take a morbid interest in the final decline of a rock and roll star. It helps ease the raging jealousy fueled by the realization that their life was exactly 1,098 times more exciting than yours will ever be.
How did I come about the news of Zevon's condition? In the most gentle way possible - by reading a USATODAY article on the subject while eating an "All American Slam" at Denny's. It was a standard journalistic send off - a summation of Zevon's musical contributions and personal tribulations peppered with several witty quotes of a lyricist known for his blunt tongue. The following stood out.
''Regrets are so far from reality. Would I like to tell someone, 'Look, if you don't want to die at 55, you might not want to smoke for 30 years'? Sure. I'm a living example of that. But this is my life, these were my choices. I lucked out big time because I got to be the most (expletive)-up rock star on the block, at least on my block, and then I got to be a sober dad for 18 years. I've had two very full lives.''
And that's when I realized: here's someone who gets it.
"Gets what?" you ask. "Are you saying that Warren Zevon gets that we all have a limited time in this mortal plane before hurtling into a murky black void that swallows our souls for all eternity?"
Well... uh, that too, I guess. But what I'm saying is that Mr. Zevon understands that after smoking for 30 years, he got cancer and it's nobody's fault but his own. That's pretty damn refreshing in a nation where a moron like Richard Boeken gets to smoke cigarettes for three decades then sue the Phillip Morris company for three billion dollars because he developed (surprise!) terminal cancer. (I think I've made it abundantly clear in previous columns what I think of people like Boeken. He should be killed*. Then his entire family should be killed. Then the city in which he lived should be struck by a nuclear bomb. Then we should blow up the earth, ensuring that no piece of Richard Boeken exists.)
*Unfortunately, Boeken died of cancer before I had a chance to kill him.
The truth is, I think we've gotten so used to people flailing about on their deathbed, blaming everybody and everything but themselves, that it kind of catches you off guard to see someone like Zevon show up and say, "I did it. It was me and I can live with that." And as I read through the USATODAY piece, I got the distinct impression Zevon will have something on his deathbed that overgrown babies like Boeken never have: peace of mind. Because, inherent in this final chapter on the life of Warren Zevon is a rather admirable treatise on how to die. He lays it out rather plainly, stating that in his final days he simply wants, ''Comfort, a sense of continuity and serenity, and people who are going to do the job of living better than you did.''
Three things that Richard Boeken certainly never deserved. And three things that Warren Zevon, when the times comes, will have. Because a lot of how you die depends on how you lived.
As for me, I think I'm going to pick up a copy of "Werewolves of London."
But I better do it soon, because once Warren dies, I won't be able to find it in the $3.99 bin.
You might also enjoy: Interesting Motherfuckers: Warren Zevon.
Wil Forbis is a well known international playboy who lives a fast paced life attending chic parties, performing feats of derring-do and making love to the world's most beautiful women. Together with his partner, Scrotum-Boy, he is making the world safe for democracy. Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit Wil's web log, The Wil Forbis Blog, and receive complete enlightenment.