Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: Mongrel Magazine, April 2006


is he really going out like that?

There’s no nice way to go, is there? The meek can take some comfort from the prospect of dying peacefully in their sleep. The vainglorious will dream of dying on the battlefield, fighting for some noble cause. But the vast majority of us would be much better pleased with a nice cup of tea and sit down if it was all the same to you.

And yet we’ve all got to die sometime. If it be now, ‘tis not to come. If it be not to come, it will be now. If it be not now, then perhaps tomorrow evening when you’re texting your friend Tracey about French homework. As Shakespeare said, “The readiness is all.”

For these poor bastards, though, the old readiness just wasn’t their strongest suit: STEPHEN MILLIGAN M.P.
Stephen Milligan was a rising star in British Conservative Party when he was found dead in his London apartment by a cleaning lady in February 1994. At the time the Tories under John Major were hawking their (anti-crime, pro-family values, down with that sort of thing) Back To Basics moral crusade. Which utter hypocrisy – given what was known then and what was to be discovered subsequently- only served to make the, ahem, unusual circumstances surrounding Mr Milligan’s tragic death all the more amusing. The Honorable Member for Eastleigh was discovered on his living room table, buck naked save for a pair of women’s stockings and suspenders, with a plastic bag over his head and an electrical flex tied around his neck.

Sufficed to say, the police were not looking for anyone else to assist them with their enquiries.

In March 2006, in a move that baffled international observers, Myanmar’s ruling military junta moved their capital 373 miles north to a patch of mountainous jungle west of Pyinmana. The new city has been named Naypyidaw, meaning “the seat of kings”, and speculation persists that the costly relocation was made at the behest of General Than Shwe’s personal astrologer. What no one has stopped to ask is though is why one the world’s most supposedly paranoid dictators would seek to link his regime (even symbolically) to those regimes of the historic kings of Burma. Because, when it came to avoiding misfortune, Burmese royalty had a very checkered history to say the least.

Take King Theinhko, for example. He was killed in 931 by a farmer whose cucumbers he ate without permission. Kings Uzana and Minrekyawsa meanwhile were both trampled by elephants. Elephants must have been quite a menace in those days because King Razadarit died after becoming entangled in a rope he was using to lasso an elephant, while King Tabinsheweti was beheaded while searching for a fictitious white elephant. But of all the factoids I could swipe from Schott’s Unusual Deaths of Some Burmese Kings none surpasses the tale of King Nandabayin who in 1599, when a visiting Italian merchant told him that Venice was a free state with no king, proceeded to laugh himself to death. True story.

By lad mag criteria, John Entwistle died an impeccable rock and roll death. Okay, so he wasn’t young or good looking and he didn’t leave a good looking corpse. But his death – which occurred on the eve of The Who’s 2002 American tour – took place in Vegas hotel room where Entwistle was entertaining a ladyfriend. He’d also just taken a nice big line of coke. In lad mag theory at least, that’s about as close to ideal a departure as any man could wish for.

In reality though the Ox’s death was a grubby, pathetic affair. The lady was most likely a prostitute. Cocaine abuse was a problem that had plagued Entwistle all his adult life. And despite having played in one of the most successful rock bands of all time the veteran was so broke his son Christopher had to sell his collection of bass guitars just to pay the duties on his estate. In a statement his bandmates Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend explained that John’s death, while very sad, gave The Who’s music a new lease of life. A new bass player would mean a new approach to all those bass parts. The American tour went ahead without him.

No, not the guy from South Park. The original Chicken Fucker came straight outta Turkey (ironically) and was one of viral email’s first superstars. Unlike Stephen Milligan, the Chicken Fucker was not the author of his own misfortune. A massive earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale hit the Chicken Fucker’s hometown of Izmit on August 17th 1999 just as he was getting his rocks off. It killed over a thousand people died and destroying countless buildings, including the very outhouse in which said degenerate bestiality was taking place. Neither the chicken nor the fucker stood a chance. A bemused rescue worker captured the scene on a digital camera and the image subsequently went viral.

Given all we’ve learned about the internet since, there’s a fair chancethe Chicken Fucker photo was just a stupid hoax. But fuck it, it was important moment in the history of the internet, nonetheless. For the first time many ordinary people grasped that the real power of this new technology was would not be to break down barriers or open up new avenues of possibility but rather to facilitate the dissemination of smut and juvenile humour.

In the 17th century, French Bourbon princes revolted against what they perceived to be the anti-Catholic and anti-Spanish policies of Cardinal Richelieu. In 1641 one of these nobles, the Comte de Soissons, led an army that included Spanish troops into eastern France, where, to quote Robin Briggs Early Modern France 1560-1715, “his victory at La Marfee might have had serious consequences if he had not contrived to blow out his own brains at the moment of triumph [while] lifting his visor with his pistol.”

An ex-wife of Johnny “Tarzan” Weissmuller and former lover of Gary Cooper, Lupe Velez was a Hollywood starlet of the 1930s whose career, by 1944, was on the skids. The details of her death (which later formed the basis for a film by Andy Warhol) were best recounted in an episode of Frasier:

Roz: All Lupe wanted was to be remembered. So, she plans this lavish suicide – flowers, candles, silk sheets, white satin gown, full hair and makeup, the works. She takes the overdose of pills, lays on the bed, and imagines how beautiful she’s going to look on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.

Unfortunately, the pills don’t sit well with the enchilada combo plate she sadly chose as her last meal. She stumbles to the bathroom, trips and goes head-first into the toilet, and that’s how they found her.

Frasier: Is there a reason you’re telling me this?

Roz: All she wanted was to be remembered. Will you ever forget that story?