Who's checked in at the Pearly Gates this month?
The Ghoul Pool
An acquaintance once informed me that he had been crowned the winner of the 1999 Houston "ghoul pool," to the tune of several hundred bucks. Ghoul pool? Say What? Seems he was part of a group that gets together every year (on Halloween, of course) and submits their lists of famous people they predict will die some time in the next 12 months (the rules prohibit picking anyone in the Walls Unit at the Texas State Penitentiary). Each ponies up twenty-five bucks or so, and the winners split the pool the next year. He'd correctly predicted the most from his 30 or so, and had taken first prize. Blood money? I'm not sure...
So, if you're in your own ghoul pool for 2014, check your lists for these names. If you're not, you're probably like me; exclaiming "Hey! I didn't even know he was still alive!"
January 18 - Dennis Frederiksen: Lead singer of the American rock band Toto for a few years in the 1980s; previously in Angel, LeRoux and Survivor (where he sang backup on the well-known "Eye of the Tiger," theme song of Rocky III. Age 62.
January 10 - Larry Speakes: Acting as White House Press Secretary under President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1987, took over the post after James Brady was unable to return to the official post. Originally a newspaperman from Mississippi, Speakes disappeared into relative obscurity after angering Republican stalwarts in his 1988 memoir, working in press relations for the USPS and other companies. Speakes died of Alzheimer's at age 74. Los Angeles Times obituary. 
January 11 - Ariel Sharon: A hero during the war for independence and the Six-Day War of 1967, Ariel Sharon entered politics as a member of the center-right Likud Party after retiring from the military. He rose through the ranks to become Israel's eleventh Prime Minister, heading the country from 2001-2006. Sharon suffered a stroke in late 2005, and had remained in a coma for eight years before his death at age 85. Washington Post obit. 
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January 10 - Eric Lawson: A long-time actor who had small parts in a wide variety of television show, Lawson appeared in print ads as The Marlboro Man from 1987 to 1981. A smoker since age 14, Lawson died at age 72 of - what else? - respiratory failure due to COPD.
January 16 - Russell Johnson: Best-known for his role as the hunky but clueless "Professor" (real name, Roy Hinkley) on the '60s sitcom "Gilligan's Island." Johnson also had minor parts in movies and on television. Johnson died at 89 of kidney failure, still unable to patch a hole in a boat.
January 16 - Dave Madden: The Canadian-born actor played supporting roles in a number of '60s and '70s situation comedies, including "Alice." On television's "The Partridge Family," Madden served as comic foil in the position of the family's manager. Madden died at 82 from a rare blood disease.
January 5 - Simon Hoggart: A newspaper columnist and broadcast journalist for four decades in Britain's rough-and-tumble political theater, long-time gadfly of the political right. Hoggart died of pancreatic cancer at age 67. His obit in The Guardian 
January 25 - Morrie Turner: The California-born Turner served in World War II as a journalist for Stars and Stripes, mustering out in 1945 to work for the Oakland Police Department. "Wee Pals," a comic strip he developed featuring an ethnically-diverse group of toddlers, went national in the late 1960s, making Turner the first nationally-syndicated African-American cartoonist. Turner was 90.
January 6 - Mónica Spear: Spear won the title of Miss Venezuela in 2004 and represented her country at the 2005 Miss Universe pageant, finishing in the position of fourth runner-up. Spear and her ex-husband, British citizen Thomas Berry, were both killed when shot by robbers in a highway attempt. Spear was 29.
January 15 - Cassandra Lynn Hensley: Playboy's Playmate of the Month for February, 2006, was found in a bathtub at the home of a friend, dead of an apparent drug overdose. The Utah native was 34.
January 29 - Colonel Meow: An internet sensation, the Himalayan-Persian mix feline held the Guinness record for longest hair (nine inches) on a cat. His scowling face went viral after his owner posted pictures on Instagram. Kitty was just two...