Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Actor Jon Heder, of Napoleon Dynamite fame, died in a car crash or took a fatal overdose.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2005]
Origins: Beginning in January 2005, rumors circulated nationwide that Jon Heder, the 26-year-old star of the film Napoleon Dynamite, had died in tragic fashion. Some people heard he'd arrived at his final destination via an automobile accident that snapped his neck; others heard the Grim Reaper came to him in the form of a drug overdose, most commonly cocaine or crack cocaine.
We're happy to report the young man is still very much alive. Postdating the rumors of his demise was his appearance as a guest on The Tonight Show on
The 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite came to the attention of the movie-going public at the Sundance Film Festival. Made for just $400,000 by Jared Hess, then a film student at Brigham Young University, it became a nationwide phenomenon, grossing
Lines from it are being quoted in high schools across the nation. The film has also served to increase teens' vocabulary by introducing liger, a word documented as entering the English language in 1938, to a generation of newly-minted moviegoers. Unlike the fictive cabbit
The rumor of the fledgling actor's death is touted as true on a
How the whispers started is anyone's guess. While they might have been manufactured to create buzz for an offering new to the DVD/home video market, such a theory stumbles on the
Jon Heder is a Mormon, and popular culture regards the young male adherents of that religion to be particularly clean-living and upstanding. His sudden demise would therefore be regarded by many as a double tragedy in that not only would a promising newcomer to the film industry
In Jon Heder's case, while his talent and youth work to fuel the rumor of his demise, it's the presumption of a saintly lifestyle that gives it an extra push. Expiring in either of the manners described would tend to topple him from the pedestal widespread stereotyping would place him upon, and gossip so loves to feast on a fallen angel. Death by overdose of an illegal drug tends to be proof of illicit drug use, a hobby that would poke great holes in a choirboy image. Likewise, a young celebrity's perishing in a car crash gives off the aroma of foolhardy behavior on the part of the fellow called to glory
Fabrications about the demise of celebrities or pop culture icons deemed too young to have passed away abound. The quintessential hoax of this ilk is the "Paul is dead" belief attaching to Paul McCartney
Barbara "wracked by ilk" Mikkelson
Last updated: 23 March 2005
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