A dashing young Don Knotts.

So this is the time when we traditionally honor those who have passed away during the year. There was a long-ass list in the Chronicle today, including some surprises — for instance Don Knotts, d. 2/24/06. You’d think I would have known about that one. Also, Desmond Dekker died on May 25, and nobody told me.

The death of Jack Palance took me by surprise, mostly because I was pretty sure he’d died years ago. Likewise, it came as a shock to see composer György Ligeti among the list of this year’s decedents. I had always assumed he was a figure from the 18th or 19th century, probably because his music appears on the 2001 soundtrack alongside such luminaries as Richard and Johann Strauss.

In a continuing surprise, Abe Vigoda did not die again this year. Among the younger actors that he outlived this time were Chris Penn, Bruno Kirby, Mike Evans (the original Lionel Jefferson and co-creator of Good Times), and the amazing Jack Warden, whose 154 film and TV credits include From Here to Eternity, Brian’s Song, Shampoo, Heaven Can Wait, …And Justice for All, and Being There.

Some of the real big deaths came along late in the year. Earlier this month we lost comedy titan (and quite capable dramatic actor, and John Lennon drinking buddy) Peter Boyle, about whom Cecil wrote a pithy memorial poem.

Then on Christmas Day came the departure of James Brown. (At one point in the day I was told that George Clinton had died, and I thought we were in the middle of some kind of funk apocalypse. Turned out I was misinformed.) My compatriot MC Haiku eulogizes the Godfather today on Sun Pop Blue.

And then finally on the 27th we had the death of Gerald Ford, which immediately put me in mind of a brilliant SNL sketch with Dana Carvey as Tom Brokaw. Brokaw is about to go on a long vacation, and as a precaution his producer has him record a series of increasingly absurd versions of Ford’s demise. (The choice of Ford is fairly random, I think, prompted by the fact that hearing Carvey slur “Gerald Ford” in the Brokaw accent is a delight in itself.)

It’s all gold, but the highlight may be this exchange:

Brokaw: Gerald Ford was shot dead today age 83.
Producer: Add the word “senseless.”
Brokaw: Gerald Ford was shot dead today at the senseless age of 83.

In fact, Ford made it to the senseless age of 93. We should all be so lucky.