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Grim Reaper Gil’s 2018 celebrity dead pool picks

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In “Dead Pool” - the final installment in the “Dirty Harry” film franchise - Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan tracks down a serial killer responsible for the deaths of celebrities whose names appeared in an organized high-stakes dead pool. 

Some dead pools involve small groups of participants, such as an office fantasy football league, while others are grandly-constructed online affairs consisting of hundreds or thousands of players.

Grim Reaper Gil has been part of a team in an organized dead pool for more than 20 years … and he’s back to share his picks for 2018.

As dead pools can be a fairly lucrative affair for some players (including Gil) who prefer not to notify the IRS of their winnings, Gil’s actual identity and whereabouts remain a mystery.

While rules vary, most celebrity dead pools consist of players who pay an entrance fee before selecting a group of celebrities whom they believe will be likely to assume room temperature within the next 12 calendar months.

When a celebrity passes away, their age is deducted from 100. The resulting number equals the number of points that a player can add to their yearly total. Whichever team racks up the most points wins the pot.

As Gil told me during a phone interview last week, the most important rule in a celebrity dead pool is that players are not allowed to collect any winnings if they happen to be responsible for causing the celebrity’s death.

“I banked 122 points in 2017, which is pretty solid,” Gil told me last week. “Not as much as in previous years, but I did OK.”

I asked Gil to share some of his picks and explain his methodology for selecting them. Gil explained that he prefers to spread his picks with a mix of musicians, actors, sports figures and politicians.

“I think politics will be big this year,” said Gil. “I think we’ll see the passing of two former Presidents with Jimmy Carter (93) and George H.W. Bush (93). Queen Elizabeth (91) is another name that should be on every dead pool this year.”

Musically, Gil’s 2018 picks include Linda Ronstadt, Jerry Lee Lewis and Devin Lima.

Ronstadt, 71, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2012. Lewis, still performing at 82, has outlived most of his contemporaries who first came to prominence in the 1950s. Lima, the 40-year-old singer for the band LFO, was diagnosed with adrenal cancer last fall.

“Some athletes who are on my list include NFL Hall of Famer Raymond Berry (84) and baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays (86),” Gil said. “And I always try to get at least one former wrestler. This year I’ve gone with two - Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts (62) and Ric Flair (68).”

I asked Gil if he had ever selected a name based on a hunch.

“No, but at Christmas 2016, I was driving with my family to our family’s house for Christmas when ‘Last Christmas’ by Wham came on the radio. I turned to my wife and said ‘I’m going to put George Michael on the list next year. You never hear about him.’”

Three hours later, Gil says he and his family heard the news that George Michael had died that day.

“That’s about as big a hunch as I’ve ever had. It’s almost as if some force out there was projecting the idea that he was going to pass. Even my wife was a little creeped-out by that.”

Gil does understand the critics who say that dead pools are morbid affairs and in poor taste. While he doesn’t entirely disagree, he does offer a reasonable defense for his participation.

“I never root for any of these folks to pass away,” he said. “When they go, there’s no reason why I can’t score a few points for it. I’ll say this - of all my friends over the years who’ve said they could never take part in a dead pool, they’re the first people to text me with you ‘Did you have him?’ after someone dies.”

“It’s like the people who watch horror movies through closed fingers,” he continued. “I think a lot of people would like to do this but they’re just afraid to start. Instead, they enjoy living vicariously through their friends who take part.”


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