David Carradine R.I.P.—Goodnight Sweet Autoerotic Prince

Publisher: The Fanzine
Date: 06.04.09
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If you caught the early AP reports of David Carradine's death, you may have gotten a different mental image of the nemesis of Kill Bill's demise. The first reports had Carradine found "hanging from his neck and genitals." Only later, when the story started to spread through the Internet, the story was quickly changed to "hanging from his neck and body." Although Thai police are ruling the death a suicide, a contention his agent denies, hanging from one's "neck and body" is more of a Harold from Harold and Maude kind of stage trick (or Veronica from Heathers for that matter). Hanging from the "neck and genitals" implies something a little darker, but at least it's probably accidental, as those close to Carradine seem to believe. Unfortunately for them, the officer who first arrived at Carradine's hotel room, told the Bangkok newspaper The Sun, "A rope was attached to his neck and also to his penis." Believe what you want; my mind is made up.

Of course, the guy from INXS, who I previously believed to have died from a drug overdose, also died in a similarly ignominious fashion. I suppose that kind of death is relatively peaceful, maybe even enjoyable if you get your jollies off that sort of thing, and the real pain is relegated to the guy's family, friends, agent, etc.

As a man of Chinese descent, I should probably hold a permanent grudge against Carradine for stealing the part of Caine in Kung Fu from its rightful owner, Bruce Lee. I suppose it's not all Carradine's fault though, since the producers and executives (the suits, if you will) didn't think the U.S. was ready for a China-man in a leading role. Boy, did they blow that one. But what won me back over to Carradine's corner wasn't his coolness and relaxed atmosphere he brought to just about every scene he ever shot, but rather it's the memory of what I consider to be his best movie, Cannonball.

Cannonball involves six or seven drivers on a deadly cross-country road race. It's basically Cannonball Run, which came later, but without the fun. This is a serious race, and there is no time for laughter. What really got me into the film as a little kid were the cars: 1974 DeTomaso Pantera, a 1976 Chevrolet Corvette, a 1970 Pontiac Trans Am, a 1969 Ford Mustang, a black 1968 Dodge Charger, and a 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III—driven of course, by the only black dude in the movie. The movie has more than just blacksploitation though—it also has the redneck drunk, Cade Redman, and the douchebag European driving the Pantera, which eventually blows up as he gets his come-uppance.

The 1970 Trans Am is, in my opinion, the best American car that was ever made. The best way I can say it in words is if the girl next door went away for a few years and came back an international supermodel, this car would be the embodiment of that magnificent transformation. It was so great in the movie that Carradine, who played Coy "Cannonball" Buckman—who is not gay at all with his yellow driving moccasins and red bandana tied neatly around his neck, had two of the same exact blood-red cars (he got the second one after he crashed the first when his arch nemesis Redman, played by Bill McKinney, kicked in Buckman's headlights). Cade Redman drove the Dodge Charger, another great looking car, but it ended up the way most cars did in the 70s and 80s—in a huge spontaneous fireball midway through a freefall from some precipice. He did (Cade) leave us with us with a pretty memorable quote though: "Ahhhh. Best damn beer in the world. Better than spinach. Better than porburgers. Better than possom."

That's right. Better than possom.

Back to Carradine, though. He's an uncle to Martha Plimpton, who is best known for playing Stef Steinbrenner in The Goonies. He's also probably best known for playing Bill in Tarantino's Kill Bill series. Carradine, who never reached and never will reach Chuck Norris status, made a pretty good living playing cowboys and reluctant heroes of kung fu, and kung fu cowboys. He will be missed, but he had a pretty good run. The characters he played were as cool as cucumbers. Speaking of which, thank Christ he didn't die with a cucumber up his ass along with the rope on his penis.

Personally, I always thought he'd go out like he did as Coy "Cannonball" Buckman—by driving his Trans Am under a freight train. Dying by autoerotic asphyxiation was probably his equivalent idea of that. As a poster named "Davisourus" wrote on a message board recalling board members' favorite memories of Carradine, "Goodnight sweet autoerotic prince."