When death comes, the press takes its threesomes any way it can find them. The Tuesday Tribune carried a front-page box titled “Farewells,” with directions to the obits inside the paper for Ingmar Bergman, Bill Walsh, and Tom Snyder–who were certainly closer in death than in life. The Sun-Times’s Richard Roeper began his column the same day, “It was a dark trifecta for those who believe celebrities die in threes.” (Roeper went on to say he doesn’t.)
But there was a fly in the ointment. Michelangelo Antonioni died too late for the print editions but not for the radio stations Chicago woke up to. Antonioni was a movie director whose stature can be compared to Bergman’s. Did this make four?
Or two? With all due respect to TV interviewer Tom Snyder, he was never considered a genius of his trade the way Walsh was. And with all due respect to Bill Walsh, the fame of football coaches ends pretty abruptly at the water’s edge.
The Tribune’s tributes to Bergman and Antonioni were written by Michael Wilmington, “special to the Tribune.” That’s Trib-speak for “doesn’t work here” and it raised more questions than it answered. Hasn’t Wilmington been a Tribune movie critic for the past 14 years? Geoff Brown, associate managing editor for features, told me Wilmington resigned a few weeks ago. I asked why. “You’ll never get me to discuss why anybody comes or goes,” Brown said. “Maybe comes.”