An Eye for An Eye

I love the Oscars. I hate the segment on people who passed away. It doesn’t matter that I practically read US Weekly on a daily basis–I’m always the last to know who’s kicked the bucket. It’s horrible. It’s horrible because it’s a montage, and because I’m inevitably drunk, at some Oscars theme party, dressed up as Rose from Titantic or Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice, and I’m sitting on the floor, and everyone’s stepping on my gown to get to the baked brie, and I can’t speak because Gilligan just died.

So in 2006, I kept excellent tabs on celebrity mortality. I won’t be the one in crinoline crying over Don Knotts or Shelley Winters, nope, not this year. I was even feeling confident enough to make fun of my friend who didn’t realize John Denver had crashed his plane into a mountain until the very end of a PBS tribute. “They spoke about him in the past tense! How could you not know?”

Karma’s a bitch. Riding the L train home Thursday night, I saw this:


Apparently, Jerry Orbach died. Like, three years ago. How could I have missed this? So much, lately, is news to me. You can’t microwave metal? Who knew. Diet Coke and Mentos create a volcanic eruption? Oops.

The initial stun of Orbach’s death was nothing compared to my subsequent freak-out over the ad itself. In all my years of celebrity worship–and you’ll hear all about those years if you subscribe to my blog–the thought had never crossed my mind that a non-famous person might inherit a famous person’s body. There are two people out there walking around with Jerry Orbach’s eyes. Jerry Orbach. The guy from Law and Order. The guy who put Baby in a corner before Patrick Swayze took her out of it.

I don’t know a whole lot about organ donation–just that I have a heart pic on my driver’s license, so I guess I signed up–but I’m assuming if you’re on the receiving end of things, you don’t get a frameable certificate of authenticity. That’s how organ donation is different than, say, Build-A-Bear. So the two women with Jerry Orbach’s eyes don’t know the eyes used to belong to Jerry Orbach? And if they do know, do they discuss it over coffee? If one woman’s Orbach eye gets a lash in it, does the other woman’s Orbach eye tear up?

I hope I’m not offending any readers who have given or received an organ. Or had a tissue graft. Or botox. I’m a proponent of all those procedures, really–it’s the post mortem celebrity endorsement that I can’t quite wrap my brain around. There’s something fishy to it. Take, for example, the following quote, printed in the Jan 9th Daily News:

“I cannot remember a day that went by where he didn’t say, ‘I want to donate my eyes,’ “Orbach’s widow, Elaine, recalled yesterday.

Really? I would find that unconvincing, like how Fred Sanford used to constantly threaten a heart attack. How does eye donation casually come up in conversation every day? And why only the eyes? And how does one respond to that kind of statement?

Watch this Bideawee TV spot. You might need kleenex because it features both a very sweet Orbach and footage of unwanted puppies and kittens:

Now imagine this scene:

Orbach: “Elaine, can you pass the brussel sprouts?”
Elaine: “Sure.”
Orbach: (spooning sprouts onto his plate) “That reminds me. I really want to be an eye donor.
Elaine: “Yes, honey, I know. I remember. You told me. Yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before that…”

The Eye Bank of New York also takes the liberty of saying that Orbach’s “greatest role was that of of an eye donor.” Hmmm. I always found his greatest role to be that of Lumiere, the candelabra in Beauty and the Beast.

If the two women who received his corneas did in fact know they came from Jerry Orbach, it raises some interesting ethical questions. Could they harvest their own eyes and then sell them on E-Bay? That is, after all, why Linday Lohann is keeping her appendix in her freezer.


Which celebrity organ do you want? For awhile I wanted Julie Andrew’s laryanx, but not so much anymore.


7 responses to “An Eye for An Eye

  1. I always cry at the montage. Especially if they use a movie theme like the “Main Titles” from ‘The Cider House Rules’ in the background.

  2. I’d say Jake Gyllenhall’s eyelashes, but mine are top notch as it stands.

    Give me . . . Alex Trebek’s splinter-cell moustache.

  3. I totally thought of you the first time I saw the Jerry Orbach add! I was on the 7 train. Well, my first thought was, “gross.” My second thought was “I wish Rebecca were here, she would have something really funny to say about this.” Train ads have always been one of your specialties. Ah, those days on the N/W from Astoria…(sniff sniff)

    I also had the thought (as you did) of, “do the receivers of the eyes know that they have Jerry Orbach’s eye?” Because I would want to know! That ad is everywhere, so now every eye receiver is looking at that wondering if their eye used to belong to Jerry Orbach. How cruel.

  4. How bout if I could BE a celebrated body part?

    Frank Zappa’s moustache.

  5. let me just say that this is by far my favorite posting to date… i was going to write about taking a celeb’s organ, but the whole thing makes me a little ill at ease. let’s just say i wouldn’t ask lindsay lohan for a kidney.

  6. They eyes should come with bronze plaques attached with the sign “Donated by…”
    I wonder if those women will see the world differently?

  7. Imagine how his sons must have felt….having to leave his deathbed so that someone could shuck out his eyes while they were still fresh.


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