This is not the first time a pre-humous obit has escaped into the wild. See, when a famous person starts getting on in years, most publications write up obits for them ahead of time so they're ready to go when the subject finally kicks. Hence the "DO NOT PUB" headline that the folks at People apparently failed to notice.
Some other folks to be memorialized just a bit prematurely:
- Fidel Castro, Dick Cheney, Nelson Mandela, Bob Hope, Gerald Ford, Pope John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan: Not only did the folks in charge of web content at CNN.com report that all these folks had died on the same day, the obits were wrong. For instance, Dick Chaney was referred to as "the UK's favorite grandmother."
- Pope John Paul II: This dude died thrice before he died, at least according to CNN and Fox News: CNN reported it in 1981 and then again in 2003; Fox got the day right, but ran the story a couple hours early, when he was only mostly dead.
- Steve Jobs: hey - this one wasn't perpetrated by CNN. Bloomberg ran a 17 page story on Jobs' death three years ahead of time. Where are they even storing these pre-obits where it's so easy to accidentally publish a 17 page article?
- Marcus Garvey: What's worse than recovering from a stroke only to read a published story about your own demise? Reading a Chicago Defender story that says you died "broke, alone and unpopular." Not long after, poor Garvey had another stroke, this one fatal.
- The "Cha-Ching Guy": Long before he became show business' favorite ginger, Seth Green starred in a series of Rally's commercials, where he was responsible for the most annoying catch phrase of the early 90s. Like so many stars before and after him, he was killed by the deadly combination of Coke and Pop Rocks. Or from smoking pot and driving. Or possibly from smoking weed, then swallowing Coke and Pop Rocks while careening into a tree. This wasn't reported in major newspapers, but we all knew it to be true.