There has been a rumor circulating around the internet since last December that Jaleel White, who played Steve Urkel and various other characters on the long-running show Family Matters, committed suicide. The fact that he supposedly left behind a note consisting of just one line, Urkel’s catchphrase, “Did I do that” should have been a tipoff, but there were a few complications.
For one thing the story had cache. It was supposedly reported by the Associated Press in this release that was sent via email to millions:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) – Jaleel White, who played ‘nerdy’ neighbor Steve Urkel on “Family Matters” found dead Monday. He was 29 years old.
White was pronounced dead on arrival after admission to an LA hospital early Monday morning. The death is being investigated as a suicide.
Born Jaleel Ahmad White, he began his career at the age of three acting in television commercials, before landing guest spots on shows such as “The Jeffersons” and “Mr. Belvedere.” It was in 1989 that White landed the role that would make him famous, playing wacky neighbor ‘Steve Urkel’ on the ABC program “Family Matters.”
Following the cancellation of “Family Matters” in 1997, friends claim White became obsessed with the character, and grew despondent, despite further successes as star and producer of the UPN sitcom “Grownups”, and as a writer for NBA.com
Neighbor and friend, Bradley Spencer alerted police after hearing what he described as “a loud bang” coming from White’s Los Angeles apartment.
Authorities state that upon entering the home they discovered a young African-American male with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Also found was a note, which read simply “Did I do that?”, a popular catchphrase from the show.
“Jaleel was an uncommonly good man, an exceptional role model and a great comedic actor,” said William Bickley, who created the series, and Thomas L. Miller, one of the executive producers, in a joint statement.
“We feel privileged to have known him and worked with him. He’ll be missed and remembered every day by his many, many friends,” they said.
Actress Kellie Williams – Laura Winslow on the series – described White as a consummate professional actor. “Everyone adored him,” she said.
“We have all lost a dear, dear brother,” said Reginald VelJohnson, who played Carl Winslow.
White, an only child, is survived by “cousins, aunts, uncles, and wonderful friends,” Bickley said.
and it was accompanied by a photo of a guy with a shaved head who, I suppose, bears a slight resemblance to what Jaleel White may have looked like now. The phony AP has the ring of truth, it was very well done. Shortly afterward the rumor seemed to have died down, but lately it’s been popping up again.
The fact is that Jaleel White did not commit suicide. It is just the latest in a long line of rumors about untimely celebrity deaths, the grandaddy of them all being the Paul McCartney is dead conspiracy, and the latest being the death of Jon Heder, better known as Napoleon Dynamite.