What a week in entertainment obituaries. Some expected and one surprise - all sad. Ed Mc Mahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.
I don't recall a time when I didn't know who Ed McMahon was. I think his success has been over shadowed in past years by his money troubles and I don't find that funny. He played an important comedic roll as the set up artist and side kick to Carson on the Tonight Show a roll that has been emulated but never duplicated in success. Although, a close second could be Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry and Ron McLean.
When it came to backyard play versions of Charlie's Angels I was always assigned Kate Jackson's character Sabrina -by default cuz my hair was brown. Oh how I longed to be Farrah's Jill. Her very public battle with cancer was documented at her insistence. She wanted to show North America what cancer really looked like. A documentary lover I am, but, this was one I could not watch. I have seen it first hand during my mother' six year battle and it hit a little close to home. If you believe in heaven like my mother did, you can be guaranteed she is waiting to high five Farrah for her courage, upon her arrival to the pearly gates. For my part I decided to pull out my curling iron and pay tribute to Farah once and for all by sporting her famous hairstyle. This project has failed miserably as the humidity is giving me big hair circa 1970's MJ fro and not so much feathered Fawcett. (How's that for a segue? - a perfect set up eh McMahon?)
My friend Connie who has crafted a successful career around her love of music wrote a great tribute to Micheal Jackson - you can read it here. I can only speak to his influence on me as a preteen growing up in a small farming town.
After school I loved to tune into Video Hits a 30 minute show produced out of Toronto to watch the latest videos, Robert Palmer, Huey Lewis, Gowan, George Michael, Madonna and the greatest videos were always by Michael Jackson. Billie Jean with the light up side walk - how cool was that? Clearly I recall the excitement of watching the Thriller video at a friend's birthday party. Eight or 10 little girls standing around the TV mesmerized by Jackson's transformation into a zombie. For the next few years every Halloween brought zombie Jackson's to the door. Thriller has shaped pop culture for an eternity, I think.
I still remember at time when I fell in love , I remember a time when we first met, Micheal. I loved watching him dance, we always tuned in if he was to perform on an awards show. My mother called me from bed to the TV to watch the replay of the Micheal Jackson Pepsi/fireworks/ burnt hair accident/incident. Kmart (I wasn't always a label snob) was riddled with PVC knock offs of Jackson's red zipper coat, my cousin had a sparkly glove and suddenly my high water pants (due to spaghetti legs & growth spurts) paired with white sport socks had become fashionable. Thanks for the rescue MJ.
Later, my sister and I reprimanded our Dad for not taking the "Bad" album as a prize at the curling club. (He redeemed himself by having it taped for us - which didn't seem so frowned upon back then) Bad was the soundtrack to which my sister and I choreographed countless dance sessions in the basement.We rewound and played it over and over while we practiced Jackson's dance moves (I am pretty sure I more closely resembled Richard Pryor.) I laugh still thinking about my dad dancing and singing the chorus to BAD in the kitchen pointing to my sister and I singing "Who's Bad?"
I have also often thought about the fine line between genius and mental illness. Mental illness does seem to afflict child prodigies and the most truly gifted, artists, painters, writers, mathmaticians and scientists. Warhol studied Celebrity in Life and Death and surely MJ would fit in here. We cannot dissociate the antics and oddities, plastic surgeries and court cases that caused the tabloids to coin the term Whacko Jacko from Jacskson. My thoughts are that Jackson lived in suchh a watchful world he was forced to become recluse and that must have contributed to his health. Too much time alone in your head is not always a good thing. He was obviously a tortured soul despite all his success, talent and wealth. In his passing I hope he has found the peace he had been missing, free from the scrutinizing eyes of the poisonous paparazzi.
MJ's, dance moves, his fashion and above all his musical legacy will shine brightly influencing musicians for years to come. I know my sweet baby girl will be heard singing along to the radio when Man in the Mirror or Billie Jean plays. I am certain she WILL be embarrassed by her dorky parents as they emulate Thriller dance moves across the floor at some family wedding.
In the passing of these three famous people we are reminded that we are all the same regardless of stature, fame, money. We can all be touched by financial struggles, cancer and mental illness. We learn from those who must fight their battles publicly and hopefully we are sensitive to it when those in our own community are affected.
This week I say good bye to a childhood friend who lost his 7 month battle with Leukemia, and I welcome three baby girls; Jane, Ayda and Ruby born to dear friends.