Friday, June 26, 2009

It Was A Long Time Ago Indeed

I was at work yesterday afternoon when I learned that Farrah Fawcett had died - finally succumbing to the cancer that first attacked her several years ago. She was sixty-two years old. Being born in the late 1960's, I recall as a kid being one of the 12 million people who owned "the poster" - the photo of her wearing the red bathing suit and the come hither grin. I must admit that I had forgotten - until watching on the news last night about her - that the photograph that helped launch her career into the stratosphere was taken thirty-three years ago. A lot of life gets lived in thirty-three years I suppose. A generation ago, she was one of Charlie's Angels. Now, she is assigned to a different beat altogether.

My father-in-law Joe, whose own recent experience in this area has been most unfortunate, noted with resignation last night as we were watching the TV news that, "cancer does not care about celebrity." His beloved Suzy and Ryan O'Neal's beloved Farrah were markedly different in terms of the number of people who knew them but were remarkably similar in terms of the number of people who loved them - everyone who knew them. And regardless of one's fame or public acclaim, the hole left in the lives of those who love you when an insidious disease like cancer takes you away from them, is real, palpable and hard to fill.

Later last evening, while watching the Yankees game, I heard the news of Michael Jackson's death. Candidly, the self-proclaimed "King of Pop" was never my cup of taste musically. However, one could not deny the enormity of his talent. I was in high school in the early 80's, after Off the Wall had been released and during the height of the Thriller phenomenon. It seemed as if you could not turn on the radio or put on the TV without hearing one of his songs or seeing one of his videos (historical note for the younger readers out there, once upon a time MTV actually played music videos) - especially after the mini-movie he made with John Landis as the video for the single "Thriller" opened the door for African-American artists to get their music videos played on MTV.

Somewhere along the line, it appeared from afar as if Michael Jackson's train left the tracks. For at least the final decade of his life it seemed as if his name appeared in the press only in connection with something other than his music. His legal adventures, in both the criminal and civil courts, were well-documented. His eccentric and downright weird behavior was chronicled at every turn. And eventually, it was as if Michael Jackson, the entertainer, ceased to exist. He was replaced in the public's mind's eye by Michael Jackson - the caricature.

He died at age fifty, leaving his mother, his siblings and his three children to mourn the loss of their son, brother and father. And if one believes this morning's article in the New York Post -adorned with the heartfelt headline "JACKO HAS GONE TO 'NEVERLAND'", a mountain of debt and a medicine cabinet full of prescription drugs as well.

Yesterday was a shot across the bow of any of us who choose the delusion of thinking that fame and fortune are guarantors of a happy, long life. They are not. A point driven home, yet again, by studying the tragic cases of an Angel and Pop's King. Life wasn't long/Life wasn't easy/Life wasn't cheap/Life wasn't fair.

The microscopes that magnified the tears
Studied warts and all
Still the life flows on and on
Fab - long time ago when we was fab
Fab - but It's All Over Now Baby Blue


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