And Michael makes three
First, Ed McMahon died on Tuesday. Second, Farrah Fawcett died Thursday morning. Then third, Michael Jackson died Thursday afternoon. Three icons of my youth, gone in three days.
My memories of Ed McMahon are sparse since he and Johnny were on the air past my bedtime for most of my young age. When I could stay up later, I rarely watched “The Tonight Show,” but tuned in later on NBC for David Letterman.
Still, you could not be alive in this country and not know who Ed McMahon was. I think I mostly knew him from the Publisher’s Clearing House commercials. Haven’t we all fantasized about Ed showing up at our house with a giant sweepstakes check? Oh well. Maybe that was just me. I even bought a few magazine subscriptions once, thinking that would increase my odds of winning. Ah, youth.
Farrah. Now there was an icon. I never thought she was the most beautiful of Charlie’s Angels; that title went to Jaclyn Smith, in my opinion (Hedon believes the title belongs to Kate Jackson). Farrah had the famous hair and the poster, though, and I hesitate to even imagine how many nights she and her clingy swimming suit appeared in the dampened dreams of teenage boys. Okay, probably there were more than just teenage boys, but I don’t want to go there, either.
I watched “Charlie’s Angels” as a child, and don’t remember much about Farrah’s character. She wasn’t on there very long, was she, before going off on her own? I certainly remember all the brouhaha surrounding her role in the TV movie “The Burning Bed.” I thought it was silly the way people were all agog that Farrah “allowed” them to make her look less than beautiful in her role of an abused wife. It must have been barrier-breaking in some way, I assume, to create such a furor of surprise and admiration. I clearly was too far out of the loop to get it. And too young.
And that brings us to Michael. MTV and music videos were born in my teenage years, and by the time I was in college, Michael Jackson was the emperor of MTV. I remember all of us in the dorm huddling around the television in the lounge, clamoring for the premier airing of the “Thriller” video. It was everything we had hoped it would be, and more.
I had a poster of Michael on the wall of my dorm room, the one from “Off the Wall” where he’s wearing the yellow sweater. I didn’t dream of him, but I did think him beautiful.
We all moonwalked, if we could. We knew every word to every song on the “Thriller” album, except for some of the words to “Billy Jean” since they were deliberately obscured in places, something Michael loved to do. We all debated the ethics of Billy Jean falsely accusing Michael of being the father of her child. We all wanted to wear one glove, but most of us did not succumb to that need (myself included, thankfully). We were all appalled and aghast when Michael was burned during the filming of that Pepsi commercial.
Michael is a huge part of my memories of my freshman year in college. Oh yes, we had Madonna, too. But for the girls in particular, it was all about Michael. We were frustrated by his desire for privacy. Had there been a 24-hour Michael Jackson channel, we probably would have watched it until falling into a coma from lack of sleep.
By the time “Bad” appeared on the scene, I’d moved away from pop music for the most part. I couldn’t get away from news about him, though. Who he dated. Who he married. Where he went. What he bought. What he did. It’s no wonder he fought so long and so hard for a modicum of privacy. I eventually tuned it all out.
Michael returned to my attention in later years because of his repeated visits to the plastic surgery Toronto, and the allegations that he was a child molester. I thought it was sad that he had spoiled his looks, and wondered what madness underlay his need for physical change. And I refused to believe he had been molesting children. It would have to be proven to me.
Then, years later, I watched that interview Michael had with that British guy. While it wasn’t proof, Michael admitted to sleeping in the same beds with these children, among other strange things, and I found these disclosures disturbing enough to open considerable doubt. I’m still unsure.
I know that many people in the days to come will want to ignore the allegations of child molestation, and say we should focus instead on the musical artist that was Michael Jackson. They want to keep the musical master separate from the man himself. I’m not sure one can actually do that. Van Gogh was a master of painting, and the fact that he was insane enough to whack off his earlobe as a gift to a prostitute is part of who he was as an artist, not just who he was as a man. The human is his/her art, and vice versa.
I want to just remember the beautiful Michael in that poster which hung on the closet door in my dorm room. But what I want is impossible. Will he forever be an enigma?
Three icons. Gone. Ed, Farrah and Michael. May you all rest in peace.