Thursday, June 25, 2009

Michael & Farrah

I've had to write about death a lot this week. My father's, Neda, Ed McMahon, and now today, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, both passing away here in Los Angeles, within four hours of each other. Also, the children of famed newscaster Walter Cronkite state that their father is extremely ill, and not expected to recover.
I don't like writing about death, although I have done so at times, trying to adjust to the idea of my own (see, Death List). To quote Woody Allen, "I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens."
I called my lovely case manager, Erin, down in her office, when the story of Michael's collapse first appeared on MSNBC .
"Hello, this is Erin."
"Yes, hi Rick."
"Erin _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _? (her full name)"
"Yes Rick."
"_ _ _ _ _ _ ? (her nickname)"
"Yes Dad."
"Oh, hi Erin. This is Rick."
"Rick who?"
"Are you a fan of Michael Jackson?"
"Ah, not really. Why?"
"Well I've just seen on TV that he has had a heart attack, and TMZ has reported that he's dead."
"Oh... that's interesting."
"And Farrah Fawcett died this morning too."
"Oh, really. I didn't know that."
"You know who Farrah Fawcett was?"
"How do you know about Farrah Fawcett?"
"I liked her hair."
Understandable. I liked her hair too. The poster of the picture above of Farrah sold anywhere from 5 to 12 million copies in 1976, making it the best selling poster of all time.
1976 was a great year for Farrah. The poster, then she appeared in the cult classic, Logan's Run, and that year she got the part of Jill Monroe, in Charlie's Angels, first a movie of the week, then a hit television series, in which Farrah, for all intents and purposes, was the star.
In later dramatic roles she had a penchant for playing abused women who overcome their circumstances, in the stage play and film, Extremities (in which she plays a rape victim who turns the tables on her attacker), and the television film, The Burning Bed (as a battered wife), earning her the first of three Emmy nominations.
I must admit that I was not a huge fan of Ms Fawcett's work, although I happen to own a VHS tape of a film she appeared in, Dr. T and the Women, in which she presented a remarkable performance.
In 2006 she was diagnosed with cancer of which she succumbed to today at 9:28 in the morning in Santa Monica.
The news of her death provided the media with its daily headlines, until a few hours later it was overshadowed, indeed almost forgotten, by the report of Michael Jackson's rush to the UCLA Medical Center, the same building, by the way, where Ed McMahon died two days previously.
I have to admit that I was also not a huge fan of Michael Jackson. Although I pretty much grew up listening to The Jackson Five, and I did enjoy his masterpiece, Thriller.
But my sister! Oh my.
I returned a call to my lovely sister just as the news was breaking of Michael's collapse.
"Hey there. Have you heard?"
"Oh my god, yes."
I could tell she had been crying. She sniffled as she spoke.
"MSNBC is reporting he's been hospitalized, but TMZ is saying he's already dead," I told her.
"I know, and it was wrong of TMZ to report that, and it makes me very angry."
Unbeknownst to me, my sister was a huge fan of Michaels. She told me of her life long love of the pop star and singer, the posters she used to put up on her bedroom walls, her defense of him during the trials for child molestation.
"He was innocent! All they wanted was money," she told me.
She was very upset. I offered to call her back later, but she refused.
"No, no, no... stick with me... stick with me... how are you doing?"
I was doing fine. I usually am. We made small talk. I asked her how my lovely niece, Keri was.
She was doing fine, my sister told me.
And then...
"Rick, I'll call you back later... I'll call you back later... I'm having a nervous breakdown... they just said he's dead... I'll call you back later... I love you..."
I told her I loved her too, and we hung up.
The entire nation, the entire world, is reacting much the way my dear sister has. Coverage of Michael's death has continued none stop since his death was announced. I'm watching Keith Olbermann reporting on it as I write.
Just a few minutes ago there appeared on my television set a scene videotaped from a helicopter of Michael's body, wrapped in a white sheet, as it was moved from another helicopter to an awaiting ambulance at the USC Medical Center, here downtown, for transportation to the county's coroners office. That's the last appearance of his amazing career, and his amazing life.
Goodbye Farrah and Michael. May you both rest in peace.

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