For most of the day yesterday, after the news broke that Farrah Fawcett had finally passed away, I couldn't decide if I was a Farrah 'fan.' I mean, for those of us who grew up in the mid- to late-1970s, she was definitely a cultural icon.
I don't know how many copies of that famous poster were sold, but it seemed like everyone I knew had one. Most girls didn't own the poster, but a lot of them had the hair style. Charlie's Angels wasn't exactly revolutionary television, but it managed to throw a long shadow, even if Farrah did leave after the first season. Many years later, she stepped out of that shadow with the The Burning Bed, a TV film about domestic violence. Forget Charlie's Angels and its so-called "Jiggle TV," Farrah could really act. Was I a fan? Hmmm. I had the poster too, so I guess I was.
So later in the day, the Internet lights up with reports that Michael Jackson had been taken to the hospital. I immediately thought the worst and sure enough, millions of other people did too. In the middle of my drive home, the reports downgraded from "coma" to the official confirmation that Jackson was gone.
The only music of Jackson's that I ever had was a cassette that I made off the radio way back when I was in fifth grade. In between the Moody Blues' "Nights In White Satin" and "I Gotcha" by Joe Tex was the Jackson 5 doing "Rockin' Robin." It's sort of hard to believe that that was the same Michael Jackson.
What really amazes me (and honestly, it shouldn't) is how the media focus of celebrity ends up crushing people. It didn't really happen to Farrah, though people did get a big kick out of her whacky, Crispin Glover-like appearance on Letterman. Michael Jackson, on the other hand, seemed to be transformed over the years by the pressure. Here was a man who had talent, fame, and more money than anybody could want. What did he do with it all? Well, he did make a ton of music that millions of people loved. He also bought crazy things, including a pile of plastic surgeries that seemed to slowly erase the visage of the younger Jackson. His look seemed to change to fit the circus that his life became. I read a comment somewhere yesterday stating that they never believed the accusations of child molestation, that Jackson had actually turned himself back into a little kid in the attempt to relive his stolen childhood. I don't know. The whole thing has always made me sad.
Did Jackson bring a lot of this onto himself? I don't know. It seems like at some point his inner self kind of ran off the rails. And since it's so tough to get inside a person's mind, it's really hard to say just what fame did to him. Our own interest fuels the gossip industry, so it's not fair to go blaming "the media" here. In fact, it seemed like it was Farrah's wish to have her sickness documented. I didn't really need to see those photos of her diminished self, but at least she had a say in the decision. Yesterday, on the other hand, I saw an "exclusive photo" of an intubated Michael Jackson on a stretcher. What the hell? When is 'enough' enough?
I'm choosing to remember both of these people as they were in their youth, back when Farrah seemed both hot and innocent, and when Michael could electrify a crowd with his glove, a flip of the hat, and his pure energy.