Growing up in the 70s, my sister and I had numerous posters tacked up on our bedroom walls. Recently, people who were on two of those posters passed away: Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. I haven’t thought about those long gone iconic images in years, but now it is hard for me to believe that these people are gone or that so many years have passed since those posters graced the walls of our rooms.
My sister was a normal teenage girl for that time. Michael Jackson’s poster was one of a number she had: David Cassidy by himself and with his Partridge Family, Bobby Sherman, Donny Osmond, Davey Jones and the Monkees. Even then I thought Jackson’s poster stood out: he had a sparkle in his eye, a tilt to his head, and a bright glow about him that made him out-dazzle all the other guys on the posters in her room.
In my room there were posters of a different kind: Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, the Eagles, Pink Floyd, and Aerosmith; but in 1976 I cleared space over my bed for the famous poster of Farrah Fawcett, as did millions of other American boys who were as in love with the beaming smile, the fluffy hair, and the red bathing suit as I was. What is interesting is that Farrah was the first and only female to earn a spot on those walls, and I used to jokingly say goodnight to her before I went to sleep and goodbye to her in the morning on my way to school. I guess this seemed in my teenage mind like some kind of a relationship.
Now when I go into my daughter’s room I see posters of the Jonas Brothers, Zac Efron, the Sprouse twins, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, and Miley Cyrus. These are the new teen and pre-teen icons, but truthfully I don’t see anything of the magic of Michael in these people. The girls, while cute, are no Farrah Fawcett, but maybe that is the whole point. These celebrity kids don’t need to out-dazzle one another because they have a ready-made audience and exposure that Farrah and Michael could never have imagined.
Whenever my daughter wants to hear a song by one of her “faves” or see an image, all she has to do is turn on the computer. Music videos, like those that built Michael into a huge star during the early glory days of MTV, are just a click away. She can check out all these songs without opening her little purse. She can also print images of the stars and post them in her room next to the large posters she gets from magazines.
Can you imagine if Michael had that kind of exposure in his day? Or, for that matter, a group like the Beatles, or someone like Elvis? If they were such mega-watt stars in the days of no technology, what would they be today? Of course, when I said that, my daughter replied something like, “Dad, they’d be just one of all the rest now.”
Ah, the truth out of the mouth of my pre-teen. She hit on something absolutely right: there is nothing extraordinary about any of these new stars because they are seemingly manufactured from the same mold, Disney or otherwise. Now, my not understanding their appeal may reveal my age here, but I do not see how any of these people will ever be big stars twenty years from now, and maybe, come to think of it, not even ten years from now.
The next new star is just a video or a song away. Miley meet Selena meet Demi meet whoever is next. One week it’s Katy Perry and the next Lady Gaga and then maybe Lord Timberlake or Prince Eminem might come back for a spell. It doesn’t seem like anything substantial or even close to everlasting; perhaps these days we cannot expect that, or maybe no one wants it anymore.
People’s tastes are more fickle than ever. I remember lots of one-hit wonders in my day, but that seemed to be par for the course in the fairways to fame and misfortune. The old bands I liked are either gone or reconstituted to a point of really not being those old bands I used to go to see at Madison Square Garden or Nassau Coliseum.
Still, if you want a really great show, and one that will fill a stadium, you need an act that has some mileage, like Sir Paul McCartney, who is playing soon at Citi Field here in New York in shows that sold out the stadium in less than five minutes. This is apropos since Paul, as a member of a little band called the Beatles, was part of the first concert ever held in a stadium. For those of you too young to know or remember, Paul and his mates played to a packed house at Shea Stadium back in 1965. Now the first concert ever at Citi Field will feature Sir Paul.
No matter how wonderful the Jonas Brothers or any of these other acts are today, I don’t think any single one of them could sell out a large stadium like that. If you want to do that, you need the old boys to have top billing: McCartney can still do it, Springsteen too, and maybe Bon Jovi or the Rolling Stones if they come around again.
So, as I sat there this weekend looking at my daughter’s posters on the wall, I thought about the posters on the wall of my sister’s and my room over 30 years ago. So much has changed since then, and now Farrah is not just one of Charlie’s Angels but something much more, and Michael is somewhere between here and Alpha Centauri, no doubt dazzling the heavens with his sparkling glove and socks, singing with that ethereal voice and dancing a moonwalk as a now eternal boy-man who is and ever will be a blazing comet across the sky.
In pace requiescat, Farrah and Michael.