Lines from The Hyphen Queen*–Celebrity Death Match Thursday, July 2, 2009
Recently, we have seen the demise of 3 celebrities: Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, and Michael Jackson, all worthy of some mention, all familiar to those of us over 21. But, as usual, the media hype over one individual has eradicated for the most part any mention of the other two. We fans surely do love our gossip, but let’s remember all of those who have passed on. Why must one man so bent on self-destruction be lauded as if he were, indeed, a King? The only true King of Pop or Rock ‘N Roll was and is Elvis. More on that later. First, the two people who died fighting quietly just as they had lived their lives–not craving the spotlight for their personal lives, not creating melodrama and engaging in bizarre behavior just to keep in the public eye.
Ed McMahon, well-known sidekick of Johnnie Carson and celebrity spokesman for so many commercial ventures, was also a decorated war hero. McMahon joined the service during World War II and trained as a pilot, never seeing combat during that war. However, he did see action during the Korean War, when he received numerous medals for his courage and abilities. Let us not forget men like him (and my own father, by the way), who sacrificed everything to keep this country free. He seemed an amiable man, well-loved by the public, a nice man, a regular guy. No accusations of criminal behavior, no monkey purchases, no insanity. He was simply, I think, a decent guy doing his best in this crazy world. My sympathies go to his family.
Next, the poster-girl of my generation, Farrah Fawcett, whose blonde tresses and, shall we say, distinctive (un-bra-ed) boobs enthralled both men and women. The girls wanted to look like her, to be her, perhaps, while the boys all wanted her. Her stint on Charlie’s Angels launched her career, and while many dismissed her as just a dumb blonde with little acting talent, she proved them wrong when she made The Burning Bed, a movie about an abused wife who takes revenge on her monster-husband. She went on to make many other films, but no one can forget that first moment in BB when we realize that this girl really can act. Although her image has been flashed around the world, she has always kept her private life private.
She was funny and quirky and unpredictable, and some people thought she was on drugs because of her wacky behavior on talk shows, but that was just Farrah. Who hasn’t known someone like her, who is just so off the wall, but not in a bad way? She seemed sweet and kind, and those who knew her loved her unconditionally. She never said a bad word about former husband Lee Majors, unusual in Hollywood. She was, by all accounts, a devout Catholic. Yet judgmental types will say, “But she lived in sin with Ryan O’Neill for 40 years (or whatever) and had an illegitimate child, blah, blah, deblah…” My response is that that is between Farrah and God; her choices are none of our business. “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
She was a devoted mother who did not try to create that persona by jetting to Africa to adopt black babies. She stayed out of the gossip columns as much as possible, mostly by behaving in a decent fashion and not courting the tabloids. Attention paid to her work, not her personal life, was important to her. And when Farrah got anal cancer, she fought it bravely, quietly, honorably. How different that was from the behavior of some celebrities who have called press conferences every time they had a boo-boo. Let’s not forget Michael Jackson showing up to court in his jammies and whining about everything! As far as I could tell, Ms. Fawcett did not whine, did not make scenes, did not seek special attention because of her celebrity. She fought long and hard, and died bravely, quietly, with her beloved Ryan at her bedside. You will be missed, Farrah; now Charlie has his first Angel! Again, deepest sympathy to her loved ones.
In contra-distinction to the above stars, I now turn to the self-proclaimed King of Pop, who was so arrogant he named both his sons Prince Michael…Here is a man(?) who had significant talent, a good singer and dancer who produced some amazing albums and rock videos in his day, but whose personal, bizarre life has over-shadowed that talent. Here is a man who so despised his own looks, indeed, his own race, that he destroyed his face trying to look like a white man (some would say, a white woman!). The first plastic surgery after his fall on stage should have been his last; anyone with even half an ounce of brains can look at the changing looks of his rotted face and recognize that this man had a psychotic fixation. A responsible surgeon would have refused to continue this self-mutilation, just as responsible physicians should have refused to supply him with the drugs that ultimated destroyed him.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Jackson was one of the finest singers of his generation, but his attempts to be Elvis made him laughable as well as pitiable. I still can’t believe Elvis’s daughter was so stupid as to marry this loser, knowing, as she must have known, that Michael had a penchant for adolescent boys. Although never convicted of child molestation, he paid out a lot of blackmail money to his victims over the years. An innocent man would not have done that. While we can pity him for his painful childhood, no amount of abuse at the hands of others can justify raping children! Lots of people have had abusive childhoods, but they have led productive lives helping others. His own words convicted him, when he admitted on tape that he invited young boys to sleep with him in his bed and that there was nothing wrong with that.
Of course, at other times, he flatly denied doing anything wrong; but he also denied ever dangling his third child, “Blanket,” over the balcony, endangering his life. “I would never do such a thing,” was his mantra. Whenever an accusation of bizarre behavior (purchasing the Elephant Man’s bones) or illegal activities (child molestation and drug abuse), his answer was the same: “Not me–some other guy. I wouldn’t do such a thing.” This self-abnegation, this refusal to accept reality, can be seen in his decimated face and in his attempts to live with other people’s children in Neverland like some pansy Peter Pan.
Even his children, as so many of us have suspected, were not his own–he paid someone for those kids, ordered them up like a rich person shopping at the dog breeders. And why are they all white? So his legacy, such as it is, will be through children who look nothing like Michael’s black family? And yet he claimed to love them. Maybe he did, but he was a deeply flawed, probably psychotic, certainly drug-dependent guy who hadn’t dropped an album in, what, decades? That physicians and his family allowed him, enabled him in his strange fall from grace is not only despiccable, it is downright criminal. He was surrounded by “yes men” who lived off him and never had the courage to say, “Stop this!”
The world has witnessed the complete self-destruction of a famous individual, but the media continues to speak of Jacko in hushed tones of respect, as if he truly were a king. I feel sympathy for his children, for his family, at times I even feel sorry for him and his lonely, depraved life. But what I despise is the way the blood-thirsty media (and fans) have gobbled up every story, every bit of gossip and conjecture, and projected it onto a dead man. We have to remember that Michael Jackson threw away his talent when he became so arrogant, so narcissistic that he believed his own press, believed he was a king, above the laws of God and man, immune from prosecution, more important than any other person in pain.
What bothers me most is the way the media has so hyped one man, praising him over much, while simultaneously ignoring the two other people who also died this week. This is the same media that wanted to lynch him when he was on trial for child molestation, the same media that swooped down on any story that revealed how strange and twisted was Michael Jackson’s life. It reminds me of the widow who hated her husband in life but who threw herself on the casket at his funeral, roaring with crocodile tears and regret, trying a bit too hard to impress the public with her sense of loss. Knock it off, guys!
We should mourn the loss of anyone, everyone, who dies, but let’s stop glorifying one extremely flawed individual just because he used to be a good singer, let’s recognize that two other people also died this week–and these two, Farrah and Ed, are certainly more worthy of our praise and sorrow than Jackson and his clan. What defines a human are the things one does for others, the simple selfless acts that go unrecorded, unrecognized, not self-destructive behavior that hurts or endangers others.
And, while we’re at it, why are we not paying more attention to the men and women in our armed services who are still dying in foreign countries, not to protect America, but to further some politician’s pursuit of fame and fortune? These brave souls are there out of duty and love for this country, yet they are merely pawns in the ruthless political machinations of those who managed to avoid military service, those who have never put themselves in danger, their lives on the line, for freedom.
*The Hyphen Queen is Dr. Linda L. Labin
© Copyright 20o9 Linda L Labin, PhD