It was a tough stretch a few weeks back for some iconic Baby Boomers. After a long and many would say courageous battle with cancer, Farrah Fawcett passed away. The Texas girl with the fabulous set of teeth who did more for the feathered hairstyle than The Six-Million Dollar Man did for slow-motion running burst on to the scene with her 1976 poster that became the best-selling pinup in history. That shot was considered somewhat risqué at the time, but when you see it again, it is tame by today’s standards. Hard to believe she was one of “Charlie’s Angels” for just the first season. To many, she will always be the Ultimate Angel. Maybe she is again.
Then, some mere hours after her passing, another Boomer of renown hit the deck. The self-proclaimed “King of Pop”, Michael Jackson, ended his time on this stage in characteristically controversial fashion. The news was abuzz with “was it a heart attack, an overdose, an accident? Did his doctor have something to do with it?” Of course, as in many stories such as this, we may never know the true cause of his demise. The world went into a weeks-long mourning (at least the news world) over the loss of an inarguably talented but equally tormented soul. Nothing can diminish the stamp he put on the face of music. His contribution to the genre of music videos may never be equaled. I stood as enthralled as the next person the first time I saw “Thriller” performed. He had a gift like no other. But, like many in that business, his demons managed to overwhelm any good he had to offer. There will forever be the questions regarding the nature and extent of his involvement with young boys, acquittals notwithstanding. Wonder will always exist concerning his bizarre physical transformation. And now, the allegations of his possible drug abuse.
The memorial to his life, televised live throughout the day and costing the cash-strapped city of Los Angeles a reported $4,000,000, just seemed to punctuate how skewed this planets values have turned during his tenure as pop icon. Every news outlet that could hustle a camera had its crews poised to capture the most minute overdone moment. And now that it is over, we will have a front-row seat at the sad drama of his family’s fight over custody of his children and control of his estate.
Then there is the story of Billy Mays. Born in 1958, this hard-charging guy from Pennsylvania, who got his sales chops hawking portable wash machines along the Atlantic City Boardwalk, takes an early exit from what was promising to be a fast climb to an iconic status of his own. A tag line on his website, “Life’s A Pitch, Then You Buy”, seemed to be ironically prophetic for the way he went out. For me, this man’s death was the saddest in the string. Regular guy hits it big, and then, kaboom, it’s over in an instant.
So it’s “Farewell, Farrah”, “Later, Michael”, and “Godspeed, Billy.”
Three very different additions to the pages of history.
(From "A Boomer's Journal". Suburban Journals of St. Louis, MO July, 2009)