Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Sad Day for Us Children of the '70s

Thursday, June 25, 2009 has been a very sad day.

It was a sunny day here in L.A. Brilliantly sunny (what's new), warm but with zero humidity and a nice, cool breeze.

The day began for me as it usually does. I wake up, turn on the radio and continue to lie in bed for 20 minutes or so. Well, today, I woke up, turned on the radio, and heard the breaking news that Farrah Fawcett had just died.

"Aaaah, SHIT." I said aloud, and got out of bed and made coffee.

Farrah Fawcett was my first crush. I had that red swimsuit poster of hers, that famous-famous poster, on the wall of my room, when I was like 8-years-old. I also had the poster of her as Holly in Logan's Run.

I adored Farrah. I was too young to think of her in a sexual way. To me, she was just a beautiful angel. And I don't say "angel" because she was on Charlie's Angels. She quite literally looked like an angel to me. Perhaps it was her feathered hair. Angels' wings have feathers on them...

Anyway, Farrah soon had competition when I saw Jessica Lange in King Kong, and then a couple of years later, they were both wiped way by Olivia Newton-John in Grease. Still, Farrah was my first (along with Nadia Comaneci, who was more my age).

Farrah's was a death foretold. We all knew it was coming. She was fighting cancer, and the cancer was winning. I watched the documentary about her battle with the malignant killer, and was tremendously moved. It reminded me of my own father's heroic struggle with cancer.

Although I was not surprised by her death, I was very saddened. She was a huge figure in my childhood, and I continued to be a fan in my teen years, watching her in The Burning Bed and Extremities.

Later, I got on the computer and went to YouTube, looking at Farrah Fawcett video clips from the '70s... Farrah shampoo, Farrah dolls, Farrah hair dryers... then I got on Facebook, and started reading many of my friends' statuses honoring her passing.

Suddenly, as I was immersed in Farrah nostalgia, I heard from the TV that Michael Jackson was reported to be in the hospital, having suffered a heat attack.

The Facebook statuses began to change.

"Michael Jackson may be dead!"

"Oh no, not two on one day..."

"This is surreal. First Farrah, now Michael?"

My eyes glanced back and forth, from my computer monitor to the TV. And I'm not even on Twitter. I could imagine what I'd be reading there.

I honestly didn't think that he was going to die. I mean, it really was surreal, the idea that two icons from my youth could die on the same day. An icon from the '40s, the '50s, hell, even the '90s, wouldn't have been so surreal, but Michael Jackson, the pop icon of pop icons?

I was convinced that he would pull through, and was annoyed that this latest Michael Jackson drama was stealing all the attention from Farrah. I was uploading a tribute photo of Farrah to my Facebook profile, and statuses saying "RIP Michael" appeared above and below it to my homepage. It was so aggravating.

"HE'S NOT DEAD YET!", I said to my computer monitor.

CNN was on, and I was switching back and forth between it, and MSNBC. Neither channel was saying he was dead.

On Facebook, I was commenting under my friends' status reports... "I don't care what TMZ says, I have CNN on right now, and they are not saying he's dead. He just had a heart attack, that's all."

Then I saw on TV, that he had suffered cardiac arrest. Uh-oh. That's worse than a heart attack. That's like, a dead heart, which means a dead person.

But still, I wouldn't believe that he was dead. It's really crazy, but the true reason was... that I didn't want him to die on the same day as Farrah. I instinctively knew that Farrah's death would not be publicly memorialized to the extent that she deserved, as a cancer fighter and as a childhood icon of mine. Her death would be forgotten if Michael Jackson died on the same day.

My friend Shannon, who was at work, sent me a text message. "I can't believe this. Is he dead? What does it say on TV?" I looked at the TV. The new graphic said, MICHAEL JACKSON IN A COMA. Oh shit. I texted Shannon back, "No he's not dead. He's just in a coma. Not good, though."

Not GOOD though?!? JUST in a coma?!? A stupid thing to text, but hey, people DO come out of comas.... sometimes.

As the minutes dragged on, I watched the TV on foot, not even sitting on my sofa. I saw aerial images of the L.A. hospital where they had taken him, the fans beginning to gather under the glaring sun, in a energy-filled vigil.

Then Wolf Blitzer confirmed it. Michael Jackson was dead. Dead at age 50.

My head was spinning. Jesus Christ, I thought, who's next today? John Travolta? Cher? Both Donny AND Marie?

My Facebook homepage brimmed with statuses about Michael Jackson, along with photos and video clips of his performances. Then CNN showed a clip of him, as a beautiful young boy, singing "I Want You Back" with The Jackson Five, and I had to admit it, I cried. Not a lot, but some tears did flow.

For the last 15 years or so, I've done nothing but ridicule Michael Jackson. The fact that I had loved The Jackson Five as a small child, that I thought "Off the Wall" was the most amazing album I had ever heard my last year of elementary school, that "Thriller" was THE soundtrack to my last year of intermediate school AND my first year of high school, that "Bad" was the biggest album my first year of college... all of that had been washed away by events of the '90s.

I hated what he did to his face, the way he mutilated it with those horrific plastic surgeries, to the point where his face was no longer a face, but a white mask, a dainty, feminine, white kabuki mask. He was his own Dr. Frankenstein, and his own Frankenstein's monster.

He had a sex change and a race change, I had felt. His marriage to Lisa Marie Presley was a sham, as were all his romantic relationships with women, I had felt. He was lying to say he was the biological father of those three children, when they obviously were the product of two white parents, I had felt. It was bizarre to make those kids wear masks and veils, I had felt. It was creepy to spend so much time socializing with other peoples' children, whether he molested them or not, I had felt. I had felt for the longest time that this great, amazing talent from my youth had become the ultimate freak roadshow.

Yet despite all that, I cried today watching him as a boy sing "I Want You Back". I wondered what had happened to that innocent boy. How can a boy with such an angelic face, voice and demeanor, become what he had become? What had happened in that head of his? How could he have known at that age that he would become the most famous person on the planet, and that he would morph into an unrecognizable being, the figure of such international adulation and scorn?

I also got emotional seeing him sing "I Want You Back" because my sister used to have the 45 record of that song. The record player was in her room. I was only like 6-years-old, and not deemed old enough by my parents to have a record player, so I used to go into my sister's room, and annoy the hell out of her by playing her records.

I loved "I Want You Back". I loved Little Michael. Even though he was older and thus bigger than me, he was the littlest of the Jacksons. I loved that the youngest Jackson brother was the biggest star. I too was the youngest, and I always felt like I was second-fiddle to my sister. Little Michael wasn't second-fiddle to his big brothers. He was THE fiddle.

I, Little Larry (which was my real nickname--my dad was Big Larry), would play that record, and hold some object in my hand to represent a microphone, and I would dance on my sister's bed and hop up and down on it until she would scream and push me off and tell me to stay out of her room.

I'd go back to my room, which in a couple of years would be graced with Farrah Fawcett-Majors posters, and kill some time, and wait for my sister to leave her room... then, I'd return and play the record again, and mount her bed with my fake mic and sing with Michael: "When I had you to myself, I didn't want you around..."

And there he was on CNN today, 34 years later, looking about the same as I had remembered him in first grade, singing, "...those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd..."

Despite the appalling surgeries, the dreadful skin whitenings, the perplexing child molestation trials, he was still a beautifully black little boy on my TV screen, like he was when I was 6, singing, "Oh baby give me one more chance..."

How could I not cry? First Farrah, now Little Michael.

Today was a sad day for us children of the '70s.


  1. Like you, I always thought he had devolved into a sad freakish shell of his former self with all the plastic surgery. In the days after his death, I read something that softened my stance a bit. His seemingly endless rounds of platic surgery and hair-straightening and skin-lightening began when he began to mature and resemble his horribly abusive father. Perhaps he simply couldn't stand looking into the mirror each day and seeing the face of his abuser. It's sad, because I always thought he was very handsome as a young man, before the surgeries started. But perhaps it's a logical explanation for what otherwise just seemed freaky.

  2. I think that makes a lot of sense. I myself kind of go through that, and my father, while very strict, authoritarian and a big disciplinarian, never abused me!

    Sometimes, I'll pass a mirror as I'm frowning and see my father's face. It scares the crap out of me, so imagine being Michael Jackson, with that horrible father! My father was not horrible, and *I* feel like that (though not to the extent that I want plastic surgery).