Jun 30, 2009

Michael, Farrah and the death of Immortality

The other day I read a quote by a 40 something someone or other that read
"' The deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson this week "signal the
death of our childhood." ...Despite a reflexive disapproval of their choice of verbiage (the english major in me felt it couldve been more aptly expressed)
I still found myself nodding an emphatic affirmative, thinking 'yes... that's exactly it!

But now considering that even the very last stragglers of the baby boom generation have long exited their childhoods, how could we just now be feeling as if robbed of them, and this via the deaths of a few icons?
I myself was born in 1963 , a year that is oft disputed as even qualifying for true baby boomer status but in fact is technically baby boom-- And as such, even as a very late boomer, by 45 I had begun to mourn my entire youth, let alone my childhood.
Clearly the sentiment within that statement was of the metaphoric brand: It boiled down to this - any lingering sense of immortality that we middle aged folks might have still managed to hold onto, seemed suddenly and rudely yanked out from under us by the untimely deaths of an ever-growing gaggle of our childhood idols. We were beyond simply mortal now, we were perhaps on the cusp of our own demises - or that's what these deaths translated into .

And this wasn't all about Michael Jackson, although as the days wore on, the fervor was pretty much pared down to the pop legend's death. It actually began
with the news that David Carradine had died. Carradine was a relative icon of the 70's, an actor best known for his starring role in the then cutting edge t.v series, "Kung Fu". He had recently re-emerged after a long hiatus, an apparent benefactor of the Tarrantino syndrome, the quirky director reknown for reigniting the careers of long dormant once- upon- a- time stars. In the early 2000's Tarrantino pulled Carradine out of obscurity to play the lead role in a dark drama called "Kill Bill" (the name says it all.)

Carradine was in Bangkok filming a new movie when he died. Initial reports said that he had committed suicide by hanging himself in the closet of an upscale hotel room - Fortunately, the suicide assertion did not last long ;Friends and relatives were paraded in front of the news cameras each one vowing that there was no way David Carradine killed himself; He was in extremely high spirits, superb health and his career was in a full upswing.

Some suspected foul play, but the possibility that Carradine might have been murdered was soundly trounced when reports that the security video camera in his hotel hallway proved that no one but Carradine entered or exited his room on the evening that he died. Whatever happened to him, he must have done to himself .
This latest bit of detail seem to interrupt the grief process and left friends and fans confused and unsure of just what to feel. Anger at his foolishness, pity for him, regret that it had happened ? After all, there was no emotional precedent for such a demise. It wasn't suicide, it wasn't murder and the facts of his death and now the media, were both suggesting that Carradine had died accidentally during an auto erotic practice.( I'd personally suspected this from the outset having seen this exact scenario in an episode of HBO'S "6 feet under" )

In the end the details of his death only made the star's death even more tragic; he had everything to live for, he was back on top of his game and yet he was still compelled to engage in dangerous auto-erotic practices that were notorious for killing people. Wasn't this just another type of killing oneself, not unlike driving drunk or doing larger and larger quantities of drugs?

And while we were recuperating from this news, it was announced rather quietly, that Farrah Fawcett has been rushed to the hospital, signaling to anyone following her life lately, that her death from metastatic liver cancer was likely imminent; She'd been battling anal cancer for several years and it had recently been found in her liver.

Just one month earlier Fawcett had invited the public into her private life via a televised documentary chronicling her daily life struggle with terminal cancer. Through this documentary I gleaned a Farrah Fawcett that was intelligent, courageous and most notably, deeply spiritual. There was an other- worldliness to her, you could see it and feel it even through the impersonal lens of the camera.

I'm a bit ashamed to admit that I was one of those people that used to assume Farrah Fawcett wasn't terribly deep- and I'm not sure why exactly.
I do know it wasnt because she was beautiful, I've lived long enough to know that a woman can be both very attractive and very intelligent, but for some reason I had been largely unaware that Farrah was such a rare class of woman. Perhaps her illness had added these layers to her But I suspect that she was a very special person long before she took ill.

Farrah death was announced on the news just a few hours after her hospital admission. This was somewhere between Ed McMahon's dying and the original reports of David Carradines strange and tragic death.

At this tenuous point, we the baby boomers had lost three icons of varying degrees in a 2 week period. And just as the sun was going down on this sad day,there was more bad news, and this time completely out of left field; Michael Jackson had apparently just died of cardiac arrest after being rushed to a hospital from his home in LA, where "he'd collapsed from unknown causes."

Anyone who tunes into the nightly news, even sporadically, was aware that Jackson was in the midst of preparations for a huge comeback concert tour to be held in London-This only made the timing of his death that much more of a shock .
We had all seen Michael at his worst, during the trial for his accused molestation case (of which He was acquitted)We saw the news clips of him,wearing pajama bottoms to court, being helped to walk by his bodyguards, with that eveil looking trol of a father He was frail and very ill looking. To me he looked as if he was dying of a broken heart, and in retrospect, he very might well have been.

But here we were all expecting a comeback for the king of pop- indeed most of us were rooting for jackson, having grown up with him quite literally, first as part of the Jackson five and then later as a solo artist . Yes there was trouble in his life and it seemed more and more clear to me that there were substance abuse issues at the core of many of his erratic behaviors. But when I heard about the tour I assumed that he'd cleaned up, and I was genuinely happy for him.
A month later he was dead.


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