Jeez, a guy can’t take a few days off without the all-time great sidekick, one of Charlie’s Angels and The King of Pop all checking out.
Well, they say stars go out in threes.
In this particular trio, there’s not a lightweight. All three were cultural icons, in their own way.
Ed McMahon might’ve been just Johnny Carson‘s sidekick, but he hung in there for 33 years, chortling and “Hi-Yo”-ing and “You are correct, sir”-ing himself into the very fabric of American TV culture.
Farrah Fawcett might’ve been just one season on an Aaron Spelling jiggle show and a poster … but oh, what a poster. I’ll bet there are millions of ‘em up in workshops and garages around the world, to this very day. (Not mine … I was a Cheryl Ladd guy, myself.)
And Michael Jackson. Wow, what a last publicity stunt. The first thing I thought of when I heard he was gone was the old Warner Brothers cartoon with Bugs and Daffy competing for the audience’s affections in some Vaudeville-type stage show, and Bugs always coming out with the loudest applause as Daffy’s frustration mounted. Finally, the Duck strapped himself to a heapin’ helpin’ of TNT and blew himself up. As his ghost floated upward, Bugs pointed to the cheering crowd and said, “Daffy! They loved it! They want an encore!” And all Ghost-Daffy could do was shrug and say, “Unfortunately, it’s the kind of thing you can only do once.”
I don’t mean to make light of Michael’s demise with that cartoon recollection; it really was just the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news on the radio Thursday afternoon.
I’ve spent more time than I care to admit over the last decade feeling sorry for Michael. For all his fame and fortune, the man had issues; King of Pop-sized issues.
I do think he was running out of ways to keep our attention. And the stress of mounting his comeback tour — well, that and all the painkillers and other abuses his body had suffered, his financial woes and tarnished reputation — finally did him in.
When I remember McMahon, it won’t be as the desperate old guy struggling to keep from having his house repossessed — it’ll be handing envelopes to Carnac the Magnificent, and guffawing away at all the punch lines.
When I remember Farrah, it won’t be as the cancer-ridden tabloid target — it’ll be staring quizzically, grinning that toothy grin and shaking that immense mane of hair, at the intercom from which Charlie’s voice emanated every week.
And when I remember Michael, it won’t be the long, painful, freak-show decline. It’ll be the insanely talented little guy fronting the Jackson 5, the showman, the philanthopist (he did have a little something to do with “We Are The World,” remember), the star who created and inspired a wave of hype so huge that it finally crushed him.
More later … — MM