I think I can safely say, in the nearly ten years of writing and publishing Nolan's Pop Culture Review, I don't believe I have ever put together a front page as depressingly full of obituaries as this one. What an awful month for legends of American Pop Culture. But I am compelled to report and comment on it regardless, because that's what I do.
Similarly to the cataclysmic "9/11" issue of this e-zine (another super-downer to compile), I learned much had happened just after I shut off the computer and went to bed for the day. Being as I'm nocturnal, day sleeping is normal. What's not normal is waking up to this shit.
PCR asistant editor, Terence Nuzum, was the first to break the news to me with a wake-up call around suppertime, Thursday, June 25th, and it went like this: Not only had Farrah Fawcett passed away in the early afternoon, but the just-breaking story had it that Michael Jackson had apparently died of cardiac arrest in California.
My groggy head started spinning with the media circus I was sure had already ensued. PCR writer Brandon Jones called about an hour later to confirm that radio and TV were ablaze with the story. Due to other issues I was dealing with last night, I was delayed getting back to the computer to post anything about it until now. Thanks to all who posted their immediate feedback to these stories on Readers' Comments.
Alright, then, here we go.....
MICHAEL JACKSON, DEAD AT 50
POSTED BY NOLAN B. CANOVA, JUNE 26, 2009
In one of the most shocking occurrences of premature demise, the "King of Pop", Michael Jackson, died unexpectedly June 25, at the age of 50. He was at a hospital barely 2 miles from Neverland Ranch. He had just been administered the painkiller Demerol when he complained of shortness of breath. Minutes later he was dead. Emergency medics tried for an hour to revive him but he was gone.
In very fragile health for many years, and with a high-profile addiction to plastic surgery and painkillers, Michael Jackson always seemed to me to be an accident waiting to happen. I could never really imagine him as an old man.
My earliest memories of Jackson were as the youngest member of the vocal rock group, The Jackson 5, back in the '60s. In middle school at the time, my first thought was they were some promoter's black knock-off of the The Osmond Brothers, who had a very similar set-up -- all brothers of different ages, with the youngest singing the highest notes (and usually getting the most attention). History would show, however, that Michael would outshine ALL of them in talent, range......and looniness.
Although Michael was definitely a huge song-and-dance talent, his offstage antics are what, to me, catapulted him to legend status. His obvious self-loathing (allegedly due to his abusive father). His resultant obsession with plastic surgery to periodically reduce his ethnicity. And, most tragically, his similar obsession with young boys that sparked endless speculation and landed him in court at least twice on pedophile charges (the first case was settled out of court, the second found him not culpable). His move out of the country to cope with persecution. And his repeated attempts at a comeback, including this latest that was interrupted by his untimely death.
As is so often the case, madness is mixed with genius, as his early '80s album Thriller became one of the highest-selling albums in history, aided by the accompanying, groundbreaking 15-minute video that dramatized the horror-movie themes. The '80s were good to Jackson who saw lots of hits and wealth. Sometime around the end of that decade he decided to buy the rights to the Beatles catalog, and told Paul McCartney so (who didn't believe him initially).
The '90s were a mirror-image of this success that started with the aforementioned pedophile accusations. However, his concerts were still regular sell-outs. Jackson, his own worst enemy, continued to hang with kids and alter his own appearance, which led to more disgrace, scandal, and persecution. His two marriages (which produced three children) were widely seen as staged, since Jackson seemed too dysfuntional for adult relationships.
Despite all this, the chaos surrounding his death echoes that of heads of state, like former presidents or something. After all is said and done, he is as historic as they come, and it is is my belief that his music and performances will stand the test of time better than the scandals.
I am more of an admirer than a fan of Michael Jackson, but, I admit I loved Thriller. The similarly-promoted Black or White (with its underlying psychological underpinnings) was, I thought, tragically underrated and remains a favorite song and video (by Thriller director John Landis) to this day.
Michael Jackson was in so many ways one of a kind, and will be sorely missed.
FARRAH FAWCETT, DEAD AT 62
Not unexpectedly, but no less sad, actress and former Charlie's Angel, Farrah Fawcett, has lost her battle with cancer at the age of 62. Her long-time companion and fiancé Ryan O'Neal was with her. I say "fiancé" because the two had planned on wedding before she died, but I don't believe it happened in time.
I spoke of my memories of Farrah Fawcett a few issues back, but to summarize (with a few more thrown in): I first remember noticing her in an early '70s shampoo commercial. Of course, like most TV fans I was captivated by her part in Charlie's Angels during her one and only season on the show. I also remember her in a brief but memorable part in the sci-fi pic Logan's Run. I was one of the hundreds of millions of young fanboys who purchased her best-selling pinup poster. I later learned to appreciate her more as an actress in such fare as The Burning Bed.
Diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006, she put up a brave battle right up to the end.
ED McMAHON DEAD AT 86
POSTED BY NOLAN B. CANOVA, JUNE 24, 2009
Best known as Johnny Carson's jolly, faithful sidekick, also as the host of Star Search, Ed McMahon has died at the age of 86. His publicist gave no specific cause of death, saying McMahon had suffered from numerous ailments and declining health for many years.
Most baby-boomers can't think of Johnny Carson's Tonight Show as anything but the triumvirate of Carson, announcer McMahon, and bandleader "Doc" Severinson. These were the last connection to older, classic Hollywood television and movie stars.
McMahon, a former Marine, joined Carson for the game show Who Do You Trust? back in the very early '60s. Carson became the host of The Tonight Show after previous host, Jack Parr, left in 1962. Ed McMahon came right along with Carson. Carson and McMahon remained together until Jay Leno took over as host in 1992.
Ed McMahon joins the many, many classic Hollywood luminaries who left this plane of existence seemingly too soon, regardless of their age. I'm sure Mike Smith will do his usual bang-up job summarizing McMahon's career, later this week in The Rant.
VENTURES GUITARIST BOB BOGLE DEAD AT 75
Another baby-boomer legend has passed away. To anyone who ever picked up a guitar in the '60s, one of the seminal inspirations almost always had to be, at least in part, the sound of the guitar-based rock band, The Ventures, eminating from the radio a raucous version of some infectious melody. Usually Walk Don't Run (the one I remember best), but also Hawaii Five-O and a host of others.
Bob Bogle is usually credited as the lead guitarist on those tunes. He helped popularize the approach to the clean guitar "surf rock" sound so many others also successfully exploited (like the Sufaris' Wipe Out and Dick Dale's Misirlou just to name two). Bob Bogle will live forever in the memories of baby-boomer guitarists and all other fans of the musical genre.
Immortalized in the Paul Simon song Kodachrome ("Give me those nice, bright colors, the greeeeen of summers..."), Kodachrome hs joined that ever-growing list of products that has succumbed to the digital age, as more and more consumers have decided that digital cameras are just too darn convenient (and getting better and cheaper) and that their older counterparts cannot compete.
This is a sad day. Although I depend on digital cameras myself mainly for speed and convenience (already digital for the web and everything), I never would've said that Kodachrome was becoming obsolete as far as reliable quality! Paul Simon absolutely speaks for me there, haha. However, I understand the developing process was very complicated and that only one processing plant in Kansas is developing Kodachrome film anymore.
Kodak stopped making Super-8 home movie film years ago when digital video basically replaced it (Pro8mm out in California will make you a cassette loaded with Super 8mm motion picture film -- don't ask about cost, though.) The movie film called Kodachrome 40, a "reversal" type (no negative, the film returned to you was the same that was in your camera), was my life for a while and I loved its color! I was saddened to see it go.
I supposed this automatically antiquates all our older box cameras that were so simple to use. Oh well, the One-Hour Photo corner of your local drugstore had best diversify!