Friday, June 26, 2009
Farrah, Michael & Peepshow…All In 1 Day
Yesterday was an interesting day for me and my thoughts are still all over the place.
First, we lose the courageous Farrah Fawcett to cancer, then the sudden death of Michael Jackson and at the end of the day I attended the official Opening Night of Peepshow with Shoshana Bean and Holly Madison. Yep, that made for an interesting day. I will cover Peepshow later as I feel the need to address these two lives lost first.
These two people both passing on June 25 really don’t have any direct relevance to this D-list Diva but I do have strong opinions on some of the media’s behavior and so I am using this space to reflect, ponder and question.
Let’s start with Farrah. Having been a child of the 70s I grew up watching Farrah Fawcett on TV and wanting to look like her when I grew up (Yes, I had THE infamous hairstyle and the bathing suit in Jr High and my older brother had the poster on his wall). I had a huge crush on her then husband, Lee Majors too so there was a little bit of jealousy on my part. So sue me…who didn’t envy her a little bit.
I was really rooting for her to overcome this lengthy battle with a horrible disease so she could be our poster child once again…this time for cancer awareness and early detection. We have now lost that beacon of hope and light. Having lost many family members to cancer – and having a cancer scare myself earlier this year — I know and understand that the only “cure” at this moment in time is early detection and unfortunately for Farrah, her family and her friends hers was not discovered in time and while she fought valiantly it was not a battle that could be won. On some level she must have known that but it didn’t deter her at all.
What I admired most about Farrah wasn’t so much her beauty or talent (thought she had plenty of both) it was her devotion to her family and friends and — as we all saw in her recently aired documentary of her cancer battle – that undeniable spirit that shone so brightly, even through her painful final months and in the face of her own mortality. I hope that if I am ever faced with such a battle I can do the same. It’s what Farrah would want us all to do.
And then there’s the passing of Michael Jackson. He and his family were also a big part of my growing up years. I’ll never forget the TV shows where the brothers would perform their terrific songs and I would dance and sing along. It’s those songs that are a major part of the soundtrack of my childhood. One of the first albums I ever bought with my babysitting money was a Jackson 5 album (it was the one with Dancing Machine on it…around 1974/1975 I think).
I grew up not far from the Jackson’s Encino CA home and had a friend that lived a few doors down. My Michael Jackson moment was when my friend and I and a few other kids walked past the Jackson home and the llama was near the gate so we walked up to it to try to pet it. Big mistake. The llama spit at us and pretty much nailed me in the face. But I digress…
As I remember him from now on I’m not going to reflect on Michael’s eccentricities that made for tabloid fodder, rather I will reflect on the earlier years when his musical genius was evident. I will fondly remember the days when I was 19, with fake I.D. in hand, going to the disco with my friends taking over the dance floor and doing the Thriller choreography step for step and the cheers we’d get from the crowd. Ah, those were the days…
The cost of Celebrity
Like so many of us I first heard the news of both deaths via Twitter. Farrah’s death was pretty much expected and I wasn’t surprised though it did make me cry and I tweeted my condolences to the universe.
Then TMZ and Harvey Levin tweeted about MJ being rushed to the hospital in cardiac arrest and all Hell broke lose. At one point I read that twitter was getting nearly 20,000 tweets per second and 9 out of 10 were about Michael Jackson. The rumors were flying: overdose, suicide, etc. It was amazing and captivating to watch it all unfold before my eyes.
As a trained journalist I know that you don’t report a story until you have a confirmed reliable source or two. I kept tweeting that TMZ is not a legitimate news source (they are nothing more than paparazzi) and not sourcing their info so it’s all speculation and to wait until an official statement — or at the very least a reliable source –before exclaiming that he’s dead but it fell on mostly deaf ears as the tweets kept flying. My small voice was lost in the overwhelming chaos.
Once it was made official I began to see clearly the media feeding frenzy taking place and it made me sick. The photographers/videographers camped out in front of Jackson’s home were making it nearly impossible for the paramedics to leave the house with Jackson inside the vehicle by running up to its windows seeking to get the photo that will make them rich. There’s video of this spectacle as well as a single photograph of Jackson inside the ambulance (which looks fake to me by the way) all over the internet if you are so inclined to want to view it. As for me, I was mortified by this behavior.
On top of that UCLA Medical Center had to post guards at every entrance, turn away staff members trying to enter, rope off the entire area…basically shut down the only emergency room in the West LA area…because of the media frenzy outside. I pity anyone else who had a medical emergency yesterday afternoon that was in the area because, basically, they were not welcome there. (Question: did anyone else die b/c of the media mayhem?)
So this is what I ponder and question: do we as a society have any right whatsoever to invade these fellow human being’s privacy in their final moments of life simply to be “the first to know”? My response: only by invitation.
We were “invited” to witness Farrah’s final days by the airing of her documentary on her cancer battle. Her friends and loved ones “invited” us in by showing up at any media outlet that would take them and air their testimony of her losing battle. Whether Farrah was aware of it or not, we were invited in to this most intimate and personal time of her life.
Michael Jackson, on the other hand, did not invite us. Nor did his family, friends or staff. We as a people invaded his privacy yet again just so we could be the first to know the very thing that was none of our business. Why do law enforcement withhold names of victims until family is notified? Because it’s the right and decent thing to do for the family. His family had every right to be the first to know that their love one has left this place. Not us. We are not family. Like any other human being on his planet, Michael Jackson’s family should have been allowed to be notified by the proper authorities — and not by tweets from strangers – that their loved one had passed. But for the sake of being the first to report and the public’s thirst to be the first to know, Michael’s family was denied that dignity and respect. It’s shameful and I feel for his family.
There’s a sensitivity line that shouldn’t be crossed by the media or the public. Unfortunately, when you are a celebrity, that line seems to disappear. It’s a shame really. Even celebrities should be allowed their privacy and the media should back off unless invited to do otherwise. It’s the right thing to do. Yes, some celebrities “invite” it by notifying the paparazzi ahead of time of events and such but most celebrities don’t want the invasion 24/7/365.
As a journalist and photographer would I go “dumpster diving” or hide in bushes of stalk someone to get my story and/or picture? It depends on the story and whether or not I thought the public had a right to know. Would I go camp out at some celebrities house and interfere with the paramedic’s efforts to revive said celebrity by rushing the ambulance just to get a shot so I can sell it for big bucks to the highest bidder? Not on your life. That’s crossing the line of decency…and those indecent photographers and videographers who did that yesterday should be relegated to shooting baby pictures at their nearest Sears Portrait Studio.
Regardless, the real tragedy here is that not only was Michael screwed out of his childhood, he has now been screwed out of the gift of growing old and watching his children grow up. He has been screwed out of seeing his children take those steps into adulthood like graduations and dating and walking his little girl down the aisle. To me, the saddest tragedy to come from his death is that his three small children are left without the only parent they’ve ever known.
It’ll be weeks before we know the cause of Michael Jackson’s death. Toxicology results take 6-8 weeks. Hopefully, this time, the family will be notified prior to the release of any information. I have my theory but I will keep it to myself. In any event, he has been paying the cost of celebrity almost his entire life and it is my fervent wish that his children are left alone to grieve and grow up peacefully without their father.
My final thought: let us all take a lesson from Farrah’s life and become more aware of early cancer detection and if/when we are ever faced with the same battle we fight the good fight like Farrah. Go to the doctor and get tested. Early detection is our best weapon. The lesson from Michael’s life is that fame and celebrity come at a cost and for him it was astronomical.
In the end, both Farrah and Michael were icons and masters of their respective crafts and will be missed by many but they leave us with great memories to treasure. More importantly, both did their best to leave this world a better place and I thank them for that. I only hope that people can say the same thing about me when it’s my turn to go.
Godspeed Farrah and Michael.