June 2009

Upon learning of the death of Michael Jackson, John Mayer said, “A major strand of cultural DNA has left us.”  I don’t think anyone could have put it better.

It’s hard for me to wrap myself around the fact that Michael Jackson is gone. A truly iconic person such as he is such a part of us as a people that, to think of a world without him, leaves me feeling sad and befuddled. Just as you can’t pull a strand of DNA from a person, you can’t pull Michael Jackson from our culture. He has permeated it, molded it, and surprised it since he was 10 years old.

His voice, as a child, was pure and beautiful. His rock, pop and disco music set feet dancing, and balads like “I’ll be There” and “Ben” were beloved by all — race, age, sexual preference be damned; no one could resist that amazing voice. 

And even when you think it can’t get better, his body moved in ways that equaled or bettered the greatest dancers.  It’s said that when he was in his late teens and 20s, he had dinners with Fred Astaire and other great giants of the dancing world. I can only imagine the shared synergy at these events, because what emerged were moves never imagined. No one could pop his body like Michael Jackson. The moonwalk had been done before, but Michael reinvented the move. Other dancers accompanying him paled in comparison.

He was exciting, beloved and revered across the world.

Paul McCartMichael Jackson as I'd like to remember himney called Michael Jackson “a massively talented boy-man with a gentle soul,” and that’s how I hope he’s remembered. In so many ways, Michael was a true case of arrested development. Because he’d never had a childhood of his own, he yearned for one so badly that he could only identify with children or with others who had been child stars.

He was an innocent in so many ways, and even when his actions came into question, I think his intent was that of a child yearning for some connection.  Even his apparent abuse of prescription drugs was, most likely, a means used to quell his emotional, as well as physical, pain.

Whatever the case, the world would not be the same without Michael Jackson in it. His music will endure, we can watch videos of him dancing, but we’ll never know what more he could have delighted us with.




This week, the the United States and the world has lost some iconic people.

First, Ed McMahon who died at the age of 86. Ed was perhaps the most perfect Ed McMahonstraight man ever to grace the late night stage. As Johnny Carson’s partner for over 30 years, he set up and played off of Johnny’s jokes, keeping uEd setting up a joke for Johnny's Aunt Blabbys laughing until we cried. Johnny and Ed were a late night institution for most Americans, and I — like most people in this country — never missed an episode. As the years passed, I’d forgotten just how funny they were together, but when I heard of Ed’s death, I pulled out my “Best of Carson” DVD and watched the whole thing. Man, those guys were great together. Ed’s quiet straight lines and the looks they engendered from Johnny were classic.

Yesterday, Farrah Fawcett passed away at the age of 62 after three years fighting Farrah's famous posteranal cancer. She, too, was an iconic personality. In the 70s and 80s, her beauty was unrivaled. Her picture was everywhereFarrah at 61 — even my gay friend, Rob, had her poster on his wall. Her beautiful smile was unrivaled, her gorgeous hair was copied by millions of women around the world, and her unbridled sexuality was a turn on for boys and men and a roadmap for women who tried — most of the time with little success — to be just a little bit like her. Beautiful even while fighting cancer at 62, she spent her last months sending a message to the world: Don’t give up, no matter what obstacles come your way.

And then we come, sadly, shockingly, to Michael Jackson. To say Michael was iconic is an understatement. As a child, some of my greatest memories surround Michael Michael Jackson as a boyand Donnie Osmond. The three of us were roughly the same age, so I was especially interested in the two boys. Before they were 9 years old, Michael and the Jackson Five and Donne and the Osmond Brothers were rising stars, rivals of sorts and obviously full of talent. It was Michael, though, who grew into the icon he became. With his every move, he outdid himself. Every song he wrote was better than the last. Every dance move he inveMichael Jackson in his 20snted was 10 tiers above the one before. Every video he made outdid the others. He was a true star, beloved and awed by billions across the world.

Sadly, his upbringing and fame did much to scar him. It turned him into a recluse, robbed him of his childhood and his freedom and shaped him into an eccentric person who only identified with children and other child stars. Thankfully, the world today is forgetting his quirks and eccentricities and remembering him for the amazing, astounding talent that he had. I still can’t believe he’s gone.

Three great icons. I’m so glad we got to experience the joy they brought to the world. I’m so sad to see them go. I give them my applause and thanks one last time.