Tuesday, September 15, 2009

People Who Died, Who Died

Being a celebrity and dying sucks. But, being a celebrity and getting overshadowed when you finally die, sucks even more.

I thought about this when Farrah Fawcett passed away a couple of months ago. She reached her peak of popularity in the late 70s in her role on the successful Charlie’s Angels. She also became a pop culture star thanks to her big hair, smile and tight bathing suit featured on a famous pin-up poster.

Soon after, though, she faded taking on some weak acting roles involving critical flops. To her credit, though, she did garner some dramatic roles in the late 80s which won her some acclaim. But the press had more fun with her personal life. Her marriage to Ryan O’Neal and their son’s drug arrests were great fodder for the tabloids. Her quirky appearance on the David Letterman show didn’t help dispel a dumb blond image, either.

But it was her battle with anal cancer which really took the cake. What a way to go. I mean, there are only two ways listed to contract anal cancer. One is smoking, which I can’t picture Farrah doing. The other is, well, anal sex, which is quite a picture.

I have to admit that I felt a bit saddened when I heard she died that morning on June 25th. She was 62 and that seemed young. The web was filled with gorgeous photos of Farrah and I thought that at least she’s getting some respect now.

But then a few hours later, MJ knocks himself off and boom, Farrah’s photo is reduced to a thumbnail, then to just some text. Wacko Jacko had upstaged her. Maybe it was a fitting summary of her career, but it just sucked.

I thought about this overshadowing again when just a few days ago the great Jim Carroll passed away. I was not expecting any big photos on the web but I was glad to see at least a reference to him in the major media as a “punk rocker and poet”. I was hoping this would spark an interest and revival in his music and writing. His biography, captured in the book and then the movie, Basketball Diaries, is still one the most powerful personal stories I know of. Even with the passing of Larry Gelbart, creator of MASH and other great comedies, Carroll did not seem to get overshadowed. His name stuck around in the press longer than I thought it would.

And then, yesterday, Patrick Swayze died followed shortly by the news of the passing of Jody Powell, Jimmy Carter’s former press secretary. That seemed to be the final nail in the memory coffin for Carroll, as well as Gelbart.

Not only is life so fleeting, but it seems trying to squeeze out a few days of remembrance once you die is also quite tenuous.

Perhaps the posthumous work of a PR firm would be in order. I think Michael has a good one. I'm sure he will go the way of Elvis or some other major religious figure as the years go on. (Note to self: Write business plan for after death revisionist history PR firm).

For me, I don’t have to worry about any of this – I’m already dead and this is hell.


  1. In one sense it's almost good not to see the death of people like Carroll, Gelbart and Fawcett exploited. But they certainly do deserve more than a passing blurb...

  2. Maybe you should write another verse to People Who Died and include all of these people?

  3. I'm sure you're right that MJ will be 'with us' for decades to come. The combination of iconic visuals, eccentricity, actual musical achievements, and huge popularity virtually guarantee it, with or without PR help.

    For the rest of us, we'll pass away and most likely only a few remaining friends and family members will note the occasion. So I guess now's the time to make your mark!