DJ Badger:  The News and the Journal

Entry Ninety-Eight.
Friday, 2009.06.26, 12:10 AM CST.
Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon.

The reaper's been busy this week.

On Monday, Ed McMahon died.  Yesterday, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson passed away.

I was not a "big fan" of any of the three.  I still remember Farrah Fawcett back when she was "Farrah Fawcett-Majors" and performing as one of "Charlie's Angels."  Over the last several years, whenever I saw Farrah Fawcett in an interview, she just seemed like a drugged-out embarrassment.  It's my understanding that she was actually a pretty decent person, though, and I'm sorry that she met such a painful, drawn-out end.


Michael Jackson, of course, had been a controversial figure for quite some time.  I can't deny that he was an odd character; he didn't seem to handle his fame well, and that fame as well as his eccentricities made him the target of a lot of attacks.  He had some issues in which he liked being around children a lot - a bit too much for a lot of people's comfort.  After all, the guy built an amusement park on his property and had kids over all the time.

Yes, he had some accusations of molestation.  He was rich at the time, which meant he could pay a lot of money, and he was "weird," which made the accusations all the more believable.  But, there were issues with the accusers, as well.  Were they just saying they were molested to get easy money from Jackson?  Or, were they genuinely victimized by him?  I can't say.  I wasn't one of them, and he was never convicted.  I don't want to believe the accusations, but at the same time, I can't deny their plausibility.

There were other things I'd heard about him - for instance, I heard that a few years back, he paid someone $150,000 to perform a "death curse" in which over 100 cows were sacrificed in order to bring doom to his enemies.  It's another thing that really seems horrible... but doesn't seem like something that could be true.

If he was a molester, then hopefully he's in hell.  If he did order a bunch of cows to be killed in order to bring death to other people... yeah, hopefully, he's in hell.  However, if neither of these were true and he actually was a good person...  I really hope that his troubled soul has finally found some sort of peace.

As a DJ and musician, I cannot deny that Michael Jackson left a tremendous legacy behind.  His influence on the world of entertainment was extremely powerful, and I can still remember, in the early 1980s, how much of an impact he made with the Thriller album.  "Beat It" was huge.  "Thriller" was huge.  "Billie Jean" was huge.  The videos were iconic.  Even some of his later songs, like "Smooth Criminal," had an undeniable effect upon music culture.

I remember, in my youth, looking up to him.  His singing, his dancing, his clothes, his glove...  I didn't have his music at the time, but I heard it often and I was a fan.  I liked him so much that when I first started doing my own programming on my TRS-80 Color Computer with a whole 32K of memory, I actually started working on the rudimentary design of a Michael Jackson-inspired science fiction game called "Beat It."

Now, twenty-some-odd years later, he's gone.

Obviously, his career took a nosedive in the 1990s.  Can I remember the lyrics or melody to any of the songs that he released over the last decade?  Nope.  However, does that mean that I see his early work as any less influential?  Not really.  These days, he wasn't really deserving of the title "King of Pop," but at the same time nobody was really worthy of taking the title from him.

Putting all the controversy and the unproven accusations aside...  There will never be another entertainer like Michael Jackson.  There will never be anyone who has that much of a widespread influence and reaches out to that many people.  No modern or future pop sensation will ever release an album that will be as popular or as impactful on the immediate pop culture as Thriller was.


[Continued, 11:03 AM CST]

Strangely, Ed McMahon's death has almost as much of an effect on me, but it's taken a bit longer for it to set in.

For one thing, he was the sidekick to Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."  I remember the end of the Carson era back in 1992, and to be honest I really miss Carson.  After his time ended, he handed over the reins to the (relatively unfunny) Jay Leno and went into reclusion until his death a few years ago.  Now, Ed has finally joined him.

My fondest memories of Ed McMahon, however, aren't from "The Tonight Show."  They're from a show with which many young people wouldn't be familiar - "Star Search."

Way back in 1983, "Star Search" was an instant hit - a talent show long before the era of "American Idol."  "Star Search" was a multi-category talent competition, featuring dancers, singers, comedians, "spokesmodels," and even an acting competition.  It was a lot of fun to watch.

Over its 1983-1995 run, the show spawned (or at least helped) a number of celebrities who gained fame in later years:  Sinbad, Tiffany, Jenny Jones (even though I can't stand her), Rosie O'Donnell (even though I really can't stand her), Brad Garrett, Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera... the list goes on and on.  One of the most popular performers of the first season, Sam Harris, was actually from here in Oklahoma.  I actually got to see him perform live and meet him in late 2001; that was really amazing.

My parents and I (more often, my mom and I) would watch "Star Search" every week.  It quickly became a tradition:  On Saturday night, I would stop playing on the Atari/TRS-80, or I would come inside from riding my bike/riding my go-cart/playing at our creek/climbing around inside our "new" shed, and we would get together and watch "Star Search," often while we ate dinner.  I think it started at 6:00 PM, but I could be wrong.  I know that "Lifestyles of the Rich + Famous" came on around that time, so we would often watch them back-to-back.

I remember that era so vividly...  I even remember sitting up in the loft of the shed, looking at articles/advertisements for the Colecovision, and thinking about how badly I wanted one.  (Luckily, I never got one...  I just ended up concentrating on the Atari as my console of choice for a few more years.)  Those were really good times, in restrospect, even though my school years during that time actually made me fairly miserable otherwise.

So...  Ed McMahon was the host of "Star Search."  For me, that's the main reason to remember him.  I can still hear his voice:  "Here's Rick... Ducommun!" or "Here's Devin... Devasquez!"  I can still remember sitting there in my family's house, actually enjoying my time with my parents.  If I could develop a method of time travel, I would gladly go back for a little bit - not to change anything, just so that I could feel that feeling again.


Overall, I am obviously not as touched by the losses of three people, as I am about the losses of even more elements of my past.  Of course, as I have been reminded by various people, I always have the "memories" of things, but that's a bit of a cop-out.

The next time I head out to 51st and Sheridan, will my memories magically allow me to walk into Mohawk Music and buy some new music?

The next time I step into Mario's Pizza, will my memories somehow make it possible for me to give my order directly to Mike?

The next time I pick up the phone, will my memories change the technology so that I can somehow dial up my mom and ask her how she's doing?

One can't rely on "memories" to change the world and make it better...  One can remember all one wishes, but it won't bring anything or anyone back.


I grieve not for three celebrities; I grieve for my past.

More soon.