Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Week of Death

People die every day. That's always certain.
Still, who would have thought that in just eight days, we'd lose three American icons, and a wrestler that true fans would recognize?

We'll start with Michael Jackson. When I had heard he was in the hospital due to cardiac arrest, I couldn't believe it. I thought it was another internet rumor. When TMZ said he was dead, two hours before everyone else, I could not believe it. Why should we believe some internet site that's slightly less reputable than the National Enquirer?
Eventually, we had to face it: a man who has been a legend way too soon, whose image was tarnished although his talent was unquestionable, was dead. At age! Of a heart attack possibly caused by a deadly cocktail of painkillers.

Now, that hasn't been confirmed officially. That will take another month or so. But it seems Jackson wanted a Fountain of Youth to recapture his glory days of the 70s and 80s, where he was the King of Pop...before too much plastic surgery, before Bubbles, before the accusations.

He wanted to show the so-called pretenders, from Justin Timberlake and Prince to Kanye West, that only Michael Jackson was, and is, the King of Pop. He hoped 50 shows in London would prove that, once and for all.
Now, it looks like his last grasp at the past fell short, very short. If he was allowed to age gracefully, or normally, he'd still have his throne, and would have been happy to help make the thrones of Kanye and Timberlake. Most importantly, we would still have Michael Jackson with us, as a living legend along with Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson and Aretha Franklin.

Some are comparing this to the loss of Elvis Presley nearly 32 years ago. I remember I was at my summer job in San Jose when I heard the news. That was a couple of years before the 24/7 news cycle would even be born. Back then, we'd get a few minutes of national news, and maybe an hour-long tribute while radio would play Elvis as long as we were in mourning.

Compare it to now: at least three channels putting the world on hold to cover all angles of Jackson's death while at least three music channels play his videos, or anything related to him.

One thing is for sure...his death has done wonders for his CD sales. It's one of the unwanted benefits of death for a pop star. Suddenly, everyone wants to buy your records. It's a way to own a piece of the idol forever. It happened when Elvis died, John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and many other musicians who died too soon.
On the other hand, there were many reports of people paying tribute to Jackson with vigils, makeshift memorials or just his music being played for all to hear. I don't think anything like that happened when Elvis died. I think we can thank Twitter and Facebook for that. There was a really big vigil for Jackson at Land Park in Sacramento last night.
We'll continue to think about Michael Jackson for weeks to come, and try to get a little piece of him before he fades away. It may be a download for out iPods, or taking another look at his videos on the internet when MTV goes back to showing The Real World much more often than "Billie Jean".

Now, we should also remember who else we lost in less than a week. We lost Farrah Fawcett to cancer at 62. Was it that long ago her smiling face and incredible hair were part of our walls? She wanted to be more than that. She wanted to prove to be more than teeth and a haircut. She wound up as a good actress, with some memorable roles. Some of us also remember her posing nude in Playboy, or acting goofy with David Letterman. For most of us, we'll remember Farrah Fawcett as one of the real Charlie's Angels. Now, she's an Angel in another sense.

Before that, we saw Ed McMahon head for that Tonight Show in the sky. Conan and Fallon did good jobs on their shows honoring the man who was the ultimate sidekick that soon got a chance at being a star (or at least making them on Star Search). It's funny that while NBC had one-hour specials on Farrah and Michael, they didn't didn't do that for Ed McMahon. He had been part of NBC for more than 30 years, even as a game show host. They could have given Ed an hour on primetime. Maybe he didn't have great hair, or could moonwalk, but Ed McMahon did something just as important. He helped make Johnny Carson a TV icon.

So, that leaves Mitsuharu Misawa, a Japanese wrestler who was a big star in the 1990's and later a wrestling promoter. He started as a masked wrestler, but once he unmasked himself, he became a star. Some of his matches are available on YouTube, and they hold up against any matches from the WWE elite. He may not be as well known as Triple H or John Cena, but Misawa was someone who put on a good show every night. Just like Michael Jackson.

The difference is that Misawa was still plugging away, maybe a little longer than he should have. He was in a tag team match when he took a suplex on his back. It's something he'd done hundreds of times before. It's the life of the wrestler. He was in his mid-40s, but still able to do what he did best. It was just one suplex too many, and it wound up killing him. It was just one of those things.
Sure, maybe just shy at 47 he'd would have to take some painkillers after a match because he wasn't as young as he used to be. Still, he was able. It was the suplex that killed him, fatally injuring his spine. It was just one of those things.

It's a much different ending that what happened to Michael Jackson, who thought a dangerous Fountain of Youth would make him King again, like he was in his younger days.

In the end, we should remember these people for what made them special, and why we admired them. Maybe their lives weren't perfect, but they were still special to us.

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