Friday, June 26, 2009

Thank you Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett

Thank you Michael Jackson and thank you Farrah Fawcett. I am as trouble by both your deaths as I am that they fell within the same few days. Michael Jackson, your music inspired me as a young person and was the theme of much of my suburban life. Your death eclipsed the attention that I think Farrah Fawcett also deserved as a pop icon who influenced my late Baby Boomer generation.

One of the first things I did in organizing my desk at the Chicago City Hall Press room in late 1978 was to take the poster of Farrah Fawcett off the wall in my home office, above the Coleco Adam Computer, and put it on the wall above my news desk. It stayed there through the administration of Harold Washington, another great inspiration in life. So many people fought the placement of the poster on the wall, Farrah Fawcett's curly blond mane garnishing a beautiful model's body and captivating eyes.

Everyone knows you from Charley's Angels, but my memories further back. My dad's generation during World War II had posters of famous "pinup girls" like the beautiful Jane Russell. Farrah Fawcett was my generation's pinup girl at a time when being a pinup girls was still something that did not create conflict. But by the time Jane Byrne became Chicago's first woman mayor, aldermen and rights activists from the Gay and women's rights community always challenged me to take it down and I refused.

How could anyone use Byrne's election as Chicago's first female chief executive officer of one of the largest cities in the nation when she was so disrespected by politicians across the board, and still is today? It was just hypocrisy and maybe jealousy that pushed people to confront me at my City hall desk and not ask but insist that I remove the poster of Farrah Fawcett.

It stayed on the wall for a long time. I am not sure when exactly and why it came down but I can say, no one forced me to remove it. Maybe, I just outgrew the era Farrah Fawcett represented as I outgrew the fun of dancing to disco music at the Cattle Company in Chicago Ridge on Southwest Highway.

You came back in my life with your courageous story of your battle against cancer. Yet I was still surprised when word came that you had died. How noble was your close friend Ryan O'Neal, who I remember from my first favorite serious move, "Love Story," with Ali McGraw, and also the TV weekly drama "Peyton Place."

What a great man O'Neal is. How dedicated, kind and generous. What a terrible loss for him and family.

And then came the death of Michael Jackson whose music frames many of the great memories I have of my daughter Caroline growing up in Chicago's Southwest Suburbs. I have images of Caroline with famous political celebrities like Ed Vrdolyak, Jane Byrne, Mike Bilandic, Rich Daley and Harold Washington. But the memories of roller skating with her at the Oak lawn roller rink to Michael Jackson's music still hangs at the front of my closet of great memories.

How tragic that Michael Jackson's death would overshadow the death of Farrah Fawcett, who deserved so much more recognition. How tragic both their deaths.

Some radio hosts have been hammering Michael Jackson and trivializing Farrah Fawcett. One on my former station at WLS AM compared Jackson to Adolph Hitler. Don Wade's remarks are the cruelest I have ever heard and many cruel comments have come from right wing radio fanatics. Wade, I know, deep down is a good person. But the comments were sad and undeserved. Farrah Fawcett was brushed aside by others as a shallow pop icon of little consequence. But I have to only wonder what were their childhood's really like. Were they that pained to produce such anger and hatred and ugliness?

I will remember both of you as giants of my life time. Everyone has conflict in their lives, including those who judge. But it's the greatness and the kindness you brought to others, Jackson through music that remains phenomenal, and Fawcett through sheer power of attraction and a truly wholesome American life, that will be remembered by me.

Thanks Michael. Thanks Farrah.

-- Ray Hanania

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