Friday, June 26, 2009

Fond Farewells

Like every other little girl in the late 1970’s, I adored Charlie’s Angels. They were smart, beautiful, and kicked butt every week. I owned the dolls (still have a couple of them, too!), the lunchbox, and the trading cards. To call me a fan might have been an understatement: I loved the show, I loved those women, and I wanted to be just like them.

My sister and I played Charlie’s Angels quite often. She chose to be Kelly, portrayed by Jaclyn Smith, and I always opted for Sabrina, Kate Jackson’s character. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though, one I’ve harbored for over thirty years: deep down, I really wanted to be Jill, she of the bouncy blonde locks and gleaming smile, played by Farrah Fawcett. Farrah had already achieved style icon status: the infamous poster, the Six Million Dollar Man , her own brand of shampoo– she already seemed to have it all, a true Hollywood glamour girl.

I think the ultra-glamour that was Farrah kept me from taking on the role of Jill. Sabrina, so beautiful in her own right and undoubtedly the smartest Angel, just seemed more accessible to this little girl from the Texas Panhandle. I could get away with Sabrina’s no-nonsense style. I didn’t have the confidence to try to get away with the fabulousness of Jill.

Farrah remained an angel for only one season. She went on to star in movies, and her performances in them are some of the best I’ve ever seen (The Burning Bed and The Apostle come to mind). She proved to me that it went much deeper: more than a pretty face with awe-inspiring hair, she had some serious acting chops, and that made me admire her even more.

Farrah proved a point: a pretty gal can possess a number of layers, and that’s an extremely important message for women everywhere. As she bravely battled cancer, her courage and her faith remained intact. As I watched Farrah’s Story, the recent documentary chronicling her illness and her treatment, it hit me: she gave us girls something to shoot for. She made it ok for us to be beautiful and smart. I shall always love her for that, and for the way in which she handled life’s adversities with dignity – such a great lesson for us all.

Forever an angel, indeed…..

Part Two:

I had literally just stopped typing my tribute to Farrah Fawcett when I heard the news: Michael Jackson is dead.

Wow, talk about a double-whammy for a child of the seventies and eighties.

I don’t want to focus on the Wacko Jacko era of the past few years. I want to focus on the pioneer that was Michael Jackson -the Michael Jackson of my childhood and teen years…the
Michael Jackson that I loved.

An American success story to the highest degree, the Jacksons performed their way out of Gary, Indiana into super-stardom, with little Michael leading the way.

When Michael released Off the Wall in 1979, my young eyes and ears were opened to a whole new genre of music I’d not been exposed to much, music that I immediately loved. Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough to this day remains one of my favorite songs.

Then, of course, Thriller came along. Michael brought us all together with that one. I believe I was in seventh grade at the time, and the one thing we all agreed on during our schoolyard discussions was this: there was nobody cooler than Michael Jackson. Thriller sold a gazillion copies, catapulting Michael into what I can only describe as ‘beyond star status’. Nobody sang like Michael, and certainly nobody had his moves. Prior to Thriller, MTV never featured any black artists. Michael’s overwhelming talent and presence changed all that, and I still get a kick when I see the video for Billie Jean.

Time took a tragic toll on Michael. We could speculate all day long about “what went wrong”, but why bother? We don’t know what it’s like to grow up in the public eye, to suffer from various illnesses, to endure certain allegations. Let’s just remember how Michael, at his greatest, made us feel with his music, and thank him for sharing his gift with the world.

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