I don't know about you, but I think the Michael Jackson tribute was spot-on. The performances were heartfelt, the presentation appropriate, the eulogies funny and feisty, and the sentiments well expressed (though I think MLK's daughter Bernice dwelled a little too much on her own family rather than the Jacksons, but that's just my take...) Watch the entire thing here. Perhaps the most touching part of it was when his daughter Paris made that heartbreaking statement about her dad at the end. How wonderful that up until now, Michael's masks and veils, which we all thought were so odd, allowed them to have a childhood free of being hounded by fans and paparazzi, since few knew who they were. As the AP put it:
For all the hasty preparations, hand-wringing over security, breathless media competition to scoop details and soul-wrenching performances, the essence of Michael Jackson’s memorial service came down to 20 poignant, powerful seconds: the moment when 11-year-old Paris-Michael Jackson inched up to the microphone and, in a statement no one saw coming, referred to the late pop superstar as “Daddy.”
... And all at once, Jackson wasn’t the larger-than-life “King of Pop,” or Wacko Jacko the tabloid freak. He was a doting father who had left three adoring young children behind.
Perhaps the second most moving tribute came from Brooke Shields, who explained her lifelong friendship with Jackson, borne out of the common experience of childhood stardom. Having never really thought of Brooke Shields in that light, it was a stark reminder of what a strange, charmed life she, Jackson and other child stars live.
Meeanwhile, here are two pieces of proof that at the end of the day, what Michael Jackson was principally, was a very, very gifted performer. Cheers.
Here's Michael and the Jackson 5, performing "Ben," live (1975):
The mother of all televised dance performances: Michael performing "Billie Jean" at the Motown 25 special, back in 1983 (when I was in junior high school. Damn, I can still remember watching the special with my sister, my brother and my mom, and trying -- and failing -- to do those moves! The next day at school, everybody was trying to do them...)
And last but not least: links to my favorite "version" of Michael (the FINE version!) -- from his best album, in my opinion, "Off the Wall," here are "Rock With You" and my 12-year-old son's new favorite Youtube video: "Don't Stop till You Get Enough" (or as he calls it: the three Michael Jacksons video.) Enjoy!
I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger... Debbie Rowe wants the kids
The lady with the Jay Leno Chin, who has alternately described herself as merely a "vessel" and a "thoroughbred," for the production of Michael Jackson's progeny; who said she merely "offered her womb to Michael as a gift" (and for the gift of money for herself,) and who has said that she has no relationship with the children she served as surrogate mother for, and that she doesn't want to see them, now says, totally coincidentally a day after Jackson's will was released, and perhaps after figuring out exactly how much money is on the table, says she wants "her" children. Debbie Rowe is apparently willing to separate Paris and Prince Jackson from their younger brother and the only family they know, and take them from their grandmother ... because...?
Rowe would apparently have a strong legal case, if not a moral one, even though she may be no more the biological mother of those children than Jackson was the biological father (though he actually was a parent to them, unlike, say ... her...) and we could even see the surrogate mother of the third child, "Blanket," come forward for her piece of the action ... I mean the love of her child ... too. Well, if it's headed to court, here are a few alleged Debbie Rowe statements the court might want to take into consideration:
"I offered him my womb - it was a gift. It was something I did to keep him happy."
"I got paid for it, and I've moved on. I know I will never see my children again."
"I was never a good mother, I never felt any attachment to them. It was a better feeling giving them to him than it was keeping them as my own.
So what changed, Debbie dear? Well ... maybe it's this, as reported by TMZ:
We've learned who's getting what in Michael Jackson's trust. Here's how it breaks down.
Katherine Jackson will get 40% of the assets. Michael's 3 kids will get another 40%. And the remaining 20% goes to several children's charities. We're told the charities have not been designated yet and are not specified in the trust.
What's 40% of $1 billion? I'll bet Debbie's done the math ... and would it be too much to create a charity called The Deborah Jean Rowe Foundation, like, yesteray???
Care to vote on whether she should get custody of the money ... I mean the kids? Here you go!
Flashback: Debbie before she gave birth to their second child, pretends to be really married to Michael, but admits their "friendship is more important." Now, of course, she's blabbing to anyone who'll talk to her that their marriage was a sham (not to mention outing Jackson as not the kids' bio father.)
Flashback 2: Debbie defends giving up custody of her kids back in 2003, adding: "my kids don't call me mom because I don't want them to." Watch:
Plus: will the nanny also enter the custody sweepstakes?
Would you pay $500,000 for a Michael Jackson photo?
OK Magazine did, in the latest sign of old media desperation. Says MediaBistro:
Money-hemorrhaging OK!, on the verge of being closed by owner Richard Desmond, reportedly paid $500,000 for a photo of Michael Jackson being whisked to the hospital. The decision was the head honcho's call, so he only has himself to blame if the strategy to sell more magazines backfires...
If this is the photo, somebody better tell Desmond it has already leaked ... for free ... all over the net
According to The Wall Street Journal, that version of his will might not include any provisions for his father. He did, however, leave about $1 billion to his mother, Katherine Jackson, his three children and a few charities.
The lawyer representing Michael’s parents, L. Londell McMillan, said the Jacksons thought Michael had died without a valid will. Two earlier drafts of the letter have surfaced since his passing on June 25.
Michael‘s lawyer, John Branca, uncovered the document from 2002, and he may file it with the Los Angeles Superior Court as soon as Thursday. This would effectively end any dispute over what document counts as his last will and testament. Say the folks at Bossip.com (probably speaking for the Entire World):
Joe Jackson is the main reason Michael’s life was so tragic. The fact that he left his father out of the will comes as no surprise since Joe helped create the troubled man we all watched change before our very eyes. Pops is doin’ too much right now anyways. He doesn’t deserve a dime of Michael’s money.
Amen. Now, if Katherine can just keep Jackson's kids away from him...
Meanwhile, in ghastly news, there will apparently be a public viewing:
Celebrity website TMZ.com claims the Jacksons will take the body to Neverland, his fantasy ranch in southern California, on Thursday.
They will hold a wake on Friday or Saturday ahead of a burial at an undecided time and place, according to TMZ.
Law enforcement sources tell TMZ upwards of a 30 car motorcade -- including Jackson's body -- will be traveling from Los Angeles to Neverland at 10 AM on Thursday.
TMZ also has what it calls exclusives about the search warrants issued for Jackson's rented house, and an alleged search for needles... And then there's this: TMZ claims the LAPD wants to talk to another Jackson doc about drugs he may have supplied the King of Pop. And this isn't just any doctor: it's the same guy Us Magazine claims is the father of Michael's two oldest children. Says TMZ:
We've learned the LAPD wants to talk to Michael Jackson's longtime dermatologist Arnold Klein about drugs he may have prescribed or given Michael Jackson.
We're told Klein has already gotten a lawyer but as far as we know the LAPD has not spoken with him.
Jackson apparently had been frequenting Klein's office. Maybe he was sharing parenting stories???
The Michael Jackson saga just gets weirder and weirder. From TMZ and Us Weekly comes the not exactly shocking allegation that Jackson was not the biological father of his children. But the new, kind of shocking allegation is that Debbie Rowe, who was Michael's second wife, is not the mother, either (which would explain why she seems to have no interest in getting custody of the kids.) Firt, TMZ:
We've learned Michael Jackson was not the biological father of any of his children. And Debbie Rowe is not the biological mother of the two kids she bore for Michael. All three children were conceived in vitro -- outside the womb.
Multiple sources deeply connected to the births tell us Michael was not the sperm donor for any of his kids. Debbie's eggs were not used. She was merely the surrogate, and paid well for her services in the births of Michael Jr. and Paris.
In the case of Prince Michael II (the youngest), we're told the surrogate was never told of the identity of the "receiving parent" -- Michael Jackson. Three days after Prince was born at Grossmont Hospital in San Diego County, Jackson's lawyer came to the hospital to pick the baby up and deliver him to Michael.
We do not know if Jackson chose the sperm or egg donors or if he even knew who they were.
TMZ goes on to add that under California law, Rowe could still be the presumed parent of the two oldest kids. Meanwhile, Us Magazine takes it even further, saying they know the real father of the oldest children, Paris and Prince, is:
Though Michael Jackson was wed to Prince and Paris' mother, Debbie Rowe, their biological father is Arnold Klein, Jackson's L.A.-based dermatologist and Rowe's former boss, multiple sources confirm to the new issue of Us Weekly.
"He is the dad," says a Jackson insider. "He and Debbie signed an agreement saying they would never reveal the truth."
That would explain this rather bizarre statement attributed to Ms. Rowe, who gushed about volunteering to carry Jackson's children years ago:
In an astonishing interview Debbie - mother of Prince, 12, and Paris, 11 - said she was artificially inseminated by an anonymous donor.
And she told how, despite Jackson's death, she does not WANT custody of the children and NEVER expects to see them again.
EXCERPTS: Debbie (who lives on a farm surrounded by animals) said, ""I was just the vessel. It wasn't Michael's sperm. Just like I stick the sperm up my horse, this is what they did to me. I was his thoroughbred."....
After Debbie gave birth to second child Paris, she couldn't have kids again, "The delivery was so hard. My insides were all torn up and I was barren. When he knew I couldn't have any more babies he didn't want anything to do with me."
Debbie says she will not fight for custody of Prince Michael or Paris, "I know I will never see them again. I was never cut out to be a mother - I was no good. I don't want these children in my life. My children are my animals now."
The interview, with "News of the World" was supposedly done in 2004. However, the link to the supposed story is not working as of this post (and the one on the Huffpo.) The reporter who says he conducted the interview reminds readers at Showbiz411.com that Rose is also the person credited with providing the testimony in 2005 that probably kept Michael Jackson out of jail.
... of all three of Michael Jackson's kids. Upside: she's their grandmother, and I'm sure they love her very much, and she'll provide some measure of stability for the oddly raised threesome. Downside, she's married to this guy:
Scary stuff. And Joe, who pointedly, does not appear to be named in the custody order, has surrounded himself with the cast-offs of Black American leadership: the politically neutered (but still publicity-hungry) Revs Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Well that should help him with his new record label venture that he chose to hawk on the BET Awards red carpet.
UPDATE: Joe Jackson cries on the inside, or so he just said on CNN. Poor Don Lemon. How does he keep from cursing? This blogger asks: is Joe Jackson high, or what?
... Meanwhille, Jackson's increasingly famous -- for the wrong reasons -- doctor, Conrad Murray, denies injecting the King of Pop with Demerol before his death. UPDATE: in case you missed it (because like me, you're engaged in a permanent boycott of BET,) the Janet Jackson moment at the BET Awards:
The LA Times reluctantly gives TMZ its props (sort of)
The media hates to love TMZ, the site that broke the story of Michael Jackson's death (even as the MSM refused to pick up the story until the LATimes confirmed it) but they have little choice but to pay attention.
According to one British tabloid writer, Michael Jackson was schizophrenic, bulimic, anorexic, drug-addicted, suicidal, paranoid, lung diseased, unable to sing, unable to dance, thin-haired, enabled, broke and gay. All at once (and all according to unnamed sources.) He reports, you decide.
The London Daily Mail is just dripping with unsourced stories, including allegations from Jackson's fired nanny that his kids feared him, and lots of details about Jackson's alleged addictions, his fears that he wouldn't be able to pull off that 50 concert extravaganza, and an alleged prior overdose (plus a completely contradictory story quoting a friend of Jackson's -- on the record -- saying the singer couldn't wait to hit the stage ... hmmmm... more contradictions here...) The second Daily Mail story raises fresh questions about Jackson's "personal doctor." On a harder news front, the Jackson family has requested a second autopsy. And apparently, Jackson's will says his kids should go to his mother, and the children have requested as much, but Debbie Rowe may beg to differ...
Where will the kids live? Michael Jackson with Prince and Paris.
"Dr. Conrad Murray, the physician who was with Michael Jackson at the time of his collapse, voluntarily contacted the Los Angeles Police Department. Detectives assigned to Robbery-Homicide Division met with Dr. Murray and conducted an extensive interview. Dr. Murray was cooperative and provided information which will aid the investigation."
Doesn't Bonnie Fuller know that you're not supposed to make journalistic analyses based on Wikipedia? Apparently not:
Did you know that Michael Jackson, was the victim of a rare auto-immune disease called lupus? Yes, he was according to his Wikipedia autobiography and as it turns out -- lupus sufferers frequently die in their 40s and 50's from sudden heart attacks, caused by atherosclerosis.
It's taken me a couple of days to become really, profoundly, and inexplicably depressed about Michael Jackson's death.
When it first happened, I was in absolute shock, but in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think that it wasn't really that surprising -- not the way he had physically abused himself over the years (between the drugs and the plastic surgery.) I guess it was the timing -- he wasn't holed up in a rented mansion somewhere in Dubai, dressing in a woman's burqua and dragging his kids around the place in masks -- he was in L.A., preparing for a concert that was sold out to the tune of some 750,000 tickets. This was no time to die. And yet, he did. But for me, this death is becoming increasingly like a personal loss. I'm not one of those people who ever owned a glittery glove, or dressed in a general's jacket. I liked -- even loved -- Michael Jackson when I was in elementary and middle school, but had developed more eclectic musical tastes by the time "Bad" came out. And yet, I guess I am kind of a sap.
I cried like hell when John Lennon died, even though I was too young to have been a Beatles fan (they were out before I was born.) But he died on my birthday. And I loved the song "Imagine."
I cried when Princess Diana died, even though I'm not English. It was just so damned sad, especially for her kids. I could relate to them, losing a mother at a young age.
Those are about the only major deaths I remember. More recent shockers, like Bernie Mac, or Gerald Levert, were awful, but not tear-inducing; not for me, anyway.
But this? Wow. It's really hitting me now. Michael Jackson Is Dead. Fini. I think it might have been a bad idea for me to play my MJ master-mix this morning, especially one of my favorite of his songs, "You Are Not Alone," written for Michael's "HIStory: Past, Present and Future" album by one R. Kelly. The lyrics alone are devastating:
Another day has gone I'm still all alone How could this be You're not here with me You never said goodbye Someone tell me why Did you have to go And leave my world so cold
Everyday I sit and ask myself How did love slip away Something whispers in my ear and says That you are not alone For I am here with you Though you're far away I am here to stay
But you are not alone For I am here with you Though we're far apart You're always in my heart But you are not alone
It's also a reminder that Michael, like other great singers such as Whitney Houston and Elvis Pressley, didn't actually write much music. He was a performer -- the consumate performer, of songs written and produced by others. He channeled the creativity of other people, but did so in a way that couldn't have been duplicated, probably not even by the songwriters themselves. Michael's greatness was in his ability to create cinematic drama in a song, even before he started practically inventing the music video (credit where credit is due, the Beatles beat him to the punch on music video moviemaking, with "Yellow Submarine," which I also remember watching, and marveling at, as a kid... ) Watch the music video for "You Are Not Alone"here, if you dare, but have some tissues handy. Then as a pick me up, watch Michael at his absolute finest, here. See a listing of all Michael's albums and their contents (with links to lyrics) here.
His brother Jermaine, who converted to Islam some time ago, said to his brother, "may Allah be with you always" at the close of his press conference following Michael's death, and news reports last November did say Jackson made the conversion in Los Angeles at a friends house, which takes him a long way from being a Jehovah's Witness as a child. And if Michael was indeed a Muslim at the time of his death, what does that mean for his funeral arrangements? Islam has very specific rules for burial and for funerals, including a requirement that the body be interred within 24 hours. Obviously, with the coroner's inquest going on, that hasn't happened. And there are some disputes over whether his formal conversion took place at all, combined with what will surely be tremendous pressure to hold a traditional, public funeral. [Picture at left: Jackson seen walking with his youngest son Prince Michael II last year, wearing what looks like a Muslims woman's burqa...]
The more sober state news agency RIA Novosti questioned, wrongly as it turned out, whether an autopsy would be allowed on Jackson — who had reportedly converted to Islam late last year.
Muslim cleric, Damir Gizatullin, vice president of the Russian Council of Muftis, told RIA Novosti that autopsies were forbidden on Muslims and, according to Islamic belief, Jackson should be buried within 24 hours of his death.
It's increasingly clear that Michael Jackson's personal physician is going to face some questions in his death. From RS:
The audio of the 911 call placed from Michael Jackson’s Los Angeles home in the moments after the superstar reportedly suffered a cardiac arrest is currently streaming on TMZ. The audio reveals that Jackson was unresponsive and not breathing before paramedics were ever called to the scene. “He’s not breathing, we’re trying to pump him,” the unspecified caller told the operator, adding that Jackson was unconscious. The caller also tells the operator that Jackson’s personal physician — identified as Dr. Conrad Murray (shown at left)— was with Jackson at the time, however Jackson was “not responding to the CPR or anything.” While the caller told the paramedics a 50-year-old man was unresponsive, he never mentioned the name “Michael Jackson.”
The caller said Jackson was lying on the bed, but the paramedic on the line told the caller to put him on the floor. Later, the caller said Jackson was “slumped in a chair.” When asked if anyone witnessed what happened, the caller responded, “Only the doctor was here.” The next question, whether the doctor witnessed what happened, went unanswered as the caller pleaded for the paramedics to arrive quickly
The caller doesn't sound like Michael's brother Randy, who reportedly was in the house with him when he passed out, and it's not clear who he is -- perhaps a member of Jackson's staff? BTW TMZ is continuing to beat the "old media" to the punch on this story, and I just know the old media is hating it. Hear the 911 call here. TMA iz also livestreaming the coroner's press conference.
UPDATE: Jackson's former video producer tells ABC News Michael Jackson was addicted to Demerol and Oxycontin, (and Xanax and the anti-depressant Zoloft, too...) and had been for decades. And there are still more questions about that 'doctor':
Primary death from cardiac arrest with this cocktail of drugs is highly unlikely unless Jackson was also using amphetamines or had a history of heart disease, according to Dr. Darin Correll, an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
The 911 audio tapes revealed that a "personal doctor" was present when paramedics were called..
"This whole thing is a little bizarre," said Correll. "You'd think that person would have been able to adequately perform CPR and stop it. If it truly was from opioids, it's easily fixed."
An overdose can be "reversible," he said, by administering mouth-to-mouth rescusitation and then an antidote -- Naloxone.
Jackson's performance of the Moon Walk at the Motown 25th anniversary TV special on May 16, 1983 rocked the world. I was in junior high, and yeah, it was the shit.
When you talk to former performers, at any level of fame, they'll tell you that when their season comes to an end, it's hard to adjust to life without the attention, the recognition of people in the street, or the roar of the crowd. Michael Jackson never seemed to adjust to his fall from the center of our attention. In the ultimate twist of irony, by dying too soon, at age 50, he has found a way to get it all back. From the moment we heard the leak, and then the confirmation, of his death, the world, including the U.S., where his fame really had receded into a kind of uncomfortable infamy -- we just can't stop talking about him; we're grooving to his music again, and he is the center of all the world's attention.
I've got to think that somewhere up there, Michael Jackson is happy as hell.
It's not often that a 50-year-old man who isn't overweight, is a non-smoker and has no known history of heart problems dies of cardiac arrest ... especially when his personal physician just happens to be around to find him. Michael Jackson's death is about to go all Anna Nicole Smith on us. First, Entertainment Tonight claims to have the final photo of the fallen pop idol. And ET reports:
The Los Angeles County Coroner's office tells ET that Jackson was transported from his residence in full cardiac arrest on Thursday. They say life-saving efforts were made by paramedics throughout transport to the hospital and efforts in the hospital emergency room continued on unsuccessfully.
Jackson was pronounced dead at 2:26 p.m. at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.
And then there are the hints, from a Jackson's apokesman, that he had been abusing prescription drugs (watch as the CNN Lou Dobbs fill-in completely misses the headline, after Brian Oxman tries to drop a bombshell about Michael's apparent abuse of prescription drugs, which he says makes the Anna Nicole Smith case pale in comparison.)
PARAMEDICS dashed to dying Michael Jackson’s side after a panic-stricken phone call from the superstar’s Los Angeles home.
The dramatic call was made by a member of staff last night at just after 8pm UK time.
Fire Department medics responded to the alert and arrived to find the 50-year-old singer collapsed and not breathing. He had suffered a cardiac arrest.
The emergency staff rushed him to hospital in their vehicle, where a computer screen revealed chilling details of his condition.
A record of the call-out read: “50 year old male Not breathing at all.” It gave the time of the call- out as 12.21pm local time.
Medics administered heart massage and oxygen along the route. But they could not revive the star.
And the possible culprit?
An Emergency Room source at UCLA hospital said Jackson aides told medics he had collapsed after an injection of potent Demerol — similar to morphine.
A Jacko source said: “Shortly after taking the Demerol he started to experience slow shallow breathing.
“His breathing gradually got slower and slower until it stopped.
“His staff started mouth-to-mouth and an ambulance was called which got there in eight minutes “But found he was in full respiratory arrest, no breathing and no pulse. They started full CPR and rushed him to hospital.
“When he arrived they started resuscitation, giving him heart shocks and inserted a breathing tube and other supportive measures to try and save his life.
“He never regained consciousness.The family was told that he had passed.”
According to Oxman, older brother Randy Jackson was present when the 911 call was made. And other stories say Michael's personal physician was there, too. We don't know who the "staff" were at the rented home.
The Sun claims Jackson has been rumored to have suffered from both early stage skin cancer and that he did have some form of "heart trouble," something I've never heard before, and which is questionable after Oxman's assertion that Michael was "in fine physical condition" but for the drugs he was allegedly being "enabled" to abuse. ... Expect a media frenzy over his children, whose faces we may see for the first time at what I assume will be a lavish funeral. Their names: "Michael Joseph Jackson, Jr, Paris Michael Katherine Jackson and Prince “Blanket” Michael Jackson II." Wow.
UPDATE: An expert named Dr. Nancy Sniderman (sp?) on MSNBC is throwing in the possibility that Jackson suffered from an eating disorder, which may have been complicated by the use of prescription drugs, or by excessive workouts in preparation for his sold out European tour. The autopsy is being done tomorrow.
Just when I was getting used to Farrah Fawcett being dead, this just blew me away. Michael Jackosn is dead? Seriously??? It doesn't seem real in a way, even though the way he had abused himself physically, it wasn't uncommon for lots of us, myself included, to say "man, Michael's not gonna make it to 50 the way he's going." Well, he made it to 50.
TMZ broke the story, but the mainstream media wouldn't believe it until they heard it from a "credible source" -- namely the L.A. Times. Well, welcome to the new media order fellas. TMZ had it right. I got a text from a friend of mine at around 5:30, and forwarded it to a few other friends, one of whom called me back doubting the veracity of the story. Sure enough, by the time I got home, it was being confirmed on MSNBC. The circumstances strike me as odd -- what was his personal physician during there? What were they doing "working on him" for an hour??? Did he have heart problems? I suspect there's going to wind up being more to it than we're hearing tonight...)
*****UPDATE: Just as I thought. There's more to it. A family spokesman is indicating Michael may have been abusing prescription drugs. Something tells me we're looking at an Anna Nicole Smith scenario unfolding here...******
What's really important right now is to remember Michael, and to be awed by all that he accomplished. He seemed to have lived through it all: troubled childhood, child stardom, crazy father, breaking up the "Jackson Five," making movies, pioneering music videos, and selling 25 million copies of "Thriller." Jackson made money, squandered money, surgically altered his face, turned white, sang "Black or white", got accused of having a prurient interest in children, beat the rap, lost his American star power, and kept the star power throughout the rest of the world. He veiled his kids, dangled his baby, outraged and excited and rivited a planet full of people, and withdrew from sight.
In short, Michael Jackson is the most famous person in my lifetime. Muhammad Ali was an icon for me, and there have been lots of others, but Michael Jackson was literally THE central figure in entertainment from the time I was a little kid, all the way through college, when his musical fame had begun to recede, and he was increasingly famous for ... well ... other reasons. Michael Jackson practically built MTV. His music videos revolutionized the genre -- created it, really. He crossed racial and musical barriers that put him in rare company in the history of modern music. His death is shocking, sudden and jarring -- like John Lennon, Elvis Pressley, or Bob Marley were for people a decade or more older than me.
I really don't know quite what to even say, and I'm probably saying nothing at all... it's just so damned shocking. So instead, I've decided to post some images of Michael the way I prefer to remember him: fine as hell when I hung the double-truck "Off the Wall" album cover up over my bed, the baddest dancer in the world at the time he did "Thriller" and "Bad," and as the scarecrow in what is still my favorite musical: "The Wiz." Yes, Michael was a troubled guy. Very troubled. But he was also, arguably, the greatest entertainer of his generation. I hope that's what people choose to remember.
Farrah was the stand-out "Angel" in the 70s hit. Pictured with co-stars Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson
Farrah Fawcett, the "Charlie's Angels" star who inspired the hairstyles of every girl in my mostly black neighborhood who could grow bangs long enough to feather and who had been bravely battling cancer, has died at age 62. Farrah played Jill, and became THE bombshell of the 1970s. As a little kid, I had two "Charlie's Angels" dolls - Farrah's and Kate Jackson's (the sporty one.) But yeah, we all thought Farrah was the best Angel.
Rest in peace, Ms. Fawcett, and condolences to her friends and family.
You know how you just happen to key in on something or someone for no apparent reason? This morning, I keyed in on Eartha Kitt. Just felt like looking up her bio, as I had included her song "Santa Baby" in my "Christmas master mix" of songs to play in the house for today. Well, she died today, at age 81, of colon cancer. Just found out.
Kitt came from troubled beginnings, to become one of the first bonafide black sex symbols who crossed over to white America, including via her role as Cat Woman in the Batman television series in the 1960s (starring Adam West and Burt Ward.) Unlike Dorothy Dandridge and Lena Horne, whose sex appeal to white America was considered threatening in a slightly earlier era (which is why Max Factor was hired to create a makeup that would darken Ms. Horne's skin,) Kitt boldly asserted her sexuality. Orson Wells, with whom she apparently had a brief relationship, famously called her "the most exciting woman alive." Kitt was one of a kind, and an international sensation. Though the majority of her career took place before I was born, my mother, who was in her generation, loved her (though Lena Horne was her all-time favorite actress,) and we watched the "Batman" re-runs when I was a kid. Plus she was hilarious in "Boomerang," doing a clever "cougar" send-up of her sex kitten past. She even crossed over to my kids' generation, via her role as the voice of Empress Yzma in "The Emperoror's New Groove," as well as the "Emperor's New School" cartoon series. Kitt was also a risk taker, openly opposing the Vietnam war, and being blacklisted for it, and advocating for children. From the New York Times Obit:
Yet for all the camp appeal and sexually charged hauteur of Ms. Kitt’s cabaret act, she also played serious roles, appearing in the films “The Mark of the Hawk” with Sidney Poitier (1957) and “Anna Lucasta” (1959) with Sammy Davis Jr. She made numerous television appearances, including a guest spot on “I Spy” in 1965, which brought her her first Emmy nomination.
For these performances Ms. Kitt very likely drew on the hardship of her early life. She was born Eartha Mae Keith in North, S.C., on Jan. 17, 1927, a date she did not know until about 10 years ago, when she challenged students at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., to find her birth certificate, and they did. She was the illegitimate child of a black Cherokee sharecropper mother and a white man about whom Ms. Kitt knew little. She worked in cotton fields and lived with a black family who, she said, abused her because she looked too white. “They called me yella gal,” Ms. Kitt said.
At 8 she was sent to live in Harlem with an aunt, Marnie Kitt, who Ms. Kitt came to believe was really her biological mother. Though she was given piano and dance lessons, a pattern of abuse developed there as well: Ms. Kitt would be beaten, run away and return. By her early teenage years she was working in a factory and sleeping in subways and on the roofs of unlocked buildings. (She would later become an advocate, through Unicef, on behalf of homeless children.)
Here's Eartha singing "I want to be evil" in 1962:
Here's "Santa Baby", circa sometime in the 60s:
Here's Eartha, who performed in 10 languages, singing "C'est si bon" in 1962:
Here's "Extra special guest Eartha Kitt" in an episode of Batman, also from the 1960s:
Watch more episodes here. And someone has put together a terrific compilation of Kitt photos here.
When George Carlin died, he was heralded by the media as the wryest social commentator of his generation. Well, Bernie Mac was the George Carlin of Black America. Actually, he needed no such derivation. He was the funniest comedian, black or white, in my opinion, to come along in 20 years. May God rest his soul.
Born Bernard Jeffrey McCullough on Oct. 5, 1957, in Chicago, Mac grew up on the city's South Side. His publicist said he died Saturday from complications of pneumonia. He had suffered from sarcoidosis, an inflammatory lung disease that produces tiny lumps of cells in the body's organs, but had said the condition went into remission in 2005. He recently was hospitalized and treated for pneumonia, which his publicist said was not related to the disease.
Velin Stewart, 39, said Mac's success was a "point of civic pride" for Chicagoans, and not just because of his celebrity.
"I was just in shock to wake up and hear that Bernie Mac was dead," Stewart said. "He made it big, but it didn't seem to go to his head. He could have lived anywhere in the world. But he stayed close to where he came from."
That sense of approachability, of humility, is what led Gary Crawford to introduce himself in 2005 to the comedian at a Chicago White Sox game. Crawford, 51, manages a Chicago-based Web site that benefits surviving Negro League baseball players. In 2004, Mac starred in "Mr. 3000," a movie about an aging baseball player who returns to the game to collect his 3,000th hit.
Crawford thought the two might share a commonality.
"I've seen a lot of celebrities at baseball games and Bernie wasn't like that, meaning he didn't have an entourage," Crawford said. "We talked for several minutes, baseball mostly. He was excited the White Sox seemed to be poised for a pennant run. All in all, just a very down-to-earth regular guy."
"Mr. 3000" wasn't his only great film role. He was hilarious in "Life," and even made the insufferable "Oceans 11" series palatable. Mac's self-titled TV show was great, especially in the first season, and he was by far the highlight of "The Original Kings of Comedy." (Grab his complete filmography here.)
Dying at 50 is an incredible truncation of a life well lived. Mac really did take in his sister's children after she became strung out on drugs. He plugged away for 30 years to become a success in comedy, television and movies, and he stayed funny to the end. Unfortunately, dying young is becoming more and more common, and it's even more so among African Americans (Gerald Levert, Luther Vandross, Ed Bradley and others went in their 50s and 60s too, recently.)
Well, Bernie, here's to a great ride. You entertained the hell out of us, and you rode it till the wheels fell off.
In tribute, here's one of Mac's funniest bits:
And here's another (caution, the word "mothafucka" will be heard throughout.