Just watched the Michael Jackson memorial. Today’s crowd calls it TiVo, but I still refer to it as “tape delayed.” I’ve seen a few comments—some critical, some introspective, some sensitive—regarding the service, but I’ve yet to form an opinion on it as a whole. I think Michael was a gentle man. It could be that he never got a childhood, and what he did have was littered with abuse. I don’t think he ever out-ran whatever was haunting him.
But today also marks the one-week anniversary of Farrah Fawcett’s death. Farrah’s passing was much less shocking, much less celebrated. Contrary to Jackson, she was willing to open up her pain and share it with the world. Not only do I think Farrah’s passing more noble, but she also leaves the most lasting impact on me. She never went into hiding. She was a fighter. She seemed to possess a level of grace. She was no stranger to failure, success, fame, or abuse. From the looks of it, through her journey she learned the value of love and fidelity even though her journey did not originate in those places. For Farrah I think it was over too quickly. While I don’t have any reason to suspect Michael Jackson was ever going to turn around and stare down his demons, Farrah Fawcett sensed brokenness in the deepest places and actively pursued healing both physically and emotionally. She didn’t seem to me to be OK with living an isolated, insulated life. Instead, I think she was opening up to the possibilities of being more; invite people along for the journey; and letting life speak for itself.
I had not yet had my 10th birthday when Charlie’s Angels hit the airwaves. I think it was 1977. Before the show, apparently, Farrah was THE GIRL on campus at the University of Texas-Austin. Legend has it that some sort of talent “scout” saw a picture of her, gave her a call, and within a few months she had landed a role in Aaron Spelling‘s new progressive, apple-cart upsetting, police drama featuring three female detectives: Charlie’s Angels. Who knows just how accurate that is and I’m certainly no journalist, but the point is that she went from zero-to-sixty in less than 4 seconds. One day she’s a college student, the next she’s America’s #1 pin-up, and the next she’s diagnosed with cancer.
Today it’s hard to believe she was only on the show for a year. I didn’t see very many episodes since it came on after my bedtime. I never thought she was particularly glamorous or even beautiful in the Hollywood sense. Just real. Like so many, she left television for “greener” days at the box office that never materialized. She had moderate success on the stage and both the little and big screens. For a child of divorce like I was, the break-up between one of Charlie’s angels and the six-million-dollar man was heartbreaking. As a boy it just seemed so right to me that these two would find each other and stay together. I mean, that’s the way they draw it up in the fairy tales. Because of Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett-Majors I could dream of a world that was rightful and re-ordered again. When they divorced it just put more stress on an already failing belief in the world around me. Now, of course, I know how foolish it is to put my faith in those external places. But because of it Farrah is a part of my journey, too.
I guess she’ll always be remembered for that pin-up. Of course I had it. (Along with one called “Super Farrah” [inserted] that was even bigger—both bought for me by my mother which is probably good fodder for another post.) That’s what landed her in the middle of the public eye. But because in the end she began to let us sense the full weight of who she was, she became much more. A Facebook friend referred to Farrah’s passing in his status, describing it as “sad” and that he hoped Farrah knew the Lord. Somehow that came off as cheap to me. It reduced her life to mere cliche. A life filled with pathos and experience like hers—a human that has breathed in life with deep gulps like she was force-fed—deserves more than a fleeting, implied judgment from afar. For me she is a reminder of the tragedies of a fallen world and how beauty can and does endure.