Yesterday I was writing about Mark Sanford when practically everyone else in the world was writing, talking and at times crying about Michael Jackson. I wonder what infinitesimal percentage of Americans is like me in finding politicians more interesting than celebrities. Today, in order that my readers can be reassured that I’m not a completely hopeless geek, I’m going to take a break from writing about politicians and write about celebrities instead.
It really is bizarre how celebrities die in threes. And the three who died this week all mark in different ways the passing of my youth. Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson were a fixture of TV during my childhood and young adulthood, and the end of their late night reign marked the end of an age of pop culture innocence. The post-Carson-McMahon years have seen a steady coarsening of late night TV talk. I wonder if Ed McMahon watched Jon Stewart and the rest, or whether it was too depressing for him, a reminder that his own kinder, gentler era of comedy was dead and buried.
Of Farrah Fawcett I have little to say, beyond that I watched Charlie’s Angels just like every other girl in junior high, and that glorious mane of hers gave my teenage self a mild inferiority complex, since my hair just never would even remotely do what hers did. She was a good actress with bad taste in men, and to my knowledge never joined the parade of Hollywood ignorami lecturing her fellow citizens about politics. From what little I know about her, her life was hardly idyllic, but wasn’t as awful as the lives of many other tormented souls who’ve been chewed up and spit out by the beast that is Hollywood.
Speaking of tormented souls, Farrah’s death was bumped from the headlines almost immediately by the news that Michael Jackson had given up the ghost. When I was a child, the Jackson Five were huge, and it saddens me that a cute, tremendously talented little boy I used to watch sing and dance with his older brothers grew up into a freakish hermit and alleged pedophile rapist. I say “alleged” because Jackson was never actually convicted of molesting any of the numerous children with whom he had unorthodox “friendships” over the years. Celebrities (O.J. Simpson, Robert Blake, etc.) are notoriously hard to convict, and before his final descent into madness and bankruptcy, Michael Jackson had enough money to pay off an army of parental accusers. Given what any reasonable person must conclude about Jackson’s past relations with young children, the outpouring of love for him now amazes me. Yes, he was a talented singer and dancer. Extremely talented. No argument from me on that. But I find it deeply disturbing that so many people are willing to shrug and say, “Oh, well,” about his alleged crimes just because he could sing and dance like nobody’s business, and they have nostalgic memories of watching the premiere of the “Thriller” video with their friends.
Our society has such a love affair with celebrities that we even turn parasitic losers who feed off celebrities into celebrities. I speak, in case you can’t guess, of Perez Hilton. I don’t read Perez Hilton’s blog (you’re not really surprised, are you?) but I do get the RSS feed for Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood, where I very much enjoyed Ben Shapiro’s mercilessly funny exegesis of Hilton’s latest effusion of narcissism. I’m not going to write much about Hilton, a.k.a. Mario Lavandeira, because (a) I can’t top Shapiro, and (b) I think Hilton/Lavandeira is a wretchedly unhappy and troubled young man who is so vicious to others because he’s consumed with self-hatred.
Jon and Kate Gosselin are celebrities of more recent vintage, and I’ve actually blogged about them before (here , here and here). But this post is long enough already, so I’m going to save the Jon and Kate material for tomorrow’s entry. Stay tuned.