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Too many icons pass in a short time

This was a week for the passing of icons, news of one death coming fast on the heels of another, and I don't know about you but I did not like it one bit.

Way back when, Farrah Fawcett was the subject of great debate amongst us girls on the subject of which Angel you would be in Charlie's Angels, the brainy Kate Jackson character being my personal choice, though Farrah was the undisputed queen, always.

We studied her on posters in the verboten bedrooms of our big brothers, the impossibly skinny waist, the beautiful white smile, but mainly the hair, for which we willingly risked burning fingers and foreheads on curling irons in an effort to get what she had.

Years later, I remember being awed by the raw power of The Burning Bed and the strength and vulnerability in her. I guess while people can always be less than you hoped, they might also end up being more than you ever assumed.

Michael Jackson was singing Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough like a whirling carnival as we cruised the curves of our suburban skating rink under the disco lights. That song was playing there when the first boy I ever really liked grabbed my hand as he was going by. Actually I think he tripped and flailed for whatever was nearest, as people will, and maybe there's a lesson in that, too.

Later, when I was a reporter covering criminal courts, Jackson got into the sort of trouble that gave me plenty to talk about with the defense lawyers and sex offenses prosecutors on my beat.

Ed McMahon's late-night grandpa-sounding jokes were too fusty for us kids, our parents better able to appreciate his sidekick ways. Funny — so many things from my parents' time that kids around me now will never know, things that would seem as ancient to them as snuff boxes and Civil War muskets.

Closer to home, too close to home, Phyllis Busansky is gone, too. She took her first job in politics on the County Commission just as I started at this newspaper. As I sat at commission meetings scribbling notes about some controversial cul-de-sac, she would be asking the staff endless questions about everything, unabashed and unafraid of sounding dumb. "I'm learning here," I remember her saying on her way to becoming one of the most admired politicians in town.

You know you have passed the torch to the younger ones when you are perusing the trashy tabloids in the hairdresser's chair and you suddenly think: Who are these people?

You read of celebrity sex tapes and drunken bouts and break-ups and, oh yeah, the occasional actual movie, CD or TV show, and you think, what exactly have these people accomplished to warrant fame besides being rich and somewhat obnoxious? (Okay, we had a couple of those, too.)

I wonder who their icons will be, these kids who follow Paris and Perez and have to explain to me who Shia is, whose deaths will make them suddenly notice the passing of time amid workweeks and picking up dry-cleaning and life in general.

By then those celebrities may have saggy, spread tattoos they got without thought to gravity or, OMG!, age, and maybe it is right that the previous generation never understood what made them celebrities in the first place. But their passing will whisper to those who note it that no matter what, the world keeps moving on.

Too many icons pass in a short time 06/26/09 [Last modified: Friday, June 26, 2009 7:28pm]

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