Saturday, June 27, 2009

Death of an Angel

When the news of Farrah Fawcett's death broke a couple of days ago, it was all the media could talk about - for a few hours. Then we learned Michael Jackson had passed away and Farrah was more or less relegated to secondary status in terms of coverage, miles behind the "King of Pop."

But for me personally, the fact that Farrah Fawcett was dead carried much more weight. While it is undeniable that Michael Jackson being dead at fifty is a tragedy, I've long viewed him as a tragic character anyway. The endless plastic surgeries, the seemingly desperate attempt to hold onto his childhood decades after it ended, the scandalous allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct with minor boys, the fade into pop music irrelevence after dominating the charts for years; all these things added up to a figure that was sad and kind of pathetic to me.

Maybe Jackson was on the verge of a huge comeback; we'll certainly never know now. Hopefully he can find the peace in death that he never seemed able to find in life.

So when Michael Jackson died it didn't even really surprise me that much. But Farrah Fawcett, that's a different story. My first thought upon hearing the news was, "How in the hell could she possibly have been 62?" Time really does move faster the older you get.

When I was a kid, I had the famous Farrah Poster hanging on the wall in my bedroom, like probably every other teenage boy at that time. You know the one - a mid-twenties Farrah is sitting in a bright red one-piece swimsuit, smiling into the camera lens with her perfect dazzling teeth, blonde locks tumbling over her bare shoulders. She was everyone's image of the All-American Girl, America's Sweetheart in a one-piece, oozing an innocent sexuality. That poster is still the best-selling poster ever.

She took the world by storm in 1976, starring in the Charlie's Angels TV movie in the spring and then, in the fall, in the series of the same name, along with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith. The show was a huge hit, and even though Fawcett's stint on it lasted just that one season, it is Charlie's Angels that she is most closely associated with, even now, 33 years later.

But to consider Farrah nothing more than a sex symbol is to do her a great injustice. After leaving Charlie's Angels, she went on to star on Broadway and in numerous movies, including a made-for-TV picture titled "The Burning Bed," which I will never forget.

By the time "The Burning Bed" came out, in 1984, I was married, and my wife talked me into watching it with her. I had no desire to see this movie - I figured it was some chick flick without a single car chase or gunfight or anything making it worth my time. But from the first few minutes until the shocking final scene I was transfixed.

Gone was America's Sweetheart, gone was the eye-candy I remembered from her Charlie's Angels days. That relic of an innocent time was replaced by the haggard, harried housewife she played; by a woman suffering from the ravages of spousal abuse, bruised and battered, both spritually and physically. I sat with my wife and watched this broken woman regain control of her life in the most shocking way imaginable. This Farrah Fawcett could act.

I've never really bought into the notion that a beautiful woman can be a "victim" of her good looks. In my opinion the pretty people of the world gain a lot more than they ever lose. But if there was ever a case which might convince me to rethink that theory, Farrah might have been it. She could have played the most serious and in fluential roles available and to many, she would never have been anything more than the chick on the wall to be leered at.

In many ways it's a shame that the one thing Farrah Fawcett will be most remembered for is probably one of the most forgettable things she ever did - pose for a picture in a swimsuit. But she was a multitalented woman who was much more than a picture on a wall; or even a picture on hundreds of thousands of walls.

Rest in peace, Farrah Fawcett.

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