June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson - Aug. 29, 1958 - June 25, 2009

Same day as Farrah Fawcett. I was walking into the skilled nursing facility, where my Dad is a patient. They had a TV going in the rec room. The news was on. I saw the headline, "Michael Jackson Dead". "The Michael Jackson!?" Yes, Michael Jackson of the original Jackson 5. That's where I first saw him. I thought he was younger than me, way younger. But, he was born before I was. I wasn't really into his music. But, I did like Thriller. I remember seeing the video when it first came out in the early 80's. Rest in Peace Michael.

Article here

Michael Jackson's life was infused with fantasy and tragedy
Associated Press

He owned a statue of Marilyn, studied Chaplin and married Elvis' daughter. It seemed the perennial man-child would cease to exist if the applause ever stopped.

By Geoff Boucher and Elaine Woo
June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson was fascinated by celebrity tragedy. He had a statue of Marilyn Monroe in his home and studied the sad Hollywood exile of Charlie Chaplin. He married the daughter of Elvis Presley.

Jackson met his own untimely death Thursday at age 50, and more than any of those past icons, he left a complicated legacy. As a child star, he was so talented he seemed lit from within; as a middle-aged man, he was viewed as something akin to a visiting alien who, like Tinkerbell, would cease to exist if the applause ever stopped.

It was impossible in the early 1980s to imagine the surreal final chapters of Jackson's life. In that decade, he became the world's most popular entertainer thanks to a series of hit records -- “Beat It,” "Billie Jean," “Thriller” -- and dazzling music videos. Perhaps the best dancer of his generation, he created his own iconography: the single shiny glove, the Moonwalk, the signature red jacket and the Neverland Ranch.

In recent years, he inspired fascination for reasons that had nothing to do with music. Years of plastic surgery had made his face a bizarre landscape. He was deeply in debt and had lost his way as a musician. He had not toured since 1997 or released new songs since 2001. Instead of music videos, the images of Jackson beamed around the world were tabloid reports about his strange personal behavior, including allegations of child molestation, or the latest failed relaunch of his career.

A frail-looking Jackson had spent his last weeks in rehearsal for an ambitious comeback attempt and 50 already-sold-out shows at London's O2 Arena. A major motivation was the $300 million in debt run up by a star who lived like royalty even though his self-declared title of King of Pop was more about the past than the present.

"It's one of the greatest losses," said Tommy Mottola, former president of Sony Music, which released Jackson's music for 16 years. "In pop history, there's a triumvirate of pop icons: Sinatra, Elvis and Michael, that define the whole culture. . . . His music bridged races and ages and absolutely defined the video age. Nothing that came before him or that has come after him will ever be as big as he was."

Jackson "had it all. . . . talent, grace, professionalism and dedication," said Quincy Jones, Jackson's collaborator on his most important albums and the movie "The Wiz." "He was the consummate entertainer, and his contributions and legacy will be felt upon the world forever. I've lost my little brother today, and part of my soul has gone with him."

Jackson was born Aug. 29, 1958, in Gary, Ind. His mother, Katherine, would say that there was something special about the fifth of her nine children. "I don't believe in reincarnation," she said, "but you know how babies move uncoordinated? He never moved that way. When he danced, it was like he was an older person."

Katherine Jackson, who worked for Sears, Roebuck and Co., taught her children folk songs. Her husband, Joseph, a crane operator who once played with the R&B band the Falcons, played guitar and coached his sons. The boys were soon performing at local benefits. Michael took command of the group even as a chubby-cheeked kindergartner.

"He was so energetic that at 5 years old he was like a leader," brother Jackie once told Rolling Stone magazine. "We saw that. So we said, 'Hey, Michael, you be the lead guy.' The audience ate it up."

By 1968, the Jacksons had cut singles for a local Indiana label called Steeltown. At an engagement that year at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater, singer Gladys Knight and pianist Billy Taylor saw their act and recommended them to Motown founder Berry Gordy. So did Diana Ross after sharing a stage with the quintet at a "Soul Weekend" in Gary.

Ross said later that she saw herself in the talented and driven Michael. "He could be my son," she said. Another Motown legend, Smokey Robinson, would describe the young performer as "a strange and lovely child, an old soul in the body of a boy."

Motown moved the Jacksons to California, and in August 1968 they gave a breakthrough performance at a Beverly Hills club called The Daisy. Their first album, "Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5," was released in December 1969, and it yielded the No. 1 hit "I Want You Back," with 11-year-old Michael on the lead vocals. "ABC," “I’ll Be There” and other hits followed, and the group soon had their own television series, a Saturday morning cartoon and an array of licensed merchandise aimed at youngsters.

There was a price: childhood.

"I never had the chance to do the fun things kids do," Jackson once explained. "There was no Christmas, no holiday celebrating. So now you try to compensate for some of that loss."

Joseph Jackson ruled the family, by most accounts, with his fists and a bellowing rage. In a 2003 documentary by British journalist Martin Bashir, Jackson said his father often brandished a belt during rehearsals and hit his sons or shoved them into walls if they made a misstep.

"We were terrified of him," Jackson said.

In the Bashir interviews, the singer said his father ridiculed him for his pug nose and adolescent acne. He also described, with obvious discomfort, having to listen to an older brother have sex with a woman in the hotel bedroom they shared.

Onstage, Jackson seemed to know no fear.

"When we sang, people would throw all this money on the floor, tons of dollars, 10s, 20s, lots of change," an adult Jackson once told Newsweek. "I remember my pockets being so full of money that I couldn't keep my pants up. I'd wear a real tight belt. And I'd buy candy like crazy."

By 1972, Jackson had his first solo album, "Got to Be There," which included the title hit as well as "Rockin' Robin." His first solo No. 1 single came the same year -- the forlorn theme song from the movie “Ben.”

He struggled to understand a world that he saw mostly while staring into spotlights and flashbulbs. Standing ovations greeted him onstage; parental slaps awaited him in the dressing room. Like his mother, he became a Jehovah's Witness, forswearing alcohol, cigarettes and foul language. He fasted on Saturdays and went door-to-door, wearing a disguise, to spread the faith. (He ended his association with the religion in the late 1980s.)

In 1978, Michael made his film debut as the Scarecrow in "The Wiz," a black-cast adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz." The movie launched a creative and commercial partnership with "Wiz" music director Quincy Jones.

The first fruit of their collaboration was "Off the Wall" (1979), Jackson's debut album on the Epic label. It sold 5 million copies in the United States and 2 million abroad and generated four Top 10 singles.

It was with Jones (as well as often-overlooked songwriter Rod Temperton) that Jackson shaped "Thriller," which was released near the end of 1982 and became the best-selling studio album in history and a cultural landmark. Its effect on the music industry and the music videos that came to define the then-nascent MTV was huge.

In a Motown TV special in 1983, Jackson, then 24, electrified the nation with his Moonwalk, a dance step that created the illusion of levitation. He took the stage in a black sequined jacket, silver shirt, black fedora and black trousers that skimmed the tops of his white socks. The final touch was a single white glove, studded with rhinestones.

Times critic Robert Hilburn, who observed the performance live at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, said the broadcast marked Jackson's "unofficial coronation as the King of Pop. Within months, he changed the way people would hear and see pop music, unleashing an influence that rivaled that of Elvis Presley and the Beatles."

His dance style combined the robotic moves of break-dancers, the quicksilver spins and slides of James Brown and the grace of Fred Astaire, whose routines he studied. The aging Astaire called him "a wonderful mover."

Not only did "Thriller" smash sales records as the bestselling album of 1983, but it made Jackson the first artist to top four charts simultaneously: It was the No. 1 pop single, pop album, R&B single and R&B album. It earned five Grammy Awards. Jay Cocks wrote in Time magazine that Jackson "just may be the most popular black singer ever."

The "Thriller" success enabled Jackson to negotiate what were believed to be the highest royalty rates ever earned by a recording artist. But it also put him in a cage of his own anxieties and obsession.

Jackson bonded with past pop-music royalty by marrying Lisa Marie Presley in 1994 and grabbing a major interest in the Beatles' catalog, an asset worth $500 million. The marriage was short-lived, however, and his wealth was imperiled by an extravagant lifestyle that included the 2,700-acre Neverland Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, where he lived with a menagerie of exotic pets.

Jackson became a prisoner of his own celebrity. He became so accustomed to bodyguards and assistants that he once admitted that he trembled if he had to open his own front door. He compared himself to "a hemophiliac who can't afford to be scratched in any way."

Notoriously shy offstage, onstage he was electric and acutely attuned to what his fans craved. Commenting once on a sotto voce note at the end of a ballad, he said: "That note will touch the whole audience. What they're throwing out at you, you're grabbing. You hold it, you touch it and you whip it back -- it's like a Frisbee."

"I hate to admit it, but I feel strange around everyday people," he said on another occasion. "See, my whole life has been onstage, and the impression I get of people is applause, standing ovations and running after you. In a crowd, I'm afraid. Onstage, I feel safe. If I could, I would sleep on the stage. I'm serious."

In better days, his wealth allowed him to fulfill personal fantasies -- including building his own amusement park -- and bankroll charities, particularly those involving children. Then came the dark whispers about the nature of his relationship with boys.

He was often seen with youngsters, both famous and those plucked from the mundane world to visit his playground estate. In 1993, he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy who was a frequent overnight guest in his home. On tour in Asia when the charges were filed, he canceled his performances, citing exhaustion and addiction to painkillers as the reasons.

Jackson's attorney charged that the boy's father, a would-be screenwriter who had tried to obtain Jackson's backing for a project, was trying to extort money. The criminal investigation was closed after the boy refused to testify. A civil lawsuit was settled for a reported $20 million.

"I am not guilty of these allegations," Jackson, then 35, said after the settlement was reached. "But if I am guilty of anything, it is of giving all that I have to give to help children all over the world. It is of loving children of all ages and races. It is of gaining sheer joy from seeing children with their innocent and smiling faces. It is of enjoying through them the childhood that I missed myself."

He lost a Pepsi endorsement as well as a deal to develop several films. The Jackson-themed Captain EO attraction at Disneyland was scrapped.

A second case unfolded in November 2003, when Santa Barbara authorities, acting on accusations by a 13-year-old cancer patient who had stayed at Jackson's ranch, arrested the star. The 14-week trial featured celebrity witnesses such as Jay Leno and Macaulay Culkin and Jackson's own bizarre antics, such as showing up for court in pajama pants and a tuxedo jacket. It ended June 13, 2005, with his acquittal on all counts.

Jackson acknowledged in the interview with Bashir that, despite the earlier cases, he still invited children to share his bedroom and saw nothing wrong with it.

"It's not sexual," he insisted. "I tuck them in, have hot milk, give them cookies. It's very charming, it's very sweet."

He added that his own children "sleep with other people all the time."

By then, Jackson was a figure of pop music's past, not its present. When The Times, in 2001, asked top recording executives to name the most valuable acts in the business, Jackson failed to make the top 20.

In 2003, he settled a lawsuit by his former financial advisors after legal documents portrayed the singer as near bankruptcy.

At the same time, he was waging legal battles against his 1970s recording label, Motown Records, and his current label, Sony's Epic Records. He stirred speculation about his mental state when he contended that the latter company, and in particular Mottola, had inadequately promoted his work because of racism.

He celebrated his 45th birthday in August 2003 at a curious public event that seemed to underscore the decline of his career. Hundreds of fans paid $30 each or more for admission to an old downtown Los Angeles movie palace, where largely amateur or obscure performers sang, lip-synced or danced to the fallen idol's hits. Most of the seats reserved for A-list guests went begging.

When the honoree took the stage at the end to join in a rendition of "We Are the World," he was flanked not by the likes of Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder, as he was when the famous song was first recorded, but by several Jackson impersonators.

Such impersonators usually model themselves on his "Thriller" persona, but the singer himself looked nothing like that in recent years.

There was intense public curiosity about his physical metamorphosis. Jackson often insisted that his wan complexion was the result of treatment for a skin disorder called vitiligo, but that did not explain why his once-broad nose became long, sleek and pertly tipped.

He publicly admitted to two nose operations, but cosmetic surgeons who studied his photographs surmised that he had undergone far more, possibly so many that he had destroyed the cartilage.

In 1996, Jackson married his former nurse, Debbie Rowe, who bore two of his three children, Prince Michael Jr. and Paris Michael Katherine. He did not disclose the identity of the mother of his third child, Prince Michael II.

He raised the children without their mothers and had them wear elaborate masks whenever they went out with him. Several months after Prince Michael II's birth, Jackson dangled the baby outside an upper-story hotel window in Berlin to show the child to fans assembled below. The incident led to accusations that the singer was an unfit father. He later acknowledged that he had shown poor judgment.

He is survived by his children; his parents; and siblings Maureen, Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, Randy, LaToya and Janet.

Posted by Valkyre at 08:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett - February 2, 1947 - June 25, 2009

Article here.


Farrah Fawcett dies at 62; actress rose above 'Charlie's Angels'

A rare cancer claims the 1970s pinup beauty. First known for her looks and hairstyle, she captivated critics with 'Burning Bed' and other serious roles. Later, she chronicled her illness.

By Valerie J. Nelson
10:12 AM PDT, June 25, 2009

Farrah Fawcett, who soared to fame as a national sex symbol in the late 1970s on television's campy "Charlie's Angels" and in a swimsuit poster that showcased her feathery mane and made her a generation's favorite pinup, died today. She was 62.

Fawcett, whose celebrity overshadowed her ability as a serious actress, was diagnosed with a rare anal cancer in 2006, died about 9:30 a.m. at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica, said Paul Bloch, her publicist.

Three months after she was declared cancer-free in 2007, doctors at UCLA Medical Center told her the cancer had returned, spreading to her liver, and she repeatedly sought experimental treatment in Germany.

As an actress, Fawcett was initially dismissed for her role as Jill Munroe in "Charlie's Angels," one of the "jiggle" series on ABC-TV in the late 1970s.

But she transformed her career and some popular perceptions in 1984 with "The Burning Bed," a television movie about a battered wife that brought her the first of three Emmy nominations. She further established herself as an actress in the play and later feature film "Extremities," about a rape victim who takes revenge on her attacker.

For many, the poster of her wearing a wet one-piece swimsuit and a blinding smile endured.

"If you were to list 10 images that are evocative of American pop culture, Farrah Fawcett would be one of them," Robert Thompson, a professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University, told The Times. "That poster became one of the defining images of the 1970s."

Yet Fawcett was part of a new generation of celebrities whose fame was fueled by heightened coverage of their ongoing personal dramas, Thompson said.

She had many: a failed marriage to actor Lee Majors; a stormy, long-term relationship with actor Ryan O'Neal; a son who fought drug addiction; a writer-director boyfriend, James Orr, who was convicted of assaulting her; a Playboy video that featured her using her naked body as a paintbrush; and a spacey 1997 appearance on David Letterman's late-night TV show that caused critics to question her mental state.

For her part, Fawcett once said all she had to do to get on the cover of People was to "have a new boyfriend or even a new dog," Texas Monthly reported in 1997.

At first, her mane nearly eclipsed her fame.

"Charlie's Angels" showcased the long, feathered tresses that framed her face, launching a national fad of copycat haircuts. Many Fawcettphiles believed the hair had as much to do with the poster's sales as anything, The Times reported in 1977.

Within six months, the poster sold five million copies, outstripping the records of such previous sex symbols as Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe. It wound up selling a reported 12 million copies.

"You were a real man if you had her poster. She was our pinup girl," Mike O'Meara, a radio show host who was in high school when it came out, told the Baltimore Sun in 2006.

Fawcett quit the series that brought her initial fame in 1977 after a single season, saying producers were preventing her from growing as an actress. With Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, Fawcett had played a private investigator whose main talent seemed to be the ability to wield a gun while going braless and shouting, "Freeze, turkey!"

"Charlie's Angels" was so popular that 59% of the television audience tuned in, according to Time magazine, and the Los Angeles Times' review of the series premiere pointed out why: The show dripped with "sexuality" and "good-natured but quite intentional teasing."

Along with "Three's Company" -- a double-entendre-filled ABC sitcom that debuted six months after "Charlie's Angels" in fall 1976 -- the show is credited with helping to launch television's "jiggle" era. Still, the show was seen as empowering women, even if they did take their orders from an unseen male boss named Charlie.

"In an odd way, even with all that Lycra and bralessness, the show was a feminist statement," Thompson said. "This was an hourlong drama with women as action heroes. They were working in areas of power that generally we didn't see women in much."

Fawcett, who had appeared in shampoo ads, would triumph over critics who dismissed "Charlie's Angels" as little more than a commercial for hair products. But first she appeared in two lightweight feature films: "Somebody Killed Her Husband" (1978) and "Sunburn" (1979).

She surprised critics with her intense portrayal of the battered wife who immolates her husband in the TV movie "The Burning Bed." The 1984 Times review noted her "growing acting skill" and "deeply moving performance."

The phrase "Burning Bed" entered Hollywood's lexicon as shorthand for actresses who wanted to be taken seriously. "Managers would call and say, 'She'd like to do her 'Burning Bed,' " Robert Greenwald, the film's director, told The Times in 1999.

The off-Broadway play "Extremities" provided another dramatically taxing showcase in 1983. Following Susan Sarandon in the starring role, Fawcett broke her wrist during a fight scene and lost weight because the part was so physically demanding. She also earned respectable reviews.

When the film of "Extremities" followed in 1986, The Times' Charles Champlin called her performance "further declaration of her arrival as a serious and intelligent actress who happens to be beautiful."

Robert Duvall cast Fawcett as his wife in his 1997 independent film "The Apostle," about a Texas Pentecostal preacher who escapes to Louisiana after accidentally killing his wife's lover. Again, she won praise.

"That woman's work has been very underrated," Duvall told Texas Monthly, citing her Emmy-nominated performance in "Small Sacrifices," a 1989 TV movie in which her character kills her children. "That woman knows how to act."

With O'Neal, with whom she had a son, she starred in "Good Sports," a short-lived 1991 CBS sitcom that was her last network television series. She received her final Emmy nomination in 2003 for guest-starring on "The Guardian" on CBS.

Farrah Leni Fawcett was born Feb. 2, 1947, in Corpus Christi, Texas, to James Fawcett, who founded a pipeline construction company, and his wife, Pauline. Her older sister, Diane, died of lung cancer in 2001.

While studying painting and sculpture at the University of Texas at Austin, Fawcett was used to being judged by her looks. College men lined up to meet the freshman at her sorority in 1965, her college boyfriend told Texas Monthly. After she was voted one of the 10 most beautiful women on campus, a Hollywood publicist came calling.

Her parents wanted her to finish college before coming west, but they gave in after her junior year. Within two weeks of arriving, Fawcett had an agent and a significant other -- Majors, who had arranged an introduction after seeing her photograph, she often said.

She signed a contract with Screen Gems, Columbia's television subsidiary, and got bit parts on shows such as "The Flying Nun" and " The Partridge Family."

Majors married Fawcett in 1973 and became "The Six Million Dollar Man" on ABC a year later. She sometimes appeared on the series.

Her contract for "Charlie's Angels" stipulated that she had to be home every night by 6:30 to make Majors' dinner at their Bel-Air home, but the domesticity didn't last. While on location in 1979, Majors arranged for his dashing buddy O'Neal to look in on Fawcett. By fall, she had moved into O'Neal's Malibu beachfront home, Time magazine reported in 1997.

They stayed together for 17 tumultuous years but never married, although O'Neal said this week that the seriously ill Fawcett had said yes to his latest marriage proposal. "As chaotic and crazy as their relationship is, I don't know who could put up with the two of them better than each other," her friend Alana Stewart said in the Time article.

In 1985, Fawcett and O'Neal became the parents of a son, Redmond, whose teenage exploits were tabloid staples. From age 13, he had been in and out of drug treatment programs and has admitted abusing heroin, the London Daily Express reported in 2007. He has had several drug-related arrests in the last year.

Redmond, now 24, was allowed to temporarily leave jail April 25 to visit his mother at her home. In April, he was arrested on charges of trying to smuggle drugs into a jail facility in Castaic and recently was admitted to a court-ordered rehabilitation program.

When Fawcett and O'Neal broke up in 1997 -- she attributed it to conflicts over parenting -- it was the beginning of a troubled time for her.

First, another actress accused her of stealing $72,000 worth of clothes. Then Fawcett appeared on Letterman's show to promote the video that showed her hurling her gold-painted naked body against a canvas. Chatting with the host, she looked disoriented and sounded incoherent. She repeatedly claimed it had been an act.

Orr, a sometime boyfriend, was convicted of slamming Fawcett's head to the ground and choking her during a fight. She admitted smashing windows at his Bel-Air mansion with a baseball bat. The couple got back together but broke up for good before he was sentenced to three years' probation, The Times reported in 1999.

For years, Fawcett lived in the Bel-Air home she bought with Majors in 1976; it was sold for $2.7 million in 1999. More recently, she called a Beverly Hills condo home.

Fawcett's relationship with O'Neal was on-again, off-again after their breakup. She helped nurse him back to health after he was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia in 2001; and he was there for her soon after she was diagnosed with anal cancer.

Two breast cancer survivors also rallied to her side: Smith and Jackson, her "Charlie's Angels" costars.

When tabloids quickly reported her cancer recurrence in 2007, Fawcett suspected that details of her medical care were being leaked. Her complaints led UCLA Medical Center to dismiss an employee who had surreptitiously reviewed Fawcett's medical records and those of more than 30 other high-profile patients. A new state law aimed at protecting patient privacy also grew out of the records violations

Forced to battle her cancer publicly, Fawcett made "Farrah's Story," a video diary that unsparingly chronicled her struggle to fight the disease and efforts to protect her privacy. It aired on NBC in mid-May.

Throughout the documentary, O'Neal is a steady presence. In May, O'Neal told People magazine: "I won't know this world without her."

In addition to her son, Fawcett is survived by her father.

Posted by Valkyre at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)