02 July 2009

Thanks For The Memories

Passenger, how far will this plane take us?
Ron White: All the way to the scene of the crash.

Walk outside, even early in the morning to pick up the paper from the end of the driveway (the paperboys never hit the porch) and you’ll get hammered by the summer heat. That is if you live in the south, where the main commodities are heat and mosquitoes and fire ants. But this summer of discontent doesn’t come from sizzling like hot boudin in the nearest Cajun bistro. And it’s worse than being bombed by mosquitoes the size of F14’s, or even stepping into a nest of fire ants on your way out to work. It’s even worse than the so called pandemic of H1N1—more affectionately known as the ‘Swine flu’—that paralyzed us all with fear a few weeks back. No, this summer is more than that. Its become a sad summer. A summer of losing our 70’s and80’s icons. A summer of our discontent. A summer reminding us that nothing lasts forever.

Michael Jackson’s sudden demise leads the pack by eclipsing everyone else who passed this last month, including Ed McMahon. But I have to talk about Ed first. Dear old Ed, who was Johnny Carson’s sidekick for as long as I can remember, and that’s quite a ways back, the man who launched the first of what would later become cheesy talent shows (Star Search, which btw, I did like) such as the dreaded American Idol (I pronounce it American Eyeball just because I want to) and of course who could forget all of those Publisher’s Clearinghouse contests. (Did anyone actually win any of those things?) I loved his voice, I loved his calmness and his affability. I loved the jokes and jibes between him and Johnny. Although there was charisma between Jay Leno and his band leader Kevin Eubanks, there just wasn’t that same spark of wit and love that came with the Carson McMahon duo. But that was as it should be. And although I liked the Tonight Show with Leno, the torch has been passed once again, and I just can’t seem to care much about the newest incarnation of the show. It’s just not the same any more. Besides, there’s Robot Chicken on Cartoon Network.

Now back to Michael. It always creeps me out to find out someone who’s the same age as I die suddenly. But there it is. He’s gone. It’s heartbreakingly sad, as he was such a brilliant talent, and I did love watching him perform, especially in the 80’s when his talent seemed to bear the most and best fruit. He was a sad soul, I think. Sad and confused and lonely in a way that probably none of us could ever understand. And now, he’s gone in as much spectacle as anything done in life. He’s gone, but will never be forgotten. In fact we’ll probably hear more about him in the months—and dare I say—years to come. The King of Pop is about to become indelibly marked on our cultural conscious as the King of Rock—which is of course—Elvis. Somewhere in the back of my mind I can’t help but wonder if some dork is going to make a religion out of him, much like those who founded the “church of Elvis.” I’m sure, someone will, and I’m certain his poor mother will be mortified.
My “niece” (Southernese for my BFF’s daughter) was just a few years old when the Thriller video was launched. My bff and I wanted to see it. Her daughter sat between us when Michael performed. We of course, enjoyed the video, however the transformations scared little Nikki silly .We had no idea it’d have such an effect on her. For weeks afterwards she’d come up to me and point at the TV and say “dat wolf, Aunt Patty, dat wolf!”
Another dear friend of mine, Renee Witterstaetter, artist agent and owner of Little Eva Ink., once met him on the set of Red Dragon. Here on her facebook wall, Renee Reminisces:

Renee Witterstaetter On the set of "Red Dragon" one day to meet with the director, Ratner. Limo, entourage, umbrella on sunny day..We were setting a house on fire, so the crew wore smoke masks! The first thing MJ did was ask if we were making fun (he use to wear a mask, you see). Brett of course told him that was not the case, and that all as well, and then Michael was fine. I liked him. Nothing negative. Just a memory...

When I was a kid back in the 70’s, Farrah Fawcette’s famous pin up poster was the solution for every teenage boy’s case of morning wood, and every girl wanted that incredible smile and feathered locks. Among other things….I liked “Charlie’s Angels, not because of Farrah (she did only one season) but because it depicted women as detectives, something that was virtually unheard of back in the stone age of women’s rights. Oh yeah there was that obscure series back in the Sixties called Honey West, and in some ways I think it’s a better show, but still, Charlie’s Angels brought to the screen three capable women who could not only catch the bad guy but look good doing it.
And of course I spent months trying to get my thick heavy main of red-gold hair to look like Farrah’s. I begged my mom for ‘the cut’ which put her out about twenty five bucks (I was stunned when she agreed to it) and bought the super big rollers with insanely mutated bobby pins. I bought a magazine where Farrah had described in an interview, then went to work forcing my hair to cooperate. I even slept in those rollers, although in retrospect I can’t see how I managed it. I guess I slept upright. But the effects afterwards, after weeks and weeks of rolling and brushing and spraying, I got the style just right. So on the night of our Senior banquet (The school board were members of the Church of Christ and some very strict Baptists so we didn’t have an official prom due to the ‘sin’ of dancing) myself and two of my friends attended the banquet stag, yet glamorously dressed and beautiful as Charlie’s Angels. That night, we actually were applauded when we entered the gym where the banquet was held. It was truly a night to remember.
Billy Mays, the loud, fast talking hawker of all things crapolicious also passed from public view last week. He died suddenly, peacefully from what I understand, in his sleep after suffering a heart attack. I have no special memories of him, but his commercials are still playing, and it saddens me to know that soon those commercials will end and we’ll never hear him hawk another cheesy product again.
Last night, of course is the last, thus far of a long and sad line of celebrity passings. Although I adored Karl Malden, especially in great films like “On the Waterfront,” “Patton” and “Streetcar Named Desire” (I am after all, a vintage film junkie) I think Karl could best be remembered as Lt. Detective Mike Stone in the television series “Streets of San Francisco.” Karl had a very long and successful film and television career. He died at the tender age of 97. 97. I should be so lucky.
Even though I no longer drink alcohol, I raise my glass of ice water to the five of you, who made the seventies and beyond great with your genius and say, in the immortal words of my long time hero Humphrey Bogart, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Patricia Snodgrass
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