OK, we all know that. But how about death? It’s unfair too.
Consider Farrah Fawcett, probably the most successful pinup girl of all-time. Her famous poster sold 12 million copies. Farrah got men through college in the mid-1970s the way Betty Grable got men through World War II. Farrah was a midlevel talent with fabulous hair. Hair so good that millions of women from age 10 to 50 in the ’70s adopted the distinctive hairstyle she sported in “Charlie’s Angels.” Some of them still have it today.
When Farrah died, you’d figure the tributes and obituaries would flood the airwaves and front pages. Six hours and the newspaper’s third section was all she got.
That’s because on the same day the “King of Pop,” Michael Jackson, died. For a decade he was the world’s most successful rock star. His album “Thriller” spent 37 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard charts. In 1984, he won eight Grammys, the most ever by one person in a single year and he sold more that 300 million records.
When Michael visited the small African country of Gabon, an estimated 100,000 people turned out to see him.
In the 1980s, Michael Jackson was what the Beatles were in the 1960s and what Elvis was in the 1950s.
But like Elvis when he died, Michael was a profoundly different person than when he began, molded and then distorted by his immense fame. Also, as music moved on to different, not always better genres, his career, like Elvis’, failed to keep pace.
John Lennon, once reflecting on Elvis, said “Elvis really died the day he joined the Army.” In a sense, Michael “died” after the groundbreaking “Billie Jean,” went platinum. Artistically, it was downhill after that.
So Michael’s obituary knocked Farrah from the front pages. That’s the nature of the obituary. You have to know when to die.
Mother Teresa died within a few days of Princess Diana. With the “all-Diana all the time” coverage during her funeral, poor Mother Teresa got scant mention.
The day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, two famous authors, Aldous Huxley (”Brave New World”) and C.S. Lewis (”The Chronicles of Narnia”) also died. Newspaper and media coverage of Kennedy’s death was so extensive, the deaths of these two authors went virtually unnoticed.
Two of the world’s greatest writers, William Shakespeare (”Hamlet,” “King Lear”) and Miguel de Cervantes (”Don Quixote”) died on the same day, April 23, 1616. One supposes the CNN trucks would have been parked with reporters mobbed outside Stratford-on-Avon, while Spanish obit writers would have tilted at windmills to get Cervantes off the back page.
Sometimes, it’s a close call. American history students know John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who fought together against British colonial rule and then became political enemies died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence they both struggled for. Interesting to ponder what obit writers would have done.
More recently, Gregory Peck and David Brinkley died within 24 hours of each other. Who should get the primary headline — the iconic Oscar winner or the legendary broadcast journalist? Ultimately, neither got the space each would have earned had either died a week later.
The day Michael and Farrah died, Sky Saxon died.
Never heard of him? Not surprising.
He was the lead singer of the rock group, Seeds. Never heard of them? They had a brief run as a proto-garage rock band in the mid-1960s during the burgeoning Los Angeles music scene. In early 1967, they scored the country’s No. 1 hit, “Pushin’ Too Hard” (good enough to be named one of the 500 songs that shaped rock ‘n’ roll by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum). For a moment before the Seeds broke up, Saxon was a bona fide rock star.
He had his 15 minutes while an obscure 20-year-old sorority coed at the University of Texas worked on her hairdo and a 9 year-old child prodigy practiced dance steps with his family in Gary.
A half lifetime later, The Reaper called and Farrah and Michael both bumped Sky.
He got just a passing mention in the few newspapers that even bothered with his obit.
That’s the way the cosmic cookie crumbles. In death, as in life, timing is everything.
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