Thursday, June 25, 2009

RIP: Two Icons Of My Youth

This is a surreal day. I've been so inundated with work since Tuesday that I'd barely been able to digest the death of Farrah Fawcett. I never even knew she had an Austin connection until today.
Ferrah Leni Fawcett (her first name a variation on the Arabic word for joy) was born and raised in Corpus Christi, Texas. Voted Best Looking at her high school, she studied microbiology, then art, at the University of Texas, Austin.

And why would I? I was a high school boy living on a farm in Arkansas during Charlie's Angels, a show I watched almost religiously. I can't think of the 1970s without thinking of her.

Just as I was wrapping up my workday, txrad blurted out something about Michael Jackson dying. I said, "WHAT?"

Rumors were flying back and forth, that he was in the hospital, that he was in a coma, that he had died. And apparently the latter is the fact.

If Farrah Fawcett was a cultural icon of my teenage years, Michael Jackson was certainly the equivalent of my pre-teen and early teen years.

What Melissa wrote about "Rockin' Robin" really resonated with me.
I was never much of a fan. Never owned a Michael Jackson album, not even Thriller. But I must have listened to my 7-inch single of the Jackson 5's "Rockin' Robin" like nine million times on my Scoobie-Doo record player...


And I found it indescribably cool that it was sung by a kid who grew up just down the street from me.

I remember that song being played on the radio sooooo many times when I was a kid. I knew talent when I heard it, even if it was something I wasn't rushing out to buy. I also never owned a Michael Jackson LP or 45 RPM single, or CD. But I never wrote him off as talentless; it just wasn't my bag. In the 70s I was veering in the direction of heavy metal and in the 80s when Thriller was released, I was into the punk/new wave scene.

And speaking of Thriller, I have a story. In 1983 (while Melissa was a still a "kid" by the way -- yes I'm old I guess) when the Thriller video was released, I was over in London working at the HMV Shop. I will never forget that day when the video was available for the first time.

The HMV was a 3-story record and video store located in central London -- the best record store on the planet in my opinion -- and we were gearing up ahead of time for the release. I worked on the 3rd floor which was the video floor. All the staff were told to report to work that day as it was expected to be one of the busiest in the history of the store.

I will never forget showing up for work at least an hour or so ahead of the official store opening and seeing mobs of people already gathered at the door. I still remember a sense of selfish pride as I was allowed through the door as an employee while the masses were salivating with their noses literally pressed against the glass doors of the store.

And of course I remember the minute the store officially opened for business and throngs raced in. First on the ground level, then to the 2nd level, and finally racing up the circular stairway to the 3rd level where the treasured videos were to be found.

It was a busy day. And needless to say, the video was also being played non-stop on the monitors and sound system. That was the one day out of 14 months when I don't think I got an opportunity to put on the Grace Jones video.

Here's another song I heard a million times from when I was 10 years old. Michael was probably 11. And that, in and of itself, is pretty scary.

And at 2:26 PM PDT, he was no longer among us.

No comments: