These twin deaths are striking evidence of the mortality of the "me" generation. Americans in their late 30s and 40s identify with Michael Jackson as the child star who never aged (and, in his age, grew grotesque and thus was shunned, a gollum that one imagined living forever); Farrah Fawcett was the sex symbol, the very inspiration for an entire industry of hair care products. Without Farrah, would Suave exist? Without Michael, who would emblemize dripping-with-crystals, gold-painted, always-near-bankrupt excess?
Their twin contribution boggles the mind, but at the same time, we must admit -- we, too, are mortal. Michael's legacy begins with his moniker "The King of Pop" (bestowed by friend Elizabeth Taylor, repeated by everyone) and continues with his amazing double induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (once as a member of The Jackson 5 in 1997 and later as a solo artist in 2001). A biographer described him as "an unstoppable juggernaut, possessed of all the tools to dominate the charts seemingly at will: an instantly identifiable voice, eye-popping dance moves, stunning musical versatility and loads of sheer star power." One analyst estimated the value of his catalogues, which includes such high-energy, infinitely memorable albums as Thriller and Bad -- he also owns the rights to works of many other artists, including the Beatles -- at a billion dollars. Tickets to his 50 London concerts, scheduled between July 13, 2009 and March 6, 2010, are already sold out, every seat.
Unfortunately, by all accounts, and despite his tremendous intellectual assets, Michael Jackson lived far beyond his means. In early 2008, when his enormous Neverland Ranch was scheduled for foreclosure, Jackson worked out a deal with a private equity firm to save the property and reinvent it as Sycamore Valley Ranch. During his 2005 sexual abuse trial, one expert estimated he was spending $2 or $3 million a year more than he was making; still, this winter, he decided to rent a home in Holmby Hills, Los Angeles, for $100,000 a month. It was here where he went into cardiac arrest this afternoon. He's reportedly a few hundred million dollars in debt today.
Instead of wiping out Jackson's debt, his 50 concerts will of course be canceled. And if his life was any preamble, untangling his estate will be messy and fraught with familial accusations, infighting, and public tears.
Next to Jackson's death, Fawcett's is a quiet, somber thing, but no less saddening. After a three-year battle with anal, and then liver cancer, Fawcett had spent most of the last two months asleep, and despite promising to marry her longtime romantic interest and her son's father, Ryan O'Neal, she died unmarried.