Wednesday, July 1, 2009


When I heard the recent report that Ed McMahon died, I remembered the words of my late Irish Mother Genevieve who said, “Now just you watch there will be two more deaths.” No sooner had the country digested the sad passing of Johnny Carson’s sidekick, we were confronted with the passing of both Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson on the same day.

Looking back we can salute the long life and many achievements of Ed McMahon who served his country gallantly as a Marine fighter pilot during World War ll and again when he was called back to serve during the Korean conflict. During a long successful career in broadcasting, Ed achieved notoriety as the foil for Johnnie Carson over a thirty year period, but he had several other successful gigs in the industry.

Unfortunately despite all the fame and fortune Ed attained he was unsuccessful in multiple marriages and fell into desperate financial circumstances in his last few years. Serious health issues led to his death and his fame could not prevent his passing. Fortunately, Ed had a long life, reaching the age of 86.

Farrah Fawcett died at age 62 and was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. Her famous 1976 pin-up picture hung on the walls of many a young boy’s/man’s bedroom and in the locker doors of millions of service personnel around the world. Tragically, a lasting, monogamous relationship eluded her and the stardom created by her role on “Charlie’s Angels” did not prevent great sadness. Her 24 year old son’s many rehab visits and drug addiction led to his current imprisonment. I find it sad, too, that the on again, off again relationship with Ryan O’Neil (also known to have used drugs) never reached marriage until the much publicized proposal from him just days before her death.

Although she had access to the finest medical care in the U.S. she elected alternative treatment in Germany when diagnosed with advanced anal cancer. One must wonder if a prompt medical procedure would have granted Farrah a better conclusion. Again, fame and fortune could not save this bright star or deliver the happiness she so desperately craved.

And now we are flooded with the many questions surrounding Michael Jackson’s sudden passing at age 50 believed to have been related to heart stoppage. I remember well the first appearance I saw of the Jackson Five on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, and the many outstanding performances that Michael gave over his decades of stardom. As the years passed Michael’s persona took on a troubled aura with numerous questions about his mental stability, circle of associates, deterioration of physical appearance, drug usage, excessive spending and financial difficulties, and the tragic accusations of child molestation.

Personally, I found Michael’s Neverland Ranch to be both excessive and troubling, but the media lavished fawning praise on his frantic excessive spending and collecting. It is now reported that Michael recently was in debt in excess of $500 million dollars, and in death his estate could actually be bankrupt. Immediately one wonders what will happen to his three children and what this talented tragic figure’s legacy will ultimately be.

I cannot comprehend just how much money Jackson actually earned over his hugely successful career, but know the sum was staggering. Now, just what did it accomplish in the end? I wonder what Jackson’s legacy could have achieved with a more reasoned usage of his vast talent and financial resources.

Already before Michael is laid to rest, unsettling forces such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are rushing to the side of the Jackson family. I fear for Michael’s three children and the pressing need for their proper education and vital loving supervision. Hopefully, the courts will oversee their future wisely and guarantee that their financial security is protected or we will witness another sad chapter in the Jackson family story.

Here are three extremely sad cases of success gone wrong. Where were the love, happiness, and satisfaction of accomplishment? What good did all the fame and fortune provide these three accomplished entertainment icons?

Obviously greedy people took advantage of Jackson in particular. I suggest, too, that to some degree we, the fans, and the ever-present, hungry media have some responsibility for destroying his life. Yes, he could not handle the notoriety, the money, or our fawning praise; or, over time did he need to have the attention in order to survive?

And, since these three deaths, the on-camera entertainment world has lost pitchman Billy Mays (age 50), comedian/impersonator Fred Travalena (age 66), and Oscar-winning actor Karl Maulden (age 97). It has been a difficult 10 days in the entertainment world.

Frequently I hear people say’ “I sure wish I could be like so and so”, but upon objective reflection that is really a foolish, uneducated statement. Personally, give me my family; let us share our love and affection, good health, and my humble home in a quiet, unhurried beautiful spot in the heartland of the good old USA.

Honor your good honest friends who step forward when you are on a dangerous path, and be certain to listen to their advice. Just ask yourself what is really important in life, and I am sure upon reflection that it is not fame or fortune, but your family, your privacy and your freedom.


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