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NAX: Trio of recognizable stars depart the stage - Odessa American: Ken Brodnax

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NAX: Trio of recognizable stars depart the stage

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Posted: Sunday, June 28, 2009 12:00 am

There was a little something for everybody the past few days for those who are fascinated by celebrities.

Indeed, the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and, stunningly, Michael Jackson once again reinforced the theory that famous demises come in bunches of three.

But more significantly was the generational impact of the three departures.

McMahon, of course, resonated with older generations. As the perfect foil to one of the comedy geniuses, Johnny Carson, Ed was the jolly old uncle to Americans of all ages who had become addicted to television.

But long after the “Tonight Show” run, McMahon kept his celebrity light burning, albeit at a much dimmer level. So even younger people who only know Carson and McMahon through occasional video clips recognized him as the Publishers Clearing House spokesman.

Fawcett appealed to a somewhat younger crowd, although her acting career couldn’t exactly be deemed noteworthy. But she had dazzling looks, and no doubt many middle-aged men have a lingering memory of Farrah as she was pictured on “the poster.” Yeah, that one. That image may be tame by today’s standards, but it was quite provocative for the times. Who cares about her acting skills?

But then came the unexpected death of Jackson, who certainly approached Elvis’ stature as the king of music of his time. To be sure, Jackson’s weirdness outdid Presley’s eccentric lifestyle, but they both had an amazing following of people of all ages. Still, their biggest appeal was to the younger folks of their eras.

But even the scandals that dogged Jackson for much of his adult life (did he ever really become an adult, you’d have to ask) couldn’t dim the musical charm that he spread since he was a child star.

And that attraction was on display as word of his illness hit the cable news circuit Thursday afternoon. In offices across the land, crowds gathered around television sets to check the latest developments. Yeah, there were jokes about his altered appearance and apparent proclivities for young children, but there also was a realization that Jackson has been one of the most famous people in the world and that his passing would be a significant milestone.

So, in a way, Ed and Farrah got shortchanged. In the same manner that they were sort of second-level luminaries during their careers, they ended up with second billing to a musical superstar who also was a major curiosity as a result of his unexplainable behavior.

But then we’ll always have a solid recollection of just how McMahon and Fawcett looked in our mind’s eye.

But with Jackson, you get multiple choices for the way you choose to remember him. And those images are so varied and so contradictory that it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend that you’re even thinking about the same person.

In that vein, so long Ed and goodbye Farrah. And farewell Michael, whoever you were.

Odessa, TX

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