Friday, June 26, 2009

The Day They Knocked Down The Pallies

Overheard yesterday while I was standing in line at CVS:

A young male employee to an older female coworker: "So, Michael Jackson died?"

The coworker, as she deftly tosses a tube of toothpaste into a white plastic bag: "No, hon, it was Farrah Fawcett."

Young male: "No, I know about Farrah. That was earlier today. But I just heard that Michael Jackson died too."

The female coworker, fumbling with the bag: "On Farrah's day? Oh, that would be like him."

As they bantered, my mind raced. Earlier yesterday, we did indeed lose Farrah Fawcett, she of the hair, the teeth, and the red bathing suit. Could it be possible that the face that graced so many bedroom walls would be overshadowed in death by the King of Pop?

It just didn't seem possible. So I hurried home with my own white plastic bag and rushed to the Internet, that font of all knowledge (and, more importantly, breaking news) to see what I could find out. Apparently the employees at CVS have more direct source than my favorite online new sites, as one was, at the time, reporting Jackson had suffered a heart attack while another reported he had fallen into a coma. Neither was reporting his demise, not yet. It was enough to allow me a bit of breathing space.

Of course, it didn't last long. Within seconds it seemed that one of my sources posted a banner "Breaking News: Michael Jackson Reported Dead." And soon, of course, it all was confirmed, and Farrah became third page news.

Immediately the old Kinks song, "Come Dancing," popped into my head. Specifically the bridge:

"The day they knocked down the Pallies
My sister stood and cried
The day they knocked down the Pallies
Part of my childhood died....just died."

Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett both played roles in my formative years. I was an upperclassman in high school when Charlie's Angels first hit the airwaves, with the drop dead gorgeous detectives who chased down bad guys while wearing bikinis. Jaclyn Smith was sweet and Kate Jackson classy, but let's face it - we all wanted to be Farrah, the free-spirited blonde with the killer body, the toothy grin and, of course, the flowing mussy curls. Yes, I went to college the following September sporting that feathered cut - and if you study my sorority composite picture that year, it's hard to pick out which sister is which, as we all were doing our best Farrah impersonations.

I remember being pregnant with my first child when Farrah was pregnant with Redmond, and it broke my heart to watch that troubled boy fall on his mother's sick bed in the recent documentary about Farrah's battle with cancer. My own children have fought similar demons, and I could only imagine how difficult it was for Redmond to go off to rehab thinking he may never hug his mother again.

Of course, Farrah Fawcett never graced my own bedroom walls. That space was reserved for David Cassidy and the Beatles in my younger years and Bruce Springsteen later on. But my very first thought of Michael Jackson, what flashed in my mind as the news was playing out, was a poster that dominated my brother's wall way back when we were kids. It was a large yellow picture of the Jackson Five, in black and white and wearing their best pimped-out finery. Michael and Marlon were seated in front of their bigger brothers, the future King of Pop wearing a big-brimmed felt hat and an infectious grin. It was almost as if he was thinking, "Can you believe it, guys? Look where we are."

And the world did look. These unlikely superstars from Gary, Indiana, made us all sit up and take notice - especially that little one, with the big smile and the almost impossible talent. As a Motown fan, I fell for the Jacksons as easy as ABC....and, as a kid, I grew up with Michael, from the cartoons to the concert stages, from lead man of a family group to center stage, the King of Pop.

And, of course, I could say from black to white as well. Funny things can happen while growing up in the glare of the spotlight. I don't know where that little boy with the killer grin was lost, and we never did fully figure out who it was who took his place. There are so many questions, so much mystery, so much we'll never understand about Michael Jackson, the man. But one thing was undeniable - the Lord blessed this guy with a trunkload of talent, and if we focus on the music, we can still hear much of the joy I remember captured on that poster in my brother's room.

Yes, life isn't fair. Farrah was born with an enviable beauty; Michael had talent that was as other-worldly as he himself often seemed. Yet in the end, Farrah chose to shear off her trademark locks before losing them to the cancer treatments; in the end, Michael died alone, in debt, still stalked, still troubled.

Yesterday, they knocked down my personal Pallies. For whatever became of them in recent years, the beauty of Farrah Fawcett and the talent of Michael Jackson are forever tied to part of my childhood, the part that died yesterday. I hope they both find peace in the Father's arms.

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