I was shocked to hear of the passing of Michael Jackson, as we all were. And as some wag noted on Facebook, "When people ask me what I was doing when I heard that Michael Jackson had died, I was remembering what I was doing when I heard that Farah Fawcett had died."
For me, it was Michael.
Sometime in ‘93, I was renting a house in Brentwood, while in construction on my house in Santa Monica (which is now for sale — at considerably less then what it was worth in 2007 — so it goes) … but I digress. My next-door neighbor was a dentist; he lived with his girlfriend and on the weekends his son would come to visit.
The dentist’s son was about 10 or 11, with bright eyes and a beatific countenance. One Sunday, I noticed that decorations were placed in front of the dentist’s home clearly to honor his son’s birthday. As I was crossing my lawn, holding my son Sean, who was all of 3, an endlessly long white limousine pulled into the decorated driveway.
The door opened and out popped the Gloved One.
He was wearing a red bandana tied about the back of his head, looking all the while like a Wild West bank robber. He had a present tucked under his arm and he headed up the driveway — not moonwalking, just regular. He noticed me and my son and gave a tentative wave (gloveless, by the way) — and now having been spotted, he moved swiftly toward the front door.
I turned to my son and told him that we had just seen Michael Jackson. My son, (who did know who Jackson was, even at such a young age) just squirmed in my grasp and bleated "Barney,” indicating to me that we had to get back into the house so he could view the exploits of the tone deaf green Public Domain song singing dinosaur.
Later in the evening I related the story to my wife (now former). She was puzzled how Michael Jackson knew this young man and what prompted him to come to a children’s birthday party. Hmmmm. A few weeks later we found out — as did the rest of the world.
The birthday boy’s parents (the aforementioned dentist and his aforementioned former wife) charged Michael Jackson with molestation of their child.
The media circus that took place on my street over the next few days was astounding. My son’s nanny, Jeanette from Northern England (starstruck beyond belief) had revealed to one of the reporters that her employer (me) had indeed seen Jackson visit the neighbor boy.
Thanks, Jeanette. I had CNN, FOX, CBS and all the local news jockeys on my stoop for days.
As it turned out, at that time we were moving into our new home, so we were putting some distance between the camera crews and ourselves. When the moving van was packed and we were ready to get down to our new home, I walked outside and — bam — there was the local CBS reporter in my face, cameras rolling.
Yes, I had seen him, and yes I’m sure it was him. I pointed out that this wasn’t Hollywood Boulevard — you don’t see that many King of Pop lookalikes in Brentwood. Then I told the reporter that the media had become a grave nuisance and because of them we were moving. And I got in the moving van and drove off.
The charges were ultimately dropped, money was exchanged and all that supposed fondling was overlooked, a large sum went to the dentist and his former wife and their offspring, money that in part probably came from Michael’s music publishing holdings (every time the university band plays "On Wisconsin," it’s ca-ching for Mike … way to go Badgers).
I shall never forget seeing Michael on the Motown 25-th anniversary television special. He was a towering talent who had too many demons at his heels. I hope he is at peace now.
And then there were Farrah and Ed.
Her passing was so very, very sad, a model, actress and the Poster Child for posters and by all accounts a nice person, who battled a pernicious cancer until the very end.
It seems hard to believe that we won’t see Ed McMahon on televison anymore, he was omnipresent for so many years and on so many different venues — late night by Johnny’s side or early evening with Dick Clark or mid-day handing out a check from the Publishers Clearinghouse to some giddy suburbanite.
Ed worked his way up from local radio and TV in Philadelphia to become a celebrity and a very, very wealthy fellow, though after a bunch of bad business decisions and a bunch of bad divorces, he ended up taking charity from the likes of Donald Trump (talk about pernicious).
They say bad things happen in threes — which always puzzles me, because I’m never sure when to start counting.
R.I.P. to this trio.
I hope we don’t have to start counting again too soon.