The Week the Celebrities Lost

Michael Jackson waves goodbye
Michael Jackson waves goodbye

This week I had too many celebrity events I wanted to discuss in my column/blog. The week began with Perez Hilton in my hometown of Toronto calling the police from Mercer Street because he was assaulted by the Black Eyed Peas tour manager. I had very strong opinions about this event and I couldn’t wait to write about it. I, myself, was having a week of stress like nothing I have ever had. Issues too personal for a blog. I was hoping to vent some of my feelings into an article about Perez.

But then Farrah died…and then Michael. Suddenly Perez Hilton, the Governor from South Carolina and even Ed McMahon were wiped from the headlines. I had conflicting feelings about Michael, an artist whose music I strongly admired.

A strange week.

1. Ed McMahon

Inevitably when an icon dies you examine your own personal history with how the celebrity affected you.

One time I saw Ed McMahon in an Air Canada lounge in an airport. We were both on a plane going to Toronto. Ray Charles was also on that flight and I thought it was weird that they both did not talk to each other. I mean Ray Charles must have been on The Tonight Show. Don’t all celebrities know each other?

Ed McMahon was with this hot younger woman who I attempted to flirt with because I thought she was his assistant. This week when I saw Ed McMahon’s wife on television I discovered that it was his wife. Oops!

Dude I didn't know that as your wife!
Dude I didn’t know that was your wife!

2. Farrah Fawcett

With Farrah Fawcett my memories are very pleasant. When I was in elementary school I was so completely in love with Charlie’s Angels. I remember going to Sauble Beach in the summer and buying Charlie’s Angel’s Bubble Gum cards and hoping I would get one with a picture of Jill Munroe. I remember my Uncle buying us T-shirts in California and I insisted I wanted an iron-on of Farrah’s famous poster, and wouldn’t accept anything else. In my Calgary elementary school one of the first books I ever read was Farrah Fawcett-Majors biography.

As a result I had numerous crushes on blond celebrities for many years: Olivia Newton-John and Marilyn Monroe for instance. But my interest in Farrah Fawcett disappeared with her exit from Charlie’s Angels. Over these many years she has seemed a distant figure. But, having just been through an illness in my family, it was sad to see how badly these things can turn out sometimes.

Farrah
Farrah

3. Michael Jackson

I have been a huge disco fan for my whole life and as a child in the 70s I loved The Jackson’s Shake Your Body Down to the Ground on my Disco Eclipse K-Tel album and Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall record. To this day I think these songs still sound modern. Rock With You, Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough and Off the Wall – the title song – still sound like there is a space age disco party going on somewhere. I’ve been searching for this party for my whole life and I have never found it. The 70s were a luxurious time period. There was the loose sexuality which was a leftover from the 60s, encapsulated by songs like Rock With You and even Farrah’s hair. It seemed like some kind of heavenly dream from my childish eyes.

The disco backlash occurred soon after. And it surprised me that when Thriller was released people were interested in it. Did they forget they were all burning there Saturday Night Fever records just a year before? I thought the cover was crappy. A soft focus picture of Michael lying down in a non-descript setting? Boring. At this point I was more interested in rock ‘n roll like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Police and I had little interest in new disco.

I ignored the Michael Jackson phenomenon through the Bad era as well. I really thought he was annoying during this period. I felt Prince was underrated in comparison and Michael was extremely overrated. I have this opinion to this day.

It wasn’t until Dangerous was released that I regained interest. I found this period interesting because I could tell from the Sgt. Pepper’s like cover that he was going crazy – always a good time to follow an artist. Quincy Jones was gone (overrated)  and Michael had brought in a harder sound with synthetically perfect drum grooves. I was studying classical music at the time, and one day I was dancing in my living room to the first track: Jam.  I suddenly had a revelation that this kind of music was better than classical music. I lost interest in classical music almost completely for many years after this revelation.

Then the allegations of child abuse came. I believed he was being taken advantage of and I fully supported the HIStory album, which I felt was a continuation of the direction he had taken with Dangerous. Stranger in Moscow and This Time Around revealed a darker side of this musical genius.

Then there was Blood on the Dance Floor, his biggest flop. I bought it. It was uneven. It had some moments. A bizarre song on it called Morphine is about him dying of a heart attack from an overdose of morphine and demerol. The song starts sounding like Nine Inch Nails and has a chorus that sounds like Judy Garland. WTF? And then I started to doubt that he was innocent of the charges.

I bought Invincible, the album that really killed his recording career. An epic flop, – the Heaven’s Gate of CDs. But if you really listen to it there are some great moments here and there that recall his 70s period with the smooth vocal harmonies. I bought it when I was visiting Halifax while my wife was shooting a television show. I played the song Heaven Can Wait over and over on a disc-man. I thought it was a really long song until I discovered the player was on repeat and I had just listened to the song five times in a row. I can’t hear it now without thinking about the boats in the Halifax harbor.

Still. I think he was a sicko in many ways. So I had no moral qualms about making fun of him in my stand-up the other night. And yet I am also sad as I listen to my favorite songs of his. But I won’t over-romanticize him. He was a victim and an abuser. After the initial shock that he was dead I really wasn’t surprised. Remember, I had heard Morphine on that flop of an album no one bought. Plus, Perez Hilton just mentioned on his blog a few months ago that Jermaine said Michael was seriously ill.

Michael is A-OK! Back then anyway.
Michael is A-OK! Back then anyway.

4. Perez Hilton / The Black Eyed Peas

Alright fuckers! Here’s my last word on this situation! I felt for Perez Hilton. And I felt very close to this for several reasons. First, I was nearby the Much Music awards. I was blocks away at Yuk Yuks when this happened. We could see the set of the awards and the screams of the fans when we left through the back alley. Also, Perez Hilton called the police from Mercer St. which, from my point of view, is one of the most dangerous streets in Toronto.

I am actually a Perez fan so I did not partake in the backlash against him which occurred afterward. I follow his updates on Twitter and regularly read what he writes. This is a proud gay rights activist who makes fun of RICH and FAMOUS celebrities who can afford to take legal action if he goes too far. Look when you sign-up for fame and riches you can handle being called “fugly” which is not even a word in the dictionary! Also, he is choosy about his targets. There is usually some kind of political motivation behind who he mocks and who he adores that I tend to agree with.

What was behind the backlash of Perez? People, who I truly believe are not homophobic, expressed very strong opinions that somehow he deserved to get punched in the face because he had written some mean things. Has anyone read the theatre critics in Toronto’s papers? It’s a slippery slope people.

On Twitter there were horrifying and homophobic messages about him deserving the punch in the face because of what he said about Carrie Prejean. This was beginning to become an ugly thing to happen the week before Pride. Then I began to read about other stories where the Black Eyed Peas (overrated!) entourage had viciously beaten people. Was the violence politically motivated or a hate-crime? I think there is a strong possibility.

I do not agree whatsoever that he deserved violence. I am quite sure the people who are saying this have never been punched in the face. Well, you know what? I’ve been punched in the face more than once. It’s not like the movies where someone can get punched in the face fifty times and then get up and rub their jaw and walk away. One punch can lead to death or a very sore jaw for five days (don’t ask).

I have been a victim of violence on the streets of Toronto because I have a big mouth. Yes I have a big mouth. And I had the same reaction from some people who somehow thought that I deserved it because of words. Is this the law of the jungle or The Lord of the Flies? Trust me, from someone who has had a few socks to the face and unpleasant sudden meetings with the pavement, violence is never the answer! And lets be thankful that the police on Mercer St. got it right and charged that lunatic from the Black Eyed Peas!

There's nothing wrong with being loud and proud. Happy Pride!
There’s nothing wrong with being loud and proud.  Happy Pride!
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