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Derek Henry Flood Headshot

The Day the '80s Died

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I normally write on and report about war and human rights issues. Not being able to travel to Iran in time before the election, I've been blogging it from afar like so many others. CNN took a break, albeit a temporary one, from celebrity/reality TV pseudo-news to set up its "Iran Desk" and filing reports from Youtube and gleaning headlines off of Mousavi's Facebook page. Today it reverted back to what the cable stalwart is most often more comfortable with. A friend called and said he'd just come from a hospital visit here in Los Angeles where he'd heard from hospital staff that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, had just died. I checked the BBC, CNN and all I saw was that Jackson had been hospitalized after he'd stopped breathing. I then checked tmz.com and they had pronounced Jackson dead. I figured TMZ's guru Harvey Levin wouldn't risk his reputation and the accompanying lawsuits if it were not true. I texted friends and relatives. They said they were watching CNN and MSNBC and that there was a chance Jackson was still alive and that perhaps TMZ was wrong. But it was not to be.

An old classmate in Manhattan then texted me and asked me if I could hustle over to the UCLA medical center's Ronald Reagan building and file a few photos for the press agency in NYC that he works for. He'd recently been promoted and was looking for a big story. "Sure" I said. Why not? Still trying to digest the news of Farrah Fawcett's passing, I borrowed my roommate's car and his backup camera and sped from Koreatown to Westwood not knowing what I would find or who I would discover.

I arrived on the hospital grounds minutes after Michael Jackson had been pronounced dead. No one knew what was going on or what to say. To my surprise (somewhat) there were more press than fans milling about. Los Angeles was gleaming as I walked around firing off my 35mm camera with nervous fury. I'd moved to southern California after the LA riots and OJ trial of the dismal early 90's and had generally purposefully stayed clear of such surreal life-esque events. After several hours photographing the anxiety and hysteria, I jumped in my borrowed car to whiz home and file the photos back in New York. I called my buddy to say I was coming back and said "You know what dude, today is the day the 80's died." It began to sink in. It had been thirty years since the 1980's began with the death of disco and a frowning Ayatollah Khomeni returning to Tehran and embarrassing President Jimmy Carter with his arduous hostage standoff. MJ signifies the frivolity and fun of the last period of the Cold War presided over by another celebrity, Ronald Reagan. Jackson helped to moonwalk our generation through an awkward period. Today Michael Jackson died at the Ronald Reagan building in Los Angeles. A part of my childhood, and our culture. died with him. Goodbye 1980's.

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