Farrah Fawcett died, yesterday morning. I found out about it first thing, in my local coffee joint, Jennifer's, an independently run place in Studio City that's only recently given into a modern ticker tape TV. I was sad. Who doesn't have someone suffering from cancer, after all? I know three people, young, my age (almost fifty), myself. Still, instead of sharing that, I make a joke to Ryan the barista that I shall send a Condolence e-mail about Farrah to my brother, given how much time he spent with her when we were younger. "Ew!" we both appropriately cry.
I see that she'd died at St. John's, in Santa Monica, and I decide to nod to her when I drive by. I am going this morning into Santa Monica, itself, a place called Rustic Canyon, where I take pottery on Thursdays. It's a place our Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who announced his candidacy on the Tonight Show, may be closing this summer due to budget cuts. I know exactly where St. John's is, for I'd had a poorly-done mammogram, there, once. I have a mother who died young of breast cancer, and that correctly gets you lots of attention in any of LA's fine breast clinics.
I don't remember to wave when I'm on the 10, but I do remember Farrah's plight as I hit a little stretch of PCH (Pacific Coast Highway). I think she lived in Malibu, so this would be the stretch Ryan would be taking if he were driving to her house from the hospital. I've lost 10 people to disease, and I know only so well that moment when you go back to the car and cannot believe you have to remember how to drive.
In pottery class, no one even mentions Farrah. We are too busy discussing Governor Mark Sanford's love-struck e-mails to his Venezuelan lover. Also, the fact that Fox News mis-correctly identified him as a Democrat for a whole day.
I stop later, at Safeway. I've forgotten all about Farrah, but in the store, I notice a woman who looks like Alana Stewart. I suddenly remember that St. John's is right up the street. Maybe Alana's stopping for the deli platter (you can tell how nice a woman is, btw, by her women friends). I have no idea where Alana lives. I realize that everyone in this particular store looks like Alana Stewart, any one could be here to pick up the Fawcett deli platter. Although that crowd might go macro-biotic.
I forget again about Farrah, and promptly get into my car. Now, this part of the day is always spent on the freeway. To explain LA, LA is a place spent on the freeways. In much the same way that people from other cities spend time in subways or other places, where they may interact more (or they might not). LA has a reputation due to the freeway as transportation, but I don't think it's that different from anyplace, to be honest.
Where I am again is the 10. That's the freeway that went down in the big '89 earthquake. It's the link between Santa Monica and the rest of the city. I am trying to transition onto the 405. That cuts through the Westside and into the Valley, where I live, much to my chagrin. We are stopped, which is not that unusual for this time of day.
I happen to be stopped on an overpass that is, frankly, midair, with a view, as newscaster Jerry Dunphy used to say about LA, "from the sea to the mountains." I am stopped because traffic is always heavy at this time of day. But frankly, if one could put a condo anywhere, right here would be splendid.
I have 1150, the liberal station on. And the guy sitting in for Randi Rhodes mentions that he's just come across something on TMZ that Michael Jackson's died. Now, I cannot believe that our civilization collectively does a thing called "Twitter," so, trust me, someone's getting a news story from TMZ???? Come on. The guy agrees with me, and goes onto his computer while on-air.
The guy announces that MJ is supposedly at Cedars-Sinai. I suddenly remember that I'd forgotten my nod at St. John's to honor Farrah, so I take a look to my left. My car is literally that stopped. St. John's is way in the distance, the SM skyline, and I see it with the sun behind. Then, I look to my right, in the general direction of where Cedars-Sinai is. It's a bit aways, but I do what all in LA must do at a time like this. I decide it must not be true, because I do not see any helicopters.
Then the guy corrects himself. Jackson's at UCLA Medical Center. Well, now I know for sure that it's a hoax. Because from this overpass, I could practically walk to UCLA. It's where I -- three decades ago, dear God -- came to Film School. UCLA Film School is the reason I came to LA, to make my fame and fortune just like everyone else. So I look right at UCLA, less than a mile away, and can easily pick out the Medical Center, because my cousin died there from pancreatic cancer. I look there and I gauge the veracity of a news rumor as untrue, again, using my sharp skill of "I don't see any helicopters!"
I now merge onto the 405, and am heading past Wilshire. I do see one helicopter, then two. Well, they could be traffic copters. Still, that is enough to make me take out my new cell phone that has both still and video-cams, and immediately prove that I, too, am almost as old as Michael Jackson, because all I can manage to snap is a picture of is ME.
It's about 3:00 and crowded. Traffic could be from school letting out, although I remember that school's over. I'm fully merged, as the newscaster reports the ambulance went to Jackson's home on Carolwood Dr. I am surprised. I didn't know MJ lived there. Weirdly, I happen to know exactly where that street is, because Barbra Streisand and Burt Reynolds had lived there, as well as a cousin by marriage from Israel, who lived in Sonny and Cher's old house on the other side of Sunset until he lost his fortune.
I look at people in the other cars. No one seems to have heard this news. No one is looking anything other than passive. I drive from the Wilshire exit, to Sunset, and I realize that this is famous, too, because this is the exact exit where OJ and Al Cowlings got off the freeway, to cheering throngs. This is the exit I would take to go the other way to UCLA. I am absolutely certain, much as I spontaneously went to a Prop. 8 Rally one day at the Mormon temple to take pictures, that if I hadn't taken my camera out of the car literally two days ago, I would be stopping there myself, now. I actually think later that I am sorry I did not take a phone picture of that famous exit, anyway, though I'd probably only have gotten a picture of my head looking sideways toward OJ's.
I stop at my Trader Joe's where -- even though I've led you to believe otherwise -- one almost never sees or thinks about seeing famous people, still, you kind of remember that everyone in LA is kind of six degrees of separation. Amazingly, the news has not hit TJ, for no one is remotely interested (why I love TJ's). I go home, turn on the TV. A plumber comes over to unclog my drain. I tell him about Michael J and he is shocked. A little bit older than me. His cell phone rings twice as someone calls to tell him.
There is a tradition in LA, weird, what one assumes would be freaks who would go do this -- to put flowers on someone's star on Hollywood Blvd. That part of LA, for those not in town, is what Times Square in NY is. Re-juvenated with Limited Express. Nonetheless, not even an event I'd have gone to when it was more real and unsafe. But I see on the news that fans/freaks have actually gathered at the wrong Michael Jackson, since the one for Mr. Departed is in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater (I don't think it's been called Grauman's in all the decades I've lived here) and there's a premiere and it's covered up. So fans have spontaneously gathered at the wrong Michael Jackson, one who's been a talk-radio host in LA for a number of years. And I have to admit one thing. As proof of my own geriatric age, and that I had no right to call anyone else a freak, I did once put flowers on a star's star -- that would be Ms. Katherine Hepburn (WHO)?
That night, there are two Farrah Fawcett specials on TV. I am glad. Ryan says on one, that his whole life right now is caring for her and he wants that never to end. Each day when he comes to see if she's comfortable. Dear God. I have so been there. A person I am breaking up with has actually flown to be at his dying mother's bedside, and I had wondered today, when they announced MJ, if my poor friend's mother is the unlucky Number Three.
Friday morning, I go to my gym in Encino, to go to Spinning. My gym is literally the next exit past Hayvenhurst, where the Jackson's have lived for almost as long as I've lived in LA. Thirty years. Everyone knows where it is. They live in an area that's heavily Jewish and white. There is a Gelson's at the corner of Hayvenhurst and Ventura Blvd., a very high-end grocery store. One of my UCLA roommates (Jewish) family lived in Encino, back with the Jackson's, and had either one of us been quick enough to say anything besides "Duh" twenty years ago, when Jermaine and a friend said "hi" in the Gelson's parking lot, we could've been Mrs. Jermaine Jackson.
Michael would surely have known where my gym was. It's up the street where he lived, probably under a mile away. I don't suppose he went out much for public airings. Still, as I drive to Encino, they are talking on the local radio about the heavy traffic on Hayvenhurst due to people going there. "The Today Show" had done a remote. They've also reported that that's where the family is, that they have Michael's children with them.
I am late to Spinning, and the teacher, a cute guy who we've likened to Peter Brady, is playing "Thriller." I am glad. It's interesting -- Michael Jackson has been in my life forever, he being two years older than I, and famous when we were little. I remember hating the Osmond Family for him, incensed at the age of nine that white people were trying to do his thing. "ABC" was my third album, after "The Monkee's," and Carly Simon's "No Secrets."
The reason it is interesting that MJ is playing, is that, that's the thing about Michael Jackson. This could be an ordinary day. I realize it's not unusual that anyone would be playing this song on a typical Friday morning. Though I know it's in tribute, it could be any day. There's a teacher at this very gym who teaches boxing, and we've had, for ten years, a joke about Michael Jackson. He plays a certain medley during a certain part of class, sometimes, when I ask him to, and we dance and box. Then, after it's over, I'll say, "So whatever happened to that guy?" That gets a big laugh.
Of course, this particular day, this teacher is playing a whole tribute, the whole class, long. He says, at the end of a long tough climb, "Today, when we think about Michael Jackson, remember that everyone struggles." There are reports on TV that he may have had anorexia, something people at this very gym might suffer from, but not me. What's interesting is I am remembering during this climb how much I love each and every one of these songs. "I forgot, that one's my favorite!!" What's odd is that I, who have had MJ in my life my whole life, am not even crying.
I see Brian Oxman, the Jackson family attorney, though they say he's not (but you know with the collusion that goes on with this bunch, that anything he says is orchestrated), he says on Day 1, from the hospital, that people have been not being helpful to Jackson. Now, he seems genuinely upset, and I'm gonna give him a break (interesting, everyone, everyone, old managers and record company execs and Berry Gordy and Suzanne de Passé who have outlived Michael Jackson, for goodness sake, seemed to genuinely like him, something we'd forgotten in the past years). But on Day 2, which would be today, Friday, I happen to catch an interview with the lawyer on Fox News and I am horrified.
He makes allegations. He talks about the mother of the boy who'd accused Jackson of molestation. "She colluded with those kids!" Well, I do also recall that Mrs. Jackson colluded with her family when Joe Jackson wanted to mess with his kids, the daughters have all recalled, I'm just saying. Most importantly, he claims that Michael's death was from whatever lethal prescription drugs he has been taking. So that's going to be the creepy family spin. That may be true enough, indeed. But I'll maintain his death was a direct result of his family of origin, those ties binding enough that he'd had to self-medicate. (And who among us doesn't relate)? But that's going to be the 'family's line of defense', pointing fingers instead of taking responsibility for creating said monster.
There was something I said, every single day of the trial in Santa Barbara, when I came to be pretty clear that he'd done something pretty awful and wrong, that there wasn't one day when I didn't feel that the wrong people were on trial. If anyone should have been on trial for child abuse, it was the Jackson's. Those people abused their son. That's what happened to him. At some point, during yesterday's news day, I heard a story of how Michael was told when he was onstage by his father that there were men in the audience with guns who would shoot him if he didn't dance fast.
And then, I realized the strangest thing of all about this interview, was that Brian Oxman, a white man of middle age, who must be college-educated because he's a lawyer, was speaking EXACTLY like the Jackson's. I got a little freaked out. He sounded just like LaToya for some reason, that cadence, the intonation that brands them as a family, a certain missing of some education, for as Michael put it, "he'd only do school work for three hours a day." And I hear Brian Oxman, now in cahoots, talking about how Michael was "Innocent!" In a strange collusion with this strange family; seeming as he has to have morphed into them.
Like I said, though I am so glad to hear each and every song, I haven't cried for Michael Jackson. Because I find myself -- still -- annoyed by footage I've seen, on this morning's local news, about the last time Michael was out. It was three weeks ago, in Beverly Hills, at an art show. He was with his children, holding a big black umbrella, and one was covered in blankets. And I get annoyed, watching it, not sure who I'm annoyed at, even him, because at a certain point, don't you have to take charge, but I had parents who revered me, so I don't know. But I feel annoyed that no one put the man into a mental institution, and I say that with all due love and respect.
I go up the street from my gym to Hayvenhurst, where the Jackson's live. It's less than a mile away. I see that the street is coned off. I wonder how people can get home. I don't see the throngs of people they've reported on the news. I drive into the Gelson's parking lot, which seems to be open, but it's hard to park and I drive away.
I am at Starbucks. It's on the other side of Hayvenhurst and Ventura Blvd., across from Gelson's. I've been here, many times. In fact, there is a lovely fountain in the outside Starbucks patio where a man I thought I was in love with told me he was leaving his wife, but not for me. Today, I have walked through, imagining this place will be abuzz with the news. But nothing. Most people here don't seem to speak English. In fact, we could be in Haifa or Tehran. I don't speak either, so they could be talking in cell phones about Senor Jackson, but I don't think so.
I could literally walk from here across the street to see what's going on with the Jackson's. But I don't want to. I realize it's not laziness, but that I don't want to honor the family. As much as I feel so sorry for them -- and I do -- I don't want to leave them condolences. Not with what I'm starting to see on TV. I feel like what would be appropriate would be a sign saying "You're the child molesters," but I'm not sure how that'll go over with the Encino police, and I decide against it.
Still, that's what I feel. They're going to give those kids to them???
In the end, I decide it must be Governor Mark Sanford whodunit. This news wiped his scandal even off Fox News. Fox News, who labeled him a Democrat. Those Repubs can do anything.