Farrah, Michael, and the Day the 70's Died

I'm a product of the 70s. Born in 1958, the same year as Michael Jackson, I grew up with Farrah on my wall, and Michael's music on my radio. I'm not a big Michael Jackson fan, but he has been ever present somewhere in the background for as long as I can remember. His first hit was with the Jackson 5 -- in 1969.

Farrah was a fixture in commercials -- creaming Joe Namath for a shave or offering her smile as the model of an Ultrabrite smile. Then came a one year foray on Charlies Angels. And off she went. I remember the debates we guys had with the girls we hung around with -- they accused her of having cardboard hair, while trying to emulate her style.

Both of these icons of the 70s died yesterday. Farrah, early in the day at age 62, from cancer. The death wasn't a surprise, considering her long and very public battle with cancer. Michael's death perhaps more surprising, and yet not so surprising. I was living in Santa Barbara during the big 2005 trial and I knew some of what was happening.

Anthea Butler -- a fellow Fuller alumnus (she was a M.Div. student while I was doing some adjunct teaching years ago at Fuller) -- and now a research scholar at Harvard, has written a very apropos remembrance of these two -- not forgetting that another 70s icon, Ed McMahon, died earlier this week (we all know that deaths come in threes).

Anthea opens her Religion Dispatch piece:

The 70’s died for me on Thursday, June 25, 2009. Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, both icons, died on the same day. Entertainment folklore has it that stars die in threes; so adding in Ed McMahon’s death earlier this week truly means the 70’s are dead and gone. When icons die, questions arise about mortality—theirs, and ours. We don’t expect our worldly Tabloid Gods to die, ever. When they do, it is a 24/7 orgy of recrimination, speculation, and sadness, all with a creepy suspicion that we could be next. Their iconic bodies, stopped finally, speak to us in ways that call us to look upon their visages, and their lives.

Even while our attention is focused on these two pop icons and their rather tragic deaths at relatively young ages, another aspect of the 1970s is dying -- the Iranian Revolution. It's not that the regime is coming to an end, but the religious legitimacy is ending. Indeed, today, even as we're focused on these deaths, a leading hard-line cleric is calling for the execution of dissidents.

The 1970s was a different era, but it wasn't one of innocence. We had Vietnam, Watergate, an economic malaise, the Cold War, and an Iranian Revolution. Michael and Farrah, they were our escapes. But that was then, and with their deaths we realize that the 1970s was a very long time ago.


Anonymous said…
Don't forget Woodstock! OK It was late August 1969, close enough.

David Mc
But it is the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. Of course, I was only 11 at the time, and living in Oregon, so I didn't pay much attention to it! Farrah was there when I was in HS!

Were you surprised to see the preacher put a poster of Farrah on the post?
Allan R. Bevere said…
Good thoughts here... Thanks for expressing them.
Anonymous said…
A little surprised, but I'm not the one to be worried about.

David Mc

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