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June 30, 2009

R.I.P. For a Pair of Stars

Roy Meachum

Two celebrity deaths this past week brought an outpouring from the general public and the people who knew them. Farrah Fawcett's dying was both documented and expected. She bowed out with great grace. Although she came a great way professionally from the tousled-hair "Charlie's Angel" in the poster, she earned her greatest review on the manner of her passing.


The column's headline initials stand for Requiescat in Pace: "May she/he rest in peace." In Latin or in English, the phrase applies to Ms. Fawcett. The hope never existed for Michael Jackson. His sudden death in Los Angeles guarantees unrest, as long as his memory survives. I have little doubt that his music will attract audiences in the future, long after people otherwise forget all about the human being, including the onerous headlines generated in his life.


No proof ever reached the media that Mr. Jackson indeed "mistreated" children; rumors remained rumors, nothing more. Pay-offs should not be interpreted as pleading guilty; settlements are reached all the time in cases where legal expenses are projected as disproportionate to the grievance. Besides, statements at trials are frequently taken in the context of the smoke that "always" accompanies fires. In fact, no judge or jury handed down a verdict against the King of Pop. No one doubted, however, that Michael Jackson abused prescription drugs in the manner of predecessor Elvis Presley, who once wore the crown and ended up equally ingloriously.


Immediately after the news was announced of Mr. Jackson's quick death, tongues wagged; they pointed toward his doctor, Conrad Murray. Critics point out he attempted to revive his patient using CPR on the bed and not on the floor, the nearest available hard surface. They would have had Dr. Murray dump his brother African-American off the mattress while there was still a chance Mr. Jackson was still alive.


That's only the start, folks.


Jesse Jackson is no relative, but the minister almost immediately appeared in the midst of Michael Jackson's family; the celebrated reverend announced to the media there would be a second autopsy because there was doubt in the house. Incidentally, both his doctor and the medical examiner's findings were approved after a police investigation. Most Americans, it seems, trust authorities and many others have learned officials can speak less than the truth – as in Iran last week. It's been nearly 32 years since Mr. Presley went to the bathroom and didn't walk out; but reports of "Elvis-spotting" still pop up. The apparitions still wear sideburns and the flamboyant costumes, although the man, who made "Hound Dawg" a runaway hit, turned 74 in January – if he were still alive.


As written at the outset, Farrah Fawcett's spirit can certainly rest in peace; she shared her suffering with the public with the hope contributions could save future cancer victims. Her friends and fans say she's better off. And they can almost mean it.


There's no such comfort for the King of Pop's shade and his millions of followers: he died too young, too unexpected. His legend will persist and grow through the single question: What if?


Michael Jackson will scarcely know peace until his name itself is forgotten; that will not come during the lifetimes of anyone still alive. As a forlorn hope we can still wish: Requiescat in Pace.


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