Beloved pop icons, how well do we know them?

Published 6:58 pm Saturday, June 27, 2009

A couple of pop icons died this week that have some meaning to a lot of us. And it’s interesting that one died in the shadow of another.

We noted on that Farrah Fawcett had died just about as soon as the news had broken Wednesday morning.

Interestingly, I had seen a documentary on one of the cable stations late one night about her illness. Farrah? Cancer? It gripped me. In my mind’s eye I see her running atop a hill holding hands with Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith to the “Charlie’s Angels” theme music.

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They were a big part of ABC’s move to sexy women with big hair in television cop shows that saved ABC’s ratings during the 1980s.

Her career tanked shortly after she left the angels and took off on her own. At that time, she was married to “Six Million Dollar Man” Lee Majors. But left him for Ryan O’Neal, once a pretty boy on a soap opera turned big film star in “Love Story.”

Still I couldn’t figure out the cancer part. Really hadn’t heard anything about it, and usually stars use their cancer to raise awareness, especially with breast cancer. One of the most stunning of these out-in-your-face public awareness actions on stage came from Melissa Ethridge, who suffered from breast cancer, underwent treatment, lost her hair and came back to perform. She did so at the Academy Awards a couple of years ago — bald from the chemo and strutting her rock stuff all over the stage in an over-the-top rendition of “Little Piece of My Heart”, the Janis Joplin standard. To sing Janis takes tons of energy.

Apparently, according to the documentary made by Farrah about her cancer, somebody had outted her illness or had threatened to or the gossip had gotten so bad she decided to do this. It has run on MSNBC after her death.

I suppose I understand the need for why we’re all curious about these folks. We think we know them because they came into our houses for years for 30 minutes-to-an hour once a week or daily through reruns or some other way. But we really don’t know them at all. We know a character they portrayed.

Very often the character is different from the star. The character is made up by a writer who writes the story. So actually, what you’re seeing is not the star, but the star doing his or her take on some words written by somebody in a back office somewhere with probably not much more than a steady dose of caffeine, a computer and cigarettes (Although now cigarettes are not good and healthy for you, so in likelihood the writers now just chew on carrot sticks or something healthy).

So, who was Farrah? I guess we’ll have to watch her carefully cultivated documentary about dying to find out.