As I write this I am watching the “Dirty Diana” video on VH1. I can not tell you how much this song ruined my life in elementary school. There were some tough playground moments. Even my teachers called me “Dirty Diana.” Couldn’t it have been “Pleasant Diana,” or “Awesome Diana,” or “Rockin’ Diana.” Nope, I will forever be Dirty Diana. And the reason the song stuck? Because it was sung by Michael Jackson.
If it were sung by Tiffany, or INXS, or the Bangles, or some other artist popular in 1988, I believe no one would be calling me Dirty Diana today. Because Michael Jackson was an icon matched only by the likes of The Beatles or Elvis. He changed the scope of the music industry—he perfected the video, he invented a style of dance still imitated, and he elevated pop music to a level that paved the way for most of the artists on the Billboard 100 today.
How many of us dressed up as Michael Jackson for Halloween? I know I had the white glove (along with Madonna’s lace gloves). How many of us have tried to moonwalk (badly) in our living rooms? Or yelled “eeh, hee!” on a dance floor? And please, how many of us remember the kid who knew every dance move in Thriller (or sadly, were that kid)?
If it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then I believe Michael Jackson was the most “flattered” man in my lifetime, and his death will leave a mark in pop culture history similar to the loss of Elvis.
I hope his family one day opens up Neverland Ranch a la Graceland, because I know I’d love pay homage to the man who shaped the music of my childhood. And I anticipate the music world paying tribute to this icon with a concert, album, or tour sometime soon, because I know all of his screaming, crying “fan girls” would love it.
And the fact that his death falls on the heels of two other iconic deaths, makes this an even sadder week for Hollywood.
Farrah Fawcett was the first true Supermodel I remember from my youth. That feathered hair was to be revered. And my brother, who’s ten years older than me and thus a child of the ‘70s, even remembers having Charlie’s Angels trading cards.
That hit show influenced many of the movies, television shows and books to come out since. I know while I was slaving on my WIP, I hoped to capture a bit of a “Charlie’s Angels vibe.” I even have a character who I think of as my “Charlie.”
Farrah was a legend.
And if that’s not enough to make the heads of People magazine’s editors implode over cover layouts, they also have to find a way to pay tribute to the late, great Ed McMahon.
While he was best known for being Johnny Carson’s sidekick (“Heeeeeeere’s Johnny!”), that’s not how I remember him. For me, Ed McMahon was the host of Star Search. He was the first Ryan Seacrest.
Through Star Search, he introduced us to Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Aaliyah, Dave Chappelle, Destiny’s Child, Martin Lawrence, Alanis Morissette, Rosie O’Donell, LeAnn Rimes, Jessica Simpson, Justin Timberlake and many, many more.
Take another look at that list. Where would pop culture be today if those artists hadn’t gotten their first big break on that show? Ed was part of the magic that made that show popular, and as a result we have today’s celebrities.
Like I said, as a former magazine journalist, I wouldn’t want to be the one in charge of making People’s cover. It a sad week in Hollywood that will be remembered forever.
My heart goes out the family and loved ones of Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Ed McMahon.