Friday, June 26, 2009

3 Gone None to go

Very strange -- to have an entire world of issues and crises, from the shambles of democracy in Iran and the threat of nuclear lunacy from North Korea, to the US health care system which is a scam -- and three people pass on and that's the thing we all talk about.

For me, it makes sense, because as President Kennedy pointed out in his poetic address at the American University Commencement:

So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal.

I'll never forget what he said that day, because no matter what we all believe, the truth is, in 100 years, none of us will be alive on this planet to argue about it.

I have certain personal remembrances about the three celebrities who have passed these last few days:

When Jack Paar quit the Tonight Show, I was 12 years old. He was my idol, and I could not imagine the show continuing with anyone else in his spot. I remember Johnny Carson as host of a daytime quiz show, "Who Do You Trust," which was more like Groucho's "You Bet Your Life," in that there was less quiz show stuff and more conversation and jokes. Ed McMahon was Carson's "sidekick" on that show, and I used to watch it because at that time I had a problem with my sinuses and I was home from school in the daytime a lot. I used to like Bob Barker, because he was a wise guy, on "Truth or Consequences," and Carson was funnier with his back and forth with Ed McMahon. But as a replacement for the greatest of all, Jack Paar? I didn't think so...

Fast forward to 1964--I was 14 years old, Carson was the new Tonight Show host, and my family was taking one of the periodic forays from Hartford (a jerk town to this day) into New York -- the "City" -- for some change of venue. This is really a long story, so to cut to the chase--my dad's mom married my stepgrandfather, Charlie, who was the brother of Sam Aaron, who was a co-owner of Sherry-Lehman liquor in NYC--I think they're still there under different ownership. Grandpa Charlie's bro--Sam--could get tickets to the Tonight Show in NY any time I wanted to go. OTHERWISE--unlike today's less frenetic atmosphere--you had to write in for tickets and wait a YEAR!!

So I was 14, you had to be minimum 16 to get in, Mom and I went to 30 Rock (!!) and took the elevator to the 60th floor to the Tonight Show studio and Johnny decided that night he would be absent, so Carl Riener hosted the show instead--I remember to this day the guest was an actress named Senta Berger who was supposed to be the 1960's version of Ingrid Bergman. Boy was I dissapointed! Not to mention a nervous wreck because I didn't think they'd let me in since I wasn't 16. I wish all of our dissapointments could be this bad...

What about Ed McMahon? Oh well--so many times GrandPa Charlie's brother Sam got tickets to the show, I got to see Carson and Ed McMahon and Doc Severenson (The most amazing live big band sound I've ever heard--Saw Aretha Franklin sing "RESPECT there in 1965!!) and McMahon was always the "dressing" that without, you wouldn't have the "Tonight Show with Johnny Carson." Not to mention Ed's charity work with, among others, one of my childhood idols, Jerry Lewis.

I now know that Carson, and Jerry Lewis, were not the greatest guys in real life. I knew people who knew both who had nothing nice to say about either. But this is about Ed McMahon and about him being a second banana and yet his repartee with the boss was always good for a good laugh on a wonderful show I watched for 30 years from pre-teen to adult.

Here's my amazing story about Farrah -- I was on the sound stage at 20th Century Fox Studios the first day of filming for the TV show "Charile's Angels."
I saw the three acresses including Farrah Fawcett, and the producer, Aaron Spelling, who came on the set to give a "send off" to everyone.

Now, how'd this happen? I was living in Boston at the time. 5 Years later, in 1981, I got a job working for Aaron Spelling on the lot where he produced Love Boat, Dynasty, Hart to Hart, Hotel, Colby's.

In 1976 I married Julie (My ex wife and now friend) and we went on a trip that included Los Angeles, where I really wanted to live, and I had a friend who was the operations manager on the Fox lot. So he invited me and Julie to take the cook's tour, and that day, in July of 1976, was the first day of shooting the new TV show with Farrah Fawcett. Can you imagine seeing her in person when she was a familiar TV commercial icon but not a TV star yet? (If I could have tapped Aaron's shoulder and said, "I'm gonna be your post-production accountant in 5 years...")

I still can't believe I was there that particular day--it was just a coincidence!

As for Michael Jackson, my story is not very intimate. I left Aaron Spelling TV to go to work in post production accounting at Walt Disney Studios right after the work on George Lucas's Michael Jackson 3-D movie, "Captain Eo," for Disneyland, was finished. My supervisor at Disney Studios had just worked on the accounting and budget for Michael Jackson's film, which was costly into the millions of dollars. For a short 15 minute "extended video" with some 3-D effects, the cost seemed too high. My supervisor simply explained that it was because Michael Jackson was rehearsing and re-working some of the music while the studio was paying for full-time recording. In other words, when you assemble everyone for a full-blown recording, you are paying for the studio and all the personnel--thousans of dollars per hour--so you rehearse and compose by yourself prior to the big costs of studio time.

So I got the point that Michael Jackson was not a villain or ignorant--he simply lived in his own space and world and did what he needed to create his work.

I also was a huge fan of Michael Jackson at the time--but I was dismayed when he bought the Beatles catalogue, which seemed a little deceitful -- and I thought his bit with Disney was too commercial for such a huge talent. In fact, it seems that that was it for Michael after the 1980's.

I was in Las Vegas in August 16, 1977 when Elvis Presley, at that time a huge Vegas icon, died at age 42. I was in Paris July 3, 1971 when Jim Morrison died nearby on the Left Bank at 27.

Everyone used to seem old to me--now they're all young. I'm pretty stunned by all this passing--even our good friends are having to say goodbye to their beloved pet dog tonight. I'm really ready to go back to the good old fight for public health care and skip all this "breaking news!" That way, we can all live forever, without pain, and on the cheap!