Sunday, June 28, 2009

Living The Impossible Dream!

A week ago I posted about Huey Long, the former Inkspot, who lived to see 105. Now, in less than a week I'm struggling to post about three icons who lived merely a fraction of that time. For those of you who advocate that bad news comes in threes, I suppose you got your wish this weekend when Billy Mays joined Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett in the news. He was 50 years old. Tragically young in my opinion.

William Darrell "Billy" Mays, Jr. (July 20, 1958 – June 28, 2009) was perhaps not as prominent as Michael or Farrah but he held a spot in the hearts of many. He was a television direct-response advertisement salesperson most notable for promoting OxiClean, Orange Glo, and other cleaning, home-based, and maintenance products. His distinctive beard and loud sales pitches made him a recognizable television presence. He's probably the only reason I keep a box of Oxiclean in my house! Mays was born in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, and began his career as salesman on the Atlantic City boardwalk. He travelled across the United States for 12 years, selling various items before he was hired to sell OxiClean and other products on the Home Shopping Network. His success as a TV pitchman lead him to found Mays Promotions, Inc. On April 15, 2009, the Discovery Channel began airing Pitchmen, a documentary series that featured Mays. On the morning of June 28, 2009, Mays was found dead in his home by his wife. Possibly adding to the tragedy is the fact that his passing may be overshadowed by the deaths of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett.

A bit ironic? Michael's tenth and final studio album was titled Invincible. It was the last album released in his lifetime. The album was released by Epic Records on October 30, 2001, six years after Jackson's 1995 double disc studio album HIStory. The album art, an image of Jackson's face with his right eye highlighted in a deeper hue (the rest of his face appears as a watermark), is available in five different colors - red, green, orange, blue and silver. To date, Invincible has sold around 10 million copies worldwide.

It goes without saying that Michael Jackson was legendary. I was lucky enough to see him live in concert once. Well, sort of. It was actually at the half-time show of Super Bowl XXVII. Let me confess; I attended the game with three other people. We were offered $600 dollars each for our tickets. And that was the first offer. I'm sure we could have gotten upwards of 800 bucks per ticket. I lobbied to sell the tickets and watch the game at home. I lost! And now, I suppose I'm glad to be able to say I at least saw Michael Jackson perform live. I'm sure I would have used the money to buy some piece of technological equipment that would be outdated today. Now I have the memory. It was actually a great show. If you missed it here's a summary:

As the performances began, Jackson was catapulted onto the stage as fireworks went off behind him. As he landed on the canvass, he maintained a motionless "clenched fist, standing statue stance", dressed in a gold and black military outfit and sunglasses; he remained completely motionless for several minutes while the crowd cheered. He then slowly removed his sunglasses, threw them away and began to sing and dance. His routine included four songs: "Jam", "Billie Jean", "Black or White" and "Heal the World". It was the first Super Bowl where the audience figures increased during the half-time show, and was viewed by 135 million Americans alone;

As a member of the audience, I was actually part of the show. I got to hold up a colored card when we were signaled. According to my sister, it looked pretty good on camera. Whoppie! I also walked away with a commemorative seat cushion that I still use today (wonder if that's worth $600 now) and a worthless transistor am/fm radio. The game wasn't much of a contest either. The Dallas Cowboys spanked the Buffalo Bills 52-17. And some of you know how much I hate the Cowboys.

Oh well, Michael rocked!

A few years later, I ran into the lovely Farrah Fawcett in Dupar's restaurant - A popular pancake house in Los Angeles. I nearly missed her. She was standing behind a huge pair of sun glasses and waiting at the receptionist's station. I walked right by her. When I was about four steps past her it dawned on me who she was. I turned around to see her smile. She nodded quickly acknowledging my recognition and appreciation.

However, it's not my intent to focus on the passing of these iconic superstars but to remind us how they have lived.

These timeless moguls are gone but not forgotten. Their accomplishments will be forever heralded and remembered. They have simply joined the list of many who have "Lived The Impossible Dream" of stardom, and fame and fortune.

Here are a few others:

Elvis Presley

Luther Vandross

David Ruffin

I'm sure you know Elvis and Luther but you might not remember David Ruffin. David Ruffin (born Davis Eli Ruffin) (January 18, 1941 – June 1, 1991) was an American soul singer most famous for his work as one of the lead singers of The Temptations from 1964 to 1968 (or the group's "Classic Five" period as it was later known). His was the lead voice on such famous songs as "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg". Known for his unique raspy and anguished tenor vocals, Ruffin was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone magazine in 2008. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 for his work with the Temptations. Sadly, he was 50 years old when he passed as well.

And here they are singing "The Impossible Dream."

Many others will rise to these levels and claim a spot on the grand stand. Their death's will be surrounded by controversy and suspicion. Fans will mourn their departures and miss their contributions. But in their hearts they will have Dreamed and Lived the impossible.

May they rest in peace!


Jane Turley said...

Farrah ate pancakes and still looked like that?! That is soooo unfair!

Ah, you have so many little stories, it makes fascinating reading for a simple girl like me:)

However, I am deeply shocked that you considered selling the MJ tickets ... obviously it was your predispostion to making a good deal!

But as you say money cannot replace memories...

It is a wonderful gift to give pleasure to so many people:) But one can't help but wonder whether in the case of truly enormous stars like MJ and EP whether they would have swapped it all for a simpler life....

An informative and entertaining post:)

dickster1961 said...

Nice tribute II. Nice bringing in Elvis, Luther, and David Ruffin.

I am glad you brought up The Temptations because it let's me tell you my Temptations story. No I did not meet them.

I was at a comedy club in Greenbelt one night, and the comic called me and two more of the whitest white guys up on the stage (yes, he was African American) He told the three of us to just follow his moves. Then he announced "Lady's and Gentleman, The Temptations!" and then "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" came blasting through the speakers. It was quite a site to see the three of us bumping into each other trying to keep up with the brother in front.

And speaking of brothers, I will be having dinner with our old friend UBM on Thursday night along with our another of our old friends. We will be hitting Ledo's Pizza in College Park.

Foundation Repair Stafford, TX said...

It is all so sad :-(


<3 Lindsay

intrepidideas said...

Miss Jane,

Thanks for the comment. Yep, Farrah ate pancakes just like the rest of us... :) Maybe she ate the low fat ones without butter. You pose the eternal question: Money or happiness? Who knows?

Dickster, thanks to you too. Funny story. Don't you wish you could go back and see those things on film. Just to laugh at yourself> Well, maybe not. Some things are best left "un-remembered and unseen" (forgotten). Hey, have fun tonight. And have a cold one for me. You meeting with D.V.?