Two stars lost on Thursday
Posted: Friday, June 26, 2009 8:01 pm
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Thursday will forever be remembered as the day the entertainment world lost two greats — musician Michael Jackson and actress Farrah Fawcett.
Michael Jackson, defined in equal parts as the world’s greatest entertainer and perhaps its most enigmatic figure, was about to attempt one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Then his life was cut shockingly — and so far, mysteriously — short.
The 50-year-old musical superstar died Thursday, just as he was preparing for what would be a series of 50 concerts starting July 13 at London’s famed 02 arena. Jackson had been spending hours and hours toiling with a team of dancers for a performance he and his fans hoped would restore his tarnished legacy to its proper place in pop.
An autopsy was planned for today, though results were not likely to be final until toxicology tests could be completed, a process that takes several days and sometimes weeks. Police said they were investigating, standard procedure in high-profile cases.
Jackson died at UCLA Medical Center after being stricken at his rented home in the posh Los Angeles neighborhood of Holmby Hills. Paramedics tried to resuscitate him at his home for nearly three-quarters of an hour, then rushed him to the hospital, where doctors continued to work on him.
“It is believed he suffered cardiac arrest in his home. However, the cause of his death is unknown until results of the autopsy are known,” his brother Jermaine said.
Cardiac arrest is an abnormal heart rhythm that stops the heart from pumping blood to the body. It can occur after a heart attack or be caused by other heart problems.
Jackson’s death brought a tragic end to a long, bizarre, sometimes farcical decline from his peak in the 1980s, when he was popular music’s premier all-around performer, a uniter of black and white music who shattered the race barrier on MTV, dominated the charts and dazzled even more on stage.
His 1982 album “Thriller” — which included the blockbuster hits “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” — is the best-selling album of all time, with an estimated 50 million copies sold worldwide.
As word of his death spread, MTV switched its programming to play videos from Jackson’s heyday. Radio stations began playing marathons of his hits. Hundreds of people gathered outside the hospital. In New York’s Times Square, a low groan went up in the crowd when a screen flashed that Jackson had died, and people began relaying the news to friends by cell phone.
“No joke. King of Pop is no more. Wow,” Michael Harris, 36, of New York City, read from a text message a friend had sent him. “It’s like when Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember being in Times Square when Michael Jackson died.”
Fawcett, a 1970s sex symbol and TV star of “Charlie’s Angels,” spent almost three years in private fighting for her life against cancer. But shortly before her battle ended, she allowed the public an intimate and inspiring look inside.
Fawcett, 62, died Thursday morning at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, after being diagnosed with anal cancer in 2006.
The news came just a month after the airing of “Farrah’s Story,” a documentary in which she made public her painful treatments and dispiriting setbacks — from shaving her golden locks before chemotherapy could claim them to undergoing experimental treatments in Germany.
“Her big message to people is don’t give up. No matter what they say to you, keep fighting,” Alana Stewart, who filmed Fawcett as she underwent treatment, said last month. NBC estimated the May 15, 2009, broadcast drew nearly 9 million viewers.
In the documentary, she also recounted her efforts to unmask the source of leaks from her UCLA Medical Center records, which led a hospital employee to plead guilty to violating a federal privacy law for selling celebrities’ information to the National Enquirer.
On Thursday, Fawcett was with Ryan O’Neal, her longtime companion who returned to her side when she became ill. He is the father of her 24-year-old son, Redmond.
This month, O’Neal said he asked Fawcett to marry him and she agreed. They would wed “as soon as she can say yes,” he said, but it never happened.
“Although this is an extremely difficult time for her family and friends, we take comfort in the beautiful times that we shared with Farrah over the years and the knowledge that her life brought joy to so many people around the world,” O’Neal said in a statement.
Published in The Messenger 6.26.09