In Passing: On Pin-ups and Pop Kings …

I was in my hotel room in The Pas, Manitoba, when I heard the news.

Michael Jackson had passed away.

Rather than conveying any sign of shock, I merely muttered a “Really?” to the image of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, working his way through a never-ending parade of commentators.

Feel free to attribute to me any ghoulish qualities you like, but rather than feel any pangs of loss, I immediately wondered which stand-up comic would make the first joke.

It was the second week of the Great Plains Comedy Festival and we were in our northern Manitoba leg. While one group of comics assaulted Flin-Flon, we were an hour and a half south, entertaining folks at the Aseneskak Casino.

And as it turned out, Keith Baranay, a former writer for Seinfeld and now a professional stand-up comic, took the prize. Only a couple of hours after the announcement, Keith belted out a few hilarious bits on the subject.

For a guy who whetted his teeth cranking out those opening monologue jokes we loved watching, the jokes hit hard and simply pointed out some things people should take into account.

Jackson’s musical legacy is certainly notable; however, we’re also talking about someone who hadn’t been musically relevant for years. Of course, not to mention the constant tabloid presence, accusations, incomprehensible interviews and the whole melanin loss and plastic surgery issue.

The only difference between him and Howard Hughes was that Jackson’s been outside more often.

I’ll only give the guy one credit.

I can clearly recall watching the premiere of Thriller in my friend’s basement. There Ian and I sat, five inches or so from the television screen, the detritus of Sour Cream and Onion chips on our laps, when the open credits of Good Rockin’ Tonite fired up.

It could have been the sheer excitement in Terry David Mulligan’s voice, or maybe the mature content warning, but we knew we were about to see something epic.

Fourteen minutes later, the air was thick with nothing but awe, quickly to be replaced with sheer terror as we realized we were in a dark basement and werewolf Michael Jackson was going to leap out at us any second.

For the next few weeks after the video premiere, I sort of avoided playing in the 85 acres of deep, dark woods behind the house.

So, for keeping my sense of horror at a good height, I salute you, Mr. Jackson. And Vincent Price, and John Landis and all those dancing zombies.

The only true sadness I felt at his passing was the very fact that it unfortunately overshadowed the death of Farrah Fawcett.

Now there’s someone who I can truly say helped shape my childhood (those puberty years in particular).

Let’s just say I never missed an episode of Charlie’s Angels, all right?

Joking aside, I felt her death merited more coverage.

This was someone who had lost a long, hard battle with cancer.

Comparing her story to the one of the bizarre, childlike recluse who died on the same day, I’ll tell you which one I’d rather hear.

I’ll leave the last word to someone more eloquent than me.

“Today is a truly sad day,” spoke Baranay to the casino crowd. “Two white people and a black man died today.”

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