Last week was one in which I became a little hesitant to read the latest news. It seemed as if reports of the death of someone famous were coming in at a record pace. The first, the death of Ed McMahon, was not a total shock. McMahon was 86 years old and had been in poor health. The passing of Farrah Fawcett on Thursday was certainly not a shock, either. Though untimely, the reports of her three-year battle with cancer were very well documented, culminating in her own video chronicling, which aired on network television less than a week before her death. The second of Thursday's "celebrity deaths," that of Michael Jackson, has certainly received a great deal of press coverage, and his death at age 50 was unexpected.
Saturday's passing of "super pitch-man" Billy Mays, also age 50, was also unexpected. At this writing, the cause of his death had not been determined, but watching and hearing him yell about his products on TV, whether it be ESPN 360, Oxi-Clean, or whatever, I wouldn't be shocked if he died of a heart attack. I know I always felt that either he or someone in his listening audience was going to have one.
McMahon was a welcome visitor into our homes for over 40 years, and by all accounts, a very nice and likeable man. Fawcett (or Fawcett-Majors as she was known at her peak) was also reportedly loved by those who knew her closely, but her actual "fame" was based on one season as a regular on a television show and one poster of her in a swim suit. Though she received praise for some of her post-'Charlie's Angels' TV work, when all is said and done, Farrah Fawcett will not rank with the true acting icons of all time. Sorry, but those are the facts.
Michael Jackson, on the other hand, was a star from the time he was 10 years old and an obvious talent, whose work only grew and developed as he got older. He influenced an entire generation of performers - not to mention an entire world of adoring fans. My hope is that Michael's legacy will be his great musical talent, and not his troubled personal life.
The most unexpected, and probably the saddest, of the "celebrity deaths" last week, though, was that of Ed Thomas, the Aplington-Parkersburg football coach who was murdered at the school by a troubled young man. Though not as well-known on a global basis as the other four who left us last week, Ed Thomas was amazingly well-known for a guy who lived in the small northeast Iowa town of Parkersburg. His football coaching prowess was legendary, of course, but from everything I have read and heard about the man, he was truly an inspiration to anyone with whom he came into contact - through his coaching, teaching, speeches, writing, and how he lived his life, Ed Thomas deserves to be remembered every bit as much - if not more - than the others I've mentioned in this column.
He is the one we should all use as a role model.