Friday, June 26, 2009

The Day the Nets Traded Vince Carter - Recapping a Wild Show Biz News Day

May 16th 1990…. Shortly before Noon.

I was working in radio at the time and as I was gearing up for a Noon newscast, I looked at my script and realized I was about to do yet another exciting newscast about local nonsense that only the cows and chickens cared about in rural Sussex County. Then just a few minutes before airtime, my AP machine started beeping wildly which meant an urgent story was coming over the wires… It was then that I saw the shocking news that Jim Henson the creator of The Muppets had died! Wow, I thought…. the local police report has just been relegated to back burner status…and I get to lead with the death of a celebrity. I quickly did a little paper shuffle and prepared to go on the air with the lead story announcing the death of the voice of Kermit the Frog.

And just moments later, as I was about to stroll to the news studio to deliver my news cast….the AP machine started beeping and humming again… I figured it was just more follow up to Henson’s death, but I went back to the machine just to make sure. It was then that I saw the news that Sammy Davis Jr. had died too! Sammy's death was less of a shocker... his suffering from cancer had been well chronicled over the prior year. But with the clock ticking away and with just seconds to spare, I had to figure out how to lead off the newscast!

Ultimately, I “split the lead”… proclaiming that “2 Show Biz legends have just died… we’ll have more on Jim Henson’s death in a moment, but first we have just gotten word that former Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr. has just died!”. The DJ was shocked to hear about Henson and Davis when I announced it, so at the end of my newscast as I recapped the top stories, she popped on her mike, and we had some newscaster-DJ “small talk” about the 2 deaths. She even opened the phone lines so listeners could call in to speak of the show biz legends. One call came in from the young psychic Pumpstradamus who noted the oddity that 2 famous people died on the same day, and proclaimed that we should watch out for June 25, 2009.

June 25, 2009… Shortly after 1pm

I worked from my home office this morning… and meandered to the office at approximately 1pm. The second I got there… my coworker John (Facebook followers will know we nicknamed our office John and Nate plus low rates) told me that he just saw on the internet that Farrah Fawcett had died.

It was not really a shocker.. she has been sick for awhile and frankly I was growing increasingly disgusted by how she had been exploited during her illness. I liked Farrah.. not a huge fan.. but liked her. She was the perfect looking woman during my early teenage years… but as she got older… not only did she age quite well… but she also turned into a dynamite actress… see The Burning Bed if you don’t believe me that she was more than just a pretty face. Granted she had her ditzy moments on Letterman, but she seemed to be a special part of those late 70s in that Suzanne Somers, Cheryl Tiegs kind of way,

But these last few months, I have grown increasingly disturbed by the media coverage of her illness. The NBC documentary was very well done.. but I was growing a little tired of the Swayze-esque coverage that always seemed to have some kind of connection to Ryan O’Neill. This week he was supposed to appear on 20/20 to announce that he would marry Farrah as long as she could mumble a yes to his proposal. Why do I find this absolutely sickening.

Hearing about Farrah’s death meant the end of that hyped ABC interview and also a moment to ponder whatever happened to Lee Majors? As I started making some business calls, I started to think about news I had read earlier in the day (I think it was in Linda Stasi’s column) that a relative of Walter Cronkite’s had confirmed that not only was the newsman seriously ill as was reported last week, but the 92 year old news legend was not expected to recover.

This raised an interesting topic of discussion during most of the afternoon. I remember that in the late 1990s when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa both died within a few days of each other. The Diana coverage was wall to wall and over the top… and once Mother Teresa’s death was announced, the media realized that they had painted themselves into a corner and there was no way they could air tons of Diana coverage without dedicating a lot of time to Mother Teresa too. Which made me wonder…

Even though I hope he lives to be 120, if Walter Cronkite were to die Thursday…. would his death bump Farrah out of the lead story? And so began the debate.. I thought for sure Cronkite was more important historically and would take the lead…. But my coworkers didn’t necessarily agree… which led to a long drawn out debate about what would have to happen news-wise for Farrah to be bumped off the lead off spot.

June 25, 2009 - Around 5’ish

I was gearing up for a typical Thursday evening of calling my mortgage clients. It had been a somewhat quiet day and as usual I was periodically getting my news fix by checking out, and grumbling that the NJ Nets had traded away Vince Carter. I must have seen a “Breaking News” flash that Michael Jackson was in cardiac arrest and really didn’t think much of it. Then I started seeing people mention it on the recently restored Facebook live feed.

It was shortly thereafter when I saw that one of my FB friends had posted word that Perez Hilton’s Twitter was announcing that Michael Jackson was dead! Huh? Nobody else had this story and why oh why would one of my FB friends even bother caring to subscribe to his twits or whatever they are called… I am so sick of Perez Hilton. His stupid irrelevant question cost Miss California her title… who cares what a beauty queen who agrees with President Obama thinks anyway…. But his pathetic cries for help when one of’s entourage beat his sorry little ass after he dared use a gay epithet towards Mr.! And now it appears Hilton didn’t make the comment to but it was actually directed to his CNN hologram…

Nonetheless, that update about the Hilton twit prompted this wishful thinking response:

Nate Kean at 6:15pm June 25
Hopefully this inaccurate irresponsible reporting by Hilton will end his absurd career once and for all.

And then moments later, I noticed after many more refresh hits on my browser that the LA Times was also reporting that Michael Jackson had died… Some facebook friends were updating his cardiac arrest.. some said coma... and a buddy who was at work at Channel 11 was confirming that the story was true. CNN held out official confirmation for about another hour... even asking a family lawyer who himself said he could not confirm it although he slipped in some eerie comments that Jackson's lack of care was reminding him of Anna Nicole Smith.

Jackson was the topic of conversation the other day. A friend of mine bought a new house and told me that a prior owner of that house was a Michael Jackson CPA! However, after a few minutes of Three’s Company-esque confusion, I realized that I had wrongly assumed that my friend had been talking about the LA talk show host!

I really don’t know what to say about Michael Jackson… I always thought of him as one of the most incredibly talented musical artists of my generation…and it seems like we know his whole family. I grew up watching the Jackson 5. And Michael's sister Janet was part of a huge controversy several years ago at the Super Bowl when she bared the same body part that Farrah winkingly teased us with in that bathing suit in that infamous mid 1970's poster. And Michael Jackson's Thriller was an incredible piece of work… and I was impressed that my friend in Clark lived so close to me in the mid 1980’s that I could drive to his house door to door to coincide with the start and end of that song. It’s an odd memory that always stuck in my head

I only saw him in person one time.. as I wrote in a previous column I worked at the 1988 Grammys and got to see the rehearsals and live performance of Michael performing my favorite of his songs… Man in the Mirror. The rehearsals were incredible… he would stop mid song and make small talk just to tweak a little detail so it would be just right. That phenomenal performance is Today’s Clip of the Week.

And yet I felt that he too had been exploited when he was a kid and was really deprived of a childhood. I don’t know if these child abuse allegations were true but it’s troubling to again see replays of the tv interviews where he says there is nothing wrong with an adult sharing a bed with a child. Yet this child in an adult’s body was just really crying for help to regain something he never seemed to have – youthful innocence. Up until recently, he stopped parading his kids around in those crazy surgical masks... now I hope their mom Debbie Rowe is able to get custody before they end up in South America with that crazy Brazilian family that stole David Goldman's poor little kid.

And oddly enough the moment we were informed that Michael Jackson’s heart had stopped beating, Ryan O’Neill’s 15 minutes of fame came to an abrupt end…. And like that day in May 1990, we once again lost 2 incredibly famous show biz legends during one crazy afternoon.


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