Farrah, Michael and Ed
Vol: 93 Issue: 26 Friday, June 26, 2009
I was saddened to hear of the death of Ed McMahon at age 86. Eighty-six years is a long time to occupy this earth, so my sorrow wasn’t so much for Ed as it was for myself.
I met Ed McMahon once. It wasn’t a pleasant meeting. In addition to being Johnny’s sidekick, Ed McMahon retired a bird Colonel in the US Marine Corps Reserve and was commissioned a Brigadier General in the California Air National Guard.
In 1970 when I was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, NC, Ed McMahon was briefly my commanding officer. MCAS Cherry Point was ordinarily commanded by a two-star general.
When the CG (Commanding General) goes on leave, a general officer is called up from the Marine Corps Reserve to keep his chair warm while he is away. In 1970, the reserve CG was General Ed McMahon.
I was walking up the steps to the PX when I saw Ed McMahon walking down the steps toward me. I sort of noticed he was in a Marine uniform and I sort of saw the star on his collar, but mostly I noticed it was Ed McMahon! I was so star-struck I stopped and just stood there.
General McMahon saw me and walked right toward me. He opened his mouth to speak, but I didn’t hear Johnny Carson’s sidekick. I heard a real honest-to-goodness Marine general officer chewing my butt for failing to render a proper hand salute.
He sounded every bit the decorated career Marine officer that he was. I suspect he felt he needed a bit of practice. and the eighteen year old private first class quaking in fear before him was just what the doctor ordered.
“Don’t you know enough to salute a general officer? How long have you been a Marine? How would you like to spend the next six weeks picking up cigarette butts?”
I bet he chewed on me for a full minute — it seemed much longer. And when he was done chewing on it, I rendered him a snappy hand salute and he went on his way.
For the rest of my life, every time I saw Ed on TV, I made sure to render him a mental hand salute. Sometimes when nobody else was looking, I gave him a real one.
I didn’t really know him, but I felt like I did. We were comrades in arms.
Before I even got used to the death of the general came the news of the death of another icon of my youth, Farrah Fawcett.
I wasn’t really a fan. I saw “Charlie’s Angels” a few times but even with Farrah Fawcett decorating the set, it was still too stupid a program to sit all the way through. She wasn’t on there all that long, either, and I don’t remember any of her movies.
But for some reason I remained interested in her goings-on over the years. Maybe it was because she was so close to my own age. I thought of her in the same way as I thought of some of my older sister’s friends when I was growing up.
I didn’t watch her bizarre death documentary, but I knew she was losing her battle with cancer. So I wasn’t surprised to hear of her death. But I was surprisingly saddened by it.
And of course you can’t turn to any media outlet without being bombarded by images of Michael Jackson, who died yesterday of what his press releases are calling “heart failure” at the tender age of fifty.
I didn’t like Michael Jackson. I never thought of him as “the King” of anything. He was a weirdo and a pedophile.
Oddly, I felt sorriest for him of all.
“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: ” (Hebrews 9:27) I hate death. It is the ultimate thief.
I made my acquaintance with Death at aged ten when it claimed my mother. Death came for my father only a dozen years later. At age 56, I’ve already outlived them both by a significant margin.
Paradoxically, since becoming a Christian, I’ve come to hate death even more now than I did when I believed it was the end. I say ‘paradoxically’ because death is allegedly the friend to a Christian. Excepting in the case of Rapture, you can’t get to Heaven without passing through Death’s door. Death is the ultimate paradox, since everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.
Christians know that Death is not the end, but the beginning. I think that is why I hate Death more today than I did before I knew the Lord.
Ed McMahon was a good Marine and a good American. He lived a long and prosperous life. He died an avowed atheist.
Farrah Fawcett had it all; beauty, fame, fortune — and tragedy. Lots of tragedy. At only sixty-two (which is a lot younger than I used to think it was), Death didn’t sneak up on her, she saw it coming afar off. Fawcett’s official religion was Roman Catholic.
If she came to Christ before she left this life, it is a closely guarded secret.
Michael Jackson was a walking tragedy. If he ever had a moment of genuine happiness, I would be surprised. He lived a pampered, but sad and pathetic life. In 2007, fleeing his notoriety back home, Jackson moved to Bahrain and announced he had converted to Islam.
Michael Jackson’s death coincidentally takes me back to the year I met Ed McMahon. That was the year I bought my first eight-track tape player.
Eight track tapes were enormously expensive to a Marine PFC making less than $150/month. I only had two. One was “White Room” by Cream. The other was a Jackson Five album. I knew the words to every song.
Ed McMahon was a man in his thirties when I was born. Farrah Fawcett was in primary school. Michael Jackson had not yet arrived. They lived their lives, became wealthy and famous and enjoyed all the good things this world has to offer. They started at different points, traveled different roads to get there and arrived at different times.
“And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.”
“And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.”
“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:16-20)
The deaths of these three rich and famous entertainers during the same week drives home to me once again just how fleeting this physical life is — and how delicate. When Death comes for you, it is no respecter of persons. The rich die like the poor. They are here and then they are not.
And He said unto His disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment.” (Luke 12:22-23)
We all know people for whom life is just that — a material existence with no eternal accountability. They don’t realize what they are risking, or how close they are to passing the point of no return.
For Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, this week doesn’t mark the end. For them, it is just beginning. Given what is known about their individual spiritual conditions, that is a sobering thought.
I have some people I need to go talk to. I’ll bet that you do, too.