Everybody, Knock On Wood!

by Kayla Perrin

Wow. 2009 has turned out to be an unforgettable year. And not in the way one hopes for anything to be unforgettable--the birth of children, happy weddings, memorable anniversaries, for example. Nope, 2009 has so far become unforgettable as the year we've lost so many great people in the world of entertainment. 2009 is the year we've lost some serious icons.

It all seemed to start back on June 25, with the sad but expected news of Farrah Fawcett's passing at the age of 62. Farrah's battle with cancer was well documented, and for a while everyone believed she was going to pull through--only for her health to take a turn for the worse earlier this year. She fought a hard fight, but sadly, in the last weeks of her life, we knew she didn't have much more time. And even though we knew it was coming, the reality of losing a woman whose beauty and hair defined a generation was not easy to accept.

I was shocked to learn that Farrah had only starred in one season of Charlie's Angels. Her iconic status was so large, it seemed as though she'd been a permanent fixture on the show. Mention Charlie's Angels to anyone, and they would probably recite "Farrah Fawcett" as the angel they remembered most, or state that she was their favorite angel. I remembered Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith (my personal fav!), but I forgot all about the other blond beauty, Cheryl Ladd until talk of the show after Farrah Fawcett's death. Even though Cheryl Ladd took Farrah's place in the second season and appeared in far more episodes than Farah ever did, Farah is still probably the angel most remembered.

If Farrah Fawcett's expected death wasn't bad enough for one day, the day only got devastatingly worse with the news of the unexpected and untimely death of Michael Jackson at the age of 50. And on the eve of what was pegged to be the comeback of all comebacks. I am still reeling from this one. It's harder to accept a death when it simply doesn't make sense. But no matter the unfortunate circumstances, nothing will bring the King of Pop back. I was glued to the television, following all of the footage, pretty much waiting for someone to pinch me and tell me that it was all a bad dream. Charlie's Angels was a show I watched every day for the years it was on, but I listened to Michael from before I hit my teen years and pretty much didn't stop. He revolutionized the music industry with his dancing and his videos. And his songs appealed to people of all races, all over the planet. As a musician, he had an un-matched career that spanned over 40 years and sent him right to #1 World Icon status. How can someone like Michael Jackson no longer be here to give us music? A fan I saw on the news said it best: "I know he was only human, but I always felt he was immortal." Michael said in an interview to Ebony magazine that he wanted to bind his soul to his work so that he could be immortal in the way great artists are. And to that end, he succeeded. He will live on through his music.

Two icons in their own right, dead on the same day. That was bad enough--but the hits have kept on coming. Infomercial icon, Billy Mays, died shortly after Farah and Michael, also at the age of 50. And just this week, TV news giant Don Hewitt died at the age of 86. Hewitt is most known for creating 60 Minutes, the most profitable news show in the history of television. His impressive career spanned 60 years.

But before news giant Don Hewitt's passing, and almost a month after the death of the King of Pop, a literary giant also left us. E. Lynn Harris died suddenly at the age of 54 on July 23rd, stunning legions of friends and fans in the literary world.

For those who met him, they quickly learned that E. Lynn Harris was not only down-to-earth with the warmest of smiles, but a kind-hearted and giving person. I'd met him at some Book Expos, and he was always accessible, despite his enormous fame. He went out of his way to help some of my author friends when they were new, inviting them to tour with him to help maximize their exposure. He was a class act.

If you haven't read E. Lynn's work, you should. He became a literary icon for writing about gay and bi-sexual characters who were multi-layered and real. As I read somewhere after his death, he introduced women to the concept of the "down low" long before it got so much public attention. His latest book is BASKETBALL JONES, about a successful NBA player who is secretly gay and marries a woman to avoid letting the world know who he truly is. Coming out is hard for anyone--but it's got to be that much harder for a "macho" athlete.

The day before E. Lynn died, he was in Los Angeles and shared on his Facebook page how excited he was about a meeting the next day with one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. He was thrilled about the possibility of getting some of his novels adapted for the big screen. But before he could see this come to pass, he left this world, dying suddenly of a heart attack at his hotel in L.A. It's simply devastating.

In the span of two months, we lost some major icons. The only plus is that each of these remarkable people left us with a remarkable legacy. We will not soon forget them, if ever.

But please, everyone--knock on some wood. Because we've lost enough great people in 2009. I don't want to lose anymore.

-knocking on wood right now...


  1. Just knocked.

    It was kind of surreal to have Farah and Michael both depart on the same day. In my own life, having lost people to illness and to sudden, unexpected deaths, I found that the ability to prepare myself for the loss made it easier than having someone exit without warning. Although for the person departing, the swift exit seems kinder, really.

    I agree with Michael - his soul is definitely bound to his work. His presence will always be felt here on Earth no matter how much time goes by without him.

    And how special was E. Lynn Harris, to be so generous with fellow writers? Bless his soul.

  2. It's always hard to remember how precious and fleeting life really is. There are some rock icons who have a rare longevity like Clapton, Jagger and Richards, Smokey Robinson, and then those who died tragically young--Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Joplin, Hendrix, and John Lennon, just to name a few.

    Truly it shows we should make the best of our life while we can. To have such an impact or to make such a positive mark on others like E. Lynn Harris, is truly the sign of a life well-lived.

    Great tribute. Thanks...

    --Chiron O'Keefe
    The Write Soul: www.chironokeefe.blogspot.com

  3. Thank you Kayla, for sharing this touching and moving piece!

    I was in a NYC shop this morning and one of Michael Jackson's song came on loud and strong. My Mom and I turned to each other and knew it was going to be one of those moments when - unspoken - we tell each other all the hurt we feel. It was almost too much to bear, we left in a hurry... I still can't get over that the man I grew up listening to, watching him grow into an adult himself, is no more.

    Thanks for sharing Harris' work and legacy with us. I always knew of him and his groundbreaking writing ideas, but never picked up one of his books. Will do so now, it's high time!

    Again, great piece and very, very inspirational. And lets hope we've seen the last of this 'trend' for a long, long time...

  4. From what I understand Michael Jackson had hundreds of songs written and many recorded so there will be much more great music from the icon even after his death. It's truly sad when we lose artists because they touch our souls - we connect with them - we feel that their work some how reflects our own lives, wants, desires. So - I agree - this has been a particularly trying year for that!

  5. Knocking for us all, Kayla! Such terrible losses, and more tragic for Michael that he was about to make a comeback, and was so happy about it. I'm not familiar with E. Lynn Harris but how terrible he was on the verge of making a movie deal - every writer's dream.

  6. Knocked too, Kayla.

    I was totally shocked by MJ's death. I grew up listening to him, still remember the impact the Dangerous album had on me when it came out. A cousin had come from the US at the time and he had that CD, and I'd listen to it for ages when he was home.

    Today my son who is 6 and had never heard of MJ, though he had heard some of the songs in passing, is a fan and cannot get enough of his music. It's like, a generation who never knew him will keep his legend going on, but it won't be like actually knowing the man is alive, know what I mean?

    2009 is a sad year indeed. Lots of sadness in the world, both public and personal.




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