This week will mark five years since the celebrity death streak that occurred in late June/early July 2009. As all of you remember it was the week of Michael Jackson's death. But it started on June 23, 2009, with the death of Ed McMahon. He was best known as Johnny Carson's sidekick on The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992, as well as a pitchman for Publishers Clearing House, host of Star Search (the American Idol of the 1980s), and co-host with Dick Clark of TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes. Next came the death of Farrah Fawcett, a first-season cast member of Charlie's Angels, just several hours before (and several miles away from where Fawcett had died) the world learned of Jackson going into a coma. His death naturally overshadowed that of Fawcett, and 80s music fans were devastated. His records began to sell out on Internet sites and at used record stores and other store that sell CDs and DVDs. His death was the most hyped out of the three.
I remember exactly what I was doing that day. It was a Thursday and I had just come home from work and was on Facebook and Twitter. Naturally Jackson's death was all over both sites. And on the even news I happened to watch that night. After worked the following day, I passed by the USA Today kiosk near CVS Pharmacy and I'm sure you can guess what was n the front page. The next day I stopped at Barnes and Noble and as I entered the movies and music section there was a display of Jackson's work, naturally. His death was still on everyone's mind, but it didn't stop the media from covering other celebrity deaths that followed.
The following Sunday, June 28, I looked on Twitter and saw OxiClean as a trending topic. I wondered why that was, and a click on the link revealed why. My mom then called and I suddenly I asked the following:
"Did you hear who just died?"
"Yes. Michael Jackson."
"No, I mean just now."
"The man who did the commercials for OxiClean."
That man was Billy Mays. I did not know his name at first, and I still refer to him as "the OxiClean guy." I then posted this as my Facebook status that day, saying that "Now the OxiClean pitchman has died. Three deaths last week, will there be two more this week?" One friend responded "I loved Billy Mays! His commercials always made me want to buy his stuff." I then pointed out that the OxiClean guy was the same age was Michael Jackson, a fact that no one seems to have known. I've asked many people if they knew that fact and every one of them has said no, they did not know that fact. Mays was a little over a month older than Jackson. An obit for the OxiClean guy appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle the following day along with that for another celebrity I did not had died that weekend as well. (I kept and still have this section of that edition of the paper) And one the day after that, yet another I didn't know about either. Unfortunately, the two celebrities in this case were not high-profile ones like McMahon, Fawcett, Jackson or Mays, and thus their deaths were not Twitter-ed about, limited only to obits in major metropolitan newspapers such as that one. Those two were 50s actress and singer Gale Storm (star of the 1950s sitcom My Little Margie) and impressionist/comedian Fred Travalena. And as June turned to July, the death streak continued, with actor Karl Malden and NFL star Steve McNair. Those two celebs got more hype than did Storm and Travalena. Many will remember Malden's commercials for American Express, urging viewers to "Don't leave home without
This is as much as I want to say about this, but I just had to say something because I know the "five years later" spots on the news and the Internet will be inevitable in the coming week, especially about Michael Jackson. In fact, here is once such article already.
A few days after the first four deaths, I was on a costume website's discussion group (which has long since been deleted from the site). I had stumbled onto this article from Costumezee.com. Several people said they could see people as Jackson for Halloween that year but less so as Fawcett. I then asked, "How about the Oxiclean guy?" And someone replied "I can't imagine anyone being the oxy clean guy (sic)." I then saw this link on that same site. I remember wishing I were a guy then. I so would have been the Oxiclean guy for Halloween that year. And FYI, I did not see one person that year as either Jackson, Fawcett or the Oxiclean guy, though I did come across a guy at a local temporary Halloween store, who was waiting in line as I entered the store. He announced that he was going to be Michael Jackson. I then saw a fake beard at the store that looked like the one Billy Mays had. I so would have used that beard.
Do you remember what you were doing that day?