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The Rule of Three and More

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Though there are a number of things I wanted to discuss today, I would be certainly remiss if I did not share my thoughts on the spate of shocking and untimely deaths that have rocked not only the entertainment industry, but the entire world.

Without fail, bad things tend to happen in threes.  Whether you are superstitious or not, it is hard to deny a hard and fast rule that proves itself over and over again.  This rule applies especially, it seems, to death and even more specifically to death in the world of celebrity and known public figures.  It would seem that yet again the "Rule of Three" has come into play as in the last week, we have experienced the deaths of three cultural icons and stars:  Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and perhaps most shockingly, Michael Jackson.

Ed McMahon, beloved sidekick of Johnny Carson and the face of Publisher's Clearinghouse, went quietly after suffering through a number of health problems - including bone caner - at the age of 86 in a Los Angeles hospital.  Though he was an icon and his death a sad one, it is not a terrible shock nor does it come with the "too soon" laments of the other stars to have lose their lives recently.  Ed lived a long and fulfilled life and was on this Earth for eighty-six years.  He will be greatly missed and absolutely mourned, but none of us were surprised to heave learned of his passing.

Then, yesterday morning, Farrah Fawcett lost her battle with anal cancer.  Then, appallingly, a few hours later we learned that Michael Jackson had died.  While Farrah's untimely death was tragic - 62 is too young to lose your life to a wasting illness - we were, sadly, expecting it.  The true shocker was Michael Jackson's sudden death at the age of 50.  He was an enormous cultural icon, despite all his quirks and possible downfalls, no one can deny that he changed the face of music, broke down barriers, and was the true "King of Pop" the world over.

Farrah Fawcett had been fighting her cancer since 2006.  At the time, she enlisted the help of her former longtime companion and lover, Ryan O'Neal.  Initially, chemo and surgery had removed the cancer, but in May of 2007 a malignant polyp was found in the originally affected area.  She fought hard and courageously and even filmed some of her struggles – no scripts, bare reality – for a television documentary for others suffering through the same fate (she even shaved off of her signature mane of blonde hair on camera before the chemo could cause it to fall out).  She believed she could beat the cancer, saying, "I do not want to die from this disease."

She and Ryan rekindled their love affair and he was quoted as being amazed with her strength and resilience and told reporters once, "She is so strong and amazing.  I love her.  I'm in love with her all over again."  They had previously been together since 1982 (had a son together in 1985) but had never married.  Though they were always "on and off", they always seemed to get back together.  In June he asked her to marry him and she said 'yes'; they planned to be wed as soon as she was strong enough…yet it never happened.  He was quoted around that time in People magazine as saying, "It's a love story.  I just don't know how to play this one.  I won't know this world without her.  Cancer is an insidious enemy."  I feel genuine sadness for this man - a cancer survivor himself - who is mourning the death of the woman who was the love of his life.  A comprehensive and touching commentary on the legacy left by Farrah Fawcett and the final battle she ultimately lost can be read over on ABC News"Farrah Fawcett's Journey:   Golden Girl's Iconic Career" .

Michael Jackson is truly, a shocker.  The world appears to be in mourning right now; it is dominating the news as fans pay tribute, camp out at his star in Hollywood, and call in to radio stations (which are spinning his hits non-stop).  Though he was only 50 years-old, it has been noted that he has been ill in the last few years.  The much-publicized 1993 court case where he was accused of child molestation financially (and somewhat professionally) ruined him; it was also when his health began to decline, friends and family say.  I cannot ever say if I fully believed he did it or not; I suppose no one will ever really know except him and the boy, Jordan Chandler, (or boys) he supposedly molested.  He seemed, in interviews, a child himself – sort of sad and lonely, broken, and wanting to live out the childhood that had been denied him as a child by his abusive father.

Regardless, none can deny that he gave unflinchingly to many charitable organizations for children and helped millions of children around the world either directly or indirectly.  The news media has stated that his death is from cardiac arrest; that he was found – unconscious – at his rental home in Los Angeles and rushed to the hospital.  Whether there are mitigating factors will remain in question until the toxicology reports come back, of course.  Despite his troubled personal life, one cannot deny that Michael Jackson was the true "King of Pop"; a cutural icon who was known the world over, broke barriers, influenced countless of present-day celebrities, and contributed immensely to changing the face of music with his considerable talent and artistic genius.  I ask that you take a moment to read this beautiful and poignant tribute to this engimatic man by his close friend - and a personal favorite person of mine - Deepak Chopra over at Huffington Post "A Tribute to My Friend, Michael Jackson" .

Deviating from the "three" rule (or adding to it if you discount McMahon as simply coming, gently and non-controversially, to the end of his time here on Earth), is actor David Carradine.  David Carradine died the same week as my grandfather earlier this month.  His death was first believed to be a suicide but I called it right when telling my family the news:  he perished due to auto-erotic asphyxiation; accidental death labeled as "autoerotic fatality".  He might have been 72, but apparently he still enjoyed an active sexual life; at least solitarily.

He was found hanging in a closet in the Swissôtel Nai Lert Park Hotel Bangkok, Thailand where he was to soon begin filming a new movie; the most telling evidence of his accidental self-demise was a shoelace around his neck and, going down, that bound his penis.  Such circumstances seemed to ruled out suicide or homicide, the coroners agreed, however, his lawyer – Mark Geragos – believes that he could have been murdered (he actually said this on Larry King Live) by a secret sect of kung fu assassins.  Absorb that one for a moment.  Geragos claimed that it was recently revealed that Carradine was attempting to blow the lid on some underworld martial-arts groups.  Two of his five previous ex-wives, though, stated Carradine was into self-bondage and "deviant sex acts" that could be "potentially lethal".  Feel free to draw your own conclusions.  A fitting tribute - one of the few not focusing on his bizarre death but rather his provocative life - was written by David Edelstein in his The Projectionist piece over on the New York Movies website: "David Carradine:  Ode to an Existential Hero".

Death seems to be our constant companion these days, as we also can not forget the less-mentioned and often unknown Iranians who have perished at the hands of a murderous, fascist regime.  This was brought to our attention with the gruesome and unnecessary murder of young, beautiful Neda Agha Soltan, who was shot - in the heart - for peacefully protesting the ills of a corrupt government in Tehran.  That poor Neda had to die so violently and publicly was necessary, it seems, to bring the plight of our Iranian brethren to light and force it into directly into our faces.  We must pray for them as they fight for the basic freedoms that we take for granted every single day.  Neda is only one of many who have - and will - face brutal death as they cry out for their basic human rights.  A deeper look into Neda's tragic death and cut-short life is on guardian.co.uk"How Neda Soltani became the face of Iran's struggle".

Whether we are fans of any of the above, whether we care about their lives or are interested in their deaths, and regardless of whether or not we believe they made a impact on society - and our world - we must not fail to honor and remember them; for as it is said, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls...it tolls for thee."

Dorothy Rabinowitz Blames Deepak

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Reporter and WSJ Editor, Dorothy Rabinowitz, took author and spiritualist Deepak Chopra to task in her piece, Deepak Blames America, in the Wall Street Journal this past week.  Her reasoning for the condemnation was that she simply disagreed with his views - and his offered solutions - on the terrorist problem gripping the Middle East and, in particular, the Mumbai terror assault.

In Rabinowitz's mind, Deepak wasn't contributing peaceful ideas on ending terrorism, but - rather - attacking America.  True though Mr. Chopra's statements may be, any negativity expressed concerning America is seen, by the conservative right, as an "attack" on the country itself.  Perhaps Dorothy Rabinowitz would do well to keep in mind that this great nation was built on the spirit of debate and opposing viewpoints; in fact, it is the heart and soul behind the creation of the First Amendment.  As is often said, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism".

One of the most unfounded and discreditable parts of the article - in my opinion - was this:

How the ebullient Dr. Chopra had come to be chosen as an authority on terror remains something of a mystery...

I fail to see how Mrs. Rabinowitz can so easily question Deepak Chopra's "authority" on terrorism. It takes little fact-checking to learn that Mr. Chopra has had quite personal experience with terrorism and knows, firsthand, the regions in which these conflicts are going on.  Let us not forget that he was, also, born in Pakistan to parents escaping the area now known as Islamabad.

He may not be an "authority", but he certainly has more personal experience with what he is talking about than she does. Mr. Chopra's family grew up surrounded by this very terrorism, and he has lost family members and loved ones to its horrors. He knows the areas in question, the groups responsible, and the people it is affecting. Obviously, we owe some respect to Mr. Chopra's ideology with his being privy to such.

Personally, I would be more inclined to listen to Mr. Chopra's ideas on creating peace out of the hell and havoc that is there now than from someone like Mrs. Rabinowitz, whose only answer to ending the reign of terror is to attack someone who offers an intimately composed solution. Whether she agrees with Mr. Chopra's ideals or not, it is no reason to personally attack him in a public forum with a libelous and ostentatious headline.

For more reading on this, I urge you to read Deepak Chopra's response over at Huffington Post, and the beautifully astute and decorous rebuttal Deepak's son, Gotham Chopra, offered on Intent.com.  A more detailed rejoinder is A Fuller and More Detailed Response to Dorothy Rabinowit'z Attack on Me in the Wall Street Journal; a must-read where Mr. Chopra shares his painful and very personal lifetime experiences with terrorism and being born in Pakistan to refugee parents.