Wow... hard to even imagine that it's possible for the world to lose three iconic boomers in a matter of two days: Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson and Billy Mays. I admired each of them for entirely different reasons. Each was a quintessential boomer, too, whose lives closely tracked their fellow boomers, whether we realize it or not.
Farrah, as she came to be known (no last name required), 62, went from being one of the most cherished poster pin-ups to being a serious, credible actress. Like many boomers, she chose a career and worked very hard to be good at what she did. She wasn't always taken seriously and she had to start with commercials and bit-parts, but eventually her skill served her well, earning her critical acclaim, the respect of those who worked with her, and the love of legions of fans from every generation. Like many boomers, Farrah was independent and liked to do things her way. Her determination to fight her disease led her to travel to Germany to seek alternative, but eventually unsuccessful, treatments. She was also willing to use her bully pulpit as one of the most famous dying people in America, to share her experience and lessons via a documentary, which originally aired on NBC. Farrah proved that nice people can be successful, even in one of the toughest businesses.
Michael Jackson, 50, was also known by names other than the one his parents gave him: MJ, Wacko Jacko and others not suitable for a "family blog." I admired his incredible talent that spanned several decades. We grew up together (well, chronologically, anyway), so I've heard his music for most of my life. I remember "I'll Be There" like it was yesterday and sat in awe of Thriller when it was released on MTV. He was innovative beyond words and influenced musicians across genres and generations. He was also known for his big heart. Boomers love to give money, raise money, and volunteer their time to their favorite charities and MJ was no exception. In fact, he donated millions of dollars to about 40 charities he personally chose. On the other hand, he also wasn't a particularly good money manager (just like many of his fellow boomers). He made hundreds of millions, and yet spent it as fast as he could make it, indulging his desire for material things, as well as giving much of it away to friends, family and in support of his fanciful dreams according to many sources.
THEN THERE'S BILLY MAYS, WHO SHOUTED EVERYTHING! The iconic pitchman, 50, was the most in-your-face product endorser/demonstrator on TV. Even if you didn't know his name, because of him, you know about products like Oxyclean, ShamWow, and Kaboom. He was the most successful pitchman in the history of television, bringing companies that hired him millions of dollars in a matter of moments (especially on the Home Shopping Network) from viewers who couldn't resist his enthusiastic yelling. He even was selected for the Discovery Channel's reality show, "Pitchmen." What I liked about Billy was that, like many boomers, he had an amazing entrepreneurial spirit and used his unique skill to get rich by making others rich. His, "Hi, Billy Mays here" was a common intro to his product pitches, and became a way of creating a personal brand that transcended whatever he was selling. If anyone ever doubted his fame and success, all they'd have to do is type his name into an internet search engine and see how many spoof videos appear. He was proof that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery."
One thing that strikes me about these three boomers is that they all became famous first because of television. In recent years, you could find them on countless web sites, social networks and on YouTube, but they earned their fame the old-fashioned way. Each had to reach out to disparate, disconnected audiences and hope to improve ratings, unlike some of today's artists, who seek fame online with hopes of making it onto television. Today's many communications venues offer a chance to connect people to one another first, then use their connections to advocate for favorite artists across multiple channels. (Who can forget Susan Boyle?).
One thing's for sure... boomers will continue to play a significant role in creating tomorrow's famous performers. After all, in addition to being one of the fastest growing groups on the Internet, we still love our television and aren't likely to let it go any time soon.
So RIP, Farrah, Michael and Billy. Know that you've touched multiple generations with your talents and "you did it my way."