My mother and father are both alive and for that I can barely express how grateful I am. I am lucky. I am also one of those people who tend to take for granted the people that surround them and I doubt that this blog entry will change that, but I hope it might at least make a difference. We often see our own mortality in the strangest of places. I think this year it has been recognized by the passing of entertainers that not only marked our own passage of time, but the passing of an era.
I used to be a crazy Michael Jackson fan when I was a kid. I had the pleather jacket that I wore to school and the Making of Thriller was one of the first things that I watched on our Zenith VCR. Michael's untimely passing has had a way of making people forget the persistent allegations and rumors that supplanted his fame in "later" years. Those same allegations and the plethora of bizarre tendencies made him a less than endearing figure for me and the idea of relating to someone like him is pretty much flat-out, out of the question. I don't think any one of us can imagine a world where a seventy something Jackson still attends the Oscars and tours in support of the next best "Hollywood friendly" presidential candidate. Michael left in much the same bizarre fashion that lived. Untimely death, but not all together surprising. That being said, I doubt we'll ever hear tell of the "everyman" Michael Jackson that would have a beer with a fan or chat up newlyweds at a city hotel. He was a music video, and the rumors, for me, make him hard to mourn.
Easy to mourn for me is "the fighter". Maybe not the classical archetype and not as wise as the "old man" personna, but the fighter has always been that perfect mash-up of Jung's hero and Freud's super-ego for me. We've seen them as well on stage and screen, and we want to be them. As a man who spends more of his life in front of a computer than anything else, it sometimes seems like a biological imperative to throw away the trappings of my monitor and keyboard and brandish a sword or become the drifter martial artist of Swayze's Dalton or Elliots' Garret in Roadhouse. There is a kickassery to that movie that transcends the heartthrob idol that Swayze personified in Dirty Dancing. Thank God for TNT and USA to play Roadhouse ad nauseum. Enough for me for relish in a silly earnestness that makes that little film more than just a b-rate action flick. It was a movie that seemed custom made for my generation and one that left an impression far beyond the one that Kelly Preston left on the wall of that loft. My sister even named fer oldest after the titular character.
It's both easy and difficult to mourn an actor like Swayze. Easy because he seemed like that everyday guy who sorta "fell" into acting. He could have been a parent on my block or just a good looking guy that was at the right place at the right time. He was an easy actor to like, and presumably a kind person that carried his own warmth onto the screen. I didn't know him, but unlike Jackson or Fawcett, I don;t think it would have seemed unrealistic to have known him. Either way, the public came to see him as a fighter of another sort. Tabloids or never kind and they have a way of shoving their own dead pool in your face everytime you have to checkout in your local grocery store. This wasn't a man addicted to plastic surgery or strung out on booze to the point of being unintelligible...this was just a man trying to survive.
Another one of Swayze's movies, Ghost, is probably responsible for more of the public's opinion on the afterlife than our generation would care to admit. It's hard not to transpose the mythology of Zucker's film onto our own imaginings and speculations of what the afterlife might be like. I'm guessing it's visuals have probably been inserted into more paranormal researcher's personal belief system than they would care to admit. Another one of Swayze's films that proved to be a defining pop-cultural hallmark for a generation. My generation. My generation is now among those that spearhead the new paranormal or even "spiritual" movement if we want to call it that. It is, what most people would consider a rather morbid little past-time. One thing that I have recognized is this community's heart and how it is rarely morbidity, and instead a sincere commemoration for those who've passed and longing to understand when and where they might be waiting for us on the other-side. Wherever it is and however we get there, there is I'm sure a warm reception for those we remember, and those we mourn. Rest easy, Johnny Castle. Rest easy, Sam Wheat. Rest easy, Bohdi.