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Hard to keep up with deaths of famous people

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

The death notice box has been busy the past couple of weeks, in fact, so busy that it's hard to keep up.

Ed McMahon, Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Gale Storm, Karl Malden, Billy Mays, Steve McNair, Robert McNamara – those are some of the big names who left us during the past couple of weeks.

They say the deaths of famous people come in threes. If that's the case, we have far exceeded our quota.

Michael Jackson, Billy Mays and Steve McNair are all pretty well known to the younger generations. Jackson needs no explanation, Mays was the pitch-man for a number of products on TV, always yelling, “I'm Billy Mays for” and then naming the product. McNair was the quarterback for the Tennessee Titans until a couple of years ago and played in a Super Bowl. He was, as the words to These Boots are Made for Walkin' go, a-messin' where he shouldn't have been a-messin,' and it cost him his life.

But I find myself thinking about some of the others. Gale Storm was probably the least known, but she had a couple of TV shows in the early days, one named after her and the other called My Little Margie.

Ed McMahon was the second banana to Johnny Carson for as long as the Carson version of The Tonight Show ran on television, and he also ran a show called Star Search. Farrah Fawcett, most of us know, was a star in Charlie's Angels and made the transition to serious actress in The Burning Bed. Karl Malden is best known to me from the Streets of San Francisco, the show which gave Michael Douglas his break, but Malden was in several other shows and movies, too.

That brings us to Robert McNamara, and there was no love lost between many in my generation and him. McNamara was the defense secretary who is generally considered the architect of the Vietnam War. Just the mention of his name evoked bitter thoughts during the 1960s. Today's generations don't understand the feelings that existed in those years, as young men were sent, against their will, to fight in a war thousands of miles from home, and then many of those men, those who made it through their tours, were treated shabbily upon their return by various protesters who didn't understand the difference between disagreeing with the war and supporting the individual troops who went there.

A lot of that went back to McNamara and his Defense Department, who made little or no effort to help the returning veterans who fought their battles.

So while the rest of the world still keeps talking about Michael Jackson, his last will, arguments over his estate and custody of his children, I'm thinking of others in the news and in Hollywood who died over the past couple of weeks.

It's very humbling when people you admired as performers when you were young keep passing away. Makes you think, doesn't it?

Jim Clark is editor of the Chiefland Citizen. He can be reached at 493-4796 or at editor@chieflandcitizen.com.