Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jim Carroll and Thoughts on Dead Celebrities

Today the interwebs are buzzing about Patrick Swayze losing his battle with cancer. I enjoyed Dirty Dancing. Patrick Swayze was a talented guy and it's always sad to hear about cancer claiming someone. But I really don't have anything more to say about it than that.

Unlike most people, I haven't had a ton to say about the celebrities that died this year. Haven't felt the need to tweet about any deaths except for John Hughes or blog except about Jim Carroll, who I talked about today over at the MTV Books blog today because he truly was an inspiration. It would mean a lot to me if you checked out that blog and learned about Jim Carroll if you don't already know about him.

One thing I only touched on in that blog because I wanted it to be more of tribute than a reflection about the state of our culture was that I found out that Jim Carroll died two days after his death. That was somewhat strange given how instant celebrity death news has become, but honestly I thought it was a lot more tasteful. I'm pretty grossed out by the way we get the details of celeb's deaths live as they spill in via the gossip bloggers. With everyone who died this year, I heard the news via text message or twitter usually before it was even officially confirmed. It seems so impersonal and empty and the impact is lost on me. Even though I heard about Jim Carroll via twitter at least it was delayed a couple days. That seemed more appropriate. Jim Carroll is not my personal friend. I don't feel like I have the right to know about his death faster than I would get the news about a friend dying.

And now that I've had dear friends (and pets) die, I find I react to celebrity death news a lot differently. I'm not gonna jump to post a RIP or a video montage or even say anything at all unless the person really had an influence on me like Jim Carroll did.

When I heard Michael Jackson was dead, via text message of course, I was at Summerfest in Milwaukee. I was at Summerfest because a friend of mine, who'd lost her father when she was younger so she knew what it was like to feel the absence of a real person, had offered to take me because it was the one year anniversary of my friend Marcel's death and I needed good distraction. Literally my first thought when I heard about Michael Jackson was NO, this is Marcel's day. Marcel's loss should not be eclipsed by this huge public thing. This was supposed to be my day to be sad about Marcel, not the world's day to be sad about Michael Jackson. I'm still annoyed by this. Maybe it's odd, but grief, real grief for a living breathing person you personally knew and were close to, is a strange beast.

So, to me, June 25 will always be about Marcel, not Michael Jackson. And 2009 will be the year my dog died, not the year Michael, Farrah, Patrick, DJ AM, Ted Kennedy or even John Hughes or Jim Carroll died. (However I do find it oddly comforting that Domino and Jim Carroll died on the same day. It was disconcerting though that Domino died on a day that was already so sad, September 11.) Honestly, even Kurt Cobain's death which had such a huge impact on me when I was fourteen-- I mean I was devastated--doesn't feel the same anymore now that I've lost people in real life. If I was given the choice of bringing Kurt Cobain back to life or bringing one of my friends back to life or even my dog, I'd choose the friends and dog, hands down.

I hope this doesn't come across as callous in any way. I guess our celeb obsessed culture is just kind of getting to me especially when combined with my own grief. And I just wanted to see if anyone else thought it was weird, instant celebrity death news and the way we act like in losing them we've lost members of our families....

But we did lose a major talent in Jim Carroll and I hope you'll check out my memories of him and share your own.

1 comment:

Kathy Charles said...

Great post. As someone whose life revolves around dead celebrities (literally) I am surprised that I continue to be shocked and moved when the famous pass on into the hereafter. I have a very objective viewpoint on Michael Jackson's life and career, and yet when the "This Is It" trailer flashed up during the VMA's my eyes automatically welled with tears.

Celebrity deaths have taken on a magnitude this year that we aren't really in control of anymore, and I have no idea how I'm going to react to each one. Patrick Swayze was a cool dude, but I have no more inclination to watch Dirty Dancing tonight than I did last week. And yet, when Michael Jackson died Thriller went straight to my ipod. I guess all we can say is that the death of a celebrity is an intensely individual experience, regardless of whether we knew them personally or not (in most cases, of course, not.)

I can say one thing for sure though. So many 80s icons have passed away this year that I can't help but reflect on what it means to be part of Gen X. It's been a grim reminder of our own mortality. We aren't the young kids on the block anymore.